A Family Story within Middle East’s ‘Untold Story’

By Aras Coskuntuncel – Hurriyet (Turkey)

Ramzy Baroud’s ‘My Father Was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story’ will become a classic piece of literature about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through powerful language and stories rife with humor that subtly call to mind the bigger issue at hand.

Baroud dialectically combines his family’s story and modern Palestinian history through inductive and deductive logic by relating his family’s story as the story of the Palestinian people and by making the Arab-Israeli issue a family matter.

With this method, the history of Baroud’s family and Palestine becomes one inseparable body. Baroud’s heartbreaking story should be told, and by the power of the story and its language we understand the outright atrocities committed by Israel and the political and the cultural scene in Palestine.

Baroud’s story starts in Beit Daras, a small, peaceful village north of Gaza that, like so many others, fell victim to Israel’s massacres. He continues with refugee camps, war, occupation and resistance while focusing on the life of his father, Mohammed, whose story epitomizes that of the Palestinian people.

Mohammed was only 9 years old when “the Zionist military campaign to take over Palestine rolled into action. No one … was to foresee the atrocities that followed: the uneven war, the dispossession, the massacres, the betrayal, and the lifelong suffering.” Through all this, while everyone suffered, the “children hardly understood why their lives would be forever altered.”

Mohammed’s tale is an epic story of daily life in Palestine with humor, anger, love, war, tragedy and resistance woven around the themes of life and death. It’s a tragic journey. It’s a story about power struggles that shape the region and the world, a story that should be read to understand the present, to understand imperialism and to acknowledge the truth.

The British mandate, the 1948 war, the Israeli occupation and brutality, Zionism, the Arab world and the Nasser revolution, the Six-Day War, U.S.-Israeli relations, Muslim brotherhood, Fatah, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the Intifada, the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas – one becomes a part of the others as Mohammed’s journey leads you from sadness and anger to laughter and honor.

As he eloquently describes, Baroud’s moment of transformation came as a direct result of history, his father’s history, his mother’s history and the history of his people.

“Engulfed by my own rebellious feelings, I picked up another stone, and a third. I moved forward, even as bullets flew, even as my friends began falling all around me. I could finally articulate who I was, and for the first time on my own terms. My name was Ramzy, and I was the son of Mohammed, a freedom fighter from Nuseirat, who was driven out of his village of Beit Daras, and a grandson of a peasant who died with a broken heart and was buried beside the grave of my brother, a little boy who died because there was no medicine in the refugee camp’s U.N. clinic. My mother was Zarefah, a refugee who couldn’t spell her name, whose illiteracy was compensated for by a heart overflowing with love for her children and her people, a woman who had the patience of a prophet. I was a free boy; in fact, I was a free man.”

This book – Mohammed’s story – has no end: It’s another beginning, a story that is and will be written every day by every “freedom fighter” as a symbol for all until every Beit Daras is returned to its rightful owners. This and only this will lead to a better, fair, livable and honorable world.

(My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story is available at Amazon, Amazon UK, Pluto Press. Click here to learn more. Watch short video in English and Arabic.)

– Aras Coºkuntuncel is Foreign News Editor at the Daily News. He can be reached at aras.coskuntuncel@hurriyet.com.tr.

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