I Can’t Escape Being Palestinian!

Being a Palestinian is relentless.  It’s action-packed, hectic, and lively.  It’s frantic, frenzied, and chaotic.  It’s frenetic, feverish, and downright wild.  (Those are all the appropriate words I could find in the thesaurus on Microsoft Word.)

But don’t worry, I’m used to it.

The past couple weeks have been especially eventful.  It started with the excitement we all felt knowing that a Palestinian-made film was nominated for an Oscar.  “5 Broken Cameras” is about how the Palestinian residents of Bil’in mounted a non-violent campaign against the Israeli separation wall cutting through their village, threatening their land ownership rights and livelihoods.  It follows director Emad Burnat, a self-taught cameraman, as he documents his village’s resistance efforts through the lens of five different cameras, each of which gets destroyed somewhere along the way.

A Palestinian nominated for an Oscar?  Cool.  Maybe this would be a good week.  Emad Burnat would come to America and represent our struggle, tell the world that we Palestinians love peace just as much as anyone, and let everyone know that we have the right to demand our rights, that we are human beings.  He would come to America and do all those things.  If he could get in, that is.  Upon his arrival to Los Angeles International Airport, Emad (remember, an Oscar nominee) was detained by US immigration agents.  Not gonna be a good week.  No other foreign Oscar nominees were detained, just the Palestinian.  I’m not saying Emad got profiled, but… Ok, I’m saying he got profiled.

Of course, now I had to watch the Oscars.  I didn’t really plan to watch the show, but I got together with some old Palestinian friends and sat through a couple hours of awards about editing and visual effects.  Finally it was time for “Best Documentary.”  I don’t know why I held out hope.  We didn’t win.  We Palestinians were robbed… again.

I needed to escape my Palestinian-ness for a while.  There would be no better time than my flight to Houston for a show.  When the crew asked us to turn off our phones, I quickly finished my game of solitaire and grabbed a copy of the United Airlines magazine, “Hemispheres.”  My escape would be short-lived.  I read the following cover headline:


Oh, Jesus.  I didn’t want to read the article, but I was Palestinian-ly required to do so.  The first line didn’t help to relieve my tension:

Settled by Jews from places as diverse as Eastern Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, Israel is a nation of immigrants.

C’mon.  Did this really have to happen to me?  I was relaxed, seatbelt fastened, ready to start a fun weekend.  A nation of immigrants?  I tend to think of immigrants as people who swim across a river or jump over a fence.  I don’t tend to think of them as people with tanks and helicopters building concrete walls through other people’s villages.

The next line of the article helped a little bit:

Yet for all the country’s international flavor, what’s long been characteristic Israeli food – hummus, falafel, mixed grilled meats, fresh chopped salads – is in fact cuisine borrowed from local Levantines.

“Borrowed” is a nice way of putting it, but I’ll take it.  That admission only took 64 years, 9 months, and 9 days… but who’s counting?

Then just yesterday I woke up to find out that an Israeli bus company has decided to run “Palestinian-only” lines.  Afikim is an Israeli bus company, contracted by the Israeli government to operate bus service from the West Bank into Israel.  It mostly serves settlers, but it also serves some of the 29,000 Palestinian residents of the West Bank who hold permits to work inside Israel.  The separate bus line was created after Israeli settlers who reside inside the West Bank complained that they didn’t feel “safe” with Palestinian riders alongside them.  Legalized segregation was done away with in America almost 60 years ago.  Israel is going retro.  She’s bringing it back!

Now, we should be clear that this is not about security, just like it wasn’t about security in Alabama in 1955.  This is about racial superiority.  How do I know it’s not about security?  During the month of Ramadan in 2012, 1.2 million Palestinians from the West Bank entered Israel.  They shopped, dined, and had fun.  They gave a noticeable bump to the Israeli economy.  They flooded Israel’s beaches.  Yeah, they swam fully clothed, but it was Ramadan after all.  1.2 million of them.  And guess what?  No attacks.  Zero.  The bus segregation is about something, but it’s definitely not security.

I wish this bus thing never occurred, but don’t worry, this kind of stuff happens to me all the time.

I thought all the madness was over until this morning.  I looked through my Facebook feed and found:

Palestinian waiter assaulted by Israelis in Tel Aviv

Damn. Can’t I get one day of peace?  This time a Palestinian waiter was doing his job, when a group of Jewish customers started complaining.  They then called him a “smelly Arab” and started hitting him and throwing tables and chairs at him.  No one intervened, and police refused to file charges against the assailants, even though the incident was caught on surveillance video.

I don’t know if this Palestinian lives in the West Bank.  But if he does, at least he’ll be safe on his bus ride home.

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. عامر، ألا تفكر بجمع هذه المقلات القيّمة ونشرها في كتاب؟ والأهمّ، هل تفكّرُ بترجمتها إلى العربية ونشرها؟

  2. I’m just a Palestinian by marriage but I totally understand. I really enjoy everything you write. I send them all to my kids. It is good for them to know they are not alone. It isn’t easy living in the US when your name is Mahmoud, Khaled and Saeed.

  3. i dont know how i haven’t heard about your blog before!!!! you just portray how we live as Palestinians so truly.. keep up the good work man.. two thumbs up!!!

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