Wafia Barghouthi, the mother of BDS co-founder, Omar Barghouthi, passed away in Amman on Friday, while Israeli Occupation Authorities ban him from travel.
In May 2016, Israel effectively imposed a travel ban on him by refusing to renew his residency document, and Barghouthi was unable to travel to Jordan to be with his mother for cancer surgery.
This is what he wrote:
“Today, I experienced a personal Nakba. I am rarely broken, but today I am.
At 6:30 am, my beloved mother, Wafieh, which translates to loyal or faithful, passed away in her home in Amman, unexpectedly, swiftly, at the age of 76. She died on September 14, a day after the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, without any apparent connection. Or so it seems.
My mother was born in Jerusalem in 1942, six years before the Nakba. She never cared much for Valentine’s Day, and she despised the “tacky red heart-shaped merchandise” that came along with it, but she was born on it.
They found her this morning on her kitchen floor with half a lemon in her hand, a smile on her face, and her suitcase at the door.
She was preparing her daily lemon water, to improve her immunity, as she was set to travel in a couple of hours — accompanied by my wife, Safa — to celebrate her victory over breast cancer. I was not planning to travel with them as I am still effectively under an Israeli travel ban.
When I saw her last, it was in Ramallah, a week ago. She was happy that she has recovered well and that her fingernails were finally growing normally after she had lost them all during chemotherapy. “These little victories are absolutely necessary,” she said. “They nourish our willpower to keep the good fight against the monster inside.”
Once we were discussing the concepts of victimness and resistance whether pertaining to the struggle against settler-colonialism or to cancer. She told me, “I do not see myself primarily as a victim, although I am a survivor of cancer. I see myself as a fighter who cannot relent. But I am so fortunate to have had the love and care and to be able to get medical treatment. How many sisters with cancer in Gaza are not allowed to travel for treatment and cannot get treated in Gaza either due to the fascist siege? It is beyond cruel and criminal. It’s fascist. I do not know how much longer I’ll live, but I shall dedicate my time to fight for their and their loved ones’ right to have this most fundamental right of theirs respected.”
She then went on a tirade against the Palestinian leadership for “failing to fight for our most basic rights; not just the right of return for refugees but also the right to life itself.”
Those who know my mother would know that political tirades are a genuine part of her unique and intriguing character. She was a secular Nasserite (supporter of the late Arab leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser), a feminist, an avid reader of literature and politics, an incredible cook, an unwavering supporter of popular struggles the world over against all forms of injustice, a moderate addict of Facebook (much less so of Twitter), a fan of the BDS-supporting Jewish Voice for Peace (US), a cleanliness freak, and an exceptional care giver with the biggest heart possible.
That heart stopped today, for the last time.
She was loving, responsible, fiercely independent, and quite expressive of her loathing of Zionism, religious coercion, sexism, despotic Arab regimes and, of course, the target of her daily attacks, the “hopelessly corrupt, co-opted and treacherous” Palestinian leadership.
My father, who was less intense but no less resolute in fighting for his beliefs and for our people’s rights, shared many of her opinions on politics and society, but not all.
He passed away 12 years ago.
He was among the independent founders of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Jerusalem in 1964. Throughout his activity in the PLO in various positions (voluntary, not paid), he consistently opposed and often publicly condemned every effort by the leadership to surrender Palestinian rights.
After the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, he publicly attacked it, considering it a form of capitulation to Israel’s settler-colonial project. My mother was 100% in agreement with him. But she did not much like the fact that he still had to meet Palestinian leaders from various political parties to explain his opposition to Oslo.
Whenever those meetings happened in their home in Amman, his assorted guests of politicians had to listen to mother’s unsolicited views. She would use the occasion of offering hospitality (she is a great cook, as I said earlier, so everyone looked forward to tasting her delicacies) to pause and offer a piece of her fearless mind.
She would usually start by reminding them how women’s voices are becoming less and less heard in the movement, to its detriment. And then she would share with them her analysis of what’s wrong with the movement, why it has strayed away from the liberation path, and what needs to be done to recover.
I’ll miss her tirades, her profound views on life, her unconditional love, her willpower, and her world-class sitt-il-hussun (a Levantine dessert of a special dough stuffed with walnut, black sesame and cinnamon, fried and dipped into a sugary syrup).
My lawyer is still trying to get me a reprieve of the de facto travel ban imposed on me so I can attend my mother’s funeral in Amman. In contempt of a 2016 court decision, the Israeli Ministry of Interior has for more than two months failed to renew my travel document, without which I cannot travel.
They are trying to punish me for my role as a human rights defender in the BDS movement for Palestinian rights. They think they will break me or deter me. Little do they know that this branch comes from that tree, and that tree has its strong roots deep in the fertile ground of Palestinian identity, Palestinian quest for justice and freedom, Palestinian resistance and Palestinian insistence on life that is worth living.
Wafieh, you have lived a life of “loyalty” and “faith” to your principles, to your people’s struggle, to your loved ones. I shall forever be faithful to your loving memory and the lessons you have taught me.”