Thursday, October 19, 2006

No need for Arab Justice after all...

I realize I haven't written the follow-up to my story about the guy who harrassed me on the street and inquiring minds want to know! Well, there's not much to report. I haven't been followed at all since that one time, but then again, I've hurried home before dark. My neighbor asked me about it a couple days ago and I told him nothing had happened since the one time. He nodded knowingly, saying that he "had taken care of it". When I asked him what that meant, he said he had talked to most of the neighbors about the incident and made sure everyone was watching out for any unseemly behavior, conducting a "neighborhood watch" of sorts, I suppose.

By the way, I have to share my neighbor's story, another interesting perspective. He (Nahel) is 28, owns and works in the supermarket across the street, and has three university degrees in Business, Philosophy, and Religion, from Birzeit University. He lives in the apartment directly above us with his brother, best friend, and three other guys who attend Birzeit. That's 6 people in the same amount of space we have for half the number! Anyway, in this society he is considered very old not to be married, but has never had a girlfriend or has found someone he's interested in. (I always joke that at 30, I'm considered a grandma! They never disagree with me... :-(

Nahel has had a plethora of experiences: he used to model for fashion shows (yes, I've seen the pictures!), he was in the Palestinian special forces, and also used to work in Tel Aviv when Palestinians were still allowed to go there. He's very good-looking, but smoking, lack of exercise, sleep, and stress, are taking their toll--as evidenced by circles and a paunch. As the oldest child in his family, he has five younger brothers and two sisters. The entire family depends on him for their income. The Father is sick and can't work and none of the other siblings is able to find work. This means they are in dire straits, as Nahel's tiny market is not making money. Ideally located next to a school, it usually generates a lot of business, but school has not been in session since before the summer because of the strike, so business is down to a minimum. Nahel has another job working as a computer programmer for the government in Ramallah, but has not been paid there in 9 months.

Anyway, last night we were joking about putting his roommate in solitary confinement because he was being a jerk and Nahel proceeded to tell some stories of his experiences in jail. He's been in five times, all for random things. (He's also been shot by IDF in the shoulder.) For example, once he was going through a checkpoint, and they asked him, "Where are you from?" And he said the name of his village. They asked, "where's that?" He said it was near the name of this other town. They said, "Where's that?" And he answered, "In Palestine." The guards were incensed at this response and said, "Take it back! This is not Palestine; this is Israel. Say, we are in Israel!" Nahel refused so they carted him off to jail.

One of those five times, they placed him in solitary confinement for 12 days and made him sit on a tiny chair that sloped forward, which forced you to lean over the whole time. His hands were tied behind his back. He could not fall asleep or he would fall over. He was fed by hand twice a day and allowed to go to the bathroom also twice a day, and other than that, he had to stay in the same position for 12 days. They regularly beat him in prison and questioned him heavily as to who his friends were, what he did, what he thought about Israel, Jews, etc.

I found it so shocking that this easy-going, friendly, intelligent, normal guy had been through these experiences, shot, imprisoned, tortured. You would never guess watching him and his friends joke around, watch TV, hang out. His thoughts about Israeli policy and the occupation only come out when he is sharing his experiences. He actually has many Jewish friends and bemoans the fact he can no longer go to Israel. He has said that it doesn't really matter what the Israeli troops think of him or what they do to him because he lives with the deep knowledge that he is in the right, that he is the one who was wronged, and that he has done nothing wrong.

I can't really grasp what I would think of justice if I were Palestinian and how I would reconcile the apparent complete lack of it. I mean, you are aware of this standard of human rights and know what justice is and believe in God and that God is good. And yet, you have none of that. They try to say they are unique in the world in that sense, the only people living under occupation for this period of time, but yet there are people all over the world deprived of human rights, freedom, and justice. It's not a unique problem; it's just a problem that is for some reason ignored, not understood, or viewed as "necessary" by the US and the West. That's what makes it unique to me, that we are supporting its existence, whereas elsewhere we condemn it.

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