Palestinians are victims in Israel-Hamas war: ‘Our blood seems to be worth a lot less’

Hani Almadhoun received the telegraph bearing the heartbreaking news on Monday: Fourteen members of his extended family were killed in Israel’s retaliatory air strikes following Hamas’ surprise attack at Israel’s southern border two days before.

Almadhoun’s wife also lost a cousin.

Both sets of the couple’s parents and several of their siblings are still in the Gaza Strip, where over 1,900 people have been massacred by Israeli forces. Many more Palestinians are certain to be slaughtered, and the Virginia-based Almadhoun, 42, wonders how many of his fellow Americans, including the president, even care.

“Our blood seems to be worth a lot less,” Almadhoun, a humanitarian relief worker, told me, lambasting Joe Biden for failing to acknowledge the deaths and suffering of Palestinian civilians during a White House speech he made Tuesday condemning Hamas’ act of “sheer evil.”

Israel has a “right” and “duty to respond” to Hamas’ massacre of more than 1,200 Israeli citizens and foreign nationals and kidnapping of 150 others, Biden said, later relaying to several Jewish community leaders that he saw “pictures of terrorists beheading children.”

The problem, per a Biden spokesman, was that at the time, neither the president nor administration glimpsed such gruesome images or had confirmed the unverified claims that have been spreading like wildfire.

Seeds of misinformation

I too was horrified by Hamas’ atrocious assault and understand how the deadly ambush left a community that was nearly annihilated during World War II in deep anguish and shock. But Israel’s relentless siege to punish the responsible parties, or “animals” as some Israeli officials described them, has only led to the carnage of more innocent souls like the 15-month-old toddler related to Almadhoun.

The inflammatory seeds of misinformation piled on top of the decades-long, U.S.-approved oppression of the Palestinians, only has made it easier to sell what has quickly spiraled into a humanitarian disaster.

Not everyone who is pro-Palestinian wants to wipe Israel off the map or is pro-Hamas. It is possible to have sympathy for both Israelis and Palestinians. And it isn’t just Middle Easterners and Muslims — who are often conflated with all Arabs even though there’s a sizable Christian population within the diaspora — raising their voices against the Israeli government’s “right to defend itself.”

A growing number of Jewish Americans and Israelis have joined in on calling out Israel’s abysmal treatment of Palestinians and don’t share Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloodlust in his latest quest for vengeance.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres noted the latest violence in the Middle East “does not come in a vacuum.”

“The reality is that it grows out of a longstanding conflict, with a 56-year long occupation and no political end in sight,” Guterres went on to say. “It’s time to end this vicious circle of bloodshed, hatred and polarization.”

I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to be Jewish. I can’t say I’ve ever stepped in a Palestinian’s shoes, either. But as a Muslim, I am all too familiar with that sickening, sinking feeling of being maligned and misunderstood.

The chaos overseas, prompting the hawkish “either you’re with us or the terrorists” sentiment of many Americans has triggered the post-9/11 trauma Muslims and Arabs have never really shaken off.

Palestinian Americans, including U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., have been pressed by journalists to condemn Hamas, and many newsrooms are still struggling to grasp that men and women with names like Mohammad, Samyah, Abbas and Lina can be victims, too.

“One-sided statements” by our elected leaders and inadequate media coverage following the outbreak of violence in the Middle East contributed to a “lop-sided atmosphere,” allowing a spike in Islamophobic incidents reported to the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations last week, Executive Director Ahmed Rehab said.

It was only after 9/11 and in the wake of Donald Trump’s Muslim ban that the organization fielded that many hate message complaints.

I would like to say I am waiting for the condemnation from those outside of my community, but dismissing Muslims and Arabs and erasing their reality here and elsewhere is what many Americans want to do as Hollywood actress Jamie Lee Curtis exemplified in her attempt to show solidarity with Israel.

Curtis had posted on social media a picture of children paralyzed with fear as they look up staring at missiles from above. “Terror from the skies,” she captioned the photo with an emoji of the Israeli flag.

When it was brought to Curtis’ attention that the picture was actually of Palestinian children trying desperately to evade Israel’s bombs, Curtis took the image shot by Gaza-based Samar Abu Elouf image down.

Whew. Close call. God forbid, the Academy Award winner center her compassion solely on Palestinian boys and girls.

After all, they’re probably just clandestine members of Hamas.

Rummana Hussain is a columnist and member of the Sun-Times Editorial Board.

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