Thoughts on Minorities as Nothing Important Happens
Monday, November 8, 2010 7:38:09 AM
Sorry for the three-week delay, I’ve been lying low and finding my routine in an uncommonly quiet Palestine. I’m in the office Monday through Friday, translating five or six articles a day and writing a few others from compiled sources. Reporting and photographing my own stories is rarer, but I’m working with my editor to move in that direction, since my eyes are hurting from looking at the computer screen for hours. Ethical, logistical, and stylistic concerns abound in the PNN English Department, but I’ll keep my mouth shut about that on this public blog. Anyway, mostly nothing blogworthy has happened, but I sense the lull is coming to an end.
The three stories I have been able to report on, in short order:
A mosaic factory in Beit Sahour, run by this guy…
…and staffed by people with special needs. Also a pretty interesting book reading by this guy, Raja Shehadeh, who followed his uncle’s footsteps through pre-1948 HERE:
And then two nights ago, I went to a special mass at the Nativity Church for the Christians killed in Sunday’s massacre in Baghdad:
The variegated robes, hats, and cowls of the different denominations were fun to see. But if it surprises you that I live in a village that is predominantly Christian (Beit Sahour) and work in a city evenly split (Bethlehem), thank the toothless mainstream Western media and anyone else politically inclined who falls for the “Clash of Civilizations” nonsense. It’s a shame that occupied Palestine is usually lumped with Saudi Arabia and Iran in the generally hostile picture of the Muslim Middle East, but the fact is that Christians, who are now leaving in droves, have been here long before Muslims. That of course does not give Christians special historical claims—saying that is almost exactly the same as saying today’s Jews have the right to ethnically cleanse and colonize every foot of land that Jews owned 2000 years ago, and goodness knows that theory hasn’t keeled over yet. But it does mean that Christians deserve to be seen as a historical part of Palestine and a key to the pluralistic and harmonious Middle East that America has been purportedly seeking since Bush invaded Iraq. That is to say, if American foreign policy experts really gave a shit about creating models of democratic multiculturalism here, as they say they do, they would be more heavily invested in stopping ultra-Orthodox Jewish settlers from burglarizing the future state of Palestine. But Palestine cannot be such a model, in the same way that Iraq will not soon be, if American foreign policy keeps financing this:
That’s the checkpoint on the way to Jerusalem at about six-thirty in the morning. Not very warm, either. I’m not comparing a hassle to a massacre, but this daily humiliation of putting Palestinians into cattle lines has to be seen as an expression of the same American neglect. If we didn’t finance the occupation with three billion dollars a year, would the two-state solution be in its death throes? Almost certainly not. But as long as we do, the fancy of interfaith democracy in Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt will remain out of reach, leaving it up to Hamas, Hizbullah, and the Muslim Brotherhood, respectively, to dictate the futures of millions of people who don’t agree with them. But while we’re talking about illusions…
…that sign says, “Israel: Where It’s Vacation Time All Year Round,” placed extremely cynically inside the checkpoint.
So the bogus culture clash picture short-changes Israelis, too. Saying nothing of the occupation, the wall, the settler politicians, the citizenship laws, the history books, and the security state (which is saying a big, big nothing), there are sectors of society that the traditional picture omits with a shrug. For example…
…the 120,000 Ethiopian Jews. I’ll shut up about a subject on which I know almost nothing, but I will say that Black Jews and Arab Christians are equally apt to take people by surprise, and both deserve notice if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is ever going to get out of the current rut. That rut, I believe, owes a lot to American fatigue, which in turn comes from hearing the same story for 25 years, in which quasi-American democracy-loving Jews try to take what’s rightfully theirs from not-at-all Americans who stone women in mosques.
And with that, I am myself fatigued from all this policy crap. I’ve been trying to get good at Palestinian cooking, with some success thanks to my friend Ayman…
…who helped me rustle up a plate of musakhan, a heavy-on-the-sumac chicken dish. My fridge is stocked, my spice cabinet is moving in that direction, and I’ll have a book full of hummus recipe hits and misses by the time I get back. Also I’ve been casting my language nets in all directions, from a copy of Robin Hood in very high Arabic (“O you insolent rogue!”) to the more useful quips in Palestinian (bchefi chethib translates to “stop lying”). I am now something of a regular to the grocer, the confectioner, and the falafel man, all of whom can help me with the relevant words and phrases when I need them.
Anyway, that’s it for now. I’m doing my best to get out of the office and pick up interesting stories, so keep an eye on the blog and I’ll update it more frequently. I hope everyone has a nice day. Don’t buy settlement products.