Who Turned the Stone Into a Knife?

Palestinians must seek out any path that will help us rid ourselves of the present political reality.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
A Palestinian youth raises a knife during clashes with Israeli security forces (unseen) in the West Bank city of Tulkarem on October 18, 2015.
A Palestinian youth raises a knife during clashes with Israeli security forces (unseen) in the West Bank city of Tulkarem on October 18, 2015.Credit: AFP

The repeated attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank, culminating in the arson attack on the Dawabsheh family; the exploitation of instability to shamelessly violate the religious status quo by burning down churches and mosques and encroaching upon the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and Muslim sensitivities; the crushing of infuriated Palestinians using the most abominable forms of suppression – all this only serves to demonstrate the attempt by successive Israeli governments to garner popular legitimacy for occupation and destruction. Nevertheless, the Palestinian actions we are now witnessing all around us do not necessarily serve the interests of the Israeli right-wing. Rather, as we can see, they affirm that a victim that does not die – such as the Palestinians – cannot be kept quiet. Indeed, he is reborn, though more than two decades have passed since the first intifada.

We all know that an environment does not allow a foreign body to exist within it. Further, one who is oppressed has nothing in his favor except for the fact that he is part of his environment, from which arises the revolt. This is precisely what turned the stones of the 1980s intifada into the portable knives we see in the streets today.

This does not mean that I endorse the resistance that targets innocent civilians. Never! I have never believed in that path and I continue not to believe in it to this day. However, at the same time, the Palestinians – particularly those in the West Bank – have lost everything. Their senses are therefore clouded, and they can no longer distinguish between an Israeli civilian and an armed settler; the kind of settler that harasses Palestinians day and night, dragging both Palestinians and Israelis into a deadly war that – over time and with Israeli society turning a blind eye – places the kitchen knife in the street.

Faced with racist settlers on the one hand and Israeli brazenness and government bluster on the other, I hold them all responsible for my situation. I find myself at the edge of a moral abyss, clutching onto the human being that is inside me. I am fearful of the jungle, looming with ghosts, that is below me – a jungle that is insanely trying to legitimize knives in the hands of Palestinian children who, in that very jungle, have come to lack even the most modest grounds for aspiring to a fulfilling life, like that enjoyed by Israelis.

The culture of the fighting adolescent is the result of lethal suppression and a dead-end crisis. Despite both the political track and the resistance, we are now in a situation in which we have lost our capacity to influence. With this, we have lost our means to harm the occupation and make it suffer politically. It is this suffering – and only this suffering – that could have restored to us some of life’s entitlements.

I am writing all this now because, in recent days, I have felt a change in myself. In the past, I would cry out in defense of civilians and condemn operations that target them, vocally demanding that such acts not form part of the resistance. I now stand ashamed of myself, for I am unable to openly repudiate or condemn such operations while my people is tossed into the underworld and mercilessly ravished down to its bare bones.

Reaching out

I make no secret of the fact that, at this stage, we must seriously seek out any path that will help us rid ourselves of this reality and the conflict’s new identity. We must contribute to changing the political reality. We must, for example (and there are boundless examples), try penetrating Israeli society, open its eyes, and bring about as much change as possible within it. Thus, we – Palestinian citizens of Israel – should address our messages to the minority. By “minority” I mean the Israeli left-wing minority that supports me and concurs with my views in many respects. I use their platforms and language to reach out as much as possible to the Israeli street, which is like a flock herded by the ferocious dog of the right-wing, as the left lies on its deathbed. I am aware that addressing the other side at times of war can sometimes be murky and problematic. However, at the same time, I believe that this is in our interest, and is consistent with the following pragmatic saying: “One must sometimes bow one’s head if one wants the sword to pass.”

I say all this now because, first and foremost, I remain faithful to my candor and truthfulness with myself. Further, it may be the case that my patriotism is grounded in truth, faithful to reality and also of benefit. I reject slogans made for the sole sake of supportive public opinion and camera flashes that blind the vision of some of our fighters, causing them to act in accordance with the anger of the street, lacking an effective plan of action that could lead to a solution or increase wisdom.

We are in need of substantive action that yields comprehensive results – not loud yet meaningless shouting that would bring no benefit to the Palestinian leadership, at home or abroad. We are looking for someone whose light will guide us, not someone who merely imitates Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. For Netanyahu does not care about the effect of his actions on his people, from whom he seeks only additional pillars to prop up his sovereignty over what remains of this subservient land.

The writer is a Palestinian poet.

Click the alert icon to follow topics: