29 Nov NST : GAZA CONFLICT - In the long run towards peace
I JUST finished my sixth full marathon for Palestine and Gaza. I committed, nearly two months ago to run the Seattle Marathon in support of the empowerment projects carried out by the wonderful and tireless activists at Viva Palestina Malaysia,
My first marathon was in Canada in 2007. It was soon after Israel placed Gaza under a hermetic siege, and my latest was on Monday in Seattle, in honour of the sacrifices of the men, women and children that make Gaza the incredibly inspiring place that it is.
I ran my first marathon with untold frustration and resentment of all that has befallen our people -- the siege, the once promising but later botched democracy, the regional and international plot against Gaza, and the most tragic fighting between the brethren in Hamas and Fatah.
But on Monday, I ran with untold pride because of the resistance of the Palestinian people in Gaza against Israel's last war.
The courage of my people is humbling. The war on Gaza this time was different. True, it demonstrated the apathy of Israel to any humanitarian concern, and the fact that nothing has changed as far as its unabashedly criminal tactics -- targeting children and civilians, journalists, places of worship, schools and more.
I thought, for once I want to run a marathon urged on by the sense of triumph of ordinary people, not the anguish of the violence to which they are exposed.
Friends advised me not to run as I had recently suffered a ruptured appendix and was under heavy narcotic medications. The stitches are still in place.
I hadn't done any serious marathon training since last February, and my "longest run" since the surgery was a very pitiful jog a few days ago of exactly one mile.
But on Monday, the photo of a child with a cracked and stitched skull raising a victory sign from a Gaza hospital bed was enough to wake me up this morning and I stood at the start line.
I read al-Fatihah for Gaza's martyrs. I thought of the people I know who were killed in this most recent war, of family members and friends and neighbours killed in other wars, but also of the unbowed, undefeated people of Gaza. I ran accompanied with the image of the badly wounded boy raising a victory sign in an impossible defiance.
Initially, I thought a few miles would be enough to have me honour my commitment to the fundraiser organisers. But it was not. Gaza was on my mind every step of the way, and I couldn't justify quitting the race to myself.
I kept running for the entirety of the race, all 26.2 miles (42.195km).
Sometimes, military definitions of victories and defeat are of little importance. In Gaza, real victory is resistance and real defeat is surrender. For me, born and raised in a Gaza refugee camp, and spending years researching and writing about Gaza, I can say with conviction that Gaza will emerge victorious because surrender doesn't exist in its people's collective vocabulary.
I would like to thank Viva Palestina Malaysia and all of its dedicated activists for their generosity in sponsoring my run, my loving family, all of my friends who supported me in all my work -- writing, speaking or running and every person or organisation that extends a hand of love and friendship to Gaza and Palestine.
But most of my gratitude goes to the little boy with a long cut around his beautiful face for his bravery, for believing in himself, in his people, and for allowing us to believe in ourselves as well. It is he, and many more like him, that makes Gaza what it is today: a place of legendary courage, undying resistance and ample hope.
Please visit Viva Palestine Malaysia and donate, even if just a few dollars using your PayPal account or credit card. Every dollar helps.
For me, resistance is a marathon, hard, arduous and painful, but ultimately it will take us to that finish line, to the rendezvous of victory, and what a sweet moment it is.
Ramzy Baroud, Seattle, Washington
Source : GAZA CONFLICT: In the long run towards peace - Letters to the Editor - New Straits Times