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".
I received word of your death by Israeli assassins
on Jan. 17. I feel a mixture of sadness and pride, helplessness
hope – a bittersweet pill one has to swallow in the
just Palestinian struggle against Israeli oppression, tyranny,
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
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,
dancing, and your enthusiasm for bodybuilding.
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.
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
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
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
shot to kill. Alleluia, one more Palestinian is down.
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
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
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
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
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
J. Fraitekh is the Washington Report's Executive Web Producer.
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