For the occupation’s 47th birthday, which unfortunately came last week, there is no song more appropriate than Farid al-Atrash’s sad tune: “My birthday is upon me again. Again that miserable day. I wish it was a day with no tomorrow.” Unfortunately for us, there is no day without tomorrow.
Moshe Dayan and his comrades sought an occupation with an impedance of tomorrow. Something along the lines of “Boom, and we’re done.” But in Palestine, despite its weakness, there is a different saying: “Boom! We’ve only just begun.”
There’s an old story about a man who owns a Turkish bath. When he first opened it, he didn’t charge an entry fee in order to attract customers. But when the customers were done and ready to leave, they discovered that the man had stolen their clothes and would only give them back for a fee. “But you said entry was free,” grumbled the customers. “Yes,” said the man, “entry is free, but to exit costs money.” The story became a saying in Arabic: “Going into the bath isn’t the same as coming out.”
The West Bank was conquered in less than six days, and the conquerors have been stuck there for 47 years. The cruel choice is already on the horizon: It’s either Israel, or the occupation. The outcome has yet to be determined.
In the meantime, time has worn the occupation down, so much so that it has become indifferent to its own birthday. Moreover, and less pleasing, is that with the cruel passage of time it becomes possible to see the finish line on the horizon. Even the occupation has an end, like mortals do. But the occupation has a different kind of successors, in the form of land thieves, “price tag” groups, hilltop youth and the kind of killing perpetrated out of boredom, not self-defense. Now those price tag successors are continuing on into Israel itself. As it is written, “for they have sown the wind, they shall reap the whirlwind.”
Surprisingly, even the right is in low spirits. Friends, I can’t hear you! Even among the right wing, which seems to disrespect the world, they get upset as every house constructed in the West Bank is considered a war crime.
After the war in 1967, Fairuz sang about the Al-Quds residents’ sad eyes in her song “Beyond the City Gates.” She hoped that her voice would “fly far and stir peoples’ souls, perhaps wake consciences.” Fairuz meant to end the Palestinians’ suffering. Today, we ask that her voice release Israelis too, from the injustices of occupation at a time when thousands of them engage in maintaining it, as jailors, investigators, informers, those who storm children’s homes at night, those who man the checkpoints and those who those who go undercover. The occupation is reflected in the occupier.
Occupation of the Palestinians has become, among other things, like therapy for the trauma of Europe. When they suggested to poet-philosopher Abul ‘Ala Al-Ma’arri that he drink bird soup to cure his illness, he cried out in pain to the poor bird, “they think you weak, so they suggested you as a cure. Why didn’t they suggest lion soup?”
Really, why do the Jews complain about the contemptibility of other nations? This is the way of the world, to sacrifice the weak. In ancient Egypt they sacrificed helpless girls, not strong men, in order to please the unruly spirit of the Nile. Centuries ago in Europe, and in Czarist Russia, they used the Jews as punching bags for the bitter masses. Now it’s the Palestinians’ turn.
But 47 years of Palestinian suffering, in addition to 66 years as refugees, is therapy enough. Moreover, the price for these years is very steep. Soon we won’t be able to leave the country because of the impending boycotts.
The Arabs say “respect for the dead comes with burial.” The Israeli occupation is already a corpse – its smell forces one to pinch his nose. The democratic world sees Israel as a moral health hazard. The time has come to honor it with burial.
The current problem is that there are some people who have become so accustomed to the foul smell that they wish the occupation 120 years. Friends, how can we obtain Swedish passports?