For many of us, the “Palestine” we have grown attached to is simply not there waiting for us. Just as some Palestinian refugees still cling on to the heavy, rusty keys of homes they were expelled from in 1948, hoping to return some day and find life as they left it, we all adhere to an idea that is just as illusory today.
I wanted to understand the gangs that smuggle refugees into the U.K., so I infiltrated one. For months, I pretended to be an economic migrant from Pakistan stuck in France. I wanted to understand how gangs managed to move refugees and migrants across the sea from Calais to Dover.
Amb. Chris Stevens was one of the main reasons I took a job in the State Department. In 2011, I admired his enthusiasm for engagement in Libya during the revolution. That moment of fleeting optimism felt a lifetime away as I stood in a hangar at Joint Air Base Andrews, waiting for his body to arrive.
Will I give those challenging my way of life the benefit of the doubt, as I preached to my Turkish friends, or will I approach them with extreme suspicion?
The Lebanese had managed to destroy their country in 1975 without Syrian help. Still, the Syrian occupation in Lebanon, a prolonged obscenity in itself, helped to thoroughly corrupt Lebanon’s institutions, public life, public servants, and ultimately all Lebanese, even as it shaped the fate of the country’s politics and factions.
Years later, after leaving the country and then returning as a journalist, I would ask fellow Syrians what they understood themselves to be. “What is Syria? Who is Syria?” I asked anyone who listened. “What does it mean to be a citizen of Syria?”
The main targets of these reports are usually apartment renters, people without permanent jobs, and pious Uyghurs including anyone who prays five times a day, grows facial hair or wears the hijab.