Last night as I lay in bed wishing for sleep, I thought I saw a spider scurry across the moonlit ceiling. I closed my eyes only to have uninvited thoughts intrude in that drifting space between wakefulness and slumber. Images floated by: there in that nether world, shimmering threads criss-crossed the darkness of the unknown luring me to come closer until I saw the faces of millions caught in a gigantic, glistening spider’s web. The faces were my own.
I was the girl screaming on a blood-stained beach strewn with the body parts of her family. I was the boy huddled against his father as the bullets sprayed around them. I was the woman faint with labour pains at the checkpoint willing her unborn child to stay in the womb a few more hours. I was the man paraded blindfolded and handcuffed, tortured and jailed for resisting the occupation of his people. I was the family of thousands clutching the memories of lifetimes as the bulldozers tore down the walls of their homes. I was the generations, terrorised and driven from their land and villages in one of the cruellest acts of inhumanity perpetrated by one people against another. I was Palestinian caught in a web of deceit, despised and shunned by a world blinded by Biblical myths and twenty-first century spin.
In those nightmarish scenes, I knew what it meant to be walled in where there are no horizons. I knew what it meant to wait forever in queues going nowhere. I knew what it meant to tremble at the rumble of tanks and the sound of jackboots and to lie waiting for the bombs to tear open the ground beneath. I knew what it meant to be kept from family and loved ones by identity papers that say we cannot live together. I knew what it meant to scrabble for food and to thirst for even a drop of water. I knew what it meant to feel self-loathing for betraying my people to save my sick child. I knew what it meant to be tempted with privileges while others are ground into the dirt. I knew what it meant to be played with by overwhelming outside forces sent to divide and separate and turn us against each other. I knew what it meant to be humiliated and ridiculed, lives not worthy of the world’s compassion. And, in that web of suspended prey, the devourer has no reason to hurry.
Deep calming sleep eluded me. The human condition was too appalling, the inhuman treatment choking me with revulsion, but I could not escape the nightmare. As I moved from one despairing human mass to another I became what the world does not want to see or know. Here were children maimed and crippled, born into destitution and starvation and knowing nothing but extreme violence from a glorified state armed with weapons more powerful and lethal than anyone can imagine. Children who are the next mothers and fathers of
Once caught in the web, there was nowhere to go. To struggle would have pulled the web tighter and brought the salivating spider closer. To remain still only delayed the inevitable as the spider devoured its trapped prey at its leisure. Those who tried to break the web or pluck the victims from its sticky threads, felt the full venom of the spider’s bite. The nightmare had merged with reality and I no longer knew if I was on the outside looking in or on the inside looking out. My voice had become lost in the keening sounds of women and men mourning their loved ones, my helplessness increasingly reflected in the eyes of children stricken with terror. There was no beginning or end to the days and nights: I felt myself being swallowed up in the sea of a tormented humanity.
I looked this way and that for some relief from the sheer misery of it all, but there was none because this is the Palestinian nightmare – no relief, no hope, no future, just an endless wearing down of the human spirit. Millions of eyes staring through me into the void beyond, millions of people born into captivity unable to lie in a bed and dream or ever to feel safe in their own homes. Millions of flesh and blood people crippled by the denial of hope and freedom, stripped of dignity and abandoned on the human garbage heap of the privileged, the powerful and the indifferent.
Awake at last, but still caught in the grip of terror, I found myself living the nightmare in the prison of my mind while the Palestinians live it in the prison of their world. Neither they nor I can escape the inhumanity of what is being perpetrated. Their nightmare is the ever-climaxing horror story they have been living since the creation of
So much talk of justice, democracy and peace while each one of those lives pass into oblivion without resolution and not one of those lives meaning anything to people who see the world as exclusively theirs or who are indifferent as long as they themselves do not suffer. Surely this is apartheid in its worst form: a separation between those who have and those who are prevented from having anything. That interminable silence creating a wall more suffocating than any concrete slabs or electric fencing, that turning of the head, that closing of the mind more final than any soldier’s gun or government decree.
Where will the Palestinians go as they are pushed, pulled and torn from their land and edged ever further into those sparse areas where no crops will grow and no water runs? Where will they go as immigrants from abroad swarm into the illegal settlements rising up on Palestinian-owned properties and land from which they have been forcibly evicted? Where will they go as the illegal Wall marks out illegal borders and separates a colonising state from a fanciful one that offers the Palestinians about as much freedom and independence as captive animals in a zoo?
Where are you humanity preached in the pulpits and held aloft in the vainglorious triumphs of generals and presidents? More urgently, where are we who elevate such hypocrites to be our keepers? What does it say about us who claim to live by principles, morality and faith when we refuse to look in the eyes of the innocents whom we have condemned, or worse still, believe those who tell us without accountability that millions of people are worth sacrificing for the security of
Oh yes indeed, we are allowing the horrors to happen again. The gas chambers and killing fields of yesterday are the cattle-yard Bantustans and the 2000 bureaucratic rules that regulate every single movement of every Palestinian life that
And so, my fellow human beings, the sixty-year Palestinian nightmare continues, endless only due to the limitlessness of our inhumanity. Oh what have we become? That is the nightmare that is waiting to engulf us all.
Sonja Karkar is the founder of Women for