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An Ode to Tali Fahima

August 20, 2011
Tali Fahima

Tali Fahima

To understand the heroism of Tali Fahima would require understanding Israeli society from within. In a country where Jews cannot legally marry non-Jews and all laws and policies are single mindedly designed to maintain Jewish rule and to separate between Jew and gentile, Tali Fahima stands out as a unique example of the triumph of the human spirit.

Tali Fahima committed the cardinal sin in the eyes of the Israeli establishment. She went to the forbidden basement in her house and discovered that the demon she was told was haunting it was in fact an actual human being. To make things worse, she befriended that person and to her surprise, discovered that he had been locked there by her father for ages. In fact, he had been living in that house all along until her father showed up one day at his doorstep, beat him up and locked him in the basement. And this is the house that Tali was born into. What an amazing revelation! Now it all made sense to her why her father had forbidden her from going to the basement. His demon stories, told to a young child, were designed to prevent the child from ever discovering his own sins. She learned the true story from the man in the basement and found in herself what is so common in humankind but forbidden in Israeli society: she felt compassion and sympathy for the oppressed.

Tali Fahima is the daughter of Arab Jews. Arab Jews had lived for centuries in Arab lands as an integral part of the fabric of Arab society until the Zionist movement put a wedge between them and their neighbors. I bewail their fate, not because they have left Arab lands in which they had lived for millenia in favor of the Jewish State, but because they tend to be the most radical Arab haters in Israeli society, despite having the most similarities. I have long tried to understand why this hatred towards their former countrymen whose only difference is the religion. Surely it was not because they disagreed in a theological debate. But this phenomenon is not even unique. Muslim, Christian and Druze Lebanese Arabs were at each other’s throats, the native tribes of America had been warring with each other before and after the white man came to their land. And an observer from the side would scratch his head trying to find an answer as to why millions of lives were wasted in Europe in wars between people who were indistinguishable from one another.

But Israeli Jewish Arabs still seem to hate non-Jewish Arabs with an unusual fervor (I should know, most of my family are Arab Jews). The explanation seems to be this: soon after the expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 and the establishment of a Jewish State on the ruins of their villages, the Ashkenazi leadership needed to beef Israel’s population and replace the expelled menial workers without threatening the Jewish majority that they had just created by brute force. Arab Jews were then imported from all over the Middle East. It was not an easy feat but the ethnic cleansing of Palestine already provided a fertile ground of hostility in Arab countries, which was used to the maximum by the Jewish State and its agents to put a wedge between Arabs of the Jewish faith (or “Arabs of the Moses religion” as some referred to them) and the rest of Arab society.

And so the Arab Jews were imported into Israel and given the Zionist indoctrination, if they hadn’t been already: they were told that they were not Arabs, but rather Jews, for Arab is a derogatory term in Israel, a reflection of the ruling class Ashkenazi contempt for Arab culture and Arabs in general. They were inflicted with the Ashkenazi psychosis of eternal persecution and Holocausts. They were handed guns and sent to fight “evil Arabs”. They were taught the supremacy of Jews over gentiles, not in the biblical sense of being chosen people but in practice: they were offered a rung in society above the non-Jewish Arabs of Israel for they were Jews and Israel is the state of the Jews. That perhaps may explain their burning hatred towards their twins, the natives of Palestine. If you look at the history of racism in the United States, you will discover that racism towards blacks was more common in the lower spheres of society. The higher echelons have no reason to hate blacks because they do not threaten their social status. It is the lowest classes of whites which felt most threatened by black emancipation and race mixing. Equality for them meant losing a privileged position in a society that no longer considers skin color as the basis for legal status. The same is true for the Arab Jews of Israel, which explains their glaring absence from Israeli peace movements and progressive circles. They customarily vote for right wing parties and can be seen occasionally chanting “death to Arabs”, completely oblivious to the fact that they are Arab themselves (Arab in the general definition is someone who belongs to the Arab culture and some would argue to the Middle Eastern ethnic group, both of which they are certainly part of).

Now back to our heroine, Tali Fahima. When two decades earlier another Israeli Arab Jew, Mordehai Vaanunu, the hero of nuclear non-proliferation exposed to the world Israel’s clandestine mass-production of  doomsday nuclear weapons, he was sentenced to a long sentence under unusually cruel conditions of solitary confinement. His family of Moroccan Jews disowned him. For in Israel, you can be a child molester, a rapist and a murderer and your family will probably come to visit you in jail and perhaps even come to testify in your defense. But Vaanunu and Tali Fahima committed a crime which was taboo, a notch beyond any imaginable crime: they identified with their Arab kin and sympathized with the oppressed. They chose to be members of humanity rather than members of the Tribe, even at the cost of excommunication and risk to their lives. They opened the iron door in the basement installed by the Ashkenazi elite to separate between Jews and the native Arabs of Palestine. They broke a taboo.

Tali Fahima was convicted by the Jewish judges for “abetting terrorists” and sentenced to jail (she had offered to become a human shield to a Palestinian who was on Israel’s hit list of extra-judicial executions, but the formal charge was for translating a few innocuous documents for Palestinian resistance fighters). From the handful of Israelis who protested her conviction were conspicuously missing Arab Jews from her community and her family.

Her sentencing itself was ironically a manifestation of Israeli Apartheid: as in the Israeli legal system Fahima was an Israeli Jew, she was appointed a lawyer and put in front of a civilian court. Had she been a Palestinian non-Jew, she would be either liquidated from the skies or gunned down by a hit squad. At best she would be judged in a military kangaroo court by Israeli military men and sentenced to a harsh jail term in one of Israel’s detention camps for Palestinians.

One day when all the children of Palestine live as equals, immigrant and natives alike; when the Israeli version of Dances With Wolves is released (we pray, before Nakba II), Tali Fahima will earn her place in future history books as a heroine: the woman who defied the ban on the door in the basement and thus helped bring the collapse of the Jewish Apartheid State.

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