Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Big (Arab) Lie

The Big (Arab) Lie

There is an anecdote about an Israeli driver who accidentally hits a sheep belonging to an Arab. The driver gets out and offers to pay for the sheep. The Arab refuses. The driver offers to pay for five sheep, for ten sheep. The Arab still refuses. “What do you want?” the frustrated driver asks. “I want that sheep,” the Arab says, pointing to the dead sheep. That is the Nakba in a nutshell. The Arabs don’t want to negotiate an agreement like adults. They want the dead sheep that represents their dreams of a united Arab empire ruling over the region. And the wars will go on until they finally learn that they can’t have it back.

via Sultan Knish a blog by Daniel Greenfield.

I lived once in Kiryat Arba, before the intifada (first and second).  I would actually walk alone down into the heart of Hebron toi catch an Arab Shirut to Jerusalem twice a week to attend a course I took there – there weren’t any buses from Kiryat Araba to Jerusalem in those mid-morning hours.

As my twice weekly journeys were pretty consistent, it occurred that I rode with a certain Ahmed who also started his daily Hebron-El Quds route around the same hours. Often as not I sat beside him and over the weeks and months we opened our own private Arab-Israeli dialog, each trying to understand the other better, hopefully with the hope of closing the wide gap that separated us.

It was during one of those trips, in response to some unfathomable remark made by an Arab politician of the time, that I asked my mentor on all things Arab, how could a man who did exactly the opposite in public, at the same time publicly declare he was against what he did?  After a few minutes of quiet Ahmed answered me.

“Do you want to hear a story every Arab mother tells her children?”

Appreciating that this was to be one of those indirect answers to difficult questions I readily assented.

Acmed then shared the following story:
Mustafa wanted to get out of the late morning sun and take a nap before be returned to his labours in the early afternoon.  To this end he sought a quiet out-of-the-way corner in the back of his home where a hammock beckoned him.  No sooner had he climbed in and settled down but a small group of noisy children ran screaming into the yard playing some Middle Eastern form of Cowboys and Indians.  When after a couple of minutes Mustafa saw that they were not about to leave, he yelled at them to be quiet and play somewhere else.  Not particularly in awe of him, the children continued in their noisy activity.  Finally, Mustafa realized that if authority wouldn’t work, he would have to use guile.

“What are you doing here?” Mustafa asked the boys.

When they answered uncomprehendingly that it was plain to all concerned what they were doing, Mustafa continued.

“Why aren’t you down at the marketplace?”

Normally the marketplace was not a welcoming environ for noisy  boys.  Vendors do not appreciate wild children running between their carts and annoying their customers. “Why should we be at the shuk?” was all the boys could muster as a reply.

“Haven’t you heard!” Exclaimed Mustafa, in as convincing a display of incredulity as he was capable. “Abbu Bechar is giving away dates for free!”

After a moment’s hesitation, the boys decided, despite their suspicions of being played, that it was worth the effort of going down to marketplace on the off-chance Abur Bechar really had lost his mind and was giving away his merchandise free.

Ahmed went back to his driving, satisfied that he had somehow answered my question. Similar stories and experiences have convinced me of one simple fact, reality for an Arab has much less to do with the objective facts and far more to do with whichever lie will best bolster their self-image and make them feel good about themselves.  Like Ahmed they are more often than not going to give up the creäture comforts they crave to chase after an imaginary benefit they themselves dreamed up out of fantasy.

What is important to all of those who will now attack me for slandering the Arab and mocking the Arab “mentality”.  This is not my story nor my answer but Ahmed’s!  An Arab born and raised in Hebron who learned these stories with his mother’s milk  and this was his way of trying to help me understand the illogical nature of Arab life.