By Nabil Al Mulhem
Albawaba.com - Damascus
When journalists asked French philosopher Francois Chatelet about the last philosophy book she had read, she said it was a collection of poems that belonged to the Taramara Indian tribe. The bewildered journalists thought Chatelet hadn’t understood their question which was about philosophy. Chatelet, however, was adamant and said that the only philosophical thing she came across was that book of poems.
A young student, Haya Shams, who studies English Literature at Damascus University, said something quite similar,” the only lesson that I learnt during my university years was when I carried a small banner with the words ‘support the Intifada.’ Before that I was someone else, or maybe no one at all.”
Haya told Albawaba that she comes from a family that despises politics, because it is all lies, and that she lost her father because of politics, “That’s what my mother taught me. I grew up not to think of news or student activities regarding politics. I always preferred fashion over (political) parties or any of their slogans. I preferred to get a new pair of pants rather than to see someone interested in politics. We occasionally heard talk of war with Israel. Some used to say that peace is better than war, and that peace will bring job opportunities, economic prosperity and tourism. I was hoping to learn new languages including Hebrew, but I kept it to myself because I was afraid of being accused of doing something wrong. But all of a sudden, I heard the name of Mohammad Al Durra….they told me a small child was walking behind his father when Israeli snipers shot him. I didn’t give it much attention, but (TV) stations kept showing the scene, which wasn’t the most touching because there were others. After this, I continued to listen to the news and the only question that came to my mind is that why are all these young men dying? I think I know now why they are facing death, I finally realized that there was something more important than fashion.”
Haya feels the change inside her, she says those young men do not engage in politics, they are trying to find their homeland, to find a place for their bed. They are looking for a great meaning which she now understands. “What I know now is that I don’t want to be a tourist guide for anyone. I want to send a message to the Israelis wherever they are, to tell them I don’t want to make peace with you. I don’t want your tourist trips, if we have peace one day, I will demand that you restore the blood to our young men, otherwise I will be the first volunteer to carry out a suicide attack against the first group of tourists that visits our country. I’m calling for war, any war. I don’t want to win. I don’t care if we are defeated. I only want a war, an open war involving armies and people, I never thought I would hate anyone, but certainly I hate all Israelis, any Israeli, I’ve become a fanatic.”
Attef Mahamid, a post graduate student believes the Intifada, and the ensuing developments, underline certain facts on the ground which he tried to specify saying “I consider Marwan Barghouthi as a symbol of a new phenomenon created by the Intifada. This phenomenon marks the emergence of the second generation the Palestinian leadership.
“What happened is that the first generation is no longer there except for Abu Ammar (Yasser Arafat). There is now a new generation. Khalil Elwazir, Salah Khalaf, Wadi Haddad and George Habash were all victims of political assassination, or victims of age and biological changes, only Abu Ammar is still there.
“But the second generation has now emerged, if it wasn’t for the intifada, it wouldn’t have been there. Israel now seeks to eliminate that generation, shelling their homes and headquarters. This is a field generation, but the disaster is that the second generation emerged from among Palestinian and not Pan-Arab ranks. The Intifada has escalated to become a new liberation movement, but neither Jamal Abdel Nasser, nor Russia, or any Arab public figures stands behind it as the case was in the sixties.”
Novelist Ali Abdullah Saeed who read Haya and Attef’s answers, did not disagree, but he insisted that the era of the sixties, led by the Kremlin, was not any richer or more intense than the current one. He noted that the power generated by despair has a bigger effect than that nuclear power.
He says “what is important is that the Palestinians, and later on the other Arab peoples, have started to know the ‘ceilings’ of the Arab regimes. The Arab nations are now looking for their own ‘ceilings’, not a ceiling for a settlement or requirements of the regimes. Peoples have no ceilings at all, because the Intifada lifted the low ceilings from above our heads.”
Many high school students now ask whether the war is close. “Either they go to the ’elephants’ cemetery or we go,” one student said. But another student who looked smarter asks, ”but what is going on now? Isn’t it a war?”
He goes on to say, ”to talk about international resolutions, war does not require respect of such resolutions. I’m not asking that the Israelis honor international resolutions, I hope they will wage an open war against us, it is then that we will know whether we deserve to live or not. Life is larger than us, when an elephant fails to stand on its feet, it goes to a cemetery, and sits there until it dies. As to Israel, either we go to the cemetery or they go. We cannot co-exist, this is an illusion. These are not options that we have, it is a fact that looks like an eternal one. Believe me there is no other one, otherwise what makes the settlers use such violence against the Palestinians? It looks very strange that Arafat has been asked to control the Palestinians while the settlers are asked to destroy the Palestinians .
A nurse working for the Syrian Red Crescent reminisces,”when the injured Palestinians arrived at Al-Hilal hospital from Palestine carrying their wounds, I felt a change inside me. I was no longer a nurse doing public service and waiting for the end of the day. When the wounded arrived, I felt that the white angel title belongs to me. I felt respected for the first time since I became a nurse. Can you imagine how happy I felt? I know you will say you should have felt sad. Yes, I should have felt sad, I was ashamed to feel happy in front of the sick and wounded Palestinians. It is just that I have discovered that I have a dignity as a nurse….. I couldn’t go to Palestine, but it came to me.”
Young students in the Khan Elsheik refugee camp insisted we should ask their school principal to halt classes because they are ready to throw stones,” but at whom, we asked, and they said, ”we want to go to Palestine on foot.”
The Syrians now understand the Palestinian poem. The book of philosophy was a poem written by the Intifada and by the daily practice of people who decided to despair, and so they shook awake the spirit of the Arab nation.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )