I was watching the news for a change last night, when Sara and Bibi Netanyahu were in the center of the screen. The usual Hollywood catches that Netanyahu loves to be in.
It is again Netanyahu making news. It hasn’t been long since the Charles Hebdo show that Netanyahu skillfully managed, despite the tremendous criticism inside Israel in such a critical timing and on top of all his show up despite the clear “un-invitation” officially by the French president.
Again, Netanyahu holds the same show. An uninvited Netanyahu insists to make a speech infront of the Congress under the nose of the President who clearly said: “ You are not welcome”. And Netanyahu again, with a shameless face insists, and the world watches. And this is exactly what Netanyahu wants … the world to watch.
There has been something about this man that attracts my attention, ever since I was a student. The first time I heard the name Bibi Netanyahu was when I was in my first year as a political science student in the Hebrew university of Jerusalem. I was envious about hearing a name of a young Israeli figure that was capturing the attention of my generation of Israelis that I never really met, despite our gathering in one lecture room. But I remember this envy about not having a figure that I can talk or fantasize about. All what I knew about Palestinian leadership was Yasser Arafat, and he was old and had those ugly big lips that cannot make him my ideal fantasy. But I learnt on that Bibi had a special hatred towards the Palestinians and the PLO because his brother was killed in a combat with the Palestinians. But to the Israelis he was the promising new face of diplomacy, he was the ambassador to the UN and he was making news.
For me, that was the first Israeli political name I memorized after the typical name every Palestinian usually learnt with every Israeli prime minister. Let me say he was the first Israeli politician who wasn’t a prime minister or a defense minister that I memorized.
Netanyahu became a prime minister and he became an official enemy some years later. But I always had this sense of a feeling that I have some memory related to him. That missing emotion of feeling that I have a normal government or a government in the first place. Studying political science was a problem for me in the first place. I felt like an orphan. Unlike every single Israeli in those classes, I didn’t have a dream for a career. Palestine or the PA didn’t exist until that moment. And my study was nothing but another infertile attempt to prove something I didn’t even know.
I only knew that I wanted to study in the Hebrew university as retaliation to occupation. They occupied every resource of my land. I can use them in return. But as I always said, I was too occupied with other things, and to be fair to myself I could never make reconciliation with the Hebrew as a language.
All this was during the first gulf war, when all but Palestinians would walk in the university campus during the sirens and without the masks.
Years passed, and what the university failed to make me adapt with, life and the YMCA helped me see and reconcile with. It was another intifada, and exactly another decade, when I was encountering the same situation in facing the “other”, and after years of resistance, I woke up one day deciding to “see”.
From that day, I was able to differentiate between Israelis and put them in categories of Zionists and non Zionists (a category that I realized later didn’t really exist, except with very few and exceptional cases), and Israelis also became right and left, radicals and pragmatics, nice and bad … those who sympathized and those who hated. As I am putting my definitions now in the same way I thought about them back then, I cannot but think of how much we grow, not just in age, but also in the way we think and learn to adapt to things.
Fatefully maybe, or by mere coincidence Netanyahu reappeared to me.
My “story” with Netanyahu is a mixture of humanity that can never mix with occupation, somehow like water and oil, no matter how much you try to stir them, mix them, force them in the same glass, they always remain separate.
It was a new academic year, and the formation of the swimming team was taking place, and I was excited about my son being in one of the teams. A routine that became a ritual with being a mother, and somehow I had to behave in the same excitement I had with my daughter, something that has to do with my commitment of being a “fair” mother in providing same opportunities and attention.
Anyway, it was the first day, new mothers and parents, new children. We were allowed to the first session only, and I was always an exception because I was considered as a local in that place, after years of bringing one child after the other, and attending every single session, you just become part of the place. And I was socializing with new parents, when I spotted a kind of lost anxious mother who seemed excitingly worried about her son, who looked fluffy and older than the rest. I assured her that he emotions are normal, and it is always fearful at the beginning blablabla. The woman was a typical Israeli, nothing impressive, chubby clothes, of working women in third or fourth level institutes. He attempt to be friendly and still have this not really friendly look was also a typical Israeli to me. We talked a few times in the pool and in the changing room. I always told the coach that she looked like someone I know, and her face looked very familiar, and one day I told her, I know who you look like: Sara Netanyahu, and she said sheepishly: Yes the often tell me so at work. I didn’t think for a second that she could be Sara, because I thought Sara Netanyahu would look like a first lady, or a former first lady. She dressed in those very standard “cheap” picks that made me not to the least suspicious. Luckily on that day, my Hebrew didn’t serve me to give her the response of: “ you are lucky you’re not her “.
What made me sympathize with her back then was the obvious thing about the child. He was not just an older fluffy child in the team who just entered. The boy had an obvious behavioral problem that was clearly in the level of autism that the parents well maintained in minimizing. The kind of parents I sympathized with and supported, especially that I was suffering with my son’s ADHD and learning difficulties.
Neither my Hebrew, nor the woman aura kept me close enough to run often conversations with her. She looked like the typical that don’t impress me.
One day, there was an outdoor training, and many security cars were in the courtyard of the YMCA. I have noticed that those cars have been spotted more often recently, but I thought more important figures must have been visiting the opposite King David Hotel. I was sitting next to the coach, watching the kids, and I noticed that new fluffy boy running with the kids with his father trying to run with him and security people were running with them. It was a hilarious scene, the boy making the lead and the father, who must have been so caring to do so with his troublesome boy and those security, and as the group took the third lap I looked at the coach and said: this man looks familiar”. And suddenly, this feeling of being a fool was overwhelming. Suddenly I understood it all. And I screamed in the coach’s face: “You bastard, this is Netanyahu and that woman is Sara and you knew It.” he looked at me and smiled saying: “well, now you know”. We were told not to talk about it.”
Of course I became angry. And I was anxious of how such people can be in the YMCA, and as usual the answer was: “ this is a place for everyone who wants to be in “, and usually those who want to be in, have no problem with having an Israeli or a Palestinian.
I am not sure why I stopped seeing them much. Was it a result of my refusal to mix with them or I was just busy with something. Soon the boy was showing a face that couldn’t bare any sympathy, the kids were arguing with him for his radical Zionist thoughts that his parents seemed to have carefully poured inside him. As much as they couldn’t do anything about his mental disability, they successfully raised a Zionist Palestinian hater child.
One day there was a swimming competition in another pool, and the father was there and as usual one couldn’t not notice him. The man was surrounded with the security people and people would come by and talk to him and he would wear an artificial kindness to his face socializing. I was busy in the opposite direction with occasional chats with the parents and with my children and alone sometimes when I noticed that he was looking at me. At one time our eyes met, and he gave e that manly look that carried lots of confidence of being the man of the show, which I proudly ignored. It must have been my ignoring tactic that brought him eventually to my side of the pool to suddenly be standing next to me. When he sheepishly smiled in my face and as my usual cowardly self-defense I thought to myself “ run”. But it was much easier. I just looked back also with a cowardly quick move and said: “ by the way. I am Palestinian “. Even though I must have been trembling and it was said with a soft voice, the man disappeared before I even noticed. He was quickly on the other side, and I was the one who was attacking him now with my victorious looks that he completely avoided.
I have to say that I felt victorious in that single nothing moment.
I felt the power of being a Palestinian. And I thought, it is better than pepper spray.
I don’t know why I never saw them again.
Soon after the boy left the team, I also don’t know why exactly. He was definitely a hated boy, not because he was the son of the Netanyahu and not because he was a mentally disturbed boy. But because he was a real fanatic brainwashed child.
But somewhere, I understand Netanyahu’s fight from that encounter with him. Somehow, there was this pure humanistic encounter that forces us all to be humans despite how unhumanly we perceive the other among us. Netanyahu and his spouse were forced to forget all their believes and in a way maneuver around it all for the sake of their child. They were able to ignore the presence of their worse enemy. They were forced to have the child in an environment that they strictly despise and hate and refuse, in what seemed a battle of survival. It was the love of a child. It was the sacrifice that parents do for the sake of their own children. It was parenthood that I bow to the couple with a lot of respect.
But there seems to be an obvious trace in the behavior. The man is ready to do anything when it comes to issues that mark his survival. There is no doubt that Netanyahu is leading his final battle. He is ready to do the impossible; even that impossible is what seems to be a shameful disgrace. It is Netanyahu that is fighting his own battle that counts in all this. It is what Netanyahu want to show in his final battle, whether he comes out as a winner or as a loser. But the public disclosure his making is what Netanyahu is betting for. This internationalization of Netanyahu’s own speech. It is what he knows how to do best. He addresses the world, as he is used to as an ambassador to the UN back in the eighties. It is his game that he knows how to perfect. But this gambling he is taking in his focusing on his own specialty disregarding his own local discourse is what seems to be the dangerous curve that he is making. Would it serve him or put him in his final defeat? It will only be a few weeks before we all know it.
I often wonder what made them leave the YMCA , was it the fact that they had to face the presence of Arabs as equals in that place? A fact that they couldn’t eliminate and ignore , and they didn’t have the power to get rid of on the spot ? it was also an environment that didn’t deny the presence of Arabs , the child had to see a different face of Israelis that his parents didn’t raise him up to see that he needed to face?
It was one time , in Netanyahu’s battles of survival that he couldn’t face . it was too much of a forced human interaction that he was unable to control and to face …. Dealing with the child’s disability needed to take another place and giving up swimming with Arabs was among them .
This was an interesting and entertaining story. Fortunately I’ve been spared meeting or watching any of his speeches.