This week the Middle East blog chatter has been heating up. Blogs that cater to American politics have seen a sudden influx of right wing pro-Israeli propaganda of the most extreme kind. These cut and paste spam artists start work long after even the west coast Americans have gone to bed. Like maybe at about 8AM Tel Aviv/Ramalla/Amman/Jerusalem time. And they never discuss American politics; they just drag out every anti-Palestinian, pro-settler propaganda piece that ‘s ever been done in the last 10 years. For a while, I tried to counter the hate, but it was like trying to empty the ocean with a thimble. Then two days ago the Israeli-bots went mostly silent, or cut back on the comments, until yesterday when Israel announced the unilateral cease-fire against Hamas in Gaza–along with a resumption of the occupation of Gaza that they had unilaterally ended in 2005. (It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out they would announce a cease-fire before the American inauguration Tuesday–the Middle East is completely attuned to the American election cycle.) My curiosity was piqued and I had to make a foray over to the Arab neighborhood to see how the Arab street was taking this.
It turns out they are taking it very well. In fact they are jolly.
Mansef, I decided. I’ve got plenty of hummus at home–tonight I would have to eat something special. Arriving at my favorite mansef place, I saw in the window a sign that said, “Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you have never been hurt. Dance like no one is watching.” Not very Arab, that. And inside the furniture was covered with drop cloths while a half a dozen Arab men sat around a big table with huge argila pipe discretely on the floor between them. They cheerfully waved me in. “Remodeling,” said one, proud of the word. “We can accommodate you”, said another. I was in the right place, for sure. But the mansaf special was yesterday. “We have mansaf”, they declared confidently. Just for kicks I ordered the kubba too. Of course they didn’t have it. On the South Side it’s always on the menu but they never have it. You have to go to the North Side. Mint tea, but with dry mint. Can’ t have everything. In the winter you should really drink sage tea, but it’s the thought that counts.
From my hiding place in a booth, I couldn’t help but overhear what they were saying–and although I couldn’t follow the conversation it was pretty clear what they were talking about. Filasteen, Iss-rah-el, Muser (Egypt), Mubarak, Hamas, and of course yahood. One topic after another was discussed and dropped. No saber-rattling, for sure. I would recognize that sound. Then agreement around the table. “Mish harb.” (Not war) “Mish harb.” “Mish harb”, everyone agreed–cheerfully. “Did you solve all the problems of the world yet”, I asked on my way back from paying the tab. “Not yet”, one said, as cheerful as anyone can be without alcohol consumption, “but we’re this close.” He held his thumb and finger an inch apart.