“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”
— Faye Travers (The Painted Drum, Louise Erdrich)
My interview with Saleh Bakri!
Sheree Joseph went behind the scenes at the Arab Film Festival Australia to meet the screen-stopping Palestinian actor who captured the revolutionary spirits – and hearts – of every opening night attendee in Sydney.
‘Where are you, Saleh?’
Festival Directors Fadia and Mouna call out to the audience where Saleh Bakri is embedded, one of the main actors from the opening night film When I Saw You.
‘Here!’ he calls out, jumping up and jostling down towards the stage microphone. He appears to be a man of few words and greets the crowd briefly before opting to dedicate his brief time to the people of Gaza, asking everyone to stand for a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the massacre taking place in Gaza, until recently.
I bowed my head and thought instantly of a poem from the great and inimitable Mahmoud Darwish..
‘What is beautiful…
View original 2,525 more words
My mum keeps ringing me frantically after reading these, so I’m going to stipulate that sometimes they are part fiction with bits of truth. This is one of those times. Stop calling me ma, I’m fine.
‘Is this lift working?’ I ask the cafe guy.
‘Are you sure?’
‘You’ve been waiting 10 seconds’
‘It could be broken. How do you know it’s not broken?’
‘It’s definitely working’
‘I don’t know about that, the light isn’t coming on’
The lift arrives.
‘Yeah the light was broken’
‘Do you even lift, bro?’
‘I was talking to the lift’
Talking to inanimate objects, off to a flying start.
Inside the lift. It moves slowly and stops. The women behind me giggle and laugh,
‘Oh no we’re stuck! Haha! Oh dear, imagine if we were stuck and we just fell straight through the building to the floor!’
WHAT THE HELL? Are you fucking kidding me, who planted these women here, this must be a joke, I was being metaphorical about the lift but now I’m really worried about it.
I don’t like being stuck in tight spaces with humans.
The lift opens. A little girl bounds in, holding a balloon.
She’s in my way.
I have no time for balloons.
I have to fix my brain.
‘What? No reclining chair? What if I was just here for the reclining chair?
‘Tell me about yourself
‘Where to begin?’
She smiles and nods. Tough question.
‘I’m a girl’
She nods. That obvious hey?
‘OK I can get all of this from the form you filled out’
I word vomit all over her carpet floor; all the things I haven’t said in 8 years come spilling out. I throw all the broken pieces of me onto the floor and nod to them, as though she’ll know how to put them back together. There you go, you won’t find that on the form.
What is she writing? Is she writing that I came here 27 years too late?
Why didn’t she take me seriously when I told her my depression used to sit in my hand?
This is bullshit.
I didn’t mean to say ‘yes’ so emphatically to the question, ‘do I drink’
Lie about marijuana, she doesn’t need to know everything.
I take it back.
I take it all back.
My brain is fine.
Don’t ask me about that. Why did I tell her that? I hope she won’t ask me about that other thing.
I worry about each question.
‘Tell me about your family’
‘Have you got 5 million hours?’
I point to the broken parts of me on the floor.
‘Look at what I used to be’
‘Tell me about that recurring pain in your heart?’
‘Who told you about that?’
‘It’s all over your face’.
‘I can’t kill it’
‘You’re not supposed to kill it – you need your heart’
‘I didn’t even think of that! What if I killed the wrong part?’
‘How long does it last when it happens?’
‘Oh an hour before bed, but it usually fades into sleep, if I can sleep’
‘That’s another thing’
‘That’s another thing’
I don’t sleep.
And another thing.
I say that a lot.
There are so many things.
‘That’s all we have time for’
Take all my money. I’m not fixed yet.
What do you mean I have to come back regularly?
I bend down and collect myself, gathering and piling the pieces on top of one another in a heap; that time, this time, those times.
‘I don’t think you understand how broken I am’, I whisper.
‘Cheque, savings or credit?’
Dr. Bigelow: So you took a chance on being happy, even though you knew that later on you would be sad.
B: And now… you’re sad.
B: So… what’s the problem?
L: I’m too sad…. Look, I liked the feeling of being in love with her. I liked it. But now she’s gone and I miss her and it sucks. And I didn’t think it was going to be this bad, and I feel like, why even be happy if it’s just going to lead to this, you know? It wasn’t worth it.
B: You know, misery is wasted on the miserable.
B: You know, I’m not entirely sure what your name is, but you are a classic idiot. You think spending time with her, kissing her, having fun with her, you think that’s what it was all about? That was love?
B: THIS is love. Missing her, because she’s gone. Wanting to die…. You’re so lucky. You’re like a walking poem. Would you rather be some kind of a fantasy? Some kind of a Disney ride? Is that what you want? Don’t you see? This is the good part. This is what you’ve been digging for all this time. Now you finally have it in your hand, this sweet nugget of love, sweet, sad love, and you want to throw it away. You’ve got it all wrong.
L: I thought this was the bad part.
B: No! The bad part is when you forget her, when you don’t care about her, when you don’t care about anything. The bad part is coming, so enjoy the heartbreak while you can, for God’s sakes. Pick up the dog poop, would you please? Lucky sonofabitch. I haven’t had my heart broken since Marilyn walked out on me, since I was 35 years old. What I would give to have that feeling again…. You know, I’m not really sure what your name is, but you may be the single most boring person I have ever met. No offense. Give me my dog. Come here. You…. Don’t fall down.
I get approached in the street quite often when walking alone, usually with my headphones in. Sometimes during the day, sometimes at night, always the attention is unwanted and I get flustered and try my best to get away, sometimes I can do this easily, sometimes I can’t. The worst of these stories was an elderly man with a disfigured face, who followed me to the train station and onto the train, tried to give me his number and mentioned that he knew where I lived. right after insinuating about how he had ‘taken care of’ his ex-wife and the man she cheated on him with.
The fear of leaving the house followed me for an entire year until I eventually moved away.
In Barcelona, it took me three days before I could leave the house, after a man physically attacked me in the street.
So forgive me if I am sensitive to my personal space when walking alone.
A few months ago while crossing the bridge, a guy appeared right in front of me, startling me, as they always do, and said; ‘I’m sorry I was just walking past you and I thought, I need to tell this girl that I really like her look – you’re so exotic – where are you from? Are you Spanish?’
I said no, I’m not and tried to keep walking but he kept following me. Eventually I got rid of him but I remembered him for his distinct accent which sounded South African but he had said was actually English.
Today, lo and behold, the exact same guy approached me and said the exact same thing.
‘hello I was walking past and I just wanted to tell you that I love your look – are you South American?’
‘I’ve seen you before. You’ve done this to me before.’
‘No that’s not right, it must have been someone else’
‘No, it was you. That accent’
‘It’s English but I get offended when people say it sounds Irish’
‘YOU SAID THAT LAST TIME TOO’
I ran away, perplexed. Am I being punked? What are the odds of that happening twice?
So many times, so many times I am walking and my space is invaded by these strangers, hoping something they say will penetrate through the barriers.
‘You look like you’re enjoying that song, what are you listening to?’
‘I just wanted to tell you how beautiful you are, I don’t want anything else!’
‘But do you want to go out with me sometime?’
‘Hey you should be smiling with that pretty face!’
Let me save you the effort.
This is not a meet cute scene. I would like to not be standing here talking to you in the rain. This is my space. You have not earned the right to invade this space when I am unguarded and vulnerable.
WARNING: MAYBE DON’T PLAY THIS GAME LITERALLY OK*
DRINK EVERY TIME THEY SAY ‘WE DO NOT TARGET CIVILIANS’
DRINK EVERY TIME THE IDF KILLS AN INNOCENT CHILD (BUT DON’T DIE OF ALCOHOL POISONING ON DAY 2).
DRINK EVERY TIME SOMEONE SAYS ‘BUT THE ROCKETS’
DRINK EVERY TIME MARK REGEV SAYS ‘KHAMAS’ IT’S LIKE THE HISSING OF A SNAKE
DRINK EVERY TIME THE US, UK & AUSTRALIAN POLITICIANS SAY ‘ISRAEL HAS THE RIGHT TO DEFEND ITSELF’
DRINK WHEN NO ONE SAYS PALESTINIANS HAVE THE RIGHT TO DEFEND THEMSELVES (OK CAN’T MEASURE THIS ONE PUT THE DRINK DOWN)
DRINK EVERY TIME THE MEDIA IS SILENT ON THIS OR BURIES IT ON PAGE 33
DRINK EVERY TIME A CRITIC OF THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT GETS LABELLED ANTI-SEMITIC EVEN THOUGH NO ONE HAS SAID A SINGLE FUCKING THING ABOUT JEWISH PEOPLE AND GO LOOK UP WHAT ‘SEMITE’ MEANS, DIPSHITS, WE LOVE THE JEWISH PEOPLE, SOME OF THEM ARE THE BIGGEST, MOST DEDICATED SUPPORTERS OF THE PALESTINIAN CAUSE.
DRINK WHEN SOMEONE WHO YOU THOUGHT WAS COOL READS THREE ARTICLES, DECLARES THEMSELVES AN EXPERT AND COMES OUT WITH THIS WISE CRACK THAT WASN’T WORTH THE 10-SECOND CHAT IT CAME FROM – ‘BUT HAMAS IS NO BETTER!’
DRINK BECAUSE THEY THEN TRY TO SEND YOU AN ARTICLE ABOUT ‘HUMAN SHIELDS’ WTF AT LEAST FIND SOME ORIGINAL PROPAGANDA THIS FOOTAGE IS FROM SYRIA DO YOU THINK ALL BROWN PEOPLE ARE THE SAME, PROBABLY!
DRINK WHEN THEY USE CEASEFIRES AS AN EXCUSE TO KEEP BOMBING THAT’S NOT THE POINT OF A CEASEFIRE
DRINK WHEN YOU CAN’T WORK OUT WHERE MAINSTREAM MEDIA OUTLETS ARE GETTING THEIR FACTS FROM ARE THEY MAKING THEM UP IT’S POSSIBLE
OH SHIT, THEY’RE PROBABLY FOLLOWING THE IDF’S TWITTER ACCOUNT, WELL THAT’S FUCKING STUPID, LOOK AT THESE SIMPLETON INFOGRAPHICS, DID A FIVE-YEAR-OLD MAKE THEM, GROSS, HOW STUPID DO YOU THINK THE WORLD IS, OKAY THEY ARE PRETTY STUPID, FAIR CALL
DRINK WHEN HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH LOL NAH THEY’RE USELESS
DRINK WHEN SOMEONE MENTIONS EGYPT LOL FUCK OFF
DRINK WHEN YOU DON’T HEAR FROM LEBANON, JORDAN AND WHAT I LIKE TO CALL ‘THE OIL COUNTRIES’ – HEY GUYS, LOOK WHERE YOU ARE ON THE MAP YEAH YOU’RE NEXT.
JUST ASK IRAQ, SYRIA, AFGHANISTAN – THEY’RE FUCKED BEYOND BELIEF SEE THE PATTERN YET?
TURKEY YOU’RE ALRIGHT, BUT STOP FUNDING THEIR MILITARY
DID SAUDI ARABIA JUST DONATE MONEY FOR HUMANITARIAN REASONS OR IS THIS SOME KIND OF WARPED REALITY SHOW PRANK, WHERE’S SAUDI ARABIAN ASHTON KUTCHER, I’LL NEVER BELIEVE IT
DRINK EVERY TIME ISRAEL BOMBS AN AMBULANCE, HOSPITAL, HOME, JOURNALIST, ANIMAL, EVERYTHING – ARE YOU DEAD YET, BECAUSE THEY ARE.
DRINK BECAUSE GIDEON LEVY HAS BEEN WRITING ABOUT THESE INJUSTICES FOR LIKE THREE DECADES, HE MUST BE TIRED, POOR GIDEON, HE CAN’T GO ANYWHERE WITHOUT DEATH THREATS, KEEP GOING GIDEON WE LOVE YOU
DRINK BECAUSE YOU JUST REMEMBERED HOW FUCKED UP THE WEST BANK STILL IS, NOT TO MENTION ISRAELI ARABS, OH YEAH AND NON-WHITE JEWS IN THIS COUNTRY, WHAT IS THIS COUNTRY IS ANYONE OKAY, MAYBE THOSE GUYS ON THE TEL AVIV BEACH, THEY LOOK LIKE THEY’RE HAVING FUN
DRINK BECAUSE APARTHEID AND GIANT SEGREGATING WALLS ARE STILL A FUCKING THING
DRINK BECAUSE YOU JUST REMEMBERED THAT EVEN THE SO CALLED ‘TERRORISTS’ EXPRESS MORE CONCERN FOR THE LOSS OF INNOCENT PALESTINIANS AND IRAQIS, JESUS CHRIST.
WE’RE ALL FUCKED WHY DIDN’T WE LISTEN TO NELSON MANDELA WHEN HE SAID:
‘“We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”
WORLD, THIS IS YOUR HANGOVER.
Gaza is far from its relatives and close to its enemies, because whenever Gaza explodes, it becomes an island and it never stops exploding. It scratched the enemy’s face, broke his dreams and stopped his satisfaction with time.
Because in Gaza time is something different.
Because in Gaza time is not a neutral element.
It does not compel people to cool contemplation, but rather to explosion and a collision with reality.
Time there does not take children from childhood to old age, but rather makes them men in their first confrontation with the enemy.
Time in Gaza is not relaxation, but storming the burning noon. Because in Gaza values are different, different, different.
The only value for the occupied is the extent of his resistance to occupation. That is the only competition there. Gaza has been addicted to knowing this cruel, noble value. It did not learn it from books, hasty school seminars, loud propaganda megaphones, or songs. It learned it through experience alone and through work that is not done for advertisement and image.
Gaza has no throat. Its pores are the ones that speak in sweat, blood, and fires. Hence the enemy hates it to death and fears it to criminality, and tries to sink it into the sea, the desert, or blood. And hence its relatives and friends love it with a coyness that amounts to jealousy and fear at times, because Gaza is the brutal lesson and the shining example for enemies and friends alike.
Gaza is not the most beautiful city.
Its shore is not bluer than the shores of Arab cities.
Its oranges are not the most beautiful in the Mediterranean basin.
Gaza is not the richest city.
It is not the most elegant or the biggest, but it equals the history of an entire homeland, because it is more ugly, impoverished, miserable, and vicious in the eyes of enemies. Because it is the most capable, among us, of disturbing the enemy’s mood and his comfort. Because it is his nightmare. Because it is mined oranges, children without a childhood, old men without old age and women without desires. Because of all this it is the most beautiful, the purest and richest among us and the one most worthy of love.
We do injustice to Gaza when we look for its poems, so let us not disfigure Gaza’s beauty. What is most beautiful in it is that it is devoid of poetry at a time when we tried to triumph over the enemy with poems, so we believed ourselves and were overjoyed to see the enemy letting us sing. We let him triumph, then when we dried our lips of poems we saw that the enemy had finished building cities, forts and streets. We do injustice to Gaza when we turn it into a myth, because we will hate it when we discover that it is no more than a small poor city that resists.
We do injustice when we wonder: What made it into a myth? If we had dignity, we would break all our mirrors and cry or curse it if we refuse to revolt against ourselves. We do injustice to Gaza if we glorify it, because being enchanted by it will take us to the edge of waiting and Gaza doesn’t come to us. Gaza does not liberate us. Gaza has no horses, airplanes, magic wands, or offices in capital cities. Gaza liberates itself from our attributes and liberates our language from its Gazas at the same time. When we meet it – in a dream – perhaps it won’t recognize us, because Gaza was born out of fire, while we were born out of waiting and crying over abandoned homes.
It is true that Gaza has its special circumstances and its own revolutionary traditions. But its secret is not a mystery: Its resistance is popular and firmly joined together and knows what it wants (it wants to expel the enemy out of its clothes). The relationship of resistance to the people is that of skin to bones and not a teacher to students. Resistance in Gaza did not turn into a profession or an institution.
It did not accept anyone’s tutelage and did not leave its fate hinging on anyone’s signature or stamp.
It does not care that much if we know its name, picture, or eloquence. It did not believe that it was material for media. It did not prepare for cameras and did not put smiling paste on its face.
Neither does it want that, nor we.
Hence, Gaza is bad business for merchants and hence it is an incomparable moral treasure for Arabs.
What is beautiful about Gaza is that our voices do not reach it. Nothing distracts it; nothing takes its fist away from the enemy’s face. Not the forms of the Palestinian state we will establish whether on the eastern side of the moon, or the western side of Mars when it is explored. Gaza is devoted to rejection… hunger and rejection, thirst and rejection, displacement and rejection, torture and rejection, siege and rejection, death and rejection.
Enemies might triumph over Gaza (the storming sea might triumph over an island… they might chop down all its trees).
They might break its bones.
They might implant tanks on the insides of its children and women. They might throw it into the sea, sand, or blood.
But it will not repeat lies and say “Yes” to invaders.
It will continue to explode.
It is neither death, nor suicide. It is Gaza’s way of declaring that it deserves to live.It will continue to explode.
It is neither death, nor suicide. It is Gaza’s way of declaring that it deserves to live.
[Translated by Sinan Antoon From Hayrat al-`A’id (The Returnee’s Perplexity), Riyad al-Rayyis, 2007]
(Original Source: mondoweiss.net)
Many moons ago, my grandfather’s brother married an Australian woman.
Her name was Betty.
They must have been together for a few decades – they certainly had quite a few children and even more grandchildren, my lovely cousins.
By the time I was old enough to remember meeting them, I discovered they were no longer together. Aunt Betty still came to family gatherings though. I remember how her face lit up the first time she saw me as a young woman.
‘I’m your aunty Betty! I was Tony’s wife’ she said with a warm, inviting smile, holding my hands.
‘She looks just like Jacqui (my aunty)’, she would say to my mother.
Later she told me how she understood a bit of Arabic – ‘you have to learn or they’ll gossip about you’.
It turns out that Betty and Tony hadn’t been together for more than 20 years.
They told me that Betty was heartbroken and wanted him back. She stubbornly refused to give up and never stopped believing he might come back.
She was also my grandmother’s best friend – comrades in arms in being married to difficult Joseph men. They would call each other regularly. I remember my grandmother telling me about it.
She would say to Betty, over and over again.
‘Why don’t you go with someone else? He goes with others, why don’t you?’
‘I like Tony’, Betty would say.
Betty waited for Tony for 27 years. I wrote this down when my grandmother told me. I thought it was the sweetest thing I’d ever heard.
When my grandmother told me that he finally did come back to Betty, I couldn’t believe it. My heart soared at the news. I saw them together at a funeral. They were happy. Uncle Tony had no idea who I was but Aunty Betty was thrilled to see me.
Today I had a little cry at the news of Betty’s passing and the thought of her little frail body. I will always remember how she would see me at family gatherings and come over just to tell me I was beautiful and she loved me, even though she hardly knew me and we weren’t blood relatives. This didn’t matter to a woman like Betty. You were always the most important in that room – when really she was the most important all along.
Rest easy now, sweet little Betty – you were the best little woman. I’ll never forget you.
This ‘nation’ ethically cleansed a whole population from their land and their homes, created generations of refugees, refused them the right to return, murdered innocent men, women and children, wrongfully imprisoned their children without evidence or trial or justice, annexed them with a wall, humiliated them, put fear in their hearts, denied their cultural history, wrote over their Arabic signs, called them terrorists when they fought back with rocks, bulldozed their homes, attacked them with bombs and phosphorous and war, pillaged their lands, rationed their food supplies, occupied their territories, denied their basic human rights, denied the right to clean drinking water so they could fill up their swimming pools, spewed violent hate speech against their entire race, treated them like animals, took revenge on an entire population for the actions of a few- YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT’
Welcome to your genocide.