Whenever I finish writing a journalistic report or a piece of literature, I used to feel a light depression from a flood of questions that would arise without immediate answers.
The most prominent and depressing was the question, “what is the use of revolutionary writing or literature or what we call the ‘resistance journalism’?— “How could some letters or words can restore our rights and our stolen homeland?”—“What is the use of these words and letters compared to putting one’s body on the line?”
What would irritate me is that I’m categorized as an independent writer.
These questions have played in my mind for a long time, but more recently I laughed at myself and repeated: “the word is the eternal God’s miracle on the earth.”
My friend and colleague, Basel al-Araj, who was known for his powerful and deep articles strongly supporting Palestinian resistance, removed some of my doubts, answered some of my inquires, and proved that words of truth may turn into action if they are mixed with a strong faith or belief.
Basel was known to have researched the most prominent stages along the Palestinian revolution struggle. Two days after his assassination [on March 6], I met an intellectual friend who produced a novel and other literary works relating to the 2014 summer in the Gaza Strip. My friend with a pale face was flipping through social media sites looking for anything related to Basel. Suddenly, he hit the table and said with a low voice muttered, “Basel revealed our defects, and I feel that all my literary works are useless.”
Then he asked me, “Do you know why Basel was so effective and why we are all feeling weak compared to him?”
Actually, I didn’t find a suitable answer to his question, but I said hesitantly, “Basel had an absolute faith in his ideas and conviction.”
My friend screamed: “Yes, Basel believed that words can be the fortress to the nation, and believed that literature may achieve victories.”
Lastly, my friend, the novelist and I agreed that words and literature have a strong effect in changing and affecting our realities, and even improving them.
It’s worth mentioning in this context the reminder that literary Zionism preceded political Zionism. Israel itself was born by a novel, Theodor Herzl’s “Altneuland” (“Old New Land” in English) was published in 1902 and then came to reality. So, we should fight by words, poems, and novels.
This short dialogue is a reflection of similar conclusions from Palestinian intellectuals and writers who believe that Basel was the only one among us to find the highest value of the written word, and he sacrificed himself for it.
His strong and absolute faith in his ideas and words are what made Basel a model for everybody, especially the revolutionary intellectuals and writers, but he was unique in other aspects. Basel was a very good explainer of the historical conflicts and sometimes he was described as the “little historian.”
During his digging into the past and his absolute knowledge of many bleak trials and experiences, he looked for the crawl spaces and shiny doors to open for a collective exit from our frozen political status. It is the result of the division of two parts of our homeland, and divisions by the political parties who pursue their own goals.
Followers of writers and journalists will observe that many literary works and journalistic articles come from depressed and disappointed people. The works talk about the bleak reality of our political, social, and economic systems without trying to find a beam of light at the end of the tunnel, without trying to exit through a door to go out into the light, except for Basel. He was unique in this point, and he confirmed he was different through his writings, videos, and lastly his actions. He was and still is sending a message and a patriotic lesson from the darkness to a partitioned nation and land.
The intellectuals, writers and every loyal Palestinian should dig everywhere to find the light and enforce the Palestinian existence.
Why is Basel a model to emulate? The Answer:
Basel founded a new revolutionary method and standard outside of the parties and classic older procedures. He inspired the intellectuals, the depressed youth, and those who liberated themselves from the traditional political parties.
Palestinians consider Basel now as a revolutionary icon who touched their hearts and minds before. I will not be astonished if I see some Palestinian young man wandering in Leicester Square in London, al-Tahrir Square in Cairo, or even Taksim Square in Istanbul, on some future 33rd memorial of Basel’s assassination. His shirt will be printed with Basel’s photo, him in a tee-shirt with his blue shoes and his gun laid at the corner of his room before he rises up to the heavens of the greats.
Death did not stop Basel from being very effective. He added a call for revolutionary works, his call was directed especially to the intellectuals. According to Basel, the intellectuals and the writers shouldn’t arrange words and letters, but they should be effective on the ground.
He found solidarity could achieve what politicians never achieved, especially at the present moment.
The most prominent words of Basel were, “The intellectual should be engaged with the enemy,” but I don’t think he meant it the way it is generally interpreted.
Culture is not known by the number of bullets you fire at your enemy, but it also is not just debates and writings, it should be a mixture of both under a title called insurgency to engage with your enemy in all fields, political, social, economic, and culture.
Yusuf Idris described culture as “knowledge mixed with dignity.” So, if culture means knowledge, authorities will never care about cultured people alone, but the idea is to mix conflicts into the culture with dignity.
Lastly, after going to the depths of Basel’s strategy, depression, and frustration, my earlier questions will never storm my mind again with every work I produce; because our martyr Basel imprinted the basics into our minds: the first is absolute faith, the second is showing the bright side of our conflict, and the third engage with your enemy effectively and be a model for coming generations.