Nurturing that better future

All my wonderful longtime readers here at JWN may wonder why I’ve been so silent recently. Two reasons, mainly. I’ve been deep immersed in the most wonderful forms of family life; and I’ve also been racing against the clock on the ‘War Diary: Lebanon 2006‘ project.
In the past three months, we’ve been enriched by the arrival of two new grandchildren! The second of these, little Salma, arrived just under three weeks ago. I’ve been staying with her and her parents in California. My other amazing grandchildren, now aged 2.5 years and 3 months, are also staying nearby, with (of course) their parents.
It is one of the most beautiful things in the world to be with these little ones– and also to see my own ‘little’ ones now all grown up and being such fabulous parents; and to see all of them just enjoying being together. I’ve had wonderful long periods of holding and rocking the babies, chatting with the new parents, watching the two-year-old as she explores the fabulous local tots-only playground, playing Legos with her, listening to all her great little made-up songs… helping the new parents out where I can.
I remember when I was a new parent, that finding a fit between my work at parenting– and yes, as feminist philosophers have pointed out, for all the joy involved, parenting is certainly the most important form of work that there is– and my professional work was really a big challenge…. And now, I’m trying to find the right balance between being the grandparent I want to be and my work in the professional/public sphere. This time around, though, I think the balance is easier for me to find, since I really do think that what I do in the professional/public sphere is aimed centrally at trying to build that better world in which my grandchildren– and yours, and everyone’s!– can all have an equal chance to grow and flourish, in a world that values each human life equally and turns its back on violence, exploitation, discrimination, and war.
And so, in the hours (or minutes) I can scrounge from being with my family during this week, I’ve been trying to work as effectively as I can on the War Diary project. This little book– which we’re now planning to publish as both an e-book and a paperback— is a document that is truly unique in English. It’s a record of what it was like to live in Beirut (and South Lebanon) in July-August 2006 under the bombing and anti-civilian devastation undertaken by the Israeli military as it gave the first try-out to what became known as the ‘Dahieh Doctrine.’
Yes, that’s Dahieh, as in that whole broad area of Southern Beirut where towering, ten-story buildings that housed homes, offices, shops, and schools, were obliterated from the map and reduced to smoking rubble-fields.
The Dahieh Doctrine was what Israel was also trying to pursue 30 months later, against the people of Gaza. On both occasions, its application was a notable failure. The pronounced goal of the Dahieh Doctrine, after all, was to inflict such harsh punishment on the targeted population that they would “turn against” and repudiate the resistance movements that lived among them…. And on both occasions, the respective resistance movements not only survived with their leadership and basic cadre intact– but they ended up gaining increased political stature amongst their national constituencies, and throughout the whole Arab world, by having done so.
But who know– maybe, as it did in December 2008, the Israeli government will one day once again decide that “with just a few further tweaks” the Dahieh Doctrine can be “perfected” and finally made to work?
That’s why, having the actual record of what it was like to be in Beirut during the very first application of the Dahieh Doctrine is so important. Rami Zurayk’s War Diary: Lebanon 2006 is a key testament to human resilience and to the spirit of an optimistic human community. It shows why the resilience the Lebanese population showed during summer 2006– along with, crucially, the alliance between Islamist and secularist resisters that was also evidenced then– have been cited by several leaders in the Arab Spring as giving them hope that the spirit of a proudly proclaimed and defended common humanity could indeed prevail over the “values” of military organizations, however brutal.
So this is why I think getting War Diary published as soon and as well as possible is important. It also completely fits with the goal of building the kind of world that I want my grandchildren (and everyone else’s) to grow up in. All my grandchildren have a rich mix of ethnic heritages. The littlest one, Salma, is Arab, Jewish, British– and also, very strongly “American”. How could anyone possibly say to her or to anyone that her “Jewish” aspect is more important or more valuable than her “Arab” aspect– or the other way around? How can anyone say that the lives of people who are Jewish, wherever they are, are somehow more “valuable” than the lives of people who are Lebanese, Palestinian, Egyptian, Iranian, or American?
Seeing these little children in my own family just makes me want to work all the harder for a world that gives equal value and equal care to each human person– a goal that necessarily involves turning our backs on violence, domination, and war.

3 thoughts on “Nurturing that better future

  1. Yousef

    Congratulations on the grandchildren and on the rich multicultural background they represent.
    Your insights were missed, but your absence is fully understood.

  2. Abdelhafid Dib

    Congratulations Helena, you know well how to choose names becuse the name of Salma is the most beautiful.God take care of them for you and for their family.
    Hafid

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