A recent debate I participated in yielded the conclusive statement: “now is not the time for it.” It really got me thinking, whenever there is a crisis in this region, everyone socially is moved into one corner and an emergency circle is drawn. Anyone not in the circle must be punished, broken down, and brought in to the circle or outcast from that circle. This latest crisis in Gaza is another example of it. We are all of a sudden, flag-waving, Hamas-loving, Israeli-hating, song-singing, slogan-chanting, flag-burning patriots. And we wear our black and white kaffiyeh as proof of it.
And none of those physical manifestations matter to me very much. It’s when someone says something that is not in line with the sudden emergency-ideology that I begin to worry. That group of people believes in a list of things and you could agree with 98% of their general line of thinking, but express one little thought outside those realms and you are suddenly typecast as someone who wants to see Palestinian babies die. Or worse: you just don’t care.
I’ve been noticing it in the way people talk, argue and confront of each other. There are no debates, just arguments and confrontations. Whether online or in the real world. It is a strict, with-me or against-me state of mind. I’ve seen the most patriotic Palestinians I know express their distaste for Hamas’s role in this crisis and they are suddenly deemed to be traitors.
Your arguments suddenly become about everything you didn’t say. And if your argument ends up being rational, you’ll get a response of: now is not the time for it.
And what they really mean by that is, now is the time to unify behind a single state-of-mind. It doesn’t matter if you’re wrong or right, just as long as you don’t disagree with the general consensus. It is the war mentality. The one that says, if your country is at war, it is unpatriotic to be critical of anything it does or says. And while Jordan isn’t at war, it’s people might as well be.
It’s troubling because this is partly the aftermath of such a conflict: whenever Israel attacks, it forces everyone on the Arab street to an extreme. It’s either “with us” or “with them” and if you are really “with us” then that means you have to accept a list of beliefs you may not entirely agree with, just to prove you’re not “with them”.
This extreme environment is so overwhelming that nothing can be discussed during times of crises. We are all part of a collective entity with more extremist positions or, rather, more extremist tendencies towards keeping true to those positions. Israel forces us there, but we keep each other there. They are powerful enough to change the way we think with every action they take, but we allow ourselves to change.
We declare our own mental state-of-emergency, and it’ll last a few weeks after the crisis is over, maybe even a few months. It may take a year of relative calm before we return to some sort of “normal”, “middle-ground” thought. Our elastic-selves.
Until then, while we’re all raving mad and shaking our fists in the air, maybe there should be a moratorium on debates or arguments concerning the who whole Palestine issue.
We should also place a moratorium on other words like Hamas, Fatah and unity. Two-state solution, peace treaty, peace and resistance included.