on tough laws

“I respect tough laws. Back home if you steal they’ll cut off your hand. So nobody steals.”

So a Palestinian coffee shop owner (perhaps rather stereotypically) vented his frustration to me. A homeless lady had come into his establishment earlier in the day, she’d pretended to look at the menu, and when his back was turned she’d grabbed some muesli bars and drinks and made a run for it. He caught her, but much to his shock the police refused to do anything about it. Less than ten quid meant no charges apparently. So the lady was let off (having pocketed some of the food) and the owner was told to go back to his business.

I figured this wasn’t his first encounter with dishonesty. “There’s thieves everywhere,” he gesticulated to me, “and the police, they do nothing. There are laws here but it’s not fair, it’s too soft. I respect tough laws. Back home if you steal they’ll cut off your hand. So nobody steals.”

Then he went to the back of the shop as his partner walked in. “If you steal something right now I can’t do anything about it!” he chuckled. The shop was now empty except for me.

I left the shreds of my empty sugar packet, the stirrer, and a few extra quid on the counter – just as well that the man was away so I could do this as discreetly as possible – and I stepped out of the shop.

Whoever you are, Palestinian coffee shop owner – I never even learned your name, but I think you’re the first Palestinian I’ve ever spoken to – I hope this brightened your day a bit. Draconianism can do a lot but care and love can do more, and I hope you’ll trust that someday.

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