“A weapon in the hand of a shithead can hurt,” warns a Palestinian adage. The other day I found myself struggling to translate this crudity to Hebrew as I tried to get out of a speaking commitment at the home of a friend in Rehovot. I had planned to take the train but then chickened out; I rented a special taxi. The driver, a fellow villager and a teacher doubling as a taxi driver to make ends meet, served as a witness for some of my wildest claims in addressing my liberal Zionist audience at my friend’s home. He even backed me up on my campaign for a single secular and democratic state west of the Jordan River.
On our way to Rehovot he proved to have perfected the role of his adopted second profession, keeping me fully engaged with his intimate family affairs for the two-hour drive. He has two just-graduated physician sons and a third on the way. He is building homes in the village for all three and plans to export their professional skills to Germany where they don’t have to deal with all the stumbling blocks Israel puts in their way. And he is engaging all three to locals so as to guarantee their return home once they make enough money. On the way home I slept. Shitheads with knives and automatic weapons paraded across my dreams.
This morning my friend called and praised my wisdom for my taxi choice. Hadn’t I heard? A soldier had shot up the very cabin in the train I would likely have taken from Haifa. He apparently was hallucinating and saw a band of Palestinians landing through the cabin’s roof. A village friend called to tell me the same news. With my clear Arabic features I shouldn’t dismiss the matter lightly, he advised. Hadn’t I seen the TV news about the incident at the Ikea branch in the North? It was a four-layered comedy of errors all based on imagined Arabs. A not-so-Aryan-looking Jewish criminal wielding a knife went around looking for Arabs to stab, a not-so-outlandish preventive step given the national mindset. One Palestinian escaped. Our shithead wasn’t about to let another one escape. Alas, the guy turned out to be a Mizrahi Jew. He was promptly evacuated to the hospital. No one let him bleed to death and no one shouted at him: “Moot, ya ibn eshsharmouta! (Die, you son of a whore! Give him a bullet in the head!)” And no one stopped the emergency medical team from reaching him. Because by this time he had been identified as a Jew. But at the same split second that the essential life-saving realization was reached another mistake was taking place: An alert guard who saw the stabbing concluded that the criminal wielding the knife was an Arab; of course, he deserved to die. But the guard was such a poor shot that even at close range he hit an innocent Jewish bystander. Since he, the guard, was Jewish, he was questioned and released.
At least in the town of Bat Yam a brawl between religious and secular Jews the “stuff” didn’t pile up so deep. One Jewish man knowingly stabbed the other and it was only the police who suspected that Arabs were involved and shot the attacker wounding him fatally.
Which reminds me: Didn’t this whole intifada start with the fear of Israel appropriating the Aqsa Mosque grounds in whole or in part for the religious Zionists? That whole serious issue has receded to the background, almost forgotten along with the firebombing of the Dawabsheh family and the death of three out of the four members off the family. And the fact that the Israeli security apparatus knows the killers but hasn’t apprehended them.
“And if they were to be apprehended, what do you think will happen to them?” my village friend asks. He then answers his own question: “They will be found to have suffered from temporary insanity and get light prison sentences from which the president will pardon them on humanitarian grounds.”
“No pardoning for the dead Ethiopian man in Beer Shiva though,” I say alluding to the new rumor.
With the press gag order on the details we are left with unconfirmed reports from witnesses and these paint another comedy of errors, hilarious if it weren’t so sad: An armed Bedouin veteran of the IDF shot up the place at the city bus station killing a soldier. Another veteran, an Ethiopian man, was executed by a guard for looking too much like an Arab. Some versions of this rumor add a couple more layers to this bit of Netanyahu’s handiwork. The “stuff” continues to pile up. By the time I sat to finish this the official news in print outshines the rumors. No veterans were involved; one solder was killed by the attacker; the innocent bystander was Eritrean and not Ethiopian; he was lynched and it is not certain if he died from the bullet wounds or from being attacked by the crowd while lying unconscious.
Which brings up the current thinking on Israa Abed, the Nazarene woman who survived having her body riddled with six shots for raising her hand with what turns out to be a pair of sunglasses. She had deep psychological problems, it is now argued by the executioners. “Otherwise, how could she have lunged at armed Israelis manning the checkpoint with the sharp end of her sunglasses?” my friend agrees.
“And did you know what my shithead son went and did?” my friend asks relieved after a long night of worrying. Coming home from an extended weekend vacation in Taba with his family, the son developed car trouble. Fortunately it happened at a rest stop where a resident of a neighboring Jewish settlement in Galilee offered to give three children and their mother a ride home while the father waited for the tow truck.
“Can you imagine?” my friend marvels at his son’s carelessness. “When he called home it turned out he hadn’t taken a photo of the man, his address or even his car license number!”
My friend is a sane man. In fact, when I am abroad and in time of trouble I always turn to him as a sounding board to get a feel for the prevailing wind in our community.
“But your daughter-in-law is an educated, smart woman. She has a mobile phone. Why didn’t you give her a call?”
“You have a point. But I was worried she may answer in Arabic and upset her driver. You know, all of them carry their guns now.”
“Are we changing roles now?” I wondered. “It is they who have the dog-kicker paranoia complex, those who have the habit of kicking dogs usually develop a fear of dogs.” I shared with him the guilt admissions of an honest Israeli:
In the event of my death in the current wave of terrorism, in the event that a terrorist, male or female, runs me over or stabs me, I would like to announce in advance that my final words are:
I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner. Really. What took you so long? Countless times, while passing a construction site on one of the city streets during the quiet, early hours of the morning, I’ve wondered why one of the Palestinian laborers there didn’t grab a drill bit or shovel, a saw or a hammer, and murder me. […]
It’s almost required, when someone wants to murder you, to say that he doesn’t deserve a thing other than a bullet between the eyes. But that’s what the hummus eaters say, the people for whom hummus symbolizes coexistence in this binational country. It’s an entirely bogus and false kind coexistence.
For hummus eaters, the chickpea spread represents commerce with the Palestinians, the good life here in the Israeli consumer society that buys their hummus. The hummus brotherhood. […]
And if my murderers also die, I apologize to them at this time, in advance; not because I deserved to die, and not because they have the right to kill me, but so my death is worth something, so it has some value, some significance, no matter how small. I have no God. I don’t need the Temple Mount. I have no problem living with the Palestinians as full equals in a binational state or as a peace-loving neighbors in my country and next to their own. What use would I have for revenge on my behalf after my death? I apologize for my paltry role in the injustice of the occupation. Even after my death.
“Extend that logic a bit further and no Israeli can fall asleep till they’ve finished off the last Palestinian,” I told my friend.
“What is the world coming to?!” my American wife says summarizing the news from home. “Two shark attacks on Oahu’s swimming beaches in one day, one of them in Waikiki, no less.”
Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh is author of the recently published short-story collection Chief Complaint: A Country Doctor’s Tales of Life in Galilee (Just World Books, 2014) and the memoir A Doctor in Galilee: The Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel (Pluto Press, 2008).
Related Article: Chief Complaint: A Palestinian Doctor in the Galilee.