Palestine is bleeding: My friend was murdered by Israeli soldiers

Israeli Border Police officers (AFP)

Amjad Abu al-Ezz

The Independent  /  May 2, 2022

We despair, for the walls on the main streets of Beita have been filled with pictures of those killed by Israeli occupation forces.

The Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish once wrote: “If you come back home alive, as rhyme returns, unharmed, say to yourself, thank you!”

Unfortunately for you, my friend Fawaz Hamayel, you did not return to your home alive. Rather, you returned a martyr, carried on the shoulders of your friends and family. Your picture is waiting for its turn to be added to the murals of your town, Beita, whose mountains embrace your body, as your soul flutters over its mountains.

We despair, for the walls on the main streets of Beita have been filled with pictures of those killed by Israeli occupation forces – including a student, teacher, university doctor and engineer.

Beita, which has a long history of struggle, did not hesitate to provide its best youth to defend its land and expel the settlers, including from Mount Sabih, which is threatened with confiscation to establish the settler outpost of Evytar.

Last July, as a result of the activities of the youth of Beita and their commitment to popular resistance, the Israeli army was forced to evacuate the settlers from Evytar outpost – their buildings, however, have remained, guarded by the Israeli army.

Beita’s 17,000 residents have paid a heavy price for popular resistance against the occupiers. According to UN figures, at least 180 people have been injured by live fire, another 1,000 by “rubber” bullets and sponge rounds, and over 4,200 have suffered from tear gas inhalation.

Collective punishment policies have included mass arrests and the revocation of work permits, while Israeli military bulldozers have razed agricultural roads and destroyed olive trees.

My friend Fawaz Hamayel, we grew up in the blink of an eye. You were my classmate at school, and my colleague at university. We shared the love of the land, nature and olives. We shared belonging to the homeland at the expense of belonging to any faction or political party.

You spent the 46 years of your life, with your three sons, steadfastly on and defending Beita’s mountains. The homeland was your life and your cause altogether. To quote Darwish once more, whose poetry and prose I would hear in the mountains: “The homeland is the longing for death in order to restore the truth, and the land. The homeland is not land, but the land and the truth together. The truth is with you, and the land is with them”.

Today I miss Fawaz. I look for his face in the faces of other people, and I have the feeling that I will catch a glimpse of him in the places where I used to see him. I still do not believe that Fawaz was martyred and will not return, a feeling shared by everyone who knew Fawaz. Perhaps his powerful presence, personality, originality, his activity, is the reason why those around him do not accept his premature absence.

To Fawaz I say, your memory was a moving archive for the town of which you became a spokesperson, for Palestine and the world. You befriended everyone and everyone loved you. With your absence, we lost a real and legitimate popular leader.

Furthermore, after your cold-blooded execution, how will we convince the new generation of Palestinians to adopt the option of popular resistance that you defended, believed in and promoted among the youth of the town?

Here in Beita, your death has left us with a sense of orphan hood. Superficially, we are alive and you are dead. But the truth is that we live a life of death; running after the rainbow, having fun, laughing and crying, carrying our cares, and quarrelling over the wreckage of the world.

Who will stop the bleeding of Beita, the town that resists alone?

Amjad Abu al-Ezz is head of the social studies department at the Arab American University, Ramallah