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Letter to a Fallen Friend

By Emadeddin J. Fraitekh
12 February 2002

" Israeli military sources said Khamis Ahmad Ali, head of a militia linked to the Fatah movement in the Askar refugee camp, near Nablus, was killed by Israeli commandos".

Dear friend,

I received word of your death by Israeli assassins on Jan. 17. I feel a mixture of sadness and pride, helplessness and hope – a bittersweet pill one has to swallow in the just Palestinian struggle against Israeli oppression, tyranny, and occupation.

I learned of your assassination not from your or my family and friends, but from news reports. Not known in your too-short life, you have become famous now; albeit not because of who you are, but because of what your killers claimed you to be: a terrorist.

Can you believe that? The mastermind and cause of all terror in the Middle East still has the temerity to call its victims "terrorists." But, wherever you might be now my friend, you may rest assured that, regardless of what Israel calls you, I call you a friend. The only thing Israel knew about you and hated was your love for freedom and self-determination. I too knew that about you and much more.

I remember you as my shy young friend who politely cleared your throat at our door whenever you visited our home so as not to embarrass my sisters by catching them unaware of your presence. I remember your love for poetry, music, debkeh dancing, and your enthusiasm for bodybuilding.

Perhaps you care less about what Israel's propaganda machine in the U.S. and elsewhere labels you. I do, however, care a lot. Because your assassination tells as much about the crooked morality of Israel as it does about the righteousness of the Palestinian cause. Yet, Israel's campaign to dehumanize the Palestinians in order to justify its apartheid policies against them is spreading like wildfire across America.
Listen, my friend. Israel's crimes are being sold to the American public as self-defense -merely preemptive strikes against terrorists. See? Even the president of the U.S., George W. Bush, says he "understands why Israel does what it does." See, my friend? Very few Americans would question why an Israeli sniper would shoot and kill a 10-year-old Palestinian child. Instead, the majority of Americans would wonder what a Palestinian child was doing in the path of an Israeli bullet.

I know the Israelis have always wanted you dead. Not just because you are Palestinian. But because you rejected tyranny in a voice loud enough for them to hear. But why did Israel have to assassinate you? You never fled from battle, even when all you had to confront Israel's M-16s, Uzi machine guns, tanks and helicopters with onions and a slingshot.

Remember when, in 1978, a protest was staged against Meir Kahane's attempts to plant a Jewish settlement in the heart of Nablus, our hometown? Israeli soldiers surrounded our high school and started bombarding us with tear gas. I recall how you managed to sneak in with two bags full of fresh onions and cotton. We knew what the cotton was for, but wondered about the onion. "The smell of onion," you told us, "is Palestine's natural defense against Israel's tear gas."

We were all crying from the tear gas but laughing at what you said, and then we heard our teacher, Nabil, say, "I hope the soldiers don't make onion soup out of all of you." At that we laughed even harder and louder.

You should have been killed in action, but the Israelis chose the way of the coward. In the darkness of the night they waited for you. They hid behind the tombstones of Palestinians they had killed the morning before, the trunks of trees they had uprooted the day before, the rubble of homes they had demolished the night before, and behind the fragile walls defending a defenseless Palestinian refugee camp. Then, at 4:30 a.m. their chosen target arrived, and the army of assassins shot to kill. Alleluia, one more Palestinian is down.

Just between you and me; and you know I won't tell anybody; what were you doing out all alone at 4:30 a.m., anyway? Protecting the camp and its 15,000 refugees from Israel's army trying yet again to reoccupy what they already occupy? That's the version Israel would like us to believe. Rise and answer me, my friend.

Was that it? Were you trying to be a hero?
The truth is that you were just returning to your shanty home after spending the night taking care of your ailing grandmother.

Damn you. You have left six children behind. Did you never think Palestine has no dire need for six more orphans? Or the camp does not need more hungry mouths to feed? No, you did not -because you did not want to die. You just wanted to go home.

Why am I speaking on your behalf? Why don't you rise and speak up and tell the whole world that once again Israel has lied about its victims?

Remember in 1976 how, where, and when they killed 17-year-old Leena Nabulsi? They fabricated a story only the Israeli public and its trusting American ally would buy. The Israeli army claimed that Leena threatened the life of an Israeli soldier during a demonstration at her school. Israel radio reported that their soldier first fired warning shots in the air, then shot at her feet, and finally had to shoot her when she pulled a knife on him.

That was a lie from start to finish. Leena had no knife and threatened no one's life. She did not want to kill anyone, nor did she seek to be executed in cold blood. She, like all of us, demonstrated against the occupation and threw stones at the soldiers from behind the fence of our school. The difference between Leena and the rest of us that day was that she dared to carry the Palestinian flag. The flag angered the Israelis more than our stones, which fell short of their target.

An Earlier Execution

After the protest was over we all walked home. One Israeli soldier recognized Leena as the girl who had carried and waved the Palestinian flag. He pointed at her, yelled at her, and ordered her to stand still. She was scared. We all were scared. Leena ran away, and so did we. We hid in an apartment building a few blocks from our school. The soldiers followed us into the building. They found us hiding in one apartment, and they found Leena hiding under the dining table in the living room of a family we did not know. The soldier pointed at her and said, "There she is!" and another opened fire. She was executed right then and there, in front of everyone present, so we could see, take note, and learn the lesson.
Is it any wonder, then, why we do not believe the Israelis and never will?

My friend, you must rise and speak. The only witnesses to your murder were you and your killers. If you do not testify now, they will rewrite the scenario and reprint the book. As always, they will have been cleaning their weapons, reloading the magazines, and crying harder about being victims of Palestinian terror. In front of their own judge in their own court they will claim that a monstrous shadow of a savage Palestinian emerged from the midst of a refugee camp, attacked them, threatened their safety and endangered the security of the state of Israel.

You are the salt of the earth now and to you the land will sing: Resurrect. The promise is still the promise. We will look forward and we shall witness the sun of our dreams cutting through the thick clouds and it shall pour down freedom. And when it is time for the Palestinians to celebrate the arrival of their liberty I will dance debkeh and I will dedicate a turn just for you. This is my promise to you. Congratulations, my friend, and so long.© The News Insider 2002

Emadeddin J. Fraitekh is the Washington Report's Executive Web Producer.

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