The Mockingjay of Palestine: 'If We Burn, You Burn With Us'
O2 January 2015
By Ramzy Baroud
Raed Mu'anis was my best friend. The small scar on top
of his left eyebrow was my doing at the age of five. I
urged him to quit hanging on a rope where my mother
was drying our laundry. He wouldn't listen, so I threw
a rock at him.
I didn't mean for the rock hit him, but it did. My
father dragged to me to his house kicking and
screaming, while carrying a colourful rubber ball and
a doll for gifts. I was mostly embarrassed that I hurt
my best friend.
Several years later, Raed, now 15, was shot by Israeli
soldiers as he helped our neighbours dig a grave for a
kindly man who was killed by Israeli troops earlier in
the day, while performing Eid prayers.
On that day, my father had taken us to extend holiday
greetings to relatives in a nearby refugee camp in
Gaza when the "Eid Massacre" took place in my home
camp of Nuseirat. Every holiday there seemed to be a
massacre. Nuseirat, the rebellious camp of resilient
refugees was chosen on that particular Muslim holiday
to be taught a lesson. Raed was one of that day's many
A friend told me that Raed was bleeding profusely as
he ramblingly walked soon after the Israeli army
chopper shot him. He arrived to my house, which was
adjacent to the graveyard, and desperately knocked at
the door yelling my mother's name: "Auntie Zarefah,
please open the door!"
But my mother was already dead. She was buried in the
"martyrs' graveyard," where my grandparents, both
refugees from historic Palestine, were also laid to
rest. The tiny grave of my oldest brother, Anwar was
also there. He died at the age of two because my
father had no money to treat him at a proper hospital.
Raed is now buried only a few feet away.
I could have never imagined myself drawing parallels
between Nuseirat, and its heroic people and a
Hollywood movie; the struggle of my people is too
sacred to make such comparisons. But I couldn't help
it as I watched the latest from the Hunger Games
franchise, "Mockingjay." A feeling of anger initially
overwhelmed me when I saw the districts destroyed by
the heartless rulers of the Capitol. As I watched the
movie, only Palestine, but particularly the Gaza
resistance was on my mind.
The Capitol - with unmatched military technology and
access to an enormous media apparatus - was
unstoppable in its brutality. Its rulers, who claimed
to have superiority over all the inhabitants of the
dystopia of Panem, had no moral boundaries whatsoever.
The Hunger Games, the story's version of a reality
television show, was created as an annual event to
celebrate the victory of Capitol over a previous
revolt by the districts. It also served as a reminder
of what the Capitol was capable of if anyone dared to
rise up again in the future. The show's participants -
mostly children who were chosen or volunteered in a
process called the "reaping" - came from every
district. The contestants had to kill one another for
the amusement of the Capitol, which drew its strength
from the division and oppression of others.
But the districts rebelled. They ought to. They
resisted because there can be no other response to
systematic oppression but resistance. District 13 was
annihilated early on so that the rest of the districts
dare not entertain any ideas aside from the Capitol's
insistence that resistance is futile. Panem's ruthless
president was adamant at referring to those who defied
the Capitol as "radicals," and not "rebels." At times,
the Capitol tried to turn the districts against one
another, inciting civil war.
The Gaza connection became too stark to miss when
Katniss, one of the early "tributes," and the symbolic
"Mockingjay" of the resistance uttered these words
soon after the Capitol bombers destroyed a hospital
full of unarmed men, women and children, killing
everyone: "I want to tell the people that if you think
for one second the Capitol will treat us fairly if
there's a cease-fire, you're deluding yourself.
Because you know who they are and what they do." The
similarities in this drama were eerily similar to the
bombing and complete destruction of al-Wafa hospital
in Gaza in late July of this year, the only
rehabilitation centre in the strip for thousands of
victims of Israeli atrocities.
Her message to the Capitol: "You can torture us and
bomb us and burn our districts to the ground, but do
you see that? Fire is catching! And if we burn, you
burn with us!"
It is as if the author of the Hunger Games, Suzanne
Collins knows so much about Gaza; as if she had
fashioned her stories to tell of a real fight between
a brutal Capitol, called Israel, and rebellious
districts called Palestine; it is as if Gaza is
district 13; and that despite attempts at repeated
annihilation for the last 65 years, but particularly
two genocidal wars in 2008-9 and 2014, the resistance
is still alive.
Does Collins know that Katniss, who didn't choose such
a fate, but had to step up in defence of her people,
is represented in thousands of men, women, and yes,
children of Gaza? Does she know that her stories were
already written and enacted by real people, who may
never have heard of her franchise and may never live
to watch her movies? Does she know that criminal
leaders such as President Snow are not something of
fantasy, but they actually exist, here today in the
persons of Benjamin Netanyahu and countless other
Israeli leaders who call for the absolute annihilation
of Gazans at a whim?
As for Gaza's Hunger Games, the similarities are
Just before Israel imposed sever economic sanctions on
Gaza, to punish Palestinians for the result of their
democratic elections, top Israeli government advisor,
Dov Weisglass made a spine-chilling promise: "The idea
is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make
them die of hunger." (AFP, February 16, 2006). This
was not a passing statement.
After much legal wrangling, an Israeli human rights
group, Gisha, managed to obtain documents that showed
that Israel's official policy in Gaza since then was
that of "deliberate policy of near-starvation," and
that "security" had nothing to do with the Gaza
In Israel's Operation Cast Lead, over 1,400
Palestinians were killed and 5,500 wounded. But in
Israel's latest war the price tag for resistance was
increased to 2137. More are still dying from their
Gaza stands in ruins. Entire neighbourhoods were
destroyed, villages erased and whole families
annihilated. Hundreds of schools, hospitals and
mosques were blown up in an orgy of death and
Yet the resistance is yet to be defeated in Gaza.
Because resistance is not men and women with guns.
Resistance is an idea, pure in its intentions,
romantic, at times, maybe, but certainly the work of
an entire collective, who had chosen to die fighting,
if they must, but never live carrying the shackles of
Not even the chilling words of Moshe Feiglin, deputy
speaker of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) were
enough to intimidate Gaza. In his Facebook plan to
destroy the resistance on 1 August, 2014, Feiglin
called for the "conquest of the entire Gaza Strip, and
annihilation of all fighting forces and their
supporters," in addition to pushing its remaining
inhabitants into concentration camps near the Sinai
desert. "In these areas, tent encampments will be
established, until relevant emigration destinations
Feiglin, and his prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu,
among many others in Israel's political and military
establishment, are real life leaders of the Capitol,
which is allowed to operate with complete impunity
against the oppressed districts of Palestine.
And like the Mockingjay which was resurrected against
great odds, Gaza will remain the rebellious district.
The blood of its "near-starved" children will someday
unite all districts against the Capitol. Then, all the
voices that doubted the wisdom of the resistance will
be diminished by the loud, but harmonious chanting of
a united people. As the resistance continues,
Palestinians everywhere will express their victory and
defiance with by raising four fingers, Egypt's "raba'a",
just as the rebels of the 13 districts expressed by
Till then, the Mockingjay of Palestine, the thousands
of living martyrs will continue to circulate the skies
singing the song of a rebellious nation.
"Are you, Are you
Coming to the tree
Where I told you to run, so we'd both be free
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree."
If only the other districts would rise…
- Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated
columnist, a media consultant, an author and the
founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is
My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story
(Pluto Press, London).