Why We Have Become
By Dr. Eyad Sarraj
A few weeks ago I said that the struggle
of Palestinians today is how not to become a bomb and that the amazing
thing is not the occurrence of the suicide bombing, rather the rarity
The BBC interviewer appeared to understand.
I was shocked because it is our understanding that the world out
there will never understand. And who on earth in their right mind
would understand terror and the killing of innocent people? Why
do Palestinians kill themselves and Israelis in such an horrific
way at the bus stop or in a crowded market? Do you really care to
know? Well, let me try and explain.
I believe it is an act of absolute
despair and a very serious stage of the seemingly perpetual conflict.
Since the uprooting of the Palestinians in 1948 triggered by Irgun
Jewish terror under the leadership of Yitzak Shamir and Menachem
Begin, we have tried everything. We have tried Nasser and Arab Nationalism,
only to be invaded in 1956 in our second homes in the refugee camps.
It was only because of the Russian threat to bomb London and Paris,
and the resolve of American president Eisenhower that ended the
We have tried the United Nations
and its Security Council, which by the way have made excellent resolutions
on our behalf. For example Resolution 194 calling on Israel to allow
us to return to our homeland, but to no avail. So we kept wandering
around, between airports and refugee camps, waiting for a hero or
an earthquake. All we wanted was to go home. But our story was getting
worse and we grew bitter as we heard that a Jew from Poland would
be declared a citizen of our country - a country now called
Israel. We were told that officially we were stateless with undefined
nationality. So we went to universities. We believed then that Jews
were so clever because they were educated. We were told that Jews
controlled the world with their education. They are doctors, lawyers
and scientists, never beggars or boxers. In twenty years many of
us became university graduates and we were in every university.
We had some pride. Some of our educated people formed the resistance
movement. They believed that the Arab countries would never fight
Israel, and that we had to force them to fight. Fatah with Yasser
Arafat was born. They forced the Arabs to fight by inviting Israel
to attack Egypt in 1967. In the course of six days the Arabs were
defeated again but worse. This time we lost Gaza and the West Bank,
Egypt lost Sinai, and Syria lost the Golan. In a sudden stroke our
fate was sealed and we had to live under Israeli military occupation
for thirty years. Do you know what does it mean to live under Israeli
military occupation? Do you really care to know? Let me tell you
a few things.
You are given an identity number
and a permit to reside. If you leave the country for more that three
years in succession, you lose that right to residence.
When you leave the country on a trip,
you are given a laissez passez, a travelling document, valid for
one year and it tells you in its recording of your particulars that
you are of undefined nationality.
Israeli occupation means that you
are called twice a year by the intelligence for routine interrogation
and persuasion to work as an informer on your brothers and sisters.
No one is spared. If you are to be a member of a political organisation
you will be sentenced for ten years. For a military action you will
be sentenced to life.
To survive under the Israeli occupation
you are given the chance to work in the jobs that Israelis do not
like, sweeping the streets, building houses, collecting fruit or
harvesting. You will have to leave your home in the refugee camp
in Gaza at 3 am, go through the road blocks and check posts, spend
your day under the sun and surveillance returning home in the evening
to collapse in bed for a few hours before the following day.
We simply became the slaves of our
enemy. We are building their homes on our villages, and we clean
their streets. Do you know what does it do to you when you have
to be the slave of your enemy in order to survive. No you will never
know how painful it is unless your country is occupied by another
force. Only then will you learn how to watch in silence pretending
not to see the torture of your friends and the humiliation of your
Do you know what it means for a child
to see his father spat at and beaten before his eyes by an Israeli
soldier? Nobody knows what happened to our children. We don't know
ourselves except we observe that they lose respect for their fathers.
So they, our children, the children of the stone as they became
known, tried the Intifada - the Uprising. Seven long years
our children were throwing stones and being killed daily. Nearly
all our young men were arrested, the majority were tortured. All
had to confess. The result was every one suspected that all people
were spies. So, we were exhausted, tormented and brutalised. What
else could we do to return to our home? We had almost forgotten
that and all what we wanted was to be left alone.
What else could we try? Oh yes, peace.
When the news came that Arafat had signed a peace treaty in Washington
we were jubilant. At last we thought we were to get rid of that
miserable life of military occupation, at last. So we had hope.
We could not believe our eyes when
there were no more curfews and we could actually spend our evening
on the beach or wander in streets which were now ours after eight
o'clock at night. We were ecstatic. We even had elections and we
had a parliament, so we were told.
Then came Binyamin Netanyahu.
He refused to meet Arafat and was
clearly forced to shake hands in obvious disgust. He refused to
free our prisoners, to have a safe passage for us to move between
the West Bank and Gaza. He even surrounded our towns and villages
with his tanks and arrested our policemen. Then he went after our
holy places and opened a tunnel under our holiest Mosque. Tens of
our children and also Israeli soldiers were killed because of that
tunnel, but he went on insulting us and driving out our sanity.
Arafat called for patience and we
were patient, then Netanyahu started to build settlements in Jerusalem
and drive the remaining Palestinians out. Settlers in Hebron spat
on our Prophet and called him a pig. All in the name of peace
we were humiliated, even arrested and tortured by Palestinian forces
to protect the peace. Our Authority was turning against us to please
Netanyahu. Our officials were driving in big cars and building big
villas. They have VIP cards and cross the check posts like human
beings while we are left to rot.
I've told you a few things. Now do
you understand why we have turned into suicide killers?
Dr. Eyad Sarraj is a Palestinian
Psychiatrist, Commissioner of Citizens Rights, and an Awardee of
Physicians for Human Rights. He was detained three times by Arafat's
forces during 1996.
The above article is published
with the kind permission of Mid-East Realities (MER), www.middleeast.org.