Over the past few weeks, and particularly the past few days, I have tried to sift through a few dozen reflections and a few hundred conversations worthy of blogging. I have tried to wrap my mind around something concrete enough to relay the experience of waking up everyday two hours from unreachable family in Gaza, or of having a three hour reunion in Tel Aviv with my favorite uncle who I have not seen in 10 years — because permits to leave the cage expire after a few hours. I have tried to take pictures, relay a landscape that I rediscover everytime I hop onto a minibus to show a visitor around.
I have tried to do all of these things and I have failed, because I just could not clear the cobwebs of work and day-to-day living out of my head long enough to sit and explain what it means to live in the diaspora and live in Palestine simultaneously.
And then this morning, I woke up to this:
“I visited Safad before once. But I want to see Safad. It’s my right to see it, but not to live there. Palestine now for me is ‘67 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is now and forever…this is Palestine for me. I am a refugee, but I am living in Ramallah. I believe the West Bank and Gaza is Palestine and the other parts are Israel.” - Mahmoud Abbas
The next time someone tells me any particular word I choose is too strong or harsh to describe Abbas, I am considering printing the transcript of this interview and slapping said person with it.
There are days when I could see something like this and think up a cute little quip and write up a blog entry to “Al-Basseleh,” The Electronic Intifada’s answer to satirical website The Onion. But, today is not one of those days.
My father is almost 80 years old and he has more than the right to visit Isdoud. I, and my siblings, have more than the right to see the grass of where a village once stood. I have the right to return and rebuild Palestine from the ground up. All of it. And so does every refugee and their descendents.
The kids from Safad living in Shatila and Ein el-Hilweh, and all the camps of Lebanon, are not dreaming of your Ramallah, Mr. President. They are dreaming of their Safad.
If I or they want to sign away our right of return, we will let you know.
Don’t mistake your people’s exhaustion and frustration for surrender. Don’t mistake the young people’s re-organizing and re-acquainting themselves with their own history for lack of vision. And most importantly, do not mistake being head of a local Palestinian Authority (and yes, a defunct PLO), for a continued free pass from members of the diaspora to speak on its behalf.
Armed or unarmed, third or fourth or fifth intifada - this is not the point.
Intifadas and identities in and of Palestine are not dictated by one man.
Our resistance and our community is the product of a conversation we have with each other, not statements to Israeli newscasters.