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Mission A Guide to Perplexed

In the words of a Palestinian peace activist - part 2

by Ghazi Briegieth  03.06.2013

I thought occupation means

your job or how you spend your free time, at least that was my only understanding of the word at that time. But on the first day of summer, at the age of sixteen years old, my father sent me to work in Israel as a handyman (construction helper). I got a ride from a group of Palestinian workers and while driving through the Holy City of Jerusalem, we were stopped suddenly by an armed Israeli border police and we were asked to step out of the car and to stand side by side against the wall. I saw other cars and busses stopped as well. The soldiers wore different expressions -hope, hopeless, power, fear, smiling, unfriendly, peaceful and violent. I was confused by what I saw. I turned to one of the workers and asked what's going on, why did we stop? He said keep quiet and asked: is this your first time, I said yes, and then he said to wait till one of the border-police soldiers ask for an ID. I had my ID on me. Half an hour later an Israeli border police approached me, looked me in the face with a smile on his face and asked me for my ID. I gave him my ID with an innocent and respectful smile on my face, he looked back at me with an angry face and asked me what I was smiling at, I said I was nothing, that I was only smiling back, then he said to me in Hebrew, if you open your mouth you will be punished. I didn’t understand what he said so I started telling him in English that I didn't understand what he said, and he responded by slapping my face and beating me with his machine gun. I fell down to the ground. Other boarder policemen participate as well. I was beaten half to death and left on the floor covered in blood. They through my ID on the ground and left the scene. Blood was all over and I was asking myself and the other workers WHY????? Is it because the smile or because I don’t speak Hebrew or because I didn’t understand what he said? Then I understood that this is what occupation is.

So what is occupation?

It’s not your job or how you spent your time, occupation is when one country maintains a military presence within another country and seizures and controls that country's land and all aspects of life. And if I may add, occupation is a slow killing disease that needs to be stopped and ended. It is like cancer that strips your hair from your body and eats you alive minute by minute and day by day.

Despite that I will not judge the whole country because of one uncontrolled bad behavior. I felt sad and sorry for that Israeli border policeman, I did not hate him, I hated his actions because such actions are continuing the bloodshed and give an excuse for extremist to act aggressively and commit suicide attacks against the innocents.

I graduated in the summer of 1979

and my father send me to work in Israel. I started working as a store keeper in a clothing factory. During that summer I met Ruchama. She was a pretty Jewish girl and I fall in love with her. She fell in love with me as well but that didn’t last for long because my Palestinian supervisor told my father about it and my father said to me to work and stop fraternizing withJewish girls, just bring him money. So the following day I hit my supervisor and was sent home.

When I was Nineteen

I decided to put an end to the cruel treatment I got at home, so I put fear aside and took a courageous step by leaving for Jordan trying to seek a better life. My runaway that time have nothing to do with the occupation.

I started a new chapter in my life

When I went to live with my uncles in Jordan and from there I moved with them to the United Arabs Emirates and worked for four years. The sad thing was that most of my savings I sent to my father but he used the money to build a three story house for his evil wife and to get himself a brand new jeep. On April 7th 1981 he had a car accident and died at the age of 45 years old.

I returned home to face his wife again but it was no different, even after my father's death. The only difference was that I was no longer that small frightened child.

I looked for my love but it was too late as Ruchama died from a heart problem. I felt sad and in a way guilty because I runaway instead of dealing with the problems. I started working as a construction worker inside Israel while studying in a private institute to become an electrician. That was until the first intifada started in 1987, at which point I was hired by the Beit Ommar City Hall where I worked till September 2005.

In 1990I got married and now I have three children; Allam, a 23 years old boy, Lara , a 21 years old girl and Joseph , a 13 years old boy, all of  whom I have not seen since September 2nd, 2005. That was the day that I was forced to leave my homeland seeking refuge and a better life for myself and my lovely family.



To be continued…

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1 by Anat
it takes a special person to not hate a person or the people he represents, after suffering such humiliation. i feel sorry for the border policeman too as he gets too much power as a your man without learning the tools to deal with it - not that it is any excuse. if less people resort to violence due to acts like these, maybe the cycle would break! best of luck
2 by Amir
i was one of those border policemen and i saw how young men think they're god as a result of a power trip that they were on. i felt ashamed but too scared to say anything. only after a while i stood up and refused to treat people not as people. i must say that after i did, more and more of us started to talk about this issue and things changed. i think today there is more awareness of humanity and the border policemen do try to treat others as humanly possible. i'm sure there are still maniacs out there, but i hope they are few and far between. in any case, i am sorry for what happened to you and i am happy you went the peaceful way and not the violent way.
3 by Vered
i must say that as a peace activist, you hit a lot a people as a young man. i guess that is the difference between a spirited youngster and a thoughtful adult...
4 by Emanuel
I hope you'll get to return to your home someday
5 by Alice
Such a heartbreaking account! It saddens me to read how even small gestures of the arbitrary misuses of power remain fresh in your memory forever. Stay strong!