Sony: A Short Story on Palestine
- by Macdonald Stainsby
"Fauzia! Fauzia!" The scream ripped through the air, though the sound of bullets was still too thick for one to even think. Her body lay slumped in a heap on the ground, a bullet having just pierced through her kidneys and her left cheek. Her hijjab covered her vision so she could no longer see, and she was losing consciousness fast.
"Don't worry my dear sister, the Zionist scum didn't kill you. You can make it. Just don't give up! You have your beautiful daughters- my nieces Fauzia! My nieces! Don't let go. Would somebody please HELP HER!" screamed Asad. He picked her up and pulled her hijjab down, dangling it loosely around her neck. Another series of shots rang out, followed by an explosion. Asad ran carrying his sister, whose wounds were only covered with light dust after the tires of a nearby jeep spun to get away. Bullets ricocheted off the concrete flats in this desperately poor neighbourhood. Asad's eyes glassed over as he applied the dry end of the hijjab to the wounds of Fauzia- inflicted by the American-sponsored "Zionist entity". Soon the entire green tunic was engulfed in fresh crimson red - except when the sun glinted of the blood, flashing little white stars into Asad's eyes. The weapons fell silent, leaving nothing but the eerie silence of the street and the hysterical screams of many painful wounds.
Asad ran and managed to stop a vehicle; another old, beat up Mercedes. The driver- heavy set, balding and covered in blotches of white paint from a day of some form of work - didn't wait for an explanation, just obvious gestures exchanged as Asad gathered Fauzia into the car, still breathing, but becoming more erratic. The car sped down away from where the Israeli Defence Forces had launched a series of missiles and unleashed a large battalion of snipers. Fauzia had been pierced by sniper fire on the way home from her prayers at the Mosque. The women in their family were still religious, but the Israeli siege on their Ramallah neighbourhood had driven the men away from Allah. The fate of the Palestinian people may be in the hands of He, thought Asad, but the defeat of Zionist Israeli aggression will come from the hands of His children.
Asad looked out the window to the sky and his eyes closed to nothing but tiny slits. His left arm caressed his sister- elbow under her head and hand holding her chin. Fauzia was coughing blood onto his lap. His right hand clenched a fist. He squeezed his fist until it was nearly red from the clenching and he had dug little caverns into his palms with his fingernails. He did not speak. He only stared back to where his oldest sister was shot. He raised his fist half way, and then dropped it. Then relaxed.
The driver began to honk when traffic slowed two blocks short of the hospital. He had been railing away about the Jews, the Zionists, the impotence of Arafat, the inhumanity of Sharon and the uselessness of the peace talks the entire ride. Asad had only been listening for his sister to keep breathing, and was barely aware of the driver or his impassioned ramblings. The car slowed to a complete stop where the driver got out of the car.
"What is going on here?" he demanded loudly in Arabic. A young Palestinian boy spoke from behind him.
"We have been here for two hours trying to get home. They keep asking me if we know where Arafat is, if we are Arafat, if we are with `Hamas baby killers' … ripping off girls' hijjabs," said the boy, obviously frightened. The IDF had set up another checkpoint. The hospital was on the other side of the street, but it might as well have been 200 kilometres. Asad began yelling out the window.
"In the name of all that is Holy, my sister is bleeding. She has been shot in the stomach. PLEASE! Let us through! Now!"
A man in full combat fatigues wandered over and glanced in the car. He took his time, bending to look in and standing again to look at the car. Glancing in one more time, he spoke loudly to his partner, who had on dark sunglasses and no expression. His words were in Hebrew, so Asad did not understand. Suddenly, the guard pointed at the Israeli flag over the hospital, the Palestinian one had been torn down when the tanks rolled through here a month before. With that gesture, he shrugged and his partner, from behind the sunglasses, smirked.
The guard stepped back as Asad babbled. "But, I must… I mean she… oh, for the … please, I beg you!" Tears flowed down Asad's cheeks. The guard turned his back, walked away while lighting a cigarette. He said something else, pointed back towards where they drove from, threw a match down by his feet and then stopped paying any further attention to the car or Fauzia. Fauzia began to convulse and her eyes opened. Twitching and gurgling blood, she stared right through Asad. He knew, and held her head into his chest. His teardrops fell onto her hair and her convulsions stopped. Her eyes remained open as her body went limp in Asad's lap. The Mercedes drove back from where it came slowly. There was no longer any need for panic.
Asad didn't go to the public funerals. He hated the Hamas people almost as much as he hated the IDF and Arafat. People in masks carrying rusty Soviet made machine guns would march around the funerals- funerals had become daily since Sharon assumed control of Israel-funerals that called for Israeli blood, that asked for martyrs to be accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven. He respected the need for unity and decided not to fight against the religious people.
Besides, Asad thought, They do after all run the soup kitchens and day care centres. The power held by Hamas in the neighbourhood was far superior to that of Arafat's Palestinian "Authority" (if one could call the tattered bands of would-be cops that) or the PFLP and other secular movements.
Asad stayed at home whenever he could hear the funeral marches from the streets. His mother, a short woman named Zainab, came home first. She entered the room and fixed her sights on Asad. As she began to speak, Asad noticed her voice was very hoarse from the first funeral march of the day.
"Oh, my son- we have lost Fauzia! Protect your other sisters and brothers, so that the Jews don't get them too. God willing, they shall not shed the blood of our children- forever."
Asad winced every time his mother spoke of Israel as "the Jews". He could hear the influence of Hamas on his mother's words. Tomorrow he had to put up with Hamas at his sisters funeral.
"Those Hamas people- they don't care about all of us, mama."
"What do you mean? They are for Islam and for independence from the Jews!"
"Not all Palestinians are Muslims, mama."
"You scare me when you talk like that, Asad. Do you want me to go to Hell? Is that what you want?"
"No, of course not, mama." said Asad as his father came home. The room fell silent. His father was Saeed- a greying man in his fifties, clean-shaven with a neat moustache. Asad had copied his father's neat haircut, but had not grown a moustache, at least not yet. They looked at each other directly and solidly. Saeed motioned to the extra room before heading the other way out the door. Asad nodded, quietly took a step forward and closed the same basement door behind him. Saeed returned a few minutes later with a box reading SONY in English across the side, walked by his mother to join Asad.
"NO!" she protested. "I have lost one daughter yesterday and her public funeral is tomorrow. I cannot lose another child. What do you think you are doing with this? Are you crazy? Allah had better ask me Himself for such a sacrifice, and but of course I will obey. But not now, not for you and not for…"
"Silence!" Saeed bellowed as he knocked his wife to the floor. "You mustn't be hysterical. Remember? We are working with the PFLP. They do not believe in Martyrs, they do not believe…"
"Please. Please, don't do this." she pleaded, while a tear ran down her now swollen cheek as she got to one knee.
"The PFLP is a secular movement. You don't know what you are worried about. Go make us some dinner! We simply have a broadcast to make." Zainab pulled herself together and Saeed went into the other room with Asad. Zainab began to talk to herself while she looked at the meagre food she would call dinner.
"Perhaps it is okay. This work needs to be done, and He gave me my sons so they may have a great role in a great victory. I must tell myself it is for my people, it is for Palestine, it is for Islam." She paused and stared outside and the empty streets of the neighbourhood. Bullet holes riddled the beige walls of every building that was standing. The Israeli Star of David flew, fluttering madly and utterly out of control, above the building that-- only six days ago-- housed the local Palestinian Authority. The flag fluttered arrogantly against the sun, above the tower and cast an erratic shadow across the entire neighbourhood. The wind was such that you could not predict where the shadow would get cast again. It moved quickly in the heat of the desert sun. Zainab walked to the other side of her house. From here, she could see that Palestinian children were playing some form of hopscotch using the shell casings left behind by a recent incursion from the IDF. Their laughter seemed to pick up her spirits.
"There is no water. The Jews over there have swimming pools and my daughters bring home one bucket of water to drink, clean, cook…Daughters, ah yes. My Fauzia…" she sobbed gently into her index finger and thumb. After a pause she looked outside again to where the kids were. A bit of strength later, she continued.
"I don't know what to believe- what to hope for. If only Saeed could get to work, but they block him everyday. We have no money, but there is no way the Jews will let him through. The highway is for Jews only. So he collects garbage… A professor of science picking up garbage... Everyday, to feed us... I must remember that is why…" Zainab wipes away a tear and tells herself, one more time "The PFLP are secular. They won't do it. They say they won't and besides, Allah could not accept them as martyrs. He will be fine."
The morning came quietly in the neighbourhood, the silence only broken as people began to mill in the streets. Zainab was dressed in black and weeping as she left the house first. Saeed and Asad were last, after the younger teenage brother and two little sisters of Fauzia headed outside. There was a solemn look to their expressions, which was starkly different enough to act as a spotlight beside the riveting anger of the crowd. Chants for revenge, for blood with blood, and for loyalty to Sheik Yassin and to Allah all began. The family waded into the crowd and was escorted by a Hamas militant from the neighbourhood to the front of the procession beside the exposed corpse of Fauzia. Her body was draped in a flag, slogans on her coffin asked God for revenge on the Jews. Asad tried to avoid the militant, as he had argued with him many times before. The militant grabbed Asad lightly by the arm after the rest of his family had already been taken to Fauzias body.
"Let go of me, I want nothing to do with this!" he demanded and jerked his arm back.
"Save that anger for the Jews boy! Your people need unity, and this ritual will help them gain the strength to defeat the Jews." whispered the militant into his ear, as he put his hand back on the forearm of Asad. Asad pulled back and took a step, berating him now.
"What do you know about it? You people are half of our problem. They kill our children so you kill theirs? What will the world think of that?"
"Listen boy: Everything the Jews do is a-okay to the world. The world does not think we are human. We only have one choice, and that is to show them just how very human we are. When we demand our rights, Europe asks our people to be patient and America gives the Jews more guns and tanks and helicopters. Every day they kill more of our kids and keep our stolen holy lands. Maybe if we make it clear they can not have peace on our land and we let them know their blood can spill too, then…"
"Then they call us terrorists…"
"Boy, they call their own man Arafat, that Israeli pawn- they call him a Hitler! We protest why should we give up our land- and what do we hear? The European Holocaust. The Jews run America and the Holocaust is the best thing that ever happened to them. No, we have no `world opinion' to play to. We have to make them suffer like they hurt us and our children. That's it…"
"If our struggle is just, and we know it is-- you killers make it harder for anything. Why can't you be men and attack their soldiers? They kill our kids so you attack theirs? There are Jews I don't hate, you know. Many. I hate Israel, not Israelis. We must face their army and force the world to stop America from helping Sharon."
"Barak was no better, and the world doesn't care about Arabs. Not while the Jews run everything. Every day more land disappears..."
"To Hell with you. Your simplistic crap will hurt Palestine as much as Sharon!" yelled Asad as he looked about, and then he stormed away from the funeral march. The militant waved at Asad in disgust and turned towards the crowd. In a moment the militant was consoling Zainab, now crying uncontrollably. The militant brought her onto a podium for all in the crowd to see. Anger grew even thicker than sorrow.
Zainab had not stopped crying even when the family, minus Asad, returned home. Saeed looked at his wife when they entered the home, and then said nothing but sat in his chair and stared out the window to the sky. The children stayed near their mama, staring at her and knowing not what to do. If they were to cry, then their father would threaten them. Saeed blinked, thinking but doing nothing else. Ten minutes later, he turned on the radio. His daughters asked what he was doing this for and he demanded they be quiet. He then stared blankly at the radio, listening to every word spoken in the Hebrew he learned while in University. Zainab left the room and the children followed her. The radio continued on.
"There were two reports of terrorist attacks on military posts today. The first was a suicide bomber at a checkpoint heading out of Ramallah, who blew himself up when asked for identification. He was on foot, almost took out a tank, killing three IDF soldiers and injuring twelve… he was not dressed in any disguise and was identified as a local member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine…"
Saeed closed his eyes and called his wife. She immediately cried, and fell to the floor, hands raised in exasperation.
"You told me, you promised…!"
"Please, do shut up and come with me," he said, while grabbing her by the arm. She tripped. They went downstairs with the children shrieking to discover what was actually going on. The kids were hopping. Father yelled. Then he threw a cup against the wall. It shattered against the dim yellow cobblestone.
"This must STOP! NOW!" The kids sat down. He meant it.
Saeed pulled a videotape out of the closet. Turning on the VCR and inserting the tape, soon the family was sobbing as silently as possible. On the screen in fuzzy focus was Asad. He had a giant Palestinian flag behind him and he began to make a speech.
"This tape is to tell you why I chose to sacrifice my life to take out the enemy soldiers who occupy our cities, depriving us of water, depriving us of movement, depriving us of jobs and food and depriving our children of a future. I have now made my sacrifice for many reasons. I have, for myself, avenged their cowardly murder of my sister, Fauzia. I chose to do this because I want to show the way forward for my people.
The Zionists in Israel believe that they can stop the movement of the people for their land, with water, food and security. They believe that the world opinion will back them forever, and so long as our people kill their children, they might be correct. However, no people will live in slavery forever. No people will give up their right to resist, or their right to exist. So long as there is not a Palestine, I want my death to by an inspiration to young people throughout our tragic people. We must not sink to the level of the Zionist aggressors. We must assert our right to resistance so long as there is enslavement. We do this by attacking the Zionist army, the Zionist occupiers, until they understand that no means can be used to force us to surrender.
A people must not forego its humanity by attacking the humanity of another. Our unity will be forged on behalf of the Palestinian people and in opposition to the enslavement of religious reaction- be it Jewish or Muslim. Our victory will be guaranteed by our dignity as fighters, choosing only to fight those who help oppress our people, not civilians- be they Arab or Jew. Finally, I affirm that democracy and social justice for the people is an idea- they cannot kill ideas. If my death causes the Zionist state to understand there is no peace without justice; if it helps even a fraction towards creating a free Palestine and saves the life of one child, the scales are balanced.
Finally, to my family: I love you, I loved Fauzia and I do this so the…"
Zainab began to sob just as an explosion went off upstairs. The children screamed. Saeed yelled for silence. The children stopped. They all headed upstairs. Saeed ran out the backdoor, turning to see another explosion take his wife and two of his children. He grabbed his remaining daughter as the dust settled after the American made Black Hawk helicopter launched another missile into the house. He coughed furiously as he waded through the clouds of smoke- he was blinded indoors. The ground shook as the next missile crashed into his car. Neighbours poured into the streets, terrified to be trapped indoors. His car exploded into the sky, sending black plumes of toxic waste through the air. He ran. The IDF was "targeting militants", and Saeed was in the PFLP and the father of the latest suicide bomber. His daughter was screaming but he couldn't even hear her. He slipped into the crowd and got into a car when a friend found him. The car sped away down the road, surrounded by panicked families and honking vehicles. Saeed and his remaining daughter would not be returning to their home this time.
The driver turned out to be another PFLP member who had taken them well away from the occupied territories, to the edge of the "Green Line" separating Israel from the ghettos of Palestine in a Party safe house. The last two days Saeed had been left alone. He never got up and it was clear the Party wouldn't disturb him. In fact, the Party members kept others away. He only got up to get the odd drink of water and didn't eat for two days. Men used to fire fights with the IDF were teaching his last daughter, Sonya, how to play card games. With Zainab, cards had been un-Islamic. Sonya had already changed.
After a couple of drinks of brandy, Saeed decided he wanted to try and return to his former home to secure the tape. The neighbourhood had since seen a withdrawal by the tanks, but Saeed didn't know if it could be done. Perhaps he would get a neighbour to look for him. First he needed a safe route to the area. He decided to ask a local leader of his party.
The commander looked into Saeed's eyes and decided not to argue. There was obviously no point.
"The best thing to do", began the gruff, portly gentleman with the handlebar moustache "Is to take the bus. The bus is considered to be so open, that is, too open", he continued.
"The Zionists never check them. They assume it is nothing but old women and weaklings on there." Saeed nodded, moving hypnotically. He explained to his daughter that he would return soon, but that for now she should listen to these nice men. He pointed at the young men brandishing old Kalishnikovs. His daughter tried her mightiest not to cry. He hugged her.
"I love you," he whispered in her ear. It was the first time he had said that to any of his children. He took a nervous step outside into the dry heat of the sun for the first time since he arrived there after the IDF wiped out his family. It was now heading towards dark. After an hour waiting for a bus that carried no real schedule (if it even had the gas), it was almost pitch black. He could see the glow of the neon lights from Israel. It was his main source of light, as Palestinian territories were slipping into darkness again- powerless once more. The bus appeared down the road. Saeed got ready to board the bus. The doors opened and he spoke to the driver.
"I need to know where this bus goes", he asked. The driver paused. A solemn look came over his Semitic face. He looked at Saeed and seemed to answer with an apology.
"We're going to Palestine, but it's a long road from here."
Saeed boarded the bus and paid his fare. Walking slowly down the aisle, he looked over several ashen and dark faces. A moment later, he sat down and held on as tightly as he could. Sirens blared in the distance. He was just hoping they would make it all the way.
Macdonald Stainsby is a young freelance writer and social justice activist based in Vacouver. He can be reached at email@example.com.