Thursday, September 17, 2009

Peekaboo for Zakat too

With the idea of zakat in mind as money goes around, I felt a need to post this. We've been to the camps and slept over there and here's a note:

The question of Palestine is not about poverty. People generally aren't poor. It's about human rights. Dignity. The right to work, vote, own property, not to be disallowed from over 70 job types in the host country, about being allowed to travel with a Palestinian ID to Arab surrounding countries -- Qatar won't allow a Palestinian in the country (with very few exceptions).

So sending money through international aid is good, folks, but that's not all to see in the question of Palestine or the refugee situation. There is way too much focus on "money as aid to Palestine" idea, which is really a misconception now I see.

We think a refugee camp, we think a poor suffering child doing nothing waiting around. We think refugee only when a missile hits Gaza or the camps in Lebanon, only when that Palestinian is dying. When we think Palestine we don't think pharmacies with updated medicines, clothing stores, young boys selling vegetables. We don't think satellite dishes, girls with ipods, iftars during Ramadan free to families, or monthly allowances to every Palestinian kid. It's not about money. Trust me. Now I see, it's more about security, human rights, dignity.

To return to the homeland. Even this is under further investigation in my mind. Many, just too many, of the Palestinian youth I've spoken to, aren't thinking of the awdah or the return. They want out, into neighboring countries for work or education. Or better yet, they want the "dream" -- to go to America, Australia, Canada, Europe.

This idolization of "the west" is almost stomach turning. Anyone with any connection to the "West" is idolized, even secretly envied. Adults too, not just youth, want to migrate to foreign countries and not return to Palestine. They want to secure a future there.

Don't get me wrong, there are supporters of the awdah, the return, but they are NOT the majority, and the international audience needs to know this more deeply.

Yes, to answer some of the questions posed to me, my aunt and family do live in the refugee camps, and that is why we've been going and sleeping over and living there basically for a few days and permits are required of us of course. But this experience has really opened our eyes to many things we never focused on even as members of Palestinian human rights student groups in Canada, or just activists generally for human rights. We always thought the problem with Palestine is to return them to the homeland, because they have no country no more. Though this is true, as we said, it is partially true. There is so much more. So much more to this picture.

Some food for thought as we end this Ramadan. Peek. A. Boo.


Footnote: Since it is the commemoration today (Sept 17-18) of the massacres of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon, I dedicate the above post to this day. I've been to Sabra and Shatila, interviewed people there, and walked through its streets ... though I appreciate the good will of people abroad in commemorating this day, it still bothers me how Palestinians are just a day to remember and then move away from.



t said...

Although I did see some cases of grinding poverty in Sabra and Shatilla, you're quite right that countries like Lebanon have very effective laws to prevent Palestinian refugees improving their socioeconomic level.

I wish these violations were more widely acknowledged.

Well said. And would love to hear more about your personal experiences in the camps.

Faith said...

Well.. I’m ashamed to admit.. but it’s true.. I’m one of those who escape the Palestinian case whenever it's there. Every time my mom follows its news on TV; I ask her to change the channel. I just feel helpless and hopeless and I don’t even want to think of it.
Please post more about this. It’s People like you who prevent me and many others from shutting our eyes and changing the channel. And I truly.. want to help. I’d like to know more about any way of support that you think possible.