My Conversation with Um Ra’fat
the mother of Palestinian hero Samer al Issawi by: Abbas Hamideh
As a Palestinian activist in the United States I have been involved and concerned for the Palestinian hunger strikers that have taken global stage with supporters and sympathizers from around the world. I have helped organize mass protests
H supporting the courageous Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails via Al-Awda, The Palestine Right To Return Coalition an organization fully dedicated to the right of return of Palestinian refugees that I have been a part of since the year 2000.
I’ve had the opportunity recently to contact a relative of mine from my mom’s village al Issawia, Um Ra’fat the mother of the heroic Palestinian hunger striker Samer al Issawi who has been on hunger strike for 144 days now. Samer al Issawi was imprisoned for ten years before he was released with the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap deal between Hamas and Israel. He was re-arrested and has been in jail the second time now for 6 months and 5 of those months on hunger strike protesting his illegal administrative detention without charge or trial just like many of his fellow imprisoned Palestinian predecessors like Khader Adnan, Mahmoud Sarsak and many more!
I phoned Um Ra’fat yesterday at around 9:40 pm Palestine time figuring it would be a good time while the village was a bit calm after the earlier incident that occurred during her son Samer’s court where family members were attacked by Israeli police while trying to see him while he was sitting fragile looking in his wheelchair due to his intense hunger strike. She explained to me that all they wanted was to see Samer and exchange some words with him as they were deprived of seeing him for over 6 months since he was imprisoned the second time around after his re-arrest for no apparent reason other than suspicion. The video floating online shows Samer Issawi being horrifically dragged from his wheelchair while handcuffed by Israeli police all around the court house and some other onlooking court staff laughing while Samer was being beaten.
Um Ra’fat explained to me the grief and nightmare of this ongoing Israeli assault on the village of al Issawia in general and its heroic struggle against Israeli occupation for decades and in particular the constant attack on her personal family members that included the imprisonment of her very own children numerous times. During the time of the call of her sons Medhat and Samer were in prison and her daughter Shireen was just kidnapped hours before by israeli police at gun point with heavily armed officers from the family home in the village. Her oldest son Ra’fat was also a prisoner for 8 years and her youngest son Fadi at age 15 was also sentenced for a year and 3 months after his release he was shot dead (martyred) at Hebron (Al Khalil) by the Israeli Army. One can only imagine what she has been through with the endless tragedies in her life inflicted by the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Behind the tears, pain, and tragedy was an enormously strong woman and after all Um Ra’fat raised this Palestinian hero who has become an icon, a living legend to withstand and go on hunger strike well over 140 days and still counting. It makes Mahatma Gandhi’s hunger strike look like child’s play in comparison. She spoke gently and motherly calling me Yuma in other words the equivalent of me being her son in Arabic. My entire conversation with her in my native tongue was about 20 minutes but in that short time I learned a lot from her, I learned that it would be impossible to have Palestinian heroes without a firm base at home a person like Samer Issawi’s mom who I personally think is a hero herself! Mothers in Palestine are the foundation of resistance.
I had mentioned to Um Ra’fat that Al-Awda the Palestinian led orginaztion I’m with will be holding a demonstration in downtown, Cleveland this Friday coming up on December 21, 2012 in support of her son Samer Issawi and all the Palestinian political prisoners on hunger strike and asked her what message she wanted me to carry on her behalf at the protest and she eagerly and humbly replied with this statement:
“You are my son, all the revolutionaries of Palestine and supporting Palestine are my sons, you are all heroes of the cause! I appreciate all your support for my son Samer Issawi and for our family and all the solidarity from all across the world but I say in specific to the Palestinians in the shatat (exile) be stead fast on the right of return, this right is the heart of the Palestinian cause, the right of return of Palestinian refugees is more precious and above everything and even above my son Samer’s plight in Israeli jail! You must continue the struggle until we are united here in Palestine and eat under an olive tree and then we will live a normal life in a liberated Palestine. And as far as Samer goes we support him he wants to be free or martyred so we stand by his decision. That is my message Yuma (son).”
I was overwhelmed by her humbleness and noticed that in her message she put Palestine and the core issue of the Palestinian struggle the Right of Return at the top of the list as a priority even before her son. This really made an impression on me about Um Ra’fat. Not only is her son Samer al Issawi a hero but she is truly deserving of that title and is a Palestinian hero as well!
Free Samer Issawi and all the Palestinian political prisoners!
Follow Abbas Hamideh on Twitter: @Resistance48