In the first Intifada, my mother recognized the need to resist but she also wanted to keep her daughter safe — so she locked the doors and hid the keys. But if we are to be consistent, shouldn’t police officers’ mothers be responsible for stopping brutality? Shouldn’t Israeli soldiers’ mothers put a stop the arrests and mistreatment of Palestinian children?
By Nadia Naser-Najjab
The image of Toya Graham berating her own son and pulling him away from confrontations between police and protestors in Baltimore, where police brutality has sparked violent protests, resonated so deeply for me. I had witnessed this scene before, in my own family.
After the first Intifada broke out in 1987, the Israeli government responded to a wave of strikes, protests and demonstrations with direct violence (Yitzhak Rabin, who was the Israeli defense minister at the time, famously ordered the army to ‘break the bones’ of Palestinian protestors). Palestinians, including children, were routinely subject to beatings and arbitrary detention. In forcibly repressing a largely non-violent uprising, Israeli soldiers killed more than 1,000 Palestinians and left tens of thousands with life-changing injuries.
During this period it was my own mother who was remonstrating with my teenage sister, who had joined protests that sought to challenge the Israeli occupation. My mother’s reaction might well come as something of a shock to those external observers who — upon the basis of decontextualized depictions of Palestinian mothers celebrating their children’s martyrdom — have come to believe that Palestinians hate Israel and Israelis more than they love their own children.
According to that (mis)representation, Palestinian parenting practices — and not the political context of dispossession, brutalization and occupation — are to blame for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Of course that idea, made famous by Golda Meir, is nothing but a dehumanising and grossly offensive slur. Palestinian mothers and fathers have always been torn between their commitment to the broader Palestinian cause and their love for their own children. My father once told me that he would have a heart attack if I was arrested. However, both he and my mother risked arrest when they joined a protest after the funeral of a 10-year-old child who had been killed while playing in my home village of Burqa.
My mother recognized the need to resist and...Read More