Our Living Dead

Reham Alhelsi

By Reham Alhelsi • Aug 5th, 2008 at 12:43 • Category: Artwork, Biography, Children's Corner, Culture and Heritage, Education, Israel, Music, Poetry, Events, Newswire, Palestine, Resistance, Somoud: Arab Voices of Resistance, Uprooted Palestinians' Testimonies, Zionism

During a seminar I attended in Germany about journalism and its role in conflicts, some participants were against the idea of TV stations like Aljazeera showing the horrific photos of Palestinian victims. They argued that seeing such pictures would only increase the hate and the anger and fuel the conflict. I was against that, and said that when we talk about the Zionist crimes committed against us, we are either accused of lying or exaggerating, and since the written word in western press is mostly pro-Israeli, we have only these photos left to speak for us. It is because one single such photo speaks a thousand honest words, many prefer not to see them or pretend not to know of their existence. When Palestinians distribute pictures of the victims killed by the IOF to news agencies, they are accused of using their dead for propaganda. But when the Israelis spread pictures of their dead, they are pitied for their loss and their dead are glorified. The world is allowed to see Israeli mothers crying near their dead sons and allowed to see scenes of suicide bombings with blood all over the place, but not that of Palestinian mothers crying the loss of their loved ones, or of the scenes of the various massacres or Palestinian houses covered with blood after an Israeli raid. How come we are not allowed to see photos of Palestin-ian victims who were killed while on their way to school or work, or who were simply killed by an Israeli air strike while sitting in their own living rooms? It has nothing to do with the photos being too graphic, too horrific to be seen, too inappropriate for the viewers or even the excuse that it might increase the hate. It is true that many of these photos are horrific and painful to look at, but they constitute the very few instruments available to us to speak about our suffering in a world that practices a selective freedom of press. And because these photos speak for themselves and on behalf of the victims condemning the killers, they are forbidden. As far as I can remember the Israeli TV was continuously showing films about the Holocaust, the concentration camps and photos of the victims. Western media does the same. Al-most 70 years after the Holocaust, we are reminded of it on an almost daily basis through all forms of media, but there is almost no mention whatsoever in this same media about the Palestinian victims and their ongoing Holocaust.

Photos have their own power and often send a clearer and more honest message than a thousand words. That is one reason why there are lots of things the western media won’t show its viewers or readers, especially when it comes to Zionist terror. For us, these pictures represent a way of saying we will never forget our victims and show our solidarity with the families of these victims. I remember when I was a child we had at home a drawing of Lena Nabulsi by the well-known Palestinian artist Suleiman Mansour. This is a well-known painting in Palestine that hangs on the wall of many Palestinian houses. It shows Lena lying on the ground in a field, with blood streaming out of her head. Lena was a 15-year-old Palestinian pupil who was killed in cold blood in 1976 by the IOF while visiting a friend of hers after school. As I grew up, I often heard the song of Lena at home and at my grandparents’ house. It is as well-known as the painting itself, and especially during the first Intifada one could practically hear this song and others coming from almost every corner and every street in Palestine. The song “Fe Al Daffa” (In the West Bank) written by Hasan Daher and sung by Ahmed Kabour says: Lena was a child making her future, Lena fell, but her blood was singing… was singing for Jerusalem, Jaffa, Jericho… I remem-ber how at night I used to wake up and look at the painting which hung in the bedroom exactly opposite the bed. I used to watch the painting and think about her and how she was killed just like that and for no reason other than that she is Palestinian. Sometimes I would think about how real she looked in that painting, about her lying there in the field, her long hair spread around her face like some halo and her blood watering the earth beneath her. It was as if she would stand up any minute and walk back home. In those moments in the middle of the night, I used to wonder if she would be scared waking up alone at night in that field, so far away from her home. Through this painting and through the song, Lena’s mem-ory is kept alive in the minds of Palestinians and her story will be forwarded from one generation to the following.

In older days, the memory of Palestinian national heroes was kept alive through folklore, especially folk songs and stories. Who among us doesn’t memorize the song of Sijin Akka (Acre Prison)? This song narrates the story of the three Acre heroes: Mohammad Jamjoum, Fouad Hijazi and Atta Al-Zeir who were executed by the British mandate government on Tuesday the 17th of June 1930. This sad song talks about the last minutes of the three heroes, their courage and their love for Palestine which even the gallows couldn’t extinguish, how all of Palestine mourned these heroes and a general strike was declared on the day of their execution. Other folk songs narrate stories of other heroes such as the story of Mish’al, the story of Jafra and others.


Tags: israel, palestinians
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