THE ONGOING NAKBA
I had dinner last night in West Jerusalem with a colleague from Ben Gurion University.
West Jerusalem, seen from the vantage of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, is a study in uneven development. Theaters and concert halls, private institutes and libraries, museums of Islamic arts, the Knesset--which proudly occupies a high point in the city—and restaurants full of well-dressed cosmopolitan and secular Israelis consuming pork and shellfish, which figures prominently on the menu.
It is a strikingly manicured, well-administered, and affluent city of beautiful neighborhoods and a sense of complaisant comfort. Israelis - even those who claim to be on ‘the left’ and shake their heads about the terrible situation borne daily by the ‘Arabs’ - still abuse the Palestinian workers, cab drivers, and others who exist for them primarily in a service capacity, invisible in their family life or their daily humiliations.
In one short and sometimes tense evening, I witnessed at intimate scale the history of systematic oppression and marginalization that lies beneath the smug self-assurance with which Israelis pursue their privileged lives, the normalization of an intolerable human catastrophe. The deepest most intractable problems are those in which the attitudes and sense of a possible future are so profoundly limited by the very structures that determine and shape our perceptions.
The willed blindness of many Israelis is countered by the visionary hope of so many Palestinians in the face of “this big prison called Palestine,” as one of the children of Attuf referred to it.
Israeli blindness coupled with everyday entitlements, and of Palestinian hope in the face of the ongoing Nakba - forced removal followed by cultural erasure, destruction of their property and heritage, and 70 years of statelessness - offers a double paradox.
One can only hope that external pressures will blast open the closed world of the Occupation and give flight to Palestinian dreams of freedom.