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

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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

Screen shot 2014-05-17 at 7.40.20 AM

I recommend Martyrs and Hope in its entirety.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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8 Responses

  1. just
    just on May 17, 2014, 6:48 pm

    A haunting post, Annie. I read it this morning, and wasn’t quite able to comment. There is so much in it.

    Many thanks for this, and thank you also for the recommendation to ‘Martyrs and Hope’.

    • annie
      annie on May 17, 2014, 8:07 pm

      it was strange how it unfolded, the experience of reading it in the dark, in all it’s stark pain. thinking about the boy in the photo…the dusk of dawn by the time i was drafting it..and then looking up the origin of that phrase and seeing ‘palestine’ was just one of those moments. i don’t really know what it means, a sign perhaps.

      • Citizen
        Citizen on May 18, 2014, 5:39 am

        Quite a read, Annie. Thanks.

  2. joecatron
    joecatron on May 17, 2014, 9:55 pm

    I also suggest Mariam Barghouti’s “Loud music, silent hearts,” on the same killings and with similar themes.

  3. bilal a
    bilal a on May 18, 2014, 10:07 am

    Peace makes some people angry.

    Norway diplomat: Obama aide irked by peace prize
    Wetland did not give further details about Emanuel’s meeting with Stroemmen but said Emanuel was known for having a sharp tongue and that it was “the job of ambassadors to be available for those lashings out.” He declined to elaborate.

    former BBC reporter, Alan Hart , recent interview:

    “When I was doing my Mideast shuttle diplomacy, I had reason to keep Ezer Weizman informed. Although he was part of the Begin government, he loathed it and was trying to keep it from going totally bananas. And I had an appointment with him one day, to meet with him at 12 o’clock in the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv. And when I arrived, strangely the Ministry of Defense was very, very empty. Yes, it was lunchtime, so people were out strolling along the beach or whatever. But it still seemed to me very empty. At the desk they said to me, ‘The Minister’s not here at the moment. But he’s asked that you wait in his outer office. And about twenty minutes later, Ezer Weizman, Israel’s Defense Minister…I heard what sounded like weary steps coming up the stone steps to his office. And he stood in the doorway. He was quite a big man. And he leaned against the door, and he looked exhausted, and he said ‘shalom.’ Then he walked over to me, put his arm around my shoulder, walked me into his inner sanctum, and closed the door. He plunked himself into a chair, chucked his own feet on the desk, and motioned me to sit in the chair opposite. And I was sitting there looking at him…he seemed to be looking at me, but he was obviously looking right past me. And I said to him, ‘Ezer, you’ve obviously got a big problem on your mind.’ I imagined that maybe an Israeli plane had been hijacked or shot down. So I said, ‘Shall I make another appointment?’ And he said, ‘No, Alan, I’ll tell you why I’m late.’ He said: ‘I’ve just been checking out something.’ He said ‘This lunchtime, Sharon convened a meeting of many senior military officers, and they had signed a blood oath that in the event of any Israeli government withdrawing from the Occupied Territories, those who had signed the oath would take the men loyal to them, join forces with the settlers who would oppose the implementation of any withdrawal, and fight their own government to the death. Now when Ezer told me that story, he looked at me and he said: ‘Do you think Sharon would do that?’ And I said ‘Ezer, I’m a visiting goy! You’re Israel’s Defense Minister! What do YOU think?’ And he said: ‘Of course he would. He’s mad enough to nuke the entire fucking Arab world.’ Quote-unquote. So yes, there’s madness and madness.””

    • annie
      annie on May 18, 2014, 10:43 am

      bilal, you don’t happen to have a source link for that besides veteran’s today do you?

  4. jimby
    jimby on May 18, 2014, 12:37 pm

    great post Annie, it reminds me to examine my sloppy assumptions.

  5. Taxi
    Taxi on May 19, 2014, 1:18 am

    You need an AK47 to protect this “hope”.

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