Palestinian activist Nariman Tamimi (left) and Rana Hamadah sit for the verdict during their trial at Israel's Ofer military court near the West Bank city of Ramallah on July 9, 2013. An Israeli military court formally charged the two Palestinian women for their involvement in a peaceful demonstration in Nabi Saleh last month. (photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
It is Friday morning. I leaf through the weekly Haaretz Magazine and feel deeply discomforted. It is that unfocused panicky feeling that is hard to pin down to any single source. I try to make sense of my state of mind. I study Tal Niv’s one-page article entitled ‘Facing the Future.’ The young woman on the right side of the photo on top of the page with her thick black hair ‘cascading across her shoulder’ catches my attention. I scan the page for her story and think I’ve discovered the cause of my discomfort: She is accused, among other things ‘of interfering with a soldier … by moving her hands when the security forces tried to handcuff her.’ The specific detail disturbs me. A human rights worker recorded the event on video and it so happens that the same human rights worker later gets shot at close range with a rubber coated metal bullet. Could this ‘coincidence’ be the cause of my worry?
Totally out of the clear blue sky I want to run up the hill and check on one of my many cousins. We were classmates in the village school and, like all Palestinian kids, we competed in throwing stones at immobile objects or quails and rabbits in the fields. He bettered me every time. He was born with what I came later to know in my medical profession as a mild ‘varus deformity’ of the wrist joint of the right arm, an inward turn of the palm of the hand at such an angle and in such a manner that he had an advantage in holding and in throwing stones. There must be a law in Israel, or perhaps an amendment of the Anti-terror Ordinance from the British Mandate era that makes this advantageous anatomical variation illegal, I now think in my panicked mind. But then, how serious can such an offense be. Judging by the frequency of my being “randomly selected” for strip searches at airports, all Palestinians must have a mysterious identifying physical variation of the normal that renders them suspect. It sure is enough to instill doubt in one’s mind of the normality of his or her physical mold if not in the competence of Him who invented the faulty design.
I run away from the paper and take refuge in the morning routine of shaving and showering. The image in the mirror glares back at me ferociously: “Face up to your guilt,” the unshaven, red-eyed, dark face glowers at me from behind the mirror.
“What guilt?” I object. “I haven’t done anything wrong. I spent the whole night in bed. Ask my wife.”
“Identify the deep roots of your fears and you can shed away this undetermined sense of anxiety,” the doctor in me says from behind the glass. “Take courage. Go back to that page you looked at. Study the article closely and you will figure out what is really bothering you.”
“But I didn’t even read the whole article,” I try to wiggle out of responsibility for my sense of discomfort. “You can’t hold me accountable for the hidden nuances of the whole thing.”
“But you are. Go back and look at the article word for word. Let your mind roam while your eyes focus on each word. Let me know how you feel when you are finished.”
“No way! And look now what you made me do! Two cuts!”
“It is your bum skin. The blade must have hit a pimple or something.’
“You can’t blame it on pimples,” I object. “I haven’t had one for half a century. I am long past the stage where my testosterone flow is sufficient to raise a pimple or much of anything else for that matter.”
“Oh, just shut up and do what I say or else you will not be able to sleep tonight.”
I hate insomnia. I go out with blood-soaked patches of toilet paper hanging from my jowls and grab the magazine. The photo at the top of the page I looked at earlier is enough to explain everything, I am sure: I look at the two women in it and I know I am a partner in their crime, a Palestinian like them. They both were caught ‘entering a closed military zone.’ What does that mean? ‘Every square millimeter of Area C (under full Israeli control) can be declared a closed area at any moment, even on a person’s own land, even around his house, even around the person himself if necessary.
I sit up straight in my chair and prepare to argue with the older women, the more ‘battle-hardened’ of the two. When the battle rages around your identity, then the older you are the more battle-hardened you are.
“Even if they declared your village, Nabi Saleh, a closed military zone while you were already there, you must have heard the declaration,” I tell the stoic more mature woman looking straight at me in total denial of her crime. She is a tricky sort of fighter, using the worst type of deviance in the war manual, disguise. ‘Her eyes are flicked with amber,’ a desperate attempt to pass for European. But whom is she fooling? No one with Tamimi for a last name can pass herself for Ashkenazi. I am not fooled by the camouflage.
“The 49 killed in Kafr Qasim in 1956 were in their fields,” I explain. “They were out of earshot from their village when the curfew was declared. Shadmi and his soldiers executed them for the crime they had committed of being in their fields and not waiting at home to hear the announcement of the curfew. There is a difference, even if infinitely fine, between the two cases.”
The stoic woman looks back at me from the page in total tranquility. She mocks me.
“For that alone you deserve a month or two in jail,” I tell her in the common telepathic mode of communication that all of us Palestinians share. “Israel is at its wit’s end with all your lawlessness. There is hardly enough cells in our prisons for all of you.”
I am going berserk with anxiety. My very identity is up for grabs. Who am I?
“Not to worry,” Tamimi answers in total silence. “Build more prisons and the USA will foot the bill.”
She goes on to remind me of what she told me the last time we met in Ramallah, that the USA had covered the expenses of added checkpoints erected between Jerusalem and Ramallah to relieve the massive pressure on the Qalandia checkpoint. Since this was done to reduce the time the Palestinians spent being entertained by Israaeli soldiers at the border, it was charged to the PNA’s American aid bill.
But the woman is lying. I never met her before. Oh, yes, I have met other Tamimi’s.
Here, in a sudden flash, like an epiphany, I think I finally realize the source of my anxiety.
“Yes, I met a Tamimi or two the day before yesterday,” I admit to my interrogator as I slump my head in the Murga position in which I have been held for hours in my cell.
“A Tamimi, you admit?” the interrogator dressed in casual genes, his handgun stuck casually under his belt.
“But he is the safe type,” I gasp with what little breath is left in my collapsed lungs, the pain in my broken ribs nearly killing me. “He is a retired professor in an American university. In fact, he still lives there. He is safe!”
“But a Tamimi nevertheless! And we know he left some stuff with you. Admit it. What did he give you? Spit it out. For your own safety. We want to save you from a violent death.”
“My God!” I gasp realizing the trick my presumed friend had played on me. He gave me a necktie, obviously booby-trapped. Once we shared an apartment as students at the University of Hawaii. He knows I like to wear my ties tight. As I pull at it for the last extra centimeter of length it will blow up severing my head off of my body. I look at the two women in the picture and they return my gaze absolutely unmoved by my suffering.
“The Tamimis are all cruel,” the interrogator reaffirms my suspicion. “That is why we sympathize with Baruch Goldstein for trying to mow down as many of them as he found in the Ibrahimi Mosque that morning.”
“Were all 29 of them Tamimi’s?” my severed head on the ground asks.
“Not necessarily,” the Shin Bet man answers kicking the head with his boot. “But the Tamimis are the worst bunch. They lay claim to the whole city of Hebron, the burial ground of our forefathers.”
That brings it all to a luminous point of clarity, closes the circle for my culpability with the Tamimis in their collective sin from birth. In fact I am right in the middle of a book about the Tamimis that I have read to sleep the last two nights. It is written by Dr. Nader Tamimi who has collected historical documents about the known fact that the prophet Mohammad, God’s blessings be upon him, had gifted Hebron and its environs to Tamim Aldari, the father of all the Tamimis in the Middle East, upon the latter’s conversion from Christianity to Islam in the 9th year of the Islamic calendar.
“But the prophet didn’t rule Palestine,” I argue with the Tamimi woman on the page. “Palestine fell under Moslem rule only years later, during the rule of Caliph Omar.”
“True,” the woman answered with confidence unbecoming of a woman, much less a Palestinian Moslem woman. My God! What happened to common decency and the proper order of the universe! “The gift was made on the expectation and full confidence that it will fall to the Moslems later on. The prophet knew what was coming.”
She is right. I have read the account many times over in the book I now keep next to my bed. The prophet also knew that a day would come when non-Moslems would contest his gift. So he was sure to make it valid in perpetuity to the Tamimi heirs. And he saw to it that the deed was recorded on a piece of leather from the cover of his cousin Ali’s shoe and that a group of reputable contemporaries of his attested to its validity with their signatures. I have read the same account with minor variations related by various historians from the era when Arabs were the victors and wrote their own history. In fact I read so many versions in the Tamimi book with minimal changes that I have decided to keep the book on my nightstand as the perfect recipe for the induction of instantaneous sleep. Every time I wake up I open the book to one of the dozens of accounts, read the first sentence then recite the rest of the mantra mainly in the dream phase:
“In the name of God the merciful the compassionate. This is what Mohammad the prophet gave to Tamim and his brothers: Hebron, Martom, Beit Inon, Beit Ibrahim and all that is in it, a final gift to share between them, implemented and handed over to them and to their descendants. He who harms them God will harm; he who harms them will be God-damned.”
Three caliphs are among the witnesses including Ali who wrote it. That means all Moslems, Sunnis and Shias alike, are behind the Tamimi’s claim to Hebron and its environs. That must be sickening to Zionist Israelis. Turning this all in my head, I am emboldened to take on my cruel interrogators: They have put a noose around my neck to force me to recant. But I will not. I goad them, all three who have been taking turns in torturing me, to come close to me pretending that I want to confess to them. Then, as they move closer to me, with all my reserve of strength, with all my inspired convictions, with all my love for my Tamimi friends, with the imagined moral support of all 1.3 billion Moslems in the world, I jerk my neck back violently exploding that booby-trapped tie around my neck and blowing my tormenters to smithereens.
I open my eyes and the two women in the picture smile at me.