Sowwan wa Sabr Introduction
Sowwan wa Sabr: Inspirational Palestinian stories
Copyright: By Mazin Qumsiyeh
There are nearly nine million living Palestinians today, six million of them are refugees or displaced people. Since the beginning of the Zionist project to deny them the right to live and work and prosper in their own homeland, these Palestinians and their ancestors engaged in a struggle for freedom and liberation. Between 1947 and until today, three generation of Palestinians were subjected to the most brutal policies of dispossession and oppression. Political Zionism and a compliant Western media tried relentlessly (sometimes with futility) to hide the facts and to invent new realities (on the ground and in people’s collective memory). But like the Palestinian poet said, we remain “like 20 impossibles.” The reason we do remain is because Palestinians, like any other people, can never forget their country. Palestine remains where it was. It never went away. Changing its name to Israel does not mean erasing 4000 year of history of its native people. Even as 530 villages and towns were wiped completely off the Israeli maps and physically on the ground (see http://palestineremembered.com), these towns and villages thrive in the hearts and minds of Palestinians wherever they live today. They thrive among the 1.3 million Palestinians nominally considered Israeli citizens, among the 3.6 million under occupation in Gaza and the West Bank being slowly isolated in several ghettos (large open air prisons), among the 400,000 refugees in Lebanon, the two million in Jordan, the 300,000 in the US, and all others around the world.
The overwhelming array of forces deployed against our people included the British empire starting in 1919 to today's fifth strongest military machine in the world (Israel) backed and supported by the only remaining superpower in the world (the US). An Israel armed to the teeth with nuclear and other WMD, and backed by a network of committed Zionists in Western countries so unprecedented in their power that lobbyists for Israel are appointed key US ambassadors and envoys even to Israel itself (e.g. Martin Indyk and Dennis Ross). This military and political might deployed to ethnically cleanse Palestine resulted in the largest remaining refugee problem in the world. Ethnic cleansing continues unabated as clear in recent home demolitions in Rafah and elsewhere.
The military and political might is buttressed by a mass media campaign in the influential Western Countries to dehumanize us, to marginalize us, to forget us. Yet, despite all this Palestinians continue to hope, live, and resist and without such resistance, the situation would have been far, far worse (remember that Zionism had its eyes on building an empire stretching from the Euphrates to the Nile). Some misguided souls (even Palestinians like Sari Nusseibeh) have given up on justice and decided to just go with the flow. Some cite certain corrupt officials and individuals as to why this struggle is “hopeless”. How misguided these folks are. Perhaps they never understood that history is not measured in a period of a few decades. Perhaps they never understood that humanity evolved and continues to evolve. Perhaps they just do not understand that no person (Palestinian or other, Jew, Christian or Muslim) has a right to sell-out generations before and generations yet unborn. Perhaps they did not read the history of positive growth, resistance, and beauty in Palestine. It is the latter angle I hope to tackle here. I believe we need to celebrate the lives and struggles of Palestinians in all walks of life who suffered and yet resisted and in doing so light for us the way forward.
We do have an oral history project that we are engaged in and I urge you to get involved in it. See http://www.palestineremembered.com/oralhistory/
Some of these folks will be highlighted in a collection of short biographies and reflections on the lives of real Palestinians (as opposed to the fictional caricatures intentionally foisted on us by Zionists in some major US media outlets). I will highlight contributions of average Palestinians, a diverse and complex people with an ancient heritage. They are people from all walks of life, occupied and exiled, politicians and poets, and from different religious, political, and regional backgrounds. But they all have one thing in common: they were born ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances of oppression and ethnic cleansing and they did not just lay down and die nor did they capitulate and collaborate with their oppressors. You may disagree with some of their actions or occasional political mistakes but you will note that they all put the interests of their people ahead of their personal interest. This criterion of thinking of the other and doing their best under tremendously difficult circumstances make what many label as heroes. I personally do not like to use the term hero (Batal in Arabic) as its exat definition is never agreed to. All I would say is that such inspiring people, persisted and accomplished and show humanity that is always at its best when faced with the toughest challenges. Nobody is perfect and no body should be venerated. There are literally millions who perhaps are equally inspiring and heroic. Some accomplishments may seem modest but these always need to be related to circumstances. A refugee in Lebanon may be inspiring in keeping his/her humanity while deprived of all opportunities for advancement and for getting their full potential.
So it is with this limitation in mind, that we are merely bring you a selection of the millions of worthy human Palestinian stories (I hope to send at least one a week for the next two years). They are ones that make us reflect deeply on our own actions and direction and give our sprits a lift to a higher place. As the clouds of misinformation lift, this higher and more beautiful place crystallizes as an amalgamation of a vision of a shared humanity combined with the tranquil village life of Palestine that remained isolated from its turbulent conquerors over the millennia until the ethnic cleansing of the modern era. Palestinian refugees shall return to till and plant the soil briefly tilled by the Kibbutsim and Moshavim movements (which have now declined in favor of the high tech military indusrial economy of Israel). When peace and justice do come (and they will) it will be be because of the collective work and inspiation of those millions of Palestinians.
The humble collection of just a few of them is titled “Sowwan wa Sabr.” Sowwan is a the Palestinian flintstone, volcanic rock of all shapes, sizes and colors found throughout our homeland. It was used as tools by our ancestors in the stone age (reminants in Jabal Al-Karmal near Haifa). These are the stones used by Palestinian children to through at Israeli soldiers occupying their lands (for which they are met with M-16 and machine-gun fire). Sabr is the Palestinian cactus, resilient and enduring, with sweet fruits. In the demolished and depopulated Palestinian villages, it is sometimes the only plant cultivated by the native Palestinians that keeps regrowing. It is a collection of Sowwan and Cactus, resistance and hope.
I urge you to send me information on other worthy additions to this collection. I will start with Mahmoud Darwish, the premier Palestinian poet of exile and resistance.
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