“. . . They sip at their longing for God. . .” (Samih Mohsen)

Like mother like son

Like mother like son

I bought an iPad about three years ago. I’m not exactly sure why, except that the (more than) friend I was hanging with had one, and it looked so convenient and fun. I discovered it will do almost everything I ever want to do on my computer.

The thing goes with me nearly everywhere these days. About all I do with it is check email and Google to find answers to questions (actually, it’s Safari, not Google) I want immediate answers to. Once in a while I take pictures. Probably the most time I spend on it—shall I admit this public?—is playing Sudoku. I’ve gotten so I can hardly sit and watch TV without playing Sudoku, and the iPad is much easier to see than my iPhone.

The most useful App I have is my Nook book app. All of the books I’ve bought for my Nook, I can read on the iPad. I haven’t picked up the Nook since I bought the iPad.

I hear women occasionally talk about how they have become their mothers (is there a famous book about that?), but I never hear men talk about how they have become their fathers. I have.

My father became interested in computers in the ‘80s when he was in his 70s. He owned one before I did. Now I’m in my 70s and trying desperately (hardly at all, in point of fact) to keep up with technology. I am my father. I am amazed at all of this stuff. My computer knowledge is stuck somewhere in about the ‘90s. I can’t do anything technological. I have a big flat-screen (not THAT big) “SMART” TV that I can’t watch movies on because I can’t figure out how to make it talk to my wireless modem.

And things go downhill from there.

All of the messages from one of my very closest friends (there are many of them) were ending up in the spam file in my email. I was checking the file for messages of his and dutifully moving them to my inbox when I noticed that the “spam” icon at the top of Outlook turns to “Not Spam” when I open the spam file. I clicked on it when I had one of his messages open, and voila! Problem solved.

I’ve been using the same Outlook email for 20 years.

You can extrapolate from that little example to the larger world of GPS and iTunes and. . . . to understand how limited my ability is.

My dad bought his first computer when he discovered he could have the pictures he and Mom took on their 50th anniversary trip to The Holy Lands in 1987 scanned and printed out on a computer. It was pretty crude and rudimentary back then, but it was possible. He had to have one.

I had no clue then.

But when I was part of a delegation of the Inter-Faith Peace Builders (Fellowship of Reconciliation) to Palestine/Israel in 2003, I bought a digital camera. I have hundreds of pictures. Unfortunately, they are on 3 ½ inch floppy disks, and I have no way to read them. But that began my love affair with digital pictures. I use my phone and my SONY camera to take zillions of pictures, as everyone else does.

Wonderfully strange that my father and I both learned about digital photography through trips to The Holy Lands.

There was one huge difference in our experience there, however. He went with a Baptist church group, and the only place they went in the West Bank was Bethlehem—even though the Apartheid Wall was only a gleam in Benjamin Netanyahu’s eye at that time.

My dad’s group could have wandered anywhere they wanted, but they went where all tourists went at that time (and still today). Mom and Dad never saw a Palestinian Refugee Camp or the ruins of a Palestinian village covered in pine trees planted by the Israelis to make the ruins disappear.

Somewhere I have a digital picture of my mother terrified and angry on a camel—she had no idea it was going to stand up suddenly once she got on. Of course, that was at the Great Pyramid in Egypt, but the same trip.

I have such a picture of myself taken on my second visit in 2008—except I was having the time of my life, and not solely because of the hunky young Palestinian man who owned the camel—riding in a little walled-in yard in Jericho.

The Baptists did not know the Al-Aqsa Mosque is on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem or that the Dead Sea was becoming a resort for Israelis which the Palestinians who live within walking distance are not allowed to share.

Etc.

The latest download on my iPad is Nakba: Palestine, 1948, and the Claims of Memory. Ahmad H. Sa’di and Lila Abu-Lughod, editors (Columbia University Press, 2007). It is a collection of essays about the Palestinian “Catastrophe” of 1948—the year those villages were plundered and the planting of camouflage trees began.

My father, having been two miles (or less) from a couple of those destroyed villages never knew the word “Nakba.” I know because I asked him.

My parents were a stone’s throw from Deir Yassin, one of the first villages to be depopulated by the citizens of the newly formed Israel, and he never saw it or heard of the massacre. (Some of the buildings are still there—used as a state-run Israeli mental hospital.)

I was hoping last week when I heard about it to find a Nook Book version of the book A Bird is not a Stone: An Anthology of Contemporary Palestinian Palestinian Poetry, edited by Henry Bell and Sarah Irving (Glasgow: Freight Books, 2014). Of course, there is no Nook version. But I ordered the paperback edition.

I’d suggest that you get it. That is, if you have any desire to know Palestinians as persons, as a nation, as a people loving and longing for life in their homeland.

“Lamentation,” by Samih Mohsen

At Manger Square, at midday,
The chairs outside the cafes
Are taken by Western tourists, in September
They sip at their longing for God
The streets teem with passers-by
And foreign languages
We tread on the shadow
Of an old man stretched out on the pavement
With his arm and a tattered shoe for a pillow
His mattress was a story. . .
We pass by his wounds without seeing
Beer tickles our bellies to laughter
And telling inane anecdotes
We try to release the child within us
We stand in Manger Square
And mimic the dance-steps of Zorba the Greek
We step
We laugh
We step into the ring of lamentation.
–translated by Henry King

Samih Mohsen was born in the village of Naqour in Nablus, Palestine (Occupid Territories) in 1953, and has published two collections of poetry, Exiting the Narrow Rooms and Kingdoms & Peril.

From a book review of A Bird is not a Stone: An Anthology of Contemporary Palestinian Palestinian Poetry in which this poem is published:
“It is poignant and grimly amusing to read of the Western tourists who ‘sip at their longing for God’ in Manger Square and ignore ‘an old man stretched out on the pavement’ (‘Lamentation’ by Samih Mohsen, trsl. Henry King). It is hard not to feel something of a tourist oneself when reading a book of poems like this written, as it were, from Emily Dickinson’s ‘great pain’. As Iain Crichton Smith wrote in his long essay about the Hebrides: ‘Real people in a real place’; the Palestinians are also real people in a real place. And the land itself which is the subject at the heart of most of these poems, guarding the bones of their relatives and ancestors, is sacred to them.” From the online magazine, “The Bottle Imp.”

“. . . reveals a deliberate and systematic plan. . . “ (Peige Desjarlais)

Being senescent is not as continually jolly as I hoped when I began writing this blog.

Bethlehem, 1880

Bethlehem, 1880

I may say I’m senescent, but no one under 65 may. I heard on TV news yesterday that the “elderly” Aretha Franklin is coming to town. She’s 72. She ain’t elderly regardless what the 20-year-old copy writer says!

Does everyone in their senescence have memories lodged in their minds that won’t go away?

The past two weeks I’ve written daily—as usual. But my mind goes to an uncomfortable memory I can’t shake, August, 2003. I haven’t been able to write about it.

A few years back a friend asked me to remove her from my email “contacts” or stop sending her mass-mailing messages. She did not want any more of my “political” messages.

Since that day I have wondered how anyone who is able to think logically (which my friend certainly is) can say the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people by the Israelis is “political.”

Ethnic cleansing—the appropriation of the land of a people and dislocating them, usually accompanied by mass murder of civilians propelled by the belief that one nation has the right to the land of another—is not a matter of politics. It is a matter of morality.

My guess is we’d have to search hard to find an American who would say the “Caliphate” founded on religion declared in Syria and Iraq is a good thing. If someone thought so, they would not say it. They would be ostracized—or worse! We’d have to search hard to find a single American who would say the Russian annexation of Crimea is a good thing. If someone thought so, they would not say it. They would be ostracized—or worse!

But the Israeli annexation of the West Bank and Gaza, its declaration that its state founded on religion extends from the Jordan to the Mediterranean is, in the thinking of Americans, somehow justified.

This does not raise a political question. It is a simple question of right versus wrong.

The erroneous political commentary is that Israel has a right to defend itself, most recently to punish Hamas for kidnapping and killing three Jewish boys. Never mind this is “. . . an arbitrary starting point. Just one day before the kidnappings, a Palestinian man and a 10-year-old child were killed in Gaza by an Israeli airstrike. Why wasn’t that the starting point of the violence? Has the media [and thus the American people] internalized Israel’s narrative to such an extent that they only see Israel as ‘responding’ to violence rather than initiating it?” Always?

Americans want the State of Iraq somehow to rise up and defend itself.

America is willing to destroy Russia’s economy to bring an end to the civil war in Eastern Ukraine.

Why does that thinking not apply to Israel and its inch-by-inch, illegal settlement-by-illegal settlement ethnic cleansing of the homeland of the Palestinian people—the ethnic cleansing** that began in 1948 and has continued unabated until July 30, 2014? If we want the people of Iraq to defend themselves against ISIS and the Ukrainians to defend themselves against Russia, why do we not want the Palestinians to defend themselves against aggression?

The falsity of the reasoning leading to Israel’s right to defend itself is proven by the fact that no one follows the logic to its rational end, that the Palestinian people have the right to defend themselves.

All peoples have a right to defend themselves
The Palestinians are a people.
Therefore the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves.

Deir Yassin Massacre, 1948

Deir Yassin Massacre, 1948

Anyone who repeats the illogical and time-worn assumption that only Israel has a right to defend itself is repeating propaganda, not logic, and certainly not Truth. (This is not an idea original with me. Fortunately those with far more authority than I are of the same mind.)

The only reason to say one people has the right to defend itself and another doesn’t is that we have chosen sides—not that the idea is either logical or moral. It is either propaganda or nonsense—or both.

I have friends who think that the problem in Gaza is Hamas. They cannot (or will not?) understand that the problem pre-dates Hamas. Hamas did not exist at the time of Israel’s 1967 conquering of all of Palestine. The problem is not (and never has been) Hamas. The problem is Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians—bordering now on GENOCIDE in Gaza.

The formation of Hamas was a reaction to the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people; Hamas is not the cause of the “conflict.” Hamas is the result of the “conflict.”

That August day in 2003 I stood with a group of Americans at the edge of an olive orchard behind the home of a Palestinian family. Much of the orchard had been uprooted, and access to the rest was restricted by chain-link fences topped by coils of razor wire. The fence enclosed a gouge in the earth about ½ mile wide with a newly-constructed divided highway running down the middle. This highway was restricted to Israeli citizens (Jewish) and military, even though it was in Occupied Palestine.

When I returned to a place near that farm six years later, our group could not get to the farm because it was on the other side of the Apartheid Wall Israel had finished in the interim.

Some will object to my use of “Apartheid.” Dictionary.com defines the word as “any system or practice that separates people according to race, caste, etc.” Once one has seen the Wall and the system of Jewish-only highways dissecting Palestinian land and connecting the illegal Israeli settlements, one has no qualms using the word “Apartheid.”

And so, because Israel has a right to protect its Apartheid system, it has the right to destroy the homes of 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza, to bomb hospitals, to destroy the only power plant in Gaza, and to murder over 1000 Palestinians—so far—mostly civilians, 1/3 of them children. They have the right. The Palestinians have no rights.

Anyone who can contemplate that carnage or see the Apartheid Wall without revulsion has no moral compass.

** “Ethnic cleansing is a crime under international law, defined as the intention to create an ethnically homogenous territory through the expulsion of an ethnic or religious group. It is often related to, but not the same as, the crime of

Bethlehem, 2014

Bethlehem, 2014

genocide. The United Nations defines acts of ethnic cleansing as the “separation of men from women, the detention of men, the explosion of houses” and repopulating homes with another ethnic group. Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, like other members of the dubbed “new historians”, counters the dominant Israeli narrative that the Palestinians fled voluntarily or under the orders of Arab leaders of surrounding countries. His study of Israeli military archives reveals a deliberate and systematic plan by the Zionist militias to ethnically cleanse the Arab population of Palestine by occupying villages and their homeland and some 530 Arab villages were destroyed and depopulated along with other urban centers. A society descended from people who settled the region as far back as the Canaanites was destroyed in a matter of months in the process of making the borders of the Jewish state.”
From:
Desjarlais, Peige. “Excavating Zion: Archaeology and Nation-Making In Palestine/Israel.” Totem: The University Of Western Ontario Anthropology Journal 21.1 (2013): 1-14.