Friday, July 3, 2009

Little Protests

Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, on the way to Israel, I glanced at the complementary magazine included in my flight on Jordanian Airlines. It was interesting because the first half was in English and the second half was in Arabic. The articles in one language were translated into the other language. I actually learned a few new Arabic words while glancing at an article in English, and then in Arabic. I kept it to make flash cards later. I digress. A map of the Middle East was situated between the two sections. As I was reading through the names of various countries in Arabic, I noticed something. The name Israel was not on the map. Only Gaza City and Jerusalem marked the area of present-day Israel.

How amazing. Israel was not born yesterday; it’s now over sixty-years old. How can a modern map overlook the state of Israel, especially one that is endorsed by a country who made peace with Israel decades ago? It represents the underlying feeling about Israel in the Arab world. It’s a small denunciation of a state that many Arabs today believe to be obstructing a lasting peace. The intentional absence of Israel on a modern map underlies a psyche that condemns Israel. As an outsider looking in, this absence represents strong, passionate feelings in the Arab World regarding the Palestinian Issue. As long as check-points operate in Palestine, Israel can forget about total acceptance from its neighbors in the Middle East. From this perspective, too many homes are demolished and too many settlements are built for Israeli to have its rightful place on a map in Jordan, much less Saudi Arabia.

There isn’t really much else the Arabs can do than to mount these small protests that may often go overlooked. Israel’s position today leaves little negotiating power to any Arab state, save for maybe Egypt, but even Egypt can’t force Israel’s hand. Israel is largely immune from external pressure in the Middle East to reflect on its policies and possibly make mutually beneficial compromises. Only the United States has that kind of power.

Another example of these mini-political demonstrations is on a phone card I recently bought in Ramallah. On it is a picture of the Dome of the Rock, and underneath it reads Jerusalem, Palestine. However, as we know, this holiest of holies mosque is located within the borders of present-day Israel, even if it is annexed land from the West Bank. It’s seems to be a defense mechanism to a reality that is very hard to comprehend for many Arabs, even after sixty years. This is a way for many to still throw rocks at Israeli tanks, albeit metaphorically. Everyday items like maps and phone cards are imbued with subtle references to the conflict, illustrating its deep-seated presence in Palestinian society (Jordan is around 60% Palestinian). The politics surrounding the conflict are pervasive and ubiquitous. I believe these minor acts of resistance will continue until a Palestinian state is established. Until then, the absence of such a state will be attributed by the Arab World to Israel’s unwillingness to come to the negotiation table.

No comments:

Post a Comment