|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
10 - 16 May 2001
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Not to begin at the endBelow is a translation of the full text, written in Arabic by Mahmoud Darwish, that will be broadcast on 15 May, the 53rd anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel, and the beginning of the Palestinian Nakba. The day will be marked by mass demonstrations throughout the Palestinian territories
Today is the great day of remembrance. We are not looking back to dig up the evidence of a past crime, for the Nakba is an extended present that promises to continue in the future. We do not need anything to help us remember the human tragedy we have been living for the past 53 years: we continue to live in the here and now. We continue to resist its consequences, here and now, on the land of our homeland, the only homeland we have.
Nor will we forget what was done to us on this land of grief and what continues to be done. And this is not because collective and individual memory is fertile, is capable of recalling our sad lives, but because the tragic and heroic story of the land and the people continues to be told in blood -- in the open conflict between what they want us to be and what we want to be.
As the Israeli engineers of the Nakba announce on this day of remembrance that the 1948 War has not yet ended, they unmask, and scandalously so, only the mirage of their peace, a mirage that appeared over the last decade with its suggestion of a promise of the possibility of bringing an end to the conflict, an end that would be based on [two peoples] sharing the same land; they unmask, too, and scandalously so, the incompatibility of the Zionist project -- so long as that project's aim of exterminating the Palestinian people remains on the agenda -- with peace.
For the Palestinians the meaning of this war consists in their being subjected to continual uprooting, in their transformation into refugees on their own land and beyond it, in the attempt, following the occupation of their land and history, to banish their existence, to turn their existence from an unequivocal entity in space and time to redundant shadows exiled from space and time.
But the Nakba-makers have not managed to break the will of the Palestinian people or efface their national identity -- not by displacement, not by massacres, not by the transformation of illusion into reality or by the falsification of history. After five decades they have managed neither to force us into absence and oblivion nor to divorce Palestinian reality from world consciousness through their false mythologies and the fabrication of a moral immunity bestowing upon the victim of the past the right to create his own victims. There is no such thing as a sacred executioner.
Today the memory of the Nakba comes at the height of the Palestinian struggle in defence of their being, of their natural right to freedom and self-determination on a part of their historical homeland, and this after conceding more than was ever necessary for international legitimacy to make peace possible. When the moment of truth drew near, the true essence of the Israeli concept of peace was unmasked: continued occupation under another name, under better conditions [for the occupier], and at a lower cost.
The Intifada -- yesterday, today, tomorrow -- is the natural and legitimate expression of resistance against slavery, against an occupation characterised by the ugliest form of apartheid, one that seeks, under the cover of an elusive peace process, to dispossess the Palestinians of their land and the source of their livelihood, and to restrict them to isolated reservations besieged by settlements and by-passes, until the day comes when, after consenting to "end their demands and struggle," they are allowed to call their cages a state.
The Intifada is, in essence, a popular and civil movement. It does not constitute a break with the notion of peace but seeks to salvage this notion from the injustices of racism, returning it to its true parents, justice and freedom, by preventing Israel's colonialist project from continuing in the West Bank and Gaza under the cover of a peace process Israeli leaders have emptied of any content.
Our wounded hands are yet capable of extracting the wilting olive branch from the rubble of massacred groves, but only if the Israelis attain the age of reason and concede our legitimate national rights, defined by international resolutions foremost among which are: the right of return, complete withdrawal from Palestinian land occupied in 1967, and the right to self-determination and an independent sovereign state with Jerusalem as its capital. For just as there can be no peace with occupation, neither can there be one between masters and slaves.
The international community cannot -- as it did in the year of Nakba -- turn a blind eye to what is happening in the land of Palestine for much longer. Israeli aggression is still besieging Palestinian society, still killing and assassinating with the excess of destructive power it commands over an unarmed people, a people defending all that remains of their imperiled existence, the rubble of their houses, their olive groves threatened with yet more uprooting.
The nature of the war declared on the Palestinian people will be determined by the international attention it attracts, for it embodies the struggle between conflicting international values: on the one hand are the forces that aim to enable colonialist Zionism and apartheid to live on under new names and formulas, on the other forces that insist on the necessity of justice and truth in this part of the world.
The involvement of other states and peoples in the confrontation raging in Palestine today, and their standing by a Palestinian people deprived of normal life, proves not only that these states and peoples are committed to political stability in the Middle East as a means of protecting their interests but tests, too, a moral position that, in turn, examines the credibility of freedom, justice and equality in the lives and cultures of these peoples.
International protection against the brutal terrorism practised against them by the Israeli regime --which seems to place itself above international law and order-- has, for the Palestinians, become an urgent necessity. It is necessary not only to purge the sin of the past but also to prevent the perpetration of future sins, the adding of yet another chapter to the book of the Nakba. But instead of acknowledging its responsibility for the Nakba and the tragedy of the refugees -- a necessary prerequisite for any political settlement -- Israel is enlarging the Book of the Nakba, reversing the struggle back to its original cultural premise, its initial battlefield -- reminding us that no story can begin at the end.
We have not forgotten the beginning, not the keys to our houses, the street lamps lit by our blood, not the martyrs who nourished the unity of land, people and history, not the living who were born on the road that can only, as long as the spirit of the homeland remains alive inside us, lead to a homeland of the spirit.
We shall forget neither yesterday nor tomorrow. Tomorrow begins now. It begins with an insistence that the road be travelled to the end, the road of freedom, the road of resistance, travelled all the way till the eternal twins -- freedom and peace -- meet.
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