The Electronic Intifada Victoria, Canada 12 September 2001
Dearest Maha and family, and all dear friends in Nazareth,
Thanks Maha, for staying in touch and for asking about us here in North America. What has happened is so horrible I cannot find the words to express my reactions. I don’t have a television, so it was not until this morning when the Toronto Globe and Mail landed on our front porch that I saw the images—the huge buildings now gone, the body parts in the streets, the people with faces of absolute fear and shock.
My family is mostly in Pittsburgh, so they are, thank God, all fine. But it looks like the plane that went down outside of Pittsburgh was headed there, probably intending to hit the tallest building in the city, which is just a few blocks from the office where my youngest sister works. It seems the pilots in that case put up a fight and did not let the hijackers take over the plane. I guess they realized they were going to die anyway, so their last act of choice and will was that they, not the hijackers, chose not to kill others while dying themselves. It’s an absolute nightmare, Maha.
I have a friend in New York who works near the World Trade Center. I have not been able to contact her, nor has she answered my emails. I am hoping that she is just too busy or too shook up to pick up a phone or send a message, and that she is fine.
George is afraid that if there is some link to the Arab world, all Arabs and Muslims in the US may be rounded up and put in detention camps, as the Japanese were after Pearl Harbor (an event these obscene attacks are repeatedly compared to).
The way George Bush Jr. is talking, it sounds like some incredibly devastating retaliation is in the planning stages. I really fear for what could happen in Iraq, Iran, or Afghanistan as a result of this.
Whover did these acts was certainly brilliant—and quite evil, too. They have now brought hell down upon the heads of innocents—today in the US, maybe tomorrow in the Middle East.
When I heard the very first reports, at 6 a.m. our time, my first thought was, I’m ashamed to admit, upon realizing it was an attack, “Now Americans will understand what it’s like to be in Beirut in August 1982, or in Qana in 1996, or in Baghdad any day. Or in a building in Ramallah or Janin or Nablus that is being hit by F-16s.”
But then as the scale and magnitude became apparent — there are probably about 10,000 dead, altogether—I just began to feel sick, sad, angry, and really devastated that all the work so many of us have done for years to advance peace based on justice, human rights, respect for international law, anti-racism, and saner and fairer US foreign policies will now be smashed to bits —all that time and effort will be rendered a totally futile, useless and a wasted decade of work if this proves to have emanated from somewhere in the Arab or Islamic world.
Today hearing that War Criminal, Ariel Sharon, talking about how “Israel stands as one with the American people, and is willing to assist in any way,” I thought “Oh no: here it comes—the total Israelification of the US—we’ll go to a police state, two-tiered, ‘us-against-them’ way of life, dominated by hatred, racism, and paranoia, all the aspects of Israel that turned my stomach when I lived there with you, when, travelling to Tel Aviv on Egged buses, people would talk to me, assuming I was Jewish, and say such shockingly racist things about Arabs and how they should all be killed, or chased out of the country once and for all…., and worse, now the IDF will have a completely free hand to do whatever it wants, wherever it wants.
I must say, though, that it did not help to see people celebrating in the West Bank. On an emotional level, I know how absolutely frustrated, angry, bitter, and hopeless people feel there, in the West Bank and Gaza, but where is any leadership, vision, or sense among Palestinian intellectuals, media people, activists!?
The image presented over and over again on TV here, from friends I’ve spoken with who have not taken their eyes off the screens of their televisions for 24 hours, is horror and rage at seeing Palestinians celebrating these evil acts.
For the pro-Israel lobby, this is the biggest gift, wrapped up in silk ribbons and presented on a golden platter, that they could ever hope to receive. A real day of victory and glee for them to see that now they have the entire US populace in the palm of their hands.
I guess this is the natural result of having a complete ass like Arafat and his band of thieves in charge of Palestine for a decade—they’ve depleted not only the economy, but the moral and intellectual level of the public as a result of having no leadership, just a bunch of whores giving everything away and reducing people to absolute despair and hopelessness.
But I hope that people there will continue to realize that the American people are not the enemies; it is the govt., the congress full of people who’d sell their mothers to get another term in power, the unprincipled political pressure lobbies, the spineless journalists who dare not tell the truth about the Middle East, though most know it full well, the defense contractors, the racists and jingoists in the military and intelligence divisions, who have aided and abbetted the dehumanizing Israeli occupation, not 22 year old African American secreteries, 44 year old Japanese American stock brokers, 38 year old Irish American fire-fighters, etc. But these are the people who have suffered, not the elite. It was ever thus, I guess.
It is quite possible, of course, that this act did not emanate from the Middle East. From traveling with George by airplane in the US and abroad, I know that Arab Americans are always closely watched, interrogated, their luggage inspected, their passports taken to a back office to check on the big computer, etc. It has happened to us 80 percent of the time we have travelled, so I have real doubts that so many Arabs or Muslims could have pulled this off. I tend to think that people who looked like very average, white Americans may have done this—no one else could have avoided suspicion and detection. Maybe it was the act of people upset at how the anti-WTO protests in Genoa went, maybe anarchists, maybe Serbs, maybe some new group that no one has even heard of or suspected yet.
I can already see and feel the growing rage and hatred against the Middle East from what I read on web lists and newspapers, from what I am hearing on radio interviews and call-in programs. I want to scream out: “No! don’t dehumanize and demonize a whole section of the world! Look at the crimes and horrors the US has inflicted in Viet Nam, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, and Latin America—can’t you see why people would hate you and eventually strike back!?” But no one here will listen to such a perspective now. Anger will have deafened and blinded them, and that will make US military power that much more dangerous.
My new neighbors in Canada are very kind. Last night they came over to offer us their condolences, to tell George that they hoped it was not an Arab attack, and that if it was, he could count on them and their friendship and protection if anyone tried to harrass us. That made us feel really moved. As Canadians, they noted that US imperialism would eventually have a price, but as humans, they were shocked and appalled at the death, destruction, and damage.
Seeing the New York skyline in a photo today, devoid of those two tall buildings, was a real shock. It reminded me of the only time I ever saw George cry: When we went to Lebanon together the first time in Dec. 1991, after the war had just ended, and we went with his brother by car across the former green line, to the site (now full of tall grass, burned out cars, and even some human bones) which used to be Martyrs’ Square. He had not been at that place since 1976, he had not seen, live and in person, the sections of West Beirut that were reduced to rubble from 1976 onwards, until that moment, and he began crying and saying “The bastards! Why did they destroy this? What were they thinking? Who did it benefit!?”
Well, in Lebanon, we know it benefited the people who made so much money selling the weapons and controlling the ports, and selling drugs, women, etc. The same class of mercenary people will benefit from this in the US: The defense contractors and the pro-Israeli lobby. Knowing that really stings.
George is now saying that we should cancel or postpone our November trip to Lebanon and Palestine. Maybe he is right, but I will wait and see, and hope to see all of you, happy and healthy, in Nazareth soon.
Love to all, and be well. Let’s hope and pray that more innocents do not die unjust deaths.