Thursday, January 21, 2021
رحل مؤخراً إلى جوار ربه صديقي وابن العم، لا بل والأخ القُدوة، السيد سليم إبراهيم كناعنة. وما كان مني إذ زرت عائلة الفقيد المباشرة مُعَزِّياً إلا أن عبرت عن غبطتي بما انجزه الفقيد في سنوات حياته الثمانية والثمانين، وزادني غبطة أنَّ ابنه المحامي أجابني عندما استفسرت عن حيثيات الوفاة بأن المرحوم قد توفي في بيته وبين أفراد عائلته الذين التفوا حوله واحتضنوه بما فيهم الأطباء الأربعة من بين أحفاده. لا أرى أنسب لإحياء ذكرى "ابو هشام" من أن أقتبس ما كنت قد كتبته عنه في مجموعة قصص نشرتها قبل ست سنوات باللغة الإنجليزية بهدف تعريف العالم على قريتنا الجليلية، عرابة البطوف، وعلى مجتمعنا الأوسع، نحن فلسطينيي الداخل بمُجمَل آلامنا وآمالنا وصراعنا من أجل البقاء. هذا وقد قامت الأخت سوسن كردوش قسيس بترجمة هذا الكتاب الى اللغة العربية، كما وأشرف د. مصلح كناعنه على تنقيحه وتعديله لغويا بهدف إصداره بصيغته هذه وبعنوان "الوجع الدفين" عن دار النشر "سند" في الأشهر القريبة. هذا ويتصف أسلوب السرد الذي انتهجتُه أنا في هذا الكتاب بدمج الخيال المبتكر بالواقع الحقيقي بحيث أني أضفت أحيانا بعض الأحداث واستحدثتُ بعض الأقوال من أجل الوصول إلى صورة تليق بموضوع سردي الجاري. ولذا فإن ما أقتبسه هنا حول فقيدنا الموقر، ما هو الا تعبير عن الصورة التي اكتملت في ذهني عن المرحوم، ومن هنا مناسبتها للنشر على الملأ إجلالاً وإكراماً لفقيدنا طيب الذكر "أبو هشام". اليكم بعض المقتطفات من القصة بعنوان "فقدان حاسة السمع": "لا شك أنَّ ابن عمّي سليم هو أحد المسنّين الأرجح عقلاً في قريتنا عرّابة. ولقد تقاعد سليم منذ سنوات، تاركاً منجرته لأبنائه الذين نجحوا منذ ذلك الحين في زيادة عدد المناجر التي يمتلكونها في القرية حتى وصل إلى أربعٍ مناجر، بينما عاد سليم نفسه ليفلح ما تبقّى له من أرضٍ أجداده. وبالرغم من أنّ موضوع فلاحة الأرض لم يكُن يوماً شغلي انا الشاغل كمصدر للرزق، إلّا أن شغف سليم بأرضه والصراع الشاق والمناورات التي بذلها لكي يعتاش منها، تركت في نفسي أعمق الأثر. كما وساهم ما رأيته من نموّ متزايد في علاقة سليم الحميمة مع "أمّنا الأرض" في ازدياد قُربي منه. في بداية تقاعده وممارسته لهذه "الهواية"، وضع سليم خليّة نحل في حقله، معيداً بذلك عادة قديمة أخرى عرفَتها القرية وعلِقتْ في ذاكرته منذ أيام شبابه الأولى عندما كان يفلح الأرض مع والدَيْه الراحلين، وكانت تربية النحل تُعتبر قبل قيام إسرائيل مصدر رزق إضافيّ للفلاح الفلسطيني ضمن الزراعة التقليدية. ولطالما شعر الأقارب والأصدقاء، ومن ضمنهم أنا نفسي، بالامتنان العميق لسليم على الهدايا السخية التي كان يغدقها علينا من ذاك السائل الذهبيّ الشافي من كلّ عِلّة. ولقد اعتاد سليم أن يقوم بكل تلك الأعمال في فترة ما بعد الظهر، بينما خصّص ساعات الصباح لإعداد القهوة وساعات المساء للعب الورق والمنقلة مع من تجمّع في ديوانه من أصدقاء. ومع جدول أعمال مكثّف كهذا، لم يكُن لدى سليم وقت لمراجعة الأطباء. فقبل أن أتقاعد أنا بدوري وأتفرغ للبستنة والكتابة، كان سليم لا يحضر إلى عيادتي إلا كمرافق لزوجته لعلاج ما كان يلمُّ بها من أمراض طفيفة بين الحين والآخر. أمّا بالنسبة له، فقد دأب على تناول ملعقة من العسل وأخرى من زيت الزيتون كل صباح، مُستغنياً بذلك كُلّياً عن الأطباء ونصائحهم. وفي أحد الأيام جاءني سليم ليفحص حاسة سمعه الآخذة بالتراجع، وهو لم يفعل ذلك إلا انصياعاً لإلحاح زوجته. وحين اقترحتُ عليه استشارة أخصائي أنف-أذن-حنجرة، امتعض قائلاً: "إنّ فقدان السمع في عائلتنا هو جزء طبيعيّ من مظاهر الشيخوخة، وبالتالي ليس مرضاً ولا يحتاج إلى توجيهات طبيب." وهكذا عبّر سليم عن رضاه عن الوضع القائم، واحترمتُ أنا قراره. قدّم لي سليم في دفاعه عن نفسه حجّتين؛ الأولى تقول بأن معظم ما يدور على ألسنة أهل القرية هذه الأيام لا يستحق أن يُسمَع، والثانية تقول بأنه حتى وإن سُمِعت أقوال أهل القرية فإنها لا تستحق الإجابة أو التعليق. وهكذا تمكن سليم من تجاهُل معظم ما قيل بذريعة ضعف السمع، متجنّباً بذلك كل ما يمكن أن يعكّر مزاجه. ولقد أتاحت له حاسة السمع الانتقائية هذه فرصة التركيز على لعب الورق دون أن يأخذ تراجعها على محمل الجدّ، مُقارناً نفسه في ذلك بصديق راحل لوالده والذي كان في سنواته الأخيرة لا يسمع إلّا الدعوات لحضور الأفراح، فكان كلما تحدث إليه شخص يسأله بغض النظر عن موضوع الحديث: "عُرس مين اليوم؟" حدَث وأن احتجتُ مؤخرًا إلى التواصل مع شخص ما في "عيلبون" يمكنه أن يساعد مُصوِّراً قادماً لتسجيل فيلم عن المجزرة التي حدثت في تلك القرية عام 1948. وكنت أعلم أنّ لدى سليم ابن عمّي معارف من عائلة "زريق" يمكنني الاستعانة بهم، فهم مَن سَبَقَ وعرّفوه على عائلة كانت قد لجأت إلى عيلبون من قرية "حطّين" القريبة والتي دمّرتها إسرائيل آنذاك، ثم بعد حين أصبحت الصبية ابنة تلك العائلة زوجةً لسليم، وهي التي باتت تحمل كنية "أم هشام". ولذا، وبصفتي طبيب يزور أحد مرضاه السابقين، ذهبتُ يومها لزيارة ابن عمّي سليم بذريعة تقديم مشورة لم يطلبها منّي أحد حول ميزات السَّمّاعة الإلكترونية التي توضع في قناة الأذن، والتي كنت قد بدأت أنا نفسي باستخدامها في ذلك الحين. وفي معرض حديثنا، ذكر لي سليم أنّ سبب لجوء عائلة زوجته إلى عيلبون بالذات يعود لاعتبارات عمليّة، فالقريتان كانتا قريبتين من بعضهما جغرافيّاً، إلى جانب الجيرة الحسنة والعلاقة الطيبة بين عائلتها وعائلة زريق، ووجود كنيسة في عيلبون توفّر الأمان لمن يحتمي بها، فقد أشيع في قرى فلسطين عام 1948 أنّ قوات الهاچاناه (اليهودية) كانت تستثني الكنائس عند مهاجمتها واحتلالها للقرى، وذلك لاعتبارات تتعلّق بعدم إثارة غضب كلّ من الفاتيكان والعالم الغربي المسيحي. ثم علَّق سليم قائلاً: "لم يساعد هذا الأمر في الواقع، ولكن تلك قصه أخرى، وقد يحدّثك أصدقاؤنا من عائلة زريق عن الأمر برمّته." استفسرتُ أكثر عن علاقة سليم بعائلة زريق، فوجدتُ أنني وقعتُ على كنزٍ دفين فيه خليط من الحقيقة والخيال؛ ذكريات نضال شعبيّ جماعيّ ساهَمَ عامل الوقت وإعادة السرد على صياغتها في قالب أسطوريّ متكامل موضوعه النكبة. وأخبرني سليم أنّ ابن قريتنا الذي عرف عائلة زريق جيداً هو "أبو زاهي الخطيب"، فأرسل في طلبه في الحال. وكنتُ – ككلّ البالغين من أهل قريتي – أعرف ذاك الرجل جيّداً، فقد عانى من خلل وراثيّ في عصب السمع كان يحاول جاهداً أن يتجاهله، مُدّعياً في كل مرة "عدم فهم" ما قاله محدّثه وليس "عدم سماعه". ........ "هنا راح محمود يحدّثني عن رفيقه سليم الذي ورث عن والده (ومثله إخوته الخمسة) جسداً قويّ البُنية وحاجبين كثّين، إضافةً إلى العناد والتفرّد بالرأي، وكلّها أمور كنت أعرفها جيّداً عن عمّي، والد سليم. لقد تحدّى سليم الأرستقراطية المحلية بصفته أول سكرتير للخلية الشيوعية في القرية؛ هذا إذا كان اصطلاح "أرستقراطي" ينطبق على فلاحين كانت ملكية مئة دونم من قطع الأرض الصغيرة المبعثرة في مواقع مختلفة من سهل البطّوف الخصب هي الحد الأعلى لما يمكن أن يملكه أي واحد منهم. قاطعنا سليم قائلاً: "مع ذلك، كان بإمكاني رؤية الظلم الاجتماعي والتمييز الطبقي بين من يملك الأرض ومن لا يملكها من أبناء البلد: الأولون يجنون الثمار المحدودة للأرض، والآخرون يخدمونهم." لقد أخذ سليم على عاتقه تحدّي هذه "الطبقة العليا" وتحميلها مسؤولية الإنهاك الذي عانى منه رفاقه العاملون في الأرض، فبادر مع ثلّة منهم إلى إنشاء جمعية تعاونية في القرية، إلا أن تلك الجمعية ما لبثت أن فشلت: "لم نكن معتادين على هذا الأسلوب، ثم أنّ النظام الحاكم حاربنا بشراسة وزُجَّ بنا في السجن بتهم واهية." إنَّ فشَل سليم في إحداث أيّ تأثير سريع وواضح للعيان في المجتمع، هو الذي دفَعَهُ – على ما يبدو – إلى اتّباع سلوك رمزيّ صِداميّ كوسيلة للاحتجاج، وذلك بارتداء الملابس ذات الطابع الغربي والظهور حاسر الرأس، دون الحطّة والعقال. وبسبب جرأته تلك، إن لم يكن لأسباب أخرى، حاز سليم على عداوة معظم كبار السّن من رجال القرية. فكانوا كلّما مرّوا به أشاحوا بوجوههم عنه تعبيراً عن استهجانهم من الهيئة التي ظهر بها. إلا أنَّ هذا الموقف ما لبث أن تغيّر في غضون سنوات قليلة، إذ صرنا انا وشقيقايَ مثلاً نعود إلى قريتنا خلال العطل المدرسيّة، قادمين من مدينة الناصرة التي درسنا في ثانويتها، ونحن نرتدي السراويل القصيرة ورؤوسنا عارية من الحطة والعقال. وكنا نخرج أحياناً إلى الشارع بسراويلنا القصيرة تلك، فيرمينا والدنا بنظرة تحمل بعض العتب، وأحياناً يضطر إلى ردعنا جهراً. ....... "مع تقدمه في العمر، وبمسحة من عناده المألوف، وجّه سليم اهتمامه إلى الأرض في سهل البطّوف، بعيداً عن المناجر الأربعة والأحفاد العديدين. ووصل انشغاله بالعدالة الاجتماعية على نهج ماركس ولينين إلى نهايته حين تراجع اسمه وبرزت أسماء أخرى على الساحة المحلية ممن كانوا يوماً يتتلمذون على يديه (بمن فيهم شقيقه الأصغر الذي قضى عامين في مطلع شبابه في السجن بتهمة قيادة مظاهرة جماهيرية في الناصرة مع الهتاف بعبارة "يحيا جمال عبد الناصر" كما تسعفني ذاكرتي. بعدها قدّم سليم استقالته من الحزب الشيوعي لاسباب تنظيمية، وثم نشأت بينه وبين بعض الأحزاب اليسارية سلسلة من "الرومانسيات" القصيرة قبل أن ينسحب من الحياة السياسية قاطبة. وعلى إثر ذلك صبّ نشاطه في المجتمع المدني، فقاد مجموعة من الفلاحين لإنشاء جمعية غير حكومية شاركت في صيانة الطرق الزراعية ومشاريع استصلاح الأراضي، وهي أمور تحتكرها عادة الحكومة مستثنية منها المزارعين العرب كليّاً. نفذ صبر سليم بعد فترة وجيزة من تركيز الحديث عليه، فقال معترضاً: "اتركوا سيرتي جانباً وابحثوا لكم عن موضوع آخر، فهناك العديدين غيري ممن يستحقّون قدراً لا يقلّ من الاهتمام." "لكنّك كنت انت الزعيم،" قال محمود. "لدى كل فلسطينيّ قصة تستحق أن تُروى. صدقني يا "أبو طيّ"،" ردّ سليم موجّهاً الكلام إليَّ مستخدماً كنيتي على نسق تخاطب الرفاق المتساوين، "بمجرّد أن تخدش السطح ستكتشف كنزاً دفيناً في حياة كل إنسان." وثم قطعة أخرى من القصة بعنوان "بردية": "وكان سليم، ابن عمي إبراهيم وخالتي بيكي، الذي اكتسب في شبابه سمعة سيئة بسبب الزي الغربي الذي كان يرتديه ولخروجه إلى الشارع عاري الرأس، قد عاد في مرحلة متقدّمة من عمره إلى اتّباع إحدى أكثر العادات الاجتماعية التقليدية في القرية: صار لسليم "ديوان" يتردّد عليه في الليل زملاؤه من المزارعين الهواة والمعلمين المتقاعدين. وكان هؤلاء يجتمعون في المساء ويجلسون على فِراش ممدود على الأرض حول طاولة لعبٍ منخفضة كالطَّبليَّة وقد وضعوا الساق على الساق، فيلعبون الورق والنرد والمنقلة في الديوان وهم سارحون شاردو البال، يدخّنون سجائرهم التي لَفّوها باليد ويحتسون القهوة المُنكَّهة بالهيل، ويتبادلون أخبار العالم وشائعات القرية ممزوجةً بالإهانات اللفظية أو الإيماءات النابية الصادرة عن حركة في اليد لإذلال الخصم المهزوم. وفي ليالي الصيف كانت السهرة تقام في شرفة بيت سليم الفسيحة حيث يستمتع الضيوف بالنسيم العليل الذي يهبّ ليلاً من جهة الغرب. أما في الشتاء، فكان الضيوف يلوذون بالغرفة المغلقة التي كانت تتزوّد بالدفء المُنبعث من الطاقة الناتجة عن عنفوان اللعب، ودخان السجائر الملفوفة باليد، والجمرات المتوهّجة تحت إبريق القهوة العربية. في إحدى ليالي شتاء سنة 2010، ألحّ عليّ سؤال جعلني أترك سريري وأذهب لزيارة هذه الزمرة من الرجال، المنسجمة قلباً وقالباً. وما أن رآني اللاعبون في الديوان حتى تخلَّوا عن ألعابهم المختلفة احتراماً لحضوري غير المتوقع، واقترب مني سليم وهو يحمل مَصَبَّ القهوة وفنجان قهوة نظيف، ليس من الفناجين التي اعتاد زوّاره من اللاعبين استخدامها مراراً وتكراراً. وعلى الرغم من طراوة الجو في الخارج ليلتها، قام سليم بدفع درفتيّ النافذة ليفتحها ويتحاشى بذلك سماع محاضرة أخرى منّي عن مخاطر دخان السجائر الكثيف في مكان مغلق. ونهض أخوه توفيق، الذي لا يزال شيوعيّاً نشطاً، تاركاً مجلسه على الأرض لينضم إليّ وقد جلستُ على إحدى كراسي القش العديدة الشاغرة التي صُفّت بمحاذاة الحائط. انتقيتُ كلماتي بعناية وحيطة، فتحدّثتُ عَرَضاً عن الصور المعلقة على الحائط، إلى أن وصلتُ إلى صورة قديمة باهتة لعمّي إبراهيم وهو يمتطي جواده ويحمل بيده بندقية، وعندها، طرحتُ سؤالي: "ألم يشكّل تفاخرُ عمّي إبراهيم بانضمامه علناً إلى الثورة والقوى المعادية للصهيونية أيّ خطر عليه رغم ما عناه ذلك من معارضةٍ واضحةٍ لإرادة نظام الانتداب البريطاني الحاكم؟" وعلى الفور انضمّ سليم إلينا وجلس على إحدى كراسي القش، بينما عدّل الحاضرون، الذين كانوا يجلسون على الأرض بطريقة أشبه بجلسة اليوچا، من جلستهم لمتابعة الحديث الذي سيتمحور حول موضوعٍ جديد في تلك الليلة. أجاب توفيق بصوت عالٍ يصل أصحاب السمع الثقيل ويحمل رنّة حزن على كبرياء جريح: "في تلك الأيام، لم تكُن القرية مليئة بالمخبرين المأجورين كما هو حالها اليوم، ولم يكُن جدار التضامن بين الفلاحين متصدّعاً"، ثم قَهقه عالياً غامزاً بعينه في اتّجاه معلّمَيْن متقاعدَيْن. "الأمريكيون أصهار الدكتور"، رد أحد المعلمين على الإهانة المقصودة، "ولن تنطلي عليه دعاية الشيوعيين." فَرَدَّ سليم، واضعاً حدّاً لهذه المناوشة القصيرة: "يعلمُ الدكتور أنني لا أرحّب بالمُخبرين في ديواني." واسترسل قائلاً: "في تلك الأيام، كان الجميع يعرفون نوايا والدي وغيره من الرجال أمثاله في القرية، لكنّ أحداً لم يَشِ بهم. في الواقع، عندما كان أيّ شخص يعلم بأنّ القوات البريطانية تقترب من عرّابة، كان الخبر يصل إلى ناطور القرية، وكان هذا يصعد إلى أعلى المسجد الوحيد في وسط القرية ليحذّر الجميع بصوتٍ عالٍ ومن على المئذنة مستخدماً كلمات ترمز لما لا يفهم مغزاه إلّا السكان المحليين، كأن يقول: "يا أهل البلد، الواويّات فالتة. كل واحد عنده "شَرْعَة" يخبّيها". لقد تغيّرت الأمور منذ ذلك الحين كما نعلم جميعاً". والشرعة هي الحبل الجلديّ المجدول الذي كان الفلاحون يستعملونه لربط النير المُلقى فوق عنقَي الثَّوْرَيْن المقرونين بالمحراث لِجَرِّهِ، في إشارةٍ إلى أنّ الحيوانات البرية مثل ابن آوى (الواوي) قد تُتلف الشرعة إنْ تُركت الأخيرة في الحقل. أمّا الرسالة السرّية، فترمز الى ضرورة إخفاء الأسلحة نظراً لوصول قوى الأمن الإنجليزية. "تولّى المستعربون مهمة إذلالنا"، قال توفيق، قاصداً أن يشرح لي السياق التاريخي للأحداث. " لقد أعدّوا خطّة مدروسة بإحكام لتحويلنا من مزارعين مستقلين متجذّرين في الأرض التي تسدّ كفافنا، إلى 'حطّابين وسقاة ماء' أذلّاء، وفق الصورة التي أرادوا أن ننتهي إليها." ... "لا يتحدث الجواسيس الأذلاء غير التائبين علانية عن ماضيهم هكذا" قال سليم، محاولاً رأب الصدع والجدل الذي نشأ بين الحضور، وأضاف: "هم أصلاً لا يدخلون إلى ديوان محترم مثل ديواني هذا." لتبقي ذكرى فقيدنا خالدة.
Monday, January 18, 2021
Apartheid is too mild a concept for the way Israel deals with Palestinians under its control when they show any level of resistance. Three days ago, The Guardian published a daring admission by the director of B’Tselem, the largest human rights organization in Israel, of the Apartheid reality that runs throughout Israel and all of the Palestinian Territories that it occupies. It is the standard way Israel deals with Palestinians whether they are its citizens, its permanent residents as in the case of the East Jerusalem population, or subjects of its military occupation in Gaza and the West Bank. The next day, as if in direct response, an Israeli court slammed the actor and movie director, Mohammad Bakri, with a ban on the showing in Israel of his 2002 film “Jenin, Jenin” and a heavy monetary compensation to a former soldier whose face appears very briefly in the film. Gideon Levy opines that the court does Bakri and the Palestinians a great service. The film and the massacre of Palestinians in the Jenin refugee camp that it documents are too important to be relegated to film archives. Now the film has come alive again and you can see it here. That brought back to me the visit I made to the freshly flattened camp in 2002. In April that year, Israel mounted an alleged reprisal attack against the Palestinian Jenin Refugee Camp resulting in the death of scores of fighters and civilians and the razing of a large area of the camp. Despite much debate, mostly academic in the extreme, both the UN and Human Rights Watch deemed Israel’s actions to be war crimes. Mohammad Bakri’s documentary film, Jenin Jenin, gives a Palestinian perspective on the massacre. It is ironic that the architects who later planned the razed section’s renovation reportedly designed its alleys to accommodate Israeli tanks. Here is an entry I recorded in my book of memoirs, “A Doctor In Galilee” [Pluto Press, London, 2015]: June 7, 2002: How does one relate an incident so it feels in writing as it was in reality? What happened last week on a visit to Jenin Refugee Camp was out of character for me. I exposed my feelings so openly that Zainab, my first nurse and the wife of my closest friend, thought I had lost it. She had not seen me weep before in the 32 years of our professional camaraderie. We visited the [Jenin Camp] as part of a medical aid mission from the Palestinian community in Israel, to offer help to the inhabitants after the horrifying rampage by the Israeli army in April. We worked in the dilapidated UNRWA facility for four hours, during which time I cared for over twenty sick children. As we were leaving, we decided to walk through the rubble of the section of the camp flattened by the Israeli war machine more than a month earlier. I have walked through ruins before and sensed the air of total loss that engulfs the whole space. This time I looked at details: the remnants of a family living room with some of the furniture still in place under the caved-in walls; a plastic flower basket hanging between the iron bars protruding from the half- ceiling; a wheelchair hanging from a fallen balcony (we were told the paraplegic survived his fall); pieces of broken toys, the remnants of a musical string instrument, flattened pots and pans. Here and there a few families sheltered under a blanket strung across four sticks over what used to be their camp home, their supposed refuge away from their original home within Israel. Halfway through our walk I noticed a middle-aged man, thin, unshaven and covered with dust, kneeling inside a shallow ditch he had cleared in the middle of the rubble. The ditch was about two meters long by one wide, and about one meter deep, about the size of a freshly dug grave. The bottom was well-packed solid ground, obviously a part of the original camp ground, and the two sides were the base of concrete walls, one with faded blue paint. I walked closer to him, but he did not notice me. Instead he continued clearing the rubble with his bare hands, totally absorbed by his work and with a very determined look on his face. I greeted him with the traditional “May God give you health,” to which he responded absentmindedly, almost mechanically. He continued shoveling out the dirt, only this time throwing the handfuls in the other direction. He was obviously preoccupied but not distraught. I persisted and inquired about what he was looking for. He turned to me and said sarcastically, “Gold, what else?” Again, I persisted with my question. Then he sighed and looked away with a certain sense of shame. “This is the alley on which my house opened. You are standing where it used to be. This is my neighbor’s home. I just wanted to clean in front of my house.” That did it. I could not hold the grief and sadness anymore. It hit like a bolt and I started sobbing. I crouched down, took my glasses off and tried to dry my eyes. But it would not stop. I kept sobbing and my silent gulping for air became louder. Then I just let go and sobbed loudly, momentarily lapsing into the dark abysmal loneliness I felt when as a teenager I came home to find my mother dead and already buried. I regained control only when two men held me around the shoulders and tried to comfort me. One was the same man digging for gold; the second man, I found out later, was a young man nicknamed Michael Jackson, the now-unemployed leader of the camp’s renowned folkdance troop. They both kept repeating to me one reassuring statement: “We are strong. We will outlive this and overcome the destruction.” As I walked away, I was ashamed of the scene I had made. I noticed a group of foreigners being shown around, a group I discovered that were from Iceland and being guided around by Peter Hansen, the director-general of UNRWA. I introduced myself to him and demanded that the capabilities and unique position of the Arab community inside Israel be factored into any plans for the rehabilitation of this and other camps. He acquiesced, agreeing to focus on the psychological health of the camp’s children, and we set a time for a meeting. On my way home, my newly found unabashedness continued. As I got in my car, which I had left safely in a village outside of Jenin, I saw a housewife baking wheat bread in an outside oven in front of her house. I was hungry and the smell of fresh bread was irresistible. I remembered my mother’s freshly baked bread. A child came out of the house. I offered to give him five shekels for a loaf. He ran to his mother and brought two. As he brought the bread the father showed up and told the child not to accept the money. When I insisted that I had to honor the deal I made with the boy the father got a little upset and half-jokingly threatened to break up my car if I insult him and his child any further. He wanted me to come into the house. I apologized for being in a hurry. I was on my way to my nephew’s engagement party. He went in and brought back a plastic bag with a special homemade delicacy—freshly baked paper-thin bread rolled in ghee and sugar. It was delicious. I ate it as I sped off to the party, getting it all over the white clothes I always wear when on a medical relief mission. People at the engagement party had to excuse my looks. They realized I’d had a rough day at the Jenin Refugee Camp. *** In parallel to its director’s article in The Guardian, B’Tselem has updated its website to include a thorough definition of Apartheid in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Its daring and unflinching assertion has caught the world’s attention and has been widely quoted. It is worth recalling that former USA President, Jimmy Carter, had made the same diagnosis years ago in his 2006 book “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid”, though he limited his criticism to Israel’s behavior in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. For that, the main stream pro-Israel USA media nearly tarred and feathered him. Last but not least, South Africa, the original home of Apartheid, has long recognized Israel’s policy and practice towards Palestinians as befitting its illegitimate and disowned scion, as the former diplomat and human rights activist Ronnie Kasrils articulated not long ago.
Wednesday, September 2, 2020
NOTE: This review appeared firs in Mondoweiss where one can view the images and possible comments.
by Salman Abu Sitta
352 pp. The American University in Cairo Press. $36.05
To judge by his fellow Palestinian activist associates, the likes of Edward Said and Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, Dr. Salman Abu Sitta is among our living lead intellectuals. He is a low-key but persistent native contributor to documenting the life, and especially the “living geography,” of Palestine across the ages, a task to which he has dedicated his professional knowhow and time.
“[The book] tells the story of the long journey of a refugee trying to return home. There were no guns or tanks. There were no secret missions. It was simply a quest for a right to be restored, a truth to be unveiled, and a patrimony, lost in a moment of historical aberration, to be regained. That is the fuel which sustains all Palestinians in their long struggle.”
Amen! I hereby admit that, though not a refugee, I fully subscribe to this form of resistance.
Abu Sitta’s “regular” professional life seems to have been rich and challenging enough: It involves the standard technical engineering office and field work and independent business ventures with the attendant achievements and reversals, especially in Kuwait with Saddam’s megalomaniacal invasion and defeat. He participates as well in the standard Palestinian intellectual and organizational activism worldwide. Such a career seems typical of many diasporic Palestinians, the genre known for its high educational and professional achievement. And for its reliability: “They would go anywhere, any time, and do a terrific job,” the author tells us.
Yet the loss of home, property and lead position of his family as well as all the familiar physical and sociocultural surroundings must have been overwhelming to Salman as a ten-year-old. It stayed with him for life. Then, half a century later, approaching retirement, the author is seized by his lifelong urge to discover what lay behind his dispossession:
COVER OF “MAPPING MY RETURN: A PALESTINIAN MEMOIR” BY SALMAN ABU SITTA, THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY IN CAIRO PRESS.
“I was a tenured professor; I had a nice house and a lovely growing family. One night, after pacing around our sitting room hundreds of times until after midnight, I decided to go.”
And that apparently was how his “crusade” to map his return finally started.
Thus, Abu Sitta’s professional career was bracketed by the childhood obsession around which his book of memoirs revolves. This obsession seems to turn him, the studious civil engineer, into an expert cartographer and historical researcher focusing his gained expertise on Palestine as is clear from repeated declarations regarding the burning fire of his desire to end his long exile:
“My life’s mission became to try to put a face to this invisible enemy, in particular, the Zionist soldiers who attacked and burned down my home.”
The intense account in this book of memoirs draws on a life rich in successes and adventure but never without the dark hue of the author’s childhood Nakba experience and its traumatic and violent events. And yet, the author manages to sprinkle his writing with a homely sense of humor and snippets of human frailty. Take for example his trip from Gaza to Cairo with his older brothers after the Nakba where they are allowed on train carriages transporting prisoners. They all are placed in adult-size shackles as part of the trip’s standard procedure. As soon as the guards leave, Salman slips his slim arms free. And in Cairo, while attending school, he is entrusted to the care of friends of his family. The couple permit him to share their bed, sleeping between their physically mismatched torsos with all the fondly-remembered comic events on which only a child can embellish.
To gain some appreciation of the author’s perspective as a refugee and on the great loss of status and means that came with his family’s exile, we have to be reminded of the firm traditional leadership his extended tribe, the Tarabeen, and especially his father, Hussain Abu Sitta, had held among Bedouin tribes and farmers in the Beer Sheba district of South Palestine.
A PORTRAIT OF HUSSEIN ABU SITTA, THE AUTHOR SALMAN’S FATHER, A CENTRAL FIGURE IN THE HISTORY OF HIS TRIBE AT THE TIME OF THE NAKBA AND ONE WHO FIGURES CENTRALLY IN HIS SON’S MEMOIR. IT IS BY THE FAMED PALESTINIAN ARTIST ISMAEL SHAMMMOUT IN 1950.
“After the [First World] war, the British, with their usual diplomacy, confirmed my father as sheikh although he had never cooperated with them during the war. He assumed his duties with vigor. My father had a pleasant appearance and a commanding presence; he was well-spoken and persuasive. He chose the pursuit of justice without belligerence, an approach befitting his role as a judge. In the years to come, he would play an important part in the Palestinian national movement.”
Judge Hussain Abu Sitta was an autodidact chief of towering status whose tribe owned generous tracts of agricultural land in its native Beer Sheba district of south Palestine as well as fertile lands in Egypt. He could afford to send four of his sons to study at Cairo University as well as others to study in Jerusalem. He was in regular personal touch with other Palestinian national leaders as well as international bigshots, from Winston Churchill to Che Guevara. Yet the death of heroic members of the family in the midst of all the terrible Nakba events and what followed in the Tripartite aggression against Gamal Abdul Nasser’s Egypt, is announced by the author in a simple sentence: “On one of his trips, Hassan [Not to be confused with Hussain] stepped on a mine and died. We lost fifteen martyrs from my family alone in the early 1950s.” The author seems simply too overwhelmed to go into detail.
Then we are given a quick run of the massive destruction from the air and ground that the Zionist forces inflicted on Salman’s childhood home, the school that his father had built for the village’s children, the family’s flourmill and the other landmarks of the area. There are the elders and the feeble and the rest of the distraught and fleeing crowd.
The vivid picture of the overwhelming disaster is given full force in the author’s childhood memories with the site of a ravine that had formerly served as his agemates’ playground, now used as hideaway by the village’s women, children and the elderly. “[The] women splashed dirt on their faces to discourage rape.” The scene seems to have never left Salman’s active memory. That and viewing his family’s unharvested wheat fields.
“I had wanted to know, since the moment I had been hiding in the wadi with the women and children, who had done this to me, to all of us.”
Fast forward for over five decades and Abu Sitta, the itinerant Palestinian refugee, having escaped his academic life, is a regular at British libraries in search of historical maps of Palestine from past Western missions starting with Napoleon’s invasion with all its experts and cartographers. It is the start of his self-assigned, self-propelled and unending mapping and documenting of Palestine, the rich field he continues to lead with academic vigor and which provides the arch that sustains the book’s narrative.
Unfortunately, the rape the Abu Sitta womenfolk dreaded did take place; all those rumors were not the figment of someone’s imagination. At this later stage we are presented with one account that the author discovers retroactively with all its inhumane and shameful details. He has entrusted the Palestinian Jewish anthropologist, Uri Davis, with the task of tracking down his father’s heirloom silver sword. The attempt fails. Apparently, the sword had been pilfered, along with photos, books and other valuables, from the family’s residence, the prosperous Ma’in village’s headman’s home. The investigation leads to a more damning side issue: A year after the Nakba, a gang rape was committed by a whole platoon, 17 men soldiers in total, with the victim, a 10 to 15-year-old Palestinian girl, given a bath and a haircut in full view of the platoon’s members before they serially raped her, (which, it must be admitted, was decided democratically by a vote at the mess hall during that Saturday eve gathering in Kibbutz Nirim, newly established on Abu Sitta’s private land). Later, they execute the girl and bury her body in a shallow grave. All of the details are exposed at this later stage by several of the Participants in published in Haaretz.
SALMAN ABU SITTA
Recounting the childhood memory of the Hagana forces destroying his village, the author formulates the moving conception of his life-long commitment to the idea of “Mapping My Return,” the title and theme of his book:
I looked back at the smoldering ruins, at the meadows of my childhood, golden with the still-unharvested wheat. I was engulfed by a feeling of both anxiety and serenity: serenity because we were still alive and an anxiety that was never to leave me. I wanted to know who this faceless enemy was. What did they look like, why did they hate us, why did they destroy us, why had they had literally burned our lives to the ground?
What had we done to them? Who were these Jews anyway? I thought to myself that I must find out who they were: their names, their faces, where they came from. I must know their army formations, their officers, what exactly they had done that day, and where they lived later. I scanned the horizon behind me, recalling the places where I was born, played, went to school, as they slowly disappeared from view. My unexpected departure did not feel that it would be such a long separation—it was simply a sojourn in another place for a while.
If the future was vague for me at that moment, the past that I had just left behind became frozen in my mind and became my present forever. I never imagined that I would not see these places again, that I would never be able to return to my birthplace. The events of those two days catapulted us into the unknown.
I spent the rest of my life on a long, winding journey of return, a journey that has taken me to dozens of countries over decades of travel, and turned my black hair to silver. But like a boomerang, I knew the end destination, and that the only way to it was the road of return I had decided to take.
As for those refugees gathered nightly at his father’s rented home in Khan Yunis:
“No one ever questioned the idea of returning home. The refugees discussed only ‘when.’”
And that is still the burning fire in Salman’s and other Palestinian refugees’ hearts. Here Salman shows a detailed map of his home village, Ma’in Abu Sitta, and the four Israeli Kibbutzim totaling close to one thousand settlers, established on the village’s land, mainly soldiers who are later ceremoniously declared civilians. In the meantime, the same four settlements became the launching grounds for the multiple massacres of Palestinian refugees in Gaza.
“This river of blood that engulfed the Gaza Strip in 1956 was not deemed sufficient to earn even a page of coverage in a dozen or so of the western books on the so-called Suez Campaign.”
Here Abu Sitta shares at length two sets of correspondence from two fellow Palestinian friends, one killed in one such massacre and the other, a vagabond, essentially walks his way from Palestine to Kuwait. Just two intimate examples of what the Palestinian diaspora feels like.
Saturday, August 29, 2020
THIS IS A PHOTO OF THE RUINS OF THE AMKA (AMQA) MOSQUE BY MAQBULEH NASSAR, A FELLOW RESIDENT OF ARRABEH. IT IS ONE OF TWO STRUCTURES THAT ARE STILL STANDING AT THE SITE OF PALESTINIAN AMQA. THE SECOND IS THE OLD SCHOOL WHICH IS NOW USED AS A STORAGE SPACE. BEFORE THE NAKBA, AMQA HAD ABOUT THE SAME POPULATION AS ARRABEH WHICH NOW COUNTS ABOUT 24 THOUSAND RESIDENTS.
For years now, I have scanned every morning to assess the public opinion in Israel. The selective English version is delivered daily to my door with the international .
This morning [last week], a photo of a dozen masked (as in COVID-19) Jewish Orthodox male students in a classroom occupies the center of the paper’s first page. A portrait of Golda Meir hangs above the group and next to the portrait in the photo is the highlighted Hebrew quote:
“If it were not for the study of Judaism, we would have been like all goys who were once but no more …”
That puts me in my right place. As if to reconfirm my irrelevance in the Middle East arena, the main headline of the day announces:
“Kushner: Israel won’t annex without our okay, and that won’t be for ‘some time’”
Nobody seems to take my Palestinian presence into consideration. I guess I am included under the genre of ‘all goys who were once but no more.’
My throat feels parched. I walk to the kitchen for fresh water. For reassurance, I glance at the top of the buffet table with the photo display of various combinations of my five grandchildren. What impurity! Arab, Chinese, Japanese, Caucasian, Jewish and who-knows-what-more. Just my own amalgam of all the historical invaders of Palestine over the millennia depositing their odd genes in my family tree should suffice. They have left some of my siblings with the occasional honey-colored eyes, or light hair to embellish the dominant olive skin and prominent or hooked nose that may belie the goy accusation flung against us Palestinians.
Or was that just a religious insult? I am even further away from being religious than race conscious. Could that be because of my telltale last name, the Arabic form of Canaanite. Go figure!
Two other first-page headlines are about the main current Israeli headaches, COVID-19 and the diplomatic breakthrough with the United Arab Emirates. A third headline seems less familiar and I read on:
“IDF has big plans …”
To me it sounds futuristic, a science fiction exploration of what the Israeli army will be marketing next based on its field tests of weapons in Gaza: drones with the next level of AI to maim and kill disposable human irritants. A quick glance confirms my suspicion with the added mention of Beirut and Hezbollah as additional possible targets.
That is it for the day, I think. Till I stop for coffee at a friend’s home. Not to worry! We both practice social distancing, wear masks and sip our coffee in the breeze of an open veranda.
He happens to be scanning as well. Except that he subscribes to the original Hebrew version. This extends over 12 pages whereas my English copy has only eight. I am fluent in Arabic, Hebrew and English. A quick glance reveals the fact that the English version skips several items that the publisher must deem of little interest to non-Hebrew speakers. I persist in my exploration and find a most interesting article on page 8 with the heading (my translation):
“Without coordination the IDF turned an ancient olive grove in Upper Galilee into a firing range.”
Olives in Galilee! They obviously are talking about me. I take my time and read on. The report starts with the romantic description of the “vandalized” olive grove as “a pastoral dream of ancient olives that have grown on the steep incline next to almond trees and pomegranates [with a stream] from a spring that refuses to dry up.”
IMAGE OF ISRAELI VILLAGE OF AMUKA IN GALILEE
My sources date the establishment of the Jewish-only settlement of Amuka to 1949 on the lands of the Palestinian village of A’mka (see remains of mosque above), apparently from the Hebrew or Aramaic for ‘valley’, obviously from the same root as the Arabic word for ‘deep’. The locale is mentioned by historians for centuries and even rated a school built by the Ottoman system in 1887.
But the article for Israeli consumption dates the settlement of seven families in the Jewish village to around 1980.
Despite this shallow historical perspective, the concerned Jewish family in the article displays ‘deep’ attachment to the field the Israel Land Authority had assigned to it on renewable annual lease basis: “This is a livelihood but also a lifestyle,” says the wife, “a lifestyle that they are about to cut off.” The husband adds: “There are wild pigs and porcupines and bible students run around here … I have worked here 38 years. I am connected to the place with my legs and all my body. I am in love with this place. This is action therapy. We know every stone here …”
As a Palestinian, reading the article leaves me with a sense of surrealism. I want to shout at the guy: “You may ‘know every stone here’. Question is, do the stones know you? Go ahead! Throw some of them at me. I bet you stones will veer away from my body! We know each other much better than you think! Just don’t blame me if they mysteriously turn around and smack you in the head.”
I was born and grew up with olives and stones all around me. Within shouting distance from where this argument is taking place are others, no less human, believe me, who are the current link in the broken long chain of inheritance of those olive fields for only-God-knows-how-long and who now survive on donations as refugees across the border or on pay for menial labor in Jewish settlements like Amuka. They were disinherited as internally displaced ‘present absentees’ at the hands of the same IDF that now awards their olives at will to its Israeli veterans.
I have cousins in Refugee camps in South Lebanon from this very same area. They still entertain a vivid “pastoral dream of ancient olives” and streams that refuse to dry up.
Sunday, August 16, 2020
Wednesday, August 5, 2020
Note: This post appeared first on Mondoweiss where. one can see the deleted images.
Susan Abulhawa is right about ‘Apeirogon’
COLUM MCCANN. (PHOTO: RANDOM HOUSE)
I hadn’t intended to read (Random House, 2020) at this time. Till I read . My admiration and trust in the judgement of the human rights lawyer and prize-winning Palestinian writer compelled me to read the book. But first I read of the same book in her Al Jazeera article. That made my self-assigned task doubly difficult: I equally admire the lead living Palestinian novelist and poet and have read and reviewed all of her published books except for her forthcoming which is high on my current reading list.
In his novel, McCann does a great artistic and creative job of reaching far and wide across time and space, constantly borrowing from world literature, history, folklore and sacred texts to impact his reader with the depth of the personal tragedies that two families, one Palestinian and the other Israeli, had suffered with the loss of one lovely young daughter each in the ongoing violence of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Both of the fathers have committed to pursuing peace through joining the activist circle of bereaved families on both sides of the ‘conflict.’ And McCann’s tersely poetic writing style is a cross between dwelling at length on the suffering and inner struggles of the two sets of parents of the assassinated promising young girls, and straying far afield in unpredictable directions in literary and popular cultural accounts on both sides of ‘the conflict’.
“Apeirogon” is an appropriate name for a novel that seems to aspire to transcend definition in space and time, a tense poetic tangle with a stylistic mix of William Faulkner’s stream of consciousness and the repeatedly mentioned Thousand and One Nights. Yet, as I read it with the intent to judge its author’s partiality to one side or the other in the assumed Israel-Palestine “conflict,” or his lack thereof, I kept stumbling across reminders that Bassam Aramin, the bereaved Palestinian father (with the repeated but never substantiated Israeli accusations of terrorism and his time in jail under a military court system with a record of 99.8% of all accused being found guilty as charged, as mentioned by the author), his wife, Salwa, and I are all operating at a disadvantage vis-à-vis Rami Elhanan, Bassam’s Israeli counterpart, with his Israeli fighter’s heroic image which the author visits repeatedly, and his wife, Nurit Peled-Elhanan, the daughter of a famed Israeli general turned peace activist in retirement. And Rami’s sympathetic image is further fortified with details of his Jewish underdog status as a “Holocaust graduate,” the European Nazi crime against humanity which the countrymen of its own perpetrators use as a curse to smear Palestinians. Witness, if you will, Germany’s (and other Western countries’) current criminalization of Palestinian peaceful civil activism against Israel.
BASSAM ARAMIN AND RAMI ELHANAN WITH COPIES OF COLUM MCCANN’S BOOK “APEIROGON: A NOVEL.” (PHOTO: PARENTS CIRCLE FORUM)
Think about it: To start with, the capable Irish author is European aesthetically and in terms of his natural milieu, his elementary frame of reference and his acculturation. That automatically makes us oriental creatures, and especially the long-derided Palestinians whose main role in the successful Zionist portrayal across most Western media, going back to the earliest church Zionist teachings, has been their absence from the imagined Holy Land till after the unleashing of the Zionists’ settler colonial project when the Palestinians were needed to show up as terrorists. Then comes the novel, “Exodus,” and the most successful film based on it confirming our non-existence except as terrorists. No wonder I still remember demonstrating against it along with my fellow high school mates in Nazareth as it was being filmed. Now, the film rights to “Apeirogon” have been bought by Steven Spielberg before the book was published. The famed film director, even when some of his critics deride him as “no friend of Israel,” is sure to visualize and present the whole mystic blur of “Apeirogon” through Zionist-glinted 3-D glasses. He has to die for Israel but is sure to land alive on the Israeli side of the equalized “conflict.”
Does no one but the Palestinian writer, Susan Abulhawa, find that alarming? On account of that film’s threat alone, I am compelled to join her in sounding the alarm. The most I can credit McCann with is to give him the benefit of the doubt as a misguided and honest bystander who is practicing his artistic gifts based on his lifelong inherent partiality.
AUTHOR SUSAN ABULHAWA. (PHOTO: GOODREADS)
Pointing this is the minimum I, as a Palestinian, can do. After all, most Westerners are just waking up to the suspicion that they may have been duped by the Zionists’ clever alignment of their own settler-colonial scheme with the God-ordained white man’s burden as colonialists. Given the success of the ploy, it is left up to the Palestinians to sound the alarm and call on their fellow-colonized dark skins to stand up socio-culturally if not politically to their further debasement through the guise of sharing the blame with their oppressors, their settler colonialists, as “equal partners” in a “conflict.” It is the acuity of their ongoing plight that lends urgency to the Palestinians’ ongoing Nakba and obligates their vocal objection to the continued blame as equal partners to a ‘historical conflict’ whether such blame is intentional or out of inbuilt sociocultural partisanship as is the case with McCann in “Apeirogon.” In her piece in Al Jazeera, Abulhawa shines the light on such standard equating of settler and colonized as follows:
“Imagine this (to borrow from McCann’s writing style): Somewhere on the Pine Ridge Reservation, a little girl from the Oglala Lakota Nation, whose head was shattered by a white settler’s petulant son, bleeds to death in her father’s helpless arms. Another white settler befriends the Native girl’s father (it has to be at the white man’s behest because the father can’t leave the reservation), and a friendship between the two men flourishes from their common anguish of having lost a child. The white man’s daughter had been killed by a group of young Braves who attacked an encroaching settlement. The friendship between the two men is real. The loss that haunts them for all their days is the same.”
There is much to quote in support of my contention of the inborn and life-long cultivated partiality to Western values and folkways of McCann, perhaps through no intended bias on his part. He simply is comfortable in his own Western skin. Such bias is nearly worldwide. But that is exactly the problem. Let me quote from a field with which I am more familiar: In his introduction to the current special issue of the at one point:,
Silence, going with the flow, avoiding controversy above all else—taking the role of the bystander—does not absolve us of responsibility. It is a choice in itself that can lead us into collusion with injustice and harm of a kind that could never be openly acknowledged. … Like viruses, the political threats to life and liberty have no respect of national boundaries. In a period in which the specters of fascism and militarism once again haunt the world, this places the Palestinian struggle in its proper context. To join with Palestinians on their path to self‐liberation might then be considered to take one’s place in the unending struggle for universal emancipation.”
The obligatory outcome of McCann’s “neutrality” is that the highly artistic product that he puts in our hands is more empathetic with the characters with European values and behavior, i.e. the Israelis, than otherwise. Let me illustrate by quoting from two engaging moments from the lives of the two bereaved mothers. Here is Salwa, the Palestinian mother:
“Once she was filmed carrying her youngest, Hiba, through the apartment. She had stopped to look at a photograph of [the murdered] Abir and the cameraman caught her crying. If they could have understood her anger, if they could somehow have captured it without making a spectacle of it, she would have talked with them, but she knew, she just knew: a Muslim woman, a Palestinian, the crime of her geography. She supported what Bassam did, Rami too, Nurit as well, but she wanted only to pursue the ordinary. She would find blessing there.”
Compare this, if you will, with the Jewish mother’s less inward directed demeanor: She, Nurit, is loud and clear in her crying out to the world, accusing Israel of killing her daughter by maintaining the occupation of Palestinian Territories, a laudatory and just outcry. Nurit’s scream reverberates across the international media to all regions of the world and over one full month of articles and quotes in the media in various world capitals, as the author documents. That is the manner in which the West understands a mother’s outcry and not in the classic pained reticence of the Palestinian mother. Nurit and Israelis generally are not satisfied “to pursue the ordinary.”
A similar conclusion can be reached even in studying the school report cards of the two lost bright girls, Abir’s abstract grades of A, B and C, compared with Smadar’s more “modern” discourse regarding her performance and interactions with classmates and teachers in each subject. Modern Westerners are automatically drawn to the latter’s lively depictions than to dry grades. And the text is rich with similar contrasts playing in favor of Israel’s more familiar patterns of Western acculturation.
When the author comes to negative portrayal of killers on the two sides, the prominence is in reverse proportions, the Palestinians given the lion’s share. We are presented with the cruel portraits of the three Palestinian suicide bombers, Abulhawa’s “braves,” with considerable details of their horrid refugee camp lives and environment. The author goes on to explain the details of the explosive belts that they wore and the angle at which the explosives must have torn their bodies. He even details how the eye of one of them was found later hanging by its nerve over the edge of a shop’s awning in Jerusalem; utter disgust! When the author comes to the soldier who murdered the Palestinian girl with a rubber bullet to the back of her head just outside her school gate, the murderer’s identity is not known and he never really materializes in the account; the reader never meets or him or her. Little cruelty or gore is flung at the reader in association with the Israeli killer. In fact, the one character who shines most in that account is the Israeli woman judge who insists on visiting the site and ends up ruling in favor of a monetary compensation to the Palestinian family for the loss of their little daughter, a rare outcome for Palestinians in Israeli courts.
To be fair, a surprising exception has to be mentioned here: few people, whether Palestinian or Israeli, are featured in the book with recognizable presence outside of the members of the two victims’ immediate families.
Yet, two Palestinian young women gain entry into the poetic milieu of the book, both unrelated by blood or circumstance to the victims at the center of the book. One is the well-known Palestinian artist, Emily Jacir, who is featured pursuing a project with a connection to Thousand and One Nights. The other is Dalia el-Fahum who, presumably, dies while pursuing her musical ambition of recording bird songs in nature. Yet those most sympathetic sketches of young Palestinian artists fail to balance the account, especially since they both are only tangentially-related to the book’s central theme.
To be honest, reading “Apeirogon,” I could sense Orwell’s presence at the edges tampering with its central premise and carefully balancing its weight and impact. “A swan can be as fatal to the pilot as a rocket-propelled grenade,” is an illustrative casual assertion in the book. It stands alone as one of its thousand chapters of varying length. The author has a fascination with migratory birds that fill many pages all through the novel. This brief statement, I feel, sums up the essence of his “balanced” political stand. Might he, for example, be equating the impact of the peaceful Great March of Return in Gaza with Israel’s frequently fatal and disabling reaction to it? At the end, I find myself in full sympathy with Susan Abulhawa’s stand especially because of the novel’s artistic refinement and inventiveness and the expected worldwide impact of the film based on it, quietly concealing the Palestinians’ ongoing Nakba and denied rights, collective as well as individual ones, witness, for example, Israel’s recently passed apartheid constitutional Nation-State Law.
To use a local Palestinian expression, Susan Abulhawa’s pronouncements “never hit the ground”; her aim is perfect and her fire power is deadly. I find her powerful discourse, centering on refuting the standard Western-style equivalency between the Zionist settler colonialists and their native Palestinian victims, flawless. Confirming and celebrating such unfair equivalency between victim and perpetrator must be decried, challenged and corrected by whoever has the conscience to fathom the depth of its disservice and the media outreach to attempt correcting it. Seeing the current success of the Netflix travesty, Fauda, for example, it is clear that Israel and its hired contractors, especially in the film industry, are retooling their old attack fleets. Raising the alarm, at the earliest possible time and with the loudest possible means at our disposal is the least that all of us, Palestinians and colonized and ethnically-cleansed natives everywhere, must do. Susan Abulhawa did that in her most eloquent style and I humbly second her opinion.