Catalog of all Link issues Since 1968
Over 175 subject matter experts in professions such as medicine, church ministry, archaeology and diplomacy have authored over 300 Link issues since 1968.
The Link Catalog archive below constitutes a body of informed commentary, fact and anecdotal evidence that is all the more valuable for writers, researchers and historians because each issue (for the most part) covers only one subject.
AIPAC, Dark Money, and the Assault on Democracy
November 22, 2023 | Allan C. Brownfeld | Current Issue
The Politics of Archaeology – Christian Zionism and the Creation of Facts Underground
October 2, 2022 | Mimi Kirk | The Link
Apartheid…Israel’s Inconvenient Truth
February 2, 2022 | Chris McGreal | The Link
Israel’s Weaponization of Time
December 12, 2021 | Omar Aziz | The Link
September 12, 2021 | John Mahoney | The Link
On A RANT
July 20, 2021 | Sam Bahour | The Link
How Long Will Israel Get Away With It
April 9, 2021 | Haim Bresheeth-Zabner | The Link
The Decolonizing of Palestine Towards a One-State Solution
January 9, 2021 | Jeff Halper | The Link
Israelizing the American Police, Palestinianizing the American People
November 26, 2020 | Jeff Halper | The Link
The ONE-STATE REALITY and the REAL MEANING of ANNEXATION
August 23, 2020 | Ian Lustick | The Link
June 6, 2020 | Jonathan Cook | The Link
UPDATED: The Latest on the Suspected Murderers of Alex Odeh
April 12, 2020 | David Sheen | The Link
The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine
February 29, 2020 | Rashid Khalidi | The Link
Fact and Fiction in Palestine
December 15, 2019 | Gil Maguire | The Link
Once Upon a Time in Gaza
November 10, 2019 | Rawan Yaghi | The Link
Uninhabitable: Gaza Faces Moment of Truth
October 5, 2019 | Jonathan Cook | The Link
What in God’s Name is going on?
April 14, 2019 | Edward Dillon | The Link
Jews Step Forward
January 31, 2019 | Marjorie Wright | The Link
Palestinian Children in Israeli Military Detention
December 15, 2018 | Brad Parker | The Link
The Judaization of Jerusalem Al-Quds
September 9, 2018 | Basem L. Ra'ad | The Link
Apartheid West Bank
June 6, 2018 | Jonathan Kuttab | The Link
March 12, 2018 | Jonathan Cook | The Link
January 13, 2018 | Rawan Yaghi | The Link
Anti-Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitism, And Never Was
November 29, 2017 | Allan C. Brownfeld | The Link
The Cult of the Zionists – An Historical Enigma
August 20, 2017 | Thomas Suárez | The Link
Marwan Barghouti and the Battle of the Empty Stomachs
July 1, 2017 | Jonathan Cook | The Link
Al-Tamimi et al v. Adelson et al
April 1, 2017 | Fred Jerome | The Link
In The Beginning…
January 22, 2017 | John Mahoney | The Link
Wheels of Justice
December 3, 2016 | Steven Jungkeit | The Link
August 14, 2016 | Jonathan Cook | The Link
The Murder of Alex Odeh
June 4, 2016 | Richard Habib | The Link
Protestantism’s Liberal/Mainline Embrace of Zionism
April 3, 2016 | Donald Wagner | The Link
The Second Gaza
January 10, 2016 | Atef Abu Saif | The Link
Between Two Blue Lines
October 31, 2015 | Tom Hayes | The Link
A Special Kind of Exile
August 15, 2015 | Alice Rothchild M.D. | The Link
June 13, 2015 | Fred Jerome | The Link
The Art of Resistance
March 7, 2015 | Jonathan Cook | The Link
The Window Dressers: The Signatories of Israel’s Proclamation of Independence
January 3, 2015 | Ilan Pappe | The Link
The Immorality Of It All
October 25, 2014 | Dr. Daniel C. Maguire | The Link
Can Palestine Bring Israeli Officials before the International Criminal Court?
August 16, 2014 | John B. Quigley | The Link
In Search of King Solomon’s Temple
June 9, 2014 | George Wesley Buchanan | The Link
March 2, 2014 | Charles Villa-Vicencio | The Link
In Search of Grace Halsell
January 17, 2014 | Robin Kelley | The Link
November 3, 2013 | Pamela Olson | The Link
What Israel’s Best Friend Should Know
August 24, 2013 | Miko Peled | The Link
Dimona—(Shhh! It’s A Secret.)
June 23, 2013 | John Mahoney | The Link
April 7, 2013 | Charles A. Kimball | The Link
Like a Picture, A Map is Worth A Thousand Words
January 28, 2013 | Rod Driver | The Link
When War Criminals Walk Free
November 18, 2012 | Dr. Mads Gilbert | The Link
Welcome to Nazareth
July 30, 2012 | Jonathan Cook | The Link
The Neocons… They’re Back
May 27, 2012 | John Mahoney | The Link
Is the Two-State Solution Dead?
March 28, 2012 | Jeff Halper | The Link
January 8, 2012 | Maysoon Zayid | The Link
Who Are the “Canaanites”? Why Ask?
November 19, 2011 | Basem L. Ra'ad | The Link
Palestine and the Season of Arab Discontent
September 1, 2011 | Lawrence R. Davidson | The Link
An Open Letter to Church Leaders
June 20, 2011 | David W. Good | 2011
May 1, 2011 | Geoff Simons | 2011
What Price Israel?
January 9, 2011 | Chris Hedges | 2011
Publish It Not
December 20, 2010 | Jonathan Cook | 2010
September 4, 2010 | Khalid Amayreh | 2010
Where Is The Palestinian Gandhi?
July 18, 2010 | Mazin Qumsiyeh | 2010
A Doctor’s Prescription for Peace with Justice
May 20, 2010 | Steven Feldman M.D. | 2010
The Olive Trees of Palestine
January 8, 2010 | Edward Dillon | 2010
Spinning Cast Lead
December 9, 2009 | Jane Adas | 2009
Ending Israel’s Occupation
September 23, 2009 | John Mahoney | 2009
July 28, 2009 | James M. Wall | 2009
April 2, 2009 | John Mahoney | 2009
January 26, 2009 | Joel Kovel | 2009
Captive Audiences: Performing in Palestine
December 18, 2008 | Thomas Suárez | 2008
Israeli Palestinians: The Unwanted Who Stayed
October 5, 2008 | Jonathan Cook | 2008
The Grief Counselor of Gaza
July 10, 2008 | Eyad Sarraj | 2008
State of Denial: Israel, 1948-2008
April 22, 2008 | Ilan Pappe | 2008
January 6, 2008 | Khalid Amayreh | 2008
December 30, 2007 | Kathy Kelly | 2007
Avraham Burg: Apostate or Avatar?
October 4, 2007 | John Mahoney | 2007
Witness for the Defenseless
August 20, 2007 | Anna Baltzer | 2007
About That Word Apartheid
April 24, 2007 | John Mahoney | 2007
One Man’s Hope
January 7, 2007 | Fahim Qubain | 2007
Beyond the Minor Second
December 5, 2006 | Simon Shaheen | 2006
October 9, 2006 | Barbara Lubin | 2006
Why Divestment? Why Now?
August 20, 2006 | David Wildman | 2006
Inside the Anti-Occupation Camp
April 17, 2006 | Michel Warschawski | 2006
Middle East Studies Under Siege
January 14, 2006 | Joan W. Scott | 2006
A Polish Boy in Palestine
December 20, 2005 | David Neunuebel | 2005
The Israeli Factor
October 19, 2005 | John Cooley | 2005
The Coverage—and Non-Coverage—of Israel-Palestine
July 20, 2005 | Allison Weir | 2005
The Day FDR Met Saudi Arabia’s Ibn Saud
April 23, 2005 | Thomas W. Lippman | 2005
January 29, 2005 | Geoff Simons | 2005
When Legend Becomes Fact
December 21, 2004 | James M. Wall | 2004
Timeline for War
September 20, 2004 | John Mahoney | 2004
The CPT Report
June 16, 2004 | Peggy Gish | 2004
April 22, 2004 | Mary Eoloff | 2004
Beyond Road Maps & Walls
January 1, 2004 | Jeff Halper | 2004
December 5, 2003 | Cindy Corrie | 2003
Why Do They Hate US?
October 25, 2003 | John Zogby | 2003
In the Beginning, There Was Terrorism
July 5, 2003 | Ronald Bleier | 2003
April 20, 2003 | John Mahoney | 2003
January 20, 2003 | Phyllis Bennis | 2003
The Making of Iraq
December 6, 2002 | Geoff Simons | 2002
A Most UnGenerous Offer
September 27, 2002 | Jeff Halper | 2002
The Crusades, Then and Now
July 5, 2002 | Robert Ashmore | 2002
A Style Sheet on the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
April 2, 2002 | J. Martin Bailey | 2002
Law & Disorder in the Middle East
January 15, 2002 | Francis A. Boyle | 2002
Reflections on September 11, 2001
November 20, 2001 | James M. Wall | 2001
Inside H-2 [Hebron]
September 12, 2001 | Jane Adas | 2001
Americans Tortured in Israeli Jails
June 8, 2001 | Jerri Bird | 2001
Today’s Via Dolorosa
April 20, 2001 | Edward Dillon | 2001
Israel’s Anti-Civilian Weapons
January 1, 2001 | John Mahoney | 2001
Confronting the Bible’s Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine
December 17, 2000 | Michael Prior, C.M. | 2000
On the Jericho Road
September 5, 2000 | AMEU | 2000
The Lydda Death March
July 13, 2000 | Audeh Rantisi | 2000
The Syrian Community on the Golan Heights
April 27, 2000 | Bashar Tarabieh | 2000
Muslim Americans in Mainstream America
February 20, 2000 | Nihad Awad | 2000
Native Americans and Palestinians
December 20, 1999 | Norman Finkelstein | 1999
Iraq: Who’s To Blame?
October 3, 1999 | Geoff Simons | 1999
July 20, 1999 | John Sugg | 1999
May 20, 1999 | Muna Hamzeh-Muhaisen | 1999
February 20, 1999 | Edward Mast | 1999
Dear NPR News
December 18, 1998 | Ali Abunimah | 1998
Israel’s Bedouin: The End of Poetry
September 22, 1998 | Ron Kelley | 1998
Politics Not As Usual
July 8, 1998 | Rod Driver | 1998
Israeli Historians Ask: What Really Happened 50 Years Ago?
January 8, 1998 | Ilan Pappe | 1998
The Jews of Iraq
January 8, 1998 | Naeim Giladi | 1998
“People and the Land’: Coming to a PBS Station Near You?
November 12, 1997 | Tom Hayes | 1997
U. S. Aid to Israel: The Subject No One Mentions
September 1, 1997 | Richard Curtiss | 1997
Remember the [USS] Liberty
July 24, 1997 | John Borne | 1997
AMEU’s 30th Anniversary Issue
April 8, 1997 | AMEU | 1997
The Children of Iraq: 1990-1997
January 22, 1997 | Kathy Kelly | 1997
Slouching Toward Bethlehem 2000
December 16, 1996 | J. Martin Bailey | 1996
Deir Yassin Remembered
September 2, 1996 | Dan McGowan | 1996
Palestinians and Their Days in Court: Unequal Before the Law
July 22, 1996 | Linda Brayer | 1996
Meanwhile in Lebanon
April 8, 1996 | George Irani | 1996
Hebron’s Theater of the Absurd
January 8, 1996 | Kathleen Kern | 1996
Epiphany at Beit Jala
November 24, 1995 | Donald Neff | 1995
Teaching About the Middle East
September 19, 1995 | Elizabeth Barlow | 1995
Jerusalem’s Final Status
July 8, 1995 | Michael Dumper | 1995
A Survivor for Whom Never Again Means Never Again [An Interview with Israel Shahak]
May 1, 1995 | Mark Dow | 1995
In the Land of Christ Christianity Is Dying
January 24, 1995 | Grace Halsell | 1995
Refusing to Curse the Darkness
December 8, 1994 | Geoffrey Aronson | 1994
Humphrey Gets the Inside Dope
September 29, 1994 | John Law | 1994
The Post-Handshake Landscape
July 19, 1994 | Frank Collins | 1994
Bosnia: A Genocide of Muslims
May 8, 1994 | Grace Halsell | 1994
Will ’94 Be ’49 All Over Again?
January 22, 1994 | Rabbi Elmer Berger | 1994
December 18, 1993 | Ann Lesch | 1993
Save the Musht
October 8, 1993 | Rosina Hassoun | 1993
August 8, 1993 | Colin Edwards | 1993
An Open Letter to Mrs. Clinton
May 8, 1993 | James Graff | 1993
Islam and the US National Interest
February 8, 1993 | Shaw Dallal | 1993
A Reply to Henry Kissinger and Fouad Ajami
December 16, 1992 | Norman Finkelstein | 1992
October 8, 1992 | Don Wagner | 1992
Covert Operations: The Human Factor
August 8, 1992 | Jane Hunter | 1992
AMEU’s 25th Anniversary Issue
May 19, 1992 | John Mahoney | 1992
Facing the Charge of Anti-Semitism
January 20, 1992 | Paul Hopkins | 1992
The Comic Book Arab
December 12, 1991 | Jack Shaheen | 1991
Visitation at Yad Vashem
September 3, 1991 | James Burtchaell | 1991
A New Literary Look at the Middle East
August 25, 1991 | John Mahoney | 1991
Beyond the Jewish-Christian Dialogue: Solidarity with the Palestinian People
February 8, 1991 | Marc Ellis | 1991
The Post-War Middle East
January 2, 1991 | Rami Khouri | 1991
Arab Defamation in the Media
December 21, 1990 | Casey Kasem | 1990
What Happened to Palestine?: The Revisionists Revisited
September 17, 1990 | Michael Palumbo | 1990
Protestants and Catholics Show New Support for Palestinians
July 26, 1990 | Charles A. Kimball | 1990
My Conversation with Humphrey
April 2, 1990 | John Law | 1990
American Victims of Israeli Abuses
January 17, 1990 | Albert Mokhiber | 1990
Diary of an American in Occupied Palestine
November 8, 1989 | Mary Mary | 1989
The International Crimes of Israeli Officials
September 23, 1989 | John B. Quigley | 1989
An Interview with Ellen Nassab
July 8, 1989 | Hisham Ahmed | 1989
US Aid to Israel
May 23, 1989 | Mohamed Rabie | 1989
Cocaine, Cutouts: Israel’s Unseen Diplomacy
January 14, 1989 | Jane Hunter | 1989
The Shi’i Muslims of the Arab World
December 8, 1988 | Augustus Norton | 1988
Israel and South Africa
October 3, 1988 | Robert Ashmore | 1988
Zionist Violence Against Palestinians
September 8, 1988 | Mohammad Hallaj | 1988
June 25, 1988 | George Weller | 1988
The US Press and the Middle East
January 8, 1988 | Mitchell Kaidy | 1988
The US Role in Israel’s Arms Industry
December 8, 1987 | Bishara Bahbah | 1987
The Shadow Government
October 24, 1987 | Jane Hunter | 1987
Public Opinion and the Middle East Conflict
September 8, 1987 | Fouad Moughrabi | 1987
England And The US in Palestine: A Comparison
May 22, 1987 | W. F. Aboushi | 1987
Archaeology Politics in Palestine
January 11, 1987 | Leslie Hoppe | 1987
The Demographic War for Palestine
December 21, 1986 | Janet Abu-Lughod | 1986
October 21, 1986 | Cheryl Rubenberg | 1986
The Vatican, US Catholics, and the Middle East
August 5, 1986 | George Irani | 1986
The Making of a Non-Person
May 2, 1986 | Jan Abu Shakrah | 1986
The Israeli-South African-US Alliance
January 17, 1986 | Jane Hunter | 1986
Humphrey Goes to the Middle East
December 4, 1985 | John Law | 1985
US-Israeli-Central American Connection
November 23, 1985 | Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi | 1985
The Palestine-Israel Conflict in the US Courtroom
September 1, 1985 | Rex Wingerter | 1985
The Middle East on the US Campus
May 24, 1985 | Naseer Aruri | 1985
From Time Immemorial: The Resurrection of a Myth
January 12, 1985 | Mohammad Hallaj | 1985
The Lasting Gift of Christmas
December 29, 1984 | Hassan Haddad | 1984
Israel’s Drive for Water
November 25, 1984 | Leslie Schmida | 1984
Shrine Under Siege
August 21, 1984 | Grace Halsell | 1984
The USS Liberty Affair
May 6, 1984 | James Ennes Jr. | 1984
The Middle East Lobbies
January 21, 1984 | Cheryl Rubenberg | 1984
US Aid to Israel
December 23, 1983 | Samir Abed-Rabbo | 1983
November 18, 1983 | O. Kelly Ingram | 1983
Prisoners of Israel
August 22, 1983 | Edward Dillon | 1983
The Land of Palestine
May 11, 1983 | L. Dean Brown | 1983
Military Peacekeeping in the Middle East
January 5, 1983 | William Mulligan | 1983
US-Israeli Relations: A Reassessment
December 20, 1982 | Allan Kellum | 1982
The Islamic Alternative
September 5, 1982 | Yvonne Haddad | 1982
Yasser Arafat: The Man and His People
July 9, 1982 | Grace Halsell | 1982
Tourism in the Holy Land
May 5, 1982 | Larry Ekin | 1982
Palestine: The Suppression of an Idea
January 18, 1982 | Mohammad Hallaj | 1982
The Disabled in the Arab World
December 14, 1981 | Audrey Shabbas | 1981
Arms Buildup in the Middle East
September 26, 1981 | Greg Orfalea | 1981
The Palestinians in America
July 5, 1981 | Elias Tuma | 1981
A Human Rights Odyssey: In Search of Academic Freedom
April 23, 1981 | Michael Griffin | 1981
Europe and the Arabs: A Developing Relationship
January 12, 1981 | John Richardson | 1981
National Council of Churches Adopts New Statement on the Middle East
December 20, 1980 | Allison Rock | 1980
Kuwait: Prosperity From A Sea of Oil
September 7, 1980 | Alan Klaum | 1980
American Jews and the Middle East: Fears, Frustration and Hope
July 24, 1980 | Allan Solomonow | 1980
The Arab Stereotype on Television
April 22, 1980 | Jack Shaheen | 1980
The Presidential Candidates: How They View the Middle East
January 13, 1980 | Allan Kellum | 1980
The West Bank and Gaza: The Emerging Political Consensus
December 16, 1979 | Ann Lesch | 1979
The Muslim Experience in the US
September 5, 1979 | Yvonne Haddad | 1979
Jordan Steps Forward
July 22, 1979 | Alan Klaum | 1979
The Child in the Arab Family
May 30, 1979 | Audrey Shabbas | 1979
January 12, 1979 | John Mahoney | 1979
The Sorrow of Lebanon
December 22, 1978 | Youssef Ibrahim | 1978
The Arab World: A New Economic Order
October 5, 1978 | Youssef Ibrahim | 1978
The Yemen Arab Republic: From Behind the Veil
May 20, 1978 | Alan Klaum | 1978
The New Israeli Law: Will It Doom the Christian Mission in the Holy Land?
April 24, 1978 | Humphrey Walz | 1978
January 14, 1978 | John Sutton, ed. | 1978
War Plan Ready If Peace Effort Fails
December 19, 1977 | Jim Hoagland | 1977
Concern Grows in U.S. Over Israeli Policies
September 25, 1977 | Allan C. Brownfeld | 1977
Prophecy and Modern Israel
June 5, 1977 | Calvin Keene | 1977
Literary Look at the Middle East
April 16, 1977 | Djelloul Marbrook | 1977
Carter Administration & the Middle East
January 8, 1977 | Norton Mezvinski | 1977
Unity Out of Diversity: United Arab Emirates
December 19, 1976 | John Sutton, ed. | 1976
New Leader for Troubled Lebanon
October 5, 1976 | Minor Yanis | 1976
Egypt: Rediscovered Destiny – A Survey
July 5, 1976 | Alan Klaum | 1976
America’s Stake in the Middle East
June 5, 1976 | John Davis | 1976
January 12, 1976 | Patricia Morris, ed. | 1976
Zionism? Racism? What Do You Mean?
December 21, 1975 | Humphrey Walz | 1975
October 8, 1975 | Marcella Kerr, ed. | 1975
June 20, 1975 | Ray Cleveland | 1975
The West Bank and Gaza
April 16, 1975 | John Richardson | 1975
Crisis in Lebanon
January 8, 1975 | Jack Forsyth | 1975
The Arab-Israeli Arms Race
December 14, 1974 | Fuad Jabber | 1974
The Palestinians Speak. Listen!
October 12, 1974 | Frank Epp | 1974
Holy Father Speaks on Palestine
May 26, 1974 | Pope Paul VI | 1974
History of the Middle East Conflict
March 18, 1974 | Sen. James Abourezk | 1974
Arab Oil and the Zionist Connection
January 21, 1974 | Jack Forsyth | 1974
Christians in the Arab East
December 8, 1973 | Humphrey Walz | 1973
American Jewry and the Zionist Jewish State Concept
September 30, 1973 | Norton Mezvinski | 1973
US Middle East Involvement
May 8, 1973 | John Richardson | 1973
A Prophet Speaks in Israel
March 8, 1973 | Norton Mezvinski | 1973
The Arab Market: Opportunities for U.S. Business
January 21, 1973 | Humphrey Walz | 1973
Toward a More Open Middle East Debate
December 2, 1972 | Humphrey Walz | 1972
Some Thoughts on Jerusalem
September 15, 1972 | Joseph Ryan | 1972
Foreign Policy Report: Nixon Gives Massive Aid But Reaps No Political Harvest
May 13, 1972 | Andrew Glass | 1972
A Look at Gaza
March 2, 1972 | Humphrey Walz | 1972
Religion Used to Promote Hatred in Israel
January 2, 1972 | Humphrey Walz | 1972
Computer Age Answers to M. E. Problems
December 18, 1971 | Humphrey Walz | 1971
Peace and the Holy City
September 5, 1971 | Humphrey Walz | 1971
Why Visit the Middle East?
May 15, 1971 | Humphrey Walz | 1971
Arab-Israeli Encounter in Jaffa
March 12, 1971 | Humphrey Walz | 1971
At Stake in UNRWA’s 1971 Budget
January 1, 1971 | Humphrey Walz | 1971
Is the Modern State, Israel, A Fulfillment of Prophecy?
December 6, 1970 | Bradley Watkins | 1970
Council of Churches Acts on Middle East Crisis
September 26, 1970 | Humphrey Walz | 1970
Mayhew Reports on Arab-Israeli Facts
May 24, 1970 | Christopher Mayhew | 1970
Sequel Offered Free to Refugee Agencies
March 22, 1970 | Humphrey Walz | 1970
Responses to Palestine Information Proposal
January 3, 1970 | Humphrey Walz | 1970
Churches Plan for Refugees and Peace
December 15, 1969 | Humphrey Walz | 1969
End UNRWA Deficit for Refugee Aid
September 28, 1969 | Humphrey Walz | 1969
Church Statement Stresses Mideast Needs
May 3, 1969 | Humphrey Walz | 1969
Mosque to Add Minaret to NYC Skyline
March 9, 1969 | Humphrey Walz | 1969
Black Bids New Administration Face Facts
January 3, 1969 | Humphrey Walz | 1969
UN Struggles for Mideast Peace
November 3, 1968 | Humphrey Walz | 1968
How The Link Was Born and Can Grow
September 1, 1968 | AMEU | 1968
By Omar Aziz
“Time is no friend of ours” most Palestinians won’t be afraid to tell you. And in Gaza especially, you would be forgiven for thinking that for many years, time has been stuck on a repeat in a loop of its own.
By now, the hyper-regulated system of control Israel wields over Palestinians’ everyday lives is well-documented. Jeff Halper, co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), developed the term “Matrix of Control” to describe the extent of Israel’s reach into all facets of Palestinian existence, from the most banal functions of the administrative state, to the outright expropriation of land and property, to the unchecked use of military force. With apartheid walls and myriad checkpoints crisscrossing the West Bank, systematically fragmenting Palestinian communities between East Jerusalem and Areas A, B, and C, not to mention Gaza’s hermetic siege and those driven into exile, Israel’s spatial domination of Palestinian life is plain to see to all who visit or complete a quick Google search.
But when we listen to Palestinian voices and their accounts of daily life at the hands of Israel’s apartheid and settler-colonialism, so much more is revealed. What becomes clear is that Israel’s matrix of control extends beyond the spatial and into the temporal, manipulating the experience of each second, each hour, and each day.
Where Israel unleashes lightning military strikes and unilateral offenses, and affords its own citizens access to the ever-accelerating speeds of this modern age, Palestinians by contrast, are kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting. At checkpoints they wait, and on sluggish internet connections, for travel permits, under siege, they wait to be granted the right to return home, for loved ones to be released from detention. Families are then made to wait again, for the bodies of slain relatives to be returned to them, for burial.
After 54 years of so-called “temporary” occupation, perhaps Ariel Sharon was right when he proclaimed, “time is on our side,” with Israel’s incremental colonization advancing seemingly unabated for decades now. Yet, with each day, despite Israel’s regime of enforced waiting being at its most sophisticated, a sense of collective agency, especially among young Palestinians and against all odds, seems to be growing. Before we can fully appreciate the significance of this energetic surge and what we can all learn from it, we must first understand from where it is emerging.
In the Blink of an Eye
Half a second, one hundredth of a second, one thousandth of a second … what difference can the blink of an eye really make over a lifetime? In a world where time becomes ever more compressed, the potential capacity of even the millisecond grows exponentially. And it would be an understatement to say we live in an era increasingly reliant on digital technology, instant communications, and global networks of information exchange, now all fundamental elements of growth models in the developed world.
Lauding itself the ‘Start up Nation,’ rapid digital connectivity keeps Israel’s high-tech sector competitive in the global market, accounting for 61% of its total net-service exports. As Mona Shtaya, Local Advocacy Manager at 7amleh – the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, tells me, “Israel continues to brand itself as tech savvies who race to achieve things first in the world. Remember how they were first globally to distribute Covid vaccines?” But, she adds, “when it comes to Palestinians, they are trying to create delays. In fact, not just any delays – it takes Palestinians decades to get the same services.”
While granting its own citizens high-speed internet coverage, Israel continues to systematically deny the five million Palestinians under its occupation access to the same technology. Israel’s 3G networks went into service in 2004, were upgraded to 4G in 2014, then to 5G coverage in 2020. Yet right now in Gaza, Palestinians still endure 2G coverage and Israel granted the West Bank access to 3G only in 2018. Even then, the delays continue for most Palestinians, as the technology is simply too expensive to access.
The differences between 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G networks are monumental. A standard webpage on a 2G network takes around 3 minutes to load, compared to 0.5 seconds on 4G; to download a mobile application may take 40 minutes on 2G compared to 8 seconds on 4G. Video calls are impossible on 2G along with most day-to-day online activities many of us now take for granted. The huge differences between these networks are the measure of today’s digital divide.
Israel has constrained access to the electromagnetic spectrum by delaying the granting of licenses to Pal- estinian mobile telecommunications companies. They are able to do so, as Shtaya explains, because “under the Oslo Accords, all the communications infrastructure wa s placedd in Israeli controlled Area C of the West Bank – making it subject to Israeli approval and requiring permits to move forward with these technologies.”
In most instances, workarounds are costly. Abdul Majeed Melhem, general manager of Jawwal, one of Palestine’s two leading telecom companies, states on his company’s website, “we were forced to use switch- boards in London instead of Palestine as the Israeli occupation seized our equipment in 2001.” A 2016 World Bank Report estimates that the total revenue loss for Pal- estinian telecommunications operators caused by Israeli obstructionism could range from $436 million to $1.1 billion over three years.
For years, Israeli network operators have built 3G and 4G towers in illegal settlements throughout the West Bank. Oftentimes, these towers are erected on privately owned Palestinian land, granting high speed network access to settlers and profiting from frustrated Palestinians who have no alternative but to resort to using smug- gled Israeli SIM cards.
Adequate network infrastructure is a prerequisite for any functioning economy in the 21st century, including those enduring siege and occupation. Taken together, these seemingly microscopic delays contribute dramatically to the longterm economic prospects of both the West Bank and Gaza, especially in the latter where electricity is shut off for up to 20 hours per day due to power shortages caused by the siege.
Israel controls everything that enters or exits Gaza. Ahmed Alnaouq, from Gaza and now living in London, explained to me Israel’s selection process. “They do allow laptops and smart phones inside Gaza, not because they care about us but because they use these devices as spying tools against the Palestinians. This is one of the primary ways of getting information about us. They hack all of our phones and laptops … They only allow in things that serve their own purposes.” The capacity for widespread surveillance of 2G network coverage is light work compared to penetrating the security offered by 3G. But even that offers scarce sanctuary for Palestinians from Israel’s control and penetration of fiber optic cables carrying digital information from Palestine and beyond, and from the infiltration of the handheld devices them- selves by Israeli spyware such as Pegasus.
Palestinians, being at the brunt end of Israel’s temporal violence right from the first millisecond of their digital lives, are all too aware that time is an artifact of power, and that the question of who has control over the time of others is inherently political.
Minutes … Become Hours
Over 5,000 military laws and edicts dominate the lives of Palestinians, attempting to stall daily life in every way imaginable. Often it is not possible to even dig for water, start a business, work, travel, study, tend crops, obtain medical care without first having to confront Israel’s occupation bureaucracy for permission.
At the same time as Israel’s citizens and illegal settlers drive freely on pristine highways, Israel forces Palestinians to wait indefinitely at checkpoints or attempt to meander lengthy detours on dilapidated back roads. Palestinian politician Dr. Hanan Ashrawi described to me her own experiences of being forced to wait under occupation. “I was in my car with two of my assistants, my driver, and with my posters and leaflets going to Jerusalem to campaign because I was running for Jerusalem. I was stopped at the checkpoint. They beat up my assistants. I tried to rescue them, they beat me up and then they held me up all day there. And they confiscated my posters and leaflets. The next day I went back and I got through…. There is nothing normal under occupation…. Every aspect of your life is determined by this system of control. It is so pervasive, institutionalized, and structured. It is so cruel.”
With over 700 road obstacles and at least 140 checkpoints across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, forcing Palestinians to wait sometimes minutes, sometimes hours, or sometimes forcing them to turn back altogether, every Palestinian there has stories of the injustices faced as a consequence of these physical manifestations of weaponized time. During the Second Intifada 60 women were forced to give birth at checkpoints; 36 babies and five women died as a result.
Farah Nabulsi’s 2021 BAFTA-winning short film “The Present”, now on Netflix, dramatizes these temporal injustices through the story of a father and daughter attempting to pass a checkpoint during a shopping trip. The film powerfully displays how checkpoints not only incapacitate individuals but can ignite collective and intergenerational trauma each time one is forced to approach them. When the apartheid regime’s unpredictable and ever-changing net of barriers, curfews and closures makes planning ahead virtually impossible, the future is rendered uncertain and time becomes an enemy.
Violence, harassment, and intimidation of Palestinians are commonplace occurrences at checkpoints; in the most tragic cases, these supposed ‘security structures’ have become death traps for Palestinians, when even the slightest mistake becomes the excuse for the Occupation force’s hair trigge. The June 2020 extrajudicial killing of 26-year-old Ahmed Erekat is only the most recent example, where, while en route to his sister’s wedding in a rental car, Ahmed’s low-speed collision with a concrete barrier at Bethlehem’s ‘Container’ checkpoint resulted in his death at the hands of Border Police moments later. As he exited the vehicle and backed away from the soldiers, posing no threat, he was shot six times, three times while he was on the ground.
Hours into Days … Days into Weeks
Gaza is home to one million children. One million children living in one of the world’s most densely populated places, a 141 square-mile strip of land Israel completely blockaded by land, air, and sea. Every mortar Israel fires and every missile Israel aims toward Gaza is done in the knowledge that children will inevitably end up recipients of its devastation. Israel’s bombing campaign “Operation Guardian of the Walls” killed 67 children in 11 days during May, roughly one-quarter of the total fatalities. A vast majority of children in Gaza unsurprisingly show signs of deep psychological distress and 60% are anemic.
The systematic nature of Israel’s temporal violence is more blatant in Gaza than anywhere else. I spoke with Dr. Bahzad Al-Akhras, a medical doctor and child mental health specialist working in Gaza, about life there today, and how time may be a factor in health outcomes. “I would agree that time is our biggest enemy; we are suffering a lot from the psychological pain of waiting for something that some of us feel is not happening in the future,” Dr. Bahzad said. The ongoing collective punishment of two million people, where 97% of water is undrinkable, who have been forced to endure a man-made humanitarian catastrophe, minute after minute, day after day, for 15 years now. In 2008, senior advisor to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Dov Weinglass, explained how Israeli policy in Gaza was “to put the Palestinians on a diet,” though, he quickly added “but not to make them die of hunger.” This was backed up by findings from Israeli documents from 2008 that cynically calculated the minimal caloric intake necessary for Palestinians to avoid outright malnutrition in spite of the blockade.
Dr. Bahzad informed me of another way in which Israel uses timing as a psychological weapon to cause maximum distress during bombardments. “During the last escalation I was much more scared than during the previous escalations because there was no electricity and the sounds of the drones and the war planes were really awful. Especially with this late-night bombardment – most of the bombardments were late in the night. This puts more psychological pain because humans tend to go into deep sleep during the last third of the night, but we were forced to remain awake in a very dehumanizing way. You just wait. You don’t know if this bombardment will be near your home, it may hit a friend’s home or a relative’s home in another city. So it was painful and emotionally intolerable.”
Not surprisingly, the extreme nature of the suffering in Gaza requires new paradigms of mental health and support, with there being no “post” traumatic stress in Gaza, as the trauma is ongoing. “In Gaza the inci- dent is never ending. In 2006 there was the first esca- lation … then in 2009, then 2012, in 2014, and now in 2021, and so on, in a continuous traumatic event. And now the world is speaking and researching the concept of continuous traumatic stress disorder.” Even the recon- struction of Gaza is forcibly slowed down, with Israel blocking essential materials, such as water pumps, elevators, and iron when and as it chooses.
Along the continuous spectrum of Israel’s weaponization of time against Palestinians, the most obvious example may be unexploded ordinance. Often dormant for months in residential areas or even under schools, they lie as silent reminders of the destruction caused by the 2,750 aerial attacks and 2,300 artillery shells launched against Gaza in May, and a sinister reminder of Israel’s rapid destructive power that can be reignited at any mo- ment. On June 9, nine-year-old Obaida al-Dahdouh was killed after finding an unexploded device in his garden in the east of the enclave.
At the epicenter of Israel’s temporal matrix of control is, of course, the prison. And today perhaps no other people as a whole are more familiar with the inside of a cage than the Palestinians. Since 1948, it is estimated that one in five Palestinians have been incarcerated, with over 800,000 arrested in the West Bank and Gaza alone since 1967. Today there are 4,650 political prisoners, 200 of whom are children.
Israel’s military judicial system sees Palestinians tried at military courts that hold a 99% conviction rate with over 1,600 criminal codes incriminating basic civic engagement, such as participation in demonstrations, which can be considered destruction of public order.
In 2016, Israeli soldier Elor Azaria shot dead already motionless Abed al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif in occupied Al-Khalil (Hebron). He was sentenced to 18 months in jail, of which he served 9 months. Meanwhile, in the same year, five Palestinian boys from Jerusalem aged 14-17 were arrested for allegedly throwing stones at cars and given sentences from 2-4 years, which some even argued was lenient considering such an offence offers a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison under Israel’s military law. It is not an exaggeration to say that every Palestinian has been impacted directly or indirectly by Israel’s weaponization of time through what can only be understood as a policy of mass incarceration.
Ahed Tamimi was just one of hundreds of children Israel kept in cages when she was incarcerated in 2017, at age 16. Recently speaking to British rapper Lowkey on a/Political, Ahed described the pain she endured during the interrogation process ahead of her conviction. “Each day, at 2:00 am exactly, the soldiers came to take me to the interrogation room where they kept asking me, ‘Who is backing you? Why are you doing this? What is your name?’ It stayed like this for about 16 days. I couldn’t sleep.”
Almost all of the arrests of Palestinians are conducted through middle of the night raids, with Israeli soldiers bursting into Palestinian homes, often ransacking them and terrorizing family members. The IDF even carries out such raids in Area A, supposedly under total Palestinian control, thus exposing the illusory nature of Palestinian autonomy under occupation.
Weeks into Months … Into Years
By now it comes as no surprise to learn that Israel forced Palestinians under occupation to wait for COVID-19 vaccines. Israel began vaccinating its 9.3 million citizens in December 2020 and by May had clearly executed the world’s fast program, having administered two doses to 54.4% of its population. At the same time, 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza were forced to wait.
Once again Israel employed the temporary Oslo Accords to attempt to negate its responsibility here, despite Article 56 of the Geneva Conventions specifically mentioning medical supplies relating to a pandemic:
“The Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining … public health and hygiene in the occupied territory, with particular reference to the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious disease and epidemics.”
Israel did begin vaccinating some West Bank Palestinians in March, but only laborers with Israeli work permits. En masse, Israel has delayed Palestinians from accessing vaccines for as long as possible, forcing them to look elsewhere to China, Russia, and the World Health Organization-led COVAX program.
In February, Israel even held up for several days the delivery of a mere 2,000 Sputnik COVID vaccines that were destined for medical staff and COVID patients. An Israeli security source stated the vaccines were not allowed to pass into Gaza as the ‘request was still being processed.” Yet in the same month, Prime Minister Netanyahu attempted to send vaccines around the world to allies, including Hungary and Guatemala – two of the first countries that had endorsed Israel’s illegal claim to Jerusalem as its capital.
Unquestionably, Israel’s temporal violence in delaying access to vaccines for Palestinians has been deadly. Not only have 4,236 Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem already died from COVID at the time of writing, damningly but predictably, the Case Fatality Rate (the proportion of deaths among confirmed cases) remains significantly higher for Palestinians in the occupied territory than in Israel itself. With 1.0% CFR in Gaza and the West Bank, compared with 0.6% in Israel, clearly the extreme health inequalities Palestinians suffer under Israel’s occupation, especially in the Gaza Strip, have been compounding the lethal effects of the virus.
The dangers of this “permanent assault on time” have been studied by cultural theorist Paul Virilio, whose book Pure War provides a thought-provoking lens into understanding Israel’s ongoing settler-colonialism. He argues we are living in an era not of democracy, but of ‘dromocracy’ (from the Greek dromos meaning “race,” that is, race as in the reign of speed), whereby power lies in access to speed in an ever-accelerating world, which, he predicts, will one day climactically result in the elimination of human agency altogether. Every society, he writes, is founded on a relation of speed: the one who goes the fastest possesses the ability to collect taxes, to conquer, and to inherit the right to exploit society. Palestinians not only face the most extreme examples of advanced hyper-accelerated military terror, but also must endure it while their own lives are systematically slowed down.
Perhaps the most shocking example of Israel’s weaponization of time is against medical patients in Gaza seeking urgent treatment. Each month, patients have their travel permits rejected by Israel’s administrative occupation bureaucracy, even though most of the requests are simply to access other Palestinian medical facilities such as hospitals in East Jerusalem.
In July 2021 alone, 293 Gaza patients, 25.8% of the total were delayed access to care, according to the World Health Organization, having received no response to their applications by the date of the appointment. Of these, 32% were for children and 29% for cancer patents. And in 2020, Physicians for Human Rights in Israel complained Israel only approved half of the medical permits for Gaza’s patients. In 2017, 54 Gaza patients died after their permits were delayed or denied.
Ahmed Alnaouq, Advocacy Officer at Euro-Med Monitor human rights group, described his ordeal attempting to obtain a travel permit for his mother, Basema, to travel to Jerusalem for breast cancer treatment. She had already received a late diagnosis because of the lack of effective scanning equipment in Gaza due to the blockade. “She started medications, but they were never enough. The equipment in Gaza is very bad, so she had to endure much suffering and much pain for many months. And after that, when she finally managed to get a permit to travel to Jerusalem, the doctors told her that it’s actually too late. I called the doctor and he told me you sent her to us very, very late and now we can’t help her. I told him, it is not we who sent her now, it is only now that we have the permit. I had to fight for months in order to go to a hospital that is only 40 minutes from Gaza. For that I lost my mother.”
Ahmed, like so many Palestinians, already knew all too well the violence of life under Occupation, with Israel slowing things down and speeding things up by design. In July 2014, Ahmed lost his older brother Ayman and close friends in an Israeli missile strike on Gaza. They were all killed in a second.
Even the dead can be weaponized. Right now, Israel continues to withhold the bodies of at least 82 Palestinians slain by Israeli forces, using them as ‘bargaining chips’ for negotiations. The individual case cited previously, of the June 2020 killing of Ahmed Erekat, killed by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint between two Palestinian towns, is one of those bargaining chips. Even after he was shot, video footage appears to show signs of life in him, and yet Palestinian medical teams, which arrived quickly, were refused access to where he lay. Nearly two hours later, lifeless and stripped naked, was he placed into an Israeli ambulance. A report from Forensic Architecture described the deprivation of medical attention as “killing by time.” Now, even in death, Ahmed’s family is made to wait indefinitely for the return of his body.
Budour Hassan, Legal Advisor at Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center, recently explained on Palestine Deep Dive how the forced delay of returning Palestinian bodies illuminates Israel’s exploitation of British mandate era policies and, in turn, Britain’s colonial legacy in Palestine. The delay is authorized in Article 133 of Britain’s 1945 emergency regulations, which requested that commanders prevent the return of the bodies of any person killed in one of its central prisons or in combat.
In addition, the emergency regulations also authorized the policy of “administrative detention,” incarceration without trial, and punitive home demolitions– two key methods of Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians that are still wielded today.
Decades Make a Lifetime
Israel also wields time as a weapon by exploiting the supposed temporariness of intermediary legal fixtures, using them as a cipher for establishing permanent realities on the ground. Despite “occupation” defined in international law as a temporary and exceptional situation, 54 years since Israel initially occupied the West Bank and Gaza and illegally annexed East Jerusalem, the colonization of Palestinian land is more conspicuously permanent than ever.
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territory Michael Link has drawn attention to Israel’s occupation as the longest in the modern world, recognizing it as “occu-annexation” that is “endlessly sustainable without decisive international intervention.” Palestinians have become locked in a permanent temporariness, where Israel’s military rule and permit bureaucracy are wielded against them indefinitely to facilitate its colonial ends.
Palestinians must wait years for building permits to construct or extend properties even marginally, usually for them only to be rejected, while the authorization and construction of illegal Israeli settlements flourish at ever accelerating rates. Between 2016 and 2018, Israel denied 98 percent of building permits requested by Palestinians in Israeli-controlled Area C. From 2019-2020, Israel approved only 32 permits for Palestinians in Area C, but 6,098 for Jewish settlers. Over 150 settlements now thrive across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, housing over 750,000 illegal Jewish settlers.
Israel’s permit bureaucracy forces Palestinians into an impossible dilemma: either wait years, indefinitely hoping for an approved permit against all odds, or take their chances and build “illegally” on their own land, only then to have to wait in fear of their homes being demolished.
Across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Palestinians not only wait anxiously in fear of their homes being torn down, but also in fear of systematic forced ethnic displacement – another reality of this so-called temporary occupation. In Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, Mohammed El-Kurd, 23, has only known the uncertainty caused by legal threats of forced displacement. “Time is your worst enemy” he told me, “Because of the sense of powerlessness that comes with it…. There’s this looming threat of losing your home at any given moment. You don’t know when it is so you sit and you spend your life waiting for something to happen.”
He describes how, since childhood, his sense of time has become intrinsically tied to court dates. Perhaps this is not surprising, considering that when he was thirteen, settlers had moved in and taken over part of his home. At that time, he told an interviewer “We still have some evacuation orders, but nothing happened yet, but it could happen at any moment.” The ongoing threat of looming homelessness has taken its toll on his family, whose members for years have spent hours in courtrooms, feeling temporary relief when their case is yet again postponed.
While the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah is now famous internationally for the ethnic cleansing operation Israel wields against its residents, thanks to the #SaveSheikhJarrah campaign launched by Mohammed, his twin sister Muna, and their neighbors. Beginning as early as 1970, settler organizations, in conjunction with Israeli authorities, have been trying their utmost, sometimes successfully, to displace and replace Palestinian families there.
One thing Mohammed is keen to emphasize is time’s ability to normalize the abnormal. “We decided to start the #SaveSheikhJarrah campaign back in October 2020. When I learned of the court order, I was in New York. I stayed in bed for two or three days. I didn’t go to work, I didn’t go to classes, and I was really depressed, not because of the court order, but because I knew I had to do something about it. You know they take houses every day. They demolish houses every day. We are lucky we are not getting killed. We are lucky we are not getting bombed. It’s fine, you know. I needed to convince myself that my house, my only house, where I rest my head, where my elderly father stays, was worth fighting for. I needed to convince myself that I was worthy of housing because it was so normalized in me, the idea that my house was going to be taken. You’ll see this across the Palestinian experience, the idea that time doesn’t heal, but it definitely normalizes.”
Israel’s own calculation that time eventually normalizes seems to have born fruit at an international level too. Last year, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco all announced normalized relations with Israel.
Freezing Palestinians in the permanent temporariness of eternal de facto annexation is the continued official Israeli policy under its new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Although this is nothing new, and has been the case since 1967, the normalization of apartheid seems to have entered a new phase of acceptance, both domesti- cally and internationally, with the trendy term “shrinking the conflict” now in vogue.
Israeli settler-philosopher Micah Goodman lays out such ideas in his book Catch 67, where he contends Israelis would be far better off if they stopped defining the situation as a “problem” and started framing it as a “catch” instead. Why? “Because problems are meant to be solved– and this problem has no solution.” Rather, Goodman likens the fate of five million Palestinians under Israeli control to a ‘malignant disease’ which can only be controlled rather than eliminated. With such philosophy influencing Bennett’s approach to policy, coupled with Israel’s Knesset offering no incentive for the government to deal with any difficult questions that might risk splitting the delicate coalition, it is no wonder meaningful change is not coming from within Israel any time soon.
But time doesn’t only normalize, it can also exhaust. By constantly stalling court decisions on individual cases, Israel buys time as its incremental colonization continues unabated in other places. While the overly optimistic cliché suggests the wheels of justice do indeed turn slowly, Israel makes sure the slow wheels of injustice grind even slower when it suits. On August 2nd,after global outrage at Israel’s carpet bombing of Gaza and the #SaveSheikhJarrah campaign burst through to public consciousness, Israel’s Supreme Court predictably delayed a final verdict on the appeal of Sheikh Jarrah families against their displacement, giving no future date for the final decision.
“Israel understands the news cycle,” Mohammed asserts. “It understands that now there is momentum, there is a global uprising, all these things, but a year from now that’s not guaranteed and this is also how time becomes our enemy because the more time passes by the less people tend to care and the less intensity your momentum has…. Do I think that the Israeli government is postponing this because they’re afraid of the international backlash? Definitely. Certainly. Yes. Do I think that this means they don’t want to take our homes at all? No. Certainly not. What they’re doing to us is ethnic cleansing, hands down, but they understand that accelerated efforts of ethnic cleansing will wield a negative public response, so they are doing it in such a way that it’s done in small increments across time, in slow motion so you can’t really argue that this is mass displacement.”
This controlled, incremental colonization is, in fact, accelerating. The UN’s Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs reports that in August 2021 in East Jerusalem, nearly 100 Palestinians were displaced from their homes – the highest number of displacements this year. And 53 homes were demolished there since the beginning of the year, 38 by their owners to avoid financial penalties and/or imprisonment. The fact that Israel has no legal jurisdiction over East Jerusalem seems to bear little consequence on the occupying state determined to lay claim to the entire city and rid it of Palestinians in any way possible.
And in Gaza, the long-term impact of Israel’s weaponization of time on the besieged enclave is
massive. Ahmed and Dr. Bahzad both assert that Israel not only slows down Palestinian lives there as much as possible, but is sending the population back in time altogether.
“Fifteen years ago, before the siege, the youth in Gaza had many dreams,” Ahmed tells me, “but right now you will find that most people there just want to survive… It has become like two thousand years ago when people were living just to have food, water, and shelter.
Dr. Bahzad agrees. “In 1998 we had our first international airport, but after the Second Intifada Israeli forces destroyed it. When you have progress and then it is destroyed, you are forced to go back to more traditional ways of travelling and I think this indicates going back in time.“
It is an absurdity to think that right now Gaza relies heavily on donkey carts for transport of goods when over two decades ago it had its own runway.
Another example is architecture. Gaza, especially Gaza City, used to have tall buildings, towers, and futuristic designs, like those found in cities across the world. According to Bahzad, “when these are targeted and destroyed (and reports confirm that 15 high-rise buildings were targeted by airstrikes on Gaza in May, 2021), you are forced backwards.
The Unity Intifada: A Fight for the Present/A Fight for the Future
After more than seven decades of fragmentation and colonial violence, a sense of unity and collective agency is surging, especially among young Palestinians, and against all odds. Instead of submitting to Israel’s attempts at forcing them into an eternity of waiting, Palestinians continue to find agency in even the most sophisticated examples of Israel’s weaponized time.
Nothing more powerfully depicts this than the miraculous escape of six Palestinian prisoners from Israel’s maximum security Gilboa prison. Four of the six detainees had been sentenced to life, but, armed only with a single metal spoon, managed to tunnel their way to freedom. “For five days, I was free after 22 years of continuous imprisonment. I enjoyed wandering in the fields and plains and in the open air in northern Palestine, far from restrictions and fences,” escapee MuhammadAl-Ardah told his lawyer after being recaptured.
Even within prison itself, Palestinians have been collectively demonstrating their agency through hunger strikes and even smuggling out sperm to conceive children. Take Maher Al-Akhras, whose 103-day hunger strike in protest of administrative detention led to his release. “We do not have weapons, but rather we have the strong will and determination to confront the occu- pation and its racist policies,” he said after his release. At the time of writing, at least six Palestinian prisoners are on hunger strike protesting their incarceration without charge.
Ahed Tamimi with her prisonmates creatively regained agency against attempts to steal away their precious childhoods. “We were in prison in one room, four walls, not allowed to leave. We couldn’t see anyone, talk to anyone. We refused to allow ourselves to break, so we brought books, novels, we studied, we read until the prison stopped being a prison and became a school to us instead. We were not broken by this occupier, we rebelled with a pen and a book.”
Time is undoubtedly an artifact of power, but Palestinians are demonstrating that even the most powerful players can be forced to make concessions in the face of collective action and determination. While the lethal consequences of Israel’s assaults on Gaza in May will never be forgotten, those I interviewed unanimously agreed that the attacks also contributed to a new phase of public awareness and strengthened Palestinian unity.
Ahmed Alnaouq told me, “During the last war on Gaza, as Chevening Scholars we organized a speaking event that was the most exciting I have ever spoken at. You know why? Because for the first time I, along with Palestinians from ’48, from the West Bank, and from the diaspo
ra all spoke together in one setting. For me that was a huge deal. We are delivering a message to the Israeli regime that no matter how much or how far they try to separate or segregate us from each other, we will always find a way to communicate, to talk, and to be united again. So yes, for me I believe it is a Unity Intifada.”
By exploiting methods of communication that modern digital technology facilitates, albeit under the ever present realities of slowed and unstable internet connections, censorship, and surveillance, young Palestinians especially are finding new ways to overcome Israel’s forced fragmentation and to find unity.
Those of us on Instagram in May 2021 saw in real time, in between electricity blackouts, how Palestinians endured bombardments aimed towards them. And we will never forget it. One particularly ferocious night during the attacks, Dr. Bahzad recalls how a friend phoned him. “She was following the news, as she knew me when I studied in London … I was crying and she said this to me, “I don’t know what you are experiencing right now, but I can imagine it. I would say that this time it is completely different. Your voices are now heard, the world is now watching, listening, and there are lots of protests, especially in London.” She sent me photos from the marches there and that moment was like the spark or the light when I was about to completely lose hope … So, I would say that the last bombardment, even though it was difficult, at the same time it was very promising.”
With social media continuing to provide an avenue to rapidly bypass mainstream media, it is no wonder people are finally waking up to the suffering Palestinians have endured for so long. Organizations such as We Are Not Numbers (www.wearenotnumbers.org) are breaking new ground with young Palestinians articulating their own discourse, telling their stories through creative and imaginative ways.
The day after I interviewed Mohammed El- Kurd for this piece, he, along with his sister Muna, were listed in Time magazine’s 100 Most influential People of 2021 – symbolic proof of the momentous breakthrough Palestinian voices has made into public consciousness. That such recognition came in Time perh aps prophetically points towards a possible future where time eventually runs out on the widespread international silence and complicity Israel relies on.
In September, members of Britain’s Labour party passed a motion calling for sanctions on Israel, and the week before that, Rep. Rashida Tlaib bravely called out Israel’s apartheid in the U.S. Congress.
Mohammed El-Kurd assures me, “I believe wholeheartedly that we are in a new era, we have tipped the scales in a way that hasn’t been done before, we have forced ourselves onto the center stage and we have left this framing of us as victims … to freedom fighters who have their political agency, who have their own say in what is happening to them. Palestinians are articulating their own stories. We have radicalized a new generation of people all around the world who will go on and live lives and have discourse and write articles and make films and contribute to this conversation. We have this collectivizing of the Palestinian experience, which hasn’t hap- pened since 1936 … You know this is the era of the Palestinian who is unabashed, the Palestinian who doesn’t need approval, the Palestinian who is not muzzled.”
What is increasingly apparent is that, despite Israel’s best efforts at erasing Palestinian pasts, presents, and futures, the history of tomorrow has not yet been written. Young Palestinians, by continuing to articulate their own discourse, reclaim the narrative, and lead from the front in the struggle for liberation, prove they are indeed actors who will shape their own fate.’
While for the rest of us time may not feel weaponized against us in such a vicious way, we have a great deal to learn from young Palestinians in how to be defiant, unabashed how to struggle, to organize and act collectively in the face of external forces manipulating our own temporal existences. From corporations expanding the working day to eat more and more into our leisure time and even our sleep, or in the face of unscrupulous bosses demanding ever greater efficiency to extract ever greater profits from our labor time, or in the face of companies creating increasingly addictive technology capturing our personal data while stealing our waking movements in their monetized attention economy, or even in the face of the very real catastrophe of impending climate breakdown, the actions being taken by young Palestinians today provide inspiration to us all.
Paul Virilio places freedom not in access to speed, but in access to expanse. After all, what is freedom if not a vastness, an open plain for us to decide how we choose to spend our lives, free from stress, exploitation, and domination? The fight for control over our time is the fight of our lives, the fight for our futures, and ultimately the fight for our freedom.
And what we learn from the Palestinian struggle today is that through fearless collective action and determination, freedom may well be irresistible in every sense.
By Rashid Khalidi
For a few years during the early 1990s, I lived in Jerusalem for several months at a time, doing research in the private libraries of some of the city’s oldest families, including my own. With my wife and children, I stayed in an apartment belonging to a Khalidi family waqf, or religious endowment, in the heart of the cramped, noisy Old City. From the roof of this building, there was a view of two of the greatest masterpieces of early Islamic architecture: the shining golden Dome of the Rock was just over 300 feet away on the Haram al-Sharif. Beyond it lay the smaller silver-gray cupola of the al-Aqsa Mosque, with the Mount of Olives in the background. In other directions one could see the Old City’s churches and synagogues.
Just down Bab al-Silsila Street was the main building of the Khalidi Library, which was founded in 1899 by my grandfather, Hajj Raghib al-Khalidi, with a bequest from his mother, Khadija al-Khalidi. The library houses more than 1,200 manuscripts, mainly in Arabic (some in Persian and Ottoman Turkish), the oldest dating back to the early eleventh century. Including some 2,000 nineteenth-century Arabic books and miscellaneous family papers, the collection is one of the most extensive in all of Palestine that is still in the hands of its original owners. (Private Palestinian libraries were systematically looted in the spring of 1948 by specialized teams operating in the wake of advancing Zionist forces as they occupied the Arab-inhabited cities and towns, notably Jaffa, Haifa and the Arab neighborhoods of West Jerusalem. The stolen manuscripts and books were deposited in the Hebrew University Library, now the Israel National Library, under the heading “AP” for “abandoned property,” a typically Orwellian description of a process of cultural appropriation in the wake of conquest and dispossession. See Gish Amit, “Salvage or Plunder? Israel’s ‘Collection’ of Palestinian Private Libraries in West Jerusalem,” Journal of Palestinian Studies, 40, 4 (Summer 2011) pp. 6-23.)
At the time of my stay, the main library structure, which dates from around the thirteenth century, was undergoing restoration, so the contents were being stored temporarily in large cardboard boxes in a Mameluke-era building connected to our apartment by a narrow stairway. I spent over a year among those boxes, going through dusty, worm-eaten books, documents, and letters belonging to generations of Khalidis, among them my great-great-great uncle, Yusuf Diya al-Din Pasha al-Khalidi. Through his papers, I discovered a worldly man with a broad education acquired in Jerusalem, Malta, Istanbul, and Vienna, a man who was deeply interested in comparative religion, especially in Judaism, and who owned a number of books in European languages on this and other subjects.
Yusuf Diya was heir to a long line of Jerusalemite Islamic scholars and legal functionaries: his father, al-Sayyid Mohammad ‘Ali al-Khalidi, had served for some 50 years as deputy qadi and chief of the Jerusalem Shari’a court secretariat. But at a young age Yusuf Diya sought a different path for himself. After absorbing the fundamentals of a traditional Islamic education, he left Palestine at the age of 18 — without his father’s approval, we are told — to spend two years at a British Church Mission Society school in Malta. From there he went to study at the Imperial Medical School in Istanbul, after which he attended the city’s Robert College, founded by American Protestant missionaries. For five years during the 1860s, Yusuf Diya attended some of the first institutions in the region that provided a Western-style education, learning English, French, German, and much else. It was an unusual trajectory for a young man from a family of Muslim religious scholars in the mid-nineteenth century.
Having obtained this broad training, Yusuf Diya filled different roles as an Ottoman government official: translator in the Foreign Ministry; consul in the Russian port of Poti; governor of districts in Kurdistan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria; and mayor of Jerusalem for nearly a decade — with stints teaching at the Royal Imperial University in Vienna. He was also elected as the deputy from Jerusalem to the short-lived Ottoman parliament established in 1876 under the empire’s new constitution, earning Sultan ‘Abd al-Hamid’s enmity because he supported parliamentary prerogatives over executive power.
In line with family tradition and his Islamic and Western education, al-Khalidi became an accomplished scholar as well. The Khalidi Library contains many books of his in French, German, and English, as well as correspondence with learned figures in Europe and the Middle East. Additionally, old newspapers in the library from Austria, France, and Britain show that Yusuf Diya regularly read the overseas press. There is evidence that he received these materials via the Austrian post office in Istanbul, which was not subject to the draconian Ottoman laws of censorship.
As a result of his wide reading, as well as his time in Vienna and other European countries, and from his encounters with Christian missionaries, Yusuf Diya was fully conscious of the pervasiveness of Western anti-Semitism. He had also gained impressive knowledge of the intellectual origins of Zionism, specifically its nature as a response to Christian Europe’s virulent anti-Semitism. He was undoubtedly familiar with “Der Judenstaat” by the Viennese journalist Theodor Herzl, published in 1896, and was aware of the first two Zionist congresses in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897 and 1898. Indeed, it seems clear that Yusuf Diya knew of Herzl from his own time in Vienna. He knew of the debates and the views of the different Zionist leaders and tendencies, including Herzl’s explicit call for a state for the Jews, with the “sovereign right” to control immigration. Moreover, as mayor of Jerusalem he had witnessed the friction with the local population prompted by the first years of proto-Zionist activity, starting with the arrival of the earliest European Jewish settlers in the late 1870s and early 1880s.
Herzl, the acknowledged leader of the growing movement he had founded, paid his sole visit to Palestine in 1898, timing it to coincide with that of the German Kaiser Wilhelm II. He had already begun to give thought to some of the issues involved in the colonization of Palestine, writing in his diary in 1895:
“We must expropriate gently the private property on the estates assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it employment in our own country. The property owners will come over to our side. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.”
Thus Yusuf Diya would have been more aware than most of his compatriots in Palestine of the ambition of the nascent Zionist movement, as well as its strength, resources, and appeal. He knew perfectly well that there was no way to reconcile Zionism’s claims on Palestine and its explicit aim of Jewish statehood and sovereignty there with the rights and well-being of the country’s indigenous inhabitants. It is for these reasons, presumably, that on March 1, 1899, Yusuf Diya sent a prescient seven-page letter to the French chief rabbi, Zadoc Kahn, with the intention that it be passed on to the founder of modern Zionism.
The letter began with an expression of Yusuf Diya’s admiration for Herzl, whom he esteemed “as a man, as a writer of talent, and as a true Jewish patriot,” and of his respect for Judaism and for Jews, who he said were “our cousins,” referring to the Patriarch Abraham, revered as their common forefather by both Jews and Muslims. He understood the motivations for Zionism, just as he deplored the persecution to which Jews were subject in Europe. In light of this, he wrote, Zionism in principle was “natural, beautiful and just,” and “who could contest the rights of the Jews in Palestine? My God, historically it is your country!”
This sentence is sometimes cited, in isolation from the rest of the letter, to represent Yusuf Diya’s enthusiastic acceptance of the entire Zionist program in Palestine. However, the former mayor and deputy of Jerusalem went on to warn of the dangers he foresaw as a consequence of the implementation of the Zionist project for a sovereign Jewish state in Palestine. The idea would sow dissension among Christians, Muslims and Jews there. It would imperil the status and security that Jews had always enjoyed throughout the Ottoman domains. Coming to his main purpose, Yusuf Diya said soberly that whatever the merits of Zionism, the “brutal force of circumstances had to be taken into account.” The most important of them were that “Palestine is an integral part of the Ottoman Empire, and more gravely, it is inhabited by others.” Palestine already had an indigenous population that would never accept being superseded. He spoke “with full knowledge of the facts,” asserting that it was “pure folly” for Zionism to plan to take over Palestine. “Nothing could be more just and equitable” than for “the unhappy Jewish nation” to find a refuge elsewhere. But, he concluded with a heartfelt plea, “in the name of God, let Palestine be left alone.”
Herzl’s reply to Yusuf Diya came quickly, on March 19, 1899. His letter was probably the first response by a leader of the Zionist movement to a cogent Palestinian objection to its embryonic plans for Palestine. In it, Herzl established what was to become a pattern of dismissing as insignificant the interests, and sometimes the very existence, of the indigenous population of Palestine. The Zionist founder simply ignored the letter’s basic thesis that Palestine was already inhabited by a population that would not agree to be supplanted. Although he had visited the country once, like most early European Zionists, Herzl had not much knowledge of or contact with its native inhabitants. He also failed to address al-Khalidi’s well-founded concerns about the danger the Zionist program would pose to the large Jewish communities all over the Middle East.
Glossing over the fact that Zionism was ultimately meant to lead to Jewish domination of Palestine, Herzl employed a justification that was a touchstone for colonialists at all times and in all places and that would become a staple argument of the Zionist movement: Jewish immigration would benefit the indigenous people of Palestine. “It is their well-being, their individual wealth, which we will increase by bringing in our own.” Echoing the language he had used in “Der Judenstaat,” Herzl added: “In allowing immigration to a number of Jews bringing their intelligence, their financial acumen and their means of enterprise to the country, no one can doubt that the well-being of the entire country would be the happy result.” (Herzl’s letter is reprinted in “From Haven to Conquest: Readings in Zionism and the Palestine Problem,” Walid Khalidi, ed., Beirut, Institute for Palestine Studies, 1971.)
Most revealingly, the letter addresses a consideration that Yusuf Diya had not even raised. “You see another difficulty, Excellency, in the existence of the non-Jewish population in Palestine. But who would think of sending them away?” With his assurance in response to al-Khalidi ‘s unasked question, Herzl alludes to the desire recorded in his diary to “spirit” the country’s poor population across the borders. It is clear from this chilling quotation that Herzl grasped the importance of “disappearing” the native population of Palestine in order for Zionism to succeed. Moreover, the 1901 charter, which he co-drafted for a Jewish-Ottoman Land Company, includes the same principle of the removal of inhabitants of Palestine to “other provinces and territories of the Ottoman Empire.” (The text of this charter can be found in Walid Khalidi’s “The Jewish-Ottoman Land Company,” in the Journal of Palestine Studies, Winter 1993, pp. 30-47.) Although Herzl stressed in his writings that his project was based on “the highest tolerance” with full rights for all, what was meant was no more than toleration of any minorities that might remain after the rest had been moved elsewhere. (See Muhammad Ali Khalidi, “Utopian Zionism or Zionist Proselytism.”) Herzl’s almost utopian 1902 novel “Altneuland” (“Old New Land”) described a Palestine of the future which had all these attractive characteristics.
Herzl underestimated his correspondent. From al-Khalidi’s letter it is clear that he understood perfectly well that what was at issue was not the immigration of a limited “number of Jews” to Palestine, but rather the transformation of the entire land into a Jewish state. Given Herzl’s reply to him, Yusuf Diya could only have come to one or two conclusions. Either the Zionist leader meant to deceive him by concealing the true aims of the Zionist movement, or Herzl did not see Yusuf Diya and the Arabs of Palestine as worthy of being taken seriously.
Instead, with the smug self-assurance so common to nineteenth-century Europeans, Herzl offered the preposterous inducement that the colonization, and ultimately the usurpation, of their land by strangers would benefit the people of that country. Herzl’s thinking and his reply to Yusuf Diya appear to have been based on the assumption that the Arabs could ultimately be bribed or fooled into ignoring what the Zionist movement actually intended for Palestine. This condescending attitude toward the intelligence, not to speak of the rights, of the Arab population of Palestine was to be serially repeated by Zionist, British, European and American leaders in the decades that followed, down to the present day. As for the Jewish state that was ultimately created by the movement Herzl founded, as Yusuf Diya foresaw, there was to be room there for only one people, the Jewish people: others would indeed be “spirited away,” or at best tolerated.
Yusuf Diya’s letter and Herzl’s response are well known to historians, but most of them do not seem to have reflected carefully on what was perhaps the first meaningful exchange between a leading Palestinian figure and a founder of the Zionist movement. They have not reckoned fully with Herzl’s rationalizations, which laid out, quite plainly, the essentially colonial nature of the century-long conflict in Palestine. Nor have they acknowledged al-Khalidi’s arguments, which have been borne out in full since 1899.
Starting after World War I, the dismantling of indigenous Palestinian society was set in motion by the large-scale immigration of European Jewish settlers supported by the newly established British Mandate authorities, who helped them build the autonomous structure of a Zionist para-state. Additionally, a separate Jewish-controlled sector of the economy was created through the exclusion of Arab labor from Jewish-owned firms under the slogan of avoda ivrit, Hebrew labor, and the injection of what were truly massive amounts of capital from abroad. By the middle of the 1930s, although Jews were still a minority of the population, this largely autonomous sector was bigger than the Arab-owned part of the economy. According to the Israeli scholar Zeev Sternhell, during the entire decade of the 1920s “the annual inflow of Jewish capital was on average 41.5% larger than the Jewish net domestic product (NDP)…its ratio to NDP did not fall below 33% in any of the pre-World War II years…” See Sternhell’s “The Founding Myths of Israel,” Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998, p.217. The consequence of this remarkable inflow of capital was a growth rate of 13.2% annually for the Jewish economy of Palestine from 1922-1947; for details see Rashid Khalidi, “The Iron Cage,” pp. 13-14.
The indigenous population was further diminished by the crushing repression of the Great 1936-39 Arab Revolt against British rule, during which 10 percent of the adult male population was killed, wounded, imprisoned, or exiled, as the British employed 100,000 troops and air power to master Palestinian resistance. Meanwhile, a massive wave of Jewish immigration as a result of persecution by the Nazi regime in Germany raised the Jewish population in Palestine from just under 18 percent of the total in 1932 to over 31 percent in 1939. This provided the demographic critical mass and military manpower that were necessary for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948. The expulsion then of over half the Arab population of the country, first by Zionist militias and then by the Israeli army, completed the military and political triumph of Zionism.
Zionism: A Colonial Settler Movement
Such radical social engineering at the expense of the indigenous population is the way of all colonial settler movements. In Palestine, it was a necessary precondition for transforming most of an overwhelming Arab country into a predominantly Jewish state. As I argue in my recent book, “The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine,” the modern history of Palestine can best be understood in these terms: as a colonial war waged against an indigenous population, by a variety of parties, to force them to relinquish their homeland to another people against their will.
Although this war shares many of the typical characteristics of other colonial campaigns, it also possesses very specific characteristics, as it was fought by and on behalf of the Zionist movement, which itself was and is a very particular colonial project. Further complicating this understanding is the fact that this colonial conflict, conducted with massive support from external powers, became over time a national confrontation between two new national entities, two peoples.
Underlying this feature, and amplifying it, was the profound resonance for Jews, and also many Christians, of their Biblical connection to the historic land of Israel. Expertly woven into modern political Zionism, this resonance has become integral to it. A nineteenth-century colonial-national movement thus adorned itself with a Biblical coat that was powerfully attractive to Bible-reading Protestants in Great Britain and the United States, blinding them to the modernity of Zionism and to its colonial nature: for how could Jews be “colonizing” the land where their religion began?
Given this blindness, the conflict at best is portrayed as a straight-forward, if tragic, national clash between two peoples with rights in the same land. At worst, it is described as the result of the fanatical, inveterate hatred of Arabs and Muslims for the Jewish people as they assert their inalienable right to their eternal, God-given homeland. In fact, there is no reason that what has happened in Palestine for over a century cannot be understood as both a colonial and a national conflict. But our concern here is its colonial nature, as this aspect has been as underappreciated as it is central, even though those qualities typical of other colonial campaigns are everywhere in evidence in the modern history of Palestine.
Characteristically, European colonizers seeking to supplant or dominate indigenous peoples, whether in the Americas, Africa, Asia or Australasia (or in Ireland), have always described them in pejorative terms. They also always claim that they will leave the native population better off as a result of their rule: the “civilizing” and “progressive” nature of their colonial projects serve to justify whatever enormities are perpetrated against the indigenous people to fulfill their objectives. One need only refer to the rhetoric of French administrators in North Africa or of British viceroys in India. Of the British Raj, Lord Curzon said: “To feel that somewhere among these millions you have left a little justice or happiness or prosperity, a sense of manliness or moral dignity, a spring of patriotism, a dawn of intellectual enlightenment, or a stirring of duty, where it did not before exist — that is enough, that is the Englishman’s justification in India.” (See “Lord Curzon in India, Being A Selection from His Speeches as Viceroy & Governor-General of India 1898-1905,” London: Macmillan, 1906, pp. 589-590.)
Those words “where it did not exist before” bear repeating. For Curzon and others of his colonial class, the natives did not know what was best for them and could not achieve these things on their own. “You cannot do without us,” Curzon said in another speech, cited on page 489 of the above mentioned book.
For over a century, the Palestinians have been depicted in precisely the same language by their colonizers as have been other indigenous peoples. The condescending rhetoric of Theodor Herzl and other Zionist leaders was no different from that of their European peers. The Jewish state, Herzl wrote, would “form a part of a wall of defense for Europe in Asia, an outpost of civilization against barbarism.” (See “Der Judenstaat,” translated and excerpted in Arthur Hertzberg, ed., “The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader,” New York: Atheneum, 1970, p. 222.)
This was similar to the language used in the conquest of the North American frontier, which ended in the nineteenth century with the eradication or subjugation of the continent’s entire native population. As in North America, the colonization of Palestine — similar to South Africa, Australia and Algeria and a few parts of East Africa — was meant to yield a white European settler colony. The same tone toward the Palestinians that characterizes both Curzon’s rhetoric and Herzl’s letter is replicated in much discourse on Palestine in the United States, Europe, and Israel even today.
In line with this colonial rationale, there is a vast body of literature dedicated to proving that before the advent of European Zionist colonization, Palestine was barren, empty, and backward. Historical Palestine has been the subject of innumerable disparaging tropes in Western popular culture, as well as academically worthless writing that purports to be scientific and scholarly, but which is riddled with historical errors, misrepresentations, and sometimes outright bigotry. At most, this literature asserts the country was peopled by a small population of rootless and nomadic Bedouin who had no fixed identity and no attachment to the land they were passing through, essentially as transients.
The corollary of this contention is that it was only the labor and drive of the new Jewish immigrants that turned the country into the blooming garden it supposedly is today, and that only they had an identification with and love for the land, as well as a (God-given) right to it. This attitude is summed up in the slogan “a land without a people for a people without a land,” used by Christian supporters of a Jewish Palestine, as well as by early Zionists like Israel Zangwill. In “The Return to Palestine,” New Liberal Review, December 1901, p. 615, Zangwill wrote that “Palestine is a country without a people; the Jews are a people without a country.” (For a recent example of the tendentious and never-ending reuse of this slogan, see Diana Muir, “A Land Without a People for a People Without a Land,” Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2008, pp. 55-62.)
Palestine was terra nullius to those who came to settle it, with those living there nameless and amorphous. Thus Herzl’s letter to Yusuf Diya referred to Palestinian Arabs, then roughly 95 percent of the country’s inhabitants as its “non-Jewish population.”
Essentially, the point being made is that the Palestinians did not exist, or were of no account, or did not deserve to inhabit the country they so sadly neglected. If they did not exist, then even well-founded Palestinian objections to the Zionist movement’s plans could simply be ignored. Just as Herzl dismissed Yusuf Diya al-Khalidi’s letter, most later schemes for the disposition of Palestine were similarly cavalier. The 1917 Balfour Declaration, issued by a British cabinet and committing Britain to the creation of a national Jewish home, never mentioned the Palestinians per se, the great majority of the country’s population at the time, even as it set the course for Palestine for the subsequent century.
The idea that the Palestinians simply do not exist, or even worse, are the malicious invention of those who wish Israel ill, is supported by such fraudulent books as Joan Peters’ “From Time Immemorial,” now universally considered by scholars to be completely without merit. On publication in 1984, however, it received a rapturous reception and it is still in print and selling discouragingly well. The book was mercilessly eviscerated in reviews by Norman Finkelstein, Yehoshua Porath and numerous other scholars, who all but called it a fraud. Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, who was briefly my colleague at Columbia University, told me that the book was produced by Peters, who had no particular Middle East expertise, at the instigation, and with the resources, of a right wing Israeli institution. Essentially, he told me, they gave her their files “proving” that the Palestinians did not exist, and she wrote them up. I have no way of assessing this claim. Hertzberg died in 2006 and Peters in 2015.
Such literature, both pseudo-scholarly and popular, is largely based on European travelers’ accounts, on those of new Zionist immigrants, or on British Mandatory sources. It is often produced by people who know nothing about the indigenous society and its history and have disdain for it, or worse yet have an agenda that depends on its invisibility or disappearance. Rarely utilizing sources produced from within Palestinian society, these representations essentially repeat the perspective, the ignorance and the biases, tinged by European arrogance, of outsiders. Such works are numerous. See Arnold Brumberg, “Zion before Zionism, 1838-1880,” Syracuse University Press, 1985, or in a superficially more sophisticated form, Ephraim Karsh’s characteristically polemical and tendentious “Palestine Betrayed,” Yale University Press, 2011. This book is part of a new genre of neo-conservative “scholarship” funded by, among others, extreme right-wing hedge-fund multimillionaire Roger Hertog. Another star in this neo-con firmament, Michael Doran of the Hudson Institute, is equally generous in his thanks to Hertog in the preface to his book “Ike’s Gamble, America’s Rise to Dominance in the Middle East,” Simon and Schuster, 2016.
The message is also well represented in popular culture in Israel and the United States, as well as in political and public life. American public attitudes on Palestine have been shaped by the widespread disdain for Arabs and Muslims spread by Hollywood and the mass media, as shown by Jack Shaheen in “Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People,” and by Noga Kadmon in “Erased from Space and Consciousness: Israel and the Depopulated Palestinian Villages of 1948,” which shows from extensive interviewing and other sources that similar attitudes have taken deep root in the minds of many Israelis.
The message has been amplified via mass market books such as Leon Uris’s novel “Exodus” and the Academy Award-winning movie that it spawned, works that have had a vast impact on an entire generation and that serve to confirm and deepen pre-existing prejudices. In her article “Zionism as Anticolonialism: The Case of Exodus” in American Literary History, 25, 4 (Winter 2013) Amy Kaplan argues that the novel and the movie played a central role in the Americanization of Zionism. See also chapter two of her book “Our American Israel: The Story of an Entangled Alliance, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2018, pp. 58-93.
Leading American political figures have explicitly denied the very existence of Palestinians, as did former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich: “I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs.” While returning from a trip to Palestine in March 2015, Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee said “There’s really no such thing as the Palestinians.” Similar views are strongly held by major political donors like the billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, the largest single donor to the Republican party for several years running, who has stated that “the Palestinians are an invented people.” To some degree, every U.S. administration since President Harry Truman’s has been staffed by people making policy on Palestine whose views indicate that they believe Palestinians, whether or not they exist, are lesser beings than Israelis.
Significantly, many early apostles of Zionism had been proud to embrace the colonial nature of their project. The eminent Revisionist Zionist leader, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, godfather of the political trend that has dominated Israel since 1977, upheld by Prime Ministers Menachem Begin, Yitzhadk Shamir, and Benjamin Netanyahu, was especially clear about this. Jabotinsky wrote in 1923: “Every native population in the world resists colonists as long as it has the slightest hope of being able to rid itself of the danger of being colonized. That is what the Arabs in Palestine are doing, and what they will persist in doing as long as there remains a solitary spark of hope that they will be able to prevent the transformation of ‘Palestine’ into the ‘Land of Israel.’”
Such honesty was rare among other leading Zionists, who like Herzl protested the innocent purity of their aims and deceived their Western listeners, and perhaps themselves, with fairy tales about their benign intention toward the Arab inhabitants of Palestine. Jabotinsky and his followers were among the few who admitted publicly the harsh realities that were inevitably attendant on the implantation of a colonial settler society within an existing population. Specifically, he acknowledged that the constant threat of the use of massive force against the Arab majority would be necessary to implement the Zionist program: what he called an “iron wall” of bayonets was an imperative for its success. As Jabotinsky put it in his article “The Iron Wall: We and the Arabs,” first published in Russian under the title “O Zheleznoe Stene” in 1923: “Zionist colonization…can proceed and develop only under the protection of a power that is independent of the native population — behind an iron wall, which the native population cannot breach.” This was still the high age of colonialism, when such things being done to native societies by Westerners were normalized and described as “progress.”
The social and economic institutions founded by the early Zionists, which were central to the success of the Zionist project, were also unquestioningly understood by all and described as colonial. The most important of these institutions was the Jewish Colonization Association, renamed in 1924 the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association. This body was originally established by the German Jewish philanthropist Baron Maurice de Hirsch and later combined with a similar organization founded by the British peer and financier Lord Edmund de Rothschild. The JCA provided the massive financial support that made possible extensive land purchases and the subsidies that enabled most of the early Zionist colonies in Palestine to survive and thrive before and during the Mandate Period.
Unremarkably, once colonialism took on a bad odor in the post-World War II era of decolonization, the colonial origins and practice of Zionism and Israel were whitewashed and conveniently forgotten in Israel and the West. In fact, Zionism — for two decades the coddled step-child of British colonialism — rebranded itself as an “anti-colonial” movement. The occasion for this drastic makeover was a violent campaign of sabotage and terrorism launched against Great Britain after it drastically limited its support of Jewish immigration with the 1939 White paper on the eve of World War II. This falling out between erstwhile allies (to help them fight the Palestinians in the late 1930s, Britain had armed and trained the Jewish settlers they had allowed to enter the country) encouraged the outlandish idea that the Zionist movement was itself anti-colonial.
There is no escaping the fact that Zionism initially had clung tightly to the British Empire for support, and had only successfully implanted itself in Palestine thanks to the unceasing efforts of British imperialism. It could not be otherwise, for as Jabotinsky stressed, at the outset only the British had the means to wage the colonial war that was necessary to suppress Palestinian resistance to the takeover of their country. This war has continued since then, waged sometimes overtly, but invariably with the approval, and often the direct involvement, of the leading powers of the day and the sanction of the international bodies they dominated, the League of Nations and the United Nations.
Today, the conflict that was engendered by this classic nineteenth-century European colonial venture in a non-European land, supported from 1917 onward by the greatest Western imperial power of its age, is rarely described in such unvarnished terms. Indeed those who analyze not only Israeli settlement efforts in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, but the entire Zionist enterprise from the perspective of its colonial settler origins and nature are often vilified. Many cannot accept the contradiction inherent in the idea that although Zionism undoubtedly succeeded in creating a thriving national entity in Israel, its roots are as a colonial settler project — as were those of modern countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Nor can they accept that it would not have succeeded but for the support of the great imperial powers, Britain and later the United States. Zionism, therefore, could be and was both a national and colonial settler movement at one and the same time.
Why This Book?
Rather than write a comprehensive survey of Palestinian history, I have chosen in my latest book “The Hundred Years’ War” to focus on six key moments that were turning points in the struggle over Palestine. These six events, from the 1917 issuance of the Balfour Declaration, which decided the fate of Palestine, to Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip and its intermittent wars on Gaza’s population in the early 2000s, highlight the colonial nature of the hundred years’ war on Palestine, and also the indispensable role of external powers in waging it.
I have told this story partly through the experiences of Palestinians who lived through the war, many of them members of my family who were present at some of the episodes described. I have included my own recollections of events that I witnessed as well as materials of my own and other families, and a variety of first-person narratives. My purpose throughout has been to show that this conflict must be seen quite differently from most of the prevailing views of it.
I have written several books and numerous articles on different aspects of Palestinian history in a purely academic vein. While this book is underpinned by academic research, it also has a first-person dimension that is usually excluded from scholarly history. Although members of my family have been involved in events in Palestine for years, as have I, as a witness or a participant, our experiences are not unique, in spite of the advantages we enjoyed because of our class and status. One could draw on many such accounts, and much history from below and from other sectors of Palestinian society remains to be related. Nevertheless, in spite of the tensions inherent in the approach I have chosen, I believe it helps illuminate a perspective that is missing from the way in which the story of Palestine has been told in most of the literature.
I should add that this book does not correspond to a “lachrymose conception” of the past hundred years of Palestinian history, to reprise the eminent historian Salo Baron’s critique of a nineteenth-century trend in Jewish historical writing. (Baron, by the way, was the Nathan L. Miller Professor of Jewish History, Literature and Institutions at Columbia University from 1929-1963, and is regarded as the greatest Jewish historian of the twentieth century. He taught my father, Ismail Khalidi, who was a graduate student there in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Baron told me four decades later that my father had been a good student, although given his unfailing courtesy and good nature, he may simply have been trying to be kind.)
Palestinians have been accused by those who sympathize with their oppressors of wallowing in their own victimization. It is a fact, however, that like all indigenous peoples confronting colonial wars, the Palestinians faced odds that were daunting and sometimes impossible. It is also true that they have suffered repeated defeats and have often been divided and badly led.
None of this means that Palestinians could not sometimes defy those odds successfully, or that at other times they could not have made better choices. But we cannot overlook the formidable international and imperial forces arrayed against them, the scale of which has often been dismissed, and in spite of which they have displayed remarkable resilience. It is my hope that this book will help recover some of what has thus far been airbrushed out of the history by those who control all of historic Palestine and the narrative surrounding it. □
Chapter 1: The First Declaration of War, 1917—1939
Chapter 2: The Second Declaration of War, 1947—1948
Chapter 3: The Third Declaration of War, 1967
Chapter 4: The Fourth Declaration of War, 1982
Chapter 5: The Fifth Declaration of War, 1987—1995
Chapter 6: The Sixth Declaration of War, 2000—2014
“The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917—2017” will be released on Amazon on Jan. 28, 2020. Hardcover price is $30.00.
The Kindle version is $14.99.
The hardback version is also available from A.M.E.U. for $28.00, postage included. Send check to AMEU, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 245, New York, NY 10115. Or go to our website www.ameu.org and order through PayPal.
By Maysoon Zayid
There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.
— Paulo Coelho, “The Alchemist”
My name is Maysoon Zayid. I am a Palestinian-American, comedian, actress, writer and producer.
When The Link asked me to write an article, I was excited to be in such a great publication. When they told me the topic, my excitement turned to dread. They wanted the article to be about me and by me. All I could think was, “How do I do this without sounding egomaniacal—and in less than 400 pages?”
The following is my story in three chapters! Please keep in mind I am a comedian first, foremost, and for life. Some facts have been been changed to protect the innocent.
Survival of the Un-fittest
I was born on Labor Day. At the exact same time that my mom was going into labor, her doctor was getting drunk as a skunk at a picnic. Dr. R. had delivered all three of my sisters and apparently they had just slid out for him. He figured he could roll up completely wasted, deliver me, and be back in time for the ice cream. I came out fist first. Dr. Drunky panicked, and proceeded to display his homage to Jack the Ripper. He cut my mom six different times in six different directions. The first cut gave me my first breath, but I was still stuck. I couldn’t take my next breath for another 3 minutes. Three. Full. Minutes.
Cerebral Palsy is not genetic. It’s not a birth defect. You can’t catch it. No one put a curse on my mother’s uterus, and I didn’t get it because my parents are first cousins, which they are. It only happens from accidents like what happened to me on that September 7th at Englewood hospital in NJ.
Cliffside Park, NJ is my hometown. I was raised there and I plan to be buried there. It’s like Little House on the Prairie meets The Sopranos. It’s one tiny square mile, predominantly blue collar Italian Catholic, and located 2.2 miles from Times Square NYC. Our claim to fame is that the George Washington Bridge, which connects Manhattan to Mainland USA, lets out in our town.
Growing up, there were only six Arabs in Cliffside, and they were all my family. Now, there are 20 Arabs in town, and they’re still all my family. I don’t think anyone ever noticed that we weren’t Italian. (Note to reader: I look Italian.)
The America I grew up in most definitely had racism but not in my small town. I have been in every single church in Cliffside Park. My friends would take me to midnight Mass on Christmas and show me off telling parishioners, “She’s from where Jesus was born.” We were never treated as an “other.”
This was before 9/11 and before Rick Lazio thought it was appropriate to use hating Muslims as a campaign strategy. It is why the current rise of Islamophobia (or Islamic hate) has been so shocking to me and why it needs to be combated by all non- violent means necessary. In the America I grew up in, folks had no problem with the fact that I was Muslim. They did, however seem very concerned that I would die during the month of Ramadan from fasting. I would assure them I had enough fat to live off for at least three months.
I had an incredibly happy childhood in New Jersey. When I was six, my father taught me how to walk. Most people with CP don’t walk at all. My brain is literally damaged. Messages sent from my brain to my body go in all the wrong directions. For example, if you want to make a fist, your fingers bend and you make a fist. In my case, my mouth twitches, my leg wiggles, and eventually I make half a fist.
One of the best parts of having CP is the fact that I shake all the time. Try it, it’s exhausting. People often think I’m drunk, which is really annoying, especially when I’m driving.
I’ve often been referred to as a “highly functional” disabled person. I’m not sure what that means, but I attribute it to my upbringing. My parents simply chose to ignore the fact that I was disabled. They treated me exactly like my three older sisters. If my sisters were mopping, I was mopping; if my sisters went to public school, they would sue the school and make sure I went to public school too. I couldn’t ask for better parents.
I’ve never had conventional physical therapy. My parents couldn’t afford it so they sent me to tap class. A veterinarian told my father if he couldn’t afford PT, dance was the next best thing. It was the only physical therapy I did until 2006 when I started doing yoga. Yoga, the polar opposite of tap, is something I was never interested in because I associated it with hippies. A fellow actress convinced me to try it and it absolutely changed my life. I learned to walk by tap dancing but I learned to live by doing yoga. As boring as it is, the stretching has greatly reduced the pain and tremors associated with my CP. I could walk and dance, but before doing yoga I was never able to stand for more than a couple of seconds. Now I can stand on my head.
I can also walk in heels. This baffles people; they can’t understand why I would torture myself. It’s very simple. I grew up in New Jersey and being chic is very important to us. All my friends wore heels and therefore so would I. My friends also spent their summers at the Jersey Shore. I did not. I spent my summers in a war zone.
Welcome to Palestine
Before I ever went to Palestine, I knew Palestine. It was all my dad ever talked about. Every summer my parents would send us back to our village Deir Debwan to live with my grandparents; because my mom hated kids and my dad was afraid that if we didn’t go to Palestine every year, we would forget our roots, and grow up to be Britney Spears.
The first summer I ever went, I was five. I packed all my favorite things: my wonder women underoos, my stuffed bunny Checkers, and my most favorite thing in the world—my Michael Jackson glove. I shouldn’t have taken anything. My grandmother was like the Muslim Robin Hood—but instead of stealing from the rich, she’d steal from me and give every single thing I owned to the poor refugees. I spent days trying to explain to her that although I felt sorry for the poor starving refugees, I could not comprehend what use they would have for my sparkly glove since it wasn’t even a pair.
Having my stuff stolen by grandma and learning the importance of charity was the fun part of Palestine. The not so fun part was having to deal with the Israeli army since I was five years old. I like to call it Jersey vs. the IDF. My first run-in was with Israeli airport security. Every summer my three older sisters and I would land at Tel Aviv airport. For those of you who don’t know, there is no way to enter Palestine without crossing an Israeli border first. (Yes, I am aware of the Rafah crossing, but it’s closed, like all the time.) The Israelis would search us with a fine toothed comb because four little girls traveling alone were obviously terrorists.
I had gotten used to being strip-searched at the airport, but when I was eight I was subjected to far worse. They beheaded my bunny, Checkers. It was not self-defense. It was murder. Checkers was a blue and white stuffed bunny with a beating heart that traveled with me. The Israelis could have easily x-rayed Checkers to see what was inside of him, but instead they decapitated him and pulled out his heart. Then they handed him back in pieces. I will never forget dropping his head as I struggled to keep all his parts together. My grandmother, in an effort to console me, reattached Checker’s head. Unfortunately, the cross-stitching queen of Deir Debwan had only red thread. The result was horrifying. That would be the first of many memorable run-ins.
When I was 14, both of my grandmothers passed away, and I refused to go back. I was 22 when I finally returned. My mission: to find a husband. My cover: working with disabled orphans in refugee camps.
For those of you who’ve never been to a refugee camp, they don’t have horseback riding, arts and crafts, or roasted marshmallows. They have trash piled sky-high, sewage streaming through the streets, and narrow, winding alleys that make it impossible to tell where the shooting is coming from. And there are kids—millions and millions of bored, hungry kids. And I was going to be their Oprah. I’d bring them medicine, shoes, and Doritos, while simultaneously catching myself the most gorgeous refugee man ever. We’d fall madly in love, get married, adopt differently abled babies, and live happily ever after.
By the way, I hate kids. The first time I ever walked into an orphanage this thing ran up and hugged me with a Fraggle puppet growing out of its head. I mean, you could pet it, and it would giggle. So I decided I would work with teens. I went there like an idiot thinking I could be Michelle Pfifer from Dangerous Minds. I was going to teach them theater and they were going to stop throwing rocks. When I got there I realized these kids didn’t need art, they needed shoes.
In April of 2001 I founded Maysoon’s Kids, a not-for-profit charity funded primarily by my friends on Facebook and Twitter followers. Our mission was to address the needs of the growing population of disabled children in the West Bank.
We don’t give people money, we’re very much hands on to “teach a refugee to fish.” Due to the political climate, I am not allowed to travel to Gaza, which is why we work exclusively in the West Bank. Past projects include art and wellness programs, summer camp lunches, eye exams and glasses, Mommy classes, providing physical therapy equipment to rehab centers, tutoring seniors preparing for college, and providing shoes clothing and milk locally made for orphans.
In June of 2011 we were proud to have our first Maysoon’s Kids university scholarship recipient graduate with a Bachelor’s in Social Work from Bethlehem University. Currently we are partnered with three different organizations. Our first partnership is with the Friends Quaker School in Ramallah. Friends is currently the only school in Palestine that mainstreams differently abled children. Otherwise they are left to glorified babysitting U.N. facilities where they learn nothing. It is our goal to provide scholarships that cover the entire K-12 education of a differently abled student with no other financial means to attend. Our dream is that schools all over Palestine will mainstream, but for now we just want to get as many kids into Friends as possible.
We also partnered with Playgrounds for Palestine, an incredible organization that builds playgrounds in the Occupied Territory for children who would have absolutely nowhere else to play. It is the realization of the basic human right to play. Our goal was not only to build a playground, but to build one that was completely disabled-accessible. We found a local builder and built it outside of the Silwad disabled center. I chose Silwad as the location for the playground because they excelled in teaching their student population rather than just playing them Bugs Bunny videos. The students also cross-stitched me a Pokeman Squirtle, but that in no way swayed my opinion. We are hoping to build a second accessible playground in Yatta, an impoverished suburb of Hebron that has another exceptional disabled center. Our final partnership is with the Bethlehem orphanage.
I have seen the landscape of Palestine change drastically over the past 30 years. The beaches I went to as a child with my grandparents are no longer accessible to Palestinians. The wall was built before my eyes. I remember crossing Kalandia and having to step over the first concrete block and thinking, “Why is this here? This is so annoying.” I had no idea that only a few years later Ramallah and Bethlehem would be completely cut off from Jerusalem by this crazy thing that is three times the height of the Berlin Wall.
One of the fringe benefits of the wall is that it comes with checkpoints. Checkpoints are like being stuck on the longest line at Disney but there’s no ride at the end, and there’s a fairly good chance you’re going to encounter violence. I have been shot at at a checkpoint, but not hit. Which makes all the difference.
That was my second run-in with the Israeli army. When I first used to cross the checkpoints I was totally obnoxious and fought with the soldiers over the injustice. I mean they weren’t going to hurt a differently abled American, were they? March of 2003 everything changed. Rachel Corrie a blond-haired, blue-eyed American was run over by an Israeli bulldozer and I immediately stopped sassing soldiers.
I also spent many months living under curfew. Curfew means if you go outside you get shot. I got stuck eating peanut butter and Cheerios for three whole days once. My stomach was a mess. I am forever grateful that I didn’t have Twitter at the time because I would mostly definitely be in political prison if I did.
My most recent run-in with the Israeli army was in June of 2006. I was flying back to New York to do a show that night when Israeli security held me for three hours. I was strip-searched and left to bleed on myself in a wheelchair that I use for travel. The woman in charge who refused me access to my belongings was named Inbal Sharon.
I will never forget her name because she proudly gave me her card. I am an American citizen who holds no other allegiance. A simple Google search shows that I am absolutely not a security threat. Yet, I was forced to board the plane with nothing but my passports and a credit card and denied access to sanitary products. Onboard, the Continental stewardesses gave me their clothing. It was beyond sickening and yet I go back every Christmas, every summer, every chance I get. I have no choice.
One thing that drives me insane is the way the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is portrayed in the media. Let’s simplify the whole thing. The issue is bigotry and oppression. The solution is equal rights for everyone. The theory that these people can’t coexist is ludicrous because they already do. The majority, yes the majority, work together, study together, hitch- hike together and even date. The only issues are those who insist on religious exclusivity and, being heavily armed, denying freedom to everyone else. And that, my friends, is why they’re fighting.
The American Dream
I have always loved comedy. I watched Carol Burnett, I Love Lucy, and Candid Camera religiously. As a child I would listen to Fraggle Rock on a scrambled HBO channel I didn’t get, but could clearly hear. One day, when Fraggle Rock finished, it was followed by a comedy special called “Bill Cosby Himself.” To this day, I have never heard a more flawless set. But Cosby was definitely not my first exposure to comedy. Cosby was my first experience with stand-up. Soon I was reading comedy books. My Mom gave me Bombeck’s, “If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, Then Why Am I in the Pits?” to read on a flight to Palestine when I was 10. Yes, 10. I still love that book. Eventually, I graduated from books to tapes, and that’s when I heard Adam Sandler for the first time.
I have no idea where I got his tape from but my favorite part was Adam Sandler acting out what it would sound like if various members of society going about their normal day were suddenly senselessly beaten. The series of bits was aptly titled “The Senseless Beating of…” If you have never heard these tapes, you must find them because they are beyond hysterical, though I cannot explain why. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that years later I would get to work with him or that I would end up becoming a comic myself.
I went to college during the time of Affirmative Action. I got a sweet scholarship deal to Arizona State University because I fit every quota: ethnic, female, and disabled – the whole package. My parents agreed to let me go because my uncle lived in Arizona, and they knew the dry heat would be really good for my CP.
I went to ASU to become a lawyer. My plan was get a BS, study international law at Columbia University, and then free Palestine. First semester freshman year, I had to take an art elective. I was incensed because it’s such a waste of time. I mean, who needs art to free Palestine? I asked around to find the easiest, least time-consuming art class. All of the Honors kids that lived in my dorm (yes, I lived in the Honors dorm because I am a proud life-long geek) said, “Take acting. It’s a ridiculous class where you get to be a tree or an ice cream cone.”
I signed up for the class, and the next morning I was in the Dean of Fine Arts Office changing my major from International Law to Acting and thinking, “Oh My God! My mother is going to beat me to death with a slipper!”
My older sisters, in order are: a Loan Officer at a bank, a Doctorate in Pharmacy, and the Woman Who Speaks on Behalf of Palestine at the United Nations. Acting was beyond black sheep. The best thing about Arizona (and there were very, very few good things about it), was that famous people like to retire there and teach at ASU so they can use the pool. As a result I ended up with Marshall W. Mason as my acting mentor, one of the greatest New York directors in history. He had had a desk full of awards and was a beyond brilliant teacher.
I was like the pet lemur of the theater department. Everybody loved me. I did all of the less-than-bright theatre students’ papers for them, and I got A’s in all of my classes—and theirs. Every time I played Laura from “The Glass Menagerie” my teachers would weep. But I had one recurring problem: every semester, I would audition for the ASU theater season, and every semester I wouldn’t get cast. I was confused how I could get A’s in all my acting classes but couldn’t even get the role of Girl #2 in the school play.
Finally, my senior year, my big break came. ASU announced that the main stage play would be “They Dance Real Slow in Jackson.” It was a play about a girl with CP. I was a girl. And I had CP. When this role came along, I started shouting from the rooftops: ”I have Cerebral Palsy! I’m finally going to get a part! Free at last, free at last, Thank God Almighty I am free at last!”
I didn’t get the part. Sherry Brown got the part.
I went to the head of the theater department, hysterically crying, as if someone had just shot my cat, and asked her why. She claimed I couldn’t do the stunts. All I could think was, “Excuse me? If I can’t do the stunts neither can the freakin’ character!” This was the role I was literally born to play, and they give it to this non-palsy actress! I confronted Sherry Brown and explained to her that this was worse than doing blackface and that she should give me back my part or everyone in the world would hate her. She started crying and blubbering and acting like she was the victim. I was furious and I wasn’t alone. The next day the drama kids flipped out. They love any chance to fight injustice and be dramatic. A full-on riot broke out on campus in my honor led by none other than my arch-nemesis, Sherry. Suddenly she was Captain of Team Palsy, and on that day we coined the term, “Cripface.”
I graduated and moved back home to New Jersey. Marshall Mason, still the greatest teacher ever, introduced me to his founding partner at Circle Repertory Theatre, Tanya Berezin, who became my acting coach. She wasn’t just my acting coach, she also coached the New York City soap operas. Why is this important? Well, my life-long dream has been to be on General Hospital, and here I am a year after graduating college sitting at the Daytime Emmys between Barbara Walters and Susan Lucci. My very first TV appearance was as an extra on “As The World Turns.” My friend Terri had gotten me the gig. I assumed I would be promoted from Diner diner to wacky best friend, but that never happened and I remained a glorified piece of furniture, also known as an extra.
Dejected after 19 months as an extra, I asked Tanya what I should do. She recommended that I become a comedian. She had been in the business for a really long time and in her experience non-perfect women only get cast from doing comedy. I thought about it and she was right. Whoopie Goldberg, Rosie O’Donnell, and Mimi from the Drew Carey Show had all gotten their start in stand-up. I decided why not and immediately signed up for a stand-up comedy class at the world famous Caroline’s on Broadway.
God forgive me, I cannot remember my teacher’s name, but he was excellent. Not only did he teach us the basics of comedy, but also he got me up on stage within the first week. It was required for class. Anyone who has ever done comedy will tell you going to Open Mic is like waterboarding—survive that and you can survive anything.
The class ended with us performing live at Caroline’s on Broadway to a packed audience of friends and family. My section was filled with soap stars and Italians. Boy can Italians laugh. I remember talking about Riverdance causing me seizures and how Mormons were just Muslims who had gotten confused. The club owner was so impressed I ended up being hired for a gig at my very first performance. The gig was driving famous comics from New York to New Jersey to do shows. In return I got 25 bucks and seven minutes to open for them. I will never forget the look of horror on Bill Michaels face when he realized that a girl with Cerebral Palsy was driving him at break-neck speeds down the New Jersey Turnpike.
I also don’t know the name of the man responsible for me meeting my comedy partner in crime, Dean Obeidallah, a moment that totally changed my life. It’s not because I can’t remember it, it’s because the kid changed his name so many times. I met him in my acting class with Tanya and I believe his name was Adam Greenberg, and then it was Adam Green, then Hunter Green, then Adam Hunter. I never had the heart to tell him there was an MTV VJ with that name because he had already printed up his headshots.
Anyway this Green guy ran a comedy room at Gladys’s Hamburger Harry in Time’s Square and invited me to do a set. It was my 3rd show ever. I was sitting, waiting to go on, in front of our massive audience of nine, five of whom were Swedish and didn’t speak a stitch of English, when Dean walked in. I instantly knew he was Arab because I can sense those things. We exchanged e-mails and that was that.
I didn’t see Dean again until one year after 9/11 when he e-mailed me out of the blue saying that the Network of Arab American Professionals was putting together an Arab-American comedy show. He suggested me because apparently I was the only other Arab he knew. The first show sold out and there were people wrapped around the block for the second. We were totally in shock and had no idea there was such a market for Arab-American comedy.
Al Martin, who ran The Improv at the time and now runs Broadway Comedy club in New York City, saw the potential and told us we could come back any time. To this day, ten years later, we still do the Big Brown Comedy Show at Al’s club. The show features “others,” which means anyone who’s brown, regardless of faith, and is hosted by Aasif Maandvi from the Daily Show.
After a couple of years of doing the Arab comedy thing, Dean hunted down our counterparts in L.A. The Arabian Knights were a Palestinian, an Iranian, and an Egyptian. They were doing what we were doing on Broadway, on the Sunset Strip. We decided to do an East Coast meets West Coast show in Washington, D.C. at the D.C. Improv. The lineup was Maz Jobrani, Aron Kader, Dean, me, and some Egyptian guy. The guys from L.A. went on to become the Axis of Evil comedy tour and Dean and I became guest comics with them all over the country.
I had been performing for almost three years at that point. The majority of my gigs were Arab student groups at universities and banquets. The Arab- American banquet circuit is fierce. Within two years of my first show I was performing for two thousand people at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee convention in Washington, DC. I became a road warrior, traveling up to forty weeks a year. I drove to gigs everywhere, from Detroit to Florida, by myself. To this day I’m amazed a serial killer never ate me.
One of those tour stops landed Dean and me in Washington D.C. on July 4, 2003. I remember the date because there were fireworks. We sat by the pool and came up with the idea of creating the New York Arab American Comedy Festival. Dean felt like as comics we were getting the best press in the Arab- American community, so why not draw attention to the fact that we’re not all terrorists by having a festival.
We had no idea how much effort it took to plan a festival. The first year it was a nightmare finding performers. We were begging actress’s boyfriends to do the show. The New York Arab American Comedy Festival premiered in November 2003 to sold-out audiences. What started out as a three-day fest is now a weeklong event attended by thousands. Now in its eighth year, it features a Who’s Who of Arab-American performers from film, television and Broadway. Instead of searching for people we now have to turn them away. A whole generation of young Arab-Americans, who never thought of getting into the arts, did so because it was a platform to showcase their writing, acting, or comedy skills. Dean and I have proudly volunteered from day one. It is definitely one of the things I am most proud of. It has become way bigger than Dean and me and the level of talent is exceptional.
In 2006 we took the festival to California and became the go-to website for Hollywood casting directors seeking Arab actors. They cast “Munich,” “The Kingdom,” “Sex in the City,” “Law & Order,” and “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” off our website, www.arabcomedy.org.
I didn’t only tour the United States. In 2002, I began performing stand-up comedy in Arabic in the Middle East. Some people say that I’m the first person to ever perform stand-up in Palestine. I’m not one of those people. I always believed that someone else did it first even if I’ve never heard of him or her.
The first time I did stand-up in Arabic was in Bethlehem in 2002. Sadly there is no video record of this show. All I have to show for it is a blurb in a November 2002 issue of This Week in Palestine. I was volunteering at Ibdaa in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, and everyone kept asking me what I did in my real life, to which I would respond, “I tell jokes.” No one believed me so I decided to do a show.
I performed at an arts center, Dar Annadwa, to a packed house of the Bourgeois of Bethlehem as well as a handful of refugees who had ventured out. They laughed, I had a blast, and I had no idea I was doing something so different.
A couple of months later, I partnered with the A.M. Qattan Foundation to do a show in Ramallah. This was publicized. This wasn’t just friends. It was the middle of the Intifada and during on-and-off curfews.
We held the show at Ashtar Theatre. People sat on the floor because it was so packed. From the stage of Ashtar I made fun of then-President Yasser Arafat, who at the time was under siege at his nearby compound. I had no idea I was being risqué or saying anything that would get me in trouble. See, that’s part of the job of a comic. We talk about things no one else does. Nothing is off limits. So it didn’t occur to me that I couldn’t talk about the government or that I shouldn’t use words like, sharmuta. [Whore, slut, bitch —Ed.]
I performed completely uncensored because the idea that there would be censorship never occurred to me. At the end of the show I got a standing ovation. As I was leaving, a guy walked up to me and said, “You know they’re going to have you killed for saying that.” I asked him, “Who?” and he laughed. I thought he was kidding. I had never heard of Naji al-Ali. [A Palestinian cartoonist, noted for his political criticism of Israel, who was mortally shot in the face in London in 1987.—Ed.]
Two years later Dean joined me in Ramallah for a huge outdoor show at the Qattan Foundation. This time there were reporters. They asked us what the biggest difference was between doing comedy in New York City and doing comedy in Ramallah. My answer, “New Yorkers get stuck in traffic, here people get stuck at the checkpoint.”
In August 2008, Dean and I did our first major show in Amman, Jordan. I had performed there before but I guess I had been under the radar. We did the show to a sold-out crowd and at the end the censors descended upon me mercilessly. I was told I could not joke about the government even though the prince himself said I could. We were also told we could not talk about Palestinians being the majority, and we could not under any circumstances say the word sharmuta. I was shocked. At first I refused until I was informed that that meant I would not perform. The audience was there, so the show must go on.
Censorship did not stop in Jordan. It became standard. Nowhere was it worse than in Egypt. While doing a show there in 2009 I was physically attacked by the Minister of Tourism (a woman by the way) and banned from ever performing in the country again. Why? What was my big transgression? I did a joke about Egypt Air being so filthy that it made my lice get fleas. That’s it. Banned for life. (I am hoping to go back to Egypt, now though, because I heard there’s a new government.) Every time we would be told by the censors the list of what we could and couldn’t say, I would tell the comics, “You’ve got to come to Palestine, there’s no censorship there. You can say whatever you want, but not at the Israeli airport.” One by one they performed there and saw for themselves.
American reporters would say to me, “You could never say these things in front of Arabs, they would kill you,” and I would say, “Not in Palestine. In Palestine you can say anything, and I have.”
Freedom of speech began to come under siege in the Holy Land. Article after article was popping up about journalists and artists being shut down and even arrested. I became more adamant than ever that comedy must remain uncensored. I was given the unique opportunity to introduce stand-up to my generation in Palestine. No one ever told me what to do, and they certainly weren’t going to start now. What was the point of all these revolutions in the Arab Spring if we would have less freedom?
On Valentine’s Day 2011, I performed four shows for the Freedom of Comedy Tour that featured local comic Adi Khalefa. The first show was at the Ramallah Friends School. It was a sold-out fundraiser for the Maysoon’s Kids/Friends’ Inclusive Scholarship Program. At that show all the jokes were halal (permissible), not because someone told us to do so, but because as comics sometimes we choose to self-censor depending on the audience. This was obviously a family show and we wanted them to have fun. The second show was held at a pub, also in Ramallah. It was a totally different. Nothing was off limits. Not Saeb Ereket, not sharmuta. We said everything we wanted and more. I was thrilled that comedy in Palestine remained uncensored.
While touring the Middle East an interesting side project organically sprung up. Aron, Dean and I began teaching stand-up comedy workshops anywhere we had a show. The idea was to show local audiences that stand-up comedy is universal, and that it can be a fantastic form of non-violent resistance.
When we first started teaching the workshops the concept of stand up was completely foreign to our attendees. The learning curve was out of control and monthly stand-up comedy shows quickly popped up in Beirut, Amman, and even Tahrir Square in Egypt.
In December of 2008, Dean partnered with the Amman municipality to create the Amman Comedy festival. The festival brought huge names like Russell Peters and Gabriel Iglesias to Jordan. It also featured Arab comics from all over the globe. I headlined the first all-Arabic language stand-up comedy show in Amman in Jordan’s history at the second comedy Festival. It remains one of my top three shows.
I was on my endless tour, when I got a call from Adam Sandler’s casting director for the movie, “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.” Sandler had seen my stand-up and really liked the way I joked about my father so he decided to write me a part in his movie. I went in and read for the part of Dahlia, which was eventually played by Emanuel Cheriqui. The casting director claimed she loved me but they always do and I knew I would never get the part. Three months later, while sitting at my friend’s house in Hebron in the West Bank, I got a call from Happy Madison Productions, saying that the director, Dennis Dugan, wanted to see me. I freaked out because I was in Palestine and he was in California.
I told the Assistant, “Listen, I’m really sorry. I’m in Palestine, but I could fly back and be there in 2 days, or I could do something by satellite.” I think he felt bad for me because it was obvious I was about to cry, so he connected me to Dennis Dugan. We chatted for about 5 minutes, and then they told me I had the part. There I was, in the middle of Palestine, being given the chance of a lifetime by one of the most famous Jewish comedians of all time. You can’t make this stuff up.
We started shooting in the summer of 2007. My first day on set was inconceivable. I walked onto the Warner Lot and into what was known as the video village where actors would hang out before going on set. I walked in and saw Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Kevin Nealon, Rob Schneider, and Dana Carvey. I was in comedy heaven and the best part was I wasn’t even dead yet. Adam introduced me to the other comedians with a glowing review of my standup. Working with Sandler is easily one of the best experiences of my life. He is an excellent teacher, a generous humble funny man, and has the best catering in the world. I also got to work with Robert Smiegel the legendary SNL writer and Fonzi from “Happy Days.” Ten years later Tanya’s strategy of doing stand-up so I could make it in Hollywood had come to fruition. A year later I got to walk the red carpet at the premier of our movie at Mann’s Chinese Theater. And that is my true Hollywood story.
During my time at Zohan I also got to meet my all time most favorite musical obsession ever, Dave Matthews. I walk on set about a month into shooting and Adam tells me, “Hey, you like Dave, right? He’s here today.” I think he’s kidding because he’s Adam Sandler. Later I walked on set, saw the video monitor, and realized he was not kidding. Dave Matthews, the man I followed to 193 shows, the man I swore to my friends I would someday meet and become friends with and tell all about the injustice in Palestine, was now on the other side of the camera.
I was thrilled to pieces that Karina, one of the greatest makeup artists ever to live, had done my makeup that day. When Dave was done shooting his scene, Adam turned to me and said he wanted to personally introduce me because he knew how much I loved Dave. He gave me an amazing introduction and Dave said my name. I started bawling as if someone hit my cat with a machete. I fell to pieces. It was obvious that Dave thought I was special. One of the makeup girls, Kathleen, tried to save me. She offered to take our picture. Dave put his arm around me, which caused me to crumple, and he had to hold me up. I was eventually put in time-out.
Driving home from the set, I was livid. I had the chance of a lifetime and I cried. I don’t cry unless something heavy falls on me, yet I had turned into a blubbering mess. And now everyone hated me. The next day I walked on set and I saw his tour bus. Dave saw me and in true Zohan magical fashion Dave Matthews sang my name. We hung out the rest of the shoot together and I got to tell him all about Palestine. Months later Dave was in Jersey for a concert and I called him, knowing he would never answer, except he did because Dave Matthews is the best and dreams do come true.
Somehow through this insane journey I have ended up in some spectacular places. I was invited by the legendary Tim Sebastian to Doha, Qatar to debate women being superior to men on the BBC. I was Riz Khan’s final guest on AJE, a station he helped launch. I was a delegate representing the great state of NJ at the 2008 Democratic National Convention where Barak Obama was nominated. It was astounding I was chosen since I was a Hillary Clinton delegate. I’m assuming it was yet again one of those cases where I fit every quota and they had to pick me. Nevertheless, I was blessed to bear witness to that moment in history. I got to tap dance on Broadway with Arabs Gone Wild and attend Sundance. The moment that stands out the most however, was performing for the man who floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee, has Parkinson’s and shakes just like me—Muhammed Ali. It is also the only time my father has seen me perform live.
In 2011 the most random thing that could happen did. I became a full-time contributor on Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Before I ever appeared on Countdown I had watched Keith Olbermann, but not religiously. I was, however, fully aware that being on Countdown was a huge deal. I will never forget walking into 30 Rock. It was another one of those moments like stepping onto the Warner Brothers lot. This was better because not only was I at 30 Rock, but it was Christmas. From the windows of the Countdown studio I could see the entire Rockefeller Christmas tree. I’m obsessed with Christmas since I come from the place where Christmas was born. I am referring of course to Palestine not New Jersey, just to be clear.
That is what I remember most from my first episode of Countdown—the tree. I walked in all done up, like I’m going to the prom, ready to meet Keith. Instead I was shuffled into a room with just me and a TV monitor that had me on it. It got worse. The chair I sat on rolled out from under me and when I asked for a different chair, the cameraman looked at me and said, “5, 4, 3, 2, and we’re live.” So now I’m sitting on a spinning rolling chair watching myself slowly roll out of the screen. I had to grip the desk I was sitting at with both hands just to stabilize myself. I did not let go until the interview was done.
I remember very little from that interview other than gripping the desk and telling Keith Olbermann how much I loved that Christmas tree. That was also the day I learned the importance of using my arms when I speak on television. I was wearing a black turtleneck and because my arms were frozen in position holding me in the shot, I appear to have no arms. It was an absolute nightmare.
When I got home the Internet was abuzz about my appearance on Countdown. Everyone had the same question, “What is wrong with her?” Here’s the thing, this was my first TV experience discussing anything but me, which means Cerebral Palsy never came up. The crowd went nuts. Access Philly even wrote an article saying that rarely do you see a disabled person talking on TV about anything other than being disabled but that night on Countdown it had happened. I was groundbreaking and didn’t even know it.
Here’s another thing I didn’t know: people on the Internet are scumbags. They say children are cruel but I was never made fun of as a child. My bridesmaids were the same girls who were my best friends at age five. They never made fun of me. Neither did the kids in Palestine. I’m not sure why, but no one ever did. Suddenly on the Internet my disability was fair game. In the comment section of the online clip of my appearance I found gems like “Yo she retarded?” “Why is she tweaking, yo?” and my favorite, “Poor thing. What does she suffer from?” At one point, some genius suggested we add Cerebral Palsy to my job description. They wanted it to read “screenwriter, comedian, palsy.” I declined and let the insane that go party on Twitter continue guessing my affliction while secretly praying they would someday figure out Google.
Unbelievably Countdown invited me to return. This time I was in-studio face-to-face with Keith, and the crew had kindly taped down my chair. In a strange twist of fate I ended up being Keith Olbermann’s last in-studio guest at MSNBC. Luckily when he moved to Current he took me with him. In June of 2011 I landed my first official non-extra non-documentary TV gig. It’s amazing to be part of something that big from the very beginning. After my first appearance on Countdown I had signed up for Twitter so I could read all the mean things people were saying about me. Instead I found that Keith Olbermann had a rabid huge following and I was part of something bigger than I ever imagined. I was reading my name in press releases alongside names like Matt Taibbi, Michael Moore, and Donald Sutherland. I was given someone to do my hair and makeup. I’m convinced that my obsession with hair and makeup is what keeps me from ever being nervous on air. This is the ideal gig for me. It combines three of my favorite things: comedy, politics and makeup. I also absolutely love the challenge of having to come up with new material on the spot. This is the news, so sometimes I don’t even know the topic until an hour before we go live. It’s exhilarating. The situation at Current TV is also ideal. Keith has given me complete freedom to say anything on my mind. I really can’t imagine a better crew or mentor and hope I remain at Current for years to come. Maybe even on my own show.
Today I continue to tour, produce the comedy festival and appear on Countdown. As for what comes next, my passion project is a movie that I wrote called “Law.” I wanted to write something that challenged the image Hollywood had created for people like me. I wanted a differently abled character who wasn’t healed or pathetic, an Arab who wasn’t a terrorist, a Muslim who wasn’t belly dancing or wearing a burqa, and a story line that made sense and mattered.
I decided to write a comedy about a small town dance teacher who happens to be disabled, Arab, and Muslim; but those things are the least of her problems. The script was chosen by the Sundance Middle East Writer’s Lab. One of the main challenges is convincing producers that the lead character must be played by a disabled actress, preferably me. I am sick of seeing able-bodied actors in disabled roles, from Daniel Day Lewis to Claire Danes.
One of the things I hope to change in the future is the acceptability of using Cripface. Cripface is when an able bodied actor does the worst job possible pretending he’s disabled for a role. Then said actor is given an Oscar. This needs to be changed. It is as insulting as blackface. There are amazing disabled actors for these roles, why not give them a chance? I have decided to independently produce it because, as Tanya Berezin said, “Hollywood’s not big on casting ethnic disabled fluffy people.” I am pretty sure that when I win my Oscar that will change. Until then, I’m just going to keep telling jokes and fighting the good fight for Palestinian equality.
Author’s note: If you had enough time to read this entire article, please consider volunteering for Maysoon’s Kids at www.maysoon.com/charity.
Author: Colin Edwards
On April 14, 1993, 19 people filed a class action suit against the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, et al. The plaintiffs, represented by former U.S. Congressman, Paul N. “Pete” McCloskey, are seeking damages for invasion of privacy. Colin Edwards is one of the class action plaintiffs. Here he writes about the law suit and…