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Analysis: Saji was not a victim, and neither am I

March 16, 2014 4:06 P.M. (Updated: March 22, 2014 4:11 P.M.)
By: Wa'd Abbas
Wa'd Abbas is a fourth year undergraduate student of English Literature and Business Administration at Birzeit University.

On the night of March 10, two Palestinians were shot dead. The following morning, four Palestinians were killed -- one reportedly shot by Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank, and the others during an Israeli raid on the Gaza Strip.

Six Palestinians killed in around 24 hours, so what?

The world seems to be doing just fine. I seem to be doing just fine, and I'm positive whoever is reading this is doing just fine as well. This is not a world to be lived in, when lives are lost so easily and people move on so easily.

One of the young Palestinians who was killed was Saji Darwish, a 19-year-old student at my university, Birzeit. The student council and the university administration prepared a tribute for him, to honor him and to allow us to say our final goodbyes.

All of my life, I've tried to avoid funerals. I'm a coward when it comes to death, it's not something I can deal with, accept, or understand. Nonetheless, when I heard about Saji's death, I put on a black blouse, got my kuffiyeh, and went down to the university for his tribute.

Thousands upon thousands of students, employees, and professors were there -- standing in the middle of the university's campus, waiting, in complete silence and sorrow. We were waiting for him. For Saji.

Suddenly, from afar, we could hear people chanting. I couldn't make sense of what they were saying, but it could only mean one thing: Saji was close. In the profound silence, the only sound we could hear was the beating of thousands of hearts, unified for the first time.

The chants came closer and closer, and our unified heartbeat became louder and louder.

And then, there he was. Carried by his friends, colleagues, professors, and students, screaming their hearts out for him:

"Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar

Saji, the spark that ignited the revolution's flame

Saji the martyr, shall never go in vain"

At that point we all lost it, those who could find their voices screamed for him while the others, and those who couldn't would weep in silence. All of us were either crying or yelling or gasping for air or trembling. All except for him. Saji was calm, serene, and steadfast.

Later we discovered that Saji was one of the many Palestinians who refused to remain silent, and who resist in any way they can. If he could throw rocks at settlers who attacked his village, he would. If he could go to a demonstration against the pointless negotiations, he would. If there was a demonstration against the illegal and inhumane Apartheid Wall, he would go, no questions asked.

When a Palestinian was killed, he would go for his funeral and scream out his name as loudly as he could -- the same thing that happened for him during his own funeral.

He was not silent. He was not passive. He was a fighter in the best way he could be. And if we truly wanted to honor him, the least we could do is portray him as such.

That is why a photo that has been shared by many on social media disturbs me so deeply.

Until this moment it has not been confirmed if Saji was really throwing rocks at settlers and the soldiers protecting them -- since you know, most people assume that Israeli occupation forces need a reason to shoot and kill Palestinians. Nonetheless, it's disgusting to use him in such a manner, only to impress the "international community" -- which this photo is directed at -- and to get their sympathy.

Disgusting doesn't even come close to describing it.

There is no shame in fighting back against the occupation. What is shameful is not fighting back and fabricating stories only to fit the victim role that will never help nor change the reality we're living in. Yes, we are victims of the Israeli occupation, but that does not mean we should be helpless, passive, and hopeless victims.

We should be like Saji, doing whatever we can to refuse the occupation. If it is throwing rocks at illegal Israeli settlements or at Israeli soldiers, then so be it. If it is jumping over the Apartheid Wall and risking being shot at instead of being humiliated at a checkpoint, then so be it. If it is refusing to take down a Palestinian flag from our houses because the Israeli authorities, for some reason, are terrified of it, then so be it.

But saying that one of our young occupation-fighters was killed simply for feeding his goats to get the approval of people and parties who could care less is truly disturbing.

Saji is not the victim here -- those who agree with this photo, who share it, and who support it -- they are the victims. Photos like these support the assumption that in order to be right and to have people's support, we can only be victims. What are the reasons behind this? Maybe we want to be more "peaceful" than "violent"; maybe we're tired of being called terrorists. But none of these ridiculous motives matter.

What photos like these do is make it seem as if it is wrong to resist the Israeli occupation. As a professor of mine once said: "Occupation itself is the crime, not resisting it."

Saji and every single other Palestinian who refuses the reality of the occupation and fights back on a daily basis are not the victims; those who are ashamed of fighting back are.

Being a victim is not a choice, but being a passive victim is. It's time to decide on which side we want to stand.

The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect Ma'an News Agency's editorial policy.

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