Middle East meets West: Straddling life between the United Arab Emirates and Northern California.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
We really do, have short term memories.
I wrote the post below a day after the "protest for Palestine" that happened on Abu Dhabi's corniche (Jan 10, 20). My prediction wasn't too far off.
---------- ---------- Yesterday’s government-approved protest made me feel uneasy. I attended because I was curious about how people would react there. The last time I participated in such a protest, was during the Second Intifada; I was only fifteen, I believe, and more of a revolutionary that I could ever possibly be anymore. Al Jazeera Channel called Friday (the day of the protest), a “day of Pan-Arab anger”- in reference to similar protests that were organized across the Arab world. To be honest, I hate the reference. Yes, the images we see on our television screens make us angry. But really, most of us feel sadness, not anger. Sadness that most of the victims of such a conflict are civilians- a large number are women and children. We also feel helpless. Because our leaders do little, and the only way we can ever “support” the cause is by flooding the streets in a government-approved protest. Maybe that is why we become angry. Nevertheless, I presume Al Jazeera knew what it was talking about it when it referred to Friday the 9th of Jan, 2009 as a day of anger. Because most of the protesters were, indeed, angry. Most, I know, are angry with their Arab leaders, for complicity. Others are angry because they haven’t dealt well with their own grief. I understand their anger, but I don’t think it serves the Palestinian cause much. I would have rather called it a day of solidarity, or even, a day of mourning. Because there is so much to mourn for today. And yesterday. And for the past XX days, in fact. We can mourn for the lives lost in this impasse. It is a pity that we don’t even know their names because we are too busy counting their bodies. Despite the outcry and the anger I witnessed, I give the Arab street a few weeks, and soon these protesters will resume with their less than ordinary lives as though the situation in Gaza was an excuse for them to create a little organized chaos on the streets- something we can’t do very often had their not been such a significant event. You see, we, in the Arab world, have short term memories. We also overreact in the heat of the moment, and then stay silent for another few years…until we witness another atrocious attack and another unnecessary war… and ever more silent leaders. It is a pity that we never funnel that anger into something more productive. Something that would make a difference even after this war is over. Because gazans (and the Palestinians as a whole), have been fighting a 60 year old war to live in dignity. Now that, is something we can all be “angry” about.
I am from two countries.
Neither is really mine.
My body resides in a prosperous city with familiar voices,
but my heart resides in a country that now speaks a language foreign to my ears.
The less poetic version:
Born and raised in the United Arab Emirates. Next nine months in a small town: South Hadley, MA. The three after that in Palo Alto, California. I left my heart in San Francisco, because Israeli security would never let me leave it in Palestine.
And now I am back in Abu Dhabi, the sunny (and humid) capital of the UAE. God knows where I will be next.