I have been battling for the last days in writing after almost three weeks of reading one of the heaviest books that passed my hands, in what it represents a personal microscopic feedback of my own history as a Palestinian.
It took me years to be able to read about the Nakba, and that hidden history of the Palestinian fate that remained silenced in the mouths of our parents and grandparents. I could always relate to the sense of shame the defeat overthrew on the people who witnessed what happened and somehow in many ways overshadowed on the Palestinians in the future generations.
It was the Nakba, the catastrophe of the feeling that I realized when I started to learn more about what took place. It was through Israeli historians of Palestinian empathy and mostly anti Zionist. It was the history of victimhood that gave me the sense of heaviness in going back to that history. But yet, that didn’t fulfill the emptiness I still endured when it comes to that period.
Last year invasion on Gaza, brought what seemed like reliving Nakba; the brutality and viciousness of the Israeli occupation, the international leaderships who cover the occupation and support it, the Arab leadership that watched as strangers and those close to the borders who were practically part of the invasion indirectly and directly as well, and of course the Palestinian leadership between a fractioned body in Gaza and the West Bank.
That glimpse of a memory of a past that somehow took place in the same land, with the same people, in what was about 7 decades earlier. A reliving of the massacres, the expulsion, the injustice, and the resistance, all in a sealed area called Gaza, to people whom themselves were a consequence of the previous expulsion and injustice.
After Gaza, the fact that Palestinian friction became a fully fractioned corpse remained a shock to a naïve person like myself. A person who grew up believing strongly in the Palestinian cause and its justice. It took me a lot of self-awareness and education to realize that Israel is not the only opponent in my Palestinian loss of a land and all. I have always travelled in my mind inside Ahmad Amin’s statement in his biography “My Life” when he described Palestinians problem as a problem of leadership. Back then, I used that sentence, despite its pain to confirm that Palestinian leadership existed, which means that some Palestinian autonomy existed, which means that we as people had the full hand of this land.
As the events in Palestine are only falling into a narrow loop that keeps narrowing into one single bold problem called leadership. The words of the Egyptian historian and thinker of the beginning of the 20th century only persisted in the knocking on my head.
In the last three weeks I have been handling Hussein Fakhri Khalidi’s three-volume biography that he wrote in 1949 in Beirut, under the title of “ the era of compliments has passed”. I stopped myself from reading many times and forced it to read as many times. I came to an end with the day the British mandate officially left and Israel as a state was officially declared. A whole volume is still there with many to reveal. However, like watching a movie that at some point you realize with no doubt that you definitely know the end. The episodes of the last month before the what remained to be the Nakba was so obvious in its consequence of events, so heartbreaking, a result of victory that surprised not just the Zionist movement, and the Brits and all, reading throughout the history of the previous two decades of Palestinian leadership was not of a surprise in its results. The Zionists didn’t expect what took place even in their wildest imaginations.
As I was reading, I was thinking of course of many conflicting ideas, some of them were even harsh for me to drill in my own head. I was thinking of Benni Morris and how he changed his perspective and views on his historical research on Palestine and Israel, and I was thinking, for goodness sake, I will become like Benni Morris for the Arabs, I will end up becoming a pro Zionist Arab. I was driven with such a sense of anger with each passing note I dwelled in. But each time I would think, despite all, Israel within the Zionist context has never been a moral case to start with. If history didn’t confirm it enough, the present is a living witness to the brutality of their existence on ours. Then I would go into historians as Ilan Pappe (and others) who demonized Zionism. A perfect and true explanation of historical feedback, that Pappe still feeds the world with. I never felt for an instant that Pappe is lying or trying to prove something that didn’t take place for an account over the other, after all I am a Palestinian. I always and will remain inspired by his (their) courage and strength in coming forward what took place and continue to take place. But somewhere I realized that Pappe and people like him, in their attempt to clean Jews from the crime of Zionism (which is totally legitimate, its like being a Muslim defying Da’esh). It is true that we as a nation remain the victim. There is no other way to it. But we were responsible as well.
Needless to say, the role the British government had played. The whole Mandate period seemed to be a preparation in the creation of what became the state of Israel. Often, the Zionists of course, disappointed them with their greed and demands, but at the end it was all planned towards that date. What is not a surprise is that the Arabs and the Palestinian leadership knew about it all.
What I have been realizing is a series of embarrassing and shameful moments in my history of being a Palestinians who is still thriving to make a clear Palestinian identity within this too complicated context.
For instance, boycott. In the thirties Palestinian started their “revolution (1936-1939), where in between the decision for the division was declared, and Palestinians as a consequence, years later and with the decision of the newly formed Arab league, by 1946, when the Jewish project became so obvious and no place to hide, they decided to boycott Jewish products. As usual Palestinians started a wave of advertising and campaigns and even punishments to those who broke the rules. Arab governments and people obeyed and worked in line, until a few months later, the Palestinians themselves were breaking that boycott, and what were exceptions became the norm. How suddenly, and even though Israel wasn’t even formed yet, the Palestinian trade and economy was relying on Jewish factories and trade connections. Trying to quote what al Khalidi wrote seems ridiculous. Just a brief reflection on reality today explains it all. How traders used this as an opportunity to raise prices, or to hide products from the markets, some of them actually bought all Jewish materials in a famous weaving factory, building materials and others. There was no true sense of boycott among traders and business people, and the boycott ended up maybe the way my family and I are living today. Still arguing with my daughter of how effective is it to be one of the rare Palestinians who refuse to use the soft train and insist on buying non-Israeli products. While on the same line, jews after the clashes they had with Arabs in the beginning of the 20s that resulted with the killings of jewish people in Hebron, stopped buying Hebron’s grape that was at least ten times cheaper in price than jewish grapes in other areas raising the notion of: “ Hebron vines are watered with jewish blood”. In a summarizing sentence on the subject al Khalidi says: “ 30 years passed on the British occupation to the holy land and the declaration of the nation home for the jews. Those responsible for the nation were capable of putting a base to the boycott realizing the dangers of the Zionist colonization, which would have enabled a fully planned and applicable base for such an action. Such economical boycott was enough to create an obstacle and end the movement of a Jewish nation state. But they refrained, and the Arab interests intertwined with that of the Jews in all aspects of life, until it became impossible to know where the Arab interests start and where the Jewish interests end. And when real danger engulfed on us, and we knew the effect of boycott, we forgot the thirty years that passed and we decided to make a great effort within a few months where we can open factories that will make us independent in our needs… and we missed another station, as in the previous occasions, and the jews took over all our properties… and many of us still blame what happened on the government of this country or that.”
If boycott was a disappointment that still persists until this very day. One can imagine the final episodes of the declaration of the state of Israel in May 1948.
The victory that the Zionists achieved was not even aspired in their wildest dreams. How cities were evacuated with reasons the invasive terror army of gangsters even didn’t understand. The Arab army waiting months before the “date” whereas the whole of Palestine was occupied by that time. Tiberias, Haifa, Yafa, the defeats in one settlement and town after the other. The fight that didn’t take place in most of the time, the shortage of utilities, the laziness in approaching the war.
Among the testimonies of Khalidi is the killing of Abdel Qader al Husseini in the famous Coastal battle. Abdel Qader remains to be an icon to the Palestinian resistance, who the lack of support and his small group of fighters couldn’t even reach the frontline of the battle in Coastal when a bomb took their lives. The funeral of the Martyr coincided or not with the massacre of Deir Yasin, when Khalidi briefs the following: “ …and some deformed the funeral with shooting tens of thousands of bullets from the martyrs house until flowers gate instead of saving it to fight the enemy, and forgot that his deed was suicidal in the aim of getting weaponry that the leadership in Damascus refused to supply him with…and the disaster of firing was ongoing in the Aqsa, until some wise people interfered, and thousands of men and young and elderly with their war guns and their soft and heavy armory and abandoned their positions in the frontline. ..And the responsible authorities was forced to broadcast through microphones the call after the other asking the fighters to go back to their positions around Jerusalem and the different neighborhoods, but nobody listened. And the funeral closes and the armed people go back. Not to their centers and tunnels, but to their homes and villages. Even though what happened in Deir Yasin was leaked and those fighters could have avenged immediately.”
What was painfully shameful was also the fact that the country was left to the Zionist gangs while most of the leaders were giving orders from Damascus and Egypt. I cannot but imagine, what would have the population thought, when its leadership was in its safe havens leaving a population behind, giving orders and restrictions on how things could be run or not. It is of no coincidence that we continued our path with Zionism with one failure to another paved with shame and humiliation. While Zionism was growing and the seeds of their cause and course were flourishing, the Palestinian leadership was scattered and fragmented in a way, exactly like the way we witness it today. How similar yesterday is with today, when even then, the personal issues, pride, and personal gains became the cause.
As much as there were real attempts and genuine tryouts and real resistance. As much as there were people and still are who continued to serve their own lives for the cause of this cause. The Qassam, as much as Abdel Qader Husseini was two among many other real sacrifices for this cause. How much is it a coincidence, that the martyrdom of Abdel Qader al Husseini marked the failure of Palestine and Jerusalem, and the death of Faisal al Husseini his son, marked the end of the Jerusalem portfolio of a Palestinian Jerusalem?
How much of a coincidence is the sacrifice of Qassam and his vicious fight for his cause is as if inherited in the veins of the Qassam in the aggression we witnessed last summer against Gaza?
And amid all those, like Khalidi, and so many, these days we commemorate or remember the death of Hider Abdel Shari, another Palestinian who genuinely cared and lived for the cause of Palestine.
While we as a leadership, continue to live what we lived in a century ago … fractions and hatred that is much more rooted than that of the enemy. Prices the nation has paid and still is paying as a result of the hatred that is so deep inside the rivalry of brothers. In the past it was majlisi and mu’ared (council and opposition, referring to Husseini and Nashashibi rivalry on Jerusalem leading positions), a rivalry and fraction that continued to the war and its preparation among the Arab nations, where the salvation army was also instructed through such divisions of Palestinians. In every single leading level rivalry of fractions was stronger than that of the enemy that was using every opportunity to take as much as it can.
What makes me wonder a phrase, a friend mentioned a few years ago and I never understood, naively as well. “ That we should sign a statement of surrender where we admit our defeat, the way Japan and Germany did after the second world war.” I never realized that we gained every instant of that defeat.
A nation cannot be without a proper leadership… we might have been an exception as people who still insists to be… even though we continue to be part of a leadership that insist to fight its fights for power, money, status, where the cause of Palestine is nothing but a notion. A notion that developed in its empty speeches of big words and non-effective means since the moments Zionists set feet on this land.
What happened was nothing but a natural consequence of disunity, enmity, fractioning, arrogance and zero discipline that continue to be the status of what describes the situation almost a century later.
We need to be held accountable to our own deeds as a nation and as a leadership, by surrendering to the fact of our defeat. The defeat that we paved from the very first instant until this moment .