Who are the real prisoners?

Who are the real prisoners?

 When I asked in my previous article, "Until when this conspiracy of silence?" concerning more than eleven thousand Palestinian prisoners kidnapped from their homes by Israeli intelligence officers, and suffering the cruelest torture at the hands of sadist jailers in Israeli prisons, I wanted to say that Western silence regarding this brutality was only because the victims are Arabs. But the responses of some Arab bloggers to my article reminded me of a more dangerous silence, the silence of Arab people. It is more dangerous because it indicates a collapse of thought and identity. When a Palestinian youth sacrifices his life to prevent the demolition of a house in the Salwan neighborhood in Jerusalem, and when an unarmed Palestinian girl faces the Israeli military oppression machine on her own, they do so because both of them believe in their land, their nation and their duty towards both, not only towards their families and villages, but also towards Palestine.

The brutality, injustice and blackmail which Arab prisoners suffer in Israeli jails are definitely more painful than that of the 33 miners in Chile whose saga came to a happy end on October 14, 2010. But this tragedy would not have ended without the employment of money, science and will to save them, and without the determination of Chilean president, government and people to save them and to spare no effort in the endeavor.

Had the tragedy been met with the kind of laxity the Arab official regime is showing, or the kind of indifference, which I have read in responses to my article, which called for forgetting the prisoners and focusing on our "many problems" – as we are often asked to do by Israeli prime minister Netanyahu and his foreign minister Lieberman – the miners’ families and country would not have enjoyed their safe return. In addition to this Chilean achievement on the human level, which cannot be overvalued because it stands for the difference between life and perdition, this achievement has indeed put Chile on the map of respectable countries concerned about human life which make persistent and creative efforts to protect it at whatever cost.

On the other hand, when some Arabs ignore the suffering of thousands of Arab prisoners, hundreds of whom are women and children, and when serious, genuine and persistent official and popular action to stir world public opinion and world parliaments until they are freed, is lacking, this does not only perpetuate their tragedy, but deprives us of the world’s respect. Every time we raise the issue of the injustice done to our people in Palestine with a Western intellectual or activist, they ask about what the Arabs have done in this regard. What have the Arabs, who possess huge financial and political capabilities, done for their brethren in Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem, Galilee, Negev and throughout Palestine?

There is not sufficient space here to describe the crimes committed by the West – which claims to be concerned about the life of an individual here or there – in Guantanamo or Abu Ghreib and their brutal wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Of course all these crimes do not justify for anyone to commit a crime anywhere or against anyone. This is the position I live, not only the position I write about. But those who award the Nobel prize to individuals who opposed The Cuban revolution, Iran, China or governments disliked by the West, are the same people spending huge amounts of money to sow division and internal conflict in the Arab world. They are the same people who arm Israel with lethal weapons and the same people who besiege the Arabs, disarm them, abuse their prophet and burn their holy book. They are the same people who support arresting unarmed Palestinians and forgive our enemies for all the crimes they have committed in Iraq, Palestine, and today in Yemen, and very soon in Sudan.

This is Hillary Clinton saying in Brussels, "for Israel, security is paramount, they have the experience of having left Lebanon and now having Hezbollah and rockets on their border, having left Gaza and now having Hamas and rockets on their border". Mrs. Clinton does not mention that Israel possesses hundreds of nuclear bombs and all kinds of missiles, aircraft and submarines with the capacity to carry nuclear weapons. Neither does she mention that the Israeli occupation in Palestine has so far uprooted a million olive trees from the fields of unarmed Palestinians and that, while she was speaking in Brussels, Israel was demolishing forty houses in Negev and Netanyahu was approving the demolition of twenty two Arab houses in Salwan. She did not mention that Israeli occupation troops daily kill unarmed Palestinians and kidnap others from their houses, schools and farms.

Does not that anger those who defend spies? Did not they get angry when Israel passed its new racist law, which Jews described in Israeli papers (see Yediot Ahronot and Haaretz, Monday, 11 October 2010) as racist and fascist, while most Arabs remained silent as if nothing had happened. This law is one of a number of racist laws which aim at expelling Arabs from the part of Palestine occupied in 1948.

Do not these Arabs see what is happening in Sudan in terms of dividing the country and squandering the resources of the Sudanese people? Barak Obama is threatening the Sudanese people: either accept division or millions of them will be killed. Has not Hilary Clinton declared in New York that "Sudan’s division is inevitable", and that "separation will take place after the referendum"? Has not she sent her ambassador, Suzan Rice, to draw the borders between "the north" and "the south"?

Despite all the Sudanese government’s statements that it will be impossible to conduct the referendum in Abyei in January, the American administration and those cooperating with it are going ahead with their plans to send international forces to fragment the country and destroy its unity. Must we wait until the colonizers occupy, violate and divide our countries, one after another, before we are convinced that all of us are targeted, and that they do not distinguish between one Arab and another except in as much as they serve them and as long as the service lasts, then they throw them away?

The condition of our people in Palestine, Sudan, Yemen, Iraq and Gaza is similar to that of the miners who were locked up in the depths of Chile’s mines. What is required is that all the intellectual, moral and material capabilities of the Arab nation should be used to find ways for saving them from this blockade. Anything else only serves the interests of the enemy and contributes to undermining Arab existence and future.

* Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is Political and Media Advisor at the Syrian Presidency, and former Minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer and professor at Damascus University since 1985. She’s got Ph.D. in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.