Speaking of Intifada: Munir and His Friends

By Tamar Fleishman – The West Bank

Munir Naim Hamed can no longer be seen near the checkpoint or at his parents’ home at the refugee camp. Fifteen year old Munir hasn’t been back since he was arrested by soldiers during a protest. They say it will be a while until Munir gets back. They say he is probably at Ofer, that he will get two years, maybe more. And the teenagers tell personal stories from their imprisonment and from jail houses, one of them was accused and found guilty of throwing stones: "Here, at the checkpoint", his friend was taken in for throwing a Molotov bottle: "Also here, at the checkpoint…", one of them had seen Ofer from the inside, his friend had been to Nafha prison and another was taken to the Moskovia (the Russian Compound).

Since Munir’s arrest, the official leader of this group of teenagers, they continue to arrive restless at the same hour to the same place- the square in front of the checkpoint. Like a flock without a shepherd.

People say that stones are no longer being thrown there every day, and that gas isn’t thrown every day either.

-Why? –Someone talked to them (to the teenagers). Someone from the Tanzim came and talked to them.

And in spite of that, a couple of days earlier, on Friday, from noon that day and up until sun set, the teenagers came back and threw stones and the army shoved them back with gas grenades.

It seems that in spite of the two authorities, the Israeli and the Palestinian one, that would seem to be co-operating and working hand in hand, it is difficult to suffocate and get the flames of this spontaneous protest out, which is a result of the prolonging frustration of human beings that had lost all hope for change and are trying to take control over their own fate.

Talk of an Intifada that up until now had been spoken behind closed doors, has also become open. The Intifada is part of the discourse, whether it represents a longing and a wish and whether it stands for a threat and a concern. Every person has his own inclination; every person has his own political affiliation. They say that now, when all eyes are cast towards the blood bath in Syria, the still unstable Egyptian regime and the possibility that there will be an attack on Iran, an all-inclusive and violent conflict might prove to be a fatal error, because what happens in Palestine isn’t at the center of attention, not even during more quite times.

This concern must be noted in addition to the fact that even after over a decade the wounds of the El-Aqsa Intifada are still bleeding, and the shattering of the spine of the Palestinian society by a regime of checkpoints, permits and restrictions, as well as the loss of social unity which is a result of the massive recruitment of collaborators for GSS, an organization that makes a cynical and blunt use of means of repression and prevents the right for movement in order to get what it wants, brothers are made to suspect each other.

More people now than in the past dare to speak against seniors in the Palestinian authority. Some say that: "Yours and ours are the same. They care only for themselves and not for the people" or: "I only have a stomach. They (those in Ramallah) also have a back". And regarding this a person who owns a stall at the front of the checkpoint said he approached the authorities and requested a business license, he wanted to work in accordance to the law and not be sought out from time to time. When asked whether he thought he would receive such a license he replied with a realistic smile: "I can still dream!" and continued to say: "My father’s father would say: ‘it’s only tough during the first fifty years. After that it will be alright’. I tell my son: it’s only tough during the first fifty year… when will these fifty years end?"

And what is widely known had already been told and spoken of, that they (inside the checkpoint) see all and film all, that "they" are not only the army but also the GSS and the police, that they observe every person in the refugee camp and know his name. 

And on one of these past nights, on the way leading to the checkpoint all along the wall, photos of young men that had been murdered were being glued. A boulevard of Shahids, the photos seemed as though they were coming off, giving the impression that the portraits were fading away, fading away, perhaps it’s happening not only in the picture, perhaps it’s happening in the collective and private recollection.

But the truth is that only has the memory of victims not been forgotten, but it is intensifying and becoming a myth and a model. And a teenage boy from Munir’s group presented a medallion that hung on his chest and on it the face of Ali Khalifa who had been murdered in the alleys of Qalandiya. "We were friends", he said with pride.

And so the myth of the heroes is forming around the image of the murdered, as a necessary link for a people that are fighting for their freedom.

(Translated by Ruth Fleishman.)

-As a member of Machsomwatch, once a week Tamar Fleishman heads out to document the checkpoints between Jerusalem and Ramallah. This documentation (reports, photos and videos) can be found on the organization’s site: www.machsomwatch.org. She is also a member of the Coalition of Women for Peace and volunteer in Breaking the Silence. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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