When Palestine is liberated I will go straight to the old city of Nablus with my mum and sister, as we haven’t been able to do for years now, and we will buy sweets and fruit and of course tanajir and she will show us around without the fear she once felt. But then we will go on a trip to see all of Palestine, which I have never been able to do. I will get to know every town and village, every cafe and bookshop and market and every neighbourhood’s customs and reputation and resistance. Also my cousins and I will drive along the coast and I will stick my head out of the car window, just like I do in Cairo after I’ve just landed, and breathe in free air with loud music and Palestinian jokes in the background. And after the fun, I will help with something, I can’t say what yet, but maybe teach a course, establish a cinema or help found a museum. Maybe I’ll even work for the Free State..! And I will invite my family and friends from other Arab countries to Palestine to see the liberation and celebrate it, because they will have played a part in realising it for sure.
When I return, I will visit the ruins of Lifta, the only village of hundreds of Palestinian villages “not to have been subsequently covered in the concrete and tarmac of Israeli towns and roads, or planted over with trees and shrubs to create forests, parks and picnic areas, or transformed into Israeli artists’ colonies.”
I will buy land there, a plot next to my grandfather’s house now occupied by a Jewish family. I will build another house there and invite whatever Jewish family is still living in my grandfather’s house to a cup of coffee, and if they are hungry, perhaps cook maqloubeh or mloukhieh with chicken for them.
Stop the Israeli government’s impending construction of luxury apartments and a hotel on my ancestral land.
When I return to Palestine…
I will have mended my Sedo’s broken heart
I will make dolls out of bottle caps on the beach in Yaffa
I will reminisce at the sound of the old songs of times passed
My eyes will water and my throat will choke from the smell of the hot taboun dipped in freshly, pressed green olive oil
I will walk bare foot and freely through the forests and
will distinguish the different scents of the wind, rain, and earth
My generation is the one that was born after Operation Desert Storm. We were the children watching our cities burn on large screen televisions in the Diaspora. We were the infants who heard our parents saying “Allah Hafiz” without realizing that it was an echo of Nasser’s failures in 1967. We were barely pre-teens when we watched the United States and its allies occupying Afghanistan and hammering Baghdad.
My generation is the one that has never remembered a time without news reports documenting foreign explosives detonating in our cities and those of our comrades.
My generation comprises we children of the Islamic Revival who spent our teenage years desperately wishing to live in the leftist political awakenings that nurtured our parents before the Six Day War and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
And when Palestine is liberated, it will be my generation that will do the liberating.
When Palestine is liberated, it will because we refused to inherit the disasters of our parents’ generations.
It will be because we will be deaf to the failures that caused them to go quiet. It will be because we shattered the nightmares of 1967 by imprisoning Mubarak, liberating Tripoli, seizing Damascus, and storming Sana’a. It will be because we were the ones so disgusted with the safety of dictatorship and cooperation with Israel that our actions caused a panic in every imperialist drawing room from Washington to Moscow.
When Palestine is liberated, it will happen because my generation finally stopped fantasizing about the Middle East our parents lived in and decided that it was due time to forge our own.
It will happen because we refused to be frustrated with the failures of the peace process and decided that the road to a free Palestine leads through our own cities rather than the White House. It will happen because we took our cause to Tel Aviv ourselves. It will happen because we threw foreign militaries out of our countries, dismantled their bases, and took the future into our own hands.
On the day that Palestine is liberated, I will kiss my mother on the forehead before she prays in Al-Aqsa and thanks me for the priviledge of being able to walk from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean Sea without a military checkpoint in sight.
On the day that Palestine is liberated, our achievements will be read in front of Parliamentary houses in Cairo, Damascus, Tripoli, and Sana’a.
And on the day that Palestine is liberated, I will finally be able to sleep peacefully knowing that between Casablanca and Kashmir there isn’t an imperialist presence in sight.