We Levantines are forever lost in our stories. Stories that ruin our evenings and scold our mornings, stories that puncture the hours with pain and tears, that tear at the heart and arrest emotion. Stories that plead with the imagination to locate exits and coax the future into a rewrite.
Arab Life Blog
On April 26, 1988, throngs of us Arabs sat in our living rooms mesmerized as we watched Ted Koppel’s Nightline. That evening, the ABC news show held a town hall meeting in Jerusalem that brought together a panel of three Palestinians and three Israelis. Moderated by Koppel, the two teams laid out their clashing narratives.
Hamas attacks southern Israel on October 7, and the world as we knew it cracked.
So, now we spend our time counting breaches. Which ones will prove durable, which ones seismic?
Hard chore. Hard lessons learned from the 2011 revolts.
There is one breach that I find myself constantly perusing. I have the sense that it will very likely deepen and rip through the toughest presumptions that have long frozen the Israeli-Palestinian mythos.
It’s probably 1997, and I am sitting with a friend in a café in Beirut, not too far from Palestine; Palestine as a yearning, a dream, an idea, because that was all there was of it for him and me.
The encounter taught me the wonders of boundless passion and commitment–and the utter folly of them if left to run unschooled and wild.
In October 1973, we Ammanis covered our car lights in a deep indigo dye. It was a time of war, so we were advised to brownout for a couple of weeks. The Egyptian and Syrian armies had just launched a joint surprise assault against Israel. Jordan did not participate in the war, but we were told to brownout, and brownout we did.
I don’t remember having a sense of dread. I was still very young, but, like many in my generation, I had internalized our chronic jitters as, paradoxically, a normalcy of Arab life.
The end of summer is something, isn’t it? Thunderstorms and rain showers. The earthy scent in the air that puts you at peace with your angst if only for a little while. Relief from the heat and mild depression at the specter of school–again. That one never leaves you even decades after you got that diploma and bolted to your real life.
While in Amman last week, I sat on the porch of a friend’s on Friday for brunch. The first day of the weekend, unusually nice weather for August, French press coffee, home baked sour dough pita bread, omelet, foul and hummus, olives, the company of close friends, and all the time in the world to gab about everything and nothing.
People without a sense of irony are a wretched lot. They have no humor, no fun, are lousy conversationalists and even worse debaters, have no appreciation for nuance, and generally speaking are hypocrites of the worst kind: the high falutin’ one.
I can’t prove it, but I also suspect they are the overwhelming majority of humanity. I say this because the one essential virtue without which there can be no sense of irony in a person or a people is self-awareness: self-awareness of your history, your situation, its relation to that of others, your ambiguities, paradoxes, faults, fallibilities,…
Everything that needs to be said about the Beirut Port explosion on August 4 has been said. The suspicious circumstances that put the Ammonium Nitrate in hangar 12, the very likely reason for its presence there, the silence of multiple high, middle, and low level officials about it, the corruption it exposed in every nook and cranny of the port, and the collective guilt of the state and its resistance to a serious investigation. Debate still rages about Hezbollah’s culpability in storing the Nitrates, Israel’s culpability in causing the inferno, and mysterious deaths surrounding the case.
A flowless Mediterranean this morning, azure and marble like. A swim, I am sure I will replay in my mind for months to come. The heat has broken and a tender wind blows and sighs.
But this week somehow starts somber. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s nothing more than the ebb and flow of life’s fickle moods. Perhaps it’s something more. It’s as if the week’s tally is rigged to jolt.