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(& Smartest) Arab
July 16th, 2011 (22 Comments)
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.