Posted by: jt | February 28, 2008

there’s anger in your eyes

One of my boys from the Middle East just broke my heart. When he asked me, point blank, what I thought about him, I answered honestly. When I look at you, I see two people. One is very good – kind, generous and eager to please. The other is very angry. Very angry. And that scares me.

I wasn’t the first person to find this kid a little unnerving. We have our biases, but the vast majority of Americans cringe a little these days when a young, Arab man says things like, The only way to resolve conflict is with bullets or money. Other phrases that don’t win you many friends? The American people and government are building their happiness on the misery of the Middle East. My personal favorite? Being looked dead in the eyes and told, You have killed thousands of Arabs.

Perhaps you understand why he wasn’t making many friends.

I had a long conversation with this guy and was flat out determined to meet every last word of his rather [ahem] terrifying rhetoric with compassion. Yes, as one of the trainers on his program said, there was anger in his eyes. But there was also pain. A lot of pain. Naturally, it was coming from a variety of sources, most of which I can’t presume to know.

Potential reasons for its manifestation as anti-American rhetoric? Those smacked me in face (again) this morning. Emphasis is mine.

In the West Bank, Israeli troops killed two people in a raid on Balata refugee camp on the outskirts of Nablus.

In all, 17 Palestinians have died in Israeli military action in the last two days, including a six-month-old baby.

An Israeli student was also killed in escalated Palestinian rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, some of which hit the nearby southern Israeli town of Sderot.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said “terrorists”, as he called them, would pay a very heavy price for the attacks.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the Palestinian rocket attacks “need to stop”.

“We are all sorry about the death of the Israeli university student,” she said after meeting the Israeli prime minister in Tokyo.

She added: “I am concerned about the humanitarian conditions there and innocent people in Gaza who are being hurt.”

Yeah. I’m sorry about the death of the Israeli student too. I’m also sorry about that six-month-old baby. And the 16 other Palestinians who’ve been killed in the last two days. Can you guess which ones are getting more attention in Arabic media at the moment?

The article continues, for a little more perspective:

Although the Israeli fatality is the first death from Palestinian rocket fire in nine months, four other Israelis have been killed in attacks by Palestinian militants in the last three months, since the relaunching of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian leadership of Hamas rival Mr Abbas.

In that time, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army, most of them militants.

Two hundred Palestinians to five Israelis. Over three months. During “peace talks.” Two hundred to five. And the official line of the U.S. government is that the Palestinians need to stop.

I’m not taking sides. Both sides have their reasons. Both sides have their faults. I’m just trying to understand why there is anger in their eyes.


Full text of the article may be found here, at (as ever) BBC News. Also, I tried to find the text of the full statement from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. If it shows up on the Department of State website and there’s anything contrary to what’s implied here, I’ll update.



  1. “Two hundred to five. And the official line of the U.S. government is that the Palestinians need to stop.”

    I’m not going to comment on the politcal aspects – there’s not enough room on the web for all the confusion, the history, the list of guilty parties and most important – the list of victims.

    What I do know is that when a person is suffering and feels invisible at the same time anger is a road that can be very comforting to travel and gives the person a wonderful, albeit false, sense of power.

    Been there.

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