Waiting for Quds

About the disintegration of the Middle East, the only small favor for me is that we don't have cable or satellite television, and so I am free of the horrid coverage provided by the 24 hour news stations.

So much is wrong: Hezbollah's mad attempt for power in Lebannon and its murderous acts against Israel; Israel's militaristic belligerence, with its mistaken insistence that the complete submission of the Palestinians is the way to peace; the U.S.'s arrogance in believing a policy of "benign hegemony" could create a democratic revolution among Islamic states--all the while the one genuinely nascent Islamic democracy is being bombed and blockaded by Israel.

To think that after 9/11 the U.S. had a genuine opportunity to recast the dynamics of the Middle East, we have reverted to a situation that is far worse than the early 80s. And I cannot but suspect that all this manuevering is to get at Syria, ultimately, the latest scapegoat for the failed U.S. excursion into Iraq. Yes, all of this must be winning the hearts and minds of the moderate Muslims in the region, to align their allegiances to the wise policies of the Bush Administration.

What I did watch on television, though, was a DVD of a 2005 documentary, Waiting for Quds, directed by Devorah Blachor. Sonia Nettnin has written a good overview of this film, which details the hardships experienced by a Palestinian political prisoner and his Jewish-Puerto-Rican-American-Israeli-Palestinian-refugee-U.N.-worker spouse. The film follows Allegra Pacheco through her pregnancy, as she seeks to free her husband Abed al-Ahmar from "administrative detainment," imprisonment without any charges being filed. Allegra, by the way, is the daughter of my friend, the poet Joe Pacheco. The film ends with the birth of their son Quds (the Arabic word for Jerusalem), and a postscript with a hopeful reunion of the family 14 months after Quds' birth (this was in 2004).

Anyway I was struck with the interviews with Abed al-Ahmar, very much a moderate, secular Muslim, who as a teenaged refugee had run into trouble with the Israeli authorities. At one point, al-Ahmar calls the two-state solution "a fiction," and that the only far-reaching solution is a single state Israel, with a complete democracy including equality for the Palestinians. Obviously, such a radical stance would paint him as an Israeli apologist and spiritual heretic in the eyes of militant Islamists. Also, in the film, Allegra's mother talks about how many of their friends and family members regard Allegra as a self-hating Jew.

Of course, looking at the film, with its final images of hope (predictably on this notion of love conquering peoples, not just individuals), it seems today so deeply naive--however principled. Allegra and Abed are truly heroic, and while Quds represents impossible hope, it appears that the world as it is doesn't deserve such hope.


I sure don't know how any of this is ever going to be untangled, but my heart breaks for the innocents of both sides. A good post.