This is the fifth narrative in the series. As this post shows, these narratives are dynamic and ongoing; in many cases the authors’ future trajectory is unclear. As always, name is fictional and where necessary details are changed to protect identity. I have added a few notes in brackets to assist in understanding the story, but aside from that and minor editing, the story is entirely that of the narrator. The previous post can be read here. This narrative resonates with previous posts on two notes: 1. belief by the speaker (whether justified or not) that Israeli civilians are not targeted; 2. religion and religious instruction seem to be threatening to violent political activism, and is at best “reinterpreted” to justify continued action.
This is Daud’s tale:
“When I was 8 years old my older brother took me to my first meeting in an [politically active and presumably militant] organization. The group’s goal was to remove all Jews from Gaza, to free Gaza and ultimately, to take over and free all of Palestine. My brother was 12 years old at the time.
I learned to stand up for myself, to be strong, to stop being weak, stop playing around, start to understand that we need to fight for survival, because we are surrounded by enemies.
I turned 11 years old and almost all Jews were gone; then 2006 came and Hamas took over leadership of Gaza.
Our group disappeared, or merged together with Hamas.
I became a junior fighter for Hamas, which mostly meant to be in photos and on TV. There we had to stand proudly with weapons, chanting things and showing that even the younger generation was strong.
My brother became higher up in the Hamas hierarchy, I was still too young.
My parents were suspicious but often accepted it all, the things we told them, which was limited. We didn’t want to worry them too much. They took photos of the TV screen if we were on it.
In June and November of 2006 two major operations began, and I was confronted with the battles I been in training for; I was basically told to go out and carry out what I had practiced. Weapons handling.
I knew Gilad Shalit was captured, we were ready for revenge for that. We went out to meet the tanks, and the airplanes. I wasn’t sure what we would meet. I never really understood who the enemies were, what a Jew even was, and how I would know to find one or not. I was shot at many times, threw rocks and shot towards the tanks. I worked hard on not being afraid, not eating and not caring about other biological needs like sleeping.
In November the massacre was carried out by the Israeli regime. Houses were destroyed, and dozens of people died, and hundreds were injured. That led to the next operation. I was mainly in Beit Hanoun. At the end of the operation Israel attacked several houses with civilians inside. They called that a mistake, but we knew it was meant to happen and yet another massacre.
At the end of 2006 and 2007 the fight between us [Hamas] and Fatah began. It was during this that my brother died. I left Hamas because of their behavior towards our Palestinian brothers. I really didn’t like it. There were a lot of protests against me for doing this; they said they could let me become a shahid, a martyr for Palestine, getting access to the Israeli areas and making an attack. I said I really don’t want to. I am the oldest son now, since my brother died. I have to take care of my family. They accepted that, and I left Hamas when I was 13 years old. I spent 5 years with the organization. Then I decided to join another group, which opposes the Hamas rule, and that helps me to continue fighting for the freedom of Palestine.
I missed my brother a lot, he taught me so much, my other brother was 3 years old and too small to introduce to fighting, and my sister hated all sort of violence, even the slightest thing. I was active in my new group, and we attacked the border fence, attacked the Hamas marches, and in the beginning destroyed their brigades rocket launchers. We sabotaged them so they couldn’t shoot, or so the rocket wouldn’t go very far. Then our commander told us to stop that, because that prevented the enemies to be hit and in that way we helped the enemies.
All I knew of our enemies were armed men in military clothing yelling at me in a language I didn’t recognize, so I remember in my 13 year old mind that I thought all Jews must look like that.
In school I couldn’t focus because of the fighting. My parents were furious with me but I was very rebellious, and I didn’t listen so much. After a few years I realized that it hurt them so I studied harder. What was really hard to keep, and still is, is Islam. My religious studies only took place a few times, then mostly Hadith, but when asked about deeper meaning I noticed I was lacking. So I tried to study it more, but always felt that sure “this and that” is said. But now we are forced into the situation, then we have to be allowed to fight. [I.e. that what was being taught wasn’t relevant to situations at hand]
Small jihad became Greater jihad, Greater jihad became Small jihad. [Traditionally small/minor jihad refers to armed conflict with enemies, whereas greater jihad refers to internal striving for self-perfection] My dad and I had a large argument on my view of it, but I decided to keep it anyways.
When enemy troops came into Gaza, I went to battle with them directly. We shot at one another, the tank fire was of course most deadly but I didn’t care for my life. I cared for Gaza. I thought this was the enemies taking Gaza from us.
I was shot in the shoulder and arm, and despite all of my fitness training the pain was just too much. Then they fired teargas. Despite my two wounds I was able to get into a basement before they killed me. I wrapped my shirt around the arm to stop the bleeding but my shoulder was worse. Then I collapsed.
I woke up in a field hospital, being treated. But I heard the attacks in the background and was eager to get out again. I got a shoulder launcher from the commander, the first one I ever had. You know—the ones that shoot missiles from the shoulder. And I went on rooftops, because on the streets the regular people screamed in panic and ran away, which alarmed the enemies of course.
I don’t remember all of the details. I know I was shooting, but the memories are hazy. Short sequences: I know I hit targets but not exactly what. I know I might have killed people.
I wasn’t home anything during this time. My mom saw me on TV, and somehow my dad found me one night, sleeping on a rooftop, a grave sin of course [presumably because of the danger, but unclear].
He said to me, while dragging me home, that children have nothing to do in war. I yelled “I’m no child! I’m 14!” But he didn’t listen.
The commander got very angry of course. And I decided to go out again, without my parents knowing it. I fought more when I was facing the enemies, and I saw that they had as much hatred for me as I had for them.
My job was also to prevent the civilians from waving white flags and trying to seek protection from the enemies, which was unforgivable of course.
But then dad came again and kept me home. Until the war was over. I was thrown out of the group because my dad had me in total control. For one year I went to school, no fighting, improving my grades, and right after school I went straight home.
Three years after the death of my brother I became a guard for Hamas. I was 16 and got back in because I had contacts and I knew it brought us money. I told my parents that I was a guard but not for what. They accepted that.
I was guarding leaders and members, because civilians became harder and harder to control; anger against Hamas and the Brigades was boiling. And also other groups carried out attacks on them. When people gathered in crowds to protest I shot into the crowd to get them to stop. For several years I was a guard. I stopped one year ago, as a protest against Hamas. And this time I won’t return.
My network grew larger and I got both friends who were fighting and those who weren’t fighting. And we had arguments all the time. Some said that there are regular Jews also, not just the military clothed ones all around us. And that those weren’t different from us. I of course understood that in a way. But I didn’t care too much; it is the soldiers and the government of that regime that are my enemies, not the Jews themselves, even if I had friends which turned it all into death to ALL Jews and not only the enemies. But we attacked only enemies, we never ever carried out attacks against civilians, no one from Gaza ever did that. Only enemies were targeted. [This seems at odds with previous sentence; seems to be sincerely felt]
But that regime carried out massacres on civilians here in Gaza.
So the reactions to me, when I got Internet access in 2011 made no sense whatsoever. I avoided the enemies of course, those who had military clothing on their profile and those who wrote that they been or were in the IDF. I tried to talk with Israel Jews, but if not blocked, reported or threatened by them, I was told I should die, my people should die, the entire Gaza should be removed in blood, that my people didn’t exist, etc.
I also met people telling me that I scared them. I explained that I am a fighter, I attack enemies. Not them. They asked about the rockets. I said the rockets are to cause mass evacuation and pressure the government. To make it all collapse. No civilians die in those attacks. Suicide bombings were targeting enemies, and infrastructure, to cause mass panic. Stabbing and shooting attacks in West Bank or the enemy regime area were just independent acts by haters; only after the attack did an organization then claim to know the person, as a sign of prestige.
I took a break from any contact with them. In late 2012 I left Hamas. Soon afterwards I got married, and I felt it was more important to build a future than to fight right then. Of course I fight if it is needed to. I can’t just leave it all.
In summer 2013 I joined an online Palestinian group. I started chatting with a friend about another group he was in, where both Muslims and Jews interacted. He told me to be a member. I refused. Three months later I said ok. [This seems to be the first meaningful interaction for Daud with Jews—virtually—but how that affects him is as yet unclear]
In a way it is harder to meet the ones you talk about a lot. Because you have this image of hateful, angry, extreme people. I decided quickly not to get too close with anybody. Not become friends with anybody and question the members to see what’s true.”