During Ramadan, Palestinians are no longer deemed ‘security risks’ or ‘terrorists,’ and are able to visit the holy sites in Jerusalem or the sea in Jaffa.
This week marked the beginning of Ramadan, a month-long celebration during which Muslims the world over fast for 16 hours every day to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad. That’s right: 1.5 billion Muslims across the world choose to starve themselves. To all those who ask where we get our determination and tenacity from, they may find the answer this month. This is bad news for the Islamophobes of the world. The good news for the Islamophobes? We can’t seem to use this determination in a way that actually benefits us.
And in honor of Ramadan, Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank will no longer be deemed “security risk” or “terrorists.” The commander of the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) announced in an Arabic-language Facebook video (with poor Arabic) that Palestinians will be able to travel to Jerusalem to pray freely, visit their relatives beyond the separation barrier and even see the Mediterranean Sea. Such great news!
The high point of the video was when he announced “Intu btiqdaru truhu al-basat.” Meaning that Palestinians can freely reach the underwear. What? We have access to our underwear!? Finally, God is great, Ramadan kareem, thank heavens. Every Palestinian who wants to is now able to wear and touch his or her underwear without having to go through a checkpoint, undergo a search or receive an entry permit. On my second listen, I realized the commander meant to say “buses” rather than underwear. The Palestinians will directly enter Jerusalem, with prior coordination, after they have signed up (the sign-up period ended as the announcement was published). As long as the Palestinians can flock, in hordes, to visit their land and their mosque, as if they were foreign tourists who received a one-time visa.
#Ramadan Kareem from Major General Yoav ‘Poli’ Mordechai
Posted by COGAT – Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories on Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Is it humiliating when the IDF reminds the Arabs who is boss? Or perhaps this is merely a nice gesture of bringing together members of different religions, especially in a week where a church was burned near Tiberias, and Israel is looking worse and worse in the eyes of the world? After all, a bit of humanity never harmed anyone. I waited for the Palestinian Authority to condemn the humiliation of the buses, but it turns out that everything that happens is coordinated with the PA. I waited for the BDS movement and its response and failed to understand what they want from the poor Palestinians.
The only ones who responded and condemned the move were businessmen and merchants who are afraid that their purchasing power in Ramadan will flee to Jerusalem and only strengthen the Israeli occupier’s economy, and rightfully so. So who am I to judge a family that wants to visit Al-Aqsa on Ramadan or jump into Yaffa’s sea?
Come, friends, come. Ahalan wa sahalan.
Israel Hayom? Yes. Palestine 48? No.
What else happened this week? After secretive and intense consultations, Communications Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that broadcasts by the new “Palestine 48” television station — which began on the first day of Ramadan — would come to an end until further notice. The ministers were concerned, of course, that the Palestinian Authority was funding the broadcasts. It is worth noting that Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and others broadcast from and to Israel without fear of censorship or propaganda from “enemy countries.”
The communications minister didn’t fail to mention the professional work of Israel Hayom, as well as those who support it in Israel and abroad.
Funding for all — except some
Meanwhile, a culture war was taking place in the state’s cultural cowshed. It started when actor Oded Kotler called Likud voters “beasts.” Between East and West, piyutim and jazz, between the bible and the modern literature of the people of the bible, the heated debate continued. In the meantime, the state turned off the valve for Palestinians. It’s always easy to act tough toward the weak.
Culture Minister Miri Regev clarified 30 times over that she received a mandate to decide that the Arabs who want funding from her, “even if they pay taxes, must return to their original culture that us Jews live with in ‘co-existence.'” “I will fund traditional work, Bedouin culture, Druze and Circassians, as well as Arabic culture!” claimed the minister. Come on, will someone please explain to her that all of the above, including her own culture, are part of Arabic culture?
And to all those who don’t fully understand, I will translate Regev so that we understand exactly what she means: “The funding will be given on the condition that the Arabs will be presented as working their land, eating well in the evenings and dancing dabka at the end, and never raising their heads. Otherwise I will break their heads.” Okay fine, so she didn’t actually say that. But hey, co-existence at its best.
In light of all this I decided to write a children’s play on a sheep herder in a Galilee village, who cares for his beasts and looks for a pasture for them on a kibbutz that was established on his land. There, at the top of the mountain, he writes a nostalgic song about the days of “freedom of pasture” before 1948, when his sheep smelled the soft grass without worry. He returns to the village with his herd only to find his children crying: his Jewish wife was kidnapped by Lehava — a racist, anti-miscegenation group — spray-painting the word “hitboleloot” (miscegenation in Hebrew) across his living room. He thinks they must want authentic “tabouleh” (a traditional Arab vegetarian dish that sounds an awful like the word for miscegenation in Hebrew). So with a bucket full of tabouleh he leaves his village and his sheep, and along with his children moves to the big city to find his wife. There he finds himself celebrating in the Pride Parade. The kids are happy, and so is he. He dresses up as a proud Arab in the Holy Land and even takes a photo with the culture minister.
So what do you think? Will the Ministry of Culture and Sports fund my new play?
Liberation takes time
More news from this week: The case against a police officer who attacked an Ethiopian soldier was closed earlier this week, and an Ethiopian activist said that “There is no problem if they want to throw us back to Africa. Everyone should go back to where they came from. Even the Arab Jews are immigrants. An immigrant society that has the gall to expel us? This is nothing but racism.” I struggled against my feeling of joy. Hundreds of cases of attacks by police and soldiers (by Arab Jews, Ashkenazim, settlers, Ethiopians and even Drzue), all of them take part in making difficult the life of young, innocent Arabs. But the Ethiopian activist’s reasoning, who said that she is ashamed of this racist state, appealed to me, because it may lead her to understand that she is not the only one who has been harmed by racism — that neither her Jewishness nor her skin color will protect her from it. This is the beginning of a process of the oppressed’s liberation from racism — she will eventually reach the root of the problem: a Jewish state that pretends it is democratic. Welcome to the club, here there is no selection.
Samah Salaime is a social worker, a director of AWC (Arab Women in the Center) in Lod/Lyd and a graduate of the Mandel Leadership Institute in Jerusalem. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where she is a blogger. Read it here.