Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Samia Khoury on Intimidation

In this brief reflection Samia Khoury writes about intimidation.

June 16, 2010
Samia Khoury

Intimidation is a common phenomenon all over the world. We watch bullies in the form of landlords intimidating their tenants; employers intimidating their employees, and even teachers intimidating students or parents intimidating their children. In general, the victims of intimidation are those who are weak and helpless, and those who do not have the guts to stand up for their rights or principles to avoid trouble. We have a saying in Arabic that goes like this: “stay away from evil and sing away.” Very often you share a story with your friends about the loss of your rights in work, or in your property, and nobody dares support you because of fear of the bully who was behind your loss. So people continue to be afraid, and shy away from confrontation.

This past month we saw a strange man in the neighborhood putting a fence around the plot near our home, when we asked him what he was doing, he claimed that he owned the land and that he had bought it from its owners. We called the owners who had bought the land at the same time we did in 1960 and she assured us that her husband who had passed away never sold the land. When she appointed a lawyer to defend her case, a bully entered into the lawyer’s office and stabbed him. Luckily he survived the stabbing but he was intimidated into abandoning the case had it not been for the encouragement of his colleagues, who vouched to support him and stand by his side.

On the other hand, after a travel agent in Jerusalem had bought extra space for his offices, some bullies who had coveted the same space intimidated him in a way that made him relinquish the sale and decide to “stay away from evil.” When lawlessness prevails after forty three years of occupation, nothing is surprising any more.

Political intimidation is just as much of a phenomenon which we are too familiar with in the Middle East. Under the guise of the so called imaginary “peace process” so much is allowed and politicians and leaders cave in and relinquish their demands, so as not to hinder that process. Even churches are being intimidated for taking moral stands. But in their case it is not the peace process but the “interfaith dialogue” that is the target of the intimidation. Ironically however, all faiths promote justice and peace in their scriptures, so there is no contradiction in the basic message, and there is no reason that those inter-faith groups should not be utilized positively against the evil of intimidation. Yet I wonder how many will have the courage of the persistent widow who kept taking her case to a mean judge. “But finally the judge said to himself, Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice.” Luke 18:4-5.

If the churches are not going to live up to the mission of Jesus Christ who was sent “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind and to release the oppressed,” Luke 4:18, then for sure bullies will continue to intimidate the meek, the poor and the oppressed, and lawlessness will eventually be the norm, without hope for justice or peace to prevail.

However, we do have positive examples of the persistent widow who refuse to be intimidated. The weekly demonstrations of both Israelis and Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah against confiscation of homes, the weekly demonstrations against the wall in Ni’lin and Bi’lin, and against the confiscation of land in Beit Jala, as well as the rage that we watched all over the world against the flotilla attack are all signs of hope that assure us that we all can stand up against the evil of intimidation and the mean judge will eventually give in and grant us justice.

Samia Nasir Khoury served for 17 years as president of Rawdat El-Zuhur, a coeducational elementary school for the lower income community in East Jerusalem. She serves on the board of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in East Jerusalem and on the board of trustees of Birzeit University in Birzeit, Palestine. Samia writes about justice, truth, and peace for the Palestinian people, the relationships between people and the land, the context of Christian-Jewish-Muslim relationships in the Holy Land, concerns for children in conflict, and gender issues.

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