Terrorism by Gabrielle Spear

“isn’t all of this ugly though?” i say to the young israeli vet || i know he has risked nearly everything to break silences || but i’m skeptical he will ever stop occupying || he speaks of settlers as if he not one himself || of the military as if they have not been carving green lines through palestinians all along || we are looking down upon the nets over the marketplace in hebron || where jewish settlers throw trash and rocks and their own shit || onto the heads of palestinians || and besides the voice of our tour guide || the only noise to be heard across the village || are jewish cars moving down shuhada street || the only bodies free || are stray dogs

words i must tell you || do not have the same meanings here || al-khalil is hebron || shubbaak is a prison || sayyaara is a vehicle for apartheid || kalb is an animal with more freedom than palestinians || shaari’ is a walk of shame || souk is a dump for your enemy’s shit || and out the mouth of a palestinian with a thick accent || the english word “tourist” || sounds like the word “terrorist” || and “terrorist” like the word || “tourist”

“don’t the settlers want to live in a beautiful place? || why live here at all || if it’s not beautiful?” i ask || i can see our tour guide is confused || my questions come out stupid, obvious || “the security makes the settlers feel protected,” he says || maybe for the tenth time || and gestures to the windows that palestinians || must live inside to make their colonizers || feel comfortable on a car ride down shuhada street || but —that’s not what i’m asking

i want to understand how can you can live so incubated || you don’t even see the walls || and barbed wire || and shit in your line of vision || at what point do the walls fold back || melt into your landscape || your own geography || that your body itself || becomes a wall too


at the end of the tour || the former soldiers take us to meet issa amro || how gracious and kind of them || finally letting a palestinian speak for himself || issa shows us the only weapon he has ever owned || language || i have already told you || words are different here || from the ears of a settler || issa’s weapon is more violent than a bomb || he believes in a different world || and when this one passes || as he assures us it eventually will || words will be restored to their rightful meanings:

al-khalil will be a thriving city that once survived the worst of apartheid

         shubbaak will be a portal to palestine

                        sayyaara will take its owner on road trips through freedom

                                     kalb will be a dog, just a dog, and not a name for an arab

                                             shaari’ will breathe the memories of martyrs long gone

                                                           souk will smell like home again

we board the tour bus out of hebron || and i leave feeling self-righteous || my weapon of choice is poetry after all || i will never search for words through the barrel of a gun

yet || how quickly i forget that || on this land || poetry makes a terrorist out of me too