Awaiting Justice on an Old Blanket

Category: Middle East, World Affairs Topics: Kuwait Views: 2133

The mother of Mohamed al-Khateb resolutely awaited the return of her son. For her, waiting was hardly a metaphoric notion. She sat on an old blanket, placed permanently in a shaded spot adjacent to her house and waited, for decades.

We grew older, from childhood to manhood, and the tired old face of Mohamed's mother always greeted us, as we walked about our tiny yet crowded refugee camp. My foolish age once made me wonder if she ever moved or took a rest, even once. Later, I realized that she simply waited for her son, never losing hope that he would return one day.

Mohamed was in Kuwait. He left his refugee camp in Gaza following the 1956 war. He was still young then and Diaspora was still fresh in the minds of all refugees. There was no work in Gaza, so he chose to head to Kuwait, joining an influx of well-educated Palestinian youth that sought better lives in the Gulf states.

The young man never intended to stay in Kuwait for eternity. The plan was as simple as all others, making enough money to support one's family and return home. Mohamed returned twice or more to visit his family in the camp, once with a family of his own.

But as the longing for her son and grandchildren reached an intolerable stage, Mohamed's mother was struck with the aftermath of the 1967 war: the Israeli army occupied the Gaza Strip and the rest of the territories. The woman felt the bitterness of defeat and the cruelty of a new fate imposed on her. But there was more on her mind than the fall of her last safe heaven. Mohamed, along with tens of thousands of Palestinians who were outside of their towns, villages and refugee camps, were denied even their refugee status. They were permanently exiled.

The old woman who once hoped that the hardship of life would one day ease when she would be reunited with her only son, was now torn by military occupation, checkpoints, barbered wire and an Israeli government decision to deny her the ultimate hope of her anguished years.

As I often strolled back and forth by the old lady's house as she hunched and awaited so patiently for her son's return, I never understood how she, her son and the aging blanket were all players in one of the world's most complicated political struggles. Never had I guessed that Mohamed's mother represented a whole generation that longed for the return of beloved ones. I was too young to read much into the old woman and her endless gaze on the horizon. Did she hope that one day a taxicab would emerge, roofed with luggage and hauling her son and grandchildren?

I doubt that the old woman followed the news intently. But I have no illusions that her heart leaped with joy every time she heard the word "peace" being uttered. While Palestinians and Israelis negotiated the complex steps required by the peace process, Mohamed's mother must've measured the end result of the peace talks by the return of her son. Little did the old woman know that the right of return for Palestinian refugees was the last "compromise" Israel was willing to make. Despite the clarity of international law on such a right, it remained a red line that the Israeli government always vowed to refuse. And because Mohamed's mother had little knowledge in Israel's "demographic needs", she never abandoned her sacred spot on the old blanket near her house.

But the long wait has abruptly ended. On July 08, 2003, Mohamed al-Khateb was killed in a car accident in Kuwait. His mother, now very old, received the news and for once abandoned her blanket outside. On a telephone call to a neighbor in the camp, I was told that the old woman has lost consciousness and doctors are expecting that she too will soon die.

The chances are that Mohamed's mother, now over 80 years old, will soon pass away. But while the death of Mohamed might have forced an old warrior to abandon her trench, millions of Palestinian refugees refuse to submit to an unjust fate that has separated them from Palestine for so long. They remain steadfast in their trenches, in Lebanon, in Jordan, in Syria, in Iraq and all over the world, waiting the moment that international law would for once, prevail.

Ramzy Baroud is the editor-in-chief of and the editor of the anthology entitled "Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion," now available at:

To buy "Searching Jenin: Eyewitness Accounts of the Israeli Invasion"

  Category: Middle East, World Affairs
  Topics: Kuwait
Views: 2133

Related Suggestions

The opinions expressed herein, through this post or comments, contain positions and viewpoints that are not necessarily those of IslamiCity. These are offered as a means for IslamiCity to stimulate dialogue and discussion in our continuing mission of being an educational organization. The IslamiCity site may occasionally contain copyrighted material the use of which may not always have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. IslamiCity is making such material available in its effort to advance understanding of humanitarian, education, democracy, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and such (and all) material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

Older Comments:
Do not expect justice from people that are not guided by The Just. If they will not follow the simple commandments of "thou shall not kill" and "thou shall not steal" as constraints on their thinking or actions they are unlikely to follow the extrapolation of these simple concepts into the realm of justice.
If they will violate the high ideals of their forefathers, neither Moses nor "we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" then they may hold no concept of what these things are.
If they hold international law in contempt then they hold all law in contempt and consider their own notions to be superior to all known intelligence, individually and collectively, including The Creators.
However if they fear examination for crimes against humanity then they know they are not acceptable to humanity. Although like these other things they may not admit this to themselves.
Denial and self-delusion can be disastrous. Did this woman waste her whole life sitting passively thinking her children would not grow up and move to a better place. Better she had spent her time making her place the better place. And if that meant harassing the authorities that should have been enforcing her rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness till they themselves had no happiness she would have been putting her God given time to good use. These people may not admit her rights but they cannot build a fence around the world to keep it away, they can only build a fence around themselves.
If Israel finds peace without the Palestinians receiving justice then a precedent will have been set that is unanswerable to either the laws of man or of God.

what can be said... inshallah refugees will come home to a peaceful land soon.
what i don't understand though is why are their hosts keeping all those people in camps forbidding them to work and get a better life untill they can go home, for more than 50 years now. I have a little idea but it's so horrible that i just hope that Liban-syria-egypt don't really do it for that reason...

Because Allah will never change the grace which He hath bestowed on a people until they change what is in their (own) souls: and verily Allah is He Who heareth and knoweth (all things). al-Qur'an 8:53
I am deeply touched by the plight of the Palestinians. May Allah help all the innocent and helpless people in the world. May Allah help all the Muslims, Ameen.

Palestinian refugees remain the only people who have lost their homes and are still denied any right of return despite international laws. That Israel and the Zionist lobbies have put pressure on all successive Eropean and American governments to avoid even addressing such issues, is testimony to the strength of their lobbies in all such governments in particular and globally in general.

To expect any justice from Israel, the US or any Western country is to live in false hope as Mohamed's mother unforutnate tale has illustrated.

Strange how Palestinians have suffered at the hands of a supposedly God-fearing people who have been put through extermination themselves. They seem to have used their plight to inflict the same on another people who have had no hand in their tragedy. So much for being the Children of God and Promised Land. It makes one utterly deny such unjust God - but as muslims we know that God is is not only just but also compassionate and all-encampassing.