Where's the Revolution? Report 4, June 2005.
I was standing in the noon-time sun with what I discovered is a self-proclaimed revolutionary fighter. He wants to liberate Palestine, perhaps one of the few people who thinks he can, or that this is somehow still possible. Another man standing near us made his way into the conversation and brought up the impotence of the United Nations. If ithe UN not able to force Israel to relinquish land, how will an armed revolution materialize in anything more? I asked the young revolutionary what he thought. He stood silently. I thought perhaps he did not understand my question, my accent, maybe he needed time to reflect. I asked again. No answer. I asked specifically a third time what he thought of two particular UN resolutions.
Resolutions 242 and 338. I thought we (Palestinians) all knew them by heart. Are they not the only covenant we have left? Somehow they dictate our rights in the international community, even if they amount to numbered documents that no one enforces or follows. Numbers and phrases that we hold on to dearly... 242, 1967, Six-Day war: "Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict..." An upheaval was made about the language, the leniency of the terms, the openess of interpretation, the PLO rejected it... 338: "just and durable peace"... the refugees' right of return... aren't all of these part of some Palestinian mandate?! The young man stood silently. Instead I got a lecture about weapons and security forces. I gave up, and decided to focus my attention elsewhere.
The next day, as I was sitting in an office waiting for an appointment, I heard some far away gun shots. They grew more and more intense. Everyone in the office ran to the window (we had a 7th floor view) and started pushing buttons on their cell phones. Different rumors circulated. "The Israelis shot him." Why, where, how, no one knew. "The security forces were shooting at each other again." It turned out that the young man had shot himself while cleaning his machine gun. I couldn't help but feel in a small way that perhaps it was a lesson he may have deserved - not that anyone should die at the hands of stupidity...
There are two major problems in Palestinian life today. One is external and has everything to do with the political situation, the occupation, and everything that ensues from that. The list is endless, and I shall leave it for another time. The other is internal. Internal to society as a whole or internal to each individual - I'm not sure, it's more difficult to draw such a boundary. One example of this internal problem is the rise of these young men with guns with little awareness of their history. Rebels without a cause, perhaps we could call them.
They all suffer from a sense of extreme machoism. Standing on street corners or leaning out of the Jeeps with their machine guns and military or police clothes. Of course it doesn't help that there is more variety in security forces in the Territories than anything else; if I tried to name them all I would not be able to. Suffice it to say that there are many forces and a growing number of young men hired within them. They stare the young women down with lecherous looks. Their ogles towards men are not so different, perhaps less sexual, but nonetheless filled with way too much testosterone to let them be with weapons.
They shoot at each other. They shoot themselves. The majority of them have no education beyond highschool. Many of them used to be "shabab" type fighters in one of the Intifadas. Practically all of them have spent time in jail. There's rumors that some of them are making a habit of groping young women in the evening; or harassing their boyfriends. How are you going to argue with a man with a gun afterall? The Israelis figured that one out: give a teenage Israeli a gun and a Palestinian will obey.
Speak to them and they share the same dream as many Palestinians do. Or at the least once did. Dreams of a revolution. But the revolution of the 1960s and 70s is nothing like the one today. The fedayeen of those years were admired by most Palestinians, anit-imperialists, anti-colonialists, struggling for freedom and rights in a world rife with third world revolutions. Even the first uprising of the late 1980s has almost nothing left in common with today's. The older generation admired the Algerian fighters, the Vietnamese, later the South Africans. They led themselves to believe that the struggle for independence was the same, against a foreign oppressor... Until today they can recite the poetry, the songs, the slogans. They all have "war stories" to share with us today, even those who gave up their Marxist or Socialist ideologies and today support Hamas. But the young revolutionaries today know nothing of the UN resolutions, let alone anything of Frantz Fanon, C. L. R. James, Aimé Césaire, Jose Mariategui, Amilcar Cabral, or Malcolm X... (Maybe el Che, but only as a t-shirt logo). It's as if the Palestinian revolution from within is being run by a bunch of goons with guns and no brains...
Perhaps we have to dream it up the revolution from scratch all over again, recognize that anti-oppression in the 21st century takes on a different form all-together. And here we come back to the external problem Palestinians face: an Israel that is recognized and supported the world over, one for whom UN Resolutions are nothing more than a couple of insults thrown at its face that it can just brush away. And if you don't like it, keep in mind there are just as many brazen young goons on that side to contend with.
funeral for a security officer who shot himself and political posters.
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