The Tendrils of 1967
By Nadya Sbaiti
The legacies of 1967 envelop us and permeate everyday life in Lebanon. Daily we elbow our way through their viscosity, wondering why movement and breath and vision are limited. We take comfort in the invisibility of these legacies, convince ourselves that we have escaped, even as we have spent fifty years wiping the gelatinous tendrils from our very selves.
These tendrils are cartographic, linguistic, and epistemological.
The web of 1967 has spread its tendrils on the land itself. Those six days rent a gash in Lebanon’s southern boundary. The realities of defeat emboldened Israel, known simply as the kayan, or entity, to strafe ever larger swaths of territory, interrupting lives, devastating livestock, and eradicating fish. This relentless military practice, in addition to separating families, has reshaped village life and transformed topographies. And the wounds on the land are not confined to the south. They run along a north-south axis like a C-section scar left unhealed. The wounds shape the grounds of those permanently temporary fixtures: the refugee camps, which greeted a second generation of displaced and expelled. Both the camps and the Palestinian refugees who continue to be confined to them constitute Lebanon, even or perhaps because of, a persistent denial.
The tendrils punctuate language. They inform those utterances when the ostensibly hospitable confront a Palestinian dialect. Your accent is so heavy, they comment. What dialect is that? Are you speaking Egyptian? Because an accent that has constituted the country’s soundtrack for fifty years (and more) is somehow still “foreign.”
And the thick tendrils breed silences, as the penchant for feigning ignorance feeds an actually existing ignorance, an epistemological insistence on being immersed in but denying the existence of a web of 1967’s legacies. I ask undergraduates who grew up in Lebanon what they know about 1967. I am greeted with a resounding silence. They know nothing, it seems. But, knowledge is a fluid process. As the history lesson unfolds, the same students suddenly comprehend an uncle’s suicide, a mother’s defiance, a neighborhood’s layout, a name unspoken; they ponder the tyranny of citizenship, the buoyant torment of resilience, and the laughter of survival that formidable historical amnesia tries to render invisible. As realization dawns, they sit in the viscous climate, stuck between solid and liquid, and the web of 1967 crystalizes anew.