Nablus still under curfew, ‘over my dead body’

AEF, 2002

We all remember my friends, the American older movies where the movie star, the hero, and his happy family are living in their cozy home somewhere safe and homey, when this greedy neighbor starts to put his hands on the remaining of their lands, illegally, using his money and power to buy his way out in a crooked and corrupt city council. As much as our hero tried to protect his family legally and peacefully, as much as his neighbor worsened his vicious attacks to drive him out. When they confront, our hero would stand, head high in front of his attacker and say: ‘Over my dead body’.

There were many movies that told stories about whites fighting blacks, blacks fighting whites, Americans fighting red Indians and Russians, cowboys fighting bandits, mothers fighting for their children, and humans fighting fierce animals; in all these movies, the hero always came out of the shade and said calmly: ‘Over my dead body’. This phrase was also used by priests, Rabbis, grandparents, sailors, pilots, business men, etc. They all shared, ‘over my dead body’.

Our hero would destroy a whole city and turn the world upside down, just to save the young lady who wouldn’t necessarily be his lover or relative. We would watch him falling, hurt, and vulnerable, then wakening, alert and strong, using his last breath to stand for his rights and for his people. Our hero would be a man, a woman or a bunch of people. No difference, we’d still love them, some of us would dream to be just like them. Our heroes would be humans, yet, when the going gets tough, we watch them using the same old phrase - ‘over my dead body’. But, we never condemned them.

Western life is just a little different than ours, Palestinians. American life is shown in all movies as a family of four or five, they live in a nice town house with two cars in the drive, one of them station wagon, bicycles in the garage. The beautiful wife, mother, would be getting the steamy food ready when her hard working, handsome husband, father, comes in to a happy and safe cozy home. On Sundays the whole family would assemble and go to church together. Western nations, other than Americans, are not much different, in style.

Palestinian life is not that much difference to. All men work as well as most women, they all meet at home; they eat together (most of them do), chat, laugh, argue, and love. Some are religious and friendly, others are secular and reserved. Some go for prayers at the mosque, some pray at home and some don’t pray at all. They all work hard; very hard to keep the family together. They have their customs, traditions and way of life, just like all nations.

We may differ in appearance; Mid-eastern people may appear more conservative than westerners. They are more conservative, Islam is more conservative; mid-eastern women wardrobes are more conservative, this does not mean all western women are nearly naked. Men appear different too, all men of the world. Most nations have their own traditional costumes; some stick to them, others detach from them. Every community has its own costume, even the business community and their suits.

Society and country appearance may differ too. Western cities appear wealthy, prosperous and rich while Palestinian cities look destroyed, deprived and poor. Under all that, Palestinians are the same as all humans; indifferent to appearance, they want to feel safe and they want their children to grow up in a healthy environment. Lack of security is felt in both societies, Western and Palestinian. Western societies are always wary of crimes; rape, child molesting, murder and organized crime. Palestinian society lacks safety, stability and growth.

Some of us may criticize the western life style. The way they talk, dress or think, the way they use (and misuse) family and marital life and the way they treat each other. BUT this is their life, they can live in the way and style they like. Palestinians are also criticized by some in the west. They are criticized for the way they appear and the way their traditions are followed.

One major difference between Palestinians and Westerners: the Westerners insist that all counties in the Middle East implement UN resolutions but for Israel to do as it please, Palestinians insist UN resolutions must be implemented by all countries in the world.

We are not living in the movies. We are facing daily realities. Last night and this morning, Israel’s army have shaved the lands around Yasser Arafat’s personal rooms in the presidential compound, they issued assurances that he will not be hurt or deported but the shaving procedure was still moving ahead. The term ‘shave’ was introduced yesterday; it means that all buildings around Arafat’s person were leveled to the ground, his access to upper or lower floors blocked.

Israel’s army didn’t intend to harm or deport him, they claimed. Yet, they roamed the streets around the presidential compound advising residents to open their windows and turn off the main electricity breaker in their homes in preparation for a massive explosion they are planning.

This morning, Israel’s army shot dead a 13 year old school boy. Earlier, their snipers shot head a 17 year old boy as well. If that was not a strong provocation for Palestinians to react, what is? Was it a childish show off?

This is the real conflict, not the movies; we are living a real misery. Palestinians are really threatened, humiliated and oppressed everyday. The greedy neighbor that stole most of their land wants to take what’s left for them and drive them out. Palestinians did seek legal and lawful way out, but their neighbor was relentlessly using his money and power — with the help of corrupt leaders — to viciously carry on the attack on them. When Palestinian choices are limited, the phrase ‘over our dead bodies’ would be their natural promise.

With the continuous curfews, murders, massacres and humiliation attempts on us and our leaders, we are left with very few choices. Today marks the 93rd day since the miserable, horrible and terrifying curfew started. This is getting the worst out in us when the world can take the best in us. The world is watching, yet has done little.

Amer Abdelhadi is general manager of Radio Tariq al-Mahabbeh, TMFM 97.7, Nablus