Thursday, April 9

Deir Yassin to Yarmouk and beyond

On 9 April 1948, my mother’s friend in school (both 18 at the time in
teacher school in Jerusalem) chose to go back to her village of Deir
Yassin. That was the last time my mother saw Hayah Balbisi was dead in
a massacre. April 9th is a day before good Friday on our Eastern
Christian Traditions. My mother now 82 years old told me not to travel
and that she has been having bad dreams. I reassured her even though
my own heart sends me negative signals. Deair Yassin was not the first
or the largest massacre committed by Zionist forces during that era of
ethnic cleansing. But it was prophetic and emblematic for us because
its deliberate effect was magnified to scare the villagers (even some
survivors were paraded in the streets of Jerusalem and loudspeakers
told of more impending massacres). Dozens of massacres were indeed
committed just in the six weeks leading up to Israel’s creation and
more after. 534 villages and towns were depopulated in the bizarre
20th century attempt to transform a multicultural/ multireligious
Palestine to become the “Jewish state of Israel”. 67 years later
massacres are still being committed whether in Gaza last year or in
the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk. Yarmouk was home to 160,000
Palestinian refugees. It was the largest Palestinian refugee camp. It
was besieged and starved. People ate grass and over 200 died of
starvation. Now the fanatical forces calling themselves the Islamic
state entered the camp, burned Palestinian flags, and spread their
terror on the remaining civilians. Necks were cut and women were
raped. Different but connected perpetrators.

These and other thoughts race through the mind from 11,000 meters
above the ground on my way to Paris. A flight was canceled and I had
to fly to Athens then Larnaca (Cyprus) then Paris. Larnaca airport is
full of Israelis because that is the closest European airport to Lod
(renamed BenGurion) Airport. Cyprus is used also as a transit point
for the tens of thousands of Mossad agents that travel back and forth
to some 140 other countries. Countless teams of assassins passed
through this airport I left behind. I also think of other massacres
committed in places I know well (like Kenya) or places I do not know
well (like the deliberate downing of an Iranian civilian aircraft by
the US and that of a German airplane by a terrorist on French soil).
But then I thought how can I gain a bigger perspective on our lives
and all these tragedies? Here in we are tiny creatures among 7 billion
“humans” that have spread around and damaged this beautiful blue
planet. A planet that is small in a small inconspicuous solar system,
one of billions of solar systems in this galaxy, itself a small galaxy
among billion and billions of galaxies. Maybe we take ourselves too
seriously, I thought. How can I help get people to know that there is
enough resources to feed everyone (now over a billion go hungry). The
scientist in me want to find logical explanations for why people kill
each other and do not simply share and care for one another. I try to
convince myself with my own words to visitors to Palestine: lighting a
candle better than cursing the darkness, first do no harm, travel the
path of your conscience even if few are doing it, etc. Maybe lack of
sleep makes my mind wonder into Budhist philosophies (Joyful
participation in the sorrows of this world) and to mystic philosophies
(Rumi’s words come slushing around my brain). These thoughts are like
shields to help us in this stark reality. The reality is that the vast
majority of people on this airplane and the thousands I left behind at
the airport do not know and do not care. Yarmouk, Deir Yassin,
Tantura, Sabra and Shatila and others represent a heritage for us
Palestinians and the few other humans who care. A country was robbed,
7 million of us are refugees or displaced people. Zionists are happy
they succeeded in getting Arabs and Muslims to kill each other whether
in Yemen or Syria.As the pilot announces descent to Paris, I think of
the French equivalent of the Balfour declaration (Jules Cambon
declaration of French support for Zionism also issued 1917). But I
know I am a minority and most people on this airplane are thinking of
their next meal, of sex, of work obligations, of other thoughts.
Perhaps that is how it was and how it will be. Perhaps all we can do
is try our best (successfully or not) to create a ripple effect for a
better more peaceful world. Perhaps that I and fellow volunteers at
the Palestine Museum of Natural History are trying to do. Perhaps, as
the old song says: in the end only kindness matters.

It is good to be here in beautiful Paris with Eitan and Tal and all
the other good people. But I already miss my mother and miss

Mazin Qumsiyeh

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