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April 06, 2002
'To Be a Palestinian'

By Eyad El Sarraj


The scene was awesome: mothers whose faces portrayed happiness, determination, hope, and also pain. Their eyes were full of pride. The leader was kissing their heads respectfully in recognition of their favor. His eyes were shining as if saying, "Didn't I tell you? It is a stone's throw away!". Now the leader is imprisoned and humiliated, but the candle of hope is still shinning his path. She wrapped her arm around him as he wiped a tear; and she said after a while, "Abu Ammar has won. The mothers have won. I feel proud to have been born a Palestinian. It is a beautiful destiny that has us living these immortal days, despite all their bitterness." He muttered as if in prayer, "God is great. God-willing, victory is close." He recalled the memories. It is a unique issue, not only a national, security, political, or religious cause. It is greater than all that. No other issue has achieved this magnitude and sacredness. Look at all these people everywhere demonstrating and chanting for free Palestine. He remembered listening to Iqbal Ahmad, the great thinker, addressing a large gathering, "I came to you from a distant land; and I came because I'm a Palestinian like you." That was strange because he was a Muslim from Pakistan. He isn't even an Arab; so how could he be Palestinian? The great philosopher went on to explain the meaning of being a Palestinian, and how Palestine means love of justice. It points to the difference between victim and aggressor. It means freedom and human victory over evil.

Iqbal Ahmad was addressing hundreds of participants in a human rights international conference organized by Mr. Raji Sourani in 1994. The keynote speaker was supposed to be Edward Said; but he sent his best friend because he was ill. A few years after his speech in Palestine, Iqbal Ahmad passed away. But his words still live, especially now when everyone feels the pride of Palestine. Ahmad's words reverberated within him as he remembered what a Swedish friend told him during a visit to Gaza as it was being bombarded. She said that a Swedish artist put a model of a modern tank in one of Stockholm's key squares. He raised the Israeli flag on it and surrounded it with decoys of dead bodies, blood, and destroyed houses. Awareness of Palestine has progressed in Sweden, which was a firm supporter of Israel twenty years ago.

He remembered how the Mayor of Paris refused to attend a cultural event because Jerusalem's mayor, Ehud Olmert, was at the event. He recalled that a few days ago a large demonstration was held in Rome protesting Israeli aggression. Luisa Morgantini, a European MP, led the demonstration. Luisa had made Palestine a priority in her life. Israeli soldiers near Jerusalem beat her on the same day that they beat Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi. All of them, like Iqbal Ahmad, are Palestinians. They were inspired by the just cause. The firm belief in the cause and anger against injustice run in their veins. Each one of them became an ambassador of Palestine, carrying its flag that has become a symbol of freedom. He remembered Iqbal Ahmad's words when British MP James Gallaway stood against his government and defended the and called upon Arab leaders to unite and rise up to the occasion. He remembered Gallaway in Gaza during the Second Gulf War, when they stood on the roof of the Marna House.

The city was under curfew. Chants of "God is Great" started to rise until they became a thunderous call issuing from thousands of throats, including Gallaway's, from all over the city. It was a great believing in justice, longing for freedom, and an oath to steadfastness at all costs. Today, the oath is renewed, and an overriding feeling of being Palestinian prevails. It is spreading like fire in the land of the Arabs and all corners of the Earth. The proliferation of this meaning is the true defeat of the racist Israeli military establishment. It is a reversal of the picture and exposure of the truth. This might be Sharon's biggest achievement since his "victory" in Sabra and Chatilla. Millions everywhere are becoming Palestinians. When a small child lays some flowers on Iqbal Ahmad's grave, she is close to a symbol of Palestinian universality. And so, Palestine has gone beyond its geographical borders and has become the issue of the oppressed everywhere. Palestine has gone beyond ethnicity, religion, or nationalism. All the good people of this planet have joined its cause. There are even large numbers of Jews who have become Palestinians. Palestine has gone beyond leadership, slogans, fear, and darkness. Through sacrifice, it has lit a shining light in the world. The children of the stone are carrying the torch, as well as dedicated youth and defiant mothers. They have become symbols of freedom, and they are the fuel of the march. Every sacrifice is a symbol, each mother a flag, and every child a hope for the future. He replied to her, "and I'm proud to be a Palestinian."

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