Mr. Blinken, we share similar family stories

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Palestinian Refugees during the Nakba. (photo: Wikimedia)
Mona AlMsaddar tells incoming Secretary of State Antony Blinken that his family’s story of surviving World War II resonates with her own family’s history of the Nakba.

By Mona AlMsaddar |  Mondoweiss  | Jan 22, 2021

…reading about your stepfather’s forced exile brings to mind my maternal grandparents and their forced displacement by the creation of Israel in 1948. We call it the Nakba (catastrophe).

The following open letter to Antony Blinken was first published by We Are Not Numbers. Blinken is expected to soon be confirmed as U.S. President Joe Biden’s secretary of state. When accepting his nomination, Blinken recalled his stepfather Samuel Pisar, who was one of 900 children in his school in Bialystok, Poland, but the only one to survive the Holocaust after four years in concentration camps. He went on to recall Pisar’s escape from a death march in Nazi-controlled Germany, after which the boy was rescued by a Black U.S. soldier. Just before being lifted onto a tank, Pisar “fell to his knees, and said the only three words he knew in English that his mother had taught him before the war: “God bless America.”​ Later in his confirmation hearing Blinken also said the U.S.-Israel relationship was “sacrosanct” and the U.S. would keep its embassy in Jerusalem, which he called the capital of Israel.

I believe people are reborn through their suffering. They develop a heightened appreciation for what it takes to survive and learn to find happiness even in the most mundane moments because they know how much it’s worth.

I follow the news, and when you were nominated, I wanted to learn more about your background and why you think the way you do, because if you are confirmed by the U.S. Senate, you will have a lot of influence over my life. You, more than almost any other American official, will guide your country’s relationship with both Israel, which controls my home, and Palestinians, who live under its thumb. I was moved and saddened by what happened to your stepfather during World War Ⅱ. I am deeply sorry for the terror and loss he experienced as the only survivor among 900 children in his school in Bialystok, Poland. And then to escape from one of Hitler’s infamous “death marches”! I shudder at the thought.

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