A letter to Israel from a sympathetic Palestinian

As Israel faces international isolation and an uncertain future, one Palestinian offers some empathy: ‘I know how you feel.’

By Amer Zahr

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Kobi Gideon / GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Israel, I know how you feel.

It’s been a tough year. And it’s only just started. Your world seems like it’s crumbling around you. Everything you knew is no longer true. The comfortable circumstances to which you have become accustomed are rapidly changing around you.  And worse yet, it seems you can do nothing about it.

I know how you feel.

Your so-called “friends” are turning on you. They said they would all always stand by you, no matter what. And now, just when it seems that you need them the most, they have forsaken you.

I know how you feel.

About a month ago, I attended a lecture in Ann Arbor, Michigan by one of the leaders of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS). After the speaker completed his presentation, many audience members approached the microphones to ask questions, continuing the discussion. Among the many participants were a few pro-Israel attendees who challenged the speaker on his assertions and arguments. As I sat there watching them, I remembered how, many years ago, I used to attend events sponsored by pro-Israel groups on that same campus. They would invite ambassadors, generals, and academics to argue for you. A few other interested Palestinians and I would stride in that hostile sea, and we would plead our case. We would wonder if anyone was really listening.  We would doubt that anyone would ever see the world they way we do. We would sit there, looking around, feeling alone, as if no one understood us, and as if no one ever would. When I saw those students standing up for you last month, they had the same dejected look on their faces I bore over fifteen years ago. It must have felt terrible.

So, I know how you feel.

The position you currently find yourself in is full of uncertainty, discomfort, and doubt. It is as if no matter what you do or say, you just can’t get anyone to believe you. You don’t know where to turn. You can’t figure out what to do. You’re lost. Was everything you’ve ever told yourself just one big lie? Were you going about things the wrong way this whole time? You’re wondering, fearful and apprehensive, about what the future holds. You’re thinking, “what am I going to do now?”

At one time or another, I have asked myself all those same questions. Trust me, more anger is not the answer. I’ve tried it, and it just doesn’t work. Change is hard. But having everything you’ve ever known uprooted is not a death sentence. I got through it, and so can you.

Trust me, I know how you feel.

Recently, your days have been full of turmoil and chaos. The past several months for you have been bad. Really bad. But you’ve only had a bad few months. I’ve had a bad 65 years. I know I’m only 36, but I was born in 1948, just like the rest of us.

So you’ll survive. I promise. You just have to accept the fact that things are never going to be the same.

While I can sympathize, there is one major difference. Like you, I have always felt that the truth was on my side. But unlike you, it turns out that I was right.

Nevertheless, I’m here for you. And I promise you, I’m not going anywhere. We’ll get through this.


A sympathetic Palestinian

Amer Zahr is a Palestinian-American residing in Dearborn, Michigan. He is a comedian and a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School. This post first appeared on his website, The Civil Arab.

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