From : email@example.com
Sent : Thursday, March 25, 2004 7:31 AM
To : firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject : Thoughts on the Murder of Sheik Ahmed Yassin
I was deeply saddened by the brutal assassination of Sheikh Ahmad Yassine,
the spiritual leader of Hamas.
Using American-built Apachi helicopters, Israel's "Man of Peace" (as George
Bush called his friend Ariel Sharon) fired six 1.5 ton/rockets against a man
in a wheel chair going out for his daily dawn prayers...killing him and 10
others, including 5 children.
I know the man in person...He is not a relative...as you might have
Although I disagree with him politically and ideologically, I respect him
and admire him very much...
I respect all those who practise what they preach...even if I do not share
The assassination of Sheikh Yassine will open a Pandora Box...in
We Palestinians feel that we find ourselves with our back to the wall....IF
there was any...
Plagued with a corrupt leadership, and Arabs who turned their back on us,
and an indifferent world....it does not take a genius to imagine how the
average Palestinian feels...
Although the assassination was condemned all over the world, it did not
merit a compassionate phrase from the Americans...as if we were flies...or
I did not do anything in the past few days...
I did not feel like doing anything or seeing anybody...
I feel so sad...so lonely...so depressed...so helpless....
I was not THERE, in Gaza, when the US-built Apachi showered the refugee
camps with death….
I was not there when the frenzied pack besieged the refugee camp of Borj
el-Barajneh in Beirut in February 1987, and reduced its inhabitants to
eating cats and dogs in order to avert starvation.
I was not there when the massacres of Sabra and Shatila took place in
September 1982, and the bodies of thousands of Palestinians were stacked in
grotesque piles, fly-covered, rotting in the sun.
I was not there because of a trick of fate…..
But it was ‘there’, in the refugee camps, that I grew up and made my
original leap to a maturing consciousness. The unspeakable pain that has
characterized the camps’ 50-year existence remains mine, an indivisible part
of my inner history.
I can no more get outside it than I can get outside my own skin. This is so
not only because I am a Palestinian activist and scholar who predictably,
inevitably, must draw for his material on the tragic background of his
people’s struggle, but also because, very simply, growing up Palestinian -
growing up, in other words, afflicted with a sense of ‘otherness’ - is
something that constantly addresses every impulse in our lives.
For when Palestinians were dealt their cruel fate by Zionism, Zionists never
asked if we were Muslim or Christian, rich or poor, radical or conservative
- they asked if we were Palestinian. It was the name, and all the historical
cargo the name brought with it, that was made cause. Shared equally by every
member of the community, the notion of ‘Palestinianness’ thus derives its
validity for us, from a communal sense of reference.
To be sure, the experience of some Palestinians does differ from that of
others. Diaspora Palestinians, for example, were born or grew up in exile.
They have never known what it is to walk the streets of a Palestinian city
(though some will tell you that a refugee camp is a transplanted Palestinian
city complete with its own Palestinian idiom, metaphor and ambience).
To walk the streets of a Palestinian city that is to live no longer in the
metropolis of a host state where you are placed close to the door for easy
eviction - is an image that has always tormented and fascinated Diaspora
Palestinians. It is an exquisite thought, like first love. And the
experience of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza varies with this, of
course, in the sense that they do live in their cities, in their homeland.
But their experience locks on ours in another way - they do not live free.
Living under occupation, whether Jordanian or Israeli, they were never a
determining force in their destiny as all free men and women are. And
finally the experience of our fellow Palestinians who stayed behind in 1948
in what later became Israel, aligns itself with ours in that it too exhibits
the same alienation, destitution and anguish that characterizes the mass
sentiment of the whole of Palestinian society.
But we remember.
I will indulge a recollection from the late 1950s when I was growing up in
the Palestinian refugee camp of Burj al-Barajneh, on the outskirts of
Beirut. I was witness at the time to an incident where a Palestinian peddler
called Abu Hassan one afternoon had all his merchandise, along with a cart
he displayed it on, confiscated by the Lebanese police. He was told that as
a Palestinian he was an alien, and as an alien he had no right to engage in
employment ‘whether paid or unpaid’.
The incident was devastating to me as an impressionable teenager. It had
this impact, not only because I was a politicized youngster - we all were -
but also because Abu Hassan happened to be my father. My father’s response
to the incident was to explain it away, even to justify it, by drawing on
the inner resources of the typical exile. He observed: ‘Well, this is not
our country after all. We have to wait until we return to our own’.
Within less than a decade - which saw my father’s transition from a
self-sufficient, proud Palestinian living in his own homeland, to a
desperate, helpless nonentity peddling surreptitiously around the streets of
Beirut or lining up abjectly at UNRWA food depots for our food rations - his
hair had turned snow white, his voice lost its edge and he was often heard
to mumble incoherently about how he wished he were dead. His wish was soon
I suppose he wanted to die because he could not explain, armed with his
simple peasant logic, why all this had happened to him, to his family, to
his people and to his nation. But in dying as he did, through strangulation
of the spirit by ‘refugeeism’, my father and his generation left us
important legacies that animated in us complex energies about who we were
and where we came from. Americans and Israelis, along with the rest of the
world, refuse to believe this.
For example in 1954, a principal architect of the Cold War called John
Foster Dulles, actually said: ‘The Palestinian problem will be solved in
time, only when a new generation of Palestinians grow up with no attachment
to the land’. And Israelis have never ceased to harp on how Palestinians
should be settled or resettle in under-populated regions of the Arab world.
These people are pitifully naive, unendurably slow to catch up with ‘the
reality principle’. Three generations of Palestinians - my parents’, my own,
and that of the intifadah - have interacted, and transmitted to each other
the legacy that living free in our homeland is the one tangible pivot of our
It is an appalling contradiction because to my generation of Palestinians,
exiled for 50 years, the concept of homeland has become nearly
incomprehensible. Our destiny has forced us to come to terms with the idea
that homelessness is the homeland.
Like an existential thirst we keep our shared moral and cultural notion of
‘Palestinianness’, even as we have wandered the globe all these years
wearing our sense of ‘otherness’. Being stateless is the only state we
belong to, and we have long since developed an aboriginal sense about how to
live in this peculiar condition.
Palestinians have come to feel that they belong to a nation much larger than
territorial Palestine, a nation that is diversely rich, cogent and genuine,
even if the political configurations seem to make it otherwise.
But as Palestinians we are constantly afflicted by our people’s dreams for
normal statehood, our unendurably pitiful search for a place to escape the
terrors of our history. Dreams of this kind are more intense than material
fact. They become a focus for the emotions, more real than reality itself.
Palestinians have suffered the institutionalized humiliation of military
occupation, the helplessness of statelessness, the ravages of concussion
bombs, the horror of massacres. We have suffered merciless sieges by
frenzied packs outside our camps in Lebanon, and degradation from the code
of bullying which is embraced by settlers on the West Bank.
Yet in the very excesses of our suffering ties our continual claim to
dignity and rebirth. We have become ennobled by the vengeful spite of our
enemies. Even if others do not see us so, it is our own self-image that the
Though this suffering has not nearly come to an end, there is hope. For when
it finishes, as it must, in the inevitable establishment of a Palestinian
state, we will be there.
We will be there not only to rejoice in the resurrection of our national
existence, but because at last, at long last, we will have realized a
desperate need - to live in a country where we will have our own government
to assail; our own politicians, bureaucrats and elected bodies to ridicule;
our own futures to debate.
No-one realizes how formidably exquisite a thought it is to a Palestinian
writer like myself, raised in a refugee camp, stateless all his life, to be
able to dream thus.