When Soraya (Suheir Hammad, poet and actress) touches down at an Israeli airport, like Alice out of Wonderland, a tsunami of stupidity, propelled by yet another typhoon of evil, has just devastated the whole of the Middle East.
Everyone, Muslim or Christian, Jew or whatever, copes as best as they can with this uncivil harassment that affects even children and pregnant women. Soraya was born and grew up in Brooklyn, New York, but the memory of her grandparents has made her so Palestinian that the security agents at the airport question her American passport. “Open your legs”, says agent number one, to which agent number two retorts, “Take off your sweater”, while both of them intone the adage, “All this is for your own good”.
The only thing that Soraya wants to do is get to Nablus in Palestine to find out what remains to be seen of her ancestry. As it is, without a visa but with infinite determination, she achieves her objective. Without giving it a second thought, she plonks herself down in front of the management of an old and respectable, local bank. “I’ve come to settle my grandfather’s account that closed in 1948”.
For every Palestinian, for those with an American passport and the rest, that year represents the expiry date of their lives.
It was when everything changed, when everything was turned upside down. The state of Israel was declared and the old inhabitants of these lands were left with nothing less than resignation.
The banker, an old scoundrel, despite priding himself on being Palestinian, is impressed by the rebellious nature of this young woman who has put him on the spot.
In the end, the patron of the dollar will win, as the bankers always win, whether it be in Ramallah or New York. Soraya goes out into the street defeated and disgusted.
She manages to do it, and luck stays on her side when going through the Israeli border controls between Palestine and Israel. She arrives with her two friends in Jerusalem. Behind them they have left the humiliation and the perpetual, total violation of all human rights.
A Palestinian is a terrorist until he shows himself to be otherwise. At a road check-point you have to take off your shirt and from afar comes the order to roll up your trousers.
I left the cinema after watching this film (“Mih Hadha Al-Bair, Salt of This Sea”, Anne Marie Jacir, 2008) feeling like getting a ticket to go to Palestine – sorry, to Israel (to speak of the former is just wishful thinking).
But even in our most stupidly conceived impulses, like when we fall in love, we may lack that essential ingredient called courage.
Not even when the Indians in a John Ford western cut off the soldiers’ hair did I have the courage to jump at the screen.
It is a simple film that has nothing to do with Oscars or other awards. However, it has the warmth of existing by omission considering Palestine is a word that hardly ever figures in dictionaries, at least only if it is synonymous with terrorism or unhappiness.
Some years ago, I do not know how many but a sufficient number of years to recall my innate and irredeemable stupidity (it was in 2004), I published a little romantic novel entitled, Palestine, My Love, pompously dedicated ’to all Palestinian and Israeli women who would like to be able to make love without having to make war’.
My intention, like that of Soraya, was to raid a bank, in this case the bank of indifference.
I told myself that with my story about a Palestinian millionairess who falls in love with a diehard Israeli I could open the door to a wider understanding of ordinary people, without the cultural prejudices that one reads about in a romantic novel.
I sent the story to the Palestinian Authority and also to the Israeli government.
When I presented it in my own town at the southern tip of Andalucía facing Africa, the local politicians of every persuasion seemed to be enthusiastic about my idea of bringing together the many Jews and Palestinians that are living in Spain to attend round table discussions. This would take the form of a free festival held on the beach.
Nine years have now passed and I still keep hoping that we might for once and for all replace the never-ending festivals of shouting and drunkenness, such as are celebrated here, with one dedicated to the problems of the Middle East.
At this stage in my life, I firmly believe that Soraya will continue raiding banks in search of her grandfather’s savings and that her compatriots will not continue being crushed by the tsunami of stupidity that lashes the Mediterranean coasts. I will continue dreaming with my Palestine novel of a modest 98 pages until the banker of Ramallah understands that Soraya is not some accomplice of Bonnie and Clyde, but a young woman who does not want her dreams to die.
In this world of mine with seven kilometres of beach, populated during the summer months by tens of thousands of northern Europeans who only think about the sun (the more merciless the better), I no longer believe that one day you will be able to see in our cinema – only fit for horror films made in Hollywood – a clip from my film Palestine, My Love.
Patricia: I’m going to have a child. It will be the son of a Sephardic Jew and a Palestinian guerrilla. I hope that our friends in Jerusalem and in Gaza won’t find out.
*Journalist, cinema critic and contributor to Prensa Latina
(Translated by Martin Relph – Email: email@example.com)