He handed Aisha’s passport to me, but when I went to take it he kept his grip, leaving me leaning forwards, unbalanced over his desk. We stayed that way for a second before I managed to find my balance again, my hand still on the passport. ‘You like Arabs?’Where do you start? Poor Paul, young and innocent he finds himself exposed to the realities, the human elements, of the conflict he had skimmed over in TV reports, a news addict channel hopping the news networks. And now he’s in deep, caught between the Arabs and the Israelis, unsure who the good guys and bad guys are anymore, unsure about what to believe because all around him people believe such very different things.
His eyes held me and I looked back at him, furiously trying to think of a response. ‘I’ve liked the people I have met since I arrived in Jordan.’
‘So you think we are bad people then, Paul Stokes? That we should be drive into sea? You agree about this?’
I let go of the passport as I sensed the traps lying in wait all around me, refusing to play a tug of war with him over the document. I tried to keep my voice mild and neutral as I responded, but I found it hard to focus, the phrase tug of war in my mind stopped me from thinking properly. I wanted to go to the toilet.
His question had been put in a mild, almost offhand way, but at the same time it went directly to the heart of what many of the people I had met in the Arab World thought. That the Israelis didn’t belong here, that they should never have been allowed to come here.
Olives, Page 158
It'll be 64 years this year since 1948 saw the founding of the state of Israel and the beginning of this latest chapter in the history of that famously 'invented people', the Palestinians. That history is intertwined with the history of the country that became a home to so many: Jordan. While the Palestinians of Lebanon still live in a state of semi-recognition, effectively treated like 'Bidoun' (stateless people), those in Jordan have been allowed to settle, take up Jordanian nationality and, in many cases, prosper. Those left behind in Gaza and West Bank are arguably not as fortunate, living a restricted life under occupation. And yet many of those who left still feel a deep link back to the land their families came from - another theme explored in Olives, with the olive grove kept in Abdoun by the fictional Dajanis of the book serving as a constant reminder of the farm they still hold in the West Bank.
I’d like to recommend a book to you, particularly if you find yourself intrigued by the subjects Olives touches on, take a read of Pamela Olsen’s Fast Times in Palestine. It’s a candid, well-written and very readable book that looks at everyday life in the West Bank and it will probably make you quietly angry.