Aya al-Shobaki is a delightful 12 year old young lady with curly brown hair, bright eyes and a glowing smile. She’s probably the most pleasant person I have ever met. Aya loves her family, laughs a lot, and especially loves to dance and sing.
There’s only one thing missing in Aya’s life. Aya misses her father. Aya lives in Gaza City on the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Her father, Fu’ad al – Shoubaki, has been in prison in Jericho since 2002, after his arrest for an unsuccessful attempt to smuggle arms into Gaza.
I taught fifth grade in Gaza last year and Aya was one of my students. I remember the day she came to me and asked me if I would sign a petition asking for the release of her father on humanitarian grounds. I wanted to sign it but, as a visiting American and an employee of an International school, I really couldn’t. I wish I had because it may be too late now.
Everything changed on March 14th. When Aya’s father was kidnapped by the Israeli army in a violent raid on Jericho Prison that left two Palestinians dead and the prison a smoking flattened ruin. A prison located within the borders of Palestine. Aya will have been told that the American and British monitors who were put there by an American brokered agreement walked off the job just 15 minutes before the Israeli tanks and helicopters came in. Monitors put there specifically to prevent the Israelis from invading Palestinian territory and flat out murdering Fu’ad al – Shoubaki, Ahmad Sa’adt and the other political prisoners. She will have been told that her father is suffering God knows what fate because America went back on its word and sold him out to the Israelis.
It makes no difference whether Aya is being told the truth or not, although I think the facts speak for themselves. What maters is that Aya and tens of thousands of other children in Palestine are being told that America is a tool of Israeli policy and not a friend or ally. What maters is that no-one is telling her or the other kids anything different.
The youth of Palestine are not going to forget the destruction of the Jericho prison and the kidnapping of Fu’ad al – Shoubaki and Ahmad Sa’adt. Trust me, they have excellent memories. We may look back on March 14th as the seminal event that fueled the next cycle of violence in the Middle East. This is how the conflict is perpetuated from generation to generation. The difference is that this time, it has American collusion written all over it. I bet Aya’s not smiling now. Maybe you could help me figure out what to tell her about her father.
WBFO Radio 2007