Dr. Ariella Azulay teaches arts at Tel Aviv University
A state—like citizenship—is not an object and can’t be under the ownership of individuals. After many long years in which Israelis of Jewish origin behaved toward the state as their own and spread this fact in all its representations, it is difficult to imagine a different reality that deviates from these representations. Only you can break down the blurring that they created in relation to the state and only you with the force of your demands can return to the state its principal functio'n – a framework that organizes the life of those it rules. Only you, the Palestinians, using your demand to be counted as subjects of the state, using the power of your demand to be a part of it, can return it to its proper, desired proportions – a neutral framework sustained by the ruled and on their behalf. No negotiations and no conditions, no sides and no stages—but rather the elementary demand of the ruled and those who were expelled from the realm of control to be counted, to be a part, to be made citizens, to participate in the governance of their country, to shape it, to shape the new political partnerships that prevails in it anew.
“Dear Palestinians,” I repeated my imaginings and turned to you, and to your brothers and sisters here and beyond the green line. “Since they expelled you, you appear nightly in our dreams. A trembling passes through the body, a shock in the memory of the violent expulsion. Since the night that you left only terror filled dreams pursue us. What point was there to your expulsion if you did not cease to live in our bodies, in our souls – sons and daughters to the parents who expelled you ?! What was the point if we were sentenced to lie about the memory of your expulsion to our children or to tell them but with that to prepare them for the fact that around them everyone is lying to them when they say that there was no expulsion and thus to cause their lying society to be loathsome to them?! Return. Return to live with us again. We need you! 750,000 Palestinians and their descendents can change our lives here. We are sick of seeing around us only faces that are similar to our own. It is clear to us that we cannot live alone. We need the other, and there is no other as close as you. Come! Let us live here together!”
And now I wake and open my eyes and it is not you who are standing here in front of me. My countrymen the Jews are running this way and that and continue to prepare for their holiday, to imagine—at least once a year as they dress in white holiday clothes—their state as a Jewish state. In the state they imagine, you are invisible—not just that you are ‘not counted,’ but also with the aid of borders, walls and checkpoints, you turn invisible. In the work days when you, or at least a part of you, are visible to the public, they deny your civil existence so as not to count you as part of the state’s body politic. In my imagination, that continued in the night as I dreamt, I raised my voice, tried to say to them again and again that the state is not private property and it is not theirs. Most of them did not even turn toward me. They dismissed me without a word and went on their way. It seems to me that there isn’t a thing I haven’t said, but my voices continues to go unheard. When one speaks of political life, your presence continues most of the time to be transparent. Long before I and those like me acquired the words in order to extricate ourselves from the lie of “our state,” you never stopped saying the obvious, to demand to be a part. Despite the reality that the planned violence of 1947-1950 created, the new regime turned you into a minority and forced silence upon you, the demand to be a part, yours and your brothers who were expelled to outside the borders of the new state and remained outside its borders when it expanded in 1967, was always perceived as the claim of “the other side,” always threatening and always aggressive. It was framed in such a way that for many long years Israelis of Jewish origins could not hear the simple and basic demand of those who were excluded from the whole that was here in 1948 in order to create through this uprooting a new whole and that you were left out. Since then, all your words emanated from this ‘outside’ and contributed to our labeling ourselves as ‘inside.’ Breaking this wall between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ is no less important than breaking down that wall, the visible one, that was built with evil and idiocy. All the words and explanations that were raised and written against it did not help those who cannot imagine a reality in which one or another wall is not planted.
Each year, a few days after my Jewish brothers and sisters take off their starched and ironed holiday clothes from their balconies, they notice that you are still here, continuing to demand what is rightfully yours, and your brothers are still there, beyond the borders of the state, continue to live in ghettos that they are responsible for creating. Even then, your presence does not appear to their eyes as a political presence of those that our government does not count. Every year I expect that maybe they will clean their souls of the festive words that that the state fed them and conditioned them to and their ears will be able to pay attention to a simple, serious, civil discourse that reminds them that it is possible to imagine another life, just and fair with others, that instead of continuing to bury the lie and create more injustices to prevent its eruption from the bottle, it is possible to ask for forgiveness, and maybe also the right to repent, and to recognize the injustice and compensate and fix what we can before it is too late.
The justice of your demand to be ‘counted’ and ‘to be a part’ is not in question. If you say it with one voice and demand it from those who do not understand its mean when it was expressed earlier in other forms, you will create a moment of truth. With your help, perhaps there will finally be a real civil discourse here where Jews and Palestinians can create here a full civil life.
Your return will be a part of the political whole and your induction as full citizens in the state is the base of our future—we have no future but a joint future!