We are all in awe of the Libyan people and of the Egyptians, the Tunisians, the Yemenis, Algerians, Moroccans, the Bahrainis and all the Arab peoples who have shown tremendous strength in the face of brutal oppression. As we tune in to our televisions, our laptops and our mobile phones, watching and listening as the world changes around us, we can only admire them, our fellow brothers and sisters who would face the gravest of adversity to win the freedom of their country.
We Palestinians have known that feeling before. During the first Intifada, the uprising of 1987 and in bits and pieces during the Aqsa Intifada, we too were willing to face the gravest of consequences in our quest for freedom. Today, as we look to Arab peoples in admiration of their strength, in sorrow over their losses and in anger at the dictatorships that have ruled and oppressed them for so long, I realize that we too need to recall those years of strength and resolve, that loss of fear we all had as we faced down Israeli tanks, soldiers heavily armed with live ammunition, tear gas and nightsticks, all of which were used generously against us.
Reminiscing is not only an escape for dreamers. It can also be a valuable guide to the mistakes and successes of the past. In the case of the Palestinians, I think the solution to our predicament is much simpler than we sometimes make it out to be. In those early days of the first Intifada, even before there was Facebook and YouTube , mobile phones or satellite channels from which we could nurture our own strength with that of others, we were unafraid. I can tell you how true this is because I lived it. As I look at these young Libyans facing live fire, helicopter gunships and aircraft bombings, I think back to the time when fearless Palestinian youths would take to Israeli-occupied streets, knowing that Israel’s defense minister Yithak Rabin had ordered his army to “break their bones”. I remember youths, not much older than my son today, standing with their faces wrapped, symbolic stones in hand and determination in their eyes as Israeli army jeeps rushed towards them. And they, just like those fearless youths in Tahreer Square, in Benghazi and in Tripoli, did not hesitate or falter even if it meant they would pay with their lives.
We had this spirit. For months, we lived the momentum of revolutions we see today in Arab countries. An end to Israel’s occupation was our one goal. This is still a goal, obviously, but it has been cluttered and disguised by all that has happened since the Palestinians decided to enter into the murky waters of negotiations and agreements.
Voices in Palestine today are calling for a rekindling of that spirit. We need to peel away the distractions and enticements and return to the core of our purpose and ultimate goal. Let us go back to those simple days of popular resistance –” masses of people taking to the streets in protest of Israel’s ongoing occupation of our land. Leaders and ordinary citizens alike need to join hands and willpower and forget about any other considerations until the goal is had. The protesters of Tahreer Square understood what it meant to do or die; the people of Libya are living it today. Palestinians also know what it means to sacrifice and suffer for a larger cause. We have done it before. As we watch as our fellow Arabs struggle against their own tyrannical rulers, we have only to remember our own strength to find our clear path to liberation.