65 Years Later, & We’re Winning

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:

We’re winning.

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.

We’re winning.

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.

We’re winning.

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.

We’re winning.

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.

We’re winning.

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 1: Ahlan, keefak?
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.

About Amer Zahr 181 Articles
Amer Zahr is a Palestinian American comedian, writer, professor and speaker living in Dearborn, Michigan. He is also the editor of "The Civil Arab."


  1. مبدع يا امير.. ونحنا كمان الشعب اللي بضحك على مصايبه.. امل كبير .. تفاؤل اكبر ..

  2. I teetered between laughing and crying…chose to laugh my head off. I’ve been thru all that you describe since birth. Keep on writing Ammo.

  3. As an American Jew I was disappointed in your piece. You make a lot of interesting points but the final phrase, about Israel ‘retiring soon’ was the most offensive. This seems to be the typical Arab philosophy, hoping that Israel will ‘retire’. I personally see this philosophy as one that is just as dangerous as the philosophy of the hard line right wing American Jews (not me) in APAC. Hoping for a ‘retirement’ is entirely different than hoping, or better yet, working, for PEACE. And Israel having ‘nothing to show for it’? Really? I could go on about the medical and agricultural inventions created by Israelis, but you’d probably plug your ears. I’m not saying that you should be impressed, only that you should reconsider making such comments as ‘nothing to show for it’. Do you realize that probably the more anti-Israel Arabs become, the less Israel is willing to work with its neighbors for peace?

    • Hello MsBrieCheese,

      Israel should retire its thinking that the Palestinians are or should be going anywhere.
      Israel should retire its philosophy that it needs to be a purely Jewish state.
      Israel should retire its desire to get rid of all the Palestinians.

      Israel’s ongoing Zionist dream to “purify” its land and rid itself of us Arabs is the problem.

      I would be curious what you consider “peace”? In my world, “peace” would begin with a direct, unmitigated apology from Israel for its attempts to dispossess and disenfranchise us since 1948. Then we can talk about “peace.” I wonder why supporters of Israel always ask us to recognize our shortcomings and failures, all the time denying the main problem.

      Israel has “nothing to show for it” in my view. She is like the rich girl that has all the material things anyone could hope for, but has not yet found true love. And of course, it’s everyone’s fault but hers.

      Israel wishes we simply didn’t exist at all. She has a major case of denial. But they say admitting a problem is the first step to recovery.

      • Amer, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but in the last year many young Arabs have joined (and been welcomed into) the Israeli Civil Service (volunteering in hospitals, fire stations, etc.). Clearly Israel is not working to ‘rid itself of Arabs’.

        You asked what I personally consider peace. I consider peace to involve a two state solution, where each state lives independently and without threat of violence from the other. It’s easy for both myself and yourself to go back and forth on who is to blame or what metaphor fits best. At the end of the day, though, neither side is going to ‘retire’ and both must do what is right, which, in my opinion, is living side by side in two separate states. Do you support a two state solution?

        • No, I support one democratic state where everyone lives equally in front of the law regardless of religion, ethnicity, or tribe.

          Is Israel currently democratic when it comes to its Palestinian citizens? Let’s not even talk about the 4 million it imprisons in the West Bank and Gaza. But when it comes to its Palestinian citizens, Israel is clearly not democratic.

          And by the way, it is OK to use the word “Palestinian.” Israel loves using the term Arabs when it talks about its Palestinians. Somehow, if you just call them “Arab,” it lumps them in with the whole Arab world, making it much easier to expel them one day.

          – Amer

          • Amer,
            I will be more conscientious about using the term Palestinian. I think we will have to agree to disagree regarding there being one democratic state though. I don’t see that happening though I do believe that a two state solution is possible and even desirable (by some, including myself). Regards

  4. Israel sure as hell isn’t losing. The status quo is not an ideal solution for Israel, but Israel is thriving despite its horrible neighborhood. And Israel is not going anywhere. Maybe its finally time for the closest neighbor to rethink its approach. Happy Birthday.

    • Well, I was not ofended but I do find it quite funny (now, I do not say at any point that there are no problems. There are indeed great many things to correct. I just wish to address a few relevant points).
      You seem to call Israeli arab citizens “Palestinians” and treat them the same as the people in the “occupied territories” yet the former have representatives in the Kneset, are free to speak their minds and indeed allow themselves to use all the tools the “non democratic” Israel has to explain how bad it is over here. I wish they tried it in…say…all other democratic arab states. O, wait, there are non…
      About the “Jewish” state. Well, that one you can bring to the UN doorstep. Just like the Palestinians happily accept other internatinal decisions which work for them (are you aware that only in the Palestinian case is the refugee status hereditary?).
      By the way, this liberal choosing of laws and agreements is an annoying modus operandi of all sides in this conflict.

      Now, if one considers the Palestiniand in the west bank, I don’t think that even Israeli-Arabs would want what they would vote fore (well, perhaps I am missunderstanding but Hamas does not strike me as a liberal-democratic-muslim government).
      And if the Palestinians want peace as much as we do (I won’t go into Israeli internal politics but as you could see the Likud-Israel Betenu party didn’t get most of the votes and “Otzma Le Israel”, a radical right wing movement, was ejected from the Kneset this last elections), why can’t they acknowledge the state of Israel?

      One last thing concerning Israeli achivements: chances are that if you read this using a smart phone the chip in there is Israeli developed. Palestinians – and indeed citizens of other arab countries – come regularly for medical treatment in Israel. World leading companies cant wait to establish R&D centers overe here and I can go on and on. The fact is that in 65 years we did what the whole arab world didn’t do in 400 years. I am not saying this to dissrespect but please, look for yourself.
      Fact is, 65 years for a country is quite young.

      I say again, there are many problems still and there were many mistakes made. Despite what you THINK we over here KNOW this. but why finding a solution if one could demand an appology for something that happened 65 years ago in a war he himself started. Its like Germany demanding an appology for Drezden. Recall this never happened yet lessons were learned, or am I mistaken.

      Considering what I told you about Israeli politics, maybe Its like Jones said: “Maybe its finally time for the closest neighbor to rethink its approach”. But yet just acouple days ago Mr. Jibril Rajoub elaborated on how Palestinians are our greates enemy. And you wonder why the security checks?

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