Azmi, My Brother,
You had the good sense to see what was coming — the security forces in cooperation with the judicial system of Israel decided to take steps against, what they call the “strategic threat”, of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and to do away with their leaders. They want to return us to the days of martial law — to fear, to the permits, to the dark cells of the security forces, to the era in which only collaborators could claim at least some of their rights.
Inside the 1967 borders, Israel was not yet employing the methods it now uses in the occupied territories. It did not execute people without trial, condone mass arrests, cause starvation, or destroy infrastructures. Now, as “the only democracy in the Middle East”, Israel claims to function according to just and lawful means.
But “the law” is the security forces and the police; the judicial advisers to the government and the judicial system are its full-time employees. Your sentence was passed even before the accusations against you were announced, and you have no way of establishing your innocence before these war criminals. They speak a language different from ours — in their eyes, anyone who is against war and aspires to the peaceful coexistence of two nations is classified as a criminal, and persecuted. You cannot conduct a political struggle from the witness box. They will not allow you to insist that you are fighting for both nations. In the courts of the police state, they will tie a rope around your neck.
The agonizing failure of the Israeli Army against the Lebanese Resistance maddens them. In the face of such a defeated and cruel establishment we must act wisely, intelligently. After all, it is more sensible for a freedom fighter who is cut off by a military unit to withdraw, or to escape, and to wait for a more favorable time to return fire — and here I am not speaking of live fire, but of the “fire” of thought and the written word.
Azmi my brother — they are afraid. The terrified commanders and their soldiers are afraid. I encounter them frequently in Jenin Refugee Camp where they fire on children who dare to glance from an upstairs window, or from round the corner.
Apparently you represent a ‘strategic threat’ to the ‘Jewish State’. It seems that your vision of a ‘state for all its citizens’ is a threat to the actual existence of Israel, a country that has been created out of force, control and discrimination of another nation. Ideas of equality or of the coexistence that the Balad Party represents, deprive the government of Israel of the main ideological elements it uses to justify its existence — power, despotism, segregation, racism, barriers and fences.
Azmi my brother, you did not run away!
You made clever use of conditions and circumstances, and managed to evade the execution squad with which the ‘judicial system’ confronted you. As a seasoned warrior you dodged the bullets of the security forces and went underground. And it makes no difference whether it was to the caves of the Galilee or to Qatar, Dubai, or Cairo.
Many will urge you to return. Many others would rejoice to see you rotting in the cells of the security police. There will be others who would sacrifice you — your courage concealing their helplessness and fear. All sorts of mud-slingers will sprout like mushrooms after rain, insisting that leaders do not abandon their flock. They will call you a coward and many other things. Ignore all their remarks about ‘courage and sacrifice’. Do not listen to your political opponents at home, who will call for stringing you up in the Town Square. Carry on with your struggle from abroad, like so many illustrious others. What is exile if not sacrifice!
And be assured — the day will come when you can return, borne on the shoulders of your comrades.
We have always praised the freedom fighters who succeeded in escaping the dungeons of the security forces. We rejoice when guerilla fighters are released by their comrades from behind prison bars. We applaud your successes in this puppet government and in revealing its true face.
You did not escape from arrest. You avoided being executed without trial — “targeted elimination” in the local jargon. Bless you for that!
Juliano Mer Khamis
Juliano Mer Khamis is the director of the film Arna’s Children and the Cultural Manager and Theatre Director of The Freedom Theatre in Jenin refugee camp.