By Harsh Thakor
Shadia Abu Ghazaleh was born in Nablus on January 8, 1948, and educated in Nablus. She joined George Habash’s Arab Nationalist Movement as a young woman in 1964, in pursuit of the liberation of Palestine and the Arab homeland. We commemorated her 75th birthday 5 days ago.
The tenacity and death defying courage in the life of Shadia Abu Ghazaleh is an illustration of the resistance and relentless spirit of Palestinian women. Abu Ghazaleh studied at Ein Shams University in Cairo before returning to Nablus following the occupation of the West Bank in the 1967 six day war. There, she joined a local branch of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine becoming one of the original members after the organisation was founded in 1967. (The PFLP was founded on December 11, 1967 from the Arab Nationalist Movement).
Abu Ghazaleh organised and led women’s military units and was one of the first Palestinian women to participate in military resistance after the 1967 occupation. She was also deeply devoted to education and political struggle treating it as an integral part of revolution. She had firm conviction in collective and organised work and emphasised the role of culture, politics, and strategy in directing armed struggle. She knitted together and led women’s military units and was one of the first Palestinian women to participate in military resistance after the 1967 occupation. Shadia Abu Ghazaleh succumbed on November 28, 1968 as she prepared a bomb in her home for a military operation against the occupation.
She became the first female martyr of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Today, her name is permanently embedded in the annals as a struggler, a pioneering women leader, and a fighter in the history of the Palestinian people and the people of the world. Her spirit still shimmers, like an inextinguishable flame. She manifested what distinguished a revolutionary from an ordinary person. People like her have to be reborn when Zionism is posing the most mortal threat to mankind .Her spark still shimmers to plant seeds for new lotuses to bloom to liberate the Palestinian people. Today in times of greater adversity, it is all the more challenging a task to confront the poisonous weeds or enemy.
Two schools have been named in her memory: the Shadia Abu Ghazaleh School for Girls in Gaza and the Shadia Abu Ghazaleh High School for Boys in Jabalia.
Women have long been in the vanguard of this century of resistance, flinging rocks at tanks in the ‘intifada’ uprisings, forming groups like the Palestinian Federation of Women’s Action Committee, commandeering commercial planes like Leila Khaled and Therese Halasa, slapping soldiers like Ahed Tamimi after her cousin was shot by Israeli forces. The decades long struggle of the Palestinian liberation poses a challenge not only Israel occupation and racism, but British imperialist ambitions to divide, exploit and occupy the Middle East.
For over 100 years, the Palestinian people have resisted imperialism and Zionism. The 1916 Sykes-Picot accord drawn up between Britain and France divided the Middle East between the two imperialist powers and allowed Britain ‘definite and exclusive control over Palestine’. The Balfour declaration of 1917 saw British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, sign a letter addressed to Lord Rothschild, a leader of the Zionist Federation in Britain, expressing support for the establishment in Palestine of a Zionist homeland. In 1920, the League of Nations granted Britain a mandate over Palestine. Britain agreed to allow 16,500 settlers to enter Palestine each year, implementing an economic system of ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Britain mercilessly suppressed the Great Palestinian Uprising and General Strike of 1936 to 1939 with bombs, dynamite and raids. A British Settlement Police was formed which was morally a Zionist militia, armed and trained by the British. The settlement police formed the core of today’s Israeli army. When Israel was officially created in 1948 on 72% of the historic land of Palestine, over half of the Palestinian population were forced to flee to Jordan, Lebanon and beyond.
Today, British and US political, social and economic support, patronise the Israeli state. Britain exports over £220million worth of arms to Israel in its occupation of Palestine, whilst buying significant military technology from Israel that has been ‘battle tested’ on the Gaza strip. Imperialist Britain has spearheaded the attack on the Palestinian right to self-determination.
Abbas Fatah message
Abbas’s Fatah movement sent Abu Ghazaleh the movement’s “love” and called her a “heroine.” Marking the 50th anniversary of her death, Fatah stated that she is among those who “guide our path,” and honoured her for being an “uncompromising and merciful young woman, who sacrificed herself for her great family”:
Fatah’s posted text: “Shadia took part in a bombing operation of an Israeli bus, and also took part in and even led a number of military operations. However, fate desired that when our heroine was at her home preparing a bomb to detonate on the occupation in Tal Al-Rabia ) it blew up in her hands and she died as a martyr (Shahida) …
Today, we send all of our love to Shadia, who would repeat: ‘If I fall, take my place, my comrade in the struggle’ … She and those like her guide our path… who sacrificed herself for her great family at the expense of the childhood dreams that were within her, in order to tell us: ‘Continue.’ ” In honouring the terrorist bomb-maker, Fatah is following the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education, who thinks so highly of Abu Ghazaleh that it has named two schools after her.
Palastenian Media Watch has documented that young girls who studied in one of the schools named after Abu Ghazaleh viewed her as their idol or role model.
Q and A of TV Interview
PA TV host: “What do you know about Shadia Abu Ghazaleh, you study in a school named after her?”
Girl 1: “Shadia Abu Ghazaleh is a model of the patriotic woman ”
Girl 2: “She was a model of the wonderful female Palestinian fighter. We follow her path in this school.”
Girl 3: “We’re happy that our school is named after a very well-known Martyr, who played a role and who did something great.”
Girl 4: “The school is named after her to commemorate her … and encourage people to be like her.”
Girl 5: “Shadia was a model for us and will remain a model for us and we will follow her path.” [Official P.A. TV, Dec. 5, 2013, rebroadcast on Dec. 9, 2013]
The students are certain that they are upholding a bomb-maker as their role model, because a mural with Abu Ghazaleh’s face and biography appears prominently on a school wall
Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist
13 January 2023