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The Persistence of Resistance

Ismail Nashwan recalls the events of May 31 as if it were yesterday. The moment masked Israeli commandos brought death aboard the Mavi Marmara as it attempted to break the siege on Gaza.

But despite the near-death experience and spending time in an Israeli jail at 81-years-young, Ismail is still determined to reach the besieged strip.

He has now joined the latest humanitarian aid convoy heading to Gaza.

I ask him what it is that makes him so determined to reach the territory, and how, at such an old age, he still finds it within him to cross land and sea in total defiance with the Israeli/Egyptian imposed siege on the coastal strip.

"I'm not scared at all, what happened on the Mavi Marmara in fact made me more determined to break the siege. I am going because it is my duty and because Palestine is my land," he says.

"You may wonder where all these people get their bravery from; I wonder where Israel gets its arrogance and inhumanity from!"

Nashwan and his family were forced out of their village by armed Jewish groups in 1948, and then again by Israel in 1967. His is a story of determination and the sheer belief that one day he will return.

It makes one wonder, after four years of imposing a suffocating siege, practically imprisoning 1.5 million people (the words of former US President Jimmy Carter, not mine) and a barbaric war which claimed the lives of almost 1,500 Palestinians, why is it that Israel refuses to see the futility of its policies towards the Gaza Strip?

At the same time, why is it that Egypt continues to participate in this siege, when it continues to lose popularity amongst Arab and Muslim nations whom it once used to lead?


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The absence of a credible alternative power base in Egypt which could force the government to change its pro-Israeli policies, and the lack of any sort of reason in the current Israeli government, is the first and simplest answer that comes to mind.

And generally speaking it is probably the most accurate.

However, the current situation is that Israel and Egypt find themselves in a huge hole they dug themselves, and rather than climbing out it seems they just keep digging themselves deeper.

The idea that a people could freely and democratically chose their government, one which was totally opposed both to Arab-style dictatorship and to Israeli occupation was inconceivable to both Cairo and Tel Aviv.

More than threatening their existence, it provided hope, hope to the people of the region that the status quo was not necessary. Hope that given their freedom they did not have to settle for decadent despots or weak and corrupt leaders who had no problem with selling them out at the bidding (negotiating) table.

Having said that it does not mean that the Hamas government in Gaza has been ideal or perfect, it hasn't. But what it has been, and this is because of the people of Gaza, is persistent in its defiance of that idea of hope.

What the people of Gaza symbolise, together with the hundreds of humanitarians who have travelled from all over the world, is the persistence of resistance.

The persistence to go to school in portacabins, the persistence to drive cars using cooking oil, the persistence to cross the seas despite the best efforts of the Israeli navy, the persistence to build houses out of mud, the persistence to hope for a better tomorrow. That is the persistence of resistance.

Jamal Elshayyal

Jamal Elshayyal is a news producer with a focus on Arab politics and Western/Arab relations.

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