by Reham Alhelsi
A “King’s chair” is touring the world to demand a crippled state for the Palestinian people; a “state” on 20% of our historic homeland, a “state” minus Jerusalem, a “state” drowned in illegal Zionist colonies, a ghetto within ghettos, a Bantustan that is to be called “the state of the PA”. To those who worship the chair and to those who worship the “King” of the chair and those who kneel at the foot of the chair, I say:
I grew up a villager, a daughter of villagers, a daughter of the land, a lover of the olive tree, of the almond and the carob and the fig trees, a runner along the fields, a dancer under the autumn rain, a dreamer among the wheat fields under the autumn sun. I grew up with the sunshine over the hills and meadows of Palestine, I grew up with the birds singing among the trees, the butterflies decorating the fields, the bees buzzing around the grapevines, the sheep and the goats running up and down the hills and the horses racing the wind. I grew up to climb olive trees during the harvest, to carry huge baskets filled with ripe fruits, to listen to villagers tell tales in the evening around a fire while the smell of roasted wheat fills the air. I grew up watching men and women working the land with love and diligence from sunrise to sunset. I grew up watching them plant their fields and water the olive trees with their sweat and blood. I grew up watching them planting the love of the land in their children’s hearts. I grew up and learned from them to love the land, to talk to the olive tree, to hold sacred every stone, every flower and every dust particle in this land. I grew up watching our land being stolen, dunum after dunum, by strangers who don’t belong to the land, who don’t know what it means to love the land or to respect the land. I grew up watching our land being butchered, dunum after dunum, by strangers who claim that the land is theirs but who don’t know that when the land cries, we cry, when the land suffers, we suffer, when the land is massacred, we are massacred, when the land bleeds, we bleed with the land because she is our mother, our Palestine. I grew up watching the villagers being expelled from their land, saw our olive fields burnt into ashes, our wells dried up, the birds silenced and the flowers withering. I grew up searching for a little freedom in the hills of Jerusalem, in the meadows of Sawahreh, before the mountains and the meadows themselves became captives to an army of illegals who kill the birds, the bees and the butterflies.
I grew up a refugee, a daughter of a refugee, my heart longing to a village I never saw, my mind filled with images of a paradise I never touched, but every drop of blood in my body knows I am from there, and every cell in my body directs me towards that place. I grew up separated, expelled from that part of me, but as I grew up that missing part grew up with me, was planted within my heart and within my soul, its name implanted itself in my memory and became as familiar and as known to me as my own name, its houses, fields and trees mingled with my blood. I grew up thinking of Jrash as part of me, a part that seems far away, but is so near to me, a part of me that makes me who I am, a part that refuses to be forgotten or buried, a part that lives with every beat of my heart, a part that will never die. I grew up on tales about Jrash, a beautiful home, a warm home that continues to be warm and beautiful in the hearts of all Jerashis. I grew up hearing of the harvest, the grinding of the crops, the pressing of the olives, of the weddings that lasted 7 days and nights. I grew up hearing about the dark-stoned houses, the front yards green with the flowers, the Khawaby, the Rozanah and the Taboun. I grew up hearing about Nyata, Khirbet Il-Asad, Khirbet Is-S’iri, Khirbet Il-M’allaq, Khirbet Im Il-‘Imdan, Khirbet Al-Baten, Khirbet Id-Dilbah. I grew up hearing about Wadi It-Teen, Wadi Il-Kharoub, Il-Khalleh, Il-Harayek, Ij-Soura and Thahir Jrash. I grew up hearing about the never-ending fields of fig trees, apricots, almonds, apples, carobs and olive trees stretching into the horizon. I grew up hearing about the ancient ruins scattered all over the hills, about the much-visited Im-Ittwameen grotto, about the many water springs and many Masateeh. I grew up with the names Deir Aban, Zakariya, Al-Majdal, Ein Karim, Staf, Beit Jibrin, Beit Nattif, Ajjour, Beit I’tab, Allar, Il-Sifla, Tal Il-Safi, Mighlis, Kasla, Khirbit Il-Louz, Khilda, Il-Joura, Il-Falouja, Beit Mahseer, Il-Qabou, Al-Walaja, Ras Abu Ammar, Tal Al-Turmous, Iraq Al-Manshiyyeh, Deir Ad-Dubban. I grew up drawing houses with carob and apple trees in their yard, drawing laughing faces harvesting the wheat, the olives and the figs in the western hills of Jerusalem. I grew up hearing their songs, long after they had been brutally expelled from their homes and villages, ringing along the narrow streets of the refugee camp, promising the land to return and promising their ancestors to return.
I grew up a full Jerusalemite, my mother from a village in the western part of Jerusalem, my father from a village in the eastern part of Jerusalem. I was born in the heart of Jerusalem, since childhood know its alleys one by one, know its streets one by one, know its features, its houses, its markets and its people. I grew up buying Mickey Mouse magazines from the kiosk at the central bus station, from the grandfather who always welcomed me with a smile and a prayer, before heading to school for another long day between books. I grew up collecting political newspapers and magazines from the kiosk at the corner, from the grandfather who always welcomed me with a smile, a political statement and an advice, before distributing them in schools, refugee camps and villages. I grew up with the smell of falafel filling the old city, with the smell of fresh Ka’ik in Al-Musrarah, with the smell of Jasmin along the wall of the old city. I grew up with the lively buzz of the markets, with the songs coming from almost every shop, with the dance of colours decorating the roof tops of the old city, with the minarets hugging the church towers. I grew up with the sun kissing Al-Aqsa, the Holy Sepulchre and the homes of the old city good morning every day. I grew up with the sun kissing Al-Aqsa, the Holy Sepulchre and the homes of the old city good night every day. I grew up sneaking looks at the beautiful fairy tale books at the windows of Sharbain, the International Library and the Economic Library but unable to afford buying any of them. I grew up knowing every tiny shop in Salah Iddin street, and wandering with my classmates along the street after classes every now and then. I grew up looking forward to the Monday walk to the British Council to borrow books about ancient civilizations, kingdoms, mummies and villagers. I grew up in Jerusalem and Jerusalem was and will forever be part me, my home. I was born in Jerusalem on a spring day. I went there to school, my first job was in Jerusalem. Today I am not allowed into Jerusalem anymore. I see my birthplace from my window, but I can’t touch it anymore. I see the Dome of the Rock every night standing as a lighthouse, lighting the darkness, lighting the road for us, waiting for us to start marching, waiting for us to return. I have only one comfort: that when I die, I will be buried in the family grave in Jerusalem, that even if they don’t allow me in while I am alive, I will go there when I am dead. I will be reunited with my birthplace, with Jerusalem.
I grew up a Palestinian and all of Palestine my home. I grew up in the alleys of the old city of Jerusalem, in the prairies of Sawahreh, in the over-crowded Dheisheh refugee camp. I grew up with the map of Palestine drawn in my heart, the names of every Palestinian villages, towns and cities carved into my veins. I grew up hearing tales of heroism, tales of steadfastness, tales about a land that refuses to be deleted, about a people that refuses to be defeated. I grew up hearing tales about a land that yearns to be free and about a people that yearns to destroy the chains of oppression and captivity. I grew up calling Jerusalem my home, calling Haifa my home, calling Nablus my home, calling Beisan my home, calling Bethlehem my home, calling Safad my home, calling Gaza my home, calling An-Naqab my home. I grew up calling Palestine from the river to the sea my home, my homeland. I grew up drawing Palestine from the river to the sea, I grew up drawing a map connected and one from the water to the water, from the border of Lebanon to the border of Egypt., naming Haifa, Yafa, Akka and Gaza as our coastal cities, singing about Marj Ibin A’mer, Nablus, Beisan, Jericho, Beer As-Sabi’ and the hills of Hebron. I grew up and my heart beating for Palestine, all Palestine, my mind memorizing every hilltop and every meadow, every creek and every water spring. I grew up memorizing names the occupier wants us to forget. I grew up drawing a map the world sold to create a terrorist entity that ethnically cleansed Palestine to create a Zionist colony, a cancer within the heart of Palestine that turned our paradise into a desert.
I grew up reading books about the heroes who fought the first Zionist waves that have come to occupy our land and claim it theirs, about the heroes who stood up in the face of Zionism and its ally the British mandate. I grew up reading about the general strikes, the Great Revolt, about the prison of ‘Akka, Al-Qassam and Al-Qastal, the battle of Deir Aban, the battle of Al-Mukkabbir, the battle of Ash-Shajara, the battle of Al-Lyd and Ar-Ramleh, the battle of Jenin, the battle of Beit Jibrin. I grew up hearing about Deir Yasin, about Khisas, Qazaza, Beit Daras, Dawaymah, Sharafat, Qibya, Kufr Qasim, As-Sammou’, Sabra and Shatila and many more massacres and Zionist crimes. I grew up to the testimonies of the survivors, those who witnessed Zionist crimes against humanity, those who witnessed how the Zionist entity, the child of the “European humanity” was built on the bones of Palestinian children, on rivers of spilt Palestinian blood, on the bodies of pregnant women who were bayoneted and their unborn children butchered in their wombs, on the screams of the mothers whose children were maimed and beheaded in front of them, on the cries of children who were left to wander thirsty and hungry after their parents were massacred. I grew up singing about Mish’al and Jafra, about the martineh and the olive tree and a little home in a village that refuses to be erased, that refuses to be forgotten. I grew up singing about Lina, Dalal, Taghreed and Leila and thinking of all the Palestinian women who stood up and still stand up in the face of Zionist terrorism, who fought and still fight side by side with their brothers, fathers and comrades, who refuse to be silent, who refuse to bow down. I grew up singing about Mohammad Jamjoum, Fouad Hjazi and Ata Az-Zeer, about Ghassan Kanafani, Dalal Al-Mughrabi, Shadia Abu Ghazaleh and many more heroes. I grew up reading about the heroes who shook the foundation of the Zionist entity, who showed the world that Palestine will never be forgotten, who told the Israeli occupiers: the old continue to live in us and the young will never forget. I grew up reading about, hearing and watching the great men and women who stand as one in the face of oppression and occupation, who fight for their legitimate rights, who refuse any concessions, who will always be the guardians of Palestine, the guardians of the revolution
I grew up reading the stories of Ghassan Kanfani, reading about those who were expelled from their homes in the middle of the night, those who were forced out of their lands under the rush of bullets. I grew up reading about the land of the sad oranges, the apricots of April, about men and their sacred rifles, about the steadfast under the sun. I wandered with him in Yafa, in Akka, in Damascus, in Beirut, in Kuwait and in the refugee camps of the Diaspora. Um Sa’d taught me that not all tents are the same, and Safiyah and Sa’id taught me that every human is a cause and Fatima taught me that you can’t fight Zionist terrorism with flowers or smiles or conferences and Ibrahim taught me that true heroes die without anyone hearing their names. I cried with the children of the refugee camps, the children of Palestine, I laughed with them, I shared their dreams and their hopes. Ghassan Kanafani taught me that I have something in this world… so I will stand up and remain steadfast in my land. Ghassan Kanafani taught me that we write in blood for you Palestine, that we will die standing and that there is always enough place in this sacred soil for another martyr. Ghassan Kanafani taught me that I must never stop until I plant my heaven on earth or die trying. Ghassan Kanafani taught me that treason is in itself a nasty death. Ghassan Kanafani taught me that the only way to understand what a revolution is about is when you carry your gun on your shoulder and march. I grew up reading Ghassan Kanafani and repeating his message: that if we were failing, unsuccessful defenders of our cause, then we better change the defenders and not the cause….. that we are planted in this land, that we will stay steadfast here, and when we die, we will die standing.
I grew up looking forward to the caricatures of Naji Al-Ali. I grew up searching for Handala in the newspapers, in the magazines, on the walls of the refugee camp, among the scribbling of a comrade. I grew up listening to Handala, talking to me, for he is my grandfather in Jerusalem, he is my brother in Safad, he is my sister in Ein Il-Hilweh, he is my nephew in Al-Yarmouk, he is my niece in Bethlehem, he is my cousin in Deir Al-Balah , he is my uncle in Balata, he is my aunt in Shnillar, he is my comrade in Beita, he is my family: my Palestinian family, he is my conscience and the conscience of the Palestinian people. Naji Al-Ali taught me that the poor people are the ones who suffer, the ones who are imprisoned and the ones who die without shedding a tear. Naji Al-Ali taught me that we draw, write and sing only for Palestine and that you should never give up on your principles even if they kill you. Naji Al-Ali taught me that the liberation of Palestine is not the liberation of the West Bank or Gaza, but the liberation of Palestine from the ocean to the gulf. Naji Al-Ali taught me that Palestine is not far away or near, it is of the distance of the revolution and that there is one way towards Palestine and that is the gun. Naji Al-Ali taught me to say to those who want us to close the file on the Palestinian cause and to solve it as our enemies want us to: if you are tired, leave us. I grew up reading Naji Al-Ali and repeating his message: That there is only one red line and no one has the right to recognize and surrender to the Zionists. That no one has the right to give up what is the right of every Palestinians, the right of our children and grandchildren, that no matter how much they talk about negotiations and conferences and a Palestinian state, no one, NO ONE, has the right to give up or sell out Palestine.
I grew up visiting uncles in Israeli jails, waking up in the middle of the night at the sounds of Israeli occupation soldiers banging at the door, asking for my brother, for my uncle, for my cousin. I grew up to be beaten and dragged by Israeli occupation soldiers, I grew up to watch my grandmother get beaten by Israeli occupation soldiers, to watch my uncles, my aunts being beaten by the soldiers and dragged away in the middle of the night. I grew up to visit my injured uncles, to watch them suffer in silence from their injuries, to watch the traces of torture carved forever in their eyes. I grew up to watch Naser play football in the dusty street before he was shot dead by an Israeli bullet that sliced his young heart and silenced his laughter. I grew up to listen to Mohammad talk about his dreams, his wish to live in a free Palestine, before an Israeli bullet exploded in his young lively body and caused him a slow and painful death. I grew up to watch Ayat running in the narrow alleys of the refugee camp before her young body was blown up into a million pieces by the brutal Israeli occupation. I grew up to watch our neighbor’s home being demolished, to watch sick grandmothers being kicked at military checkpoints, to watch grey-haired teachers being shouted at by teenager Israeli soldiers. I grew up to see my childhood paradise being confiscated and turned into settlements in the name of the “peace process”. I grew up to witness Zionist colonizers attack us in the middle of the night, shoot at us while singing and laughing, as if they were on a hunting trip. I grew up to donate blood for injured comrades, to say goodbye to those whose lives were cut short by the Israeli bullet, to visit graves decorated with a map of Palestine from the river to the sea, a Palestinian flag and promise: we will never surrender!
I grew up among suffering, I grew up with hope, I grew up in fear, I grew up with determination, I grew up with courage, I grew up with the love of Palestine. I grew up to meet Palestinian men and women whose hearts only beat for Palestine, whose eyes only see the road to liberate Palestine, whose throats only ring with one song: free Palestine from the water to the water. I grew up to meet Palestinian men and women whose will the walls of Zionist jails couldn’t break, whose determination the pain of injury and torture couldn’t lessen, whose courage the loss of family members and comrades couldn’t weaken, whose insistence to liberate Palestine the dagger of betrayal and concessions couldn’t extinguish. I grew up a Palestinian, one among the millions living in occupied Palestine, one among the millions living in the forced exile. I grew up to hold in my heart sacred rights, constants that are unchangeable no matter how long the struggle lasts and how hard the road to liberation becomes. I grew up drawing a map, a key and the Dome of the Rock: I grew up swearing that I will never accept less than a Palestine from the water to the water, that I will never accept less than the return of every single Palestinian refugee, that I will never accept less than a Jerusalem united again with its indigenous people, with its villages and olive tress. I grew up like millions, dreaming of a free Palestine, of the freedom to live in my homeland, to walk in my land, to plant my field, to build my home, to run under the rain, to sit under the sun, to have breakfast in Jerusalem, lunch in Haifa and dinner in Gaza. I dream of real freedom, not a charade called the “peace process”, I dream of real justice, not a charade called “a crippled state with land swap”. I dream of a Palestine from the river to the sea, with Jerusalem as its heart, with Yafa and Beisan, with Safad and Um-Al-Rishrash, not a charade called “Palestinian state with land swap”, where the first part of Palestine to be “swapped” is Jerusalem, the heart and the soul of Palestine.
And I, a Palestinian from occupied Palestine, refuse to accept a fake state on less than 20% of my homeland.
And I, a Palestinian from occupied Palestine, refuse to share my homeland with Zionist colonizers.
I denounce those who are selling 80% of our homeland in the name of “peace” and I denounce those who are selling 50% of our homeland in the name of “co-existence with colonizers”.
I denounce those who, while having American and European passports and living comfortably in the Diaspora, in the name of ‘finding a solution’, want us, the ones living under occupation, the ones being oppressed day and night by the Zionist colonizers, want us to ‘co-exist’ with the murderers of our land, the killers of our families and comrades. I tell you: if you are tired, leave us!!!
I denounce those, who under the claim of legitimizing our cause, our struggle, want to legitimize the Zionist colonization of Palestine, want to give the Zionist colonizers a right to our land, to our homes and to our ethnically cleansed villages and towns and cities.
I denounce those, who have accepted to be something other than Palestinian, unless it brings them benefit, and call themselves everything but Palestinians, unless it brings them benefit, then and when it brings them benefit they claim to speak in our name, they claim to speak in the name of those steadfast in occupied Palestine, they claim to speak in the name of the millions who were expelled to the refugee camps of the Diaspora, they claim to speak in the name of every Palestinian dreaming of returning, they claim to speak in our name, they claim to represent us when they legitimize the Zionist presence in Palestine, be it on 80% or on 50% of Palestine.
I denounce those who are selling Palestine, village after village, hilltop after hilltop, tree after tree, stone after stone in the name of ‘peace’ that is anything but peace and in the name of ‘courage’ that is nothing but cowardice to face up to your occupier and nothing but an audacity to sell your own land and your own people.
Over 63 years of struggle to fight the Zionist colonization, over hundreds of thousands of Palestinians martyrs who sacrificed their lives for Palestine, and some come and call for the legitimization of the Zionist colonization of Palestine by calling for ‘co-existence with the colonizers and the land thieves’.
I, a Palestinian from occupied Palestine, say to you;
Our struggle is not even 100 years old, other nations have fought for hundreds of years to get their freedom, so if you are tired, while leading a luxurious life, leave us, for we will never tire until Palestine, all of Palestine is free!
I, a Palestinian from occupied Palestine, say to you;
Ahmad Jamjoum, Fouad Hijazi and Ata Az-Zer are still alive,
Ghassan Kanafai is still alive,
Naji Al-Ali is still alive,
Dalal, Lina, Taghreed, Nidal, Ibtisam and Mohammad are still alive,
Ahmad, Daniel, Naser, Ayat, Mohammad, Ruwaida, Nabil, Anton, Yahia, Nabil, Hanadi, Omar and Firyal are still alive.
Every single Palestinian who sacrificed their lives for Palestine is still alive, every single Palestinian who was murdered by the enemies of Palestine is still alive. They are all still alive in the majority that refuses to sell, that refuses to recognize the entity built on our homes and our bones, that refuses to surrender, or submit or sell out, the majority that refuses to concede or relinquish our sacred rights, that refuses to co-exist with the fully-armed terrorist colonizers, that refuses to legitimize the Zionist colonization of our home, that refuses to give legitimacy to our murderers, that refuses to give them the right to our land. Every single drop of Palestinian blood spilt cries to us, every soul massacred cries to us, reminds us that peace without justice is no peace, that rights are taken not begged for.
I, a Palestinian from occupied Palestine, say to you;
Every part of Palestine is my home
Every Palestinian is my brother, my sister, my comrade,
Every tree in Palestine, every stone, every flower is sacred,
I am only a Palestinian within Palestine, I am only whole within a whole Palestine, I refuse to be divided, I refuse to give up my heart and my lungs.
I will not remain silent while you slice me and cut my veins with every new initiative, with every new charade,
I will not remain silent while you negotiate in the open and in secret, while you sell Jerusalem, while you divide Palestine, while you condemn us to live as slaves for ever, while you sell our rights, while you swap our lands for bank accounts and permits to Tel Aviv,
I will not be silent while you fight over imaginary posts and chairs and act helpless when the occupier oppresses us,
I will not be silent while you oppress us, train forces to suppress us, and act helpless when the settlers attack us,
I will not be silent while you steal our land, build ‘cities’ for the elite and act helpless when the occupiers destroy our homes,
I will not be silent while you sell 80% of Palestine in the name of a ‘state’ and ‘red carpet’ and ‘government’.
I will not be silent while you sell 50% of Palestine in the name of ‘co-existence with murderous colonizers’,
I will not be silent because the Zionist entity is built on our ancestors, on our homes, on our history, on our map, on our existence,
I will not be silent because this land is ours, every iota of soil is ours, the villages await to be rebuilt, await to awake from underneath the Zionist parks and from underneath the Zionist colonies, the towns await to shed off their fake Zionist names, the lands await to be planted again by the hands that have been planting them for thousands of years,
I will not be silent because the Zionist colonizers who claim a right to our homeland have their roots somewhere else, have homes somewhere else, and while they give even Martians a right to our homeland, they deny us our birthright, steal our lands and homes.
I will not be silent because this land is our home, our only home!
Tour with your chair the world, for it is all that you will ever get: a chair, a useless chair in an imaginary state for an imaginary cabinet and an imaginary king. You know that with you chair you are only playing a charade, but with your charade you don’t intend to fool the Zionists, for you coordinate with them day and night, they beckon and you obey. With your charade you don’t intend to fool the Americans, nor the Europeans, nor the Arab dictators, for they demand and you answer: your wish is my command. No, with your charade you want to fool only one, and you want the interest of only one; you want to fool the Palestinian people you claim you represent, and you want the interest of the Zionists who gave you a chair, a fake state and a fake government and told you: go play while we oppress your people and continue the ethnic cleansing of your land. But you are mistaken, for you only fool yourselves. The Israelis felt our wrath over and over, every time the Palestinian people rose up to face their oppressors, the oppressors felt our thirst for freedom, our hunger for our legitimate rights, and they fear this thirst for freedom, they fear this hunger for rights, they fear the next uprising of the Palestinians and know it is coming, and so should you! Assuring the Israeli occupiers that you won’t allow any uprising, whether armed or popular, won’t prevent the coming uprising, others before you gave assurances to the Zionists and were unable to stop the uprising when it came.
And we, those who refuse to accept a crippled state, a fake state, a Bantustan, we will tour the world with our map. This map, imprinted in our hearts and minds and decorates our homes, is our message to the whole world which claims to be just and conscientious, when it only acts blind, deaf and mute to the crimes of the Zionist entity. This map is our message to the long-dead PLO that still claims to represent us, when it only represents the interests of the chosen elite. This map is our message to the unelected PA that claims to represent us, when only it represents the interest of the occupation. This map is our message to those Palestinians who want to legitimize the Zionist colonization of Palestine, to those Palestinians who want to sell Palestine, in any form, under any fancy name.
Our message to these and to those who worship the chair and the king of the chair is:
Palestine was and forever will be one from the river to the sea.
We are only whole within a Palestine from the river to the sea.
We are only free with a free Palestine from the river to sea.
There will never be a state called Palestine only in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, because the West Bank and the Gaza
Strip are part of Palestine, and the part will never compensate for the whole.
There will never be a state called Palestine without Jerusalem, because Jerusalem is the throbbing heart of Palestine, and without a heart there is no life.
There is only one Palestine: and it was, is and will forever be one from the river to the sea, and Palestine will not be free until it is free from the river to the sea.
PS: “sending” schools kids and employees to the streets to “show support” does not mean their endorsement.