Not Only Had They Occupied The Lands,
But Also The Tongues,
A few days ago, a conference under the title of THE ARAB LEADERSHIP took place in Van Leer Institute.
As one of my very good friends was supposed to make a presentation of a paper he prepared for the event and a journalist friend of mine who wanted to go and make interviews and try to find contacts for her references urged me to go , I went .
I was hesitant about the fact that the language that will be used in the Conference is Hebrew; in spite the fact that most of the speakers were Arabs except for very few Israelis form the Van Leer Institute personnel’s.
My friend told me that it was in Hebrew because the audience that was addressed were mostly Israelis.
I hummed something inside myself and thought, maybe right, at the end it is an Israeli institute, and regretfully it is Israelis who come and listen most of the time.
I was besieged with the ingenuity of the institute as I entered. I appreciated the way they used the three languages, Arabic, English, and Hebrew all the way as anyone enter the premises .
It reminded me of the nice welcoming words as we cross the threshold to the Bethlehem check point, with peace words all around us in the three languages, as if we enter a peaceful patch, and right above those words a soldier is sitting inside his stall on top with his weapon intended and ready to stroke at any instant. I felt iniquitous as I associated the two prospects to each other. I am inflowing a research center that endorses peace, and its staff are all leftists, and many reverential Arab intellectuals work there.
Inside the hall, fastidious quotes all over a wide wall, all in English and Hebrew, not a single word in Arabic inside. I tried to focus on the articulate quotes, very powerful words, but frankly, something inside me didn’t buy it.
Inside the conference room, a spacious room, with best equipment, out of the 300 settings, only half of them were occupied, I felt glowing as my friend was expecting not more than 40, so it would be at least motivating.
I sat between my friend and another appealing looking man, my eyes creeped into his papers and I glimpsed his name and he was a government economic consultant , I wanted to hate him, but my friend was talking to him as a friend, so I told myself, listen girl, we are inside the Israeli premises, Palestinians, whatever they might call them or call themselves there are part of this whole system, so it is ok to be an economic consultant, but my curiosity didn’t stop there, I waited for the break to ask him “economic consultant for whom” for the Arabs? He smiled and didn’t answer my naïve question.
Maybe at that point I seemed to be too good looking to be smart, so he took me with this naivety smile.
Inside the conference, all speakers were respectful, holding excellent status from where they are coming from, sturdy, eloquent speakers, and researchers. And speaking Hebrew.
The audience however, was over 80 percent Arabs, for the irony of the situation most of the girls there were wearing veils.
Honestly, each time I looked at the speakers, speaking in Hebrew and looked around the audience most Arabs, I felt irritated, and the topic was about Arabs.
I kept telling myself that I shouldn’t be judgmental, and maybe all those Arab veils will disappear at the next session as my friend predicted , they even moved us to a smaller room, searching for more intimacy in the topic .
My friend’s and the coordinator prediction failed as the room was filled with everyone, and all the veiled youngsters were still there.
I wanted the veils to fade away so that I would induce myself that the use of Hebrew in that event was justifiable. I wanted to see all the other Arabs who were there were not Arabs, I wanted to see a 90 percent Hebrew audience.
It is true that it was a hundred percent Hebrew speaking people though.
The second part was tedious, one of the speakers even allowed himself to speak about the PA. Luckily, another friend of mine joined and helped me survive that part.
I was wedged there because my friend who was supposed to speak was the last to make his presentation, and yes, it is true, that he broke the monotony that was occupying the place and his appeal won.
But nothing rallied round what was already marching into my mind,
swiftly, I was some less than thirty years ago inside a history class, with that sentence that might be the only sentence that I got out of from history in all my life, CULTURAL OCCUPATION, there was this small paragraph in our history book in 3rd grade that explained about how when occupiers invade lands, they occupy it not just through arm invasions but through cultural and social facets too.
I was seeing before me the Algerian and Moroccan occurrence, how these people until this day suffer from being unable to exploit their own language efficiently.
I was gazing at those sophisticated intellectuals, my friend among them, sitting around that table before the audience, and I could only envision research white mice inside white uniformed thick eyeglasses scientist’s labs.
I imagined a staff of scientists bringing their mice experiments into a conduct show.
I sincerely detest what I am saying, but the verity that you have Arabs, coming and make a representation for researches that they did about their own cases within their societies and correspond to it in Hebrew before mostly Arabic speaking audience was more than upsetting.
These people came with serious study about the status of education and the obstacles for better leadership inside the Arab communities.
Why couldn’t they do it under an Arab forum with the sponsoring of an institute like van leer? (If the fact is that Israelis only have source of money)
I am someone who really believes in mutual assistance between Israelis and Palestinians on diverse levels in order to attain a just solution at the end; But as I grew up hearing the word normalization and attacking it without understanding what it meant, and each day I get involved with Israeli Palestinian (a word I shouldn’t be using, ARABS) forums I come to a closer perceptive of the danger of the word normalization in our case.
I don’t know what the word that suits what I deem is, but it is positioned there close to those thin lines between normalization and demoralization.
I believe if any decent Israeli institute exists, it would at least help mobilize the Arabic as a mother language for these people.
Another thing I realized while I was sometimes listening to what these intellectual representing, something I always thought that I was making up , and somehow, I always thought who I am to think this way , I have no knowledge or experience in the political indulgence , and my theories come from very personal things that I adaged in my life ever since I was a child.
In the past years , I have been watching the situation in Jerusalem with great fear ,and the only thing I was seeing is the past experience of the 48 occupation inside the green line .
I am seeing Jerusalem being Judaism(ized) in every aspect, streets, signs, people’s absolute indifference, everyone entrapped into his own problems and benefits. I haven’t been their during the 48 time, but what is happening today in Jerusalem makes it a living experience of the past , but what alerts me is the augmentation of lack of awareness among people . During the 48, people didn’t have a prior experience, model, but today, we know what it means to try to uproot our identities. The uprising that is happening inside those people intellectual generation in trying to re-root their identities doesn’t come from an outer space. It comes out of an inner suffering that was passed from one generation to another.
As those people were discussing the intentional, planned process of uprooting their identities, their nationalities through the educational system, I understood what it meant to stay steadfast. I understood the great thing those in Jerusalem did by refusing to submit to the Israeli laws after 67, especially when it came to education.
At the end, there was a real movement of resistance that I never understood or appreciated, (I was too young for both). We were really saved by not allowing the Israeli system to evolve in our education.
No matter how bad or how I disagree with the Jordanian and the Palestinian educational system ( too tough ,and doesn’t promote thinking ) , but it kept our identities, I understand how important it was to refuse to teach Hebrew , or to allow it in our schools .
And I see it today, as one school after another is diminishing in the trap of judaizing our minds, into enforcing their schools, in pretending to give better circumstances, in feeding those schools with money per HEAD, in forcing people in registering to these schools to prove their residential rights inside the city .
If the poorest and the least given person among us saw those sophisticated intellectuals discussing their sufferings and obstacles in Hebrew the other day, they would understand the virtue of living inside our own roots.