On those “birth pangs”

Palestinian security officers scuffle with Palestinian demonstrators, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, during a protest against the visit of the U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on July 25, 2006. (MaanImages/Fadi Arouri)


Sorry it’s been so long. I am still here, though i feel as though my heart is sinking to the floor as the days go by quickly and the situation to the north and to the south crumbles into dust hour by hour.

I was in Ramallah over the past two days, visiting friends and documenting a fierce demonstration yesterday morning in the city center as Condoleezza Rice paid a truncated and pathetic quasi-visit to PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Palestinian and international journalists from all over the West Bank crossed humilating checkpoints, braved thick traffic and fought over press credentials only to find out, one hour before the scheduled press conference, that the important question and answer period was canceled by the US handlers. It was just handshakes and rhetoric for the PA president, then off to some other part of this tumultuous region to lie some more. No questions, no answers. This is the duty of the oppressors. Condi Rice, sell-out extraordinaire. She had the audacity to remark offhandedly that the destruction of Lebanon was just “birth pangs” of a new Middle East.

Birth pangs, birth pangs. I think of the birth pangs of the more than 50 Palestinian women who have been stopped at Israeli military checkpoints while in labor, hoping to get to a hospital but prevented from crossing and forced to bleed and push out and birth their newborn babies right there on the road, in the blazing heat or in the freezing cold. I think of the babies that have died at those checkpoints because of the “birth pangs” of this arrogant, wretched military occupation now in its 40th year. I think of giving birth to my own daughter, her slippery newness washed in the brilliant light of an October morning, the beauty and the amazement and the pride of the act of pushing forward life and love and breath.

How dare Condi, the anti-woman woman use this delicate and precious metaphor to describe the approved and saluted massacre of Lebanese and Gazan children. How dare she and her monstrous colleagues of war welcome their rotten child of destruction into the world, name it, caress it, wrap it in blankets made from the skin of the dead.

People here are angry and tired. Sick and exhausted. Heartbroken and hoarse. Four more people killed in Gaza overnight, including two more children. Apparently, according to Condi, this was just another birth pang felt in the cargo hold of the US-made F16, pushing out its shimmering package to be cradled onto the concrete rooftops of a family’s home. Fifty-five of the Lebanese who are dead were children. The bouncy, breathing children of birth pangs felt years or months ago by anxious mothers are now bloody pieces of former human chidren.

This is the new Middle East, a war-ripped playground for the Western powers, the ghettos of ghosts concealed from view, the grunting, animal sounds of birth echoing between the tall and slender missiles cradled in the ether, just miles overhead.

Related Links

  • Photostory: Ramallah to Rice: “Screw your ‘New Middle East’!”, The Electronic Intifada (26 July 2006)
  • BY TOPIC: Israel invades Gaza (27 June 2006)

    Nora Barrows-Friedman, 27, is the Senior Producer and co-host of
    Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. She is in the Dheisheh refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, continuing her work with Palestinian refugee youth in a media training project at the Ibdaa Cultural Center. She can be reached at norabf@gmail.com