Whenever my feet carry me to Hana Shalabi’s solidarity tent, my eyes fall, before anything else, on a piece of paper attached to huge banner wherein Shalabi grins at those coming to wish her a quick release. That small white piece of paper read “20” today.
The battle of empty stomachs continues. An empty stomach against an entire criminal system; a young woman against armed soldiers; the ones whose orders are higher than any conscience they might possess. Shalabi is a “terrorist,” how dare you defend her?
By Israel’s warped standards, I’m a terrorist too. Perhaps standing with a “terrorist” degrades my status from a student, activist, daughter, friend, call me anything, to a terrorist. Perhaps all of those who support Shalabi’s cause are terrorists, even those Israelis who are clear to be against administrative detention and who have described it as one of the most anti-democratic laws in Israel.
Call the kids I met today as terrorists too. It will make no difference; they have always been treated like a threat, like terrorists, and maybe eventually killed.
Fifteen orphan children
I was surprised to see fifteen orphan children belonging to al-Amal Orphan Association in the tent earlier today. The association is known for the services it provides for orphan children in Gaza. Homeless orphans find a home, school and a caring family in the association.
“Many of the orphans who live in the association’s dwellings are sons and daughters of families that were murdered during Operation Cast Lead” said Raji Shenaino, a member of al-Amal’s board of directors.
The children were there to express their soft emotions on a huge piece of cloth held to a wall right opposite Hana Shalabi’s solidarity tent. Each child held a brush and watercolors and painted something on the cloth. The kids painted doves, olive branches, Palestinian flags, suns inside which Hana’s name was written; and phrases like “I’m with Hana Shalabi,” “yes for freedom, no for oppression,” and things like “we are all Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi.”
I asked eleven-year old Nour Yasseen, an orphan, why she came to the tent. “Because of freedom” she said, twisting with something of a shy smile on her face. “Whose freedom, habibti?” I asked, trying to pull words out of her tiny mouth; “Hana’s” she replied, “I hope she comes back.”
Donya Felfel, eight years old, told me that she was in the tent to “visit” Hana and that she hopes “she comes out of prison to play with her sisters and mother.”
“I want Hana to know that we will not forget her and that we stand with her; I want to tell her that the administrative detention will go,” said Yasser al-Nabulsi, fourteen years old, also an orphan.
The way these children expressed their solidarity with Hana Shalabi proves that even Palestinian children, no matter how young, cannot escape the politicization of their lives. Yet they are hardly “being taught to become suicide bombers,” an myth constantly invoked by Israel and its supporters.
A powerful message
Unlike the picture anyone is most probably going to draw of an orphan, those orphans are quite different.
“We wanted to send a powerful message,” said Maram Humaid, a young activist and organizer of the painting event, “that despite the fact that the children are orphans, they do not wait for the world to stand in solidarity with them; instead, they themselves speak up in solidarity with others; this is a powerful message for everyone around the world to know, that the Palestinian children are not weak.”
The drawings and paintings the children came out with today reminded me of the paintings that were censored by Israel’s lobbyist groups a few months ago in the US.
It did occur to me to wonder whether the paintings were going to be banned from being displayed had they been sent to the US. Perhaps doves are anti-Semitic and violence-inciting in the sickening criteria of the Apartheid state and its supporters.