Ali Jiddah, in his late 50s, African district of the old city of Jerusalem, 05-04-2008

Monday 28 December 2009
popularity : 93%

Read the report on our meeting with Ali Jiddah, on the Sunday April 5

Ali welcomes us in his little "house", in the African district of Jerusalem.

Ali Jiddah 1

First of all, I would like to welcome you in the old city of Jerusalem, which I hope in the future, when you come back, will have become the capital of the independent Palestinian State. Secondly, you are welcome in the African quarter, which is not on the map… You are lucky to be with Daoud (from the Nidal Center), otherwise you would never have known about the African Quarter of Jerusalem !…

When talking of an "African Quarter", we talk of three generations of inhabitants. The people of the first generation, that of my father, came from 4 countries : Tchad, Nigeria, Senegal and Soudan. As Muslims, they had been to Mecca in Saudi Arabia... As you know, for Muslims, it is very important to go to Jerusalem when you have been to Mecca as Jerusalem is the third holy place for Muslims. So some of them came from Mecca here.

There were in fact two main waves of Africans : the first came during the British Mandate, some of them arrived as pilgrims, the others as soldiers with the British army - my grand-father was one of them, he was a colonialist. The most important wave was in 1948, during the war between the Arabs and the Israelis. The background was religious : they had come to defend the holy Muslim places, like the Al-Aqsa Mosk. Many of them were killed, were martyrs...

Now the question is : why did most of them prefer to stay in Jerusalem rather than go back home ? They had a belief that the Day of Reckoning would begin in Jerusalem and they wanted to be among the first ones to meet God ...

They began to have romances with Palestinian women... I’m the result of such a romance... Today, only people of the second and third generations are still there. There is nobody left of the first one, my father was the last one. He died 4 years ago, at the age of 99.

Maybe you’ll ask me : how do you identify yourselves?... We say we are "Afro-Palestinians". Sometimes, when I talk with Palestinians, like with Daoud, for ex, I tell them that we are more Catholic than the Pope, we are more Palestinian than the Palestinians.

How do I feel as a black Palestinian among the other Palestinians?… Honestly, I have never felt discriminated against because of the colour of my skin. On the contrary, we have a very respectable position in the Palestinian society, we can marry white Palestinian girls, and white men can marry our girls. And if sometimes, we face discrimination from the Palestinians, it is a "normal" one : for ex, people may say "he is from Hebron, or from a refugee camp, he is from Nablus"...

On the Israeli side, it’s totally different : there, discrimination is an ideology. I’ll explain : inside the Israeli society, you have two main groups : the Oriental ones (the Faradins), and the European ones (the Ashkenazins). There is a lot of discrimination between both groups, but if you want to know which group of Jews are the most discriminated against, you will find out it is the Falashas, black people who immigrated from Ethiopia.

I know some cases of people who have been in this country for 40 years and are still living in caravans. But if you are blond and blue-eyed, in one month maximum, you get a great flat, especially in the settlements in the West Bank or in those surrounding Jerusalem...

Ali Jiddah 2

Let me now tell you a bit about my background, so at least you should know who you are sitting with... So you don’t think I cheated on you afterwards... I studied in a French school : le collège des Frères Saint Jean Baptiste de la Salle, here in Jerusalem, until 1967. That year, when Jerusalem was occupied, my father had financial problems so I couldn’t go on with my studies. I said to my father that I would work for one year, earn some money and then go on with my studies. As a young 17-year old Palestinian, I then began to feel what it meant to be under occupation in two ways : there was first the way Israeli soldiers used to stop us on the streets, the way they humiliated us, harassed us and sometimes beat us. Then there was the way Israeli civilians used to behave with us. I remember that at that time, they used to come in groups on the streets of the Old City, dancing, singing in a very arrogant way. I felt I was losing my dignity, my personal dignity and my national dignity. I began to talk with some of my colleagues, who were the same age as me and experienced the same things : the question was : how could we put an end to this situation?

I became a member of one of the Palestinian factions, the PFLP : the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, at the head of which we had chosen to put Doctor George Habache, a Palestinian Christian. His successor was Abou Ali Mustapha. He was assassinated by the Israeli army in 2002 in Ramallah. Today, our chairman, Ahmed Saadat, is in jail...

At my time, in 1968, the circle of violence between the Palestinians and the Israelis was high !... Sometimes Israelis attacked Palestinians, who reacted. Sometimes Palestinians attacked and the Israelis answered back.

I took part in that circle of violence. Don’t jump from your chairs… One night I went to the new part of the city, to Jaffa Street, I put a bomb there : 9 Israelis were injured, all civilians… The day before, Israeli planes had bombarded a Jordanian city and many civilians had been killed. Our intention at that time was to deliver a message to the Israeli civilinas, say to them : "Look! You should be careful ! If you don’t protest, nor do anything against the brutality of your government, you’ll pay the price of it at the end of the day »… One month later, I was exactly 18 years old, you can look over there and see on the picture how pure I was…

I was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, of which I did 17, from 1968 to 1985, when I was released…

Now, I don’t want to talk "big politics". Let’s put it simply : If you come to me today and say : "Look Ali, are you ready to do again what you did in 1968 ? ", my answer is no, no way… Not because I’m afraid to go back to prison, on the contrary : for me, prison is like a five-star hotel. I won’t do it again for 2 main reasons : from a human point of view, I have 5 children.

In the same way as I wouldn’t stand anybody harming my children, I’m not willing to do it with other people’s children. From a political point of view, which is really very important, I know that among the Israelis, in spite of all the blackness you see, there are some Israelis who are really serious, who want to live in peace with the Palestinians and who share the same views as mine. Even when I came out of prison, I worked with progressive Israelis for 5 years : all of us believed that the most idealistic solution is the creation of one secular democratic state for everybody. Believe me : two states, 3 states... It’s all bullshit, it doesn’t work !... Imagine, for example, that tomorrow, I tell all the Moscovites of this state : « Look, you all have to go back to Russia » !... But say : « Look, this is your homeland, but don’t forget this is my homeland too. Let’s find a way, a solution that will enable all of us to live together»… I don’t have a problem with Israel. The main problem with Israel is the nature of the Israeli State. It is and has always been sionist, i.e. colonialist, racist, expansionist… Don’t expect to have stability or peace in this area... And this will have an impact on other areas, not only on Palestine…

Now, you are lucky, because you are Belgian... If you were Americans, you would get a verbal lashing from me... But I will try to be a gentleman with you and be very polite. Honestly I feel happy whenever I see people like you. Because, when I look at you, I regard you as the real conscience of your country. Your government ? A mother-fucker... It’s a puppet in the hands of the Americans. The European countries in general speak to us nice words, but from under the table all their support goes to the Israeli State... Now, why do I say I feel happy? It’s not only me : all the Palestinians feel happy when they see you among them, they will have the feeling that they are not ignored, isolated, alone but that there are some people who care about them. But I don’t want you to fool yourselves : your main fight is not in Palestine but at home. You should cry, you should cal on your delegates in Parliament, tell them it is enough with double-standart and double-dealing… The conflict is like a coin, it has two faces : if you want to be fair and just, you should look at both faces...

Honestly, after what has happened in Gaza, I’m so, so, so angry with the European countries. I don’t blame the Americans. I’m talking about their administration, not about the simple Americans... The Americans have always had problems with their presidents : this Clinton, a man who had the ability to control the whole world, but not the lower part of his body... The Monica issue. Then there was this new president who in the evening talked to God, God who would say to him "Tomorrow you will do this and this and that".. An idiot, ignorant, crazy one. Imagine such a man controlling the whole world with such a mentality !… Today, we have this Obama… I am black, but for me, he is not black, he is a coconut, black on the outside, totally rotten, corrupted, white on the inside. I’m not talking of the colour white but of a certain mentality….

Ali Jiddah 3

After you were released from prison, did you join a political faction again or did you just try to "behave as a good citizen"? Are you still involved in an organisation today?

Well if I admitted to it, it would mean I would have to go back to jail again... But I will tell you... I’m addicted to politics and especially to the policy of the PFLP.

Look, taking part in the struggle is not an outing. There is a price to be paid. I’m still paying the price for it. For example, according to the law, I should get medical treatment for my hand and my leg [1] but they say " no way , no way"…

Do you have the feeling that the young Palestinians are still interested in politics today ?

Yes... Look, politics is not a hobby. You don’t choose to be in politics. But the conditions you are living in force you to… For example : a normal young Palestinian passing through the Damascus Gate now is stopped by soldiers, harrassed, humiliated, sometimes even beaten… What do you think his reaction will be? ...

All our illnesses, all our problems here are because of the occupation : get rid of the occupation and people will be normal again. We are suffering, a whole generation is, that of my 6-year old son. There will be psychological scars for all of them. We are all going to have big problems with them : they have become very violent because of what they experience, beating, shootings, tear-gas bombs… They don’t know the meaning of childhood… Go to Gaza, what do you expect from a child who lost his mother, his father, his brothers and sisters ? What do you expect he will become when he grows up?… Can you talk with him about democracy? can you talk with him about human values? So for that, I’m telling you it’s time! You have to move. You have to wake up, to stand up and say "it’s enough, enough, enough!"...

I don’t want to be aggressive with you, but we, Palestinians are paying the price for crimes committed by the Europeans. We have nothing to do with the Holocaust. On the contrary : at the time when Jews were chased all over Europe, the only place they used to be welcomed with open arms was here, in Palestine… Here, in Palestine… Nobody is talking of sending them to Court for the war crimes they have committed in Gaza. You saw it yourself on television, you didn’t hear it from me : their use of white phosphorus, all those ammunitions coming from Italy, Belgium, America… Go to the Al-Aqsa Mosk… Unfortunately they won’t let you in, but inside the mosk, there is a cupboard in which they have displayed the various weapons that were used against people while they were praying. You’ll see : US, Main, Pennsylvania... Rubber bullets, tear-gas-bombs, plastic bullets… And all these Prime Ministers of the European countries, believe me, they are acrobats… Look at this Berlusconi-mafioso, bastarde… Sarkozy, an acrobat… Aieaieaieaie !…

See also Ali Jiddah’s book (message to his son)

[1paralysed after brain bleeding

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