Musing on Linah Alsaafin’s ‘Martyrs and Hope’: It is always darkest just before the dawn

Israel/Palestine
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Palestinian boy throwing stones against Israeli soldiers during clashes near Nablus, Palestine May 2, 2014.

Palestinian boy throwing stones at Israeli forces near Nablus, Palestine May 2, 2014. (Photo: Alaa Badarneh)

This morning, just before the break of dawn, I was reading Linah Alsaafin’s recent blog posting, Martyrs and Hope. A sense of fatigue permeates Alsaafin’s reflections about the murders on Nakba Day of Nadime Siam Abu Nuwara, 17, and Mohammed Awad Salemeh Abu Thaher, 22.  She’s is a persuasive powerful truth teller and she leaves no one unscathed.

I had saved this photograph (above) to my desktop the other day because he reminded me of David. For no reason, other than a whim, it just seemed right and I downloaded it here along with Alsaafin’s finale:

The muted calls for vengeance will be muted, as always in our time. But how do we ensure their names won’t be forgotten away from the regurgitated rhetoric that feel like poison in our throats from their overuse and their inevitable transformation into empty clichés?

A professor at my university had the nerve to declare that the only thing driving Palestinians on is their tenacious hold onto hope. Such a bold unqualified bullshit statement made so flippantly will be added on to the accumulating list of Bullshit Palestine. Perhaps these people who feel that they can say these things—all in good faith, I presume—without knowing just how empty and untrue their words are, are selfishly determined to forever clasp onto the romanticized image of the resisting, steadfast Palestinians in their head?

Evidently, the image of Palestinians addicted to weed, pills and alcoholism, fatalism and their own variation on religion to explain their terrible lives does not bode well with the idealized support of the underdog against the mighty Goliath. Yet this should not be ignored. To use Oscar Wilde’s truism, Palestinians aren’t living, they just exist.

Devoid of any structural or organizational framework that would channel their frustrations in a productive manner, the nature of what is unknown since the goal is too abstract, they take out their bottled up emotions on each other. A father disciplining his son and ending up killing him. The woman stabbed to death by her former husband in court. The teenager dependent on an everlasting supply of hashish. The girl acting on her promiscuity and going through painstaking compromises to hide her secret because she’s been conditioned into thinking it’s wrong, it’s shameful, it’ll get you killed. And the writers, the goddamn writers. Drunkards or cynics or miserable bastards, wanting to write and feeling inhibited by the suffocation around them, and somehow always finding a way to turn this into all about themselves.

At the risk of being anal, but Frantz Fanon did mention this in his Wretched of the Earth. The colonized take out their frustrations on each other in the stage that precedes the organization of these lacerating emotions against the colonizers. Charles Tilly stresses upon the importance of the polity and mobilization model, and how people must be at least part of minimally organized group with some access to resources. Theories, theories, and more theories. Comparative literature, historical case studies, assurances from veteran activists from different countries that the time will come, that it is imminent, that it shall herald in a new dawn as another theorist (Wendell Philips) facetiously states that revolutions are not made; they come.

This post isn’t very coherent. It starts off with the murder of two boys and ends in theoretical ramblings about revolutions. Perhaps the real message in between these two diatribes is a reflection of its evasive essence, that is, there is no groundwork for any sort of successful uprising to occur, no space free to build safe places that won’t get co-opted or destroyed, and no groups that aren’t tainted with decaying political discourse or neoliberal aid.

For now, we can bitterly laugh at those who write books and articles and give speeches on how liberation for Palestine is imminent, just because BDS has grown internationally and the mainstream narrative of the Israeli occupation has tilted, ever so slightly, in the Palestinians’ favor.

It won’t matter to the youth and the writers and the thinkers who reduce (or amplify) the manmade legacies of martyrs into profile pictures on Facebook. It won’t matter to Nadeem’s brother, or Mohammed’s family. It won’t matter to their mothers. It just won’t matter.

And so, what more is there to say? Following my random train of thoughts,  just out of curiosity and perhaps in defiance of this queen of the resistance, I googled “It’s darkest just before the dawn”.

Apparently the notion first appeared in print in the 1650 religious travelogue A Pisgah Sight of Palestine and the Confines Thereof, by English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller. Coincidentally, it was written about David. You can read the full context here

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I recommend Martyrs and Hope in its entirety.

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