Sunday, December 17, 2006

In a sea of negatives, the most profound positive

Headline news feeds on the negative events in Iraq, and it takes a large amount of effort to dig up the positives, but I believe the most profound positive is this:

'There was one advantage I learned from this war, I told Omar. He looked at me and asked, “which war?” The latest one, I replied. I learned how to differentiate between the term “Zionist” and “Jew”.

He looked at me in daze! “Yes, it’s only in 2003 that I learned what the difference between these two words is.” There were so many questions in his mind. I didn’t wait for him to ask them. I explained why it’s just recently that I learned that difference.

At home, we never discussed politics, NEVER, period. My parents were so cautious about these things. Any mistake would take all of us, if not all of my tribe, to jail or execution by Saddam’s people. One of the things we did not discuss at home was who the Jews and the Zionists are. It was only once I recall my mother and grandmother talking about their Jewish Iraqi neighbors and friends whom they missed. I was 12 or 13 at that time. I asked both of them about it. My mother sighed and said that the Iraqi Jews were very nice and lovely people. That was it. She never mentioned anything after that neither did my grandmother.

I was like most teenagers whose main source of news was Saddam’s regime’s media outlets and school curricula. They all denounced the “Jews”. None of them clarified what the difference was. Like most of those in my age, I was brain washed. I was taught to hate the “Jews”, all of them, not only the “Zionists”.

I tried to know more about what is happening in Palestine but all of what I learned was how the “Jews” occupied Palestine and established their illegal state. I asked my parents a lot about it. I got nothing. They always told me not to be indulged in such conversation with anyone, even inside the house. My father’s attitude was if you say it here, you’d say it outside and that would lead to the execution of the family if not the whole tribe if Saddam’s men discover that we were questioning this issue. “Always be away from politics and such issues,” I remember him saying.

Before 2003, the term “Jews” among most Iraqis in my age meant the Zionists. I even recall how a rumor was spread in my undergrad school when one of my classmates said that a member of the “Backstreet Boys” band is Jewish. Most of the classmates told her that “this was untrue. It seems there was someone trying to distort the reputation of the band in Iraq”. She swore she read that in an American magazine smuggled through Jordan. No one believed her. Eventually, she stopped talking about it.

It is also ironic that one of the text books I had in my undergrad school was written by Noam Chomsky. It was about Linguistics. I recall my professor saying that Chomsky was a Jew who is against the State of Israel! He did not elaborate and none of the students asked him more about it. No one wanted to be in trouble. I kept wondering how come he is Jewish and he’s against the State of Israel which we called the “Zionist Entity” at the time. I found no answer till after the 2003 war.

Finally, the confusion I had and the decades of misinformation have come to end. After the invasion, I was able to start the investigation by myself. Saddam was gone. It was time to ask without being fearful.'

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