The Pen Trumps the Sword Anytime (Part 2)
Fri 28th Nov 2014
I recently met an Evangelical Christian friend in a café. I asked her if she really believed the horrendous lies in the book that she was reading when I arrived (From Time Immemorial by Joan Peters – 1984). The book basically argues that Palestine was an empty land ready to welcome the Jews back to their homeland. My friend’s eyes grew wide open as they always did whenever she spoke about her faith. She proceeded to give me a Messianic rant about The Old Testament ‘Promise’ and about the Jews returning home to an empty country. I sat there feeling a mounting sense of despair and a deep feeling of endless hurt when an alleged friend insensitively denies me my very existence because of her extreme religious views. I agreed with Ben Gurion when he said that he understood Palestinian anger because the God that promised him the Holy Land was not their God in the first place (“If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs.There has been Anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations’ time, but for the moment there is no chance. So, it’s simple: we have to stay strong and maintain a powerful army. Our whole policy is there. Otherwise the Arabs will wipe us out.” Ben Gurion, 1956, Goldmann, Nahum, The Jewish Pardox, 1978, translated by Steve Cox). He (God) certainly was not mine to give my homeland away to European settlers. I asked my so-called friend to pinch me, to slap me, to punch me, to ship me off in cattle trains, to gas me… since I did not even exist as that being which I was born to be: a Palestinian. Not in her so-called Christian world – a world without an iota of Jesus Christ as I understand Him.
I suddenly realised the simple truth that all our evils come from within and that God was being used to justify any inhumanity that would strip us of our homeland for the convenience of others. I realised that we Palestinians had lost out to an evil but powerful hypocrisy, greed, acquisitive nationalism, evil beliefs linked to distorted faiths and an inhuman superiority of arms. We had lost to a people who themselves had been maltreated in a most pernicious and inhuman way – and who should know better than to exclude us Palestinians from their “never again” – a truly hard earned psychological makeup (“There is a huge gap between us and our enemies not just in ability but in morality, culture, sanctity of life, and conscience. They are our neighbours here, but it seems as if a distance of a few hundred meters away, there are people who do not belong to our continent, to our world, but actually belong to a different galaxy.” Israeli President Moshe Katsav, Jerusalem Post, May 10, 2001).
That tragic loss is why I write poetry: to make order out of chaos. To explain the inexplicable.To speak to my oppressors and to offer them the hand of peace and friendship. To give my Diaspora loneliness some meaning – some humanity – some compassion.
I can not and will not bear a gun.
I can not and will not hurt a fellow human being whatever s/he is or chooses to be or believe.
I deplore all violence and all acts of injustice.
So I draw out of its scabbard, not my sword, but my pen and I create little worlds of anger, hurt, upset, betrayal, love, friendship, peace and – most of all – forgiveness for pasts beyond our control any longer, and coexistence for futures in our hands if only we would.
Being a Palestinian is an existential impossibility…
We Palestinians have gone through so many changes over the last hundred years – and, indeed, before – that we no longer know who we are or what we are.
Those of us outside Palestine have been through various periods of disbelief at our dispossession. Disbelief soon made way to overwhelming amazement at a callous world that could not even see – let alone acknowledge – our refugee lives as a glaring injustice unparalleled in world history.
Our amazement was eventually displaced by a deep depression mired in hopeless despair. We stared about us questioning the obvious: “We suffer for reasons beyond our control.Why is the world so indifferent? What have we done to deserve this?” Most of us still suspect that this was precisely how Jews in Europe and Russia felt for decades before Israel was even thought of towards the end of the Nineteenth Century. Indeed, it is a callous modern irony that we Palestinians have paid a heavy price for European anti-Semitism at the hands of its very victims. We have become the new Jews – with the world’s eyes firmly averted away from our dolorous existence – and, to many, non-existence (The Palestinians are “beasts walking on two legs… Our race is the Master Race. We are divine gods on this planet. We are as different from inferior races as they are from insects. In fact, compared to our race, other races are beasts and animals, cattle at best. Other races are considered as human excrement. Our destiny is to rule over the inferior races. Our earthly kingdom will be ruled by our leader with a rod of iron. The masses will lick our feet and serve us as our slaves.” Menachem Begin, Israeli Prime Minister, speech to the Knesset, New Statesman, June 25, 1982). Such nasty sentiments are reiterated by extreme Rabbis such as Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
When no answer to our desperate questions came, our depression predictably became anger, rage and then defiance. This last was effectively our undoing. It was an adolescent defiance that caused us to resist occupation and oppression by fighting endless proxy wars everywhere other than in Palestine itself. We, since 1917, collected endless unworthy friends who constantly betrayed us and turned their fury against us whilst we cheerfully supported endless immoral losers such as Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Iranian Revolutionaries hell bent on self destruction, Syrian dictators who starved us, Egyptian recidivists whose promises turned to murderous persecution in Gaza… The list is endless. Amidst this apocalyptic defiance we had no leaders worthy of the name, no visionaries, no Nelson Mandela figures whose foresight and compassion could help us negotiate with the only conceivable partner available to us: the Israelis.
And defiance took many forms: ranting, raving, lashing out at anyone, fighting each other, making alliances with extremists, seeking a strategy for self-preservation, seeking power wherever it may be available, becoming obsessive about education as the only way out of our misery, finding solutions in the most inappropriate places including religion, embracing obscurantism, nepotism and any consoling -ism floating by…
Those of our Palestinian compatriots who lived on in the Occupied Territories went through similar experiences and sensations with a few additions because of their particular circumstances. Along with disbelief, amazement, depression, despair, anger, rage, defiance in all their forms, they also faced authoritarian Jordanian rule, oppressive Israeli occupation, daily humiliations, crushing military rule, imprisonment, judicial killings, bombings, regular arrests and detention, imposed poverty… (Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir, issued a stark warning to Palestinians waging the Intifada: “…rioters would be crushed “like grasshoppers”… We say to them from the heights of this mountain and from the perspective of thousands of years of history that they are like grasshoppers to us… [They] will have [his] head smashed against boulders and walls.” New York Times, April 1, 1988.)
Eventually, these Palestinian populations were divided into ones living in two huge open air prisons called the ‘West Bank’ and ‘Gaza’ both ruled by unconscionable and inefficient Palestinian administrations. In Gaza, in Southern Palestine, Palestinians continue to suffer a crippling siege that deprives them of the very basic amenities of their daily necessities. Israel is helped by the Egyptian military which had ousted the first democratically elected President in its history. The Egyptians appear determined to starve Gaza’s Palestinians into cowering submission. They have blocked crossings, designated Hamas a “terrorist organisation” and have stepped up their customary persecution of Palestinian refugees unfortunate enough to be living in Egypt. It is not clear why Gaza’s Palestinians apparently need to be crushed so abominably by their two inimical neighbours – Israel and Egypt. In Eastern Palestine (variously known as the ‘West Bank’ or the ‘Occupied Territories’ in yet another attempt to excise the very name Palestine out of human history), the Palestinians there have, to a point, given in to the occupation by Israel. After almost forty seven years, Israel’s grip on Eastern Palestine is stronger than ever with over half a million illegally settled Jews living on stolen prime land and thus becoming Israel’s new “facts on the ground” to create another huge demographic change (“When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.” Raphael Eitan, Chief of Staff of the IDF, New York Times, April, 14, 1983. “Everybody has to move, run and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements because everything we take now will stay ours. Everything we don’t grab will go to them.” Ariel Sharon, Israeli Defence Minister, Foreign Minister, Prime Minister, Agence France Presse, November, 15, 1998).
Given the other “fact on the ground” of the inconvenience of a Palestinian population living there since time immemorial, it does not take a genius of history to see what is inevitably coming. At best, these Palestinians will join the one and a half million “Arabushim” living as second class citizens inside pre-1967 Israel which is itself a land mass which includes some 30% of historical Palestine forcibly occupied after the Palestinian and their so-called Arab allies rejected the impractical United Nations division of 1947 – a division that had a Palestine and an Israel criss crossing each other at various points in a ridiculous arrangement of three sections each that could not possibly be remotely functional as two states with non-contiguous lands. Just below the best scenario would be a minute canton of unconnected Palestinian Bantustans under Israeli control for decades and generations to come – a peace deal which would clearly favour Israel and which, as ever, the United States is complicit in orchestrating with staggering bare-faced and mind boggling hypocrisy (“Every time we do something you tell me America will do this and will do that. I want to tell you something very clear: Don’t worry about American pressure on Israel. We, the Jewish people, control America, and the Americans know it.” Ariel Sharon, Israeli Prime Minister, speaking to Shimon Peres, October 5, 2001, Kol Yisrael Radio).
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, “apparently not knowing that his words were being recorded” (The Washington Post, reporter Glenn Kessler, July 16, 2010), also said “I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in the way.” (The Washington Post, reporter Glenn Kessler, July 16, 2010). The Washington Post further reports that “Netanyahu also bragged how he undercut the peace process when he was prime minister during the Clinton administration. ‘They asked me before the election if I’d honor [the Oslo Accords],’ he said. ‘I said I would, but… I’m going to interpret the accords in such a way that would allow me to put an end to this galloping forward to the ’67 borders. How do we do it? Nobody said what defined military zones were. Defined military zones are security zones; as far as I’m concerned, the entire Jordan Valley is a defined military zone. Go argue.’” (The Washington Post, reporter Glenn Kessler, July 16, 2010). The recording concerned led the Israeli journalist Gideon Levy to remark, “This video should have been banned for broadcast to minors. This video should have been shown in every home in Israel, then sent to Washington and Ramallah. Banned for viewing by children so as not to corrupt them, and distributed around the country and the world so that everyone will know who leads the government of Israel”.(Haaretz, July 15, 2010). The 2001 recording shows a relaxed Netanyahu speaking to illegal Jewish Settlers in Palestine and assuring them that the Palestinians will be dealt with, “The main thing, first of all, is to hit them. Not just one blow, but blows that are so painful that the price will be too heavy to be borne.” (m/youtube.com - 'America Is Easy to Push Around').