By Ramzy Baroud
Dear friends, thank you for your support and encouragement. I just finished my sixth full marathon for Palestine and Gaza. My first Marathon was in Canada in 2007. It was soon after Israel placed Gaza under a hermetic siege, and my latest was today, in Seattle, in honor of the sacrifices of the men, women and children that make Gaza the incredibly inspiring place that it is.
I ran my first Marathon with untold frustration and resentment of all that has befallen our people – the siege, the once promising but later botched democracy, the regional and international plot against Gaza, and the most tragic fighting between the brethren in Hamas and Fatah. But today I ran with untold pride because of the resistance of the Palestinian people in Gaza against Israel's last war.
The courage of my people is humbling. When I committed, nearly two months ago to run the Seattle Marathon in support of the empowerment projects carried out by the wonderful and tireless activists at Viva Palestina Malaysia, I hadn't yet began training. My training schedule was delayed because of health issues, which at the time seemed modest enough. But a month later, my appendix burst, my abdominal area was badly infected, and other serious issues emerged. I was told that it was very serious since the ruptured appendix was not discovered (believe it or not) for few days. "You are lucky to be in the world of the living," I was told at the hospital later by a barely sympatric physician. The rational thing was to postpone my marathon, but I couldn't.
Heavy narcotic medications sidelined me much of the recent war. I had to cancel all of my speaking engagements, and only did few media interviews. My pride of Gaza was partly overshadowed by my inability to be in the trenches, fighting the misinformation war launched by Israeli and corporate US media.
The war on Gaza this time was different. True, it demonstrated the apathy of Israel to any humanitarian concern, and the fact that nothing has changed as far as its unabashedly criminal tactics - targeting children and civilians, journalists, places of worship, schools and more. I thought, for once I want to run a marathon urged on by the sense of triumph of ordinary people, not the anguish of the violence to which they are exposed. Friends advised me otherwise. I didn't dare tell my doctors of my plans, especially as the stiches are still in place, marking three cuts that span my abdominal, left, right and center. But one photo, one single phone of a child with a cracked and stitched skull raising a victory sign from a Gaza hospital bed was enough to wake me up this morning.
I haven't done any serious marathon training since last February, and my 'longest run' since the surgery was a very pitiful jog few days ago of exactly one mile. Running a full marathon seemed an impossible feat. But this morning, after receiving a ride to downtown Seattle from an ever-kind friend, I stood at the start line. I read al-Fatiha for Gaza's martyrs. I thought of the people I know who were killed in this most recent war, of family members and friends and neighbors killed in other wars, but also of the unbowed, undefeated people of Gaza. I ran accompanied with the image of the badly wounded boy raising a victory sign in an impossible defiance.
Initially, I thought few miles would be enough to have me honor my commitment to the fundraiser organizers. But it was not. Gaza was on my mind every step of the way, and I couldn't justify to myself quitting the race. I kept running for the entirety of the race, all 26.2 miles (42.195km). Half a mile before the finish line, my beautiful daughter, Zarefah (who carries her grandmother's name, and legacy – you would know who Zarefah is if you read my last book MY FATHER WAS A FREEDOM FIGHTER: GAZA'S UNTOLD STORY). She wore a green shirt that read: "Support Ramzy's Run. VIVA PALESTINA MALAYSIA. Empower the Women of Gaza." We finished the run holding hands. She told me she was proud of me. I told her I am proud of her, of Gaza, of Palestine.
Even when I stepped passed the finish line, I thought of Gaza, of the little defiant boy, of how difficult the last six years have been, of people's steadfastness, but also of the challenges that lie ahead. I was filled with hope and vigor.
Sometimes military definitions of victories and defeat are of little importance. In Gaza, real victory is resistance and real defeat is surrender. For me, born and raised in a Gaza refugee camp, and spending years researching and writing about Gaza, I tell you with conviction that Gaza will emerge victorious because surrender doesn't exist in its people's collective vocabulary. Sure, the heavy narcotic medications are starting to kick in as pain slowly takes over. But now that is least of my concern. As long as Gaza is not on its knees (and it will never be), neither am I, nor any of us.
I would like to thank Viva Palestina Malaysia and all of its dedicated activists for their generosity in sponsoring my run, my loving family, all of my friends who supported me in all my work - writing, speaking or running and every person or organization that extends a hand of love and friendship to Gaza and Palestine. But most of my gratitude goes to the little boy with a long cut around his beautiful face for his bravery, for believing in himself, in his people, and for allowing us to believe in ourselves as well. It is him, and many more like him, that makes Gaza what it is today: A place of legendary courage, undying resistance and ample hope.
Friends, if you thought my efforts and Gaza deserve your support, please visit Viva Palestine Malaysia and donate, even if just few dollars using your paypal account or credit card. Every dollar helps, as every step is crucial to complete nearly 33,000 steps marathon.
For me resistance is a marathon, hard, arduous and painful, but ultimately it will take us to that finish line, to the rendezvous of victory, and what a sweet moment it is.
Please support Viva Palestina Malyasia: Empower the Women of Gaza.
– Ramzy Baroud (ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com.
His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story.