I didn’t get to meet his family unfortunately. Our times kept on clashing. I did meet his grandson, Kareem, very briefly. I wanted to take a photo of him, but Musa had just woken him up to go to school and the poor kid was in tears because he wanted to sleep some more, so I told Musa I’d take a photo of him some other time but we didn’t see each other again. Musa is so fond of him, he speaks to him in the same way he’d speak to an adult. He’d take his advice on how and where to park the car, and when the plan fails he reasons with him to try a different approach.
The only time I got to have a really long conversation with him was when he invited me over for a sleepover. I came with a friend and he made us dinner himself. He’s a brilliant cook by the way. He made Maqlooba, the dish that looks like a sandcastle with the meat on top of the rice, and a layer of eggplant between them. He apologized, he said that if he had the help of his wife’s cookery skills the dish would have been much better. He was being modest, it was delicious.
We spoke a lot about the problems between the different factions, movements and individuals in Hebron. He’s very, very bitter towards a large section of the Palestinian street, in Palestine generally, but in Hebron and the old city especially. He spoke about people using their close proximity to H2 to make demands and ask for favors. He pointed out to me some specific individuals who were using the resistance as a means to achieve public status and fame. How the majority of them have political and or economic ambitions, and the existence of the occupation is very convenient for them: “They don’t want the occupation to end.”
I wasn’t surprised by this at all, I guess it happens under any system of oppression. But the painful thing is to know some of these people personally and to have to work with them nonetheless in order to get anything done on the ground. I think so much of where Musa’s fatigue comes from, is him having to see and work with these people every single day.
He told me about his time in prison in Al Naqab. He said that even though the prison conditions of those days were much worse then they are now, he would be much more scared to go to prison today. In those days he said, you felt that you were going to prison for a cause, and the political parties and the workshops that developed inside the prison system reflected that sense of purity and commitment. It would be an insult, he said, for negotiators to try bargaining the Palestinian cause, by using the prisoners of those days as negotiating chips. “We wouldn’t want to be used in an exchange of any sort, we wouldn’t be relieved to get out of prison if that was the price. Today, the leadership finds it very convenient that the families of the prisoners are demanding that they be used in negotiations with the Israeli side. Because the leadership knows it can get nothing of significance from Israel, and so it uses these prisoner release deals as a means to pacify the population and to showcase some tangible achievement, even though Israel will arrest just as many if not more as it has released within a couple of days and the cycle starts again.”
I’ve paraphrased what he said about the prisoner exchange as best I can remember. He spoke about this particular issue quite a bit, and I agree with what he said. I think even the families of the prisoners know that there’s something rotten at the core of what the leadership is doing, but maybe their viewing of the helplessness of the Palestinian side, just makes them glad to get their imprisoned children back home before the whole thing collapses and they get nothing.