A form of genocide

San Antonio Express
May 5 2012

A form of genocide

By Roberto Bonazzi
Published 04:35 p.m., Thursday, May 3, 2012

Readers must approach this deeply touching, heartbreaking memoir with
the understanding that Jacob Nammar, a Palestinian living in San
Antonio, has not written a political screed and while objectivity
remains impossible for humans, he reveals that being humane and fair
in one’s viewpoint can be accomplished.

The narrative unfolds in four distinct sections: an idyllic portrait
of a boy’s charming remembrances of family life in Jerusalem; the
horrific onslaught by Zionist terrorists and the cruel, illegal
removal of a population from its millennial homeland; the adaptations
and successes of a young athlete and his family despite desperate
circumstances; and, finally, a mature man looking back on it all.

The first section about boyhood features loving portraits of Nammar’s
Arab father (who drove a tourist bus and met his wife in Beirut), an
Armenian mother (whose family had been murdered by the Turks), an
adopted half-brother from her first marriage and six siblings – all
born in West Jerusalem and raised as Catholics. These chapters are
replete with the sights, sounds and smells of a fabulous Holy City
during an era when Arabs and Jews and everyone else lived peacefully
in one community.
All was changed by senseless destruction and ethnic cleansing, and
Palestinians were stripped of their land, homes, possessions and
culture (including their estimable dignity).

Nammar found support in the Catholic schools, mastered several
languages, and became a top swimmer once he joined the YMCA. He was
among the basketball stars (and only Palestinian) on the national
team. But as more Jews flooded into Israel, he was cut from the team
and siblings were fired from jobs, because `you do not belong here,’
said the Jewish immigrants and Israeli officials – exiling them from
their birth city, where his extended family had been prominent
landowners and businessmen. They lost everything, and Jacob decided to
leave at age 23.

`I was never vengeful against Jews,’ he writes, but `I was against the
racist policies directed toward us. The Jewish religion has many
remarkable qualities, but few of them were reflected in Israel’s
militaristic society.’

His `last experiences of Israel were sour. It was a state that didn’t
afford me a voice, economic independence, or a future. It had torn
apart my home, my family, and my sense of a cohesive self,’ and it had
dispossessed a once healthy society. He `could not live in a state
that had been created by terror and illegal confiscation of my home,
land, and personal freedom.’

If we perceive reality without political agendas and strictly from the
perspective of human rights, it becomes impossible not to view the
decimation of Palestinian society as equivalent to the Nazi Holocaust
or the Turkish genocide of the Armenians (just to name two of the
obvious fits of military madness in recent history). Yet since we are
inculcated by racism and propaganda in every society, it is easier
always to believe that we are innocent bystanders.

In the `Epilogue,’ Nammar writes of his `process of healing and
self-liberation that brought a renewed sense of hope.’ He also relates
his mother’s last years with them. `Mama had endured the Armenian
genocide, the Palestinian ethnic cleansing, a Zionist prison zone,
poverty, dispossession of her home and land, and the death of her
soulmate. But she never lost her love for life, or hope, or her faith
in God.’

Roberto Bonazzi’s Poetic Diversity column runs occasionally in S.A.
Life. Reach him at [email protected]


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