Friday, February 10, 2006

Desperate dreamer

I met a young man yesterday over nescafe and herbal tea. I'll him S.

S is 22 years old. He's been injured 7 times during this Intifada, with shrapnel still lodged 2.8 centimetres from his lonely heart. But you would never know. He walks without so much as a limp, and has a childish coyness about him, an earnest persistence to achieve something, anything, and only the highest expectations. He is dream and despair in one.

S is from Khan Yunis, formerly a member of one of the many renegade armed Fateh off-shoots. Most likely, for lack of anything better to do. AT 19, without a family income, without college, without work, without a father, and with a love he had neither the approval nor the money to marry, he joined the brigade. He soon found himself the target of a helicopter gunship missile attack.

His two closest friends died instantly, next to him. He was hit with shrapnel in the brain and chest and leg. Death was scattered all around him-17 to be exact that day. Medics took him for dead as well, and placed him in the hospital morgue for 3 days. When it came time to bury the dead, they noticed his lip quivering, his blood still warm. He was very alive, but unconcious. Death left him for another day.

This young, boy-man I sat down with. Who smiles as if he has nothing and everything to live for. How can you comprhend this? How can you understand this life? What does it mean? What does he do now? And where does he go from here? He travels with difficulty, if at all. He is in the category of of the condemned: young Palestinian men between 16 and 35. In order to be eligible for a permit to travel to the West Bank, or work as a laboror in Israel, Palestinians must be over 35 years old and married with children.

Where do the thousands like him go and do. He learned French for a while in Egypt. Fell in love; is still painfully in love and his eyes look distant when he speaks of her. "Tragedy is all around me, what do I do? tell me?". But he smiles nonetheless.

Who are these men, these boys? These ones whose eyes we sometimes see through polyester masks; whose angry muffled voices we may hear; who have nothing to cling to but a perhaps, perhaps a dream. Any dream. Of a legacy, any legacy. of intoxicating heroism. who die like slaughtered lambs. 15 this week.

Who are they, these men, these boys?


Blogger umkahlil said...

Please continue to tell their stories, Laila. That is a great service that you can do for them and for us.

2:14 AM  
Anonymous Rotem said...

Some of these men/boys (I'm not saying all of them) are just like S. They join the brigades, Tanzim, Hamas or any other organization, run around with masks and guns, shoot at Israeli soldiers and then "die like slaughtered lambs". What do they expect?
I'm sure there are innocent casualties in our conflict, but I don't see how you can talk about this 'S' person as if he has nothing to do with what is happening around him.

3:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Recently i stumbled across your website, don't ask me how. I've been an avid fan ever since. In all honesty i cann't even begin to imagine the sort of life you and the other Palestinians live in. I was a little worried about you, you hadn't written on your blog for awhile. I made a quick dua that you and your family were safe and sound.

I hope you continue your writing here, it's an insight to the lives of the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. It also helps us out here who can rally support for the liberation of Palestine and all other muslim lands under siege.

4:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow after reading lots of comments I had come to the conclusion that all anonomous comments were made by people who had nothing good to say and didn't have the guts to put their name to it... And here I'm proved wrong lool... Now I'm going to make my comment under anonomous because I can't figure out how to put my name, probably super easy to do but there you go... I'll be praying for all of you that some sort of security will come after all these years!!

5:05 AM  
Blogger Preston L. Bannister said...

Another element in this tragedy requires looking a little deeper. When "S" lacked something better to do "he joined the brigade". Likely the "brigade" requires money to obtain arms and supplies - what is the source of that money? Someone is supplying money and arms to these organizations - someone who does not mind the maiming and death of young men. What are their motives? What do they hope to gain for their money?

In fact I am not at all sure you want to deep any deeper, as looking for the answers may be dangerous. (Oh the other hand, what isn't dangerous where you live?)

5:39 AM  
Anonymous حرية said...

Powerful words.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Those who live by the sword, die by the sword. Taking up small arms to kill Isrealis is almost an invitation to a helicopter gunship. Had he not joined a brigade, he'd most likely not be carrying shrapnel near his heart. Desperate people do desperate things. I can both understand his way of life as well as not. Finding a way to peaceful coexistence is the only answer. Brigades and gunships are definitely NOT the way. I often wonder why the neighboring Arab countries don't allow these men to resettle in their lands? Is it because they too fear the violent ways they have taken up?

3:27 PM  
Anonymous حرية said...

I often wonder why the neighboring Arab countries don't allow these men to resettle in their lands?
How dare you!!!!! That is very racist of you to say. Those lands belong to those people, you cannot just ask them to go away and settle in some other lands - just because they happen to be "Arab lands"!!!

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is sad. The pictures of your young boys, even small children in uniform carrying guns in parades. Why they train them to do this I can not imagine. The pictures posted of some young 19 year old who has just blown himself up killing many others with him - the hopelessness and dispair I see in his face. Something fundamental is wrong, and I don't think you can blame the occupation though I know it does not help. I only pray that your new goverments will bring social responsibility and build a society where life is celebrated. Where your children will have hope and this young man will have better choices offered to him. Dona

5:22 PM  
Anonymous Rotem said...

To حرية,

What Robert said has nothing to do with Racism. How quickly people pull out the racism card. He also didn't ask them to go away. He asked why, the other neighboring countries do not offer them to come. Again I'll repeat, offer (as an invitation), not tell or order.

Well Robert, I'll tell you why. The Arab leaders love the fact that they have Israel (or the western world) to direct their anger. It's easy to make the people ignore the fact that they live in dictatorships, with eroding civil rights, with government controlled and directed media, by continually scaring them with the fear of the Zionist state who want to rob the Arab lands and control the world. While in fact the most free and emancipated Arabs in the middle east live as citizens (1.2 million) in Israel.

I feel I went off track a bit, but you get the idea, that the Arab nations have motivation not to solve the Palestinian problem. There are tons of historic evidence that at crucial point in history (like the Egyptian-Israeli peace process) the Arab world preferred not to try and also solve the Palestinian problem.
Another example would be Jordan who controlled the west bank from 48 to 67, and during those 19 years encouraged the refugees to keep on living in the refugee camps in the west bank and not try to actually help them.

6:45 PM  
Anonymous حرية said...

He asked why, the other neighboring countries do not offer them to come.
That is akin to saying "why don't the Germans offer the Israelis to come and settle in their lands" (allow me to continue the sentence "since they were the ones who perpetrated the Jewish holocaust"). Isn't that what Ahmadinejad said lately?

And yes, it is racism in both cases. Why would "the Arabs" (assuming there is one such entity that agrees on every single issue, including this one) make such an offer? And what makes you think that the Palestinians will accept (unless you are implying that the Israelis are more attached to the land that they have not set foot on for 2000 years than the Palestinians are to their own native land).

So yes it is racist and racist and racist. Quit treating the Palestinians like objects that can be settled and resettled.

7:21 PM  
Blogger Hope said...

This is very sad. I have a 19 year old son who is studying in college. The fact that there is this young man, and many many others like him not only in Palestine ,but also all over the Arab world without a family income, without college, without work, and without hope for a better future just breaks my heart. Why and how we have these young men with nothing but despair is another story that also deserves to be told.

8:21 PM  
Blogger Mad Canuck said...

Hi Laila,

You touch on a very important concept that many people I think fail to grasp: the relationship between economics, education, and violence.

We have a saying in English: "the devil makes work for idle hands." In the case of the Palestinian territories, this is particularly true. A man like the one you describe can easily look at himself and come to the realization he has nothing to live for. If he were more educated, if his parents had money to send him to college, if he had the opportunity for a fruitful career - if he had any of these things, how different would his life be, and would he be as willing to risk all of it by picking up a weapon?

Men like the ones you describe are a predictable byproduct of Israel's policies towards the Palestinians. When your policies inhibit the economy, it prevents people from having a productive livelihood, and creates hordes of men like the one you describe.

9:49 PM  
Blogger Preston L. Bannister said...

Simply put young men want to impress young women, and to earn a place for themselves in the world. Somehow the history and politics of the region have narrowed the choices "S" could see, and the choices he made must have seemed to offer the best (if little) hope.

Real people tend to care more about real changes, and less about abstractions. Most likely "S" and those like him care less about "their land" except as meaning "a better life". There are actors with money and power on all sides of this play who chose to limit the choices "S" can see. For some actors the motivation is more or less clear, for others less so.

Why Israel was created (right or wrong) is fairly clear.
Why Israel acts as it does is clear in part - the part that comes out of being surrounded by hostile neighbors and shot at.
Why the surrounding Arab counties act as they do is not at all clear (to me at least).

Checking (here and here) the population of Gaza has grown very strongly over time, with near half the present population 14 years old or younger. This means what?

Some Israeli actions seem motivated by something other than survival. This means what?

Given present oil prices, the surrounding oil-rich countries must be awash in money. Yet apparently it seems they prefer the Palstinians stay bottled up where they are. This means what?

10:45 PM  
Anonymous mj said...

Rotem is absolutely right. Several weeks ago I posted a comment in Laila's blog which offered quote after quote from Arab leaders who bemoaned the fact that it was THEIR fault that the Palestinians left in 1948 (the neighboring Arab states told them to leave so that they could annihilate the Jewish population), and it was THEIR (Arab states) fault that they had failed in their responsibility to take care of the Palestinians after THEY turned these people into refugees. Even King Hussein of Jordan wrote something to this effect in his autobiography. A Google search will show this, not to mention similar quotes from other Arabs. So yes, those other countries SHOULD have offered to take the Palestinians in. It was (is) their responsibility.

Unfortunately, the Arab states have little incentive to take care of the refugees. As Rotem said, it is in their best interest to leave the refugees as a festering sore that they can use against Israel and shift the world's attention away from their own badly-run, oppressive dictatorships.

Never mind that of the hundreds of millions of refugees throughout history, no group has stayed refugees for 60 YEARS- except the Palestinians. All other refugees seem to move on and build lives and manage quite well.

And yes, how true it is that some of the happiest, most successful Arabs are those who did NOT leave in 1948 and today are citizens of Israel. Most of them would rather stay in the democracy Israel provides than live in any other Middle Eastern country.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

I'm fully aware that I don't have the first hand knowledge needed to understand the conflict. However, I want to learn and understand. That's why I read Laila's blog. My comment about resettling was not intended as racist and if taken as such, I sincerely apologize. I only know that if it were my life that Laila was describing; so sad and despairing, I'd do whatever necessary to make it better and if it required relocation, so be it. My heart is with all the people caught up in this struggle; with all the children and people like Laila. You can rest assured this man from New Jersey prays for their peace, hope, joy and prosperity. I too hope for the day Gaza (Palestine) is independant, efficient and a good home for all who live there. And most of all, at peace.

2:18 AM  
Blogger Amelopsis said...

Peace is a TWO WAY STREET. The party with the greater firepower should bear the greater responsibility for making Peace.

Then go and waffle about idle hands being the devil's workshop and other such condescending nonsense.

Give a People back their right to live life freely and without harrassment and there will be fewer idle hands about which to worry.
Give them their rights to return and there will be less anguish spread to those lands where sympathy is freely offered to refugees.

Thank you Laila, for telling stories that we would not otherwise hear told.

3:13 AM  
Anonymous Faaz said...

Salaam Laila

Thankyou for the blog, it gives us an insight and real view into the life in Gaza, I just got to know about this blog by Molly. Please continue the good work and give voice to the 1000's of palastanians.


8:28 PM  
Anonymous aa said...

beautifully written & explained... thank you again Laila again and again and again

9:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...
I do realy feel sorry for these kids.
What kind of hope are you going to have when you were raised like that?!?
Someone already told above,two things wich are very important: It´s more than time to spend the energy not on hate but on to "really" do something for those people.
Spending so much time in hating and how to destroy the enemy,it´s not helping at all,and people are getting only more hopeless,more angry and more violent.
No Jew can ever enter any of the Arab countries,no matter where are they coming from. How many arabs are living in Israel under democracy,with israeli citzenship?
Why there are no Jews in the most of the Arab countries? Where are the Jews which were born in Iran,Irak or Lebanon? What happened to their houses,to their families?
No Arab company,here in my country would hire any Jew.
But my company which it´s a israely company by the way,we have a lot of muslims coming from all over the world.
So,I´m not sure if it´s just a matter of "having our land back".
Do they really want to accept Israel as a State and live together? Cooexist?
Why does the other Arab countries swimming on oil and money does not try to help their brothers?
"You should love your kids more then you hate ours"
That´s a general sentence and not for you Laila,I´m sure you love your Yusuf!

11:36 PM  
Blogger solitarioh2005 said...

I agree with what most people said in the previous comments.
If the leaders instead of preaching war , preached peace.., peace would have been reality by now and thousands of lives would have been saved.
Both sides are to blame.

Israel during the first intifadah , killed many innocent palestinians.

After the Oslo peace accords back in 1993 , Arafat did not educate the palestinians for Peace. He educated them for jihad.

Besides during the second intifadah too often Israeli troops show little respect for the lives of palestinians and killed too many inocent people.

Click here to read 2 more stories

12:11 AM  
Blogger solitarioh2005 said...

Palestinian victim
(In the previous link you can read the testimony of a Israeli victim of a Palestinian suicide bomber).

12:37 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Laila, at some point Yousuf will have to deal with the same kind of situation. What kinds of things are you planning to prepare him for this? What are you going to encourage him to do to lead a sane life in Gaza? (assuming there is still no sovereign Palestinian nation by the time his is 18).

(Longtime reader, first-time commenter)

3:35 AM  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

Thank you, this is beautifully put. And what is true of your young boy-man is also true, unfortunately, of many of the young soldiers from my country who have enlisted in the armed forces and who may be killing or being killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. It was true of the street people I talk with, who were once young men, now old, bitter, addicted, who fought in other countries and sometimes thought what they did was good, and who wonder now...
How I dream of a world in which justice, compassion, and peace and love are real, constant, and continued, in which no mother's son need kill another's.

10:41 AM  
Blogger mitnachel said...

a nation born to hate, building a society of unemployment and poverty and blaming on the JEWs.
what ar these terrorists doing to help themselves? why is a 19 yr old boy not trying to work or learn. he is part of a coulture built on hate that sacrifices every other ideal to fund this hate.

11:50 AM  
Blogger Abu Sinan said...

Subhana'Allah. May Allah be with him and those like him.

Thank you for his story!

2:59 PM  
Blogger Laila said...

I can't respond to this torrent of inflammatory and sophomoric comments in its entirety. My blog is not Reuters or the AP. IT is a personal blog about my experiences as a Palestinian woman and journalist raising her child in Gaza under occupation. And yes, there is still an occupatoin. Period.

If a grandfather has learned hate here in Gaza, it is because he was forced from his land and told he could not return there while others who had never before set foot on the land were allowed to settle in it. If a man here learned hate it is because he was chased down by Israeli soldiers on GAza's streets in the first Intifada and his bones were broken, because his father was imprisoned and beaten in front of him, because he was humiliated over and over again. If a woman here has learned to hate, it is because she aborted her child while being forced to wait 6 hours at a checkpoint; If a young child here has learned hate, it is from the tanks that he wakes up to every morning; it is from the bulldozer that demolished his home; it is from the Apache that killed his sister. You can teach a child that a cat is the most loving creature all you want. Once it scratches him, he'll think twice about that.

We love our children just as much as any parents do. And I love my Yousuf just as much as my neighbour loves her Ali. Please do't make it sound like I am somehow better than the next person.

Unfortunately, this is the easiest and most convenient way to dismiss claims for Palestinian justice.

They are subhuman, they hate their children anad teach hate, they are pathetic and worthless and violent and can't build their own society.

To quote the great Edward Said, ladies and gentlement, “It's Racism at the Bottom”.

11:55 PM  
Blogger Abu Shaar said...

Thank God for your courage and wisdom, Um Yousef. It truly isn't worth your time to respond to those care more about repeating cliches like "cycle of violence" than listening to what life is like for you.

2:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your're wrong Laila, it is not racism at it's bottom. That is a easy card to play. Try being black.

Your words on your readers biase -"They are subhuman, they hate their children and teach hate, they are pathetic and worthless and violent and can't build their own society" - no one thinks that. I never would. They are trying to understand, and your society does bear some responsibility for it wrongs, all societies do. We are not just raw emotions that cave into hating after we have been hurt. We all have a free will, an ability to choose - even after pain, we have that choice, to let our hurt command us or not. If we cannot choose then what are we? Every human being has that choice. Sadly we mostly (all people,Every race) choose to hate, misunderstand, be biased and prejudiced and hate, never forgiving, always the past. Too many conflicts in this world and alot of scarred people, the easy way out is revenge and hatred and we cave in too easily to that. It is very hard to rise above. Sure there is people who think like you said- I've met them - full of hatred and not just for Palestinians. donna

10:36 PM  
Anonymous Diana said...

"So yes, those other countries SHOULD have offered to take the Palestinians in. It was (is) their responsibility."

This is like saying that England is to blame for the Holocaust because they didn't allow every Jew in Germany to move there and be safe, while the actions of the Nazis are totally irrelevant and maybe even excusable.

9:33 PM  

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