Last week a writer for the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, Ariella Ringel Hoffman, wrote an opinion column that began with the story of a beautiful stone house on a small hill in Kfar Yona, northeast of Tel Aviv.
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According to the story, the house, which is has now been fenced off and declared a historic preservation property, used to belong to a well-to-do family from Nablus, the Al-Nabulsi family. The father of the family, Hajj Nimr Al-Nabulsi, built the house for his beloved son. According to the Yedioth columnist, the construction of the house was made possible by the Palestinian family’s excellent relations with the Jewish residents of Kfar Yona prior to 1948.
But now, let’s fast-forward to August 2022. A young man by the name of Ibrahim Al-Nabulsi, who is not affiliated with any organization, was declared a wanted terrorist. He was killed by Israeli troops in Nablus. Ringel-Hoffman naively wonders what has changed between 1948 and the present. She also wonders about the motivations of Nabulsi and his friends “to refill the ranks every time.” The reference is to the ranks of Palestinians who have died. (She doesn’t mention how and why the ranks empty out time after time, but whatever.)
Her amazement grows amid the connection that she attributes – without any basis – between the Al-Nabulsi of 2022 and the Al-Nabulsi from 1948. Just as though she had never heard about the Nakba or the occupation, it’s not clear to her what happened in the interim that caused a member of the younger generation to become a wanted man and even end his life, even though he wasn’t living on the margins of society.
But what is life to a young Palestinian in a reality of occupation and apartheid? To a young man who was born amid an intifada and military raids, who had seen relatives and neighbors and friends arrested and imprisoned – and worse – by Israel. He was a youth living in a West Bank canton, surrounded by soldiers repeatedly raiding what had supposed to be his secure space – his home. What might cause him to want to die, even after his purported great-grandfather experienced coexistence with the Jews?
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Nabulsi was born in 2003, a year after the Israeli army’s Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank and a year before another army operation in Nablus, at the height of the second intifada. His life wasn’t a life. Israeli tanks had invaded his city, sowing fear and destruction, as well as leaving bodies behind. Is that coexistence? Are those excellent relations?
Ringel-Hoffman is surprised that young Palestinians in the West Bank are growing up without a future, without hope and without dreams. As she sees it, the contrast between the lives of the young generation of Palestinians and the man whom she claims is Al-Nabulsi’s ancestor encapsulates “the story of the entire Israeli-Palestinian confrontation, with its prospect of shared lives and the major lost opportunity that the two sides are partner to.”
If the two sides are partners, why doesn’t she write a single word about what has really changed since 1948? What happened to those Arabs and their “excellent relations” with the Jewish residents? Did they simply not return to the beautiful homes that they had built for no reason? The columnist thinks that the current Al-Nabulsi generation needs to be desperate or marginalized to take up arms, but to live in Nablus in 2022 is by definition to be marginalized.
Nabulsi was 19 when he died. It’s not known what he dreamed, as a child, he would be when he grew up. It’s likely that being a wanted man and being shot dead by Israeli soldiers wasn’t at the top of his list of aspirations, but the oppressive and humiliating Israeli occupation paved his path to becoming a martyr.