In 2015, I traveled to Palestine to build playgrounds in several villages and to hold opening ceremonies at playgrounds we had already built in the months previous. Another member of our organization was traveling with me. She happened to be Jewish and they allowed her in. Several Israeli interrogators asked me the same questions in different ways over the course of approximately 7.5 hours. I answered them all, as Palestinians must if we are to stand a chance of going home, even as visitors. But I was not sufficiently deferential, nor was I capable of that in the moment. But I was certainly composed and – the requirement for all violated people – “civil.” Finally, I was accused of not cooperating because I did not know how many cousins I have and what are all their names and the names of their spouses. It was only after being told that I was denied entry that I raised my voice and refused to leave quietly. I did yell, and I stand by everything I yelled. According to Haaretz, Israel said I “behaved angrily, crudely and vulgarly” in 2015 at the Allenby Bridge.
What I said in 2015 to my interrogators, and which was also reported in Haaretz at the time, is that they should be the ones to leave, not me; that I am a daughter of this land and nothing will change that; that my own direct history is steeped in the land and there’s no way they can extricate it; that as much as they invoke Zionist mythological fairy tales, they can never claim such personal familial lineage, much as they wish they could.
I suppose that must sound vulgar to Zionist ears. To be confronted with authenticity of Palestinian indigeneity despite exile, and face their apocryphal, ever-shifting colonial narratives.
My lack of deference in 2015 and choice not to quietly accept the arbitrary decision of an illegitimate gatekeeper to my country apparently got appended to my name and, upon my arrival this time on November 1st, signaled for my immediate deportation.
The true vulgarity is that several million Europeans and other foreigners live in Palestine now while the indigenous population lives either in exile or under the cruel boots of Israeli occupation; the true vulgarity is in the rows of snipers surrounding Gaza, taking careful aim and shooting human beings with no real way to defend themselves, who dare to protest their collective imprisonment and imposed misery; the true vulgarity is in seeing our youth bleed on the ground, waste in Israeli jails, starve for an education, travel, learning, or some opportunity to fully be in the world; the true vulgarity is the way they have taken and continue to take everything from us, how they have carved out our hearts, stolen our everything, occupied our history, and tamp our voices and our art.
In total, Israel detained me for approximately 36 hours. We were not allowed any electronics, pens or pencils in the jail cells, but I found a way to take both – because we Palestinians are resourceful, smart, and we find our way to freedom and dignity by any means we can. I have photos and video from inside that terrible detention center, which I took with a second phone hidden on my body, and I left for them a few messages on the walls by the dirty bed I had to lay on. I suppose they will find it vulgar to read: “Free Palestine,” “Israel is an Apartheid State,” or “susan abulhawa was here and smuggled this pencil into her prison cell”.