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My journey with activism started early on in my youth in 1958 in Jenin, my place of birth. I was fifteen years of age. Angry at the loss of a huge chunk of our land to the Zionists. Angry at the lack of preparation to reclaim not only our land but also our dignity and honour. Angry at what I perceived as the capitulation of most Arab countries. Angry at their collaboration with the West, mostly Britain, at the expense of our freedom. Angry at how the Arab countries of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia treated those of us who decided to seek a living there. Angry at the lack of leadership in our ranks to restore our land and freedom. Angry at the way the Jordanian rulers of the West Bank of the time treated us. Just listening to the Radio-Voice of the Arabs from Cairo was enough to get you in trouble.

The mere accusation by someone of ‘using the King’s name in vain’ was a definite jail term.

Furious at the prospect of Jordan joining the ‘Baghdad Pact’ in 1959 I got involved in organising a huge demonstration in Jenin against it. That act of rebellion saw the sixteen-year-old me spending a few hours in prison for the first time in my life. A sort of a wrap on the knuckles or a warning to behave or there would be more of this. There was more of this, but later, in Kuwait, in Saudi Arabia and Morocco. However, thanks to my late mother my first incarceration in Jenin was very short and fairly painless. The anger multiplied.

In those days of the fifties we, the youth of Arabia/Palestine, were shunted from pillar to post between Communism, represented by some Arab intellectuals opposed to Western domination, Pan Arab Unity represented by Nasser’s Egypt, the Ba’th Party represented by Syria and Iraq,The Muslim movements represented by the only party that was legal in Jordan, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizb Al-Tahreer, another Muslim faction. No matter which way we went the authorities in the countries we lived in dealt with us in a way that would ensure our subjugation and their survival. My anger increased.

I never joined any of the above. Some of my friends and school mates did. Some of them went to prison for their patriotic beliefs and thoughts and some, who could afford it, left the country to pastures new.

My leanings were then, and still are, for Pan Arab Unity. I was inspired by the speeches of the charismatic Nasser that resonated with my deep belief that if we Arabs didn’t unite we would never taste freedom, would never hold the reigns of our destiny, liberate our land and restore our dignity. We would for- ever be fragmented and easy to manipulate and direct. It pains me to say that my youthful feelings were proven to be right.

Look at us Arabs now.

The disappointment and anger quadrupled after the defeat of the Arab armies in 1967.That crushing defeat, culminating in the loss of the entire land mass of Palestine, along with some parts of the Sinai and the Golan Heights, compelled me to believe, even more, that if we were to advance unity was a must.

There was a ray of hope in the sixties when the PLO – The Palestine Liberation Organisation under Yasser Arafat – was born. We saw some acts of resistance against the occupiers of our land. Some of us joined and some of us donated part of our meagre earnings to the cause. That light of hope of liberation and deliverance was dashed when in 1974 Yasser Arafat dropped the gun and raised the olive branch. In that same year the Arab League, discredited as it was and still is, decided that the PLO was the sole representative of the Palestinian people at the Arab summit in Rabat.

Did we unite? Did we understand the reasons for our continued losses? Are we ever going to appreciate the pitfalls of our disunity and infighting? It would seem not. What else do we have to lose to make us realise that in unity lies our salvation? My anger is still raging but I am old. Are the young men and women of Arabia angry enough to make things happen? I certainly hope so. I am tired of waiting.

Jafar M Ramini is a Palestinian writer and political analyst, based in London, presently in Perth, Western Australia. He was born in Jenin in 1943 and was five years old when he and his family had to flee the terror of the Urgun and Stern gangs. Justice for the people of Palestine is a life-long commitment.


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