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Three doves with one stone

September 22, 2008

“…how did you manage to kill three doves with one stone?”
~The State of Siege
by Mahmoud Darwish

This weekend I reread one of my favorite poems, The State of Siege, by Mahmoud Darwish after going to a poetic tribute to him to honor the 4oth day of mourning his death. As I always am while reading his work, I was struck by his ability to capture the experience of war, exile, indignation and hope of a people under siege.

2008 marks the 60th year of conflict in Palestine. That means that Darwish lived less than 7 years in his country without facing air raids, detention, and check points, without being a refugee in his own country. Two generations, if not three, have grown up in a state of deadly conflict.

Yet how many times has the opportunity for peace been passed up for an obsession with war? For an obsession with erasing a people and their history? As Darwish says so eloquently, one stone can kill three doves, three opportunities of peace.

It can also displace millions.

When we speak about war, I feel our attention is often drawn to the number of deaths, the type of weapons used, or the amount of money spent on destruction. Yet what about the hundreds of thousands and in some cases (like Palestine) millions of people who are displaced as an effect of war?

One of the most run from topics in the Israel-Palestine peace negotiations is the question of the right of return. One of the most un-talked about topics of the Iraq war are the millions of refugees caused by the US invasion. The US has “improved relationships with Syria” precisely to let them “deal with” the “refugee problem” that we created.

Syria has resettled nearly two million refugees since the beginning of the Iraq war. Last Monday a senior coordinator of the State Department said that he expects that the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the United States will “significantly increase” in the coming year. “Significantly increase” means 17,000 (or a whole 1/118 of the number of refugees that Syria has resettled in a war that the US created). Sadly, that is 42% more than this year.

When we throw the stone, we don’t calculate the far-reaching effects of our actions. We calculate the cost of our weapons, the loss of our troops (however, often excluding their welfare upon their return), and the increase of our debt. But we ignore the human cost of war, or a comprehensive understanding of how deep one bullet actually penetrates.

At this point in time, comprehensive immigration reform in the US is a far off hope for those of us who work on the issue. It’s a contentious issue even among Quakers and peace activists. But I would ask, how do we prevent war or the next deadly conflict if we do not care for the effects of this one?

This is one of our doves.

Leave our land and take your dead bones with you.

Where will I go?

To France.

And what will I do there?

What you did in Lebanon.

~A paraphrased section of Memory for Forgetfulness: August, Beruit, 1982 by Mahmoud Darwish

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