Imagine I'm a cigarette smoker. I smoke close to a pack a day. Have for 45 years. Since I was 19. I don't really love smoking. But it's just become routine for me now. I wake up and light up a cigarette. I have another one with my coffee. Midmorning. At lunch. Here and there all day long. Before bed.
I used to have a beautiful, rosy, olive complexion. But now my face is wrinkled. I know in my heart it's the cigarettes, but I blame age. I apply some expensive moisturizer to make my skin look better. It helps a little. I feel better. I light up another cigarette. I can't really taste food anymore or smell a flower because the smoke has dulled my senses. My teeth are yellow too -- I gargle with whitening mouth wash, it helps -- and the tips of my fingers, can't do much about that. My voice is hoarse. I cough a lot. Thick yellow green phlegm. I've been told my breath isn't great, so I try to chew gum as often as I can. I've learned to live with these things. Because smoking is just what I do, what I've done, for 45 years. Don't expect me to change.
One morning, then the next, I realize I'm not feeling great, I've lost some weight, I'm feeling tired, out of breath and I can't sleep so I go to my family doctor. He sends me to a specialist, an oncologist. She runs a battery of tests. Bad news, she says. I have cancer. Lung cancer. A tumor. The tumor hasn't spread, luckily. The good news is I can undergo chemotherapy and radiation and there's a good chance I'll get rid of it. But, she says, I have to quit smoking. I smile. I undergo the treatment. But while I do, I sneak a cigarette, then another. Actually, I don't just continue smoking. I up my smoking from one pack a day to two. Hell, make it three. I figure, as long as I can stop the cancer with chemo, why stop? It's covered by my health insurance, right?
Listen, for 45 years, smoking has been part of me. It's just not easy to stop. I resolve something important to justify my decision to continue. You see, it's not the smoking that's killing me, it's the cancer. I'm not going to dwell too much on where the cancer came from. I'm just going to bomb the cancer into submission, embargo it, kill it and keep on smoking. And if I get more cancer, I'll treat it. If I get emphysema, there are meds for that too. If I lose circulation in my leg and get gangrene, well, there's always a wheelchair, right?
But I'll be damned if I stop smoking. For 45 years, I've smoked. No, it's not smoking that's the problem. It's the cancer. So don't ask me to stop. I'll just keep smoking. I'll just keep doing what I've always done. And if you tell me to stop, well, I'll just smoke more. It's my right.
Damn you cancer. Damn you doctors. Damn you buddinskis who tell me to stop. But cigarettes, ahh, cigarettes, I love you.
If you haven't figured it out yet, this post is not about the perils or lunacy of inhaling tobacco smoke. It's about my people's homeland. It's about Israel.
Israel, I love you. You have done beautiful things. You have made Jews proud. You have made a desert bloom and invented the laser keyboard and the world's smallest video camera and instant messaging and you predicted quarks. But your military policies are not making us proud. They are shaming us. Israel, it's time to quit the occupation cold turkey. It's time to cure this disease. Not just because your smoking, your occupation, is killing Palestinians second-hand, which is frankly pretty bad, but because it's killing you. And it's killing our hope.