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?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

No Place Like Home

To vast transAtlantic sighs of relief from all the fogeys, our travelers arrived in Cairo via Turkish Airlines early this morning. Their holiday didn't exactly turn out as expected but they still had an impressive list of sites visited in Syria and on their day in Istanbul. They traveled from Aleppo to, I believe, Adana, Turkey, by car and from Adana to Istanbul by air. Having had enormous input from family and friends to move from Syria, even though no one was shelling Damascus or other places in Syria, the next generation decided to decamp. The fact that if Israel began shelling Syria an American passport might be a handicap probably had its vote counted.

Now we'll probably have to live with a label as alarmists....that's okay. At this point it's really good to hear their voices ragging us. Now for the kids in Ramallah....