Apr 8, 2012

Easter 2012

Easter is here with its past memories, present joys, and future hopes.  Church bells in Bethlehem remind us of ancient traditions. The roar of Israeli jets overhead (on another bombing mission to Gaza?) remind us of the present.  Stories of freedom and resurrection, past and future, mix as I see a Palestinian Christian Child offering his colored egg to a Muslim friend.  They remind us of the future.  The richness of the land of Canaan contrasts with yet another religious event under occupation. But hope is here.

In this Easter we recall two stories one metaphorical of freedom from slavery and the other of self-sacrifice and suffering as a way of redemption.   Books have been written by archeologists and historians showing that the exodus from Egypt is really not a historical event but part of the folklore of a community interested in cohesion and feeling of hope and empowerment.  Yet, it remains a story that inspires many to fight against turrany. Other books of theology were written about the meaning of the resurrection and salvation and the globalization of the message of Jesus.  Here we are struggling under Israeli occupation and hope for freedom is always in the air. We are reminded that we need freedom for occupier and occupied; the occupiers may be are more imprisoned than the occupied.  Both are in need of freedom and resurrection. 

Zionists are imprisoned by pathologic fear.  As a scientist I can understand it but as a human being I must think of how to deal with it.  For the occupied people, it is rather simpler.  Many may get the classic internalization of their oppressed status.  In South Africa, some blacks would even say to fellow blacks who are smart that they are "white."  Some Palestinians would speak of Israelis as smarter or their products as better etc.  One Israeli soldier sometimes can control hundreds of Palestinians who, if they so decided to move, could easily bypass his illegal checkpoint.  One Palm Sunday just 70 of us managed to cross a checkpoint and move over 300 meters into "forbidden" zone towards Jerusalem before the military mustered enough forces to stop and arrest us.  Imagine if we had thousands.  No one could stop us.  Hence in the civil rights movement in the USA in the 1950s and 1960s there used to be a saying among African Americans "Free your mind and your ass will follow." 

But our challenge is also on the side of the oppressor.  How do we get the oppressor to free his mind?  My wife came up with a parallel slogan "Free your mind, the fear becomes hollow and peace will follow."  I think this is accurate since much of the self-imprisonment of the oppressor is born of fear.  Any cursory examination of the social discourse among Israeli Jews and their Zionist Jewish supporters around the world realizes that the main issue is a psychological fear: that any letting go of privileged/powerful status based on the repression and theft of Palestinian land might bring them catastrophe.  This psychology of fear explains much of the sometimes exaggerated paranoia mixed with a superiority inferiority complex (endless victimization while being chosen and more superior than "goyim" societies etc). 

April/Easter brings up new growth of plants and of of memories. We remember April 1920 the San Remo conference by colonial powers to subdue the Arab world. We remember April 1921 uprising against the British occupation. We remember the formation of the Arab Higher Committee in April 1936. We remember Hasan Aburas and Salem Almasri murdered by Zionists on 17 April 1936 in an orange grove near AlAujah River. We remember Abdulqader Al-Hussaini killed defending his homeland 8 April 1948.  We remember 50,000 Palestinians ethnically cleansed from Haifa 21-22 April 1948. We commemorate Deir Yassin massacre carried out 64 years ago.  My mother remembers her friend in teachers' school in Jerusalem who rushed to Deir Yassin when she heard it was being attacked and was killed as she tried to help villagers.  We remember Musa Misbah Alhanafi, 22 year old from Rafah killed by the occupation forces in a peaceful demonstration of students at Birzeit University 13 April 1987.  We remember Khalil Al-Wazir (Abu-Jihad) assassinated by Israeli agents 16 April 1988. We remember our friend Julian Mer-Khamis killed in Jenin one year ago in April*.  But April also saw many inspiring events from foundation of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People (Easter 1988) to massive demonstrations for Freedom in April 2001 and 2002. April and Easter in Palestine thus bring both remembrance and hope.

This is a month of Spring in Palestine.  Where we still have access in our ghettos and concentration areas, we can see the beauty and bounty of nature.  The season for green almonds is almost over (we ate far too many over the past few weeks). The Loquats are showing fruit but it won't be ripe for a few more weeks.  The Olive trees are in bloom.  And the citrus flowers produce the most magical aroma. Tender grape leaves are sprouting like the phoenix from the rough branches.  They all remind us that long winters are always followed by Spring.  We still have hope. We dream of and work for freedom.  Like that story of 2000 years ago, hope in the miracle of resurrection and redemption endures. Happy Easter to all.

* This video is a tribute to our friend Juliano, a great hero of humanity.  Next Friday, Friday 13, the freedom theater bus will come to Al-Walaja, they will build a performance together with the audience.