The Ongoing Nakba: Andrew Haddad, One Land: Several Peoples-part three

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.

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

OCHA Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt) COVID-19 Emergency Situation Report 4 (7 – 13 April 2020)

2020 coronavirus pandemic in Israel+

PHOTOS

His Royal Highness the Emir Feisal, representing and acting on behalf of the Arab Kingdom of Hejaz, and Dr. Chaim Weizmann, representing and acting on behalf of the Zionist Organization, mindful of the racial kinship and ancient bonds existing between the Arabs and the Jewish people, and realizing that the surest means of working out the consummation of their national aspirations, is through the closest possible collaboration in the development of the Arab State and Palestine, and being desirous further of confirming the good understanding which exists between them, have agreed upon the following articles…

Faisal-Weizmann Agreement

Educate to change the mindset—the “DNA”—of Palestinians and Israelis about sharing the land, everyone with equal rights

Listen. If you ask me what is my dream or my vision for solving this problem [of diverse people sharing one land], there is no place for two states between the sea and the river. We know as Palestinians we could not throw out the Jews. That’s a fact of life. And Israelis could not kick out the Palestinians. Also, that’s a fact of life. So there two ways to struggle—fight [using violence] or start thinking differently.

On the lightrail, thru much of Jerusalem, Israelis and Palestinians riding together-IMG_4955.jpg
On the light rail, thru much of Jerusalem, Israelis and Palestinians ride together, 2019

The Israelis tried to dominate for 70 years and they could not succeed because altho they have stubborn heads, we are their cousins. In fact, before that we were brothers, Isaac and Ishmael. We have the same stupid heads. We are stubborn too.

So we can share. We can make one state for two people. And it doesn’t matter who is the ruler. I don’t care if his name is Bibi Netanyahu [former and maybe future prime minister of Israel] or Mahmoud Abbas [president of the State of Palestine and Palestinian National Authority, mainly ruling the West Bank but not Gaza] or anybody else. The state should be a tolerant state. Not ethnic and not religious. It should be a state for all its citizens, period. 

Why isn’t that happening? A lot of people are calling for that.

Because, listen, if you suggest a state for all its citizens to Arabs—local Arabs, Palestinian Arabs here [in Israel] and in the West Bank—what percentage do you think would accept that idea? Ask the Jews or the Israeli Zionists the same question. I am sure that on the Arab side you will find more acceptance for the idea, maybe in two digits, while on the Israeli Jewish side it would be one digit only.

Why? Because Jewish Israelis have the support of the most powerful state in the world. And now your president. So why should they? (Even tho I’m not a capitalist and I’m not against the West, I love to drink Coca Cola and I drive a GM car, but I’ll still against one-sided USA support.)

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Andrew pours himself a drink

We have to change the idea, the DNA. How can we change the DNA? Look, not by power, not by force, not by domination. The only way to do that is thru education. Both sides. I’m not blaming the Israelis or that I’m all in favor of the Palestinians. But I believe that it would take time, at least one generation minimum to start to educate in schools.

Teach the Palestinians or the Arabs that they are not only cousins of the Israelis, but brothers. Much closer than cousins. And the same thing to teach the Jews. Everyone has to understand this.

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Downtown Hafia, remains of a mosque, 2006, photo by Skip Schiel

The idea would be that the only difference is religion, not any kind of…. So the name of the game is education. We have to stop educating our kids, both sides, about hatred, about difference, about superiority. I’m worth no more than any other Jew in the world. But at the same time, he is not worth more than me.

Do your son and your wife share your views?

Yes.

How have you educated your son? Because he seems very knowledgeable. [His son recently graduated from university.]

Yes, he is. As I told you, the only weapon we have is education. I told him, listen, you hear whatever you want. You decide whatever you wish. You’ll have to be open to multiple ideas and you have to build up your personality.

An exercise practicing making I statements--When you..., I feel... Ramallah Friends School-DSC_9643
Conflict resolution class, Ramallah Friends School, 2007

You’ll need to know two things. First, you are a human being, and that’s above everything else. You’ll have to treat everybody as a human being. And second, why we are here. The rest is up to you. I never told him to be more Palestinian. That’s up to him. I told him you have to learn, to get an education. That’s the only source of power.

I don’t want to fight anybody. I don’t want to fight [violently]. I read that war doesn’t kill those who are right; it kills those who are left, the survivors. The war will do nothing for the dead [right or wrong]. Any future war will take those who have remained. I don’t want to be with that pain. I don’t want anybody to be hurt.

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Mediterranean Sea, near Haifa, 2006, photo by Skip Schiel

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But at the same time, I don’t want to be hurt all the time. I want my rights. I want my people back. I don’t understand why Jews won’t accept that idea. If they claimed for 2000 years they were exiled from here and they want to get back to their homeland, if they dreamed about it for 2000 years, how can they ask me to stop dreaming for 70 years? It is just yesterday. We still have people who have their own house keys. They can remember even the names of the street and on which floor they lived.

Ahmad Ali Hawad-IMG_1648.jpg
Ahmad Ali Hawad, originally from the destroyed village of Ellar, now lives in Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem, Occupied West Bank of Palestine

And you’re talking about a historical issue of 2000 years [Jewish history]. I don’t know if it’s true or not, because it’s actually a biblical thing. It’s not a historical thing.

And I say, OK, if you want to claim that. Then nobody can ask me not to ask for our rights, in particular, the right of return. This has to be for all the Palestinians who want to come back. I think these expelled Palestinians are right. They were forced by power to flee from here and now it’s time to get them back, to make peace between people. They should not be trapped in some foreign places. And they say 22 countries are Arab countries, etc., etc. No, we have one Arab country. We have 22 divided semi countries that the British and French decided about. And we have one homeland. It’s an Arab world.

Arab Israel world map.jpg

You know what? Even the Jews living within them. I have no problem. I don’t care if a Jewish person would live in Ramallah or in Nablus.

How are you treated by Jewish Israelis here [in Haifa]?

Listen, here in Haifa, it’s totally different than in other places. We have to admit that. The people here, the atmosphere here is totally more tolerant than in other places. But still, you can find sometimes that we are second-class citizens.

Could you give an example?

Very easy. Very simple. The anthem says nothing to me. The flag does not belong to me. The law that named itself the national law of Israel. That put me in second degree or third or I don’t know. I’m talking about a civil right. I’m not talking national rights now because I am a citizen. So I have the right to say that.  

Gaza-Boston-Jewish Voice for Peace-5956
2014 (Boston)

Now, if Israel says that Israel is a Jewish and Democratic state, I’m sorry, I’m not a Jew and I don’t want to have any religion, but I am a citizen. How about that? Is it my land? Is it my country? Is it my state or not?

They said that I don’t do all the duties, which duty? What duty do you think that I’m going to fulfill?

The army?

Yeah, but I didn’t choose to not serve in the army. Nobody asked me to serve. You declare that the Arabs can’t serve in the army. So I’m breaking no law. If I’m not breaking any law, the Israelis have no right to take my rights.

Your guesthouse—getting permits, paying taxes. Do you ever experience discrimination?

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Haddad Guest House, Haifa, both photos courtesy of Haddad Guest House

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No. In that case, no. No, because there’s a lot of bureaucracy….

What about your customers, your clientele? Would there be Israeli Jews who come here and hear the name Haddad? “We saw your name, sir. Sorry I don’t want to stay here.”

You never know but I’m on the safe side. You know why? Because that name is also Jewish. A lot of them, they think that I’m an Algerian Jew or Tunisian Jew because it’s a very common name. But I explain to them that I’m an Arab. And the name actually means blacksmith. Yeah. So, you know, I have a British first name so I can change the family name to blacksmith. And I become British.

And your son is Aseem?

 No, Essam.

And that means a proud boy?

Proud and independent.

Yeah. OK. And you’re Andrew.

Yeah. Because of my grandfather. So it’s a heritage thing, you know? And I am the first male born from my father. And he was the first one to his father. So it’s the custom that he named his son after his father. And the same thing is true for my son. And he’s done the same thing for his son. So actually, I have a grandson. His name is Andrew. 

(From the Greek, Andreas, meaning manly, strong, courageous, warrior.)

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Haifa, 2013

NEXT: Andrew Haddad—I’m a human being. I am an Arab Palestinian by sector. By faith I am a Christian/Catholic from Haifa, and an Israeli citizen.

LINKS

Historical Memory Project on Haifa

Coronavirus in Palestine: Ramadan, and the joy that comes with it, could be just what we need (April 21, 2020)

Voices Across the Divide, by Alice Rothchild (2013)
A powerful documentary movie and oral history project by Alice Rothchild & Sharon Mullally exploring the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through rarely heard personal stories—interviews with Nakba and Naksa survivors
Now available for free streaming at Kanopy (thru your local library)

Turning Points in Middle Eastern History, by Eamonn Gearon
A lecture series beginning with Mohamed and the beginning of Islam to the fall of the Ottoman Empire, a useful background to any work about Palestine-Israel
Available thru the streaming service (thru your local library), Kanopy, or for purchase

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