A poet visits his mother’s grave

on 5 Comments
Shaden Abu Hijleh
Shaden Abu Hijleh

What a lovely face, don’t you think? Shaden Abu Hijleh was a philanthropist and democracy activist in Nablus, married to a leading surgeon.

And then on the evening of October 11, 2002, Shaden was sitting outside her front door, doing embroidery and talking with her husband and son, when an Israeli patrol stopped outside the house and shot and killed her, and injured the other members of her family.

It was the Second Intifada. Shaden was 61 years old. Here is her memorial website, maintained by her son, Saed Abu Hijleh, whose arms she died in. 

I met Saed Abu Hijleh in late September in Nablus. He’s a poet and lecturer on political geography, and he brought me to his mother’s grave, where I made this video. The video lasts 31 minutes. Here are the highlights:

First three minutes: 1200 Nabulsis were killed during the 2nd intifada. They are considered martyrs because they resisted occupation, often by nonviolent means.  

3:48. Description of his mother’s two cousins’ deaths.

4:15. Description of his mother’s killing “without any provocation”, apparently for sitting outside her house just before curfew. You can see where Shaden was sitting in this other video, here.

10:10. An internal investigation by the Israelis results in slaps on the wrist of an officer and soldier involved in the killing. Abu Hijleh does not know these men’s names.

12:18. We are resisting a “brutal occupation,” that is why Shaden was killed. It is an apartheid system that uses human rights violations to seek to create submission.

13:44. Description of the deaths of youths who threw stones at soldiers.

14:10. A high point of the interview. I ask Abu Hijleh why he does not submit and try and lead a normal life. He tells me that his spirit simply could not accept the occupation and that from the time he was a boy he resisted it, and was nearly killed, and repeatedly imprisoned, before his father shipped him off to get an education.  “I went through the whole spectrum of Israeli oppression… this endless crime has to end.”

18:01. Abu Hijleh says that justice means one state, with the right of return.

20:00. His analysis of why Zionism is a losing project that is fueling anti-Jewish feeling, and that destroyed the Jewish fabric of life throughout the Arab world.

22. Arafat’s 1974 vision of a secular democratic society is what all should struggle for.

24. Yes Palestinians have to articulate a vision for the future. “But why always the victim has to articulate the right vision?… Why all the pressure is on the victim, when the oppression is so obvious?  Why does the victim have to explain the oppression. You ask the victim of a rape to explain the rape?… [Why do Palestinians in international fora have] to explain how brutal and painful the rape is so that someone will stop the rapist? Where are we? We’re in 2011.”

28: A description of the storied history of Nablus

Thanks to Gilbert Carlson, an American volunteer, who appears at the periphery of the camera, and who introduced me to Saed Abu Hijleh.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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5 Responses

  1. john h
    November 20, 2011, 1:13 pm

    Phil, thanks for starting my day with yet another example of the courage and tenacity of an oppressed people in the face of such a brutal and heartless regime.

    Abu’s questions at 24 say it all. The answer is we don’t just walk by on the other side, we are in collusion and have complicity. Shame on us.

  2. john h
    November 20, 2011, 1:57 pm

    Abu’s questions at 24 say it all. The answer is

    we have no conscience.

    An intolerable obscenity that stems from our cowardice, our self-delusion, and our corrupt self-interest.

  3. atime forpeace
    November 20, 2011, 5:26 pm

    Hey Phil, maybe you can save zionism by purifying it.

    “this endless crime has to end”

    • john h
      November 20, 2011, 7:07 pm

      No such thing. The endless crime is Zionism itself, that’s what has to end.

      The idea of purifying it is as much fantasy as its own narrative is.

  4. annie
    November 20, 2011, 8:44 pm

    that is a fantastic video. he really gets fired up and then recites his poetry, one part ..i can’t remeber specifically but i looked at the time it was @ 21 minutes. he is so passionate. you brought out a lot of passion in him. a lot. it was so good. i am not sure i would call 14 minutes the height pt. everyone should see it. when he speaks about being whipped..and when he recites ‘you can fool all the people some of the time..’ and when he talks about love and one people

    here is a poem from his poetry website


    “Eye for an eye
    Tooth for tooth”

    But last night the Sufi Nai told you
    “Smile for a smile
    Heart for a heart”

    Your whole being cried
    You understood
    Your heart
    Is in His hand
    You understood
    His grace
    You have
    No face
    You saw
    Once again
    With your heart
    You almost forgot
    That you strayed
    Away from the path

    Soon you will go away
    To the master of love
    And whirl around yourself
    Till you are no more
    Where there is no ship
    Or shore

    The truth is one
    What you have done
    What you have said
    What you bled
    Your breath

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