Do Not Panic Palestine: Your Star in the Sky Will Shine

Nuh Ibrahim's grave in the town of Tamrah in the Galilee. (Photos: Left by Ilan Pappé. Right: File)

By Ilan Pappe

[فلسطين لا تفزعي، نجمك في السما درة – Do not Panic Palestine, your star in the sky is a Pearl (Nuh Ibrahim, 1913-1938) – Referring also to Abu Dura, the legendary Commander of the 1936 revolt.]

April, in the historic calendar of Palestine, is a very loaded month. As a historian I recall, in particular, two past Aprils in Palestine’s history. In this month in 1936, the first Palestinian uprising in the 20th century erupted and, in April 1948, the Zionist forces demolished most of the Palestinian towns and neighborhoods, including in my hometown, Haifa.

Indeed, Haifa was an important location in both dramatic periods. This year, in particular, I want to evoke the memory of one Haifawi, Nuh Ibrahim, a son of Haifa, whose work is as relevant today as it was many years ago. In fact, this month I went to visit his grave in the town of Tamrah in the Galilee.

Ibrahim was born in Haifa in 1913, in Wadi Nisnas, the only Palestinian neighborhood left intact by the Zionist forces that stormed the city in April 1948 and demolished most of its other Palestinian quarters. The remaining Palestinians were pushed into this neighborhood from the rest of Haifa in a quick ethnic cleansing operation in the early days of June 1948.

Ibrahim was the son of the Abu al-Hijja clan, now present in places such as Tamra, Kawkab al-Hijja and other small communities, and once dwelled in the destroyed villages of Ruwais, Damun and, most notable of all, the panoramic village of Ayn Hawd, whose elegant houses were spared because the liberal Zionist bohemians of Tel-Aviv wished to possess them as their new abodes and persuaded the army not to demolish them.

Ibrahim, the master of the printing houses and machines, an artisanship that brought him first to Baghdad and then to Manama, Bahrain, opened the first-ever printing house there. But April 1936 called him back to Palestine. He was already impressed by the teaching of Izz al-Din al-Qassam, whom he knew personally, and found poetry as the best medium to express his love for his homeland and his determination to struggle for its liberation.

He took an active part in the revolt on the ground and through his poetry. One such poem, “Plan it, Mr Dill” cost him a prison term in the notorious British Acre jail (a location of detention, torture and executions). General Dill was the Commander in Chief of the British troops in Palestine and the architect of the barbaric measures the British army employed to suppress the revolt: house demolitions, (sometimes with the people inside), walking people over minefields, closures and curfews. All under a legal system bereft of any rights for the detainees or the prisoners. A manual book of oppressive occupation, fully implemented with the cutting-edge technology of the 20th and the 21stcentury by Israel since 1948.

“Plan it, Mr Dill” actually impressed the General, despite the fact that it accused him of the oppression of the Palestinians, and he released the prisoner. However, other poets and writers remained in jail:

“The best men in the country who were working and well-known scholars. The charges against us were fabricated and very bizarre, it suffices to prove one of them to push us to the gallows, according to the new laws”.

Thus wrote Ibrahim in his diary.  The “new laws” are now 76 years old and still intact this Ramadan, employed extensively in a desperate Israeli attempt to prevent a third Intifada.

On the first day of Ramadan 1938, Ibrahim and two Syrian volunteers, who were part of a movement of young Syrians coming to Palestine’s aid in the revolt, were tracked, ambushed, and killed with the help of an RAF squadron. Another historical lesson the Israeli army adopted – the use of massive forces to capture one Palestinian freedom fighter equipped with old pistols or guns.

Ibrahim was 25 years old when he was killed and yet managed to leave us a huge cultural legacy. In a famous Mawal poem of his (the folkloristic colloquial poetry), “Do not Panic Palestine”, he paid tribute to Abu Dura, one of the leaders of the Palestinian revolt. Praising his command over Christians and Muslims alike, a crucial message for our time, which he repeated in other poems such as “A Homeland for All”, written as an antidote to the British attempt to sow division between Christians and Muslims in the national liberation movement:

Christian and Muslim, their unity strong and resilient

Creed or religion is for God, while a homeland is for us all

Do not say Christian and Muslim,

We all are brothers of blood

Whatever you say or do, Adam is our father and Eve our mother

Every one of us understands, our unity is strong and resilient

During this Ramadan, Easter, and Passover, in this April of 2022, unity is not an empty slogan. In this April, Haifa is still a Palestinian city as much as it is inside Israel and the Haifawis are all around, not forgetting and not giving up on their struggle for justice and liberation.

One that will only be achieved by unity. Whether we are Christians, Jews or Muslims, we live in a century where one democratic state for all, all over historical Palestine, is the only solution, where revolutions and revolutionaries are commemorated, catastrophes are remembered and visions of liberation are still imagined. These visions will, one day – for the benefit of us all, colonizers and colonized alike – turn into a new reality on the ground. Do not panic Palestine, your star in the sky will shine and your time will come.

- Ilan Pappé is a professor at the University of Exeter. He was formerly a senior lecturer in political science at the University of Haifa. He is the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, The Modern Middle East, A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples, and Ten Myths about Israel. Pappé is described as one of Israel’s 'New Historians' who, since the release of pertinent British and Israeli government documents in the early 1980s, have been rewriting the history of Israel’s creation in 1948. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
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