‘To Exist is to Resist’: On Intifada and Sumud

By Mohammed ALNadi – Gaza

As I write this, I’m listening to ‘Ween el Malayeen’ song, meaning ‘where are the millions’, a revolutionary song which used to stir the patriotic emotions inside millions of raging Arabs at the time of the first Intifada. This song is the Intifada’s trademark which is reminiscent of vivid bittersweet memories of Palestinians in their most courageous images. It is associated with the unarmed, bare-chested Palestinian who stood firmly catapulting his stone at the Israeli killing machine, and who dared to grab the fuming tear gas grenade with his bare hands and throw it back at the Israeli soldier.

The first Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, began 24 years ago, as an accumulative result of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967, and its mounting brutal, repressive actions against Palestinians in all the occupied territories.

Every year on December 8, Palestinians all over the world commemorate this remarkably significant event in the history of Palestinian armed resistance. For them, it is one of the most honorable memories of which we are most proud, because it embodies the Palestinian unified spirit of defiance and perseverance against oppression and injustice.

I was born in the very early days of the Intifada, only 4 days after it had begun. I bear no memories of it because I was still a suckling, yet I have tens of stories to tell. My family was living in al Zaytoun neighborhood, east of Gaza City, and, as any other area at the time, it was constantly subject to Israeli curfew. My eldest brother was in his twenties when the Intifada erupted, and as any angry youth did, he would go with his friends and cousins to set up barricades and burn tires to block the way of the Israeli military jeeps and hurl stones at the Israeli soldiers who would meet totally unarmed Palestinians with firing live ammunitions while shielding themselves behind their armored military vehicles.

Palestinian youth and children didn’t take a day off resisting the Israeli occupation. Even when there was a total curfew, my brother says, “They would stealthily go out onto the streets to block roads, spray graffiti, and set tires on fire,” knowing that if someone was caught, “Israeli soldiers would crack his bones using rocks and sticks as ordered by Yitzhak Rabin, or take him someplace where he would be beaten and tortured, and usually he wouldn’t be allowed to return home.”

My brother was lucky he didn’t get a bullet in the head during the Intifada, but the scars from Israeli rubber-coated steel bullets are still clear in his legs. When I asked him about what a little harmless stone could do before the Israeli soldier who is armed to the teeth, he said: “the stone is nothing if compared to Israeli weapons and it didn’t harm much actually, but it was one of the means available to us, and we always viewed it as a symbol of the Palestinian sumud (Arabic for steadfastness).”

Israeli soldiers would raid houses overnight and break into them, terrorizing women and children. “We mothers would worry about our sons and fear that Israeli soldiers would arrest them, so we would make sure anything our sons used for resistance was hidden,” my mother says.

It is quite interesting how Palestinians tend to identify themselves with dates from the history of the Palestinian struggle. They see these incidents as a source of honor and inspiration to keep the fight on, and as a way to perpetuate the linkage between the past, the present and the future. Even my 66-year-old illiterate mother doesn’t memorize any of my 12 siblings’ birthdates. She remembers mine only, because she tends to relate it to the beginning of the Intifada. 

The Palestinian Intifada is not over, and it will never stop as long as there is occupation. We Palestinians have nothing to cherish more than our legacy of resistance that has endured throughout our decades-long struggle against the Israeli occupation on the road of liberation. The culture of resistance—either non-violent or armed resistance–is the base of our existence. So it is extremely important to teach about the Intifada and pass it down our posterity.

– Mohammed AlNadi is Gaza-based English literature graduate. He works as a translator. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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