Tolerance, This Is For You

The Challenge of Nine Eleven

I felt the fear
I bore the pain
I wrung my hands
In futile frustration

Mistrusted my eyes
Disbelieved my ears
The horrifying orchestration
Of this century’s wildest drama
Deprived me the comfort of tears

And I asked myself
As do minds
Of open frame,
When there’s a crime,
“Who are the parties
Most likely to gain?”

The cruel composure
Was revealed
For all to see
Live, on screens worldwide
Amid the rush of morning hours
When collision, explosion
Inferno, collapse
The hush of disbelief
Into hysteric cries
Repeated, again and again
In prime exposure

When the shock subsided
We all cried

Not just for loved ones trapped inside
For on that day, those who died
Or survived
Or bravely tried
To save
Were loved by all

And we were bound together
By love’s power
Burdened with the tragedy
Each loss brought home

United stood
The fortunate of the world
On nine eleven

It is during such times of hell
That the brotherhood of love
Gives us a lasting taste of heaven

But something then sent us off track
The true target of the attack
Was jeopardized

We should have guarded it
With our lives

I cannot say I was surprised
When my deepest fear was realized
The villains were given identities
Coinciding, in certain people’s minds
With traits of my own
Such as the faith they allegedly profess
And the race to which their fathers belong

My heart sank to a low
So far unknown
And it has known many lows
Is this the final blow?

Or should I tell those who don’t know
That the villains’ ‘faith’
Is their own deviation
Their race, irrelevant to the makeup
Of freethinking nations

And I have not an iota of sympathy
For their sanctimonious ends
And find nothing to rescue
Or defend
In their self-expressed ideology

Are these people responsible?
They have much to lose…
And nothing to gain…
But then again
I am old enough to know
Almost everything is possible

I only wish
They hadn’t struck
Their target
Lying beyond the attack
In corridors of our minds
Back then
When we were the fortunate

Had we carried our fortune
Upon our backs
Shielded it
Within our hearts
No matter what the consequence

Could we have kept it intact?

For it is that mind-set alone
Which makes us whole
Beyond liberty
Beyond justice
Even beyond equality

In an instance
We are one
When we extend
The arms of

For the lack of which
Scenes of destruction that took place
At the twin towers and pentagon
Threatening a cycle of Hate

Which must be stopped.

Are we up to it?


One beautiful morning in a German winter, I looked out over the snow-covered trees in our garden, out onto the street, tracking our bike route past the bakeries and their sweet scents, across town, and down, down, all the way down to the breathtaking Rhine landscape and wrote:

Winter is here, isn’t that nice?
All the creeks are frozen to ice
All the ponds and the lakes
The day is full of whirly snowflakes

I was ten, and had been penning ‘poems’ in my diary for the past year. At age eleven I made my decision.

I’d like to be a poetess
With poems filled with joy
That would find happiness in the heart
Of every girl and boy

And I haven’t stopped writing since. Writing has brought me into contact with wonderful people all over the world who have tremendously enriched my life. What I find very interesting about people, especially those who are open to life, culture, and travel with all the interaction this involves, is how smoothly our thoughts and emotions evolve towards the basic unit of humanity. In contrast, enclosed societies evolve slowly, sometimes in sporadic reaction to specific incidents that encroach upon them, often in opposite directions to each other. This is why I feel grateful for the many free spirits who see themselves as citizens of the world and are trying to share with the rest of us the universal hopes and dreams of peace and brotherhood.

My first poetry collection ‘The Winds of Time’ was published in 1991. It chronicled the emotions of a Damascus-born girl growing up to a life of constant travel with her diplomat parents. Secure in her identity as an Arab, she comes face to face with the traumas of war (1967, 1973) and gets her first taste of communal fear. She searches for the meanings of life and love, finds love and a blissful marriage, and then starts exploring her identity as a Muslim. The ‘Winds of Time’ describes stages to this spiritual exploration, her devotion expressed in poetry at first hesitant, then wondrous, thunderous, and finally, mellow.

As one critic of ‘Winds of Time’ had me realize, personal feelings for or against an issue are never truly one’s own unless research and knowledge are applied to gain an understanding of that issue. Lacking such understanding, what we call personal feelings are often mirrored reflections of all the feelings around us. I have subsequently made a greater effort to understand first and then make judgment. Thank you critic! I am also indebted to the critique groups who have helped my writing evolve, prominent among them are fellow-members of the National League of American Pen Women and the Phoenix Writers’ Club.

I believe that poetry is a helpful tool for communication, especially today where cultural communication is necessary to better understand the world and arrive at sensible solutions to its crises. It is with this in mind that I invite you to my second collection, ‘Heartbeats in the Wind’. This poetic journey is a 12-year chronicle of the emotions of a woman who is comfortable in her three cultures (Arab, Muslim, and American), realizes the urgency today that each understands the other, and hopes to further such understanding. ‘Heartbeats in the Wind’ consists of four sections: Love and Loss, Introspection, Inspiration, and Arab Heart, each preceded by an introduction. A few early verses excerpted from ‘The Winds of Time’ serve as a backdrop for more recent expression. As critics of ‘Heartbeats in the Wind’ will note, in contrast to contemporary American poetry, quite a few of my poems seem to follow traditional structure and form. I do not see any restriction in that, quite the contrary. Since freedom of expression by definition means non-conforming, I enjoy exercising that freedom by writing in the style best suited to my ‘impassioned communication’! If the choice of color and brushes is mine, shouldn’t the palette be too? Nevertheless, critique is always helpful and opinions are always welcomed.

I communicate human emotion; heartbeats that yearn to be heard over the winds. I speak of love or loss that seeks to be announced to the world. I acknowledge the muffled voices that have reached a state of desperation today in their attempts to gain recognition. At times personal and feminine, at times just Arab or Muslim; some belong to young boys, old men or women, mothers or fathers. By relaying their voices I hope to help the Western reader better understand Arabs and Muslims on one hand, and the emotional dimension to the Middle-Eastern conflict on the other. I also hope to help Arab and Muslim readers, especially the youth, get through these difficult times with their sense of pride and their tradition of hospitality and tolerance intact.

I do hope readers enjoy traveling on this poetic voyage with me. May our journey together help water the seeds of enlightenment as we evolve toward, rather than away from one another in a world that is becoming so much smaller every day.

Randa Hamwi
May 16, 2002

Love & Loss
Introduction & Excerpts

This section describes my voyage through life on the oceans of love. Sailing out on teenage emotion, vivid yet indefinable, where all is magnified and each swell seeks to overcome me. Tentative love in mid-ocean; should I abandon ship to join the young sailor traveling into uncharted waters? Trust is not given, it is earned, and he must earn mine. I leave my ship behind and we travel together. Stormy skies and seas and many dangers, but the strong bonds of love keep our ship afloat.

We have time to understand each other, alone in the vastness of the ocean. I teach him about women, why we cry, why we are romantics, and I attempt to define passion. He teaches me to be practical and ride the storm, showing me how all the clouds in the world disperse in the sunshine of a smile. And I wonder, is he just optimistic or have I converted him into a romantic?

I look back to the origins of love; it all began with mothers, and then came the fathers, those wonderful creatures who taught us selflessness, the basis of true love. The goal of all true lovers is to make a loved one happy, and as our parents’ age their goal doesn’t change; they still want us to be happy. And our goal hasn’t changed either; we still cling onto them, holding them near and hoping never to part. The only difference is that now it is we who do the protecting.

And we lose loved ones to the storms of life, and feel tormented. Such is the price of love, enduring the pain until we meet again. It is more fulfilling to have known love and loss, than never to have loved at all.

In such a world
I was never meant to stay
I, a stranger in life
A castaway…
Without hope, but with a heart
Craving hope and a future
An ambitious heart
Though wounded
And bleeding with torture
Why should love always torture
And break my heart
And when with new hope I start
My heart comes apart… once more?
Don’t ask me to love you now
For my love is locked inside
And only the key of love
Can unlock what I hide
What is love but the merging of two minds
Upon a single venture to explore
New worlds together
Within my heart
Beneath leaden rocks
The springs of sorrow lie
To breach the solid barrier
I can only cry
Passion denies
Passion defies
And permission
Passion even defies
It has always been there
The smile in your eyes
That guided me through
The joys and troubles
We have shared
Love is a fancy
While True Love is real
Love: A variety
Of needs to fulfill
Needing your loved one,
and needing to feel
Needed, in turn, by him.
But 'Truth' is that which
Is proven with time
As nothing can you call true
Until you prove it to be so
The first words ever formed by your lips
The first they pouted for, to plant a wet kiss
Towards whom you took
Those wobbly first steps
"Mama !"
Dad takes off saying he won't be long
I dream of expensive purse I'd seen
"What now, we should be moving on."
Dad back, pretty package in his hand
For me. Purse no longer a dream:
"Nothing too expensive for my girl."
What a lucky girl I've always been!
Selfless is True Love,
And timeless, indeed
For once born, it never dies
But only in giving
Is watered the seed
Which in eternity lies
And in eternity grows
True Love…immune to blows
Dealt by Time, time and again
My heart, yielding to your eyes
Vowed never to let them dim
With pain or sorrow
No, I would disguise
My own, to hold yours within
If you saw yourself through my eyes
You’d see the first love of my life
Still going strong
If you are gone
How would I reconcile
To the anguish of becoming
Nobody’s child?
He, in longing, stands alone
No more belonging to his home
No more fond words to hear, to share
No shoulder to rest on
No arms to care
All tenderness forever gone
All lost when he lost his loved one ...
Moments of bliss
Worth living for
Worth remembering
For ever
It is a moment like this
Which many couples
Will never know
And many might
Even consider
Worth dying for

Introduction & Excerpts

This section recreates the patterns painted by life upon my consciousness. Although life chooses its own brushes and color, we personalize its art by the palettes we offer. And I have offered her many. Some of her art-work I like, much I accept without liking, and a couple I try to cheat her into repainting. Are there any of her paintings that I really love? Just a few, but these are the important ones.

Teenagers question life, which sometimes seems to stretch ahead with no purpose. Young adults dream of bright futures, and gear themselves to strive. Older adults question past decisions, realizing that there is so much they dreamt of and did not fight hard enough for. Should we surrender to our destinies? Dare we dream again?

Misery versus Happiness, Sexuality versus Femininity or Masculinity, Restriction versus Freedom, all these are concepts shared by the entire human race. We are one.

There is nothing like Home. Home is freedom to be oneself. A desert walk may be home when we relate to the rabbits and the humming-birds, the ocean may be home when we relate to the creatures swimming its depths. At home we shed our social masks and accept our teenage pimples or ripened wrinkles. And as we pass briefly through creation we etch ourselves a small passage, a river of life that marks our presence for many years to come.

I’ve watched sunrise in many a place
I’ve slid on hard snow and skipped in soft rain
Over red sand-dunes my toes have left trace
And my heart burned with both pleasure and pain
I stifled in life’s hypocrisy
I sank in its cruel satire
I’ve surrendered to my destiny.
A twisted path that runs ahead
The end is never seen
Mysteries on its borders and
Many hopes and dreams
If, as butterflies, we'd known
How little we linger
We wouldn't have painted our wings
Butterflies wouldn't have flown
Why ever should they leave the cocoon?
Would one moment in time
Justify the attempt?
Loss of all Hope
Is a murder
No court can ever clear...
When unable to hope
Any further,
Unwilling to cope with the fear,
Impotent in dealing with pain,
All ambition is slain!
When we dare not seek the future,
Foreclosing what's left of time,
Hidden from all that may witness
We commit the perfect crime!
Eternal night, wrapping my soul
In depths of darkness. Be kind.
For I have been isolated
From the blows of time

Remember, I have been alone
In sheltering shadows of my home
And murmuring sounds of which life is part
Could only be heard within my heart
You are life’s ultimate goal
Why don’t you linger,
Like worry and pain?

Your answer in absence
Upon me dawns
Touches the emptiness
Where you have been
She frowns, amazed
At the timeless mirror
Who speaks to her with no sound
“I see charm today, not sexuality
As you walk and turn around.”
Set me free
Allow me to be
Independent of you
If my dreams can fly
Away, or stay
Where they wish to
My heart will rejoice
At having the choice
And my mind will dwell
On the best part of you
Earth taught me much as she took me around
Encountering versions of humanity
Recognizing the inaudible sounds
Heartbeats that affirm our equality
We are so much alike, would be the same
Painted in one color, stretched to one frame
It was midday when he hovered
The dainty hummingbird lover
Sun shimmering upon blue feathers
Glimmering upon a wet beak

Overlooking the needles that glistened
Undertaking the winds that had risen
Making me look with new eyes, and listen
Overcome by life's rhapsody

Crunched gravel where trail was well-trodden
Hunched rabbits - I could tell where they'd hidden
And my brushes refused of a sudden
Illustration and artistry
In gratitude I wept…
As my limbs became fins
When I leapt…
Plunging deep
Into the flow!
A testimony to art
Part of me, yet apart
Familiar, but separate

Like a favorite book
With a favorite heroine
Who is almost me,
But not quite
I look at myself in the mirror
And make a silly face
What a sight!
Rumpled me.
I am home where I belong
No two rivers are alike.
Each carves its own channel.
Its depth refuge for life within it,
its surface support for life upon it.

But the passages etched
on the face of earth remain,
bearing witness to rivers
that once flowed through.

Introduction & Excerpts

This section chronicles the emotions of a person who rejoices at being part of God’s wonderful creation, and feels most content uniting with it in devotion.

Part One

The poems in this section are personal yet universal expressions of devotion.

I speak of elation and love, each giving rise to the other, of sorrow or despair that can be overcome by making a mental detour to Heaven, of years that speed past us, bearing witness to our limitations and idiosyncrasies. It is God’s Love that unites us all and makes everything worthwhile.

And then there is a mystic reflection upon Death, the singular certain future event that would prevail over all truths.

This section ends with an intimate prayer of love.

Part Two

This section holds two poems that are more analytical and fuel thought. The first (published in 1991) criticizes the behavior of those who profess to be Muslim yet commit actions in its name that contradict Islam, giving, as I put it, ‘the most beautiful picture the ugliest frame’ Although these radical individuals or political parties are relatively few (bearing in mind that Muslims number 1.2 billion worldwide), their actions have had the unsettling effect of erasing generations of positive interaction and pushing Islam’s image in western minds back to pre-Crusade times:

Prof. Thomas Arnold (1896) quotes a rare Christian document from the first century after Islam indicative of the peaceful spread of the new religion. In moving narrative the document laments the ‘so many thousands’ who converted to Islam without shedding a drop of their blood. “The native Christians certainly preferred the rule of the Muslims to that of the Crusaders.” Prof. Arnold adds, “The increasing intercourse between Christians and Muslims, the growing appreciation on the part of the Crusaders of the virtues of their opponents, which so strikingly distinguishes the latter from the earlier chroniclers of the Crusades, the numerous imitations of Oriental manners and ways of life by the Franks settled in the Holy Land, did not fail to exercise a corresponding influence on religious opinions” as the church was influenced into changing its discourse (Arnold, T., The Spread of Islam in the World: A History of Peaceful Preaching, p.89. Goodword Books, 2001: New Delhi, India.

A study of history will show that followers of faiths other than Islam were responsible for history’s worst carnages, and that Islam has been the most tolerant of the three Monotheistic faiths, embracing the Revelations and prophets of Judaism and Christianity, and calling their followers ‘People of the Scripture.’

“Say (Oh Muhammad) we believe in God, and that which is revealed unto us and that which is revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the Tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we surrender.” (Qur’an: 2: 136)

This seems hard to believe today as the world resonates with explosive words and deeds committed by a number of individuals or groups who appoint themselves ‘representatives of Islam’. To add to the problem, spinning its version of ‘reality’, biased media-reporting has made it more difficult for cultures to see the positive in each other, let alone understand one another, thereby committing a grave disservice to humankind, and willful disrespect of their own populace.

The second poem reflects the sadness and frustration of a Muslim woman who sees her sisters in certain ‘Islamic’ communities being denied the very rights Islam gave women more than 14 centuries ago. While the majority of Muslim women feel supported by the Islamic rights they do possess and seek repossession of what remains in the annals of history, we do find some who entrench themselves deeper into misogyny, accepting the denial of their rights in ‘the name of religion’!

The sun is rising over the hills
The sky a hazy hue
Entranced I watch their brightening embrace
Dear God, I love You!
When you're wrapped in sorrow, yet cannot cry
When you wish you could, but dare not try
When you feel that you would rather die...
Think of Heaven

When you have no strength to push along
When all around you has gone wrong
When there's nothing to pin your hopes on
Think of Heaven

For, though time does pace
Its passing, with grace
In daytime, it prances,
Whirls and dances

Can't give you more
Than furtive glances
While at night, appeased
And eager to please
Increased are the chances
Of catching it, alone
To hold on to, and call
Your own

Till it struggles away
With the break of day
Passing you by
A flash of color
A butterfly
As your hues, again, turn gray
Your love binds not, it sets me free
To wander in exploration
Faith helps reveal the child in me

Rising above mere vanities
To holy levels of sensation
Your love binds not, it sets me free

To marvel at Your artistry
Gaze in wonder at creation
You help reveal the child in me

And I touch all humanity
Though different, we are one nation
You help reveal the child in me
Whatever was dearest to the heart
Evaporates as does the dew
Which comes with dawn
When the light of Truth,
The light of the sun
Shines upon... It is gone...

Truth has a brightness
So sharp and strong
All else is dimmed besides
All else is insignificant,
When shadowless it lies
Diminished to true size
My heart with love for Thee doth beat a few
And miss a beat
As mine eyes with tears do fill
When I hear Thy name
For since I came to Thee my life
Hath been complete
Thine was the spark of guidance
That lit my flame
Oh Muslims by name
Who by conduct deny me
You are at fault
Your concept of faith
Has no foundation
In wisdom or revelation

But there are others,
Muslims who are true
Who attack not their brethren
As I've seen you do
Who never treat enemies
With injustice or oppression
Who never sever or mutilate
Or silence opposition
Whose judgments aren't clouded by Hate
These people bear my trait
“How is it today, that some seek to quell
Your spirit and stifle the thoughts in your head?
In the folds of the faith they’re trying to sell
Lie yokes of the ignorance we battled against!
When cattle-like you wait to be fed
Like cattle you will be led.”

I wasn’t convincing in my defense,
so she answered:

“We were women who walked all walks of life
We rode our horses to the farthest of lands
We were doctors, preachers, warriors and wives
Motherhood, in my time, did not tie our hands
Our children were only part of our plans
But your hands are tied together, fused
Relinquishing your inherent rights
Blinded by ignorance and abuse
You are accustomed to your plight
You find little value in seeking the light.”

About Arab Heart

The poetry in this section chronicles my emotional development as I face issues related to my identity as an Arab. It is safe to say that these identity-related issues are shared amongst most Arabs of my generation, Muslim and Christian. This is because personal growth is related to changes in the community, and each individual’s identity crisis is framed by contemporary crises of historical development. We have all shared the traumatic historical developments that threaten to impair our judgment and destroy the essence of our ‘Arab hearts’. That essence stems from the traditional generosity of the Arab spirit, embedded in self-confidence, exemplified by tolerance and an exceptional kindness to strangers. I also hope that by poetic description I could help convey the general suffering of individuals immobilized or under occupation. These are their voices.

Why ‘Arab’ Heart?

To date, Terror has claimed many victims, most notable amongst them being Tolerance. And although generosity, kindness, and tolerance are universal virtues we all struggle to retain, the Arab heart today has a more difficult struggle than most. Arab hearts seem constantly undermined, wherever they are, in their efforts to retain pride in their identity. In the West they are stereotyped in a misinformation campaign, with the few discrediting examples that actually exist getting publicized as the norm. In their own communities, which are mostly authoritarian, Arab hearts are often sidelined, neither asked for their opinions nor allowed the freedom to dissent. Even the popular desire of Arabs to join peacefully together has been constantly thwarted. And to top it off, Middle-Eastern Arab countries have been impoverished for decades due to military expenditure on account of the never-ending Arab-Israeli conflict. The Arab in me cries out against all these injustices. The American in me knows that we owe it to history to play a noble role today. The writer in me knows that I owe truthful reporting of how it feels to be an Arab.

Arab Heart, Crises, and Poetry

Research in human development tells us that during the early years, cultural and historical change can be extremely traumatic to identity formation because it can break up the inner consistency of a child’s hierarchy of expectations.

I was an Arab youngster who had twice known the fear of war. I witnessed my next-door neighbors being picked up -body part by body part- from amongst the ruins of their shelled home. I saw the horrific human results of Israel’s use of outlawed napalm bombs. My heart, fated to reside in an Arab body, ached for those in whose place I could have been, and in doing so, was traumatized again and again.

The cornerstone of identity is fidelity, or the ability to sustain loyalties of choice despite contradicting value systems, receiving confirmation from ideologies and companions (Erik H. Erikson, Identity, Youth, and Crisis).

As a coping mechanism to deal with our constant diplomatic travel, being ‘uprooted’ every few years in the best sense of the word, I sought inner coherence in cultural awareness. I began to represent the Arab point of view in my writings. And here I must say, I consider myself very fortunate. Unlike many who suffer in silence or violence, I had found an emotional outlet whereby I could express outrage, fear, despair, and pain in a most profound yet peaceful manner: Poetry.

Erikson has stated that, “fiction, even in acknowledging the depth of nothingness can contribute to something akin to a collective recovery. This… is a universal trend among the exploited… No wonder that in young people not inclined toward literary reflection, such deep-seated negative identities can be reabsorbed only by a turn to militancy, if not transient violence” (same reference, p.25).

I fear that entire Arab communities today may be suffering pathological grief. This seems most obvious in the young or impoverished within communities who have lost their independence to foreign occupation or to autocratic rule. Signs of pathological grief are agitation, hostility, profound listlessness, insomnia, severe anxiety, depression, and possible suicide. Such persons are more likely to engage in self-destructive behavior.
And I ask myself, “Shouldn’t we be helping these people recover? If they felt that we cared enough to voice their problems, wouldn’t we be in fact starting them on the route to revival?”

Arabs and Jews

Arabs feel a historic kinship to the Biblical Children of Israel, the followers of Prophet Moses, peace be upon him, and often refer to them as ‘our cousins.’ We are both Semites in the full sense of the word (language and lineage), which is why the term Anti-Semitism seems so uninformed when directed against Arabs. The Arab Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, had a Jewish wife, Safiya. Arabs and Jews shared common glories in the golden age of Islam, especially in Spain, and common agonies later during the Spanish Inquisition of 1492.

Middle-Eastern Conflict

The Middle-Eastern conflict is a very complicated issue where the stakes and passions run high for all those concerned. It is impossible to understand what is really going on -unless we hear the voices of all the parties involved. But before we discuss what the Middle-Eastern conflict is, we must determine what it isn’t. The Middle-Eastern conflict is not between Arabs (Christian and Muslim) on one hand, and Judaism on the other.

First, there is the ideological conflict between the majority of Arabs and Muslims on one hand, and Zionism, on the other. Zionism, a late 19th century ideology, formed the basis for the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine and is being used today by Israel to justify repression, apartheid, and occupation.

Rabbi Yisroel D. Weiss of the ultra-Orthodox group Neturai Karta asserts that there has sometimes been a misconstruction of reality on the part of the media, expressed in phrases such as ‘Jewish-Arab’, or ‘Jewish-Palestinian’ conflict. “Jews and Judaism have no conflict with Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians or any other group,” he says, adding, “The immediate cause of the conflict is the vicious dispossession and disenfranchisement of the Palestinian people by Zionist military might.” (

Second, and most pressing, is the conflict on the ground between indigenous Palestinian Arabs (Christian and Muslim) on one hand, and the modern State of Israel that has displaced them, on the other. Palestinian refugees registered at the United Nations today number 3.8 million; estimates suggest another 2 million so far unregistered. Israel has also displaced populations from neighboring Arab countries in its drive for expansion. United Nations’ efforts to curb Israel went unheeded; by 1998, Israel had persistently defied 69 U.N. Security Council resolutions brought against it, while standing protected by the U. S. veto from 29 others.

Reports from the ‘Foundation for Middle East Peace’ state that illegal occupation and demolition of Palestinian homes and livelihoods took place while Israel, in defiance of international law and U.N. resolutions, continued to bring in Israeli Settlers; into the West Bank and Gaza strip: 213,672 Settlers, into East Jerusalem 170,400 Settlers ( In contrast, Jerusalem’s indigenous Christian population numbering 30,000 in 1948, had fallen to 2,000 by the mid-1990’s.

Said former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker on May 22, 1991: “Every time I have gone to Israel in connection with the peace process on each of my trips I have been met with the announcement of new settlement activity. This does violate United States policy. I don't think there is any greater obstacle to peace than settlement activity that continues not only unabated but at an advanced pace” (Foundation for Middle East Peace: Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories; A Special Report, March 2002).

Despite consistent violations of international law regarding issues ranging from to torture , to extra-territorial and extra-judicial executions, to disproportionate use of military force against civilians, to continued building of illegal settlements , to forced expulsion of indigenous populations, to prevention of humanitarian aid from reaching besieged populations, to illegal claim of land, to illegal demolition of homes, roads and uprooting of orchards, to numerous documented massacres since its inception, to blocking of worshippers from mosques and churches, to unwarranted detainment or injury of reporters, to imprisonment of American citizens of Arab origin, despite all that and more, international sanctions have never been brought against Israel.

Jews, Zionism, and Israel

A once common misconception among most unexposed communities was that all modern-day Jews are Zionists who support Israel unconditionally. Fortunately this impression is changing now as more Jews speak out in defense of their moral values or their religion.

A larger number of Jews believe that Zionism was the appropriate response to the oppression that led up to and culminated in the Holocaust, yet they are increasingly critical of the policies and behavior of the Israeli State. A growing number of them today believe that Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza are totally unjustified, while some have said that the developments since the first Palestinian Intifada (1987) have led them so far as to morally question Israel’s early expulsion of Palestinians in 1948.

Some Jews consider Zionism to be diametrically opposed to Judaism because it seeks to define the Jewish people as a nationalistic entity. Among them are the Ultra-orthodox Jews who believe that the existence of the State of Israel is a violation of God's will, and they openly call for an end to the Jewish state. ( Many Jews do not agree.

Yet the majority of Jews in Israel today, despite believing their government to be justified to a certain extent in ‘punishing’ Palestinians for killing Israelis, yearn for peace. The number of soldiers refusing to cross the line of duty into illegal ‘warfare’ are already above 400. A few brave Israelis, peace-activists, human rights groups, journalists, professors, lawyers, and retired military personnel, try to influence their government by informing the Israeli public and the world of the human results of Israel’s military repression of Palestinians (see ‘Israeli Hearts speak out’).

The voice of truth is needed to open unobstructed channels of communication. With communication comes understanding, and hopefully, reconciliation. With reconciliation comes peace, leading to the ultimate aim, security. Perhaps the first step is the most difficult.

Arabs and America

There have often been differences of opinion between U.S. policy-makers and the Arab world with regard to the Middle-Eastern conflict, but possibly never as evident to the public as they are today. Unfortunately, the common Arab mistakenly believes that insensitive American politics regarding the Arab world reflect the will of all the American people. We know this isn’t true, especially since most Americans don’t follow world issues, delegating foreign politics to those who understand them. Sadly, those of us who notice the subtle changes in the Middle East realize that U.S. foreign policy today seems to have been working more to Israel’s benefit than to America’s own.

The common person in America also misunderstands the Arab people, who are as diverse in color, religion, local dialect, cuisine, and customs, as the many countries that comprise the Arab world, spread within two continents. But Arabs are united by history and language, with common goals. Arab Hearts traditionally pride themselves on being unprejudiced. White, Black, Asian featured, regardless of religion or sect; they have always been equals. One of the highest Arab virtues, praised in literature since olden times is ‘Hilm’, or forbearance. Yet today we see in certain parts, signs of a growing radicalism until recently quite rare among Arabs, compared to others. Studies have shown that political and economic situations are largely to blame. Radicalism emerges when there is despair in finding solutions through conventional channels.

What could the ordinary person do to prevent radicalism? Besides trying to make the conventional channels more receptive to change, maybe if each side showed renewed tolerance towards the other, extremists would not feel reinforced and legitimized. The issue of tolerance is probably what parents and teachers here and in the Arab world should address in an effort to mend the feelings of resentment felt on both sides resulting from 9/11 and from America’s seemingly biased policy with regard to much of the Arab world.

Hopefully, while this whole issue is being effectively addressed by decision-makers, the population at large on both sides could come together to rebuild the bridges of understanding, not only between cultures, but also between peoples and their governments. There are those whose advice governments must take advantage of, well-informed moderates who have no vested interests except in helping to bring an end to suffering and allow peace a chance to survive. In the Arab world such people are speaking out, often at high risk. Yet the Arab world in general knows well what it would take to achieve peace. There must be a restoration of internationally recognized human rights to the Palestinians. International voices worldwide agree.

There will always be hope as long as we have our well-informed American Hearts, moderates who assert that there is no contradiction between supporting Israel and supporting Palestine, simply because Israel’s security and Palestinian rights are not mutually exclusive, but are mutually dependent on each other. It is hoped that such people continue speak out.

In conclusion we may find that one thing is certain, if the world is to live in peace and harmony, we are all dependent on each other.

Heartfelt Acknowledgments

My heart is, first and foremost, grateful to those who are helping the world draw the distinction between populations and the policies of their governments, or between populations and the policies of certain persons or groups.
I am grateful to the voices in America, Israel, and Europe who, often at great personal risk, help the world listen to the muted instruments in the symphony of pain emanating from the land that is holy to all three of the great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.



The poetry in ‘Arab Heart' is an outpouring of sentiment relative to the time, circumstance, and emotional state in which each was written. Generated by specific incidents, the emotions I felt at these precise moments mirrored what was felt by many Arabs of my generation and are therefore presented in light of their informative value. At no time may any of my words, verses, or poems be used to provoke violence, prejudice, racial or otherwise.
I hope to provoke thought and understanding by voicing human suffering.


What had happened?
I remember a blast

Then nothing…

And then now

In the darkness
Amid the piles
Of shattered lives
Above me

I hear shouts
I feel tears
Or perhaps rain

I smell sorrow
I sense fear

Wedged beneath
The broken bones
Around me
I feel heavy
Yet weightless

So unsure
Of myself

Am I soul and body
Or just soul?

If wreck and I
Come apart
Would I be whole
Or would I be part?

Which part of myself would I be?
I cannot move
I cannot find out

Time stands still

Is it dark
Do I see black
Or am I blind?

It is so calm…

The sighs
The shouts
The tears

-Or was it blood?-

No matter

All seem to have
With the pain
Sometime ago

I don’t remember when
I stopped feeling

I must pray before
I slip away

Oh Lord, protect
My loved ones…

I remember hearing
A long time ago
That time stands still
In graves

And I know
This one
Is mine
In a cycle of terror
Whom do we blame
When both sides feel danger
Both sides feel pain

When death and destruction
Gather such momentum
That they earn
A life of their own
Detached to all else
That is going on?

Acts of terror
Override history
Branch out in chaotic form
Superseding the root of the problem
To which these acts belong
They take on a life of their own

Earning their very own response
Blinding us to circumstances
Of which they were tragically born

And whose side are we
Most likely to take
In such instances?

In the aftermath
We will empathize
With those that best
Present themselves
Fitting our description
Of credibility

Those that dress
In our colors
Speaking our tongue
They’ll communicate
Our terms of honor

And because of their familiarity
Nurtured in our perception
Disregarding actual right or wrong
We are aware of solidarity
With what may, in all reality
Be images of deception
I only wish
They hadn’t struck
Their target
Lying beyond the attack
In corridors of our minds
Back then
When we were the fortunate

Had we carried our fortune
Upon our backs
Shielded it
Within our hearts
No matter what the consequence

Could we have kept it intact?

For it is that mind-set alone
Which makes us whole
Beyond liberty
Beyond justice
Even beyond equality

In an instance
We are one
When we extend
The arms of
Come to my side, my children
Leap out of your comfortable beds
My body twists in torment, and
My shoulders can't carry my head

You need me too, but, unaware
Pay tribute, as always, by talk;
Your sweet words sound so meaningful
Silken roses on a dead stalk

Had my shoulders not started to give way
Had my neck not started to bend
Had my firm-standing legs not started to sway
Had I not known this was the end

I would have made your roses a garland
I would have worn them as a crown
Decked my neck with your promises
Or wrapped them as a gown
The root for differences
Around the world
Lies neither in culture nor religion
But in our misinterpretation
And misrepresentation
Of both
Dare I demonstrate in solidarity
With persecuted brothers of mine?
Who, in circumstances of singularity
Are condemned, not for a crime
Committed, but for suspicion thereof
Convicted, by reason of:

Dare I tread towards my brothers
Offering an arm and a shoulder?
Showing that I, too, do shed tears
That cause not my flames to smolder
But rather... to rise... even bolder!

For it’s the abuse of power
The justification of what is cruel
That sets our tears flowing
Bitter, hotter, glowing...
And they are tears no longer
But multifarious droplets of fuel
Kindling the flames even brighter.

Dare I become a fighter?
Border lines I crossed -and crushed-
to make us one,
beyond origin,
beyond creed,
rose up to choke me,
compelling obedience,
or apathy.
Anyway... in reflection,
Is it not too late?

But I hear my conscience call:
No, it is not too late
For if you allow your brothers to fall
The lifeline that holds you all unwinds
And you follow the same fate!

For the question isn't
And never shall be
‘Do you dare to resist?’

But is and always has been:
“Do you intend to exist”!!
It is such a shame
When mortals refuse to meet in life
On an unmarked human plane…
Ironic it is, to confess
To the inhuman human nature
One that can bear, and dares justify
Tormenting fellow creatures!
I am a survivor of psychological abuse beyond words -mutilated by words, beyond borders -strangled by borders, beyond history -raped by history.
And then, remember Dada,
The next day
When the monsters came
And broke our house
Making scary noises
I was not scared
Only Dolly cried
And you did too

I went someplace safe
To play the secret game
With Dolly
I sang so loud
So loud in my heart
With my eyes shut
Fingers in my ears
Pretending they’re not here
I was very brave
But Dolly
Hiding inside my shirt
Was shaking
And when the walls
Came down breaking
She became wet
On me
Oh, heart of mine
We have had enough
Let there be
No further duress

When you die I will abide
In Nothingness
Passive, immune
To these terrible times
No heart. No home.
My world in ruins
Desecrated my culture
As circle the vultures
Patiently overhead

Yet I will keep
An ice- cold eye
Not breaking apart
For I will be living
Without a heart
And I will contemplate
Without love, without hate
The futile future go past

And you, my poor aching heart
Shall find comfort at last...
As my eyes filled with tears
As my heart prayed for you
My mind wandered there
But what could I do?

My heart cried with sorrow
I wanted to fight too
My time had not yet come
So what could I do?

They said I was too young
Though my heart was true
They said I could not fight
Oh, what could I do?

I saw the blood dripping
I saw it cover the dew
I saw your people dying
And I knew what to do…
Now here I lie dying
I fought, I fought for you
They said I could not fight
But I did what I could do

They said I was too young
But they never knew
That no one ever is too young
To give his life for you
I saw lines where dust was settling
On my mother’s teary cheeks
I heard winds fiercely rustling
Through the orchards of my mind
To branches I will never reach

I felt the flurry of panicked wings
Nests and nestlings crushed
The world’s undisturbed hush
Hitting me louder than any speech
Rushing hot blood to my head

And I made a vow
No fear. No.
There shall be no more fear
How can I dread the future
When I hold nothing dear?
But now that they've finally found escape,
They are frightening,
They are free!

They have wrenched apart
All the strings of my heart
And are burning, hurting,
Lurching, churning
All my emotions again

Twisting them out of shape
Crippling me with the pain
Drowning me in its sea
I look back at you. It is all over
Why are you so silent and still?
They hold me gently as I call
“Mama, Mama!” until
I see the pool you lie in
A dark red dried-up mud
Together, for ever and ever
Miriam’s bath… and your blood…

First Papa, then Miriam, now Mama
O Mama! What shall I do?
How can I live now you’re gone?
How can I grow up without you?
Oh, why am I not dead too!
There is no food for us to eat
No place to play away from heat
Or cold, or rain,
And what about that pain
Cutting through our guts?
Horrible hunger, and dread
Mother says she can’t help with the hurt
She has her own big share
Tell her when I die, and I shall
There should be no more tears
I’m with my mother, where I belong
My love shouldn’t weep for youth that is gone
For each day in prison was like a year
And in so counting, I didn’t die young
I see men without a cause
And a cause that yearns for men
I see anticipations rise
Then down they’re struck again

I see strong arms
Full of health
Drugged by luxurious wealth
Minds silenced by terror and fear
Throats slit from ear to ear
Legs weighted by oppression
Bellies hungered by depression
When the wildest of their dreams
Has one nagging theme
Finding tomorrow’s bread
And keeping a roof above their heads
(from ‘The Winds of Time’)
If only people
Could judge for themselves
Unswayed by the lies
Of Israel’s media machine
They would sympathize
With our desperate attempts
To break our confines
And be free!
They would recognize
That my child
Is a reckless hero

Just as theirs would be
If he tried with slingshots
To fight armed gangs
In the back- streets
Of western towns
Ten and a half years later
Nothing has changed
Bombers still circle the skies
Raining death upon the land
Of A Thousand and One Nights
Imposing sanctions that have cost
One million, five-hundred
Thousand lives
Most of them children
Who should have survived
Alongside our own
Every interrogation steers
Me closer to death’s door
And I reach out, broken and sore

Embracing it without fear
A deliverance
From painful torture,
From further harm
It was an Apache that thrashed at my son
While he stopped to face its steel
Head in daring raised
Eyes afire, gazing
At the swirling blades
At soldiers in the chopper
Hovering over our burnt home

And as the air whipped currents
His heart broke into torrents
He pelted them with fragments
Gravel, pebbles, and stone
“The Settlers are coming
From Russia…
They’re here!”
A nightmare unexpected, come true
Weeping mothers clutch their babes in fear
As the cry is heard anew
As they come in hundreds of thousands…
Flying David’s Star in blue

Towards their dreams, they cross gray skies
Fed false hopes, led by lies
Acting serene, they stifle their smiles
Happiness is hard to disguise

Seekers of freedom, they arrive airborne
Through curtains of iron
Now tattered and torn
To live off grain other women had sown
To pluck the fruits other men had grown
To rock the cradles other babies had known
And call their homes “Our own!”
I stumbled weakly forward
He snatched the documents
From my shaking fist
And leafed through…
Papers that stated
My given name
My age as per the date
When I breathed my first
Eighty-some years ago.
My ethnic origin by the race
Of my Palestinian father

Civil records of occurrences
In which I had no choice

He slowly tore them to shreds

He looked amused
When I tried to save the pieces
That fluttered to the ground
And I’ll never forget his voice as he hissed
You do not exist!”

This land bore my footprints, I thought
Half a century before you were born
My children and great-grandchildren
Call this country home
My forefathers were laid here to rest
After all that has here transpired
You think you can make me cease to exist
If bodily I am sent away?
Or on paper I am gone?

Shepherded onto the van
A crowded cabin of hunger
For dignity, for justice

How I wish I were younger
Or stronger
I would have fought to stay
Where my spirit remains

Where to now?
It doesn’t matter
All else is the same
My cousin died the other day
Just a babe in my aunt’s arms
Needing to reach the hospital
Our hospital, where we always went
When ill or in any danger

Soldiers wouldn’t let them pass
And my aunt pleaded
By the side of the road
Until she no longer
Needed permission
Israel has made it so
I have nothing left to lose
Israel has made it so
I have nothing
Else to use

Except the arsenal of weaponry
They left behind
For me

To defy them with
To hit them with
To hurt them with
And so I shall
In time
A mountain of broken memories
In stone
The rubble of my home
They uprooted the trees I loved to climb
They destroyed the playground by my home
They took my dad away some place
And worry has lined my mother’s face
Since that time

And the roads we used to reach our town
To school, to family, and friends
The path that led to my father’s job
Now, at its beginning comes to an end

They bulldozed that away too
Piles of dirt and rocks surround
Destroyed orchards around our home
Mounds of jagged asphalt
I dare not cross alone
She fell upon the broken shards
Of steel, of brick, of glass,
Of family, of home
The spilt blood, flesh and bones
Of Mama and Papa
And baby Jihad
Underneath that heap

Suddenly her suffering
Was too hard to bear
The cameraman
Now looking ahead
In a limp, blank stare
Had stopped filming
Sometime ago
I don’t know when
I don’t know where
And whose side are we
Most likely to take
In such instances?

In the aftermath
We will empathize
With those that best
Present themselves
Fitting our description
Of credibility

Those that dress
In our colors
Speaking our tongue
They’ll communicate
Our terms of honor

And because of their familiarity
Nurtured in our perception
Disregarding actual right or wrong
We are aware of solidarity
With what may, in all reality
Be images of deception

This happened to so many of us
After September eleventh

When cultural backgrounds
Attempted to dictate
To each their strong reaction

Some identified with words of faith
Each to his own religion
Others with latent racism and hate
Hysterical historical definitions

And in instinctive self-preservation
So called, ‘Enemies’ of America, or ‘Allies’
The ‘East’ or the ‘West’
Muslims, Christians
Jews and others
Were assailed
And when put to this
Difficult test:
We all failed!

We were duped into taking sides
For, or against one another
Losing sight of the important fact
That despite our differences
Or maybe, enriched by them
We can all survive together
In dignity and freedom
Leading the most
Fulfilling of lives
How do we make amends?
With intellectual dialogue
And integration
Of a new set of definitions

Therefore, those who truly seek peace
Should begin here:

Whatever the faith that is professed,
Unacceptable is the claim
To being the people
Chosen by God,
Doing His work on this earth
Or, what’s worse:
Invoking death upon others
In His name.

To whichever culture one belongs,
Unacceptable is the proclamation
Of superiority, seniority or worth
Thereby adopting
A supremacist right to exist
As a nation.

And wherever short-term politics lie
We should bear in mind
That our injustices today
Are a disservice
To the long term interests
Of our children.
Where is this unmarked grave? Does it matter?
We should be able to feel the same empathy wherever this human voice comes from, for only with the strength of one united conscience that sees humanity on an unmarked human plane can we work effectively to prevent the tragedies we wreak upon ourselves.