Razzan al-Najjar and the Dawn of Freedom: She walks with a self-assured step

The dawn of a self-assured walk;

The dawn of a pure smile;

The dawn of free belonging to the homeland;

The dawn of a strong sense of responsibility;

The dawn of insistence on life;

The dawn of confrontation and defiance;

The dawn of initiative, positive action, determination;

Your dawn, Moussa Abu Hassanein,

Your dawn, Hazem Abu Eid,

Your dawn, Jehad Abu Daqqa,

Your dawn, Alaa Qadeeh,

Your dawn, “Ezzat Shattat,”

The dawn of Khan Younis,

The dawn of Gaza,

The dawn of Haifa,

Your dawn, Jerusalem,

The dawn of united blood and a shared destiny,

The dawn of freedom, dawn of Palestine.

*****

Let us contemplate the quiet, balanced words spoken by young Razan, which convey a deep understanding of the importance of her work as a field paramedic, side by side with her male comrades, summed up in her attempts to rescue young men wounded on the border fence:

“I’m here in the field, on the border fence of course, and beyond. I’ve treated 70 cases or more. There were fifteen head wounds and the rest were shots that had exploded in the foot. I treated them in the field. I treated the two martyrs who were beyond the border fence. I passed point zero in order to treat them. I offered them treatment on the spot, in the field, then handed them over to the medical teams. I and my colleague, Ezzat Shattat, go inside the front lines. We go inside the front lines, we rescue the wounded, we treat them on the spot, then hand them over to the medical teams.

“I faced the two most difficult situations in my life on Friday: rescuing a martyr and two wounded people inside the front lines, at point zero. The soldier was right in front of me, he could have…my life was in serious danger.”

*****

Razan was living in a conservative society that does not accept women being on the front lines, or working side by side with men. But she did not wait for society to accept her work. She imposed her presence; she forced society to accept and respect her work as a field medic. She believed in collective work, and joined the Union of Women’s Work Committees. When the Great Marches of Return erupted in March 2018, she started to volunteer as a field medic on the front lines, relying on her background as a nursing-college student, ready to take responsibility for her decision:

“Society has to accept me, to accept the presence of a girl, of a young Palestinian woman who defies the oppressor in order to rescue the wounded. We’re volunteers, not paid workers. The Ministry of Health only recognized us for the first 3 days, but we continued. Even if nobody recognizes us, we recognize ourselves.

“My message is that I take responsibility for any dangers I face or anything that might happen to me. Even though I’ve been hit with tear gas 3 times, I’m going to continue fulfilling my responsibility with determination and resolve. I will never give up. I’ve set out on this path and I have to see it through to the end.”

*****

At the funeral of the martyr Razan al-Najjar in Gaza, women’s voices rose: “We speak to all the factions when we say: the blood of Razan will not be in vain! We will go on, whether they like it or not, we will not yield, we will not bow!”

“May the factions unite! The people are always united — but the factions?”

The pallbearers chanted: “Rise, my country, rise…death over humiliation!” — ”Heading to Jerusalem, millions of martyrs!” — “We demand justice for Razan!”

And in Haifa rose the following chants:

“Louder, louder, louder, over all the occupied lands!” “Oh, Razan al-Najjar, after the night, the dawn will come.”

*****

How can we bring about justice for the martyr from the killers? How do we restore some measure of justice to her? Do we have the capacity to do that?

We can restore some justice to her by documenting the crime: the violation of her right to life, and that of all medical workers; the details of her death at the hands of an Israeli sniper; how medical teams and ambulances are targeted. By tracking down those responsible, and not resting before justice is served to the killers.

We can restore some measure of justice if we take inspiration from her self-assured steps, her awareness of her message and her mission, her strong sense of responsibility, her conviction in what is right, and her ability to defy and take the initiative, without fear of consequences.

This martyr strode past point zero, as did our people in Gaza. Do we also have the capacity to do that?

Are we able to dive into the battle for national liberation, unified around a vision that conveys our people’s aspirations for justice and dignity, and around a liberal humanist project? With the will and faith in our rights, in the justness of our cause, in our ability to triumph?

Are we able to effect a change to our approach, in response to the specific demands and dangers of this stage? Can we do this as a way of honoring the martyrs and those wounded? Of honoring Gaza, Jerusalem, and Haifa? Of honoring Palestinians, wherever they may be?

And if a twenty-one-year-old woman found her way, striding past point zero to fulfill her humanist and patriotic purpose, when will we also pass point zero, so that the dawn of freedom may break through?

 

faihaab@gmail.com

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