Do you ever feel like your head is about to explode? What are the issues that have that effect on you? I claim that intellectually “getting” a certain situation doesn’t make you immune to feeling a certain way about it. In the end, I think this is what makes us human: it is very much allowed.
Bethlehem: this is where my blog title comes from.
On one hand, it’s a beautiful place for a Blog Title to be from: here, it can enjoy amazing food, have good coffee, buy fresh pomegranates in the market, take in the sunny days, and visit some holy sites if the Blog Title is interested in history.
If a Blog Title is a Palestinian, however, it has some really serious limitations. Its life story is not entirely joyful, and it would probably trade that good coffee for freedom of movement in a heartbeat. It would probably give away all the sunny days for its right to return.
I was standing by the West Bank barrier, my gaze jumping from the observation tower to the array of graffitis of varying levels of quality yet of a fixed message, and my head refused to process it.
It was just a stubborn ‘No’.
I’ve read about it, I’ve studied it, and it wasn’t my first time witnessing some form of injustice. But I felt like my head was about to explode.
“How is this… How is this — still? Should I say ‘still’? — possible?”
I mean, I know exactly how this is possible. Intellectually, I understand how we got here and what global actors are making it possible. But on a, let me call it, post-intellectual level (also known as human emotions and feelings), it’s just truly and utterly insane. It is madness. It is un-freakin’ real. And we have to call it as it is.
However, this story is not about me not being able to “get it”. That’s not the point. It’s the normalisation of this situation, the acceptance and unwillingness of the international community to take meaningful action, that matters. It’s the harsh realisation — and the harsh reality — that nothing is improving. If anything, things are getting worse.
It’s not just the West Bank barrier.
It’s Area C under Israeli control.
Evictions in East Jerusalem.
Displacement of Bedouin communities.
Raids in universities.
Control of natural resources.
It’s the children with PTSD and no future in Gaza.
And now, it might be annexation.
“What you allow is what will continue” says a nice (Buddhist? probably) quote. It works as a great reminder for setting boundaries and communicating your needs in real life, especially in personal relationships.
It seems it’s also applicable — and it has been for decades — to what we’ve been seeing in Palestine. Just that the Palestinians have been saying ‘No’ for a long time. That ‘No’ comes in various forms, from everyday acts of resistance to more coordinated movements. We had the two Intifadas, we have weekly protests all around the West Bank, and let’s not forget the protests in Gaza, met by sniper bullets sometimes coated in rubber but always in impunity.
“What you allow” might expand now. And this is really utterly scary.
John Pilger, an award-winning investigative reporter with a career stretching over five decades, coins a concept of unpeople: those who have no political power, who are marginalised and faceless. It’s the people the media doesn’t care about and the West can use pretty much as they wish.
The Palestinians have been unpeople for a long time, oftentimes seemingly blamed for their own occupation, and even for not offering enough to its occupier when it comes to negotiations (I think a pause is needed to take it in).
Pilger didn’t come up with “degrees” of unpeopleness, yet if there were any, I’m afraid annexation would send Palestinians even lower on that scale.
We will soon see if this drop happens.
PS. I think it’s good to feel that your head is about to explode. I’d take it over any kind of cheap and easy cynicism any given day. I’d take the exploding head over normalising what is — to use fancy political science language — properly messed up. Therefore, instead of cynicism that never helps, I choose to do something that probably helps just as little — to write.