Manski on Palestine
From: "Ben Manski" email@example.com
Sent: Tuesday, May 18, 2004 4:05 PM
Subject: usgp-dx re: Israel & Palestine - from my sister
Several Greens have written me personally to ask why the party's releases regarding Palestine and Israel are "one-sided." They are one-sided for peace, I've replied. And I make clear that our Media Committee, in conjunction with Platform, International, and Steering committees, is responsible for these releases in particular.
But I received yesterday the following from my sister, who works in conjunction with the Democracy and Workers Rights Center in Ramallah. It says everything regarding which side we must be on.
- Ben Manski
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Ripped forearms flecked with olive tree leaves like feathers, and my entire span of arms like wings. I have seen the uncommon light straining through as I look up at the thin branch I am holding, my fingers sliding down to pluck and fling loose the purple olives silvered with dust. I have seen things from this angle before, my eyes slanted and my eyelashes blurred close together and fringed with silt to filter the light.
As I'm looking up at the blue for hours, the olives tat-tat-tat like rain on the tarp and a week of silver feathers below.
Nawaf wears a white shirt and a straw brimmed hat. He could be an olive farmer in Italy or Greece. The principal difference is that his eyes steer to the center of his wide olive grove, to the fence needling it, stitched into his soil, superficially screening, deliberately flaunting twenty lush gardens, twenty white stucco settler's homes. Into the heart of his field, they built and fenced their outpost, like a dagger sewn in place.
They will not let him in to touch the olive trees hundreds of years his family bounty, which they've stolen. They let the harvest drop wrinkled to the ground as they drive on their guarded roadways to the malls for olives and oil and Lucky Charms. Into the deep peace of the groves, their children insert their loud and screaming voices, bringing the right-wing of Israel even to the air of Palestine. There is an intense underlying calm to these fields, a
reverberating soulfulness, so deep it cannot be denied. These innocent settler children _ their parents raise them not simply to live their own lives in peace, but to mar the lives and livelihood of others.
Bilha asks: What do the settlers do to you?
Noah explains, Well, ten years ago, they took my land.
But they do nothing else?
He repeats: They took our land.
But they don't hurt you?
They hurt us in other ways. They don't attack us, they only took our land. It's enough.
Of course, they don't have to attack Nawaf and his family, because the soldiers are in there with them, doing their dirty work for them, skirting the settlement with a daily jeep cycle and surveying the surroundings with the blind eyes of mandatory M-16's hanging from their shoulders.
The rest of the story: The grand-daddy of all settlement fences needles its way needlessly, drawing blood across the non-existent border, again and again spitting the blood and saliva of a left-hook on Oslo, "pre-judging final status negotiations." The tiny fringe settlement of al-Kana was built right in the middle of the village of Mas'ha, separated barely from the huge settlement of Ar'iel by the stretch of wee wire fence. Nawaf is denied access to his harvest, and divided from half of his village.
Yoni says: "It's what Jews always do build walls to protect themselves from those who don't want them. We're used to living in ghettos." The Danish man walking next to him reddens and laughs: "Wow, that's hard!" "Of course, only Jewish people can say things like that." I say. "Yes, I got that," he says from the side.
In the taxi-van, rolling from one side to the other as we surged over one bump to the next, the old 79-year-old man next to me pokes my elbow. "I think there's something wrong with me."
I look at him alarmed, since earlier in the day he fell, along with the big rotted branch on which he teetered, out of an olive tree onto his head whil foolishly trying to clamber to the very end of a branch to reach just one more of those perfectly ripened and gleaming olives ready for plucking nearest to the sun. His wife stroked his bruised head and made jokes, "Have your politics turned upside down, had the sense knocked into you yet?"
Earlier in the day, she asked Najib why his Hebrew was so good. Yoni had answered for him: "Haven't you heard that most Palestinians today who speak good Hebrew - it's because they were jailed?" Najib answered with a bitter laugh, "I've been hit on the head many times. That's how I learned Hebrew."
The old man, his sense in full working order, gestured left to right at the few men sitting together outside closed storefronts and inside vacant garages. "There must be something wrong with me. I don't see them as the enemy." To a little girl and boy clanging on one of the closed metal storefronts, in rhythm, quite seriously making music, he shrugged: "Especially those _the enemy?" Kids playing in the alleyways with nothing but dust and
rocks and empty streets to tweak their imagination with.
Or, if they clamber down to the fence near Ar'iel, they can incorporate into their games some soldiers and Orthodox settlers radiating arrogance. The power is so unbridled, it emanates in a way that wanes the spirit and magnifies their all-too-human weakness.
When they have so much, and the children in Mas'ha nothing, it's especially hard to remember that the settler children are also, at some point, innocent.
We protest simply by working as Arabs and Jews all together, rebel simply by meeting with Palestinians, saying the very simple thing that is so revolutionary today _ we refuse to be enemies. But the old activities for co-existence, and these new cooperative togetherness projects, they cannot eliminate the inequalities. Even in our simple actions, we are
flaunting our ability to come and go, we leaving feeling good about ourselves, I even go home feeling I've sprouted wings after a day perched in the olive tree.
Not to say the precariousness hasn't infected me. Even as in my dream that night I fly, it's with bat-wings, over a stage. The constraints are heavy, I am no freer than the audience, I have no range and wider aspirations than they, I am entertainment for them, as they watch me try to find the way out of the attic with my sonar, more honed than their weak sight. In
the darkness, I feel my way, identifying obstacles, swinging, swinging. But the Exit light in dim red in the back doesn't call out to me. And what's beyond this stage anyway?
After the peace of picking and gathering and climbing and sweating _ the nasal voices of some truly odd, truly neurotic, members of the Israeli left, trying to tell Ahmad, the driver, "Yamina!" "Lo smolla," "Lo, yamina!" (Right! No, left! No, right1) on the van-ride
home, each anxious to say their piece, express their view, get their foot in there, driving him mad with their indecision.
I derive some anxiousness from it, I get tense, I withdraw and keep my mouth shut, only to mutter at them to myself, "stop telling him what to do, stop yelling, stop confusing him" just to keep myself sane, the left critical of the left.
This, I will add, as many have before me, is exactly what is wrong with the left: "Left, Right, left, right, no, right," Figure out which way you want to go, godamnit! Everyone trying to contribute their say just for the sake of hearing themselves speak, we all lose our way. If it's going to be left right, left right, let there be a peaceful marching rhythm to it, not an argumentative clamor.
But what exactly am I doing, to get us out of this intersection, stopped as cars whiz on each side? Just feeling helpless? Just adding to the clamor?
Do I abandon the vehicle like so many others, walk away shaking my head that there aren't enough people with direction in the movement? That these lost souls who seem to have no home in their own country are also the only ones to work with? They seem to be the only ones left with conviction, these people seen in Israel as fringe freaks.
At the same time they to have some community of some kind that accepts them, that needs them even, despite all their eccentricity.
I wish more Israelis, more Americans, could see that there is community in this kind of action -- that it is better than sitting at home feeling alone or sitting with friends lamenting one's powerlessness. I wish more people were willing to discover truths, to pull at those threads that yes, unravel the whole sweater, so as to be truly warmed by the heat of their own hearts. It is better, however frightening, to search for the truth and to act on what you find.
This day in the olive groves, all of us do something so simple, yet it is something that the newspapers in America can hardly imagine, something that the right-wing in Israel assumes should lead to the spilling of more Jewish blood..... But there is no danger in this small move across the Green Line into the green of the groves. The greatest danger lies in the stagnant and paralyzing fear inside which causes us to go blind to the humanity of the other or to distrust our own hopes.
I am repeating myself, but that's because I am sure of this message.
- Rebecca Manski
Ben Manski firstname.lastname@example.org, Green Party of the United States, Co-Chair