16 October 2015

keep the children out of it

Nura is three years old. She’s from Beer El Sabea in the Naqab. At her age, I imagine she cannot grasp the fact that she has become one of the icons for fighting racism and hate. Her photo was published in print newspapers and been posted and reposted many times in the last few days on Facebook and other social media outlets.
Nura was the subject of a racist discussion on a Whatsapp group for parents at her kindergarten, where one parent demanded she should be expelled. “If there is an Arab kid in the kindergarten it’s time to expel him!” “She has no place in the Jewish State. She should study in her village. Go to Syria; they love you there, Assad is waiting.” 
This piece is not about the racism and hatred towards Palestinians inside Israel, in the West Bank, and Gaza. Plenty of posts and articles have been written about that.
I want to write about the effect this will have on Nura and other children who find themselves caught in this cycle, sometimes against their will, other times unknowingly. Nura’s photograph was released by her parents, and there may not be any legal issue here. However, there is an ethical issue. A three-year-old child cannot make an informed decision, and we should keep her psychological and emotional wellbeing in mind. I don’t want to get into speculations of what effects this may have on her, but the possibilities are there, and they are many. Nura may become the target of negative attention such as hatred and racism. We all know how children can be cruel to each other, and we all know about bullying.
I think it is time that we recognize the dangers in posting photographs on Facebook and other social media. We have seen all too many suicides, bullying, verbal violence, and other types of violence resulting from inappropriate use of social media. All I can hope for Nura that this will pass quickly and she will not be exposed to any kind of violence in her life, nor suffer any trauma or post-trauma resulting from her becoming an icon in the fight against racism and hate. Keep the children out if it!

4 October 2015

Bisan's first day in Haifa - from Taboos in Arabic, work-in-progress

Bisan's first day in Haifa:
"Bisan was dropped off at the Haifa university dorms in the late morning hours by her brother Mahmoud, accompanied by her mother and three younger sisters. She held her head high as they passed mostly Jewish students on campus, but kept her voice low. Pride, shame, apprehension, and excitement all intermingled in her heart, making a mess of her heartbeat. Pride because her mother and sisters made her feel loved and this day even more important by their presence. Shame because she didn’t see any other students being escorted by family members; it made her feel smaller. As far as she could see, she and her mother were the only ones in hijab. Apprehension and excitement because she knew this day marked an essential transition for her. From the village to the city, from her small known world to the big unknown city, from the tightly-knit circle of childhood friends to new possibilities and uncertain ground. Her mind was teeming with questions, crowding in there like ants in the belly of an anthill. Two utterly different worlds, separated by a 40-minute drive."
- fragment from "Taboos in Arabic," work-in-progress
(c) khulud khamis, 2015