The promised land

Scritto da in data Luglio 2, 2020

Imagine waking up one day, opening the windows of your home, unfinished because you are waiting to get some more money to finish it, and seeing a bulldozer ready to tear down those walls that took you years to build up to give your family a shelter.

Imagine one early morning you go to the olive grove you inherited from your parents and them from theirs, only to find all the olive trees have been cut down. Imagine you have a cancer and you can not go through a checkpoint because the soldier who should have let you through does not feel like doing it that day.

Imagine you are living in a building, surrounded by other buildings, where a rocket can fall at any time and you have no place to go to keep safe, because you have the sea on one side and a border on the other. And every single day of your life you wonder what have you done so wrong to end up prisoner of a history no one would ever choose to belong to.

Imagine having to teach your children that someone can decide about their lives, their time, their space. That someone could mistreat, oppress, and humiliate them. Imagine feeling so alone, or undignified, that you have nothing more to lose whatever you do. Imagine feeling ashamed and being unable to tell anyone because everyone around you is feeling the same.

An endless conflict

I arrived in Palestine over two decades ago, when the Oslo Accords had been signed off and everything seemed possible. I was young, full of energy, I was sure that I would have reported the  end of a conflict which was already old and worn down when I had arrived. I was received by two people, one that opened its arms as to prove I was welcome in every single moment I was there. The other that was always testing me, as they needed some confirmation from anyone setting foot in that country.

I have written about the second Intifada, I have witnessed elections; I met and interviewed so many people that eventually I felt like I knew even the stones there. I have walked through the three religions and all of their contradictions. I learnt that not believing was the best way to make that country justice, be it about politics, factions or religions. I learnt you can be right or wrong about the same things, that different versions can exist, that nothing is just black or white.

I helped a woman to give birth on the side of a road, and interviewed a boy who would have placed a bomb, had it not exploded in his face while he was making it. I listened to a Holocaust survivor who told me that her children made her forget the horrors of her past. I breathed inside the mouth of a child who had stopped breathing because of the tear gas. Then I was given oxygen myself, because it was my turn to gasp for air. I wrote about the evacuation of the Gaza colonies, about the war in Lebanon, about the targeted killings, about the death of Arafat, who used to tell me off when I sneaked in their meetings, about being stuck in a bunker with a right-wing writer, about the boy who lost one cheek hit by a rubber bullet. About traumas and suicide bombers. The siege to the Nativity Church. About the houses torn down, or stolen. About the keys kept. And the deaths, the injured, the disabled. And the pain of mothers and fathers, and the ones in prison, the dissidents. The tortures. The kidnaps.

I was not even 30 when a soldier pointed his rifle against me. I did not even have the time to get scared, as my beige skin turned white. “Go” he told me, and I did not know if that meant I had to go forward or back. I went forward, holding my breath and hoping they would not shoot a journalist at her back. But that is what they did to others. Every violent death is an injustice that perpetuates itself, and builds up in one gigantic mountain of hate, fed by those who do not want all this to end.

The more I think of it, the more stories of fight, resistance, defeat jump up. Of heroes and murderers. Of good and bad guys, in a mix of emotions that permeate my soul and pen.

Once a child told me that Israelis always wear green, because the only Israelis he knew were soldiers, and another child in Tel Aviv told me that all Palestinians are bad because they put bombs. There is something wrong with this storytelling, and you feel like taking all these people and force them to sit down at the same table, you would like for them to look in each other’s eyes, to find out that they are part of the same story and that they could decide how it should go themselves. But as always there are too many interests, both internal and external. Peoples at the mercy of others. Peoples forsaken. Peoples forgotten.

The politics of Evil

With time the political situation got worse. Radicalism became the stain that covered politics, getting bigger each day and generating hate, racism, inequality. And beneath all two peoples, one with a society which is ready but not prepared to react, and another so shattered that they do not know what to do anymore, because being right seems not sufficient anymore. One people on one side, that can not control the politics of its own country, and one people on the other side, that can not build a politics because they do not have a State. A people is made by history, victories and defeats, it is not kept together by a land and a language only. Peoples linked by pains that they can not share or see in the other, but that feed each other. Peoples that keep looking in the rear view mirror, and can not build a future.

Soon Israel, in flagrant violation of international laws, will annex parts of Palestine. Some said one third of it, but they will grab it bit by bit to make it look less serious than what it actually is. Israelis took to the streets but no one listened to them. Palestinians have been taking to the streets for years but no one even looks at them. The UN said “do not do that” but no one cares. Europe, as usual, missed the chance as it was pigeons’ dropping to avoid at all costs.

So we will be looking at the umpteenth injustice, which the world will be able to boast about in the winter evenings, during some meeting. We allowed them to do it. You allowed them to do it. For the umpteenth time we let our governments get away without taking any responsibility. We are the Pontius Pilate of the universe and we do not care at all. We do not care about racism, apartheid, injustice, illnesses, environment, human rights. And we do not care because tomorrow, when the next oppression will happen, we will be busy with our own things, shopping, children, work, the sea or the holidays. Not even a pandemic managed to unite us, why would something happening two thousand miles away? Three hours’ flight. And we cannot even go there anyway, because with the excuse of the pandemic you cannot get in nor out.

Tomorrow we will be cooking our lunch in the same moment as when the Palestinian people will be hardly hit again. And the Israelis will be hardly hit too, because there is no victory when it is without honor. And the whole world will be hardly hit, having shown once again to be incapable of finding a solution.

Can we do anything? Well, the rallies in the United States to protest George Floyds’s assassination led to a revision and a discussion about the police there. The rallies in favor of the environment were a nuisance big enough to force many to change, even if only to avoid having a finger pointed at them.

And what about Palestine? And all the other places where are draining every day in the quicksand of injustice? Where are the intellectuals, the influencers, the politicians? Where are the people?  Where are we?


(translation by Pierluigi Ibba)

La terra promessa

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