The Last of the Mohicans: As'ad Abukhlalil's obituary of Georges Habash

Abukhalil maintains a blog on the ME at Angry Arab. Read here the obituary at EI.
Excerpts from Abukhalil's text:
...If there is a world revolutionary symbol for the second half of the 20th century, it should be George Habash. He may not be widely known in 2008, but anybody who read a newspaper prior to the rise of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, when Islamism eclipsed the Arab Left, would know him. Habash is one of the main makers of Arab contemporary history and one of the handful of names who changed the course of the Palestinian political struggle.
...The PFLP argued that the liberation of Palestine would be impossible without the liberation of Arab countries from the regimes imposed by the West and Israel. Looking to Vietnam, Habash called for Arab "Hanois," and stated that the liberation of Palestine passed through every Arab capital. "Armed struggle" was the major path to liberation.
....George Habash lived his life for Palestine -- every minute of it. He represented a model of revolutionary struggle that is exemplary in its dedication and asceticism, no matter what one thinks of the PFLP or its long political and military experience. One should not hesitate from rendering a harsh judgment against the PFLP; ultimately it failed politically and militarily. And any evaluation of Palestinian political violence must be made in the context of Zionist mass violence that for decades had set out to destroy Palestinian society and resistance and replace it with its own exclusivist vision. But whatever that judgment it should not detract from an appreciation of the profound influence of the PFLP's founder who helped shape the politics and worldview of a generation. The present political scene is devoid of any leaders of such character.

David Hirst's obituary in The Guardian.

From Time/CNN:
What led Habash, a Christian physician — hence his nickname al-Hakim or the doctor — into such a life, of revolution, of killing? The son of a well-to-do merchant, he was trained at the American University of Beirut, the most liberal university in the Middle East then as now. His background was almost identical to that of his best friend, Wadia Haddad, the No. 2 in the PFLP and the operational genius and passionate proponent of the group's terrorist acts. When I asked Habash that question during a series of interviews many years ago, he simply told me about his personal experiences when his family lost its home during Israel's 1948 War of Independence, what the Palestinians call the Catastrophe.

Habash's mother insisted he stay in Lebanon for his studies. He told me he "respected her very much. She was praying all the time. She influenced me to be merciful, kind to people, to love people, etc." When war broke out in 1948, he returned to Lydda. In July, Israeli forces led by Moshe Dayan entered Lydda and its population emptied. Israeli accounts long portrayed the Palestinians as having "fled." But Israeli historian Benny Morris wrote in 1999 that Israeli forces killed at least 250 townspeople, including young men massacred in a mosque. "Immediately after this, with [Israeli Prime Minister] Ben Gurion's authorization, the troops expelled the inhabitants of Lydda and Ramle and drove them toward the [Arab] Legion lines to the east," according to Morris.

That was the horror Habash recollected as well, compounded for him by a personal tragedy: the same night, one of his sisters died in the town. Although she succumbed to typhoid, the clan blamed the Israeli onslaught for preventing her from receiving proper care. He buried the sister in the backyard, took her small children by the hand and followed the orders of the Israeli soldiers to leave. "The soldiers would say, 'All of you, out! In this direction!'" Habash recalled. "I remember asking one of the soldiers where we were supposed to go." Habash told me he rejected Christianity then. "I was all the time imagining myself as a good Christian, serving the poor. When my land was occupied, I had no time to think about religion."

And here is Abukhalil's last thought on the death of Habash.

1 comment:

annie said...

A great article by As'ad; I reproduced it on my new English blog.

Since March 29th 2006