|Friday, 11 March 2011 23:00|
American ‘Corporate Refugee’ Gives Palestinian ‘Gandhis’ a Megaphone
I am an American “corporate refugee” – a woman who worked for 20+ years making a six-figure salary, with my eyes fixed on the next rung up the ladder. I was aware that there were parallel worlds, and that I was living in what could be called the “Comfort Corridor.” But I didn’t do anything concrete about it, other than read voraciously.
And then I began the odyssey that ended up ejecting me from my protected bubble. I acted on an intellectual interest, and travelled to Palestine in 2007. It changed my life. Three more trips to the region later, I walked away from my profit-driven job and decided to live in the Gaza Strip, volunteering my skills for six months, because I realized that I would always be a bit of an ignorant do-gooder if I didn’t live in my chosen region of focus – Palestine – long enough for the people to begin to forget I’m a guest. Six months isn’t long compared to a lifetime, but I felt it was enough to put “my feet firmly on the ground,” as well to teach me the diversity and nuances within the overall culture.
When I returned, I spent the next three weeks on a speaking tour from one coast to the other…and thinking about what I could do as an individual to make a difference, to not squander the experience and connections I now had. I didn’t want to focus on political activity alone; it’s a given for me, but progress just seems too slow. I also feel a need to do something that has a real, concrete, practical impact.
So, I asked myself, what can I do that will use my education and experience in communications to both help the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and chip away at the ignorance and stereotypes that prevent more Americans from empathizing with their plight? (Most Gazans will tell you that the greatest contribution you can make to their cause is to change our own government’s discriminatory and biased policies. The only way to do that, I’ve concluded, is to change public opinion, so that pressure is eventually exerted on their elected officials.)
One of the most common comments I hear when I return from Palestine and speak to various groups, even from relatively educated activists, is “what the Palestinians need is a Gandhi, or Martin Luther King Jr.” It’s the same “cult of the leader” we saw in the United States when Obama was running for president and so many people saw him as a “savior” of sorts. Yet, what the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions should have shown us all once again is that we cannot always wait for a strong leader to emerge, and one is not necessary to bring about the change we need. Palestinians have many “Gandhis” among them who are resisting occupation and corrupt government every day in very creative ways. So, I have joined with a friend of mine to document these stories and give them an audience. The individuals we are interviewing do not have the notoriety of Gandhi and MLK, but all they need is a platform, which we hope to help provide. They also do not have a similar mass following — in many cases, because Israel has attempted to snuff out their budding fame by raiding their homes and imprisoning them or their family members. Others are still young, only needing encouragement and recognition to become the leaders of the future. We hope to provide them a platform to amplify their voices.
When I returned to Gaza this January, I decided to invest some of the funds I still had to kickstart the project by filming interviews with individuals such as:
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 May 2011 14:46|