A man like a whole generation: the unfinished war of Zakaria Zubeidi
Zakaria Zubeidi is one of six Palestinian prisoners who on September 6 dug a tunnel out of Gilboa, a notorious Israeli high security prison. Zubeidi was taken over a few days later. The large bruises on Zubeidi’s face told a poignant story, that of a daring escape and violent arrest. However, the story does not start or end there.
Twenty years ago, following what was etched in Palestinian collective memory as the “Jenin Massacre”, I was introduced to the Zubeidi family in the Jenin refugee camp, which was almost entirely destroyed. erased by the Israeli army during and after the Battle of Jenin.
Despite my repeated attempts, the IDF prevented me from reaching Jenin, which was besieged by the IDF for months after the most violent episode of the entire second Palestinian uprising (2000-2005).
I couldn’t speak directly to Zakaria. Unlike his brother Taha, Zakaria survived the massacre and subsequently rose through the ranks of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of the Fatah movement, to become its leader, thus ranking at the top of the list. of the Palestinians most wanted by Israel.
Most of our communications were with his sister, Kauthar, who recounted in detail the events leading up to the fateful military siege in April. Kauthar was only 20 years old at the time. Despite her grief, she spoke with pride of her mother, who was killed by an Israeli sniper just weeks before the invasion of the camp, and of her brother, Taha, the leader of the Al-Quds Brigades, the branch Islamic Jihad Army in Jenin at the time; and Zakaria, who was now on a mission to avenge his mother, brother, best friends and neighbors.
“Taha was killed by a sniper. After he was killed, they fired shells at him, which completely burned his body. It was in the Damaj neighborhood, ”Kauthar told us, adding,“ The Shebabs gathered what was left of him and put him in a house. Since that day, the house has been known as “The Hero’s House”.
Kauthar also told me about his mother, Samira, 51, “who spent her life going from prison to prison” visiting her husband and sons. Samira was loved and respected by all the fighters in the camp. His children were the heroes that all young people tried to emulate. His death was particularly shocking.
“She was hit by two bullets in the heart,” Kauthar said. “Once she turned around she was shot in the back. Blood flowed from his nose and mouth. I didn’t know what to do other than scream.
Zakaria immediately went into hiding. The young fighter felt aggrieved by what had happened to his beloved Jenin, his family, his mother and his brother – the latter’s wedding was scheduled for a week from the day he was killed. He also felt betrayed by his Fatah “brethren” who continued to collaborate openly with Israel, despite the growing tragedies in the occupied West Bank, and by the Israeli left who were abandoning the Zubeidi family despite promises of solidarity and comradeship.
“Every week, 20 to 30 Israelis would come there to do theater,” Zakaria said in an interview with “The Time” magazine, referring to the “Arna’s House” theater, which involved Zakaria and other young people from Jenin. , and was created by Arna Mer-Khamis, an Israeli married to a Palestinian. “We opened our house and you demolished it… We fed them. And, subsequently, neither of them picked up the phone. It was then that we saw the real face of the left in Israel.
Of the five children who participated in the theater ‘La Maison d’Arna’, only Zakaria survived. The rest had joined various armed groups to fight the Israeli occupation and were all killed.
Zakaria was born in 1976 under Israeli occupation and therefore never lived the life of a free man. When he was 13, he was shot dead by Israeli soldiers for throwing stones. At 14, he was arrested for the first time. At 17, he joined the PA security forces, believing, like many Palestinians at the time, that the PA “army” was created to protect the Palestinians and guarantee their freedom. . Disillusioned, he left the Palestinian Authority less than a year later.
Zakaria did not engage in armed struggle until 2001, as a means of liberating his people, months after the start of the second Intifada. One of his childhood friends was one of the first to be killed by Israeli soldiers. In 2002, Zakaria joined the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, when his mother, Samira, and brother, Taha, were killed.
2002, in particular, was a watershed year for the Fatah movement, which was practically, but unofficially, divided into two groups: one that believed that armed struggle should remain a strategy of liberation, and the other that advocated political dialogue and a peace process. Many members of the first group were killed, arrested or marginalized, including the popular leader of Fatah, Marwan Barghouti, arrested in April 2002. Members of the second group have become rich and corrupt. Their “peace process” failed to secure the coveted freedom and they refused to consider other strategies, fearing the loss of their privileges.
Zakaria, like thousands of Fatah members and fighters, was caught in this constant dilemma, wanting to continue the struggle as if the leadership of PA President Mahmoud Abbas was prepared to risk everything for the good of Palestine, while remaining attached to Fatah, hoping that perhaps one day the movement would resume the mantle of Palestinian resistance.
Zakaria’s life trajectory so far is a testament to this confusion. He was not only imprisoned by the Israelis, but also by the Palestinian Authority. Sometimes he praised Abbas for later disowning all the betrayal of the Palestinian leadership. He surrendered his weapon several times, only to retrieve it with the same determination as before.
Although Zakaria is now back in prison, his story remains unfinished. Dozens of young fighters now roam the streets of Jenin refugee camp, vowing to continue the armed struggle. Namely, Zakaria Zubeidi is not just one person but a whole generation of Palestinians in the West Bank who are caught in an impossible dilemma, having to choose between a painful but real struggle for freedom and political compromises, who, in the proper words, “have accomplished nothing”.
– Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and editor-in-chief of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These chains will be broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons ”(Clarity Press). Dr Baroud is a non-resident principal investigator at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). Its website is
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