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April 27, 2008
WAWA Blog April 27, 2008: Brother's Dennis and Harold...  


I call Dennis Kucinich 'brother' because he spoke my heart on the Congressional Record, April 22, 2008,  Page: H2522

Mr. KUCINICH: Mr. Speaker, today I join my colleagues in Congress in celebrating Israel's accomplishments over the past 60 years. I am happy to be co-sponsor of this congratulatory resolution. However, like many Israelis and Palestinians, I have concerns about Israel's future, its stability, its security and the prospect for peaceful coexistence for both Palestinians and Israelis. One of those concerns relates to the ongoing lack of resolution on the dispossession of Palestinian property and the dislocation of Palestinians after Independence. It must be remembered that about 700,000 Palestinians became exiled. Much Arab property was appropriated. And about 500 Arab villages were destroyed. On December 11, 1948, the United Nations passed Resolution 194, affording Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes in Israel, or to compensation for their property should they choose not to return. To this day, the mandate of U.N. Resolution 194 has not been fulfilled. Unfortunately, this failure remains as one of the most significant barriers to the realization of a two-state negotiated solution.

I am also concerned for those Palestinians who did not flee and who became Israeli citizens after Independence. According to the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, today there exist 20 Israeli laws which explicitly discriminate against the Palestinian minority in Israel, who constitute 20 percent of its population. In its 2005 Annual Report, the U.S. State Department said that ``[There is] institutionalized legal and societal discrimination against Israel's [Arab] Christian, Muslim and Druze citizens. The government does not provide Israeli Arabs with the same quality of education, housing, employment and social services as Jews.''

Finally, Israel has a right to security and a right to defend itself. Accordingly, I am concerned that the 40 year military occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem has been and continues to be brutal and unjust and undermines the security of Israel. It is a fact that the government of Israel continues to support the construction of settlements on Palestinian land, perpetuating the consequences of dispossession and exile. Additionally, I am concerned that the government of Israel has increased the number of checkpoints which destroy a viable Palestinian economy and a vibrant civil society. I am concerned that the Israeli government has erected a wall, often on Palestinian land, that divides Palestinians from Palestinians, rather than divide Israel from the West Bank. As stated by Judge Elaraby of the International Court of Justice in his 2004 Advisory Opinion on the legality of Israel's separation barrier, ``The fact that occupation is met by armed resistance cannot be used as a pretext to disregard fundamental human rights in the occupied territory.'' This conundrum of a dialectic of conflict further separates Israelis and Palestinians alike from hopes for peace.

H. Con. Res. 322 eloquently states the many reasons why I celebrate Israel's accomplishments and I sincerely wish it a bright future. I only wish to add that, in my opinion, and in the opinion of many Israelis and Palestinians as well, Israel's future will be bright only if it includes an open dialogue with Palestinians, a respect for human rights and international law, and a society built on coexistence and tolerance. Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in peace with justice and I encourage the United States government to help Israel achieve that so the joy of future anniversaries will be unalloyed.

I support the resolution in the spirit of reconciliation to which we must all inevitably turn, to achieve peace and justice with our brothers and sisters from whom we may be estranged.

http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=LkJlaMXIQ8CVqSV%2F9LmIgWcraqmDUy6D



The fictional characters 'Brother' Harold and Dr. Jake Hunter in the following excerpt from my first book were inspired by people I actually know. The six fictional characters I wrote into KEEP HOPE ALIVE welled up within me as I wrote down Dr. Khaled's memoirs in 2005.


Chapter 4: KEEP HOPE ALIVE
BROTHER HAROLD
[circa 1972]


The Diab family settled into their lakefront home as if they had been born to it. Khaled woke before dawn and ground dark Turkish coffee beans into a powder. As the coffee brewed, he muttered his morning chant: “Noshkr Allah! Thanks be to God! Noshkr Allah! Thanks be to God!”

By the time the pungent aroma filled the kitchen, the sun’s rays were faintly visible on the horizon and glittered like stars on top of Lake Conway. Khaled poured a large cup and unobtrusively slipped out the French doors. Slowly, he walked through his fruit grove to the lakeshore, where he stood in silence and watched the sun complete her morning ascent. Mary’s doctor, and his new good friend, occupied the lone boat a few miles out. His thoughts swirled with anxiety, for in a few hours, Jake Hunter was meeting him as a friend and as Mary’s doctor at the Langford Hotel for Saturday brunch.

Khaled finished his coffee and slowly paced through his backyard grove, now filled to capacity with citrus, mango, papaya, peach, pear, and apple trees. His head ached with dark thoughts of the daily news; the carnage continued in Vietnam, despite a signed peace agreement with North and South and the United States. He mourned over the seven men who had been tried and convicted in the burglary at the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate Hotel, and he wondered about Nixon. After he drained his cup of coffee, he muttered aloud, “Ah, worse than any of these problems is my heartache over my homeland and my people. Fatah guerillas have taken over the Palestinian Liberation Organization now, and Yassir Arafat is supreme commander of the military arm of the PLO. This is too much power for any one man. Power always corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Terrorism has become rampant and escalating out of control. Where is the voice of reason? Where are the voices demanding justice? The atrocious attacks by my misguided brethren, the TWA and Swiss Air highjackings — what are they thinking! Yes yes yes, I know, they wanted to get the world’s attention. They got it! But instead of helping their cause, they’ve only made people mad at them. Where are the voices of reason? Three years ago, when King Hussein demanded they leave Jordan, I didn’t blame him; no one should tolerate terrorism. But, now, look at the chaos that has resulted. It is even worse now for innocent Palestinians than ever before: civil war, thousands of deaths, increasing highjackings, Palestinian Black September terrorists assassinating Prime Minister Was? Tal of Jordan in Cairo!

“Then, the horror of terrorists who dare claim to be Muslims, murdering eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics — my God, these men, who have given up hope, have now enlisted the Russian-trained Carlos, the Jackal. I shudder to imagine what may follow.

“Ah, it is loss of hope that makes one turn to violence and hate. We must look at the root of the problem, and work from there. God, I see it as injustice. All sides have been unjust, but it is always the innocent people who suffer the consequences of the decisions of their leaders in which they have no voice. Injustice breeds despair; despair breeds hate; and hate breeds violence.
“Oh God, I pray I am hearing you correctly. I must follow through with my plan to facilitate communications among all the Arab nations and the entire world. The Arab leadership is in such disarray; no one has modern communication technology. Imagine when they are able to pick up a phone and discuss things as if they were all in the same room! Why, if they start talking and listening to each other, imagine — ”

“Daddy, Daddy,” called Ahmeena from the porch, while Mary waved.

“Khaled, it’s nine o’clock. Have you been out there all morning?”

“Indeed, I have. I must shower and be at the Langford by eleven o’clock. Ahmeena dear, what is your plan today?”

“Oh, Daddy, you know perfectly well that Mama and I are going to Disney with Mrs. Hunter and Kat.”

Khaled was momentarily sad as he thought, “My God, where has the time gone? She was a little kid when we moved here, and now, behold, she reminds me of my sister Fatima at fifteen. I remember, as if it were only yesterday, hugging my sister at the Tel Aviv airport, but it has been ten years already.”

Khaled arrived at the Langford ten minutes late, and Dr. Jake Hunter was tapping his fingers as if playing an imaginary piano when Khaled interrupted his reverie. “Thank you, Jake, for this personal time. I know this is highly unusual, and I appreciate you speaking to me without Mary.”

“Well, it is only because she insisted that we meet and discuss her condition. And besides, I’ve got to eat. Terese will keep an eye on Mary today; don’t worry. Mary understands not to push herself, to pay attention to how she is feeling, and to sit and rest before the shortness of breath occurs. Terese and Kat can’t get enough of Disney. But my one visit will last me my lifetime. Too many people — I need open spaces on my time off from work. By the way, I had a great morning on the lake; those bass were schooling on top and hitting everywhere. It was great! I love Saturdays. After we eat, I am heading off to fill deer feeders with Brother Harold out at Christmas Creek.”

“Is he really your brother? I thought all your brothers were still in Memphis.”

“My blood brothers are in Memphis. Harold’s a good old boy and a dear friend. He looks like a blonde grizzly bear with a slight limp. He practically built my entire house. He is a master carpenter and jack-of-all-trades. His sons and mine have been hunting and fishing together for years. I’ve never figured out why his wife left him. He drinks a little too much, but I have never seen him drunk. He has a heart of gold and always lends a helping hand to anyone. As for me, I am the maverick of my family; I cannot stand to be cooped up. I need to live where I can always hunt or fish, depending on the season. My vocation is doctoring, but my passion is nature.”

The waitress appeared with coffee and took their orders. Then Jake fixed his piercing blue eyes on Khaled and asked, “Ready?” Khaled nodded but trembled inside.

“Well, Khaled, as you know, Mary has had sarcoidosis for at least ten years. Her recent complaints of increasing shortness of breath, palpitations, fatigue, night sweats, and hot flashes have been thoroughly investigated via chest x-ray, EKG, and complete blood analysis. The twenty-four hour Holter monitor report has been fully evaluated, and there is no doubt. The sarcoid plaques have invaded her myocardial tissue. In other words, her heart has been affected. I am increasing her Prednisone and starting her on Digoxin and Inderal.

“As you know, the Prednisone should help reduce the inflammatory process. But with its host of adverse side effects, I only increase the dose according to the severity of symptoms, and always aim to taper it down as soon as possible. The Digoxin and Inderal will help stabilize her irregular heart rhythm. She also is going through menopause, and we can treat that with hormone therapy. The night sweats and hot flashes we can pretty much fix. The sarcoidosis prognosis is unstable at this time.

“Khaled, I am sorry I cannot be more specific than that. Mary has a serious condition, and we are doing all that we currently can. Medicine changes rapidly, so who know what the future will bring?”

“Ah, Jake, I appreciate your forthrightness. I wish it were better news. I am in anguish over following through with my decision. I gave notice to Martin Marietta two months ago, but they still do not have a replacement for my position as director of information sciences and product development. They want me to stay. With this news of Mary, I am tempted to remain, although I have managed to get everything in place for my mission. Jake, as my friend, not as Mary’s doctor, what would you recommend?”

“Man, I can’t advise you about what to do. All I can do is speak from my experience. Mary’s condition is not good. I have known you for what — five years now? You never shut up about Majd Al Krum and your people. You have a passion and a mission. You are the only one who can make your decision.”

No sooner had Jake finished speaking, than their waitress returned with steaming plates of southern cooking. Jake devoured his with gusto, while Khaled sat in silence and allowed his to grow cold. As soon as Jake finished eating, he looked at Khaled’s plate and uttered, “Man, you have a problem. I have never seen you not eat your food. I wish I had better things to tell you. I am sorry to be a messenger of such gloom. Nobody can predict the future, and the course of any illness depends on many factors. You know how independently minded Mary is. If she thought you changed your plans just because of her — ”

Khaled interrupted. “Believe me, I know what she will say. ‘Go Khaled, go. It is your dream, your destiny.’”

“I guess you have your answer then. Look, talk to her tonight, and call my office Monday morning for a conference appointment. I will go over everything again with you and Mary, but right now I have got to head on out to the ranch. Lots of hungry deer need to be fattened up. I’ll see you next week in the office, Khaled.” And with that, the energetic internist rose, turned, and strode out of the Langford, while Khaled remained and brooded.

After Monday’s office visit, Mary relentlessly insisted during the entire drive home, “Khaled, I will not allow any discussion of you not following through with your mission. Everything is in place. You have the best minds in the United States returning to the Middle East to help their people. You have been working tirelessly on this for over a year. How can you even consider that I wouldn’t want you to go! You must do what you are being called to.

“Khaled, I love you dearly and will miss you severely. When Ahmeena graduates middle school in six weeks, we will join you in Cairo. I am in good hands with Dr. Hunter; the new medication will work wonders. Do not fret, and do not get cold feet. I insist on driving you to the airport tomorrow night, and we will hug farewell. But it will only be for a short while. Ahmeena and I will join you during school break, and you will see — I will be much better then!”

Khaled felt a sense of peace that he had not known since before Saturday’s brunch. “Mary, how could I ever refuse you? You are right. There is no need to worry. Everything will be alright. You are right again that everything I have been working towards these many years has finally come to light. The nine best Arab engineers and communications specialists are totally committed to spending the next year in the Middle East. In just a few days, my team and I will be traveling to all the Arab nations to begin the educational phase of our mass communication enterprise that we are bringing to the Arab world. Hmmmm, I just had a flash; we will name our organization the AT&T of the Middle East!”



Jake and Harold had finished filling seven deer feeders scattered throughout their privately-held four thousand acres of wetland an hour east of Orlando, on the outskirts of the rural town of Christmas. The two men were in partnership with a group of professional businessmen, who had purchased the undeveloped acreage as an investment. Jake, Harold, and a few other partners also used the property as a hunting preserve.

While riding in a dilapidated camouflaged Jeep on the way back to camp, Harold yelled, “Hey, look! There are two deer in the clearing — nice fat does.” Jake cut the engine and the men sat in silence, watching the deer graze. Out of the thick palmettos, a twelve-point and a young buck with peach-fuzzed antlers appeared. The men watched in awe as the deer fed. When the majestic stag raised his eyes to the men and snorted, they all turned and bolted.

Further down the dirt road, Harold yelled once again, “Look, I think there is another herd way over there.”

Jake focused his cerulean eyes where Harold pointed and wryly retorted, “Harold, that’s a bunch of hogs!”

“Oh, guess my eyes aren’t what they use to be.” Harold pulled out a purple velveteen sack that enrobed his bottle of Crown Royal and asked, “Care for some sustenance, Jake?”

Jake shook his head as he lit a cigar and grabbed a Tab from the cooler at his side. “You know, Brother Harold, I cannot get my neighbor’s problem off my mind. It’s usually my patients that keep me awake. But all day, I keep seeing this poor guy’s face. He’s worried about his wife, and there is cause for concern. If that weren’t enough, he’s on this mission to help save the world. I’ve told you about all of that, remember?”

Harold snorted affirmatively, and Jake continued, “Dr. D. has more passion and commitment to social justice issues than anyone I have ever personally known. He is flying to Cairo Tuesday night, and I just told him his wife’s condition is unstable. For the past year, he has been working out a deal with the president of the Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development in Kuwait. He did this while working fifty hours a week at Martin Marietta. He has this incredible vision of linking the twenty-two Arab countries via modern telecommunication systems. He rounded up nine Arab-Americans with advanced degrees and lucrative positions to quit their jobs, go back to their homeland, and help their people. This Dr. D. is an incredible person. He’s a Muslim, but he’s a better Christian than a lot of Christians I’ve known.”

“Yeah, man, I know exactly what you mean. But what I just don’t get is why those people over there keep fighting each other. If they are all so religious, why don’t they do what their religions teach and treat each other the way they want to be treated?”

Jake eased naturally into his other role of teacher and lecturer, and launched into a history lesson. “This modern conflict between Palestinian Arabs and Jews began around the turn of the twentieth century. The two groups have different religions; and do you understand that ‘Palestinian’ means Muslims, Christians, and Druze? The animosity towards Israel is not about religious differences, but about land. The UN divided the area known as Palestine into three parts in 1947: Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. This is a very small geographical area, about the size of Maryland.

“Imagine carving up the state of Maryland, forcing the folks out of their homes without paying them, and ripping up their deeds. It really is an unjust situation, and things are more out of hand all the time. This morning, when we were discussing if he should go or not, I had a sense of uneasiness that had nothing to do with doctoring. Something I can’t put my finger on, like a bad premonition — but now I am sounding like my wife!”

Brother Harold nodded and rubbed his protuberant abdomen before responding. “Well, you don’t have to be a psychic to know bad stuff will keep on happening over there. What’s the deal with the UN? Why can’t they maintain peace there?”

“Well, the United Nations was the body that carved up the borders, and that is what led to the 1948 war. In November of 1947, even though the Arab Nations disagreed with the boundary lines, the UN went ahead with their plan. You see, after the fall of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, Britain had taken control of the land via a mandate whose time had run out. With Britain withdrawing from the area, the Jewish people flooded the region, claiming not just the territory given to them by the UN, but also places like Dr. D’s hometown. It was Palestinian territory, according to the UN. Come on, why should the Palestinians have to pay the price for the Nazi’s sins?

“Imagine the outrage, and you can understand why the Arab nations that surround the area formerly known as Palestine attacked the new state of Israel. That was the war of 1948. Since then, there have been two more wars, in ’56 and ’67, and I won’t be surprised when another happens. Understand, these attackers are being born and bred in the refugee camps. Imagine being young and healthy, and having no prospects or future. There is not much else to do but make babies. And they most certainly have been busy doing that. The Palestinians no longer have a nation, so they cannot get passports to migrate elsewhere.

“The group known as Fedayeen, which means ‘self-sacrificer,’ was born in the despair of the refugee camps. These men have given up hope of returning to their homes, which mostly have been torn down and rebuilt by the Israelis now. These Fedayeen do not only sacrifice themselves; they kill innocent people. They are homicide bombers! This naturally causes retaliation, which sets into place the continuing cycle of violence and destruction.”

“So why exactly does your friend want to go back over there?”

“He is a man with a vision and a passion. He is committed to justice for both sides, and he believes he can make a positive difference. If you knew him personally, Harold, you would believe it, too.”

Harold lifted his almost empty pouch of Crown Royal and exclaimed, “Let’s toast the man, and then I’ll tell you what my daddy told me when I was a kid, when my brothers and I would get out of hand. He’d say, ‘boys, you all are going the way of Cain and Abel, and you’d better quit. For one of those boys was filled with so much hatred and jealousy that he killed the other.’ Then my old man would be on a roll, and he’d tell us about Sarah, Abraham’s wife. And we loved to hear that part, so we’d quit our fight. You see, although Sarah was already menopaused, she still desired a child. God had even shared a laugh with her about it coming true, but just like a woman, she took the matter into her own hands, and refused to wait for the Lord to deliver. So old Sarah decided to give her maidservant to her old man, and that chick and Abraham made a kid. Everything was fine when Ishmael arrived, but only for a very short while.

“Now, although Sarah was a dried-up old crone, she, too, birthed a son, and named him after the laughter she had shared with God, but called the kid Isaac. Sarah had gotten very territorial and demanded Abraham cast out his beloved first son with his mama Haggar, into the barren wilderness, and Abraham did it! But, as God always hears the cries of mothers and sons, he promised to make a great nation from Ishmael’s descendants, too. And thus, the Arab nation was born.

“By the sixth century before Christ, the conflicts in the land were already old news, and Jeremiah warned the people that all God could see was violence and destruction in the city. Sickness and wounds were all around. And then my old man would get tears in his eyes and softly recite, ‘for every misunderstanding, every condemning thought, every negative vibration, every tear torn from a heart, every time one grabbed and wouldn’t let go, and they only did it because they did not know. The Divine is within all creation and within all women and men. And every tiny kindness you have ever done, every gentle word spoken, every time you held your tongue, every positive thought, every smile freely given, every helping hand that opens, helps bring in the kingdom. And the kingdom comes from above, and it comes from within. Imagine a kingdom of sisterhood of all creatures and all men.’”

Harold stroked a tear away with the velvet pouch that held his Crown Royal, drew the last swig and offered up, “Godspeed to Dr. D on his mission from God.”

Back at the Langford Hotel, Khaled sat on the barstool and lifted a glass of iced tea with Mohammed Jim. “My friend, tonight will be the last time we will speak for a while. I plan to be gone for as long as it takes to do this job that has been set before me. The first night we met, five years ago, you told me a story about you and your grandfather. It has remained with me, and I have often remembered it as I walked through my fruit orchard. Your grandfather was a wise man. This thought occurred to me the other morning as I remembered your story. I will make time to visit your village of Al Birah and plant an olive tree there, in honor of you and your family’s roots. Your grandfather understood that roots from the past connect to the future. I salute his wisdom.”

Mohammed Jim lifted his tea in a toast and proclaimed, “Khaled, I salute you and your plan, and pray for your safety.”

   
 
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