“Your people go around killing other people.”……….“You’re not ugly. I thought all Palestinians are ugly.”………..“You are going to hell because you are not Christian.” ………..“Palestine? What’s that? OOOOhhhhhhhhh you mean Pakistan!”
These are comments that I have heard from friends (yes, friends) and co-workers. It never fails to amaze me how people can form opinions about millions of people based on the actions of a few.
I was young then, a bit of a rebel, and comments like that made me want to say it even louder – I am Palestinian, and you can think what you want. However, I since have grown up, and now realize how harmful stereotypes can be. They lead to misunderstandings, and do not help in solving problems.
But we are all guilty of that.
Bear with me as I back track a bit.
When my Palestinian husband told me he wanted to leave the States and return to our homeland, I was dead set against it. But I gave in with the hope of finally being able to realize my dream. I was going to work with Palestinian refugees in the West Bank. I was innocent, enthusiastic and ignorant. I did not count on the obstacles in front of me.
I did not take into consideration that the West Bank often had Israeli imposed curfews, or on having to pass checkpoints that lie between Israel and the West Bank. How could I know that there would be a time when the West Bank would be closed to Arabs living in Israel – no one could go in and no one could get out.
That is when I returned to my old forgotten hobby of writing. I was lucky to have the opportunity to write for a children’s newspaper, and that eventually led me to write for the adults’ newspaper.
Stereotypes are abundant here, causing fear, misunderstandings and hinder peaceful relationships. I realize this when I tell Jewish Israelis where I live, and they seem shocked. “How come?” I’m often asked. “Isn’t it difficult?” And though there are many friendships between Jews and Arabs, I have met Jews who are afraid to come to Arab towns. They are guided by their fear.
I have written about some amazing Jewish women, and also about Palestinians in Israel and in the West Bank. I also write about hardships of the Palestinians. When I write about a Palestinian farmer who can not reach his olive trees because of checkpoints or the Wall, or about a woman who saw her husband killed by soldiers, or a woman who gave birth in prison while in chains, or the effects of a house demolition, or people trying to save their village from destruction – when I write about these subjects and give a name to the person, it makes them HUMAN. We can feel for them as human beings.
I would like to break the stereotypes through my writing. Just yesterday, a World Pulse member, desertmuse (Yvonne) commented on my assignment #3, and encouraged me to write a book about Palestine and Palestinian culture and heritage for children with the idea of breaking the stereotypes. Coincidently, that morning I had emailed a friend asking her opinion about a blog or book. It is an idea that I am seriously considering.
I think that we live in a very difficult time. There is so much misunderstanding and preconceived notions about the Arab world and about Islam. I think that the media has played a role in this, and that the media also has a responsibility to draw on the good in people too. Editors can shape opinions with their own lack of objectivity, and by trying to please the readers or owners of a publication.
With the Palestinian bid for statehood now in the United Nations, I think it is now time for the Palestinian people and the conflict to be better understood. It's time for the stereotypes and misconceptions to be a thing of the past!
Although I am a published writer, I have not had any training. I think that I can benefit a great deal by VOF. I would get the guidance that I feel I need, and definitely the encouragement to follow my dreams for a peaceful existence. I hope that one day we will find peace in this part of the world, but there are so many walls to break. I want to be part of that – writing is the least, but maybe the best way I can do that.