Monday, May 26, 2008

What about the bond?

Sporting our spiffy volunteer’s vests yesterday, my daughter and I ducked into the Old City to buy fresh vegetables. On our way we paused to chat with a young man whose English was better than average. Immediately his uncle offered coffee. Arabic coffee. The good stuff. Moments later we were balancing on sketchy plastic chairs, surrounded by a dozen young men who wanted to practice their rudimentary English. We learned several new Arabic words, laughed a lot and gave them our vitals: where we were from, why we were here and, of course, how old we were.

One young man had a deep scar in the crook of his arm. Two wore necklaces displaying small pictures of dead family members. A brother. A cousin. An older man pulled at his shirt to reveal what looked like a pair of bullet holes in his neck. Neither our Arabic nor their English was good enough to solve the Middle East crisis but it was obvious to us that these young men—or many of them—were active resisters to the Occupation. “Fighters,” as they say. With us, they were polite, hospitable, gracious, even jovial. Yet when Israeli soldiers come to call—soldiers equally youthful, equally volatile, equally in over their heads—they are deadly serious.

What strikes me in retrospect is the strength of their fraternal bond. Some young men seek brotherhood on a sports team or fraternity or in the ranks of the military. This band of brothers is united by blood—blood of both the inherited and spilled varieties. They fight and sometimes die beside cousins, nephews and brothers. It’s a bond nothing will break. The more Palestinian arrests, injuries and deaths that occur in places like Nablus, the stronger will be the communal resolve to resist.

If Israel’s strategists think they will break the resistance by stepping up incursions, closing more checkpoints, imposing more closures and knocking down more buildings, someone needs to explain to them about the bond.

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