Note: The following post originally appeared on the Jewish Pluralist website. I have adapted it slightly to avoid confusion.
I manage the Twitter account for my human rights organization, and lately, I find I have to take a deep breath every time I check it. Since we have a project in Palestine, our Twitter feed follows other accounts concerned with peace and human rights in Palestine/Israel and now, it’s all about the bombing in Gaza. We also have a project in Iraqi Kurdistan; the team there is dealing with land confiscation by oil corporations and Syrian refugees. (Remember them?) In Colombia, corrupt authorities have used riot police to evict a community we accompany. The Supreme Court of Canada has just ruled that Ontario could open the land of our Anishinaabe partners to industrial logging. But right now, Gaza trumps all on Twitter.
When a friend who runs The Jewish Pluralist website asked me if I had anything to contribute regarding the war in Gaza, I told her that I just could not find the words to write about the current situation. Part of that may be due to my having entered another cycle of depression this spring, but I think mostly, having worked in the region since 1995, I just see no light at the end of this tunnel, and no light back from where I started, and how can I write in the dark?
However an e-mail I read from Noa Baum—an Israeli woman who does a poignant and educational one-woman show about Jewish and Palestinian experiences of the 1948 and 1967 wars—got me thinking. She writes, “As despair sees it, anyone who still hopes, who still believes in the possibility of peace, is at best naïve, or a deluded dreamer…”
She made me realize my despair is formed from different stuff. It grows from love—love of Palestinians and Israelis I have worked with, celebrated with, grieved with. People who were dreamers at one time and who have for decades, under craven political leadership, seen their work treated like trash. My despair is based on the knowledge that I have almost no power to facilitate peace or human rights in the region. I can only witness, document, and at a micro-level, provide accompaniment for individuals, families, and small communities nonviolently resisting the occupation. Any real change is in the hands of Palestinians and Israelis working at a grassroots level, and people at the roots have been trampled until they are bloody.
I had chosen not to share graphic images of dead and mutilated children coming across the Twitter Feed. But one picture this week dug its claws into me and would not let go, so after some internal debate, I did post it on our account. It shows a little girl in profile, gray eye open in death, with a tear slipping from its corner. Jehan Alfarra (@palinoia), who tweeted the picture from Gaza wrote, “Shedding her final tear, she leaves us.”
And I think, that tear could drown the world.
But we’re still here.