At the outset, I offer the disclosure that I am only a student, so anything I say should be taken with a grain of salt. These are my own observations and my own understandings; whether they are correct or incorrect, I leave for you and for God to judge. I am only here as I was tasked with making sure that this pulpit does not collect dust for the simple fact that our teacher, Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl, had a prior engagement. Given the exigent circumstances of our children being killed, it was decided that it was better not to cede this space and depend upon other pulpits to uphold the Islamic message and the Islamic ethic, as we know that that is what this pulpit is for.
At the very end of Surah al-Jumu‘a, we read:
And when they see some commerce or diversion, they scatter toward it and leave thee standing.” (Q 62:11).
In the beautiful Surah al-Jumu‘a, the narrative goes that the Muslims in Medina at the time were under significant financial pressure. So, during a khutbah (sermon), many Muslims stood up and left as they heard that there was a convoy of merchants that was bringing things that were needed in this very difficult moment for society. Instead of listening to the khutbah, they went to purchase the things they needed for their families. This led Muslims to receive this very beautiful verse, and it is a verse that belongs to a set of surahs called the “Musabbihat,” which teach a great many things and are very closely interwoven with one another.
At the end of Surah al-Jumu‘a, there is the phrase: “...to leave you standing.” They leave the Prophet standing alone on the podium. The beginning of Surah al-Jumu‘a begins with what is essentially an outline of what the Prophet is here to do for his community. He was there to purify them, to teach them the Qur’an, and to teach them hikma (wisdom). The chapter then ends, “...and you leave him standing” (Q 62:11).
Those two words rang in my head for a year and a half. Who do we “leave standing” in our lives? Who was the individual left standing at that pulpit? What was he doing at that pulpit? That is the great question that has been asked for 14 centuries. What was he doing? He was establishing salah (prayer). At that pulpit, he was teaching morality. At that pulpit, he was teaching moral discernment. At that pulpit, he was teaching how to think. At that pulpit, he was teaching how to respond to such dire circumstances.
These words rang in my head so much so that as I read some other surahs, like Surah al-Hashr, I was struck by a very similar phrasing that did not avail itself in any other part of the Qur'an, as far as I know.
Whatsoever of the palm trees you cut down or left standing upon their roots, it was by God’s Leave, and that He might disgrace the iniquitous (Q 59:5).
This verse in Surah al-Hashr refers to an interesting incident that I will summarize briefly. The verse itself uses that same phrase—“left standing”—with the addition “upon their roots,” or, if read differently, “upon their principles.”
The full story of Surah al-Hashr is important, and I do not wish to get into the details. If you want to know them, you should refer to the tafsir of Project Illumine. There are two halaqas that describe in detail the historical background. To give a quick summary, the chapter talks about the ordeal that the Muslims had with the Jewish tribe of Banu Nadir. Banu Nadir was one of the Jewish tribes that signed an initial peace treaty, the non-aggression treaty with Muslims in Medina that allowed for Muslims to live in relative safety in their immediate society. It kept Muslims safe enough away from the Quraysh, who they were in open combat and hostility with.
For many different reasons, Banu Nadir broke the terms of this treaty and began relations with the Quraysh, who were, of course, the enemies of the Muslims in Mecca. Banu Nadir were willing to essentially be a satellite group that would oppose the Muslims on behalf of the Quraysh, going back on their treaty and making a new treaty with the enemy that, supposedly, everyone in Medina was supposed to be protecting each other from.
It was treachery and deception, and it left Muslims with a very difficult choice. Or rather, it left them with no choice. The choice was to offer Banu Nadir the ability to leave in exile, to leave those lands to at least secure the Medinan polity. Muslims allowed for Banu Nadir to return yearly to take the harvest, specifically from their prized palm trees. Of course, palm trees were prized commodities because they produce dates in Arabia, which were beloved to the Arabs at the time and still are to this day. Banu Nadir obviously liked those terms, but they felt that they would be able to withstand the pressure of the Muslims, and they thought the Quraysh would come to their rescue should it come to a military conflict between them and the Muslims, so they refused. And that is when Muslims laid their first siege on the castles of Banu Nadir.
However, a very interesting predicament arose. The predicament was that not only did Banu Nadir have the tactical safety of being behind seemingly impenetrable brick walls, but they also had a very interesting shield in front of their fortress, that being palm trees. A significant number of palm trees were blocking the way in such a fashion that Banu Nadir could strike the Muslims from their position, but the Muslims had a very difficult time striking back. This led to a major ethical dilemma among the Muslim soldiers. "Do we cut down these trees in order to gain better access for military strategy, or is it unethical to destroy trees in the process of gaining military expediency and pragmatism?" The question caused quite a stir.
Supposedly, Banu Nadir called down from the fortress to the Muslims, "Oh, so you are the Muslims that we heard about? You are the peace loving Prophet that we have heard about, who comes to war and cuts down our beloved palm trees?" If you followed the Project Illumine halaqas, you would know there is a question mark on whether or not the Jews of the tribe of Banu Nadir actually did say this or not, but let us assume they did. What would it communicate? We just mentioned that palm trees were of particular significance in Arabia during that time, beloved to all Arabs. The dates they provided were relied upon, especially in times of war and difficulty. Why did they call down to the Muslims and say, "Oh, you say you are a moral army, led by the most moral Prophet or leader? Yet you choose more violence to destroy and cut down? See, this is who you really are. You are destructive. You are not here because you believe that you are on a moral mission. You are here to destroy. This is how we can summarize you. You are destroyers. Ever since you have come here, you have destroyed, and this is a crowning example of your actual intentions, which is destruction and pain."
It is an interesting allegation to be leveled by a group who excel in treachery, who we know went back on their word in another surah, Surah al-Saff, a chapter in which God says that what is most disgusting to God are those who say something, go back on their word, and then do something else (Q 61:2-3). After that verse, God says that the opposite of that are those who are as if an impenetrable line of ranks that fight or strive in God's way in a moral cause. As stated in the halaqas, it would not make sense, for all situations, to fight in such a structure where everyone stands close together in one particular place, such as when someone has a F-16 and they can just bomb and move on. There is a metaphorical, moral point in Surah al-Saff, just as there is a connected metaphorical, moral point in Surah al-Hashr.
The moral point is as such. Muslims were concerned before Banu Nadir decided to bring up the point of the moral dilemma. Muslims were already talking amongst each other. “What is worth it? What are the extents to which we are willing to go? We wish sincerely to serve God, serve justice, serve righteousness, and secure the safety of our polity, but at what cost? Are we willing to risk our humanity and our position as being aspiring deputies of God on earth?” See, a person who is concerned about being a deputy for justice and righteousness constantly questions and engages in a moral inventory to see if they are rising to the challenge, if they are allowed to consider themselves possibly as deputies and agents of God. They do not assume this title is simply given to them.
Surah al-Hadid ends with a very interesting verse:
such that the People of the Book may know that they have no power over any of God’s Bounty, and that the Bounty is in God’s Hand; He gives it unto whomsoever He will; and God is Possessed of Tremendous Bounty (Q 57:29).
The point of the verse is that God's favor belongs to God. God's favor is earned, and God wants us to know that it is not simply inherited or given by some sort of randomness. It is earned by its moral quality, it is not given because one is simply chosen.
The early Muslims made the difficult decision. They cut down six palm trees out of a field of palm trees. Some stayed standing on their roots, as the verse says, and some were cut down. What is the usul, the principle that was derived from this verse? Many legalists and jurists came to the conclusion that these are the laws of war, and that we ought to be careful to not cut down trees, not kill innocent civilians, and avoid collateral damage, et cetera. But there is a further moral point here: whatever decision we come to in these difficult circumstances, if we have been careful and diligent about what we are trying to accomplish, if we have been genuinely searching for God's will in this particular set of circumstances, then the decision that we make is less important than the methodology and the due diligence that we applied to these difficult circumstances. Whether or not we cut down the tree is not the point. The point is the diligent search by the moral mind who submits to God's justice and equity. That is what ensures that in the future, jurists will ultimately come to the correct conclusion.
In the last 60 days or so, we have been aware of a great amount of difficulty, strife, sadness, destruction, loss of life, loss of homes, loss of safety, food insecurity, emotional damage and trauma of all kinds, and there is something very interesting that we have seen from the rhetoric that has been published and propagated by the United States and Israel. We have seen it more so in these last 60 days, but it is something that is done routinely.
We are at a juncture in which people who are fair-minded are actually seriously considering whether law means anything at all anymore. Forget about international law, does law mean anything anymore? Does morality mean anything anymore? It feels that morality is more of a weapon. It feels more that law is a weapon rather than a regulatory factor of inhibition that would prevent our worst selves from manifesting. I invite you to consider a few different palm trees that, I believe, the United States and Israel have been planting in front of their fortress. Yes, their fortresses are very strong. The United States is separated by oceans from their enemies. They have secured Mexico and Canada, and there is no immediate threat to the nation of the United States. On a smaller scale, Israel has the same. They have built walls, checkpoints, and towers. They have F-16 guided missiles and guns. They have billions of dollars that go into the spin machine, billions of dollars that go into their Iron Dome, and billions of dollars that go toward their military training against a fairly defenseless people.
But what are the palm trees that they have planted in between their fortresses and their enemies? The first palm tree to consider can be seen in a report from The Times of Israel. There are reports emerging from a meeting of the family members of hostages, including recently freed captives, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the rest of the war cabinet that indicate the gathering was markedly tense and hostile, to the point that some families left early. Several Hebrew media sources report that Netanyahu was telling the families, "There is no possibility at the moment to bring everyone home," referring to the hostages in Gaza. "Can anyone really imagine that if that was an option, anyone would refuse it?" This statement was met with anger from many.
Their might is fierce among themselves. You suppose that they are together; yet their hearts are divided (Q 59:14).
Verse 14 of Surah al-Hashr says that there is much conflict between them. You may consider them unified. You may think that they are one, unified in their moral reality. But what you do not know is that behind closed doors, behind their fortresses, they are fighting among themselves because they do not trust each other. For very good reason, they do not trust each other.
The next palm tree is the idea of “fear Hamas.” Hamas is liable for any and all deaths. There is an article from Haaretz that states a freed Israeli woman emphasized concern for the remaining captive's lives. She said, "What I see on TV scares me a lot. I see bombings there and you have no idea where the captives are. I was in a house surrounded by explosions. We slept in tunnels and we feared not Hamas, but that Israel might kill us." Listen to that again. She said, "We feared not Hamas, but that Israel might kill us." It would then have been said: "Hamas killed you."
It is extremely interesting and telling that she has already correctly anticipated the spin machine of deception. What is the palm tree? It is the spin machine. I want to make this very clear, there is no allusion between the fact that Banu Nadir was a Jewish tribe and that Israel is a Jewish state. There is no connection. The only connection is the absolute submission to the concept of deceit as a response to fear. Instead of applying moral precepts and a moral response to fear, they respond with deception, and that deception is displayed on full blast to the members of their tribe they are supposedly protecting, and to the rest of the world.
How about another one? The palm tree of the Mizrahi Jews. This is an old palm tree that Israel has hid behind for many, many years. Whenever someone levels the accusation of cultural theft towards Israel, they immediately counter, "What about Mizrahi Jews?” Mizrahi Jews are Jews that were living in Middle Eastern lands, particularly Yemen, but also in Iran, Syria and the like. “So when we eat hummus or any other Middle Eastern dish, it is not cultural theft, it is just what we eat. We are from this region.”
There is a very interesting article talking about a very interesting book. The book is an autobiography detailing the life of an Israeli historian who was an Iraqi Jew, named Avi Shlaim. Shlaim wrote that he uncovered "incontrovertible evidence of Zionist underground involvement in bombings that were in Iraq that prompted a mass exodus of Jews from Iraq between 1950 and 1951." Those Iraqi Jews were, of course, relocated to Israel. The bombings at the time included attacks on a coffee shop, a car dealership, and a synagogue, among other attacks on Jewish communities and businesses. Three of those attacks on Jewish sites took place upon the orders of Meir Max Bineth, an Israeli intelligence officer who supplied Zionist intelligence operative Yusuf Basri with grenades, weapons, and TNT explosives. Bineth also allegedly provided Basri with maps, intelligence, and instructions, which included an order "to terrorize and not to kill." The Israeli officials, of course, have long rejected any Zionist underground or official Israeli involvement, and they instead blame them on Iraqi nationalists.
It is the same play over and over again. They do in secret what they know is wrong, and they blame it on the polity that did not do anything at all. Further on Mizrahi Jews, Haaretz reports, "In the years immediately following Israel's establishment, primarily from 1948 to 1954, more than 1,000 babies born to Yemenite immigrant families disappeared. According to a large number of accounts, the children disappeared either immediately after birth or after being hospitalized due to illness. Some of the families were told that their children had died, but they were not shown a body and did not receive a death certificate nor information on the burial. “In 2017, the state archives made hundreds of thousands of relevant documents accessible to the public. Although they contained damning accounts of official conduct, they did not find evidence of an institutionalized plan to abduct children. Following the disclosure of the documents, the Knesset convened a special committee to investigate the affair. The committee found widespread negligence, racist and remiss conduct on the part of officials, and carelessness in recording the details of hospitalized children, which in some cases, led to their adoption without the knowledge or consent of the biological parents.” These are the same Mizrahi Jews that Israel likes to prop up as a palm tree to gain moral cover when they steal and plunder the lands of Palestine, including its culture.
Another palm tree: international law and the moderation of violence. Blinken said on December 6th, "I have determined members of the Sudanese armed forces have committed war crimes and the rapid support forces have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing in Sudan. We stand with the people of Sudan in their demands for peace and civil democratic rule." Count the amount of palm trees he has planted in one statement. “War crimes,” “war crimes” again, “crimes against humanity,” “ethnic cleansing,” “stand with the people,” “civilian democratic rule.” All in less than one hundred words. Somehow, he has incredible moral clarity when it comes to this circumstance, but in the matter of Israel and Palestine, it is all debatable. In that matter, he says, "Well, they are doing all that they can to abide by international law. We are putting pressure on them. We need to limit and be moderate about the amount of damage that we are doing. They are doing their best. We are in their ear. Do not worry, we are telling them, 'Do not forget international law, it is very important.'"
I want to play a few clips that are very interesting. Hillary Clinton recently put out a video addressing the sexual violence women taken hostage by Hamas allegedly endured. In the video, she says:
“As you well know, many women and girls were attacked brutally by Hamas on October 7th, and they have testified to the gender-based violence that they both experienced and witnessed. As a global community, we must respond to weaponized sexual violence, wherever it happens, with absolute condemnation. There can be no justifications and no excuses. Rape, as a weapon of war, is a crime against humanity. Such atrocities have no place in any society or any conflict. It is outrageous.”
Pay close attention to the language she used, along with this recent clip of White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on The View, in which she discusses these ongoing conversations with Israel about the reports of rape and sexual violence.
“The truce between Israel and Hamas has collapsed, but there are still about 130 hostages, including eight Americans. What is happening behind the scenes to get negotiations back on track and how do you negotiate with a terrorist group that is reportedly engaging in brutal rape, sexual violence and warns that October 7th was just the beginning?”
“So much there in that question and you are correct. We have to remember what happened on October 7th. October 7th, we saw a terrorist organization, Hamas, brutalize, slaughter innocent people. That is what we saw and what Israel has been-”
“I understand there were rapes also?”
“There were rapes, as you just laid out, there were rapes. And I want to be very clear on this, rape is reprehensible and when you use rape as a form of a weapon of war, that is reprehensible and we have called that out.
“Not to mention, an international law crime.”
“Exactly right, and that is, we have to call that out and that is something that the President and we all will continue to do. So look, as you just said, the humanitarian pause, now, has ended. We are having conversations with Israel, we are having conversations with Egypt and others in the region to continue that conversation, but really, the group or organization that is stopping that, is Hamas. Because as you are asking me about the rape and the brutalization of women, one of the things that Israel has asked for, is for a list of these women who are being held hostage and they are not going to give up. Israel is not going to give up on these women and so-”
“And their babies, too.”
“And their babies.”
“A three-month-old baby was kidnapped, my God.”
“And Hamas is refusing, refusing, refusing to provide that list and so therefore, the humanitarian pause has paused. But we want that to continue because what has happened with that humanitarian pause that lasted for a couple of days, is that we were able to bring almost a hundred hostages home back to their families and to their loved ones, and also continue that humanitarian aid that the people in Gaza truly, truly need. One of the things too, that I want people to understand and know, is that even though the humanitarian pause is stopped for the moment, Israel has continued to bring in or get in humanitarian aid, which is really important, at the same level during the humanitarian pause. So that is important for folks to note, but we want to go back to having that pause.”
Can you count the number of moral palm trees they planted to give themselves cover? Ultimately, what they are saying is, “We are allowed to keep bombing them, because it is really all their fault. They will not give the hostages back, and there is sexual violence,” and the list continues. It is really interesting. You can listen to Kamala Harris on December 7th. The language is unified among all of them. Hillary Clinton is not even in office, so who is giving her the talking points? Kamala Harris says, "We have seen horrific reports of sexual assault by Hamas on October 7th. It is reprehensible, and it must be condemned. Rape can never be used as a weapon of war. I’ve spent my career protecting women and girls from heinous crimes of sexual violence and will continue to do so." All based on completely unsubstantiated reports. Just because it can be printed in an article does not mean it is true, or that people can kill as a result. No one receives a carte blanche to bomb everyone to shreds as a result of a report.
Let us see how committed they are to preventing rape as a weapon of war or as a weapon at all, or, as Harris puts it, to "...protecting women and girls from heinous crimes." So now she wants to protect Israeli girls from rape, heinous crimes, and sexual violence. Well, Ms. Harris, how about the Times of Israel, which reports that, "IDF officer charged with sexual assault of 3 female subordinates. A second lieutenant faces 11 counts of sodomy and forcible indecent acts that he allegedly committed using his command authority. In Haaretz, "A soldier killed herself after reporting she was raped. Now, Israeli army probe suspicions of negligence. Despite reporting the rape on the night it happened, the soldier was not taken to get her treatment and her complaint was not passed on.
How many times have we heard in the last two weeks, “Oh, we believe all women except for when it is Israeli women”? Again from Haaretz: "90% of rape cases in Israel closed without indictment, study finds. A report from the Association of Rape Crisis Centers and Israel finds a “40% increase in number of Israelis reporting sexual assault.” Haaretz again: "Three Israeli soldiers charged with raping, sodomizing female comrade. The indictment says that “air force men filmed the assault." NBC News: "At least 17 Israeli soldiers are being investigated in the statutory rape of an 11-year-old girl who lived with her family on Air Force base in Southern Israel."
Meanwhile, they and Blinken want me to believe, as Blinken himself claims, that a Hamas militant walked in on a family having breakfast, gouged out the eye of the father, ripped off the hair of the daughter, amputated the finger of the son, cut off the breast of the mother, and then killed the whole group. The story is almost like a weird fairytale. This supposed cut off breast is something that shows up over and over in different reports, though there are no substantiated reports, only rumors. Similar stories even go as far as saying that children were thrown into the oven and burnt alive.
There is something very interesting that people have noticed among the pro-Palestinian movement. When it comes to the Israelis, every accusation is an admission. There is testimony from those Israelis who were involved in the Nakba of 1948, and they attest to doing these very things, including throwing a child into a kiln oven that was used for bread, and when the father cried and weeped, they picked him up and they threw him in too.
Let us look at someone else, a non-Muslim. I do not even know if Gabor Maté believes in God, but what I do know about Gabor Maté is that he is a Hungarian-Canadian physician and psychologist who has done an amazing amount of work on trauma. As far as I know, he has also raised two children that are fantastically courageous toward dedicating their lives towards truth, specifically his son Aaron Maté. As Jews and ex-Zionists who were sold the lie of Zionism, they have taken the time to educate themselves about what actually happened in Palestine, not just in 1948, but dating back to before the British Mandate.
Gabor Maté, a man who is committed to morality, said in response to Benjamin Netanyahu: "I completely agree with Netanyahu. The light will triumph over the darkness." He is referring to the statement in which Netanyahu said that the light will triumph over darkness, the light being the Israelis or, at least, the military machine that belongs to Israel, while the Palestinians are the children of darkness. Maté says, "The light will triumph over the darkness. He is just a bit confused as to what represents light and darkness. He is one of the darkest minds on the world stage right now, and he dares quote scripture." Another palm tree.
"I will give him scripture. The Tanakh says, ‘One should not oppress the stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger. You who yourself were strangers in Egypt.’ Netanyahu has devoted his career to oppressing the other, and he dares to prattle on about light. With him and with many other politicians, turn off the sound and just listen to their body language. What we are seeing is a person who is heavily alienated from his humanity and committed to his evil. As they say in Hungarian, whatever Netanyahu says is so false, not even the opposite is true. “Yes Bibi, the light will triumph, despite whatever you do, and you have lots of power to impose a lot of suffering, and you will, because that is your nature. That is what you are committed to do." Netanyahu's nature was not born evil. It was the culmination of decisions that he made. It was his lack of courage to stand up to a machine of terror the way that Gabor Mate's family had.
We go back to the story of Banu Nadir and the planting of the palm trees in front of their fortress. The help that they were relying on never arrived, and there is a very important reason why. I believe the culmination of all the surahs seem to suggest that this is the answer. The answer that Surah al-Hashr talks about is the striking of doubt in the hearts. They lost their will, and they gave up. Their fortress collapsed, and it was broken by their hand and by the hand of the believers. That coming apart was the realization of the power of what the Muslim polity had on its side in comparison to themselves. The comparison was that they signed a treaty and then broke the treaty. They then made a new treaty with a new group, and the other group broke their treaty with them. They gave their word to induce reliance from the Muslims, and they then had hopes of being able to rely on another group of deceitful individuals. And the only thing they received in return was deceit.
What was it that actually caused them to lose? What caused them the fear of doubt? What caused their hearts to go in different directions was witnessing the absolute commitment of the Muslims to a moral stance and a principle. The Muslims did not care what the standards were. At least in that instance, they did not take seriously the accusations that they were the immoral group, because they had now seen Banu Nadir for who they were, deceitful. They knew that Banu Nadir lacked the courage that it takes to stand up, stand by their word, and stand by the principle of following through, being trustworthy, and trying their absolute hardest to procure the best way forward. The Muslims, however, did not need to be chided by Banu Nadir when they were in the circumstances of deciding whether or not to cut down beloved palm trees. They were way ahead of them. That accusation that was leveled was just the spin machine.
That spin machine exists today for the West as a whole, in the form of women's rights, democracy, international law, humanitarian pauses, humanitarian cargo, humanitarian food, the United Nations, and in the climate conference that was In Sharm El Sheikh last year and is in Dubai this year. An absolute joke. The worst part is that the surrounding countries that could come to the aid of the Palestinians, that are supposedly Muslim countries, decided not to take the playbook of the early Muslims who were debating whether or not to cut down the palm trees. No, they take the playbook of Banu Nadir. They spin, greenwash, pink wash, blue wash, buy soccer teams, buy players, build invisible cities in the sand, and build another Ka'ba. Anything to distract. Anything to show progress. Anything to pretend. Anything to show that they are committed to spinning and planting as many palm trees as possible to provide cover for their treachery and lack of moral principle.
Before I end, there was some very bitter news that came to anyone who has been following Palestinian voices in Gaza before and during this war. This is the news that we have lost the voice of Professor Refaat Alareer. I would like to eulogize him, to a degree. Obviously, I do not know him, but the pain that I felt yesterday made me feel that he was a friend. He did not know who I was, but he was my friend.
I am thankful to Mohammed Sulaiman, “@GazaSubaltern” on X, who eulogized his teacher. He says of Professor Refaat, “In my first class at university, Intro to English Literature, Refaat mentioned the word 'ideology' and asked in passing if we knew what it meant. I put my hand up and said hesitatingly, 'a way of thinking', he stood next to me, gave me a pat on the shoulder and said, 'Brilliant!' Refaat inspired me. He made me who I am. He instilled in me the love of what can be called 'discursive resistance.' He introduced me to Edward Said. He praised me as his top student, and continued to do so years after I graduated. Those who know me know what Refaat was to me.
“My parents, friends, and classmates knew how much I respected and looked up to Refaat. He taught me Shakespeare, John Donne, Wordsworth, and Andrew Marvell. He taught me Edward Said, Chinua Achebe, and Hannah Arendt. Refaat was a visionary. He made a community out of our cohort of male and female English language students through a private online platform called ‘Eye on Palestine’. We used to go online, write prose and poetry, engage in online banter, play games, and organize trips. Many students used to avoid Refaat's classes. They thought he was strict and taught heavy content. He did not keep it basic. He made us read whole novels and plays. No Sparknotes. He taught us everything and told us not to worry as we did not have to remember everything he said.
“Refaat was an idol to so many of us. He was our teacher, but he was more than that. He was a friend, a mentor, a guide, and so much more. He was devoted to his parents, his family, his friends, his students, and his people. Refaat was a special kind of fighter. I went on to become a university teacher myself. Everytime my students expressed admiration for me and my teaching methods, I'd tell them "it's because I too once had inspirational teachers', instantly thinking of Dr Refaar Alareer, Abo Omar, Gaza's writer martyr.”
I want to leave you with his last testimony, which was a poem he wrote, titled “If I must die.”
If I must die,
you must live
to tell my story
to sell my things
to buy a piece of cloth
and some strings
(make it white with a long tail)
so that a child, somewhere in Gaza
while looking heaven in the eye
awaiting his dad who left in ablaze-
and bid no one farewell
not even his flesh
not even to himself-
sees the kite, my kite you made, flying up above
and thinks for a moment an angel is there bringing back love
If I must die
let it bring hope
let it be a tale
They are killing our teachers. Our teachers are our past, our present, and our future. I feel this pain very deeply. This is a significant death.