Jamila from Palestine
By Elias Khoury (Translated by Tony Maron)
اسمها شيرين أبوعاقلة
Shireen, the brave and noble journalist, who we followed to Sheikh Jarrah, Bab al-Amud, Jenin, Old Jerusalem and Mayar, to read in her voice and words the alphabet of love and defiance.
Shireen, the Jerusalemite girl whose shyness and humility is visible on her face, made the search for truth her profession and her passion, and she turned into a star that lights up our never-ending long Arab night.
The daughter and star of Jerusalem, fell as a witness and a martyr on the soil of the Jenin refugee camp, and turned the earth into a new sky.
Her name is Shireen, and Shireen is a Persian word that means beautiful and sweet.
Palestine’s Jamila, in her testimony and martyrdom, continued the story of the beautiful women of Algeria: Jamila Bouhired, Jamila Bou’azza, and Jamila Boubasha, who transformed Algeria into poems and songs burnt into memory and conscience.
Shireen Abu Akleh is our beauty and star. She spoke, testified, and persevered, but her tragic death by a bullet of an Israeli sniper whose craft is to kill, was the most eloquent expression of the meaning of life.
No one has the right to mourn our beautiful woman, for mourning is not worthy of the pulse that exploded in the arteries of the earth, turning the coffin of the martyr into a throne of life.
Just as the leader Faisal Al-Husseini liberated Jerusalem in his great funeral, the Jamila and star of Al-Quds liberated the city, so her coffin was transformed into a transit ship to freedom, and her silence became words that the language could not accommodate.
In Palestine, which is threatened with erasure and extermination, the journalist can only be a resistance fighter. Sherine resisted with her profession, professionalism and credibility. When you testify to the truth in Palestine, you bear witness to what is right.
This is the difference that has put the occupying Apartheid state in a bind.
The killers thought that if they killed the witness, they would turn the page, but they did not expect the martyr’s reaction. Shireen in the coffin is stronger than Shireen who was behind the camera. The butchers resorted to besieging the coffin, attacking the mourners and tearing up the flags, but they did not understand that the martyr has become the flag, and that Jerusalem will not surrender, because all Jerusalemites, men and women, have morphed into a tsunami of anger.
The Jerusalem writer Edward Said used to say that he writes with anger, for anger against oppression and injustice is one of the signs of life. Shireen came to add to the anger the flavor of love. Palestine does not write, or is written about except with love.
Jamila from Al-Quds mixed anger with love, so she made her reports, on Al-Jazeera Channel, a heading for the anger of the rightful owner, mixed with the tenderness of the daughter of the land and her love for its people. It presented a picture of the reality of pain in a country occupied by the Zionist monster.
So they killed her.
I cannot forget the time when a priest stood in the Greek Catholic Church on Hamra Street in Beirut in 1986, in front of the coffin of Nabila Salbak Breier, who was treacherously assassinated, and said only one sentence: “They killed you because you are Palestinian.”
And when Shireen’s coffin entered the church in Jerusalem, surrounded by ululations and applause, and adorned with the Palestinian flag, that phrase that I heard thirty-six years ago in Beirut resounded in my consciousness: “They killed you because you are Palestinian.”
Being Palestinian means one thing in the Israeli racist tradition, that you are fit to kill.
And so much more if you are a Palestinian and a journalist who bears witness to the truth?
Shireen is not the first martyr and she will not be the last. She is part of a death path that creates life. In order to live, you have to face death. This is the only Palestinian option.
Raef Zureik, in a short message on his wall on Facebook, mixed anger, love and sadness as the three signs of life.
Yes, our beautiful, the eyes that were occupied by your image were filled with sadness, but it is not ordinary sadness, because we grieve in anticipation of life that we make with our hands.
In front of your coffin, Al-Sayyab’s poem about Jamila of Algeria materialised, and I saw how Nizar Qabbani described your eyes as temple lanterns. And the words embraced you and lifted you up:
“Oh my slain sister/ Pain lifts you up over you above the dust/ Above the peaks above the convergence of clouds/ Raise up to the assembly of the gods/ Like a goddess in love/ Like a wandering breeze.” As Bader Shaker Al-Sayyab also wrote.
And I saw how you soundly defeated the executioner:
“The history of a woman from my country/ who flogged the executioner’s guillotine/ a woman who shook the sun/ who wounded the dimensions of dimensions,” wrote Nizar Qabbani.
This bright page will not be forgotten, as the killers do not allow the victim to forget, because for seven decades they have amassed death on top of death, and transformed the memory into part of the present.
How I wished that they would read on your coffin in the cemetery of Mount Zion the Evangelist Mark’s description of Jesus of Nazareth in front of the dead girl.
I see the Nazarene walking between the tombs of George Antonious and Kamal Ballata, arriving at the burial plot prepared for you alongside your mother and father. He stands before the casket and says: “Why are you crying? The girl is not dead, she is just sleeping.”
The words that were said and not said, carried the coffin in the streets of Jerusalem to make the Jamila of Jerusalem a martyr and a witness to the uprising of life that turned the city into a volcano of anger and love.