This post from Umkahlil’s blog archive touched me deeply. A story of lofty nobility and base criminality, no less…
It was not only childhood memories that pressed. Others, more recent ones, came. I recalled an incident, early after the 1967 War, when my husband and I accompanied our cousin Kamal Nasir, Palestinian nationalist and poet, on a visit to West Jerusalem. He needed to go there to settle a traffic violation fine. After years of separation we were excited and apprehensive to find ourselves, once again, in West Jerusalem, inaccessible to us since 1948. Jerusalem was and still is at the core of every Palestinian’s life, as a reality and as a symbol of our belonging to the land, and like children happy to be back at the scene of our youth we set out on a moving journey of memories .
Hanna and Kamal were exchanging stories and anecdotes of growing up in Jerusalem, their old haunts, Cinema Rex, the coffee shops, the YMCA where they played tennis, where Hanna learned how to type, where they attended concerts given by the Palestine Symphony and where the Palestinian musician Salvador Anita gave his memorable organ recitals. They remembered how once a year Jewish musicians from the Symphony, under the direction of Arnita, would come from Jerusalem to Birzeit College (now Birzeit University) to perform at commencement exercises with the school choir in which Kamal, with his warm tenor voice, was an enthusiastic singer.
I remember, as if it were yesterday, how during that same visit to
Jerusalem with Kamal we saw a little Israeli girl crossing the street, happily carrying her violin, confident and at peace with herself and the world. Noticing her Kamal, the committed humanist, known for his love of children and of music, looked at us, looked back at her and in the grand manner of the orator that he was, his face radiating compassion, said: “Look at her, a mere child, carrying her violin, her music. How can I, as a Palestinian leader, label this Israeli child an enemy. How can I disregard her people’s humanity even if they have dispossessed me of my country?” His words carried with them the ardent need for peace, and a hidden yearning for a Jerusalem he had once known.
Ironically, soon after that moving incident Kamal, in December, 1967, was amongst the first Palestinians to be deported by the Israeli government. He was a threat to the security of the state, so they said. In 1973 Kamal, then the PLO spokesman and an ardent believer in justice and liberation for all mankind, was brutally assassinated with two other Palestinian leaders by an Israeli commando force that raided their apartments in Beirut. His murderer, decorated and hailed as a hero, is now a well-known Israeli politician [see below]. In the concert hall I felt the same unbearable pain and indignation that I first felt when years ago I saw photographs of Kamal’s violent death, his bullet riddled body crucified on the floor, his joie de vivre stilled, his voice silenced and his pen dried. I remembered the devastation of loosing a friend, of being robbed of a compassionate leader.Daniel Barenboim’s music rose to awaken me to reality. What would Kamal say, if he was to see me now, his friend, casually sitting in a concert hall in the midst of an Israeli audience? Would he approve, would he understand? Was I betraying his memory? I felt confused and distraught, then I heard his voice coming to me, tolerant, kind. “Tania, music, art and love are the most powerful gifts the world has given us, a blessing that we should use to bring peace and justice, to heal wounds and soothe pain. You are not betraying me, on the contrary you are re- enforcing the essence of what I believed in.” and as if in an after thought I heard him ask: “Do you remember that incident, years ago in Jerusalem, when we saw that little Israeli girl with her violin? Maybe she is here, now, in the audience with you?” His eyes were twinkling and his smile offered a promise.
Beloved, if word of my death reaches you
And the lovers cry out:
The loyal one has departed, his visage gone forever,
And fragrance has died within the bosom of the flower
Shed no tears…smile on life
And tell my only one, my loved one,
The dark recesses of your father’s being
Have been touched by visions of his people.
From Kamal Nasir’s Last Poem
“The Zionists dealt with the Arab intellect in the same way it dealt with the Arab weapon. And they fought them in the same way they fought the resistance fighters of the Palestinians and Arabs who are defending their people’s right. They saw a gun in the book, an ammunition depot in the school, condemnation in the files and a time bomb in the open truth.
“One of many Palestinian intellectuals, who had nothing to do with the killing of the athletes at Munich’s Olympics, Kamal Nasir, Palestinian poet, was murdered in his bed on April 10, 1973, by Israel’s Ehud Barak, dressed up like a woman.
“Recently, Barak bragged about his Lebanon exploits in the Washington Post, whose reporter ignorantly dismisses Nasir, as well as Kamal Udwan, Abel Yusuf Al Najjar, Najjar’s wife, and 100 other people who were killed that day as “terrorists.”
“‘It wasn’t something new — we were in this business,’ Barak said in an interview. In 1973, in Beirut, wearing high heels and a woman’s wig, Barak helped gun down three of the terrorists who murdered 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. ‘I was a brunette, I had a strawberry blonde behind me,’ Barak said, with a small smile.”