Noura Erakat is our beloved sister, the woman who makes us proud, the eloquent speaker who speaks truth to power over and over and over again, who always rises to the occasion, redirecting the narrative away from blaming the victim, towards critical analysis. Yesterday, she had to do it again, and I, for one, wish she didn’t have to. I wish she didn’t have to publicly grieve, and send her condolences over NPR, on a Democracy Now segment, to her aunt and uncle, whose son, her own cousin, Ahmed Erekat, had been executed in horrific circumstances—one more victim of the Israeli occupation. As the video of his agony circulated, Palestinians all around the world joined in collective mourning, honoring Ahmed’s life, his family’s grief, and revisiting an all-too-familiar ache: the loss of Palestinian life to Israel’s ruthlessness, its relentless brutality.
Ahmed had been on his way to pick up his sister from a hair salon in Bethlehem when he lost control of his car, veering into an Israeli checkpoint. Ahmed’s sister, and mother, were at the salon ahead of the evening wedding ceremony. The soldiers immediately shot him, and left him to bleed to death for one and a half hour, preventing an ambulance from reaching him. Now Israeli propagandists are turning him into a terrorist, claiming the soldiers averted a suicide attack.
Why aren’t journalists asking the appropriate questions here, Noura herself asked on Democracy Now? The conversation should not be about whether or how or if the latest martyr had tried to “ram the checkpoint,” but why there is a checkpoint in the first place. Not “what was Ahmed doing,” but “why were there Israeli soldiers on the way from Abu Dis to Bethlehem? What right do they have to be there?”
And the answer is simple, incontrovertible: the occupation being illegal under international law, the soldiers have no right to be there. A simple truth, yet one we constantly need to remind the mainstream about. One Noura had to explain yet again, as she grieved her cousin’s death, a mere few hours after watching him agonize, lying on asphalt in the sun, with fellow Palestinians barred from rescuing him. “Israel wants Palestinians to feel helpless,” Noura correctly pointed out.
Ahmed was picking up his sister from the hair salon , ahead of her wedding ceremony.
The truth will set us free, but first, it will provoke yet more vile hatred from the Israel apologists. Noura’s Twitter feed has posts that claim Ahmed committed “suicide by soldiers.” Someone posted a video, in Arabic, mostly unintelligible, and claimed this is his “suicide attack” message. I doubt whoever posted that video speaks Arabic, I do, and I listened to it a couple of times, and could only make out one word: “corona.” It is not a suicide message, but rather Ahmed’s commentary on the virus, which did not kill him. Instead, Israeli soldiers murdered him in cold blood, watching as he writhed, bled to death, took his last quiet breath, while Palestinian onlookers, prevented from reaching him, prayed over his slowly departing soul.
Ahmed Erekat. Twenty-seven years old, executed on the eve of his sister’s planned wedding, two weeks before his own. He was born, lived, and died, under a brutal, merciless occupation. Honor his life, and that of all Palestinians–under occupation, under apartheid, under siege, and in exile–by not normalizing Israel’s egregious crimes.
The Erekat extended family should have been celebrating, instead, it is mourning. And Palestinians everywhere are mourning with Ahmed’s family, with our beloved Noura, and asking our allies to keep pushing, so we never again have to mourn those killed unjustly, by a deeply racist settler-colonial power that views every young man, every Palestinian, as a threat.
As indeed we are, because our mere existence is resistance.
But our existence is a right, that no occupier can deny us.