Wednesday, May 10, 2006
'The Name of a River Can Heal'
"In 1968 I was watching television and heard Golda Meir make her infamous remark, 'There is no such thing as a Palestinian people…They didn’t exist.' With that lie, she wiped me out! She wiped out my reality...my identity...my heritage! The Palestinians are now over 9 million people. Where did we all come from if we didn't exist? I knew at that moment I had to write the book"Ibrahim Fawal
Edward Said felt it his duty to tell the world about his less fortunate and much maligned brethren. Those, who follow the struggle of the Palestinian people, find "the heavy and the weary weight of all this unintelligible world" is "lightened" by the stubborn refusal of the Palestinians to be buried under the ruins of their decimated villages.
The "realists" among us admonish us to forget history, to deal with the present.
The ignorant talk of dual narratives, as if North American and European Jews have some legitimate claim to the land on which our fathers lived for centuries. A manufactured claim to a land through which many have passed, Ammonites, Jebusites, Assyrians, Turks, Arabs, Hittites, Egyptians, Selucids; the amalgamation of all who traversed the land the Palestinians, those who were actually living and working on the land when it was violently usurped from them by souless dissemblers and sophists.
Sophists and dissemblers who were and are so desperate for legitimacy that they tried to erase through ugly words and deeds the people whom they violate.
Lies do not hold up. Unfortunately for another dissembler, Ben Gurion, the old have not all died off and they've seen to it that the young will not forget.
And while "we may never recapture" Wordsworth's "hour of splendour in the grass...we will grieve not; rather find strength in what remains behind." And what remains behind is formidable for it is the humanity and simple truth of our stories that have withstood Zionists' massive efforts to quell.
What remains behind is the adamant refusal of George Bisharat to be erased. In Rite of Return to a Palestinian Home, none other than the biggest dissembler of them all, Golda Meir, of "there is no such thing as a Palestinian" fame, resided in his Jerusalem family house, which was usurped, lock, stock, and barrel, by the Zionist invaders. Twice, Bisharat, visited the house built by his grandfather, and twice he was told by the Jewish occupants, one an Eastern European, and another, an American, "The family never lived here."
And how does Bisharat face these lies. With the simple beauty of the truth which finds "strength in what remains behind":
"Of course, the family did live there, notwithstanding the denials, justifications, and obfuscations we have faced. So did hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians "live there." The keys to their homes there still adorn the walls of apartments, houses, rooms, and refugee hovels throughout the world. We have not disappeared, nor have we forgotten, our existence a reminder that one people's liberation was founded on another's dispossession.
"At home in California I have a thick file that is the documentary record of my family's efforts to regain Villa Harun ar-Rashid. We have not prevailed, of course, nor have we ever received any acknowledgment of the injustice we, and countless others, have suffered. Our homes and properties were long ago transferred to the ownership of the state or quasi-governmental agencies that, even today, do not lease or sell land to non-Jews."
Bisharat's children are "heirs to the truth."
"Recently I found my daughter lingering over photos of my father as a boy in his Jerusalem home. I know now that she and my son both are heirs of the truth about Villa Harun ar-Rashid."
What also remains is the story of Professor Ibrahim Fawal, who recounts the massive influx of refugees to Ramallah:
"They were pitching tents anywhere they could: churches, schoolyards, open fields and cemeteries." Many had been forced out at gunpoint from their homes in what subsequently became the state of Israel.
"They [the Israeli soldiers] had guns in their hands, sticking them in their faces. They pushed my mother-in-law saying 'go to Abdallah, go to Abdallah' [referring to the King of Jordan]. My father-in-law started putting mattresses and provisions on one of his trucks. He said they needed something to sleep on, something to eat. They [the Israeli occupiers] said 'no, we need the truck and we need the highways. You hit the mountains.
"One of the children who came to Ramallah in June 1948 was a 6-year old girl named Rose Rahib who had walked up and down the mountains and in the summer heat for more than 20 miles on foot."
"Who indeed knows the secret of the earthly pilgrimage?" wrote Alan Paton in Cry, the Beloved Country. "Who indeed knows why there can be comfort in a world of desolation? Now God be thanked that there is a beloved one who can lift up the heart in suffering, that one can play with a child in the face of such misery.
"Who knows what keeps us living and struggling, while all things break about us?"
Yet, "while all things" broke "about us" Dr. Salman Abu Sitta and Dr. Walid Khalidi named the villages that are "no more," in their monumental works, The Atlas of Palestine and All That Remains. And Dr. Abu Sitta has shown that not only is it just to implement UN Resolution 194 but also feasible.
"Now God be thanked that the name of a hill is such music, that the name of a river can heal. Aye, even the name of a river that runs no more."