My mind tries to grasp the graphic bloody images from the latest Gaza massacre portrayed on the news, but I still cannot justify any human rationale, nor do I see an end or solution to the problem we have all endured for decades.
There's going to be a protest? but what can we Arabs do?
My mind tries to grasp the graphic bloody images from the latest Gaza massacre portrayed on the news, but I still cannot justify any human rationale, nor do I see an end or solution to the problem we have all endured for decades. I watch the news broadcasts about protests brewing across the globe and wonder what they are going to achieve. Later, my friend's mobile phone bleeps to announce the arrival of an SMS highlighting a call for a protest set at noon outside the Palestinian consulate in Dubai. Scores of people have already protested in Sharjah… so even the apolitical UAE is getting in on the act - and no one is being arrested, either. Do I attend the protests and vent my anger or do I remain the objective journalist and contribute with another article?
My coverage of the Iraq war and the Nahr El Bared catastrophe in Lebanon has left me discouraged and defeated as an Arab but also curious to the reality on the other side - in Israel. My friend Mohamed, who has just returned from a journalistic assignment in Tel Aviv, gives me a word of warning in case I do set off: "What ever you do, don't let them stamp your passport with any Hebrew welcome." Although I am a Canadian passport holder, my friend tells me that I would not hear the end of it if I returned with an Israeli stamp.
Actually, you do have the right to ask for a "no-stamp" upon arrival at passport control, he says, but be prepared for a grilling or two by immigration officers, who will dig deep into your past before releasing their verdict. The whole process takes a good - or, more accurately, agonising - three hours, including the nerve-wracking wait in the non-smoking room. My friend, who comes from three generations of Mohameds, survived the ordeal. He confirmed to the immigration officers that he does not know any Palestinians residing in Tel Aviv but purposely "forgot" to mention his girlfriend from Gaza who now lives in Dubai. "The hatred was innate in their every stare at me," he said.
I replied: "We are also bred from our elementary Arabic curriculum in school to hate the Zionist enemy… and so the saga continues." When Mohamed was finally given permission to enter without having his passport stamped, he was met by a bilingual female immigration officer who greeted him in Arabic. She stamped a plain piece of white paper that he was instructed to hand over to passport control at the exit of the airport. Surprisingly, the blonde female officer there ripped the paper and signalled him to enter.
Out in the street, he welcomed the street signs written in Arabic, English and Hebrew. A Palestinian taxi driver hauled him across town as he rid his soul of the ghosts of racial profiling, the echoes of war and the inherited history he had to endure during the three-hour interview. The trick, he tells me, is to try and stay fresh, honest, and watch your body language in order to survive the provocations they throw at you.
Mohamed escorted his Christian American boss for a taste of religious tourism in Jerusalem on the last day of their three-day trip. He snapped photos of her rushing inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the site where Jesus is said to have been crucified and buried. The two of them then visited the Jewish Wailing Wall, donning the traditional Jewish kippah on their heads and posing for the camera. Their fun ended when his boss was not allowed to enter the site of the gorgeous Al Aqsa mosque because she is not a Muslim. Mohamed went in alone as his boss waited outside rejected.
"Why can't we all live in peace and forgive?" I ask him with sarcastic naivety. Mohamed almost missed his flight on his way out of Tel Aviv airport after a female immigration officer humiliated him with a goodbye strip-search before she went through every image on his digital camera. And so the saga continues and so does the tragic shelling and unjustified spilling of innocent Palestinian blood. On a lighter note, Mohamed arrived back in Dubai with three presents for his Palestinian girlfriend, who collects fridge magnets from all over the world. She was glad to stick up the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Last Supper but she absolutely refused to entertain his humour and let the magnet decorated with a Jewish menorah join the others on the door of her refrigerator.
Mohamed Fadel Fahmy is a senior producer with Al Hurra television