Abbas & Mustafa

How much do I really relate to the Palestinian living next door?

As far as history claims, societies first formed when a group of people decided to gather in caves for protection. So, we are Palestinians because our ancestors happened to live in caves nearby!

Ok, ok… it may mean a bit more than that, but that’s how it all started.

The word “Palestine” shows dedication to the Sykes-Picot agreement, which is basically a manmade border. Before the British Mandate, Palestine used to refer to a region within Syria!

It was the creation of Israel that complicated everything. Palestinians view the dream of a state of Palestine as a way to confirm their identity and long heritage.

Today, whether we like this or not, this basic concept is starting to change. Why?

Let me demonstrate this by comparing my relationship with two people: My dear Chinese friend Liang and Mr Mahmoud Abbas (a Palestinian and the head of the Palestinian Authority).

Mr Abbas:

We tend to use different languages. In our dictionaries words like “Palestine”, “occupation” and “friends” refer to completely different concepts.

He hardly ever made me a promise and fulfilled it. He keeps making my life miserable by refusing to dismantle the Palestinian Authority and didn’t manage (contrary to his claims) to put Palestine on the map.

What do we have in common? I assume he likes knafeh too, but who doesn’t?!


Yeah, on the surface you may think we have nothing in common.

I don’t speak Chinese and he doesn’t speak Arabic, but we both speak the truth whenever we see it. We tend to understand each other sometimes without having to utter a single word.

He never made a promise and failed me. He has been a blessing to my life and continues to do so. He knows how to take care of himself and give love to those he values around him.

To me, Liang, a Chinese raised in a small village many miles away, is so “Palestinian” in the image of simplicity and humbleness that I gave him the nickname “Mustafa” (“The Chosen” in Arabic). Maybe because it was like finding my version of “Neo”!

My dear Mustafa is expecting his first baby this September and I cannot wait to have the chance to see the newborn, give her some real Arabic love and perform my duties as Uncle Damen!

Mustafa is so different from a great number of Palestinians I’ve got to meet in Palestine or abroad who ran away from their own life problems and dedicated their lives to resisting Israel! Yes, resisting the occupation is a noble cause, but abandoning themselves and even causing problems to others in the name of such resistance is not noble anymore.

Palestine will never come to exist on the shoulders of broken souls who failed their own life battles and decided to chase a false dream of perfection. Palestine to them is a “fantasy,” not a “reality”. I don’t know what they’d be doing if there were no Israel. I’m not sure I can trust these youth with the future of the country. They keep criticising Mr Abbas, and, in fact, many of them are not that better.

A leftist Arab nationalist criticised me once by saying: Yeah, you’re one of those “humanists”!

When was being human a problem? Did I miss a meeting?!

They are so focused on their fantasy of Palestine which sounds a lot more like hell than any form of paradise I can imagine.

As a human being I seek the infinites like love and knowledge. I realize that I’m nothing but a meat-coated skeleton on a very small planet in a VERY vast universe. I like to find those who still didn’t abandon their souls regardless of their country of origin.

And YES these include those very few Israelis, like Ilan Pappe, who abandoned the Zionist aspirations and seem to have more soul than many Palestinians I know, even regarding the Palestinian cause. I’ve been on this soul search with little success so far, but I’m not giving up. After all, my soul is the only thing that I truly own.

As a Palestinian, I was raised to undervalue possessions and the word “ownership”. The first thing that comes to my mind when I buy anything is: “Does it fit in a small bag?” or “Would I take this with me if I was forced to leave home on a whim?”

However, this is NOT specifically a Palestinian problem anymore. We have seen enough war and injustice to know exactly what imperialists are doing to destroy our planet.

The word “Arab” and the word “refugee” became synonyms now, especially with the Iraqi and Syrian catastrophes. Palestinians are now the old-time “refugees” who’ve been around the block long enough to be the experts!

Mustafa, I and many friends around the world realize that resisting “imperialism” is the key to freedom for everybody in each corner of our planet.

The map I’d love to see is not a map with Palestine on it, but a map with no manmade borders on it at all. Everybody would be free to roam Earth again. This is a TRUE nightmare for every imperialist.

But for now, when Mustafa shows his daughter the world map one day, he’ll tell her that Uncle Damen comes from a part of the world they call “Palestine.” At least in those young Chinese eyes Palestine would really exist. By that time of course, I’d have already chosen an Arabic name for her to certify her Palestinian-ism!

By doing this, Mustafa would’ve achieved what Mr Abbas failed to do and without putting much effort (except that Mustafa found his soul and spread love and knowledge).

And as long as Israel exists, I’ll still call myself a Palestinian. Not because I believe in the word, but because it’s the “home” I’ve learnt to love and, little by little and despite all my efforts, been forced to lose.

About Ahmad Damen 5 Articles
Ahmad Damen is a musician, soundtrack composer and an award-winning film director from Ramallah, Palestine.

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