There are some things that have been bothering me for awhile concerning the Palestinians in Lebanon; the way my people treat them. I am writing observations and before I get attacked, and I know I will, just hear me out. You will find that you too have probably been in a similar situation that I am in. Perhaps you won’t even understand what I am talking about and that’s probably because you are on of the people I am talking about. But it’s here and it exists- and I have seen it. And my address is no longer on the road of denial…
Why did it take me so long to learn about Palestine? I have this question running around in my head frequently. I have been living in Lebanon for a while, in fact, this month marks my seven year anniversary. And while I endured a lot- and trust me it was plenty, it was never as much as my neighbors living in the shadows. The forgotten souls, the unwanted, the ‘burdens’…the silenced Palestinians of Lebanon. All along, they were right next to me, but I never saw them. I’d never spoken to them, I’d never asked for their names. No one mentioned them, everyone was always indulged in their selfish pleasures- long enough to leave a whole race live in the most impoverished living conditions. And not only that, when they tried to speak up with their a shattered voices, they were stomped on by the racism of my community making sure no one ever heard their story. Their whole entire existence had been defined by one label- refugees. A label that is not meant to cause offense and has much truth to their struggle, yet it is used as an insulting term. For years, while not really knowing about the Palestinian people, my mind was made up about them- or forced to be at least.
You dare utter a word about their struggles and you are deemed as disloyal to your people. “How can you defend them over us? They are not your people. They are trash. They don’t belong here. You are better than them”. And with annoyance and ignorance about their situation, I bite my tongue before I end up getting into a heated debate. Now, I realize that keeping silent was a vain act. For silence is never acceptable when people live in agony; especially before my very eyes. Silence is never acceptable when you know one side of the story. That silence, to me, is racist. It exists solely to satisfy the bigoted and to keep the egos of my community as large as one can imagine.
And these are not the thoughts of my government, but the thoughts of ‘my people’. Those who try to convince me of the faults of others while they too are committing faults right before me. They are trying to justify their racism, their sick need for superiority. They are making excuses to continue to ignore the direness of this situation. It is REAL, it exists and you’re contributing to it.
To the many that have tried to convince me to spread their hatred: Why are they not my people? They look like me. They speak like me. They laugh like and cry like me. Why are their tears silent? Why are your materialistic cries for “modernity” and “democracy” worth more than the child we besiege in a tiny confined camp, with no electricity or even clean water? Why can we cry about our sufferings, our occupations, our wars, the racism inflicted upon us and not they? What made me better than them? What gives me the right to speak out about my enemy, when I use the same tactics they used on me on the Palestinians?
So finally- I meet them. I meet the ever so vilified Palestinians. I expect to see evil. I expected to be hated. I expect to be kicked out. And what I got were open arms. What I got was a second family, what I got was acceptance from those who don’t know how it feels to be accepted. Not one ill word from their mouths, just words of love.
And my people want me to hate them?
These people, the Palestinians, who have been battling a sixty year long war with not only Israel, but their OWN people- still find a reason to smile every day. Under the harshest conditions-with no telling if they will ever see a permanent home. In their confinement, shackles don’t exist on their love for life…it runs freely, unlike them who are not allowed to do so. Because they are not ‘my people’. They don’t drive the same car as I do nor do they carry the latest cellphone but they know what it means to be humble…they know the value of life because they yearn for it and we won’t give it to them.
I ask these questions and all I get in return is, “You’re not Lebanese. You’re Palestinian. You’re a liar. You’re a poser. Get out of Lebanon”.
And my response to you is: I’m not Lebanese. I am not Palestinian. I am Arab. I am not Sunni nor Shia. I am human. A neglected child has no race. A grieving mother has no skin color. No tears are cried to be ignored.