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The guide to Palestinian survival in Israel

When all it takes for a cop to shoot you is for someone to yell ‘terrorist,’ it’s best if you switch that Arabic ringtone, shave your beard, and just stay home. Samah Salaime offers a five-step guide to Palestinian survival in the Holy Land.

A Palestinian man cleans the scene where a Palestinian woman allegedly tried to stabbed an Israeli man, following which she was shot to death, Jerusalem's Old City, October 7, 2015. (photo: Faiz Abu Rmeleh)

A Palestinian man cleans the scene where a Palestinian woman allegedly tried to stabbed an Israeli man, following which she was shot to death, Jerusalem’s Old City, October 7, 2015. (photo: Faiz Abu Rmeleh)

I wanted to know how exactly I am to survive as an Arab woman in this country. Forget a state for all citizens, all militants, all Jews — we must now adopt Netanyahu’s policies and stay alive.

It is obvious that the average Arab does not own weapons, such that the new open-fire regulations don’t really matter to him or her. The only flammable material we know is used for barbecuing, so even if our mayors ask us to walk around armed, it simply won’t work out for us.

So what should we do? I asked my Facebook friends for suggestions to build a “guide to Palestinian survival in the Holy Land.” I wrote in Hebrew, since I thought my Jewish friends had probably experienced anti-Semitism firsthand, so they probably could tell me how to deal with these kinds of things from personal experience.

I was surprised to find out that many of my Arab friends “shared” my call, and that they themselves are just as afraid to walk around or enter the public sphere, for fear of falling prey to Jewish mobs. This is especially relevant following the videos of Jews only calling to execute Arab who fell into their trap. In Netanya we saw a lynch of Arab workers, while in Jerusalem a group of criminals roams the streets at night looking for Arabs. They ask random people for the time, and if they answer with an Arabic accent, it’s all over.

On days where insanity is the indisputable ruler — when anyone can carry a weapon and feel like his life is in danger, simply because an Arab woman opened her bag next to him — who knows how things will end.

It’s best to shut up

I began searching for guides for Jews around the world in Hebrew and English, and eventually found something that may help: a student guide intended for Jews to help them stay safe on campuses, which was released after several instances of anti-Semitism there. No one can beat those Americans and their war on terror.

It must contain something useful, I told myself. So here it is, the same guide only adapted to Palestinians and the current situation in Israel. I hope you find some salvation from a world of hate and violence:

1. If you see something, say something: In our case, if you see a Jewish person looking frightened, and you are not sure that your Hebrew is proper enough for the Israeli street, perhaps it is better if you don’t say anything at all. Just shut up, for God’s sake. You talking will only stir up trouble. Surely do not mention anything close to “Allahu Akbar,” pita bread with za’atar, etc. Do not pray or answer the telephone. If your ringtone is in Arabic, change it now.

Police turn a man away at a checkpoint outside the Old City of Jerusalem, October 4, 2015. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org) Israeli police banned most Palestinians from entering the Old City for a few days after a fatal stabbing attack.

Police turn a man away at a checkpoint outside the Old City of Jerusalem, October 4, 2015. (Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org) Israeli police banned most Palestinians from entering the Old City for a few days after a fatal stabbing attack.

In the case that your accent does not give you away, start a calming conversation, such as, “What are we going to do with these Arabs? We need to destroy them!” or “That Bibi is strong, he’ll show them,” and other violent expressions against your own people. We forgive you for betraying us, as long as you stay alive.

2. The guide states that “your appearance gives you away,” and that you must show confidence, not stress. In our case, perhaps it is best to try and hide our ethnicity. I know that for Arabs, and especially for Muslim women, this will be a difficult challenge. To the men among you, put thought into your outward appearance. Dress well, especially in comfortable clothing and running shoes, lose the keffiyeh and the beard for now, and it’s best if you don’t walk around with your face covered. That is unless you are dressing up as religious Jews, then feel free to leave the beard and remember to keep the Sabbath, meaning no smoking on Saturday or any other activities that might make you look suspicious.

As for the women, due to Islamophobia around the world I found a fatwa for you, from the scholars of Sharia, which allows women to change both the way they cover their hair and their clothing in unsafe places in Western countries. Since Israel views itself as an enlightened Western country, feel free to go for it. Take a lesson from Jewish women who arrange their beautiful kerchiefs, and wear a long dress instead of your jilbaab. It’s totally fine and the change is only temporary. Deception is the name of the game, girls, and we’re good at it.

For non-religious women such as myself, it is quite simple: dress as you ordinarily would, and don’t overdo the cleavage. Forget about your right to your body and all that feminist talk right now; with all those “strong” men running around outside, we can see that it can end in drawing a weapon of a different kind, and can end in a gang rape in a parking lot. I am deliberating what to do for self-defense, since whatever you may choose to use could look like a weapon in the security cameras, and that’s just plain dangerous.

3. According to the guide, an “active shooter” is someone who has a weapon and is pointing it toward his victims. He is under stress, and is aiming and yelling. According to studies, it takes between 10-15 minutes until security forces arrive, which means one must use that time to survive (“escape, hide, struggle”) until help arrives.

A Palestinian woman stands in the Mediterranean Sea during the last day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday as the sun sets in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, July 19, 2015. Israeli authorities issued thousands of permits for Palestinians living in the West Bank, allowing them to visit Israel during the three-day holiday that marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian woman stands in the Mediterranean Sea during the last day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday as the sun sets in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, July 19, 2015. Israeli authorities issued thousands of permits for Palestinians living in the West Bank, allowing them to visit Israel during the three-day holiday that marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Here, friends, we find ourselves in double trouble. Firstly, most people aside from you are generally armed in these types of situations, meaning that you won’t be able to escape or hide. Secondly, even when the police arrive it is likely that the first cop who exits his vehicle will shoot you, since a Jewish mob will be shouting “shoot the terrorist, you son of a bitch, shoot him!” Therefore, please do not count on the police to save you.

I think that at this point, your only hope is to look for the closest security camera, raise your arms and shout “I am innocent!” (you know, aside from your only crime of being born Arab). Perhaps someone in the crowd will find it in themselves to save you from execution.

Prepare Dad

4. If you survived a violent attack, write down what happened in maximum detail and give a statement to the police in order to speed up the process of getting justice, suggests the guide.

I, too, adopt this suggestion, but I also propose providing that statement to a good lawyer, friends, and the press, since it you should assume that you will be accused of defiant behavior among a traumatized population, which could only lead to an unreasonable response. Be prepared for the possibility of being put on trial. If this happens, you must feel very at ease with the fact that you are happy with your conviction, since after all, you made it out alive. And there is no safer place than prison in this country.

An Israeli Policeman prepares to fire a sponge-tipped bullet during a Nakba Day demonstration in East Jerusalem, May 15, 2013. (Haim Schwarczenberg)

An Israeli Policeman prepares to fire a sponge-tipped bullet during a Nakba Day demonstration in East Jerusalem, May 15, 2013. (Haim Schwarczenberg)

5. Don’t go outside if you don’t have to. This suggestion didn’t actually appear in the original guide, but many people wrote it to me personally, including my own mother. “Just don’t leave the house, it’s better that way.” It’s true — if it isn’t a matter of life or death, don’t go outside. Stay at home. Even there it isn’t really safe, but it’s preferable. Protest on Facebook with “likes” and as many comments as you want — without going overboard. Vent your frustrations, but don’t get caught up in online discussions, since the Shin Bet is watching, and it may end in arrest.

To the young women I say: prepare your fathers, the ones who aren’t involved in anything, who sit in front of the computer watching sports. Tell them that they may find themselves being dragged to the police station as the man responsible for bringing a female into the world. We see the police do this once in a while, and it stems from “cultural sensitivity” for Arab culture, according to which they do not speak nor interrogate a woman without the approval of her husband or father.

So if there are any Arab women who believed they are an integral part of their own nation, of the oppression and racism against it, that message did not make it past military rule of the 50s and 60s. You are still inferior as an Arab and as a woman, and the enlightened, colonial authorities will take care to leave you in this prison forever.

At the end of the guide, one can find the following message: “Dear Jewish student, your campus experience is very important to us, as is the connection to the Jewish community. Remember that we will do everything in order to protect the student community, but you must be responsible for your own safety.”

And that, my friends, is very difficult to summarize. Palestinians in Israel do not have many supportive communities. You are not as important as citizens, nor are your experiences and feelings legitimate in any way. Also, your connections to other communities don’t really matter here. And yet, you are responsible for your own safety!

Thank you for reading the guide to survival. You are welcome to share it with others.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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