Guest columnist Hind Mari: Kindness and fear of the unreported in Palestine 


Published: 02-16-2023 9:09 PM

In her poem “Kindness,” Naomi Shihab Nye says that before we know kindness, we must know sorrow. Her poem reminds me of a question a friend asked me upon returning from a visit to Palestine: “Growing up under the Israeli occupation, how can you be so kind? How do you have it in you?”

I ponder these words and wonder how else I could be. I think that the sorrows Shihab Nye describes are what make me so aware of oppression around the world, making me hypersensitive to others’ suffering.

Suffering surrounds us. The rights of various groups are constantly stripped away, whether by lawmakers, police officers or vigilantes. Gerrymandering and voter suppression are intensifying; censorship in schools aims to whitewash U.S. history and raise students with a version that denies the racism and sexism in our history and culture; vicious war is waged on people’s bodies by criminalizing and banning abortion, and by criminalizing parents who approve hormone therapy for their trans kids.

Babies who are born forcibly by law lose their worth by politicians who claim life is sacred yet refuse to ban assault weapons.

Many Americans celebrated President Joe Biden’s win, yet not too many critique the policies that were enacted under Donald Trump and are still in use, especially against asylum seekers at the southern border.

What about police reform or calls to defund the police since the killing of George Floyd? Since his  murder, police killings continue to rise — 1,192 people in 2022. Yet the hypocrisy by which news is often reported, and the lack of investigative journalism, amplifies only the voices of those in power.

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After the murder of Tyre Nichols at the hands of the police in Memphis, the officers were not fired until there was public outcry. Why were they not fired the moment their superiors saw the footage? Did they have to wait for public pressure? However, their firing came faster than in other cases. Was this true accountability or was it because the officers were Black? What about boasting about dissolving the Memphic police’s Scorpion unit, when there are other units doing the same dirty job?

Why didn’t mainstream media report that Tyre was one of seven Black people killed by police this past January? The actions taken by politicians and lawmakers are purely performative. Policing in this country grew out of slave patrols and cannot be anything but oppressive to the descendants of enslaved people.

Despite the empty promises and the performative acts, we are able to gather some news in the U.S. But do we know that the Memphis Police Department was among those who were trained by Israelis? Former Memphis Police Director Larry Godwin attended a training in Israel, and said he was excited to incorporate some of its techniques in the Blue Crush initiative that intensified policing in communities of color.

I stopped getting surprised by the news media’s apathy toward Palestinians. You have to search for alternative media to learn the truth.

In the first month of 2023, Israeli forces killed 35 Palestinians, including eight children. No major news station reported on this until a Palestinian killed seven settlers. I was surprised to learn from Orly Noy from B’Tselem that the shooting did not take place in a synagogue, nor during Shabbat prayers as was reported. There is a synagogue on that street.

She also reported that the Palestinian man’s grandfather was stabbed to death by an Israeli settler from that settlement 20 years ago, and recently, his teenage cousin was killed by an Israeli police officer, who received a certificate of excellence from Itamar Ben-Gvir for that. I don’t support any killing, yet one must wonder, how much can people take under pressure?

One day after that attack, Israeli settlers made 144 attacks on Palestinians. That never gets reported either. I sit here worrying about my nephews — young men who travel between Palestinian towns. Will they be safe? Can they make it to their families? What is the wait like for their wives and their mother, my sister, until they arrive safely home? I am in constant fear of the unreported.

I recently saw a video of 22 mothers of murdered Palestinians from Jenin, visiting mothers in Nablus, who also grieve their murdered sons. These mothers introduced themselves and named their murdered kids. Some suffered multiple losses and have partners in jail.

I go back and think about kindness. Is it still possible while Secretary of State Andrew Blinken boasts about shared values between the U.S. and Israel? Values of genocide and ethnic cleansing?

Hind Mari lives in Amherst.