April 27, 2014 12:00 am
Published by Faysal Mikdadi
When, last July, an Israeli friend sent me a message about the news of John Kerry’s declaration of the resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, both she and I were not particularly hopeful. We were excited – but characteristically reserved.
We have spent sixty six years – indeed, almost one hundred years since Britain ‘liberated’ us Muslim, Jewish and Christian Palestinians from Ottoman despotism only to give us exile – I say, we have spent decades experiencing one disappointment after another that we became supreme cynics.
Both Palestinians and Israelis never believed that these peace talks would lead anywhere. We knew that because we knew that the Israeli Government has never wanted peace; it just wanted land, land and more land. The Palestinian Government was in no position to negotiate since it had nothing to give or to negotiate with. All of Palestine has been occupied by Israel and we Palestinians are woefully divided and weakened by decades of occupation and oppression. Furthermore, we have two governments vying with each other for the title of the worst governance on the planet coupled with utter indifference to the daily sufferings of their peoples. President Abbas’ government serves Israel’s occupation. Hamas postures with no coherent plan or visionary leadership.
So, why am I so desperately disappointed by the collapse of the peace talks?
I do not know the answer to this question. Perhaps it is because, yet again, as a Palestinian I feel betrayed by so many around me. Indeed, perhaps it is not disappointment that I feel. Perhaps it is despair.
Despair because the United States has betrayed us yet again by lacking the moral courage to act as a genuine and sincere honest broker and by its President who has turned out to be a weak Uncle Tom desperate to be liked regardless of any principals of justice at stake – principles that he utterly ignores as he kowtows to some imaginary legacy that he will never leave behind. His cowardice fills me with utter crushing despair. Perhaps it is because our Arab friends are deafening with their silence. Perhaps it is because some so called friends like the Egyptians are too busy pandering to the Americans and Israelis to give a damn about their “brothers and sisters” in Palestine. Perhaps it is because each day entrenches Israel’s famous “facts on the grounds” even further leaving virtually no room for manoeuvre.
Perhaps it is because I am now sixty six years old and I suddenly realise that I shall die in exile as my father did, and when he did, my only consolation was that the Oslo Accords might avert the same fate for me. How naÃ¯ve of me!
I found myself crying when the news of the breakup of the peace talks arrived. I had cried before over Palestine. We Palestinians are given to crying a great deal – partly because we are so depressed that tears come easily to us and partly because, deep down, we know that our injustice will continue to grow like a cancer that will eat up our very national existence, crush our soul and render us a passing anecdote in history.
But these latest tears were different. They were tired. They were oppressed. They were without sunshine. They were without hope.
I found myself wishing, for the first time in my life, that I were not born a Palestinian. Just for one day. Just for one hour. If I could be of any nation on earth. Walking home where I have always lived. Sleeping under the same stars that saw my birth. Eating the same food my grandparents ate. Occupying myself with the trivia of a new song, a new dance, a new friendship, a new love. Seeing the same horizon. Breathing the same air. Reading the same mendacious papers as everyone else does around the world. Feeling proud of my tiny village with all its imperfections which I cannot see, and, if I see, I ignore because I love my home so much. Not even one day. Not even for one hour. Just for a few minutes: to live without that crushing injustice. To live without the endless discussions of what we should do next to make peace. Not to have to read news of imprisonment, death and daily humiliations – sanctioned by an indifferent world. Just to live for a minuscule moment in time as a free Palestinian on my land, breathing my air and feeling the very soul of my people’s freedom.
And the tears continue. They are occasionally stopped by the kindness of Palestinians sending me encouraging messages. God forgive me for having received encouraging messages from a Palestinian in Gaza telling me to keep my inner hopes alive – bless him to send me hope from Gaza. I am shamed by a young woman sending a similar message from Jerusalem where Palestinian homes are demolished regularly whilst Obama tells Palestinians to make the necessary sacrifices for peace.
My previous article ‘Twelve Years a Slave, Sixty Six Years a Living Dead’ (LPJ, Sunday 13 April 2014) provoked a huge positive response from kind readers – both Palestinian and Israeli. Perhaps three responses stand out. Let me share them as flickers of hope in a hopeless world before the tears return.
From an Israeli: ” I felt for you and for your pain when I read your piece. I am so sorry and I apologise to you from the bottom of my heart for the part I played in the creation of the state of Israel and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. There is no excuse and no way that I can undo my birth and collusion while it lasted.”
From a Palestinian: “Courage brother. Do not despair. The sun shines in Gaza today. Israeli attacks make a loud thud but the waves drown them. Thank you for your article. I liked it and I could not respond before because the electricity was off. The sun still shines…”
From a European: “Faysal, I have just read (in part) your piece on the dream. I couldn’t read it all, due to the fact I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see it due to the fact tears were / are streaming down my face. I will have to come back to it later. Freedom will come. Never give up…”
I am waiting for a brief note from Obama who is magical with words. Meaningless words. But then… What’s new?
Maybe, amidst my tired and ageing tears, with people like those who have written to me over the past week, there will always be a glimmer of hope. We must keep the fire of hope burning although, in the last week, I fear that I have drenched it with my salted tears. There are times when, helplessness produces nothing else but bitter tears – the bitter harvest of cruelty much undeserved.
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This post was written by Faysal Mikdadi