Opinion: Palestinians refuse to go gentle into that good night

By ROBERT AZZI

Published: 07-15-2023 2:00 PM

Robert Azzi is a photographer and writer who lives in Exeter. His columns are archived at theotherazzi.wordpress.com.

“And you, my father, there on the sad height,” wrote Dylan Thomas, “Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

There are no good nights in Jenin. There are nights when Israel bombs Jenin with American-made fighter jets, and other nights when one stays up worrying about when bombs might again fall on their families.

Let there be rage.

Two weeks ago, on July 3, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved an extensive military campaign against Palestinians living in the Jenin refugee camp on the Israeli-occupied West Bank, stating as a pretense for the assault that Israel was attacking “the most legitimate target on the planet - people who would annihilate our country.”

The Palestinians Netanyahu claimed Israel was targeting were not resistance fighters “who would annihilate our country.” No, it appears he was targeting the Jenin-based Lion’s Den, Palestinian fighters who were targeting illegal Israeli squatters and occupiers of Palestinian territory on the West Bank; fighters resisting home demolitions, land expropriation, and expansion of illegal settlements.

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The Jenin camp is a squalid city of poverty, high unemployment, and raging resentments against their Israeli occupiers. Built in 1953 as one of dozens of refugee camps which were designed to house most of the 750,000 Palestinians displaced from their homes during the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, which Israelis call their War of Independence and which Palestinians call Al Nakba — The Catastrophe.

Under such a pretense the apartheid state of Israel attacked a refugee camp of 17,000 residents packed into a quarter of a square mile with aircraft, drones, military forces and bulldozers. It sealed off the camp, attacked it, and destroyed crucial infrastructure for water and electricity as collective punishment.

Let there be rage.

“I heard you in the other room asking your mother, ‘Mama, am I a Palestinian?’ Ghassan Kanafani wrote in “Men in the Sun and Other Palestinian Stories.” “When she answered ‘Yes’ a heavy silence fell on the whole house... I knew, however, that a distant homeland was being born again: hills, olive groves, dead people, torn banners and folded ones, all cutting their way into a future of flesh and blood and being born in the heart of another child ...”

Let there be rage.

The truth is that the battle is not just about Jenin, as it wasn’t just about South Africa, or about the Ukraine.

The truth is that Israel is trying to annihilate Palestinian resistance and occupation on behalf of settler colonialists. who daily build illegal settlements, destroy Palestinian crops and deny the Palestinian people the right to dignity and respect.

“For a colonized people the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land: the land which will bring them bread and, above all, dignity.” Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth.

Let’s be clear: Under international law the Palestinian West Bank, along with East Jerusalem, is all occupied territory, in spite of the fact that Israel has built illegal colonies across the land with the intention of annexing them to Israel.

Netanyahu’s invasion came just two weeks after his national security minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, said: “There needs to be a full settlement here. We have to settle the land of Israel and at the same time need to launch a military campaign, blow up buildings, assassinate terrorists. Not one, or two, but dozens, hundreds, or if needed, thousands.”

Today, protected by United States policy and $3.9 billion annually, Netanyahu’s government represents a nation where, according to international and Israeli human rights organizations, including B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International, Israel is practicing apartheid against the Palestinian people.

It’s a loser’s game. What Israel, as the last settler colony of the 20th century, doesn’t recognize is that resistance to colonial repression and systems of oppression and humiliation grow so desperate and intense that the state is unable to control the outcome, as in Algeria where, in 1962 after 132 years of occupation, the French were driven from power.

“Do you know, Mother, that Haj Salem was buried alive in his home? Does he tell you stories in heaven now? I wish I had had a chance to meet him,” Susan Abulhawa wrote in “Mornings in Jenin.”

“To see his toothless grin and touch his leathery skin. To beg him, as you did in your youth, for a story from our Palestine. He was over one hundred years old, Mother. To have lived so long, only to be crushed to death by a bulldozer. Is this what it means to be Palestinian?”

I am a supporter of BDS, a movement formed by Palestinian civil society organizations that calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a form of non-violent pressure on Israel. It’s a movement that worked against South African apartheid and it will, over time, work against Israel.

I am not drawn to Palestine by ethnicity or faith, by love of falafel and musakhan. I am drawn by a sense of justice, by a refusal to remain silent in the face of injustice, by my understanding that Palestinians are as worthy of respect, dignity and liberation as Ukrainians and South Africans.

I cannot go on living my privileged life, enriched by the laments and cautions of Franz Fanon, Ghassan Kanafani, Susan Abulhawar, Dylan Thomas and so many others, without acting on my beliefs — and protected by my First Amendment rights.

“Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Let there be rage.

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