Thursday, July 20, 2006

Some Things You Just Can't Ignore

I don’t like politicians. I’m not at all sure that they do anything at all to benefit the rest of us, while I’m quite sure that they make sure that they and their cronies do benefit from their actions. I don’t follow the news of the G8 or other summits because I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that the governments of any countries are really going to help us keep our world in order, but on the other hand, we seem to be rather stuck with them all.

My kids arrived home from Syria seriously pissed off that a war in Lebanon and Palestine disrupted their vacations. With their reports of Syria, I would love to visit there as soon as I could feel that I’d be safe enough. This may sound pretty trivial but I daresay that there are a lot of Syrians feeling just as disgruntled and distressed, as there are Lebanese. (Given their shaky situation, Palestinians don’t get much in the way of vacations.) This isn’t so odd because vacations are part of normal life, and normal life of any variety has been violently abused. Vacationers in Lebanon are now refugees in Syria and Cyprus. And over what? Three soldiers who were kidnapped…three soldiers in an army that proudly proclaims itself to be at war with the Arab nations around it. I’m sorry, but why should Israeli soldiers be free from the same fear of imprisonment that many men in Palestine and southern Lebanon have suffered for years?

I’m not discounting the value of anyone’s life, but when was the last time that a country was allowed to carry out major bombing raids on a neighbouring sovereign state to destroy that country’s hard built infrastructure once again after a previous 20 year war during which most of it was destroyed by the same people? If a group of criminals or a political group was to kidnap personnel from the Mexican-American border, would the Americans be allowed to bomb Mexico in general into oblivion? What would have happened if the Quebec separatists had taken some Americans hostage…why is not all that important, since I can’t imagine why they would want to, though I’m sure that a reason could come up. Would the American Air Force have launched attacks on Toronto? I don’t think so.

Other than Israel, I can’t think of a single nation that has been permitted the freedom to bomb and invade its neighbours in the way that this nation has done for the past fifty or so years. Maybe there has been someone who has been given a blind eye while it reduced its neighbours to rubble, but I can’t think of one. There is a certain unfairness in the situation, an unfairness that Israel’s critics have been commenting on for years. Everyone EXCEPT Israel has been expected to conform to UN resolutions. Israel’s policies concerning its Palestinian citizens (?) such as those that encourage the sale of Palestinian properties by the shutting off of water and power and then forbidding the purchase of new property by Palestinians would be labeled “ethnic cleansing” somewhere else. As a mother who spent a fair bit of time trying to teach my children the importance of basic ethics, I find the situation astounding.

Palestine was recognized as a sovereign state a few years ago, but when Hamas was elected to the government, everyone decided that the election was a bad idea. I thought that democracy was supposed to be A Good Thing, but I guess it depends on who wins. What happened after Hamas won the Palestinian elections was that although they were the duly elected government of a recognized nation, all funds traveling to Palestine for the government were frozen by the banks. Aid was frozen, everything was frozen. Why? Because Hamas had been labeled as a “terrorist” group. But they were elected to run Palestine, so the Palestinians found themselves cut off from all services from their own government which couldn’t pay the bills, while the rest of the world just assumed that somehow things would be alright? Somehow, this doesn’t make any sense to me.

So after the elections that put Hamas in power in Palestine, they never really had a chance to do anything legitimate with the funds for the government frozen by the international banking community. This is a marvelous way of controlling who can play the government game. Simply label anyone you don’t like as a “terrorist” and let the banks do the rest. No one in the world can survive without the banks, can they? In this case, one of the aspects of the war on terror was to keep Hamas from showing that they might actually be able to run Palestine.

I don’t claim to have any solutions to this situation. For many years I got the old US party line about the “poor Israelis”….and then I met quite a few of them in Cyprus while I spent summers on the sail boat with the kids in Limassol. Word would go through the marina the second an Israeli boat came in with everyone locking up outboard motors and securing any property left on deck or on the dock. I was shocked to see that within fifteen minutes of the arrival of the boat from the Haifa Sailing School, the bathrooms were stripped of toilet paper and filthy. They thought nothing of “borrowing” someone’s bicycle without asking, or of trying to break into the soft drink machine or ice cream freezer. I’d never seen anything like it. The marina was a small community of a number of nationalities who all lived together very harmoniously and respected each other's property and rights, so this departure was fairly amazing. I’m less inclined to feel that these people are so downtrodden because of the extraordinary arrogance that I’ve witnessed personally in Cyprus and through events that have unfolded in the Middle East. But in the end, the fact remains that there are decent people everywhere in the world and somehow they must find a way to establish decency as a way of life.

I know that we are stuck with governments that somehow we must try to influence to do good, but I’m not so optimistic about our success there. On the other hand, as parents we have children that we can teach to see right and wrong and to speak out about it. We have our own voices and minds. We can switch off the television and Google the news for half an hour and see how China, India, Portugal, the UK are viewing events in the world. We can seek the information and speak, speak, speak. I suspect that each of us must simply try to do the right thing and try to get others around us to do the same. Good lord, if enough people actually try living good lives, it could turn into a movement. What would the neighbours say then?


programmer craig said...

If a group of criminals or a political group was to kidnap personnel from the Mexican-American border, would the Americans be allowed to bomb Mexico in general into oblivion?

If it went on for an extended period of time, and the Mexican government didn't do anything about it?

You bet your ass. In fact, that's exactly what happened when we sent General Pershing to invade Mexico and chase the badit, Pancho Villa.

It's not really necessary to pose such hypothetcial questions. They aren't hypothetical. The answers are written in the hsitory books.

Militant Muslimah said...

absolutely WONDERFUL entry....i am going to link to it. you said a mouthful that the world needs to hear. great job!!!

Safiya said...

Excellent post.

Although programmer Craig has a point about the U.S, it has far more subtle ways of making countries suffer, Chile being a very good example.

SomeMuslimMan said...

Maryanne - I totally agree with your excellent post.

The problem of this world can be simply mentioned in one phrase: People do not understand that evey human being has the right to live in peace on this planet, no matter what the colour, the race and the religion is.

Anyway, you are mostly welcomed to read my post regarding this situation. you can read it here

Marian said...

You couldn't have said it better. My 8 year old daughter said last night, "Mommy, Israel wants to go to war with everyone."

Cairogal said...

Maryanne, I love reading your posts. I lived in the ME for 5 years (Egypt for over 2-married to an Egyptian), and I can relate to your perspective. Hard to find people with that same shared experience in Seattle! Keep writing!

bardigiana said...

HERE, HERE Maryanne, about time someone originally from a western country, gave voice to the facts!


addiann said...

Thank you so much for writing this wonderful blog. I've read your writing for a long time and have never commented, but this post is so timely, and expresses a point of view I haven't heard in the U.S. You have said it beautifully. It is hard to swallow considering that we usually don't hear it this way, but your words are so honest, so clear and to the point - tempered with concern for all people alike, that they must be believed.

nanaNafisa said...

I guess you will soon be changing your blog to, "My Un-solicited Political Opinions" instead of "Living in Egypt". Remember: dogs, horses, birds, neighbors- Egypt.

Anonymous said...

Maryanne, First, am so glad your kids are fine, and none the worse for their experiences. I have 2 young friends in Lebanon whose whereabouts or condition I do not know, but pray they "headed for the hills" in time! Thank you for writing this, it needs to be said. Here is a link you might find interesting:

Julie said...

Maryanne, I find it interesting that you used the same analogy I have used - only from the Candian point of view.

I'm from Chicago, I said if the Michigan Militia kidnapped two Candian Mounties, and the US condemned it but didn't instantaneously get them back, would we condsider it reasonable for Canada to level Detroit?

I received the same response that you received from programmer Craig.
Jeez give it a rest - Pancho Villa?

Americans are kidnapped by Mexican nationals across the border of Texas all the time. They are either found murdered or never heard from again. I haven't seen any economic sanctions against Mexico, haven't seen us lobbing rockets, haven't seen a formal protest - haven't even seen a fence go up.

I would like the people visiting your blog as well as living in Egypt, to know that the American people are NOT all behind Bush. Sadly, many Americans are afraid to speak out, a commentary on our current situation.

Our "president" ignores the laws of our own country so it's not surprising he ignores international law. For two years after 9/11 I was afraid even to write my congressmen, then I said screw it, if I end up in Gitmo, so be it. But I want to sleep at night.

If your're intersted I have a blog that is basically my thoughts on national and world affairs from the point of view of a person living in the Midwest. We are ignored by the rest of the country, and the US media is mostly from the Boston/Washington corridor. We are their colony.

commonsense comments

I have a link on there to a petition (hosted by epetitions - don't know who started it)that will be sent to the media, UN, US Congress, etc callling for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon. Please, please sign it so we can stop this madness.

I'm glad you're here, I can't read Arabic and its hard to find out what's going on in the Mideast without this ability.

Please keep writing. I'm glad your children are safe.

Susan said...

What a great post! I live in North Carolina, and as you might expect, don't often hear the "non-Bush" side of the story. You have a beautiful way of expressing exactly what I've been thinking!

Boring Lips said...


Nice post. I guess it explains many points in a very intuitive humane way.
I have been reading your posts from time to time, but this time I couldn't just read. So, I decided to comment too.

Anyway, very good post. Keep up.

Dr Hussain said...

Maryanne, it is a great blog. I bookmarked it and is visiting it from time to time since about a year. I comment today because I felt I have to support your honest post about the Middle East conflict, as I expect you will be attacked by pro- Israeli comments to mute voices like yours.. Please keep writing. As an Egyptian I'm proud to have people like you living among us. God bless you.

lynne said...

MaryAnne, I agree with some of your points, but do not see Israel as this awful country full of blood-thirsty people. Hezbollah has effectively created a country within a country. The Lebanese government has no control over them at all. If the Lebanese government cannot stop Hezbollah from firing missles into Israel, then the task falls to Israel to defend it's country. Thousands of missles rained down on Israel, all targeting civilians. Unlike the Israelis, Hezbollah gave no warnings of their attacks, dropped no leaflets, and made only efforts to harm civilians. Read some of the blogs that are coming out of Lebanon: They are glad that Israel loosened the control that Hezbollah has had on Lebanon. They note that while Hezbollah was stockpiling many missles and other high-powered weapons for just such an attack on Israel, they are intimidating and threatening those in Lebanon who do not support them. It has created a climate of fear and anxiety in Lebanon. I don't like a military action, and that is where we agree. Evidently, the Israeli people are not happy with the way that the conflict was handled either, and they are demanding a full inquiry. I believe that Irael must pursue a path of diplomacy to forge peace with their neighbors. They need peace partners though, people who are willing to work with them and who also want peace. I like your blog, and we have much in common---despite our differences of opinion in this matter.

Anonymous said...

MaryAnne, I do love your blog and we have a great deal in common, but I was distressed to read your assessment of the Lebanese-Israel conflict. If I were the head of Israel and I was attacked by Hezbollah and soldiers were kidnapped from Israel, I am not sure what course of action I would have taken. Diplomacy does not work with people who say that they want every Jew man, woman and child dead and want to destroy Israel. You need a partner when you forge peaceful bonds. It was not just the matter of the kidnapping; Hezbollah answers to Iran and Syria evidently, not to the Lebanese government, and the Lebanese government has been unable or unwilling to disarm them. Hezbollah has been stockpiling weapons for a long time and is still acquiring more. I communicate with a number of bloggers from Lebanon, and they are glad that Hezbollah has been weakened. Hezbollah has controlled the South of Lebanon for a long time, and the Lebanese are not free from their influence. My friend from Texas is Lebanese, born in Beruit. She sold her property there last year because of the climate of fear created by Hezbollah. It is not a simple matter of one incident. I would be inclined to use diplomacy, if I could, and that is because I hate the idea of harming anyone. I am hopeful that some healing will take place and that Israel and Lebanon can achieve peaceful relationships. In regard to your characterization of Israelis as badly behaved theives, I hope that you do not feel that they are all like that. My daughter lives in Israel, and you would have so much in common with her. I assure you that she is not badly behaved or a thief. She spends much of her time and money rescuing animals in Israel. With best regards from Texas, lynne

Salaam0 said...

I just discovered your blog..2 months after the ceasefire..At any rate I am a Lebanese living in Egypt (why? well as a result of the war of course!) It was one week into the attacks and the sound of bombs whre drawing closer and closer and that's when my 2 year old son got from one end of the room to the other in one jump! He shouted "feree3?" fireworks in arabic..he was pale and shivering and very confused..he didn't even cry and that scared me even more..he was looking around the room as if waiting or anticipating something falling on his we said enough!!!! my husband and I (my husband more than I) lived and experienced the civil war-no matter the reason or justification- should happen!!! You see we grew up thinking that living in a state of war is the norm! it took us a great deal of time to understand that it is the other way around. Everything is different in a state of war..feelings are intense and different, everyday life is different, anxiety and fear is a way of imagine! we drew a line and said NO..we will not let our son go through a war no matter how hard it will be for us to leave our country..Lebanon is our home, our's our world..but we left and are now living here!
I would just like to say that we can give arguments and counter arguments for the sad situation, from now until tomorrow, no not tomorrow...let's go back 3000 years...argue and counter argue will solve nothing and will not prove anything..history can be played anyway you like it and all what is happening could be and is being justified from BOTH sides!! ....TIME will not will not wait for us to agree on who to son is growing as we speak every cell in his body is multiplying..he misses his grandparents..who are also growing..their cells getting older and dying..and we are far away from home..that's all that matters..far away from our friends..most of them also dispersed in this small but great world...we still have to wake up every morning and go to sleep every night and what we see and do during the day is part of us, it becomes us and we become it..we merge into this life..there is no continuity..and we grow old, my son will fall in love..will travel..will work..hopefuly have children of his own..but he will no longer be the person he would have been had the war not started. He is forever changed..and so are we, and that is a argument here..

Nurlimasari said...

I hope Palestine in peace. I love palestinian.

Anonymous said...

I wish you would try and see the Israeli position, because if neither side tries to see the other's position there will be no peace.

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani said...

It isn't that hard to see the Israeli position, but it is almost impossible to see the actions that the take as a result of this position as reasonable. I've been watching this conflict over our neighbourhood fence for many years and the Israeli (as well as many other countries) politicians have been using fear in their people as a unifying force to allow outrageous actions for many years. The Americans have been doing this with the demonising of countries where the military find it useful or convenient to invade and our own Egyptian military used it a lot during the last few months to try to corral Egyptians into voting for yet another corrupt military official for president. When the governments of countries begin seeing people as people, the populations will begin to do so as well.