Monday, July 24

Nasrallah the folk hero?

I've been thinking for more than 24 hours now whether to write the following text or not.
It's easy to misinterpret or otherwise abuse the information.

I do some community work in Ajami, the neighborhood where i live. I work with girls and young women, some of them from extremely impoverished homes, where they are faced with various forms of violence, drug abuse etc.

The majority of them are Palestinian girls, although they will not define themselves as such, they have very little political awareness, or... do they?

Yesterday, in spite of the very hot weather, we sat in the garden, in the shadow of a huge "toot" tree, drinking cold water and eating" majadara". Talking about this and that.
Thirteen year old Aisha* said; " You know Yudit, in the X store in "Gantamar" (a part of Ajami) they sell posters of Nasrallah, they have different sizes, i want to buy one to hang in my room. Nasrallah is the only one who cares about the Palestinians".
Sixteen year old pious Mervat* agreed with her, and spat on the photographs of fallen soldiers, on the "Yediot" front page she was holding while saying they were "maniakim". I knew she was waiting for my reaction. Would act in anger? Would i be distressed?

We started talking. Mervat told me she'd spoken yesterday to her sister, who lives in the Gaza strip with her children. Although the sister has a blue, Israeli id card, the sisters have not met for years, as her Gaza-born children cannot travel with her, and they cannot get an entry permit to Israel.
Mervat, who herself was born in the Gaza strip to an Israeli mother, carries an Israeli ID, so she cannot go to visit Gaza, to meet her family.
The only way the sisters can meet, is abroad. As people in the Gaza strip have little money, that road is open to few.
Mervat 's sister's home has been destroyed. They can talk only occasionally, when there is enough electricity to charge the batteries of the sister's cellphone. The sister and her children live with her husband's family now. All stay in one room. The children, traumatized by the noises, the loss of their home, the lack of hope, the poverty, the stress, find it difficult to cope.

Mervat is angry. she knows very little about politics and only occasionally watches the news. But she is certain of one thing : Nasrallah is the only one who cares about the Palestinians, he has given her hope. She sees him as an honest man with honor, a hero, not scared of the "zionists who kill our children".
Aisha agrees with her.

Then they say "don't worry Yudit, you are not like them, we know you are ok".

Two little girls from Ajami saying it more clearly, if we'd only listen "the Israeli emperor's new clothes are non-existent".

But we don't listen, or perhaps we don't want to listen. No, Aisha and Mervat are not dangerous extremists. what they see in the news upsets them, deeply. Hundreds of Lebanese civilians get killed, murdered. While all eyes are trained on Lebanon, no one pays attention to what is happening in the WestBank and the Gaza Strip where people are killed as well and infrastructure and houses destroyed.

Aisha and Mervat don't know much about the politics, the dynamics and the "expert opinions" of this or that (ex) general. In fact, they never watch the Israeli Hebrew language channels. They watch AlJezeera etc, where they see the violence, the horror, they talk to their relatives and they perceive one thing: Nasrallah makes promises which he keeps.
Whether that is true or not, doesn't play much of a role. they perceive it as true, honest and honorable.

Their lives in Jaffa are poor and they have few chances.

Aisha and Mervat are the future. They can change a lot, in any direction. We better listen to them and take them very seriously.
They are two very innocent well meaning and sensitive young girls.
They don't believe the Israeli version, they know they have very little to expect from life and if someone gives them hope, they'll take it up, with all the vigour of the very young.

*Not their real names


ee said...

It sounds like a ticking bomb. The question is - do they contain enough hatred to become one literally.
On the one hand, it's understandable that they're bitter.
On the other, investing in hostile population does seem a waste of good municipality money.

Yudit Ilany said...

Definitely NOT a ticking bomb. But a lot of sadness, anger and alienation, which, over time, if not seriously related to might eventually turn into a ticking bomb.
These girls live in extrmely poor homes. the water is disconnected, no direct electricity (but a small wire, courtesy of the neighbors who have not yet been disconnected from the grid). There isn't always enough food on the table. The parents have major problems finding a job, the public Arab school system in Jaffa is horrid (53% drop out rate)
etc etc etc.
The main information source of the girls is satellite TV as Israeli TV doesn't cater seriously to its Arabic speaking population.
I could go on and on giving examples.
I think that by not investing enough in quality education and welfare, health, infrastructure etc., of Jaffa's Palestinian populationpeople feel more and more victimised, alienated, discriminated against.
when someone offers them hope, they will go for it.
It's the old old picture, seen again and again. And when that someone is Nasrallah, yes, they will go for it.
And the horrid and atrocious results of the Israeli bombing of Lebanon as shown on foreign TV (much less on ours) makes it easy to identify with its victims. When at the same time Nasrallah is depicted as the "new Nasser", finally someone who is not a liar, who keeps his promises, who is succesful in his fight, etc. etc. and who has a "true solution"in short someone who is conceived of as a savior as it were, then we'd better think deeply and seriously.
The long term results of our discrimination of the Israeli Palestinian population is leading to very serious problems, which can be avoided and solved. But we better start working seriously towards this.
Providing really equal chances, investing the necessary funds, working a basis of mutual understanding and doing more than the usual figleaf actions. This implies longterm planning, funding, training not from a paternal above" but based on real cooperation, honesty etc.

It's not impossible to do this. But funds are needed, which until now are not available.
The various Islamic NGO's are entering the field and they are doing a good job, exactly like Shas.
And that's OK, in fact in Jaffa some of them are doing a great job.
They know the needs of the community and relate to those needs in a realistic and respectful way. We have a lot to learn from them.
And we can.

However, if we wait and allow the poverty and discrimination to turn their way, we eventually will be facing major problems.

ee said...

Sure, the poverty and pervasive discrimination are no secret and nothing to be proud of but the alternative, admiring Nasrallah??
I'm sure the family of 15-year-old Da'a Abbas, who was killed today, aren't great fans...

ee said...

Yes, I know she was Druze. They too are discriminated against, even though the men serve in the army. Another population that would provide cause for concern...