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Laurels for The Dead

—poem by Tontongi

A Call for Peace, Dedicated to the Israeli and Palestinian Peoples

Find in your heart, my friend,
Something more soothing to say
For the advent of peace and brotherhood
Between two valiant peoples,
Unwilling relics of History,
Who have for too long suffered.

Find in your heart, my friend
The strength to deactivate your wish
For more unruly tanks to unfold
And more missiles to deploy
Along the crowded streets of Gaza
And Ramallah, en route to spreading
Internationally sanctioned terror,
Unsparing of even hospitals and patients.

Find in your heart, my friend,
The courage to undo the conquerors’ work
Be it that of the Roman Gladiators
Sowing dread and illusions of grandeur
Or Khalid ibn al-Walid’s troops of past time
Chasing infidels and rebel tribes1
Find in your heart, my friend, and hear
The wake-up call from Tala Herzallah
Recounting the agony of the evacuated:
“Where are we supposed to go,” she said,
“Where should I go as a civilian?
They told us to go to the South,
We went to the South,
And they bombed the South.
They told us to go to the UN schools,
And they bombed the schools.
They bombed Mosques.
The safest place in the world are hospitals
And hospitals are bombed in Gaza.”2

Find in your heart, my friend,
The remedy to defeat pain and suffering
Deliberately induced
On other human beings,
Find the formula to keep more babies
From being cruelly machine-gunned
Under their parents’ eyes, the whole world
Becoming sadistic voyeurs of mayhem.

Find in your heart, be you in Haifa
Or in Jenin, the echo of Arafat’s call
To Rabin for the Peace of the Brave,
Two brother enemies turned friends
Along the river of blood and ruins;
Just like England and France
Bloody nemeses in the One Hundred Years’ War3
Today fighting it out in soccer and rugby.

Find in your hearts, my friends,
Be you victims or aggressors
The common ground in our humanity;
Find a way to uphold while we are still alive
The torch of both immanent justice
And the transcendent affirmation of peace.
Let us find together the balance between the two.

Why would their children’s bleeding
Hold less value than your children’s blood
Under the same malign onslaught?
We shall all stop the cycle of defending
The means used in the name of cause or security
—O horrible means that deprave the psyche!—
Pretending to reach an uncorrupted end?
Why are festival-goers of Kibbutz Re’im forced
To pay for crimes many have probably decried?

“How to promote a non-competitive conception of
Our memory?” a writer asked himself;4
Couldn’t one mourn the victims of the Shoah
Yet still show solidarity to those of the Nakba?5

Find in your hearts, my friends, the courage
To disrupt the scheduled recurrence of violence,
And uphold a fair principle of give-and-take
To live in peace what you now covet with guns;
Live our shared capacity for love, our humanity.

Oppression has its own costs, just as
Rivalry in cruelty between neighbors;
May the horrendous specter that so deeply
Invades the psyche of the peoples in pain
Find solace in the pursuit of a better way.

—Tontongi October 16, 2023

Silent protest by students of Harvard University on November 2nd, 2023, denouncing Israeli atrocities in Gaza.

Silent protest by students of Harvard University on November 2nd 2023, denouncing Israeli atrocities in Gaza. —photo Tanbou

Footnotes

1.Khalid ibn al-Walid: 592–642 (Arabic: خالد بن الوليد), also known as ‘The Sword of Allah’, was an Arab Muslim commander […] who played a leading role in the Ridda wars against rebel tribes in Arabia in 632–633 and the early Muslim conquests of Sasanian Iraq in 633–634 and Byzantine Syria in 634–638. Khalid ibn al-Walid was one of the few undefeated generals in history.” [Source / Wikipedia]
2.Laments by Tala Herzallah broadcast from Gaza by the MSNBC network (US) on October 17, 2023.
3.“Hundred Years’ War, an intermittent struggle between England and France in the 14th–15th century over a series of disputes, including the question of the legitimate succession to the French crown.” [Source / Britannica]
4.Sonia Combe, “Reconnaître les tragédies” (Recognizing tragedies), Le Monde Diplomatique, October 2023.
5.Shoah: the Nazi holocaust of the Jews during the Second World War. Nakba (catastrophe): the expulsion of Palestinians from their land after the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

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