Israeli Arabs, Own Up to Being a Ticking Time Bomb, and Don't Forget to Say Thanks

Do you really want to be a Palestinian? Do you want a fence, soldiers in your thoughts and under your feet? Just say the word and we’ll arrange it for you.

Illustration casts Sayed Kashua as the figure in Edvard Munch's painting 'The Scream.' He is standing on a bridge appearing to scream.
Amos Biderman

Apologize, condemn, own it, admit that it’s you. It won’t make any difference if you express remorse, deplore, condole. Say it’s all a matter of “a few bad apples,” get down on your knees, beg. Not that all this will help you, but still, go ahead and do it.

Be an Israeli all the way, even though you’re not an Israeli and you never will be. Forget it, there’s no such thing – “all the way.” You can’t really do it, we’re not really letting you, you really think you’re going to be Israeli? You’re gonna convert to Judaism? What are they going to say back in the neighborhood? They’ll condemn, apologize, say it was bad apples or mental illness.

And if it’s mental illness, can you prove it? After all, everyone always claims they’re sick, whenever there’s no other alternative, they turn to the psyche. But where was that psyche? Who diagnosed it? Do you people even have a psychiatric service? Social services that are doing their job?

Say we warned you, say we told you a million times. Talk about the problem with guns, about how when Arabs shoot one another, no one closes off streets, no one talks about rights. That’s only natural: You people do all kinds of weird things, it’s part of your mentality, it’s a cultural thing, a family thing, it unites you as a society.

Be afraid, what’s most important is that you go on being afraid. After all, you know very well that your life depends on us, you have no power at all. We will decide where you live, where you will be buried, what you learn in school, where you pray, who your imam is, who your policemen and judges are. We will set the bar on your dreams, and afterward we’ll accuse you of incitement, of a certain way of thinking, of a mental problem. A genetic mental problem that passes from generation to generation and cannot be repaired. We will keep you in the institution, call it a society, a sector, a village. Do what you want there, far from the eye, far from the surveillance cameras.

You’re a ticking bomb, a threat with a delay fuse that’s controlled by fear. By the knowledge of who the master is, who the hand that feeds is, 10 billion shekels to improve the cage and you still won’t learn how to say thank you.

You’re an Israeli, you have a passport, you can board a plane, you can go to a hospital, you can go to work, go to school, vote. The most important thing is that you can vote. You’re an Israeli in the sense that you’re not a Palestinian. Do you want to be a Palestinian? Do you want a fence, nighttime raids, soldiers in your thoughts and under your feet? Just say the word and we’ll arrange it for you in a jiff.

You don’t want that, right? So if you know you don’t want that, then get real, be an Israeli, but all the way. Not an Israeli Israeli. Hey, you know, with all that stuff about a national home, tradition, heritage, culture. Be an Israeli in that you respect those concepts, understand them, internalize them, accept them; grasp that it’s all for your own good. Why do you think things will be better for you somewhere else? Where, exactly? You know, we already said you don’t really want to be a Palestinian.

Be an Israeli like an Arab should be an Israeli. Study. Indeed, we’re in favor of having a few of you study. Work in Tel Aviv, in Netanya, in Afula, but at the end of the day go home, go to sleep in a place that will be comfortable for us. Anyway, our life will confuse you, you understand.

It’s not a matter of the People of Israel and preserving racial purity, absolutely not. It’s that you’re not culturally mature enough to internalize everything. You can work on yourself, drink beer here drink beer there, go to some club, even talk about rights of women, of homosexuals, of lesbians. But deep down you know, as we do, that this isn’t the real you, you understand? It’s built in, it’s part of who you are.

And there’s no shortage of proof, thank God, just look around.

If you don’t like it, you can get up and go – who’s stopping you? But why do you think people will like you anywhere elsle you go? Don’t you think they already know your shticks there, too? Go, have a great trip. Let’s see you achieve better status somewhere else. Never mind, you’ll miss the old place a little, but we’ll remind you that there’s no reason for it.

Who knows? Maybe things really will be better for you there, if not for you then maybe for your children. And wherever you end up, you can fantasize about a beautiful land that you abandoned. You can tell yourself and your children about how the people were warm, how they loved one another. You can imagine a wonderful childhood you had. Actually it was a crappy childhood, only you didn’t know that, that’s the nature of childhood. Fantasize about your grapes, about your fig trees and conjure up tranquility that was never your lot.

Deal with the little things, life is tough enough already. Tough and so short. Focus on your livelihood, on the children’s future. Forget the big things, they’ll only give you headache and heartache. So what do you say? Do you apologize? Are you afraid?