Reham Alhelsi – Get up, stand up for Palestinian Rights on May Day and Every Day


By Mary Rizzo • Apr 30th, 2009 at 21:32 • Category: Analysis, Culture and Heritage, Israel, Newswire, Palestine, Resistance, Somoud: Arab Voices of Resistance, Zionism

Introduction by Mary Rizzo – In many parts of the world, the first of May is an official holiday that celebrates the conquests that workers have achieved following centuries of exploitation. These rights are by no means guaranteed, and anywhere there are other social or political problems, the rights of workers seem more like a luxury than a necessity. In fact, when one looks at some of the old political slogans used throughout the world on this day, one has to realise that there is still so much injustice inflicted upon human beings by other human beings. “Food is not a Luxury” is fitting for today’s Gaza, not just in turn-of-the-century central Europe. The United Nations, in fact, has established that labour should be included in its Declaration of Human Rights stating that: “Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.” The conditions simply don’t exist for Palestinians to revel in any conquests, because they are denied the protection that is at the basis of any just human society.

In recent years, Europe has shifted the focus of its May Day to a moment when a focus on other rights might find a bit of attention, and it is not unusual to see demonstrations of support for oppressed people around the world during this commemoration, in the international spirit which makes this day different from all others. It is with this spirit that Palestine Think Tank is honoured to highlight one of our very favourite writers who connects the issues of workers rights, protection and a general call for justice, which is what is reflected in the intent of Article 23 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. When the very existence of the worker is threatened, as this listing of massacres perpetrated against Palestinian workers demonstrates, we realise that the conquests of workers are still at a very early stage. May all who read this reflect upon each name, thinking of the sacrifice that these people made just to bring food home to their families, and promising upon the memory of these men and women that we will not stop to fight for the rights of workers and Palestinians, so that these senseless deaths are in no way in vain. Long live the memory of these martyrs and long live the indomitable spirit of the Palestinian people, which is an inspiration to all who struggle for justice and freedom.

The First of May Celebration – Get Up, Stand Up by Reham Alhelsi

Every morning, thousands of Palestinians say goodbye to their families and go to work. Teachers, doctors, farmers, labourers, fishermen, etc… They go to school to teach children, defying the Israeli tank standing outside the school. They go to their fields to work them, defying fanatic Jewish settlers armed with weapons and hate. They repair their tents and go fishing, defying Israeli pirate ships shelling and hijacking the area. They drive their ambulances and rush to save lives, defying Israeli snipers aiming to kill. They take their pens and recording equipment to register Israeli crimes, defying Israeli tanks with their cameras. They go to their jobs every morning defying daily Israeli crimes committed under the eyes, ears and noses of the whole world that prefers to remain silent. They go to their jobs because they want their children to have food on the table, a roof over their heads, an education as a weapon in their hands, and a future that is free of Zionists and military occupation. The 1st of May is a day to remember every Palestinian who wakes up to a new day, full of new hopes and new strength to face and defy the siege, the closure, the military occupation, the fanatic settlers, the terror aiming to starve us as a nation and make us fall to our knees.

On the 1st of May we remember Zionist massacres committed against Palestinian labourers. We remember the massacre of Oyoun Qara (Rishon Lezion), when on 20.5.1990 an Israeli soldier lined up some 100 Palestinian labourers who were on their way to work, and in cold blood killed 7 of them with a sub-machine gun. As with all massacres committed by individual Israelis, the Israeli government rushed to declare the soldier deranged. Ami Popper, the IOF soldier, had come upon the group of Palestinians, asked them to in kneel down in 3 lines, and after checking their IDs and making sure they were Arabs he started shooting randomly at them. Their only fault was that they were Palestinians. They had lost their homes and everything else they owned in 1948, and were made refugees by the Zionist state. And as the tragedy of the Nakba continued, the suffering of these people knew no end. For, in order to feed their children, they were forced to work like slaves for those who made refugees out of them. The photos of the massacre show the extent of hate and brutality of the IOF soldier: young and elderly, drowning in pools of blood, their lunch packages scattered around them. And when the Israeli police finally arrived to the scene of the massacre, they started beating those Palestinian workers who had survived the death machine that day. On the 1st of May we remember:

Abdil Rahim Baraka – 23 years old from Khan Younis.

Ziyad Swed, 22 years old from Rafah.

Zayid Alamour, 23 years old from Khan Younis.

Suleiman abu Anza, 22 years old from Khan Younis.

Omar Dahles, 27 years old from Khan Younis.

Zakariya Qdeh, 35 years old from Khan Younis.

Younis Abu Daqa from Khan Younis.

On the 1st of May we remember the 3 Palestinian labourers who were burned to death in a shed in Or Yehuda near Tel Aviv on 9.8.1988. As the 3 men cried out for help, spectators stood watching while the fire ate the men alive. When interviewed by the press on the incident, the residents of Or Yehuda showed unanimous support of the hideous murder. One Israeli witness to the burning said: “It was all organized beautifully.” Adding, “look, I could put 10 in a line and shoot them. That’s okay. But burning, I can’t do. When it happened I sat on the veranda and if I didn’t have family reason not to I would dance. I wouldn’t help them. Let them be burned, the Arabs.” His 17 year old brother added: “I will go to the border guards to kill Arabs by beating them with clubs”. Another resident serving in the IOF said: “They did well to burn them. Why should they be ashamed” … “It’s a Mitzvah, what they did …”. Only one person, an IOF soldier, tried to help and that only because the 3 men were screaming out for help in Hebrew and he thought them Jews. One of the 3 men ran out of the shed while burning, but the residents of Or Yehuda stood watching as he was burned alive. Another Israeli told a reporter that they should do to the Arabs what Hitler did to the Jews, and that he didn’t care if they put Arabs in concentration camps. One 16 year old said, “what does it matter if an Arab burns? What does an Arab matter at all? It’s not a human being. I wouldn’t care if more than 2000 burned.” His friend added: “I would burn 5,000 more.” This is the same Or Yehuda whose residents publicly burned hundreds of copies of the New Testament on 15.5.2008. On the 1st of May we remember:

Abdallah Khalil, 30 years old from Khan Younis.

Said Ismael from Rafah.

Naseem Ayid from Magazi Refugee Camp.

On the 1st of May we remember many more massacres committed by the Zionist state and its IOF against innocent civilians working for their daily living. We remember the Eretz Checkpoint massacre, when on 17.7.1994 Israeli soldiers killed 11 Palestinian labourers and injured 200 who were waiting at the checkpoint to go to their work. We remember the Tarqumia massacre, when on 10.3.1998 IOF soldiers stopped a van full with unarmed Palestinian labourers on their way home after a long day. The soldiers opened fire without warning, killing 3 men. Others survived death because the bodies of their murdered comrades fell over them and protected them from the bullets. We remember those who were shot dead at checkpoints on their way to work or on their way back home. We remember those forced to sleep in sheds like animals. We remember those forced to wear badges like the yellow Star of David the Nazis forced the Jews to wear. We remember those beaten almost to death by Israelis for being Arabs and for wanting to clean the cities of them.

On the 1st of May we remember Palestinian teachers who despite restrictions and arrests continue to teach Palestinians, generation after generation, about Palestine, about freedom and about our non-negotiable rights. We remember the teachers who went on strike after Israel occupied East Jerusalem and forced its Zionist Curriculum in Arab schools. We remember those who refused to teach this curriculum despite Israeli threats or the promised rewards in case they concede to teaching the curriculum. We remember those who were punished and sent to teach in isolated schools far away from their homes, that they had to wake up at 4 every morning to be able to reach their schools and continue teach Palestinian children. We remember school and university teachers who after Israel closed all educational institutions during the first Intifada, organized secret learning groups, risked their lives to meet with their pupils and give them lessons and worked day and night preparing work material for their students so the educational process could go on. We remember our teachers, who stood with such dignity despite being humiliated and beaten by teenage IOF soldiers who had no respect for anything. We remember those teachers who try to protect us from the shelling of our schools, from the armed soldiers at checkpoints, from the fanatic settlers waiting at every corner to attack us. We remember those teachers who risked their freedom to teach us about Palestinian history, folklore and culture. We remember all those teachers who spend years in Israeli prisons, those who were tortured and those who were killed by the IOF or illegal Jewish settlers. We remember Hani Na’eem, a 38 year old school teacher who was killed by an Israeli missile attack on a school in Beit Hanoun on 7.2.2008. Three 16 year old pupils were wounded in the attack. We remember Wafa’ Al Daghma, a 34 year old teacher killed in her home and in front of her three children during an Israeli raid on 11.5.2008. Wafa’s head was blown away as the IOF blasted open the front door of her house with explosives. They then locked the children aged 2 to 13 in a room for five hours, and continued their military incursion while the body of Wafa lay on the ground.

On the 1st of May we remember doctors, nurses and all medical personnel who were killed while performing their duty. We remember the medical personnel who were beaten, tortured or killed by illegal settlers. We remember those brave men who continue their work despite Israeli attacks, shelling, curfews and incursions. We remember those doctors who were killed while performing first aid to wounded Palestinians and those who were blown to pieces together with their ambulances by Israeli bombs. Ample evidence shows that such attacks are no isolated incidents or mistakes, but represent an adopted policy of deliberate targeting to kill even those whose duty is to save lives. We remember the 23 Palestinians killed and the 850 injured in the Al Aqsa mosque massacre on 8.10.1990. According to media reports, nurse Fatima Abu Khadir who witnessed the massacre said: “we went into the mosque precincts in an ambulance. I saw a large number of injured who had fallen on the ground. Then I saw lots of soldiers, hundreds of soldiers. They were about 30 meters from the ambulance and kneeling on one knee the way snipers do, and their weapons were aimed inside the ambulance.” Physician Muhammad Abu ‘Alya said: “I got out of the ambulance carrying a first-aid kit. I was wearing a white uniform. The soldiers saw me and knew I was a doctor. But when I got to the wounded person nearest me and bent down to treat him, I got three bullets in my back in the region of the kidney. At that very moment, the wounded man near me died. But he could have been saved if I hadn’t been hit.” We remember the 16 medical personnel killed while on duty by the IOF during the latest war on Gaza:

Rami Al Salut, 27 years old, medical lab. specialist, Sheikh Radwan.

Azmi Abu Dalal, 26 years old, medic, Nuseirat.

Ahmed Abdallah, 26 years old, nurse, Rafah.

Ihab Al-Shaer, 32 years old, physician, Rafah.

Zeyad Abu Teir, 32 years old, nurse, Khan Younis.

Mohammad Abu Hassira, 21 years old, medic, al daraj.

Ihab Al-Madhoun, 35 years old, physician, al daraj.

Yaser Shbeir, 25 years old, medic, Shati Refugee Camp.

Anas Na’im, 23 years old, medic, Al Zaytoon.

Ra’fat Ibrahim, 20 years old, medic, Al Sabra.

Arafah Abdul Dayem, 35 years old, medic, Beit Hanoun.

Salem Al-Bensh, 57 years old, nurse, Rafah.

Albina Al-Jaru, 25 years old, physician, Gaza.

Issa Saleh, 32 years old, physician, Jabalia.

Abdullah Al-Imawi, 22 years old, nurse, Gaza.

Zayed Jneid, 30 years old, medic, Gaza.

On the 1st of May we remember journalists, camerapersons and other media personnel who died while reporting on Israeli crimes and exposing Israeli terror to the world. We remember those wounded and those imprisoned for fighting Israel with their pens. We remember Nazeh Darwazeh and Fadel Shanna, two cameramen whose last minutes were caught on camera. We remember Imad Abu Zahra, Ihab Al-Wahidi, Hamza Shaheen, Omar Silawi, Muhammad Al-Bishawi, Raffaele Ciriello, James Miller, Mohamad Abu Halima, Basil Faraj, and many other journalists killed and injured by the IOF. We remember Issam Tillawi, whose story is similar to that of thousands of Palestinian families: a story of losing a home, wandering and suffering in the Diaspora, waiting for the day to come back home. In 1948 Issam’s family was forced out of their hometown of Tell and found temporary refuge in Iraq, after which the family moved to Kuwait. During the 2nd Gulf War, the Tillawi family was deported from Iraq and moved yet again to Jordan. Issam decided to go back to his home country; to Palestine. He worked at the voice of Palestine as a journalist and hosted 2 weekly programs: “International Affairs” and “Nahar Jadid”. While covering a demonstration in protest of the Israeli military occupation in the Manara Square in Ramallah on the night of 22.9.2002, Issam was shot in the back of the head by an IOF sniper. He was wearing a jacket stating clearly that he’s a journalist and had his recording equipment with him, so any sniper would have seen clearly what he was shooting at. Issam lay 10 minutes bleeding on the street before the ambulance was allowed to reach him, but the medics couldn’t save his life. As usual, the IOF claimed it was not responsible for his death, adding that he was among a group of demonstrators. Issam was 32 when he was murdered, and today he finds his final resting place in Tell, that small village from which his parents were uprooted in 1948. He is back in Palestine for good.

On the 1st of May we remember Palestinian farmers working their lands, protecting them and standing steadfast on these lands in the face of the Israeli war being waged against them to kick them out. We remember those attacked by the illegal Jewish settlers during harvest time. Palestinian farmers have been working their fields under threatening conditions. They have been shot at, attacked and harassed by the IOF and by illegal settlers. Many have been killed and hundreds wounded. Fields have been burned, harvest stolen and Olive trees uprooted and replanted in illegal Jewish settlements as decoration. Greenhouses and water wells have been destroyed, complete olive and fruit fields have been bulldozed and cattle have been butchered or stolen. Farmers living close to the Apartheid Wall are often blocked from reaching their lands, and need permits from the IOF to enter the field of their ancestors. Their land is being confiscated, their hard work stolen. Not satisfied with stealing the land and the harvest, settlers often set fire to whole fields, diminishing the hard work of years into ashes. The water Palestinian farmers need for their fields is being stolen by Israel and used to fill swimming pools in illegal Jewish settlements. One Palestinian farmer was reported saying: “it seems that we are going to pay with blood for each olive oil drop. The Palestinian olive oil this year is going to be mixed with the blood of its owner.” For another farmer “being with the tree is like being in heaven. I am not crazy but I open my heart to the trees. I think of the trees as I do of my family. I speak to them when I have troubles.” We remember Yahia Atta Bani Monia. The 18 year old shepherd from the Nablus area was executed in cold blood by a group of Jewish settlers from the illegal settlement of Etamar on 27.9.2008. After they were done with him, Yahia was left with some 20 bullets riddling his body. One bullet was not enough for these killers. We remember the group of shepherds attacked by masked settlers from the illegal settlement of Susia near Hebron. The shepherds, including an elderly couple of 58 and 60 were attending their sheep on their lands, when ordered by the settlers to leave the land. Upon refusal, they were attacked. We remember Yasser Tmeizi from Ithna near Hebron who was arrested by the IOF while working in his land with his son. The soldiers beat him with batons until he lost consciousness, and later died. The IOF claimed Yasser tried to snatch the weapon of one of the soldiers at a checkpoint, although many witnesses saw him being arrested and beaten on his land away from any checkpoint.

On the 1st of May we remember every Palestinian whose story rarely made the news and whose name we don’t know. We remember the teacher who died of a heart attack after being beaten by the IOF. We remember the doctor who was tortured and hanged on a tree by fanatic Jewish settlers. We remember labourers, students, taxi drivers facing death squads at Israeli checkpoints. We remember farmers who risk their lives to reach their fields and work them for the next generations. We remember the fishermen of Gaza, practicing their right of fishing in their national waters and defying Israeli warships. We remember all those who fight every single day to provide some normality to their families under a most brutal situation. We remember those who despite Israeli terror, continue to live and protect their land and homes and families. We remember those who wake up every morning, think of the loved one that was killed yesterday, or the house that was demolished, or the field that was uprooted, and then go and hug their children and tell them about Palestine, build a new house on the ruins of the demolished one, plant more olive trees. And because we are Palestinians, because we cherish and love life and freedom and because the land is ours, we will continue hoping, and waking up every morning despite the daily terror, work to defend our land and protect it to hand it over to the next generations of Palestinians. We will continue to fight for our legitimate rights, for independence, for freedom. And one day we will tear down the Apartheid Wall and all the illegal settlements, break the siege, rebuild the destroyed towns and villages, free the prisoners, replant the fields desertified by Israel, because they will never kill our soul nor our will and we will keep waking up every morning for a new day in Palestine.

According to the PCHR: from the beginning of the 2nd Intifada on 29.9.2000 till 20.12.2008 3,741 Palestinian civilians have been killed by the IOF and 1,130 have been killed in armed clashes with the IOF. 26,063 have been injured.

During the 2nd Intifada at least 37 Palestinian teachers were killed by Israel, 55 were wounded and 190 detained. No less than 12 Palestinian journalists and camerapersons were killed.

During the latest Israeli war on Gaza 1417 Palestinians have been killed by the IOF, 926 of them were civilians. 5303 were injured.

16 Palestinian medical personnel were killed, 25 wounded.

12 teachers were killed, 5 wounded.

No less than 21 farmers killed, 2 fishermen and 92 labourers were killed.

Sources: (on the Tarqumia massacre of Palestinian labourers and the massacre at Rishon Lezion)

Mary Rizzo is an art restorer, translator and writer living in Italy. Editor and co-founder of Palestine Think Tank, co-founder of Tlaxcala translations collective. Her personal blog is Peacepalestine.
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