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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Once upon a time, there was Palestine…

 “Mom, why are the planes above us striking our land?” I asked my mother maybe it was in the year 1996), “this is Israel honey, they are striking us, there is war”. I didn’t understand much back then. We were stunned by the recurrent scene of the airplanes flying above our heads to strike the Beddawi power plant in the North of Lebanon. We didn’t know what to feel. I think we were somehow happy because we were on a big school vacation, and we didn’t know exactly what is the South of Lebanon or what does Palestine mean. When we came to school after the never ending vacation, the teacher told us to have a moment of silence for the souls of Kana martyrs (in 1996 a whole village was massacred by the Israeli army in Lebanon), I did not understand… “Mom is the war over?”, “no, it is on hold, now there is a war between Palestine and Israel”. Things got more complex in my infant mind… I was growing up, my curiosity too; I listened to parents talking about Palestine and peace. They explained to me that Palestine is an Arab land raped by the Jewish militias and that the Arabs are cowards and cannot fight back. I conversed with my friend; he told me that his father said that the Palestinians sold their lands… I didn’t believe it because my father knows the most in the world!

Years after, I encountered the songs of Marcel Khalife and the poetry of Mahmoud Darwich. I searched in the house’s library, I found “the neighborhood of the Christians” (a book telling the story of a Christian neighborhood in Jerusalem falling under the Israeli occupation) by Nabil Khoury, I read it and cried. I met Jamal Abdel Nasser, and started shouting “that what was taken by force can only be retrieved by force!” And I understood that Palestine is the central nationalist cause. Days passed by, and without knowing I became a radical leftist who only believes in revolutions and hates nationalism. The Palestinian struggle ought to be in the context of the internationalist struggle through which all peoples will be free.

In my last high school year, and after the Arabic class ended where we were talking about the Lebanese literature, I approached the teacher and said: “sometimes I feel that my belonging is not Lebanese…”. He was surprised, “I feel that it is Palestinian…” I continued. This was during the second Intifada, the koufyia was always covering my neck, my mouth only spoke the words of Mahmoud Darwich, Ghassan Kanafani and Edward Said. My friends and I used to feel somehow special because we were in a French school in Tripoli where most of the students were indifferent or descending from the “nouveau riche” lineage. Palestine was our goal, and the songs of Marcel Khalife and the poems of Mahmoud Darwich were our struggle. Hence, we pitied ourselves. The dream was to enter a free Palestine!

My dream came true, the first time I saw Palestine I was in Jordan, we stood on a hill and saw the mountains of Jerusalem. They were like all mountains, green with houses longing its cliffs. But it was Palestine, the land of struggle and dreams, the land of passion, where love mixes with the cause, and where Home merges with the loved one, where you live to love, and you love in order to struggle. I saw Palestine for the second time when I rode with Ghassan Kanafani the rockets of the resistance falling on Haifa. He was busy with writing his infamous novel, and I was astonished by the olive and orange fields. I lived and walked on the soil of Palestine when I met that Gazzouite young woman, the lips of whom know only the smile, and who her eyes are always shining, you cannot be as free as her… she will tell you that Gaza is an ugly city, its roads are dusty, Hamas and the occupation both oppress, but at the end she will give you a Hanzala card saying: My country, my country, did you forget? Remember…

On the window of my Parisian room I put the Palestinian flag. My Lebanese friends ask me: “why don’t you put the Lebanese flag?” I tell them that I am afraid of the cedars. My other friends get confused “we don’t understand, you are Lebanese, yet you speak only of Palestine, why?” I tell them, I am of Lebanese nationality but of Palestinian aspiration… In Paris, it is hard to relinquish your Palestinian identity, because everyone confronts you with the peaceful solution, the two states, and the rights of Israelis to security. Hence you cannot but scream: To hell with the lands of 1948 and of 1967, to hell with Jerusalem and the right of self determination, to hell with peace and the two states! We will not stop, we will not rest, and we will struggle until the whole world becomes Palestine…


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