Friday, May 16, 2014

Martyrs and Hope

The killing of two Palestinian teenagers on the 66th commemoration of the Nakba as they were protesting in front of the Israeli military prison of Ofer, located northwest of Ramallah, wiped my mind blank. On the surface, there were little black marks and twisted figurines and hazy outcomes that will be familiar to anyone who after years of naïve and simplistic hope, no longer expects martyrs to ignite a spark of an uprising, rebellion, or revolt. But underneath that all, which resembled a hollow vacuum of emptiness, there was a complete sense of nothingness which for too long has been disguised as weary, downtrodden, nihilistic and pathetic emotion.

The outcomes will be the usual. The two boys, 17 year old Nadeem Nowara and 15 year old Mohammad Abu Thaher will be blown up into a caricature of themselves that has no relation to their personalities. Already, one news website described one of them as “a lover of martyrs.” They will be temporarily glorified; their funerals will be led by collaborators with the Israeli occupation-Keith Dayton's boys- and will attract thousands including the media and those persnickety photojournalists, and the families will be subjected to a raw invasion of their private mourning and devastating heartbreak just to get the choice quotes of “Rest in peace my beloved, you watered this country with your blood, and your blood will not go in vain.”

Away from the public outpour of emotions and spectacles, perhaps one will remember the shattering look on Nadeem’s father, his features twisted in pain and grief, as outside the hospital, Nadeem’s five year old brother cried and kept screaming as his father carried him, “I want Nadeem, I want Nadeem!

A few hours earlier, his friend Adam saw Nadeem on the corner of the Manara Square. The former hesitated and wanted to tell the latter not to go to Ofer but instead just said, “Don’t get caught.” Nadeem laughed and replied, "I won’t."

Later, Adam said, “This is the first time someone that really mattered to me was killed.”

Last year, two teenagers were also shot dead as they protested the death of a Palestinian prisoner, who died as a result of shocking medical negligence in his last stages of throat cancer. 19 year old Naji Balbisi and his cousin 17 year old Amer Nasser were buried the next day and for those who thought that could be the spark to anything were sorely mistaken, just as they were when they thought MaysaraAbuhamdia’s death was to ignite anything.

The muted calls for vengeance will be muted, as always in our time. But how do we ensure their names won’t be forgotten away from the regurgitated rhetoric that feel like poison in our throats from their overuse and their inevitable transformation into empty clichés?

A professor at my university had the nerve to declare that the only thing driving Palestinians on is their tenacious hold onto hope. Such a bold unqualified bullshit statement made so flippantly will be added on to the accumulating list of Bullshit Palestine. Perhaps these people who feel that they can say these things—all in good faith, I presume—without knowing just how empty and untrue their words are, are selfishly determined to forever clasp onto the romanticized image of the resisting, steadfast Palestinians in their head?  

Evidently, the image of Palestinians addicted to weed, pills and alcoholism, fatalism and their own variation on religion to explain their terrible lives does not bode well with the idealized support of the underdog against the mighty Goliath. Yet this should not be ignored. To use Oscar Wilde’s truism, Palestinians aren’t living, they just exist.

Devoid of any structural or organizational framework that would channel their frustrations in a productive manner, the nature of what is unknown since the goal is too abstract, they take out their bottled up emotions on each other. A father disciplining his son and ending up killing him. The woman stabbed to death by her former husband in court. The teenager dependent on an everlasting supply of hashish. The girl acting on her promiscuity and going through painstaking compromises to hide her secret because she’s been conditioned into thinking it’s wrong, it’s shameful, it’ll get you killed. And the writers, the goddamn writers. Drunkards or cynics or miserable bastards, wanting to write and feeling inhibited by the suffocation around them, and somehow always finding a way to turn this into all about themselves.

At the risk of being anal, but Frantz Fanon did mention this in his Wretched of the Earth. The colonized take out their frustrations on each other in the stage that precedes the organization of these lacerating emotions against the colonizers. Charles Tilly stresses upon the importance of the polity and mobilization model, and how people must be at least part of minimally organized group with some access to resources. Theories, theories, and more theories. Comparative literature, historical case studies, assurances from veteran activists from different countries that the time will come, that it is imminent, that it shall herald in a new dawn as another theorist (Wendell Philips) facetiously states that revolutions are not made; they come.

This post isn’t very coherent. It starts off with the murder of two boys and ends in theoretical ramblings about revolutions. Perhaps the real message in between these two diatribes is a reflection of its evasive essence, that is, there is no groundwork for any sort of successful uprising to occur, no space free to build safe places that won’t get co-opted or destroyed, and no groups that aren’t tainted with decaying political discourse or neoliberal aid.

For now, we can bitterly laugh at those who write books and articles and give speeches on how liberation for Palestine is imminent, just because BDS has grown internationally and the mainstream narrative of the Israeli occupation has tilted, ever so slightly, in the Palestinians’ favor.

It won’t matter to the youth and the writers and the thinkers who reduce (or amplify) the manmade legacies of martyrs into profile pictures on Facebook. It won’t matter to Nadeem’s brother, or Mohammed’s family. It won’t matter to their mothers. It just won't matter.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Post-dialogue and Bloody Flags

Grainy footage of original Operation Ripped

Round I

In the Junior Common Room at SOAS, commonly known as the School for Organized Anti-Semitism, a group of hunched hooligans with sour expressions of violent intolerance and inherent anger entered with an evil status quo-debilitating ambition. After standing suspiciously beneath the array of flags strung up the room in anticipation of tonight’s Eurovision event, the group sprang into action. One member of this cult, a young unshaven man of Middle Eastern origin, cut the bottom half of the Israeli flag in a jagged vehement move with scissors obtained from Jihadist sources. The rest of the members held their ground, with an air of belligerence dripping off from their impassioned stares. The deed was done, applauded by a lone individual in the room-an anti-Semitic agent/non-student who had infiltrated the school’s premises.

The shocked expression of the two students sitting beneath the flags was manifested in their barely audible disapproving voices. “That’s so rude,” one of them whimpered, his eyes hurt at witnessing human nature’s cruel disposition up close and personal. “That’s so rude, man.”

Immediately, a man in a tweed jacket broke through the group’s ranks, who had mastered the age old military formation of “crocodile fashion.”

He stared in barely restrained anger. “Fuck off,” he growled to the Middle Eastern man. “Fuck right off.”

The firebrand of the group addressed him with authority and patronization that belied her minuscule size.


“How dare you do this?”

“How dare you put up an Israeli flag, a flag of apartheid.”

“This is not how things are done, if you had a problem you should have come and spoken to me about this.”

“To do what, give you a platform for justifying why you have a flag that is synonymous with crimes-”

“There are Israelis that go to this school!”

“Any Israeli that puts up that flag is a Zionist and is not worth arguing with.”

“What you are doing now is engaging in post-dialogue!”

“Post-dialogue? What society are you from?”

“The Eurovision society.”

“The Eurovision society. Right, exactly. I will not have ‘dialogue’ with someone who sees no qualms in putting up the Israeli flag in the Junior Common Room. Let me tell you one thing: dialogue doesn’t fucking work. And this university is supposed to be a safe place for students, some of who came from Palestine and had to cross through Israeli checkpoints just to get here, not to mention the harassment they face in their daily lives.”

“This university is supposed to be a safe place for all the students, including those from Israel-”

“This is an apartheid flag, it is the flag of occupation and ethnic discrimination-”

Here, members of this Eurovision society, whose life concerns ultimately revolve around shit music contests and political correctness, began to form their own ranks. One of them, with ostentatiously gold shimmering paint slathered on her body as a reflective body armor was joined by her comrade, a sweet young thing with hearts painted on her cheeks. Tweedman took heart from this display of duty, and tried a different track.

“You could have written to the Eurovision society, and taken up your problem with Israel with them,” he sneered.

“We took a decision. That decision was to take down the flag. And put it in the bin.”

“You can’t just rip something that doesn’t belong to you!”

Here the Middle Eastern man quipped, “I can actually. It’s my land.”

The firebrand continued with her tirade. “There are Palestinians, those who have fought to come to university here, who have to look at that flag and see it dripping in blood!”

The tweed jacket twat spluttered. “I know people who would be offended by the Palestinian flag.”

Another pugnacious member of the offensive group flipped her red communist hijab and said calmly, “We’re talking about two different dynamics. Can’t compare the colonized with the colonizer.”

The group arranged themselves in single formation, and marched their way out of the room in solemn silence at accomplishing a thorny operation.

Round II

Tweedman and his posse clucked their tongues in condemnation at the actions of the radical group. He organized a mission to delve into the rubbish bin in order to fish out the tattered remains of the Flag That Shall Not Be Named. Using their expansive military budget, they affixed the tatters to the hanging torn part with staples.

Informants in the JCR relayed to the offensive radical group the retaliation of Tweedman and Co. The group was not to have it. A quick strategy was thought up and once again they marched down to the JCR, where the Eurovision event was about to begin. Firebrand stood under the flag, and proclaimed loudly, “What the fuck is that still doing up there?”

Tweedman rushed to the flag’s defense.

“Listen,” he began, noting his weakened position with surprising calm. “We are between a rock and a hard place. There are Israelis in this room that have complained about the torn flag.”

“I don’t care. We are not moving until that flag is taken down.”

“This is just a matter of difference in opinion.”

“It’s not about that. I am talking about realities on the ground, and that flag is a symbol of violence. Don’t dare pretend to engage in a discussion when you don’t know the facts of what’s happening.”

“Why are you being so aggressive?”

“I’m not the one that said to fuck off twice. You did. Take that flag down.”

He relented. “Fine, that means I have to take down all of the flags. Is that what you want?”

“I don’t care. Do whatever you have to do to take it down.”

As they teach at SOAS, the nation-state, especially in the Middle East where European colonialists invented it, is an evil phenomenon. Additionally, they teach you all about fake progressiveness and liberalness, so long as the cause has become mainstream to the point where it no longer elicits outrage and decisive action. Apparently, students at SOAS love to write about Palestine for example, (they also love hummus, because that is very relevant) but are completely devoid of good politics as evidenced by their indifference to the flag in favor of a music contest.