Post 49: #Coronavirus and a global perspective on the #MiddleEast

We’re sharing our experiences, thoughts, and uncensored opinions during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. For some of us, it’s DAY 49. 

Today is free-form writing.

Just play nice

Tina F., Fairfax, #Virginia

I have been reading articles from different sources, like the Washington Post, the Times of Israel, the Christian Science Monitor, and Haaretz on how Arabs and Israelis have been putting aside their differences and showing solidarity in the medical establishments in #Israel. Although this a lovely vision of Arabs and Jews helping one another stay alive during a pandemic and a promise of unity, it’s actually a farce. It’s a mask or a Band-Aid on a very infected wound of what has festered into a gruesome, unequal existence. These stories are an attempt to present Israel as benevolent. The Israeli government pretends to exude understanding and peacemaking while undermining international law and arrogantly moving on with its apartheid agenda.

The Israeli government, with the backing of the US administration, is dangling a rotten carrot while planning a systematic annexation of the West Bank and confiscation of more #Palestinian land.

The American peace proposal introduced earlier this year is also a shameful pretense that the USA holds the interest of both the Israelis and the Palestinians. No one in the world other than the USA and Israel considers this a fair plan, especially when the Palestinians were not even consulted.

In simple terms, the Palestinian situation is equivalent to a squatter taking the large house. He gives the owners the outhouse and the shed under the condition that he can store all his shiny new equipment in the shed, giving the owner a tiny space in which to live. All while demanding that the owners stop complaining and being disagreeable because the squatter will take the shed anyway.

The world community has tried to intervene on many occasions. In the past, Israel has scoffed at international laws, bullying its way into creating settlements on Palestinian land. Although this is illegal under UN resolutions, no action is ever taken against Israel.

Now as the world’s attention is diverted by the coronavirus crisis, and while the Arab and Israeli medical community plays nice, the Netanyahu government again defies the world, weaseling its way into an annexation of land that never belonged to it.

Yesterday, British politicians wrote a letter to the UK prime minister urging him to lead the world in sanctions against Israel. The European nation has condemned the annexation as illegal, and the United Nations warns that the annexation is “..undermining the prospects for peace between the two sides..”

I am a pacifist. I believe in equality. I am a Palestinian, and I refuse to accept that this land was God-given to the Jewish people, or that they have the right to slaughter my people. Show me where God says …. “go and get this land with force. Kill the indigenous people, destroy their villages, and drive them out. And if they don’t leave, force them to live as third-class citizens.”


RJD, #Beirut, #Lebanon

The Paris of the Middle East (actually, formerly “the Switzerland of the Middle East”), Lebanon was long known as a delightful, perfect combination of Arab culture with Western flavor. Its location on the Mediterranean Sea meant you could ski and swim on the same day in April and May.

The sun and ski part is still true.

Now, we are neither the Paris nor the Switzerland of the Middle East. Nor are we affluent, productive, or stable. What we are, though, is educated, creative, and resilient.

But what we are notorious for is our trendsetting: For 30 years, we only operated the public and private sector on a corruption basis. Washington, Moscow, and many other capitals have only learned to become really good at corruption in the past 10 years.

We have been laundering money for mafias, drug dealers, and Ponzi schemers for more than 30 years. We can actually write a “Corruption for Dummies” manual. The West laundered that money for us. There.

In October 2019, most businesses in Lebanon cut employee salaries by 50%. The West followed suit in February and March. By Christmas, we furloughed or laid off 55% of employees. In April, the U.S. unemployment rate was 30 million.

And then came Corona. We were one of the first countries west of China that declared lockdowns. You all followed suit.

We were the first to run out of groceries (well, that is also because we don’t have money to import anything!) and you all followed suit again. We were the first to have protests due to unemployment, hunger, and poverty from  lockdowns and utter inequality.

Beware what will happen to you next. Remember we are the trendsetters.

Being Mindful

RafifJ, #Malaga, #Spain

I walked up the mountain today, going nearly all the way to #Gibralfaro. It was the first day of the gradual easing of restrictions in Spain.

Everywhere around me, joggers, hikers, bikers, and walkers were celebrating their first freedom in 49 days. The sun was shining in the blue sky and the sea shimmered below – a perfect day to start the gradual phasing to the new “normal.” Next week, some businesses will open; the week after, restaurants can open, although at limited capacity. We will slowly go to a new “normal” in this little corner of paradise.

As I stood at the scenic overlook, breathing in Malaga’s majesty, I felt a wave of guilt so strong it almost knocked me down.

What happens in parts of the world that are NOT corners of paradise? In #Syria, #Covid-19 is just another form of death. For refugees, and those who have been displaced – sometimes multiple times – “normal” for the past 9 years has meant barrel bombs, starvation sieges, and imprisonment. “Normal” has meant hunger, fear, and the daily loss of loved ones. How do we define “normal” when medics and hospitals are not applauded, but deliberately targeted? What is “normal” when a government deliberately gasses its own people?

So many of us are privileged. We talk about our need for freedom from lockdown; we lament our graying hair and expanding waistlines. We join fitness classes and prepare elaborate meals. We even plan what we’re going to do when we’re out of this quarantine prison. Syrians – and so many other displaced peoples – are not so lucky.

We have the privilege of knowing our lockdowns will be over soon. If we truly take away lessons from the past 49 days, I hope they are that we need to be more mindful. Not just mindful of nature and Earth; let’s be mindful of greed and the lust for power, and how destructive they are. Let’s be mindful that no matter how bad we think our experience has been, there are millions of people who have had it so much worse, and for so much longer.

I hope, in our new “normal,” that we’ll be more grateful for what we do have and less judgmental of the have-nots. I hope the new “normal” means not more restaurants and salons, but fewer wars and less killing. I hope the new “normal” means justice for all.

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