Israel tore Fadi Alloun’s family apart; then it killed him

Fadi Samir Alloun in an undated image posted on Facebook.

Last week, Fadi Alloun celebrated his 19th birthday with friends in Issawiyeh, a village in occupied East Jerusalem. He was thrilled that he had recently obtained a driving license. As a birthday gift, his father promised to help him buy a car. Continue reading “Israel tore Fadi Alloun’s family apart; then it killed him”

Our son died confronting occupation, teen’s family insist

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A large picture of Yasser and Samer al-Kasbeh covers the wall of the living room at their family’s home in Qalandiya refugee camp, between Jerusalem and Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

Yasser was just 11 years old when he was killed by Israeli occupation forces on 16 December 2001, and Samer was just 15 when he was killed — fewer than 40 days later — on 25 January 2002.

That was at the peak of the second intifada and Muhammad al-Kasbeh, their youngest brother, was just 3 years old at the time.

The loss of his brothers would profoundly shape Muhammad’s life and permanently haunt his parents.

Being the youngest boy among five sons and two daughters, Muhammad was especially spoiled by his parents. And the care was accompanied with constant apprehension and caution.

Noting his son’s involvement in protests against the Israeli occupation from an early age, Muhammad’s father Sami, better known as Abu Thaer, opted to take him out of school at the age of 16. Abu Thaer works at a school canteen where his son regularly helped him.

That decision came after Muhammad had been injured twice during protests in July 2014.

“I appealed to him not to go to protests or to participate in clashes, not because I don’t support resistance, but because we’ve already endured the loss of two sons and couldn’t handle another,” Muhammad’s father told The Electronic Intifada.

Not even the watchful eyes of a protective family, though, could have saved Muhammad when the bullet of Yisrael Shomer, commander of Israel’s Binyamin Brigade, ended his life last Friday.

“Nothing to hide”

Accounts of Muhammad al-Kasbeh’s death vary, with initial reports published by Ma’an News Agency and other local Palestinian media claiming that he was shot dead while trying to climb the Israeli wall in al-Ram, a village just east of occupied Jerusalem.

But the boy’s family, neighbors and residents in the camp assert that he was killed during clashes at the al-Ram-Qalandiya junction.

“We have nothing to conceal,” said Houriyeh, a woman elder and a close friend and neighbor of the al-Kasbeh family.

“Muhammad was killed after he threw a rock at the jeep of high-ranking Israeli officers; the rock broke the jeep’s window, prompting the officer to get out of the car and fire at him from close range, and then pose with his gun in glee. What Muhammad did was heroic and we should not be shy or ashamed of saying that our son died while resisting the occupation,” she added.

The Israeli and mainstream western media’s tendency to vilify Palestinian youths who throw stones, coupled with the obsession with nonviolent resistance, has led even some Palestinians to avoid talking about throwing stones or Molotov cocktails, and sometimes to deny that it happens.

Even though Palestinians have every right to resist a military occupation that denies them their freedom and strips them of their land, there is a perception that reporting about it somehow delegitimizes the Palestinian cause, justifies the Israeli killings and erodes international sympathy with the Palestinians.

Muhammad al-Kasbeh’s mother, Fatima, mourns during her 17-year-old son’s funeral on 3 July.Oren ZivActiveStills

But there was no such concern from the al-Kasbeh family.

The reality for Palestinian youths is that there is no avoiding the occupation: it confronts them every waking moment, and often during the night as they sleep in their beds. Its relentless and pervasive violence constricts and stifles every aspect of their lives.

Family members also lamented the inaccuracies in some Palestinian reports and questioned the reasons behind them. “This feels like an attempt to scare the youth from climbing the wall to get to Jerusalem,” said one of the neighbors sitting next to al-Kasbeh’s mother.

A statement issued by the Jerusalem branch of the political faction Fatah, for instance, repeats the same claim, that al-Kasbeh was killed while scaling the wall.

“Dream come true”

Fatima, Muhammad’s mother, told The Electronic Intifada that Muhammad had indeed climbed the wall on the second Friday of the present fasting month of Ramadan, exactly a week before his killing.

“It was the first time he entered Jerusalem in eight years,” she said. “Praying in al-Aqsa mosque and seeing Jerusalem was a dream come true for him.”

Sami al-Kasbeh said that the family had applied for a permit from occupation authorities but it was rejected, which led Muhammad to take the more dangerous path to Jerusalem of climbing the wall.

“He didn’t tell me that he was intending to go to Jerusalem because he knew I wouldn’t let him do it and the day he was killed I didn’t know if he was going to try to repeat it,” Abu Thaer said.

“I wish I had died before he left the home. I wish I had died before Hammoudeh [Muhammad’s nickname] had left me,” said Fatima, who is one of three Palestinian women in Qalandiya refugee camp to lose at least two of her sons at the hands of Israel.

Palestinians climb Israel’s wall in the village of al-Ram to attend Friday prayer at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, 3 July. Yotam RonenActiveStills

The road from Qalandiya to Jerusalem should be open to Palestinians; it is not supposed to be mined with checkpoints, walls and death. But this is the reality as Israel has isolated Palestinians in the rest of the West Bank from their city of Jerusalem.

Israeli occupation forces have justified Shomer’s killing of al-Kasbeh. “The commander did what he had to do due to threat to his life,” an army spokesperson told Haaretz newspaper.

Al-Kasbeh was the 15th Palestinian to be killed by Israeli occupation forces since the start of this year, according to statistics compiled by the United Nations monitoring group OCHA.

He is also the second child to be killed this year. In April, Israeli occupation forces shot dead 17-year-old Ali Muhammad Abu Ghannam near a checkpoint in occupied East Jerusalem.

Killings of Palestinians by Israeli occupation forces, including children, are almost never credibly investigated and Israeli personnel enjoy near total impunity for such killings.

Shared destiny

Muhammad al-Kasbeh is not the first Palestinian teen to be killed for attempting to overcome Israel’s racist system of permits and its violent occupation.

On 25 July 2014, during a march from Qalandiya checkpoint that sought to reach Jerusalem on one of the last nights of Ramadan, Muhammad al-Araj, also 17 at the time, was shot dead by Israeli occupation forces.

During that same march, al-Kasbeh was injured for the second time in as many weeks.

The two teens, both refugees from villages near Lydd, a town in present-day Israel which was ethnically cleansed in 1948, knew each other well. Suhad Abu Gharbiyeh, Muhammad al-Araj’s mother, who was at last week’s funeral and said it was like reliving her son’s slaying, knows the pain of al-Kasbeh’s mother more than anyone else.

Al-Araj was killed on his birthday. Last Friday, the day of al-Kasbeh’s killing, was the day al-Araj would have gotten his high school graduation exam results.

A few weeks ago, al-Araj’s classmates at the Arab Evangelical Episcopal School in Ramallah, where he was studying hotel management, held their graduation ceremony. His picture was there. All the speeches and commencement addresses were dedicated to him and his family received his graduation certificate from the school. But Muhammad was missing.

The personalities and lives of Muhammad al-Kasbeh and Muhammad al-Araj perhaps could not have been more different. The former was dedicated to participating in protests, while the latter had never attended a protest prior to the 25 July march, when he was killed. In fact, al-Araj wanted to leave Palestine and pursue his studies in the United States.

It was almost unthinkable that the teenager, who had cooked his family a delicious sayadiyeh (baked fish and rice) just a day before his death, would be killed in a protest near a checkpoint before he would have a chance to cut his own birthday cake.

Despite their differences, however, the destiny of al-Kasbeh and al-Araj ultimately converged in the most painful fashion.

Both were killed at 17 years of age during Ramadan. Both were shot while standing on the frontline against the army that occupies and humiliates their people.

They also hurled another rock — albeit metaphorically — at those who justify shooting live bullets at stone throwers, or equate resistance with military occupation and impose the condition of “nonviolence” on their solidarity with Palestinians.

صورة ثورة: رحلة فائق المير

«أين الثوار العلمانيون؟»، يتساءل أحد «اليساريين» الغربيين الجهابذة، والذي غدت مهمته الرئيسية أن ينافس نظيره الإسلاموفوبي على اليمين في مَن يعدّ أكثر على اليوتيوب اللحى والـ«الله أكبر» التي يصرخ بها المقاتلون والمتظاهرون.

«لمَ لم يحتشد السوريون في ساحات مركزية، فيكون لهم ’ميدان تحرير‘ على الطريقة المصرية؟»، يندب مراقب آخر بفهلوية شديدة (شديدة لدرجة أنه فوّت الاعتصام الضخم ضد النظام في ساحة الساعة وساحات الخالدية في حمص وساحة العاصي في حماه ‒يكفي ثلاثة..‒ والذين تم تفريقهم بشراسة من قبل قوى الأمن والجيش النظامي).

«الوضع في سوريا شديد التعقيد. حرب أهلية طائفية بالوكالة. دعنا نأمل أن يحلّ السلام ولنمتنع عن الميل لأحد الأطراف»، يعلّق أحدهم وقد كان عادةً يُمطرنا بمقولات مالكوم إكس (الزعيم الأميركي المسلم) ومارتن لوثر كينغ (الزعيم الأميركي الأسود) عن ضرورة التخلي عن الحياد مع وجود صراع أخلاقي هائل.

أصبح مرهقاً تكرار بديهيات الثورة السورية مرة تلو أخرى. كما أن الثوار السوريين، المضطهدين، ليسوا مضطرين لعبء الدفاع عن عدالة قضيتهم، بينما بشار الأسد يواصل الاستمتاع بالحصانة التامة والشرعية الرئاسية التي يُتعامل معه على أساسها. ولا يَدين السوريون بأي شروحات أو تبريرات لأولئك الذين يصرفون النظر عن تضحياتهم ويركّزون على دعم بل وتمجيد الكفاح المسلح والعنف الثوري في كل مكان سوى سوريا.

الجهل بخصوص الثورة السورية صارخ وصاخَ ولا يمكن التغاضي عنه، ومع ذلك، التأكيد على حقائق بسيطة مراراً وتكراراً مسألة لا يمكن تجنّبها، وما تزال ضرورية، على الأقل كي لا يقول أولئك الناس غداً إنهم لم يتعرفوا إلى واقع الثورة. إذا كنت تتجاهل الثورة السورية أو تقلل من شأن أفاعيل الأسد التي يصعب وصف مدى الوحشية والطغيان فيها، فأنت تغض الطرف عمداً. لا تقل غداً لم يحذروني ولم يخبروني.

بسبب ما لا يحصى من الحواجز التي تمزّق المدينة، وبسبب تواجد أمني مرعب لا مثيل له في أي بلد عربي، لم يتمكن السوريون من ملء ساحة مركزية في دمشق. متراس الثورة الشعبي الأساسي كانت المجتمعات المحافظة والكادحة في ضواحي وهوامش المدن، وقد كانت هذه المجتمعات أكثر من دفع الثمن جراء سياسات بشار الأسد وأبيه من قبله. نفس الناس الذين هتفوا «الله أكبر» ‒تلك الجملة التي بطريقة ما تثير رعب العالم المتمدن أكثر من كل صواريخ سكود والطيران الحربي والقنابل العنقودية في ترسانة النظام‒ هم نفسهم الذين غنوا للثورة في المساجد وحولوا مواكب تشييع الشهداء إلى مظاهرات أشبه بالأعراس. حتى تحت الحصار أو القصف أو التجويع الذي يواظب عليه النظام كانوا بمنتهى الروعة يصونون إباءهم ويلقّنون عالماً ميتاً معنى الحياة.

هذا ناهيك عن أن الذين نزلوا إلى الشوارع مطالبين بإسقاط النظام نفسهم نزلوا إلى الشوارع محتجّين على المتشددين الإسلاميين، ناهيك عن أنهم أُجبروا على خوض عدة معارك على عدة جبهات وحيدِين في وقت واحد. لو كان مؤيدو النظام ومدّعو الحياد ينتقدون النظام كما مؤيدو الثورة ينتقدون مقاومتهم المسلحة ومعارضتهم السياسية، ربما كان يمكن توفير الكثير من الدماء المراقة.

لم يمتلك السوريون كذلك ترف البقاء سِلميين. ولا ترف انتقاء حلفاء لثورتهم؛ وبالتالي من غير المعقول إدانة انتفاضة شعبية بالكامل ببساطة لأن الغرب أو طغاة الخليج العربي زعموا أنهم يدعمونها.

الثوار الجذريون في سوريا لم يختفوا في قبّعة ساحر. معظمهم بين اعتُقل أو قُتل أو أُجبر على مغادرة البلاد، لكن أولئك الذين صمدوا متمسكون بالمبادئ الأصل في الثورة السورية. فائق المير أحد هؤلاء. أو، فائق المير كان أحد هؤلاء؛ فقد انضمّ هو الآخر لقوائم معتقلي الضمير في السجون السورية التي لا تنتهي، وذلك حين قبضت عليه قوى الأمن في منزله في دمشق يوم السابع من تشرين الأول 2013.

ولد فائق في بلدة القدموس في ريف طرطوس، وتخرج من المعهد المتوسط للكهرباء التابع لجامعة حلب. أثناء الدراسة وثم العمل في سد الطبقة في محافظة الرقة، بدأ نشاطه السياسي في بداية السبعينات، وقد انتمى إلى ’الحزب الشيوعي السوري ‒ المكتب السياسي‘، والذي أسسه عام 1972 الشيوعي السوري المعروف رياض الترك. وكان ’المكتب السياسي‘ قد انفصل عن ’الحزب الشيوعي السوري‘ بقيادة خالد بكداش، الستاليني الحليف للنظام البعثي. ’المكتب السياسي‘ كان أحد أوائل الأحزاب اليسارية في سوريا الذي دعا علناً للديمقراطية والتعددية، مما أدى إلى حظره من قبل النظام.

الاعتقال الأول لـ’المير‘ حدث في نيسان 1979، حيث اعتقلته المخابرات العسكرية شهراً بسبب توزيعه مناشير. تلك المدة السريعة في السجن ستكون محض خطوة أولى في رحلة متخمة بالمضايقات والاعتقالات. في آذار 1983 طُرد ’المير‘ من عمله في سد الفرات بطلب من فرع الأمن السياسي، بسبب نشاطه. عام 1987 تم إنذاره بسبب اشتراكه في حزب محظور، وقد أجبره الإنذار على التخفي بينما كانت ابنته فرح في شهرها الثاني من العمر. وفي النهاية تم اعتقال ’المير‘ عام 1989 وحُكم عليه عشر سنوات سجناً فقط بتهمة مناضل شيوعي ديمقراطي. ولم يتمكن من رؤية ابنته حتى 1992 في سجن صيدنايا؛ السنوات الخمس العجاف غيّرنَ من شكله لدرجة أن فرح لم تتمكن من ربط وجهه بصورة الرجل المعلقة صورته في المنزل ‒ بابا!

فائق المير، أو العميم أبو علي كما يناديه أصدقاؤه ورفاقه، كان ذا قلب لا يهزّه اليأس وروح عصية على الانكسار. حتى بعد 10 سنوات في لسجن، لم يضطرب الرجل ولم يتخلّ عن النضال من أجل الحرية والديمقراطية في سوريا. كان مشاركاً نشطاً في «ربيع دمشق»، ذاك الثوران السريع والجدل السياسي والاجتماعي الذي ازدهر بعد وفاة حافظ الأسد عام 2000 وتبخّر سريعاً وانتهى باعتقال عدد من ناشطيه، ومنهم رياض الترك و’المير‘. الأخير بقي قيادياً في ’المكتب السياسي‘ حيث عقد مؤتمره السادس عام 2005، مغيراً اسمه إلى ’حزب الشعب الديمقراطي السوري‘ ومتبنياً مقاربة اليسار الديمقراطي.

في 2006، تم اعتقال ’المير‘ مجدداً، هذه المرة بسبب زيارة إلى لبنان وحداد على اغتيال الصحفي سمير قصير والسياسي الشيوعي جورج حاوي ‒ وكلاهما معروف بمعارضته للنظام السوري. اتُهم بإضعاف الروح القومية ووهن عزيمة الأمة، وهي أشياء يرمى بها أي ناشط ديمقراطي في سوريا. ليس مفاجئاً أن نظاماً عيّن نفسه تجسيداً لـ«الأمة» وراح يجرد السوريين من أصواتهم وحقهم في تقرير مصيرهم يتهم كل من يجرؤ على تحدي سطوته وسرديته بـ«وهن عزيمة الأمة».

كان ردّ ’المير‘ على التهم الموجة إليه في المحاكمة، كما ذكر الكاتب اللبناني زياد ماجد، أن قال «هدفي الحفاظ على الاستقلال الوطني وتحرير الجولان وإنهاء الاستبداد وإقامة الدولة الديموقراطية… إننا مستمرون في معركة الديموقراطية».

فائق المير جسّد القيم الحقيقية لليسار، ليس فقط لدفاعه عن الديمقراطية والعدالة الاجتماعية، بل أيضاً لأنه طالما عمل على الأرض بلا تعب وبلا خجل من أشياء قليلة الجاذبية. لقد كان تمرّده المدهش والتزامه المستحيل هما ما جعلاه يدفع الثمن من أجود سنوات حياته، وينفصل عن عائلته، محروماً من حقه في حياة أو ما يشبه حياة طبيعية.

بعد كل ذلك، منطقي جداً أن يكون فائق المير بين الطليعة التي انضمت إلى الثورة السورية من أجل الحرية والكرامة التي انطلقت في آذار 2011. يوم انطلقت الثورة، كان فائق المير قد أجبر على التخفي (مرة أخرى) بعدما داهمت قوى الأمن السوري منزله في طرطوس عام 2010 وحكمت عليه محكمة في دمشق غيابياً بخمس عشرة سنة. لكن ذلك لم يمنع ’المير‘ من المشاركة الفاعلة في الثورة، فقد شارك في مظاهرات ضد النظام في دمشق وريفها خلال المراحل الأولى من الانتفاضة.

بالإضافة إلى ذلك، عمل عن قرب مع الشهيد عمر عزيز، وكان بين قليلين آمنوا ودعموا بحماس فكرته ورؤيته بخصوص تأسيس مجالس محلية. ’المير‘ كان مع الشهيد عزيز حين أبصر النور المجلس المحلي في برزة في العاصمة دمشق. «شو هالشعب الرائع! شو هالثورة!»، يستذكر ’المير‘ صرخات عزيز وهو يشهد المشاركة الشعبية المذهلة في المجلس المحلي في برزة، والسعادة التي طغت عليه مع تحقيق الشكل الأول من الحكم الذاتي في سوريا الثائرة.

’المير‘ سيستمر بعد ذلك في تنظيم المساعدات وأعمال الإغاثة في الغوطة الشرقية، التي لا ينتهي حولها الحصار أو عليها القصف.

قدرة أبو علي على البقاء مفعماً بالأمل والإيجابية حتى خلال أشد اللحظات كآبةً مذهلة وملهمة. أحد أصدقائه المقربين، وهو ناشط شاب، يقول: «رغم أنه في التاسعة والخمسين، كنا نشعر أن بو علي أصغر منا جميعاً. كان يعاملنا بحنوّ الأب وروح الصديق، ولم يتصرف معنا بفوقية يوماً، ونادراً ما ذكر تجربته في السجون».

أبو علي، المعتقل السياسي السابق الذي لم يحدث أن استخدم تجربته في السجن عذراً له للتراخي أو للحصول على امتياز في المعاملة؛ الأب المحبّ والزوج الذي قضى وقتاً أطول ما بين السجن والخفاء مما بين أبنائه وزوجته الصامدة، سمر؛ الناشط الجذري المجتهد والذي، رغم انتمائه إلى أقلية دينية، لم يحبس نفسه في طائفة، وفضّل الإيمان بثورة الشعب وبأنه لا يحق لأحد ولا لطائفة طلب أو توقّع ضمانات مقابل الانضمام للثورة؛ الإنسان المتّقد الذين لم يتوقف عن المطالبة بإطلاق سراح المعتقلين السياسيين وإلقاء الضوء على قضيتهم… أبو علي نفسه اليوم معتقل.

قبل أيام قليلة جداً من اعتقاله، كتب فائق المير على صفحته على فيسبوك دعوة لإطلاق سراح صديقه خليل معتوق في ذكرى اعتقاله السنوية الأولى. معتوق محامٍ وحقوقي معروف، وهو الذي دافع عن ’المير‘ في محكمة 2007. وللمفارقة المفجعة هما معاً في السجن الآن، وهما، كالملايين من السوريين، مستهدفان ومعاقبان بسبب كفاحهما من أجل غد أفضل لسوريا، غد بلا استبداد، غد بلا اعتقال سياسي، غد بلا أسد وأسديين.

Portrait of a Revolution: The Journey of Faiek al-Meer

Budour Hassan
Published in TheRepublicGS.net

«Where are the secular rebels?» wonders one apprehensive Western «leftist», whose main task has become to emulate his Islamophobic counterpart on the right by counting the number of beards he sees in a YouTube video and the «Allahu Akbars» the fighters and demonstrators shout out.

«Why did Syrians not pack central squares like Egyptians, creating a Tahrir Square of their own?» laments another remarkably keen observer (so keen, in fact, that he managed to miss the huge anti-regime sit-ins in Homs’s Clock and Khaldiyeh Squares and Hama’s Assi Square – to name but three – all of them ruthlessly dispersed by the Syrian regime’s security forces and army).

«The situation in Syria is too complex. It’s a sectarian civil proxy war. Let us just hope for peace and refrain from taking sides», comments he who bombs us with quotes by Malcolm X and Martin Luther King on the duty to abandon neutrality in times of great moral conflict.

Repeating the basics about the Syrian revolution time and again has become exhausting. And Syrian revolutionaries, the oppressed, should not have to bear the burden to prove the justice of their cause while Bashar Al-Assad continues to enjoy full impunity and treatment as a legitimate president. Nor do Syrians owe explanations and justifications to those who dismiss their sacrifices and insist on supporting and even glorifying armed resistance revolutionary violence everywhere except in Syria.

Because of the countless checkpoints tearing the city apart and a security presence unmatched by any other Arab country in heft, Syrians never had the ability to fill a central square in Damascus. The main social bulwark of the revolution exists in conservative working class communities in the suburbs and the periphery because these communities have suffered the most damage at the hands of both Bashar al-Assad and his father. The same people who shout Allahu Akbar—that phrase that somehow manages to frighten the civilised world more than the regime’s SCUD missiles, fighter jets and cluster bombs— also sing revolutionary songs in mosques and turn funeral processions of martyrs into wedding-like protests. Even while besieged, shelled and starved to death by the regime, they miraculously remain defiant and teach life to a dead world.

Never mind that first people who took to the streets demanding the overthrow of the regime also took to the streets protesting against Islamist extremists. Never mind that they are forced to fight several battles on several fronts at once and by themselves. Perhaps, if regime supporters or those who claim neutrality were a fraction as critical of the regime as supporters of the revolution are critical of armed resistance and political opposition, we would have been spared most this bloodshed.

The ignorance regarding the Syrian revolution is too deafeningly loud to overlook at this point. Yet, stressing simple facts over and over again is unavoidable and still quite necessary, if only for the sole purpose of establishing that people cannot say they did not know about the reality of this revolution. If you are ignoring the Syrian revolution or are minimizing Assad’s unspeakably inhumane and dictatorial actions, you are willfully looking the other way. Don’t say you weren’t warned or informed.

Syrians also did not have the luxury to remain peaceful or pick and choose their allies. It is thus preposterous to denounce an entire popular uprising simply because the West and GCC tyrannies supposedly back it.

As for Syria’s grassroots rebels, they haven’t magically disappeared. The majority were imprisoned, killed or forced to leave the country, but those who have remained are clinging to the original principles of the revolution. One of them is Faiek al-Meer. Or rather, Faiek al-Meer was one of them. But he, too, joined the endless lists of prisoners of conscience detained by the Syrian regime when he was arrested by its security forces from his Damascus home on 7 October, 2013.

Born in 1954 in the town of al-Qadamous in the Tartous countryside, al-Meer graduated from the Intermediate Technical Institute of Aleppo University with a degree in electrical techniques. While studying and then working in at-Tabqa Dam in ar-Raqqah governorate, he began his political activism in the early 1970s, joining the Syrian Communist Party (Political Bureau), founded by prominent Syrian communist Riad al-Turk in 1972. The SCP-PB split from the Syrian Communist Party, the latter led at the time by Stalinist Khalid Bakdash who allied with Hafez Al-Assad’s Baathist regime. The SCP-PB was among the first leftist parties in Syria that openly advocated for democracy and pluralism. It was thus banned by the Syrian regime.

Al-Meer’s first arrest came in April 1979 when he was detained for a month by the military intelligence for distributing pamphlets. That brief stint in jail would prove to be only but a first step in a journey crammed with persecution and arrests. In March of 1983, al-Meer was fired from his job at the Euphrates Dam at the request of the political security branch due to his political activism. In 1987, he was indicted for participating in a banned party. The indictment forced him into hiding when his daughter Farah was only two months old. Al-Meer was eventually arrested in 1989 and was sentenced to ten years in jail for the crime of being a communist striving for democracy. He could not see his daughter until 1992 in Saidnaya prison; those rocky five years changed his complexion so much that Farah failed to recognise that he was her father.

Faiek al-Meer, or Uncle Abu Ali as his friends and comrades call him, possessed an unbreakable spirit and a heart unshakable by despair. Even after spending 10 years in jail, he did not waver or abandon the struggle for freedom and democracy in Syria. He was an active participant in the «Damascus Spring», a short-lived outburst of political and social debate that flourished following the death of Hafez al-Assad in 2000 but was quickly snuffed out resulting in the arrest of several of its activists, including Riad al-Turk and al-Meer. He remained a leading member in the SCP-PB as it held its sixth congress in 2005, changing its name into the Syrian Democratic People’s Party and adopting the approach of social democracy.

As pointed out by Lebanese journalist Ziad Majed, al-Meer responded in his trial to the charges saying: «My aim is to maintain Syria’s sovereignty, liberate the occupied Golan, end tyranny and create a democratic country… andhe battle for democracy will go on».

Faiek al-Meer embodied the true values of the left, not just because he advocated for democracy and social justice, but also because he always worked tirelessly on the ground, never shying away from doing the unattractive stuff. It was that incredible insubordination and commitment that cost him the best years of his life, separated him from his family, and denied him the right to lead anything resembling a normal life.

It was only fitting, then, that Faiek al-Meer would be among the first to join the Syrian revolution for freedom and dignity in March 2011. By the time the revolution began, Faiek al-Meer had already been forced into hiding (again) after Syrian security forces raided his family home in Tartous in 2010 and a Damascus court had sentenced him to 15 years in absentia. This did not stop al-Meer from participating actively in the revolution, however. He took part in anti-regime protests in Damascus and its countryside during the early stages of the uprising.

In addition, he worked closely with martyr Omar Aziz and was one of the few people who believed in and fervidly supported Aziz’s idea and vision to found revolutionary local councils.  Al-Meer was with martyr Aziz when the first local council in Barzeh, Damascus saw light. He remembers vividly the happiness that overwhelmed them at achieving the first form of self-governance in revolutionary Syria. «What a wonderful people! What a revolution!», he recalls Aziz exclaiming upon witnessing the stunning popular participation in the Barzeh local council.

Al-Meer would later go on to organise aid and relief work in the besieged and constantly under-shelling eastern Ghouta.

Abu Ali’s capacity to remain hopeful and positive even during the most morose periods has been astounding and inspiring. One of his close friends, a young activist, says: «Though 59, we felt that Abu Ali was younger than all of us. He treated us with the love of a father and the spirit of a friend and never acted with superiority. He also rarely mentioned his experiences in jail».

Abu Ali, the former political prisoner who never used his experience in prison as an excuse to relax or to attain privileged treatment; the loving father and husband who has spent more time in jail and in hiding than with his two children and steadfast wife, Samar; the assiduous grassroots activist who, despite coming from a religious minority, never confined himself to a sect instead believing in the people’s revolution and that no-one or sect should demand or expect guarantees in order to join the uprising; the warm-hearted man who ceaselessly demanded the release of political prisoners and shed light on their case. Abu Ali is now a prisoner himself.

Only a few days before his arrest, Faiek al-Meer would write on his Facebook page a call to release of friend Khalil Ma’atouq on the first anniversary of Ma’atouq’s arrest. Maatouq, a prominent human rights lawyer who represented al-Meer during his 2007 trial, has been in Syrian regime jails for over a year. Fatefully, the two are in jail now. And they, like millions of Syrians, are targeted and punished for fighting for a better tomorrow for Syria, a future without despotism, a future without political prisoners, a future without Assad and his regime.

الشهيد هرمان والاس

”حبيبتي (ماريا)، كفكفي دموعكِ!
أنا لم أمُتْ.. إِنَّ من يرحلونَ وهم قابضون على النارِ المقدّسةِ بأصابعَ نحيلةٍ ومتشقّقةٍ لا يمكنُ أن يقال عنهم أموات.
دعيهم يحتفلوا ويتبادلوا أنخابَ انتصارِهِم على جسدي الكسيح، فهم لا يعلمونَ أنّي غادرت إمبراطوريّتَهُم المترهّلةَ، وأني أُقيمُ في محلّة أنقى وأرقى. أنا يا (ماريا) في مكانٍ لا تَحكُمُهُ قوانينُهم الشّائهةُ وقراراتُهم الزائفة ومكاتبهم المتكبّرة، مكانٍ لا تستطيعُ أحذيتُهم المُلمَّعةُ أن تطأَهُ كي تسحقَ بشراتِنا الدّاكنةَ وصدورَنا السّمراءَ وجِباهنا المتعرّقة، مكانٍ لا تنهشُ فيه براثِنُ العدلِ العسوفِ لحمَ الفقراءِ والمهاجرينَ والمُشرَّدينَ والعاهرات، إنه يا (ماريا) مكان يكفر بالحكم والتحكيم والحكّام والحكماء.

”حبيبتي (ماريا)،
سامحيني لأنّي رحلتُ قبلَ أن أعانقَكِ تحتَ ضوءِ قمر، وقبل أن أقبّلَ الشفاه اللواتي أنهكتهن الأربعون.. أربعون يا (ماريا)، أربعون من الانتظارِ والأملِ بمعجزةِ مسيحٍ جديد… لم يتسنَّ لنا أن نعيشَ في بيتنا الّذي صمّمته في زنزانتي الضّيّقة… ولكنّنا سنلتقي يا قمري ذات قمر، وسأُسمعك غزلي البذيء الذي حفظه لكِ خطّي الرديء في تلك العتمة. فإن افتقدتِني في الليل إلى ذلك الحين فانظري إلى السماء.

”السّيّدة (تيني)،
أنا أفهمُ ألمَكِ، ولكن جسدي ذوى قبل أن أخبركِ بذلك، وقبل أن أشكركِ لإيمانكِ ببراءتنا.
أنتِ تدركينَ كم من الظُّلمِ والغُبنِ فُرضَ علينا. لقد مكثتُ اثنين وأربعين عامًا وحيدًا في زنزانةٍ مرعبة، لم يُسمح لي بمغادرتها إلّا ساعةً في اليوم على أكثر تقدير، لا لأنني قاتل بل لأنّي كنتُ ناشطًا ضدّهم داخل السّجن، ولأنّ لونَ بشرتي كان الّلونَ الخطأ. تعرفين أننا لم نقتلْ زوجَكِ. بصماتُ القَتَلَةِ لا تشير لنا، ومحاكمتُنا كانت منافيةً حتّى للدّستورِ الذي يتشدّقونَ بقدسيّته.

”شقيقاتي الخمس،
فلْتكُنْ ضحكاتكنّ وضحكاتُ أطفالكنّ أبلغَ انتقامٍ لنا من العنصريّةِ الّتي سرقت أحلامَنا وخبزَنا وعرقَنا وحياتَنا، والتي عَجِزَت عن اغتيالِ حبّ الحياةِ في قلوبِنا.

”(روبرت) و(آلبرت)، رفيقيَّ المخلصينِ في درب الآلامِ الموحشة،
ليتني استطعتُ إقناع السّجانينَ أنَّ أصفاد أسيادهم لا تكبّل إلا أطرافنا. ليتني استطعت إقناعهم أن الشّمسَ التي تحجبها الأقبية الدّامسةُ تستمدّ النور من قلوبِنا وأرواحِنا. ليتني استطعت إقناعهم أنّ التّعذيبَ عبث على قشرة الروح، وأن كسْرَ الأضلاع لا يكسرُ الجبين، وأنّنا، على قسوة ما فعله بنا العبيدُ أتباعُ العبيد، كنا نضيء وكانت تغسلنا الملائكة.
لم أستطع إقناعهم بذلك، ولن تستطيع، يا (آلبرت). ولكنك ستنتزع حرّيَّتكَ منهم كما انتزعها (روبرت) قبل اثنتي عشرةَ سنةً، وكما انتزعتُها أنا قبل أُسبوع. فخبّئ يقينك.

”إلى اللقاء يا رفاقي.. في كونٍ أكثرَ عدلًاً.

”أنا حُرّ.. أنا حُرّ!“

— هرمان والاس (1942-2013)

louisiana

* اعتُقل (هرمان والاس) بتهمةِ السّطو المسلّح في أنغولا في ولاية لويزيانا الأميركية عام 1972
* انخرط مع (آلبرت وودفوكس) في حزب الفهودِ السّوداء الثّوري ضمن أوّلِ فرعٍ يفتتحه الحزب داخل السّجون
* بسبب نشاطهما السّياسيّ، اتُهم (والاس) و(وودفوكس) بقتل أحد الحرّاس. ورغم عدم دستوريّة المحاكمة وعدم توفّر أدلّة كافية، أُدينَ النّاشطانِ بجريمة القتل العمد وحُكمَ عليهما بالسّجنِ المؤبَّد الانفراديّ
* عام 1974 حُكِمَ على سجينٍ آخر (روبرت كينغ) بالسّجن الانفرادي طويلِ الأمد. وعُرِفَ مع صاحبيه بلقب ثلاثي أنغولا
* أُطلق سراح (كينغ) في العام 2001 بعد تبرئته وإلغاء الحكم الذي صدر بحقّه
* في 1 تشرين الأول 2013 قرّر القاضي في محكمة لويزيانا الفدراليّة إلغاء الحكم الصّادر بحقّ (والاس) لعدم دستوريّة محاكمته
* خرج (والاس)، المحتضر والمصاب بسرطان الكبد، لأوّل مرّةٍ إلى النّور بعد حوالي 42 سنةً في غياهب السّجن، ونُقل مباشرةً إلى العناية المكثّفة في مشفى نيو أورلينز
* بعد يومٍ واحد فقط طالبت النّيابة العامّة في لويزيانا بإعادة فتح القضيّة من جديد، غيرَ عابئةٍ بدنوِّ أجله ومُدّعيةً وجود ما يكفي من الأدلّة لإدانتهِ مرّةً أخرى
* توفّي (والاس) يوم الجمعة 4 تشرين 2013 بعد ثلاثةِ أيّامٍ على الإفراج عنه!

(والاس) ضحيّة أخرى من ضحايا الفاشيّة المقنّعة المعاصرة، التي تقوم شرعيّتها في جزء كبير على تمأسسها، وكأن ما كان منظّمًا بشكلٍ جيّد هو حتمًا مضمونُ العدالة…

هي ديكتاتوريّةُ المؤسّسة، البيروقراطية المحكمة التي تعملُ بنجاعةٍ على تيسيرِ حياة النُّخَب وتسهيل عمليات القمع وتجميلِها وجعلِ حياةِ المهمَّشين ركامًا طويلًا من الألم والمتاعب التي لا تنتهي.

يؤمل أن تبعثَ قصّةُ (والاس) وقصص الآلاف من ضحايا ديكتاتوريّة «سلطة القانون» على رغبةٍ جدية في مساءلة الذات ومساجلة المقولات السياسية التي تحرصُ النُّخب الثّقافيّة في منطقتنا العربيّة على ترديدها كالحقائق، متّكئةً على قيمِ الغربِ المتفوّق والمثال، في زمن الثّورات الشّعبيّة العارمة التي أطاحت بمفاهيم ومقولات من قبيل «حكم القانون» و«دولة المؤسّسات»… وكأن هذه الملايين من المسحوقينَ في كل مكان لم تثر من أجل تغيير جذريّ وملموس في واقعها المتردي، ولا من أجل الخبز والكرامة، ولا من أجل حقوق أكثر مادّيّةً وأقلَّ تخمةً بالشّعارات والأفكار الفارغة، كأنّ الجماهير التي تسكب دمها كل صباح بكرمِ من لا شيء ليخسره، ثارت من أجل «دولة المؤسّسات»، لا من أجل إنهاء الظّلم، ومن أجل «الدولة المدنيّة»، التي ستمكن النُخَب من تشديدِ هيمنتها وجعلِ أساليبِ قمعها أكثرَ حداثةً وتعقيدًا، لا من أجل تحطيم أنياب الدّولة الضّالعةِ في الرّقاب مرّةً وإلى الأبد.

The second intifada put holes in Israel’s wall of fear

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The Palestinian calendar is permeated with anniversaries of uprisings, battles, massacres, fateful declarations and meaningless “independence” days. Despite our continuous pledge to never forget and never forgive, most of these once-paramount occasions have been transformed into fleeting memories — oscillating between irrelevance, fetishism and attempts by factions to exploit them for political gains.

For instance, the thirteenth anniversary of the start of the second Palestinian intifada passed a few days ago, but it breezed by with remarkably little public or media attention. While this is neither surprising nor unprecedented, it is exceedingly disheartening.

Although there are several negative aspects of the second intifada, it remains — for good or bad — a momentous, life-changing event for many Palestinians, particularly those of us born in the late 1980s and early 1990s. There are so many lessons we can draw from it, fatal mistakes to rue, and many disappointments and personal traumas to nurse.

One thing is certain, however. The second intifada started out as a mass popular uprising in September 2000, in which unarmed Palestinians from Nazareth to Gaza took to the streets en masse. They faced more than a million bullets, fired by the Israeli army and police in the first three weeks of the intifada alone, and they shattered the pretense of stability that the Oslo accords endeavored to maintain.

I write from a personal perspective, knowing that the process I underwent with the eruption of the second intifada was one experienced by many Palestinians — specificallyPalestinians who hold Israeli citizenship and live within the green line, Israel’s internationally-recognized armistice boundaries.

Apolitical

Growing up in an apolitical, conservative family, I paid relatively little heed to politics and to the Palestinian cause. Occupation slowly strangles all Palestinians, but the extent of its effect and visibility varies from one area to another.

The few occasions I dared express my abhorrence of the Israeli occupation publicly — without understanding at the time the big words I was using — I would be reproached by my teacher or parents. Even when I summoned up the courage to call a radio show to speak about the anniversary of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre, two weeks before the outbreak of the second intifada, I had to hide it from my parents for fear of retribution.

“They will kick you out of school and put us in jail if you criticize this state,” my over-protective father would warn. He had spent his childhood under the Israeli military rule that governed Palestinians inside the green line between 1948 and 1966.

And even though some of my parents’ fears stemmed from excessive paternalism and may have been blown out of proportion, it is not difficult to understand where they were coming from.

After all, Palestinians inside the green line are not gullible enough to buy into the myth of Israeli democracy. They are fully aware of the repercussions that political activism entails. They have witnessed innumerable examples of Israel arresting and persecuting Palestinians simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

The wall of fear erected by Israel since 1948 through a long process of dominance, isolation, soft power and naked violence appeared too solid for Palestinians to dismantle. The second Palestinian intifada, though, caused major holes in this wall, if only momentarily.

No wishful thinking

Remembering the massive demonstrations that took place inside the green line in the fall of 2000 brings shivers down my spine. For once, the talk of national unity was not just wishful thinking or a pointless cliché.

The demonstrations truly brought Palestinians together. Probably for the first time, we as 1948 Palestinians (Palestinians with Israeli citizenship) felt relevant and part of the conversation. We did not just watch the news and comment about a Palestine so close, yet so far away from us. We actually made the news.

For many, it was their first encounter with live ammunition and snipers. “For the first time, Nazareth appears on TV for something other than the Christmas mass,” joked a friend at the time.

It was no longer possible for school administrators to silence students. We talked about the events of the second intifada during the first week of October 2000 in class and during breaks. We argued with our teachers, some of whom insisted on lecturing us about the importance of demonstrating in a “civilized” manner.

The funeral processions for martyrs Iyad Loubani, Omar Akkawi and Wissam Yazbak, the three Palestinian protesters murdered by Israeli police in Nazareth, turned into mass protests. Some of my relatives who never cared about politics attended them.

“The killing of these men by the Israeli occupation transcended politics;” “it’s a national cause, they are our sons”: these phrases were often repeated by people from neighboring villages.

Israeli police would kill a total of 13 unarmed Palestinian demonstrators inside the green line over the course of eight days that month, most of them shot in the upper body at close range. There was no criminal investigation launched into the killings, nor were any of the police held to account.

Fallacy of a free press

The strike and protests in October 2000 endowed us with an invigorated sense of national belonging. The coverage of the protests by Israeli media which described protesters as rioters and extremists spreading bedlam dispelled the fallacy that Israel has a free press.

The strong Israeli consensus on the “need” to meet protests with lethal power also proved, yet again, that Israel’s “left” is not essentially different from the right. We understood thatZionism has unleashed a tyrannical, racist regime against Palestinians everywhere, whether they live in Gaza, Jenin or Nazareth.

Unfortunately, the 1 October 2000 anniversary commemorations have become a folklore event, filled with dull speeches by political leaders. The demonstration that marked the thirteenth anniversary in Kafr Manda in the Lower Galilee was almost a copy of most previous anniversary protests in different towns. And the number of demonstrators had decreased.

Any attempt to break from this annual routine is hindered by the internal bureaucracy of theHigh Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, to the dismay of Palestinian youth activists.

Inseparable

The problem does not just lie in the way we mark the second intifada inside the green line, however. Local political leaders and the media tend to refer to the mass protests inside the green line during October 2000 as the “October outburst,” treating them as if they were somehow separate events from the second intifada and as if they were only relevant to Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.

The October 2000 protests inside the green line were an inseparable part of the second Palestinian intifada. Though short-lived, those protests smashed the barriers which divide Palestinians and isolate 1948 Palestinians from Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank.

And the October protests, like the second intifada in general, did not happen solely because of Ariel Sharon’s invasion of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The act of the former defense minister, who would be elected prime minister the following month, was a provocation. But there were long-festering social and political catalysts.

While it is true that the second intifada can in no way be compared to the first intifada — which was built on grassroots mobilization, self-organization and sustained civil disobedience — it is important to remember that the second intifada was born out of the post-Oslo reality and a radically different Palestinian society.

Opium

Oslo has turned the Palestinian struggle for liberation and self-determination into a bid for quasi-statehood and created a situation where Palestinians were forced to rely heavily on foreign aid and the opium of “civil society.”

Israel’s control of Palestinian water and other natural resources effectively minimized Palestinians’ ability to be self-sufficient. So they left their work in their farms and took jobs with the Palestinian Authority.

Twenty years later, Palestinians continue to pay the heavy costs of the Oslo accords that were forced on them. Israel’s theft of our natural resources has only hastened along with thesettlements and the reliance on foreign aid.

Palestinian Authority leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad have overseen a “state-building” project. It has included a rapacious neoliberal onslaught on the economy, the disarming of Fatah’s armed wing, the persecution of other armed resistance factions in the West Bank and the targeting of nonviolent dissidents.

All of this, as well as the geographical separation between Gaza and the West Bank, has meant that any possibility of a sustainable, inclusive grassroots rebellion has become a far-fetched dream.

For Abbas’ Palestinian Authority and its backers, such a rebellion is a nightmare they will do anything to prevent.

If the second intifada has taught us one thing, however, it is that uprisings could happen at the most unpredictable of times and that we should never be deceived by the supposed stability.

Budour Hassan
Published in ElectronicIntifada

Israel’s killing of five young Palestinians exposes “peace” talks as charade

Budour Hassan
Published in ElectronicIntifada

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Activists in Ramallah hold a mock funeral to protest the Palestinian Authority’s continued negotiations with Israel and coordination with its military, 28 August. (Ahmad Al-Bazz / ActiveStills)

Since the resumption of the most recent episode of the bogus, US-brokered “peace” talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in August, five Palestinians have been murdered by Israeli occupation forces. The latest was 22-year-old Islam Toubassi, assassinated in Jenin refugee camp on 17 September.

Among the five martyrs were three young Palestinian men killed on the morning of 26 August in the Qalandiya refugee camp, near Ramallah.

That day now seems like any another day, a painful — albeit distant — memory for some, and an occasion of unspeakable grief that turned the lives of three families upside down.

It should not be normal for heavily-armed soldiers to invade a refugee camp at dawn. Nor should it be normal for an occupying army to kill three unarmed Palestinians in cold blood and to injure dozens of other civilians, armed with nothing but rocks. The daily frequency with which Israel conducts those raids, however, makes this kind of terror and intimidation routine.

Israel is committing all of these crimes while the self-avowed Palestinian Authority unashamedly continues the “peace” talks charade and security collaboration with the Israeli occupation.

Lip service

Meanwhile, Palestinians are left with nothing but pointless lip service from Mahmoud Abbas. After every violation, he claims that those violations might damage the futile “peace” process.

Abbas’ shy condemnation of Israel means nothing for the families of Rubeen Zayid, Younis Jahjouh and Jihad Aslan, the three young Palestinians killed by Israeli occupation soldiers in Qalandiya refugee camp on 26 August.

Witnessing the funerals of three martyrs is never easy, let alone writing about the experience objectively.

How can anyone accurately describe the suffering of a mother who had just lost her eldest son? How can one express support for a young woman whose husband — and the father of her son — was killed on his way to work for no crime but being a Palestinian?

How could anyone remain objective while listening to an elderly woman inconsolably begging her slain nephew to come back: “Jihad, my love, why did you leave me? Who will look after me now that they have taken your life away?”

How is it possible to describe the bitterness of watching journalists race to take pictures of sobbing Palestinian women, reminding me of these lines by Mahmoud Darwish: “To them my wound has become an exhibit for a tourist who loves collecting photographs.”

Parallel lines?

And is there any polite manner in which you can comment on the speech of one Fatah official who attended the funeral and declared in his speech: “We believe that negotiations and resistance are parallel lines?”

There are moments that leave us completely and utterly speechless, unable to articulate the turmoil of emotions that overwhelm us. And even though it seems that Palestinians have gotten used to grief after 65 years of an ongoing Nakba or catastrophe, this should not in an way normalize the killing of one individual.

Jihad Aslan was just 19 but he had already lived through a lifetime of suffering. He was arrested by the Israeli occupation at the age of 15, spending a couple of years in jail, according to his relatives.

He was shot in his leg by Israeli soldiers briefly after his release. His arrest and injury meant that he couldn’t finish high school or find a job due to a permanent disability in his foot.

As the fatal raid began, he took two injured relatives to an ambulance before being shot himself and later succumbing to his wounds in a hospital.

For many, Jihad’s story is nothing special. He would go down as just another statistic, just another number in the endless lists of victims of the “Palestinian-Israeli conflict.” His story, the story of thousands of Palestinian youngsters whose lives were destroyed by a callous occupation, is irrelevant for an “international community,” whose only concern is maintaining Israel’s security.

Remembering is essential

Remembering Jihad Aslan and other victims of Israel’s colonialism is essential, not just because of the recent clashes in Hebron and the arrest campaigns that followed the killing of two Israeli soldiers in the past week.

The US State Department condemned the killings of the soldiers as “terror,” a word it has never used to describe Israel’s routine killing and maiming of Palestinian civilians.

This reflects perverse thinking in many “Western” circles that turns the colonial aggressor and its army into the victim and the victim into the aggressor.

But Palestinians, like all occupied and colonized peoples, have a legitimate right to resist.

In 1970, the UN General Assembly affirmed “the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples under colonial and alien domination recognized as being entitled to the right of self-determination to restore to themselves that right by any means at their disposal.” Until Palestinians are free, that right applies to them too.

In no way can the killing of armed occupation soldiers be equated with the killing of indigenous, occupied people. These events do, however, highlight the hypocrisy of world powers that treat resistance as a crime and occupation as routine.

Recent events in Hebron and the clashes in Jenin and Qalandiya refugee camps before them show that if a third intifada does break out, it will start either in Hebron or the refugee camps. These places are targeted by both the Israeli occupation and its proxy, the Palestinian Authority. And they are always the first to rise up against both.