Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network remembers Basil al-Araj, the engaged intellectual and Palestinian revolutionary assassinated by Israeli occupation forces as he continued to resist, refusing to surrender, four years ago today: 6 March 2017. He put into practice his vision of the “struggling intellectual,” writing, thinking and acting, engaging in all aspects of Palestinian struggle, from the boycott movement to the armed struggle. Today, Basil al-Araj is a symbol and a living example of struggle for millions of Palestinians, Arabs and internationalists looking towards a vision of return, liberation and victory in Palestine and around the world.
Basil al-Araj’s life was defined by his commitment to liberation. A prominent writer, thinker and youth activists in protest campaigns and boycott movements throughout occupied Palestine, he was seized by the Palestinian Authority under its security coordination with Israel. In fact, the abduction of Basil al-Araj and five of his comrades was touted by PA President Mahmoud Abbas as an important achievement for PA/Israel security coordination. There, Basil and his comrades were tortured and imprisoned for five months without charge before being released after their hunger strike in September 2016.
After his release, Basil went underground. His family’s home was attacked and invaded over 10 times by Israeli occupation forces before he was assassinated in a hail of bullets on 6 March 2017 in the home where he was staying in El-Bireh, occupied Palestine. He resisted until the end, always refusing to surrender, rejecting the path of Oslo and the dismantlement of the Palestinian cause physically and intellectually.
Basil al-Araj’s final statement was issued after his assassination, as demonstrations took place in Palestinian, Arab and international cities, with marches and protests in New York, Washington, DC, Brussels, Berlin, Vienna, London, Rabat, Tunis, Cairo, Amman, Beirut, Nahr el-Bared refugee camp, Gaza City, Ramallah, Haifa, Dheisheh refugee camp and elsewhere. In Ramallah, Palestinian demonstrators were attacked and beaten by the Palestinian Authority’s security forces.
“Greetings of Arab nationalism, homeland, and liberation. If you are reading this, it means I have died and my soul has ascended to its creator. I pray to God that I will meet him with a guiltless heart, willingly, and never reluctantly, and free of any whit of hypocrisy. How hard it is to write your own will. For years I have been contemplating testaments written by martyrs, and those wills have always bewildered me. They were short, quick, without much eloquence. They did not quench our thirst to find answers about martyrdom. Now I am walking to my fated death satisfied that I found my answers. How stupid I am! Is there anything which is more eloquent and clearer than a martyr’s deed? I should have written this several months ago, but what kept me was that this question is for you, living people, and why should I answer on your behalf? Look for the answers yourself, and for us the inhabitants of the graves, all we seek is God’s mercy.”
Ahmad Sa’adat, imprisoned Palestinian leader and the General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, described Basil Al-Araj:
“with his gun in one hand and his pen in the other, a solid, conscious fighter who would not compromise one iota on principles or constants and who did not melt like some intellectuals in the acid of temptations or acceptance of the status quo…He gave his life for Palestine at a time when some traders seek to sell it piece by piece. He never fell or wavered before the rubble of reality, the enormous challenges, the attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause or divert it from its natural course…His experience of struggle and rich cultural work is an inspiration and compass for revolutionary Palestinian youth, and his luminous flame illuminates their struggle and uprising.”
Khaled Barakat, Palestinian writer and activist, said:
“He saw the relationship between all forms of struggle, and he recognized the right and the duty to participate in all forms of struggle when possible…For him, to be a Palestinian revolutionary intellectual, you must be in confrontation with occupation and struggle to bring down all internal Palestinian chains and blockades, as represented by the PA. Basil studied in Cairo and visited Amman, Beirut and other Arab cities on many occasions. He was working to build bridges between Palestinians inside and outside. That’s why the first demonstrations after his assassination were in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp and in the other camps in Lebanon, as well as in Ramallah. Basil is a representation of an entire Palestinian generation that finds itself today entering 100 years of struggle against colonization, occupation and oppression. And I have no doubt in my mind that they will succeed in liberating their cause and their voice.”
“Basil was alert and aware of the struggles taking place outside Palestine. He participated in the boycott campaigns, actions against the apartheid wall, against normalization, led a campaign called ‘youth for dignity,’ confronted PA policies, negotiations and security coordination in the streets, presented in colleges and universities, worked to build research institutions, and he also carried a gun. These forms of struggle do not contradict each other; in fact, they complement each other…It is revolutionary knowledge that directs the guns, and not the other way around.”
Thousands of Palestinians marched in Basil al-Araj’s funeral of resistance in al-Walaja village, saluting and pledging to continue Al-Araj’s legacy of struggle, chanting against Zionist colonization, the Israeli assassination policy, and the Palestinian Authority’s complicity and security coordination with the occupation regime.
Today, Basil al-Araj remains a towering representative of justice and of the Palestinian liberation struggle. His commitment and vision lives on in the ideas, organizing and action of Palestinian, Arab and international youth organizing and struggling to confront colonialism and achieve victory. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network salutes the living legacy of Basil al-Araj, revolutionary intellectual, freedom fighter and Palestinian, Arab and international symbol of justice and liberation.