|Participants during a training workshop in Jordan. Photo © UNRWA.|
|Girls at a secondary school in Gaza.|
I pause a moment before answering the girl. “No,” I say, “not everyone thinks that. My friends and family know a lot about Palestinians and of the suffering that they are going through. They ask me what your lives are like; they ask me how a peaceful solution can ever become a reality. They are genuinely interested in seeing you live a life of dignity, and we all know that the actions and words of those in power – anywhere – are not necessarily a reflection of the hearts and minds of the people who must live by their rules.” Part of my answer is a copout; it’s too easy to rely on what friends and family think because they are sympathetic to Palestinian autonomy and freedom. But I withhold speaking about the more nuanced reality that exists, one in which many people are divided on their (often strong and ill-informed) opinions about Palestinians.
- I wanted the Canadian government to at least be smarter, and I have seen no evidence to support this. If anything, the Harper government has gone out of its way to ignore the rights of First Nations people, minorities, and women (feel free to add “etc.”), while dismissing any organization brave enough to stand up for environmental rights. They basically said screw off to the United Nations when the Special Rapporteur on the right to food knocked on our door earlier this year, and their bombastic language of “retaliation” against Palestinians for asking for non-member observer status at the UN is disgracefully un-Canadian.
- I wanted Bashar al-Assad to be removed from Syria. Santa didn’t do good on that. My Xmas note pointed out that 5,000 people had been killed by December 21 2011; now we’re up to 40,000 and possibly the use of chemical weapons sometime soon. I really don’t want to write “get rid of al-Assad” on my Xmas list next year.
- While on the subject of nutty leaders, I asked Santa to do something about President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe (he didn’t) and President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen (Santa did listen; the guy’s gone).
- I asked for reforms in the political system in Bahrain, where a friend of mine has been jailed since April 2011 and sentenced to life in prison. He’s still there, and dammit Santa, another friend is now in the slammer for tweeting. For tweeting. I mean, come on.
- I wanted police in Egypt to be a little nicer with peaceful protesters. The police were nice for a while, but then again there were fewer protests. Now they’ve flared up because the new president, Mohamed Morsi wanted to add sweeping powers to his authority. Dude, this is why the country cried foul in the first place.
- The Occupy movement needed a bit of leadership. Which movement?