Well, it’s that time of year. It’s the day when we Palestinians commemorate the establishment of the state of Israel. They call it “independence,” and we call it “Nakba,” which basically means “catastrophe” or “calamity.”
There are still many people living today who suffered the catastrophe of 1948, being driven from their homes, destined to become lifelong refugees. They have suffered, and they still live to tell their stories.
I even know some of these Palestinian mothers, and some of their sons never got married. Don’t worry, nothing happened to their sons. They just never found the right woman. These women have suffered two nakbas.
But as I keep thinking about the past 65 years, I have realized something very important:
Sure, our lives are messed up, but believe me, we’re winning.
See, the Nakba was about getting rid of all the Palestinians. Now, you have to give Israel some credit. They tried their best, and they’re still trying. But even today, 65 years later, we’re more present than ever.
Israelis stole our food. But I’m not mad anymore. It’s a compliment. I mean, you don’t steal something unless it’s awesome. Today, Israeli cuisine consists of hummus, falafel, and stuffed grape leaves.
White European Israeli Jews sit on the beaches of Haifa and Tel Aviv, taking in the Palestinian sun. They smoke hookahs. And they eat sunflower seeds and the throw the shells on the ground.
I have been to Israeli nightclubs. The DJ played techno beats infused with Arabic music. Israelis are even dancing like us. They’re changing the light bulb and doing the windshield wipers just like we Arabs do.
I’ve been at many Israeli checkpoints and border crossings. Sometimes, I even hang out there for many hours. When I‘m there long enough to witness a shift change, I’ve seen how the soldiers talk to each other. They speak mostly Hebrew, but they greet each other in Arabic and use slang Arabic words. They really like “ahlan,” which means “hello,” “keefak,” which means “how are you,” and “sababa,” which means “cool.”
I’ve even heard the following conversation:
Soldier 2: Good.
Soldier 1: Anything exciting today?
Soldier 2: Yeah, I strip searched 35 Palestinians and turned back 5 ambulances.
Soldier 1: Sababa.
We’re totally winning.
Now, Nakba day does conjure up some pain too. It makes me realize how damaged we Palestinians have become. No other people do some of the things we do.
I remember last time I was in Palestine, a friend of mine introduced me to a friend of hers. She said, “Amer, this is my friend Ahmed. He is a great man. He is the best man I have ever met in my life. He was in jail 10 years.”
No one else talks like that.
Normal parents have to explain to their kids where babies come from. Palestinian parents need to explain to their kids where Israel comes from. “Well son, when America loves a group of people so much that she doesn’t want them to immigrate there, they make another country.”
It would be nice to compare the birth of Israel to the birth of a child, except when a baby is born, he usually doesn’t punch another baby in the face as he enters the world.
On my last trip, as I was leaving Ben Gurion Airport to return to America, I got the normal treatment. I like to call it “elevated service.” I don’t get offended by all the extra profiling. It makes me feel much more significant than I actually am. And since we Palestinians are generally depressed, it actually lifts my spirits to know that at least someone thinks I’m important.
In any case, when we Palestinians leave Israel, we get a friendly strip search. It happens in a section of the airport where they have set up a bunch of dressing rooms with privacy curtains. The solider who was assigned to strip search me was a very nice young man, about 22 or 23 years old. We can call him my “stripper.” As we made our way over to the dressing rooms, all of them were being used. I guess lots of Palestinians were leaving Israel that day. It was a good day for business.
But my stripper was clearly irritated. He just wanted to do his job and get it over with. As we waited for a room to open up, we stood against the wall. He looked over at me and muttered in frustration, “Akh, everything here is occupied.”
I said, “I know how you feel.”
See, Israelis are starting to feel the frustration of occupation. C’mon, how can you not think we’re winning?
Israel is not doing very well. None of her neighbors like her. She can’t decide where her borders are, so she clearly has body image issues. She has a major case of denial, especially around this time of the year. And the population of Palestinians just keeps exploding (figuratively).
And now she’s old and has nothing to show for it. In America, most people retire at 65. Maybe Israel should start thinking about it too.