Saturday, June 14, 2008
Arab villages that once blended organically into the landscape
The Economist, maybe the best magazine around, writes about Mr Shahade´s Walking in Palestine book. Instead of Arab villages that once blended organically into the landscape Mr Shahade finds "ugly" asphalt roads and "ugly" red roofed settlements. Knowing something about the subject, I say: Bullshit. Miserable Arab villages, focuses of dysentery and cholera, there people defecated into the water they were drinking, where each summer dysentery and cholera culled excess children? They blended into the landscape? What landscape? The deforested, desertized, ruined terraces, built by Jews two thousand years ago? All Palestine is full of unkept ancient agricultural terraces, of ruined water channels and iriigation systems hewn in the stone, thousands of underground cisterns, thousands of olive oil mills and grape pressing pools in the mother rock, thousands of Hirb's (ruins) of abandoned Jewish villages and synagogues. The Arabs are newcomers in Palestine, they are unadapted to the landscape, their agricultural methods are those of Egypt, their goat pastoralism from the Saudi desert, their folklore from the Caucasus. These people have contaminated the landscape, their goats have overgrazed the vegetal cover, their hunting sports have exterminated local fauna and birds, their excrement have defiled the rivers and streams. The best witnesses are the English and American peregrines such as Mark Twain who came looking for the "land flowing milk and honey" described in the Bible and found to their horror only treeless desert, miserable goats and diseased natives, and of course the filthy, insistent plague of beggars everywhere. The nostalgic romanticism of an imagined past that never existed is the Palestinian narrative, never noticing the ugly reality of misery and disease. For them, it is asphalt roads, the white houses, the green gardens and forests that are ugly. The French, who were the first modern Europeans in the Middle East, called this feature Levantine imagination. They imagine things and they believe it is true. The pic shows a terebint tree's inflorescence.