Perspective matters

Extract from “I Saw Ramallah” by Mourid Barghouti

“It is easy to blur the truth with a simple linguistic trick: start your story from ‘Secondly.’ Yes, this is what Rabin did. He simply neglected to speak of what happened first. Start your story with “Secondly,” and the world will be turned upside-down. Start your story with “Secondly,” and the arrows of the Red Indians are the original criminals and the guns of the white men are entirely the victim. It is enough to start with “Secondly,” for the anger of the black man against the white to be barbarous. Start with “Secondly,” and Gandhi becomes responsible for the tragedies of the British. You only need to start your story with “Secondly,” and the burned Vietnamese will have wounded the humanity of the napalm, and Victor Jara’s songs will be the shameful thing and not Pinochet’s bullets, which killed so many thousands in the Santiago stadium. It is enough to start the story with “Secondly,” for my grandmother, Umm ‘Ata, to become the criminal and Ariel Sharon her victim. …

The houses built on top of ours gallantly declare their willingness to understand our odd predilection toward living in camps scattered in the Diaspora of gods and flies, as though we had begged them to throw us out of our homes and to send their bulldozers to destroy them in front of our very eyes. Their generous guns in Deir Yassin forgive us the fact that they piled our bodies high at the sunset hour there one day. Their fighter jets forgive the graves of our martyrs in Beirut. Their soldiers forgive the tendency of our teenagers’ bones to break. Israel the victim polishes its hot, red knife with the sheen of forgiveness.”

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