Phyllis Chesler Interviews Carol Gould

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The Young Need Hope
Last uploaded : Sunday 26th Sep 2004 at 06:15
Contributed by : Jamal Ghadhi


This is an Awards for All 'Voices' essay.
Right now the United Kingdom is gripped with suspense and horror over the fate of Kenneth Bigley, a British hostage in Iraq. His family has been on television and his ordeal has been the subject of many newspaper and electronic media discussions.

I get American television and am saddened that there has been no coverage of his terrible ordeal. At the same time I am dismayed that American media offer little coverage of the Palestinian crisis.

I have many Jewish friends and fellow students. They vary in their opinions of the Sharon government. I have only one opinion of the Sharon regime: he is the antithesis of the gentle and caring Jewish people in my circle. How the world needs a gentle and caring leader right now!

At college we debate whether Yasser Arafat is a hero or a terrorist. For young Palestinians who have known nothing except Israeli occupation, house demolitions and checkpoints, he is an iconic figure who engenders great affection and reverence. Israel killed Sheikh Yassin and Abdul-Aziz al Rantisi, and if they harm Arafat I fear the consequences will be dire. There is a sense of hopelessness in Palestine that puts even the youngest children into deep depression.

The American Presidential election is something of a joke: neither man has a clue about the Middle East crisis nor do they seem to care. Whenever Mr Kerry or Mr Edwards hold forth about the Palestinians one wonders if they are paying lip service to the Arab electorate and that after the election billions will continue to roll into Israel for more armaments.

Sometimes I wonder if the American people, who I believe are good at heart, feel as helpless as many Israelis do. There is a strong peace and human rights movement in Israel but it gets no coverage on American television. This year?s campaign has fascinated me from afar here in London: the American Jewish vote has always traditionally gone to the Democratic party. Now, because President Bush is seen as a friend of Israel, the Jewish vote could swing his way alongside the Christian Fundamentalists who believe a Jewish State will be the receiving point for the return of Jesus.

In the midst of all this does anyone care about the Palestinians? How often does John Edwards think about their fate, or for that matter how often does Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld lose sleep over the deaths of children under missiles hurled from helicopters?

Many of my Palestinian friends and fellow students want John Kerry to win. They have a hunch he will give Sharon a shock and reduce aid to Israel as well as ordering an end to the terrible wall and the settlement-building. I would like to make a young person?s plea: the Palestinian people need a great leader, too. Maybe the 2004 American election will bring a wind of change for all the peoples of the Middle East. We need a Martin Luther King, Mandela or Gandhi to appear and lead us in peace. As my Jewish friends celebrate their New Year we can pray together for enlightened men and women to rise up from the misery of the present Gulf violence and take us to a better place.

For my generation it is crucial. It will mean our survival or perpetual war and terror. I prefer survival and peace. May the leaders of the world stop the killing and bring us together in a new era of peace and understanding.

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