I had several childhood love affairs. There were cousins and neighbours. There was a girl called Itunu who was my classmate in Primary 3. I used to, erm, I really shouldn’t reveal this… I really shouldn’t reveal this. This love was one-way traffic of course; the poor girl never found out I was in love with her because I was a bit of a coward. And when she left my school that year, that was that.
There was the written word. Books, magazines, anything written, within reach. I read them all and promptly shat them down the toilet, some knowledge graciously staying behind to nourish my young soul. In Primary 4, prompted by a question I told my Ghanaian class teacher Mr. Buadi that Zik, Awo, Ahmadu Bello and co. were nationalists. (Yes, I used that word “nationalist.”) I knew all about Ahmed Tejan Kabbah’s travails in Sierra Leone. I knew about Blaise Campaore and how he came to power. I knew about Robert Gay (sic) in Cotedvoire, to the costernation of teacher and pupils. In short, I knew shit.
There was a Pastor; Pastor Sanni. Pastor Sanni was a wisecracking firecracker of a pastor who unwittingly had young Kayode seduced (not sexually, come on). I told my mother I wanted to be a pastor. And recent (relatively) and intense born-again her, she loved it! Don’t laugh now, young Kayode was quite the Christian: he once “seized” rain with “Peace be still” and he only had to encounter the slightest obstacle (e.g. a snake-miss-road) to deploy a rash of prayers. Those were the days.
And then there was Israel. A childhood love affair with the state of Israel is not a farfetched thing for someone who both enjoyed reading and was a Christian. One of the many books I spent my childhood poring over was the Bible. For me, the Bible was a collection of short stories with some boring treatises embedded. I avoided the treatises like Ebola, and wolfed down the stories, from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelations.
I followed the Israelites to captivity in Egypt. I crossed the Red Sea with them, fearful that the parted sea through which we were passing would collapse. I wandered the desert with them. I was one of the twelve who were sent to spy on Canaan, and like Caleb and Joshua, I blinded myself to the giants and allied fearful humans who possessed the land to focus on the milk and honey, whose flowing I took literally. My cheers were drowned as the trumpets brought down the walls of Jericho, that cloth dangling from the lone standing structure; the prostitute’s (I forget her name now) window. I was there with Gideon’s 300 as the sun stood still. David was my guy. I saw the smooth stone sail true, and watched the giant frame of Goliath crash to the ground. David and I beat Saul together, severally. We survived Absalom and cheered little cheers when we got Bathseba by hook or crook, the repercussion a small price to pay. I cried when Jonathan died. We trekked to Babylon and out. The Israelites were God’s people and therefore were my people. And God had promised my people they would always win, no matter the adversity.
Back in the present, “Israelite” soon became “Israeli”, with some degree of head scratching. I was fascinated by wars and so I came across World War 2, Hitler and the Holocaust. Israel and I fucked up Eichmann together and hunted other Nazis in South America and wherever the hell they had fled. I developed a dislike for Arabs, as I did the Philistines and the Moabites et cetera, owing to their several attempts to uncreate the state of Israel, God’s own country. Hollywood piled it on. Justifiably so most times, Arabs, or some Arabs, were ultimately undone by a cocktail of their terroristic ineptitude, chance, and the dazzling brilliance of the FBI and the CIA. I read about Fatah, about the PLFP, about the PLO, about Arafat. Surrounded by enemies, Israel’s improbable victories in wars were a wonder. How could they lose, God’s people?
The hijackings were fascinating. Munich was horrific. We hunted the Black September bastards to the ends of the world. I found 90 Minutes at Entebbe in my father’s library, and laughed at His Excellency President for Life Field Marshall Alhaji Doctor Big Bumbling Daddy Idi Amin and rejoiced with Bar-Lev and Rabin et cetera. I cried when Israel lost its only casualty (a Jonathan, I think) in what I consider the most audacious hostage rescue attempt ever. I was fascinated by espionage, black ops, subterfuge etc, and so I naturally loved Mossad, reputed to be the world’s most effective intelligence organization, who pulled off daring operation after daring operation. Some time in the 2000s, I read about Israeli forces confining Arafat to his Ramallah residence, water, power and everything cut, and I didn’t bat an eyelid. I decried that first Intifidah (and the second), never stopping to ponder what could have moved little children, puny Davids in the grand scheme of things, into hurling stones at monstrous tanks and other such juggernauts of war, veritable Goliaths. The Palestinians were a non-consideration; I had Israel on the brain.
But now I am far from childhood. Many of those love affairs have long dissipated. Most, in hindsight were mere crushes. I am as far from a pastor as possible: I am nearer to unbelief; and what little belief remains I question, constantly. Pastor Sanni, if he is still alive would be stunned; my mother is cannot understand the transformation (a word I use with reservation, given Mr. Goodluck’s abuse of it) has since accepted what I have become, what I am becoming, reluctantly. My love affair with the written word lives still but now I am alive to nuance, to different intimations of grey, to the vibrancy of colour, in a world that to me was once monochrome, Israel and evil. And I still get black and white.
My love affair with Israel lasted long [insert stock reference to Kim Kardashian’s marriages]. But so long. It turns out my lover kept secrets. Only my lover’s secrets were not so secret; I had merely been blinded to them, as happens with all innocent loves.
This is 2014. That a people can still be as oppressed today as the Palestinians (sans land, sans identity, sans dignity) is inexplicable and inexcusable. The erstwhile victims have not learnt the inhumanity of oppression, and so they foist it on others, the world complicit in this heinous crime by silence and muffled protests. And this is the tragedy. Hitler at least was resisted with unparalleled fierceness (as an aside, one wonders why Berlin or Stuttgart or Wolfsburg did not deserve an atomic bomb but Nagasaki and Hiroshima did).
It is simple: what Israel has been doing, and is still doing, in Gaza, is without any question, evil. There can be no nuance about it. For if there were, we could entertain the Jew Hunter’s arguments about the Holocaust in Inglorious Basterds: that rats need not do you any harm before you exterminate them.
What Israel is doing is evil. It is apartheid. It is Darfur. It is a crime against humanity. Only recently, children who must have had love affairs like I had were killed, for daring to play, that most unforgivable of crimes. We cannot forget places like Auschwitz, where arbeit never did macht frei, nor are we permitted to. Israel holds the world to ransom with the memory of inhumanities past and yet concentrates Palestinians in a large open air camp, systematically foisting on them a Holocaust of its own.
Goodbye, my lover. You are not the one for me.
P.S: I am reminded of Umkotho we Sizwe and the moral justification of second violence. I am reminded of South African children hurling sticks and stones at the keepers of apartheid, of children massacred at Sharpeville and elsewhere. I cannot but draw parallels to the Intifadah. Perhaps I am wrong but Hamas, the Al Asqa Brigade and other militant oppositions to Israeli occupation in Gaza seem responses to a first violence. I have read about “ordinary” Palestinians complain about the Israelis as much as about Hamas and co, and I am tempted to draw parallels with the paranoia that led to necklacing in South Africa. I am also reminded of Buthelezi’s Inkatha party and the extent of its ambitions in the enthronement of freedom (or some semblance of it) in South Africa.
P.P.S: It is interesting how the abhorrence of apartheid and the championing of supremacists can have lived in the same person. But this simply tells of the power of knowledge, of the need to continually equip one’s self with narratives other than mainstream ones. If it comes too easily, it probably is dishonest, or at best, incomplete.