Mike Odetalla – To Be a Palestinian

Posted: 04/03/2009 by editormary in Culture and Heritage, Features, Newswire, Palestine, Resistance, Somoud: Arab Voices of Resistance, War, Zionism
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(From the Palestine Telegraph) To be a Palestinian in this world today is a truly unique experience. You are made to and in fact, begin to feel that you are “different” from everyone else the minute that you start to understand and comprehend what your birthright means for you. By the simple fact of being born on and living on that small piece of real estate between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea , your life takes you on a path that others cannot fully comprehend.

Simple arrival in this world is looked at with suspicion and no small amount of concern. You are not just another baby: you are a statistic to be counted and watched by those who worry not about your welfare or your future, but about the fact that another Palestinian has been added to the ‘demographic equation’. Those that watch the demographics with concern would be happier if you were never born at all, and if in you had to come into “their world”, it would better elsewhere. Your arrival adds to their worry that they would lose the majority. A majority based on the “exclusivity” of a “chosen” race and religion, even though you can trace your ancestors to that piece of land for thousands of years, in the eyes of the demographers, you are not welcome there.

From the very first day that you could understand your surroundings, you begin to comprehend the burden of being a Palestinian. While other children in the world learn and play in an atmosphere of relative safety and bliss, you cannot. Your life is regulated by the ever present occupiers: settlers and their soldiers. While other kids retain the innocence that goes with childhood, yours is shattered and traumatized by the sights and sounds of the endless war of attrition surrounding you. Things that would make adults cringe with horror in other parts of the world are a part of your everyday life and in fact, become “routine”. You become as hard as your surroundings. The games of childhood are no longer innocent and lose meaning or interest to you. The games that you play reflect the desperation of your Palestinian reality. While others plan and look forward to a future, you are concerned only with surviving the present.

Your father, once the pillar of your life, the man who made you feel safe and secure, can no longer find work to support your family. He is stripped of his clothes and his honor, right there, in full view of the world: you begin to see that he cannot be the guarantor of your well being. Your heart aches to see him in such light. In your youthful anger, you want him to lash out and defy, resuming his proper place in your eyes. Yet the reality is that he cannot, and you begin to understand that it is not out of fear for his own safety, but from his fear for the well being of yourself and siblings. You begin to understand the great burden that he must shoulder in silence, suffering alone.

Your mother, the symbol of all that is good and pure in this world, is reduced to begging and pleading just to be able to move from one area to the next. You watch in horror and rage as a young Israeli soldier yells profanities and makes derogatory remarks to her. Yet she holds her ground and with the patience that only a Palestinian mother can have, she perseveres. She has been pushed to the forefront of trying to provide for and keep her family going. She undergoes the greatest humiliations at the checkpoints in order to spare your father worse treatment. She steps between you and danger, following her motherly instincts, shielding you from certain harm. You wonder what she thinks about during those sleepless nights, but you will never know, for she bears this burden in total silence.

You go to school, when allowed, and get good grades, yet you know deep down in your heart that no matter how much education you have, the best that you can hope for is a low paying menial job, even at that, a scarcity. You see the young men gather everyday on the same streets, in a ritual of boredom and futility. They either have finished their schooling or just quit out of frustration and hopelessness. Their numbers seem to grow daily, as their prospects for a hopeful future diminish. This, you begin to understand is the byproduct of the many decades of occupation, colonialism, and brazen policies to keep your people down, desperate, and broken. You begin to feel your loneliness in this world, to understand that the rest of the world doesn’t know of your plight or simply doesn’t care. You watch television images of your tormentors, living but a few kilometers away, enjoying the very life that they deny you. Your life, home, land, and history continue to be stolen, destroyed, and expropriated by others in an endless campaign to erase “Palestinian” from the land whose very soil, is mixed with the blood, sweat, and tears of your ancestors, and no amount effort will ever “cleanse” the land of the traces of its rightful owners!

While the world at large, including those that count themselves as your “brothers” in the Arab world, make yet another proclamation, statement, and preach about freedom and justice, they collude with your tormentors to imprison, starve, and oppress you in everyway possible: setting aside the very Conventions, laws, and acts of human decency that they espouse, as if those things are meant to apply to everyone, BUT those that happen to born Palestinian!

Food, a basic human need for survival, is now a “luxury” according to your oppressors, and should you happen to make too much noise about your situation, then the “dogs of war” are unleashed to kill and destroy at will, with no actual regard for your life and those around, be they young or old, as total and barbaric destruction is once again the answer to your cries for freedom, justice, and dignity, for “being Palestinian” in their eyes and the eyes that grant them unconditional support, makes you a “child of a lesser God”, thus negating your basic human rights…

You watch with envy and anger as others enjoy the freedoms forbidden to you. While others travel around the world and claim that indeed the world is a “smaller place”, you scoff at them because you cannot even travel a few kilometers to visit family, loved ones, in your own homeland. Your world grows “smaller” and more claustrophobic each day, filled only with suffocating blockades, check points, closures, and curfews.

Even though sometimes you find yourself living in another part of the world, whether close or far away from the land that is YOUR birthright, in “comfortable” and not so very comfortable surroundings, you continue to yearn for your homeland, and realize that something will always be missing in your life, that you cannot ever be “whole” or “complete” and that as Palestinians, we are different from others in that while others live in a “homeland”, our homeland will forever live in us…

“You are not very different from the canary that you keep in the cage, indeed, he might be better off than you. You take him out and set him free and watch with envy and admiration as he soars high in the sky. Free at last, A free bird in Palestine. You envy that bird and wish that you were one also…”

 Mike Odetalla

 

http://www.hanini.org/Beingpalestinian.html

source:

http://www.paltelegraph.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=293:to-be-a-palestinian&catid=60:palestinian-refugees&Itemid=184

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Comments
  1. Marlene Newesri says:

    This is a beautiful essay, the only problem is that it gives the illusion that the author is Sahmeh Habeeb.
    This essay was written by a very good friend of mine whose name appears in small print at the bottom stating “poem by Mike Odetalla” “story by Sahmeh Habeeb”. Mike Odetalla wrote this under the title “Being Palestinian” back in 2003. This is his website and I leave the link to that essay.

    http://www.hanini.org/Beingpalestinian.html

    Could you be so kind as to give the proper credit where it’s due. I notice on the side it also listed as Sameh Habeeb. It should read Mike Odetalla.

    Thank you.

  2. Mary Rizzo says:

    Thank you Marlene,
    I will fix that immediately.

  3. Marlene Newesri says:

    @Mary Rizzo

    Thank you Mary.

  4. mary says:

    Mike Odetalla wrote this moving poem which has appeared on Dissident Voice and Thomas Paine’s Corner. It was accompanied by a photo of a beautiful almond tree in blossom.

    Thinking of Spring in Palestine

    What benefit or joy if,

    I were to gain the world,
    But lose the almond blossoms in my land?

    Drink a cup of coffee, everyplace
    But my mother’s home

    Journey to the moon,
    But not to the graves of my ancestors

    See the world’s wonders,
    But not the setting sun as it dips behind ancient olive groves

    Tour the world over,
    But lose the flowers on the hills of my native land

    Nothing but lethal silence…

    No need to gain the world

    Just a cup of coffee
    In a familiar place and
    An end to the lethal silence

    Within the hearts of the living…

    Mike Odetalla, Thinking of Spring in Palestine! 3-27-2005
    http://www.hanini.org/springPalestine.html

  5. […] Palestina/Izrael:Mike Odetalla – To Be a PalestinianThis, you begin to understand is the byproduct of the many decades of occupation, colonialism, and […]

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