Saturday, 12 July 2014

Gaza: Signposts on the road to liberation


From The Electronic Intifada

On my notebooks from school
On my desk and the trees
On the sand on the snow
I write your name
On every page read
On all the white sheets
Stone blood paper or ash
I write your name …
Liberty

– Paul Eluard

Edward Said wrote extensively about the necessity of writing the Palestinian narrative. But he also argued, very eloquently, that we were never allowed to do so. Now, we in Gaza have decided to write our narratives, sometimes with blood.

Because they leave a mark on our individual and collective consciousness, we call them martyrs. Those who took up arms or pens — Che Guevara, Ghassan Kanafani, Naji al-Ali, Dalal Mughrabi, Shadia Abu Ghazaleh, Steve Biko, Salavador Allende, Rosa Luxemburg, Patrice Lumumba, to mention but a few — have booked their places there.

But there are others, much younger, unknown to many, who have played a major role in the formation of our consciousness. They visit me every night; I see them in my dreams. I talk to them: I discuss serious issues with them, more serious than any living person can imagine.

At 139 square miles, Gaza is the largest refugee camp on earth, a reminder of the ongoing Nakba. The inhabitants of Gaza have become the most unwanted Palestinians, the black heart that no one wants to see, the “Negroes” of the American south, the black natives of apartheid South Africa. The surplus population that the powerful, macho, white Ashkenazi Israeli cannot coexist with.

Landmarks

The years 1987, 2009, 2012 and now 2014 are signposts on the road to our liberation. But they have also been landmarks in the formation of my own consciousness, not unlike those left by the great martyrs mentioned above. 1987: Ashraf Eid, 15 years old, my cousin’s son/sun. One bullet, shot by an Israeli sniper in Rafah, penetrated his small heart. It was the end of a long fasting day during the holy month of Ramadan. One bullet, the end of Ashraf’s life, a mark on my consciousness.

2009: Maather Abu Znaid, 24, my student. I was teaching my first course, “The Novel,” at al-Aqsa University in 2005 in Khan Younis. I taught two novels, one by Ghassan Kanafani and, ironically, another by the racist writer and Nobel Laureate V.S Naipaul. Students know me to be “strict” and “stingy” in giving marks, but Maather got 92 percent, a mark I rarely award. She graduated with high honors — an intelligent student with big, expansive dreams. She wanted to further her studies, but in Gaza, dreams fly away. During the Gaza massacre of 2009, Maather was targeted and hit by a drone missile as she left her house. Her family is still trying to find parts of her body, if they ever can. That was a dream cut short. One drone missile, end of dreams; another mark on my consciousness.

2009: Forty-four-year old Samir Muhammad was executed with a single bullet to the heart in front of his wife and children. The Israeli army refused to let an ambulance pick up his corpse for eleven days so his family had to wait for the assault to stop before they could bury him. His father, Rashid, told me in agonizing detail how he had the excruciatingly painful experience of looking at, touching, kissing and then burying the decomposed body of his son. Rashid is originally from my parents’ village, Zarnouqa; he knew them well. Samir could have been me. Single bullet: Zarnouqa is not far.

2009: Muhammad Samouni, 10, was found lying next to the bodies of his mother and siblings, five days after they were killed. He would tell you what he has been telling everyone — that his brother woke suddenly after being asleep for a long time. His brother told him that he was hungry, asked for a tomato to eat and then died. A torch in the dark depths of my consciousness.

2009: Ismat, 11, and Alaa Qirm, 12, whose house in Gaza City was shelled with artillery and phosphorous bombs — bombs which burned them to death together with their father, leaving behind their fourteen-year-old sister Amira. Alone, injured and terrified, Amira crawled 500 meters on her knees to a house close by which happened to be my cousin’s home. It was empty because the family had fled when the Israeli attack began. She stayed there for four days, surviving only on water. When my cousin returned to get clothes for his family, he found Amira, weak and close to death. The bodies of her siblings and father were decomposed. Another deep scar left in the depths of my consciousness.

2014: Najla al-Haj, a student at al-Aqsa University, killed with her family, in an Israeli air strike on the home of her family in Khan Younis in southern Gaza. She was talking to her university friends online just a few hours before. Hanadi, another student, as well as my 18-year-old niece Shimo, only learned of her friend’s death hours later when they awoke for suhour, the Ramadan pre-fast meal. Hanadi went immediately to Najla’s Facebook page. The last thing Najla wrote was: “God be with us. Oh, hello martyrdom.” Najla al-Haj died with seven others from her family. One airstrike, martyrdom of an entire family; a signpost on the road back to Haifa. more

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