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Abulhawa: For 36 hours I was detained on a dirty bed in my homeland, then deported

Israel/Palestine
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After being deported from Israel for the second time in three years, Susan Abulhawa posted the following statement to the literature festival she was unable to attend, on Facebook yesterday. 

Statement to Kalimat Palestinian Literature Festival:

I would like to express my deep gratitude to the Kalimat Palestinian Literature Festival, Mahmoud Muna in particular, and to the Kenyon Institute of the British Council for inviting me and undertaking the expense for me to participate in this year’s literature festival in Palestine.

As you all know by now, Israeli authorities have denied me entry into my country and I am therefore unable to attend the festival. It pains me greatly not to be with my friends and fellow writers to explore and celebrate our literary traditions with readers and with each other in our homeland. It pains me that we can meet anywhere in the world except in Palestine, the place to which we belong, from whence our stories emerge and where all our turns eventually lead. We cannot meet on soil that has been fertilized for millennia by the bodies of our ancestors and watered by the tears and blood of Palestine’s sons and daughters who daily fight for her.

Since my deportation, I read that Israeli authorities indicated that I was required to “coordinate” my travel with them in advance. This is a lie. In fact, I was told upon arrival at the airport that I had been required to apply for a visa to my US passport, and that this application would not be accepted until 2020, at least five years after the first time they denied me entry. They said it was my responsibility to know this even though I was never given any indication of being banned. Then they said my first deportation in 2015 was because I refused to give them the reason for my visit. This, too, is a lie. Here are the facts:

In 2015, I traveled to Palestine to build playgrounds in several villages and to hold opening ceremonies at playgrounds we had already built in the months previous. Another member of our organization was traveling with me. She happened to be Jewish and they allowed her in. Several Israeli interrogators asked me the same questions in different ways over the course of approximately 7.5 hours. I answered them all, as Palestinians must if we are to stand a chance of going home, even as visitors. But I was not sufficiently deferential, nor was I capable of that in the moment. But I was certainly composed and – the requirement for all violated people – “civil.” Finally, I was accused of not cooperating because I did not know how many cousins I have and what are all their names and the names of their spouses. It was only after being told that I was denied entry that I raised my voice and refused to leave quietly. I did yell, and I stand by everything I yelled. According to Haaretz, Israel said I “behaved angrily, crudely and vulgarly” in 2015 at the Allenby Bridge.

What I said in 2015 to my interrogators, and which was also reported in Haaretz at the time, is that they should be the ones to leave, not me; that I am a daughter of this land and nothing will change that; that my own direct history is steeped in the land and there’s no way they can extricate it; that as much as they invoke Zionist mythological fairy tales, they can never claim such personal familial lineage, much as they wish they could.

I suppose that must sound vulgar to Zionist ears. To be confronted with authenticity of Palestinian indigeneity despite exile, and face their apocryphal, ever-shifting colonial narratives.

My lack of deference in 2015 and choice not to quietly accept the arbitrary decision of an illegitimate gatekeeper to my country apparently got appended to my name and, upon my arrival this time on November 1st, signaled for my immediate deportation.

The true vulgarity is that several million Europeans and other foreigners live in Palestine now while the indigenous population lives either in exile or under the cruel boots of Israeli occupation; the true vulgarity is in the rows of snipers surrounding Gaza, taking careful aim and shooting human beings with no real way to defend themselves, who dare to protest their collective imprisonment and imposed misery; the true vulgarity is in seeing our youth bleed on the ground, waste in Israeli jails, starve for an education, travel, learning, or some opportunity to fully be in the world; the true vulgarity is the way they have taken and continue to take everything from us, how they have carved out our hearts, stolen our everything, occupied our history, and tamp our voices and our art.

In total, Israel detained me for approximately 36 hours. We were not allowed any electronics, pens or pencils in the jail cells, but I found a way to take both – because we Palestinians are resourceful, smart, and we find our way to freedom and dignity by any means we can. I have photos and video from inside that terrible detention center, which I took with a second phone hidden on my body, and I left for them a few messages on the walls by the dirty bed I had to lay on. I suppose they will find it vulgar to read: “Free Palestine,” “Israel is an Apartheid State,” or “susan abulhawa was here and smuggled this pencil into her prison cell”.

But the most memorable part of this ordeal were the books. I had two books in my carry-on when I arrived at the jail and I was allowed to keep them. I alternated reading from each, sleeping, thinking.

The first book was a highly researched text by historian Nur Masalha, “Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History.” I was scheduled to interview Nur on stage about his epic audit of Palestinian millennia-old history, told not from the politically motivated narratives, but from archaeological and other forensic narratives. It is a people’s history, spanning the untidy and multilayered identities of Palestine’s indigenous populations from the Bronze Age until today. In an Israeli detention cell, with five other women – all of them Eastern European, and each of them in her own private pain, the chapters of Nur Masalha’s book took me through Palestine’s pluralistic, multicultural and multi-religious past, distorted and essentialized by modern inventions of an ancient past.

The bitter irony of our condition was not lost on me. I, a daughter of the land, of a family rooted at least 900 years in the land, and who spent much of her childhood in Jerusalem, was being deported from her homeland by the sons and daughters of recent arrivals, who came to Palestine a mere decades ago with European-born ethos of racial Darwinism, invoking biblical fairy tales and divinely ordained entitlement.

It occurred to me, too, that all Palestinians – regardless of our conditions, ideologies, or the places of our imprisonment or exile – are forever bound together in a common history that begins with us and travels to the ancient past to one place on earth, like the many leaves and branches of a tree that lead to one trunk. And we are also bound together by the collective pain of watching people from all over the world colonize not only the physical space of our existence, but the spiritual, familial, and cultural arenas of our existence. I think we also find power in this unending, unhealed wound. We write our stories from it. Sing our songs and dabke there, too. We make art from these aches. We pick up rifles and pens, cameras and paint brushes in this space, throw stones, fly kites and flash victory and power fists there.

The other book I read was Colson Whitehead’s acclaimed, spellbinding novel, “The Underground Railroad.” It is the story of Cora, a girl born into slavery to Mabel, the first escaped slave from the Randal Plantation. In this fictional account, Cora escapes the plantation with her friend Caesar, their determined slave catcher, Ridgeway, on their trail in the Underground Railroad – a real-life metaphor made into an actual railroad in the novel. The generational trauma of inconceivable bondage is all the more devastating in this novel because it is told matter-of-factly from the vantage of the enslaved. Another people’s collective unhealed wound laid bare, an excruciatingly powerful common past, a place of their power too, a source of their stories and their songs.

I am back in my house now, with my daughter and our beloved dogs and cats, but my heart doesn’t ever leave Palestine. So, I am there, and we will continue to meet each other in the landscapes of our literature, art, cuisine and all the riches of our shared culture.

After writing this statement, I learned that the press conference is being held at Dar el Tifl. I lived the best years of my childhood there, despite my separation from family and the sometimes difficult conditions we faced living under Israeli occupation. Dar el Tifl is the legacy of one of the most admirable women I have ever known – Sitt Hind el Husseini. She saved me in more ways than I suppose she knew, or that I understood at the time. She saved a lot of us girls. She gathered us from all the broken bits of Palestine. She gave us food and shelter, educated and believed in us, and in turn made us believe we were worthy. There is no more appropriate place than Dar el Tift to read this statement.

I want to leave you with one more thought I had in that jail cell, and it is this: Israel is spiritually, emotionally, and culturally small despite the large guns they point at us – or perhaps precisely because of them. It is to their own detriment that they cannot accept our presence in our homeland, because our humanity remains intact and our art is beautiful and life-affirming, and we aren’t going anywhere but home.

sjabulhawa
About Susan Abulhawa

Susan Abulhawa is the author of the international bestselling novel, Mornings in Jenin (Bloomsbury, 2010) – www.morningsinjenin.com – and founder of Playgrounds for Palestine – www.playgroundsforpalestine.org.

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35 Responses

  1. Felice Gelman
    Felice Gelman
    November 4, 2018, 10:56 am

    This is a beautiful letter, so expressive of the conditions of diaspora and enforced exile and the strength of resistance.

  2. just
    just
    November 4, 2018, 12:38 pm

    …”I want to leave you with one more thought I had in that jail cell, and it is this: Israel is spiritually, emotionally, and culturally small despite the large guns they point at us – or perhaps precisely because of them. It is to their own detriment that they cannot accept our presence in our homeland, because our humanity remains intact and our art is beautiful and life-affirming, and we aren’t going anywhere but home.”

    insha’Allah.

    All the best to you and your family, Susan. You are strength personified and give me great hope. I am grateful that you are safely with those that respect you, love you, and can learn from you.

    • Maghlawatan
      Maghlawatan
      November 5, 2018, 3:41 pm

      https://m.independent.ie/entertainment/radio/oh-to-be-60-again-gay-byrne-opens-up-about-life-laughs-and-whether-hell-return-to-radio-37486529.html

      « I was saddened about the Jewish massacre the other day,” she says referring to the hate crime shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh that left 11 dead. “When I was in Chicago a Jewish family looked after me the best. They arranged for me to meet the mayor. I will never forget their kindnesses.” »

      Israël beats the kindness out of its children for the sake of the settlers.
      As one of the characters in Shakespeare’s Othello says « I have lost the immortal part of me and what remains is bestial. « 

      Meanwhile Susan Abulhawa oozes Palestinian class. You can’t buy it.

    • Maghlawatan
      Maghlawatan
      November 5, 2018, 4:06 pm

      « Israel is spiritually, emotionally, and culturally small despite the large guns they point at us – or perhaps precisely because of them.« 

      Israel’s embrace of violence was a deal with the devil. Power in return for its soul.
      Israel is a spiritual wasteland .Every society that worships violence is. The audacity of seeing the Palestinians as equals requires a wisdom that Israelis do not have. Israelis are afraid of themselves. Afraid of the trauma they never talk about.

      « I’m falling
      In all the good times I find myself longing
      For change
      And in the bad times, I fear myself »

      Read more: Lady GaGa – Shallow Lyrics | MetroLyrics

  3. hai_bar
    hai_bar
    November 4, 2018, 4:01 pm

    Beautiful writing. Much love and respect Susan Abulhawa.

  4. korzib
    korzib
    November 4, 2018, 5:58 pm

    2020 is only in a couple of years. Make sure to fill out the application to visit Israel in an honest, complete and polite manner. And if you do end up flying in, make sure to be polite to the security personnel interviewing you. You are after all asking to be let into their country and homeland.

    In the meantime, enjoy lovely Pennsylvania! That’s really near to where I used to live before I moved to Israel. I do miss the rain sometimes and the Wawas. But the beaches here are so beautiful, everyone is so nice, and the feeling of living in my homeland is so rewarding. I just wish apartments were cheaper. Have a good week!

    • chocopie
      chocopie
      November 4, 2018, 9:14 pm

      Ooooh, passive aggressive burn. Feel better? It feels so good doesn’t it, to be able to kick her and talk down to her like that? We all know why she bugs you so much. At least your roots in Pennsylvania are most likely deeper than hers.

      • korzib
        korzib
        November 5, 2018, 3:31 pm

        Talk down to her? I am just trying to give her the courtesy of explaining to her that she needs to have proper manners if she wants to be let into my country.

      • annie
        annie
        November 5, 2018, 4:20 pm

        perhaps korbiz is the reason catalan hasn’t graced us with his sadist needling on this thread, this ones taking on that mantle for the time being. no one thinks this transparent game playing has any relation to courtesy, of this i am certain.

    • hai_bar
      hai_bar
      November 5, 2018, 1:19 am

      “I just wish apartments were cheaper. Have a good week!”

      No fresh-settler discounts? Ask politely about a discount, if it gets complicated threat them to return back to the U.S, i’m sure they’ll make you a discount.

      • korzib
        korzib
        November 5, 2018, 3:36 pm

        Thank you for asking. There is a low interest loan available but it is rather small compared to the price of apartments. If you know who to ask for a discount I am all ears.

    • eljay
      eljay
      November 5, 2018, 7:56 am

      || korzib: … the feeling of living in my homeland is so rewarding. … ||

      It is truly a shame that the Palestinians living in, ethnically cleansed from and/or up to n-generations removed from their original homeland don’t get to enjoy the rewarding feeling you’ve come to enjoy in their original homeland / your adopted homeland.

      • korzib
        korzib
        November 5, 2018, 3:39 pm

        Oh well, sucks for them on that count. They must have made some really big mistakes along the way. I am sure they have other wonderful things in their lives.

      • eljay
        eljay
        November 5, 2018, 5:23 pm

        || korzib: Oh well, sucks for them on that count. They must have made some really big mistakes along the way. I am sure they have other wonderful things in their lives. ||

        You’re like a less-clever catalan. Interesting.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      Maximus Decimus Meridius
      November 5, 2018, 10:37 am

      “the feeling of living in my homeland is so rewarding.”

      I take it you’ve renounced your US citizen, what with being so satisfied with the beaches in your ‘homeland’?

      • korzib
        korzib
        November 5, 2018, 3:40 pm

        Give up my US passport and stand in line with the plebs to get a visa? Why would I do a silly thing like that?

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        Maximus Decimus Meridius
        November 5, 2018, 5:03 pm

        Or maybe keeping your options open for the day when you discover that the Jewish Disneyland is actually a parochial, profoundly unpleasant little backwater, its lovely beaches aside?

    • CigarGod
      CigarGod
      November 5, 2018, 10:58 am

      Ha!
      It’s so easy to tell someone else to politely submit to brutality you are not subject to, right?

    • Freija
      Freija
      November 5, 2018, 6:36 pm

      korzib seems to be part of the psychological torturer staff for the occupying power in Palestine. This is the language they use for the Palestinian prisoners (children mostly) after having beaten them up heavely they come with this thing of “politness to the security personnel interviewing them”. Very schizophrenic indeed.

  5. annie
    annie
    November 4, 2018, 7:19 pm

    exquisite statement susie.

  6. DaBakr
    DaBakr
    November 5, 2018, 12:59 am

    The author doesn’t sound “vulgar” to this zionists ears. it isn’t as if her view is unusual. when I treaty is negotiated I hope she enjoys unrestricted access to the state of palestine which, unfortunately, will probably not meet her expectations at least in the beginning stages post treaty. But she can be one of the ones who builds her vision and grows her people

  7. Ossinev
    Ossinev
    November 5, 2018, 6:15 am

    @korzib
    ” But the beaches here are so beautiful, everyone is so nice, and the feeling of living in my homeland is so rewarding”

    You missed out the best bits about being able to carry a gun and shoot the natives when it gets boring. Have the week that you deserve.

    • korzib
      korzib
      November 5, 2018, 3:41 pm

      I can get a gun too? This just keeps getting better and better!

  8. CigarGod
    CigarGod
    November 5, 2018, 10:47 am

    I haven’t seen even a shred of her humanity in a single Zionist.

  9. Mayhem
    Mayhem
    November 5, 2018, 6:39 pm

    Does Abulhawa express one jot of concern for the violent, white colonialisation of America where she lives? Does she speak out about the massacre of the indigenous Indian population by the colonialists who wrested control of a land with which they as invaders had no connection whatsoever?
    No, she focusses exclusively on her own personal agenda and in doing so demonstrates a vitriol that emanates from a deep prejudice.

    • annie
      annie
      November 5, 2018, 7:17 pm

      she focusses exclusively on her own personal agenda

      says the guy who’s probably never even read one of her books. did you even read this article in it’s entirety?

      The generational trauma of inconceivable bondage is all the more devastating in this novel because it is told matter-of-factly from the vantage of the enslaved. Another people’s collective unhealed wound laid bare, an excruciatingly powerful common past, a place of their power too, a source of their stories and their songs.

    • Bumblebye
      Bumblebye
      November 5, 2018, 9:19 pm

      Mayhem, you’ve never mentioned the Australian Aboriginal people who died or were displaced to provide you with a home – and who continue to be marginalised and suffer significant racism. So I’ll assume, given the character you display here, that you don’t give a flying fig about them, being such a hypocrite an’ all.

      • Mayhem
        Mayhem
        November 5, 2018, 10:16 pm

        @Bumblebye, thank you for another example of what is real colonialisation where we saw massacres and deprivation of the indigenous population on a grand scale, magnitudes worse and incomparable to what happened in Palestine which you hypocritically and incessantly decry.

  10. bcg
    bcg
    November 5, 2018, 9:33 pm

    @Mayhem: Why is “personal” a term of opprobrium? For that matter, why is “agenda”?

    • Mayhem
      Mayhem
      November 5, 2018, 10:21 pm

      @bcg, you just need to read the working definition of anti-semitism to know what I mean.
      “Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:
      Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

      Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

      • annie
        annie
        November 5, 2018, 11:50 pm

        you just need to read the working definition of anti-semitism

        what “works” for you and IHRA isn’t working for me and millions of other people.

      • eljay
        eljay
        November 6, 2018, 7:43 am

        Mayhem: @bcg, you just need to read the working definition of anti-semitism to know what I mean.
        “Contemporary examples of antisemitism … could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:
        Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor. … ||

        The “Jewish State” of Israel is a religion-supremacist construct. The choice to be Jewish does not comprise a right to be supremacist. There’s nothing wrong or immoral or anti-Semitic about opposing supremacism when it’s done by Jews (just as it is not wrong or immoral to oppose supremacism when it’s done by non-Jews).

        || … Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” ||

        Every democratic nation is expected or demanded:
        – to respect international laws and human rights; and
        – not to do colonialism, military occupation, oppression, torture or supremacism (among other (war) crimes).

        Zionists defend Israel’s failure to do the former and its “right” to do the latter. Zionists apply a double standard to Israel. Zionists – and not critics of Israel’s behaviour – are anti-Semitic.

      • Mayhem
        Mayhem
        November 7, 2018, 11:20 pm

        @annie, you conveniently choose to repudiate an international agreement over the definition of anti-semitism because it would put a spanner in the works as far as your anti-Israelism is concerned.
        So quid pro quo don’t complain when I mock UN resolutions and so-called ‘international law’ that don’t hold water for me and millions of other people.

      • annie
        annie
        November 8, 2018, 1:55 am

        mayhem, did you see the section in the USA Israel lobby undercover investigation with kenneth marcus. LOL. what a scam.

        i guess all it takes to buy all the US cabinet positions, or whatever the civil right tzar is, and bolton, and pompeo, is a few 100-mil from adelson. whatever. but don’t expect anyone to respect these bought and paid for stooges or whatever rules they push on us. international my a**. you want to change the definition of anti semitism, have at it. i could care less.

  11. Ossinev
    Ossinev
    November 8, 2018, 9:44 am

    @Mayhem
    “@annie, you conveniently choose to repudiate an international agreement over the definition of anti-semitism”

    I am fairly certain that when the wheel goes full circle Zioland will be one of the first countries to sign up to an”international agreement” on the definition of Islamophobia. It will then as with a host of other really important long standing international agreeements such as the Geneva Conventions completely ignore or more likely piss all over them.

    BTW The use of the “Holocaust” as the vehicle for this Zionist scam is yet another disgusting abuse of the memories of those who perished in the Nazi atrocities.

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