Being an occupier

Ray Hanania says he hasn't been a good landlord

Okay, I have a confession to make. I am a landlord. Well, not just a landlord, an occupier.


I have property and I have a responsibility to take care of it right. But I haven’t.


I blame it on the inhabitants because I want the property and don’t want to give it to them. So I do things without asking them. I can’t even speak their language and it’s hard to know what they really want and I am sure they have no idea what I really want.


In fact, sometimes I look at them and see anger in their eyes.


No matter what I do to help them, they seem angry with me. Some are benign and just go on with their lives oblivious to me. Others are angry and focused on me, at least I think. One tenant stares at me whenever I am there, with eyes of steel. If they could only hurl a rock at me.


And there are some who just accept what I do. They learn to adjust and make the best, I guess, out of their day-to-day lives. Maybe they find a way to benefit from the situation, too.


I cover the costs of improving the property and decide when and how the property is displayed. They live there, but I own it.


I even help feed them. They don’t all take my handouts. Some live off the environment and find ways to feed themselves.


I am not sure I really want to get too close to them so I try to do everything at a distance. If they complain, I just ignore them.


So I do things that probably upset them, like the other day. I decided who I was going to let enter the property and who would not enter the property.


I know I am driven by stereotypes. They live in filth. I am constantly cleaning up the place. Why don’t they live by my standards? Why aren’t they like me?


I control their lives. I control them, and basically that means they have few real rights in my eyes.


I put things in among them without asking and take their space. Why should I listen? If I stay too long, they might hurt me. So I just do it and ignore them.


Now, no one can be that cruel. Well, at least I tell myself that.


When they die, I don’t even keep an accurate count. I treat their lives like they are nothing.


If I had to, I might admit that I benefit much from them. There are things that I get as an occupier that I know I get but I won’t associate with them. These are benefits I won’t surrender because it’s the reason I occupy them.


They really don’t get treated by me the way I would want them to treat me. In fact, if they treated me the way I treat them, I imagine I would probably do many of the horrible things to them that they do to me now.


But when you are an occupier, there is a tendency to brush their feelings and their rights aside completely. It’s easy to do that, especially since when I'm done with them at the end of the day, I go back to my home and do what I want to do and enjoy my life without even a notion about them, until they happen to be in my face.


I am an “occupier.” I don’t live with them. I “occupy” their lives in almost every way whether I exercise that power completely or just selectively, deciding who enters and who leaves. When and where? How and why?


They would love to be independent but I won’t let them. And when they don’t do what I want, well, bad things can happen, I guess. Rather than acknowledging those bad things that happen to them, I just shut it all out and say, that’s tough.


We have a barrier between us. But I won’t call it something ugly, like a wall.  


Let’s take questions from the “Talkback Audience” 

Let’s see. Hmmm! Ah. Sorry sir. You are frothing from the mind. “talkbacks” that froth from the mind are not acceptable. You, too, ma’am. You’re frothing from the mind too. We call it being hateful.


Wow. So much frothing from the mind out here. Any non-hateful “talkback” questions out there? Oh, there you are. You sir, with the sensible “talkback” attitude.


(Question): Yes, I have a question. So Palestinians and Jews are not really much different from each other, are they? You would do the same thing if you were in our situation. So how can you criticize the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.


(Me): Well, first let me say you are very respectful because you used the definition of Palestinians that includes East Jerusalem in the phrase occupation. That is very respectful and therefore I owe you a very honest response.


(Questioner): Thank you.


(Me): No thank you.


(Questioner): Well, what I mean is how can someone who occupies another people not be cruel in their policies? And are not the practices of the Israelis in the Territories justified until a final peace accord is achieved.


(Me): Well. Oh. Maybe there is a problem here and we are not communicating properly. Maybe I haven’t made myself clear. If I were talking about treating human beings in this way, I would be ashamed of myself. That wouldn’t be just an occupation, it would be an unjust occupation. And it would be immoral. You don’t treat human beings like this.


(Questioner): Well then, what are you talking about?


(Me): I’m not talking about treating human beings like this. I am talking about the fish tank I own. You can treat animals in this way. But not people.


Ray Hanania is an Award Winning Palestinian columnist, author and standup comedian. He can be reached at


פרסום ראשון: 10.23.06, 11:48
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