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April 9, 2018
A SONG IS BORN
By Uri Avnery
Source: Gush Shalom
A FRIEND from overseas sent me the recording of a song. An Arab song, with a soft
Arab melody, sung by an Arab girls' choir, accompanied by a flute.
It goes like this:
Ahed / You are the promise and the glory / Standing as high as an olive tree / From
the cradle to the present / Your honor will not be violated / Palestine has been planted
in us / As a dock for every ship / We are the land and you are the water /
You are covered with blond hair / You are as pure as Jerusalem / You taught our
generation how the forgotten people should revolt / They thought the Palestinians are
afraid of them because they are wearing armor and holding a weapon? / Palestine
has been planted in us / As a dock for every ship / Our nation must be united and
resist for the freedom of Palestine and the prisoners /
Your blue eyes are a lighthouse / For a country that has every religion / You united
the people far away and close / You ignited the spark in all our hearts / Your head is
raised up high encouraging us / You ignited the light in our darkness /
Despite the softness of your hands / Your hands have shaken the world / Your hands
returned the slap to the occupier / And returned esteem to the nation / Palestine has
been planted in us / As a dock for every ship / We are the land and you are the water.
IF I were an adherent of the occupation, this song would frighten me very much.
Because the force of songs is much stronger than the force of weapons. A gun wears
out, but a song lasts forever.
In the early days of the Israeli army, there was a slogan hanging in our mess: "An
army that is singing is an army of victory!"
The present Palestinian generation has decided to lower its head and wait until the
storm has passed. The coming Palestinian generation may act in a completely
On the eve of my 15th birthday, I joined an underground (or "terrorist") group that
fought against the British colonial regime. Almost eighty years later I remember just
about every song of that time, word for word. Songs like "We are unknown soldiers
without uniforms…" and many more. Afterwards I wrote an anthem for my company.
I am not a poet. Far from it. But I have written some songs in my time, including
"Samson's Foxes", an anthem for my commando unit in the Israeli army. So I know the
force of a song. Especially a song about the heroism of a 16 year old girl.
THE MOMENT I saw the scene of Ahed al-Tamimi boxing the face of an Israeli army
captain, I knew that something important had happened.
The British politician Lord Acton famously wrote: "Power tends to corrupt, and
absolute power corrupts absolutely." I would add: "Occupying another people tends to
make you stupid, and a long occupation makes you utterly stupid."
In my youth, when I was already a member of the anti-British underground, I was
working in the office of a British lawyer, many of whose clients were officials of the
British administration. I often asked myself: "How can it be that such intelligent people
can behave so stupidly?” They were nice people, who treated even a lowly clerk like
me politely. But they had no alternative: the occupation compels the occupier to
It works like this: in order to uphold an occupation regime for any length of time, the
occupier must believe in the superiority of his race and in the inferiority of his
subjects, who are seen as primitive creatures. Otherwise, what gives him the right to
subject another people? That is exactly what has happened to us now.
THE MOMENT I saw the face-boxing scene on TV, I knew that something momentous
had happened. The Palestinian people now have a national heroine. The Palestinian
youth now has a model to emulate.
The Israeli public has got used to the occupation. They believe that this is a normal
situation, that the occupation can go on forever. But the occupation is not a natural
situation, and some day it will come to an end.
Ten thousand British ruled hundreds of millions of Indians, until a skinny man called
Gandhi went to produce salt on the seashore, contrary to the law. The Indian youth
arose, and British rule fell away like a leaf from a tree in autumn.
The same stupidity took hold of all the occupation enforcers who dealt with Ahed al-
Tamimi. Army officers. Prosecutors, military judges.
If we were wise occupiers – an oxymoron – we would have sent Ahed home long ago.
Expelled her by force from the prison. But we are still keeping her locked up. Her and
True, some days ago the army realized its own stupidity. With the help of Ahed's
devoted (Jewish) advocate, Gabi Lasky, a "compromise" was worked out. Several
charges were dropped and Ahed was sentenced to "only" eight months in prison.
She will be released in three more months. But that is too late: the picture of Ahed is
already engraved in the mind of every Palestinian boy or girl. Ahed, the girl covered
with blond hair, her blue eyes shining like a lighthouse. Ahed the saint. Ahed the
The Palestinian Jeanne d’Arc, the national symbol.
THE STORY of Ahed al-Tamimi happened in the West Bank. But it resounded in the
Gaza Strip, too.
For most Israelis, the Gaza Strip is something else. It is not occupied territory. It does
not concern us.
But the situation of the Gaza Strip is even worse than straight occupation. The strip is
completely surrounded. North and east is Israel, west is the sea, where the Israeli
navy shoots at everything except for fishing boats close to the shore. The south
belongs to Egypt, which behaves even worse than the Israelis and in close
cooperation with them.
The situation in the Gaza Strip is as close to hell as one can get. Food at subsistence
level, electricity for two to four hours a day, the water is polluted. Work is extremely
scarce. Only the most severely ill are let out.
Why? It has to do with the demon that plagues the Israeli government: the
In historical Palestine, the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan river, there
now live about 13 million people, roughly half Jewish and half Arab, with a slight edge
in favor of the Arabs. Numbers are uncertain, but roughly there are 3 million Arabs in
the West Bank, 2 million in the Gaza Strip and 1.5 million Arab citizens in Israel. The
Arab birthrate is higher than the Jewish average.
These numbers disturb the sleep of many Israeli officials, especially politicians. They
look for means to change the balance. They once had the illusion that if the situation
in Gaza got unbearable, people from Gaza would emigrate. But it did not happen.
Palestinians have become very tenacious.
Then a new fashion came up: just ignore the bastards. Just imagine that the Gaza
Strip has sunk into the sea, as one Israeli politician once prayed. No Strip. Two million
But the Strip is there. True, Gaza is ruled by the Islamic Hamas party, while the West
Bank is ruled by Abu Mazen's PLO, and the enmity between the two is vicious. But
that happened in almost all liberation movements in history. In our case, the
underground split between the Haganah ("Defense"), which belonged to the official
Zionist leadership, and the Irgun ("Organization", short for National Military
Organization). Then the Irgun split, and the even more extreme LEHI ("Fighters for the
Freedom of Israel", called the "Stern Gang" by the British) was born. They all hated
But among the people, there is no difference at all. They are all Palestinians. Ahed is
the heroine of all of them. Perhaps her model played a role in what happened last
For some time, the Gaza Strip was quiet. Some kind of modus vivendi had even come
into being between the Hamas government and the Israeli one. The Israelis
congratulated themselves on their cleverness. And then it happened.
Suddenly, as if from nowhere, the population of Gaza stood up. Hamas organized
them to assemble on Friday near the border fence, unarmed. A prolonged campaign
of passive resistance was to start.
When I was asked what would happen, I said that the Israeli army would shoot to kill.
Simple: Israelis don't know how to deal with passive resistance. They shoot in order to
turn it into violent resistance. With that they know how to deal. With more violence.
AND THAT is exactly what happened last Friday, the first day of the campaign: snipers
were posted along the line, with orders to shoot the "ringleaders" – anyone who stood
out. 18 unarmed demonstrators were killed, almost a thousand were shot and
If anyone thought that the democratic world would stand up and condemn Israel, they
were sadly wrong. Reactions were feeble, at most. What was revealed was the
incredible hold the Israeli government and its Zionist organization has over the world’s
political establishments and communication outlets. With few exceptions the atrocious
news was not published at all, or as minor items.
But this cannot go on for long. The Gaza protests will continue, especially on Fridays
(the Muslim holy day), until May 15, the Naqba ("Catastrophe") Day, which
commemorates the mass flight / expulsion of half the Palestinian people from their
homes. Palestinian flags will fill screens around the globe.
Ahed will still be in prison.