On 31 July 2001, Palestine was in a complete state of frustration. No one was thinking straight. Before the blood of the six men who were assassinated in al-Fara’a on 30 July could cool, Israeli missiles were used to murder eight Palestinians on 31 July. Riots in the streets relayed angry voices that condemned the Israeli government and Defense Forces for shooting Palestinian leaders in their homes, offices or during their comings and goings. It did not fail to register among our population that the Israeli helicopter pilots spun away in terrible arrogance, untouched by the deaths of the two young boys just walking by on 31 July.
Teary Palestinian faces, questioning eyes and broken hearts look out beyond funeral processions at the passiveness of almost everyone everywhere. We see self-interest among Arab leaders of other nations or areas unscathed by the Zionist ticks and fleas itching themselves into our skin. Across the Atlantic, Americans display indifference encouraged by the lack of news about what our lives have become and bolstered by the sordid story of a missing woman who just happens to be Jewish and a Congressman who has become an embarrassment, an expendable sort, if nothing else. I wonder whether or not he has discovered, as we have, what it’s like to be a victim of a world that simply doesn’t care whether you survive or not. What must he say to his family about his exposure and a nation of people so willing to throw the first stone, so eager to condemn and destroy not only the man but his family as well? America and other disinterested international governments sit astonished yet unmoved by the Congressman’s story full of immoral implications and by the immoral implications of Zionist aspirations now acted out at the expense of my generation and the one that went before it and the one that will go after it. Most of the world can only ask, “When will it end?”
In America, I’m told, muted tones of sly dissent convey only modified indifference that endlessly fails to echo our anger. Would Americans care more had they realized sooner that it is not only we Muslims who die in the streets, but Arab Christians, too? I want to scream out to everyone who ever felt sorry for oppressed people and say over and over again, “It isn’t enough to be sorry; you have to dare to be outraged.”
Since 30 July, Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem, Jenin, Gaza, all over our territory, chaos reduces any ambitions of truce to ashes. We all realize that what happened could not have happened without the collaboration of some Palestinians who provide information to the Israelis. Otherwise, how could the enemy know so well where Palestinian activists sit on any given night? We cannot bear the Palestinian traitors who bolster the occupation anymore. We were taught about collaboration long ago, but only now are the teachings becoming clear.
Now, the crowds in the streets make themselves heard, if not to the world, at least to the Palestinian Authority. “Clean up this Palestinian house. Get rid of those who dip in our blood to add nurture to their own daily bread.” Our people shout their anger, but a few hours later a Palestinian is shot and killed in Bethlehem; this time, not by the Israelis. “He deserved to die. He was a collaborator,” the rest of us are told. We look at each other in dismay. Who can we believe? Who did this killing? Was it we ourselves? Have we been so gulled by our enemy that we have no trust left in ourselves? In our confusion, we are acting out our degradation of our worst elements, forgetting entirely about our dreams of democracy and decency. Our people respond without allowing a trial, without proof, but rather with hideous vindictiveness turned inward as we impotently fail to chase away our true enemy. We scream about faulty justice across one gully or another in Israel, and then we perpetrate injustice among ourselves.
As I think about collaborators recently shot in Gaza and Bethlehem, I begin to remember when I first heard of collaborators. I was leaving class as a young teenager. An older student grabbed my arm and pulled me over to the side of the hall. She shoved a small book in my backpack and whispered, “Read it and pass it on.” Surprised, I pulled the book out to take a look. The story was about a Palestinian collaborator, Mazen al-Fahmawi, tricking young Palestinians into sexual promiscuity and drug addictions and, then, blackmailing them into committing crimes against their own people. Was this story about a real person, I wondered? Why did she give me this book? The idea of the story chilled me then and chills me still. Knowing the insufficiency of youthful life in Palestine, I can imagine the lure of rewards slyly offered by Shabak, Israel’s intelligence agency, or deceitfulness by our own organizations that draw their financial strength from the other side of Road Number One. I know the dreadful payoff for those who are caught. I know that there is no mercy because the perpetrator was tricked, or poisoned by drugs or fear. I know that age, experience and level of knowledge do not matter. In the story of Mazen al-Fahmawi, he dies as soon as he confesses, strangled by his own boot laces. But, then, was it his immorality or the sins of others that the story meant to impart? Terrified, I burned the book. I’ve said nothing about it until now. I did not pass it on. I did not want people to know about such shame among us. When “Intifada One” came, I knew that the collaboration story carried many meanings in our society. After the years that my generation fought back and fought to get the world’s attention, collaboration vanished in the public consciousness. A few men faced rushed trials and quick deaths, but these were dark and stormy night-lynchings, inhumane and unlawful, similar to evils carried out by racial hatred or turf wars among gangs in big cities.
Now, as I try not to focus on the chaos that rages a few miles from my home, I am full of memories; my confusion is more current. Did Shabak agents circulate that story about Mazen al-Fahmawi to make us suspicious of each other and able to justify and accept murdering our own people or is that the only way to “clean up the Palestinian house?” Did Mazen die guilty or innocent? How has the reaction to the suggestion dramatized in that story passed on to me, and no doubt many others, added to our confusion? Was the accusation, like the attack against the Congressman and the intern, a design to make us distrust and fear even those in our own homes or was it real? I am afraid the Mazen al-Fahmawi story was the small wind blowing in the eye of the storm to set us against ourselves, and the Congressman’s story a distraction to cover evil in the shifting sands of the deserts, here and far away. I can hear those in the West say, “Ah, Samah, that’s conspiracy theory again. No one will believe you.” But, I can’t help thinking it. There are no pretty thoughts in my head now. We all know someone in the mindless violence around us that has taken the blame. Defiled are the unfortunate, the naéve, the disposable, the Mafia’s errand boys who die for the sins of their fathers. Often the “flunky” dies at the hand of the very one that paid for his services leaving no trail to the real collaborator.
Within the terms of their deaths, collaboration does indeed continue, even during the lulls or truces that come so seldom now. We reject our neighbours; we reject ourselves. We are all held hostage by the warranted and unwarranted suspicions instilled in us. Evil has encompassed us. My mind turns to terrorism. Terrorism, like collaboration, is the result of desperation. In 1948, the United Nations, harassed by strong Western allies, illegally agreed to give Zionists more than half our land, land that neither the UN nor the allies owned. The Zionists came with an army and their own terrorists and took 77% of our property by force. That was about 20% more land than the UN had already unjustly allocated. Who then were the terrorists and the collaborators? My grandparents were present; my grandmother is still able to relate the story. The siege and all that it implies is true. Yet, we have no museum in which Hollywood moguls pay millions to preserve my grandmother’s memory.
“Never again,” the famous phrase echoed in Holocaust Museums, does not apply to us. Who does “never again” apply to? In 1967, Israelis, financed by Zionist-pressured Americans of Jewish faith and the American government, took another 23% of the land that was left. There is a pattern to this. How can the world not see it? A powerful government collaborates with and supports a weaker one, a group willing to settle in a location that is of strategic importance to the powerful government. What was the broker thinking in this unlawful land deal? Who was tricking whom? Times goes on. Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Tenet come from America to “suggest” ways to accomplish peace. They coin politically correct vocabulary to tell our Palestinian government that they must control their own Palestinian people, our non-army, our angry youth. It is up to Palestinians to stop Palestinians, we are told, and to join with Israelis to ensure “security coordination.” What naked collaboration does this suggest? How is it politically correct or rational for our government, supposedly defending our space, to entertain the idea of “security coordination” with those who first took 77%, then another 23% and now seek to put us all in a few bantustans if they dare not implement a “final solution”?
America once again manipulatively plies the double standard that got us into this mess in the first place-the American leadership terrified of losing its financial support and power just like Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman before them. Ah, the power of suggestion! Said Truman, “I have no Arabs among my constituents.” We cannot fail to see the irony. Who are the collaborators and who are the terrorists? Are they the teenagers with messages in their pockets or rocks in their skinny hands, the desperate leadership in our country, kept in place by the oppressors, the corrupt among us or those who pay the bill? It may be all of the above unless one stops to think that ironically, instead, it may be those who turn their heads the other way and choose not to know or, at best, to speak in timid fear of being called a name? I want to say to Americans as to my own people, “It’s not enough to be nice.” Are you not mindful of truth and of your own culpability? Is there anyone out there who has the courage of outrage to stand against this wretched tide? When men and women of conscience stand up and recognize immorality as immorality, then we Palestinians will be able to respond to the endlessly repeated question, “When will it end?” Then, perhaps, a new kind of collaboration will begin.
(Samah Jabr is a freelance writer and medical student in Jerusalem. This article was written with the assistance of Elizabeth Mayfield.)