Peace to the souls of September 11 victims


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By Hassan El-Najjar

Editor of Al-Jazeerah

September 11, 2002



A year ago, 2801 people were killed as a result of the four plane attacks on the US soil. Most of them were civilians: children, women, men, and civil workers who have not participated in hostilities against anybody in the world. Their lives were taken out prematurely. They were not given any chance to do the things they wanted to do or say the things they wanted to say.  They left behind them their own children, spouses, parents, relatives, and friends who can never get over the loss. This is a time to remember these innocent victims of September 11 and wish their souls the peace they deserve. This is also a time to remember their loved ones, to comfort them, and to stand beside them. Finally, this is the time to confirm that Killing civilians is wrong, whether in America, in Palestine, or anywhere in the world. It cannot be justified by any cause no matter how much the perpetrator was victimized.


Like all Americans, I was devastated by the attacks and their aftermath. I lost the sense of security that I had since I came with my family to America. I thought until that moment that I had finally found the safe haven that would allow us to live peacefully away from wars and hostilities. I had never felt that my family and I were discriminated against or treated unfairly in the United States. We never encountered a situation in which any one of us was denied an equal opportunity to pursue his or her goals in life. We felt that we were finally home. As Palestinians who were dispossessed, uprooted, and denied citizenship by Israelis, we felt that becoming Americans was the end of our suffering. 


But it was like a dream, a short one. The September 11 tragedy brought with it the reality that though we left the Middle East suffering, it followed us to our new homeland. From day one after the attacks, everything has changed in an unpleasant way. Treatment of Arab Americans and Muslim Americans has changed. Despite appreciated initial efforts by the President and the Department of Justice to protect the rights of Arab Americans and Muslim Americans, several measures have been taken later that encouraged extremists to vent their anger at their fellow citizens, Arab Americans and Muslim Americans. Some of these were detained without specific evidence or charges. Others were deprived access to private legal counseling, and even considering some of them as enemy combatants. But the most devastating one has been evident in selecting Arabs and Muslims for more scrutiny than anybody else (racial profiling), particularly in airports. Finally, there has been a lot of hate vented against Islam openly in the main media. This has encouraged extremists even to challenge a university and take it to court because it has offered a course about Islam. Threats and hate mail have spread but they have decreased because of the diligent efforts of law enforcement agencies.


In the first anniversary of the September 11 tragedy, we shouldn't stop at only grieving our great loss. We should also reflect on all of what happened during the past year. First, we should be determined that it will never happen again. Second, we should think about the human rights violations and the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim campaigns that have been happening inside the US, particularly in the media. These must be stopped in order to maintain the beautiful meanings that America stands for, particularly welcoming immigrants and letting them enjoy the freedom everybody else is enjoying. Americans should be sensitive towards their Arab and Muslim fellow citizens and immigrants because they grieve as they grieve and care as they care, if not more. This is their country, afterall, that they do not want to see harmed or attacked.


I cannot be truthful to the souls of the innocent people whom we lost on September 11, 2001 or to the readers if I don't mention American foreign policy, as a principal relevant issue to this national tragedy. Neither the media nor the leaders of the US government have pursued the initial question raised during the first week after the tragedy about why it happened. In no way the search for answers should mean a justification for what happened. There is nothing that justifies killing innocent human beings. Having said that, there should have been a review of the US foreign policy to reflect America's national interests, not the interests of ruling families, dictators, and oppressive occupiers. The US unqualified aid to Israel must be stopped until Israel withdraws from the Palestinian territories and leaves the Palestinians alone deciding their own destiny. The Israeli massacring of Palestinians, as recent as this year in Jenin and Gaza, should not be left to pass without holding the Israeli government responsible. What Israel has been doing is state terrorism that victimizes the Palestinian people. The Israeli continuous occupation of Palestine has caused an enormous amount of suffering among Palestinians. If we want to end the cycle of violence, we have to confront the Israelis and force them to withdraw from the Palestinian territories and leave the Palestinians alone to govern themselves, in their own viable and independent state.


The United States shouldn't protect dictatorial and autocratic regimes from their people. We shouldn't be perceived as standing behind oppressive governments. The sanctions imposed on Iraq should be lifted because they cause death and suffering among the Iraqi people. It is estimated that about one and a half million Iraqis died as a result of sanctions, including about half a million children. The US problem with Iraq concerning weapons of mass destruction should be resolved peacefully through the UN, not by war. War may cause the death of tens of thousands of innocent people, which will create a new wave of avengers, and the cycle of violence continues. The US foreign policy should reflect the core American values of freedom, democracy, and equality of opportunity. It should reflect the humane and peaceful nature of the American people. Wars do not solve problems, they just increase the number of victims, and consequently the number of enemies. The evidence comes from the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the oppression of the Palestinian people. With all the weapons that Israel has and all the support it has from the US, it has not been able to end the Palestinian resistance to its occupation and its oppression. We should engage the world in a peaceful exchange of ideas, products, sports, arts, and tourists. We should send American youngmen and youngwomen all over the world to study and interact with other youngmen and youngwomen, not to fight with them. We should send food, not bombs. We should make peace, not war. Not only this will lead the souls of September 11 victims to rest in peace, but it will also lead us to live in peace and happiness.

Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah's.