by Israel Shamir
JAFFA, Israel -- Nobody is allowed to enter or leave the Gaza Strip. It is surrounded by barbed wire, its gates are locked, and even with the proper documents, one cannot visit the largest high security prison on earth, home to over one million Palestinians. The Israeli army, once a fabled fighting force, has become mere prison guard. The IDFs tactics were formulated back in 1930s, ‘you do not have to kill a million, kill the best, and the rest will be cowed’. This method was first applied by the British with the help of their Jewish allies during the Palestinian uprising of 1936. Since then, thousands of the best sons and daughters of this land, the potential elite of the Palestinians, have been exterminated. Once again, the Israeli army is being used to implement the same master plan, to ‘cool the restive natives’ by routinely shooting potential rebels.
Their job is easy: the strongest and biggest army in the Middle East, a major nuclear power, has all the weapons in the world, while the jailed Palestinians have only stones and light guns. Recently, Israelis intercepted a boatload of weapons on its way to Gaza. The Army boasted of a major victory, but expressed ‘concern’. They have a reason for concern. Since 1973, the Israeli army has rarely had to worry about return fire. The Jewish soldiers got used to soft jobs. They prefer to shoot unarmed kids.
Gaza is a sci-fi reality, reminiscent of some Prison Planet B-movie. Its barbed wire fence guards a secret: the unbroken will of its people. It is a B-movie set, but its men and women are first grade.
This secret message came out of Palestine embodied in a 13-years boy, Farris Ode. He was the youthful Palestinian David we saw confronting the Jewish Goliath on the outskirts of Gaza in the immortal photo by AP photographer Laurent Rebours. Farris the Fearless threw his stones on the armored monster with the grace of St George, the beloved saint of Palestine. He confronted the enemy with the nonchalance of a village boy chasing away a ferocious dog. The picture was taken on the 29th of October, and a few days later, on 8th of November, a Jewish sniper murdered him in cold blood.
He leaves behind a picture of a hero, a poster to be placed next to Che Guevara’s, a name to be spoken in the same breath with the name of Gavroche, the brave rebel kid from the barricades of Paris in Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables, a symbol of the unvanquished irreducible human spirit. He emerged from a different time, the time when heroism was not a dirty word, when men went to war ready to fight and die for a noble cause. Symbolically, his first name means ‘a Knight’, and the last name means ‘the Return of’. His image truly evoked the idea of the return of the gallant knights of yore. This spirit is totally foreign to the cheap commercial hedonism, the main ideology of our days, abundantly supplied by American pop-culture. Farris’s legacy is a sign of the failure of Israel’s master plan. This young rebel was born under Israeli military occupation and he died defying the soldiers of the IDF.
This message of hope was not immediately understood by friends of Palestine, as we have become accustomed to the idea of Palestinian suffering and martyrdom. In our writing, we unconsciously copycat the somewhat effeminate approach of presenting ‘our side’ as unfortunate victims deserving of compassion and pity. The last thing we should feel towards the Palestinians is pity. Admiration, love, solidarity, hero-worship, even envy, but no pity. If you pity them, you might as well pity the 300 warriors of King Leonidas, who fell defending Thermopylae, or the Russian soldiers who stopped Guderian’s tanks with their bodies, or even Gary Cooper in High Noon. Heroes should not be pitied, they are an uplifting example for us.
At first, we failed to correctly place the image of Farris. The narrative of suffering called for the picture of a crouching Muhammad Dorra, dying in front of our eyes, a child companion to the little naked Vietnamese girl running out of the fiery hell of napalm.
The image of the Knight who Came Back, Farris Ode belongs to a different set of icons: that of a hero. Its place is next to that of the Marines on Iwo Jima, or in a church next to his countryman, St George. After all, the warrior saint was martyred and buried in the Palestinian soil, not far from Farris, in the crypt of the old Byzantine church in Lydda.
The adversaries of the Palestinians understood this reality better than their pals in New York. The American Jewish-dominated press spared no effort to erase the memory of Farris, as they were unable to find a hero of their own to compete with the Gaza boy. MSNBC.com ran a silly contest for the most important Picture of the Year, with a choice between Dorrah the Martyr and a picture of dogs. (They always give you the choice, and it is always wrong one, whatever you choose.) The dogs were promoted by the Israeli consul in LA and voted for by many Israeli supporters, while the partisans of Palestine rose to vote for Dorrah. The really important picture, the icon of Farris, was not offered to the public.
But that was not enough, and the Washington Post sent its correspondent in Palestine, Lee Hockstader, to debunk the fallen kid’s memory. This AIPAC-run rag could depend on Hockstader. His reports should be studied in schools of journalism, in the course on disinformation. When the Israeli army tanks and gun ships blasted defenseless Bethlehem, Hockstader wrote: “In the Biblical (he would not mention Nativity, would he?) town of Bethlehem, Israeli soldiers and Palestinians fought with tanks, missiles, helicopters, machineguns and stones[i]”. I suspect that Hockstader’s history of WWII would narrate a tale where the US and Japan fought with nuclear bombs, or Jews and Germans killed each other with concentration camp gas canisters.
Hockstader duly justified Israeli raids on civilian population, writing: “Israeli army spokesmen say that the raids are limited and essentially defensive. But the Israeli government takes a broader view, noting that the raids give local military commanders flexibility against an elusive enemy». If he takes “a broader view” of Israeli actions, the Palestinians in his reports are just mad terrorists: “The Palestinians have been threatening to exact a price for what they regard as a war of aggression. A representative of the Islamic Resistance Movement known as Hamas, called for further suicide bombings and mortar fire against Israel.”
A fellow Hockstader-watcher, Francois Smith, wrote on the Web: “I am offended that this guy thinks I'm dumb enough to believe him. Watch out for Lee Hockstader. I think he has an agenda”.
Well, he certainly has; the agenda of enforcing Jewish supremacy and smearing Palestinians. Debunking Farris fits this agenda perfectly. Hockstader went to Gaza, and reported, that Farris was a bad boy who did not obey his mommy and daddy, that he played truant at school, he was an ‘adolescent daredevil’, who actually wanted to be killed, and a merciful Jewish sniper just fulfilled his wish. Hockstader missed nothing: the kid was shot while lifting a stone, and therefore had to be killed; his posthumous fame was ‘the hullabaloo over his death’; and anyway, his mother received ‘a $10,000 check from President Saddam Hussein of Iraq’.
Hockstader played safe. If he had dared to infer that the settler parents of the killed infant in Hebron wished their child dead, if he would refer to the Israeli reaction as ‘hullabaloo’, or just mention a fat check her parents received from the hands of the butcher of Sabra and Shatila – Hockstader would not have made it out of Israel alive, and Katherine Graham, the Washington Post’s owner, would be repenting it to her last day.
Jews have succeeded in cowering their enemies, and not only by the magic of words. Lord Moyne, British minister of state in the Middle East, dozens of British soldiers and officers and hundreds of Palestinian leaders were assassinated by Jews in their drive for supremacy in the Holy Land in 1940s, until the terrorized Brits sailed away from Haifa Bay on May 15, 1948. Even today, two peace activists and men of the cloth in San Francisco, a Catholic priest Labib Kobti and a Jewish Rabbi Michael Lerner, receive death threats from Jewish terrorist groups and take them very seriously.
The Palestinians are rather peaceful peasants and city folk. They know how to tend olives and vine, how to make a zir, a jar that keeps water cool even in the hottest hamsin. Their beautiful stone masonry adorns every corner of Palestine. They write poetry and venerate their holy tombs. They are no warriors, certainly no killers. With astonishment and disbelief they stare in the mirror of a Jewish dominated press and see themselves dressed in the mask of a bloody terrorist. But these peasants are still able give us all a lesson about heroism, whenever an enemy tries to snatch their land. Palestinians proved it many centuries ago, in the legendary days of Judges, when their ancestors battled with overseas invader.
In 1930s, a fervent Russian Jewish nationalist and founder of Sharon’s political party, Vladimir Zeev Jabotinsky wrote (in his native Russian) a historical novel, Samson, elaborating on the Bible story of the suicide bomber who killed three thousand men and women (Judges, 18:27) and died with the enemies. A few years ago, this novel was published in Israel in a modern Hebrew translation, and a Davar newspaper reviewer noted an interesting aberration.
For Jabotinsky, the Brits were the modern Philistines, while the Israelites became the Jews. But for a modern Israeli reader, the novel reads as a glorification of the Palestinian fight against Israeli rule. The highly civilized Philistines with their superior military technology, invaders from overseas, hedonistic dwellers of the Coastal Plain and belligerent intruders in the Highlands reminded the reviewer of modern Israeli Jews. While Samson’s people, Banu Israel, the natives of the Highlands, certain of their deep roots, confident of the inevitable victory of their attachment to the soil over the military might of the invader, reminded him of modern Palestinian Highlanders.
It makes sense, as the Palestinians are the true descendants of Biblical Israel, of the indigenous people who embraced the faith of Christ and Muhammad, and remained in the Holy Land forever. The Israelis know it. In the genetic labs of Tel Aviv, the researchers of the ‘Jewish DNA’ proudly produce every result, tenuously confirming the blood relation of Jews and Palestinians. They know that our Jewish claim to the proud name of Israel is at least dubious. Like Richard III, we seized the title and crown, and, like Richard III, we feel insecure while the legitimate heirs are still alive. That is the psychological explanation of our inexplicably cruel treatment of the native Palestinians.
The Israelis want to be Palestinians. We adopted their cuisine, and serve their falafel and hummus as our own ethnic food. We adopted the native cactus, sabra, growing at the site of their villages, as the name of our local-born sons and daughters. Our modern Hebrew language came to life with hundreds of Palestinian words. We just need to ask their forgiveness, embrace them as long lost brothers and learn from them. That is the one ray of hope coming out of the present darkness.
As modern Israeli archaeology studies have made clear, three thousand years ago the Highland tribes (Banu Israel of Bible) eventually achieved a modus vivendi with the Coastal ‘people of the sea’, and together, these sons of Samson and Delilah, became progenitors of the Bible composers, of Christ’s apostles and of modern Palestinians. The advanced Philistine technology and the Highlanders’ love of our parched land combined to achieve the spiritual miracle of ancient Palestine. It is not impossible, and it is highly desirous, that history will repeat itself, and the glorious image of young Farris, fighting the tank, will blend with images of king David and St George in the minds and schoolbooks of our Palestinian children.
Copyright © 2001 Israel Shamir. Israel Shamir
is an Israeli writer and journalist, living in Jaffa.