Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Tipping Point

Silly thoughts come and go. That is why we call them passing thoughts. But some silly thoughts come out of the blue and stay. How can one fall asleep with such a heavy responsibility weighing on his mind? Alan Robock and Paul Jay on the Real News Network convinced me that a disaster of the size I foresee is sure to lead to a global nuclear winter so severe that even my roommates, the cockroaches, cannot survive it.

It all started with a silly friend from Hawaii asking a silly question from me as his sole source of expert information on Middle East issues: “Supposing your dream of a single state west of the Jordan River with real democracy and equality for all its current residents were to come true, who then will be in charge of Israel’s nuclear weapons? Can a half Arab state be trusted with such lethal arsenal?”
The guy is back in The Hawaiian Islands luxuriating, no doubt, at the warm sands of a secluded cove in the shade of a palm tree. While he is being soothed into a heavenly repose by a curvaceous Hula dancer swaying in synch to the lull of ocean waves, I am tortured by acute insomnia because of his casual question, flung at me as if it were the most natural of elemental thoughts based on absolute and undisputable assumptions: Israel has a couple of hundred megaton nuclear bombs; Israelis are trust-worthy and know how to handle dangerous explosives, whether nuclear or Arab in nature; Arabs are curious, witness how they always touch freshly painted surfaces to verify the validity of a sign saying “Wet Paint;” Arabs are likely to mess around with any new toy that they receive; And equality and democracy, especially if purveyed by America and its allies, will be dumped in one lumpsum on the waiting Middle East masses, witness how they did it in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in Libya and how forcefully they are trying to shove it whole down the parched throats of the Syrians.

For the benefit of the less informed reader, let me here enlighten you with some basic facts about myself so that we establish the ground rules of this discourse: I am conscientious about my responsibilities to a degree some call anal; I am so boringly punctilious, reliable and trustworthy it is sickening; and I lack curiosity and personal initiative to such a degree that if my wife were to point me north and say: “Go;” I would reach the North Pole before I stop regardless of distractions. I am good at math and science generally: In my college days I read Scientific American for over two years free of charge by changing my name and address every time the free trial period ran out. I now do Sudoku on daily basis. And I speak Hebrew. And, now that I am retired, I have all the time in the world on my hands. Hence my volunteering my services to take over responsibility for Israel’s nuclear program the moment the dream one state solution of Israstine comes to pass. Mind you, this would also serve to resolve another basic conflicted issue for me, that of serving in Israel’s armed forces or national service so that I can qualify for all the perks Israel grants the families of its Jewish veterans, the underlying cause for our Palestinian families in Israel sinking below the poverty line some six folds the rate of Jewish families.

I may blame my Hawaiian friend for the acute onset of my current insomnia and high state of preparedness for the coming crisis. But the first rumblings of anxiety about the prospect of a nuclear mess on the heel of any peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict has been with me for a while now. Nearly a decade ago when the late Mu’aamar Kaddafi proposed the name Israstine I was so charmed by the prospect of peace materializing overnight that I sought out Mordechai Vanunu and sized him up as my technical advisor once I would assume my responsibilities in my soon-to-come position. And not much later, when president Obama came on board as the new member of the clique of nuclear power brokers I sought to establish a relationship with him through the backdoor. One learns to be discreet in such matters. So when I wrote him I didn’t bring up the core issue of our new relationship. I simply mentioned that his late parents and I attended the University of Hawaii during the same period. And I alluded to the edgy state of affairs in Israstine as a mere hint of what I aimed at. He didn’t respond to my letter directly. I guess he is even more discrete on the nuclear issue than I am. Still, in a most subtle and indirect manner I must admit that I can pick up finely coded secret messages directed at me in every major speech he makes. I am fully aware of his own awareness of my positive vibes to him in response. I must admit I had similar telepathic bidirectional communications with the late Kaddafi and with Saddam Husain before their heroic martyrdom. But one has to be very subtle with nuclear issues. It is akin to the very nature of the animal we all are involved in taming: It has to be handled with utmost secrecy and intelligent care. That is why no one in my village knows any of this except the sheik of our mosque. He wanted me to share the information with the nuclear adviser cleric of Morsi of Egypt. But the guy went underground, figuratively and literally speaking.

 And my friend basking in the Hawaiian sun, his tanned skin cooled by the spray of the Pacific surf, doesn’t know how much I worry about him. For, if the nuclear genie ever gets out of the bottle, the very sand he now sprawls on will fry his skin crisp, believe me. That was why I started the conversation with him in the reassuring manner that I did. I didn’t want him to worry. I shared with him a couple of recent events and let him reach his own conclusions. That was how he came to ask me the rhetorical question about the fate of Israel’s nuclear weapons with the advent of the impending peace and unity of all the Semites in the Middle East: First I told him about my visceral reaction when I first received an invitation to a gala event held at a plush venue in New York under the code name “The Tipping Point”. The shock impact of what that title really meant came only with the evening’s MC’s explanation. I had assumed that the term referred to the Tipping Point over which I was boiling with excitement, the one Israeli Zionist leaders had set for us, the Palestinian citizens of Israel as the level at which we would become an existential threat to Israel. I knew that Israel’s founding father and first Prime Minister, the late David Ben-Gurion (Hold your horses now! If Saddam and Kaddafi rate the genteel courtesy, then he does too, at least when one is writing in English. In Arabic you can use whatever expletive your heart desires. No one reads it anyway.) had set the demographic red line at 15% of Israel’s total population. Then came the late Yitzhak Rabin (ditto!) and raised that Tipping Point to 20%. He was a gentler and kinder sort of leader, we all know. In dealing with stone-throwing Palestinian children in the First Intifada he issued an order to break their bones. Others have since simplified that to “shoot to kill” even when the kids are running after soccer balls.

Few outside our community, we the Palestinian citizens of Israel, can appreciate the thrill that the terminology used by such leaders to describe our “demographic threat” causes us. I take such hyperbole personally. When they call my reproductive biology “the demographic ticking bomb” and assign it the same level of explosiveness as the Iranian nuclear bomb, both being called an “existential threat” to Israel, I get so excited I blush. From there the jump is easy to an imagined private party with araq, mezza and music to which my wife and I dance till we reach the axiomatic “Tipping Point.”

Exhilarating, isn’t it? Alas, it turns out that when the folks at the gala dinner talked about ‘The Tipping Point” they had something altogether different in mind. They were alluding to the impending switch in the misinformed American public opinion from its recent near consensus that Arafat was the leader of the Amalikites who marched against the peaceful kingdom of Judea and Samaria to where the “average American housewife” will now start to recognize Palestine as a different place from Pakistan. In actual fact I came out of that event convinced that indeed, we are at the cusp of a public relations feat that promises to turn the tide against Zionist Hasbarah worldwide, thanks to the BDS campaign and to its innumerable allies not least the hosts at the gala event. The implicit Tipping Point in public awareness internationally in recognizing the historical injustice done to the Palestinians is indeed fast approaching. When even the American Secretary of State uses the “A” word in reference to Israel, seismologists have to take notice.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Ramblings of a Conspiracy Theorist

When your children let you in on their secret plan for a surprise party for your wife’s seventieth birthday and you remember that you are seven years her senior, a ‘senior moment’ should not come as a major surprise. Still I panicked.

A friend had dragged me kicking into a conference on international health and justice that a friend of hers was organizing in Canada. I had a basic concept that I had mulled in my mind for a long time: to look at the health of the Palestinian citizens of Israel from the critical angle of equality and human rights. I submitted an abstract and received an encouraging response from the organizers. Then I realized that the conference coincided with my wife’s birthday. I apologized to my friend intending to withdraw my paper. She came back with a counter proposal: Let us do that through Skype. I agreed and submitted the full paper. The organizers came back to me asking for a photo and a brief bio. I submitted those and received further encouragement. Then communications ceased. I wrote an email to the technical expert in charge of the Skype linkage asking for technical assistance. No response. I started feeling uncomfortable.

The morning of the opening day of the three-day conference I woke up at dawn in our Lower Manhattan rented studio apartment sweating from a nightmare whose details I couldn’t remember except that a crowd was shouting me down for something I had said. I went to the kitchen to prepare my morning kick-start cup of instant coffee in hot milk. When I reached for the coffee container I couldn’t find the spoon that I was sure I had taken out of the silverware drawer. I spinned around looking for it when I realized that I was holding it in my hand all the time. I scooped a heaping of freeze-dried coffee from the container to find two cups of milk on the countertop, not one. My wife must have mistakenly left a full cup on the counter before she went to sleep, I thought. But both cups were equally cold. I poured one back in the milk container. I needed to run a reality check: I walked over to my desk to see if I had already placed my standard morning anise-flavored biscotti (our rented studio is just west of Little Italy) on a paper towel by my laptop to savor with my first morning coffee. I felt reassured not to find any. I rubbed my hand over my face: No, I hadn’t shaved yet. I regained my composure and didn’t start crying. With age we all become emotionally labile. I heated my cup of coffee and sat down to check my email. No response from my technical contact at the conference. I wrote a panicked alert to the dozen different people with whom I had been in touch about the conference including the friend who had lured me to this trap in the first place: “Help! I am being ignored.”

I didn’t share with anyone the familiar feeling that had started sneaking into my mind: I seemed to remember the name of one of the conference organizers as that of one of my former bosses at the head office of the Ministry of Health in Jerusalem. Could he have thrown a monkey wrench in the works, I wondered? Am I being intentionally sabotaged? Could the Mossad have laced something I ate or drank with a mind-altering drug? Is their reach that extensive? Had they infiltrated the Canadian public health field? Or is this Canadian-Israeli doctor acting on his own initiative to deny me a voice in this international forum? Might he volunteer to inform the Israeli embassy on my seditious thoughts and pronouncements expressed in my paper? And what consequences might this behind the scenes cat-and-mouse game have for me as I land at the airport in Israel? Should I already take the preemptive step of turning to the press with my story? During my public health career back home I had always avoided lurking in the shadows. My policy was to stay in the limelight: The moment I found out that my phone at the office was bugged and the few times that the Shin Bet sought to enlist my services I announced the information immediately to the local press. Would the New York Times publish my story if I went public with it? I should give Jonathan Cook, my international journalist friend a call. Or would it be wiser to wait till the conference was over and the Israeli thought police made their first move? Wouldn’t that be already too late? The NYT is sure to abide by Israel’s gag order on the matter once they put me behind bars. How can I communicate my plight to anyone from within my cell? I was extremely uncomfortable scrunched in the corner of the bare-walled constantly brightly lit 10x4-foot windowless cell. Perhaps if I lurch back with all my strength I could manage to tip the low wooden stool to which my feet and wrists are bound backwards and I would end up with my torso leaning against the wall to relieve the pain in my lower back from all the hours I had spent in this same position. I glance back first to the right then to the left to gage the distance from the corner: I can’t see that corner clearly. I probably would get jammed in some contorted position between the stool and the wall with my neck flexed at some ungodly angle till I suffocate. They surely have calculated that to the millimeter. And if I were to choke to death in that position, it would be another Palestinian prisoner suicide by hanging. Logical, isn’t it? Or a heart attack. Or whatever. That is never a big deal. Palestinians are in the habit of dying in and out of jail. What I really cannot take is the prospect of the postmortem at Abu-Kabier with those jerks making their sick jokes as they put away whole organs for future experimentation or for export. I have heard rumors about my colleague who headed the Forensic Pathology Laboratory trading in human organs for years. If he is still there I don’t want him to touch my corpse. I detest the guy!

Oh, boy! How did I get into this mess? I have been held incommunicado forever, it seems. I have no idea how long ago all of this started. I don’t even know if it is day or night. How can I reach anyone? My wife knows I love her too much to do this to her on her birthday. Damn if I am not confused! I need to let her know. The only way is to send her a message directly from my mind to hers. There is a name for that. But I can’t remember it. I can’t remember a thing. Not even her full maiden name. They must have drugged me, tampered with my mind. I shouldn’t have eaten that foul-tasting porridge but after starving me for so long they must have known that I couldn’t resist. I open my eyes wide and concentrate on messaging my wife by telepathy. Yes, that is its name, telepathy! I focus every last ion in my entire body on emitting the thought of my current state and location through to her mind. It flashes back off the bare wall nearly blinding my eyes.

The loud clanking of the lock on the metal door to my cell makes me jump further injuring my wrists and ankles. A new face I haven’t seen before: full Ashkenazi features with double chin and redundant fat folds over his eyebrows and along the sides of his cheeks. He growls and I say in total silence: “Easy, boy! Bulldogs aren’t my favorite.”
He swings his five-pound open right hand across and catches my left cheek squarely with full force. I spit out the blood straight in his face.
“Oh that is how you want to play this game, hah?”
He takes out a handkerchief from his pants back pocket and meticulously wipes his face clean. Then he places the palm of his hand on my face, as if sizing it up. I stiffen uncontrollably in anticipation of what will follow. That sends a lightening-like spasm down my left sciatic nerve that had started acting up again since they put me in the contorted shabih position. Mr. Bulldog ends his malicious patting of my cheek with grabbing the end of my moustache and giving it a sudden and violent tug. I curse under my breath. He flicks the wad of hair he has ripped out on the urine soaked floor, steps with his boot on it and spews a frothy stream of saliva from between his tobacco-stained front teeth aimed first at my displaced moustache then at where it sat only minutes before.
“I spit on your honor,” he says stating the obvious. “I spit on all the Arab scum. I spit on your Mohammad!”
He then follows with the foulest expletives in the Arabic language directed at the female members of my immediate family.
“Vanity, thy name is Arab,” he ends his tirade chuckling mockingly. “Sprucing with expensive Argan hair oil from Morocco, no less.”
I heave out the last spoonful of yellow bilious stomach content. He throws a quick left hook at my jaw. This time the blood soils his boot. He steps back, looks at it and shakes his head in disappointment. He orders me to lick it clean at the same time that he delivers a professional soccer kick to the imagined ball lodged between my collarbone and lower jaw. I gasp for air, lose my wind and black out.

As I come to I am astounded with curiosity: I expected him to heap the foulest insults on my honor. But how the hell have they learned such minutiae about my grooming habits? I know such tricks of the Israeli investigative trade: They want me to believe that they are omniscient, that there is no use hiding anything from them, that I might as well give up and admit everything.
“Not me!” I reassure myself under my breath.
“But I have nothing to admit,” I declare in garbled thick Hebrew that he doesn’t understand.
He tries to extract out the words by ordering me to spit out the three teeth he had knocked from my lower jaw. I cannot talk. Instead I feign fainting again. He delivers a parting full force solid kick to my side. I swear I can feel my spleen burst. Or is it my liver? Or my empty stomach and intestines? I wish I had a free hand to palpate my abdomen and make a more objective clinical diagnosis. I go under again, this time for real.

As I regain consciousness a diminutive Sephardi man, the same Israeli Ministry of Health boss whose name on the Canadian conference website made me suspicious, is wiping the blood from my face with a rag and apologizing for how “that Ashkenazi brute” has messed up my face. I realize that he has unshackled my legs. I stretch them this way then that way,
“We are both public health physicians. We should come to an amicable understanding,” Mr. Nice Guy tells me. “We can speak in Arabic if you prefer. Let us see if we can get over this snag in communication.”
“What do you expect me to communicate to you?” I ask, not really sure I can make out my own slurred words.
“We know you have been sharing information with an enemy agent. And you used to throw stones at our soldiers. But that was a long time ago. We won’t bring that up unless you force us.”
“I did no such thing!” I object raising my voice.
“See? You are very antagonistic,” he says gently touching the sensitive skin of my missing moustache with the back of his index finger as a gesture of reconciliation.
“But I participated on Skype. I wasn’t there physically. How could I’ve met anyone?”
“One thing at a time, my friend,” he says with a knowing smile. “At the conference it is your words and strange thoughts we want to hear. You said a lot that you shouldn’t have. You accused your own country of genocide, of fascism and of apartheid even when you didn’t use the exact nasty terms. And you tried to back your misinterpretations of our goodwill with statistics that you used selectively.”
“I used only official figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics,” I declare indignantly.
“But you twisted them out of their original context. We both are learned enough to know how to lie with statistics, aren’t we?”
“Speak for yourself, Boss!”
“And we know you met an enemy agent at a party and he asked you for a contact in Galilee.”
“Is that all you have on me, you SOBs?”
“Cool it! You know who is in charge here,” Nice Guy says. Then he smiles kindly “If you have more, I am all ears.”
“But the guy is a Jewish gay peacenik,” I say in amazement. “How do you manage to turn him into an enemy agent?”
“But where were you sending him?” Nice Guy asks instead of answering me. “And with whom was he going to meet?”
“I wanted to arrange for him to meet a communist nephew of mine on the occasion of the commemoration of the Nakba in the ruins of Lubieh the ruined Palestinian village half way between Nazareth and Tiberius.”
“You are an educated man,” he says with a condescending tone of voice. “Think about it. You should be able to set your own limits. You know when you are becoming an existential threat to Israel by thought or deed.”
“Do me a favor,” I say ready for reconciliation. “Just out of curiosity, how did you people find about the hair oil I use?”
“That is a secret trick of the trade,” he says and comes close to whisper in my ear. “I’ll share it with you if you share some of your friends’ secrets with us.”
The SOB wants to smear my name, I think to myself. He wants me to commit suicide once I get out of here.

My wife plants a gentle kiss on the side of my forehead:
“This is not comfortable for you, Honey! What time did you get up to work? Why don’t you go lie in bed?”
I lift my head from the keyboard. I must have rolled my head back and forth several times. There are several lines of gibberish on the screen:

Zsxdcfvgbhnjm,.//.,mhngbf …