Don't wish the rainbow on Palestine
I have always suspected that most South Africans do not understand what racism is. There is a disconnect between what happened in the past and our experience of today. I feel almost that we wiped the memory of racism’s definition as according to our experience.
And we want to build the word anew.
And by doing that we have unknowingly normalised past behaviours. The monster that is the racist project that South Africa endeavoured on for a few centuries has not been dragged out into the yard and given the thrashing of its life.
I was reminded of this the other day when someone made parallels between South Africa and Palestine. He said, not in so many words, that Palestine should learn from South Africa how to forgive and find common ground with the oppressor. That was the only peaceful solution.
The Palestinians who have already lost 88% of their land, whose very sacred places suffocate them with the stench of their helplessness as their children lay dying at the feet of a remorseless and ruthless black hole. Israel wants to swallow Palestine whole.
To have encroached so much on Palestinian land and to then go on a genocidal rampage against them while they are squashed between a hostile land and sea – now given 10 minutes to pack up your life and evacuate, before a bomb drops on your head.
And another bomb awaits wherever you run to, if the cute young soldier does not decide to while away the time with some target practice.
The bullets danced with her a gory dance of death as they landed on her 13-year-old body, before the earth jealousy pulled her into a motherly embrace – a kiss of dust on her lips. Never to let her go. No more terrors and horrific dreams. No more hiding in the cupboard after every boom that made the windows shake.
That time when her mother never made it home was the first. The rattles always correctly predicted death and destruction. Whole families ripped out of the pages of existence. A rattling soundtrack to the horrors in her dreams. She did not have to wake up screaming any more.
She was joining her mother in Jannah, where martyrs reside. She had almost made it to the United Nations safe house. There was supposed to be a ceasefire. But all that did not matter now. And she would not have to live with the memory of the gory contents of the plastic bag her father carried home the evening of the day her mother disappeared. At least he had found her brother. He could be given a dignified burial. When dignity and integrity is the only way you can hold on to your sanity and not be othered by humanity.
“The only way we will achieve peace in Palestine is if Hamas stops shooting rockets into Israel. Israel has the right to defend herself.” “Hamas uses Palestinian children as human shields.” “Hamas is the one who is murdering those children.” “We are the victims here; can you not see?” “As the chosen people who were persecuted by the Nazis, we hold exclusive rights to do the same to others.” “No suffering can be bigger than the Holocaust, so …” “You are being anti-Semitic.” “Ask yourself why you hate Jews so much; have we not suffered enough?”
It begins to look more and more like a shirking of moral responsibility in a spoilt bid to keep all the toys. But this is not kindergarten. This temper tantrum costs lives and livelihoods, living spaces and places of learning.
And that ever-diminishing size of Palestine, until it is squeezed out like toothpaste. Or the last drops of hand soap to wash away the stinky memory of the hopeful eyes of the children of Gaza. To purify and make anew. A fresh start, a clean slate for the chosen people. All sins washed away in the blood of little children. “Israel has the right to defend itself.”
These are the conditions under which Israel is willing to negotiate. Israel is not an apartheid state. Israel has not committed war crimes. Hamas has been hiding itself and its weapons everywhere there are civilians, children especially. Schools. Hospitals. Mosques. Homes of the disabled. Homes of all Palestinians. Ambulances. Media vehicles. Parks. Graveyards.
The space between the media helmet clearly marked TV, in yellow, and a journalist’s scalp. Somewhere at the beach where the little boys were playing soccer in front of a hotel full of journalists from all over the globe.
You have 10 minutes to pack up your whole life before we drop a bomb on your head. You don’t want to be the one left holding that plastic bag either. Or screaming to Allah and shaking the only half of your child you could retrieve. Screaming, begging Allah to wake him up and take you instead. Begging for the mercy of Allah because you have found no mercy in the world.
Two hundred and fifty countries looking from the sidelines, commentators in a game of slaughter. Two hundred and fifty leaders doing nothing, while the people burn the streets of their conscience. Humanity is alive but the head is rotten.
And the people are tired of being the flame, the spark, the sun that sets fire to the belly of the beast. People just want to live their lives in peace. “Why can’t Palestine just stop?” “Have they not lost enough?” “How many more of their children must die before they realise that war is not the answer?” “Israel has the right to defend herself.”
A crock of a lie – even the babies know that Israel has no right to Palestine. Maybe that is why the children have to die; they know the truth. And one day some of them will grow up and grow angry. That is why you must pluck the tree at its roots, lest its sapling one day throws a stone at the bulletproof screen of your war machine.
The plight of the Palestinians has left me feeling very sore. My heart is heavy with remembering. A memory is threatening to burst through my bubble.
I sit and wonder if they will go through what South Africa is going through after they sign this peace agreement sanctioned by the world. At some point Palestine will have to yield. They cannot keep the fires of the revolution burning with the bodies of their children. At some point they will have to yield.
And I wonder if in their peacetime they will have to keep the fires of the peace treaty burning with the acceptance that violence will be perpetually visited on their bodies through poverty, in an animal farm where some are more equal than others. A continuation of the apartheid project. That the poverty will then be used to other them. Apart. Apartheid. Apart from humanity. An othering they cannot escape as long as the majority of them remains poor.
If you have not won the war, you are at the mercy of the victor. In peacetime, you will be constantly required to prove your humanity, while not taking things so seriously when said humanity is mocked. It is not the oppressor who must change. It is you. You must be happy with less. You must make the oppressor like you, so he feels unthreatened by you. Do not make unreasonable demands. Caesar never gives back what he takes.
Why must you bring up the past; are you racist? Move on – you are free now; do not spoil life for the rest of us. Make the oppressor love your quirky ways. Work hard. Pull up your socks. Speak well. Be nice and be happy and you might sit at our table. It is admirable when you are happy with the little that you got and you greet the world with a smile. Do not raise your voice. Practise humility; there is no reason to be angry. Why are you angry? Gosh, you are so bitter! Move on, you are free now.
And smile, you are so beautiful when you smile. You look like a goddess, like that rain queen. But gosh, you are so superstitious. I mean, how stupid of those Marikana miners to believe muti will make them invincible to bullets. I’m sorry, Ntombi, but this is the 21st century. That stuff your people do belongs in the Dark Ages.
But you’re not like that; you’re normal like us. Can I touch your hair? You have such strange bums – giggle. Oh, I have a bright idea. Why don’t you help Julia and me to dress like our dear Mavis for the costume party tonight? You do not mind, do you, Ntombi? It would be nice to do an African theme. We are all Africans, right? … Right?
Cut to black.
Simphiwe Dana is a performer and writer