Farewell Hakeem, George Habash

By Yousef Abudayyeh
Special to PalestineChronicle.com

 
With the passing of Dr. George Habash, the Arab people as a whole along with peoples of the world struggling for liberation have painfully lost one of the towering legends of decolonization. 

Dr. Habash, popularly known as Al-Hakeem in dual reference to him being a medical doctor and the conscience of the Palestinian movement, is unmatched in Arab history. 

He is the quintessential intersection of Palestinian democratic nationalism, pan-Arabism, progressive internationalism, and egalitarianism. 

Yet, even such monumental attributes are but a small part of Al-Hakeem’s legacy.  It is his unparalleled principled character, humility, love for his comrades and people, and unblemished history that coin him as the archetypical revolutionary leader.
 
From the day he became a refugee in 1948, to founding the Arab Nationalist Movement and subsequently the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, to emerging as one of the most beloved Palestinian Arab revolutionaries in the seventies, to his final departure in Amman, Jordan, Abu Maysa’s 83-year journey is that of Palestine itself.
 
While many barter for mere crumbs the entirety of their once-existing principles, George Habash gave up none – not an ounce.  As purported "leaders" construct palaces through thievery from which to command their gangs of fear, he died just as he lived, in modesty, humility, and enormous dignity. This is a leader who set the highest example by voluntarily vacating his top political seat while at the peak of his popularity.
 
Al-Hakeem transcended all organizations, political parties, nation-states, and borders.  He spoke loudly for the deprived, fought for the needy, and healed the wounds of the poor.  He was Palestinian in heart, Arab in blood, and egalitarian in his principles.  He leaves a legacy of internationalism situating the Palestinian struggle within an anti-imperialist struggle that transcends the borders of any one state.
 
Al-Hakeem shunned chauvinists and embraced democratic nationalist who valued unity and home-grown socialism.  He rejected the blind mechanical importation of political theory, and argued that it must evolve from our particular Arab conditions.  He understood the colonial nature of Zionism as an agent of imperial dominance while also recognizing that it is served by functionaries and servants from within the Arab rank.  He was an ardent advocate of the inseparable duality between national liberation and social equality.

Unlike others, Al-Hakeem never saluted a Zionist, never "negotiated" under the Israeli flag, never traded kisses with his people’s killers, never knelt before a king, and never stretched a hand in beggary.  He remained true to his belief, never oscillating from one political camp to the next in search of a seat of power. He lived and died never distinguishing along religious lines. He was deeply entrenched in the cumulative totality of our Arab history from the Gulf to the Ocean. And while the wretched of our people searched for meager pieces of bread and drops of clean water throughout the Gaza Strip and the camps of exile, he did not reside in a palace, nor did he enjoy pay-offs of treason.   

Ironically, the passing of this exemplary unifying pan-Arabist legend comes at a time when our people in Gaza are tearing down fences to join hands with the Egyptian Arab people across imposed colonial divides. How sad it is to loose George Habash at a time when true leadership is scarce and despots are many. How painful it is to loose such a visionary at a time when our people appear to be led by local agents of Empire.   How devastating it is to loose an icon of integrity and pride, when Arab pride is trampled every day, particularly by its presumed custodians. And how untimely his loss is when the need to enhance the democratic pan-Arab nationalist alternative is an existential necessity in today’s era of right wing ascendancy.
 
With the loss of this refugee from the town of Lid, we are all painfully so much less, yet due to his life and legacy we are all so much more.
 
How easy it is to pretend to be a revolutionary during times of luxury, and how almost impossible it is to live and die as one during impossible times.  Such is painstakingly achieved only by the select few, of whom El Hakeem is undoubtedly unmatched.

Farewell Abu Maysa!
The struggle continues…
 
-This article was contributed by the Free Palestine Alliance; visit http://wewillreturn.blogspot.com

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