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BEWARE… Being Palestinian is Contagious
Amer Zahr
by Amer Zahr
July 16th, 2011 (22 Comments)
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Last weekend, I was lucky enough to perform at the annual convention of the American Federation of Ramallah Palestine in Washington, DC. I saw many old friends and met many new ones. I performed in three comedy shows, and I can tell you this: Palestinians know how to laugh, especially at themselves. But I also confirmed something else I always suspected to be true… Being Palestinian is contagious.

I met a few couples at the gathering who were, for lack of a better word, mixed. Palestinians are spread all over the world. Being Palestinian basically means you can live anywhere except Palestine. As a result, we have more mixed marriages than any other species on earth. In America alone, over 5 million non-Palestinians have been occupied by us. OK, I don’t know if that number is exactly accurate, but it happens a lot.

I met one particular white guy, let's call him Mark, who married a Palestinian woman. During one of my shows, I asked his father-in-law how he could let such a thing happen. It turns out his daughter was 33 when she married Mark, so that explains a lot. When single Arab women pass the age of 25, their parents tend to stop being too particular.

When I asked Mark where his wife was, I noticed he was surrounded by Arab men on either side. As he identified his wife seated two chairs away from him, I discovered that his brother-in-law was sitting between him and his wife. I’m sure his brother-in-law was present on their first date, so I guess old habits die hard.

In my comedy travels, I frequently meet white guys married to Palestinian women, and what I have noticed is that they have been “Palestinianized.” They love hummus, speak loudly, and march in demonstrations. They eat grape leaves, wear keffiyehs, and can recite UN Resolutions 194 and 242. They give their kids Arabic names, love garlic, and have pictures of Jerusalem in their homes. They have, in short, been infected by us.

Being Palestinian is cool. We Palestinians love it, so it’s no wonder we rub off on others so easily. Incidentally, I have never seen the opposite happen. I have never witnessed a Palestinian marry a white American only to start suddenly saying “dude,” liking Sarah Palin, and over-indulging in mayonnaise.

I have rubbed off on many people over the years. I’ve had a few white girlfriends, and if they didn’t know about Palestine before, they sure did soon after. It has caused for some uncomfortable moments. I remember that one time when Britney and Ashley both showed up to that anti-Israeli demonstration a few years ago… Awkward.

Being Palestinian is relentless. Every Palestinian has a story. Our stories and personal histories tell of our collective struggle. And once non-Palestinians have drank the potion, there is no cure.
No Palestinian can claim to be independent of our history. No Palestinian can escape it. To live a life divorced from political reality is an impossibility for any Palestinian. We are consumed by history even before birth. Our greatest achievement is our undying unwillingness to become casualties. When non-Palestinians join the club, they quickly realize that membership is not just a matter of eating too much garlic. It comes with an acute political memory unlike any other. I’m sure many white guys remember their first meeting with their prospective Palestinian father-in-law. After he served you coffee and said hello, then next words out of his mouth were, “In 1948…”

After hearing that talk, you have caught the bug. But all in all, it’s a pretty good bug to catch. The symptoms aren’t all that bad…

You will start overeating. White people can eat small meals and be satisfied. We eat meals in phases. We even take breaks. You will find yourself running to the dinner table, and limping away from it.

You will redefine the word “cousin.” For us, it can mean a third cousin five times removed. It can also mean a wife.

You will find that you start dancing in circular line formations at weddings and celebrations. You will stomp on the floor and sweat profusely. Cousins that you didn’t know you had will grab your hand and lead you in the right direction.

You will gain a whole new relationship with the Jewish people. You will find yourself criticizing their political viewpoints on Palestine, praising their unity in defeating the Arabs, and randomly pointing them out whenever they appear on the television.

But you will also find yourself with a new warmth in your heart that never existed before. A warmth that exists for a homeland unrealized, a national potential waiting to be unleashed. You will realize that you start saying “Palestine” whenever possible. And if you have been truly and fully infected with the Palestinian bug, you will notice that whenever you hear the word, you will, like I do, get butterflies in your stomach.

White Americans are not the only victims, however. On my last trip to Palestine, I noticed Israelis smoking hookahs and saying “Yalla.” Our aura is contagious. Israelis might try to pretend like we don’t exist, but it’s a futile exercise. We and our cultural awesomeness aren’t going anywhere. Just ask Mark.

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* Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."

Comments (22)
  1. Haha! It’s so true that after 25 parents stop being picky who we marry! I married at 36, a German, me in a cocktail dress and him in sneakers :) He’s now a shawarma addict, and learning Arabic words. I am Lebanese, so he heard all about 1989, the onset of the Lebanese Spring, nationalism in Lebanon, and that famous article the Redirection (New Yorker, by Seymour Hersh in March 2007). This article demonstrates that we don’t really have civil wars; puppet governments have in fact imported a Saudi-financed group of mercenaries in 2007 to try to provoke a fabricated civil war, and they failed. When asked, we Lebanese often tell others that our religion is Lebanon, and this is how we spoon feed to our neighbors the idea of respecting the Lebanese identity. One would need to be made of stone to not sympathize with the Palestinian cause, and while we do, we Lebanese have a mandate to teach the world that we are not a no-man’s land, a mismatch of sectarian clans, we at the contrary have a solid Lebanese national identity.

    • D. Russel Brown ... August 15th, 2013 - 02:32

      On my first trip to Beirut- 1974?- I was young and somewhat of an idiot.
      On my way from the airport the cab driver told me all about the Palestinian refugee camp we were driving past. I saw signs in Arabic, French, and English.
      I saw Russians (the bad guys back then) and Japanese speaking in the hotel lobby. I had only been to a bar once in my life, and when I went to the Excelsior Hotel bar later that night the bartender told me I was too young to drink and it wasn’t good for me (I was 25).
      I had time to kill, lots of it, so I asked the concierge for a good tour taxi. The driver spoke perfect English and we traveled all that day and the next. I saw what appeared to be a very busy and energetic people of Lord knows how many nationalities and religions, all very energetic and
      friendly. I was amazed to hear that someone had been fighting a “war” in that city- it just didn’t fit.
      Over the next two years I went to Beirut ten more times. I heard what the Western media said and then I got the real scoop from “Charlie”, the cab driver. It was so, so sad the day I watched the Excelsior burning on BBC. I have never forgotten what greedy and malicious men did to what I still consider to be the most most wonderful place I have seen
      on Earth- and after traveling for 30 years I can say I’ve seen most of it.
      I pray that the scourge of Zionism will be, one day, nothing more than a bad dream, a story we can all tell to our grandchildren, knowing that it will never happen again.

  2. great article. so true. you out it in such a way, that we can truly laugh at ourselves.

  3. We ARE awesome…. our somehow ‘uncivil’ ways never fail captivating the civilized others! i guess it explains the whole paradox of a ‘civil’ arab! ;) love it!

  4. Mohanad Saleh ... July 17th, 2011 - 17:23

    Palestinian rocks!!
    I love being one, I have been in Detroit for 20 days now and all my Neighbors now my Story, and my land’s History… we are definitely contagious, and I like that

    that was the most exciting article I ever read ,, thank you so much Amer,
    keep up the wheels rolling.. love you man :D

  5. I was laughing all through this article-esp.the fact that after 25 our parents really aren’t that particular…really hits home lol. Great article :)

  6. It’s funny because it’s true! I was raised by a Christian Jordanian stepfather (who isn’t even Palestinian) and I’m pretty sure my political leanings and ethnic identifications were formed at eight when I pointed to a picture of Arafat in the newspaper, asked who he was, and got a long explanation that amounted to him being “the good guy.”

    “To live a life divorced from political reality is an impossibility for any Palestinian. We are consumed by history even before birth.”

    Very well worded and true. I think it’s true for any people who have to fight to be acknowledged. Basques, Kurds, Chechnyans, etc.

    • Dr.Waliel Hasnat …(waliel.hasnat@yahoo.com)
      The article is awsome…being a Bangladeshi muslim we always feel for The palestinian & they (palestinian) are always in our pray.long live palestine..

  7. Palestinian American ... July 19th, 2011 - 06:38

    No power in the world can defeat the Palestinian people!

  8. I love Israeli Food.. ... July 20th, 2011 - 00:03

    Israel is also contagious, but contagious has too much of a positive connotation. Israel is infectious…

    Infectiously spreading illegal settlements atop Palestinian lands
    Infectiously destroying the Palestinian people
    Infectiously controlling the United States to support its terrorist regime
    Infectiously establishing an all-powerful military to compensate for its weak citizenry

    … And most dreadfully…

    Infectiously trying to take over traditional Middle Eastern food in a hopeless attempt to establish a culture for its short-lived existence. Regretfully citing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hummus#Israeli

    Long live Palestine!!
    Nice Article Mr. Zahr

  9. You are right on the spot i married a Palestinian , her family is full of love, fun, foooooooood glore .
    PS one of the most naturally beautiful women on earth and with brains which is a major bonus to sum it up im a very lucky man!!!!

  10. Liking your blog and your sense of humor. As a Muslim it is impossible not to love Palestine. Palestinians are the salt of humanity. We cannot live without it. I have loved Palestine since before I was born therefore I know peace is not an option, it is our destiny.

  11. Very funny and spot on. In my early 20’s my parents wanted me to marry a Palestinian from my city, then a few years later to marry a Palestinian, then they adjusted their expectation to include other Arabs etc. By the time I was 30 they were happy to have me married off to a nice Irish American man who’s become as Palestinian as the rest of us. Thanks for the laughs. With all that’s happening it’s good that we can laugh at our quirks.

  12. tammykoehler ... March 13th, 2013 - 06:54

    Can you help me? Been living in and out of Israel and Palestine for over 5 years. I have a wonderful vision with many in a village in Palestine. We are to open home for children (very simular to the one I voluntered at in Ramallah.
    How can I stay here? Only 2 times a year to return to the states to raise funds. The young man that has this vision was actually one of the students in which I taught in Ramallah. He works at the police station in Ramallah and he also is in school studing law. We know with no uncertain terms we are to do this.
    Thank you for your time. Tammy

  13. Afro-Cubanito/Syboney ... May 16th, 2013 - 00:25

    Ummmmm, why only white folks. lets hear from our Palestinian sisters that have found the sweet nectar from dark and lovely berries and never returning.

  14. American Woman ... September 11th, 2013 - 22:07

    I loved this piece, very funny and very true! Like a checklist, I could mark every box and it put a smile on my face. I wrote two responses to this but they ended up being as long as the article itself and everyone dreads anecdotal stories anyway right? I have been in love with a Palestinian man for 5 years now and the only thing that has been hard about this relationship is everyone else who is not in it. His family (he is his parents only child, and my father is Jewish), my family (my father is Jewish), and anyone I mention his obviously non American name to, they look at me like I’ve made the worst mistake of my life and nothing but discouragement comes out of their mouths. I’ve heard every negative comment and stereotype there is. The disapproving looks every-single-time. Anyway, I am constantly on some sort of search for other anything related to male Arab/female American stories and find that this kind of relationship is severely under represented compared to female Arab/ male American couples in any kind of media or medium. This search brought me to this article BTW, so if anyone can point me in some kind of direction that would be great. It’s been five years of mutually deep affection, admiration, and respect and we have not even kissed yet. I fell for him because he is awesome and amazing, not because he is Arab or Palestinian or Muslim or brown… those things just kinda came as a package deal. Before I start making this too long again, just wanted to say that I loved the article and it is very true in my experience as well.

    • Hi American Woman –
      Your comment is from months ago so I don’t know if you will ever see this, but my father is Palestinian and my mom is American and it’s extremely common for a Palestinian man to marry a woman of another race or religion. It is not common for them to be jewish, they are usually Christian, but it happens. I grew up around tons of half Arab kids like me. I’m not sure what ‘information’ exactly you’re looking for, but all I can tell you is it’s super common for an Arab man (Muslim or Christian) to be married to a white American Christian woman.

      For the article generally – hilarious! Especially the part about randomly pointing out jews on tv, that made me laugh a bunch, it’s so true!

    • Is it possible for a palestinian to marry a non palestinian..?i am a filipina and a christian..and im in love with a palestinian muslim, we planned to get married..is it possible for us?can anyone help me with this..

  15. I would ease up on the self praise a little.A lot of Palestinians are very racist and have negative statements and thoughts about black people and even darker Arabs and even worse darker Palestinians(if your pro palestinian?)

    You cry racism and hate from the Jews but you turn around and do the same to black people or people of color.

    What’s strange is that when we look at the support(demonstrations and etc) that comes from black people for Palestinians I don’t know why you would feel that way towards black people,and if your Muslim it is HARAM!!!

    This hate from amongst Palestinians is not going to help your cause,because once this is publicly known more in masses,people will say ,what is said often they deserve the way they’re treated ,because look how they treat other people(black people)

    Despite the racist rejections for marriage from some Palestinians from black Muslim men, I know of a few black brothers who married Palestinian women.

    Remove this ugly characteristic.

  16. God Bless,
    All palestinian souls!

    Adrian from,
    Romania.

  17. Well, I am truly upset that I cannot disagree with you, señor. How I wish that I could. Many, many years ago, I went to Palestine and walked around the City of Jerusalem in the evening a few times with a Palestinian guy (a Jerusalemite I believe who was about 5 years older than me), who I CANNOT forget to this day. Somebody, PLEASE tell him THIS. Nothing inappropriate happened, nothing at all. I did not even lay a hand on him nor he on me (what a shame). But let me tell ALL of you reading this: since that day I have understood HOW Samson fell so hard for Delilah. It has been three decades, people, and I still cannot forget that enchanting creature; I am STILL under his spell. He probably didn’t even notice that I was totally mesmerized. Not white here but predominantly of Native American ancestry. I was so enthralled by him, I didn’t even tell him my true ancestry just my nationality instead he said that I may be Arab because of the Arab occupation of Spain. Sorry, but that is not the case, my dad’s side of the family still speaks Nahuatl (some people actually think Nahuatl is a dead language) and my mother’s side is descended from the original inhabitants of the U.S. Southwest/Northeastern Mexico. I know practically nothing about Arab culture. I hear that Arab men reject women over 25. He is around his mid-fifties now but even if that is true, all the money in the world would NOT be enough to get any young woman to feel what I feel for him because my feelings are beyond what money can buy. My feelings have withstood the test of time. Even if it means nothing to him, somebody please tell him; it would be a humanitarian deed because I would hate to live to be as old as my grandmother (nearly 100) and go to my grave carrying this burden. Thank you in advance.


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