Oct 16th, 2015 – Katherine Yuhma – Santiago de Chile

“there is so much injustice in Palestine. I am a Marxist and I am Palestinean. In that order. That is why in need to be involved.”

 

I am 19 and study economics at the University of Chile in Santiago. My grandfather came to Chile as an immigrant when he was eight years old. That was more than 50 years ago. He died when I was three.

Katherine YuhmaIn our family, we are very interested in what happens in the Middle East but we are not so focused on keeping the Palestinian traditions alive. My grandfather was a doctor, so is my father, so are my two brothers. My mother is a nurse. My family is more focused on our life in Santiago. As my mother has Spanish roots, we were never active members of the Club Palestino in Santiago.

My interest in the Middle East goes back to the attack on the WTC towers. I was six at the time. I will never forget the images of Saddam’s arrest. From that moment on, Arabs were associated with terrorism. I never heard the word before, it was totally absurd for us but since that day, it is a reality that all people with Arab roots have to deal with. As a child, I found this so unfair.

It has never left me. At school, we did study about the Holocaust and about the history of the Middle East. I remember how I felt excited: finally I was going to understand better what had happened in our homeland. Since then I have read so much about this. And the most important thing that I have learned is that the current situation is so unfair to the people of Palestine.

What did happened to the Jewish people was not their fault. What happened to the Palestinian people was not their fault either. If you look at the bigger picture you see how this conflict goes back to the aftermath of the colonial era. There are so many other occupations going on right now. The main powers of the World still have troops in Afghanistan, Irak and Syria. There are strategic geopolitical interests at stake in the Middle East: this is so much bigger than Israel alone. A few days ago, I watched Lawrence of Arabia. That movie is built against a historic background. The reason why people in my homeland suffer till today goes back to a British colonial logic. It makes me sad that so few people are willing to see the bigger picture.

But no race or nationality is more important than another. That is the basis of my thinking. I am a Marxist. Today, Jewish people consider themselves superior to Palestinians. In order to build their nation, they killed thousands of innocent people. What is the justification of such injustice? Till today, the majority of victims in the conflict are innocent civilians. Many are children. What would happen if I lived there?

What worries me is the selective view of the Chilean media on this conflict. Palestinians are only shown as victims or terrorists? The total picture is never explained. Thanks to the internet you can find a wider perspective but you have to look for that. In the meantime, the majority of people in Chile is not informed correctly about what happens in Palestine. In fact, I considered studying journalism for a while. But In Chile, the media are very conservative. It is hard to do real journalism here as all newspapers and TV stations are owned by a wealthy elite and driven by business logic. Who controls the media controls the World. I realized that I would never fit in.

“A few days ago, I watched Lawrence of Arabia. That movie is built against a historic background. The reason why people in my homeland suffer till today goes back to a British colonial logic. It makes me sad that so few people are willing to see the bigger picture.”

 

In high school, I was the only one interested in this topic. Fortunately, I made some new friends at the university who share this passion for Palestine.

Did you ever visit Palestine?

I would love to do so. There are scholarships available for youngsters with Palestinian roots and several of my friends have done so already. But my family is very hesitant with respect to this. They are very protective. I guess I will have to wait a bit.

What do you expect to find in Palestine?

My grandfather died when I was three and we are not so focused on Palestine at our house. There is so much that I do not know, that I have to discover. The mental image I have is an image of the desert. It stands for mystery, for something that I have to go and find out.

What I did hear from my friends changed my perspective already. The very fact that Palestinians and Jews live together in the same cities rocked my World. I always imagined them to live separately. We always see the wall and think about two separate Worlds. Apparently that is not true. There are many Palestinians who live in Israel side by side with Jews. Not everybody is at war all the time.

My friends also told me that Jewish Israelis tend to live well, in contradiction to the Palestinians who are mostly poor. Besides the political injustice, there is also an issue of social injustice.

At this moment, I am mostly driven by the fact that the situation is so unfair. What is what worries me most is the inequality. I am a Marxist. But of course I am Palestinian as well, even if my first connection to Palestine is not a cultural one. There are so many things I do not know. I am 19. I have to go and find out for myself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *