Who Were Those Heroes from Majd Al-Kurum?

Demonstration in Majd Al-Kurum in solidarity with Gaza developed into confrontation...

Demonstration in Majd Al-Kurum in solidarity with Gaza developed into confrontation…

In these hard days, when the rescuers are still digging for bodies under the ruins in Gaza, it is hard to find stories that are more fun than serious, as the Free Haifa Extra mood requires. It is even harder to justify their publication. But this one says so much about the spirit of the time that you might like to read it…

I wrote elsewhere that through this time of war and massacres we divide our time between demonstrations, attending court hearings and visiting prisoners and their families. This might be oversimplified. In between we spend long hours telling about the events, trading information and evaluating. At homes, in Bars, in front of the courts and the police stations, you will see the Shabab gathering and telling the stories.

I heard the story below in several different such gatherings, from different tellers, and it aroused much interest and mixed responses…

Da’ash in Majd Al-Kurum

Da’ash is the Arabic initials for ISIS – the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. It was big in the news recently after taking control of Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, and chasing away the Iraqi army of much of North and West Iraq. It even had some significant victories against Syria’s ruthless army.

Majd Al-Kurum, a small town in the middle of the Galilee, is known for its brave and patriotic people. Its people are also distinguished by their good spirit and social coherence. If you miss a friend on a visit to Majd Al-Kurum, he will most probably be sitting in some quite place with friends, drinking beer.

At the beginning of the Israeli assault on Gaza, on Thursday 10/7/2014, there was a protest demonstration in Majd Al-Kurum. Like in many other places, it developed into a clash with the police, which used tear gas, water cannons and shock grenades. The “Yassam”, the special police unit that specializes in beating protesters, played a major role. The local youth threw stones, burned car tires and closed some streets. It lasted for several hours. (You may see some more pictures and a report in Arabic here).

Our story tellers told us about a scene that supposedly happened in this context… A local youth was caught by under-cover police and was beaten by the Yassam. As it happened, a group of demonstrators wearing Da’ash closes came in. The Yassam saw Da’ash coming and run away…

At this point the audience mostly smile relieved. At last there is somebody that frightens those brutal Yassam, our daily tormentors. Later some smiles turn into grimaces. If this is the choice, leave us with the Yassam, it will be easier to get rid of them. And it is not necessarily the secular people that are saying that.

The Real Heroes

Today I met some of the comrades from Majd Al-Kurum. I told them the story and they didn’t know anything about it. This is the way urban legends are built – if there is the need, the story will follow and spread.

Then Murad scratched his head and said… Well, it wasn’t Da’ash, it was Dahesh. Dahesh is a private Arabic name. Our Dahesh is a local shopkeeper from Majd Al-Kurum, and he owed some tax money to the government.

When the tax collectors, accompanied by heavy Yassam force, raided his house a few months ago, the town’s people gathered at the place, confronted the police and the Yassam bullies had to run away.

The Lessons

Like in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, people all around are looking for the heroes that will save them from their weakness – in our case the weakness in the face of the brutal racist regime. People can quickly fall in love with anybody that can frighten their oppressors. But the real power, the only power that is really liberating, is the power of the people themselves.

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A positive story for these cold days

A positive story for these cold days

One of the classic stories that I was brought upon is Maxim Gorky’s short story about the commemoration of Lenin. It speaks about the decision of the Communist Party to commemorate Lenin’s birthday by erecting his sculpture in every city and village. The heroes of the story are the workers in some remote village that took the money allocated for Lenin’s sculpture and used it to eradicate mosquitoes which were spreading disease in their region.

My story here is much more trivial – it is about the fate of a medium size red “polygal” plastic board.

After many a demonstration, as my car would be parked nearby, I would collect the placards with the slogans and take them with me. They might be needed for some other demo. I have a room full of them at home.

After some demonstration, long before the Arab Spring, I found in my newly acquired stock this red polygal with the writing “The Revolution is Inevitable!” I placed it on some high shelf and forgot about it. Probably it was written by some Trotskyites… We were demonstrating in support of the prisoners, against house demolition, for family unification, against the wall and the war… The revolution didn’t seem relevant.

Then came the Arab Spring, toppling within a few week the formidable tyrants of Tunisia and Egypt and shaking half a dozen other oppressive regimes. While collecting slogans for one demonstration, my eye exposed the red banner at the top of the shelf. Suddenly it seemed to be the most relevant of all, conveying the spirit of the period. It became my favorite banner.

Later Assad’s regime succeeded to stop the inevitable march of the revolution and convert the Syrian conflict into a prolonged and bloody civil war. This summer the betrayal of many liberals and leftists in Egypt enable General A-Sisi to stage the coup and return the reins of government to the old DeepState, stain the streets with the blood of demonstrators and fill the prisons with political prisoners.

This week we witness the coldest, longest Arab Winter in living memory. Cairo was covered with snow. The people that warmed their hears with the hopes of the Arab Spring feel a cold fever now thinking about the millions of Syrian and Palestinian refugees from the civil war, spread all over Syria and the neighboring countries in inhuman conditions, prey to the cold and floods. Gaza is devoid of electricity and flooded with sewage water as A-Sisi tightens the siege around it, preventing the entrance of basic equipments, in collusion with the Israelis.

We also experienced our small winter suffering as we waked up in the first rainy morning to find half the house flooded. We have an attic above the bathroom that we never use. It has an open eastern window. Every year more water enters the attic and leak through the bathroom’s ceiling. Just before the winter came I requested a friend that works in house repairs to close this window – but, like in previous years, nothing was done. So, after I finished cleaning the water from the floor, and as the rain seemed never to stop, I took this red polygal and stuck it in the open attic window.

The revolution, for the time being, is not inevitable, but the house is almost all dry.

Walking Down a Damascus Street

Walking Down a Damascus Street

On the last weekend of June I was in Paris to feel the heartbeats of the revolution from newly exiled Syrians. This is one story that is more funny than shocking, but I found it telling a lot about the creativity of the youth and the dumbness of the regime.

* * *

It was in the first days of the revolution in Damascus. People were gathering for demonstrations, usually simply by praying in some mosque, only to find themselves surrounded and outnumbered by the regime’s numerous security services and paramilitary gangs. Typically they would be beaten and arrested before even really hitting the street.

Some young activists, feeling that they should do their part, tried to be innovative. They knew that some groups are organizing demonstrations in other parts of the city, so they decided to simply walk down the street in a group and see what happen. They even ordered in advance a meal in a nearby restaurant so that if they will be asked why they walk in the street they will have a perfect alibi.

History is never easy to describe accurately. Nardeen says they were some fifteen of them walking together. Khaled says they were no more that seven or eight. But then Nardeen reminds him that Yousef brought his girlfriend and her little sister. So he also recalls two more friends that came by. When they already counted fifteen names between them, he gave up.

* * *

As they were walking in a loose group down the street, talking and laughing, some security vehicles were slowly driving just after them. But that was not a full proof. In the next corner they turned to a small one-way street, walking against the allowed driving direction.

This was too much! Here the police angrily turned on them and stopped them. Within minutes they brought a bus full of heavily armed “Amn” (security). They were surrounded and forced to climb the bus. At their protestation that they did nothing illegal, the police angrily claimed that they conspired to walk down the street and divert the security forces’ attention from demonstrations elsewhere.

After some time the girls were released. The boys were taken away in the bus, beaten and also released within a few hours.

This time, you may say, the police was vigilant and smart and understood the plot directly as it folded. But somehow our activist, with their limbs aching, felt victorious.

* * *

For political analysis of the same period you may read Free Haifa.

The Turtles’ Sour Feast

The Turtles’ Sour Feast

The Turtles are famous for their slowness, but they have also extraordinary patience and insistence…

Not every day they would make a feast. Actually they waited some forty years before they decided to summon all the turtles in the forest and have some good time together. It required another year until the news passed by and a couple more until everybody gathered in a lovely clearing… You could image they were impatient and hungry even before they started preparing the food!

Preparing food for such a respected gathering is not that simple, but all were busy like bees. They brought many kinds of vegetables to make a huge pile of salad. They waited patiently under trees to get the best fruits just as they fall down, dragged them to the clearing and squeezed their intoxicating nectar. They toiled with urgency and happily and didn’t even throw a glance at the watch, but it consumed some more months before all was ready.

Just as the worlds’ best food was on the table and they gathered around it and wanted to start eating, they discovered that they forgot the most important ingredient of any meal: They didn’t bring salt.

They consulted each other and decided to send one young turtle, which was known as the fastest turtle in the forest, to bring salt. He was reluctant to leave the festive gathering, but after some social pressure he murmured: “OK, but don’t you dare touch the food until I’m back!” and disappeared between the trees.

They waited faithfully for days and weeks, freezing in their places around the temptations on the set table, but wouldn’t touch the food. They were patient but their stomachs grumbled with hunger and they didn’t talk any more, just sent long glances between the trees…

When weeks turned months and there was no news from the young turtle, some of the turtle kids started nagging and the old ones were consulting restlessly. After several months of consultations one old turtle said: “If we wait any more the food will be spoiled anyway. Lets eat!” To say the truth, at this point all the turtles were simply happy to bring this sad saga to any end, and they started to clap and attacked the food on the table from all directions.

At this very moment, the rapid young turtle came out from his hide behind the nearest tree, all angry and shouting in his highest voice: “You faithless traitors. I knew you will not wait for me!”

* * *

This story is dedicated here, in the current harsh circumstances of the Arab Spring, to our comrades from the left who are angry and alienated from the revolution because it didn’t wait for them…

Knowing that being angry at the comrades is not a solution – without the distinctive contribution of the left this very special historical feast can all turn sour.

You can read this post also in Arabic.