This Crazy Thing Called Palestine

Aysar from Dheisheh Refugee Camp

Aysar from Dheisheh Refugee Camp

Aysar is a young volunteer at Dheisheh Refugee Camp. He was born and grown up there and he studied at Bethlehem University. While introducing himself, he says he believes in some crazy ideas, and I am curious to learn more about them. When I show him the bricks, he is surprised: ‘You remind me about Parmenides… – he says and soon after he admits – ‘I’ve never played with this game…’ I let him play around with the LEGO bricks and then get straight into the question: What is Palestine? ‘What it should be or what it is?’ he asks. I repeat my question, those simple 3 words: What is Palestine. I am not giving him any clue, I want to see what Palestine is for him. The less I say, the more he’ll tell me. He is puzzled, he starts talking but I stop him and ask him to build me his answer ‘We’ll talk after…’ I reassure him. He starts building – he takes the bricks on and off, smokes and builds. After a while he is finished: he spreads all the left bricks around the model ‘Leave them’ he says ‘They are part of it’. ‘So this is Palestine… tell me something about your model’ I ask him.

Palestine's Lego model

Palestine's LEGO model

‘We have a strong land to build anything we want’ he says showing me the black base. ‘We have three parts’ he adds showing the red, blue and green bricks on the black base ‘they just look at themselves, to be more than the other, to take as much land as they can…’ ‘Where is that in the model?’ He shows me one of the side wings: ‘Fatah.. they need more space… it doesn’t matter if the society is strong or not… Hamas – he says pointing to the other wing – is the same, taking the front, taking space and it doesn’t care if the society is going to be strong or if there’s going to be war or not…. The communist have always been like in the middle trying to tell them that we should look for one place, one corner… they don’t care if society it’s strong or not because even if they are building invisible bridges between them, we are together and there’s one place that collect us… but in the reality, no… because everything is damaged…’ And by saying so he destroys his model taking down the two wings. ‘This is Hamas and this is Fatah…they are not strong… And all these here’ – he says showing the spare bricks he positioned around the model – ‘these are the results of their experience … they are building damage… And when we look at the results we always say something like ‘Yeah, we’ll forget’ and they build the same thing again… And then they say ‘Yeah, we understand’ and yet they build it again’ – and by saying so he keeps playing with the bricks putting the wings representing Hamas and Fatah on and off – ‘but they are not strong, there’s nothing underneath them’ – he says showing how fragile and unstable are the LEGO bricks representing Hamas and Fatah. ‘This is Palestine today’ he says. ‘What are those bricks spread around?’ I ask looking at the LEGO all around. ‘Individuals… someone who want to build something, others who want to rise their voices. Some people live for their party, in Fatah, they disagree with each other because the first movement didn’t want to be far from the main idea. And it’s the same for Hamas, it is building an invisible society for themselves, they try to do as much as they can, even if they build it in crazy ways, because you can not build only with one hand…’ ‘How do they build it how do they rise their voice?’ ‘They have stolen a lot… because they lie a lot… and this cause the dream to be faraway from the people.’ Aysar is right, the model shows what he says, the little spare bricks are distant from the model of Palestine. ‘And do not forget the European people, who want to build some projects. And do not forget the Israelis who are separating themselves…’ ‘Where are they?’ ‘They are not here, because they prefer not to be in this model, because you know… this is a crazy model and you don’t want to share it. It’s like an invisible hand – remember Adam Smith? And it’s different than here, and it moves, they play, they build what they want until … it’s broken.’

Hamas and Fatah as unstable wings

Hamas and Fatah as unstable wings

And by saying so he keeps taking on and off the Hamas and Fatah bricks. I notice how he constantly plays with those long, thin bricks and how at the end those bricks always get back to their original position as part of Palestine. I ask Aysar about it: ‘But at the end Hamas and Fatah – those bricks – they get always back…’ ‘You know, it has taken 63 years to build this crazy model, and as I’ve told you, we just need people to tell them that we are not a strong place, that we are wrong, and we don’t care to damage everything again and to build it again, but we want to finally find a clear image, a picture of where we are going to…’ ‘And what are those green bricks on the side?’ ‘Green… Green can be the parties, Hamas and the different religious ideas that they share but the reality is that it’s not healthy. Their ideas are not close to the real ideals, but people just want to jump on this revolution. Like see what happened in Egypt. They are leaders for them, you know, the ones who has the clear picture… And it’s the same for Fatah, people there are smarter, all they say is that they are smarter than others…’ The thin brick representing Fatah has a bridge on it. I want to know what that bridge stands for and ask Aysar about it. ‘That’s also the leader of Fatah, the smart people of the parties… They have clear images, and they try to start from all the result that the parties have achieved, and they build a bridge with those leaders we have today… In reality it’s not a strong bridge…’ ‘What is happening now?’ ‘What’s happening now?! Everything is damaged! It’s easy…’ And by saying so he destroys his model ‘…Because nothing is safe, nothing is strong… but we still have the clear image of where we should go. I should damaged it… damaged it – and by saying so takes the model in parts. ‘So that now we can start again…’ he says proudly.

The final model

The final model

I look at the new model of Palestine as resulting from Aysar’s deconstruction process. ‘What happened now? What is the yellow brick on the top?’ I ask him ‘The yellow brick is the umbrella which collects all the people, all their ideas, together… Hamas and Fatah still represent the largest numbers in Palestine, communist are the same, but all of them are under the same umbrella. If we want to succeed we should find an umbrella for us with the same ideas of all the little people … The communist they are struggling for the right, for Hamas, which is larger in Gaza… Fatah – they have their own problems with each other and power but still have one umbrella…’ After he destroyed his model, Hamas and Fatah, those thin bricks Aysar has been playing so much are not part anymore of the model. Does this mean that Hamas and Fatah do not belong to Palestine? ‘No, they are part of the land, they are Palestinian people…’ ‘But these bricks have collapsed in the model…’ ‘Yes… you know, all these dreams they’ve destroyed.. we should take them away from our society and just build in a strong way, because maybe are not starting from zero now, like they have done in the beginning but we can find an umbrella to cover ourselves from the start… ‘Where does that umbrella come from?’ ‘It’s what we have created, it’s our idea, our purpose for struggle, how we look to international people, international governments, to the religion, to the communist to the Christians…’ ‘How do you look at the international governments, how do you look at religion? how should all these issue be incorporated into Palestine to make it a sound model?’ ‘We don’t need them at the beginning. We need just to build ourselves before we find any support from the outside. And I advice also people from outside to build their society in a strong way, because our government, once built, will be the same as your government in Italy, the same as Sarkozy government, the same as Netanyahu or Obama government. We are the same, like everyone we have problems, internal problems, first we should to look at ourselves and solve them and then we can look at others.’ ‘But if religion, politics and international support are an obstacle in this moment, what can unite people, where can they find the strength to build a sound model?’ ‘To be honest, I don’t know. But Gorky says that the secret of keeping people in bad situation is to have less people who can think. I know we should build good ideas for ourselves and then we can build our society. How we’ll find it? I don’t know but I believe we should start from ourselves, from our ideas to be like equal, have the same rights… How should we design it? To be honest, I don’t know, because ideas are like invisible things and I believe it should be one idea for all of us’ While talking he destroyed his model. Then I asked Aysar to build a model of Israel and we’ve been talking about zionist, Europe, America. Only at the very end he disclosed his crazy idea: ‘I don’t believe in 2 state, I believe in one state, in one place… we can not divide the bodies of those who belong to one place or the other. We should be together, we belong to one place. That’s what I believe…’. When we finished, I split the bricks while we still chit-chat with Aysar: no, his idea is not crazy at all. The real craziness is the inability to realise his idea. [Daniela Sala and Gaetano Veninata, two young journalist, prepared a short video about this interview. The video is not public, however, if you are interested in viewing it, I’ll be happy to provide you instructions and links via email (pat . bertini_AT_gmail . com)]

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