A source on politics, war, the Middle East, Arabic poetry, and art.
Friday, April 23, 2010
I am NOT a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon
Marwan kindly translated this article of mine from Al-Akhbar from three weeks ago.
"I am not a Palestinian Refugee in Lebanon
by As`ad AbuKhalil
I am not a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon. UNRWA can go to hell. A refugee becomes one by choice. The Zionist gangs could not intimidate us in Palestine, despite their terrorism. We did not - like you claim- seek refuge in Lebanon, but we were expelled from Palestine. We prefer the thyme of Palestine to the cedars of Lebanon. We were uprooted from our land with rifle butts. We came grudgingly, and some of us died of heartache and thirst on the way. Refugee is a word invented by Zionist propaganda and the propaganda of the gruesome Arab regimes. The goal is to blame the Palestinian victim. I am a rebel, not a refugee, do you hear me?
I will tell you my story. I lived each and every one of its bloodstained seconds. I wrote it on my wounded back, and I painted it on my tearful tombstone; a story that summarizes the history of the Palestinian plight. It contains no braveries of Arab regimes and no plans for the Liberation of Palestine. Series of disappointments, defeats and lies are added to an enormous amount of bad poetry for Palestine and stupid speeches that were a great assistance to the Zionist propaganda. I was uprooted from my land by force, and they stomped on my forehead after I tied my neck to the door of my house in the Galilee. They dyed grey all of my green and red clothes, and they claimed that I wasn’t born yet. They said I was hallucinating about my homeland and that the sky above my head was a fantasy. No vegetables or fruits in my land, they went on repeating. They claimed that my olive evaporated, that my soil melted and that my trees are booby-trapped. They advised me to read Hebrew literature to understand their suffering. I advised them to leave my land so they understand my suffering. They stole a picture of my grandfather and grandmother and hung it in a museum of “Israeli” history. They accused me of anti-Semitism, and I only accused them of Zionism.
I came carrying my home on my shoulders. I carried my children in my pocket. My parents died in my hand. I left Palestine hastily. I made my key with my own hands, and my home ownership paper is stamped with my own blood. My hymns are humming in my ear, and my history is woven on my wife’s dresses. My loved ones died with no obituaries and my comrades have been eating dust for decades. I saw the Arab armies entering Palestine reluctantly, and I saw them fighting each other. I saw them shooting at each other. I saw the soldiers whispering with Zionist soldiers, and I saw some of them receiving moneys from Europe. I did not kill King Abdullah. No, you and I thought that I killed him. I never got the honor. I lived the battle to liberate Palestine and I carried a hunting rifle from a previous century. I saw weapons that looked like remnants from the Levant conquest wars. I squeezed my orchards and came. I shackled my heart and came. I challenged my pride and came. I didn’t see anyone welcoming me. On the contrary, the people of Lebanon received us with humiliation.
They put us in tents of degradation, and we soon heard the Lebanese stance on the Palestinian people. Not a week went by after we arrived until we started hearing the jokes, the humor and the gloating about a people who sold their home and land, like they say about us, and as we’ve been called in the past few years by the “unbiased” newscaster May Chidiac and by Gibran Bassil. If it was up to me, I would make it mandatory for all Lebanese people to learn about the history of the Palestinian cause. What do these know? What do they know about the imminent Zionist threat? Israel threatens them every day, and they threaten the resistance with disarmament. Sa’ad Hariri threatens to retaliate using the internal security forces and the army if Israel attacks. Where were they during the July war? Who prevented them from responding?
We were beaten and questioned in the police dungeons when we spoke politely of the sale of Palestinian land by Lebanese people (of the families: Tayyan, Salam, Tueni and Sarsaq). As soon as we’d open our mouths to tell them about our properties and our crops and how the Palestinian farmer did not leave any fertile ground go unplanted (as narrated by Ahad Ha'am in his visit to Palestine late in the nineteenth century), they’d mock our home, our wounds and our agonies. Zionists later invented the story of “Making the desert bloom”. Our desert bloomed before Theodor Herzl was even born. We embellished the land of Palestine with our blood, sweat and tears. They came later and stole our blood, sweat and tears, and they added more of our sweat, tears and blood to the land.
I slept in a tent, but I did not fall asleep. I’d shut my eyes and open holes in the roof of the tent. I travel at night toward Palestine. I feel its villages, cities and streets with my hands. When the rooster crows, I wake up terrified. I remember that I am in an ugly country: it humiliates and insults me then asks me to be grateful. They beat me and ask me to praise Lebanon, like they do today to Syrian workers in all regions of Lebanon without any condemnation from the two opposite factions. I try to say that all the neighboring Arab countries gave the Palestinian people greater rights than Lebanon. I remember days of sweat and hard endurance, I remember that the Lebanese police became experienced in insulting us. I was trying to roam the streets to fill my lungs with air, but the police was restricting our movement. I would hear the word refugee multiple times. It wasn’t my decision to seek refuge. We were trying to recount the scenes of planned operations to expel my people from their own land; we’d hear that we sold our land and that we made up stories about groves in Palestine. We used to flee towards the border. Even my beautiful accent was mocked. We’d try to hide our accent. This is Lebanon, the country of empty pretense. We’d try to approach the land of Palestine. The Lebanese army would prevent us from approaching, and the Israeli border guards would shoot us as soon as they see our heads. Thousands upon thousands of us died at the border. They died because they tried to look over their homeland.
I lived years of roaming. Parties and organizations from all over promised us victory, liberation and unity. We were scattered among a number of them. They started arguing among themselves: some decided that the unity supersedes liberation, others saw that liberation is more important, and there are those who decided that serving the oil princes is more important that liberation, unity and justice. The Field Marshal Abdel Hakim Amer was of the opinion that shaking the hips comes before liberation and before unity. And Michel Aflaq decided that nationalism is love, and that the Ba’ath soldiers are the best fighters. The radio was those organizations’ most efficient weapon, and they excelled at using it. They would draw it in battles and aim it towards Israel and fire it relentlessly; one radio, two radios, and more. They were pouring the lava of their screams on the enemy, and the enemy laughs. The Ba’athists were firing, the Nasserites were firing, but the communists were still trying to justify their decision to support the unjust partition of Palestine. But Abdel Nasser revived our hearts. In the speech battles, we preferred his speeches. Michel Aflaq was a shy orator, even in front of a small audience at cafes only. Radio wars were interesting but we did not appreciate the extent of their harm until after the 1967 war. Their promises and victorious rhetoric went all in vain. I did not hear one single speech from Nasser after the heinous 1967 defeat.
In Lebanon, we quickly became a ball in an awful sectarian soccer game which the Lebanese mastered. Camille Chamoun discovered that the Palestinian presence could benefit the sectarian wars in Lebanon. Numerous Palestinian Christians received their Lebanese citizenship quickly. Even the Phalange party, whose racism against the Palestinians was public, praised the plan. Camp children became a toy in the hands of the sects’ priests or wizards. Everybody wanted a piece of the sectarian battles. They snatched and chomped us and we were reduced to instruments in the periodic killing festivals. We contributed in building their homeland of which they are proud: Palestinian talent established for Lebanon in all areas: education, art, dancing, singing, media, economy, politics and revolution. Even the Rahbani-Fairouz phenomenon bears Palestinian hallmarks. But no one in Lebanon remembers Sabri al-Sharif. They remember Said Akl, who thanked the Israeli army for invading Lebanon.
We would walk and listen to speeches inciting racism against the Palestinian people. The enemy’s Hebrew radio station would call us subverters before they adopted the word “terrorist” in the seventies. The Phalanges and Lebanese Forces media followed suit (not by coincidence). The Phalanges propaganda, which was allied with Israel, was restrained at the beginning. They talked about “strangers”, but they meant us, and only us; incitement against us and blaming us for all their problems. The Intra Bank scandal was a suspicious start. But let’s remember Pierre Eddeh, and what do you know about Pierre Eddeh (but Itamar Rabinovich in his book about Lebanon recalled that Eddeh was his father’s envoy to the Zionist movement). They subdued us to what they call “the dirty work”; domestic servants, construction workers, and farmers without rights. Political rights were forbidden, and racial discrimination was a right and a duty for them.
The Second Bureau entered the camps. They set up stations and gangs in official uniforms. The army's official doctrine of the time required appeasing to Israel and stomping on the Palestinians, day and night. This was Fouad Chehab’s desire. The oppression soldiers and officers specialized in humiliating the Palestinian people in the camps. We would hear of Israeli plots and militias loyal to Israel, and we would also hear of the collusion of the official Lebanese army with the enemy. The entry of Israeli terrorism commandos to Lebanon would not have been possible without the vigorous coordination with internal elements. Wholesale assassinations took place without any outcomes from the investigations. Assassinations sometimes would depend on placing the missiles conspicuously, as was the case in the assassination attempt against Wadih Haddad.
I walked in a demonstration for the first time in the fifties; it was against the tripartite aggression. They took me to the nearest police station and hit me on my head and all over my body. They mocked me and shamed me for being a refugee. I kept silent. Then they started mocking and deriding Palestine, and say that we sold our lands to the Zionist Jews. I revolted, ridiculed their cedars, stomped on their flags, insulted their leaders, denounced their sects and threw an ashtray at their officer. They beat me and threw me from an elevated storey. They wounded me gravely. I came out determined to more demonstrations, anger and revolution.
I revolted with my people. We planted guns in our camps, and our women gave birth to armies - as said by Muzaffar Al-Nawwab. Guns grew in leaps and bounds. We’d stuff the rice and flour bags in the UNRWA warehouses with bombs and bullets. None of us choked, swallowing or chewing on them. We revolted against the filth of the Second Bureau. The general context changed. We were deployed in Lebanon, and we started training. Countless Palestinian organizations, including the shops of the spiteful Arab regimes that wanted to influence the Palestinian issue to the benefit of the regimes and their survival. And some expressed revolutionary aspirations. The Fatah movement was the strongest. We got stronger and we expelled the second office from the camps. We imposed the Cairo Agreement, in spite of the doctrine of Fouad Chehab of appeasing Israel. Some Palestinian groups were serious in the liberation of Palestine, while the susceptible Arab regimes were shops filled with suspects and spies. I leaned towards the organization of George Habash. I heard him speak once: I didn’t even have to listen to the whole speech. A few minutes into it, I decided that this man does not sell or buy, and he isn’t similar to Yasser Arafat in any way. George Habash taught me about “the liberation of every square millimeter of occupied Palestine”.
During the civil war in Lebanon, my father died. My father died after they shut Palestine in his face, and he never got to see it again. My father died without trusting the promises of a single Arab regime. He never believed in them or others. He lived the 1936 revolution and he saw how the regimes of the colonial British will imposed a cease-fire for the Zionists to catch their breath again. My father died and the agony never left him during the years of forced exile. I carried his body and stood on the border with occupied Palestine until it disintegrated. But his body appeared hanging down from an olive tree inside Palestine, just a few weeks later. His will was not to be buried anywhere outside the land of Palestine. I chose to degrade his body in my hands so I can disseminate it through the border with Palestine. And whenever my father dies, and he dies more than once a year, I carry him to the border with Palestine.
I've learned in the civil war not trust any sect. The sects took turns at tearing my body and shedding my blood. From sectarian Christian militias to sectarian Shi'ite militias (they were no less brutal than the Phalanges militia during the camps wars) to militias who support Harisrism during the party of the destruction of Nahr al-Bared camp. They ate my flesh and drank my blood, and they all danced on my father’s grave. They drew the cedar on my grandfather’s tombstone, by force. And they made my suffering worse by accusing me of wanting to resettle in their freak-of-a-homeland. Resettlement? I would sell all of their cedars for one single olive or a handful of grass from Palestine. I would throw their entire Phoenician monuments in the sea for one orange from Jaffa. Do you think I would settle in this freakish nation, which had been, since its foundation, a supporter of the usurping entity? Those who accuse the Palestinian people of the desire to resettle have not been to Palestine, and never set foot in the refugee camps of the Palestinian people in Lebanon. If we really intended to settle, we would’ve done it during the civil war. And Arafat, in spite of his flaws, was not satisfied with settlement. But the settlement was the invention of Christian sectarian militias and Shiite sectarian militias to justify their brutal wars and their racism against us.
They talk about Shaker al-Absi, but they never mention Nidal Hamad; this exemplary model in the struggle. Why don’t school children in Lebanon and Palestine know of Nidal Hamad? They know of Mohammed Dahlan but not Nidal Hamad!? Says who? This boy who was born in a refugee camp, found himself in 1982 (very young at the time) alone after the departure of Palestinian organizations from Lebanon. He saw the Israeli army in Beirut, and he went crazy. He did not stand or wait. He quickly got a rocket propeller and went down to the street proudly, with a comrade of his from the Palestinian Liberation Front. He stood in the middle of the street and aimed at an Israeli tank. His missile launched as the shell of the Israeli tank hit him and his friend. His companion died on the spot. Nidal did not die; he flew in the air, and then landed missing a foot and a leg. And after the enemy left their marks all over Nidal’s body, he picked up his remnants and went to the nearest hospital.
Nidal Hamad, who has one foot, never got tired. He never stopped to catch his breath in the struggle against Israel; not in Lebanon, and not in exile in Norway. One leg or two, Nidal kept the pace of his struggle. One time, Nidal Hamad saw a media gathering in Oslo, to cover the propaganda of whoever was sent by Israel to speak as an Israeli “victim” in front of the Norwegian media. Nidal Hamad did not find a rocket launcher this time. He grew irate and took off his pants in public, in the street, and showed what remains of his lower body in front of the cameras. This is what Israel did to me, he screamed in their faces. You want victims for the cameras, shoot me with your cameras, he ordered them in anger. Capture what is left of me. They photographed Nidal Hamad, but without the rocket launcher that made him fly in the air. Nidal Hamad live today in Oslo with his wife and children, but without a rocket launcher. Who took the rocket launcher from my comrade Nidal Hamad? And who would return it to him? Defense strategy? Ask Nidal Hamad.
I hear them talking about me today without seeing me. A government delegation visited us and they confirmed that we do not live in fifth-class hotels in the camps of misery. The delegation went back in a hurry and then ordered the destruction of Nahr al-Bared over the heads of its inhabitants. They said the gangs resorted to the camp. Their word was enough to destroy the camp over the heads of its inhabitants. The event was a major one for us. For the first time a Lebanese war against is waged against a Palestinian refugee camp without the support of any of Lebanon's political parties. They burned the camp using the help of Arab and American mortars and rockets, in the name of the fight against terrorism. The word terrorism (even in Michel Suleiman’s rhetoric) is adjacent to the word Palestinian. The Lebanese people across its sects cheered for the burning and destruction of the camp. All for the destruction of Nahr al-Bared. All of the freak-of-a-nation. And the Lebanese army, who has not yet found a site for a heroic confrontation of Israel (despite having received used Humvees and used helicopters suitable for the destruction of another Palestinian refugee camp), and who wastes its time chasing the brave blogger Khoder Salameh (chasing bloggers or threatening them became a part of the defense strategy), “fought epically” against the camp, as mentioned by its publications and its supporters among the people. Not even one Lebanese party did stand up to advocate the people of the camp. The word “terrorism” was heard everywhere.
But they finally discovered the “Civil Rights” of the Palestinian people. Even the Phalanges Party, the Lebanese Forces and Fouad Siniora (Wasfi al-Tal of Lebanon) talk about the civil rights of the Palestinian people. Are they aware that the term first appeared in the Balfour Declaration? ‘Civil rights’ because political and national rights have always been restricted to the Jews, as desired by the British colonialists. ‘Civil rights’ and we demand the liberation of Palestine? What do they mean by civil rights? The right to collect garbage? And the right to applause for visitors to the camps of the Governments of Lebanon who participated in the battle of destruction of Nahr al-Bared? The Lebanese army should look for their heroic actions outside the camps. And if they were really looking for sites to record their heroisms, I would’ve pointed them towards locations at the borders that were quenched with more Palestinian blood than the blood of Lebanese officials.
I am not a refugee, I am a rebel. I'll keep my weapons inside the camps, outside the camps, above the camps and under the camps. Everywhere. Behind the enemy, everywhere as we were taught by Wadih Haddad. Lebanese sects can go on with their hatred and resentment festivals, which they master, and they can recount their populations in preparation for endless rounds of brutal civil wars among themselves, but what’s in it for me? How am I associated with their small wars? They want me to recognize Mohammed Dahlan envoys in the camps? “Alleeno” or others do not belong in Ain al-Hilweh. I will keep my gun, no matter what they say. They will not decide for me in their ridiculous dialogue committees. Samir Gea’gea’ and everybody who’s experienced at serving Israel advice me to hand over the Palestinian weapons. I buried my father and mother in this land, but they asked me not to bury my gun. I’d rather bury my four children, but would never bury my arms. I will pass it on to my children so that they pass it on to their children. I'm staying here until I get there. I refused the apology of Abbas Dahlan Zaki on my behalf. The road to the Liberation of Palestine goes through Jounieh, Aley, Ba’albeck, Sidon and Tyre."
Comic by Terry Furry, reproduced from "Heard the One About the Funny Leftist?" by Cris Thompson, East Bay Express
As'ad AbuKhalil, born March 16, 1960. From Tyre, Lebanon, grew up in Beirut. Received his BA and MA from American University of Beirut in pol sc. Came to US in 1983 and received his PhD in comparative government from Georgetown University. Taught at Tufts University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, Colorado College, and Randolph-Macon Woman's College. Served as a Scholar-in-Residence at Middle East Institute in Washington DC. He served as free-lance Middle East consultant for NBC News and ABC News, an experience that only served to increase his disdain for maintream US media. He is now professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus and visiting professor at UC, Berkeley. His favorite food is fried eggplants.
Email the Angry Arab at: aabukhalil[at]csustan [dot][edu]
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