North Africa, West Asia

The elephant at the state of the "upper-side"

The elephant was the one who did the act of balancing on the wheel; the master was the one who taught it that trick

Ali Ghaith
30 November 2018



Photo by Pavel Nekoranec on Unsplash. No attribution required. “What are you doing here? Israelis don't wait in line,” the young TSA officer at Ben Gurion airport of Tel Aviv told me in an elusive attitude on my way to an international conference held in Morocco.

I decided to write about this on the way back from the conference. It was a United Nations event to discuss the situation in Jerusalem after 50 years of occupation, and 25 years after Oslo accords. However, as one of the expert speakers pointed out, the conference's tagline should have read: Jerusalem after 70 years of occupation, which is also valid.

The number 70 is a nice-looking number, perhaps only to me, as 7 is my lucky number. For Palestine, the number is not so fortunate. At that conference, my affinity towards the number 7 was deflated somewhat.

I was invited to submit a paper on “The Politics of Education in East Jerusalem.” Nevertheless, at certain moments, I was galloped into the overarching topic and stomped under the feet of the “elephant in the room”. I found myself asking the Palestinian in me: Is this happening again? Are they still discussing the repercussions of occupation? What good would it do? Why does it feel that the international community is still powerless in front of that elephant?

If you step into the grandiose colourful tent, find your seat and wait for the show to start, and then comes the ringleader followed by the confused elephant with its cheerful attire. Then, the poor elephant mounts the wheel and balances itself with the help of its master. One would be entertained, and you may clap and laugh in appreciation. Did you appreciate the elephant or the master?

The elephant was the one who did the act of balancing on the wheel; the master was the one who taught it that trick. The elephant followed the rules set by the master; and the master had to emphasise his role as the leader, or else he wouldn't convince the elephant to follow the guidelines. You wouldn't want a dapper elephant losing its balance and falling on you, especially if you were sitting in the first few rows in that circus.

Then Israel might be the elephant in this particular analogy

If we assume that occupation was the elephant, and since the word "occupation" is a noun, then there must be an occupier, which is evident in our case: Israel. Then Israel might be the elephant in this particular analogy.

Likewise, the TSA officer at Ben Gurion airport touched upon the elephant in the room: Israelis don't wait in this line. He confessed a statement that was very apparent to him and was flabbergasted that the group of young Israeli lads standing close to me in that line did not get the memo. That line was for Arabs only, Palestinians to be specific.

That officer was enforcing a rule that was given to him by his superiors; he didn't invent the law of diverting Palestinians into a different line where they will be relentlessly examined. He didn't develop the concept of profiling Palestinians in a rounding-up manner. He also didn't create the concept of temporary Travel Documents (La Sei passé) that are exclusively issued to Palestinian Jerusalemites, where it states that these individuals are Jordanian citizens who are residing in Israel on a visa that is renewed every few years. He, the poor TSA officer, didn't come up with the law that if a Palestinian Jerusalemite fails to prove that their centre of life is Jerusalem, they will lose their Israeli residency status and they would have to be deported to the Palestinian Territories and lose everything they have in Jerusalem. He knows that Israelis do not stand in that line; it wasn't their place. They go straight to the "Upper-side."

He spilt the truth, the oblivious young man. He, however, was following the master's lead. He had a supervisor, though; I saw her guiding him now and then. I had a couple of hours to kill while I was waiting for them to take out and carefully inspect every item in my carry-on bag. I should have gotten rid of the used tissue papers I put in the outer side of my bag, I have sensitive sinuses!

However, his supervisor reports to someone higher, and they to others. The line finally stops at - the Israeli government as an entity.

While I was waiting for my turn to take the panel and present my paper, I had a thought: Does “Israel” report to a ringleader?

Because in my logic: the elephant in that conference room was occupation and occupation is Israel, then Israel must have a master who ensures "everyone stays in line," including Israel itself. However, who is the master my dear gullible TSA officer?

I'm sure he felt powerful at the moment he directed his brethren towards the other side. He felt even more dominant when he replied to my question of when I should expect the intricate search to be finished by saying that I needed to board my plane in 20 minutes, which was close to impossible. I wanted to tap on his shoulder gently and spill the truth I see: You're not as powerful as you think, my dear. You're doing the works of someone else who is much higher in the hierarchy, who thinks and strategises for you to come and profile Ali and the other common people on the “Lower-side.”

The Israeli government, which is exercising punitive measures on the Palestinian people, and dismisses them at every given opportunity to make sure they know who's in power, must have a higher power that has specific motives and leadership style. I believe that this entity wants to have an anchor in the core of the Middle East, at the very centre. Israel has garnered the upfront and unequivocal backing of the most powerful country in the world for many years, and has been granted another golden ticket by the friend of Zion to commemorate its existence even further.

The latest decision by Mr Trump has proved to the world, and to me while I was sitting at that conference hall in Rabat, that America does what it wants, and it wants Israel to gain more power. And rightly so, the decision has motivated the Israeli government to upsurge its aggregation techniques upon Palestinians, especially those who have a probationary status in what Israel has captured by force.

Following the American blessing regarding Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Municipality has started a campaign to unite West and East Jerusalem in exact terms; not the superficial method it had adopted in the past. Because despite enforcing Palestinian Jerusalemites to adhere to paying their dues in the form of property taxes (Arnona), and national insurance fees to receive social and health benefits, their neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem were underdeveloped and shabbier than Jewish districts in the western part of the city. Although a Palestinian and an Israeli pays the same amount to the authorities, they receive vastly different services.

However, in a new turn of events, and after the American decision, the Israeli authorities have decided to inject $560 million through a five-year-plan to shrink the gap between East and West Jerusalem in three areas: infrastructure, education, and women's enrolment in the workforce. The three categories seem well-meaning to the untrained in Jerusalem’s affairs. However, for Palestinians who have past experiences in the actions of Israeli authorities throughout the years, they received the news with a grain of salt and a nod of despair.

These investments could have manifested when the Palestinians have called for equality of services provided to them by the authorities. Israel has also been dismissive of the international community's plead to rectify Palestinian Jerusalemites' livelihood in the city. Now, and in close proximity to Trump's decision, the authorities have decided to take action. That only means one thing: Israel was waiting for the green light from its ally, who happens to be the strongest country in the world, and where the latter has made itself clear on its stand regarding the Palestinians, especially recently, through the succession of veto decisions. Lastly, was the veto against an almost-unanimous UN statement regarding protecting Palestinians following the Gaza shootings on the fence in light of the Great March of Return.

One would ponder upon the following: Are we ready now to confirm that the U.S. government is the ringleader and Israel is its tool on the ground? Do we need more proof of the sweet alliance that was formed before World War II?

Could we suggest that the U.S. had noticed an entity in need for a "safe" zone and decided to use its need for the former's agenda of having a trusted extremity in the Middle East? Could we extend our creative streak and confirm the fact that the U.S. fuels Israel with its weaponry stash?

Now, the elephant has concluded the show, the master has basked in the glory of his achievement, the people have clapped, laughed and left, but the elephant is back in its cage feasting on an extra meal of peanuts awaiting its next appearance.

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