Should Muslims Support LGTBQ?

This essay is dedicated to my friends: Dr. Andrew J. Pegoda, Trevor Boffone, and Josh Inocencio and to all the comrades in the LGTBQ Community. I also dedicate this essay to my Brothers and Sisters in Islam. Also it should go without saying, that this dedication extends as well as to those in the Muslim community who identify as Queer/Trans those who have come out and those who are too afraid to come out.  Assalaamu ‘Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh.

Should Muslims support Gays/Lesbians/Transgenders? Let’s get right into it; to answer this question in a few words, of course! This may come as a shock to some people but Gay/Lesbian/Trans people, like Muslims, are normal people. I should know cause I am Muslim. I’m not Gay, but I am Pro-LGTBQ rights. Most people freak out when they meet someone gay, lesbian, or trans, but there’s not really anything foreign about them except the obvious. In fact, I met a gay couple that had been together for more than 20 years and it blew my mind; but not for the reason why you’d think that. Considering that most marriages among heterosexual couples keep falling apart, it was surprising to hear a couple that actually valued their relationship. When I asked them for advice on marriage or relationships, they gave the exact same advice you’d get from any other straight couple: communication, trust, remember why you fell in love in the first place, and don’t have kids, cause they ruin everything (just kidding!) (I’m not kidding)  But based on that, it brings me to the point that, how are you gonna say that marriage is supposed to be only for a man and woman when men and women can’t even get their shit together? But moreover, why can’t Gay people just have rights?! Like basic Human rights. I have only had one bad experience with a gay person, and that was cause he was an asshole, not cause he was gay. He doesn’t deserve rights. (okay that one, I’m kidding) 

There’s a misconception among individuals who don’t understand, nor wish to, the struggles that Muslims share with the Gays. As a matter of fact, there are even Muslims that identify within the LGTBQ community, and I had no idea. I know that’s naive to say but it’s just one of those things you don’t think about but as soon as I heard it, I was like, “Oh, well, of course. Why wouldn’t there be?”

Since the origin of Islam, Muslims were a class of people that were outcast from society and the fact that members of the LGTBQ community would identify with Islam, is not very surprising. Despite the verses in the Qur’an that state Homosexuality is wrong or an abomination, as well as Conservative Muslims have been very vocal against same-sex marriage (as have Conservative Christians; especially Conservative Christians) there are still Muslims out there that are Queer and or Muslims. And while you have all those things, luckily there are Muslims out there that are extremely tolerant of this because it doesn’t matter.

And that’s where my take comes from; a friend of mine, Josh Inocencio, is currently writing an article for OutSmart Magazine, a Houston as well as LGTBQ Based magazine, about Gays and Lesbians supporting Muslims. I’ll be sure to include the link once it’s been published and everything. He asked to interview me as a Muslim born and raised in the United States, and someone who pretty much stopped practicing for 2-3 years but has been again since 2015 (but more on that another blog). Not to mention that I’m a fellow Writer/Student-Activist/Philosopher and Historian-in-the-Making 😉  Members of the LGTBQ community in support of Muslims is in my view, heartwarming. In fact, even before the implementation of the epic Muslim Ban, the hashtag #illwalkwithyou was especially being vocalized by members of the LGTBQ community.

Now fast-forward to a few months later, the Trump administration pushes through a Muslim ban, something “no one” (sarcastic quotes) saw coming that affected members of the LGTBQ community as well that identify as Muslim.  Now, if you’re Queer, you’re already putting yourself in a vulnerable position and then to accept a religious belief; and Islam, at such an epoch of heightened Islamophobia, you’re just asking for trouble. But in my eyes, they’re a Brother and/or Sister in Islam and Asalamualaikum.

The crux here is that beliefs are personal: we don’t need to be able to fully comprehend what the other’s beliefs are. I take the cultural relativist approach here and contend that you can think something is strange, sure but that’s all. The thing is, concepts that are foreign to people tend to be believed to be wrong. It’s juvenile when you really get down to it, the idea that: “I don’t understand it, so it must be wrong!” Who are we to tell others that because they are that Gay, they are an abomination because they follow Islam, Christianity, things they just hold dear; simple beliefs, are wrong! When we humans are imperfect ourselves.

That’s why we need to quit trying to focus on these little details and focus on the big issue. We are struggling together and we need to overcome, together. Still however, many communities of faith: there is a serious question of homophobia that needs to be confronted. And of course, the Muslim community, like most communities, have a gay community and some are hidden some are not. But we hope that one day, all faith will be able to move past that.

Perhaps it’s the utilitarian in me but it’s just that those that approach religion and their beliefs usually distinguish their beliefs from the sect they follow or their upbringing, they are happy with what they regard as the truth even though all religion is based on faith and not necessarily fact. By saying that, I may get in trouble because I’m implying that all religion is capable of being wrong but there’s certain things that religion cannot prove, they’re miracles. I’m not going to say I don’t believe in miracles, it’s just that there’s no way to prove it that cannot be true. Historically and scientifically, the stories don’t make sense.

Again, I identify as a Muslim. Non-Denominational. A practicing Muslim as well. The ring I wear on my index finger is not just words in Arabic, these words are the pledge one takes when they declare themselves a Muslim. I don’t believe in tattoos, so this is the next best thing for me. My beliefs are very personal and dear to me, and as a result, I don’t see the need to impose them on others, but this does not change Islam from becoming one of the fastest growing religions in the country; the only reason for that, I imagine is because it’s the only religion that tends to make sense (or at least it does for me).

The five basic pillars in Islam are set in stone: Pledge your belief that there is only one God, perform pilgrimage, fast on the days of Ramadan, five daily prayers, and give a very small portion of your paycheck to charity. I follow all five of the pillars in Islam (but I haven’t gone on Pilgrimage yet) The rest of the teachings in Islam, I cherry-pick here and there what works for me; I do consult Imams and whatnot to make sure I’m not doing anything that is too taboo. That being said I don’t drink, eat pork, smoke cigarettes, do drugs, etc. But it is because I won’t follow EVERYTHING that certain sects will acknowledge, that I won’t say I’m a very religious person. I most definitely and unhesitatingly, will take the side of my Muslim brothers and sisters in distress over in Syria, Aleppo, Palestine, and Kashmir.

When asked why I say non-denominational, it’s because in my experience, different sects have argued about religion for centuries and even condemned one another (like the most recent sect, Ahmadiyya) by stating “they’re not real Muslims.” One of my favorite things an Imam has stated during the Friday prayer khutbas (sermons) was how he abhorred how other Muslims will disrespectfully attempt to correct the behavior in how certain Muslims pray or stand or kneel (because they’re not doing it “correctly”) and the Imam encouraged us to, when faced with such a dilemma: “Our brothers and sisters in Islam are dying in Syria and Aleppo, and you’re worried about me?!”

I digress and conclude that there have been a long tradition of Muslims and Gays working together on progressive issues (that have to do with minorities and ensuring that we don’t get any infringement on our rights) when there was a Muslim ban, the LGTBQ community got involved,  so when there is an assault against LGTBQ the Muslims should be aware and educated so they can support them. Progressive Muslims need to be more vocal and active in their participation and I am not trying to impose my progressive beliefs, but I do implore conservative Muslims or Muslims in general, to open their hearts and their minds to understanding the struggles of our Queer brothers and sisters. The saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend; please acknowledge that the LGTBQ community is far from our enemy, and it’s time we realize it. Our time seems limited with each day that passes and rather than bicker or find fault with one another based on who people love or what religion they practice, we need to find common ground. The main common feature we share, is that we are civilized human beings; so let’s act like it.

-Mr. Writer

Written on the 22nd of March, 2017 at 1:45 P.M. 

Click here for more information on organizations that support LGTBQ & Muslim

Lazy Aesthetics: Examining Nature at Rest

For Dr. Cynthia Freeland.

In January, I had a short assignment for my Aesthetics’ class where I had to talk about a photo I took that I considered beautiful in Nature. I posted the essay on my blog because I loved the picture that much and wanted to share what I wrote with my readers. For my mid-term assignment, I had the opportunity to revise as well as expand on my essay. Again, I enjoyed what I wrote so much that I decided to re-publish what I wrote as well as giving my essay a proper title. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it and most of all, I hope my professor likes it.

Ordinarily when one thinks of squirrels, they often picture a little furry animal that runs up and down trees or away from people that get too close. Or perhaps more morbidly, dead furry little animals lying on the highway. Strangely, I was leaving the University of Houston campus early on October of 2016 and stumbled across this one squirrel that, literally, stopped me in my tracks. Seeing squirrels on campus is not unusual; students must encounter at least two or three as they walk to their classes. One of the fascinating traits about this squirrel for me however, was that it was just lying down, not doing anything. Unlike most of the squirrels we see on campus or even off campus, it was not eating anything, running, nor was it dead (despite its appearance). Disregarding this, readers may still find fault with my picture or my attraction to this lounging squirrel. As a result, I will attempt to make the argument, throughout this paper, that such an image of this squirrel fits the criteria of what philosophers consider aesthetic in nature. Moreover, by drawing upon the works of certain philosophers and aestheticians, I will be able to confirm my assertions and simultaneously, make the reader more cognizant of the true beauty of the photo.

            Prior to taking my photo, I gazed at this squirrel for longer than I’d like to admit and did my best to make sure I did nothing to disturb it at the risk of any sudden movement that would cause the squirrel to be startled and leave the scene. Graciously though, I managed to get a photo of the little guy and when I went home, the photo resonated with me for a while but only humorously. That evening, thoughts were running through my head of pure satire, “what is this squirrel tired from? It’s not as if he has midterms or has little to no money in his checking account.”  I then sardonically pondered as to what he may be thinking about: “He looks so depressed, he probably found his squirrel girlfriend taking acorns from someone else and is gradually contemplating suicide.” After the laughter died down, I began to wonder if I had made a wise decision by photographing the event and simultaneously, questioned the very nature of my initial appreciation i.e., was the image I selected and emphasized on what I considered “aesthetic in nature”, actually so or had I gotten carried away with something that amused me?[1]

            In order to properly answer that question, one would have to look deeper into what is aesthetic, i.e., what makes something aesthetic. Eugene Hargrove argues that there are three categories (Beautiful, Picturesque and the Sublime)[2] that are served to define something as Aesthetic and thereby, measure their levels of attractiveness and differentiate that which is awe-inspiring and uninspiring. Among those three, we could argue that my photo would be considered “picturesque” because clearly, it was not something I could ignore. Although, because what makes the image of this squirrel picturesque is that to me, it was interesting and in Hargrove’s view, just because something is interesting, traditionally has never considered an object beautiful.[3]

            From Hargrove’s view, I am able to understand how things considered “interesting” may not merit the same qualities as something considered beautiful or even picturesque for that matter. I choose to reject that notion, however, because I believe there can be a way to appreciate something so simple as a squirrel lying down, in how it can be approached. Such a view is taken by Allen Carlson who contends in approaching aesthetics from a perspective that appreciates nature in a positive manner.[4] Carlson goes on to explain that the most appropriate way to appreciate nature is scientific knowledge; a good point indeed, however arguably in this case, scientific knowledge seems to be irrelevant in examining this photo since there does not seem to be anything of scientific value of a motionless squirrel. If anything, I argue that it must be appreciated by its simplicity in nature. This appeal is introduced to by Ralph Waldo Emerson who defines Nature as divinely created (not altered by human contact) and therefore, unconditionally beautiful.[5]

            Nevertheless, when I examine the photo it of course, still makes me laugh. But moreover, it makes me ponder at the fact that for this one brief moment, nature was at rest. This is not to say that people are not fully aware that animals are capable of sleeping; simply stated, one just never usually sees an animal at rest. This is excluding animals at the zoo, of course, because animals there are trapped and miserable. But here, out in the open fields and fake green grass on the University of Houston campus, nature needs a break.  Often times, when we watch nature documentaries or the like, it’s rare that we see an animal that is not doing anything at all. We are accustomed to seeing our pets asleep but the idea of any other animal just resting is arguably eerie. One could even make the criticism of my photo that, because it defies the tradition of ordinary squirrels in motion, it is not aesthetically good.[6]  Although Yuriko Saito will bring up the example of a rotting carcass and state that such an act is nature in balance, but because its appearance is shuddering, some would not regard it as aesthetic.[7] Saito goes on to echo such a feeling when we discuss cockroaches, fleas, and mosquitoes that present a challenge to us to find attractive.[8] My problem with that however, is that it is not difficult to contest the appearance of a squirrel and compare it to how one views a cockroach; they are too different and only the latter could cause the most masculine individual to stand up on a chair to avoid contact.

            That being said, I argue that finding an appeal in this photo serves as part of the “revolution” in traditional aesthetics.[9] We could find this assertion in close examination of Sheila Linnot’s view in how aesthetic tastes may differ overtime.[10] While her claims are more focused in terms of approaching an aesthetic appeal in an ecologically friendly manner, we can still relate this claim to the motionless squirrel. Specifically, in how easily avoidable it is for most people to walk past a squirrel, unfazed, regardless of its movement or lack thereof. A reason for this could be because squirrels run rampant at the University campus or encounter them so much in our daily lives that they have lost their luster. At the same time however, I would dismiss that by mentioning how anytime one witnesses a dog (either poking their head out of a car window or walking around a neighborhood) a great deal of attention is placed by people who may even have one waiting for them at home.

            It is for reasons such as that and more, that I emphasize why my photo should be regarded as aesthetic in nature and respectfully dismiss any notions to state otherwise. Granted, my photo is unable to rival against other picturesque photos that some would perhaps view with a more artful eye. Nevertheless, it seems incomprehensible if one were to regard something as ugly in nature. Taking a lesson from Aldo Leopold, human judgement of nature is purely based on how it makes us feel; “it does not flow naturally from nature itself; it is not directly oriented to nature on nature’s own terms; nor is it well informed by the ecological and evolutionary revolutions in natural history.”[11] Therefore, any judgement or in this case, criticism of an image in nature is deemed trivial as nature’s purpose, is not to serve us in any way.

A similar connection can be made in concluding my defense of this squirrel photo.  Prior to my arrival and taking this photo of the squirrel, its existence and objectives in life carried out were not given by me. My curiosity peaked at the sight because of my love for nature (in the words of Emerson) “I am the lover of uncontained and immortal beauty…I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages.”[12] The ultimate intention of my photo is to be Avant-garde i.e., beautiful in an idiosyncratic function. A squirrel at rest is meant to bare the same manifestation like that of a sad clown. Of course we are aware that just because the person dressed as a clown, who is meant to symbolize fun and excitement, is a human being underneath all the makeup and puffy clothing; capable of emotions such as sadness, anger, confusion. Because such a sight is seldom seen, it is therefore, inconsiderable. And when one does encounter something that is perceived as original or unusual, it is understandably charming and in a very outlandish sort of way, aesthetic.  

-Ahmed H. Sharma  

Originally  Written on the 17th of March, 2017 at  5:38 P.M. 

 

Works Cited:

Carlson, Allen, Sheila Lintott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Aldo Leopold, Yuriko Saito, and Eugene Hargrove. Nature, Aesthetics, and Environmentalism: From Beauty to Duty. New York: Columbia UP, 2008. Print.

 

[1] “The problem [in Aesthetics’ of nature] is what and how to select, emphasize and group and what and how to compose for appropriate appreciation.” Allen Carlson, Nature, Aesthetics and Environmentalism, P.119

[2] Carlson (Eugene Hargrove), P. 33

[3] “Traditionally, it has been held that interest is subservient to beauty, an element which has to be present in a beautiful object, but which is never considered an aesthetic category in its own right.” Ibid, P.35

[4] “Appropriate aesthetic appreciation is that appreciation of an object that reveals what aesthetic qualities and value it has.” (Carlson) P.225

[5] Carlson (Ralph Waldo Emerson) P.49-53

[6] Carlson, P.229-231

[7] Carlson (Yuriko Saito) P.242-243

[8] Ibid P.245

[9] “Revolution in the aesthetics of nature often takes place when people start appreciating the parts of nature formerly regarded as aesthetically negative.” Ibid P.238

[10] Carlson (Sheila Linott) P.386-389

[11] Carlson (Aldo Leopold), P. 109

[12] Carlson (Emerson) P.50

“Three Parts to a Hug” (Short-Film Review)

The following review may contain spoilers. Regardless, I encourage my readers to watch the film and hug their loved ones. 😉 

Who knew there were different meanings to hugs? Writer/Director, Alvaro D. Ruiz sure did. In his short film released in 2012 entitled, La Trilogia del Abrazo (Three Parts to a Hug), Ruiz demonstrates through vivid emotion, levels of adoration that can only be summed up by an embrace.

The three parts to a hug, which I will further explain in detail shortly, are as follows:

1.”Un abrazo no un beso.” (A Hug, Not a Kiss) 2. Un abrazo casi un beso.” (A Hug, almost a Kiss)  3. Un abrazo como un beso.(A Hug, as a Kiss)

The first hug shows a man knocking on the door that opens up to a young lady who is nothing short of bemused and agitated to see him as she makes it clear in her first words to him that she has repeatedly told the gentleman to leave her alone. When the camera pans to the gentleman waiting by the door, no words are able to be uttered and the ones that are spoken are stammered. A closer look upon the man shows the affliction in his eyes that can only be understood by men who have been in his shoes once or twice before; heartbroken individuals that have knocked on the doors of their former lovers that attempt to spill their heart out, only to realize that doing so would be effortless and find themselves standing dumbfounded in front of someone who just wants you to leave.

Finally before the gentleman leaves, the woman opens the door one last time to offer a sympathetic hug before she closes the door again, for good. She holds him tightly, wrapping both arms around him, while he stands there, visibly still in shock; perhaps at the thought that as soon as she lets go, it will be the last hug he will ever receive from her ever again. One can make the assumption that to make the moment last, the man would try to go for a kiss, but because this was a break up that was in dire need of ending, such an attempt would be fruitless. When the two former lovers finally go their separate ways, the woman is viewed wiping her face, leaving a streak of blood across her cheek while the man is staring at the steering wheel of his car with blood all over his shirt. Here, the imagery captured by Ruiz is just exquisite; the relationship finally being over, takes a toll on one another in different ways for the man, his heart has been ripped out (in this case, physically and emotionally) and the woman, although glad the message has finally reached the man, she can’t help but live with the possible guilt of hurting him (and thus, has blood on her hands).

The second part of the film, “A Hug, almost a Kiss) is a definite palate cleanser i.e., a much happier tone to put the audience in a good mood after the tears they’ve shed for the first one. Like the first part, a door is knocked but a man is the one opening the door to a woman holding what subsequently turns out to be his dog. This dog had gone missing for quite some time and finally was returned to his owner and much to the owner’s surprise, he found a potential new romance. The dialogue exchange between the two characters in this scene is extremely well performed because the chemistry demonstrated by both actors give off these pheromones that would make the viewers think the actors were an item in real life. The embrace between these two only attest such assumptions; the eyes closed, both arms nestled tightly against one another as though they didn’t even know they were meant for each other and now that they did, what would be the purpose in letting go? Such a beautiful hug would deserved of a kiss but because that would be awkward, they are forced to let go and leave one another. Not before the woman calls the owner to let the man know, she’ll “see [him] around.” So all is not lost in the end and there will definitely be another chance for that hug to potentially turn into a kiss.

The third and final part of the film has a mixed tone; melancholy but alleviating. A man is seen staring at himself in the mirror of a dressing room and like the first two parts, a door is knocked. He opens it to find a woman who is dressed in a short, but tight dress. The conversation between the two is a bit hard to follow because it seems as though the man has done something to betray her although it is not specified. The man seems to display emotions of remorse for whatever it was that he has done to her and the woman, although still perhaps feeling a hint of anger towards him, manages to find it in her heart to forgive him and request a hug. This hug is almost identical to the second hug in that strong feelings are being displayed in the hug but like the first hug, this is going to be the final hug between the two and because both parties are participating in the embrace, it’s as though they are feeling reluctant in their relationship ending, even though they both know it’s the right thing to do. As it soon turns out, the man is in his car and is on the phone with another woman (unseen audience but believed to be his wife) moreover, is not the woman he embraced in the scene and tells her he is coming home.

This film although only 10 minutes long, tells a lot about the importance of an embrace. Most people would not consider a hug to be that important as they are deemed with the same commodity as a handshake. Ruiz tackles this successfully by showing that emotions, raw emotions, expressed by a hug, say the words we’d like to say to one another. And by being able to utilize emotions so well, to the point where the viewer forgets they are watching a film, is what makes his work so artistic. Words such as, “Please don’t go”, “Please don’t let go”, and “Let me go” are only as good as they can be, but the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. And in this case, the hug is most deafening.

-Mr. Writer

Written at 7:56 P.M. on March 17, 2017 

 

Career & Hobbies

I write this entry now after so much delay. For the longest, I was worried about what to write because I often try to write anything I can in an academic tone as well as doing more research to include footnotes and whatnot. I recently remembered that I started this blog to write “personal thoughts.” I guess I got caught up in my academic career as an undergraduate student/ historian-in-the-making that I forgot what it was like to just write whatever came to my mind.

A lot has changed since I entered the power house (UH) and the changes are, I’d like to believe, positive; which I’ll elaborate on more later. In the meantime, let me proceed with my initial objective. Lately, the future career I am aspiring has caused me to worry. There’s a lot of PhD’s that don’t end up getting their desired jobs. I’m not a PhD, nor am I remotely close, but I always worry because I have constantly been advised by others to sway away from being a Historian to avoid such an issue.

That was until I received a number of support by my professors as well as friends who are PhD’s that are serving as my inspiration to keep on going and follow my passion. I say passion because I believe that there really is nothing else I can picture myself doing except writing and researching History. My love for studying history, according to some, borders on obsessive and as a result, I believe that I’ve fully understood my desire to be a Historian as opposed to simply being a History Buff.

I don’t know what the future has in store for me; all I know is I want to do something with writing and research for History. The future is unwritten and therefore, I shouldn’t be afraid of what MIGHT happen. I write this entry then, as a source of inspiration and motivation to my readers and close followers of this blog, that there should be nothing wrong with doing what makes you happy. For me, I enjoy engaging in conversations about History, the things I’ve researched, studied, what other people have studied. There’s something fascinating to me about certain events of the past; why have certain things happened? What made them so bad? Were precautions taken to improve conditions or lessen the number of casualties in wars or revolutions?

I could go on and on, but I’d probably bore the reader so I digress. Maybe it’s the utilitarian in me, but I feel like there are people who grow up to do the jobs they eventually abhor and regret not following their passion. Simultaneously, I see that there are people who work hard to achieve their goals, but something happens where they just stop, replay the events in their life, try to figure out what went wrong and start over. I constantly have that fear that the latter will happen to me, but then I get reminded by so many people like my professors and even a wonderful poem by a motivational speaker I still speak with occasionally to pursue my passion.

Again, I have no idea what the future has in store for me. A lot of the events that happened in my life, even recently, I never expected to happen. That being said, I am enjoying the ride towards the future. I just hope this road leads to the path I hope it will be. Either way, it’ll be the path I’m meant to be on in the end.

-Mr. Writer

Written on the 27th of March, 2017 at 12:05 A.M. 

 

 

Connecting Historical Dots: The Legacy of the Japanese Internment Camps & Muslim American Discrimination Today (Event Review)

For my History of Houston class I am taking this semester, I am required to go to 2 events (of my choosing) and write a summary report of the event. I chose to go to an event at the Asia Society of Texas Center where they would discuss the legacy of the Japanese Internment Camps during World War II in comparison to Muslim American Discrimination today. In attending this event, I had already prior knowledge of the Japanese Internment camps as I had once taken a class on Chinese as well as Japanese History; for those that are unaware, I wrote a paper also on the atomic bomb during World War II for that class and the paper enabled me access to my second research conference. That being said, I was able to recall the things I learned from my Japanese History class, as well as my own personal research from those days, but until learning of this event, I didn’t think to relate these events to what is happening to Muslim Americans today. I recommend everyone to learn more about this as well as meet a Muslim and hopefully lose any misconceptions you may have about Muslims. I invite you to start with me.

The following essay is being written in my own tone, not my persona’s. 

Prior to going inside the building of the Asia Society of Texas Center, I saw what appeared to be a relatively small crowd of people a few feet away holding signs and a few American flags. After I parked my car, my friend and I made our way to the building and got a better look at the crowd and I was correct in what I thought it was, a protest. A protest against what, however? Telling the true story of one of the most horrific events in U.S. History and comparing that with Muslim discrimination today?  Yes. Because according to the protesters: it was preposterous to view Muslims as victims of discrimination due to the numerous terrorist attacks around the globe caused by Muslims and Radical Islamic Terrorism. Moreover, it was a chance for these protesters to also express their disdain to why the United States should allow Syrian Refugees to enter the country; also I would be remiss to not bring up how at one particular moment, the gentleman operating the megaphone made it a point mention that they were not attempting to be racist by having this protest. Suffice it to say, I had heard enough.

I was lucky enough to get a front row seat to the actual event meeting and saw Dr. Abbie Grubb, a scholar on Japanese History (especially involving Japanese Interment in World War II), discuss how the United States demonstrated fear and panic against a people from a particular race because they were at war with them and felt they were spies for the Japanese army and in order to be safe, lock them up in camps. In turn, Mustafa Tameez, a leading political player for the city of Houston, would tie that history together with today’s panic and distrust of Muslims in the United States and how the travel ban issued by our president has become more reactive than proactive. Moreover, Tameez brought up the false statistics of Muslim Americans potentially being radicalized and involved in groups such as ISIS because there are 10,000 members in ISIS and over a billion Muslims in the world; therefore, the United States should essentially calm down.

The talk was not only interesting, but what was most intriguing was the ability for some individuals to be so quick to jump to conclusions without recognizing the consequences that can emerge from acting too impulsive. By learning our history, we should be able to acknowledge how previous leaders handled situations and the backlash that emerged should most definitely not be repeated; and by learning, in general, about other cultures and other nations, we can see that the differences among ourselves and other individuals to be scarce. Rather than fearing for our lives and impulsively looking for a quick fix to solve our problems, we should face them head on. And then watch and learn as our issue becomes gradually smaller and even more so, a misunderstanding.

-Ahmed H. Sharma 

Written on the 27th of February, 2017

 

The Question of Hypocrisy: British Involvement in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Dedicated to all the people in and from Palestine; things will get better, inshAllah. Also I dedicate this essay to the scholars of Middle Eastern Studies like my professor, Abdel Razzaq Takriti, who have and continue to work tirelessly to put the pieces of history together, with the hopes of bringing about a better tomorrow. Your work is not going unnoticed and I strive to be in a position such as yours, very soon.

For more information on Palestine, please visit this website:  http://learnpalestine.politics.ox.ac.uk/

The following essay is a research paper I submitted for a class I took this semester entitled: Palestine and the Making of the ArabIsraeli Conflict. I really enjoyed this class and the research I did in writing this essay while extensive, was enticing in every way. Though the words I write are controversial as they are condemning the ignored actions of certain nations and people have taken to colonize another group of people, the words unabashedly had to be said and with that, I believe in the work I’ve produced and my empirical vigor will undoubtedly enable me in my scholarly endeavors.

 

It can be argued that it is human nature to seek approval from others and even attempt to make everyone happy although inarguably, it is impossible to do so. In the simplest of reasons, the impracticality is because one cannot make someone else happy without taking away someone else’s happiness.[1] In 1917, Lord Arthur James Balfour attempts to do just that with the Balfour Declaration, promising British assistance in establishing a national homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine, after a series of discussions and debates, in order to appease the interests of the Zionists. In doing so however, Balfour has established the first of what will become many strands, that together make up a metaphorical spider web of neglected pleas of the present Arab population. Therefore, the intent of this essay is to contend that the British, alongside the Zionists, sought to strategically and purposefully, exploit the Arab Natives of Palestine in order to produce the Jewish State of Israel, despite Balfour professing in his Declaration to not infringe upon the rights of the Native Arab Population. This is proven largely in part due to the incessant neglect of Arab concerns, vagueness in promises made to address Arab concerns, and unheeded cautions by non-Arab notables to bandage broken promises.

As soon as the Balfour Declaration was passed, along with the destruction of the Ottoman Empire, the land was divided amongst the French and British, as agreed in the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Naturally, there was opposition from the Arab natives (Christian and Muslim) but most significantly, there was pressure from the at the time, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson who was reluctant with the idea of European nations being in control of a non-European population. To reiterate, the feeling amongst the native Arabs was mutual as described in the King Crane Commission that:

 

with the best possible intentions, it may be doubted whether the Jews could possibly seem to either Christians or [Muslims] proper guardians of the holy places, or custodians of the Holy Land as a whole. The reason is this: The places which are most sacred to Christians-those having to do with Jesus-and which are also sacred to [Muslims], are not only not sacred to Jews, but abhorrent to them. It is simply impossible, under those circumstances, for [Muslims] and Christians to feel satisfied to have these places in Jewish hands, or under the custody of Jews. [2]

 

Still, the British Government and members of the Peace Conference (members of the Triple Alliance after WWI) remained unmoved by this concern from the Arabs, and the establishment of a national homeland for the Jews, was to remain implemented. Despite the urging in the document to the notables forewarning that “The Peace Conference should not shut its eyes to the fact that the anti-Zionist feeling in Palestine and Syria is intense and not lightly to be flouted. No British officer, consulted by the Commissioners, believed that the Zionist program could be carried out except by force of arms.”[3]

 

In order to fully grasp the gravity of the situation and why these concerns of the Arabs are treated as trivial, one must go back into the depths of history and see how it all started. During the Ottoman Empire, which at the time surrounded Palestine and what would later be known as the State of Israel, possessed a religiously diverse population; albeit despite an immense Muslim population, historians agree that citizens lived in relative harmony. Due to “the majority of the culture of Christians and Jews was like that of Muslims: determined not just by religious affiliation, but by geographical and social location.”[4] Meaning, that the idea of what dogma was practiced was irrelevant; especially if the social status of the individual was considered prosperous. However, this was not the case for Jews in Europe, where anti-Semitism was rampant and Jews, as Theodor Herzl described:

 

Wherever [the Jews] live in perceptible numbers, they are more or less persecuted…The forms of persecutions vary according to the countries and social circles in which they occur. In Russia, imposts are levied on Jewish Villages; in Rumania, a few persons are put to death; in Algeria, there are travelling agitators; In Germany, they get a good beating occasionally; in Austria, anti-Semites exercise terrorism over all public life; in Paris, the Jews are shut out of the so-called best social circles and excluded from clubs.[5]

 

Therefore, a solution was needed and quickly; the solution being, a safe-haven for the Jewish people. And the location of this sanctuary, was to be Palestine, a land they believed, from biblical times was owned by the Jews, and therefore, the time came for them to return and reclaim what rightfully belonged to them.

 

However, in doing so, the position of the Jewish question of Palestine [was] at the opening of the new era in which practical efforts took the place of dreams and theological disputations and the province hitherto monopolized by divines and philosophers was invaded by statesmen and other men of affairs.”[6] This was mainly due to the attitude Herzl developed towards the native Arab population, which was a “thoroughly repugnant image of Palestine, describing its towns and villages as no better than animal quarters.”[7]

 

It would be irremissible however, to not mention that Herzl was subsequently willing to be flexible in regards to the location of the Jewish state. Although, Palestine was the first choice, Herzl knew that the only way the Jewish people would be successful in acquiring a state of their own would require help from one of the major European powers. Therefore, as Herzl stated, “should the Powers declare themselves willing to admit our sovereignty over a neutral piece of land, then the Society will enter into negotiations for the possession of this land. Here two territories come under consideration, Palestine and Argentine.”[8]

One could make the assumption that Herzl, in his eagerness for European support, was willing to compromise with whatever that was handed to him. For instance, “in 1902, seeking the Al-Arish area in the Sinai Peninsula because it was adjacent to Palestine and could serve as an opening for future demands for expanded migration to the area. Joseph Chamberlain then British Colonial secretary, replied by suggesting land in British-Controlled East Africa, now part of Kenya. Though initially hostile to this idea, Herzl later saw it as granting a temporary haven that might give the Zionists leverage in their demands for Palestine.” [9] However, the idea of anything save Palestine was out of the question to other Zionists and for even the suggestion of this by Herzl, led other Zionists to suspect Herzl of being willing to abandon Zionism.  

Some Jewish notables such as essayist, Ahad Ha’am believed that in theory, the establishment of a Jewish state worked but was impractical as a result of many conflicting factors such as: “In the West it is the problem of the Jews, in the East the problem of Judaism. The one weighs on the individual, the other on the nation. The one is felt by Jews who have had a European education, the other by Jews whose education has been Jewish.”[10] Meaning that there was a strong disconnect amongst the people of Judaism and that their beliefs and ethics were on completely different wavelengths.  Ha’am argues, that Zionists were:

so spiritually far removed from Judaism, and have no true conception of its ­­­­­­nature and its value. Such men, however loyal to their State and devoted to its interests, will necessarily regard those interests as bound up with the foreign culture which they themselves have imbibed and they will endeavor, by moral persuasion or even by force, to implant that culture in the Jewish State, so that in the end the Jewish State will be a State of Germans or Frenchmen of the Jewish race.[11]

Future scholars such as Muhammad Ali Khalidi, will attest to this and ask the paradoxical question: “Why did Herzl, while explicitly disavowing utopianism, write of a utopia advocating ideas at variance with his own ideological principles, especially when the society described does not seem distinctively Jewish?”[12]

Unsurprisingly, the Muslim inhabitants were not pleased with the idea of Zionists taking the land they felt belonged to them. “As might be expected, the same thing is true of the resident Christians. Interestingly enough, the Palestinian Jews are also as much opposed…”[13] Not only were the citizens that were predominantly Muslim feeling even more hostility towards the foreigners but were also feeling a strong disdain for the Jewish population in particular; a group of people they once gave the Dhimmi status (a protected status for non-Muslims). Ottomans also were trying their best to prevent any sort of growing nationalism similar to the Balkans. Moreover, Ottoman Policy towards the Zionists remained consistent: “Jewish Immigrants will be able to settle as scattered groups throughout the Ottoman Empire, excluding Palestine. They must submit to the laws of the empire and become Ottoman subjects.”[14] But this policy was not effectively carried out, as “Jewish immigrants entered the area as tourists or pilgrims; but once there, would acquire the protection of foreign consuls since European powers were eager to protect their own rights.”[15]

Nevertheless, immigration as well as native’s concern for its advancement, escalated. Some ways Arab-Natives addressed these concerns were newspapers that were published to essentially inform others of how negative consequences would result from establishing a Homeland in Palestine. Among these published newspapers) were al-Karmil in 1908 (whose editors were also Greek Orthodox Christians and Filastin (Palestine) founded in 1911. The intentions of these articles were not to inspire animosity towards the Jewish people but rather to seek empathy with the Arab-Inhabitants and this proved successful even on an international scale. Even “Rashid Rida, a Muslim reformer born in the Beirut vilayet but living in Cairo, published an article in 1902 in his journal al-Manar, stating that in his belief, “[Zionists] sought national sovereignty, not simply a haven from persecution.”[16]

All this was happening during a crucial point in time, the first World War. There were rising uncertainties of the turnout for Britain during World War I and with the Ottoman Empire just so happening to be on the side of the Central Powers, “call[ing] into question the future of their own empire, which meant the future of Palestine as well”[17], essentially placed both nations in a quagmire. For Zionists, this was the perfect opportunity to appeal to the British of their concerns. Chaim Weizmann, in particular was at making exceptional strides in persuading the British by establishing conversations with the right people at the most convenient time:

Weizmann had two long sessions with Dorothy [Rothschild] in lieu of meeting with her husband…[and] wrote to [Weizmann] less than two weeks later: ‘I have spoken to Mr. Charles Rothschild, not in any sort of way officially, but in the course of conversation he thoroughly approved of the idea [a Jewish Palestine] and in fact thought it would be the only possible future.’ Charles was…the younger brother of Walter Lionel Rothschild, who would become the Lord Rothschild to whom the Balfour Declaration would be addressed.[18]

The British were reluctant at first, but Weizmann’s connections, along with presentiment that the Russians were going to withdraw from the war, and perhaps even one’s assumption that Britain as a superpower, caused them to make whatever deals with anyone they felt would be behoove them in the end. Realistically, the British were aware they would have to do their best to make sure they could make good on the promises they delivered. In this case however, the British made sure their fingers crossed behind their backs, remained concealed when shaking hands with the Arabs. Unaware of the British’s plan to deceive them, Arabs had begun a revolt against their Ottoman Government, in hopes of acquiring an “[independent] Arab nation…and grasp the reins of their administration… and whereas they have found and felt that it [was] in the interest of the Government of Great Britain to support them and aid them in the attainment of their firm and lawful intentions.”[19]

Letters were sent back and forth between Sharif Husayn and Sir Henry McMahon attempting to show congruity between the British and the Arabs however, statements from McMahon such as: “We take note of your remarks concerning the vilayet of Baghdad a and will take the question into careful consideration when the enemy has been defeated and the time for peaceful settlement arrives”, transparently shows the British metaphorically dragging their feet when asked to address Arab concerns. Suspicion grew subsequently but the Arabs remained oblivious to any double-crossing because McMahon, in his clever wording, maintained to the rebels: “rest assured that Great Britain has no intention of concluding any peace in terms of which the freedom of the Arab peoples from German and Turkish domination does not form an essential condition.”[20] Unbeknownst to Husayn however, McMahon has told others,

I do not for one minute go to the length of imagining what the present negotiations will go far to shape the future form of Arabia…What we have to arrive at now is to tempt the Arab peoples into the right path, detach them from the enemy and bring them over to our side.[21]

 

Ultimately, the Balfour Declaration was published in 1917. In its writing, the Balfour Declaration made sure to include that “Palestine [as] a national homeland for the Jewish people…clearly understood that nothing [would] be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”[22] However, careful reading of the Palestinian Mandate seems to contradict this notion of clemency. Instead, what is seen is undeniably, paternalistic colonialism. This sentiment was shared among most who viewed the Arabs; that even though the treatment of the Arabs were “indeed paternalistic, but paternalism seems to be necessary in dealing with backward countries”[23]. And as a result the British had to take control and make sure that the implementation of a Jewish Homeland ran smoothly. For example, article 16 of the Mandate states that: “The Mandatory shall be responsible for exercising such supervision over religious or eleemosynary bodies of all faiths in Palestine as may be required for the maintenance of public order and good government.”[24]

Unlike the Syrian or Iraqi mandate, which established a state and recognition of political rights of the people living within the boundaries of the state and once they reach the appropriate level of civilization (as determined by the mandate) then Syria would be ruled by Syrians, and Iraq would be ruled by Iraqis.[25] Although most people were well aware that “the Caliph, or head of the [Muslim] world, [had] a strong influence with [Muslims] in all countries. Formerly If the [Muslim] world [was] to be kept contented it appear[ed] necessary that there should be a Caliph whose authority is widely accepted.”[26]

The British mandate of Palestine, on the other hand, had only one party that was meant to be recognized, the Jewish Agency. The main pursuit of this agency was to implement and fulfill the obligations as stated in the Balfour Declaration by the British Government and install a Jewish homeland. Therefore, they could not recognize a politically local state (like Iraq or Syria) out of fear that the local population would reject power of the national homeland. In other words, any form of representative government, would undermine any British objectives as written in the Balfour Declaration.[27]

It is inarguable then, to say that British felt no reason to bring Palestine to independence as there was not going to be a British exit anytime soon. The crux was, to put it in simple words, stay until the job was done. “Of all this group of advocates of the restoration of the Jews to Palestine with British assistance, the most important was Colonel George Gawler, who had been governor of South Australia and…devoted the greater part of his activity to the Jewish cause.”[28] Gawler is important to note because “He proposed the gradual colonization of Palestine by Jews, small experimental colonies being established in the first instance. It was, however, essential to his scheme that Britain should undertake the protection of the colonies.”[29]

Subsequently, this caused some disorder for the British. During this early period, where Palestine was under military rule, the British military finally gained some insight of the wrong they had done to the Arabs. “In the case of Palestine these sympathies [of the British troops] are rather obviously with the Arabs, who have hitherto appeared to the disinterested observer to have been the victims of an unjust policy, forced upon them by the British Government.”[30] Simultaneously, there were many British doubts of the Balfour Declaration. Even “the British press, initially favorable to the Jewish national home policy, had by the early 1920s become increasingly skeptical if not hostile, and a movement opposed to the Balfour Declaration was gaining ground within parliament”[31]   Some considerable issues were raised; most of them essentially feeling a sense of remorse and pondering why a policy that could possibly result in retribution, should be implemented.

 

Looking back on the issue, this should not arouse a feeling of bewilderment. The threat of retaliation from the Arabs had been forewarned by many, yet resented. Pro-Zionists and British officials such as Herbert Samuel, believed “what we have got to face is the fact that as long as we persist in our Zionist policy we have got to maintain all our present forces in Palestine to enforce a policy hateful to the great majority”[32] With that, one can repudiate any statement that displays a feeling of remorse felt by the British; in that the British were well aware of what they were doing and even meant to colonize Palestine.

However, Britain is not the only one to be condemned; Zionists such as Jabotinsky, were well aware that “there was no misunderstanding…Zionists want…the one thing that Arabs do not want…[that] the Jews would gradually become the majority…and the future of the Arab minority would depend on the goodwill of the Jews…so there is no ‘misunderstanding’.”[33] Again, one mustn’t ignore that a number of Jews were critical of Zionism. For these Jewish people, they had worked relentlessly to assimilate in the country they lived in and the rise of Zionism would become problematic as to how loyal a Jewish citizen was to their nation. It is for that reason why Zionists must be allocated in their own category as “it stands today in its preliminary propaganda is not without considerable danger to the security and happiness of the Jews throughout the world.”[34]

Unapologetically, “Zionism’s responsibility for the Palestinian exodus and diaspora is an integral part of the genesis of the State of Israel. In their heart of hearts, most Israelis know this, which at least in part accounts for their pervasive sense of insecurity.”[35] Without a doubt, there has been an incessant struggle for Jews and perhaps the trials of the Arabs being overlooked has, and always shall be the norm; on the other hand,

fear of speaking out about one of the greatest injustices in modern history has hobbled, blinkered, muzzled many who know the truth and are in a position to serve it. For despite the abuse and vilification that any outspoken supporter of Palestinian rights and self-determination earns for him or herself, the truth deserves to be spoken, represented by an unafraid and compassionate intellectual.[36]

By retaining a fait accompli approach to the whole issue on Palestine, it only corroborates the idea of duplicity and hypocrisy, that Arabs were indeed exploited. And because the British were well aware of the consequences that were to come about, they purposefully allowed the Zionists to essentially, “get away with it.” Winston Churchill has compared the issue of Palestine to a dog in a manger claiming that, “I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time.”[37] For the sake of argument, one can compromise that even if the dog who has always lain in the manger, can deal with not ultimately being given back what it once called its home. Yet. if nothing has been done to shelter the dog, there is no “final right.”

-Ahmed H. Sharma

Originally Written on the 27th of November, 2016

 

Bibliography:

 

British Mandate of Palestine. Rep. N.p.: n.p., 1922. Jewish Virtual Library. Web. 22 Nov. 2016. <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/Palestine_Mandate.html&gt;.

 

Churchill, Winston. “”Dog in Manger” Quote.” A-Z Quotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. <http://www.azquotes.com/quote/1448775I%20do%20not%20agree%20that%20the%20dog%20in%20a%20manger%20has%20the%20final%20right%20to%20the%20manger%20even%20though%20he%20may%20have%20lain%20there%20for%20a%20very%20long%20time.%20I%20do%20not%20admit%20that%20right.%20I%20do%20not%20admit%20for%20instance,%20that%20a%20great%20wrong%20has%20been%20done%20to%20the%20Red%20Indians%20of%20America%20or%20the%20black%20people%20of%20Australia.&gt;.

 

Ha’am, Ahad. “The Jewish State and Jewish Problem” N.d. MS, Jewish Virtual Library. Jewish Virtual Library. Web. 21 Nov. 2016. <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Zionism/haam2.html&gt;.

 

Herzl, Theodor. “The Jewish State” 1896. MS. Jewish Virtual Library. Web. 21 Nov. 2016. <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Zionism/herzl2.html&gt;.

 

Huneidi, Sahar. “Was Balfour Policy Reversible? The Colonial Office and Palestine, 1921-23.” Journal of Palestine Studies 27.2 (1998): 23-41. JSTOR. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.

 

Huntington, Ellsworth. “The Future of Palestine.” Geographical Review 7.1 (1919): 24-35. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.

 

Husayn, Sharif, and Henry McMahon. “The Hussein-McMahon Correspondence.” Letter. N.d. The Hussein-McMahon Correspondence (July 1915-August 1916) | Jewish Virtual Library. Jewish Virtual Library, n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2016. <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/hussmac1.html&gt;.

Hyamson, Albert M. “British Projects for Restoration of the Jews to Palestine.” Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society NO. 26 (1918): 127-64. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.

 

Jabotisnky, Vladimir Ze’ev. “The Iron Wall” 1923. MS. “The Iron Wall” | Jewish Virtual Library. Jewish Virtual Library. Web. 25 Nov. 2016. <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Zionism/ironwall.html&gt;.

 

Khalidi, Muhammad Ali. “Utopian Zionism or Zionist Proselytism? A Reading of Herzl’s Altneuland.” Journal of Palestine Studies 30.4 (2001): 55-67. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.

 

Khalidi, Walid. “Plan Dalet: Master Plan for the Conquest of Palestine.” Journal of Palestine Studies 18.1 (1988): 4-33. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

 

King, Henry Churchill, and Charles R. Crane. Rep. N.p.: n.p., 1919. The King-Crane Report – World War I Document Archive. Jewish Virtual Library. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. <https://wwi.lib.byu.edu/index.php/The_King-Crane_Report&gt;.

 

Letters from General Congreve and Air Vice Marshal Salmond, through A. M.  Trenchard, “Situation in Palestine,” 28 June 1921, PRO CO 733/17. (Source originally found in Sahar Huneidi’s Notes)

 

Mill, John Stuart. “Ch. 2 What Utilitarianism Is.” On Liberty, Utilitarianism, and Other Essays. Ed. Tom Griffith. N.p.: Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2016. 374-94. Print.

 

Palestine for the Palestinians?” Advocate of Peace through Justice 84.7 (1922): 245-46. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.

 

Pappe, Ilan. History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006. JSTOR, June 2012. Web. Sept. 2016.

 

Said, Edward W. Representations of the Intellectual: The 1993 Reith Lectures. New York: Pantheon, 1994. 74. Print.

 

Schneer, Jonathan. The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. New York: Random House, 2010. Print.

 

Smith, Charles D. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. New York: St. Martin’s, 1988. Print.

 

Takriti, Abdel Razzaq. “Palestine Mandate.” University of Houston. 18 Oct. 2016. Lecture.

 

Takriti, Abdel Razzaq. “Palestinian Mandate Pt. 2.” University of Houston. 25 Oct. 2016. Lecture.

 

Wolf, Lucien. “The Zionist Peril.” The Jewish Quarterly Review 17.1 (1904): 1. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 19 Nov. 2016.

[1]Mill’s Utilitarianism and Other Essays

[2] King Crane Commission (JVL)

[3] King Crane Commission (JVL)

[4] Pappe, History of Modern Palestine

[5] Theodore Herzl, Der Judenstaat (JVL)

[6] Albert M. Hyamson, British Projects for Restoration

[7] Mohammed Khalidi, Utopian Zionism

[8] Theodore Herzl

[9] Charles Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict

[10]Ahad Ha’am Jewish Question (JVL)

[11] Ha’am

[12] Muhammad Khalidi

[13] Future of Palestine

[14] Ottoman Document (Source: Charles Smith)

[15] Charles Smith

[16] Charles Smith

[17] Charles Smith

[18] Jonathan Schneer, Balfour Declaration

[19] Husayn – McMahon Correspondence (JVL)

[20] Husayn – McMahon Correspondence (JVL)

[21] Charles Smith

[22] Balfour Declaration (JVL)

[23] Ellsworth Huntington, Future of Palestine

[24] British Mandate of Palestine (JVL)

[25] Abdel Takriti Palestinian Mandate (Notes)

[26] Ellsworth Huntington

[27] Abdel Takriti, Palestinian Mandate Pt. 2 (Notes)

[28] Albert M. Hyamson

[29] Albert M. Hyamson

[30] Huneidi, Reversal of the Balfour Declaration

[31] Huneidi

[32] Herbert Samuel (Find Source)

[33] Jabotinsky’s The Iron Wall (JVL)

[34]  Lucien Wolf, Zionist Peril

[35] Walid Khalidi, Plan Dalet

[36] Edward Said, Representations of the Intellectual

[37] Winston Churchill, Response to Peel Commission

 

It can be argued that it is human nature to seek approval from others and even attempt to make everyone happy although inarguably, it is impossible to do so. In the simplest of reasons, the impracticality is because one cannot make someone else happy without taking away someone else’s happiness.[1] In 1917, Lord Arthur James Balfour attempts to do just that with the Balfour Declaration, promising British assistance in establishing a national homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine, after a series of discussions and debates, in order to appease the interests of the Zionists. In doing so however, Balfour has established the first of what will become many strands, that together make up a metaphorical spider web of neglected pleas of the present Arab population. Therefore, the intent of this essay is to contend that the British, alongside the Zionists, sought to strategically and purposefully, exploit the Arab Natives of Palestine in order to produce the Jewish State of Israel, despite Balfour professing in his Declaration to not infringe upon the rights of the Native Arab Population. This is proven largely in part due to the incessant neglect of Arab concerns, vagueness in promises made to address Arab concerns, and unheeded cautions by non-Arab notables to bandage broken promises.

As soon as the Balfour Declaration was passed, along with the destruction of the Ottoman Empire, the land was divided amongst the French and British, as agreed in the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Naturally, there was opposition from the Arab natives (Christian and Muslim) but most significantly, there was pressure from the at the time, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson who was reluctant with the idea of European nations being in control of a non-European population. To reiterate, the feeling amongst the native Arabs was mutual as described in the King Crane Commission that:

 

with the best possible intentions, it may be doubted whether the Jews could possibly seem to either Christians or [Muslims] proper guardians of the holy places, or custodians of the Holy Land as a whole. The reason is this: The places which are most sacred to Christians-those having to do with Jesus-and which are also sacred to [Muslims], are not only not sacred to Jews, but abhorrent to them. It is simply impossible, under those circumstances, for [Muslims] and Christians to feel satisfied to have these places in Jewish hands, or under the custody of Jews. [2]

 

Still, the British Government and members of the Peace Conference (members of the Triple Alliance after WWI) remained unmoved by this concern from the Arabs, and the establishment of a national homeland for the Jews, was to remain implemented. Despite the urging in the document to the notables forewarning that “The Peace Conference should not shut its eyes to the fact that the anti-Zionist feeling in Palestine and Syria is intense and not lightly to be flouted. No British officer, consulted by the Commissioners, believed that the Zionist program could be carried out except by force of arms.”[3]

 

In order to fully grasp the gravity of the situation and why these concerns of the Arabs are treated as trivial, one must go back into the depths of history and see how it all started. During the Ottoman Empire, which at the time surrounded Palestine and what would later be known as the State of Israel, possessed a religiously diverse population; albeit despite an immense Muslim population, historians agree that citizens lived in relative harmony. Due to “the majority of the culture of Christians and Jews was like that of Muslims: determined not just by religious affiliation, but by geographical and social location.”[4] Meaning, that the idea of what dogma was practiced was irrelevant; especially if the social status of the individual was considered prosperous. However, this was not the case for Jews in Europe, where anti-Semitism was rampant and Jews, as Theodor Herzl described:

 

Wherever [the Jews] live in perceptible numbers, they are more or less persecuted…The forms of persecutions vary according to the countries and social circles in which they occur. In Russia, imposts are levied on Jewish Villages; in Rumania, a few persons are put to death; in Algeria, there are travelling agitators; In Germany, they get a good beating occasionally; in Austria, anti-Semites exercise terrorism over all public life; in Paris, the Jews are shut out of the so-called best social circles and excluded from clubs.[5]

 

Therefore, a solution was needed and quickly; the solution being, a safe-haven for the Jewish people. And the location of this sanctuary, was to be Palestine, a land they believed, from biblical times was owned by the Jews, and therefore, the time came for them to return and reclaim what rightfully belonged to them.

 

However, in doing so, the position of the Jewish question of Palestine [was] at the opening of the new era in which practical efforts took the place of dreams and theological disputations and the province hitherto monopolized by divines and philosophers was invaded by statesmen and other men of affairs.”[6] This was mainly due to the attitude Herzl developed towards the native Arab population, which was a “thoroughly repugnant image of Palestine, describing its towns and villages as no better than animal quarters.”[7]

 

It would be irremissible however, to not mention that Herzl was subsequently willing to be flexible in regards to the location of the Jewish state. Although, Palestine was the first choice, Herzl knew that the only way the Jewish people would be successful in acquiring a state of their own would require help from one of the major European powers. Therefore, as Herzl stated, “should the Powers declare themselves willing to admit our sovereignty over a neutral piece of land, then the Society will enter into negotiations for the possession of this land. Here two territories come under consideration, Palestine and Argentine.”[8]

One could make the assumption that Herzl, in his eagerness for European support, was willing to compromise with whatever that was handed to him. For instance, “in 1902, seeking the Al-Arish area in the Sinai Peninsula because it was adjacent to Palestine and could serve as an opening for future demands for expanded migration to the area. Joseph Chamberlain then British Colonial secretary, replied by suggesting land in British-Controlled East Africa, now part of Kenya. Though initially hostile to this idea, Herzl later saw it as granting a temporary haven that might give the Zionists leverage in their demands for Palestine.” [9] However, the idea of anything save Palestine was out of the question to other Zionists and for even the suggestion of this by Herzl, led other Zionists to suspect Herzl of being willing to abandon Zionism.  

Some Jewish notables such as essayist, Ahad Ha’am believed that in theory, the establishment of a Jewish state worked but was impractical as a result of many conflicting factors such as: “In the West it is the problem of the Jews, in the East the problem of Judaism. The one weighs on the individual, the other on the nation. The one is felt by Jews who have had a European education, the other by Jews whose education has been Jewish.”[10] Meaning that there was a strong disconnect amongst the people of Judaism and that their beliefs and ethics were on completely different wavelengths.  Ha’am argues, that Zionists were:

so spiritually far removed from Judaism, and have no true conception of its ­­­­­­nature and its value. Such men, however loyal to their State and devoted to its interests, will necessarily regard those interests as bound up with the foreign culture which they themselves have imbibed and they will endeavor, by moral persuasion or even by force, to implant that culture in the Jewish State, so that in the end the Jewish State will be a State of Germans or Frenchmen of the Jewish race.[11]

Future scholars such as Muhammad Ali Khalidi, will attest to this and ask the paradoxical question: “Why did Herzl, while explicitly disavowing utopianism, write of a utopia advocating ideas at variance with his own ideological principles, especially when the society described does not seem distinctively Jewish?”[12]

Unsurprisingly, the Muslim inhabitants were not pleased with the idea of Zionists taking the land they felt belonged to them. “As might be expected, the same thing is true of the resident Christians. Interestingly enough, the Palestinian Jews are also as much opposed…”[13] Not only were the citizens that were predominantly Muslim feeling even more hostility towards the foreigners but were also feeling a strong disdain for the Jewish population in particular; a group of people they once gave the Dhimmi status (a protected status for non-Muslims). Ottomans also were trying their best to prevent any sort of growing nationalism similar to the Balkans. Moreover, Ottoman Policy towards the Zionists remained consistent: “Jewish Immigrants will be able to settle as scattered groups throughout the Ottoman Empire, excluding Palestine. They must submit to the laws of the empire and become Ottoman subjects.”[14] But this policy was not effectively carried out, as “Jewish immigrants entered the area as tourists or pilgrims; but once there, would acquire the protection of foreign consuls since European powers were eager to protect their own rights.”[15]

Nevertheless, immigration as well as native’s concern for its advancement, escalated. Some ways Arab-Natives addressed these concerns were newspapers that were published to essentially inform others of how negative consequences would result from establishing a Homeland in Palestine. Among these published newspapers) were al-Karmil in 1908 (whose editors were also Greek Orthodox Christians and Filastin (Palestine) founded in 1911. The intentions of these articles were not to inspire animosity towards the Jewish people but rather to seek empathy with the Arab-Inhabitants and this proved successful even on an international scale. Even “Rashid Rida, a Muslim reformer born in the Beirut vilayet but living in Cairo, published an article in 1902 in his journal al-Manar, stating that in his belief, “[Zionists] sought national sovereignty, not simply a haven from persecution.”[16]

All this was happening during a crucial point in time, the first World War. There were rising uncertainties of the turnout for Britain during World War I and with the Ottoman Empire just so happening to be on the side of the Central Powers, “call[ing] into question the future of their own empire, which meant the future of Palestine as well”[17], essentially placed both nations in a quagmire. For Zionists, this was the perfect opportunity to appeal to the British of their concerns. Chaim Weizmann, in particular was at making exceptional strides in persuading the British by establishing conversations with the right people at the most convenient time:

Weizmann had two long sessions with Dorothy [Rothschild] in lieu of meeting with her husband…[and] wrote to [Weizmann] less than two weeks later: ‘I have spoken to Mr. Charles Rothschild, not in any sort of way officially, but in the course of conversation he thoroughly approved of the idea [a Jewish Palestine] and in fact thought it would be the only possible future.’ Charles was…the younger brother of Walter Lionel Rothschild, who would become the Lord Rothschild to whom the Balfour Declaration would be addressed.[18]

The British were reluctant at first, but Weizmann’s connections, along with presentiment that the Russians were going to withdraw from the war, and perhaps even one’s assumption that Britain as a superpower, caused them to make whatever deals with anyone they felt would be behoove them in the end. Realistically, the British were aware they would have to do their best to make sure they could make good on the promises they delivered. In this case however, the British made sure their fingers crossed behind their backs, remained concealed when shaking hands with the Arabs. Unaware of the British’s plan to deceive them, Arabs had begun a revolt against their Ottoman Government, in hopes of acquiring an “[independent] Arab nation…and grasp the reins of their administration… and whereas they have found and felt that it [was] in the interest of the Government of Great Britain to support them and aid them in the attainment of their firm and lawful intentions.”[19]

Letters were sent back and forth between Sharif Husayn and Sir Henry McMahon attempting to show congruity between the British and the Arabs however, statements from McMahon such as: “We take note of your remarks concerning the vilayet of Baghdad a and will take the question into careful consideration when the enemy has been defeated and the time for peaceful settlement arrives”, transparently shows the British metaphorically dragging their feet when asked to address Arab concerns. Suspicion grew subsequently but the Arabs remained oblivious to any double-crossing because McMahon, in his clever wording, maintained to the rebels: “rest assured that Great Britain has no intention of concluding any peace in terms of which the freedom of the Arab peoples from German and Turkish domination does not form an essential condition.”[20] Unbeknownst to Husayn however, McMahon has told others,

I do not for one minute go to the length of imagining what the present negotiations will go far to shape the future form of Arabia…What we have to arrive at now is to tempt the Arab peoples into the right path, detach them from the enemy and bring them over to our side.[21]

 

Ultimately, the Balfour Declaration was published in 1917. In its writing, the Balfour Declaration made sure to include that “Palestine [as] a national homeland for the Jewish people…clearly understood that nothing [would] be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”[22] However, careful reading of the Palestinian Mandate seems to contradict this notion of clemency. Instead, what is seen is undeniably, paternalistic colonialism. This sentiment was shared among most who viewed the Arabs; that even though the treatment of the Arabs were “indeed paternalistic, but paternalism seems to be necessary in dealing with backward countries”[23]. And as a result the British had to take control and make sure that the implementation of a Jewish Homeland ran smoothly. For example, article 16 of the Mandate states that: “The Mandatory shall be responsible for exercising such supervision over religious or eleemosynary bodies of all faiths in Palestine as may be required for the maintenance of public order and good government.”[24]

Unlike the Syrian or Iraqi mandate, which established a state and recognition of political rights of the people living within the boundaries of the state and once they reach the appropriate level of civilization (as determined by the mandate) then Syria would be ruled by Syrians, and Iraq would be ruled by Iraqis.[25] Although most people were well aware that “the Caliph, or head of the [Muslim] world, [had] a strong influence with [Muslims] in all countries. Formerly If the [Muslim] world [was] to be kept contented it appear[ed] necessary that there should be a Caliph whose authority is widely accepted.”[26]

The British mandate of Palestine, on the other hand, had only one party that was meant to be recognized, the Jewish Agency. The main pursuit of this agency was to implement and fulfill the obligations as stated in the Balfour Declaration by the British Government and install a Jewish homeland. Therefore, they could not recognize a politically local state (like Iraq or Syria) out of fear that the local population would reject power of the national homeland. In other words, any form of representative government, would undermine any British objectives as written in the Balfour Declaration.[27]

It is inarguable then, to say that British felt no reason to bring Palestine to independence as there was not going to be a British exit anytime soon. The crux was, to put it in simple words, stay until the job was done. “Of all this group of advocates of the restoration of the Jews to Palestine with British assistance, the most important was Colonel George Gawler, who had been governor of South Australia and…devoted the greater part of his activity to the Jewish cause.”[28] Gawler is important to note because “He proposed the gradual colonization of Palestine by Jews, small experimental colonies being established in the first instance. It was, however, essential to his scheme that Britain should undertake the protection of the colonies.”[29]

Subsequently, this caused some disorder for the British. During this early period, where Palestine was under military rule, the British military finally gained some insight of the wrong they had done to the Arabs. “In the case of Palestine these sympathies [of the British troops] are rather obviously with the Arabs, who have hitherto appeared to the disinterested observer to have been the victims of an unjust policy, forced upon them by the British Government.”[30] Simultaneously, there were many British doubts of the Balfour Declaration. Even “the British press, initially favorable to the Jewish national home policy, had by the early 1920s become increasingly skeptical if not hostile, and a movement opposed to the Balfour Declaration was gaining ground within parliament”[31]   Some considerable issues were raised; most of them essentially feeling a sense of remorse and pondering why a policy that could possibly result in retribution, should be implemented.

 

Looking back on the issue, this should not arouse a feeling of bewilderment. The threat of retaliation from the Arabs had been forewarned by many, yet resented. Pro-Zionists and British officials such as Herbert Samuel, believed “what we have got to face is the fact that as long as we persist in our Zionist policy we have got to maintain all our present forces in Palestine to enforce a policy hateful to the great majority”[32] With that, one can repudiate any statement that displays a feeling of remorse felt by the British; in that the British were well aware of what they were doing and even meant to colonize Palestine.

However, Britain is not the only one to be condemned; Zionists such as Jabotinsky, were well aware that “there was no misunderstanding…Zionists want…the one thing that Arabs do not want…[that] the Jews would gradually become the majority…and the future of the Arab minority would depend on the goodwill of the Jews…so there is no ‘misunderstanding’.”[33] Again, one mustn’t ignore that a number of Jews were critical of Zionism. For these Jewish people, they had worked relentlessly to assimilate in the country they lived in and the rise of Zionism would become problematic as to how loyal a Jewish citizen was to their nation. It is for that reason why Zionists must be allocated in their own category as “it stands today in its preliminary propaganda is not without considerable danger to the security and happiness of the Jews throughout the world.”[34]

Unapologetically, “Zionism’s responsibility for the Palestinian exodus and diaspora is an integral part of the genesis of the State of Israel. In their heart of hearts, most Israelis know this, which at least in part accounts for their pervasive sense of insecurity.”[35] Without a doubt, there has been an incessant struggle for Jews and perhaps the trials of the Arabs being overlooked has, and always shall be the norm; on the other hand,

fear of speaking out about one of the greatest injustices in modern history has hobbled, blinkered, muzzled many who know the truth and are in a position to serve it. For despite the abuse and vilification that any outspoken supporter of Palestinian rights and self-determination earns for him or herself, the truth deserves to be spoken, represented by an unafraid and compassionate intellectual.[36]

By retaining a fait accompli approach to the whole issue on Palestine, it only corroborates the idea of duplicity and hypocrisy, that Arabs were indeed exploited. And because the British were well aware of the consequences that were to come about, they purposefully allowed the Zionists to essentially, “get away with it.” Winston Churchill has compared the issue of Palestine to a dog in a manger claiming that, “I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time.”[37] For the sake of argument, one can compromise that even if the dog who has always lain in the manger, can deal with not ultimately being given back what it once called its home. Yet. if nothing has been done to shelter the dog, there is no “final right.”

 

 

 

Bibliography:

 

British Mandate of Palestine. Rep. N.p.: n.p., 1922. Jewish Virtual Library. Web. 22 Nov. 2016. <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/Palestine_Mandate.html&gt;.

 

Churchill, Winston. “”Dog in Manger” Quote.” A-Z Quotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. <http://www.azquotes.com/quote/1448775I%20do%20not%20agree%20that%20the%20dog%20in%20a%20manger%20has%20the%20final%20right%20to%20the%20manger%20even%20though%20he%20may%20have%20lain%20there%20for%20a%20very%20long%20time.%20I%20do%20not%20admit%20that%20right.%20I%20do%20not%20admit%20for%20instance,%20that%20a%20great%20wrong%20has%20been%20done%20to%20the%20Red%20Indians%20of%20America%20or%20the%20black%20people%20of%20Australia.&gt;.

 

Ha’am, Ahad. “The Jewish State and Jewish Problem” N.d. MS, Jewish Virtual Library. Jewish Virtual Library. Web. 21 Nov. 2016. <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Zionism/haam2.html&gt;.

 

Herzl, Theodor. “The Jewish State” 1896. MS. Jewish Virtual Library. Web. 21 Nov. 2016. <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Zionism/herzl2.html&gt;.

 

Huneidi, Sahar. “Was Balfour Policy Reversible? The Colonial Office and Palestine, 1921-23.” Journal of Palestine Studies 27.2 (1998): 23-41. JSTOR. Web. 10 Oct. 2016.

 

Huntington, Ellsworth. “The Future of Palestine.” Geographical Review 7.1 (1919): 24-35. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.

 

Husayn, Sharif, and Henry McMahon. “The Hussein-McMahon Correspondence.” Letter. N.d. The Hussein-McMahon Correspondence (July 1915-August 1916) | Jewish Virtual Library. Jewish Virtual Library, n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2016. <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/hussmac1.html&gt;.

Hyamson, Albert M. “British Projects for Restoration of the Jews to Palestine.” Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society NO. 26 (1918): 127-64. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.

 

Jabotisnky, Vladimir Ze’ev. “The Iron Wall” 1923. MS. “The Iron Wall” | Jewish Virtual Library. Jewish Virtual Library. Web. 25 Nov. 2016. <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Zionism/ironwall.html&gt;.

 

Khalidi, Muhammad Ali. “Utopian Zionism or Zionist Proselytism? A Reading of Herzl’s Altneuland.” Journal of Palestine Studies 30.4 (2001): 55-67. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.

 

Khalidi, Walid. “Plan Dalet: Master Plan for the Conquest of Palestine.” Journal of Palestine Studies 18.1 (1988): 4-33. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

 

King, Henry Churchill, and Charles R. Crane. Rep. N.p.: n.p., 1919. The King-Crane Report – World War I Document Archive. Jewish Virtual Library. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. <https://wwi.lib.byu.edu/index.php/The_King-Crane_Report&gt;.

 

Letters from General Congreve and Air Vice Marshal Salmond, through A. M.  Trenchard, “Situation in Palestine,” 28 June 1921, PRO CO 733/17. (Source originally found in Sahar Huneidi’s Notes)

 

Mill, John Stuart. “Ch. 2 What Utilitarianism Is.” On Liberty, Utilitarianism, and Other Essays. Ed. Tom Griffith. N.p.: Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, 2016. 374-94. Print.

 

Palestine for the Palestinians?” Advocate of Peace through Justice 84.7 (1922): 245-46. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.

 

Pappe, Ilan. History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006. JSTOR, June 2012. Web. Sept. 2016.

 

Said, Edward W. Representations of the Intellectual: The 1993 Reith Lectures. New York: Pantheon, 1994. 74. Print.

 

Schneer, Jonathan. The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. New York: Random House, 2010. Print.

 

Smith, Charles D. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. New York: St. Martin’s, 1988. Print.

 

Takriti, Abdel Razzaq. “Palestine Mandate.” University of Houston. 18 Oct. 2016. Lecture.

 

Takriti, Abdel Razzaq. “Palestinian Mandate Pt. 2.” University of Houston. 25 Oct. 2016. Lecture.

 

Wolf, Lucien. “The Zionist Peril.” The Jewish Quarterly Review 17.1 (1904): 1. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 19 Nov. 2016.

[1]Mill’s Utilitarianism and Other Essays

[2] King Crane Commission (JVL)

[3] King Crane Commission (JVL)

[4] Pappe, History of Modern Palestine

[5] Theodore Herzl, Der Judenstaat (JVL)

[6] Albert M. Hyamson, British Projects for Restoration

[7] Mohammed Khalidi, Utopian Zionism

[8] Theodore Herzl

[9] Charles Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict

[10]Ahad Ha’am Jewish Question (JVL)

[11] Ha’am

[12] Muhammad Khalidi

[13] Future of Palestine

[14] Ottoman Document (Source: Charles Smith)

[15] Charles Smith

[16] Charles Smith

[17] Charles Smith

[18] Jonathan Schneer, Balfour Declaration

[19] Husayn – McMahon Correspondence (JVL)

[20] Husayn – McMahon Correspondence (JVL)

[21] Charles Smith

[22] Balfour Declaration (JVL)

[23] Ellsworth Huntington, Future of Palestine

[24] British Mandate of Palestine (JVL)

[25] Abdel Takriti Palestinian Mandate (Notes)

[26] Ellsworth Huntington

[27] Abdel Takriti, Palestinian Mandate Pt. 2 (Notes)

[28] Albert M. Hyamson

[29] Albert M. Hyamson

[30] Huneidi, Reversal of the Balfour Declaration

[31] Huneidi

[32] Herbert Samuel (Find Source)

[33] Jabotinsky’s The Iron Wall (JVL)

[34]  Lucien Wolf, Zionist Peril

[35] Walid Khalidi, Plan Dalet

[36] Edward Said, Representations of the Intellectual

[37] Winston Churchill, Response to Peel Commission

Nature at Rest: From a Philosophical/Aesthetic Perspective

This essay is from a photo I took while at the University of Houston in mid-October, 2016 

NOTE: I have revised and edited this essay; I encourage my readers to read that one instead.

Ordinarily when one thinks of squirrels, they often picture a little furry animal that runs up and down trees or away from people that get too close. Or perhaps more morbidly, dead furry little animals on the highway. Strangely, I was leaving the University of Houston campus early October of last year and stumbled across this one squirrel that, literally, stopped me in my tracks. Seeing squirrels on campus is not unusual; students must see at least two or three as they walk to their classes. What was fascinating about this squirrel though, was that it was just lying down, not doing anything. Unlike most squirrels we see on campus or even off campus, it wasn’t eating anything, running, nor was it dead (despite its appearance).

I looked at it for more than I’d like to admit and did my best to make sure I didn’t disturb it. God forbid, I make a sudden move and the squirrel notices I’d been staring and it runs off; then it’s not a story. Who would believe me that I saw a squirrel, of its own volition, lying down? Graciously though, I managed to get a photo of the little guy and when I went home, the photo resonated with me for a while but only humorously.

Thoughts were running through my head of pure satire, “what is this squirrel tired from? He doesn’t have midterms and little to no money in his checking account.” “Wonder what he’s thinking about.” “He looks so depressed, he probably found his squirrel girlfriend taking acorns from another man and is gradually contemplating suicide.”

Now when I examine the photo, it of course, still makes me laugh. But moreover, it makes me ponder at the fact that for this one brief moment, nature was at rest. Often when we watch nature documentaries or something, it’s rare that we see an animal that is not doing anything. I mean, I’m used to seeing a dog or my own cat asleep but the idea of any other animal just resting, was eerie. I’m fully aware that they are capable of sleeping, I don’t want to come off as naïve or something. It’s just that one never usually sees an animal at rest unless they’re at the zoo and that’s because animals there are trapped and miserable. But here, out in the open fields and fake green grass on the University of Houston campus, nature needs a break.

Because it was one of those “you don’t see that every day” one of moments, it seemed beautiful in a very strange way. The idea of a squirrel at rest, to me, shared the same manifestation like that of a sad clown. Of course we are aware that just because the person dressed as a clown, who is meant to symbolize fun and excitement, is a human being underneath all the makeup and puffy clothing; capable of emotions such as sadness, anger, confusion. But it’s because we people don’t often see it, and therefore, don’t consider it. And when we do encounter something like this, it’s understandably, awe-inspiring and in a very outlandish sort of way, aesthetic.

-Mr. Writer

Originally written on the 18th of January, 2016