Monday, June 11, 2018

Discussing 1945

The following dialogue is from Arthur Koestler's "Thieves in the Night"

published in 1946 (and which every serious Betari has read).

Arthur Koestler, who was a follower of Jabotinsky in the 1920s, has the character Kamel Effendi represeting the local Arabs of Palestine engaged in conversation and debate with Dick Matthews, an American journalist.

From pages 213-215:

They all refused except Matthews, who took a balloon-glass of brandy. “What was wrong with old Balfour?” he asked, thrusting his big untidy head towards Kamel Effendi.

“He gave our house away,” said Kamel Effendi, who liked to stick to the same metaphor.

“More boloney,” said Matthews, tasting the brandy and finding that it was good. "There never was a house here. There was a desert and a stinking swamp and pox-ridden fellaheen. You were the pariahs of the Levant and to-day you are the richest of the Arab countries. Your population was on the decrease for centuries because half your babes were dying from filth in their cradles, and since the Jews came it has doubled. They haven’t robbed you of an inch of your land, but they have robbed you of your malaria and your trachoma and your septic childbeds and your poverty. . ."

“Come, come, Mr. Matthews," the A.Ch.C. said, putting on his harassed air, though secretly he was enjoying himself. “This is rather strong language, and a bit unfair too.”

Kamel Effendi had jumped up from his seat. He was gasping for words.

"Bbah!” he brought out at last. "Now we know where we are. You come here as our guest, saying you are a journalist from America — but you are just one of those people whom they ...” He made a frantic gesture of rubbing his index against his thumb, and his face underwent a rather unpleasant change.

"Yeah,” Matthews said calmly. "I am one of the Elders of Zion — huh?”

“I think it is time we joined the ladies,” said the A.Ch.C. [Hon. Patrick Gordon-Smith, the
Assistant Chief Commissioner], and the Professor [Shenkin of the Hebrew University] obediently got to his feet, but Kamel paid no attention to him.

"I care not who you are,” he shouted. "You come here as our guest and then you abuse us. That is what we receive for our hospitality. . . .”

"Come off it, Mr. Kamel,” said Matthews. "I am not your guest, I am paying my keep, and I haven’t asked your permission.”

"I care not whether you pay,” cried Kamel Effendi. "And I care not for their hospitals and their schools. This is our country, you understand? We want no foreign benefactors. We want not to be patronised. We want to be left alone, you understand! We want to live our own way and we want no foreign teachers and no foreign money and no foreign habits and no smiles of condescension and no pat on the shoulder and no arrogance and no shameless women with wriggling buttocks in our holy places. We want not their honey and we want not their sting, you understand ? Neither their honey nor their sting. This you can tell them in your America. If they are thrown out in other countries — very bad, very sorry. Very, very sorry — but not our business. If they want to come here — a few of them, maybe thousand, maybe two thousand — t'faddal , welcome. But then know you are guests and know how to behave. Otherwise — to the devil. Into the sea — and hallass, finished. This is plain
language. You tell them.”

There was a painful silence while Kamel Effendi wiped his forehead and the A.Ch.C. stood hovering over the group like an unhappy flamingo. Then Matthews said unexpectedly:

“Yeah — I see your point, Mr. Kamel. I guess you are wrong, but wrong in your own right.”

The A.Ch.C. gave him a curious little stare with his two-coloured eyes ; he seemed on the point of making a remark, and on second thoughts didn’t. But Kamel Effendi laughed stertorously and without transition.

“Ho ! — ho!” he shouted. “Wrong within your own rights. It is a profound saying, my friend — very profound.”

He appreciatively clicked his tongue, and spontaneously grasped Matthews’ hand, pumping it. “No offence, Mr. Matthews,” he said. “Here we all get a little heated sometimes. It is our climate, you know — the khamsin.”

Nothing new under the sun.


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