After my post yesterday I figured great opportunity to talk about my first experience experience seeing Israeli racism towards Palestinians. Remember Dani and her Prince Charming? (they never even dated after all her planning) Dani was an Israeli American. But she was totally cool, having grown up away from the occupation she never knew another Palestinian before Feras. But Dani's mom was an Israeli. She was born in Israel and moved the the states after she got married.
At first I assumed everything would be fine. I was a naive 22 year old who knew little about Palestine and Israel other than the catch phrase "Peace in the Middle East" And Dani and Feras got along so well and knew all these cool foods that I had never seen like hummus, baba ghanosh, schwarma, etc. As the child of restauranteurs I always saw food as a common denominator that binds us all.
It's almost funny how little I knew about the cultural appropriation that occurs by Israel towards Palestinians at the time. But 10 years later after all the wars I've watched it just makes me sad to know how many other people know as little as I once did.
Even the experience of meeting Dani's mother looks so different when I think about it after all these years compared to how I felt about it when I experienced it.
We picked her mother up from Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. It might seem weird that Feras and I went with Dani on such a personal errand but we were all relatively new to Arizona and were still getting the lay of the land. If we had the technology we do today as widely available back then I might have been spared the whole experience.
It was clear that Dani's mother didn't approve of Feras from the start. I mean it was never going to go great when the first thing she asks him is where he's from and his reply is naturally "Palestine"
She took every opportunity to cut him down that she could. But at the same time she was really nice to me. I assumed that she was a man hater having been recently divorced. That's how oblivious I was to the whole thing. Even though she practically threw herself at Dani's Prince Charming when ever he was around. (No offense to her taste but that should have been a red flag right there, PC was ok looking but he is no Feras) Did I mention how weird that was since she could have been his mom. All the signs were there but I didn't know enough to see it then.
One experience that stands out in my memory is going to look for cars together. Feras was looking into buying a car and we wanted to shop around. We ended up going as a group because Dani's mom was also looking for a car.
The day itself stands out because it was cold and cloudy, not typical Arizona weather. I'm not a big fan of being cold or car shopping so I figured waiting in the car for the most part was the way to go. (I loved being inseparable from Feras but there were drawbacks)
Instead of car shopping that day my friend's mother took advantage of the opportunity to try and ruin my relationship. Every time Feras got out of the car she took it upon herself to tell me how awful and dangerous Palestinian men are. How he had to just be dating me so he could get a green card. How I deserved better. And my favorite, how if I was really considering marrying someone so quickly I should consider marrying an Israeli for a lump sum of money.
When Feras was in the car she shifted her focus to him. Pointing out all his flaws and asking if he really thought he was worthy of a relationship with me. Asking deeply personal questions followed up by strangely political ones. It was not a fun day.
At the time I thought she just didn't like men and maybe had a problem with Feras specifically but I no longer believe that to be true.
As an Israeli Dani's mother served in the Israeli Defense Forces when she turned 18. Nearly all Israelis do as it is mandatory. There are a few exemptions but the vast majority of Israelis serve for several years and directly participate in the occupation of Palestinians.
Can you imagine what it must do to a person who is barely capable of the responsibility of adulthood to have an assault rifle thrust into their hands and told that they must protect their country, their families from these others. And what threat do these "others" present? They aren't Israeli?
But it doesn't even start at that age. In reality it starts much earlier than that I think. You can look at so many videos on social media now of settlers attacking Palestinians within the West Bank and teaching their young children to do the same.
So many people want to argue with Palestinians when they say all Jews are bad. And I get it because I know lots of great people who happen to be Jewish. And many of those I know I've met inside the Palestinian cause. But most Palestinians never get a chance to see these type of Jews. They are only ever exposed to Zionists. So while it isn't politically correct or even true to make this statement it is certainly easy to understand why many Palestinians say things like this. After all it isn't exactly easy to get in or out of the West Bank or Gaza so there are limited opportunities to challenge this stereotype.
And I think for a lot of Israelis it's sort of the same thing. Many of them don't ever have to deal with the occupation firsthand. They either live in areas that are so far within Israel or even removed from Israel entirely that the only Palestinians they see are the ones who make the news. And just like well behaved women rarely make history, well behaved Palestinians rarely get media coverage.
But how am I an American supposed to accept that bias? After all, Israelis have a much less restrictions on their movement, even within the west bank than the average Palestinian. They could easily see firsthand that Palestinians are human and that they are suffering. Most people would agree it's easier to confront your fears and move forward than to live with them forever.
So why do most Israelis seem happy to live in fear?