Monday, October 8, 2007

Guevara...from Gaza

On the 40th Anniversary of his death Ernesto Che Guevara still inspires Arab youths just as he does for millions around the world. While some in Islamists and Arab Nationalists circles claim that he has been replaced in the hearts of many by home-grown 'revolutionaries' such as Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah of the Lebanese Hezbollah, or even Osama Ben Laden, it is likely their appeal will remain bound by the limits of their sectarian, religious or nationalist message. The Comandante for his part is accessible to anyone from hardcore nostalgic leftists to unawaring fashion victims.Whether he wished for himself this diluted mythical status is another story.


Che Guevara, for some an Intifada hero (Monday, July 02, 2001)
By Christine Hauser

GAZA (Reuters) - Every revolution has its role models and for some Palestinians fighting an uprising against Israeli occupation theirs is spray-painted on Gaza City streets.
With his beard and black beret, the Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara is an unlikely image beside the street art of Palestinians hurling grenades at Israeli tanks or blowing up Israeli buses, the usual fare of the Intifada, or uprising.
Like the graffiti praising the work of militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad or extolling Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, Guevara's face gets larger-than-life treatment.

There it is on the corner of Bassateen Street. Or on the wall circling the United Nations refugee agency in Gaza City.
"He was a revolutionary, and that is what we are doing now," said Akram Abu Nada, a middle-aged Palestinian, as he walked past the Guevara painting on Bassateen Street, a road where ambulances screech by on their way to the hospital from the flashpoint Karni Crossing.
Argentinian-born Guevara saw peasant-based revolutionary movements as a remedy for social inequities and was a major figure in Cuba's communist revolution before his murder in 1967. He was a tactician of guerrilla warfare.
While much Guevara street art predated the Palestinian uprising which erupted last September, some see him as embodying the spirit of their struggle to end Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where they want their own state.
"He is not a model for all Palestinians, mostly the leftists. But we as Moslems fighting in the Intifada relate to him. He was a man of struggle and so are we," Abu Nada said.
Osama Abu-Middain, a deputy hotel manager in Gaza, has been a leftist since he was a teenager and says Arab leaders could benefit from Che-style politics. He wears a black Che T-shirt.
"Arab leaders and presidents sit in their chairs until they die and then they sign it over to their kids," Abu-Middain said, his office decked with framed photographs of his hero. "We need somebody like this man."
One Palestinian journalist has a Che Guevara icon programmed into his mobile phone. Shirts and wallets with Che's face can be purchased in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Abu-Middain said.
Palestinians have been named after him. One of them is Palestinian journalist Jivara Budeiri.
"Many Palestinians see him as a symbol so they can change things," she said. "And the revolution will yield a real state which everyone knows as Palestine."
Budeiri, who was born in 1976, said the spelling of her name was Arabised when she was a student to more closely resemble Arabic sounds. "But sometimes in personal correspondence I sign it Guevara," she said.


Ali al-Qatawi, general secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), said Guevara has inspired Palestinian leftist movements such as his own.
"We try to benefit from his experiment," said Qatawi, sitting in a fifth-floor office in Gaza, his cigarette smoke wafting up towards a picture of Che Guevara pinned to a cabinet. An old photograph of the revolutionary adorns the window.
The opposition PFLP leaned toward transforming Arab society along Marxist-Leninist lines after it was established in 1967.
Its armed "Guevara of Gaza Brigade" claimed responsibility for an attack by a Palestinian driver who rammed his vehicle into a crowd of Israelis at a bus stop during the current uprising, killing eight. He was arrested by police.
"The Cuban revolution was made up of workers, the poor and farmers. We in the PFLP say the liberation movement of our land from occupation cannot but end to the benefit of those people. Otherwise it has no meaning," Qatawi said. "If the land goes from one group to another it does not help."
Throughout the uprising, Palestinian youths in poor refugee camps clash with the Israeli army, which has razed farmland in what it calls security steps for the 6,000 Jewish settlers living among more than one million Palestinians in Gaza Strip.
Agriculture revenues drained away for Palestinians and thousands lost jobs because of closures on Palestinian areas.
About 600 people, most of them Palestinians, have been killed in the uprising.
"All the Palestinians who have died so far in the Intifada are the Che Guevaras of Gaza," Qatawi said.


Ask Qatawi for a meeting to discuss Guevara, and he will ask you which one you mean.
"There is the Che Guevara of Argentina and the 'Guevara of Gaza'," said Qatawi.
Mohammad al-Aswad, the "Guevara of Gaza", was born in 1946 in the Mediterranean coastal city of Haifa, in what is now Israel. The humble beginnings of the Palestinian activist are enough to make any socialist proud.
According to the PFLP's three-page leaflet of his biography, the boy and his family were displaced after the 1948 birth of the Jewish state, and ended up in the poverty of a Gaza refugee camp, where he grew up. He studied in Egypt but returned after a year, his family unable to support him.
He became a resistance activist against Israel, was jailed for two years and then on his release in 1970 joined the ranks of the Popular Front in military and training operations.
Aswad was killed in a Gaza battle in 1973.
"Don't forget your martyr comrades, your detained comrades, or our duty to provide for the needy," he was quoted as saying.
"Our people place every hope in the revolution."
His widow, Wedad, works in the Ministry of Social Affairs. She has married again, to another leftist.
"He was a martyr," she said of her late husband. "If he was alive today he would still be working for the revolution."

This Article was taken from

The Picture was taken by Justin McIntosh in August 2004 and can be found on

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