Seeing Rawan Yaghi on Skype

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On Sunday I got up early to do a Skype call to Gaza. Yousef Aljamal was hosting a session of the Center for Political Development Studies. Yousef’s students were going to ask me questions about the role of the Israel lobby and the American Jewish community in policymaking.

Most of the questions were from young men. They were smart but slightly-abstract questions about the role of the lobby and attitudes in the Jewish community. I was smart and abstract back. The guys were handsome and nicely dressed. Leather jackets. Neat beards.

Then Rawan Yaghi sat at the microphone and asked, What can be done to change Americans’ view of who Palestinians are?

Before me sat a poised young woman wearing wire-rimmed glasses, 18 years old, but already showing signs of becoming an intellectual. There was such delicacy to her manner and her question, I found myself overcome. I struggled against upwelling emotions to answer her question. This is the biggest question of all, and I don’t know the answer. I said that we were up against racism. The attitudes go back 100 years in the U.S.– people saying that Palestinians are not human beings.

Breaking these stereotypes down is her job, and it is my job too.

Rawan nodded and pursed her lips. She too seemed overwhelmed by the feelings attendant to this very large struggle.

Later Yousef reminded me that Rawan Yaghi won the awards contest that Annie Robbins held on this site last year with “From Beneath,” a description of what it is like to escape a bombing attack. The piece has all the delicacy and precision of the person with whom I connected on Sunday.

I went to Rawan’s site. At the top are the words, “In Gaza– to live free metaphorically.” Remember: these people live under blockade. 1.6 million people living in an open-air prison.

Here is her latest blogpost, remembering the Gaza onslaught of 3 years ago, a day in school. “She dropped it.”

She dropped it and ran away. She was standing right in front of the door of her school, holding her book, getting prepared for her exam. A huge number of explosions followed the one the hit near her school. She stopped. Looking around, terrified, she saw police men crying, cars hurrying, kids running. The bombs continued. She didn’t know where to go. Her headmistress stopped taxi drivers to pick up the scared students. She stood there in silence. A bus with the back door open passed her, letting her see the dead bodies piled inside. Her eyes turned wide open. Her lips froze. Her hands shook. Her knees could no longer carry the heavy picture that has just passed. She tried to stand, but no one looked at her. Everyone was running . A teacher tried to reach her, but another bomb was dropped and the teacher got back behind the door of the school. The girl felt the ground shaking under her collapsed legs. Her hands shook more. She was still in shock. She knew air strikes very well. She always sees them on TV. She knows that this happened before. But, the bombs went on. They were telling her that this is not just a strike. This is one hundred strikes in a minute. This is a try to break the record, and you’re just one girl on the ground, shaking, gulping loads of smoke, paralyzed by fear. The teacher reached her, dragged her to a car, and closed the door.

I love the title. She dropped it– I believe it refers to her book. Think about that.

Our work is cut out for us. It won’t be done till Rawan Yaghi is free to come to the States, and to read her work from American daises and meet Americans face to face. That day will come.

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To change American opinions about the conflict over Palestine, a pro-Palestinian genre of Hollywood-style film needs to be developed and distributed. Here is my attempt at a sort of Palestinian Schindler’s List: . I started my film on p. 19. A script doctor added the previous 18 pages because she thought the film needed more context. I consider the material backstory that is implied and need not appear in the film. Two Weeks in… Read more »

Phil: On the topic, How can Palesetine’s story be told in the USA today, especially with an “iron curtain” drawn across the MSM led by the totalitarian NYT: Can you imagine someone getting the FORWARD and the TABLET to criticize the NYT for the lousy story on the $5M gift to Newt which failed to mention the Israel connection? Or Abe Foxman? Beinart? Tikkun Mag? Or, from another direction, Zbig? Someone important has got to… Read more »

omg! i am so glad you brought ‘she dropped it’ here. i have read this over and over. i have her blog bookmarked now but i didn’t read this til after we hosted a small collection of gazan writers around new years. rawan is truly an amazing person. i have had the pleasure of sharing an some email exchanges with her. in fact just recently phil when we finally found someone to deliver her book… Read more »

Her question is critical. My recommendation is to inform as much as possible about the normalcy of Gazan Palestinians, which means leaving out ALL expressions of anger, or political ideology from statements. I would recommend Spielberg type interviews with elders and children, historical documentaries (with Jewish Israeli partners) to construct 5 generations of family history. (Elders talking about their grandparents). When my son was first interested in my mother-in-law’s story, after first hearing of her… Read more »

As long as we have people like you and a website like, I believe, Gaza’s untold story will be narrated and heard. Gaza people are well-educated and aware of global issues that many Americans, who calim knowledge, are unaware of.