By Joharah Baker
Two things happened this week that shook the Palestinians to their core. The first was the killing of Mustapha Tamimi, the 27-year old popular resistance activist who was shot directly in the face with a teargas canister while protesting Israel’s measures in his village. His death has struck a painful cord in every Palestinian who understands what it means to resist the occupation, to live under its yoke and to refuse to accept its measures as some sort of unfortunate status quo. Mustapha Tamimi, for whom thousands of Palestinians took to the streets to participate in his funeral, is the perfect example of the present and future shape of Palestine’s struggle. His village has carried out a courageous battle against Israel’s expropriation of land for the illegal settlement of Halmish and against the usurpation of its water supply, week after week, without a break. While the demonstrations have been peaceful, Israel has been unrelenting. Residents have been beaten, injured and arrested by Israeli troops but Mustapha’s death marks the first real loss. The ultimate violence of Israel’s occupation has caught up with Nabi Saleh.
The second thing that shook us was the comments made by Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich. By now, almost everyone has heard about his racist, outrageous rant, about how he offensively called the Palestinians an “invented people” and how we were all “terrorists.” Palestinians, all the way from officials to facebookers, raged against Gingrich, demanding an apology and advising the staunch Israel supporter to “check his facts.” Still, the expediency with which we responded did not lessen the sting.
These two events epitomize all that is right and all that is wrong with Palestine’s affairs today. Mustapha Tamimi lived and died a hero for his cause. The popular resistance led by his village is what all revolutionary movements are striving for – consistency, efficacy and passion. He has died, but his cause has not, his memory has not and the throes of people who stood beside him will not give up the fight even as they bitterly mourn their brother and friend.
Gingrich represents the dark side of affairs. He is not alone in his own twisted and racist way of thinking. A slice of America – no matter how small we may make it might to be – adheres to this mindset and blindly supports Israel regardless of what it does or who it hurts.
What is even more outrageous than Gingrich being allowed a podium to vent his venom is that no one has stopped him. The United States and Israel are always breathing down the Palestinians’ necks about spreading incitement and hate and the leadership has honed its words and actions to suit international demands, even in our darkest hours.
Apparently, incitement against the Palestinians (those invented people) is acceptable, even by a man who may become the next president of the United States.
The fact remains that Mustapha Tamimi died right around the time when Gingrich decided to slander us. Tamimi died fighting for his country, his land, his people and his identity. There was nothing “invented” about him or the Palestine for which died. If anything, inanities such as Gingrich’s will only make us fight harder. We will not be made irrelevant, we will not be slandered and we will not accept insults slung at us by some right-wing Republican who probably doesn’t know the second thing about Palestine or the Palestinians.
Someone should send Gingrich a picture of Tamimi. Maybe if he saw the throngs of people, clad in kuffiyehs , raising Palestinian flags and weeping over their comrade, he would see what kind of “invention” the Palestinian people really are. He would see how strong and how proud the Palestinians have always been and how determined they are to regain their land. Maybe then he will realize that no matter how much he tries to slander us or insult us, he is only making a fool out of himself. It is not for someone like Newt Gingrich to tell us who we are. We already know.
Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at [email protected]