Palestine Mapkin

Palestine Mapkin

“I know nothing about negotiations, but when I do negotiate, I take a pen and a piece of PAPER.”

by: Refaat Alareer



The latest cache of papers Al Jazeera exposed about the past half dozen years of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations proved to the observer that neither Palestinians in the streets are key players in shaping their future nor the negotiators are serious about their job. The papers exposed shocked some of us and came as old news to others who were believed to be conspiracy theories adherents. Two things in particular left the majority of us speechless: the Palestinian future map that was drawn on a napkin (yes, a napkin!) and the super-generous offer of the biggest Jerusalem in history (no, not to the Palestinians) but to the Israelis

Settlements were given the green lights not by the Americans but by Palestinians who were supposed to be fighting for us and for our rights. Illegal settlements such as French Hill, Ramat Alon, Ramat Shlomo, Gilo, Talpiot, and the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s old city were conceded to Israel. Those areas contain some 120,000 Jewish settlers. Those areas were annexed from Palestinian farmers whose parents and grand-grand-grandparents owned, plowed and planted for thousands of years. Even Israelis feel weak and embarrassed talking about why they grabbed those areas.

And now, in a stroke of a pen on some napkin perhaps huge portions of Palestine vanish into thin air. Just like that. Still the chief (grand, supreme, or whatever ) negotiator rejoiced at what he called ‘the swap’ which in reality was giving up parts of the holy city of Jerusalem for patches of land some where in the desert.

A reader would assume that we Palestinians are a bunch of poor idiots with some amateur negotiators with two or three years of experience in the field. No! There are as many specialists in every field needed for such talks as there are in any advanced country. And those who made the shameful concessions had more than 20 years of experience. The irony is that neither the experts were picked to participate in the negotiation nor the negotiators were given permission by the Palestinians.

And the napkin! That’s another disgusting saga. I know nothing about negotiations, but when I do negotiate, I take a pen and a piece of PAPER. The Map on the nap or the “Mapkin” showed Israel’s proposed swaps in the Jerusalem area. Israel would keep all of its major West Bank settlements – Ma’ale Adumim, Ariel, Kedumim and others – none of which were included in the Palestinian offers. In a word, our future, lands, holy shrines and sites, hopes, dreams were on that piece of linen!

And guess what? In return the Israelis gave us—nothing! They offered no concessions. They made no gestures. They showed no sign of understanding or exchanging what might be called ‘gifts’. Now I say, how much should we give up till the Israelis start to finally think of giving things back? How many times should we fight ourselves and kill ourselves in sacrifice on the Israeli altar till the Israelis finally determine that we are peaceful and that we deserve an independent state? How many more years of experience does the Palestinian negotiation team need to learn that they should be taking things seriously and take papers when discussing our future state instead of scribbling stuff on a piece of cloth? When will they decide that the masses have the right to know what goes on in the dimly lighted, five-star hotel rooms?

There is a point both Israel and the international community overlook or prefer to overlook. Even if Palestine or most of it was given to the Jews, we Palestinians will never ever approve of such disgracefully reprehensive concessions. And those people simply do not represent us! We have not signed a paper. We have not sent them a napkin. We have not given them the green light to start giving in/up things the way they like.

All I finally hope is that the napkin map was not scrawled with a pencil nor was it flushed in some five-star toilet. And if that handkerchief is lost, those lousy ‘negotiators’ should be ware of Othellos that might put an end to their joyrides on the backs and heads of the most determined and persevering people, who will smother them not with a fluffy pillow but by some dirty napkin picked from some faraway landfill.

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tragedy in One sentence

Oblivious to the likely new happenings around her, unable to fully grasp the faintest idea of the reason why not only all her relatives and beloved ones but also every Tom, Dick and Harry, even that hateful one-eyed shopkeeper, was there gathering in the tiny ragged tent, newly erected by little boys she only saw their look-alikes on TV hurling stones at something she could not form a complete image of as it used to pass those kids so quickly that they, dodging low to evade live bullets but not too low to miss the target, had to throw their stones perhaps 10 seconds before to make sure they hit it, seeing masked grown-ups covering the walls of her house with graffiti, feeling proud, a sense of finally belonging to whatever was going on around her, and she, of course, being unable to fathom what they are, a sense she longed for for ages because her first grader classmate, Heba, used to tease her that unlike the walls of Heba’s house, hers were, to quote Heba, ‘as white as snow’, something bad in itself in a culture that values any kind of resistance even if it is a slogan scribbled on the walls of their houses by a boy whose chicken scratch can be read by none but Champollion himself, going back home that afternoon to check on her mother, a plump young lady in her mid twenties who had to marry early as she was left orphan by an Israeli shell that destroyed their house and killed all her family members except her who happened to be sleeping over at her cousin, whose elder brother married her seven years later more out of pity than passion, and now  having to bear the awful harshness of going on through life with a husband buried two metres beneath with a Palestinian flag waving over his grave and a smiling picture on the headstone and on the walls of the neighbourhood waiting there not for the occupation to tear them down under their heavy boots but by killing another yet young, full-of-life person whose pictures will cover that of her husband, nothing but pictures of martyrs can cover the faces of other martyrs in Palestine, having now to bring a dozen of kids, the oldest of whom was approaching her with quizzical glances wondering what was going on, the mother trying to hide her emotions, smiled slightly, dragged her daughter not closer to her heart lest should the little one hears the deafening screams of the broken heart, unaware, again, that from now on she will be labelled an orphan, the little girl seeing her mother smiling, slept in her lap to be awakened minutes later by the bitter crying of her Mom, who, though trying to suppress her inner torture and agony yet failing to keep calm the moment her little daughter while asleep called for her dad not once but thrice, with her high-pitched wailing, caused her confused daughter to cry uncontrollably.