american in palestine

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

turning names into numbers

"Did you get the five killed in beit hanoun?"
"who's verified that?"
"WAFA just reported another two in Nablus!"
"Names, names - call Majdi, see if he can get confirmation from the hospital on those names."
"Another two in Maghazi - get Rami on the phone! What?? The phone line is out, again??!!"

These are the conversations of our tiny newsroom in Palestine....trying to keep up with the onslaught....we want to report the number of deaths accurately, so we find out the name and age of each person killed, so we don't accidentally report it twice (with reports coming in so quickly, it can get confusing)....we don't count numbers, we count names.

it's the continual process of turning human beings into names into numbers, in the ongoing compilation of statistics that add up to hundreds.....hundreds of human beings, each one of them with their own lives, stories and a seven-year old who just learned to ride a bike, one a grandmother who was almost finished embroidering a pillow for her daughter.....each person, each story, is lost in this barrage of numbers....

the following was written today by nora, an american woman who has been volunteering in a refugee camp in bethlehem:

There will be no statistics in this journal entry because what difference does 10 shredded children in Gaza, or 15 sliced children in Lebanon, or 40 smashed children in Iraq make to the international community anyway? What difference does it make when the twisted and sick US corporate media doesn't even mention their names, or their ages, or their favorite color --
something to put a human face on the mangled mess made by the latest US-manufactured, Israeli-fired missile that destroyed what used to be a nose, a mouth, two eyes, freckles, cheek, or forehead?

Yes, there were "escalations" today in Gaza and Lebanon. There were "military strikes" and "retaliatory attacks" and "intensifications" and "deaths." there were "officials" and "spokespeople" and "leaders" joining in the finger-pointing and the name-calling. Meanwhile, Arab people are burning. Numbers and statistics become, therefore, irrelevant. Language loses its meaning on the tongue, becomes sludge and dribbles down one's chin. My dear friend Siham said today, "What does the term 'civilized society' mean when they are killing people like this?"

What becomes of a language that has lost its original meaning? Does it shrivel up and slink into an abyss to mingle with the ghosts of these headless, armless, forgotten brown-skinned kids? And as we watch the footage, as we hear on the phone from friends witnessing the carnage in their backyards, as we read the articles, how many times can we use the words "unbelievable," "disgusting," "horrific?" They have lost all meaning as well.

We need a new language to describe these nightmares. We need a new vehicle to convey the disbelief and the disgust and the horror as Gaza burns, as Lebanon smolders, as Iraq collapses.

As we rub our eyes tonight, bleary from thick cigarette smoke and too many hours of being glued to the television, my friend Mustafa says, "No one notices, no one cares. We are alone in this world." This is the aloneness. The isolation. Gazan and Lebanese and Iraqi children are huddled in their beds tonight, screaming out to the wall of silence in a sore-throated language, isolated in their terror.

Is it possible, I ask you, to see Palestinians as people - to see them as your brothers, your sisters, your children. Is it possible to see Iraqis that way?

Look closely at the pictures of burned and bombed children. Look closely, and for long enough at the pictures, until you begin to realize that this child is the same age/size as your daughter/nephew/granddaughter/cousin/neighbor. Look close enough, and long enough, until you see that these are humans.

Not numbers.

But people.

And only Americans truly have the power to make all this violence stop. But people see it as far away, disconnected from their own lives. If only people in the USA knew just how connected the "preservation of the American lifestyle" is with wars all over this earth.

A Lebanon diary: "Every night the bombing starts at ten past one":

A Gaza diary: "Killing for the sake of killing":

"Why Is Israel Back in Gaza" (good analysis):

pictures and blog from Lebanon:

some pictures of Beirut before the current bombings:

interview with former israeli general about the difficulties israel is having in its operations in southern lebanon:

lebanese support for hezbollah:,,1825551,00.html

israeli helicopters collide:

hit on UNIFIL post (head of the post says it was an israeli hit, but israel says it was hezbollah):
info on UNIFIL:

so many civilians killed in southern lebanon:

the lebanese prime minister says if israel carries out ground invasion, the lebanese army will stand against them, and with hezbollah:,,1825917,00.html

nasrallah's speech last night:

israeli takeover of palestinian radio station:

after being questioned by international federation of journalists, israel quits the organization rather than respond:


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