When I visited Gaza in July, I met a brave fighter who showed me a knife which his grandfather used to slit the throat of a Jew in Hebron in 1933, and his father used in a raid on a farmhouse in 1962 and which he hopes to use one day as well.
There is both romance and practical necessity in this. The criminal Israeli siege of Gaza allows through food and clothing, but not knives.
Many Gazans must make do with a single knife for the entire family. Only one of them is able to use the knife at a time. If the grandmother of a large family wants to slice bread while her grandson breaks into a settlement to slit a baby's throat-- she has no choice but to starve.
That is the real tragedy here.
The blood of children is hazardous to knives. So the Sheikh of Wadi Al-Zebel, a picturesque village nestled at the foot of an ammo dump, told me once. The blood of children is more acidic than that of adults and etches the blade. Each time a brave Palestinian fighter sinks his knife into a Jewish child, he damages the knife. It is an act of great self-sacrifice and some knives have been lost that way.
In London, the local Zionists are complaining that the intruder slit the throats of children. As if he could have done anything else. When the Israeli authorities in Tel Aviv have tanks, rocket ships, missile pistols and jet fighters, what other choice does the Palestinian have? Is he meant to attack a tank with a knife? He couldn't possibly succeed and it would not be a fair fight. But a Jewish baby against a Palestinian militant is a good fair fight.
I firmly believe that all human beings are brothers under the skin, but there is still no sympathy whatsoever in my pen for that Zionist settler family. They chose to live where they did. To be part of the occupation. They could have moved someplace safer such as Birmingham, Malmo or Paris. Places where Muslims kill Jews with far less frequency. There is nothing to be done about it. Such is the great humane legacy of its Empire of Faith. An empire that we are fortunate enough to have land on our shores. To disparage the occasional murder of infidels is to display a remarkable ingratitude to the culture which gave us reverse algebra, the hyacinth clock, the mercury sail and the inventively medieval poetry of Ibtach Al-Okhty. We would be immeasurably poorer without these things.
To understand the knife is to understand Islam. Both are sharp objects passed down through the generations and intended primarily for killing purposes. The flat of a knife's blade may seem dull and harmless, like the growing number of mosques you pass on your way to work. It is only when it turns that you see the edge and understand the danger. And by then it is often too late. A good knife wielder distracts you with the flat and then flips it around and sinks the sharp end of the blade into your guts. As you bleed out, you come to the realization that the hyacinth clocks and medieval poetry were all there to distract you from the inevitability of that final moment. That Islam is a knife and it is meant to be used on you.
But here history broke. Instead of doing the slaughtering, the horde was put to flight. The Nakba, the creation of Israel, is almost as great a tragedy in the annals of Muslim civilization, as the Gates of Vienna or the loss of Al-Andalus. It was an unaccountable reversal that was simply not supposed to happen. The damage it did to the Muslim soul is incalculable. The knife had turned in their hands. Worse yet it was broken. They had lost faith in the knife. And without the knife, they had nothing left to believe in.
For 65 years they have sat in refugee camps, knives in hand, waiting for the day when they can return and put them to use. In 1992, only a small handful was permitted to return and immediately put their knives to good use. This was a period of such tremendous creative Islamic ferment. The suicide bomber, the IED and the female suicide bomber were added to the airline hijacking, the embassy takeover and the bus hijacking. With even this limited victory the great Muslim awakening had begun. But what of the millions who still sit, knives in hand, waiting to return? Who pass down their knives through the generations, sharpening them and awaiting the great day when they will no longer be failed refugees, but successful murderers.
The Zionist regime's resistance to the day of the knife is misguided and criminal. They have no right to the land. They lost that right when the Muslims conquered them. Tel Aviv's rulers preside over a reactionary state machinery of terror that represses the natural rights of the conquerors to reclaim the land they once stole in an orgy of blood and death. To use the knives passed down to them through the ages, as their prophet intended them to. And then create a secular democratic state that will protect the rights of all the region's Muslim male inhabitants.
The settlers squatting on their hilltops are impeding the progress of negotiations that will turn over enough land to make the defeat of Israel possible. Their obstinacy curdles the prospects for peace. Their messianic fanaticism is maddening as their towns and outposts stand in the way of history. If the horde faltered at the Gates of Vienna, that was at least a city. Think of how humiliating it is for the inheritors of Saladin, the grandsons of Caliphs and Sheikhs to stand frustrated by a few Jewish villagers. That terrible humiliation only feeds their rage. Murders are inevitable.
But still the shepherds and the cheesemakers stand in their way. Humiliatingly they go on making cheese and tending sheep while the refugees polish their knives and pray. As all people of good will know there is only one possible resolution. The occupation of the cheesemakers and shepherds must end so that the day of the knife may come.
Tim Paulin is a world-renowned poet, Oxford don and traveled to Gaza to bring expired humanitarian supplies to the starving people of Hamas. He boycotts Israel and wears a Keffiyah at every possible social occasion where he expects to have a picture taken of him. And he dreams of a world in which we all learn to love one another.