a brilliant, thought provoking and original tragi-comic piece by London based Palestinian, Zaki Boulos.
To have and to hold
“Why should Palestinians keep what they cannot defend?”
This is a question I do not hear being asked. I have never been told this, by a Palestinian or otherwise. With little engagement it becomes clear that though this question is simple, its answer is not so straightforward. Indeed, I doubt anyone, these days in particular, will even indulge such a question. But let us say you, the reader, have decided to entertain my fancy…
Well, that you have reached this far in the text, is quite a remarkable achievement in itself, and the reader will note that the writer, that’s me, or should say *I*, have accepted your generous spell to follow me through this, what I hope to be, a literal expedition into what I consider to be, a fundamental issue. (I’m so full of it, but hell we’re a having fun in a serious way.)
To say that Palestinians, or indeed the Arab nations collectively, can stand up to Israel is quite a thing to write, and even harder to believe. Israelis are patently stronger than the Palestinians. Israelis are not in a position to make any concessions, and generally this is the case. This makes sense. Israel’s behaviour is completely natural.
But if this is the case, then the answer to the question is easy. There is absolutely no reason for Palestinians to keep what they cannot defend.
“The Conflict” for dummies:
Palestinians have a land.
Zionists want a land.
Palestinians are weak.
Zionists are strong.
Zionists terrorise Palestinians.
Zionists take Palestinian land.
Zionists have a land, Israel.
Palestinians want their land back.
Palestinians try to take their land back.
Israelis defeat Palestinians.
(last 2 lines: repeat ad nauseum)
So why should Zionists give Palestine back?
Fairness you say? Well, let me say something about fairness. Fairness, like justice, or any other sense of social balance, is only as good as the people that practice it. This is one item about fairness. Please allow me to further retort, I have asked many Palestinians, over a number of years, “What would you do were the roles reversed, ie, the Palestinians were the strong party, and the Israelis the weak?” A typical reply would be, “I would do nothing.” or, “Same as the Israelis.” No real shocking news, but it does tell us something about fairness, or at the very least, Palestinian fairness.
I would hope that were the roles reversed I would see the wrongdoings of my fellow Palestinians and act on my sense of humanity. I may even impose an exile upon myself. I cannot imagine how such an act would affect my life, but I do know it would require a tremendous amount of effort, courage, and self-belief to exercise this act. Assume that I were in this position, and I did fulfil my stand against my country. I stood by my principles with humility, in a dignified, peaceful manner. Does this make me a fair person? It would make me a non-participant, thereby lessoning the blow. I have left the land I was born into because I realised this is not my land. My grandparents had come to this land with a dream. They, along with my parents, fulfilled this dream. I was born here from the fruits of their labour. They work hard to defend what they have, and they aren’t just gonna give up their homes, for anyone. I too learned to defend my land. I embraced my inheritance, bathed in her glories. I was home. Now I am homeless. Walking away from my homeland was tough, but the emotional turmoil lay in the rejection of my family and my friends. Not only am I washing my hands of my country, I am telling my loved ones they are wrong, everything they believe is wrong. This said, does this make me a fair person? And let us say, for argument’s sake, I am fair. What of my fairness?
No, fairness is obsolete here, the question still stands. Why should Palestinians keep what they cannot defend? On a similar note, I wonder if the USA would have much to say in our world were it not for its defence arsenal. The US knows the answer to this question. This is why the US defence budget could feed Africa ten times over. The question still fucking stands!
Why should Palestinians keep what they cannot defend? Any Israeli knows the answer to this question. This is why the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) can take out any army in the region; one army at a time, or all at once.
Palestinians seem to struggle with this question. Is it because it represents that which we fear the most? Rightly or wrongly this question imposes itself.
Many people would confuse this question by injecting morality into the question. This question is a rational question. Its words are chosen carefully. I am not sure what to make of this question. It seems defunct. Israel is going to finish the wall, and that’ll be the end of the story. This is really strange. Israel is clearly defined by its enemies. Israel becomes harder to define without enemies. Does this mean it is our personal struggles that define us as individuals? It does not matter, the question still stands.
But, I have to admit, there is something suspicious about the question. The question itself is legitimate. It has been posed, it is understood, its implications are messy, but it would be a mistake to put the question on trial.
I would like to put myself on trial for posing the question. Well guess what? It worked out, I deliberated and the jury found me innocent of asking the question.
There was one misdemeanour, the jury has deemed me innocent, the trial is over, the judge passed the sentence and beat his hammer. The court, as does the jury, wants an account for this misdemeanour. This slap on the wrist came in the form of a question. The question is optional, and I do not have to answer it. So, you see the absurdity of this court. A court of fools put me under the microscope, and what a lens! I was prosecuted for asking a question, and then set free, only to find myself under the lens once more for a question that was posed (and thrown out) during trial.
In good faith, however, I offered to answer this question posed by the jury during the trial. The judge had deemed the jury’s question out of context and therefore I did not have to answer it. I had declined to answer. The question that had been posed by several of the jurors, who still remain opposed to the judge’s ruling, had been burning them up inside throughout the trial. I saw it in their eyes. Inspecting me for clues, relentlessly scrutinising me with their eyes, studying my body language for answers. Why? Why did he do it? Why did he ask the question? Their perplexions ebbed and flowed, recycling their frustrations, as their endless out-of-court arguments echoed throughout the chambers.
Needless to say, I had plenty of time to think about this question, but I did not really accredit it as I should have. I did not give it much thought during the trial; observing the jurors was far more exciting than the trial itself. They were gonna make up their own minds anyway, it was out of my hands. So why fret? Why cooperate needlessly? The judge gave the options, I picked one, the easiest one, I declined to answer. This question seems really important to these jurors, and since they let me go free, I figure, “at least oblige them with some kind of answer,” and even though I have not the foggiest of what I will say, at least an answer will appease their mental and emotional involvement with this case. Who am I to stand in the way of healing someone? Setting them free? Bringing some kind of closure, and bearing the fruits of spreading kindness? It’s amazing how well people respond to a smile.
And whilst I am rambling on about wotnot, the jury is on its knees, “Please, please, tell us why!” I turn
to my jurors, smiling, “I am sorry about this, but you know me better than that.” Okay, I’ll stop avoiding the question. Why do I ask this question? Right? Alright. Collectively, the jury is nodding furiously, “Answer the question damn it! Damn you to hell!”
Well stop talking and cluttering the airwaves with your obsessive ranting…
Fine, you done now? Look, alright! I don’t know why I asked the question. It is a strange question because it seems to be saying something about my perception. Indeed, this is the context. And what is equally valid is how this question is being perceived. To ask me why I would pose such a question is also to say you are trying to understand my view so that you may justify/adjust your view, ie, your perception. This could mean you are not sure on how to answer this question due to its content, as opposed to its form, and you may be interested in whatever I have to say, anything. Asking me why I am posing this question could be little more
than a reflexive jerk. So where is this nowhere text going? I am rolling around in my ego, bothered, but still wallowing in my shit, step into my sty.
Let us suppose that the reason for asking this question is legitimate, that most would agree, “Yes, that’s a fine question to ask, well done, have a degree.” We can take this assumption and build a civilisation with it, great. “The universe is this way up fool! See? I have this assumption upon my person. You are savages without this assumption.” Some might say.
This is true, I have yet to answer the bleeding question. In time. Now there’s a convenient concept, time. Please, when instructed to, “Show me time.” Don’t raise your watch and wave your arm around in the air like a crazed baboon, or worse, actually take your watch off and dangle it in front of me, dancing around like an apprentice jester. I’m getting a little weary of this reaction. I am hoping this one paragraph might save me some time. Sunsets and sunrises would still happen without the concept of time. The earth rotating around its own axis, much like arms rotating around a clock, does not tell us time exists.
Oh, darn, the question. O lo, this question. I am on my hands and knees Mr Bird. Please Mr Davis, shed some light on my soul so that I may sing again. Mr Coltrane, mercy, I beg of you, one more hymn for the depths of my existence. My selfishness, corruption, knows no bounds. Even long after your departure sir, I still want more. Spoilt beyond recognition. I demand more in a sad and undignified manner. As though I had the permission to address you directly. Such lack of respect, self-respect. When will I learn?
Been quite quiet lately. Tense. I let things get to me. Things that are out of my control. It’s like worrying about the weather. Crazy shit. I have to remind myself that I was never in control, there’s no such thing as control. I don’t think manipulating a situation to your advantage constitutes control. Sure, it is a way of controlling events. I do not think many will disagree there, but this is not what I mean by control. Driving a car, controlling it, is not what I mean. The feeling of being manipulated, being controlled. It is an uneasy, creepy sensation which provokes deep reactions. It eats away at your insides like a hungry virus, spreading its affects, breaching boundaries of behaviour. Fear is diligent, worrisome, troublesome. Fear is the pathway for these viruses that evade our sensibilities, and corrupt us from within. Indeed, it is more aggressive than stated. The nature of this virus is such that the host corrupts itself. The virus exploits the host’s vulnerabilities by turning the host onto itself using emotional disruptors and by monitoring the hosts interactions with its environment. A fully infected host is said to be “fully conditioned”, or simply “conditioned”. The conditioning process varies from host to host. The virus spreads when a host is fully conditioned. Fully conditioned hosts use the virus’s techniques to transfer the virus from one host to the next. The fully conditioned host attempts to condition or infect a fresh host until the fresh host is in a receptive state. The state of reception varies from host to host. This virus is psychological, but can manifest itself physically in a fully conditioned host; again, these physical manifestations vary from host to host. This virus is hostile, and difficult to detect, simply because it transmutes across a variety of species. More generally, the virus moves across any medium an infected host interacts with. Whether the virus can transfer successfully from an infected host, depends entirely on the nature of the interaction between the infected host and the candidate host, and the nature of the candidate host. As far was we can make out, this virus is psychological, however, we are at a loss as to how to begin analysis on the nature of this virus because it is extremely versatile, rendering our scientific techniques outmoded at every turn. This has something to do with the way the virus behaves with respect to its host. The virus’s only apparent motive is to transfer. The virus seems to associate its existence with the existence of others, and the interplay on a host level.
The one known, or accepted theory, is that the virus requires its host to be in some kind of fearful state. The fear produced by the host nurtures the virus, even mild confusion will suffice.
It’s amazing how much procrastination can occur in answering, or facing, a single issue.
I have yet to answer the question. The truth is there is no need to answer the question. It is not in our hands. Until Palestinians learn to defend themselves in the same way as Zionists learnt to use (and later, abuse) the system, there will be no change to the status quo, and Palestinians might as well kiss Palestine goodbye. Personally, I will never consent to Israel. And though I am biased, Israel and the global Zionist movement are clearly at fault. I am at fault for hiding behind these words. And if there is a cure for this Zionist disease that has infected and ravaged my land, culling people’s lives in its wake, it is the notion of my returning to Palestine. For as long as there is a single Palestinian standing, Palestine remains intact.
There is now a human tragedy unfolding before us. For even if the Israelis woke up from their Zionist spell, and admitted that they were wrong and wanted to make genuine amends with the entire Palestine community (globally), acknowledging Palestinian rights to their land. We have a major problem.
There is a community in this world that wants a land of its own. It wants to be a religion-based country with its own recognised sovereignty, and the peoples of this community want to govern themselves with their own set of values in accordance with their own cultural space. This is not unreasonable, especially if this community is not really represented anywhere. This community now has a land of its own, at the expense of dispossessing another. So for the other to return, this community will be landless again. One solution is for the returning peoples to fully integrate, pull resources, and build the country afresh, together. But this still has a problem. The returning peoples, and the current occupants, do not want the same thing. For each is a
community that wants to govern itself. Some re-integration would be possible.
But the reality still remains.
The Zionist Jews want a land of their own, and they want Palestine.
Well, they’ve got it.
So, why should Palestinians keep what they cannot defend?
Thursday 28 July 2005.