Two of the most efficient ways of convincing someone to agree with an argument are to appeal to one’s logic or appeal to their emotions. Most people out there, shape their ideologies predominantly through their rationality or their feelings based on their experiences. On the 14th of April, the Society of International Affairs of Göteborg (Utrikespolitiska Föreningen Göteborg) presented Majed Abusalama, a Palestinian refugee, journalist and human rights activist from Gaza in a lunch lecture in collaboration with the organization “Ship to Gaza”. Before attending the lecture I did a thing I usually do, when I want to form an opinion. I tried to empty my head of all detailed knowledge or information I had on the issue (I would add it later) and just listen to the man and what he is trying to communicate.
I heard the man tell anecdotes about himself and his friends and more so about children. I heard the man call himself “stateless”. I am Greek, you are German or Swedish, and he is “stateless”. Why friend? According to whom? Aren’t you Palestinian? No, friend, because Palestine doesn’t exist as a country. I listened to the man trying to communicate the reality of the children in Gaza strip. The reality of 6 hours electricity per day, the reality of the polluted waters, the reality of being shot at and arrested, the reality of the pictures children draw and always include blood planes or bombs, rather than flowers, smiling faces and the sun. I heard the man telling the story of his friend that had been accepted for university education in China and tried for months to get his papers in order to leave the country only to arrive there too late. The position had been covered. I heard how the people inhabiting the Gaza strip, especially children and the youth, are essentially prisoners in their own land –not only physically but also psychologically and mentally. It was a successful appeal to my emotions.
But what about my logic? After the lecture I started adding up the pieces of knowledge I have on Palestine and its history as a region. From the Roman and the Ottoman Empire to McMahon’s lies and the Sykes-Picot secret agreement (that was leaked by the Soviet government in 1917). From Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat to the history of violence by both sides. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict dates back to 1948 but the region has been in turmoil for centuries before that. I eventually arrived at what depresses me in political science, international relations and history, all of which have been my fields of study. Since 1948 there are over 1 million Palestinian “prisoners” in Gaza strip and an estimated 2 million “stateless” Palestinians in the rest of the West Bank.
We live in 2014 and what is happening out there is bound to be against human rights or international law and is, more importantly, against logic and that is exactly what depresses me. In all our experience and all the organizations and laws we have created, we still can’t solve a problem that is morally and logically wrong. Is there someone that will say that the Palestinian children deserve the kind of life they are living? No. Still, we refuse to act upon the problem and we tend to forget it immediately after we hear it. Instead, of doing the right thing we get lost in labyrinths of how and when and where and why. And the world keeps creating wars and violence because, in many cases, we refuse to break the circle. Indeed, history weighed on the situation because on the other hand we shouldn’t forget what the Jewish people have been through during the holocaust but also the racism they are subjected to, even today. Still even that doesn’t make what is happening in the Gaza Strip justified. It is just unacceptable for the world of the 21st century, to have imposed imprisonment to a population and to persist in keeping this population locked in that violent equilibrium.
Majed Abusalama, told me he believes in a peaceful solution, even though he himself got shot by the Israelis and while most people back in the Gaza strip don’t. I would love to share his belief but I am afraid that it is too late and that too many generations of children grew up in that violent environment while the world watched their T.V.’s doing nothing. But, even now, the world must do the right thing and give back to these children their identities, their country and their future. There is a state called Palestine and Palestinian children live there and they have every right to do so peacefully. We should make sure that happens.
Text: Alexandros Kostoulas
Cover Image: Wikimedia Commons