the bridge


Once again we start the journey from Cairo to Amman and from there to the bridge. Since my first crossing in 1996, after thirty years of exile, I have crossed many times, sometimes with ease and sometimes with difficulty. I’ve seen Israeli soldiers whose seriousness, which can rise to the level of scowls of superiority, never leaves them and others who practice their job with professionalism, as though they were customs inspectors and nothing more. In the eyes of some, I’ve seen a certain confusion and, very occasionally, I’ve seen one who smiles or shows some desire to be of help. There is no homogeneity to their features—Ethiopian, Brooklynite, Slavic, Yemeni. The common factor is that they’re all armed. Some are newly conscripted adolescents, male and female, and some of these seem bewildered by their daily contact with hundreds of the Arab ‘enemy.’ In all cases, though, the rifles are ready for use at any moment. Taken together, they constitute a nightmare for every Palestinian who crosses the bridge. It’s difficult to trust the smile of a person carrying weapons here. Our problem with the Jew, here in this ‘Jewish state’ as they insist on calling it, is that all three or four generations of Palestinians have seen of him is his helmet. They’ve seen the Jew only in khaki, with his finger on the rifle’s trigger. They’ve seen him only as a sniper at a window, an officer in a tank, a conscript at a checkpoint, a guard clacking his metal heels past the doors to prison cells or along the long corridors that separate them, or a heavy hand in the interrogation rooms, where Israeli law allows the use of what they call ‘moderate physical force’(!) to extract confessions. Many western journalists who maintain a studied and malign blindness to the Occupation have asked me whether the Palestinian people are really ready to coexist with the Jews and I reply that we coexisted with them for hundreds of years in Palestine, the Arab countries, and Andalusia, and that it is Europe, which reproves us and holds us to account, that couldn’t coexist with them and sent millions of them mercilessly to the Holocaust. What is asked of us today, however, and has been ever since their military occupation of our land, is to coexist with their tanks in our bedrooms! Show me one person in this world, I say to them, who can live with a tank in his bedroom.

more from Mourid Barghouti at Guernica here.