A Personal Viewpoint on Feminism, Pacifism, and the Gulf War
I am Lebanese, or so I tell people I think I will not be seeing again. Friends get the longer version. My parents are Palestinian. My birth occurred in Iraq. We moved to Beirut when I was still a baby. I grew up in Lebanon. I also make it a point to specify that although my family is Christian, I grew up in West Beirut; that is, that part of the city the media refers to as "mostly Muslim." Why should my narrative be simple? Can any narrative be simple if one of its themes is related to the Palestine question? I also identify with Muslim culture, because it is my experience that, whether you are a believer or not, you carry values of the predominant religion. Thus, in the United States, you need not be Christian to identify with certain Christian values, or to punctuate your calendar with Christian dates. Similarly, I believe Islam to be part of Arab culture, my culture. I am sure the Lebanese Christians will choke on this one...
In 1991, I "fought" Desert Storm as a member of a peace coalition. We tried very hard, during the all-too-brief "Desert Shield" period, to educate the community about the issues at stake. We organized two teach-ins at which I was the only local Arab speaker. My Arab friends supported our initiative but preferred not to join me. Did they, too, feel this was an anti-Arab war? The issue is complex, for I am convinced that racism disguised as patriotism (so what else is new) lay at the bottom of the pro-war movement. But did the Arabs in my community in Lafayette, Indiana really believe the best way to retaliate against racism was to keep silent?
I joined all the marches and political protests I could. Until then, my complex background allowed me not to feel personally involved because I could always claim to be someone else: