Waiting for Salah al-Din to liberate us

Uniformed men march in formation

Hamas security forces during a Gaza City graduation ceremony, March 2013.

Ezz Al-Zanoon APA images

I hope we won’t tell our children that tired phrase we hear too many times to count from our own parents and grandparents: back in our days things were much better than they are now.

As a people, I think we’re too fixated on the past and the present, and don’t pay much attention to the future. We’re stuck in the past, sighing over the loss of Palestine, holding tightly to our rusted keys to houses blown up in demolished villages, praising the heroes of the resistance and lamenting the state of dispossession, occupation and fragmentation. Anger, the potent ingredient for the motivation to reclaim our identities and rights, is nonexistent after the signing of the Oslo accords lethally nullified it.

The present is full of lovely distractions and unsettling disturbances, which reflect on the low quality of discussion between divided Palestinians shuttered up in a coastal enclave and those in the bubbles paved with USAID road and infused with the spirit of nongovernmental organizations, surrounded by the illegal Jewish-only settlements. Mohammed Assaf, a contestant from Gaza on the popular show Arab Idol, seems like a likable enough fellow with a good voice. People are free to adore him, vote for him, or be ambivalent or indifferent. What’s worrying is how easy it was for animosity to emerge between those who are determined to idolize him and take him up as the perfect Palestinian figure, and those who stubbornly deprecate his talent and accuse him of trivializing the Palestinian cause with artistic aberrations.

Hamas’ self-defeat

Then we come to Hamas, who seem to be absolutely resolute in losing the national support and reverence they amassed during last November’s military offensive on Gaza by once again showcasing their failure at governing a besieged 1.6 million people, the majority of which live in poverty. Their attempt at Islamic rule has been condensed into a campaign to pull up sagging jeans and cutting unruly or long hair — characteristics that are not befitting to the image of a strong respectable man, in their opinion.

They see no problem in waging war on teenagers and shabab (youth) to make them conform to their own standardized version of a Muslim society, one that will solemnly “uphold the traditions and culture” and will be achieved by hounding, beating and shaving the youths’ heads. Hamas see it as a matter of national interest to stop every man walking with a woman and force him to produce legal documents that classify the woman as his fiancé, sister, mother, or wife and then claim that this is not official government policy but the behavior of a few overly exuberant policemen. Hamas will continue to grab headlines worldwide for the wrong reasons such as segregating schools and appointing female teachers for schoolgirls beginning from fourth grade. I used to laugh derisively when friends back in Ramallah asked me if women are allowed to drive in Gaza.

“It’s not Wahhabism or the Taliban rule,” I snorted. I was upset and greatly annoyed at this prevailing image of Gaza as a predominantly black hole of suffocating “Islamist” rule, especially when compared to the allegedly ‘liberal’ government of the West Bank. They’re both two sides of the same coin.

Fashion Week in Ramallah

Ramallah’s recent Fashion Week show at the Grand Park Hotel featured young women heavily made up and walking the runway in dresses with thigh-high slits, short dresses, backless dresses, skintight trousers, etc. Once again, Palestinians busied themselves into creating an uproar, with two sides refusing to expand their minds. One side condemned the fashion show as again trivializing the Palestinian cause, inappropriate to culture and traditions, and simply as not the time to throw fashion shows. The other side derided the former’s arguments as close-minded, saw no problem in having a fashion show while there are other pressing issues at hand like the prisoners’ cause and rapid settlement expansion (because really now, how does a fashion show belittle the hunger-striking prisoners?), and lectured on the right to respect the democracies and freedoms of others.

The ranting feminist that I am believes all fashion shows should be abolished because they objectify women. In Ramallah’s case, an additional reason why I am against it is because, as mentioned by the organizers, the clothes “will showcase a more international look” and cater to the “elite Palestinian shoppers,” because exacerbating class division is the ice cream topping of our already fragmented disenfranchised selves.

I wish Hamas would focus on liberation. It was such a glorious feeling passing by one of Ramallah’s city squares and listening with incredulity to Fatah supporters chanting passionately in support of the resistance. That defiance united us and removed the post-Oslo gloom disguised with shimmer from our eyes to make us see the only reality that ever mattered in the first place: occupation and resistance.

As for Mohammed Assaf, good luck, kid. Win or lose, there’ll be people who will treat you as their hero wherever you go.


The three aforementioned examples are the central causes that my people have immersed themselves in with absolute gusto.

Meanwhile, a 30-year-old mother was shot in the head by her brother in the Palestinian town of Umm al-Fahem, in present-day Israel, in what has been described as an “honor killing.”

There is no middle ground when it comes to arguing or debating trivial issues, in comparison to matters where it really counts. In the “good old days” the Palestinian political parties were responsible for mobilizing, raising awareness and educating their supporters and sectors of society. The role of those parties today, clinging to the vestiges of limited self-rule and power, explains the drop in intellectual depth and debate.

My generation is referred to the Oslo generation, marked by a reality born out of collaborative measures that have successfully chipped away at the Palestinian cause, reducing it to Hamas in Gaza and Mahmoud Abbas’ state of bantustans in the West Bank. That’s certainly a step down from what the generation before us were called, the nerve-tingling Children of the Stones.

The next generation will probably be called the Liberated Ones of the State of Extravagant Ramallah. LOSER.

I hope we can tell our children the truth: our days were immensely screwed up and we fooled ourselves into thinking that it wasn’t all that bad. We suffered under a three-tiered system of oppression: the Israeli occupation, the PA occupation and non-representative leadership, and patriarchy. Then along came Salah al-Din from Kurdistan, carrying a foreign agenda with him, liberating us from all forms of tyranny. 




One of the tragedies of an irregular war, is that 'heroes of the resistance' do not receive the due recognition or respect that they deserve! We should never ever forget their sacrifice!

I also doubt if any Zionist ever said-'We’re stuck in the past, sighing over the loss of Israel'! and they eventually got most of Palestine!

Other than that......I thought you comments about the present leadership in Gaza and the West Bank was insightful !


I do not endorse or approve of the policies described here. I feel that the presumed glory of Fatah buries the role of Israel in the fantasies of a "liberated"
society with complete obedience---and servility---of Fatah to the oppression of
Israel with US support.
When I was this writer's age I participated in the "civil rights" struggle in North
America. I went to many "sanctified" black gospel services,baptisms. I sang
songs deeply rooted in religious traditions which meant nothing to me. I shared
the defiance,the courage, the patience, and the hope of those I worked for.
Similarly, it seems to me Hamas and similar organizations provide hope for
the hopeless. Instead of agreeing to nothing at all with Israel as Fatah did on
orders from Washington, other organizations persevere in working for Palestinian
goals. You may not experience results today. Muslim roots and sacrifice stretch
hundreds of years into history. Often there have been errors, internal strife and
internal conflicts. But you must preserve your rage and love.


Linah Alsaafin

Linah Alsaafin's picture

22 years old, from both Gaza and the West Bank. Writer and editor based in Ramallah. 

Twitter: @LinahAlsaafin