The Terror Journal

A Journal on Terrorism and Genocide

I’m a scared Arab in Israel

Israel palestine flag“Soon,” I said to the children, and for the fourth time that morning evicted them from the study. It had been a mistake to promise I would take them with me when I went to vote. In contrast to school days, this morning they both woke up on time, brushed their teeth, washed their faces and dressed themselves without all the usual objections.

The elections stirred their curiosity – the signs, the photos of the candidates, things they heard on television, on the radio or at school made them think it was some kind of festival or holiday – and the fact is, they have the day off from school. They didn’t want to miss the festivities. For the past few weeks the kids asked questions whenever we passed party activists handing out brochures at intersections or when we drove by billboards bearing huge portraits of one leader or another.

“Tell us, Daddy,” they asked occasionally, pointing to a photograph of one of the candidates, “is that one of the good guys?” “No,” I replied, sometimes without looking to see who they were asking about. “Daddy, Daddy,” my daughter said this week, “I asked you about all the candidates in the pictures and you said they are all bad.” “We will vote for Superman,” her little brother said, raising a hand in the air, making whooshing flying noises like his favorite superhero. “Superman can beat Batman, right, Daddy?” “They’re both good,” I replied for the millionth time, “both Superman and Batman. There is no reason for them to fight.” “Soon,” I scolded them again and tried to concentrate on my cup of black coffee and the glass of water on my desk.

I had been positive I would be able to sleep late, and did not expect two little Arabs to jump on me at 7 in the morning – certainly not because of elections for the Israeli Knesset. I had to get over a really serious hangover before I went out. I got really pissed and got home close to three in the morning. Not that I would remember when I got home, but I remember the tongue-lashing that greeted me when I came in. “It’s 3 o’clock. Three. Have you lost your mind? And before the elections?” One of the most terrible things I can imagine – besides the Nakba, the Holocaust, racism, discrimination, wars and having children in this part of the world, I mean – is those mornings, like this morning, when my head is exploding and I try to put together scraps of memory, fragments of images and half-sentences in order to create a picture that will make sense of the events of the previous night.

I remember being scared. Very scared. I remember I was having a conversation with a friend from Haifa who told me about his feeling that something had changed in the city. He talked about a different look he had started to see in the eyes of some people. A look of desire for revenge, he described it. I told him he was wrong and accused him of unnecessary paranoia, especially in an attempt to ally the fears I have. Fears that more than ever before, at least as far as I remember, there is a feeling that it’s legitimate to harass Arabs.

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The same sort of feeling inundated me in the first days of the second intifada, but then it seemed to be totally distorted, because the 13 dead, at the hands of the police, seemed to be a price that satisfied Israeli public opinion. At that time the government did its work, whereas now, after the war in Gaza, after the war in Lebanon, the police – limited perhaps after the Or Commission – did not slake the public’s thirst for revenge, and the feeling is that the time has come to do it with our own hands.

A pity, I thought to myself; better to be harassed by security personnel than by the civilian population. Too bad 10 Arabs a year can’t be executed by a uniformed firing squad. I think that would be a relatively fair price, especially if it would guarantee a quiet conscience. I remember shaking my head, trying physically to rid myself of dark thoughts that started to attack me.

I tried to remind myself that I have spent most of my life among Jews, that I know well that it’s possible to create a life together. The SMS from Danny only proved my point. “So what do you say? Shall we go downtown for a small one?” “Lehayim.” We clinked glasses at the bar and I was happy to see that everything was normal. That in the heart of Jerusalem I could identify the regulars, Arabs and Jews, sitting together and talking. I could see them chuckling, could hear them talking about their studies, about work and love.

As the hours passed and the glasses emptied, a lot of people started to dance, and I watched them, knowing that there was no way the hearts of these people, which were filled with a lust for life, could harbor blind hatred that threatened to erupt at any moment. I don’t have to know what is going on deep inside them in order to know that I, like them, see no problem in living with them. So how does it all happen nevertheless? Why is it that there are people living here who feel existential danger? As usual, I drank more than usual. I remember that the evening developed wonderfully and I found myself, along with my friend, whirling around the dance floor, spinning to the sounds of the music as though there were no tomorrow. “That dark girl hasn’t taken her eyes off you,” Danny whispered, indicating with a nod of the head a girl who started to walk toward me.

“We’ll soon go to vote,” I scolded the children again as they came into the study, just as I started to realize what an idiot I had been last night. The disappointed little voters left despondently, while I tried to go back and reconstruct the events that followed on the dance floor.

I remember dancing with the girl. I remember we were close together and that she stretched out her hand and took mine, as though pressing a button that screamed in my mind: “No loyalty, no citizenship.” I dropped her hand angrily and my shouts drowned out the music: “I am married, lady. I am married and loyal. Nothing you can do will deprive me of my citizenship. Nothing. Do you understand?” “What an ass,” I thought to myself and buried my face in my hands.

The door to the study opened, and this time the crying children arrived reinforced by their mother. “If you hadn’t come back at three they wouldn’t be crying now,” she said. “Go on and show the children what democracy is.” “All right, all right,” I got up from the chair. “By the way,” she smiled and winked, “you were really nice last night.”

Source: Haaretz


Filed under: Voice, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response

  1. RaiulBaztepo says:

    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language đŸ˜‰
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

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