If there’ll be peace, all the ‘arsim’ will come

By Roy Hasan

Israeli Jews wait in line to eat at Jaffa hummus restaurant Abu Hassan, March 17, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)
Israeli Jews wait in line to eat at Jaffa hummus restaurant Abu Hassan, March 17, 2015. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

I just love those
socialists who hate capitalism
so ostentatiously, wear ugly sandals
and torn t-shirts, wrapping themselves in a homeless look
without telling a soul about grandma’s inheritance or dad’s real estate
(they look homeless too)
and criticize the culture of affluence with bombast
as if they were prophets of vengeance with gurgling stomachs.

I just love those
who wish their Arab brothers
Ramadan Kareem
and sign petitions legalizing
the sale of hametz during Passover.

I just love those
who relish in the muazzin’s call
and see the Chabad or Breslav
truck in the neighborhood
as the devil’s wheeled messengers.

I just love those
who call the settlers messianic
and crazy because they believe in this land
by some godly decree
and cry the pain of the Palestinians
for having been expelled from this land
which they believe to be theirs
by some godly decree
(the very same decree from the very same god, by the way).

I just love those,
third generation to the
plunder of lands by the kibbutzim,
who boycott the settlements
because Occupation and stolen land

(I dream one day
to have the privilege
of boycotting cultural events on kibbutzim
as a political act, in the meantime
I suffice with charging them weekend rates
on weekdays).

I just love those
sensitive Jews who demonstrate against the Occupation
and go home to their
Arab house in Yaffo
which they call Yaffa
with a melancholy glance of
shared fate over hummus
at Abu something-or-other
licking their lips with every
wipe of the pita and
murmuring about ending the Occupation,
dreaming of two states for two nations
because – walla
(they fumble for the Arabic)
Occupation Occupation
(or nakba nakba):
next to them but not with them,
they’re Arabs after all.

An Arab friend said about them once
that they’ll never make peace,
because if there’ll be peace
all the arsim[1] will come.

Translated from the Hebrew by Ron Makleff. This poem was first published in Hebrew in Haaretz.

[1] ars (plural: arsim): Israeli Hebrew slang derived from Arabic. It is a derogatory and racist term almost exclusively directed at Mizrahi Jews and typically used to insinuate low-class taste in music, clothes, jewelry and so on. The term has recently been reclaimed by some young Mizrahi activists and poets.