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- Settler colonialism
It was 10 a.m., and Anmar clapped his hands to silence the screeching wake-up alarm he had set for himself. He didn’t actually need the alarm, since he had already been awake for twelve minutes before it went off, but Anmar enjoyed using technology whenever he could, even if he didn’t need it (his staff would say especially when he didn’t need it). In fact, he prided himself on how technology had made his oh-so-important job oh-so-much-easier and efficient.
Anmar could have woken up earlier. He could have woken up later. He had developed a habit of waking up during the mid-to-late morning during his days as a technology entrepreneur. It accustomed him to a most irregular schedule, in which he did most of his work during the night or whenever he felt like it, really. Of course, he did not extend this luxury to his diligent employees. Anmar, of course, had unique gifts from the higher powers that meant that he could only operate efficiently in this way and—therefore—that only he could operate in this way.
These days, Anmar proudly serves his country as the President of the Palestinian Authority. He was (s)elected to lead the Authority when he was quite young (for a world leader), and he is currently serving the 11th year of his constitutionally defined four-year term, as has become tradition among the esteemed Presidents of the Palestinian Authority. Under his leadership, the primary objective of his administration has been to safeguard the territorial integrity of the State of Palestine. So far, Anmar has been quite satisfied with the progress his administration has achieved in this regard, if he may say so himself! (And one can believe that he frequently does say it—himself.)
After silencing the screeching alarm that he programmed to ring throughout the house, Anmar disembarked from his thermo-modulated bed and went into his en suite restroom to release his bowels into the complex network of subterranean pipes and wires that kept his Estate running with relative self-sufficiency. Anmar cared deeply for matters of sustainability and environmental protection. Of course, it was necessary for him to care since it did, after all, help him gain the approval of the powers that granted him his job.
Many individuals of considerable importance considered it a priority that the next President of the Palestinian Authority represent a departure from the crusty, old-world-minded bureaucrats and reformed revolutionaries of old. Anmar, in both his professional background and political worldview, represented both change and realism, and he bore a pragmatic optimism rooted in his knowledge of the wonders of science—an unorthodox but potent concoction when it came to crafting the sort of persona that the (s)electorate believed should lead the Palestinian Authority into the uncertain future. It also helped that Anmar’s ripening within the technology industry meant that his personal networks were strong in both Washington, DC and Beijing.
Following his timely release, Anmar casually strolled into his kitchen, where Radi, his personal chef, awaited him. Radi was a state-of-the-art piece of culinary hardware and intelligence—Anmar’s favourite, in fact, because it reminded him that, although he could not assemble an intelligent meal himself, he could assemble the necessary intelligence required to assemble one on his behalf! With a sprawling smile invading his face, Anmar put a polite demand to his chef: “Radi, prepare breakfast! And kindly be sure to use the Italian olive oil and Turkish labneh, please. I am in a great mood this morning!”
Anmar had printed a quote from a former senior Palestinian negotiator onto the wide windows of his kitchen, where he enjoyed having meals when eating in private: “Negotiating in pain and frustration for five years is cheaper than exchanging bullets for five minutes.” His staff were unsure whether the quote was meant to be an optimistic reminder of Anmar’s commitment to peace or a macabre dismissal of the collective pain that continued to befall Palestinians in the decades that were allowed to take place between the present day and the Oslo Accords. Although the spirit and rationale of the quote remained clear to Anmar, his staff were less confident about its value after the tens of years of negotiations as opposed to the aforementioned five.
Anmar’s house was situated in the centre of what many would consider a vast estate, though it was a bit of a downgrade from Anmar’s previous residence in Silicon Valley. Nevertheless, as the proud President of the Palestinian Authority, Anmar was prepared to make sacrifices for the cause—especially since many areas within the West Bank kept getting cordoned off as special security zones. In fact, the Presidential Estate where he lived and rarely ever left—with its high-tech central housing unit, adjoining service wing, and gloriously sprawling grounds (within Palestinian limits)—accounted for a large part of what was currently the sovereign territory of the State of Palestine and was serviced by an inordinately large number of “essential staffers,” as Anmar referred to them. It was the largest contiguous part of the territory and Anmar resolved to ensure that no encroachments could be made upon it—as a service to his people, of course!
Anmar had insisted that the house be surrounded by large windows that looked outward upon the Estate’s grounds. From where he sat, enjoying every bite of his breakfast before his kitchen’s big windows, all one could see were rolling green hills and picturesque plains, perhaps a village or two in the far distance. In the nearer distance, there may have been a couple of houses resembling the President’s own.
Anmar revelled in the beauty, for it was one of his proudest creations. It was a brilliant canvas of greens and natural colours that defined what made the Palestinian landscapes so brilliant and desirable and what had inspired such serenity in the hearts of generation upon generation of farmers upon the land—all put together by a complex system of mirrors and large screens lining the inside of the physical walls that encircled the Estate. Anmar called the technology PaleStimulate, and in his view, it was the most outstanding expression of his excellence as an innovator.
Naturally, as someone who made his start as an important entrepreneur, Anmar was not one to spend any time wasting time. Anmar practiced what he programmed, and one of the most fundamental functions he programmed into his devices was the ability to multitask. As he savoured his breakfast, he received important updates from many of the staff members who lived on his Estate.
“Good morning, Asad!” Anmar exclaimed as his most trusted Chief of Estate Staff entered the kitchen. “What good news do you have for me today?”
“Well, as you know, as of the start of February we find ourselves in the middle of the uncomfortably warm season,” replied Asad, using "uncomfortably warm" as a euphemism for "scorching hot to the point of provoking the prolific use of profanity." “Therefore, the grounds staff thank you for the kind generosity you have extended toward them by obliging them to live within the boundaries of the Estate, away from their loved ones in less commodious locales,” he continued, careful to not use the term walls.
Anmar had built PaleStimulate to ensure that no unsightly walls were visible from inside the property. He absolutely detested walls; in fact, there was nothing he hated more. The sight of them triggered a kind of sickness in the pit of his belly that more often than not transformed into a debilitating rage.
“You are a good man and a blessing, Asad!” Anmar responded. “Thank you for delivering this fine news. This is why you are my most loyal and dedicated employee!”
Asad was half a generation older than the President and possessed a clear memory of the days before his rule. He remembered when it was possible for the man holding the office of President to leave his palace and work from a government building somewhere in Ramallah. In fact, he rather longed for those days since, although they were not significantly more dignified than the present, at least then he did not have to layer his disdain for the current order with facetiousness during every one of the President’s waking hours. Asad regarded his new sardonic tone and latent impudence as a form of everyday resistance. It was his take on the Palestinian tradition of sumud, informed by a close reading of Machiavelli’s The Prince.
No sooner had Asad concluded his report than the Estate’s Central Operating System began broadcasting nationalistic but affectively sterile Palestinian music which only the peace-loving Palestinian Authority could have commissioned for production in recent years.
“We have such a rich tradition of resistance music, Mr. President. Why do you insist on having these awful tracks play when receiving holocalls from our friends?” asked Asad, placing emphasis on the final word to indicate disapproval.
“Well, my dear Asad, most of the popular songs may come across as antagonistic, and that is not the mindset I want to use when speaking to our negotiating partners, of course!” Anmar replied. “Besides, I like listening to songs that celebrate the achievement of our State. It’s good for morale!”
Anmar, forgetting (or ignoring the fact) that he was still in his pyjamas, picked up the call by banging his fist on the table where he ate his breakfast, summoning a hologram of Eitay, a senior member of the Israeli negotiating team. Eitay was a grizzled veteran negotiator, and his demeanour demanded complete respect from those he spoke to, despite his overly broad smile.
“Eitay! I see you are as well-dressed as usual, despite it just being the start of the day,” exclaimed Anmar, with a matching smile. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your company this morning?”
“Mister Anmar, firstly, it is almost noon,” Eitay began. “And secondly, I am calling you today to discuss important business. We have recently received reports from our Defence Forces about incidents of Palestinian citizens living illegally within our security enclaves and enclosures. While we do not accuse you of anything ill-intentioned, we seek to remind you of your responsibilities under the Security Coordination Accords of 20X0, which stipulate that the transfer of all citizens of the Palestinian Authority to areas marked and zoned for their legal dwelling is the responsibility of the entity that you are currently the President of.”
“I see—” started Anmar, with all the coolness that one would expect from a man in his esteemed position. His memory had almost touched the Accords the negotiator mentioned, signed some years ago in one of the Gulf capitals Anmar visited on his frequent tours of the region, before Eitay continued his statement uninterrupted.
“Of course, as an initial measure of compensation, we are withholding some of the tax revenue collected from your citizens. In addition, we will require financial reparations, amounting to a significant amount of the aid monies that your Authority continues to receive from the international community. We have had to increase surveillance within those enclosures and enclaves due to the presence of the citizens illegally present there.”
“Will that be all you demand?” asked Anmar, pondering how Palestinian citizens were able to infiltrate said security enclaves and enclosures. As far as Anmar knew, they were impenetrable, and the only way for Palestinians to exist within them is for them to have already been there when they were cordoned off!
“For now? Yes. But we should warn you that if you do not hand over the funds and commit to a timely transfer of your citizens, we will be forced to annex more of the land claimed by your Authority,” Eitay replied. “I make this demand somewhat reluctantly, in my personal capacity. However, in my capacity as a negotiator I must reiterate that we must ensure the primacy of our own state’s security, and if you cannot be trusted to make this assurance, then we must do it ourselves. We expect your response within the afternoon.”
And before Anmar was able to ask any further questions, Eitay’s likeness faded into nothingness, leaving behind only a sharp air of tension.
“Surely you cannot capitulate to these demands, Sir!” shouted Asad in an uncharacteristic break from his usual stoic calm. Anmar, though surprised by the outburst, smiled softly.
“My dear Asad, as a people we are quite wealthy, and surely I can raise the necessary funds through my flagship Citizen’s Solidarity Fund to protect the territorial integrity of our state,” explained the President, referencing his pseudomicrotaxation programme which exacted what he saw as small amounts from the electronic financial transactions of low-earning Palestinians. “Now that we have finally developed a workaround to collect some of our own tax income, which our friends have yet to protest, our advisors stationed in several friendly states have suggested we find ways to benefit from the disproportionately large low-earner demographic among our citizenry. Surely, we designed it for instances such as this, when our state’s sovereignty is threatened!”
“If I may humbly make a suggestion—” Asad began, falling back into a more reserved and euphemistic way of speaking. “Would you not stand to benefit by speaking directly to the poor families who live on the land in question that Eitay spoke of? Perhaps they might be able to offer some insight? Or at least offer a potential way out of this political quandary?”
“Don’t be ridiculous!” retorted the President. “Such an approach could endanger our position vis-à-vis Eitay and his team! We pay our advisors a lion’s share of our national budget to offer us solutions to exactly such problems, and we trust the firms they represent to ensure we only work with the very best minds when it comes to conflict resolution. Speaking to those who caused this crisis is a reckless approach to safeguarding our national interests, and we can’t be seen buckling to populist overtures that may put those interests at risk—like the Boycott campaign, to name one example, or your proposal, to name another! We will follow the agreed-upon accords and protocols, pay what we owe, and request that the relevant authorities manage the situation on the ground.”
With that, Asad took leave of his employer and resigned himself to his dimly lit office in the service wing of the Estate, rolling his eyes perilously as he turned his back to leave Anmar’s kitchen. It did not really matter that he did it outside of Anmar’s sight since the President was too preoccupied to notice anyway. He was busy dictating an order of coffee using an overly complex preparation method to Chef Radi, as he enjoyed sipping on gourmet synthetic coffees while making deals with Eitay. Mimicking the face-to-face coffee meetings of old, during the times before the coffee bean was wiped out by the Great Rubiaceous Plague, gave him a most empowered feeling of sophistication and confidence. He felt that this feeling was a necessary part of a successful negotiation from the perspective of the Palestinian Authority.
President Anmar then called Eitay, whose likeness again occupied the vacant space designated for holocalls, to deliver his highly deliberated-upon decision and, in his view, save the State of Palestine in the process.
“We are grateful for your cooperation and respect for our agreements. Therefore, we will accept the monetary compensation owed, and I will implore my team to allow the authorities to manage the situation on the ground. Thank you, President Anmar, for indeed, you are a credit to your people.”
Not much else of note happened that day. Aside from averting a politically problematic position while safeguarding the interests of his Authority, Anmar did command his staff to repair a faulty PaleStimulate screen.
While on a run by the outer perimeter of the Presidential Estate, Anmar was saddened to discover a dull grey piece of wall before him. The panel meant to hide it did not appear to be damaged, so Anmar, with his technological genius, determined that the issue was most likely in its power supply. The sadness triggered by this glimpse of the wall ripped through his soul like a bullet through cotton and linen fibre paper.
“MAINTENANCE!” yelled Anmar, whose voice carried through the sonic nervous system he had installed within the Estate to ensure that his orders were heard by staff members at all times. “I see a wall before me on the outer perimeter!”
Of course, Anmar did not need to mention his exact location, for as he had expected, the portion of PaleStimulate suffering a power failure was clear to see in the master control room, and a team of technicians was dispatched at once to diagnose the problem.
“Mr. President, it seems to us that the underground wires powering this panel have been damaged by an overgrowth of a cactus root,” the lead technician stated. “The actual cactus stands a few feet outside the boundary.”
“Well then, uproot the damn cactus and restore power to the panel!” the President demanded. His eyes were irrationally bloodshot and his face red with rage.
“Sir, we are unable to uproot the cactus,” started the technician, “for it falls outside of the boundary, and we are not allowed to set foot there.”
While the words of the technician were technically true, modern agricultural technology had devised systems that allowed for the remote uprooting of cacti. It might have even been developed in joint collaboration between Anmar’s firm and an Israeli one, in a move that might have been presented to the world as a step towards peace; however, the President, in his furious and frenzied state, was in no position to recall this. The lead technician did not remind him of this technology that would allow them to uproot their beloved stolen homeland’s cacti, despite the words of protocols, accords, and unpopular agreements.
“I did not hire you to tell me about what you cannot do!” Anmar snapped back. “Find a way to restore power and hide this painful eyesore no matter the cost!”
Ultimately, a temporary solution was found to restore the serene visual the President had become so accustomed to laying his eyes upon during the arduous hours of his most important work. It is necessary that he be able to think with a clear head when running the Authority that was fighting for a legitimate Palestinian state. The technicians discovered a way to re-wire the panels to reconstruct the normal order, but they warned him the continued and unrestrained growth of roots would one day attack the system in far more substantial ways.
“When may this occur?” Anmar asked meekly, his soul comforted by the return of beautiful scenery and the disappearance of the gruesome grey that ruined his evening.
“We forecast its occurrence in the distant future, but one can never predict such things with certainty. Just as we were unable to foresee this incident despite all the expertise and technology available to us, as well as your visionary involvement.”
Anmar, pleased with the results of his technicians’ labour and comforted by the projection that more substantial failures would occur when he likely no longer occupied the Presidential Estate, was glad to wave away the warnings and continue with his evening routine.
Late into the night, as he lay his head upon his pillow, Anmar cycled through the events of the day that had just passed. It was an unremarkable day, with nothing but a routine set of problems for a man in his esteemed position to solve. All things considered, both his negotiation with Eitay and his leadership in fixing the PaleStimulate system were great victories, and Anmar liked victories. In one day, he had both maintained the territorial integrity of the Palestinian State and the dependability of his otherworldly technological innovations!
Upon arriving at the end of those reflections, Anmar congratulated himself on yet another successful day as the President of the Palestinian Authority. He then fought the insomniac excitement brought about by the opportunity to confront bigger and more credible challenges in the coming days, weeks, months, and years, closed his eyes, and went to sleep.