Surrender to Injustice Never an Option: A Gaza Story

Tony Gosling tony at
Sun May 2 22:41:53 BST 2010

Surrender to Injustice Never an Option: A Gaza Story

By Dr. Ludwig Watzal


Ramzy Baroud and his father stand for the 
alternative: freedom and self-respect.

Chronicle, May 2, 2010

'Not one refugee will return. The old will die. 
The young will forget.' This prediction, uttered 
by David Ben-Gurion in 1948, did not come true. 
Not only the keys of the houses, that the 
Palestinians were forced to leave, passed on from 
generation to the other, but so did the memoirs 
and the deep roots and emotional attachment to 
the Land of Palestine endured over the years.

When the founding of Israel was declared on May 
15, 1948, the then Zionist militias had already 
depopulated 212 Palestinian villages and three 
major towns before even one Arab soldiers had set 
foot in Palestine. The Arab armies, who did not 
intervene against the expulsion of thousands of 
Palestinians before May 15, 1948, declared war 
against the newly established state, in a 
desperate attempt to protect the areas allocated 
to the Palestinian state. The war ended with a 
ceasefire. At that point, more than 700,000 Arab 
inhabitants were forced out or fled their homes 
in Palestine. Many Palestinians left in order to 
escape the fighting – with the intent to return 
to their homes when the fighting would cease - or 
because they were expelled by Israeli (Zionist) 
forces. The Palestinians commemorate this tragic 
event as the "Nakba" or the Catastrophe.

Ramzy Baroud, a US-Palestinian, columnist, 
journalist, gifted writer and Editor-in-Chief of 
The Palestine Chronicle, writes the story of his 
family, which was expelled from their village 
Beit Daras, located 46 kilometers to the 
north-east of Gaza City. The village belonged to 
those that fell victim to Ben-Gurion’s vision of 
an exclusive Jewish state, devoid of its 
indigenous population. The Baroud family ended up 
as refugees in the Gaza Strip like hundreds of 
thousands of others from the depopulated villages.

In the book’s Foreword, Salman Abu Sitta, founder 
and president of Palestine Land Society, mentions 
that the population of Gaza equals now the total 
population of Palestine in 1948, namely 1.4 
million. Israeli politicians and their supporters 
in the West always mention that the Gaza Strip is 
the most densely populated place on earth without 
mentioning Israel’s responsibility for this 
situation. Israeli state institutions, including 
its armed forces, keep the whole population of 
Gaza incarcerated in what is sometimes termed the 
biggest open-air prison in he world. The entire 
Gaza Strip has been surrounded by barbed wire. 
And during the 43 long years of occupation, 
Israel has systematically prevented the economic 
development of the Gaza Strip. (See Sara Roy’s 
detailed study: The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-Development.)

The author portrays the life and the struggle for 
survival of his family and the Palestinian people 
in Gaza. He describes six decades of suffering 
with no end in sight. After having read the book, 
one gets the impression that the Nakba was not 
limited to 1948, but is still ongoing. When 
Israeli settlers were still living in the Gaza 
Strip, the Israeli army made life for the 
Palestinians "a living hell", writes Baroud. The 
story the author tells us is basically about the 
life of his father Mohammed. His story could only 
been told after he passed away. "Israeli soldiers 
can no longer raid, search and ravage his house. 
They can no longer deny him permission to travel 
for medical treatment. No more humiliation from a 
smart-ass teenage Israeli soldier at a 
checkpoint. No more questioning and no more abuse."

Focusing mainly on the story of his uprooted 
family, Baroud’s moving chronicle also sheds 
light on the live of the Palestinian population 
in general and their persisting ordeal caused by 
Israeli occupation. He locates the life of his 
family in a wider political, social and economic 
context. As a ten-year-old boy, Mohammad Baroud, 
the author’s father, found himself displaced in 
the middle of nowhere in Gaza, light years away 
from his farm where his family grew its own 
crops. This "nightmare was to be his true, 
everlasting reality". The 200 000 refugees were 
not welcomed by the 80 000 Gazans. However, 
tensions between the two groups grew, and the 
Egyptian occupiers did little for their relief. 
The opposite was the case; they only created the 
impression that they took care of the refugees.

Unlike his older brother, Mohammed was not a 
source of pride to his parents. He was resentful, 
disobeying orders, and possessed a rebellious 
spirit, which led to merciless reprimands and 
beatings. "The more he resented his parents’ 
unfair treatment, the more punishment he 
received." This early experience marked his life. 
Having survived the several wars, he decided to 
join the newly established "Palestinian 
Liberation Army" (PLA) to achieve something 
besides more than Arab rhetoric. After Israel 
occupied the rest of Palestine in June of 1967, 
the rules of the games changed fundamentally.

When the so-called peace process took place, 
Mohammed described the Oslo accords as "the 
best-timed disaster that had ever befallen Gaza". 
The PLO acted as Israel’s security agent, shot at 
demonstrators protesting the accords and put them 
in jail. In the last elections, Mohammed voted 
for Hamas because it presented a "culture of 
resistance". His funeral was attended by 
thousands of people "who shared his plight, hopes 
and struggles", writes his son, Ramzy.

The book’s story is depressing as the history of 
the Palestinian people is concerned. On the other 
hand, the life and the inner attitude of Mohammed 
Baroud give hope to the "Wretched of the Earth". 
He showed that surrender to injustice and 
repression can never be an option. This should be 
understood as a hint to Palestinians who seem to 
prefer, with Abbas leading the way, the easier 
way to "independence". Ramzy Baroud and his 
father stand for the alternative: freedom and self-respect.

(My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold 
Story is available at 
Press. Click 
to learn more. Watch short video in 
and <>Arabic.)

- Dr. Ludwig Watzal works as a publicist, editor 
and journalist in Bonn, Germany.

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