Israel, a w(W)hite W(w)estern Jewish democracy (Orwellian Newspeak), is not always that easy to get into. You have to be crafty to break into such a fortress (aka Enchanted Prison). Those amongst we holy wanderers, political dissidents and ignorant travelers have different types of preparation to perpetrate. Some just have to pack their clothes and get on and off of a plane or two. Others have to clean up their facebook accounts, look tired, and prepare names and phone numbers of friends or friends of friends or acquaintances of friends and/or family and their friends and/or associates who might lend a phone number and rough location along with a corroborative report. Others, I’m certain, spend a little extra money on the latest grunge fads to like they are already a part of the Tel Aviv hipster crowd.
When you arrive, your boyfriend may not be allowed to enter. He will call you when he is at the gate departing with the news that he is being sent back and he is not exactly sure why and neither were the Israeli’s who are making him go back. You might get asked a series of questions pertaining to your travel intentions, who you’re staying with, and how long you’ll be there. You might have to provide a phone number and an address or two and watch as they call the number to make sure your story holds water. If you are a known activist or know any known activists you might likely be taken to another room and undergo an interrogation. You may be asked to strip. You may be asked to open your computer and login to your accounts so they can see what you’ve been up to. You might get a stamp on your passport indicating you are not welcome back to Israel for a decade – presumably when the social and political order is a bit more chill.
Whether you are entering or leaving, if you are actually acting with dubious intentions (maybe you’re an intellectual studying Palestinian Art as a form of resistance, or your teaching Pal children to build skateboard parks and learn how to skate, or your a young German girl working for the UN in Ramallah), you’ve gotta do a minimum of two things to enter safely: you have to have a viable story worked out and you’ve got to de-arabize or de-palestinianize your travel articles. Maybe you won’t abring Said’s book on the Question of Palestine or the book on Dabka but would rather grab yourself a copy of Hertzl’s Jewish State and pretend your coming to visit the holy sites and explore your Jewish or Christian roots. Maybe your contemplating Aliyah to get some of your tax dollars back. You’ll learn a couple of Hebrew words to pretend your on in being in on the know. Most of all, deep down inside, you’re prepared to be carted and cordoned off, questioned, cross examined, caressed, and sent back across the Mediterranean lest you be suspected of seeking a dialogue with like minded humanists (Allah forbid they be Arabs), learning a little bit about the cultures of both sides: the indigenous Arab populations and the mostly white implants (read colonizers) in Israel proper. [Note: everyone should have the right to a decent and safe place to live but the history of colonization implies dispossessing others of their homes and land and that tends to piss people off and cause protracted conflicts – something Hertzl was well aware of and wrote about].
Then, of course, there is a sort of un-re-decolonizing of the mind/heart/spirit triad that has to take place. It goes something like this: you realize that your spending so much time coming up with stories so that you can continue to enter and exit Israel. You realize that realizing how much time and energy realizing it takes up more time and energy. You realize that it is this way intentionally. You realize that for a brief period of time you are Israel’s bitch because they’re forcing you to make unethical decisions – you feel boxed into lying. You invent the term “flying ethics” (once again, to mock the flying checkpoints that Palestinians are subject to): literally ethics on the fly, a tactic used to avoid telling incriminating truths in the face of arbitrary and unreasonable searches and seizures such as: I was in Hebron, I visited the Darwish Museum, I purchased olive soap and sweets in Nablus, I ate felafel in Birzeit, there is a really beautiful human being that I’ve fallen in love with that lives in East jerusalem, and/or I am an ardent supporter and promoter of human rights and I support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
You realize its fuck all that you’re forced into this shituation to begin with and you can’t just smile and be honest and travel freely to visit a beautiful peoples in a beautiful culture in a not too beautiful circumstance. You realize that if you make it in or out you might not make it in or out again. You realize that this cycle is precisely what your being forced into again and you argue the virtues of honesty versus the virtues of lying knowing full well that they’re just toying with you and they know where you’ve been in any case and since they can’t really do to you what they do to the Palestinians at least they can have some fun with you, own your ass, watch you sweat, catalog the inventions that you’ve come up with, and determine whether or not you should be made an example of.
They know you’ve spent countless hours with your friends telling stories of what happened to them or people they know. They know you’ve been busy coming up with stories of your own. They know it doesn’t matter what you say, where you’re from or your station in life. If they want to fuck with you, in many splendid ways, they will. So, for just a little amount of time you are their bitch.
You can imagine the kind of intellectual tai chi chuan that is required to skate flawlessly through the system of checkpoints, questions and border crossings. It is, in many ways, however, like roulette. The outcome is seemingly random.