Happy 17th Birthday! I know you may not feel much like celebrating at the moment, but I want you to know that I haven’t forgotten about you. Your imprisonment is a violation of rights enacted by a notorious criminal, and there’s nothing I’d like to see more than you walking free.
You may be wondering why I single you out from the hundreds of captured and imprisoned youths, or any of the other innumerable crimes committed by your captures. It is for this simple reason: it appears clear to all that your people are indeed in need of leaders, both bold and resilient. I’m sure you are as skeptical of that word as I am, but indeed, to win over the hearts and minds of those abroad, citizens of those powers that have capitalized on and legitimized your oppression, a face is what is needed. And not just any face, but a face who will never shy away with fear. That is how I’ve seen you all these years.
This need for strong figures is indeed well known, not just by me, but it seems also by the Israeli state. They have you held on claims that your incitement endangers national security. Perhaps they are not wrong. If they define national security as the status quo, their slow process of consuming and colonizing the whole of Palestine, then indeed they are not wrong. You are a threat to that. If by endangering they mean delegitimizing, then they are again not wrong to say this. Because what greater harm can someone do to Israel than expose the underlying violence of their barbarous and racist ideology?
Indeed your imprisonment is part and parcel of Israel’s tactic of removing any living and potential leaders for the Palestinian cause, to remove any one figure standing up amongst the rest, because this is the real threat to their state: legitimate, non-violent opposition. On the military front, the balance of power is certainly one-sided: Israel receives billions of dollars from the world’s leading powers, while Palestine is essentially disarmed, both in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Yet, in the international and moral sphere, the tides are tilted in the complete opposite direction.
Using any one example is misleading because almost everything that has been enacted unto the Palestinian people under the projects of Zionism has been nothing but criminal and immoral. Looking at historical examples of settler colonial societies, it is obvious to all who the real victims are: the indigenous peoples of America, Australia and Canada. Does it come as a surprise then, that these three nations are some of the biggest supporters of the state of Israel? We can also look to International Law, and numerous United Nation Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, such as 242, 338, and 478, or the International Court Justice (ICJ)’s Opinion on the Wall. Any conscious, impartial viewer can see where the moral argument lies: not with the occupier but with the occupied.
Seeing the huge amounts of effort made to maintain a certain image of the state, it can only be assumed that Israel sees the moral argument as highly dangerous. The list ranges from the Jewish Internet Defense Force (JIDF) and spots on the international corporate media such as CNN to “pink-washing” the conflict and making Martin Luther King Jr. out to have been some sort of a Zionist. Israel has pushed the throttle of its propaganda machine on high to try to balance the board. It is for this reason that the Goldstone Report, a vital finding that confirmed Israel’s targeting of civilians during Operation Cast Lead, was called a ‘threat’, and was equated with with Iran’s nuclear program and Hezbollah’s rocket, by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The author of the report was later pressured to such a point that he had to retract his statement. This image-problem could also be the reason why Netanyahu and many of his international allies, are so hellbent against BDS. The movement has not had any serious impact on the Israeli economy, but has dented its image and created a sustained campaign of awareness about its crimes.
This is where you came in. Your young but determined face served to warn your occupiers that you will not be brought to heel. History is indeed on your side and the only things that props your enemy up are money, weapons and lies. I’ve watched you resisting occupation from afar for several years now. I’ve watched you stand firm, yelling at men with assault rifles whose sole motive is to keep you quelled so the settlers behind them can continue to steal your land.
Just as my hope was waning, as I saw the hopelessness in what is called the Oslo generation, there you were, staying strong and fighting for what is rightfully yours: the home you live in, your family and your people. I wish I could give you something, buy you a book or give you a hug to congratulate you on your 17th birthday, but the only thing I can give you from here is this one truth. You have rekindled hope within me for the future of Palestine. You have instilled within me the belief that if there are still people like you, there will always be hope. You’ve reminded me to believe in a quote attributed to Martin Luther King Jr.: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
I‘ll leave you with the only things I can give to you, my gratitude and my encouragement. Your 17 years of existence have been a nuisance to your occupiers and to that I say, many happy returns of the day.