My parents were seated opposite one another. Each was holding a newspaper. They would read, pause, comment, debate and resume their reading...
I remember standing at the doorway of the living room and watching them reciprocate...
I don't exactly know how it all came about, but I was suddenly included in the conversation...
It's been a long time, so I can't recall all the minute details, except maybe for my mother's printed summer dress. I remember the little flowers adorning it and the sunlight stroking the hem and her legs...She looked so beautiful in it.
And I do recall what my father was wearing. Grey pants and a white, short sleeve shirt. I guess it stayed in my memory because someone had told me that in Paradise, people wear white and grey...He too, looked handsome.
I remember watching and thinking to myself, what a perfect couple today.
I was taken away from my idyllic reverie of a few minutes when father said
"Layla, what do you know about Palestine?"
Of course I had heard of Palestine at age 10, but am not sure I knew all the details. All I knew is that something bad happened and it had to do with war and occupation.
Sensing that I was hesitant to come forward with the little knowledge I had for a 10 year old, he completed my thoughts..." Palestine has been taken away from us by force...Layla, what happened to Palestine will happen to every Arab country unless..."
My mother intervened as she usually does and added "Always remember that Palestine is Arab and that you are an Arab whatever happens..."
My first formal initiation to the Palestinian cause was also an initiation to the Arab cause...In my mind they remained and are till this very day, intertwined and inseparable.
That day I felt I was given a big task, an obligation. I am not sure what it was, I just knew that I was handed something precious. Something that started with Palestine and went beyond...
And it went beyond the borders of Palestine. It reached Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and today Iraq...and tomorrow ? My father's prophecy came true.
You need to understand one crucial thing, the crux of the matter, the essence of the matter, once you grasp it you will grasp everything else around it in the Middle East. The occupation of Palestine is at the CORE of all the other occupations.
Once the core is liberated, the rest will fall back in place. And please do me a favor, don't mention this oil business again as being the sole determinant of things past and present. There was no oil in Palestine, unless you consider Olive oil something worth appropriating and killing for.
It is all about "promised lands" and it all started with Palestine.
Whether God, the early Zionists or the British promised it, does not matter anymore...It was "promised" and illegally delivered.
Sixty years have elapsed since the first delivery by the British and in consortium with the other colonial powers. Sixty years of occupation on a land that is, on the one hand, narrowing and shrinking and on the other, expanding even more...
Sixty years and millions in Exodus. Moving from tent to tent, slum to slum, camp to camp, sometimes for a second and third time. Carrying the old rusty key to what used to be a home, carrying yellowed papers to what once was a piece of land, carrying an ID card to what once was a citizenship and a sense of belonging.
Israel and the safeguarding and expansion of Israel is the root cause of all occupations past and present. You need to understand that once and for all.
Sixty years of wars, sixty years of continuous exile, sixty years of death and the tumor is still lodged and metastasizing.
1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1975, 1980, 1982, 1991, 2003, 2006, and it goes on...
And in between - incursions, Intifadas, bombs, civil strife and silencing by prison chains and death.
Israel, the "democracy" of sham and shame, the Jewish racist entity established on stolen land, on usurped land, built on tears, blood and corpses of Palestinians, of Arabs.
Sixty years of wars, sixty years of expansion, sixty years of silence - the silence of mass graves, the solitude of mass graves...the solitude of exile.
They still carry the key, the yellowed papers and the ID card...they will keep on carrying them. So will I.
I am also holding onto the key, the papers that are turning yellow and the ID card that I am keeping as a memory...I am too, today. So will you, tomorrow...
And my father's voice returns in full force " What happened to Palestine will happen to every Arab country unless..."
Painting: Iraqi artist, Serwan Baran.