Yesterday, I came across this picture. It spoke to me, it told me a story of a Palestinian family from Burqin, it told me the story of thousands of Palestinian families in occupied Palestine. This picture tells the story of a people steadfast in their land, the story of a struggle for justice, the story of an occupation that will be defeated one day. I looked at the faces in this picture, full of strength, dignity and pride, four faces speaking to us, without words, their eyes asking: what do you see?
You will see a Palestinian mother, aged by the years, aged by 64 years of oppression, aged by 64 years of a brutal military occupation that snatches her children away from her arms, but still wakes up every morning, strong and determined, to work in the fields, to care for the olive trees, to stand up in the face of brutality and oppression, to struggle for her legitimate rights, for the legitimate rights of her children and the legitimate rights of every Palestinian. You will see a Palestinian mother, tired of the injustice and tired of a world that is blind, deaf and mute to Zionist crimes, but not tired of resisting, not tired of struggling for freedom, not tired of defying oppression, not tired of hoping, yearning for justice, yearning to be free. You will see a Palestinian mother, her face the face of every Palestinian mother, wrinkled with the marks of occupation, but a face that is full of pride, of dignity, of steadfastness. You will see a Palestinian mother, her face the face of every mother striving to survive and protect her children amidst an unjust and brutal world. You will see a Palestinian mother who raised a son, loved him, cared for him, taught him that dignity is priceless, that freedom is not negotiable, that rights are never begged. You will see a Palestinian mother who shed a tear and said a prayer when her son was laid in front of her, wrapped in the Palestinian flag, said a goodbye to the little boy she loved, to the young man she raised, touched the face that is imprinted in her heart, kissed his forehead and wished the Zionist bullets had hit her instead of him, wished she could give him her life. You will see a Palestinian mother who watched her son taken away from her, carried away to his final resting place, his dreams shattered, his blood spilt, his life robbed by Israeli occupation soldiers. You will see a Palestinian mother who raised a daughter, loved her, cared for her, taught her that dignity is priceless, that freedom is not negotiable, that rights are never begged. You will see a Palestinian mother who struggled to break free from the occupation soldiers who raided her home, who stood between her and her daughter, silenced her cries when her daughter was kidnapped from her, violently dragged away, taken from the warmth of her home to the coldness of a dark dungeon, taken from her family to be interrogated, harassed and humiliated by brutal occupiers, by those who killed her brother. You will see a Palestinian mother who remains strong, full of courage and dignity, unyielding and unbreakable as she sees her daughter, again and again, being blindfolded and handcuffed, dragged away and thrown into a military jeep to disappear in the darkness, and wishing she could hug her daughter, protect her, take away her pain, take her place and spare her the Zionist graves built for the living. You will see a Palestinian mother, although aged and tired by the years, on hunger strike for the 8th day, in solidarity with her daughter, in solidarity with every Palestinian prisoner, and defying hunger, defying fatigue, defying the years, defying the occupation, but not tired of demanding justice, struggling for justice so the next generations may be spared the pain, the sorrow, the tears.
You will see a Palestinian father, his hair white with the years, his face aged by 64 years of oppression, his eyes filled with images of a brutal occupation, but his heart is still young and beating, his will is strong and undefeated, his hands still hold on to the olive tree, he still stands tall in his land, he still sings songs of resistance, he still holds Haifa in his heart, still holds Palestine in his heart. You will see a Palestinian father, his face the face of every Palestinian father who lost a beloved son, lost a beloved daughter, lost a home, lost his land, is denied freedom, denied his legitimate rights, but is determined to continue the struggle for justice, determined to be free. His face is the face of every father out there who lost a beloved child, lost a home, was denied freedom, was denied his legitimate rights, but is still strong and still fighting for his rights. You will see a Palestinian father hugging the pictures of his beloved children, snatched away from the warm of their family, one brutally robbed of his life by the occupation and one buried alive in a Zionist dungeon. You will see a Palestinian father who loved his son, cared for him, watched him grow up, talked with him about Palestine, listened to him as he spoke of his dreams and wishes, shared with him hopes and aspirations until an Israeli bullet silenced his son’s heart and kidnapped his son’s life. You will see a Palestinian father who saw his son coming back home on the shoulders of his comrades, his young body wrapped in the Palestinian flag, kissed him goodbye on the forehead, carried him to the grave, wiped away the silent tear and swore never to give up, never to surrender. You will see a Palestinian father who loved his daughter, cared for her and played with her, carried her on his shoulder as a child and walked with her among the olive trees, told her tales of the land, of an unbreakable bond. You will see a Palestinian father who was held back by Israeli occupation soldiers while his daughter was handcuffed and blindfolded, shouted at and dragged out of her home, kidnapped in the middle of the night from amongst her family. You will see a Palestinian father hugging the pictures of his children, on hunger strike for the 8th day, refusing food in remembrance of his murdered son and in solidarity with his captive daughter, standing with her and every Palestinian detainee, fighting with them, demanding their release, fighting for freedom, fighting for justice.
You will see a Palestinian woman: a sister, a daughter, a comrade, a friend. You will see a Palestinian woman who grew up under occupation, saw oppression every day, saw her siblings beaten, harassed by Zionists alien to the land, said goodbye to a beloved brother murdered by Israeli occupation soldiers, marched with her sisters for freedom, remained steadfast and strong for her parents, for her siblings, for her brother, for every friend and comrade, for every Palestinian prisoner, for every Palestinian martyr, for Palestine. You will see a Palestinian woman, her face is the face of every Palestinian woman, the face of every justice-seeking woman, the face of a people that will never be defeated, a people destined to be free. You will see a Palestinian woman, smiling despite the occupation, her eyes full of hope despite the years held captive without charge or trial, strong-willed despite the brutality of the interrogation, despite the inhumanity of the isolation. You will see a Palestinian woman who is defying the occupation with her will, with her strength, with her belief, refusing food, refusing to accept the chains, refusing to accept injustice. You will see a Palestinian woman who is strong and steadfast, alive and full of determination inside a Zionist death-trap, dreaming of freedom beyond the dungeon and the walls, fighting for life, defying death. You will see a Palestinian woman held captive in Zionist dungeons without trial or charge, a Palestinian woman on a hunger strike for the 15th day, standing up to the jailors, to the interrogators, protesting her illegal detention, protesting the theft of her rights, protesting the theft of her homeland, struggling for her freedom, for the freedom of her comrades, for her brothers and sisters locked up in Zionist dungeons, for you, for me, for every Palestinian and for every justice-seeking person.
You will see a Palestinian man: a son, a brother, a comrade, a friend. You will see a Palestinian man, young and smiling, a smile that was wiped off by the occupation, and a life that was brutally cut short by a Zionist bullet. You will see a Palestinian man, smiling, dreaming of a better day, of a better future, dreaming of a morning free of curfews, free of checkpoints, free of house raids and prisons, dreaming of a morning free of Israeli snipers, free of F-16s, free of markavas hunting down mothers, fathers and children, dreaming of a morning free of land theft, free of armed Zionist colonist gangs terrorizing Palestine, dreaming of a morning free of Israeli bulldozers erasing fields and uprooting olive and fig trees, dreaming of a morning free of occupation, free of injustice. You will see a Palestinian man, a brother, gone but not forgotten, loved forever, remembered forever. You will see a Palestinian man who lived under oppression but refused to accept it, saw the daily injustice and swore never to be silent, never to be inactive. You will see a Palestinian man who fought for his legitimate rights, resisted the occupation so his sister won’t see the inside of an Israeli dungeon ever again, resisted the occupation so his parents can plant their fields without fear of the Zionist colonists, resisted the occupation so the children of Palestine can play in the streets without Zionist warplanes hovering over them or Israeli snipers directing their guns towards them, he fought for his freedom, for our freedom so Palestine can be free of Zionism. You will see a Palestinian man who sacrificed his life for Palestine, his blood watered Palestine so Palestinian prisoners may be free one day, so Palestinian children may run free in the alleys of Jerusalem, Safad and Akka one day, so Palestinian mothers may replace the hidden tear with a smile of hope one day, so Palestinian fathers may sing and laugh while working the fields in Beisan, An-Naqab and Al-Jalil one day.
You will see a Palestinian family the occupation wanted to separate, but only managed to unite beyond time and space, beyond the grave and beyond the cells of isolation. You will see a Palestinian family the occupation wanted to break, but only managed to make it stronger, more determined to fight the occupation. You will see a Palestinian family, one of thousands, one of tens of thousands of Palestinian families, steadfast in occupied Palestine, a family Israel wanted to destroy, wanted to bring to its knees, wanted to defeat, but failed miserably. You will see a Palestinian family that is steadfast in the village of Burqin, a family whose roots run deep in the land to reach Haifa, a family that became every Palestinian family in every village of Palestine, in every town, ever refugee camp, a family that became every Arab family fighting dictatorship and oppression, a family that became every family fighting injustice and oppression worldwide.
When you look at the picture, you will see the family of Ash-Shalabi, a Palestinian family, your family and mine. You will see Yahya Ash-Shalabi, a Palestinian father, hugging the picture of his son Samir and his daughter Hana’, his eyes speaking to us: never surrender, never give up until Palestine is free. You will see Badi’a Ash-Shalabi, a Palestinian mother, with a will unbreakable, with a steadfastness undefeatable, with a patience unlimited, her eyes speaking to us: Justice will prevail. You will see the smiling face of Samir Ash-Shalabi, a young man murdered by Israeli occupation forces just for being Palestinian, just for dreaming of freedom, just for fighting for justice, his eyes speaking to us: we die so Palestine can live. You will see the beautiful face of Hana’ Ash-Shalabi, held captive in Zionist isolation cells without trial or charge just for being Palestinian, just for yearning for freedom, just for fighting for justice, on her 15th day of hunger strike, her eyes speaking to us: yes to the pain of hunger, no and a thousand no to the pain of submission.