My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza´s Untold Story
Pluto Press, 2010
"Unexpectedly, I was awakened by a large boot pressing against my face. My older brothers were particularly bothersome, but stepping on my face while sleeping was even too cruel for them. I woke up to find a swarm of soldiers inside the house and standing over me. They had pushed open the main door, walked in quietly, and found their way into the main bedroom where my brothers and I were sleeping. Anwar was a heavy sleeper, and only woke up after two soldiers began violently kicking him and his mattress.
My mother came running from the kitchen, thinking the chaos was the result of a morning scuffle between her five sons, only to find an Israeli army unit handcuffing her children and dragging them out into the street. The event was customary. Soldiers often stormed into people’s homes and broke the arms and legs of men and boys so as to send a stern message to the rest of the neighborhood that they would receive the same fate if they continued with their Intifada.
My father spoke good Hebrew, which he learned during his years of business dealings in Israel. My mother spoke none, but even if she did, she would not have been able to articulate one legible sentence. After a brief pause, she let out a howl, and cried out to one of them, “I beg you soldier. My sons were sleeping. They have done nothing wrong. I kiss your hand, don’t break their arms. I beg you, may Allah return you safe and sound to your family. How would your mother feel if someone came to break her children’s arms? Oh Allah, come to my rescue. My children are the only thing I have in this life. Oh Allah I was raised poor and orphaned, and I don’t deserve this.”
At first, the soldiers paid no heed to my mother’s pleas, and merely responded “Shut up and go inside,” but her crying alerted the women in the neighborhood, who served as a first line of defense under such circumstances. Neighborhood women gathered outside their homes, screaming and shouting, as soldiers lined us up against the wall and brought in their clubs. The custom was for the soldier to ask the person singled out for a beating, “Which hand do you write with?” before breaking it with the club, followed by the other arm, and then the legs.
When the soldier asked one of my brothers the same ominous question, my mother’s pleas turned into unintelligible cries as she dropped to the floor and held onto one of the soldier’s legs with a death grip. The soldier tried to free himself, as two others came to his rescue, pounding the frail woman over and over again in the chest with the butts of their machine guns, as my father forced his body between the angry solider and the desperate mother.
Made more courageous by the violent scene, especially as my mother seemed to be drowning in the gush of blood flowing from her mouth, neighborhood women drew closer, throwing rocks and sand at the soldiers. What was meant as an orderly beating of several boys turned into a chaotic scene where women braved guns and tear-gas and verbal abuse by Israeli soldiers, who eventually retreated into their military vehicles and left the area.
Thanks to my mother, our bones were left intact that day, but at a price. She was left bruised and bleeding. Her chest was battered and several ribs were broken. She was rushed to a local hospital and was incapacitated for days. Her health deteriorated, to the bewilderment of the Ahli Hospital doctors, who had hoped for an eventual recovery. Days later, doctors discovered that my mother had multiple myeloma. Apparently she had been sick for some time, but her illness was exacerbated by the violent encounter, which made her prognosis bleak.
With this, she announced to the family that she wished to die at home, for there was nothing that under-equipped local hospitals could do to help. My father would not even entertain such a notion. But how do you treat a cancer patient, with broken ribs, without health insurance, with little money and in an area that is paralyzed by strikes, curfews and daily violence?"