“Resisting means assuring oneself of the heart’s health” – Mahmoud Darwish
In the early hours of Wednesday 2nd July, 17-year-old Mohamed Abu Khudair was making his way to his local mosque for morning prayers in the refugee camp of Shu’fat, occupied East Jerusalem. Leaked CCTV footage has since emerged depicting the moment in which Mohamed was forced into a car by three men who had been watching him and pounced when the street was left deserted. The next morning, his body was found dumped in a forest, badly burnt. Lifeless. Autopsy reports have revealed that Mohamed’s maimers set him alight while he was still alive as “forensic studies found chars in the lungs, indicating that Muhammad was still breathing while he was being burned”. Mohamed was buried yesterday after a funeral procession attended by thousands in Shu’fat. His body was laid to rest beside his cousin’s grave, Amjad Abu Khudair.
If you’ve been following, even vaguely, the news regarding Mohamed’s death, most likely you’ve been told that this was a purported “revenge attack”, a reaction to the murder of three Israeli teenagers: Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Fraenkel, and Gilad Shaar. That’s if your recollection of history spans a grand total of one week and your source of news is the BBC. So let’s just conveniently ignore that this happened on 15th May shall we? Or the fact that since 2000 up until April 2013, 1,520 Palestinian children have been murdered by Israel, equating to 1 child every 3 days for the last 13 years. Whilst mainstream media outlets will have you know that this latest “cycle of violence” was triggered by the murder of Israeli settlers, this started a long time ago. This started in 1948. It began when a clan of colonialists thought they could casually invade a country, settle in it, ethnically cleanse it of its indigenous populace, and attain peace and stability.
What of the three Israeli settlers who were abducted and killed? It turns out that Netanyahu et al had known that the teenagers were dead for over two weeks, including the bodies’ whereabouts and the suspected perpetrators, but they “concealed this information through a gag order“. Rather than return the bodies to the families of the victims and deal with the perpetrators of the attack in a civilised manner, the Israeli government used their deaths to launch a violent onslaught on Palestinians. Netanyahu stifled the Israeli press, buying time to milk this opportunity for what it was worth. Anyone who still believes in the myth that the state of Israel compassionately enshrines human lives, or is the “only democracy in the Middle East” needs a brain check. A corpse, an incident of murder, an entire town are reduced to mere tools, used as means of incitement, to drum up anti-Palestinian rhetoric and justify relentless aggression against millions of displaced families. And as the story of the Israeli teenagers proves, it seems that even the life of an Israeli is distastefully seized as an opportunity, an instrument for tactical, racist manoeuvring by Israel’s states(wo)men.
The kidnap and murder of the three Israeli teenagers has lead to over 600 arrests. Meanwhile, the kidnap and murder of Mohamed Abu Khudair has led to, wait for it… 0 arrests. Despite clear CCTV footage depicting his abduction, despite his corpse being found literally consumed and choked by flames, despite this horrific act of barbarity. In fact, not only have no arrests been made, the Israeli government has imposed a gag order on the ‘investigation’ into his death. It is safe to say that no one will be brought to justice. That is the painfully sad truth. Mohamed’s blood is not simply on the hands of the barbarians who preyed on him. Neither is it just on the hands of Netanyahu, his fellow war criminals, or even Israeli civil society. It is on the hands of every apologist for the racist apartheid state that is Israel. Every single person who has yet to categorically condemn and work to debilitate the colonial cancer that is the Israeli state’s obsessive and illegal occupation is responsible. You will answer to Mohamed and every martyr, child and man, whose life was robbed, on the Final Day. We all will. Be under no illusions; mere silence and senseless apathy is most certainly complicity.
And as if to deliberately add insult to injury, it has now emerged that Mohamed Abu Khudair’s cousin, 15-year-old US citizen Tariq Abu Khudair, visiting Palestine for the summer holiday, was brutally beaten up by undercover Israeli “police” personnel on Thursday 3rd July. His beating has been caught on camera by multiple witnesses. Here’s one. And another. Tariq is in need of urgent medical care, suffering from a broken nose and chin as well as internal bleeding, but take a guess as to where this boy is right now. He is detained, handcuffed to a hospital bed, awaiting a court hearing on Sunday 6th July. Unconscious. There are various reports emerging about other missing and/or assaulted youths. Yesterday, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy was reported missing in the Wadi Al-Jouz neighbourhood in occupied Jerusalem. Late last night, Israeli settlers kidnapped and beat up 22-year-old Tareq Odeily from Nablus. He was left severely bleeding and is now hospitalised, in critical condition. 9-year-old Musa Zullum was snatched by settlers and had his neck slashed on Sunday 29th June as he walked with his mother in the West Bank. And another, Yosef Eghnemat, assaulted by a bunch of settlers in Hebron. Be under no illusion, these are just some of the many. The documented.
My questions are abundant (I won’t hold my breath for satisfying answers): where is the US government in all this? Where is Obama and his statement of “concern”? Tariq Abu Khudair is a US citizen; isn’t his protection the duty of the Obama administration? Or does the fact that he has Palestinian blood running through his veins negate his right to care? Where is David Cameron and his tweets of empathy? Where are the Arab ‘leaders’? Too busy constructing skyscrapers and casinos? Where are ‘ISIS’, the self-proclaimed freedom fighters now rampaging their way across Syria and Iraq, vacuously claiming to be motivated by a yearning for Muslim liberation? Where are the keen journalists, the media outlets profiteering from bloodshed in the Middle East? Where are their privileged voices? We saw how much of a stir they caused when details about the three Israeli teenagers were finally released by Bibi: special features, interviews with the mothers, up-to-date live commentary of proceedings. What about Tariq: have you seen one piece about him? I haven’t. Although I know better than to be shocked by it all, this hypocrisy and selective reporting will never cease to make my blood boil. The people who should be writing about this aren’t, and when they are, it’s an Israel-is-the-victim sob story. We keep hearing the same narrative, the same “cycle of violence” nonsense, recycled and bulldozed to rhetorically censor all talk concerning the real problem, the root cause of this cold-hearted villainy. To pit the Palestinians and the Israelis on an identical plane of scrutiny, and subsequently insist that they are two sides of the same coin is to do a great disservice to what this ‘conflict’ is about. This is not a conflict. This is about an apartheid state that rules over people with an unquenchable thirst for dominion. This is about millions of oppressed families fighting with their breaths and blood to reclaim what was stolen from them. This is about justice. To delve into debate after debate about what is commonly referred to as a “cycle of violence” is to misunderstand the essence of this fight. It is to misunderstand what Palestine means.
And just like in September 2000, when 12-year-old Muhammad Al-Dura was shot dead during the second intifada in Gaza, Mohamed Abu Khudair has perished, with no remorse from those responsible. More than a decade after Al-Dura’s cold-blooded murder was etched into my 10-year-old consciousness, it seems that things are just the same, Abu Khudair’s ordeal this time scarring my 23-year-old heart. However, I refuse to accept that their deaths were in vain. The utter strength, relentless tawwakul, and the unabating mentality of resistance of the people of Palestine bewilders me. Their humility even more so, displayed no more jaw-droppingly than Muhammad Al-Dura’s father (who literally watched his son die in his embrace):
“I don’t hate Israel, I hate the occupation. I am for peace. War is against humankind. I don’t want others to lose their sons. Which parent doesn’t want their children to grow up safe and secure?” – Jamal Al-Dura
Astounding. I am struggling to string the words to be sincere enough in claiming that I could say the same had I been in his mighty shoes.
We find ourselves in the Holy month of Ramadan and in yet another month of bloodshed. I admit, I have come dangerously close to despair. I am only armed with a voice and my kuffiyeh. Make use of these sacred days and nights. Pray hard. Ask Him, for verily He has promised to answer the sincere call of His loyal servants: may God watch over every child; may He hasten victory over the oppressors; may He weaken the occupiers; may He instil Love in the hearts of every man, woman, and child. For all power lies with Him.
“Yet indeed, as for any who defend themselves after having been wronged – no blame whatever attaches to them: blame attaches but to those who oppress [other] people and behave outrageously on earth, offending against all right: for them there is grievous suffering in store” – 42:41-42