Monday, October 20, 2008

Reviews of my Book ‘A Doctor in Galilee’

The following is a list of the reviews of my book which carries the same name as this blog. It is an attempt to collate all published reviews, laudatory or critical. Considering the relative speed of the electronic media and the recent date of my book's publication (July, 2008), most reviews so far have appeared on the Internet and I provide their links below.

1. Editorial Reviews

2. Two customer reviews on by Robert Stiver (Honolulu, Hawaii, USA) and Dr. Ben Alofs (Bangor, North Wales, UK):

3. Review by Jim Miles (Canada) for the Palestine Chronicle:

4. Review by Raymond Deane, Irish composer, author and activist, for the Electronic Intifada:

5. Review by Dr. Derek Summerfield (London, UK) for Palestine News.

6. Review by Steve Andrews (UK) for The Morning Star.

7. Review by Sally Bland for The Jordan Times,

8. Review by Dr. Khalil Nakhli on the occasion of my book launch in Ramallah. This was posted on several websites. One is that of Palestine Chronicle:

9. Janet Walker’s Review for Badil's Quarterly 'Al Majdal'

10. Sarah Irving Review on Friends of Al-Aqsa website:

A shorter version was also published in Health Matters. Both versions are available on Irving's website at the following link:

11.The Lancet, Volume 373, Issue 9666, Pages 799 - 800, 7 March 2009
A Palestinian physician's memoir of life in Israel
Emma Williams

Few more are in the pipeline and I will update the list as they are published.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Walls of Separation, Physical and Mental

September 5, 2008:
I have just emerged from a week-long frustrating experience. It was exhilarating to spend the week in the company of our good guests, friends to whom we owe much. Yet now I am left with a certain bitter aftertaste of disappointment. I am battling an inner feeling of guilt and shame at having failed to communicate to them adequately ‘the whole truth’ about ‘my’ country

For a week Didi and I hosted Michael and Limei, the ambitious young Chinese couple who had spoiled us in China a year ago. Their intelligent two children accompanied them and we wanted to show them all the significant highlights of the Holy Land. In the last few years Limei has joined a Chinese Christian sect and we wanted to hit the main Christian sites for her benefit: Nazareth, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. This in addition to introducing them to my extended family, to Arrabeh, my village, and to the Galilee, especially since Limei has read my book of memoirs, A Doctor in Galilee, and is considering translating it to Mandarin.

And I had to set time aside for teaching the kids manqala, the two-player board game based entirely on arithmetics that Arab traders took with them everywhere they went. Village old men while away much of their time dealing fistfuls of pebbles around the 14-hole board, their silent concentration amplifying the mysterious tick-tick-tick playing out of their precisely calculated strategies. After the two warm-up rounds, ten-year old Marc beat me in enough consecutive sets that I quit.

The cultural distance between Arab Galilee and traditional China is vast. Yet rural farming communities the world over share many comparable basic experiences and attributes. Michael and I come from similar poor rural roots and share similar backgrounds and common attitudes. Even Limei, who comes from a better-off background, shares the respect the poor of the world show for items of sustenance, bread and water, and will not allow a crumb to be left on her children’s plates or a drop of water to be wasted. And we also share much in how we relate to our extended families and in the respect we show our elders; that is why the guests had brought with them a whole load of Chinese candies, rice wine, silk fans, silk scarves, good-luck amulets and moon cakes, nearly enough for our entire three thousand-strong Kanaaneh clan.

And we seem to share the high appreciation for each other’s features: everyone we visited admired little Mark and Laura’s looks while Limei and Michael were struck by how beautiful all Palestinian children were. And both sides of the mutual admiration society wondered how people in the opposite group can tell one child from the other, for they all seemed so handsomely similar. Also our guests appreciated local foods and home-made Arabic dishes while, in Galilee, Chinese cooking is considered the height of culinary delights. And, believe it or not, in Bethlehem we found a store that accepted Chinese currency, the RMB: The owner travels regularly to China where he has a factory employing sixty workers apparently producing imitation Hebron hand-painted ceramic cups and plates, part of which he sold back to our Chinese guests.

Politically, in terms of relevant local issues, the couple is nearly as uninformed as their two children. They are totally innocent of the basic prejudicial historical narrative imparted to Westerners with their mothers’ milk except perhaps for a minimum of the Christian mythology, mainly about the life of Jesus, that Limei has picked up through her new Christian socialization. On a couple of occasions she would state what she had absorbed through that connection as if it were her and my absolute truth: “But they told me God promised it to the Jews!” Still this was said as a neutral statement of fact, lacking the aggressive emotional investment that the committed born-again Christians have.

Having decided to avoid addressing Limei’s conversion issue, I let the little odd comments slip by unanswered. Still, to get a well-educated adult, raised and acculturated in the Chinese worldview, to appreciate the intricacies of current Middle East political realities in the space of six days is an impossible task, let alone trying to explain to a totally uninvolved novice the geopolitics of Israel/Palestine and their historical roots and current ramifications. To wit, how can a Palestinian make intelligible to a Chinese couple visiting Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories the different dramatic issues that have significantly impacted his life? Take fro example the European roots of the colonial Zionist project and its post holocaust empowerment by the offenders’ guilt feelings, the Palestinian’s mishmash ethnic make-up despite their just claim to Arabness, the sapping of our energies and resources by centuries of colonization by the Ottoman’s then by the British and now by the Zionists, our internal divisiveness and our rush of despair to fanaticism, the first Intifada, the second Intifada and the Oslo fiasco, the role and history of the Hashemites’ collusion, the Arab world’s ineptitude and abandonment, the shifting Israeli ethos from imagined ancient virtuous Jewish values to Zionist evil despotism and daily crimes against humanity, the Israeli right’s open calls for our ethnic cleansing and the Israeli left’s collusion … and the list is enough to make your head spin. The mere task of sifting trivia from relevant facts is daunting when it comes to informing the uninitiated about Israel-Palestine.

In despair I shifted to blank ‘statements of fact’ with little explanation. To illustrate, as we drove to Bethlehem we came up against the security (read: apartheid) wall. I had not visited Bethlehem for the past ten years or so. Heading there from Jerusalem I drove the way I used to in the old days intending to go through the main entrance to the city by Rachel’s Tomb. I started to explain to my guests the significance of the city as the birthplace of Jesus. I delved into specifics of my own conviction that there must have been a true historical virtuous and revolutionary figure named Jesus when I suddenly realized that I was driving full speed into the wall and breaked forcefully just in time. The jolt added to everyone’s surprise and disdain of the massive concrete structure. As we navigated few kilometers around it using a dirt escape route I simply stated that this is the wall of the open-air prison behind which the Palestinian residents of the occupied West Bank are kept. The children took to asking every time we stopped if we were in or out of the prison while their parents inquired about specifics of the conditions in it: numbers, employment, access to food, law and order, etc. I answered as best as I could, reassuring them that the conditions they are witnessing are much better than in Gaza’s open-air prison.

China has the mother of all walls and I could have revisited the discourse we had in China regarding the futility and tenuous nature of all physical separation walls. I could have pointed out other recently constructed concrete and barbwire walls segregating Arab from Jew residing in the same city within Israel itself. I could have demonstrated for my visitors examples of the ethno-national logic in those attempts by ‘the Jewish and democratic state’ to concretize the concept of ‘separate’ in its ‘separate and equal’ decrees for its two types of citizens. I could have delved into the imponderables of the psychological walls rendering Arabs invisible to Jews and visa versa in ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’. I could have described to my visitors the constricted telescopic tunnel vision of enmity that the Zionist system has imposed on its followers in viewing the other in the Middle East.

But I didn’t.

And I could have quoted from my talk to a less innocent crowd in Honolulu few months ago:
“The apartheid separation wall continues to be built with your tax money. It infringes on the rights of so many Palestinian villagers in the OTs and robs them of their land and livelihood. Yet, as all separation walls throughout history, this wall will also come down. What we all need to work on collectively is the mental separation wall of fear and hate that permits some of us to put themselves above others. It is the exclusivist mental separation wall that allows the Zionist majority of Israel’s citizens and their dominant political parties, even now, to self-righteously demand my ‘transfer’, my expulsion out of my home, witness the platform of such Zionist leaders as Lieberman, the ex-deputy prime minister, and the statements of Ms. Livni, Israel’s current foreign Minister. It is this exclusivist and elitist mental separation wall that permits the issuing of public theological dispensations allowing, nay even demanding, the slaughter of Palestinians, their women and children and even their cattle and the destruction of their crops and orchards, all based on the old tribal conflict with a group known in biblical times as the Amalikites, now revived in some sick minds as the Palestinians.”

But I didn’t

I could have given them a little insght into our confused psyche. I could have explained to them the little incident I had in Jerusalem while climbing up the Via Dolorosa. My guests stopped at a ceramics shop. Limei had a long list of souvenirs she needed to take back for family, friends and colleagues and Michael enjoyed the challenge of bargaining for each item. I was tired and slumped in the owner’s chair on the steps by the door of the store. As the owner came out he brought me a cup of cold water and offered coffee. He inquired where I hailed from and, learning that I am from Galilee, he went into an excited monologue: “The Galilee of Jesus our Lord. That is great! Upper Galilee, I hope, close to the border with Lebanon. Beautiful countryside and you can look across and see the Lebanese Resistance Army, the only worthy men in the Middle East. You can wave to them, can’t you? And they wave back to you. And you may look in the direction of The Man himself. Perhaps you have seen him in person. Let me hug you. Let me kiss your hand that may have waved to Sheikh Hassan Nasr Allah!”

But I didn't. I didn’t even mention the incident at all. Jerusalem, east vs. west, old vs. new, Arab quarters vs. Jewish, occupied vs. freed, and settlers vs. natives, was confusing enough for me to make sense of. The enigma of the holiness of the city to the three monotheistic faiths was challenging enough to explain to my impartial guests without the added complication of a Via Dolorosa Christian merchant in love with a Lebanese Shiite Moslem militia leader. For me this wasn’t new; I know it happened before in the days of Saladin when local Christians sided with him against the foreign Crusaders. But I didn’t dare venture into such shifty and land-mined grounds. Suffice it that out of the three holy sites to which I had promised to take my guests I could access only two; the alleyway to the Dome of the Rock was blocked by soldiers. I tried my luck at making small talk with one of them in Arabic. He frowned and shook his head in disgust; he must have had a long day and here was someone mistaking him for an Arab, an accusation enough to enrage American candidates for the presidency, let alone an Israeli soldier of Ethiopian descent.

Images of the ongoing conflict were hard to hide from our guests, of course. The day after they arrived was Eid el-Fitr, the festive occasion celebrating the end of the fasting month of Ramadan and hence the fulfillment by all good Moslems of one of the tenants of their faith. As some three dozen members of my family gathered for the midday picnic-style meal with roasted meat and a variety of homemade salads, the children overwhelmed the scene by their sheer number and their boisterous behavior. We sat in the second-story spacious courtyard overlooking one of the village old squares where kids gather for play. Dozens of them were there, all with realistic looking toy guns shooting tiny plastic pellets at each other. Marc, our ten-year old guest, joined the excitement. The children in our courtyard fought a battle with the larger army below. It looked like a real front with all kinds of automatic weapons and some shoulder rocket launchers. As food was served the adults had a hard time getting the kids to settle down. A tenuous and temporary ‘hudna’ or ceasefire was imposed. Limei, forcing her two children to sit down to eat, commented on the usual role of the international community in war: “China seems to supply the guns as well as troops in this battle.” Of course, all the toys were made in China.

For the rest of their stay with us, our guests repeatedly came up against the real thing. The, children and adults alike, would stare in astonishment at the abundant soldiers of both sexes, with and without skullcaps, seemingly leisurely parading around wherever we went, with fingers on the triggers of their automatic weapons. We encountered them among the mix of athletic young men, scantily-clad bikinied young women and their flabby-bodied decadent elders at the hot springs at el-Himmeh (Himmat Ghader in Hebrew, the old shared border point of Syria, Jordan and Palestine at the southern end of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, the whole area having been declared unilaterally by Israel as its own, an integral part of the Land of Israel). And they were there, arrogantly inquisitive about our identities and the purpose of our visit, as we exited through the wall of Bethlehem’s open prison. In Israel soldiers are everywhere you go, not only at such sensitive points where Israel’s aggressive occupation necessitates its jumpy security alertness but also at the most normal of Israeli settings: at shopping malls and walking streets in the city and at scenic look-outs in the countryside.

Now, how could I have explained such phenomena to an uninvolved Chinese? And Palestinians need to explain it all to the 1.3 billion Chinese and to the over one billion Indians, the near-half of humanity destined to own the future, if they are ever to counter the propaganda supremacy of Israel in the West.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Busting a Myth

The following is lifted in toto from the website of my friend, the journalist and author Jonathan Cook.[] Jonathan has written the preface to my book, A Doctor in Galilee, and has granted me permission for this open plagiarism which I commit for the value of the piece:

Book refuting Jewish taboo on Israel’s bestseller list

Writer argues Zionist Jews created a national history by inventing the idea that their sect existed as people separate from their religion

Jonathan Cook
The National
October 07 2008

TEL AVIV // No one is more surprised than Shlomo Sand that his latest academic work has spent 19 weeks on Israel’s bestseller list – and that success has come to the history professor despite his book challenging Israel’s biggest taboo.

Dr Sand argues that the idea of a Jewish nation – whose need for a safe haven was originally used to justify the founding of the state of Israel – is a myth invented little more than a century ago.

An expert on European history at Tel Aviv University, Dr Sand drew on extensive historical and archaeological research to support not only this claim but several more – all equally controversial.

In addition, he argues that the Jews were never exiled from the Holy Land, that most of today’s Jews have no historical connection to the land called Israel and that the only political solution to the country’s conflict with the Palestinians is to abolish the Jewish state.

The success of When and How Was the Jewish People Invented? looks likely to be repeated around the world. A French edition, launched last month, is selling so fast that it has already had three print runs.

Translations are under way into a dozen languages, including Arabic and English. But he predicted a rough ride from the pro-Israel lobby when the book is launched by his English publisher, Verso, in the United States next year.

In contrast, he said Israelis had been, if not exactly supportive, at least curious about his argument. Tom Segev, one of the country’s leading journalists, has called the book “fascinating and challenging”.

Surprisingly, Dr Sand said, most of his academic colleagues in Israel have shied away from tackling his arguments. One exception is Israel Bartal, a professor of Jewish history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Writing in Haaretz, the Israeli daily newspaper, Dr Bartal made little effort to rebut Dr Sand’s claims. Paradoxically, he dedicated much of his article instead to defending his profession. He suggested that Israeli historians were not as ignorant about the invented nature of Jewish history as Dr Sand contends.

The idea for the book had come to him many years ago, Dr Sand said, but he waited until recently to start working on it. “I cannot claim to be particularly courageous in publishing the book now,” he said. “I waited until I was a full professor. There is a price to be paid in Israeli academia for expressing views of this sort.”

Dr Sand’s main argument is that until little more than a century ago, Jews thought of themselves as Jews only because they shared a common religion. At the turn of the 20th century, he said, Zionist Jews challenged this idea and started creating a national history by inventing the idea that Jews existed as a people separate from their religion.

Equally, the modern Zionist idea of Jews being obligated to return from exile to the Promised Land was entirely alien to Judaism, he added.

“Zionism changed the idea of Jerusalem. Before, the holy places were seen as places to long for, not to be lived in. For 2,000 years Jews stayed away from Jerusalem not because they could not return but because their religion forbade them from returning until the messiah came.”

The biggest surprise during his research came when he started looking at the archaeological evidence from the biblical era.

“I was not raised as a Zionist, but like all other Israelis I took it for granted that the Jews were a people living in Judea and that they were exiled by the Romans in 70AD.

“But once I started looking at the evidence, I discovered that the kingdoms of David and Solomon were legends.

“Similarly with the exile. In fact, you can’t explain Jewishness without exile. But when I started to look for history books describing the events of this exile, I couldn’t find any. Not one.

“That was because the Romans did not exile people. In fact, Jews in Palestine were overwhelming peasants and all the evidence suggests they stayed on their lands.”

Instead, he believes an alternative theory is more plausible: the exile was a myth promoted by early Christians to recruit Jews to the new faith. “Christians wanted later generations of Jews to believe that their ancestors had been exiled as a punishment from God.”

So if there was no exile, how is it that so many Jews ended up scattered around the globe before the modern state of Israel began encouraging them to “return”?

Dr Sand said that, in the centuries immediately preceding and following the Christian era, Judaism was a proselytising religion, desperate for converts. “This is mentioned in the Roman literature of the time.”

Jews travelled to other regions seeking converts, particularly in Yemen and among the Berber tribes of North Africa. Centuries later, the people of the Khazar kingdom in what is today south Russia, would convert en masse to Judaism, becoming the genesis of the Ashkenazi Jews of central and eastern Europe.

Dr Sand pointed to the strange state of denial in which most Israelis live, noting that papers offered extensive coverage recently to the discovery of the capital of the Khazar kingdom next to the Caspian Sea.

Ynet, the website of Israel’s most popular newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, headlined the story: “Russian archaeologists find long-lost Jewish capital.” And yet none of the papers, he added, had considered the significance of this find to standard accounts of Jewish history.

One further question is prompted by Dr Sand’s account, as he himself notes: if most Jews never left the Holy Land, what became of them?

“It is not taught in Israeli schools but most of the early Zionist leaders, including David Ben Gurion [Israel’s first prime minister], believed that the Palestinians were the descendants of the area’s original Jews. They believed the Jews had later converted to Islam.”

Dr Sand attributed his colleagues’ reticence to engage with him to an implicit acknowledgement by many that the whole edifice of “Jewish history” taught at Israeli universities is built like a house of cards.

The problem with the teaching of history in Israel, Dr Sand said, dates to a decision in the 1930s to separate history into two disciplines: general history and Jewish history. Jewish history was assumed to need its own field of study because Jewish experience was considered unique.

“There’s no Jewish department of politics or sociology at the universities. Only history is taught in this way, and it has allowed specialists in Jewish history to live in a very insular and conservative world where they are not touched by modern developments in historical research.

“I’ve been criticised in Israel for writing about Jewish history when European history is my specialty. But a book like this needed a historian who is familiar with the standard concepts of historical inquiry used by academia in the rest of the world.”

Sunday, October 12, 2008


I just finished reading the news about riots and clashes between Arabs and Jews in Acre in Haaretz, the one Israeli paper that still attempts a modicum of balance in reporting on Arab/Palestinian issues. I have resisted cancelling my subscription as a reaction to the paper’s recent dropping of Amira Hass and demoting of Gideon Levy, the two main reasons for my subscription to start with. It is difficult in Israel to get a balanced picture of this inter-racial and interfaith blow-up, symbolic as it is of the entire Israeli-Palestinian and even of the whole Middle East strife

The clashes started on the eve of Yom Kippur –the Jewish Day of Atonement- and are continuing on for the fourth day. Acre is our regional administrative center and my old stomping ground as a government official. It is a half-hour’s car drive from my home and once, in an emergency, I even covered the distance in eighteen minutes flat.

Before the Nakba my maternal grandmother and two aunts lived in Akka (Arabic for Acre) and it was usual for people to travel there on horseback or, more commonly, on the back of a donkey. My grandmother would come to visit us in our village, Arrabeh, and surprise us with a variety of presents: candies for the young and silk kerchiefs for the adults. For my mother she brought the special gift of a piece of red rubber sheeting fashioned out of the inner tube of a car tire. The wooden cot my mother used for her babies was the envy of the village womenfolk for the rubber sheet that protected it from soiling. My grandmother, Sitti Rahmi (Grandma Mercy) we called her, pulled rank over her village hosts and would bring her own personal supplies and utensils with her including a lot of snuff and a private ‘sharbi’ or small ceramic water jug. If anyone drank from it she would smash it on the spot and demand a replacement. My sisters, all afflicted by housecleaning obsession despite their rheumatoid arthritis, blame both on genes from Sitti Rahmi. My influential uncle Salih, the head of our clan, had a second home with a second wife in Akka where he hobnobbed with the city’s effendis. On occasion he would come back with a camel load of Jaffa Oranges for his extended family here and we, the favored children, would get the special treat of a link of fresh sugarcane to suck on. Akka was truly our capital city.

Then my grandmother passed away and after her uncle Salih and then the whole country, Akka included, went to the dogs and my aunts became refugees in Lebanon.

The Zionists came along and cleansed Acre of its original residents and replaced them with Jewish immigrants, housing some in existing Arab homes and building for others public housing in new neighborhoods that fanned east and north from the ancient walled city. Some of the new housing projects replaced the former Arab Manshieh neighborhood better known formerly as New Acre or ‘Akka el-Jadideh’. The old walled city became the refuge for internally displaced Palestinians, squatters from neighboring destroyed villages, with a smattering of original residents who dared stay put. As in other cities such as Jaffa, Lidd, Ramla and Haifa, the system of the new state lacked the administrative capacity to stop their influx. Initially, most were tolerated by the official new owner of all Palestinian ‘abandoned’ property, the Custodian of Absentee Property. It failed to penetrate the emerging solidarity and minimal cohesion among the new Palestinian social collective in such cities. Left with no leadership but prodded on by need and fear this rabble held together against the pressure brought to bear on them by Amidar, the Israeli government housing enterprise that was accorded responsibility for emptied Palestinian homes by the Custodian of Absentee Property. Amidar’s first responsibility, of course, was to house and nurture newcomers, the self-engendered flood of Jewish immigrants.

By the time I broke on the scene in Acre again, two and a half decades later, as the sub-district’s medical officer in charge of the population’s medical services and health, a movement was in full swing to drive the residents of old Acre out to the neighboring villages of Jdaideh and Makir, both already overwhelmed by the 1948 influx of refugees from destroyed neighboring villages, famous among which is el-Birweh, the destroyed village of the late poet of Palestinian resistance, Mahmoud Darwish. A two-pronged justification was offered for the attempted second forced evacuation of those unwelcome ‘squatters’: The old city with its rich Crusader and Ottoman archeological treasures was a perfect site for development as a tourist attraction. The very same attribute, the cultural and physical seclusion of those dark dungeons of old, had rendered them the perfect hideaway for drug dealers and addicts. Old Acre then ranked even ahead of old Jaffa as the capital of drugs and sex trade. I was marginally involved in all of this in a couple of ways: One of my predecessors at the Acre Ministry of Health office was killed and another left paraplegic, the outcome of an attack by drug dealers. And on a couple of occasions I had to lean on my head sanitary engineer to declare specific residences of Arabs in the old city fit for occupation contrary to the wishes of the city engineer and the Acre Development Authority. The residents were denied the needed permits to repair the roofs over their heads. If a house was found to be in danger of collapse or in such a state of squalor that it was not fit for human inhabitance, the only option they were offered was to move out. The majority never moved out; no major calamities were recorded; Acre still struggles to sell itself as a tourist attraction; drugs are still plentiful on the streets of old Acre and have spread to new neighborhoods; and I was dismissed long ago from my position with the MOH for meddlesome activism.

As in other mixed cities, some better off young Arab couples have found their way to residences in the new, originally exclusively Jewish, neighborhoods. The rare Arab worker in the government offices in Acre was often made the attractive offered of subsidized housing in these new neighborhoods, specifically in the proudly anointed project of coexistence in the Wolfson neighborhood, Shkhonat Wolfson. Even the Ford Foundation invested in this ambitious project at one point. I remember turning down the offer of subsidized housing there along with that of a handgun for my personal protection. Both Wolfson and Akko Tzafon (North Acre Neighborhood) have been thoroughly infiltrated by Palestinian residents. Even now, sixteen years after my exile from my office in acre, I can claim half a dozen Arab friends there: two doctors, a lawyer, a nurse, a teacher and an income tax big boss.

Interracial trouble has been brewing in these mixed quarters from the start. The embers are kept live mainly by religious fanaticism: On the Arab side the young are increasingly turning to religion as is usual for members of deprived communities. On the Jewish side the fires of extremism have been further fanned by the recent arrival of a band of hardened settlers relocated from the evacuated settlements of Gaza. A religious study cum army service center has been established for and by them in Wolfson. A while back trouble started over their objection to the Arab Moslems’ broadcasting their calls for prayer on their mosque’s loudspeaker during the holy month of Ramadan. Violence broke out and a movement was set afoot for cleansing Acre as a Jewish city of its Arabs, as if that were new. Now clashes ensued over the ‘right’ of observant Jews to enforce a total ban, for Jews and Goys alike, on vehicle movement on the Day of Atonement. That is how they have internalized the meaning of the ‘Jewish and democratic’ state. And the young man at the center of the clash is accused of even smoking openly on the street and having his car radio on. “How come their youth were running around our neighborhoods drinking beer and making out in the open during Ramadan?” a young Moslem protested.

And now, as I write this, I receive an email in Hebrew calling for a total boycott of all Arabs. It declares: “A Jew is a descendant of kings. An Arab is a descendant of dogs.” It further calls for a mob to gather at a specific location after sundown assuring all that a group of 300 settlers will be arriving to lead the crowd. It ends with an online survey that shows 63% of respondents favoring attacking/finishing-off Arabs. Here is the link if you read Hebrew: And finally, the annual Acre Alternative Theater Festival, one of the most significant art happenings in Israel, held annually during the Jewish Sukkoth holiday, has been cancelled. Gideon Levy opines: “To all, it was clear that Mayor Shimon Lankri's hasty decision to cancel the festival had one purpose, and one only: to punish the Arabs who earn their living from the event.” []

It is reported that a police source noted that violence between Jews and Arabs stems from gaps in infrastructure and services between the two communities, and is the responsibility of the state but often lands in the “police emergency room.” This is reminiscent of the conclusion reached by the Or Investigative Committee appointed by the government to look into the killing in 2000 of 13 Palestinian unarmed youth, 12 of whom were citizens of Israel, by the police. The conclusion was understood by the police as exonerating them. Their Department of Internal Investigations, Mahash, closed the file with the excuse that it was too late to gather evidence. 29 more Palestinian citizens of Israel have been shot dead by Israeli security forces since then and in most if not all such cases the murderers were exonerated. In the entire history of the state no Jew has ever been killed by the security forces in quelling a demonstration. And the Jewish citizens of Israel have always demonstrated big time. Adalah, (visit is busy educating itself, the local Palestinian leadership, and the families of the dead youth on the experiences of other disadvantaged groups who suffered from state-sponsored crimes against them in modern times such as in Northern Ireland and South Africa.

The killing of six Palestinian unarmed youth on March 30, 1976 by Israeli security forces under the direct oversight of both Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, to stop us from striking for one day against the stealing of our land, was committed in an era when we lacked the human rights acumen and political civil society savvy to do anything beyond consecrating the day as Land Day, commemorated ever since by all Palestinians. And two decades before, in the village of Kufur Qasim, scores of villagers returning from their fields were summarily executed for breaking a curfew that was announced after they had left their homes. The scapegoat Israeli officer, Shadmi was his name, was found guilty and fined one cent.

Listening to the news from Acre yesterday I was struck by two things: First, both Jews and Arabs in Acre accused the other side of committing a pogrom against them. Notice though that both sides use a term that subconsciously evokes sympathy for the Jewish people. Even when we accuse our Jewish counterparts, we use their terminology; we are accepting their definition of terms, their rules of the game. Second, I noted that every adult in my circle of a dozen radio listeners could recount an incident in which he or she was attacked by stone-throwing Jewish youth on Yom Kippur or on the day of Sabbath in one location or another. It is a wonder riots haven’t broken out before in every mixed city. The only explanation I can think off is the degree of submissiveness we, the Palestinian citizens of Israel, have learned to accept and practice. It is way past coexistence and several steps beyond tolerance, meekness at its best. This begs the question of why in Acre and why now? Here is my guess:

Akkawis -Acre Arab residents- are known in the Galilee for their chip-on-the-shoulder demeanor and contentious uppity ways. This is part of the city’s heritage of old. Acre’s residents have an oft repeated motto: “Ya khouf Akka min hdeer el-bahar – the Mediterranean is no threat to Acre.” And Napoleon camped outside its walls for a long time before giving up and lobbing-in his hat fitted on a cannonball so as to claim a symbolic victory. I remember my father telling the story from his younger days, long before Zionism messed up the place, about a fat woman, properly outfitted for a stroll on the Korneesh, Acre’s stylish seaside promenade, who slipped and fell flat on her butt on the stone pavement. He rushed to offer his help and got a proper scolding: “Get away from me you scrawny fellah! You couldn’t lift me up if you tried! And a fellah like you would have fallen flat on his face not landed safely in a sitting position like me.” He had to swallow his pride and move on.

A story is told in Galilee about the first pilgrim from Acre in recent times to gain permission to visit the holy sites in Saudi Arabia. As he entered the mosque in Medina where the prophet Mohammad is buried, he is reported to have casually addressed the prophet using the diminutive form of the addressee’s name the way Acre adults do in talking to their children: “Eishak Hammudi –How goes it my boy!” he is reported to have shouted from the door over the heads of thousands of pious supplicants. Akkawis are also known for sneering at people loudly for the slightest mistake. For any minor irritation a father would encourage his child to snicker at the offender by making the sound one makes in imitating a pig, a combined expression of disapproval, disdain, and challenge: “Ishkharlo ya walad!”

Now you understand why a Palestinian young man from Acre would dare to stand up to a bunch of Jewish youth throwing stones at his car.

I personally have never dared drive on the High Holiday of the Jews. I don’t smoke but I eat secretly at home.

Ishkharlo ya walad!