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Today, I am a Palestinian

I am ashamed of being an American

May 3, 2002
The Iranian

There are times when I am ashamed of being an American citizen. And right now I cannot think of another time, in my short history as a new citizen of this republic, when I felt as awful about having taken that oath of citizenship. The American backing of the shameless, brutal Israeli attack on the Palestinian people is horrendously blind and devoid of any sense of fairness. What is even more difficult to witness is how Israeli justification of its military brutality is swallowed whole by the majority of Americans who are too preoccupied with their own lives to look beyond the truth as presented by network TV. It is in times like these when one wonders if democracy without a minimum level of education and awarness amongst the electorate is worth its name.

Right after 9/11 I wrote an essay about women being the first victims of Muslim Fundamentalism [We are the victims]. In that essay I tried to make a rhetorical point by stating that, as a woman, I would prefer to live in Sharon's Israel than in Hamas' Palestine. I had just watched the very moving documentary about the Taliban called "Behind the Veil", and thought that any secular state, even a fascist one, was better than a Muslim theocracy for women.

I have never regretted anything I have written as much as that statement. I want to take this opportunity to take it back. Because there are some injustices that make even me, temporarily put on the back burner, my feminism. After witnessing Israel turn into Nazi Germany, over the many years and especially in the past few months, I stand here to tell you that for the first time in my life I agree with Khamenei and the Muslim hard liners on an issue. I do not consider the suicide bombers in Palestine terrorists -- they are freedom fighters through and through. They are fighting to end an unjust occupation and as such cannot, in my book, be called terrorists. They are simply desperate. I would prefer a Gandhiesque approach but I cannot condemn the young, desperate, mother who ties a bomb to her body and detonates it.

What the vulgar behavior on the part of Israel and the United States has done is that it has brought secular feminist, like myself, in line with our enemies, the Hezbollahis. This witnessing of an unequal, unfair and systematic blood shedding that Israel is conducting in front of the world, for all to see, has united us seculars with the fundamentalists in the Middle-East. This is the one issue that gives validity to their anger. So if 9/11 seemed senseless to us then -- it actually is easier to understand the anger that propelled it in the light of Israeli reaction today. Wonder where the anger comes from that make someone plan an event that includes driving a plane into a building for years and carries it out without a flinch? Just look at what is happening in Israel right now. Make sure you tune in to BBC because the American networks will not show you the reality. I personally have turned the TV off in my house and curse ever having helped CNN with their ratings!

Israel conducts itself as if memories of the persecution of the Jews, of the Holocaust, are supposed to wash even the sin of murder off the bloodied hands of this new nation. She acts as if having witnessed injustice and cruelty gives her a right to exercise it. Israel founded on the noble belief in the necessity to remember injustice and to correct it -- has completely forgotten its essence. It has lost its soul to the myth of the need for self-preservation. What is worse than ever before, in the brief history of this nation of refugees turned bullies, is that this time the events of 9/11 have bolstered the Sharon government so that they conduct their ethnic cleansing in broad daylight, as it were, and in the most arrogant and audacious manner. All with the full backing of the United States whose most illustrious representatives are even calling for the elimination of the right of the Palestinians to any territories what so ever.

All of this you have heard many times. The point I would like to make is that right now I wish I had never become an American. They can take their freedoms and openness and opportunities, make me wear a chador any day, but do not kill innocent Muslim brothers and sisters, with my tax money, in the name of Israel! I think all of us Middle-Easterners with American citizenship should collectively burn our passports as an act of symbolic protest. Or better yet collectively refuse to pay taxes.

I mean at what point will our sense of fairness, our sense of empathy, be strong enough for us to show some real outrage. They take away the most basic rights we have, they back the enemy of our people and we go on a march on Washington and come back to our daily taxpaying, hard working routines as Americans. When is an act of foreign policy horrendous enough for us to question our position as citizens of the US? When will we say we will not pay to support Israel in this bloodthirsty expedition?

I, for one, know that the oath that I took, that sunny summer afternoon, not too long ago in Boston, to serve this nation in war, is not worth the paper it is written on when it comes to this issue. There is no way that I would have a daughter or a son of mine fight for this nation on the side of Israel. In the light of this new America of Patriot Acts and blind backing of an out of control Israel, that oath that I took stands in its' naked real politik self as what it really is for many of us: an act of convenience, a way to travel easier. I had come to take it more seriously with time and the raising of my children here, but this state of affairs makes me feel so alienated from the mainstream and the government of this country that I am happy I mumbled the part about serving this nation in war, that day I took the oath in Boston.

I felt tremendous sympathy for Americans after 9/11. I even went and bought a flag to show my solidarity with my new nation. But now, how can any one with any sense of fairness, or a modicum of common sense, be proud of this reactionary government and an electorate that continues to stubbornly and proudly be oblivious to the rest of the globe. As an American citizen of Middle-Eastern ancestry I think it is my duty to say that today I am ashamed of being an American. Today, I am a Palestinian.

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for the writer Setareh Sabety

By Setareh Sabety

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