A Palestinian from Israel, Sayed Kashua is an author translated worldwide, and in France by Éditions de l’Olivier. While he speaks Arabic at home, he writes novels in Hebrew, as well as columns in the Israeli press, and a televised series, Travail d’Arabe, that has the whole country laughing. “If Woody Allen was born in a little Arab city in Galilee, he could be called Sayed Kashua”, wrote Libération in their portrait piece two years ago.
This summer, after the kidnapping and assassination of three teenage Jews by Palestinian extremists, followed by the capture and immolation of an Arab teenager by Jewish extremists, Sayed Kashua wrote a poignant report in the daily newspaper Haaretz on his decision to immigrate to the United States after this paroxysm of absurd terror, blood against blood.
“Over there, I’ll write in English and start by writing love stories, where the weather will play a leading role, where snow will be a protagonist. Then I’ll write about the country that I’ve abandoned. I’ll try to speak the truth, to be precise about the details in the hope that someone over there will believe me when I talk about what really happened. I’ll write about this faraway land where children are killed, massacred, buried, and burned, and the readers will probably think that I am an author of fantasy.
To earn my living, I will teach at the university or else I’ll find any old job. I’m not worried. I’m willing to wash dishes, change tyres, and clean toilets until they’re immaculate. I could also be a taxi driver and live modestly in a small town. I will be a polite driver with an accent. When passengers ask me which country I’m from, I’ll tell them that I come from a frightening place where people in suits and uniforms call upon the masses to hate, kill, pillage, and avenge themselves, often in the name of God, always for the good and the future of children.
In the taxi, I will only listen to music, never the news. I don’t want to know who the political leaders in my new country are, I won’t know any of the journalists’ names, I won’t be interested in their opinions, their points of view or their world views. I’ll do my best to be a perpetual tourist. I’ll make it my creed not to take things to heart, to never again feel that I come from somewhere.”
Sayed Kashua tells us why it is impossible to speak calmly of Israel : no other place in the world shows to what extent our need to belong somewhere is both powerful and destructive, the cause of fratricidal wars. The first murder in the Bible is in fact a fratricide : Cain kills Abel. One land, two brothers, a death.
By choosing to focus on Israel, we know that we will attract polemics and accusations. This is always the case when a medium focuses on this country. This issue was devised at the end of the winter, when Israel was taken out of the spotlight, and it goes to print in the height of summer, at a time when Israel is once again ablaze.
This special report has been the most complicated to assemble of all our reports in the last three years. We sought to tell different stories, like those of the start-ups in Tel Aviv and the technological boom. But it shows only soulless images of flashy bars for travel guides and open-space offices for advertising brochures. In Israel, photojournalists remain obsessed by the same realities : the separation barrier, the Palestinian territories, religions, and war. Everywhere, endlessly, the identity trap encloses Israel. Relating the world in images is never neutral. At least we can be honest. This is the line we have followed •
Laurent Beccaria, Patrick de Saint Exupéry, Marie-Pierre Subtil