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  • Writer's pictureKhawla Shehadeh


Pff, what a time. Who is not bothered by the news and the recent developments in the Middle East? My goodness what a nightmare, absolutely unimaginable. Feelings of sadness, helplessness, frustration, anger and compassion constantly alternating. As a Palestinian, you could say that I am more than concerned. It feels very close. It is like hearing that a plane crashed somewhere in Timbuktu and all the passengers were killed, including two Dutch people who were on board. Somehow, it feels different for those two Dutch passengers than for the rest of the 148 people who died. It doesn't make any sense, but it's like that. In my mind a whisper saying "this could have been you or your family." That makes it personal.

Someone said to me that it would be good to openly distance myself from Hamas on Social Media. Because, my engagement as a Palestinian on Social Media where I occasionally share posts could be used against me. I could perhaps get cancelled. Well, let's just say that it is not difficult for me, that distancing. In fact, I distance myself from much more than just Hamas. I distance myself from everything that is going on over there. I distance myself from all the violence and hatred that is only getting deeper rooted on both sides. I distance myself from the abuse of innocent people. I distance myself from the idea that there is a religion preaching that it is good to (want to) destroy a fellow human being. I distance myself from the idea that the same suffering of one individual is more important or more shocking than that of another individual. I distance myself from all the terrible things that people have been doing to each other since time immemorial.

Pull open a can of history and you come across more of the same. So many powers and empires have come and gone. All involved oppression, torture, starvation, expulsion and dispossession. The Chinese Empire, the Roman Empire, the Mongol Empire, the Ottoman Empire or the colonial powers, were things really different then? I distance myself from my human nature to want to point out the enemy and hate him. I sincerely want to change something. And that something is primarily within myself. For what I hate is hate itself. As long as I hold on to hate, I am doing the same thing as the hate I am against. My Buddhist teacher used to say to me, "Someone can kill you but no one can send you to hell. Only you can do that yourself!". Hate for me is a ticket to hell.

I feel very concerned for all the suffering that is going on, but how should I express this concern? Should I be reading the latest news reports every hour? Should I be carefully studying all the heartbreaking images to feel that I also feel sorrow and despair? Should I spend sleepless nights worrying? Am I concerned enough if I don't have a stomach ache all day long from the situation that seems to be getting worse and worse? This is just a fragment of my heated internal interrogation. And what good is my concern to anybody if it completely cripples me? If it makes me depressed and unable to function normally? And at the same time when I am not expressing my concern in this way, I feel guilty.

I must do something! I have to stand up for injustice, join rallies to show my support for people who are suffering. Send out emails and sign petitions to demand for the violence to stop. Do sit-ins to draw attention and increase awareness of what is going on. I can do all that, but when I have done all that, all that remains is this sticky feeling of powerlessness and frustration. I still feel guilty because in the meantime my life goes on as well. And who is standing up for the all the other conflicts in the world? As I write this, the violent conflicts continue in Yemen, Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, Armenia, Ukraine, Syria, Tibet, and the list goes on and on. Our brains are not designed to process suffering at such a scale, let alone, be able to comprehend it.

We are so spoiled, really.There has never been peace in the West for as long in a row as there is now. The history of Europe is just as drenched in blood and vengeance as we see elsewhere. We have had peace for so long that we forget how extraordinary it is. We don't realise how remarkable it is, any more than a fish appreciates the water around it. Until it is taken out. We ought to appreciate it more and be grateful for it. We complain a lot on an average day. All the petty nonsense. But is anyone really aware of the peace and security we experience? Why are we not taught how to maintain peace in school? We give children water pistols and let them play war. You can only win, if the other person loses. That's fine, as long as we learn to shake hands afterwards.

Everyone longs to live in happiness and security. Every parent wants nothing more than to see their children grow up safely and make something wonderful of their future. We are not at all as different as it seems. The true enemy is hatred itself. Even in the face of such atrocities, please let us not be tempted to continue this endless cycle of hatred and violence. Let us plead and pray for solutions woven with the threads of humanity, equality and justice. The violence must stop.

With peaceful greetings,

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