Peace by any other name

Fulasteeny, Palestinian, Balastinian or whatever, we do exist.

By RAY HANANIA
June 1, 2009 20:00
2 minute read.
Peace by any other name

Palestinian flag 248.88. (photo credit: AP)

Palestinians are increasingly an anomaly. It starts with our name. There is no "P" sound in Arabic so why are we called "Palestinians?" That doesn't mean we don't exist. We do. But it sure makes it easy for people to deny us when our own existence is not even properly labeled. In Arabic, we are "Fulasteeny." Because we do have the "F" sound. Just not the "P" sound. And when I speak to Palestinians who come to the "Jewish-controlled" America (that's how they describe it, sadly), I'm caught between their anger-driven racism and their speech malapropisms. They call themselves in English, "Balastinians." Fulasteeny, Palestinian, Balastinian or whatever, we do exist. Less so with Israelis than most others, but even in that existence, it can be tense. Past tense and future tense, but rarely present tense. If we just get past the semantics for a moment, we might be able to get past the substance. But semantics is the game and as anti-semantic as I am, it's not easy. One leader's Palestinian state is another man's excuse to point a finger at Iran. Just ask Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a guy I don't really like, but being a Westernized secular Balastinian, I can accept. Hey, Netanyahu is not my problem, so to speak. He's Israel's problem. But he sure knows how to rub it in on Palestinians. His nickname is "B B." Then there is that tough Ruski, Avigdor Lieberman. A bouncer. Maybe a little racist in a very narrow way focused almost entirely against the "Balastinians." Every time I say his name, though, I am reminded of that great Hollywood actor Laurence Olivier who played "Ezra Lieberman," the Nazi hunter pursuing the sinister Gregory Peck in the 1978 movie The Boys from Brazil. The way Peck would pronounce that name "Leee, ber-mahn!" in the film sent chills up my spine. I wish the Balestinians could connect with that enunciation. "Oh, cabinet member Leee, ber-mahn. You are so meaner, man!" Okay. Avigdor isn't as sympathetic a person as Ezra Lieberman, who, in contrast, dedicated his life to pursuing goodness by stamping out evil. Avigdor seems to relish in the "evil" of politics to pursue his version of goodness. ACTUALLY, PALESTINIANS also do not have the "Z" sound. That's why we call the Israelis the "Sih-youneen." The Zionists. Or, just simply the "Yehude." A producer of the hit Israeli TV series Arab Labor sent me a copy of the entire season. I laughed hysterically. Not at the racism portrayed by each side, but rather at the way that real life deals with these anomalies in our tenuous existence. It's not really an Israeli version of Jerry Seinfeld, the Jewish American actor whose mother is a Syrian-Jew (making him my favorite Arab comedian, by the way). It's more like the 1960s and 70s American TV sitcom, All in the Family, where race and race issues were ripped apart to make a social point. Or, for the Arab perspective, a "social boint." Which brings me back to the challenge we, as Balastinians and Sihyouneen each face as we debka and hora our way to the future. Maybe we should pursue something we both can pronounce together. The same way. It's not really "peace" at all but "beace." And beace just doesn't sound right. Worse is the "road map to beace." I ask you, though. Who in the Middle East even bothers to read a road map? Road map? Sometimes, neither of us are driving on the road with a full tank of gas, for that matter. The writer is an American Palestinian standup comedian and Chicago radio talk show host. www.RadiOChicagoland.com


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