The scenes of the live murder of Oday Tamimi from yesterday refuse to leave my head. As if a block surrounded a specific place in my brain and locked it only to release it until the last breath. The last breath with an image of fumes of carbon dioxide shading, then darkening my head. That was a real scene, not a movie, not a video game, Real. I tried to consider what the Israeli authorities wanted to show or promote. To show that that was a real fight. The man was armed with a pistol. That was an opportunity to offer a killing that they could prove legitimate. After all, he was shooting at them. It was not a knife, stone, or a real gun aimed and emptied toward Israeli soldiers.
As if this is not supposed to go this way. They have complete control over this “Game.” They have orders to shoot, and they had all the reasons to this time.
Not much to grieve, as the young man deliberately wanted to die. That was a real scene of bravery. He was fighting until the very last breath. What makes a young man give up his life with such decisiveness?
That young man was like thousands of young men who must have dreams of a future, like my son, my nephews, my neighbors, young men busying themselves with pursuits of how to make it through education, career, to buy a car, a house, to become rich, to make a family….
His mother, I thought, must have been dead worried each time he disappeared; he came back home late, and he did not make it to a job interview or an exam. I was thinking yesterday of how vital those celebrations are after a martyr is declared to his family. I cannot imagine how a mother can survive such a loss. But that mother has witnessed the most courageous scene of heroism while her son was willingly and deliberately fighting until his last breath. He was determined to finish a mission he declared to his life.
What a damned life we have.
It is not hard to imagine what triggered that young man to take the mission of fighting occupation into his own hands. We witness killings of young men and children daily, with no remorse or regret but arrogance and conceit.
The desperation of each one who still bears in his\her heart an aspired moment of living in dignity. The dignity of peace, equality, and equity. An aspired moment of living free. Free of occupation, corruption, and oppression.
While Israel might succeed in showing the world that what happened was an act of normal reaction to an armed person, it is probably true that the world will believe what their eyes have just captured. But any thoughtful human will question where this act took place. As if this young man wanted to create a school of resistance of his own. As if he made his lessons of what happened. He did not go inside the settlement and start shooting when he probably could. After all, the Israeli control apparatus was commandeering the refugee camp and blocking it from every possible direction of their constricted control for the last ten days. Yet, he chose to appear to them at a settlement checkpoint or junction and targeted soldiers with uniforms only. He could have walked around and started shooting bus\car stoppers. He could have attacked passersby. But he chose a courageous fight. That of a man under occupation against military occupiers. He distinguished between civilians and chose his target as if saying I have a gun; I will shoot those with guns- soldiers in this case. The same was in the shooting at the checkpoint of the refugee camp. It is the only god and Palestinians who have to pass through such checkpoints who know and understand how degrading it is to go through this daily. And for Israel, what was a checkpoint became a border point. Less work for the soldiers, more burdens, humiliation, and lockdown for those who live behind those ghettos. Israelis also must know what it means to live inside a ghetto. To be locked, blocked, treated less than a human, almost left on the verge of survival when the mood of your jailer allows you to stay alive.
I was still thinking with so much pain and fear as I watched the arrest of Shadi Khouri, 16. Shadi was not just an image of what could happen to my son, nephew, daughter, or neighbor. He is a living example of the reality that could be mine. His parents are close; he is a friend of the kids, they went to the same school, and we live in the same neighborhood. Unlike Oday’s example of living in a refugee camp with a condensed ghetto style, we think we are somehow protected with better living standards, opportunities, and upbringing. But nothing seemed to stop the Israeli authority from even trying to make a distinction- thank them for that- because, like checkpoints surrounding Jerusalem and a wall, that kept a sense of reminder to us that life is not ok this way. They remind us of their existence in our lives as occupiers with each passing moment. It is hard for us to think much of Israelis because we don’t see much of them; we only see them in all kinds of uniforms, except for the convenience of going to malls and restaurants working for them. It is still a relationship of servitude, not that of kin. But most of the time, the Israeli is the soldier. That man is in uniform regardless of his color.
I was troubled thinking of how Shadi would threaten them. One only needs to see this boy and see how horrible to imagine that he was arrested in the brutal way they arrested him at the dawn of the other night. What do they expect from these youth? Shadi is not a bizarre story. I witnessed the same stories of Qais (17) and Ward (20). Arresting young people with such brutality.
Similarly, the arrest of the young mother and journalist Lama Ghosheh last month. As if they intentionally try to tell us: we want to freak the hell out of you. We don’t want you to think of anything but how you will spend more money, how you will be able to afford or not afford to pay your next bill. And if we allow you money, we help you launder it, but guns to shoot one another, the market of drugs and illegal actions is all yours. You are allowed life in slums, whether in a refugee camp or a high-class neighborhood. But don’t think as if you are ordinary people who can dream of freedom.
They know our dream of freedom is longwinded with disappointments while living under a corrupt totalitarian Palestinian regime. Each time, I think we can dream of a peaceful existence with them, especially while living this moment of our Palestinian defeated dream of independence and sovereignty as if Israel is provoking us to continue to believe: no matter how bad your authority is, we will always remain worse.
Going back to the ultimate silence surrounding the streets of Jerusalem today, the sadness and anger of the brutality of killing another Palestinian is just a natural act of behavior. The amazement inside every Palestinian heart of how courageous Oday received his death. How against Israel’s planned actions of oppressing and destroying our emotions with acclaimed supremacy of everything? The army is more intelligent and more substantial than everyone. The assumption is that they always find, solve, and take action. This time, he found them, and Oday took action and declared the result.
In a time, despite the real sadness of thinking of how painful it is to lose a life, it becomes a psychological media war, defeating one’s emotions. Proving that no matter what we do, we are like mice in an experimental lab for them; they control it all. This time, we are amazed at how heroic that scene of ending a Palestinian life turned out to be.
Oday recalled a new meaning of resistance, that of Basel Al Araj’s teachings of “engagement.” These young people do not need to be organized or directed. They are not part of anyone’s political agenda. No political faction would claim ownership of him, yet all are rushing to pride Palestine with such a heroic young man.
Again, it is amazing how what Israel tried to show or prove to us, or the world or its people affected us. Instead of breaking us in despair, we are all rethinking the non-importance of our lives within such oppressive life between military occupation and totalitarian authority. Everyone is losing control of how the final scene will turn out to be:
Israel is not safe, not secure. Palestinian Authority is delegitimizing itself with every passing moment. Factions are losing their credibility on all grounds. New ways of resistance are creating themselves, collectively and individually.
And yet, Israel wants to keep the status quo. Sacrificing soldiers at checkpoints might not have been in their consideration before. And for Palestinians, who wake up every morning with more despair, the inferno is just a way of forced living, and they will not bother if it includes whoever crosses by.
Oppression only breeds resistance over time. And resistance, like oppression, advances from one generation to the other. Only with genuine attempts to make peace can we all live a life worthy of living. A peace that perceives people as people. As equal, as fellow humans who deserve to live well together or separate. A peace that builds connections with people to build better standards of living.
Until Israel realizes that we Palestinians are as worthy of living as they are, we will continue to twirl in this vicious cycle of loss.