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Ramallah: A Stop and Start Life Full of Checkpoints

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Palestine : Tag Yasser Arafat par Vince Steven au checkpoint de Qalandia, Ramallah - aout 2010
Palestine : Tag Yasser Arafat par Vince Steven au checkpoint de Qalandia, Ramallah - aout 2010
(Image by ??yrl from flickr)
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Ramallah: A Stop and Start Life Full of Checkpoints

by John Kendall Hawkins

The fall of Jerusalem to the First Crusade in 1099 stunned the world of Islam, which was at the peak of its achievements. Damascus, Cairo and Baghdad were large cities with combined population of over two millionadvanced urban civilization at a time when the citizens of London and Paris numbered less than fifty thousand in each case. The Caliph in Baghdad was shaken by the ease with which the barbarian tide had overwhelmed the armies of Islam. It was to be a long occupation.

- Tariq Ali, The Book of Saladin

Applied Empathy (i.e., caring) regarding events in the Middle East has taken a beating over the decades. Fatigue has set in and we don't really care anymore -- an indifference has been exposed that is up there with Climate Change for imminent demise. Maybe they are linked. Maybe the real pandemic underway is mental. Some kind of fight-flight-freeze intuiting of catastrophic danger ahead for us all as we hurdle toward the Singularity.

This fatigue point has been reached incrementally over the years since the end of WWII, which ended with the Big Bang of our unnecessarily nuking the Japs to spite the Russkies. "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds," Robert Oppenheimer quietly noted, Gods of Death, as Freud, and others, figured we'd end up as. After WWI, newly discovered Middle East oil became the most prevalent source of world energy, leading to "skirmishes" for its wealth, after the breakdown of the Ottoman Empire. And the other major transformative event for the region was the Jewish demand, after WWII and the Holocaust, for a homeland -- based upon historical precedence.

The world has been delighted to watch the wilderness religions -- Christians, Islam and Judaism -- beat the living snot out of each other for millennia, like three irascible siblings each intent on domination. The Three Abes (they all derive from Abraham, who himself was punked by God) have, individually or together, shaped the way the world has progressed economically, spiritually, militarily, and morally for at least 1000 years, going back to the Crusades. So, though we are fatigued with the whole lot of them, the Three Abes still hold our attention, and what happens in the Middle East today still has far-reaching consequences for our collective future. Arab oil, especially plastics and carbon emissions, has filthified the world, maybe beyond rescue. Tensions between Israel and its neighbors, especially Iran and Syria, threaten to act as a catalyst for apocalyptic destruction. In this still developing regional denouement with global consequences, the human rights violations in Palestine (Israel), that we hear about almost every day, just don't move us; we no longer expect much to change.

The Book of Ramallah, a collection of 10 short stories from the West Bank city, attempts to stir our interest again. The book, part of the Comma Press (UK) 'Reading the City' series, focuses on stories that emphasize people and their environs over a strictly political posturing. Part of the deadening of our response to the so-called Israeli-Palestinian Question, over the years, has been the MSM filtering of events there as "political" rather than human. Always we talk about the "two-state solution," even when there is no hope of that now. We don't talk about America's outsized role in the demise of that "Solution."

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John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelance journalist and poet currently residing in Oceania.

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