Thursday, February 24, 2011

on EI: Arab pride restored through revolution “Sajjel Ana Arabi: Record! I am an Arab”

We have been memorizing countless poets and songs about Arab unity and Arab revolution, about freedom and liberty. We have been taught countless lessons about the magnificent history of the Arabs, and have memorized the names of the world’s greatest scientists, historians, mathematicians, philosophers, poets and literalists, who were all Arab. We have been memorizing for as long as we can remember, twenty years or more. But never did we get the chance to chant the songs or recite the poems, or see that the grandchildren of the great Arabs are living up to their ancestors’ legacy.

In university, we had innumerable debates about “Arab identity”, which we –almost collectively- agreed was a dream that was buried with Jamal Abdel Nasser. We spent so much effort and time in Model Arab League, where we would approve the best resolutions and make the toughest decisions, and play the role of Arab countries like we thought and knew they should be. But deep inside, we knew it was only a role play, and that none of it was ever going to turn into reality.

In university, we also marched and protested. We chanted for Palestine and the Palestinian cause. We were convinced that the Palestinian cause is a matter of the Palestinians because Arabs lost interest ages ago.  We weren’t impressed when non-Palestinian Arabs stood with us, because we were told for as long as we could remember that the Arabs have sold the cause.  And we had no reason to believe otherwise.

My good memories in Egypt were limited to the four years I had spent at the American University in Cairo. I felt bitter towards Egypt as a country because Mubarak and his government never failed to complicate my life as a Palestinian in Egypt, by either demanding an almost impossible-to-get visa, depriving me from crossing the border to visit my family by closing the Rafah border, or by propagating the media into blaming the Palestinians for everything wrong that happens in Egypt, and because of Tamer Hosny. How could the same country that gave birth to Omm Kolthoom and Abdel Halim Hafez also give birth to Tamer Hosny and to people who enjoy his music? This was a serious indication of the country’s deep cultural fallback, which was only evident after 1981.

As my undergraduate studies came to an end on February 12th, 2010, and as much as I love my Egyptians friends, AUC, and university life, I was happy to graduate. I longed for feeling at home, where I could enjoy a deep sense of belonging without having to apply for a visa every few months (ironic, is it not, given that my home is in Gaza, Palestine). 

Who would’ve guessed, that exactly one year later, on February 12th, 2011, I would become a student at the School of Egypt: the School of freedom, justice, and free people’s will? That I would lament my luck for not having graduated from AUC a year later and witnessing the rebirth of Egypt! That from Gaza, Palestine, I would call my friends in Egypt to make sure that they’re safe, and teasingly offer them a safe shelter in Gaza! That I would, so genuinely, wish that I could exchange a year of my life just to spend a day in Tahrir? Tahrir, that square which to me, and many others, was no more than a busy, high trafficked square that was best when avoided on the road to the old AUC Campus before January 25,  that is now the square from which Egyptian heroes will be reborn?

Up until recently, I chose to skip all the revolutionary songs in my music library. I put “Arab” on the side when stating my identity. I lost faith in the Arabs, and in the Palestinian factions and politicians who have cut through the veins our noble cause with their sickening selfishness, greed and hypocrisy. But when ‘recently’ came, like a tsunami of hope, justice, and freedom, it breathed life into the Arab within me.

Thawrat Al Yasameen” in Tunis, “Thawret 25 January” in Egypt and the ongoing revolutions in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain ARE the true Arab Awakening, for they are being led by the people and for the people.  Tunis, Egypt and Libya, thank you for rejuvenating my Arab identity. Thank you for finally showing me what its like to be a Proud Arab. Thank you for allowing me to raise my Arab head high. Thank you for making me entrust you with my noble cause.  Thank you for making me brag about my Egyptian great grandmother. Thank you for helping me understand Mahmoud Darwish’s “Betaqet Hawwiyya-Sajjel Ana Arabi”.Thank you for ridding the world of Tamer Hosny and preparing it for the rebirth of Omm Kolthoom.

To everyone who taught us that the Palestinian cause is the responsibility of only the Palestinians: YOU belong to the ‘old order’, and if I were you, I would follow Zain Al Abdeen, Mubarak, and soon, Qaddafi and the rest of Arab dictators. To America, Israel, and whoever still doubts or questions the glory of the Arabs, today we all have reason to believe that there is absolutely no power in the universe that can stand in the face of Arab will and determination. Our revolution is only the beginning.
Mahmoud Darwish: Identity Card

I am an Arab
And my identity card is number fifty thousand
I have eight children
And the ninth is coming after a summer
Will you be angry?

I am an Arab
Employed with fellow workers at a quarry
I have eight children
I get them bread
Garments and books
from the rocks..
I do not supplicate charity at your doors
Nor do I belittle myself at the footsteps of your chamber
So will you be angry?

I am an Arab
I have a name without a title
Patient in a country
Where people are enraged
My roots
Were entrenched before the birth of time
And before the opening of the eras
Before the pines, and the olive trees
And before the grass grew

My father.. descends from the family of the plow
Not from a privileged class
And my grandfather was a farmer
Neither well-bred, nor well-born!
Teaches me the pride of the sun
Before teaching me how to read
And my house is like a watchman's hut
Made of branches and cane
Are you satisfied with my status?
I have a name without a title!

I am an Arab
You have stolen the orchards of my ancestors
And the land which I cultivated
Along with my children
And you left nothing for us
Except for these rocks..
So will the State take them
As it has been said?!

Record on the top of the first page:
I do not hate people
Nor do I encroach
But if I become hungry
The usurper's flesh will be my food
Of my hunger
And my anger!

Published on the electronic intifada:


  1. peace on you
    sister Yasmeen ,
    i am so happy because you know that we do not sold you
    Palestine will be liberated by us egyptians and all arab countries
    one day we will be together praying in Al Aqsa

  2. Very moving and beautiful message from Gaza. Thank you Yasmeen!

  3. Great one Yasmeen specially being ironic about Gaza, actually this is true (believe it or not Gaza is the safest place in Middle East nowadays).

  4. Why is it that you Arabs of the Palestine region still call Gaza "occupied territory"? To my knowledge there is ONLY ONE JEW left in Gaza and he is being held hostage by these criminal Hamas thugs?

    Why call Gaza occupied territory? Please tell me, I wanna know !

  5. We truly hope so. And we whole-heartedly agree with the whole Tamer Hosny thing ;)

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  7. Kafir:
    Spare yourself the effort of writing "Arabs of the Palestine region" by writing "Palestinians."

    Gaza is an occupied territory because Israels' so called "withdrawal" in 2005 was no more than a redeployment of the army to physically lock the Strips' land, sea and sky borders.

    If you believe that Gaza is not an occupied territory, you should tell Israel that it can not impose an illegal siege on the Strip and that it should have 0 control over our trade, borders, etc... Do you know now?