Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Catching up

For the past ten hours, my fellow countrypersons have been voting. For me, this is the first general election since I turned eighteen almost twenty-one years ago in which I have not voted. Israel doesn't have absentee voting, and I am absent.

In a meager attempt to redeem myself, I drove to New York on Saturday. The day began with a Palestinian breakfast with friends on the Upper West Side, where conversation shifted constantly among politics, linguistics, and where one can buy good labaneh in Paterson, NJ. Afterwards I took the Subway downtown and attended a small, yet vocal and creative demonstration at 700 Madison Ave., where Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev has opened shop
. He sells diamonds. He also funds settlements in the West Bank, which are considered illegal under International Law, but way too legal under Israeli law.

I recalled that in one of the January demonstrations in Tel Aviv against the Israeli war crimes in Gaza, some people had found the use of drums somewhat tasteless. As if the drummers were playing loud, upbeat music and rejoicing. I, with my nonexistent musical expertise, had tried to counter them and argue that music, and drums in particular (don't ask me why) can serve as a powerful form of protest. Come to think of it, music has been used quite often for this purpose, from Bob Dylan and Joan Baez to rappers from Watts to al-Lidd and beyond (and thanks to Ali Issa for enlightening me on the latter).

Last Saturday's protest included not only music (e.g., "Diamonds are a crime's best friend"), but also an enactment of a mock game show entitled "One Date Solution." I, frankly, thought it was a bit too long, the dialogue quite predictable, and the preachers' audience consisting of some forty-odd converted. But given the off-off-off-Broadway nature of the performance (after all, this was the East Side!), and the political convictions of the participants, I'd hesitate to grant them nothing short of a nod of approval.

True, it is difficult to smile when speaking of atrocities such as those carried out by the Israeli occupiers. But on the flip side of things, if those of us who have been fortunate enough to enjoy many of the freedoms that the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank do not fail to exercise these freedoms due to chronic fatigue and depression, we are not really doing good to anyone.

The combination of the elections in which I am not voting, the protest in which I was, to the best of my knowledge, the only Israeli, my recent visits to Jordan and the symposium I helped organize at F&M, my sense of identity is getting ever so blurry. I think I am getting much closer to understand the conflict of the Arabs of '48, i.e, Palestinians who are citizens of Israel.

To be continued.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I am trying to understand why the Arabs of 48 did not show up to vote. I mean with about 50% turnout, their parties got something like 12 seats. If they showed up to vote in masses they could have doubled their power, and have a powerful say. I really don't get it.....


הארץ Haaretz

العربية.نت | آخر الأخبار Al-Arabiya