Growing Up Palestinian by Laetitia Bucaille

Bassam says: “Our goal has always been t liberate our country.  We’re realists and we recognize the principle of the two states living side by side.  To win back our rights in our own land, we much us both political and military means.  The occupation prevents us from living as we wish to.  We need a revolution to force a change.” (Page 8)

The idea was to create a daily series of acts of defiance whereby the people of the territories could stand up to the IDF and reaffirm the personality and the existence of the Palestinian nation.  This affected the relationship between occupied and occupiers by giving the former a dignity that had been suppressed since the imposition of Israeli martial law.  In this sense, the Intifada was a revolt again surrender and humiliation. (Page 18)

The Oslo accords gave the Palestinians nothing but the bastard status of autonomy over most of the Gaza Strip and a small area of the West Bank: as a comprehensive formula for an enduring peace, its future was uncertain to say the least. (Page 37)

Salah had been an active militant ever since he saw their younger brother Khaled killed in an Intifada scuffle between soldiers and stone throwers.  Khaled had taken a bullet wound: Salah went to help him, but Khaled told him to run so he wouldn’t be arrested; the soldiers would make sure he got to the hospital.  Nevertheless, Salah lingered on a nearby rooftop to see what would happen.  Instead of helping Khaled with first aid, the Israelis riddled him with bullets while Salah looked on helplessly.  From that moment, he became a committed militant. (Pages 38-39)

Despite all this, residents express a strong attachment to the camp, in which most of them were born and raised; they are proud of belonging to its strong community.  “We’re simple people here; we have real affection for one another.  It’s different down there in Rimal where there’s money.  Only simple people can love each other as we do.” (Page 59)

When war brings physical, material, or psychological insecurity to the community, mothers and fathers look to find husbands for their daughters, believing that they will be protected.  Furthermore, by ridding itself of female offspring, the family is freed of a double burden: there’s one less mouth to feed, and no more need to worry about the girl’s virginity.  The family’s honor remains intact. (Page 63)

To avoid being in an inferior position, some Palestinians concealed their identity and masqueraded as Israelis.  Fuad, one of the Nablus shebab, worked as a house-mover in Israel.  “I told them I was an Israeli,” he recalls.  “My brother did too.  He became an Israeli from top to toe – you’d never know he was an Arab.  He spoke perfect Hebrew.  He told them he’d been in the army and he’d killed five Arabs.  They all congratulated him.”  To fool the enemy, to mimic his most extreme ideas, to adopt his outward demeanor – all these were ways of turning the tables, or at least of convincing oneself that one had escaped the reality of the situation.  In any event, the sense of duping one’s foe gave a certain satisfaction, even at the risk of losing one’s own identity. (Page 81)

Most Gazans under twenty have never known anything other than the place where they were born.  A test carried out on children and young people from the ages of ten to twenty-four have shown that three out of four think the map of Gaza is the map of Palestine.  This inability to picture the national space is an example of how a generation, and indeed a whole society, trapped in a given territory can have its imagination literally amputated by the experience. (Page 87)

“Of course I’ll accept a Palestinian state that includes the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem.  You could hardly dream of more.  If they’ll respect us, we’ll respect them.  If they want peace, if they give us peace, we’ll give them peace back.  I agree with Gaddhafi: if Israel gives the Palestinians their rights, the Arab would will no longer view Israel as its enemy.  If the Israelis accept us, I’ll be very happy to place them at the head of the Arab League.” (Page 112)

“I’d like to see a country where every child has rights.  I’d like to be able to go wherever I like, like anybody else in the world.  I want a country without war and without weapons – like Switzerland.  Of course that won’t happen in my lifetime, but maybe my children will see it.” (Page 112)

When a special unit came to crush the political and military activities of Bassam’s group and shot Khaled right in the middle of the Balata refugee camp, Aziz was the whole thing.  “I was leaning against a wall talking to someone and I saw the Special Forces come in.  One of them shot Khaled in the leg.  I saw the bullet go through his pants.  I wanted to go in there, into the wound to feel what it was like.  Then they fired at him again and I wondered how the soul leaves the body.  I just watched and said nothing: the gunshots, the people yelling.  They killed him in cold blood, just like that, like they were squashing an insect.  At that moment I understood that in just the same way we Palestinians were convinced that Palestine belonged to us, the Israelis were quite certain it was theirs.”  Aziz went home and wrote a poem. (Pages 114-115)

“In some ways I like the occupation, because it has made us learn the value of our country, which has led us to love our own people…” (Page 116)

For some young people the dilemma is quite simply insoluble: it’s impossible to live here, while to try and live anywhere else – even if you do manage to surmount all the obstacles to getting there – is like tearing out your soul. (Page 120)

Islamist rhetoric explains the vulnerability of Israeli society by the fact that its members are afraid of death. … Believing that the Achilles heel of the Israelis lies in their attachment to life, the men of Jihad look beyond their own obvious inferiority in terms of weaponry.  They calculate that their willingness to sacrifice themselves gives them a moral superiority over the citizens of the Israeli state. … Their hope is that fear will lead the Israeli government to buckle, and/or that a significant number of Israeli citizens will simply leave the country.  The plan, in short is to terrorize the Israelis by repeatedly targeting their point of greatest weakness. (Page 136)

The sense of being relieved of any real choice with respect to their own existence is one that the shebab often express; hence the meticulous arrangement of their own demise, in the act of striking at the heart of enemy society, paradoxically allows them to regain control of their life – if only at the last moment – and in doing so to inflict upon the enemy a devastating revenge for what he has done to them.  They can escape the iron ring of impotence to which both they and their community are shackled, by choosing the way of the martyred hero. (Page 137)

Two months after taking up his command, the new Israeli chief of staff, General Moshe Yaalon, made this comment: “The Palestinian threat is perfectly invisible.  It’s like a cancer … if you fail to diagnose it correctly and people say it’s not a cancer, only a headache, the treatment won’t work.  I think it’s a cancer.  There are all kinds of treatments for symptoms of cancer.  Some say you should cut out the diseased organs altogether.  For the time being, I’m applying chemotherapy.” (Page 150)

On March 5, 2002, after a particularly bloody week, Ariel Sharon declared that the Palestinians would “have to be hit very hard” because “unless they understand they are beaten, we can never return to the negotiating table.” (Page 152)

Palestinian violence serves to nourish the bellicose rhetoric that underpins the IDF’s tactics of repression.
Thus from the point of view of both protagonists, violence remains the strategy that yields most results: it alone holds out the possibility of a result, insofar as its goal is to compel the enemy to give up. (Page 153)

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