Friday, May 20, 2016

Why Miko Peled’s story resonates for Palestinians


Little Ghada has the largest and most alert black eyes of any four-year old in my hometown in Galilee. One morning last week as I sat in their front yard sipping Arabic coffee with her grandfather she stopped on the way to pre-school for her morning kiss. Out of the clear blue she turned to me and asked if I thought Israeli soldiers were human beings. Why the question, I asked and she explained that they shoot children. Before I could say anything she started skipping hopscotch style with her schoolbag bouncing on her back as she mumbled rhythmically: ”Two here … two here …  and those … shot those … bang, bang, bang … and those two … went to sleep.” Then the mother grabbed the kid’s hand and hurried her to the car.

I had forgotten the passing incident till I read the pages in Miko Peled’s The General’s Son describing the ‘Palestinian Bar Mitzva,’ the initiation rite for Palestinian children into the inescapable violent encounters with the Israeli occupying forces. Miko’s autobiographical account of his lifelong voyage, so far, from a Zionist youth and the scion of Zionist leaders to an avowed anti-Zionist peace activist makes for a fascinating read. Especially for a Palestinian, it is quite memorable with trigger points that bring back memories of violence, discrimination and oppression at every turn of his account. At least for me Miko’s authentic narrative evoked many a personal memory, that of little Ghada being the freshest.

At the start and for near half of his book, Miko narrates his memories from the familiar perspective of the liberal Israeli Zionist straddling the ethical divide of freedom fighter and, at the same time, oppressive settler colonialist. Most of the narrative here is dedicated to setting up the indisputable Zionist credentials of Miko’s lineage: His mother the descendant of recognized leaders in the early settlement movement and his father, Matti Peled a towering Israeli General of both 1948 and 1967 wars. As a pacifist, I have a gut-level aversion to the military and to generals; the brighter their medals shine, the greater my repugnance. Miko Peled spends a good deal of the first chapters of his account glorifying the military image of his father as a fighter, perhaps in an attempt to preempt accusations of treason by fellow Israelis. Only towards the end and especially in the epilogue to the second edition Miko renounces Zionism completely and assumes the full ethical stand on the side of its Palestinian victims. This development is historically gradual and must have evolved with a greater personal struggle than the author lets on in the book. He speculates that had he survived, the retired general “would call for a single democracy with equal rights.” I read that as altered Zionism. I doubt that General Matti would have abandoned Zionism altogether. Zika, his wife, never does openly. Still, she comes across as a most sympathetic figure that gets short-scripted in favor of The General. Her refusal to move into the home of an exiled Palestinian family, a down-to-earth gesture of basic humanity, shines through as a glaring exception to all the usual self-congratulatory accounts of Zionist victories.

Like most solo General Practitioners of medicine, for many years I dabbled in the art of psychotherapy. I am tempted to fall back on my amateurish skill in dealing with my fellow writer, Miko Peled. Initially I struggled to read his text before growing to like it and then to admire him as he courageously faces up to his moral dilemma as scion of elite Zionist settler colonialists, founders of the state of Israel on the remains of destroyed Palestine. Miko seems to be afflicted from early childhood with hero worship. One glance at the photo on the book cover gives away the diagnosis: the demigod General Matti Peled with his adoring son, Miko, imitating his father’s pose and eye focus on the distant horizon. Miko’s mere escape from the inspired military career is a true hopeful sign: He sidesteps the default military option through the lesser choice of becoming a medic instructor. He marries one of his soldier trainees, and the two venture around the world before settling in Southern California to raise three children.

Like several other outspoken liberal Zionist leaders of the time (Uri Avnery and Dov Yaremeya are two acquaintances that come to mind) Matti Peled opts to draw a line under the 1948 war crimes and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and focuses his liberal views on the need to end the 1967 occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The sincerity and success of his attempts to build bridges with Palestinian leaders and other Arab figures is quite striking, witness links he makes with Issam Sartawi, Arafat and Naguib Mahfouz. In the meanwhile Miko finds alternative heroes to worship in the intense relationship he has with his Karate masters. As I grasp this peaceful solution to the young man’s psychic dilemma I breathe easy. Till then I had held my breath as I read Miko’s admiring remarks about the military career of Ariel Sharon. I feared he would become Sharon’s protégé and fall under the Machiavellian spell of the Sabra and Shatilla criminal mastermind.

The tension in my mind is allayed by Miko’s career choice of teaching Karate in the USA. His business succeeds. Then the tragic loss of his teenage niece, Smadar, another random victim of the violence that Israel’s occupation fuels, shakes Miko to his core. It forces him closer to the cause of peace with Palestinians and we see him lose his innocence and Israeli inborn misconceptions and prejudices layer after layer. “Her death pushed me into a bold examination of my Zionist beliefs, my country’s history, and the political situation that fueled the suicide bombers who killed her.” Peace is the only solution, he concludes. But how does one act on such convictions? Initially he dabbles in delaying tactics of attending and hosting Arab-Jewish peace and reconciliation groups. He sidesteps the real issues by engaging in charitable relief work, supplying wheelchairs to Palestinian and Israeli paraplegics. His partner in this form of pattern-holding in terms of political activism is the Palestinian Nader Elbanna, another California rotarian who introduces him to a wide circle of fellow Palestinians back home. Thus the urge to confront challenges directly returns our Miko to the real arena of current events, the powder keg of the Palestinian Occupied Territories. He plies his marketable skill as a Karate master to youth in refugee camps, attends the weekly anti-Apartheid Wall marches in Bili’in and similar aggrieved villages, crosses into Gaza through a tunnel and meets with the steadfast leaders of the Palestinian peaceful resistance movement across the seething arena.

Here, a towering leader, Abu-Ali Shaheen, provides another pinnacle of heroism as the Palestinian warrior and, for over two decades, the leader of the Palestinian political prisoners who is credited with setting the rules for their conduct and political education while incarcerated. Such is the character of this Palestinian legendary sumoud – perseverance — leader that Miko seems to build up the image of his own father through the man’s testimony to his character. Abu-Ali recounts to Miko in his prison-learned Hebrew the details of the massacre the Israeli forces committed in his home village of Beshshit before adding:

“Everyone in Rafah talked about the fact that Matti Peled, one of the greatest officers of the Israeli army, a general that was highly respected, straight like an arrow, the man who was military governor of Gaza, came in person, he even drove himself, and visited the homes of the victims. Your father visited my family’s home, he spoke to the adults and he consoled the children. People commented how disturbed he was when they took him to the spot where the massacre took place. Your father also wrote a report to Yitzhak Rabin and Haim Bar-Lev, but they did nothing.”

The glare of the father’s heroic stand on the issue of principle is such that the reader is blinded to the base act of the massacre’s Israeli perpetrators. Here, finally, Miko reaches the climactic closing of the circle that justifies his entire narrative of peace and reconciliation, looping back to his foremost heroic idol, Matti Peled. Abu-Ali continues:

“It became known that this changed [Matti] from a militant man to a man dedicated to peace. I felt your father was with us and that washed away the anger in my heart completely. Completely!”

What more intense encounter can the reader expect after this but the ultimate breaking down of racial boundaries illustrated by Miko’s falling in love and partnering with Fadwa Natour, a Palestinian that we meet only in the epilogue to the new edition of the book. The question of whether it was the egg or the chicken bursts out of the pages begging to be answered. Speculation aside, Mikos conversion is complete:

What I do now, is speak, write and actively participate in the resistance to the Zionist regime in Palestine. Peace for Israelis and Palestinians is possible if we look outside the Paradigm of the Zionist state, a state wrongly called the “Jewish State.” Though Israelis outside the West Bank do not like to see themselves as settlers, we Israelis are like the whites in South Africa—colonizers and settlers—and, whether or not we choose to call it by that name, the country in which we live is Palestine.

Avigail Abarbanel, a psychologist, collected and edited 25 essays in a book entitled Beyond Tribal Loyalties –Personal Stories of Jewish Peace Activists. (Cambridge Scholars Publishing; 2012.) Her hidden agenda was to discover a common factor among all the participants in the project. Here is her conclusion:

I realized that there is in fact something that all the activists in this book have in common: they all have the capacity to tolerate difficult emotions. I call this “emotional resilience.”

Reading his account, one can’t but credit Miko Peled with an ample share of “emotional resilience.” But reading Abarbanel’s book I had my own agenda: to discover the critical point at which such peace activists switch sides from Zionists to true peace activists. I dwelled on the subject in a review on my blog. Out of the sample of 25 such ‘switchers’ I constructed an average persona who, as it turns out, was a female:

The figure that emerged is akin to the proverbial horse designed by a committee: She is usually a woman who grew up in a liberal Jewish family. Her parents were mostly of the PEP (Progressive Except on Palestine) variety with solid WIZO and JNF credentials, accepting and propounding their dominant communal mythology and undisputed gospel, both that of the Old Testament and of the Zionist doctrines with all its required founding ‘truths.’ … Then our woman … is exposed to the wider world. Somewhere along the way she is exposed to a different point of view about the Israel-Palestine conflict: She meets Palestinians and is surprised to find that they are human. She reads a book by the likes of Edward Said or Avi Shlaim or is otherwise exposed to an alternative source of information with ‘subversive content.’ That blows the cover of her former solid Hasbara world. The cognitive dissonance within her cries for resolution and she commits to finding the truth for her self. From there the descent into pro-Palestinian activism is inevitable … Punishment for such a sin is not long in coming in the form of exclusion from the tribal fold and the loss of former friendships.

Except for the gender of the composite character I drew, I could have predicted Miko’s life cycle to a T. And Miko himself attests openly to the implied contradiction and mutual exclusivity of the two sides: Zionist Hasbara and pro-Palestinian peace activism. The only escape, Miko posits and all sane concerned people agree, is:

… that  both Palestinians and Israelis must be allowed to live free and in peace in a state that represents them both, governed by the same laws … only after a democratic state is established and a government that represents all the people is in place, will we be able to resolve the crisis in Gaza, welcome the refugees’ return, calculate reparations, solve issues of water and citizenship, dismantle the wall and checkpoints, and live and function as people should.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Israel’s Memorial Day As Experienced By One Palestinian

I never met Dorothy Naor in person. I am on her newprofile group’s mailing list. More often than not I find myself in full agreement with her views. Reading this piece this morning brought tears to my eyes. But it made me angry for a different reason as well. Angry not only with the generals who are behind this but also with the likes of Netanyahu who assume without asking me that I, as a Palestinian, would want to do this to Israeli mothers if not to all Jewish mothers. And with that assumption he and his generals continue to cause more Palestinian and Israeli mothers to wake up crying. Here is the full email from Dorothy Naor:

“Memorial Day for those Israelis killed in wars and violence always brings me to reread Manuela Driri’s experience with the loss of her son.  I think she speaks for many bereaved mothers, and says it so well, and so painfully.  So I share it with you again.  This is what Memorial Day means to me.  Indeed, rather than having a day to honor those who died in the supposed service of their country, we must make those who control our fate to stop killing our children by making Israel live by the sword.
Waking Up
By Manuela Dviri published in Zmin Hasharon on Friday, January 31, 2003
[translated from Hebrew by Monique Neumark]

I woke up crying. He asked me why and I said I did not know, that maybe it was because of Yoni, because five years ago he died and were he alive now, he would have been 25 years old. And each day that passes--I said to him--he dies a little more for me: more finally, more totally, more eternally and he remains more and more a twenty year old boy, handsome like my father, kind and charming like his father, intelligent like his brother and sister and absent –minded just like me, above all just at a twenty year old boy who does silly things: paints his room hair-raising blue and whose socks have the disgusting smell of soldier’s boots.  A boy at times a little foolish, who is crazy about Miri and ran off from his sister Michal’s engagement party to meet her at Beersheva without enough gas  in his tank, who always loses his way on the roads, even the day he drove Ayal and Michal to Michal’s wedding: the three of them got lost and to her shame, the bride arrived late at her own wedding, late and laughing, laughing and late... and the three of them were so perfect, so loving, so close….my children.

When the man who goes with me to the synagogue for the Shabbat morning prayer left, and I stayed at home, alone, I cried some more and I screamed and even went a little wild; I knocked my head against the wall to make the physical pain stronger than the ache in my heart.

Yes, when the heart hurts, it really hurts… It always takes you by surprise. An electric shock, quick and strong or a terrifying cramp,  just in the center of your body- exactly at the heart- and you are left (without breath) breathless, without  strength, hopeless…
After I cried at home, alone, I thought that maybe it was he who screamed and (that) only the throat and voice  were mine… I had not had such a  strong attack of grief for a long time. Slowly, slowly I calmed down and Rivka, my friend felt I needed her and as if by miracle, came to my home. We sat in the kitchen, drank the Shabbat coffee from a thermos bottle, laughed, hugged, and I became ‘normal’ again. No. So five years, a lifetime ago, I had no idea how hard it would be for me to go on living. People talked to me, told me of eternal grief, which is something quite abstract. But pain is very different, tangible, palpable, it is not wanting  to get up in the morning. Yet waking up feeling nauseous and alone in the world. Alone. You see, in pain you are always alone, alone under compassionate looks and alone even after the compassion has already gone.  Only Batsheva told me the truth. Had I known, at any stage, I would have forgone the pleasure of living… Much too costly a pleasure. No, I didn’t know that I would survive and did not know how to survive. But I did and great and remarkable miracles happened to me on the way.

‘What ? it can not be! Is it already five years that he died?’ friends kept asking incredulously all this week. Yes, and to me it seems much longer. And six years since the helicopters disaster, and eight since Beth Lid.  And two and a half months ago since Dror Weinberg and a year and a half since Aviv Isaac…

I asked my friend Tamara Rabinovitz whose bereavement and experience are older than mine, how can one explain to someone who has no idea how hard it is for us sometimes and about what are the dead children so angry and scream out through our throats. She said that perhaps one should explain that it is especially hard now because of the Country. That they- the children- invested themselves, their lives, their youth  for the country, and all that for nothing. That they gave their lives for a Country that is finished and corrupt, sad and despairing. And that it is not fair, and that all the Ministers, Generals, and Prime Ministers  should walk around with photographs of Idor, and Yoni and Avi and Dror in their pockets and then, maybe the Country would look  a little different.

I told her that she was really naïve and that by now nothing will make them change, even this would  not make them think, let alone feel… Nothing can help.

Last night I had a dream that the war with Iraq had started   and I was running to get gas masks for the children and that I had no mask for Yoni. And then I remembered that I did  not need  a mask for him, that anyhow he was already dead.

Manuela Dviri

Translated by Monique Neumark.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Spring Has Sprung in My Garden

Spring has sprung in my garden. It is the afternoon of the official start of spring. The playful near horizontal rays of the setting sun affect a shadow dance with the freshly arrayed mastic, oak and hawthorn trees. It is the stuff for expert nature photographers to capture. But I am committed to writing as an art form and a friend had asked for an encore in the afternoon installment of electronic correspondence. The late hour is chilly and my favorite natural stone ‘stool’ in the rock garden is damp. Still, I dare nature’s wintry challenge and take a seat on one of the two olive press stones that I have mounted as garden tables. From that spot I face the source of the day’s ebbing warmth. The lower boughs of my native Galilee trees toss the sunrays every which way intent on blinding me, it seems. I turn my back to the bright celestial fire to contemplate my gardening handiwork, the neat ground cover of flat rock slabs interspersed with pumice gravel from the Golan, all personally assembled in younger years. It cost me double inguinal hernias that I have since repaired and a diaphragmatic one still pushing into my lung space. A dozen cyclamens, illegally borrowed from the surrounding hills, mine as a child but Israel’s protected loot in adulthood, have multiplied over the years to where hundreds poke their white, pink and violet flower bouquets to provide every rock with a living edge and crowd my garden pathways. What a shame they lack the scent to match their exuberant color display.

Two steps up and I am in the center courtyard of the house. Didi, my wife is busy gathering the ripe kumquats from the three trees intended more for their showy evergreen decorative effect. She promised Laiali, our granddaughter in New York, a fresh supply of the tangy delight Didi will cook the fruit into. The small orange fruit gives the impression of glass beads carefully sprinkled over the evergreen surface of the two vertically stacked spheres into which each tree has been shaped. Years of careful trimming have given the desired shape to the exotic fruit trees, a concession together with two lychees in the orchard below to my wife’s Chinese ancestry on her mother’s side. In summer the photogenic display is supplemented with the two flowery climbers on the fence behind the manicured trees, an Indian red jasmine and an African lily. But that is to come later in a riot of red and orange flower bunches and heavenly odor. For now the narrow strip on the edge of the courtyard has to do with visual appeal alone: The ground of the kumquat border strip is covered with red poppies, one of the commonest and proudest Galilee spring flowers. Another two to three weeks, with the advent of Easter, the Madonna lilies will infuse the air with their perfume. Years back Didi borrowed a couple of the dormant onions from her friend, the botanic artist Lois Nakhli, another American transplant in Galilee, and the beautiful native spring flower has taken over one corner of the yard. Last year I moved a dozen pulps to the shade of my prize olive tree at the entrance to the yard. Come Easter a couple of years from now and that space will be taken over by the pure white lily with the dizzying holy scent. Locally we call it St. Joseph’s lily. It is interesting how much more recognition ‘Joe the Carpenter’ is afforded in his native Galilee than he is in Rome. Is it the local patriarchic tradition, I wonder?

The hawthorn is in full bloom. A faint pleasant scent rewards me as I move closer to the white riot against the soft green of the new foliage. Local herbalists would kill for the permission to harvest the standard asthma remedy. I protect the tree for its tangy yellow fruit, apple-like except for the hard seeds that take up half of the small delicacy. As I get close to the white-clad giant, the pleasant scent of the adjacent citrus trees attracts me. I open the gate and step down the two stairs to the lower grounds of the fruit orchard. My wife and I, admitted amateurs, lucked out with planting the dozen varieties of citrus fruits at the western end of my inherited acre of Canaanite-settled Galilee. (Kanaaneh, Canaanites! Got it?!) That way the heavenly fragrance suffuses the westerly Mediterranean breeze as it buffets our residence in the spring. In summer it is the Indian red jasmine. The scentless figs and the unpleasant autumn carob flowers are in the back area, a potential irritant to neighbors to the east. Now I can’t resist a spin with basket in hand. Three apple trees are bursting with blooms: pink, white and deep red. The pear and plum trees are loaded with blooms as well, completing the rainbow range of colors.

I return, nearly swooning, with a dozen oranges and a sweet variety of grapefruit, an offering to evening visitors. I smile as I recollect a mix-up from a week earlier. I had climbed a navel orange to pick a few fruits for the day’s expected visitors. Over the years the citrus trees have grown into a single overhead canopy laden with a variety of fruit. Among the orange branches that I targeted was one with lemons. I traced it down and sure enough the bough had ascended from the orange tree stock, I thought. I was struck with awe at the botanical miracle. I had never grafted lemon on my favorite orange tree. That afternoon a grand niece of mine came visiting dragging along her husband, parents and few siblings. She is a good pediatric nurse who is proud enough of her village heritage in the traditional nomad-versus-farmer tug of cultural war to have kept her maiden name and kept in close touch after she married her high school Bedouin sweetheart. I figured the couple were good subjects on whom to spring my unique discovery. I took the group down to the orchard and showed them my miracle fruit. The young Bedouin withdrew quietly to his car and came back with a length of red thread. He climbed the tree in an agile circus-like performance, tied the string to the bough at the top and kept twisting it around the branch all the way to the lemon stock, deflating my proud claim without saying a word.

Now, on the way back, absentmindedly, I gather a handful of green almonds to munch with a sprinkling of salt. As I close the gate I pick a few wild onion leaves for the salad. I never looked up the proper name of the sharp-tasting variety. We call it ‘Bedouin garlic,’ both terms infused with a pungent essence and a touch of romance. It always grew among the olives and must have come with the multi-millennial olive I had transplanted into my front yard. Sprinkled with salt and wrapped in olive-oil-soaked fresh wheat bread it still wipes the memory slate of my childhood hunger clean. Now I use it as a condiment for our salad. Low and behold, I arrive to find a niece waylaying me with a dish of greens she had prepared with “Aunt Didi and you in mind.” Im- and Abu-Bashar take care of our home, yard and orchard while we travel. She starts with inquiring about the house and the grounds and if the chickens have started laying.  They do their expected job well, I explain: They keep the orchard clean of pests and weeds and naturally fertilize the trees. I invite her to pick grapefruit for her family and the families of her sisters. And she is welcome to pick all the green loof, the Palestinian arum, that she wants. It is one of thee few ‘weeds’ the chickens avoid and it fills up the sunny spaces between the trees. It is the classic local aphrodisiac leaving one’s tongue burning for hours while working its magic effect. In a while it will explode with the showy white and black funnel-like bloom that slowly turns to an oversized orang candy-tipped lollypop.

Im-Bashar doesn’t hide her ulterior motive for long: She loves us, she declares, and knows that her husband respects our opinion. She wants to use our influence with him to have him agree to her plans for their firstborn’s wedding come summer. He and his fiancé have been engaged for three years and rumors of inappropriate comportment are flying across the social spheres of both their villages. Besides, the girl is pennywise and is sure to help mend the profligate ways of the young barber. And she had finished her secretarial training and has been promised a job at the new chain pharmacy branch due to open soon in Arrabeh. With two incomes they can afford the thousand- shekel-plus apartment rent and save for adding a third story to the family home in due time. The woman is a practiced lobbyist. She smiles knowingly at me as she suggests that I eat the greens she brought me with goat yogurt for added flavor and better health effect. Then she divulges the real reason behind the urgency of her appeal for my interference: Three age-mate cousins of Bashar have reserved banquet halls for their summer weddings and she doesn’t want to be a social dropout. I promise to sound Abu-Bashar out on the matter though she has to do the convincing herself, I insist. She agrees and leaves dangling the promise of more fresh bread and greens. Akkoub, the wild thistle, is in season and she plans a trip to the Golan Heights to pick some “for you.”

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Hossam Haick: Giving a local historical rooting to a celebrity

As a Palestinian citizen of Israel I want to claim Prof. Haick as ‘mine’ on all kinds of levels. It is difficult to believe this super-scientist is one of us. To appreciate why, I wish you would first read the laudatory Associated Press report in the New York Times:

First of all Prof. Haick is my neighbor. He was born and grew up in Nazareth and attended the same school, St. Joseph High School, that my daughter attended briefly, though she did that a couple of years before him. And I attended high school in Nazareth as well but in a different school and in an altogether different epoch. Need I remind the reader who else grew up in that town? Or who St. Joseph was? So Hossam and I have a lot of proud connections.

There are many Palestinian Haick families, I am sure. But in the vicinity of Nazareth most of the Haicks I know are originally from the village of Eilaboun, which makes Hossam my next-door neighbor. Here is something from my book of memoirs about the special relationship between our two villages in 1948, provided, that is, my hunch about his Eilaboun roots is proven correct; it is an account from an old man I meet on the road one day:

“Your good father must have told you about how the farmers of Arrabeh and Sakhnin worked the land of Eilaboun in the Battouf when its Christian residents were driven out to Lebanon [in 1948 by the Jewish forces].  Their priest, al-Khouri Murqus al-Mualem, may his soul rest in peace, an honorable man if there ever was one in these parts, sent out an SOS message asking for help.  Every farmer in your and my village took their work animals and equipment to the abandoned land of Eilaboun in the valley and in no time had it plowed and planted with wheat.  By the time al-Khouri Murqus managed to use his influence with the Pope to bring his people back, they returned to find their crops ready for harvest.  We helped them bring it in as well.  That is how honorable neighbors care for each other, not by selling the land to the Jews for paper money.”

‘Haick’ as in Hossam or ‘Hayek’ as in Selma is Arabic for Weaver or one who nets or crochets or does needlework on cloth. From there, I am tempted to believe, the distance to nanotechnology is short. So, you see, Professor Hossam Haick is part and parcel of our daily rural Palestinian lifestyle, not some distant intellectual or scientific prodigy orbiting in the mysterious academic space of scientific institutions whether in Israel or California. As I said, I am trying hard to believe he is one of us.

In my eagerness to claim a share in the good professor/researcher/inventor, I am happy to discover that we agree on several points of principle. Take the opening statement in the above-mentioned report that I hope you have already read by now:

“Hossam Haick, whose breakthrough work in nanotechnology has garnered global accolades, says his success as an Arab citizen of Israel proves that education knows no boundaries and is key to improving his community's lot.”

Of course, I agree with my good neighbor’s assessment! Notice though while reading the article that its author takes the cautious stand of using the politically accepted practice in official Israeli circles, and hence in America as well, of referring to us, the Palestinian citizens of Israel, as ‘Israel’s Arabs’ except later on when speaking of “Palestinian-Israeli violence”, the one single time that the un-kosher term is used. Here is my take on the subject, this time from the introduction to my collection of short stories, Chief Complaint: A Country Doctor’s Tales of Life in Galilee, (Just World Books, 2015.)

“Yes, in the ‘state of the Jews’ education is the Palestinians’ strong card: We are proud sumud and education freaks. Entire families pool their combined labor wages to support a student through college. Young professionals are hard at work to guarantee their community a future and measure up to the high expectations of their hard slugging artisan fathers and mothers, descendants of land-stripped subsistence farmers. The practice and the tradition should be enough to sustain us in the face of the gathering storm.”

The head of the Technion, the oldest Israeli university and the home research and teaching institute of Prof. Haick, sees the same factual situation and reaches the same conclusion. Except that he puts the onus of their relative regressive state, by implication, on the Arab students:

"He is an extraordinary talent," said Peretz Lavie, the president of the Technion. "He shows ... there is no glass ceiling and no discrimination in science. He serves as a role model to youth in the (Arab) sector, that if they invest in education they can go far."

I am not accusing the Associated Press or the NYT of open enmity to Palestinians in this report but rather of abiding by the self-imposed Israeli and AIPAC rules of discourse in which positive terminology is reserved for Jewish Israel and negative associations for Palestine and Palestinians. The latter are best not mentioned at all by specific name so as not to grant them linguistic recognition that may well lead to them agitating for political recognition. For more on the charged topic of partiality in reporting please see the article at the following link:

And here is one last connection I want to claim: quite early on, in 2013 I registered for Prof. Haick’s online course on nanotechnology and nanosensors . Unfortunately, I wasn’t persistent enough to gain all the potential benefits. In my own defense I will say this: I registered in the course more as a vote of confidence in and a gesture of seeking to associate with the rising star even if only intellectually and at a distance. It was that rather than gaining new knowledge that drove me subconsciously, I now admit in retrospect. Contrary to the classic saying, it is never too late to learn ‘new tricks.’ But, starting with the premise based on which I registered for the course, I faced a wide array of choices. As a physician I am impressed daily by the names and achievements of so many young physicians right in my neck of the woods. In 1970 when I returned to my home village of Arrabeh I was the only western-trained physician in an area of Galilee of over 50 thousand people, including Eilaboun. In a recent survey Arrabeh alone boasts having 280 physicians. There are too many stars for me to gaze at, you understand, Prof. Haick. I guess I blinked and missed out on all the benefits of your full course. I know you will forgive me this once.

You know what! I almost forgot! I also was knighted by the French. Except that my armor never shined because I don’t speak their language.