Basel Al-A’raj, a 31-year-old Palestinian from Bethlehem, a pharmacist, intellect, and struggler was enrolled in March in the list of heroes executed by Israeli occupation forces on the path of liberating Palestine.
After months of searching, the Israeli occupation failed to capture A’raj alive. The latter engaged in an individual battle that lasted for two hours against the Israeli force that attacked his shelter, to later seize his body and keep it in captivity.
Soon after A’raj was announced dead, hashtag “the battling intellect” emerged on social media and activists began informing about this hero who they’ve concealed his name for months due to their fear over his life.
Only two days ago the name Bassel Al-A’raj was not popular. Today A’raj’s blood restored a retaliatory spirit that united supporters of military resistance and intellectual resistance.
“I have never imagined that this educated and thin young man, who I have met in Beirut two years ago, would take the military option. We, writers and journalists, prefer saying that we are fighting the enemy intellectually and culturally, but Bassel Al-A’raj was the most noble amongst us; he combined intellectual and military resistance…” journalist Qassem Qassem wrote for Al-Akhbar newspaper.
Here lies the significance of this young man who fought the Israeli enemy in all possible ways and had the concern of preserving the Palestinian history in its smallest details.
“He was highly educated and conscious, and was a reference in the Palestinian culture to many journalists and activists inside and outside the occupied territories. If he was asked about a certain Palestinian costume he would explain the history of this costume as well as the region and the family it belonged to… he was more like an encyclopedia,” a friend of A’raj told Al-Manar website.
Khodor Salameh, Lebanese activist, another friend of A’raj, indicated that “Bassel was a knowledge fortune in every field. He arranged between religion and society. He was capable of establishing a local social science rather than an imported one. He had a story to tell about every village, street or stone in Palestine. He knew the names of all the battles and martyrs.”
A’raj used to arrange educational tours for Palestinian youth and tourists inside Palestine. He took them to the regions in which Palestinians battled against the British and Israelis. He also worked on documenting Palestinian revolts and history, from before the Nakba (catastrophe).
Speaking to Al-Manar website, Salameh explained that “Bassel saw the road to Palestine was a straight one without any neutrality or curves. He was dedicated to document the Palestinian cause, writing its history, and transferring it from one generation to another… He was a devouring reader and a ‘battler’… unlike many people, he was a very good listener, and he concluded every conversation with the name of a book, reference, or an article.”
“He had a clear project that was based on resistance, as he was very influenced by the Lebanese experience in the field of resistance,” Salameh added.
In 2015 A’raj attended the Conference of Supporting the Resistance in Beirut. As soon as he returned to Palestine he disappeared for a week along with a couple of young men.
The Palestinian Authority stated that this group was arranging for a military operation against Israelis. In parallel, the Israelis claimed that this group was recruited by Hezbollah in Lebanon. Only one week later, the Palestinian Authority captured A’raj and his friends who denied preparing for any operation claiming that they were on a camping trip.
The Palestinian authority imprisoned A’raj and his friends in Bitonia prison. In concurrence, Palestinian Authority Chief Mahmoud Abbas appeared on Israeli Channel 10 saying that he had stopped a big operation that was going to target the Israelis.
A’raj and his friends were tortured in prison. The Palestinian ‘battler’ who had diabetes was denied medication which influenced his health. They launched a hunger strike that lasted for one month, then the Palestinian Authority released them 6 months after detention.
As soon as they were released, and based on the Israeli-Palestinian Authority Security Coordination Policy, which includes exchange of information between the two sides, the PA sent the report of investigation with A’raj and his friends to the Israel.
Reportedly, the PA arranges with the Zionist authorities so that the latter would capture the prisoners that the PA releases. Hence, the Palestinian Authority would deny any accusation of capturing resistance fighters.
The Israeli-PA Security Coordination Policy was identified in the Taba agreement of 1995, which stated that the Palestinian Authority was responsible for preventing “terrorists and terrorism” and taking the right measures against them. This takes places through a joint Palestinian-Israeli committee which confiscates the resistance weapons, specifically Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
The Palestinian Authority halted the security coordination after the eruption of Al-Aqsa Intifada (uprising) in 2000. It was restored when Mahmoud Abbas reached power. On that occasion, Zionist Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said: “We see great opportunities in the election of Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. We hope he will be able to lead his people and create a democratic law respecting society that will build its institutions, fight terrorism and dismantle the infrastructure of terrorist organizations.”
“Bassel’s stance from the Palestinian Authority was basic in his revolutionary rhetoric, as he clearly believed that this organization had a limited job to perform, and if it weren’t for the benefit of the occupation, the world wouldn’t have permitted its establishment in the first place,” Salameh pointed out.
Due to this great loss, a revolutionary atmosphere dominated social media, as the subject of A’raj’s martyrdom went viral in the past three days in at least four countries (Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt and Jordan).
According to Salameh “This is a transitional point. Today, we are supposed to build on Bassel’s experience rather than grieve over his departure. We must transform Bassel into an ongoing battling intellectual path that refutes any form of coordination, normalization or peace.”
“I am confident that the departure of Bassel will have a backlash on the murderers: The Authority which is executing any form of resistance, and the Israeli that produced tens of thousands of heroes and redirected the compass of thousands of other intellects by assassinating Bassel Al-A’raj.”