In My Country: April Is the Time When Great Men Depart the World

A Palestinian great leader, Abdul Qader Al-Husseini, once the commander of the “Army of Holy Struggle” ascended to the Palestinian realm of immortality after the Battle of Qastal where he fought invading Zionist troops against impossible odds for eight long days. He fell martyr on April 8th, 1948 and became the first of a few great men who departed their world in the same month years later. When the Arab League refused to supply him with weapons he uttered his historical words: “I came to you to ask for weapons to defend Palestine. And now after being refused, I want to tell you all that we will never lower our weapons until victory (is done) or martyrdom. I am going to Qastal and I will never ask any of you to accompany me because I know exactly where you stand.” Indeed, Abdul Qader’s struggle defined and paved the way for all generations to come, when he said: “We, Palestinians, are strong people despite our small number because our faith in the justice of our cause makes us powerful. We will keep fighting till the very end. And our children and friends who have faith in our cause shall continue this struggle after we are gone until justice is rendered”. Now, after more than six decades he had been proven right!

Now that April is behind us, we continue to seek courage and inspiration from the memories of Abdul Qader and two others of his fellowmen, Khalil Al-Wazir and Sharif Al-Husseini. They all fell martyr after fulfilling the highest human values in their struggle for freedom and justice. The lives of these men were once unjustly labeled by some with the tag of ‘terrorism’, but their noble fight for their nation’s liberation remains a beacon for all freedom fighters. These great men sought to serve the Palestinian just cause working behind the scenes without arrogance or fanfare. My dear friend, Sharif Al-Husseini, who passed away nearly a month ago, was once a ‘wanted man’ in most Arab countries!! It needed our friend Faisal Al-Husseini to intercede with the late King Hussein to reinstitute Sharif’s Jordanian citizenship which ended his long exile and enabled him to return to his beloved Palestine. Sharif returned to the West Bank where he lived, pursued his struggle quietly and fought his fierce battles with a keen intellect without a legal status that could have permitted him to work publicly for the Palestine cause. Sharif studied Palestinian history in depth. As a graduate of the American University of Beirut, he shunned all offers to work in the oil-rich countries and went to join the struggle for Arab unity under the banner of the Arab Nationalist Movement which was led by another Palestinian legendary leader, Dr. George Habash. Sharif excelled in his work when he served as the Secretary for International Relations in the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS). Following the 1965 International Conference for Palestine held in Cairo as one of the largest student union gatherings, Palestinians went to Nairobi, Kenya where another meeting of all student unions of the ‘Western Bloc’ convened. What was to be seen as a ‘civilized resolution’ was needed to address the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and gain the votes of European students as well as the National Student Association of America. That was when Sharif emerged with a draft resolution on a ‘bi-national state’ and democratic one (for Jews, Christians and Moslems) where all live under the law of a secular system. European and American students all voted ‘yes’ for the draft, which prompted the Israeli delegation to withdraw from the conference. Thus, Sharif drew with his own pen the demise of the apartheid/racist policies of the Zionist state, which now looks as the only possible and peaceful solution towards resolving the Palestinian question.

The life story of the ‘Prince of Martyrs’, Khalil Al-Wazir (better known as Abu Jihad), the Deputy Commander of the Forces of the Palestinian Revolution has a similar great significance in the Palestinians’ fight for freedom. He indeed mentored them on how to wage their armed struggle. Abu Jihad defined his principles in the following three statements:

  1. The fate of colonial occupation in Palestine is to be determined on the Land of Palestine not only around the negotiating table.
  2. The uprising (Al-Intifada) is a decision of a continuous daily activity which reflects the “genuineness of our Palestinian people in their renewable quest for justice”.
  3. And his last resounding words: “Why can’t we negotiate while we are in the midst of battles?”

Abu Jihad gave up his last breath while holding the handgun shooting at his Israeli attackers in Tunisia. He was killed in the middle of his selfless work to bring back Fateh Movement to its original roots of being the ‘storm’ behind a revolution to liberate Palestinian lands. The last code name Abu Jihad carried was: “the first of bullets … the first of stones”, a reference to the Movement’s launch of both the armed struggle and popular resistance.