UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Israel & Palestine: The War on a Tween’s Facebook Page

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Israel & Palestine: The War on a Tween’s Facebook Page

The Art Of Facebook

Like many twenty-first century parents, I have ongoing battles with my kids about “screen time.”  They think they don’t have enough of it; I think that if they stare any longer into a computer screen, they will start bleeding from the eyeballs.  My thirteen-year old son P. generally spends more time with computer games than he does with Facebook, but when the always simmering tensions between Israel and Palestine exploded this summer, his Facebook page became a much more interesting, and complicated place that–surprisingly–ended up teaching us a great deal.

Facebook screenshot

My son’s Facebook friends are pretty evenly split between his Manhattan friends and his Abu Dhabi friends, and they usually all post the same sorts of things: video clips from soccer games, Vines of stupid pet tricks, grimacing selfies, ridiculous quizzes.   You wouldn’t know, to look at his page, who was from which city, other than perhaps from their sports-team affiliations.

In June, P.’s US friends began to post about the three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and killed. Then his Abu Dhabi friends began to post about the escalating violence in Gaza and suddenly, right there on P’s Facebook page was the knotty, terrifying, devastating sadness of the Israel-Palestine relationship.

Some of P’s New York friends are Jewish and some are not; some of his Abu Dhabi friends are Arabs, but most are not. The people who populate his page hail from almost every continent, regardless of the place they now call home. But pretty consistently, it seemed, the New York friends posted on behalf of Israel and the Abu Dhabi crew posted on behalf of Palestine.   As each wave of articles washed across his page, P would first think one thing and then another: like all of us, he wanted clarity and answers. He wanted a clear apportioning of blame and swift justice; he wanted resolution.

At thirteen, my son and his friends are none of them too far removed from the realm of childhood, where everything is clear-cut, like in comic books and fairy tales. In those worlds, there are good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains, and usually the good guys win.  It’s one of the hardest things about growing up, isn’t it, the realization that life doesn’t arrange itself into such tidy categories?

This summer is the first time that P has had to think about what it means to have a religious identity.  When we lived in New York, all he saw is that some of his Jewish got eight days of Hanukah gifts while he only got one measly day of Christmas loot. This year P tried a few days of Ramadan fasting (a sort of Ramadan lite, in that he ate breakfast at the regular time but then ate nothing until after sunset) but all he seems to have learned is that being really hungry makes food taste better.  As politics heated up on his page, however, he started to think more carefully about religion, and to consider not only the difference between religions but also their similarities.

The clashing views that appeared in P’s facebook feed led him to many conversations: why was Israel created and by whom, why did Israel have such strong US support, who drew the embattled boundaries and why, what is Hamas, who lived in Israel before it was “Israel?” The questions went on and on: how could Hamas use civilians as shields, how could Israel fire into supposedly protected spaces like schools and hospitals, and how could people kill in the name of religions supposedly dedicated to love and compassion? I found myself trying to unspool sixty years—a century—of politics and greed, from World War II backwards to 19th century English imperialism, and even further.   I showed him this article, and this one, and many more.  The more I talked, the more I realized that I was trying to explain the unexplainable: how does anyone, in any war, reach a point where violence against children gets, if not justified, then somehow discounted in the service of larger goals?

As the war ground on, P’s friends on both sides stopped posting and his Facebook page returned to its standard scroll of shark attacks and kitten pictures. But P kept scanning the newspapers, looking for the latest news about cease-fires—and the cessation of cease-fires.  He asked me recently if I thought peace might be possible.  I told him I wasn’t sure, which is a pretty grim message to give a thirteen-year old.

I don’t know when, or if, a livable resolution can be found for the conflict in Israel and Gaza—as my own explanations to my son showed me, the roots of the conflict run in tangled  webs far below the surface of the present moment.   What his Facebook page taught me, however, is that even if we ourselves aren’t in physical danger, the war between Israel and Palestine isn’t just their problem, it’s ours, as well.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Deborah Quinn in the United Arab Emirates of “Mannahattamamma.”

Photo Credit to: MKH Marketing

Mannahattamamma (UAE)

After twenty-plus years in Manhattan, Deborah Quinn and her family moved to Abu Dhabi (in the United Arab Emirates), where she spends a great deal of time driving her sons back and forth to soccer practice. She writes about travel, politics, feminism, education, and the absurdities of living in a place where temperatures regularly go above 110F.
Deborah can also be found on her blog, Mannahattamamma.

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GUEST POST: UKRAINE, Reasons Behind the Unrest

GUEST POST: UKRAINE, Reasons Behind the Unrest

Today, we have a special guest post by a Ukranian mother living in the United States, Olena Centeno, of Bilingual Kids Rock. Olena opens the window and lends us her personal perspective to the current events in Ukraine… 

Protest in Kiev, November 2013

What’s it like growing up in Ukraine?

As a Ukrainian, I grew up speaking two languages: Russian and Ukrainian. I ate Ukrainian borsht for lunch and Russian pelmeni for dinner. I love Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty and Carols of the Bells by Leontovych. I am raising my own children trilingual in English, Russian and Ukrainian. In fact, the two cultures (Russian and Ukranian) are considered so close, that if an Ukrainian abroad says s/he is from Ukraine people often say “Oh, so you are from Russia?”

What’s going on between Russia and Ukraine?

With Russian troops moving across the sea into Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, a lot of Westerners are starting to ask this question.

The current conflict in Ukraine is more than three months old. It began with a peaceful demonstration on November 21 at Independence Square (Maidan) in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, when the (now ousted) Ukrainian president (Yanukovich) hesitated to sign an Association Agreement with the EU. This had been one of his major election promises and in breaking it he ignored the desire of millions of Ukrainians.

During the past three months, the “EuroMaidan” demonstration has grown into a much bigger movement. It started as a response to the failed EU deal but then truly turned into a movement against the corrupt government of president Yanukovich, who moved to keep Ukraine in long-lasting and very painful economical ties with Russia.

Then, after the government passed harsh, anti-assembly laws, it became about the basic human right to be able speak and think freely without being punished for it.

More than a hundred lives were lost and thousands injured during violent attempts to remove the demonstrators but people did not leave the cold streets of Kiev. More freedom fighters came from all over Ukraine to support them. Many other Ukrainian cities stood up as well. After three months of struggle, Mr. Yanukovich was impeached and left Ukraine (he refused to sign a resignation; he just ran away). His presidency was considered illegitimate and a new, temporary government was elected.

As Ukrainians were mourning over lives lost and looking into the future with great hope to build their country on principles of trust and freedom, a new enemy emerged: Informational War.

Along with Russia, Eastern Ukraine—where the majority is Russian speaking—is dominated by Russian-language news from the Russian media. Unfortunately, the Russian media coverage of events that have happened over the past three months is falsified [and full of propaganda].

Now, after the armed occupation of Ukrainian territory in Crimea by Russian troops, the reason for their untruthful reporting is understood: Creating social opinion in Russia and Russian-speaking Ukraine justifies military intervention into Ukrainian territories.

Personally, I think Mr. Putin has an imperialistic plan to be the most powerful ruler in modern history—politically and financially—and he will stop at nothing to add Ukraine to his control.


Russian Media Propaganda Uncovered

The following are all lies that have been spread by the Russian media leading up to the invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops:

1. FALSE: Kiev was Overrun by Violent Riots

Despite violent clashes, most of Kiev stayed peaceful throughout the demonstrations. The day-to-day lives of residents were largely unaffected outside of Independence Square and the areas immediately surrounding it. Very little of Kiev or the surrounding countryside was damaged or disturbed by the protests.

I know this because I called my family and friends every day. My nephews were going to school as usual, most of the people attended work on a daily basis, and all shopping malls and grocery stores were working (except for a few in the middle of the protest areas downtown).

2. FALSE: Anti-Russia Fascists Led the Ukrainian Protests

The vast majority of protesters were ordinary citizens tired of a government that they viewed as corrupt and unwilling to listen to the people. There were no fascist elements leading the demonstrations, and there are none leading the new government.

Many of the people I know personally were in Maidan: teachers, IT professionals, doctors, stay-at-home moms, businessmen, university professors, hair stylists and many others. People I worked with and went to school with. And no one will ever convince me that they are fascists.   My daughter’s god-father is a surgeon and worked days and nights protecting the health and saving the lives of many.

 3. FALSE: The New Government Will Force All Ukrainians to Speak Ukrainian

This is a particularly effective myth for Russian-language media, since it appeals directly to the people who would be most affected. Language has long been a contentious issue in Ukraine. Claims that Russian will be abolished are being used to generate anger against the new government.

The Ukrainian parliament voted to repeal a 2012 law allowing the establishment of minority languages as official state languages in individual provinces on February 23, 2014 but acting President Oleksandr Turchynov vetoed the move. Russian is currently recognized as an official language, is legal for state use in several Ukrainian provinces, and is guaranteed state protection “in all spheres of public life” in Crimea specifically.

I speak Russian and Ukrainian to my children here in the USA. I see language first and foremost as a tool for communication — and shame on any politicians who use it as a reason for war.

4. FALSE: Ukrainian Demonstrators Have Been Attacking Russians or Russian-Speakers

Another unproven and untrue claim widely circulated in Russian-language media is that the Euromaidan protesters were deliberately attacking Russian speakers.

The cruel result is that ordinary Russians – good, wholehearted, educated people – are now eager to help a Ukraine that they think is swamped by fascists! I have family in eastern Ukraine and my god-mother lives in Moscow. They have called multiple times, scared for the lives of my parents in Kiev. They really think Ukraine is in danger.

There is no evidence to support the claim, and nearly all cases of violence during the protest were perpetrated against civilians by security forces. The Euromaidan protests had very little to do with cultural or language issues in general.

While Yanukovych’s perceived obedience to the Russian government was certainly a source of anger in Ukraine, this anger was directed at the President and the actions of the Russian and Ukrainian governments, not to the Russian people or culture.

5. FALSE: The Berkut and Other Security Forces Fought in Self-Defense

Russian news broadcasts have shown extensive footage of the Berkut and other riot police under attack but nearly none of their attacks on civilians. The reality is that security forces attempted to crush peaceful protests with deadly force, and were barely driven back with improvised weapons like clubs and Molotov cocktails. The superior force and aggression were always on the side of the Berkut.

6. FALSE: The Independence Square/Euromaidan Protests Were Organized by Americans

We joke that EuroMaidan is now supported by Americans because my American husband and I made donations to help supply people with warm clothing and blankets during cold winter months.

I am not claiming that on a political level there is no lobbying of interests from outside countries and unions but once again: the politics of the country and the people of the country are two different things.

The vast majority of protesters were native Ukrainians and ordinary residents of Kiev and the surrounding country.

7. FALSE: Fascism Will Spread from Ukraine to Russia

This is another falsehood dependent on the idea that the Euromaidan demonstrators were fascist extremists. It is being used as a justification for Russian invasion. The Russian government claims it is defending Russian-speakers in Ukraine and its own borders from Ukrainian fascists but in reality those fascists do not exist.

What is next?

The military intervention is not over. It is hard to say what is going to happen next. There is a lot of talk going on at a very high, political level involving the EU and the US.

But Ukrainians have already had the biggest win in this struggle: themselves.

They proved to themselves that they care:

  1. They care about all of our people (amazing examples of collaboration happened during the civil unrest!);
  2. they care about the future of their country;
  3. they care about their freedom;
  4. they care enough to recognize the differences among themselves and to stay united anyway.

The revolution was heartbreaking and tearful but as a result, Ukrainians became true patriotic citizens of their country:

Glory to Ukraine, Glory to Heroes!
слава Україні, слава героїв
(slava Ukrayini, slava heroyiv)

For me, personally, it has been a life lesson in how to raise my own children. I have a clear goal to raise multicultural and multilingual children, who respect other languages and cultures and can see our shared humanity no matter how politicians try to divide us.

This is an original guest post to World Moms Blog by Olena Centeno. 

Olena Centeno Avatar Very SmallOlena Centeno is a Ukrainian who lives in USA, a happy mom of three wonderful kids ages 2-9 and a wife to the great. She speaks three languages herself and is raising her kids to be multilingual in English, Russian, Ukrainian and Spanish. She founded Bilingual Kids Rock, where she helps families on their bilingual journey. She also enjoys photography and video making as a way to preserve precious moments of life.

 You can connect with her at Bilingual Kids Rock.  

Photo credit to Oxlaey. This photo has a creative commons attribution license.

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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Canada: Bigger Things Than Politics

“Canada severs ties with Iran…

…Iranian diplomats are no longer welcome in Canada…

…Will this lead to war? Prime Minister Harper is quoted as saying…”

I’m listening to the radio as I drive from work to my son’s daycare, and it’s full of the news about Canada and Iran. Canada has withdrawn their diplomats, kicked out the Iranian diplomats, and we’re basically on the brink of war with this Middle Eastern nation. And as I drive, I think about the warm, gentle, loving people who care for my son each day.

All of them are from Iran.

There are a lot of Iranian expats in Vancouver, and I wonder what they think of this news. Are they worried for their family back in Iran? No doubt. Are they upset with Canada for causing such problems? Are they fretting about how hard this will make it for them to go home? Or are they supportive of Canada’s decision?

It must be hard to live in a country that is on the brink of war with your own.

But then, many Iranians are living in Canada for a reason. The Islamist government, political turmoil…? Most of what I know about Iran I know from reading Persepolis, so I’m sure my perceptions are out of date. I know that they don’t call themselves Iranians – they call themselves Persians, so that’s what we call them, too.

Which makes it easy to forget that they are even from Iran. (more…)

Carol (Canada)

Carol from If By Yes has lived in four different Canadian provinces as well as the Caribbean. Now she lives in Vancouver, working a full time job at a vet clinic, training dogs on the side, and raising her son and daughter to be good citizens of the world. Carol is known for wearing inside-out underwear, microwaving yoghurt, killing house plants, over-thinking the mundane, and pointing out grammatical errors in "Twilight". When not trying to wrestle her son down for a nap, Carol loves to read and write. Carol can also be found on her blog, If By Yes, and on Twitter @IfByYesTweets

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