Somewhere in the middle of our hip hop/dabke dance party last Friday, one of the sisters told me “the black people in America sing very nice.” Then another asked, “why the black so bad in America?” This question didn’t surprise me anymore, I’d been asked that before, why black people make all the violence in the States. If all you had were the action movies on TV, and even our news, you would probably believe it too.
Then one of the sisters told me that their brother, who lives in Chicago, had just lost three friends. They were shot during an armed robbery. They were Palestinian. I was sad for them, knowing how close they are to their brother, even though he’s on the other side of the world.
We continued to hang out, and danced more dabke, which was really unpredictable, and if I made some arbitrary kicks I was called “shatra,” sharp. I mean, it’s a compliment, but I get called “shatra” for the lamest things, like rinsing dishes and making dough balls. Do I really come off that clueless? I probably do.
Then I asked the girls if we could watch Palestine News, since I’d done the interview in Bil’in earlier that day. I didn’t know if it would air today, or tomorrow, or never, but I was curious. I had a feeling my interview would get aired. Ratib Abu Rahma was the leader of that demo, so he did the first interview, then they asked one of the Brits, then Ratib yelled at me and asked me if I was British. I said no, American, and he said, ah, ok, and went back. A minute later he yelled again, “American! You come now!” I answered 3 or 4 questions, translated from Arabic. Why was I there? (I come to the demonstrations to support the village, bring images of Palestine to the US, and show the settlers that they don’t belong on Bil’in’s land) How did I feel about the UNESCO vote? (It’s not even really about the statehood bid, like the UNESCO rep said, but I think it’s an important step forward in bringing international attention and resources to Palestine, and giving protection to places that need it) How do I feel about Obama’s veto? (It’s expected that he’ll veto, but in the future, he’ll regret it. He’s on the wrong side of history. Why will he veto? He wants to be re-elected, so he would never want to risk losing the support of the Israeli lobby).
I don’t know how many interviews they did, but they only aired Ratib and me. Like last December’s demonstration at Qalandia, when the Al Jazeera reporter pulled me aside when I mentioned I was the only American and I went on about how U.S. is funding the settlements and the wall….I don’t think the State Department will want me now.
While we were watching the rest of the news (flotilla was intercepted, something about Syria, someone said something on Israeli news, I think about Iran), Mama Daragmeh sat down next to me and said, “ibni” and pointed to herself, my son, “thalath asdiqa,” three friends, and flicked her hand, dead. Min Ramallah. They were all from villages nearby. She started to cry. I thought, she’s sad because her son is in mourning. But she’s thinking of the mothers too. Maybe they were just like her, and talked about their sons constantly, had pictures up in the house, maybe they had Majik Jacks and talked to them every day, maybe their sons sent Eid money to their sisters for new clothes.…
How strong the families are here. And they’re strangers to the kind of violence they hear about in Chicago. This was an American in Palestine moment that I kept having over, and over…..