Ahmad Ibrahim drew this map when he was 86 years old. A map of his village in Palestine, Jimzu, where he grew up with his grandmother, who lived past a 100, and told him tales of life under Mohammed Ali. And his grandfather, Ibrahim, an official in the Ottoman administration, who’d bring Ahmad with him on horseback as he toured the region to assess the harvest; and his father, Isa, village mukhtar of Jimzu, with whom he would visit every household to ask about their circumstances when it was time for the British census. Ahmad Ibrahim drew this map from memory many years later; his family and he and all the Palestinian people of Jimzu fought in the orchards for their home in 1948 but the Zionists won; the Jewish militia, the Haganah, supported by imperialists, besieged the region of Jimzu not long after the massacre near Jerusalem at Deir Yassin. They fought, and on 13 July the people of Jimzu were forced to move to the mountains, and further. The map contains the names of everyone who lived in the village at the time. Zionists burnt down every structure in the village, and with foreign donations planted trees over it and turned it into a park, near the present day city of Lod in Israel, Palestine.

“From which village?” demanded the governor.

The mother remained crouching, staring at him askance, although he stood right over her, huge as a mountain.

"From Berwah?" he yelled.

She made no response but continued to stare at him.

He then pointed his gun straight at the child’s head and screamed, “Reply, or I’ll empty this into him!”

At this I tensed, ready to spring at him come what may. After all, the blood of youth surged hot within me, at my age then of twenty-four. And not even a stone could have been unmoved at this sight. However, I recalled my father‘s final counsel and my mother’s blessing and then said to myself, “I certainly shall attack him if he fires his gun. But so far he is merely threatening her.” I remained at the ready.

The woman did reply, “Yes, from Berwah.”

“Are you returning there?” he demanded.

“Yes, returning.”

“Didn’t we warn you,” he yelled, “that anyone returning there will be killed? Don’t you all understand the meaning of discipline? Do you think it’s the same as chaos? Get up and run ahead of me. Go back anywhere you like to the east. And if I ever see you again on this road I’ll show you no mercy.”

The woman stood up and, gripping her child by the hand, set off toward the east, not once looking back. Her child walked beside her, and he too never looked back.

At this point I observed the first example of that amazing phenomenon that was to occur again and again until I finally met my friends from outer space. For the further the woman and child went from where we were, the governor standing and I in the jeep, the taller they grew. By the time they merged with their own shadows in the sinking sun they had become bigger than the plain of Acre itself. The governor still stood there awaiting their final disappearance, while I remained huddled in the jeep. Finally he asked in amazement, “Will they never disappear?”

This question, however, was not directed at me.

Berwah is the village of the poet Mahmoud Darwish, who said fifteen years later:

I laud the executioner, victor over a made-up eye;
Hurrah for the vanquisher of villages, hurrah for the butcher of infants.

Was he this very child?

(from The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist by Palestinian-Israeli writer Emile Habiby)

“I know—what I know really is that the history of the world is always the history of weak people fighting strong people. Of weak people who have the correct case fighting strong people who use their strength to exploit the weak,” said Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani in a 1970 interview.

A leading member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Kanafani was asked about the PFLP’s recent hijacking of civilian airliners. “What have you achieved?” Israel’s Mossad would kill him in Beirut two years later, after a PFLP-led attack on civilians at the Lod airport.

“One thing, that we have a case to fight for. That’s very much. This people, the Palestinian people, prefer to die standing than to lose its case. We achieved proving that the King is wrong. We achieved proving that this nation is going to continue fighting till victory. We achieved that our people could never be defeated. We achieved teaching every single person in this world that we are a small brave nation who are going to fight to the last drop of blood to put justice for ourselves after the world failed in giving it to us. This is what we achieved.”

He was asked about the “civil war.”

“It's not a civil war. It’s a people defending their self against a fascist government, which you are defending because just King Hussein has an Arab passport. It’s not a civil war.”

“Or a conflict?”

“It’s not a conflict. It’s a liberation movement fighting for justice.”

“Well whatever it might be best called—”

“It’s not whatever. Because this is where the problems start. Because this is what makes you ask all your questions. This is exactly where the problem starts. This is a people who is discriminated, is fighting for its rights, this is the story! If you will say it’s a civil war then your questions will be justified. If you will say it’s a conflict then of course it’s a surprise to know what’s happening.”

“Why won’t your organization engage in peace talks with the Israelis?”

“You don’t mean exactly peace talks. You mean capitulation, surrendering.”

“Why not just talk?”

“Talk to whom?”

“Talk to the Israeli leaders.”

“That’s a kind of conversation between the sword and the neck you mean.”

“Well, if there are no swords and no guns in the room you could still talk.”

“No. I have never seen any talk between a colonialist case and a national liberation movement.”

“But despite this, why not talk?”

“Talk about what?”

“Talk about the possibility of not fighting.”

“Not fighting for what?”

“Not fighting at all, no matter what for.”

Yani, people usually fight for something and they stop fighting for something. So you can’t tell me even why should we speak about what, fight for what, or talk about stop fighting why?”

“Talk to stop fighting to stop the death and the misery and the destruction and the pain.”

“The misery and the destruction and the pain and the death of whom?”

“Of Palestinians, of Israelis, of Arabs?”

“Of the Palestinian people who are uprooted, thrown in the camps, living in starvation, killed for 20 years, and forbidden to use even the name Palestinians.”

“They’re better that way than dead though.”

“Maybe to you, but to us, it’s not. To us, to liberate our country, to have dignity, to have respect, to have our mere human rights, is something as essential as life itself.”

“You called King Hussein a fascist. Who else amongst the Arab leaders are you totally opposed to?”

“We consider the Arab governments two kinds: something we call reactionaries, who are completely connected with the imperialists, like King Hussein, government like the Saudi Arabian government, like Moroccan government, Tunisian government, and then we have some other Arab governments which we call the military petit bourgeoisie governments, that’s like Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, so on.”

“Just to end with, let me get back to the hijacking of the aircraft. On reflection do you think that is now a mistake?”

“We didn’t make a mistake in hijacking them. The contrast. We did one of the most correct things we ever did.”

“On October 7, Gaza broke out of prison,” wrote Palestinian political commentator Mariam Barghouti in Ramallah.

“These brief moments of rupture in our reality of imprisonment are at once terrifying and exhilarating. Of course, they are always short-lived – brief instances of Palestinian triumph before the unbearable weight of Israeli military domination comes back crushing us.

“The initial euphoria of seeing the apartheid wall come down in Gaza was quickly overtaken by the terrifying realisation of what would come next.

“We knew war broke out the moment Palestinians in Gaza broke out of their Israeli prison. My conversations with peers and friends, my group chats, phone calls – all were dominated by the same dark premonition: ‘They are going to kill us all.’”

“The Palestinians have struck Israel where it has struck Palestinians for more than 75 years: lives and land. The Israeli arrogance and sense of security that it can oppress, kill and steal land with impunity have been shattered.

“We’ve been held hostage by Israel for decades. We’ve been prisoners in our land for generations. But this October, the wimpy kid finally got his punch and the bully is now shaken.

“As our oppressors are out killing indiscriminately in blind rage, an uncomfortable feeling is creeping in among them that the prison they are holding us in is starting to crumble.”

“Despite the increase in food aid through Rafah, many people still lack food and fuel to cook. No additional bakeries are operational, due to the lack of fuel, water, and wheat flour, and structural damage. Wheat flour is reportedly no longer available in the market. Food Security Cluster members have raised serious concerns about the nutritional status of people, especially lactating women, and children. This is heightened in the north, which is more difficult to reach. Also in the north, livestock is facing starvation and the risk of death due to shortage of fodder and water. Crops are being increasingly abandoned and damaged due to lack of fuel required to pump irrigation water. Across Gaza, farmers have been slaughtering their animals due to the immediate need for food and the lack of fodder to keep them alive. This practice poses an additional threat to food security… “There is a significant increase in the number of disappeared and missing persons due to the difficulty in saving the victims from under the rubble. In addition, tens of bodies that are piling in the streets of Gaza as medical crews remain unable to remove them due to the dangerous circumstances on the ground.”

Labour pains

The wind blows the pollen in the night
through ruins of fields and homes.
Earth shivers with love,
with the pain of giving birth,
but the conqueror wants us to believe
stories of submission and surrender.
O Arab Aurora!
Tell the usurper of our land
that childbirth is a force unknown to him,
the pain of a mother's body,
that the scarred land
inaugurates life
at the moment of dawn
when the rose of blood
blooms on the wound.

Fadwa Tuqan

On Saturday: “Our home is destroyed, nothing remains standing. And most of the ducks and chickens were eaten by hungry street dogs,” an elderly woman said. “This is not a war; it is a genocide,” she added. “It’s unprecedented crimes.” The elderly woman said she used to “come every now and then, despite the ruthless shelling”. She continued: “It was very dangerous, but I have to come and check on my chicken livestock. I am not afraid. If I am destined to be killed, I will die. My life is not in the hands of the Zionists.”

Suhail Nssar, November 29, ‘Stronger together ✌’

Cover, ‘Gaza’, Laila Shawa (1940–2022)