Forgetting about my own personal troubles, I thus started to think based on the issue of compassion and dignity more. A story like this should generate compassion and it certainly helps us identify decent human beings (like the Israelis and Palestinians of all religions who helped save the lives of so many children). But why did so many ignore it or feel no compassion because it is not their children or belong to their self-identified (fictional) group. A 33-year old Palestinian Khader Adnan is on his 61 days of hunger strike (because he is held without charge in so called administrative detention by Israel). How many will care if he dies or care now about him? Regardless of his background, isn't he someone's husband, someone's father, someone's son, someone's uncle? Below is a letter from a friend about Khader Adnan's situation. These and other stories that break our hearts do not seem to elicit even a blip of compassion and care from millions who may tangentially hear about these things. Some people say there is "compassion fatigue" among some of us but I disagree. I believe once you have true compassion for fellow human beings you can never tire of it; compassion here is defined as compassion for all human beings not selected members of your "tribe", "nation", "religion" or other concocted group identity (to me this is the opposite of compassion).
Eleven years ago (4 June 2001), I published this letter in Haaretz titled "Sincere condolences" about another tragedy which is relevant here:
"Upon hearing the news of the wedding party turned to tragedy by collapse of the building in Jerusalem, my shock and sadness were intense. It only got worse and turned to tears when I later saw the video footage and read about the alleged construction problems. The video footage reminded me of the footage of my sister's wedding. I was touched by the ordinariness and beauty of this event and then the tragedy that ensued. I grieve for the victims and my thoughts and prayers are with the families and with you all. Please accept my sincerest and humble condolences.
I am a Palestinian American who works for human rights, including the Palestinian refugees' right to return to their homes and lands. I believe that all people of Israel/Palestine must and will eventually live in one democratic and secular state with a constitution that protects all its citizens and treats them equally. We are so similar and it is a shame that political ideas (Zionism and other forms of nationalism) divided us. In 1967, as a 10-year old child in Beit Sahur, I witnessed something that still touches me to this day - a reunion between my grandfather and his Jewish best friend from high school. Two old folks who had not seen each other between 1948 and 1967. Two old folks who cried like children. Both are gone now. I thought of this, and how much I miss the wisdom of my grandfather as I saw the recent events and the tragedies and the victims of violence in our homeland.
My grandfather wrote to me in 1974 that if he was to give me one piece of advice for the future it would be to realize that the world changes and that we have to remove our own shackles, which come to us from society and culture. It is time we started thinking and reflecting carefully on the futility of separation, nationalism, and militarism. It is time to insist on and teach ourselves to live together in equality and humanity. If the Berlin wall tumbled, Apartheid in South Africa was dismantled, and Europe is unifying, why can't we do the same? Imagine if the billions of dollars we spend on weapons were spent to better our economies, desalinate sea water, develop closer relationships and friendships, and provide therapy for the over 17,000 injured in the recent violence.
In the midst of our tragedies, let us work together for a better world.
Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, Ph.D.
Photos here http://www.alwatanvoice.com/arabic/news/2012/02/16/249119.html
Video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjI1Jngi45U
The article and image of the Facebook pages of the Israelis grateful these are Palestinian Children (scroll down past the French) http://www.palestinalibre.org/articulo.php?a=37816 But see above for my comments.
By contrast see comments under this story from the liberal, left leaning Haaretz