schools in Israel, Palestinian children study the history of Zionism and
Jewish immigration as if it were their own. The very history that
nullifies their identity, their past and their right - this is the
history they are taught, forced to study, for it is the only history.
In Freud's well-known controversial essay on femininity, when he
addresses the difference between the sexes, he describes the boy and his
penis, and he describes the girl and her lack of penis. Rather than
describing two different organs, he describes one the boy's penis, the
prototype and the absence of this as the other, the girl's: a
thwarted, flawed, lacking, castrated, inferior sexual organ. Such were
Her lack of a penis is her sexual organ.
And because of that assumption of absence, and lack, and tension of the
imperfect, he invented his theory about the girl's envy of the boy for
his penis, an envy that designates her identity, that explains her
inherent pettiness, and the impaired super-ego, her incapacity of power
and independence, and inevitably, a reduced sense of justice - as a
function of the pettiness inherent in the one born without envying the
one born with. And then the mending that becomes possible later when she
bears a child, especially one with a penis, who will be the compensation
of her lack of one, and then she will be able to 'sublimate' all her own
pettiness, envy, harshness, rigidity, frigidity, and lack of capacity
Incidentally, Freud never observed children while reaching his
Why would he? "He" knows. The powerful and privileged always monopolize
reality thus, too, the men of his time. He necessarily assumed the
existence of envy, for the girl is without whereas the boy is endowed.
He did not see envy, he thought it up, assumed its inevitable existence.
And like many scholars both before and after his time, after drawing up
the theory, he sifted or found examples to confirm it. But it was not
constructed on well-researched foundations, for thesis preceded
Freud was born into a chauvinist world, and that was his point of
departure. He did not generate it, this is where he came from it this is
what he acted upon. In his day women, for example, were not yet entitled
A man is not a man in the same sense that a woman is a woman.
Man is The Being. The Whole. The point of reference. 'Divinity'
through Him things are deciphered. Measured. Made whatever they are in
relation to the whole. And opposite him, Woman, relates to Him, is made
relative to Him.
Her difference from him is her identity. Her inferiority.
The other and the different are not who they are, but rather who they
are not. Perfection is the man's organ. Any difference from that is a
change for the worse, for the incomplete. Absence.
In Hebrew, this line of thinking is constructed within the language. The
prototype point, the general principle, the point of being, is
masculine. "You" - that which English designates by 'it' - is masculine.
Plural is masculine. General is masculine. The masculine is the point of
actuality, whereas the feminine is a private occurrence, different. Not
an equal different a specific different that contains partiality,
relativity, in contrast to him, in contrast to that which need not be
named, the general principle, that is the masculine.
Thus, when wishing to describe a room with several boys and girls, one
inevitably says boys, which is the masculine plural form of youths, the
masculine plural form being the generic form of any plural. One would
specify that the persons sitting in that room were: an Ethiopian boy, a
girl, a Moroccan guy, a Russian guy, and a Druze guy
Not an Ashkenazi
guy. Because Ashkenazi in Jewish Israel is the starting point of being,
the non-relative, that which has no name.
Such is the lot of a Palestinian school child studying Jewish history,
notwithstanding, even, the exclusion of the Palestinian that is so
succinctly expressed in the famous saying "A people without a land came
to a land without a people".
The people that was - was not. Hence it was not expelled nor massacred
in the '48 War or Naqba or War of Independence according to the
fictitious, colonialist history of Zionism, the history of the victors.
Studies of Jewish history consist of the history of Ashkenazi Jewry.
This is the history that is signified as History. And the history of the
Jews of China, or of Iraq, or of Yemen, or of Egypt, will be signified
by their names. Whereas Ashkenazi Jewry is outside relativity, it is not
specific, it is not the history of a region, but rather quintessential
history, history of the Jewish people. The prototype. And from this,
everything will be measured and given its names. Thus, too, whatever
will be termed 'primitive' or not, relates to western civilization as
the point of being, and differing from that is a difference in value,
inferior. Ashkenazi mourning customs are natural, while Oriental ones
are considered primitive. Not different, other, specific, but rather
impaired, inferior. Because Ashkenazi Jewry and its mores are the whole,
and anything differing from that is impaired
Still, among the Bushmen,
the Pygmies, the Native Americans, and other tribes there are also the
tribes of Jews from Arab lands, but they exist - whereas Palestinians do
not. There are no Palestinians.
The state is Jewish and democratic, but it is democratic for Jews alone.
There are no Palestinians, therefore it is democratic. How does one
describe a racist entity such as Israel, whose spirit discriminates skin
color and religious ethnic identity through legislation, who maintains
different civil rights, different land ownership rights, performs
'ethnic cleansing' from its very inception in war as in peace time
through expulsion and massacre and prevention of refugees from returning
to their homes, and through 'creeping' expulsion (by systematic
discrimination, and in our days, the Wall) and race laws of one kind or
another, as regarding family unification, and children's social rights,
and social security for all the state's citizens who are Palestinian.
Those who are not citizens have no rights at all, and their lives are
Arabic is one of Israel's official languages.
But in a 'Jewish democratic state', whose terms 'enlightened
occupation' and 'purity of weapons' are an inherent oxymoron, Arabic
as an official language in a Jewish democratic state is no less of a
constructed contradiction. It is an inversion, just as there is no such
thing as a moral soldier. Bus stops for everyone bear no Arabic writing,
only Hebrew (for everyone - since roads only for Jews are not yet
designated inside Israel). Not in any area where Jews live. So when
soldiers address Palestinians in Hebrew, it is not because they think
Palestinians know Hebrew, although that is occasionally the case. No, it
is because it does not matter to them. For Arabic as an entity does not
exist. For Arabs and their lives and their need to take a bus here or
there like anyone anywhere, are not real. Because 'they' know.
So what? says the Tel Aviv Municipality Spokesman of the errors in
Arabic on the signs. 'They' understand them anyway. And why did you
employ a non-Arabic speaker? I ask. And why is the transcription not
Arabic, I ask. And why is the sign for Hagefen St. (the Vine) written in
proper Arabic for a change, but for some reason its name is Harimon St.
(the Pomegranate)? "Why blow this up?" is his reply. "It wasn't
intentional." There is no intention.
If, for the sake of comparison, it will become apparent that less
resources are allotted to medical research of women's ailments than to
men's, the scrutiny with which the different research projects are
regarded, and the attention to promoting medical research is unequal
respectively when it shall become apparent that medical science
dedicated unique to women does not enjoy the self-same standards as that
of men, that erroneous procedures are upheld, and defective medication
continues to be marketed will we still hear the same claim? Namely,
what is the matter, after all? This is just an error, no ill intended.
There is no intention. Indeed? We are not talking about errors here.
Mistakes do happen. But if after they are found out, policy remains
unchanged, it is no less than policy exposed.
Those with power, the policy-makers, set values and priorities. Define a
problem as worthy. Or unworthy. Establish what is reality and what is
Does the retina in the eye of the powerful and the privileged not
possess that mechanism that reads the 'amplitude' of the Palestinians'
full existence? Or is their brain devoid of that place that processes
the retina's information into significant fact? Is this racism?
Laziness? Callousness? Or human nature?
Two years ago at Checkpoint Qalandiya, a father and his wee son stood
awaiting their turn. They stepped up when their moment came, the
father's ID was checked and he was 'allowed' passage, his little child
stepping ahead of him. A soldier bumped into the man from behind
unintentionally, I suppose, just moving rashly, incidentally. The
father, being pushed forward slightly, bumped into his son who fell flat
on the ground. The father who knew that the soldier had pushed him, said
nothing. He did not protest, his facial expression did not change, he
did not look back. Silently he lifted his little son who got up, in
silence, too, and they went on their way, as if nothing had happened,
the son first, the father in back.
The soldier, unintentionally tripping the father, saw that the father
was bumped into and consequently pushed his son the latter falling
flat on the ground.
He was not blind, this soldier. He turned to his mates and started
joking with them, casually, not for any special measure of cruelty. It
didn't seem intended at all. He did not even gain any pleasure of what
had happened, and I'm quite certain he had not intended to trip the
child. When he giggled with his friends, it was their own matter,
nothing to do with what had just taken placed. Occupier and occupied
the occupied knows, sees, but keeps his silence, suppressing himself. He
walks on, for he has to carry, bear his life, his son, and that which is
left. Crossing the Checkpoint at this moment was more important than
crying out in protest, demanding justice.
The occupier does not see, He looks but doesn't see. Nothing has
happened, as far as he is concerned. A Palestinian father tripping and
pushing his son to the ground is nothing at all.
I know a human rights organization, a political group that claims that
everything done under Occupation is harassment, in blatant violation of
human rights, that it is wrong. This organization prepared a gala event
through which its members wished to convey their message, so that the
crime of Occupation be seen and heard and discovered. To this event,
they provided an invitation written in Hebrew, Arabic and English. The
Arabic version contained major errors. Even after these were detected,
the organization to my surprise did not storm nor express its
regrets or consternation. As far as it was concerned, nothing had
happened, at least nothing of major importance. After all, these were
just a few errors in Arabic, and certainly not with any intention.
Nothing had happened, they claimed.
But when the powerful and privileged, the over-privileged, the
Hebrew-speakers, send out a text they cannot read themselves (naturally,
that is not the problem), and do not bother to make sure they have
written it correctly, and when this proves to be erroneous and they
remain unmoved, they too like the rest of their society -
show us that the Palestinian is not like us. His blood is not as red, he
doesn't cry out when stabbed, the flesh of his soul is different. I
think they show that his entire actuality is not real, and that he does
not necessarily ascribe the same importance to things that are of
primary importance to us. A Palestinian so it seems does not need to
understand when he reads, and does not need to read Arabic, even if it
his language, and it is not important for him to read his language in
its precise, articulate, correct and clear form.
Here too, as elsewhere, 'otherness' is perceived on a value basis, and
the observer's point of departure is always the whole being, where
anything compared to it is of lesser value.
The Other is the other by
Within this 'inherent' distinction there are those who murder the other
nation, trample them, and let them die, or send their sons to serve the
fatherland regardless of what this fatherland does, to harass them as a
method. There are also those who only treat the other with disrespect,
neglecting something like writing Arabic without errors.
It's all the same continuum. In a democracy for Jews only, Jews have
written the history of this land, reshaped it, established what is this
history, and Jews write Arabic, and Jews write with mistakes, and Jews
do not correct their mistakes, nor are they unduly upset by these
The powerful not only write Arabic that is not their mother-tongue, or
Arabic with mistakes, but establish that nothing much happened, that
reality has not happened.
It was unintentional.
Saying that we didn't mean any disrespect to Arabic, saying this is not
patronizing on our part, that we mean no disrespect these are all
hollow words, words of those who say what reality is. The powerful.
Sending out first negligently, then consciously invitations in which
the Arabic section contains errors, shows that mistaken Arabic does not
matter to these Hebrew speakers, even if unintentionally.
In cases of the un-judicial murder a.k.a. as 'targeted elimination',
when casual passers-by are murdered, we hear "Oops, sorry, we didn't
mean it". Yes, they knew there would be passers-by on the spot. They
knew they would die, by and by. But well, this was unintended. As if
this could constitute an answer.
In spite of the difference in these instances, they also contain a
similarity: a group possessing power determines the other group's
identity, its destiny, its rights, and what is or is not to be
considered an 'event'.
All of us, Jews, belong to the master race, regardless of our views on
the present situation. Even when we protest or bear witness, or refuse
to serve in the military, we are replete with that which we cannot
totally exit. We cannot turn off that which we were born into.
Like the Baron von Muenchhausen, who could not lift himself up by his
own pigtail, we cannot be entirely outside this reality of unequal
forces. Just as neuro-scientists cannot entirely be outside their object
of observation. There is no way to be outside that brain that is being
scrutinized. The observer of the brain will forever be coming from that
self-same object of his own observation.
The powerful who were born to power cannot step out of that entity which
they cannot fail to represent, to some extent.
With me at the psychiatric ward was Z., a large, flat-faced young woman.
I didn't see her when she was brought in, but she was placed in a bed in
the middle of the room, hands and feet restrained. Several days went by.
Then one morning, as she couldn't go to occupational therapy, and I
wouldn't, we were there by ourselves, and she asked me for a book. And I
was glad. Just like this, because she wanted to read. I brought it to
her immediately. I had a few. Some more time passed. Then I asked her
about the book. I remember I had worried that my selection of books was
not big enough, and what if the book I'd given her was not right for
her. I ate it, she said. Then I saw. Her whole body was covered with
pieces of paper, the book.
An I remember I realized thanks to her, because of her, that actually
when she asked me for a book I assumed she wanted to read, I assumed
that the use of a book is limited to reading it. I read who she is, and
what should be, and what is within the limits of being, from that which
is most natural and immediate to me. I projected my own world upon her.
I did not consider her otherness, did not realize she is no extension of
myself. I saw the world as the being that is myself. The point of
prototype. I was wrong. I acted out of reduction. Z. God only knows
what has become of her taught me that I, too, belong on the continuum
like all the over-privileged, or more precisely, any human being who
sees the Other through the sensation that he/she him/herself is the
prototype that constructs the Others, and that their Otherness gets its
identity in variance with him/her. That their needs are implied by
his/her needs, world, limits. The limits of his world are the world's
limits. One needn't be Freud, or the Jewish 'machers' of proto-Zionism
for this. Not even a privileged nation, or person. It is constructed
within each and every one of us, occupied or occupier, woman or man. All
of us, like Baron von Muenchhausen, cannot be at once - the observer
and the observed. We cannot see the subjective experience objectively,
and cannot both make the mistake of sending out erroneously written
invitations in Arabic, and not notice that anything has happened. It
remains to be remembered, even if only from the cortex, the skin, rather
than the soul's most visceral layers, that the Other is only different,
and that Otherness is possible without being value-judged. That one
might look at the Other without placing him/her on a hierarchic scale.
To remember that the fact that the mistakenly-written invitation has not
been perceived as a disaster, a drama, a sin, does not define the
event's essence, but rather the constructed failure of the point of
departure. Necessarily. Of the one power, when coming to interpret the
limits of the world of he/she who does not possess that power.
I had a childhood friend who always asked for 3 teaspoons of sugar in
her coffee or tea. And I always served her less, for I could not believe
one could really want a drink that sweet. And that she could find it
tasty. Cup after cup, year after year, I hardly put in 2 spoons of sugar
in her drink, although she asked for 3, although after tasting it, she
invariably added the missing spoon.
We are no longer in touch, but I assume that had I met her again, and
made her coffee or tea, I would in spite of everything, after all
still put hardly 2 spoonfuls of sugar although she asked for 3, although
I wish it were not so.
A rose is a rose is a rose, someone once said.
Translated from Hebrew by Tal Haran