Thursday, April 17, 2008
Poem in My Pocket: 'Letter to Fadwa'
If my songs should reach you
despite the blocked skies around us,
it is because I've spread my wings
to embrace your tortured span,
because we share tragedy
and dark destiny,
and together we partake of
memories, wishes, dreams.
I am what you've wanted me to be
and what hardships have decreed
I've claimed my foothold over the clouds,
bleeding till my wounds
tinted the summits with red.
I've loved my homeland, so my heart
aspires joyously to brave the tides.
Regret or cease? That could not be
Since when did a poet seek honor or regret?
Sister, today your letter arrived,
bright with lofty spirit,
bringing glad balm to my wounds
and stirring my dormant pen to reply.
Yes, I recall, I do recall
our happy evenings, our carefree friends
beneath the shading jasmine bushes,
our wings open to joy, or folded
with melancholy . . .
We talked until a dream took hold of us
and we grasped its slumbering mirage.
Yes, I remember how you spoke your poems,
resplendent, proud and free on everyone's lips,
more beautiful than the impossible
Your songs, like sunrays in our country,
feed us with desire and hope
awakening to the sounds of struggle,
the fluttering of banners raised high.
I am still as you hoped I would be,
sun's rays kissing my forehead as I walk,
even alone, toward my goal.
Desire for freedom is my cross;
I thirst, though the cup is in my hand!
Life seethes in my youthful veins
yet I wander naked, seeking life for
my wounded people, that they might live
with happy pride, building their world.
And you? Should my letter arrive
and you find tears scattered among the lines,
do not worry--great hopes must weep
as they struggle to reach the heights.
Tomorrow the night shall withdraw, humiliated,
from our land, and the people abandon illusion,
discovering their strength
Millions shall swear never to sleep
While there be yet one foothold left for wolves,
and through all the suffering they will yearn
for that moment of reckoning truth.
If my songs should reach you
despite the narrow skies around me,
remember that I will return to life,
to the quest for liberty,
remember that my people many call on my soul
and feel it rising again from the folds of the earth.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Palestinian Refugees: In Their Own Words
There are some very moving stories by articulate Palestinian refugees in Al-Majdal's Special Nakba Issue. The link for the ninety-two page issue:
What unifies these stories is the common theme that the right of return is central to any resolution of the conflict.
Some brief excerpts:
"When ordinary people in Scotland discuss with me and ask what is the solution, 'surely there ought to be a compromise?' I tell them that it is as if someone took your house, the garden and garage, your passport and your job, leaving you the small shed at the back of your garden (with no water either), and then asks you to compromise. And they do understand" (p 55). Hala George, Edinburgh, Scotland, refugee from Haifa
"My name is Mary Rayya. I am from Al-Bassa village in Akka District in northern Palestine. My village was totally demolished and destroyed and renamed Shelomi settlement. The whole population of my village, Christians and Muslims, was expelled in 1948" (p 57).
"I dream of returning to my house in Jerusalem--Palestine--to live in safety, dignity and freedom like other peoples of the world and to sleep in our land, under the shade of an almond tree. This is the best gift life could give me. I dream of a free and sovereign Palestine where our people can live in harmony, tolerance, respect and true democracy" (p 60). Abu Rafik Masad, Santiago, Chile
Sunday, April 13, 2008
The Ongoing Nakba
Riad Al-Oweisi killed by Israeli soldiers on April 11 in Bureij Refugee Camp, Gaza. His brothers and sister sit by his lifeless body.
Nothing in the disruption to me and my family described here compares to the continued suffering and desperation of those driven off their lands in Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon. Hala George, "Stripped of Our Home and Left with the Shed," in Al-Majdal, Nakba Special Issue, Winter 2007/Spring 2008, p 55.
I am fed up with telling people that we have rights . . . Why do two or three generations have to be wasted? Why should I get married and have kids if they have to end up killed by the Israelis? Before I used to feeel sorry, but nowadays the situation is getting worse with all the killings; the organized and systematic killings of my people. Dr. Sanaa Shalan, "'Palestine at heart' for a Palestinian refugee writer in Amman," in Al-Majdal, Nakba Special Issue, Winter 2007/Spring 2008, p 27.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Untold Stories: Khaled Diab
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Commemorating Deir Yassin, Palestine/60 Years Later
Commemorating Deir Yassin, Palestine 60 Years Later
By: Abbas Hamideh
April 9, 2008
My father, Fakhri Quasim Hamideh was a survivor of the Massacre at Deir Yassin on April 9th 1948. Like most Palestinian refugees, his greatest wish since his forced expulsion in 1948 was to one day be able to return to his village in Palestine. Unfortunately 53 years later, on February 7, 2001, while driving himself to his regular doctor visit, he passed away at an Israeli check point in Ramallah. My Father was receiving kidney dialysis treatment on a regular basis at the Ramallah Hospital. Due to the delay at the Israeli check point that day he could not get through in time. He went into cardiac arrest and passed away inside his vehicle despite all efforts trying to get through the check point. There were witnesses who explained this to the family including the Palestinian ambulance medics and hospital officials in Ramallah. We flew to Palestine the next day for burial procedures and met with the hospital administration. My Dad was laid to rest in Ramallah away from his village of Deir Yassin. His dream to Return was now passed on to his children, the descendants of his beloved village of Deir Yassin!
Brief History of Deir Yassin Before the Massacre
For centuries the village of Deir Yassin (3-miles West of Jerusalem) was a peaceful place in Palestine. The Arabic word Deir means monastery. In the early 18th Century around 1742 a nomadic Arab Bedouin and his family settled in this village. His name was Al-Sheikh Muhammad Al-Yassin. The village was named after Sheikh Muhammad Al-Yassin and known ever since as Deir Yassin.
The Massacre at Deir Yassin, April 9, 1948
In 1948, Zionist preparations for the massacre at Deir Yassin had begun. The Terrorist Zionist/Jewish Stern Gang put forward a proposal to massacre the residents of the village in order to show the Arabs what happens when the Irgun and Stern Gangs unite in their operations. One of the aims of the attack was to "break Arab morale" and create panic throughout Palestine. Deir Yassin overlooks Jerusalem from it's high mountain point. Taking Deir Yassin was militarily strategic to Zionist plans to empty Palestine of its indigenous inhabitants.
In the early morning of April 9, 1948, the peaceful village of Deir Yassin was attacked and its inhabitants massacred by the Terrorist Zionist Irgun and Stern Gangs led by Manachem Begin and Benzion Cohen, respectively. The Irgun and Stern gangs butchered everyone in their way, men, woman (and some were pregnant), and children, to empty the entire village. The massacre was designed to terrify Arabs beyond the village of Deir Yassin so that they would run away and thus be driven out of their homes. This explains why the Zionist/Jewish death squads did not bury the men, woman and children they killed. They left the dead bodies to be seen and frighten other Palestinian Arabs. Those who were still alive were taken by the Zionist Terrorist gangs and loaded into trucks with their hands tied and eyes blindfolded. They were paraded through the streets of Jerusalem, while other Zionist/Jews applauded and celebrated the dehumanization of Palestinian Arabs.
After our people’s humiliation through the streets of Jerusalem, they were taken back to Deir Yassin and lined-up against a wall and systematically sprayed with gunfire and killed. Fifty three orphaned children were literally dumped along the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, where they were found by Hind Husseini. She took them to her home, which is located behind the current American Colony Hotel, and they became the first class of "Dar-al-Tifl-al-Arabi" orphanage.
A few weeks later “Israel” declared itself a state and was recognized almost immediately as such by American President Harry Truman. With the exception of a few, the graves of the Martyrs of Deir Yassin will not be known because they were bulldozed by the “State of Israel” apparently to make way for new Jewish settlers. The Terrorist criminals who perpetrated the Deir Yassin massacre were never punished or brought to justice. Instead, they were rewarded and one former leader of the Irgun Gang, Menachem Begin, became Prime Minister soon after. Later, the renowned war criminal Ariel Sharon continued to carry out the slow genocide set in motion by the European/US Zionist project against Arab countries that continues until this day. Morton A. Klein, of the Zionist Organization of America, published a report entitled Deir Yassin "History of a Lie" that claims that there was no massacre at Deir Yassin. To deny Deir Yassin, is like denying the Nazi Judeocide in Europe during World War II. The massacre at Deir Yassin is as true as the Nazi holocaust in Europe.
The village of Deir Yassin was only one of many massacres perpetrated by the Zionist “Israelis” to terrorize the indigenous people. Other Palestinian towns and villages where massacres occurred include Ein Karem, Kakoun, Tantura, Yaffa, Safad, Sufsaf (115 people massacred at the wall of Susaf Mosque), Haifa, Tiret Haifa, Jibsu and many more. The Sufsaf residents witnessed their second massacre in Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon 34 years later in 1982. The war criminal Ariel Sharon was directly responsible for that massacre.
Contrary to the Zionist belief that "the old will die and the young will forget," 60 years later some of our elders may have died, but the young still remember! The descendants of Deir Yassin, the Palestinian refugees and people on the ground at home and elsewhere continue to struggle for the time when we can claim our absolute, sacred, individual and collective Right to Return to our original homes and lands.
UN Resolution 194 affirmed the right of Palestinians to return to their homes and lands. This resolution was further clarified by UN General Assembly Resolution 3236 which reaffirmed in Subsection 2: "the inalienable right of Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return." Palestinians "right to return" is specifically to their original homes and lands and not simply what maybe designated as a Palestinian State in the future.
WE WILL RETURN!
Monday, April 07, 2008
Memory Eternal, Palestine
With Ramzy's latest story about his father who died alone in Gaza, bereft of his family, on March 18; I was reminded of my own father, who although not a refugee, died six years ago also in the month of March, during the height of the second Intifadeh. His death, undoubtably, was hastened by the heart-rending horrific reports from historic Palestine, stories about children alone and besieged in their homes with their dead parents, prohibited from seeking help by a cruel enemy determined to maintain a majority Jewish demographic no matter what the cost to the indigenous people. I know that my mother finally told me not to speak of the horrors to my father, that his condition worsened whenever he talked about the indignities to which his countryment were subjected by the Jews who'd streamed into Palestine from all over the world.
So, when I read the latest post by Seth Freedman, well-off British immigrant to historic Palestine, in which he wrote about Australian and South African Zionist youth intending to immigrate to Israel, who in their "gap year" met with so-called "Israeli Arabs," I posted the following comment:
The young and privileged South African and Australian Jews will soon have rights and privileges in two countries, while Israel denies our parents and grandparents to be buried in the land of their birth.
A group of Palestinian refugees fleeing Iraq who have been living for two years in tents at the Syrian/Iraqi border recently were received in Chile, while Jews from Chile may become instant citizens of historic Palestine.
Read refugee Ramzy Baroud's poignant epitaph (an excerpt below) for his father, "My Father Died Alone in Gaza," for an insight into the nature of the Palestinian experience, which will not be remedied by encounters with Zionist youth, the descendents of the engineers of our tragedy:
"It's been fourteen years since I last saw my father. As none of his children had access to isolated Gaza, he was left alone to fend for himself . . . In our last talk he said he feared he would die before seeing my children, but I promised that I would find a way. I failed.
"'I am sick, son, I am sick,' my father cried when I spoke to him two days before his death. He died alone on March 18, waiting to be reunited with my brothers in the West Bank. He died a refugee, but a proud man nonetheless.
"My father's struggle began 60 years ago, and it ended a few days ago. Thousands of people descended to his funeral from throughout Gaza, oppressed people that shared his plight, hopes and struggles, accompanying him to the graveyard where he was laid to rest. Even a resilient fighter deserves a moment of peace."
The story of Ramzy's father is one of many, of which many are still untold. Rest in peace, Abu, and rest assured fathers and mothers, "So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,/ So long lives this, and this gives life to thee." The old will pass, but the children will not forget.
Sunday, April 06, 2008
My Father Died Alone In Gaza/There Are No Checkpoints in Heaven
I still vividly remember my father's face - wrinkled, apprehensive, warm - as he last wished me farewell fourteen years ago. He stood outside the rusty door of my family's home in a Gaza refugee camp wearing old yellow pyjamas and a seemingly ancient robe. As I hauled my one small suitcase into a taxi that would take me to an Israeli airport an hour away, my father stood still. I wished he would go back inside; it was cold and the soldiers could pop up at any moment. As my car moved on, my father eventually faded into the distance, along with the graveyard, the water tower and the camp. It never occurred to me that I would never see him again.
I think of my father now as he was that day. His tears and his frantic last words: "Do you have your money? Your passport? A jacket? Call me the moment you get there. Are you sure you have your passport? Just check, one last time"
My father was a man who always defied the notion that one can only be the outcome of his circumstance. Expelled from his village at the age of 10, running barefoot behind his parents, he was instantly transferred from the son of a landowning farmer to a penniless refugee in a blue tent provided by the United Nations in Gaza. Thus, his life of hunger, pain, homelessness, freedom-fighting, love, marriage and loss commenced.
The fact that he was the one chosen to quit school to help his father provide for his now tent-dwelling family was a huge source of stress for him. In a strange, unfamiliar land, his new role was going into neighboring villages and refugee camps to sell gum, aspirin and other small items. His legs were a testament to the many dog bites he obtained during these daily journeys. Later scars were from the shrapnel he acquired through war.
As a young man and soldier in the Palestinian unit of the Egyptian army, he spent years of his life marching through the Sinai desert. When the Israeli army took over Gaza following the Arab defeat in 1967, the Israeli commander met with those who served as police officers under Egyptian rule and offered them the chance to continue their services under Israeli rule. Proudly and willingly, my young father chose abject poverty over working under the occupier's flag. And for that, predictably, he paid a heavy price. His two-year-old son died soon after.
My oldest brother is buried in the same graveyard that bordered my father's house in the camp. My father, who couldn't cope with the thought that his only son died because he couldn't afford to buy medicine or food, would be found asleep near the tiny grave all night, or placing coins and candy in and around it.
My father's reputation as an intellectual, his passion for Russian literature, and his endless support of fellow refugees brought him untold trouble with the Israeli authorities, who retaliated by denying him the right to leave Gaza.
His severe asthma, which he developed as a teenager was compounded by lack of adequate medical facilities. Yet, despite daily coughing streaks and constantly gasping for breath, he relentlessly negotiated his way through life for the sake of his family. On one hand, he refused to work as a cheap laborer in Israel. "Life itself is not worth a shred of one's dignity," he insisted. On the other, with all borders sealed except that with Israel, he still needed a way to bring in an income. He would buy cheap clothes, shoes, used TVs, and other miscellaneous goods, and find a way to transport and sell them in the camp. He invested everything he made to ensure that his sons and daughter could receive a good education, an arduous mission in a place like Gaza.
But when the Palestinian uprising of 1987 exploded, and our camp became a battleground between stone-throwers and the Israeli army, mere survival became Dad's over-riding concern. Our house was the closest to the Red Square, arbitrarily named for the blood spilled there, and also bordered the 'Martyrs' Graveyard'. How can a father adequately protect his family in such surroundings? Israeli soldiers stormed our house hundreds of times; it was always him who somehow held them back, begging for his children's safety, as we huddled in a dark room awaiting our fate. "You will understand when you have your own children," he told my older brothers as they protested his allowing the soldiers to slap his face. Our 'freedom-fighting' dad struggled to explain how love for his children could surpass his own pride. He grew in my eyes that day.
It's been fourteen years since I last saw my father. As none of his children had access to isolated Gaza, he was left alone to fend for himself. We tried to help as much as we could, but what use is money without access to medicine? In our last talk he said he feared he would die before seeing my children, but I promised that I would find a way. I failed.
Since the siege on Gaza, my father's life became impossible. His ailments were not 'serious' enough for hospitals crowded with limbless youth. During the most recent Israeli onslaught, most hospital spaces were converted to surgery wards, and there was no place for an old man like my dad. All attempts to transfer him to the better equipped West Bank hospitals failed as Israeli authorities repeatedly denied him the required permit.
"I am sick, son, I am sick," my father cried when I spoke to him two days before his death. He died alone on March 18, waiting to be reunited with my brothers in the West Bank. He died a refugee, but a proud man nonetheless.
My father's struggle began 60 years ago, and it ended a few days ago. Thousands of people descended to his funeral from throughout Gaza, oppressed people that shared his plight, hopes and struggles, accompanying him to the graveyard where he was laid to rest. Even a resilient fighter deserves a moment of peace.
Ramzy Baroud teaches mass communication at Curtin University of Technology and is the author of The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle. He is also the editor-in-chief of PalestineChronicle.com. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Untold stories: Saadat Hassouneh
Saadat Hassouneh is the proud father of three: one daughter is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and another is pursuing her Ph.D. at Duke University, his son is an engineer who works for Microsoft. He remembers a time when this would have seemed impossible. Hassouneh was 10 years old in 1948 when his family was driven from their home in Lydda, Palestine during the Zionist takeover. Having lost everything and living in a West Bank refugee camp, his father couldn't afford to send him to school. He wanted to go so badly that he would run away from home, insisting that he be allowed to attend. "It was the first time in my life that I felt insecure. I didn't realize what was happening to us. In Lydda, I never felt that way. I knew this was our land; that we were a people and we were there. Now I had to stand in line for a flour ration."