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.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for writing this, a very devastating portrait that gives me a better picture of life there.