Back in London from The Middel East

I landed in London and if the last email was hard to write this one is even harder. It is harder as leaving the M.E I leave somehow defeated. After the last email I decided to go back once again to Palestine. I spent one day more, and crossing the border never felt so pleasurable. Somehow the paranoia that is all over Israel is not there even if there is not a single boy I met who has not been in prison at some point for not much more than simply being a boy and Palestinian. I walked the streets somehow relieved and sad. It felt like since the very positive passionate emotions are not allowed all that is left to feel in Palestine is anger.  As usual they greeted me for coming to Palestine. After there is not that many people who come without being escorted in ridiculous touristic buses. What is it they are afraid of? Oh, yes, there was one person who was killed these day. Forgive me for my cynicism. Palestine does that to you. It hardens your heart. The death of one person is sad. Any person. Watching American’s celebrating B Laden’s death was a particular shocking site. No I do not like Bin Laden but I stand with Martin Luther King on this one “”I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that”


And so I crossed back to Jerusalem and decided i should meet a cs I had been in contact through email for months. He is a brilliant guy, he is a physicist. He invited me to come to the kibbutz Tsuba where most people he explained me were somehow socialists and communists. He had lived there his whole life. Left twice. Once to go to India, the other to Latin America. he was curious to hear about my experience. genuinely interested. But he explained to me that the most important thing for him was for the state to remain jewish. As a brazilian i always just feel we should just think of ourselves as humans. I  heard him. he heard me. He took me around and explained me things I thought were absurd. “Druzes mistreat the Palestinians because they know them better. Mizrahim ( eastern Jews) also are more racist than Ashkenazim ( european Jews) because they know them better. I proposed that maybe they did so in order to dissociate themselves from the Palestinians, as after all they are arabs too. He disagreed. For him it is as a consequence of having experience with them.


He explained to me he was deluded with peace. “I am thankful every single day that there is no war. but there will be one. and hopefully they attacks us first and then either they exterminate us, or we will annihilate them all. it does not take much. a right wing leader, a militant military leader and you could have that scenario”.  I was speechless. what? but do you want that? can you imagine the suffering? ” i don’t want that but it is going to be that: us or them.” I was then greeted by his ultra zionist father who said things like ” we are different people and we should be proud of the wars we won. as an American i always think… what would Americans say if people started wanting to give back land to indians?” I offered that Columbus day was increasingly being criticised, that canada had created Nunavut a 2 million km square area for the inuit. that Brazil had demarcated several indigenous land reservations all premised on the fact of recognising the harm that has been done to those populations. he dismissed my statements. “here is different.” he was very friendly to me and pitied the fact that he had a class to attend. ” i really like talking to you. i am entirely against that coexistence school you wanted to do your research in. but this conversation is very interesting.” I confess I was more than happy he was leaving, as what do you say to a hardcore racist in his own house, when his racism is disguised in other forms?


I went back to Tel Aviv and then met my long time friend Maya. I told her boyfriend all about my encounters. He was fascinated. He was truly interested. As a meditation teacher, and someone who travelled for 3 years he like me feels we are not that different. he felt sad about me telling him about my ultra zionist encounter. After that I encountered yoni.


Yoni studied with me in Holland. we had not seen each other in 6,5 years. for the past 10 years he lives abroad. I had absolutely no recollection where he stood in the Israeli Palestinian conflict. As soon as I met him I said jokingly ” did you come to celebrate independence day?” to what he surprised me by saying ” I will think of the Al Naqbah”. Al Naqbah, is in Arab the great disaster. While the Israelis celebrate their victory the Palestinians celebrate their loss. I was speechless. That is something I had never heard from a Jewish Israeli. “Jules, I am deeply ashamed of the policies of my country and I feel the only moral thing to do is to leave. to move somewhere else. That is why I have been gone for the past 10 years. I come every 2 years to see my family and then I go.”


Yoni who did his thesis on Spinoza, and now among other things teaches politics surprised me. I asked him what his family felt ” Well, they say they thing is horrible what is happening in israel, but they are good people. you know the drill Israeli leftists… ”


The day after it was time for me to leave. I was told to delete all my pictures from Palestine. To lie. To not say I had friends there. I decided against it. if the price to have my pictures, to stand by having friends is to spend longer hours in the security, maybe risk not being allowed ever back in I ll take it. Yoni advised me ” Fair enough. Just do not volunteer info you do not need to give. I know it is horrible but Israel does that to you.”


So I arrived in the airport and in my little interview i was given the highest security risk. when i was asked where I had been i simply said “everywhere”. When I was asked whether I had friends in Israel I told them the truth. Told their names . They did not explicitly ask me about Palestine so I did not say anything. I had to open my bag and take everything that was inside. Everything was scanned. then i had to answer more questions, then i was invited to go through a metal scan, then to a little cubicle where they asked me to remove shoes, belt etc. then a woman joined me and touched my whole body. I almost felt like asking her whether I should remove all of my clothes. I did not. I just waited. I did not feel angry towards her. In fact, if anything else i pitied her. It must be horrendous to live like this. feeling threatened by everything.


Some minutes before 8 o’clock the loud speakers in the airport warned us that at 8 there would be a minute of silence for the israeli soldiers who had died in conflict. It was memorial day. Once again the siren rang, just like in the memorial day of the holocaust. everybody stood still. So did I. I stood in silence and still. Looking around I felt sorry for all those who lost people. I mourned the death of Palestinians and Israelis. But somehow the saddest thing of all for me is that that siren seemed to rather than teach us about the evils of power and racism, and thinking of ourselves and other as so different to somehow legitimised it. I felt sad for my Israeli friends for not seeing how much they are missing for not crossing those borders. For believing that Arabs can be so different. How could that possibly be? Alex my friend had asked me in the morning “don’t you think the death of the soldiers is sad?” I  explained I thought it was sad any loss of life in any conflict. ” Well, I care more for the Jewish loss of life, you?” He asked me. ” I don’t. I care equally for the loss of lives all over. It is equally sad for me if a unknown brazilian or an argentinian, a british or a Zimbabwean lost their lives in a conflict. I am probably sadder if  I knew the person. I d be probably sadder if you died than any brazilian I don’t know. If Leila who is Moroccan died rather than an unknown brazilian. When we are talking of strangers their death is equally sad for me. Which group they belong to really makes no difference. And if we are talking of ethnic conflicts it is just sad.”


As the siren rang that is what I thought: For as long as we think some lives are more worth than others. Jewish over Palestinians, Americans over Iraqis, rich people in Brazil versus people who live in slums. For as long as it happens we will keep negotiating our thoughts to rationalise what is plain and simple racism.


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