The quintessential Palestinian experience, which illustrates some of the most basic issues raised by Palestinian identity, takes place at a border, an airport, a checkpoint: in short, at any one of those many modern barriers where identities are checked and verified. What happens to Palestinians at these crossing points brings home to them how much they share in common as a people. For it is at these borders and barriers that the six million Palestinians are singled out for "special treatment," and are forcefully reminded of their identity: of who they are, and of why they are different from others.
— Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997).
|Despite my American credentials, I was not welcomed with open arms by the Jewish and Democratic State|
[Khalil Sakakini] summed up his attitude towards New York and the US in a letter sent to Sultana in July of 1908:
Sultana my love,
I left Rumfold Falls after spending one month working [in the paper mill]. It felt like a century. I came to Boston and was met by Mikhael Sayegh and your cousin Bandeli. Mikhael works for half a day and hardly makes 3/4 of a riyal [dollar]. Your cousin goes out everyday to sell [carpets] but hardly makes enough money to cover his travel expenses. I doubt he will make it even if he spent his whole life in this country. I nearly urged him to return home [to Palestine] except that I do not wish to interfere in what is not my business.
In the evening I bade them farewell…Mikhael's wife was about to deliver her baby. I took the train for about an hour [to Providence?] then I took the boat to New York. Everyone I encounter presses me to go back home, for this country is not for the likes of me. Except that every time I am about to resolve the matter I remember my oath to you to make every effort to make something of myself here. I would then come back and bring you and Melia to visit America. The truth my love is that America is worth seeing, but is not fit to be a homeland [la taslah an takun watanan] for us, for it is a nation of toil, and there is no joy in it. I have one hope left, and that is to go back and try my luck back home. I trust conditions are better now that the Sultan has ratified the constitution.
Sakakini's stay in Brooklyn was dominated by his relationship to Farah Anton, the editor of the Syrian exile journal, al-Jam'ia, and translation work he did for Columbia University Orientalist scholar, Professor Richard Gottheil. He made extra money on the side by teaching Arabic to American students (mostly from Columbia) and the wives and daughters of Arab shopkeepers and merchants, who were illiterate in their mother tongue. For Anton he edited and wrote articles, and proofread the galleys. As he gained confidence, he also became engaged in polemics on behalf of Anton against his conservative opponents.
Sakakini belonged to the first wave of Arab immigration to America, which began in the 1870s and was halted by the radical antianarchist phobias of the 1920s.
— Salim Tamari, "A Miserable Year in Brooklyn: Khalil Sakakini in America, 1907-1908," The Jerusalem Quarterly, (February 2003)