Tag Archives: arab

Schrödinger’s Arab

13 Mar

I never really cared whom I date or sleep with, as long as he’s hot, clean, and hung. Well, so I do care. I will also admit I have a type. Somewhat darker skin, dark hair, big eyes, lush lashes… You get the picture.

So I met a lot of Middle Eastern guys not all of whom are Jewish Israelis. I mean to say, I dated a lot of Arabs, and this is where Jewish rightwingers usually start clamouring that I should be raped and murdered for being the “whore of terrorists” – or assimilating at all. I find this especially ironic coming from Jews, but let’s not. I’m not even Jewish, I just pass as such because I’m a white-passing Israeli. I only pass as white because of my Protestant-but-Atheist German mother. My father, a brown man from two Iraqi parents, only shines through in my sarcasm and penchant for writing. My Mum’s no longer official religion also saw me registered as Christian in Israel, because yeah, they kinda register your religious affiliation on your ID card, or they did, so now they only register it in your file. “Ethiopian” also tends to get registered, while “Russian” or “american” sure doesn’t. But this type of racism is not what I want to talk about right now. Let’s just say, it’s rampant.

Schroedinger’s Arab – be a terrorist, don’t be a terrorist, but please confirm our bias and prove us wrong at the same time.

So I’m basically as Christian as the Arab guy I had an unlucky crush on. I’m as Christian as the other Arab guy this guy unwittingly introduced me to, or at least he implied he was Christian once. Since that Arab guy is also a celebrity, I befriended some fans of his, also Christian Arabs. We ended up going to a festival in Jordan together, thrown and main-gigged by said celebrity, and we all had a good time. Upon re-entry to Israel, however, nerves grew raw. The girls passed through security without a problem, and when I think back, it’s probably because none of them seem “typically Arab”. Y’know, hijab and explosive vest, all that. Pierced, tattooed, dreadlocks, torn jeans, short hair, rockabilly, not how you imagine radicals. But we waited what felt like a half hour for the boys. I say boys, because the oldest was 19, I think. When it dawned on me what was happening, I wanted to go in and exploit my “white Jew” privilege to vouch for them, when they came out, tired and scowling. One said, “I don’t wanna talk about it”, because he was pissed past talking. You could see it took him quite a bit of restraint to not burst into a raging fit. He was a 17-year-old geek whose penchant for violence was limited to the same super hero and anime franchises I liked. But after he had his backpack searched more thoroughly than mine when we met up a year later, I was sure: if this guy was to ever pick up a gun and shoot into a crowd, blame Israel’s anti-Arab mentality according to which he can either be a terrorist or garbage, or both. Not someone to be trusted, not someone to dedicate the front page to were he to join and die in the army. Not someone who has any reason to value us, because we don’t value him. Individually, some of us might, I do, but the white Jewish collective? They’ll leave him for dead. He will always be expected to prove that he’s better than other Arabs, while he will also always be expected to confirm that Arabs are “human animals” as they’re often called. Schroedinger’s Arab – be a terrorist, don’t be a terrorist, but please confirm our bias and prove us wrong at the same time.

Palestinian terrorists follow Hamas because while Israel is robbing them of reasons to live, Hamas, at least, is giving them a reason to die.

Having to work twice as hard to get half as much is what brings me to my ex, who’s Muslim, not that he cares, but “Israel’s dominant demographic” very much does. While he gobbles down pork chops and drives drunk like the raging student and rebellious brother of too many sisters that he is, the army makes damned sure not to encourage him to enlist and abuse the weapon he’s handed. He could, but he absolutely doesn’t have to. Ethical issues of Arabs recruited to shoot Arabs on behalf of Jews aside, (dis)trust is obviously a factor.
And society makes damned sure not to encourage him to take up too much space in general, because no matter what kind of helpful, contributing, life-saving career he envisions, what a loving soul we all know he is, he’ll always be less-than. A few years ago, this racism at least energized him, even if through anger. He said, “The next person who gives me shit for being Arab, I’m gonna punch him.” I wanted to say, “Don’t, because you’ll be trayvoned*,” but didn’t want to make him feel even more hopeless. And as we were talking about an ongoing war between Israel and Gaza, he said something about going there to get himself killed – as food for thought for the fighting parties. Like, right, nobody is going to care. That’s the sad thing. A Jewish guy getting killed in the cross fire, sure, that’ll make headlines and sit Israelis down for a bit, but only to get up and hate Arabs some more, because obviously, Arabs are the only ones to blame for the conflict. If you ask a zionist. But an Arab? Israel is gonna laugh, because that’s one Arab who kindly got himself killed to make room for another Jewish immigrant. I didn’t share that bit of insight with him either, because why rub it in that he’s garbage in the eyes of Israel’s rule-making majority, the rightwing Jews? He nailed it when he said that Palestinian terrorists follow Hamas because while Israel is robbing them of reasons to live, Hamas, at least, is giving them a reason to die. I mean, they got universities in Gaza, but where are you going to take your degree? Nowhere, because you’re not getting out. And then, you get bombed.
And when I recently reminisced out loud about my short time with him, remembering how he complained I was going to die before him, and I replied “Keep talking that way and you’ll die before me”, he soberly answered that life and death have become all the same to him. Because while he still wants to find his raison d’être in charity and philantropy, he, too, feels robbed of reasons to live by this society. All the success and wealth he could achieve, and he would still feel like his life has no point, because we as a nation begrudge him that point.

A Jew murders his girlfriend, nobody bats an eye. An Arab guy dances during Memorial Day’s siren? “Fire him, kill him, rape his mother, bomb all those fucking terrorists!”

As a person who passes for both white and Jewish, I only know part of his struggle. I know the hate, discrimination, and dismissal I feel for being a fat female. However, while fatphobia is cruel and has a strong impact on its victims, fat people are not cooped up in shitholes that get bombed, bulldozed, or have their water cut off on a regular basis. My Arab friends may not live in the territories, but their people do. And all Arabs are the same to those oppressing these Palestinians, anyway. An Israeli Arab peds surgeon’s welcome in this country is as fickle as that of a Ramallah stabber. If said stabber snaps and stabs, the surgeon won’t be safe from the hatred and incitement that ensues. Guilt by association. A Jew murders his girlfriend, nobody bats an eye. An Arab guy dances during Memorial Day’s siren? “Fire him, kill him, rape his mother, bomb all those fucking terrorists!”

This isn’t about me. But it is. I’m part of Israel’s society, and I’m with the lucky part. The only problem I share with Arabs, is being cussed out for dating them. Since “dating” usually means “casual sex behind closed doors with no public hand-holding”, I can easily stay safe by not talking about it. But I have friends who live here knowing they are fair game. No, you can’t walk up and shoot Arabs as you please, but wait a second, yeah, you kinda can. I am afraid that these Arab people, especially young men, are Israel’s Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Hell, american cops don’t even have the homes of their black victims’ families bulldozed. On paper, Arabs have all the same rights as Jews. In practice, the collective bias wants to dismiss a victimized Arab’s complaint, and lock up any Arab upon accusation, no trial, no investigation. Schroedinger’s Arab – victim or perp, and somehow, both at the same time: they will call you a terrorist while burning you alive – you’re in a dark little box and nobody cares that you’re asphixiating in there while expected to do the expected and yet defy it.

And I’m not saying Arabs can’t make a nice life for themselves. But that doesn’t mitigate the fact that they live in a society that sneers at them and only expects the worst from, and wishes the worst upon them. How do you raise a happy, peaceful child in such miasma? How is this helping peace? How is it not obvious that most Arab violence against Israeli Jews can be traced back to said Arabs being treated like vermin? Is it reasonable to expect people to respond with acquiescence and submission when they get bulldozed, bombed, and kept from thriving? Walled in, starved, cut off from water, power, and economy? I will never defend acts of terror, but I am smart enough to see what prompts them, and it’s us. Hamas’ rhetoric of hate wouldn’t work if they didn’t have us proving them right over and over and over.

“All Arab Areas Access Citizenship” is a myth.

And to make this about me, because I like making things about me: I don’t know how to help. I have friends hurt to a point of numbness by this racism, and I can’t do much to help. We barely ever even meet. I want to tell them to leave the country for better places, but that’s easy for me to say – I have dual citizenship and am indeed leaving Israel, in part because I don’t want to be a part of this anymore. Arabs? Told by nutwing zionists to “go back to Jordan”, except, “All Arab Areas Access Citizenship” is a myth. So I’ll be leaving soon, a country that was never out to hurt me, leaving my friends behind to get angrier – or number – with every bulldozing and every bombing and every Palestinian kid with scissors getting shot dead because a trained soldier with an M16 “feared for his life”.

See, this is how you radicalize people. Nobody wants to be hated for no reason, so if all attempts at being accepted, fail… you give those haters a reason.

*killed with no repercussions for the killer, because his ethnicity makes it easy for the law to assume he asked for it

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Romeo & Juliet in Israel

6 Nov

Romeo & Juliet, or Anna & the Arab

I came to Israel to join the army and partake in the epic saga of Zion. Or so I thought. Instead, I learned an important lesson about ethnic divides, skin-deep hostility, racism, and where love comes in.

I made Aliyah at the end of December, 2010 as a returning minor. Being born in Israel, I never felt quite at home anywhere else. Not in Poland, not in Ireland, not in Germany, and not in Belgium. I thought that Israel would be where I’d find myself, my home, my belonging, and my soul. And I did. But I didn’t find it in the form, or the place, I had thought. And I certainly didn’t find a defined group to belong to. Not even Jews. Here’s what I thought would happen: the army would die to recruit me, put me in an epic combat position, and there I would meet my soulmate. A raggedy, typical Sephardic or Mizrachi Israeli, with black curls flowing in the desert breeze, his Reserves uniform revealing the manliest of chest hair.

Wrong. And that’s okay.

The army may take amputees, blind people, deaf people, people with severe cerebral palsy, people too fat to run, people with multiple organ transplants and a poor outlook – but not an eager, healthy, though overweight, female at the age of 27. Needless to say, I was offended. I had actually paid a personal trainer good money back in Belgium to prepare me for the army. Instead, I spent my days after ulpan at home, looking for a job, and taking care of orphaned kittens. And a puppy who would change my view on Israeli society.

The guard at my local post office had always been a latent crush of mine. He was sassy, confident, and always sported a cheeky smirk. His light tan skin was perfectly smooth, his black hair dense and thick. He was a bit on the short side, but his charisma grew him by a foot. He embodied what I thought, back then, was the typical Israeli man. And one day, he left his post to say: “I like your puppy. Can I have him?”

Since then, I had to find new ways of blowing him off whenever I walked my puppy past the post office. Until one day, my landlord decided he would tolerate my dog no more and we clashed, Israeli style. Yelling, threats, strong language. Desperate to keep the apartment – I had just moved there and was all out of money – I could only do one thing to save my puppy: rehome him. I grabbed a bag for his stuff, wedged the dog under my other arm, and ran down to the post office.

“Hey, you!” I panted at the guard. “You still want my dog?”

His enthusiasm was dulled by perplexity. “Uh… yeah?”

“Here you go.”

We added each-other on Facebook so I could stay updated on my ex-dog’s antics, and I learned the young man’s name was about as Israeli as Alon or Liran. I’m not revealing his “real” name as I have given this man enough grief. I also learned that he was in a relationship with a woman one quarter of my size.

Yet, a month later “Liran” broke up with his girlfriend and invited me over for a one-night-stand, no strings attached: the man was sick of love and feelings. Foolish as I was, I agreed hoping to sway him and persuade him to develop feelings for me after all. After the first night, I was smitten. I’d learned that he had served in combat, was rather Zionist, and agreed with me that Arabs made crappy dates. He fully supported my decision to only date Jews now that I had returned to Israel.

After the second night, I was in love and when he returned to his ex a month later and hardly talked to me anymore, I was heartbroken. I spent six months thinking about him until I came up with the perfect scheme: if I wanted to get to know him and how to get back on his radar – he’d been single again in the meantime – I would have to befriend his ex and extract as much intel from her as possible. Two nights after first contacting her, I was back at his place. And curious as I am, I asked him about his ethnicity. He stiffened for a heartbeat, as if caught off guard, then mumbled, “Yemeni”. I thought his reaction was strange, but thought no more of it either since love makes you a fool, blind to any vices or secrets that may disturb your revery.

One fine evening, I was out with his ex – we’d become actual friends – and suddenly, while gossiping about “Liran”, she said, “But you do know he’s not Jewish, right?”. I stopped dead in my tracks a few steps behind her. “What?” I gasped. “Then what is he?”

Bedouin.

Also, Muslim.

Well, still Zionist.

And a sweetheart.

And a true lover of everything cute and fluffy.

And addicted to sushi.

With a great taste in music.

But Arab.

And a liar.

Also, his real name was a far cry from what everybody called him. He was more of a Mustafa than a Liran.

Basically, he had committed the crime of “rape by deception”, which consists of a person lying in order to obtain the other person’s consent. Had I been raped? Three times? And enjoyed it? And cried for the man? No, this did not feel like rape. But legally, it seemed to be.

At first, I decided not to reveal this knowledge to him. After all, he was still the same charming man – except, as far as he was concerned, he was still deliberately deceiving me. Did I still want to try and build a relationship based on my knowing that he knows he’s deceiving me into violating my own principles? At some point, we fought and I told him I knew – I did so in the ugliest ways, wishing the worst upon him and insulting him for all he was, treading well into racist territory.

And then I calmed down. Had a good think. And then I realized something that made my chest tighten and my eyes sting. A realization that filled me with deep shame and remorse.

It was absolutely not okay that this man lied to his dates about his identity. He had no way of knowing that their parents wouldn’t disown them, or worse, if they ever found out that their good Jewish daughters were dating an Arab. Lying to someone who cares about you, is rarely ever okay.

On the other hand, should I, as an Israeli Zionist, not be ashamed, and deeply so, that my people, including myself, led this charming, hardworking, Zionist, gentle man to believe that he had to lie about his very self? Is being Arab a crime? Is it something one should be ashamed of in a “democracy”, in the “Holy Land”? What kind of society do we live in, am I a part of, where a good person has to lie about their identity in order to be loved? He has no love for Islam, and even if he had – I have, in the meantime, met Jews who are a far bigger scourge on Israeli society than this Arab who raises puppies and takes care of his parents. Who forgives whatever hateful insults you throw his way, and who smiles through all hardship. This Arab, who works two jobs to support his girlfriend, her daughter, his parents, and his sheep, and who serves proudly in the reserve, makes a far better citizen than specific groups of Jews I shall not name.

And are he and I different? My mother is not Jewish, I never cared to convert. I’m a 30-year-old single who gets defensive and uncomfortable during dates when the question comes up: So your mom worked in Ramallah, as a Jew? No, she didn’t work there as a Jew. I’m a patrilineal mamzer, born out of wedlock to a Protestant Atheist mother. I am nothing, or at least nothing to this state where being a full Muslim or Bahai is still preferable to being half a Jew. I have found myself lying about this fact, so scared of losing a man I had begun to developed feelings for. Am I a rapist now? For being scared of admitting something I had never thought relevant, because I am looking for the same love, relationship, and happiness as all the “real” Jewish girls? And while all of the men I’ve met are too kind to say it, I’m sure that is why, in many cases, one date was all I got.

I’m a half-Jew, and I enjoyed my fling with that Arab. I’m not the only one in such a situation, neither is he.

Romeo & Juliet is happening all over this country minus the reconciliation part, because a Rabbinate thinks it gets to dictate to people not adhering to it, who they are and who they may love. And way too many people agree that what happens between two individuals of “hostile” sides, should concern the entire country. Meital, how can you date an Arab, Mahmoud, how can you date a Jew, Moshe, how can you date a half-Jew, Ruthie, how can you date a Gentile – you can’t, not without facing consequences love should never have to face. Does this truly feel right to anybody?

At least in Shakespeare’s tragedy, the pain endured by the love-driven Montague and the defiant Capulet led to reconciling the two feuding clans. Sadly in Israel such relationships only seem to inspire more hostility from their spectators, rather than point out the obvious: we are capable of unity. But we are even more capable of taking baseless offense in seeing it blossom. God forbid we’d all just allow ourselves to love and be loved.