Thursday, January 7, 2010

Who is native?

“If you look at the left side of the bus, you'll see a hill covered in green cactus”

Modern houses with bright walls line the side of the road, reminiscent of arizona-esque architecture. Beautifully manicured lawns, complete with lawn decorations, pools and large israeli flags hanging from the windows. We were only a few miles away from the cramped arab side of Nazareth, and yet it felt like a completely different country (namely, the united states). This was beautiful, a place I would want to call home. A place anyone would want to call home. And yet, behind this glamour, these beautiful mansions, this manifestation of perfection, lay the crumbling ghosts of a destroyed town.

“This town was previously inhabited by arabs. The cactus is a sign from the Israel National Fund. They want to cover up the memory.”

It's a sad narrative, but a narrative none the less. History is so important to both Israelis and Palestinians, and yet so often one wants to sweep the other under the rug. “Forget about the past, let's build a future” they say to one another. But no one really forgets.And so they tell these stories over and over, to themselves and whoever else will listen. These narratives are valid, legitimate and in most cases true. Both israelis and palestinians have them, and that's not the problem. The problem is that they both deny the existence of the other.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with an conservative american. I was talking about how the modern establishment of the united states is a constant assault on the culture of of the native american indians. His response: “Who is really native?” And while I think he's completely full of it regarding the native americans (they were there first, so they're native to the land-- duh), it brings up a good point about the mentality of some people when addressing issues of land rights.

To have a historic claim to land is a privilege that both these people-- palestinian and israeli-- are fighting over. Yet, perhaps the point is not so much whose land it was hundreds and hundreds of years ago, but whose land it is now. The land is Israel's now, and to ask them to move would only displace more people. I'm not sure what could be done, but I don't know if I'll ever forget what I saw. Those ghosts in that town-- they're not invisible. They're made of stone and still stand, daring you to deny them.

We drove a few kilometers to a Bedouin village. I know what you're thinking-- oxy-moron? Though traditional Bedouins are nomadic, the israeli government moved the Bedouin tribes into small towns. The land where the bedouins were previously inhabiting was valuable to the israelis. As a result, the bedouins have become restricted into small towns, losing most of their nomadic farm-based culture.

The town we drove through was well structured, and appeared to have some form of infrastructure such as running water and electricity. .And yet while everything appeared alright, a sense of loss hung in the air, reminiscent of driving through native american reservations in upstate new york. Everything looks alright-- but something is missing. Something does not fit here.

Many of the Bedouins are desperate for jobs, and many have been employed by the Israeli army. They separate the Bedouins and Druze (another ethnic minority in the region) and use them in the West Bank against the Palestinians, since most Druze and Bedouin do not identify as Palestinian Arab. Recently, however, there has been a movement to refuse these jobs, leaving the economic situation of the towns in a dire situation.

As we were driving through, we passed a young woman walking down on the street. She paused when she saw our van, and peered inside. With intense dark eyes she stared at me. I caught her gaze, and then quickly looked away. When I looked back, she was still focused on me, daring me to deny her. “Look at this” she seemed to insist. “Look at what has happened here.”

No comments:

Post a Comment