Humiliation

“Humiliation” is one of a series of six poems I wrote about being a Palestinian living in exile. This poem describes a journey I took to my home in Palestine across the Jordan River after the six day war that started on the 5th of June, 1967. It was a journey of degradation; many Palestinians were subjected to various humiliations by the Israeli occupation forces. Alkhaleel is the name of my hometown; in English is called Hebron. The following is a translation of one of my poems about what we, the Palestinians in exile, go through when the occupying forces of Israel grant us a permit to visit our homes: an experience of being humiliated at checkpoints erected by the Israeli occupiers.

Humiliation

by Iqbal Tamimi

At the first checkpoint

Between Jordan and Palestine

An Israeli soldier asked me

About my nationality.

I almost screamed:

“Look at me!

Tell me what you see!” 

Out of my veins I pulled an olive tree.

Moved to fury,

I showed him my mother’s dress, still

Embroidered with my grandfather’s blood.

For two days

We waited on the bridge… 

Caged like cattle,

Crammed in a pen swarming with flies

who bathed in our sweat.

The weather was hell-hot.

Hungry and thirsty children cried,

Their throats parched, cracked dry.

Sipping a cold drink

A soldier, shorter than his gun,

Flicked through my documents.

His hand brushed his girlfriend’s military uniform,

Stroked her hair,

Kissed her mouth.

They looked so young

That I thought, “They ought to be in school1”

Instead they were having fun

Degrading an old Palestinian man,

Forcing him to strip

And wear a woman’s underslip.

They giggled,

Decided to take

Another break.

Time meant a great deal to us

but what did they care?

Morning departed . . . afternoon came… 

At last they returned,

Eying me with disgust,

My passport was in his hand

but still he quizzed me about my homeland.

.”Where are you from?” he asked

Refusing to acknowledge my hometown’s Arabic name.

I told him: “Alkhaleel”.

I do not barter its shadows.

He disappeared again

into the air-conditioned room.

We all knew

It was a humiliation game:

The occupiers make the rules.

Hours passed… 

I was called to be searched.

It seemed

I might be caught

Smuggling a poem!

They passed a metal detector all over my body.

Then the strip-search began.

Their hands groped under my armpits.

I was instructed to take off my headscarf.

They did not even spare

Checking my underwear,

My blood-stained towel!

They strip-searched my little girls,

Then pointed at my baby with a stick,

Their faces wrinkling with disgust.

I was ordered to remove her diaper.

They even searched her milk!

Take off your shoes!””

A soldier shouted at me.

My children clung to my dress.

Frightened and confused,

I took them off.

The hot platform baked my feet;

Probably they would find in my heels

A shooting star.

Fury… Fury… Fury!

They found nothing

but burning feet in silhouette shadows.

They confiscated my identity card.

What were they looking for?

My birth certificate and my family tree

are flowing in my bloodstream.

I stood there half naked,

Angry and ashamed,

My face turning red.

I started to pray:

“From my country’s thyme

And its hilltops’ sage

And from the fluff of its sparrows

May spring fall

To clothe my bare soul.”

Dare not test my patience,

Or test it if you wish… 

It does not matter to me at all.

Palestine is my homeland

And always will be.

Acknowledge or deny,

Still I will never crawl.

In Al-Khalil’s mountains

My heart resides.

There I stand tall,

A neighbour of heaven.

I sat there

On one of the foothills,

Combing my hair,

The teeth of my comb

Catching the clouds.

Search me

As many times as you wish.

Erect more army checkpoints.

Build as many roadblocks as you can.

Invent more devious ways

Of creating time delays.

You fail to see:

I belong here.

You can’t uproot me like a tree;

I will keep coming back.

My voice will keep feeding the thunder

Until your foreheads

breed white flags.


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