If you were asked to conjure up an image that depicts the situation of the Palestinians, what would it be? A graphic image of an Israeli boot on a Palestinian neck, perhaps? The Palestinian artist and journalist Steve Sabella, known internationally for his photography-based collages and images, has personally experienced an Israeli boot on his face. But the image he conjures up in his brilliant memoir, The Parachute Paradox, is of a tandem parachute jump with an Israeli strapped to his back. Why this particular image?
Sabella explains that he sees it as a “metaphor for what it means to be a Palestinian living under Israeli occupation. Life under occupation is like the reality of a Palestinian attached to an Israeli in a tandem jump. There is an Israeli on the back of every Palestinian, controlling all aspects of life – the Israeli is always in control. This impossible reality places the Palestinian under constant threat in a never-ending hostage situation.”
How to liberate himself from this situation is at the heart of Sabella’s memoir, which might be better described as a journey of discovery, both of his own personal effort to free himself from the occupation and the collective Palestinian struggle for freedom. The reader who accompanies Sabella on this journey is rewarded with insights that only the Palestinian experience can convey.
A native of Jerusalem who is now living in exile in Berlin, Germany, Sabella’s journey of discovery includes the realization that it is impossible for Palestinians to escape the occupation, no matter where they live. That is because the imagination itself becomes colonized.
“Even as a twelve-year old,” he writes, “I was aware that I belonged to a country that was not a country, but a land occupied by Israel called Palestine. I could see for the first time the enormous effort needed to break free from the physical military occupation, and more importantly, from the Israeli colonization of my imagination.”
After the failure of the Second Intifada, Sabella observes, “Palestinians plunged into a deeper psychological defeat, into a state of numbness toward life under Israeli occupation. Palestinians reached a point where they were no longer able to imagine that they could live in freedom. The colonization on Palestinian land was obvious, but what was hidden was the colonization of the imagination.” The occupation “starts with the land and then shifts to the mind,” he writes, noting that this phenomenon occurs even with “Palestinians born in the diaspora who live as if they are under occupation despite never having set foot in occupied Palestine.”
What accounts for the long arm of the Israeli occupation that it reaches even into the diaspora? Sabella suggests that its origin lies partially in the images the media convey of the “defeated Palestinian”.
The Parachute Paradox | Second Version