After reading Edward Said’s “States”, I realized that I have nothing to say in comparison to his experiences. I am one of those “normal” people that Palestinians live among: my country, my family continuity, and my society are all in tact. My lifestyle is considered out of reach of Palestinians, as if it were atop an extremely high pedestal. My lifestyle. What I had always deemed as just a seemingly mediocre average lifestyles is actually someone else’s dream, something that somewhere out there, people are striving to achieve. And not just one person, but many. There is proof of my existence and it is untouchable. For Palestinians, there is nothing for them to call their own-no homeland, no links between the past and the present. I take my identity for granted while Palestinians are constantly in exile, trying to grab onto anything that they can claim as their own, any part of their culture that is slowly vanishing. Said describes himself and other Palestinians as always being aliens no matter where they are. In one line he says, “There are no Palestinians. Who are the Palestinians? ‘The inhabitants of Judea and Samaria.’ Non-Jews. Terrorists. Troublemakers. DPs. Refugees. Names on a card. Numbers on a list.” To the Arab states, Palestinians are Arabs but each country is selfish in its nationalization: Egypt is for Egyptians only, Iraq is for Iraqis only. Israel is out of the question because they aren’t “Jews.” So where does that leave Palestinians? Here I am, comfortable in my country and of that feeling of acceptance, while Palestinians are in exile.
The fact that Said questions the evidence Palestinians have proving their existence is as if they are a group of people that is becoming extinct. They are not acknowledged for any contributions made to the world, they are not welcome anywhere and therefore have no place to go that will accept them. Their attempt to unify their life and culture are failed attempts at trying to bring back something that rightfully belongs to them yet for some strange and unknown reason, they are not entitled to. That shocked me. The fact that their history in these encampments was underground knowledge, that any hint of improvement was tolerated but once signs of development began, it was forbidden. These people were and still are human beings, but for some reason I can’t comprehend, they were blamed and punished for having human being tendencies. Without their history, Palestinians have nothing to call their own. Without history, it’s as if they were never really there to begin with. It’s an odd and terrifying concept to think that there are some people who are trying to deny your existence, would rather have you gone, would even pretend that you were never there anyway, just to avoid sharing the earth with you. When Said stated that to everyone else, the Palestinians are a lingering people that just won’t leave, that really hit me that they are seen as outsiders, wondering in a world that doesn’t want them, that wouldn’t miss them if they suddenly vanished. If the world doesn’t want you, where else is there to go?
And what I found really sad was the acceptance of all this from the children of Palestinian refugees. Said describes it as if they skipped an essential step in childhood, that they missed out in enjoying their youth and matured too quickly. The fact that they have accepted their unstable, undocumented, and unaccounted for life is not something that they should have to do. This mentality has become the norm for them, which shouldn’t be a requirement of children, let alone anyone at all.