Apropos of our conversation today, here begins the opening paragraph (and after) of chapter 1 of Rashid Khalidi’s Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness…
The quintessential Palestinian experience, which illustrates some of the most basic issues raised by Palestinian identity, takes place at a border, an airport, a checkpoint: in short, at any one of those many modern barriers where identities are checked and verified. What happens to Palestinians at these crossing points brings home to them how much they share in common as a people. For it is at these borders and barriers that the six million Palestinians are singled out for “special treatment,” and are forcefully reminded of their identity: of who they are, and of why they are different from others….
Borders are a problem for Palestinians since their identity–which is constantly reinforced in myriad positive and negative ways–not only is subject to question by the powers that be; but also is in many contexts almost suspect by definition. As a result, at each of these barriers which most others take for granted, every Palestinian is exposed to the possibility of harassment, exclusion, and sometimes worse, simply because of his or her identity. The dread with which Palestinians regard such boundaries, and the potent–albeit negative–reinforcement of their identity this fear engenders, can be understood only in light of the many many anecdotal examples of incidents at crossing points.
Add this to your every growing list of “someday to read”!