Opinion

The extremes of human behavior

Hatim Kanaaneh is moved to tears reading the news -- both by humanity's cruelty as well as its heroism.
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Of late I keep being reminded of my age. Fortunately, the impinging frailties are emotional, not physical. Emotional lability is common among octogenarians. I shudder to think of other more psychopathological explanations for the infirmity. Whatever the cause, in my rural Palestinian culture crying is not for strong men. But nowadays reading the news seems always to bring tears to my eyes.

The cases of near random brutalizing of civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories, often multiple and often to death, is a near daily occurrence. Last week’s episode in Haaretz apparently is a case of mistaken identity, a border cop shooting a man from Jenin in the back seat of a car on sight. The Israeli heroic soldier’s quick finger on the trigger is in line with the a priori Talmudic license of “If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.” I cried for the injured man’s father visiting him in the hospital. Not only that one of his sons is in critical condition with a pointblank shot to the head but also that there is a death sentence for the other son, the intended subject of the attack. And the same newsfeed has this item as well as this, one of a mother and the other of a child, “the second such incident in three months.” A weekly inclusive summary of such abuses, deadly and otherwise, is the JVP Health Advisory Committee weekly report.

Then Haaretz (English print version) carried a report about the rush of so many Palestinian families including parents, children and some elderly to the shore of the Mediterranean, mostly at Jaffa’s beach, many of them for the first time in their lives. Not only that they had no permits but also that most of them crossed the so called ‘Security Barrier’ through illegal passages and breaks in the fence with the Israeli security officials looking the other way. This surprising event and the pleasure the Palestinian children derived from wading into the sea for the first time, as is shown in one of the pictures in the report, nearly made me cry with pleasure. But what really made me cry to where I was gulping for breath is a video that a search about the topic of Israel’s borders eventually led me to. It shows a football game between two teams of Palestinian amputees in Gaza. Those young men didn’t even touch the fence of their open-air prison, much less crossed it. Just as the unwritten permit to cross the Apartheid wall to reach the sea, shooting with intent to mutilate demonstrating youth in Gaza must have been a well-considered decision of security and political higher-ups. War crimes usually start at the top.

My home in Galilee is nearly equidistant from Jenin and Beirut. For the last five days the scenes of death, destruction and wide spread misery in the Lebanese capital’s port area is shocking. For many of us, natives of the region, the shock is in proportion to Beirut’s romantic place in our hearts as Paris of the Levant. The tragic scenes in the media, especially on Lebanese TV stations, are sufficient to shock the most stoic amongst us. The account of one touching human tragedy that I have seen on TV is also reported in the New York Times international edition. It is of a heroic young woman from a village in north Lebanon, a medic who had joined Beirut’s fire department and died while talking to her fiancé. She was buried in a typical village wedding procession with the standard wedding music and singing and with her coffin draped in white and her fiancé’ dressed in a wedding suit and carried on his friends’ shoulders as befits a groom.

But the one report that brought tears to my eyes the most was a two-line sketch in Arabic on a dear friend’s Facebook account which went as follows (My translation):

“You should be Careful. I have Corona!” an injured woman in Beirut told the man trying to rescue her.

“I am not letting you die,” the man answered as he carried her in his arms.

The humanity of both! I just can’t stop crying. I can’t breathe.

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Dr. Hatim~ your humanity and care for others always shines through, whether your gift of words and experience echo and elicit laughter and/or tears~ they often do both! I have been to the “Paris of the Levant”, to Palestine, to many countries in Europe, MENA, the Americas and the Caribbean. People ask me ‘why” and don’t even begin to fathom that I consider myself lucky and still curious, so I rarely speak about the things… Read more »