Friday, 30 November 2012

Things Palestinians should say to wanky people who say they want to go to Israel

My face.

What do you say or do when a person who, upon finding out that you are Palestinian, replies with: "Oh, I want to go to Israel!"

Similarly, what do you say or do when a person replies with: "Ah, yes, Pakistan! I have a Pakistani friend."

Similarly, what do you say or do when a person replies with: "Where's/what's that?" 

Similarly, what do you say or do when a person replies with awkward silence.


All of the above makes me want to throw a proverbial shoe or two at the person.

But the one that makes me want to aim a pair of ballet flats for real and not just in my mind Iraqi-journalist-style is "Oh, I want to go to Israel!". Someone said it to me this week. This person essentially told me, in a handful of words, that they want to frolic in my dispossessed ancestral homeland currently settled and colonised by the state of Israel. What is it about "Palestinian" that elicits that sort of response? Whatever happened to just saying "oh, cool/right/interesting" and moving along - just like how the rest of us do it?

People have said similar things to me a few times before, and I normally reply with "I want to go to Palestine too" while staring long and deep into their soul (and mentally filing them into my You're A Dick category), but this time, instead of saying something, I just sniggered to myself and let the person crap on. 

So I thought I'd have a few responses handy for myself and other Palestinians who have to put up with this kind of snideness. Things I should've said slash things that I will say next time slash things you should say next time in response to "Oh, I want to go to Israel":

"Mate. Are you aware that you just glorified colonialism and denied my heritage and ancestral homeland by acknowledging an occupying state? You know you just did that, right?"
 "Oh, you want to go to Israel? Isn't it cool how you, this stranger, can enter freely while millions of indigenous Palestinian refugees are denied entry and right of return?"
"Oh, you want to go to Israel? Do you also want to go back to South Africa in 1950?" 
"Oh, you want to go to Israel? Are you doing a case study on apartheid and military occupation? Investigating on the ground I suppose?" 
"Oh, you want to go to Israel? You might get to play 'Who Can Keep Their Eyes Open The Longest Around Tear Gas'! A classic." 
"Oh, you want to go to Israel? Make sure to take photos of those weird looking third-class citizens and upload them on Instagram. Use the hashtag #ActuallyJordanian." 
And one that's simple and straightforward, "Oh, you want to go to Israel? It was nice knowing you."

Palestine is from the river to the sea

My response to Palestine being granted non-member observer status today in the response to the declaration of a "Palestinian state"...

...and to those waving flags in those who are enthused...

...I can't join you.

I'll celebrate when Palestine "from the river to the sea" is restored, not this scrap of bantustan overseen by the collaborative Palestinian Authority. 

I'll celebrate when the right of return is put into action and the refugees return. 

I am happy to see support for Palestine and countries standing on the better side of history - in defiance of US and Israeli aspirations - but I hope that they will realise that these "symbolic gestures" are a sham and a compromise, and move to stand on the right side of history with the refugees for a free and equal Palestine. 

From the Jordan river to the Mediterranean sea.

Until then, I'm holding my breath.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Australia's abstention and fear of losing Arab-Australian votes

The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that Julia Gillard has been forced to withdraw support for Israel regarding this week's upcoming UN vote to give Palestine observer status. The majority of Gillard's cabinet, including foreign minister and Israel apologist Bob Carr, pressured her to abstain from voting instead of voting no.

From the article:
"Ms Gillard told the caucus meeting that her personal view was to vote no because she believed the UN vote, which will pass easily with the overwhelming support of UN member states, would hurt the peace process because the US has threatened to withdraw funding for the Palestinian Authority."
Right. If I had a dollar for every time I've read or heard a person say "it will hurt the peace process" - that farce of a process, the non-existent process, the sham of a process, a hollow initiative, an empty gesture, an illusion - I'd be able to buy out the Palestinian Authority from the United States and Israel. 

So, according to the article, where did this pressure come from and why is Australia going to abstain?
  • Former Labor foreign minister Gareth Evans warned Labor MPs that "they would be on the wrong side of history if they stood with the US and Israel against the rest of the world". Perhaps Israel's current siege on Gaza is rustling some jimmies?
  • The pro-Palestinian Labor left want Gillard to vote for the resolution - to stand on the right side of history.
  • Labor right members, surprisingly, support an abstention because it feels that the government is too pro-Israel.
  • MPs in western Sydney are worried about losing their seats - they are coming under a lot of pressure from constituents with Middle Eastern/Arab backgrounds.

How significant is an abstention?

In the large scheme of things (like, you know, apartheid and this thing called occupation), it's not very significant at all. A "yes" vote would have been a step forward for Australia. An abstention is fence-sitting. And neutrality in the face of injustice and remaining silent is complicity. 

However, in saying that, an abstention is still better than an outright no, which the US and Israel were relying on. And given that Australia voted against UNESCO membership for Palestinians this year, this is at least some sort of advancement, particularly since Australia will be abstaining from its newly secured Security Council seat. Australian politicians are slowly recognising and acting on the Australian people's growing support for Palestine and Palestinian self-determination.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

If there's any kind of magic...

"I believe if there's any kind of god, it wouldn't be in any of us. Not you or me, but just this little space in between. If there's any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something. I know, it's almost impossible to succeed but...who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt."

I don't normally come across things that strike me, but this quote by Celine in Before Sunrise did. I had to share.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Rejecting your labels

I watched the documentary Fix ME at the Palestinian Film Festival over the weekend. The director and main subject, Raed Andoni, said something in the film that resonated with me. He reflected on the categorisation and labelling of people. He hates being put into 'frames' as he called it. He despises being defined, pigeonholed, stereotyped and people expecting him to make certain films or do things a certain way. The reason why people put others into 'frames', he explained, is because it helps them understand that person. 

I found myself agreeing as I looked up at Andoni’s troubled face onscreen. It’s not that I’ve ever disagreed with those sentiments, because it seems pretty obvious, right? But it occurred to me just how much categorising bothered me. And it also bothered a close friend who pointed it out right after the film. People see others through One-Dimensional Tinted Glasses and expect them to be predictable and stay predictable for the sake of their own understanding.

We are more than labels and ideas and stereotypes and prejudices slapped onto us by others for themselves  given to us to assist their own understanding of who we are. And if you’re thinking "ha, that's fresh for someone who writes posts about Arab stereotypes", well, fuck you. I mean, if you can't see that they're ironic and satirical and poking fun of stereotypes, then you’re one of the most blunt, corroded and damaged tools in the shed (and you’re not even on any of the shelves of this shed – you’re a rusty pair of pliers in a biodegradable garbage bag sitting in the corner, waiting to be disposed, but the owner of said shed keeps postponing dropping it off at the dump). But I digress.

In regards to categorising and labelling and defining and constructing others, I'm not just speaking about hyphenated-collective-identity-politics or group stereotypes, but interactions on a personal, individual and micro level too. If there’s something that particularly stands out about your character or your interests or what you do, it stays with you because it’s the easiest way for people to understand you. Despite their intentions, our nearest and dearest friends and relatives, our mates and colleagues and neighbours and acquaintances and dentists and those people you once went to high school with or shared that one class with (and less than ten words) last semester all label you and sometimes look at you through One-Dimensional Tinted Glasses

It's not necessarily a terrible thing to label. We need to label things otherwise we'd be spluttering on salty tea a helluva lot. Or snorting lines of baking soda. It's just how we humans are. You know, first impressions and such. Deducing-shit-about-you and all. You live here or went there or dress like this or speak like that therefore you must be like this and this and this. And some of it can and does ring true and is right, but what's frustrating is people who do not – cannot – see beyond it, despite you allowing them to see beyond the set image they have of you. Not that 'the set image' is necessarily bad, just that there's more, and if they manage to get a glimpse into the second or third dimension, they’re taken aback by it.

Take me for example. I'm a Palestinian who strongly believes in Palestinian rights, equality and self-determination. I'm a young woman who strongly believes in women’s rights, equality and self-determination.

I’m those things (not just those things, though) and I feel that way about those things (and other things) and I’m not mysterious about those things if they happen to come up in discussion. So people immediately see me as feisty and bold and that I’m the revolutionary slash Leila Khaled variety. That I'm nationalistic when no, no I'm not. Yeah, sure, I can be feisty and quick-witted and political and defensive, but it doesn't end there. I'm also dainty and bubbly and who knows if I'm introverted or extroverted and does it even matter? I can be clumsy and confused and slow to respond, and I’m soft and sentimental and affectionate, inspired, jaded, motivated and demotivated and I don’t know how to say no when I should sometimes, and I’m not angry at the world, because too much anger is toxic, I'm just disappointed in how some things work (and angry sometimes).

Sometimes I just want to talk about how shit the Palestinian Authority is and how Oslo was a failure, and other times I just want to tell you that my earphones are tangled and could you please be a darl and untangle them for me. Sometimes I’m at rallies, and other times I’m either on the weird part of YouTube or I’m curled up watching Friends re-runs, gushing at Ross, and burning my fingers while trying to rescue a Tim Tam that fell into my cup of coffee (and then realising that I’ve gone through half a packet and telling myself that I don’t care about anything or anyone anymore and why don’t I have my own apartment in Manhattan again?).

And hey, as a side note while I’m at it, because this is my blog and not the New Yorker and I’m allowed to go on incoherent tangents whenever I like – I feel iffy when people I don't know well tell me that they admire my "passion for Palestine", like it’s some kind of sport or hobby and they’re patting me on the back for it. “Wow, I love how passionate you are about it”. You can be passionate about solving a Rubik’s cube and salsa dancing, about history or art, but having an opinion and being concerned about the mistreatment of people and demanding equality for them, whoever they may be, is some kind of display of passion?

That was cathartic. I forgot what I was saying. 

Ah, yeah, labels. I am more than them. You are more than them. Where was I going with this?