Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Palestinians’ “Land Days”

Illustration by: Abdul Rahman Al Muzayen

On May 30, 1976 while thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel were protesting against the expropriations of their homelands, Israeli security forces shot and killed six young Palestinian citizens of Israel and injured many. Had Israeli security forces been able to foresee the consequences of this foolish act, they would have practiced the highest level of self-constraint. They would have probably pleaded with these protesters to go home. They would have done anything but kill them.

Commemorating what they have died for, the Palestinians, for 35 years on end, honored the memory of these six young protesters on what has become “The Land Day”.

Politics has always been part of a Palestinian’s life. So unconceivable it is for Palestinians to disengage themselves from politics. When they are angry, it is politics that angers them; when they are hopeful, it is politics that gives them hope. Sometimes politics starves them. And sometimes when they die, they die due to politics. Eventually, they become politically experienced and sophisticated.

Yet, rarely are they aware of their tragic political status. A few of them know that they do not possess a state of their own. Try and tell them this fact. Simply, they wouldn’t bother. A state is not what Palestinians would feel worried to have or lose. To them a state is a meaningless enigmatic concept. A farmer never knows what “state” stands for, neither does a fisherman. A teacher would possibly know, but he would never feel it. All of them, however, know one simple word, one grand concept, one sacred entity. It is a reachable concrete and spiritual one. The land.

This is how they raise their children. They raise them to love their land and feel it under each step they take. These children soon start to see this land in the morning sky above, they soon touch it on the seashore, and feel it in the rainfall. A while later, they accompany their fathers to the graveyard and watch a relative embrace this very land. They would sink their bare hands into the sands and join in burying this very dead man.

And while they are still little children, they blend into this land. Their love for it becomes unfathomable. Beauty, to these children, is “an olive tree growing before their own eyes.”

As they grow up, their life becomes more complicated, and inevitably more political. They start to suffer and feel the pain of living under occupation, under siege, and behind the wall. The pain of crossing checkpoints, of being discriminated against, of being bombed and fired at, of watching their siblings buried under this land. The majority of them would start to hate everything around them. They would feel angry and worried to the extent that they would abhor their surrounding. And the would curse.

They would curse a variety of things: life, Israel, politics, Gaza, Egypt, and perhaps even Palestine. These all become to them base and immoral entities. However, never will a Palestinian curse the land. Gaza, when cursed, is miserableness, wicked people, crime, hellish nights, bombing, starvation…anything but never the land. Palestine, when cursed, is Israel’s security, political factions, the Apartheid Wall, settlements, checkpoints…anything but never the land.

To Palestinians, each day of the year is a “Land Day”. Each pulse is so land-loving; each breath soon vaporizes into the land; each tear soon waters it, and each body eventually embraces the land— on the real “Land Day”.

One Night of Bombing

I’m lying. The are two actually. Earlier, I tweeted, “I was lying all the time. I used to say I got used to it, you actually never get used to being bombed by F-16s!”

It was but another night penetrated with the brain-wracking constant droning mixed with the sounds of a slight rainfall. I didn’t bother, however, and continued my nightly chores, indifferent to the omnipresent presages of an “unappealing night”. Time and again, I was told this was going to be a hellish night due to the last bombing that took place in Jerusalem.

One would wonder what Palestinians in Gaza would have to do with a bombing that took place in Jerusalem. But to someone like me, and to Palestinians in Gaza, I’ll just borrow the words of another Palestinian, “If someone caught flu in Tel Aviv, we, Palestinians in Gaza, were to blame. We would have to bear the consequences!”

A few reports say this is part of a larger Israeli political conspiracy to relieve the ever amounting pressure they are put under by provoking Hamas into firing rockets onto Israel and showing themselves as the victim. Some say it is a desperate attempt to end any Palestinian effort to end the disunity between the two largest Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah. Israeli media, however, report these attacks are just retaliatory. I’d try to understand if it were retaliatory, but it is Israel that started all of this mayhem.

I didn’t care, and whatever were the reasons behind this would-be hellish night, I didn’t bother for myself. I thought that I got used to it. But I kept tweeting and providing latest updates whenever the droning increased or lowered. Someone told me, “your obsession with the unmanned drones inspires me.” He thought it’s an obsession, but it’s not. It’s some mechanism to release myself from this nerve-wracking noise, which at some point, would seem eternal.

But it was not. Soon enough the droning ceased. The rain stopped falling. It was all quiet, and I started to feel worried.

A friend tweeted, “this must be quiet which precedes the storm!” I knew It was. So everyone was soon getting ready and preparing himself, psychologically and emotionally in case the bomb fell in his neighborhood. I was soon trying to envisage the bombing in my mind before it fell for real. Waiting for a bomb is far more torturing that the bomb itself.

A few minutes later, we started to call for ending this state of dreadful quiet by sending the drones back “People want the drones BACK! ” I tweeted.

We waited and waited, but no bombs fell at all. We started to feel extremely apprehensive about what’s going on! Had we been bombed, things would have seemed normal.

After what seemed to be ages, and as if conforming to our demands, F-16s and Apaches started flying in Gaza sky only to simultaneously start shelling various areas across the Gaza Strip. Once an F-16 shows up, a bomb follows. One doesn’t even have time to ponder its horrific blasting sound. A few were injured, two of them were children.

The night was up, and I went to bed.

The next night, at an unguarded moment, the nearby area was heavily bombarded by five F-16 bombs. I wasn’t prepared. I never thought it would come this early. As each bomb fell, the whole building shook back and forth, my heart dropped, and I cursed. The five bombs having fallen, I felt like screaming my heart out like a child. I felt as if I wanted to be as simple a little boy pouring out his heart to his mother, “Mom, I hate Israel!” But I kept silent and continued my nightly chores.

Illustration by: Zahraa Hassan

Itamar killings: a modest proposal

No one approves of killing children — unless you were a T-Bag* of course. No one approves of killing in the first place. But this isn’t a utopia. This is the real world. Full of corruption, lust, obnoxious deeds, crimes and misdemeanors. So the very idea of eliminating murder is unfathomable, especially when the state of animosity between the murderer and their victim is as extreme as in this part of the world. Killing thus can be rationalized.

The same applies to killing children. But there is some criteria according to which one’s killing (children) can be defined as either permissible or outrageous.

Palestinians are said to have killed some Israeli children, three I believe? That was a week ago, in Itamar, y’know, some piece of land Israeli settlers stole, no that wasn’t stealing, they grabbed from Palestinians by force and built their houses on it. It was awful, mean and outrageous…I mean the killing. Not that the criminal murdered children (we already agreed ‘murder’ can be okay sometimes) but the way he did it! Oh, that was terrible.

You see, Israelis killed Palestinian children too. They have been killing them for the past 63 years. 124 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians and 1,452 Palestinian children have been killed by Israelis since September 29, 2000.

But that isn’t bad killing. That is “good” killing because Israelis killed Palestinian children in a civilized manner, they killed them the right way, they killed them “well”, using modern technology, F16s, Apaches, bombs (there is a good one called white phosphorus bomb) tanks, y’know, machine guns, they killed Palestinian children with bullets, mortars…everything modern and new. Technology; you see?

But a knife? – This is what makes such an act outrageous. How can someone stab three children with a knife? Stabbing them to death…
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What happened on March 15th

It is certainly most challenging to write at a time when everyone and everything around you is expecting and urging you to write. When you know this is one of the few times when words lose their meanings, and feelings are impossible to transfer into words. I’d tried to escape this challenge but today I’ve come to face it.

March 15th was to be the day when, inspired by their fellow brothers in other Arab countries, namely Egypt, the youth of Gaza would put an end to the nightmarish disunity which has been racking the body of the Palestinian cause for years an years on end. Explicit well thought out agenda, organized plan, granted permissions, promised cooperation, immense mobilization, and high spirit preceded this long-awaited day.

As the protesters gathered at al-Jundi al-Majhool square, everyone was thunderstruck to see the green flags of Hamas raised jointly with the Palestine flag. We had agreed earlier that no flags whatsoever should to be raised but the Palestinian flag. This is a rally against the disunity between the Palestinian people embodied in the Fatah-led PA in the West Bank, and the Hamas-dominated government in the Gaza Strip. To end this disunity is to raise neither Fatah’s nor Hamas’s flag. To end it, we must raise but the Palestinian flag. However, as more and more protesters arrived at the square where a few minutes later our rally would begin, Hamas green flags kept fluttering in the air.

We gathered at some aria, and everyone seemed to grow more tense and concerned about this ominous forerunner. The chanting began, “people want to end the division.” Meanwhile, a huge protest came over and broke into where we already gathered. They raised more and more green flags among which Palestinian flags were also raised. They chanted echoing our chants, “People want to end the division.” As they arrived, tension seemed to grow more rapidly, and looming clashes could be envisioned. As expected, the Hamsawiyes (and here I label none, but describe them by how they decided to appear on such a day by raising their political party’s flags) tried to break into us and steal the show by leading the protest and raising their flags. Some of us tried to push them back and keep them from infiltrating our rally, chanting “Barra!” – get out. They soon overcame us by their huge numbers, and unmistakable will for stating a fight.

Helpless, we decided we could hold them back from taking control of the rallies and at the same time refrain from starting any fight by withdrawing from al-Jundi and protesting somewhere else. However, “somewhere else” in Gaza is no easy a task to find for protesters in such immense numbers, and so we started marching ahead aimlessly. For once we seemed to be heading to nowhere. We continued marching, chanting and clapping, until we arrived at as-Saraya (the main and largest prison in Gaza, located at an intersection at the end of the street leading to al-Jundi). There we waited for moments before we returned to where we were— al-Jundy al-Majhool area.

We tried to isolate ourselves from the other rally led by Hamas members since this is a rally organized by Palestinian youth for everyone who is sick and tired of the current division between the two largest Palestinian factions each trifling with the fate of Palestinians in their own area of governance, each blind with their political party’s interests and agenda, desecrating the pride of the Palestinian people. In an attempt to sort out this ironically divisive act, we came up with a new slogan, “people want a’lam Falasteen” –the flag of Palestine, waving our hands up and down for Hamas’s rally, in a motion so as to tell them to lay down their green flags. Cynically, they immediately replied by echoing our slogan, chanting, “people want a’lam Falasteen!” leaving us flabbergasted.

As we watched ourselves grow dispirited, and our rally become more dispersed, I thought I had already grasped the workings according to which this rally went. Whatever we chanted was echoed by the broadcast buses owned by Hamas organizers, so it seemed as though we were chanting after them. When we tried to disengage ourselves from them, they would send a bunch of “their protesters”, who would infiltrate our huge rally, carrying their green flags and wearing bands around their heads, so green flags fluttering among our rally, it would appear as if we were Hamsawiyes! (or at least led by them).

Photo by: Nader El-Khuzundar

One might wonder why we couldn’t overcome them by our large numbers, energy and enthusiasm since this was, supposedly, our revolution. Why did they always have the upper hand in leading the protest?

Primarily, for two reasons: first, we couldn’t help feeling helpless in confrontation with whoever wore a green band, or raised a green flag. To me, a sense of their belligerent animosity that has been generating inside us for many years that it has become impossible for us to not feel powerless in front of any Hamas-affiliated member. Second, we wanted to keep the protests as peaceful as possible, so we had to practice high levels of self-restraint, which at some point, I failed to do.
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Gaza’s “angry young men”

“Write down, I am an Arab” wrote the late renowned Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, in the opening lines of his controversial poem entitled after its opening lines, boasting about and promoting then-declining Pan-Arabism. Toward the middle of the poem, he writes, his anger obviously amounting, “Patient in a country/ where people are enraged” and self-assuredly he concludes with a line he never knew it would become a slogan of his angry self-democratizing Arab fellows in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Bahrain and across the middle east, “Beware, beware/ Of my hunger/ And my anger!” Had the Arab presidents dwelled upon Darwish’s lines, they would have known how to avert their people’s anger. We are Darwish’s fellows, “angry” young men as well, living in Gaza, under siege, occupation, poverty, everlasting military conflict, social injustice, political corruption, repression…

Britain’s “angry young men” appeared in the 1950s and aspired to fight against the established sociopolitical order of their country. They had to endure the implications of a world plagued with two fatal wars. To our men, they left one thing: Osborne’s Look back in Anger. In a war-riddled Middle East, our young men, including me, are looking back, looking forward in anger.

It does not take someone a lot to be angry in Gaza. Anger is essentially characteristic of every normal Palestinian being, and he who is not angry in Gaza is, to put it bluntly, abnormal. When they have every reason to be angry, and they are not, they simply breach the rules of normal functioning. Anger, then, is a hypothetical state, and a useless word (This needs not be further explicated, does it?) However, some people are better at hiding their emotions than others, at self-suppressing their anger, unless they be forcibly suppressed by others. A few others are good at transforming their anger into wholesome energy by which they carry on with their lives, more determined, more patient. I’m of the worst kind of them all; my anger being daily transformed into obscene words as I fatuously spit them out.
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