The Ongoing Nakba: Andrew Haddad, a Palestinian Israeli with roots in the region for more than 500 years-part one

From my journal, interviews, letters, and other writing about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. And as in this case, people expelled during the Nakba who’ve found ways to resist and remain in Israel as citizens. These dispatches are based on my latest work in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019 and more recent writing. Intending to return to the region this spring, I’ve decided, because of the coronavirus crisis, to postpone my next visit until fall, 2020, assuming widespread travel can resume.

PHOTOS

Andrew Haddad, about being Palestinian

Interviewed and photographed on July 2, 2019 and interpretation written in March 2020 (Because of the Covid-19 threat, without guests, he needed to close his guesthouse, his only source of income.) This is part one.

A strange stillness lies over all the mountains and is drawn by hidden threads from within the empty village. An empty village; what a terrible thing! Fossilized lives! Lives turned to fossilized whispers in extinguished ovens, a shattered mirror, moldy blocks of dried figs and a scrawny dog, thin-tailed and floppy-eared and dark-eyed. At the same time–at the very same moment–a different feeling throbs and rises from the primordial depths, a feeling of victory, of taking control, of revenge, and of casting off suffering. You see empty houses, good for the settlement of our Jewish brethren who have wandered for generation upon generation. War! That was our war!

—Josef Weitz, land official of the Jewish National Fund and chairman of the first Transfer Committee, 1948

Nakba-Haifa-Palestine-Israel-_DSC4596

[Being Palestinian] is about our history and our story. It’s become part of our DNA. We actually suck it with our mother’s milk. We know that. It’s not fake. It’s our truth. We know who we are, why we are here and what happened. Even without anyone telling us, we know our identity, we can smell the air, we can taste the land, and we know the people. We are proud, and we cannot hide our core identity. It’s part of us. And we don’t want to redesign our DNA again. This is who we are and this is what we are and this is what we want to be—Palestinian.

To be Palestinian is not just a title. It’s not just the word. It’s beyond that.

And I think being Palestinian escalated more after the Nakba. If there had been no Nakba I think that we Palestinians would be regular people like everybody else. Like Tanzanians or Louisianans or Germans. It doesn’t matter. The word Palestine or Palestinian became only a title. Now it’s more than that.

I have relatives spread all over the world. All of them fled from here because of the Nakba. Actually, I was supposed to have fled because I’m the first generation after the Nakba.

Some of us fled because of the 1948 war. I was supposed to be a Palestinian refugee, to live in some camp in Syria or Lebanon because my father and my grandfather, they left. I don’t know. But I believe there was no other choice for them but to leave. And they left from Nazareth to Lebanon and then continued to Syria. But eventually they could come back to their homeland, their hometown, Nazareth, before it was captured [by the Israeli army]. So in that case, if the border had already closed, I suppose I would have been born in Syria or somewhere else. But I was born in Nazareth and I am a full Palestinian, born to a Palestinian family within the borders of Israel.

Nazareth mural
Nazareth’s mystery mural as an emblem of Palestinian resistance
The Israeli authorities have painted over a mural dedicated to the 1948 Nakba seven times – but local activists continue to repaint it, writes Gawain Mac Greigair.

And so I become an Israeli. And for a long time, nobody would tell us that we are Palestinians. We were just Arabs or Christians or Muslims or whatever. It took a while because the first generation was mostly afraid to speak out.

I remember as a kid we were told not to speak about politics or other controversial issues because even “the stones would hear.” So it was a type of mind control of our people during that era. And after that, we had no resources. Most of our resources were gone. So the only resource that we still had was our location and our mind.

The first, second and third generations after Nakba became more educated than the first. The only weapons we can control are our education and mind development. We began to understand the issue in a totally different way. So we struggled for our identity and existence. Now we see this country struggling against our will in a lot of the laws controlled by the majority. The last one, The National Law of Israel. What does that mean?

Nakba-Haifa-Palestine-Israel-_DSC4669

I am Israeli by citizenship, but Israeli citizenship is not part of my identity. Whether I am Christian, Muslim, Arab, Jewish, whatever, Israel has decided to put Jews and Judaism before democracy. Israel says it’s a Jewish democratic state, but it cannot be both democratic and favor Jews. I believe Israel should be a democratic state. Period. No more. No need for any identification more than that. If that were true, I will feel like an Israeli. If I lived in Canada, I’d feel like a Canadian, not an alien.

Let’s go back to 1967 and the Six-Day War when Israel took over the West Bank and Golan Heights. It’s called Naksa or Defeating Day.

Then a lot of Arab youth discovered that they have no hope here. So the Israelis start encouraging Arab youth to lead a better life outside Israel. Actually, my father’s family consists of seven brothers. Four of them, they are in Canada. They left Israel in 1968 and 1970 for a better life. So my family, more than 50 percent of it, is in Canada. Instead of being in their homeland. And that is true for a lot of families and communities here. If you take Beit Jala [part of Bethlehem] as an example in the West Bank, the majority of people originally from Beit Jala now live in Chile, not in Beit Jala. In Chile they actually have a football (soccer) team called Palestino. One of the best football teams in Chile. So we are just regular people, normal people, but we have no normal life here in Israel.

Palestino players.jpg

Why did you stay, not go with your brothers to Canada?

Actually, in the beginning, I thought to go. I made an application and I’m so happy that the Canadian government rejected me because I was poor.

I love this place. I love this land. I’m connected. My roots are here. The political situation here is a problem. But it cannot be like this forever. And that doesn’t mean that I want to demolish Israel, because I have to be careful using that word. But I want to change Israeli politics [to benefit all its] citizens. That’s my right as a citizen and as a law keeper. I’m not breaking the law if I say that I want Israel to be more democratic than it is now. I believe that I’m developing the state to a higher position, not lowering it to be an ethnic state. Now it’s semi-democratic, a Jewish Democratic state for Jews and a Jewish state for Arabs. So I do not understand this idea.

TO BE CONTINUED: HIS ANCIENT FAMILY AND HOW HE ATTEMPTS TO FOSTER CHANGE

LINKS

Op-Ed: Israel just dropped the pretense of equality for Palestinian citizens, by Yousef Jabereen (a Palestinian Israeli Knesset member), July 2018

Basic Law: Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People

Palestinian Internally Displaced Persons inside Israel: Challenging the Solid Structures by Nihad Boqa’i

These Jewish and Arab Israelis Are Creating a New Type of Grassroots Activism, by David B. Green (March 12, 2020) 

Still Locked in Conflict, Israelis and Palestinians Need Each Other To Fight COVID-19, by Daniel Estrin (NPR, March 26, 2020)

Welcome to Lockdown: COVID-19 quarantine and the Gaza experience, by Abdalhadi Alijla (March 20, 2020)

Haddad Guest House

The Rise of Palestinian Food by Ligaya Mishan (February 2020)

In Her Footsteps, by Rana Abu Fraiha, a documentary movie made in 2018 about a Palestinian family living in a Jewish Israeli town

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