Two letters to a friend in Egypt

Dearest Mona,

Thank you so much, my dear, for your very strong and supportive words. We are really in need of it. I have been calling all the people I know, everywhere in the world, to come and investigate the summary execution of so many young Palestinians in different security apparatuses.

People in the International Red Cross do not send any ambulances unless the Israeli army give them a permit. A group of 30 young Palestinians were shot at and, until now, 3 a.m, they have been denied all medical help. This is the third such case documented in Ramallah in the last two days. If you have any medical corps, any contact with humanitarian organisations, please do whatever you can to send them to see what is going on on the ground.

A friend of my son called us at least 30 times today, asking for help. He is with a group of 40 young people in a place in Ramallah. They are in hiding, but they feel the army is closing in. I kept calling all hospitals, ambulances, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Red Crescent. They all told me the same thing: we cannot get out and give any medical help to anybody, because they shoot at us. This morning, four young men were caught in the Ramallah Islamic club, shot at close range, and were left bleeding to death for four hours. We don’t know yet how many people were killed, or injured.

In my street, we have two tanks, and at least four snippers around us. Mona, activate everybody you know, the Israelis are preparing for massacres against us. Today, they were saying on their T.V , “Yes the street in the Arab country will be angry, but we should not take it seriously. In non democratic countries, public opinion does not count, and they will never pressure their governments to decide. Although these governments might take some actions to sooth the public anger, they will never take any serious decisions might harm the state of Israel.” The situation is very dangerous and I think you have to be very organised and ‘consistant’ to affect what is going on now.

Thanks again, my dear, and my kisses to you and to all our friends.

Much love.



Sent: Wednesday, April 03, 2002 1:56 AM


Mona, Mounir and all my dear friends in Egypt,

Your letters of solidarity moved me greatly, and brought more tears to my already very tired eyes. Your words encouraged me to share more with you about what I — as are tens of thousands along with me — am going through.

What I wrote you last time on the matter of the summary executions of groups of the Palestinian security forces are still taking place. The group of 30 people found near a small hospital in Ramallah were shot at and five of them were left bleeding to death. Their corpses were found next day and all the others, including the injured, were taken by the Israeli forces.

The number of detainees is growing very fast. We keep hearing of hundreds of people taken in buses to nearby settlements. The ‘classic reception’ for detainees is to strip them of their clothes, keep them completely naked and blindfolded for long days and nights under the rain (for one week it has been heavily raining in Ramallah, and the temperature is 7-10 C/44.6-50 F). They let fierce dogs attack them and throw sound bombs to scare them. These bombs are widely used by the Israeli army, shock and deafen, and cause injury if thrown from a short distance. They also make horrible sounds as if you were shelled with heavy weapons.

All of them have been without food and water for the last four days, left outside in the freezing cold. The hunt for these groups is still ongoing. If told you about their ‘visits’ to our houses, these aren’t very different from a visit from a group of gangsters. They came into some of my next door neighbors’ houses, and started by asking all of them to stay in one room with their faces against the wall. Then they searched all the rooms,get all the food they have in the kitchen, and start eating it while sitting in the living room. The rest of the food they take with them. They also have taken jewels, money, and electronic equipment, such as cameras, mobile phones, videos, and the like.

Two of my neighbors have heart problems yet the first thing the soldiers did, when they knew about their ilness was to go and get their medications and destroy them in front of their eyes. And of course with the siege no one can get out to get any food, or medication. In the houses they enter, they take computer hardware, destroy glasses and kitchen utensils, and steal people’s reserve of food. Luckily, I have not been ‘visited’ yet.

Today, they lifted the curfew for two hours. Most of the people did not know about it but I noticed some
movement in the street and I followed the flow. After five days of imprisonment, I was so happy to feel my feet walking again.

I took my two daughters, Sireen and Yassmine, and my son Maher with me, and went to buy some cigarettes. We decided the three of us would go to donate blood in Ramallah hospital. On our way, we saw many tanks that were blocking all the streets. We could not recognize the center of the city, it was so devastated, all in ruins… the buildings, the sidewalks, even the monuments in the squares were destroyed.

I started to cry, Sireen shouted at me and threatened that if I keep on crying, she will take me back home. We reached Ramallah hospital. Some snipers on the top of the high buildings around Qadora refugee camp started to shoot. We were scared. Some people said that they shoot at people and they wounded a boy of 14 years old, on his way to buy some bread. But we decided to go on. We did not find anybody in the Blood Bank. They had all taken a break to bury the corpses of twenty-five Palestinians in the hospital’s parking lot. Yes, the parking lot.

It was raining heavily, and some young people were digging a big hole in the parking lot. They put down some boards in the hole and then some blankets to lay the bodies on. Then they realised that they have to dig another hole for three female corpses. While we waited, we heard many stories. One of the dead woman came to the hospital this morning to take off a cast on her leg but on her way back she was shot dead by one of the snipers near the hospital. She could not imagine that they would shot at an old, limping woman but there was no time for her to realise that she was mistaken.

Many stories about “the second brother to be killed since the beginning of this Uprising” and about the photographers and medics who were stopped by the army in their way to provide aid to the besieged people in the Preventive Security building.

The building was in flames, with 400 people inside, including more than 60 female staff and their families and children. The army refused to let them out with their children. Even worse, they besieged the building using another 60 civilians — including women, children, and the elderly — as human shields. With these hostages, they started destroying the building with all kinds of weapons.

Yesterday was a horrible night, we could not get a minute of sleep, especially when you knew that all the shelling was directed at 400 human beings. When the army stopped the photographers and medics, they asked them to take off their clothes, threw them in the muddy rainwater, and ordered them to go back walking and holding their cards and cameras. I heard one of the doctor saying, “I never realised how humiliating it would be to walk in the middle of the night, naked and freezing cold, just because you wanted to provide a simple humanitarian aid.”

The corpses started to arrive, and they put them in the ground for the prayers. Before moving them to their temporary grave, one woman arrived and started to open the white bags to see the face of her son. Another woman was looking for her husband and one of her children shouted, “Here he is — I read his name on his bag.” At this moment, I collapsed, the tears covered my face but to my surprise I found my self shouting slogans and saying, bilroh, bildam nafdiki ya flistine (“With our spirit, with our blood, we sacrifice O Palestine!”). All the women beside me were shouting the same — with tears, with cries, with anger, with screams. One of us, Rajaii, was screaming in a hysterical way, and was saying burrah ya Sharon, burrah (“Get out, Sharon, get out!”). Then, she collapsed.

On our way out, a mother and a brother arrived in a car, looking for their son. His corpse was on its way to the mass grave. They wanted to take it but people around said leave him with his comrades. The brother was confused, and did not know what to say, but the mother pulled his body and said “But let me hug him first.” She entered the car and took his body on her lap and said to the brother, “Let us take him home for some time.” The whole seen was hairraising and I was blinded by my tears.

My daughter had a fight with me, and told me, “I knew it, I knew it! One day you will die of your grief!” She took me in a car with two other friends of mine. On our way back, my friend was telling me how our mutual friend, Salwa — who is also a gynocologist — had been helping women to give birth via the telephone — giving them directions on the phone about what to do.

One of the women was screaming in a hysterical way when Salwa asked her to cut her baby’s cord. She was afraid to hurt her baby, but Salwa calmed her down. I came back home very exhausted. I did not buy anything of course. Most of the shopkeepers are from villages and they are not allowed to enter the city of Ramallah. Most of the shops were closed, so I asked why they asked the people to go for provisions while most of the shops were closed. My neighbor told me that they lifted it just so that people could bury the corpses, otherwise it will be a medical disaster, as they were starting to smell.

I feel tired, frustrated, angry, humiliated, helpless. My youngest daughter noticed my state. To comfort me, she said if “I can guarantee that I would kill with me at least 20 of them I will go for a suicide attack.” I felt horrified, and with my tears again covering my cheeks, I told her, “We want to live, we love life and we have to defeat death.” Then she asked, insistently: “Yes, but how? Do we have many options?”

I could not answer her.

I then turned on the T.V. Sharon’s face appears saying “Yes, but we have our conditions, he will go out but never comes back, it is one way ticket.” The journalists were laughing and the Israeli commentators were saying that all this show of strength is intended to destroy a historical phase of the Palestinian national history. The aim is to ‘eliminate’ a whole national elite. They want all the new leaders that formed in the last ten years out, with their families. The only obstacle they were debating was “To where?” To Egypt, to Jordan, or to Lebanon? They had not decided yet. More heartbreaking images.

Why people have to be beaten in this very humiliating way. The Israelis were saying again on their T.V, “Did we not tell you that their public opinion does not count? Look at their citizens, they do not even have the freedom of expression! Look how they are treated! Palestinians living in Israel should pray, day and night, for the state of Israel because of its ‘tolerance’ and democracy.”

I decided to not watch T.V. and to write to you instead.

Dear friends, you can do a lot of things. You cannot imagine how your demonstrations raised our spirit, and soothed our anger and frustration. Organising demonstrations with clear demands is very important. I wrote an article a few weeks ago, which was left unpublished for many weeks by our newspapers, saying that, “We have to stop asking for changes. We have to impose them.” We have the power to impose our demands. A growing move of strikes for engineers, lawyers, doctors, artists, students might force the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador. Contacting other groups in America and Europe to strive for the imposition of sanctions on Israel is also important.

The former Israeli parliament member Shlomit Aloni, said in a recent declaration that the only thing left for the Israelis to do with the Palestinians, to be equal with the Nazis, would be to put them in the gas chambers.

Urge writers, artists, and others to voice their opinion, to make common appeals, to pressure them, to answer any bad article via the Internet, to criticise CNN, to criticize the International Committee of the Red Cross. It is impossible for such an organisation to accept the occupier’s rules. What is the difference between an international organisation and us, if they accept the Israeli rules? Pressure them to take a position, and to be vocal about the treatment they themselves receive from the Israelis.

I keep calling them every day to demand help: once to go and protect the besieged groups in hiding and to prevent their summary executions; once to provide oxygen for one of my neighbors; and once to provide cooking gas for me. I needed to feed my family and, more recently, to help a woman to bury her mother 15 hours after her death.

All the times, they answered me the same way: “The Israelis don’t allow us to move. It is a military zone now and they don’t allow us to go.” If they cannot move or provide aid, then why they are here? If they wait for the curfew to be lifted to be able to move like us, why don’t they speak about this treatment and keep a record of this very spoiled state in our world.

It is also important to link school students around the world with our students here. It is very important to politicize these students.

— Ah, the shooting is becoming so heavy now. I don’t know what they are shooting at. I hope that they did not find another group of these young security forces. I have to leave you now. It is becoming dangerous to stay behind my computer. Thanks again for your great words to me and to all of us here, the support you are giving me and us now is very important.

My love to all of you Mona, Mounir, Amira, Amina, Dina, Joclyne, Zein, Hani, I am sure that you will never forget me or us here. We need you my friends.

Much love.