This is nice. Produced by vendor to the US military Albert's Gifts, it's a roll of toilet paper inviting you
to wipe your arse on Osama Bin Laden. I have another with Saddam on it.
Because America is better than the bad guys, right?
Róisín handed the joint to Orla, who shook her head. ‘No thanks. Not my thing.’ She waved her glass. ‘Are you a student too?’
‘Sure, I am.’
‘What you studying?’
Orla searched Róisín’s face, but it was without guile. ‘Animal husbandry. How do you mean, terrorists?’
‘Just that. Terror studies.’
‘You’re kidding me. That’s a course?’
Róisín laughed, shaking her head. ‘What’s so odd about it? You look like someone just slapped your arse.’
‘I suppose it seems strange that someone would want to… well, that. Oh, I don’t know. Don’t we see enough about them every day?’
‘This nation was founded on terrorism. If it wasn’t for Michael Collins, Dan Breen and the likes of them there’d be no Ireland. We’d still be a British colony.’
‘Ah, come on. That’s ancient history.’
The spark at the end of the reefer stabbed at Orla, the features behind its glow knit in fury. ‘The fuck it is. What’s a freedom fighter? What’s an insurgent? What’s a terrorist? That’s what I want to know. We let ourselves be governed by old men who tell us what’s good for us and what we need and the second we question it we’re hauled off to face their idea of justice. You know what democracy is? Say you what you like, do what you’re told. And we slap the label of terrorist on anyone who happens not to agree with us and doesn’t conform to the restrictions we impose on them.’
‘Jesus. You’re best off studying anarchy studies, you.’
Róisín’s angry expression softened and she flicked the butt of her joint over the fence, a spinning ember flying through the cold darkness. ‘Fuck it. Let’s get a drink.’
Eman Hussein is a friend of mine. We used to work together. She has been with me in some of the key moments of my booky journey, from long lunches at Shemlan's Al Sakhra restaurant to meandering walks through Beirut and Amman, strange encounters in the night-time heart of Aleppo's Al Madina souk and liquorice-strong coffees at Uncle Deek's. She's Palestinian, passionately so. It's because of her that Olives has that quote from Mahmoud Darwish in it, "If the Olive Trees knew the hands that planted them, their oil would become tears."
Many, many years ago a colleague left - for some mad reason - a toy gun lying around in the office. And - for some mad reason - I thought it was really funny to grab said gun, jab it in Eman's face and scream 'Remember the Achille Lauro, Palestinian bitch?'
She looked at me calmly up the barrel of a plastic pistol, all serious brown eyes. And she said, 'Alexander. You will never work in UK again. Trust me in this.'
Recently she's started using the 'Your knife is freedom' logo as her Twitter AV. This is a grass roots reaction supporting the recent stabbings of Israeli settlers by Palestinians. I thought it might be interesting to get her idea about terrorism and what it means to her. Given the focus on the whole retired terrorist vs terrifying terrorist theme in A Decent Bomber...
How would you define terrorism?
Terrorism is the act of inflicting a constant state of terror/fear among a certain group of people.
Do you think terror - or let's say violent forms of legitimate resistance - works?
It works to a certain degree. History tells us that terror makes you heard but not necessarily accepted. When the Palestinian Front of Liberation Organisation (PFLO) started hijacking flights, it made the world listen, but not care for the “cause”. And that’s what we missed back then, we did not know that gaining public opinion is a game changer while the Israelis knew that early on.
You've adopted the 'your knife is freedom' logo. Would you do it?
If I am living in constant oppression, denied basic human rights, watching my land stolen, and seeing that there’s no future for the young generation of my country, I would carve my way to liberation with a knife, yes.
Do you think that the campaign has improved the image of Palestinians internationally?
Luckily, the world has become more aware, at the same time Palestinians have become more media savvy. I haven’t gauged international public opinion regarding the “knife intifada” but I haven’t seen strong opposition from world wide public figures, especially that the Israeli settlers haven’t mastered the “Victim” game yet.
If you protest peacefully, you're not heard. If you throw stones, you're shot. What is the way forwards? Is there one, or is the danger of a new intifada purely because of this frustration?
The solution is in a balanced approach: Sit on the table to negotiate peace, but keep your fists clenched tight on that stone/knife. One person could master that, Abou Ammar - Yasser Arafat.
Why did the IRA get peace and the PLO didn't?
What can people elsewhere do to help the Palestinians? Is it as simple as BDS?
BDS is not a simple movement. I strongly believe in it. It is the optimum of all soft power coming together to form a strong force. It speaks volumes about the illegal existence of Israel and raises awareness among young people worldwide, especially through cultural boycott, about the atrocities of Zionism.