The President’s State

By Samah Sabawi

(Based almost entirely on the story The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Anderson)

Once upon a time, in a land called Occupied, there lived people who yearned to have a State of their own. Two powerful scoundrels wanted to control these people and divert their quest for statehood – so they came up with a plan.

‘We heard about your desire to have a State of your own and we can help,” they told the people of Occupied. “We have created an extraordinary process that will lead to the establishment of a State so amazing and so large, but it is one that only peaceful and smart people can see. In fact our State is invisible to anyone who is too stupid, radical, extremist or incompetent to appreciate its quality.’

Many in Occupied heard the scoundrel’s strange story and after decades of being stateless, they were eager to believe it is true. The scoundrels asked the people of Occupied first to appoint a prime minister and a President for how else can a State be created.

The people of Occupied were very excited and they quickly did as the scoundrels told them. The Scoundrels were the first to congratulate the new President and to assure him of his soon to be created State.

‘Mr. President” the Scoundrels said,  “this state will be created especially for you.’ 

The people of Occupied were known to have a very precious commodity called “Time”, so in exchange for the scoundrel’s promise to begin working on the State Process immediately, the President gave the Scoundrels all the precious time available in Occupied.

‘Just tell us what else you need to get started and we’ll give it to you.’ The two scoundrels asked for maps and security guards to ensure their safety and then pretended to begin working.

The President thought he had spent his time and that of Occupied quite well: in addition to getting an extraordinary State, he would discover which of his subjects was too stupid, radical, extremist or incompetent. The President was also very pleased when he received many invitations from world leaders who made him feel very stately. He even bought a residency in Rome where he invited them for dinner.

Many years passed before the President called the old and wise Prime Minister.

‘Go and see how the State Process is coming along,’ the President told him, ‘and come back to let me know.’

The prime minister was given a Stately welcome by the two scoundrels.

‘We’re almost finished, but we need a little more of your time commodity. Here, Mr. Prime Minister, look at how many Ministries this state has, look at its buildings!’

The old man bent over the maps and tried to see the state that was not there. He felt cold sweat on his forehead.

‘I can’t see anything,’ he thought. ‘If I see nothing, that means I’m stupid! Or, worse, radical, extremist or incompetent!’

If the prime minister admitted that he didn’t see anything, he would be discharged from his office or even arrested. The Prime Minister was really enjoying his post and feeling quiet powerful not to mention well paid. So, he decided to pretend to see the State.

‘What a marvelous State, he said then. ‘I’ll certainly tell the President.’ The two scoundrels rubbed their hands gleefully. They had almost made it. More time commodity was requested to finish the work.

Finally, the President received the announcement that the two Scoundrels had come to establish the security measures needed to give him his new State.

‘Here it is Mr. President, the result of our labor,’ the scoundrels said. ‘We have worked night and day but, at last, the most beautiful State in the world is ready for you. Look at the borders and see how viable it is.’
Of course the President saw too many borders but could not see any State. In fact, because he has given so much of Occupied’s time commodity, Occupied was beginning to look like Swiss cheese, chopped up into pieces beyond recognition. He panicked and felt like fainting. But luckily the throne was right behind him and he sat down. But when he realized that no one could know that he did not see the State, he felt better. Nobody could find out he was stupid, radical, extremist or incompetent. And the President didn’t know that everybody else around him thought and did the very same thing.

The farce continued as the two scoundrels had foreseen it.

‘Yes, this is a beautiful State and it looks very good to me,’ the President kept on repeating while trying to look away from anything that proved him wrong. ‘You’ve done a fine job.’

‘Mr. President” the prime minister said, ‘we have a request for you. The people of Occupied have run entirely out of time and they are in a very bad shape. You must go out to them and assure them they will have their State. “

The President was doubtful at first, but then he abandoned his fears. After all, if anyone failed to see his State than they can be arrested for being, ignorant, radical, extremist and anti-State Process.

‘All right,’ he said. ‘I will grant the people this privilege.’
He summoned his carriage and the ceremonial parade was formed. A group of dignitaries walked at the very front of the procession and anxiously scrutinized the faces of the people in the street.
All the people had gathered in the main square, pushing and shoving to get a better look. Applause welcomed the regal procession. Everyone wanted to know how stupid, radical, extremist or incompetent his or her neighbor was but, as the President passed by carrying a large map of his State, a strange murmur rose from the crowd.

Everyone said, loud enough for the others to hear: ‘Look at the Sate, it is beautiful’

‘Only a marvelous State-Process could have yielded such an amazing State!’

‘And look at our list of Ministries. We have a Ministry for everything”
The crowds were well aware that the security guards who were protecting the State process were everywhere.  So they all tried to conceal their disappointment at not being able to see any hope for a State or any compensation for all the time they lost, and since nobody was willing to admit his own stupidity, radicalism, extremism and incompetence, they all behaved as the two scoundrels had predicted.

A child who had no important job to worry about, who didn’t hope to be employed in any of the invisible Ministries and could not understand the fear of the elders went up to the carriage.

"This is not a real State and you cannot be a real President if you don’t have a real state.” he said.
‘Fool!’ his father reprimanded, running after him. ‘Don’t talk nonsense!’ He grabbed his child and took him away. But the boy’s remark, which had been heard by the bystanders, was repeated over and over again until everyone cried:

‘The boy is right! We are Stateless! It’s true!’

The President realized that the people were right but could not admit to that. The State Process had only stolen precious time from Occupied.  However, at that point, he thought it better to continue the procession under the illusion that anyone who couldn’t see his State is stupid, radical, extremist or incompetent. And he stood stiffly on his carriage.

– Samah Sabawi is a frequent contributor to

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
Our Vision For Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders & Intellectuals Speak Out