Sayed Kashua Presents: The Palestinian Version of Thanksgiving

In the new narrative, there would be a 'Shukran Feast' and the natives would hand over the land of Palestine with love, and teach the new immigrants what hummus is.

Sayed Kashua
Sayed Kashua
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Illustration by Amos Biderman
Illustration by Amos Biderman
Sayed Kashua
Sayed Kashua

I don’t know whether it’s because of the proposed Jewish nation-state law or because of the Thanksgiving holiday, but for a few days I haven’t been able to get the word “anchor” out of my head.

The holiday season has kicked off here, and when it comes to Thanksgiving – besides the fact that there even is such a holiday, and that you consume turkey on it – I didn’t know the first thing about it until I watched a play in my younger son’s preschool.

My son played a pilgrim. The teacher set a black hat, made of construction paper, on his head. Together with the other pilgrims, my son sailed in a paper boat amid stormy seas until they cast anchor in the new land.

The teacher read out a text about the tremendous difficulties the pilgrims encountered – about the exhaustion, hunger and disease – and the little pilgrims started to spin around, one after the other, falling gently onto the soil of the promised land. Then little children with feathers on their heads – Native Americans, they were called – arrived and helped the pilgrims get up, recover and stand on their feet. The natives showed the pilgrims how to work the new earth, what to do with corn and what pumpkin is, how to hunt and which animals they could eat.

I was naively waiting for a Nakba in the next act, and I was very proud that my son was one of the pioneers. But instead of perpetrating genocide, the pilgrims held a large meal from the harvest of the land, and invited the natives to eat with them in a great celebration as a token of gratitude.

It was a particularly moving play. For some reason, I thought that maybe one day the Jews’ preschools would also organize a festival like this – but with a secular rather than a religious character. A national holiday in which we would invent a new and more compelling story than the myth that exists in the Israeli education system.

In the new narrative, the natives would hand over the land of Palestine with love, teach the olim (new immigrants) what hummus is and how to boil coffee in a finjan, and then, when they see that the new immigrants are able to survive on their own, they evacuate their towns and villages and turn over their fields and groves to the people of the First Wave of Immigration. We’ll call it the Shukran Feast, we’ll eat pita and lamb, and we’ll anchor its celebration in the National Parks Law.

How I love that phrase, “to anchor” something in law: After all, that’s happening in practice, so let’s anchor it in the law. Jews don’t want Arabs living in their moshav communities and cities – that’s what’s happening in practice, so why not anchor it in the law? In any case, we are not allowing them to have an independent culture, economic clout, a language, an ability to leave the ghettos – so why should we feel bad about it? And why should they feel bad about it?

We’ll legalize it. We’ll “anchor” the Arab citizens. We know and they know that they don’t belong, that this country isn’t theirs and never will be, that it’s just absurd that no law exists to regularize things. And then people are surprised that confusion arises when there’s no explicit legislation dealing with this extremely important matter of inequality.

The Arabs are a bit thick, so let’s explain to them v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y why they are in no position to demand equality, and why they are not really citizens. Let’s tell them clearly and forcefully: “It’s because you’re not Jews.”

Okay, Arabs are born a bit obtuse, but when Jews get confused it’s just awful. What luck that the Nakba Law exists, otherwise it would be possible to let the Tel Aviv Cinematheque screen anti-Semitic sci-fi films shamelessly.

But it’s out of the question to keep working on each law separately; it’s wearisome, it’s tedious. There’s always some breach in democracy that has to be dealt with. On one occasion it’s an Arab who thinks he can live wherever he wants – one law. After that, Arabs get it into their heads that they can marry whomever they want – another law.

How can you go on like this? Even the self-evident Law of Return had to be enacted. Lucky thing there are young, energetic MKs who grew up with high-tech, apps and shortcuts, who came up with a genius idea that, with a click of the mouse, one can calculate the boundaries of racial doctrine.

This nation-state bill is a brilliant piece of legislation that’s also intended to shut up those who claim that without two states there will be a Palestinian majority between the sea and the river. A Palestinian majority?!? This is the Jewish nation-state, only a Jewish one.

Who knows when the new nation-state doctrine will also make it possible to prevent people from voting and deprive people of citizenship in the name of preserving the state’s proper character, and when freedom of expression will threaten the state’s Jewish character (see under: Limor Livnat, Sheldon Adelson, Channel 1 and the ratings charts)? For sure, it’s only a matter of time before things will be regularized and anchored in law.

Arabic will not be an official language, but what about Hebrew? Will an Arab who writes in Hebrew be considered to be violating the Jewish nation-state law? What will the Arabs do? How will they be able to file complaints when they have no language under the law? Will they go to court and complain in sign language?

After all, we already know that the word “democracy” doesn’t appear in the Hebrew Bible, so all that remains is for them to pray that the Jewish sages addressed civil, human and national minority rights somewhere in their writings. Isn’t this what our sages meant when they talked about prohibiting la’ag larash, mockery of the downtrodden?

When clashes break out, we’ll call them riots, film them and broadcast footage only from the police’s point of view. We’ll thrust it onto their education, their culture, the horrible Arabic language they speak. Afterward, we’ll talk about nationalist motives, but very quickly we’ll say it all comes from religious motives.

We will thank the Lord that Jewishness can be both a religion and a nationality, under the law. We will quote the nation-state legislation and understand how essential it is in view of the painful sights we are witnessing. We will justify it with all our heart, and those who oppose it will appear on the rostrum of Knesset Yisrael and on kosher screens to admit that they were wrong, and they’ll apologize and bow down to the King of Israel.

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