Compromismo (Touching a Nerve)

by Mark Chmiel

On a summer day in 1944
My mother was herded from a cattle car
Along with the rest of its human cargo
Which had been transported from Belgrade
To the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen

She saw a group of German women
Some on foot
Some on bicycles
Slow down as the strange procession went by
And watch with indifferent curiosity on their faces

For me
Those women became a loathsome symbol
Of watching from the sidelines
And at an early age
I decided that my place was not with the bystanders

In the end
My desire to live in Gaza
Stemmed neither from adventurism
Nor from insanity
But from that dread of being a bystander
From my need to understand
Down to the last detail
A world that is
To the best of my political and historical comprehension
A profoundly Israeli creation

To me
Gaza embodies the entire saga of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
It represents the central contradiction of the State of Israel
Democracy for some
Dispossession for others
It is our exposed nerve

–adapted from Amira Hass, Drinking the Sea at Gaza
Outtake from Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine

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