Palestinians were waiting on fire for the Freedom Flotilla– the vessels that were carrying seven hundred Turkish, some people from different nationalities. Those ships were coming to Gaza carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza. Although they were on the international waters they have been attacked by Israel forces. However, nothing that Israel does is surprising. Israel stormed and attacked those vessels violently and prevented them from continuing their pure humanitarian work they were intending to do.
They continued creating trivial excuses for their ugly crimes. Israel said that those ships were not only for providing aid, but also it was an act of provocation. However I need an explanation, will it be reasonable to kill up to nineteen people and wound more than thirty for this reason though? I can’t understand, are they really humans?
Here in Gaza, public strike is announced. Protests are spread in every street. The Palestinian people ignored their differences, including their political point of view, to be one force to express their rejection of the ongoing aggression against them, and declare their solidarity with their brothers in all the countries who were martyred and were injured this morning while marching in the Freedom Flotilla to break the siege on Gaza.
On behalf of all Palestinians, I say thank you for everyone sacrificing to break Gaza siege. We are all proud of those people who insisted to support Gaza even they were threatened by Israel.
Twenty-seven years ago, my father’s eyes saw the sun after being in the dark of Israeli prison for 13 years. On 20 May 1985, my father regained his freedom.
“I was sentenced for seven lifetimes plus 10 years and I thought that this prison, Nafha, would be my grave. Thank God I didn’t stay that long there, and I was set free to marry your mother and to bring you to this life,” my father told me, smiling. He considered the 13 years of misery as not that long. Yes, it’s not that long if compared with the life sentence to which he was bound if the deal to exchange Palestinian and Israeli prisoners didn’t happen.
I can’t recall that Dad ever showing any regret or sorrow for how the precious years of his youth were stolen from him. His prison experience is instead his song of life. He believes that it is his treasure, the reason behind his rich culture and beliefs, his strong character, his intimate friendships, and the reason why he values life. I’ve always been proud that I am my Dad’s daughter, and I’ll always be. He is a mix of experience and knowledge.
The story of the exchange deal all started when Ahmad Jibril of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine captured three Israeli soldiers (Yosef Grof, Nissim Salem, Hezi Shai) in revenge for thousands of Palestinian prisoners kidnapped by Israel without any apparent reason. After a long process of negotiations, both sides struck a deal that Israel would release 1,250 prisoners in return for the three Israelis that Jibril held captive. My father was included in the deal, and fortunately, he was set free. Among the prisoners released were the Japanese freedom fighter Kozo Okamoto who had been sentenced to life imprisonment, and Ahmed Yassin, the leader of Hamas who was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment in 1983.
History repeats itself. On 18 October last year, we experienced a similar historical event with a swap deal involving the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was arrested by the resistance in Gaza while he was on top of his war machine (an Israeli tank). Just like what happened with Shalit, the capture of three Israelis caused uproar in the Israeli public opinion and international media at that time, but the thousands of Palestinian prisoners behind Israeli bars were not noticed, except for by the resistance fighters that have always forced Israel to meet some demands regarding the Palestinian prisoners.
When I deeply think about these events and the way the international media reacts, I get angry at how unjust this world is. Why did the world make a big deal of Shalit and the three soldiers when they were attested by the “terrorist” Palestinians while thousands of Palestinian political prisoners are left behind in Israeli jails enduring all forms of violations and torture and the world chooses to look away?
My father told the story with tears struggling to fall. He was staring at a picture stuck on the wall of his room; a painting that my father drew during his imprisonment of flowers blooming among barbed wires. “I cannot forget the moment when the leader of the prison started calling off the names to be released,” he said.
Among the prisoners was Omar al-Qassim, a leading member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Al-Qassim was asked to read the list of the names loudly. He was so excited at the beginning hoping that his freedom would be restored. Every time he said a name, a scream of happiness convulsed the walls of prison. Suddenly, his face’s features started to change. He became reluctant to speak because he noticed that his name wasn’t among the names. This was another incident of psychological torture that the prison’s manager committed against him. But he left him no chance to make fun of him. He withdrew himself silently and went to his prison to continue with his resistance. Sadly, he died in a horrible narrow cell after 22 years of resistance, pride and glory.
The tears of happiness and sadness mixed together. The freed prisoners were happy to regain their freedom but they were upset at leaving the other prisoners in that dirty place where the sun never shines. “We were like a big family sharing everything together. We all handled the same issues that we were united to fight for,” my father said. “Although I am free now, my soul will always be with my friends who are still suffering in there.”
My father has always said that “prisoners are the living martyrs.” He also described Israeli jails as “graves for the living.” Let’s unite and use all the means available to help 4,653 Palestinian political prisoner have fewer years of suffering. We share this responsibility as we can’t leave them as prey for those criminal jailers. Their freedom will be a triumph for humanity.
I was watching a documentary report about Al-nakba Day, the day when my grandparents left their homeland by force in 15th of May, 1948. I was looking at my mother’s glittering eyes. “Are you going to cry?” I asked. “Your grandfather used to go every day to a high place in north Gaza called Alkashef Mountain. People used to see him sitting, pondering his raped homeland, Beit Gerga, and crying.” She said with that gloomy broken voice. My grandmother used to say a proverb sarcastically means that the lands are ours and the strangers fire us. She is completely right. I don’t understand how anyone could dare firing people from their lands.
Our poor grandparents thought that the immigration caesarean would be for a week or maximum two years. They were very simple and uneducated people that they didn’t understand the game that Israel and its allies played. Sadly, my grandparents died but they dreamed of return until the last moment of their lives.
I remember the times when I and my family were surrounding my grandmother listening closely to stories from her life. I used to ask her to tell us about Al-nakba every time. At first, she used to refuse complaining that she repeated that events millions of times to us. I am sure she never got fed up saying about that miserable day. She always did try to wag the nostalgia in us to our homeland which we have never seen.
When my grandparents were in Beit-gerga, their homeland, they were farmers, living for the glories of the land as every Palestinian that time. In Al-nakba Day, a ground invasion started. They became horrified. Many people from the north came running fearfully and barefoot. Huge numbers of victims died that day. One of them was my grandmother’s father. He insisted to remain home so they killed him. This was the fate of anyone who confronted them. My grandparents came to Gaza as refugees. Every single day they said “tomorrow we will return back,” but they didn’t. They died after leading that hard life and they never smelt the smell of sand again. My grandparents died but our dream of return has never died. We won’t stay refugees; we shall return.