This is the month for Palestinians to remember their Nakba, or "catastrophe," in which more than 700,000 women, men and children were pushed off their land and rendered homeless refugees by the Israeli attacks before, during and after war in1948.
Name: Abdel Aziz Ali Abdel Hafiz El-Rantisi
Nickname: Abu Mohammad
Birth date: 23 October 1947
Martyrdom date: 17 April 2004
Residence: Gaza City
Abdel Aziz El-Rantisi’s life of 57 years can be simply described as the art of overcoming one obstacle after another, culminating with the only fitting end for a true Muslim mujahid. Born a few months before the uprooting of Palestinians and usurpation of their land in 1948, Abu Mohammad lived through the most difficult period of contemporary Palestinian history. Through determination and sheer resolve, he and a handful group of companions, steered the Palestinian people out of the depths of subjugation and helplessness towards empowerment and on the doorsteps of liberation.
His enemies could not contain his words, actions, or thoughts. They were victimized yet again by their criminal behavior and resorted to murder to confront Abu Mohammad’s ideology and dreams. Yet again, this immoral folly proved futile. Abu Mohammad’s ideology lives on stronger after his passing away. His followers are more resolved and better prepared to make the final push to achieve their ultimate dream.
From Yebna to Khan Younis Refugee Camp:
On 23 October 1947, Ali Abdel Hafiz El-Rantisi, a rich land owner in the village of Yebna (between Yaffa and Isdood) celebrated the birth of his son Abdel Aziz. The celebration came in turbulent times that preceded the Nakba of 1948. But on the cold October night, the family had much to be thankful for. And it seemed that the boy was charmed to be born to a family that is capable of providing him with the best care. Little did the family know that they were celebrating the birth of one of the greatest Palestinian men of his time.
In just over 6 months after Abdel Aziz’s birth, the family found itself robbed of its land, home, and security. Ali El-Rantisi, the rich man used to the luxuries of his time and never needing to work, found himself homeless and penniless in a tent in the city of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. The shock of the uprooting left a permanent mark on the man, who now relied on UN rations to sustain his family.
Refuge and the making of a man:
Abdel Aziz opened his eyes to the world and found himself a refugee in UNRWA’s Khan Younis refugee camp. He had 8 brothers and two sisters that were sustained by rations distributed by the UN. The father who never fully recovered from the loss of his land and property died when Abdel Aziz was in his teens.
“My father died as I was about to finish preparatory school. So, my brother had to travel to Saudi Arabia to find work. At the time I was preparing myself to go to secondary school. So I bought a used pair of shoes. When my brother set out to travel, he didn’t have a pair of shoes. And my mother told me to give him my shoes. I gave him the shoes and went back home on bare feet. I don’t know how I managed to get through secondary school.”
The seeds of greatness:
Abdel Aziz, the refugee orphan sustained by ration, living in a home with no electricity was a very distinguished student. Despite the distractions and forces pulling against him, he showed unique intelligence and exquisite skill for learning. He finished secondary school and received a scholarship to study medicine in Egypt. He left for Egypt in 1965 and came back in 1972 with a degree in general medicine. Two years later he went back to Egypt and studied two more years to specialize in pediatrics. He came back to Gaza in 1976.
During his stay in Egypt, Abdel Aziz was exposed to the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. He adopted Islam as a way of life and derived his guidance and strength from the Holy Quran and teachings of prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
In 1973, Dr. El-Rantisi got married. With this union, he found the remarkable wife who would be with him for the remainder of his life.
Islam, the way of life:
Dr. Abdel Aziz El-Rantisi (Abu Mohammad) was a successful pediatrician, who had come a long way from the barefoot child treading the dusty alleys of the refugee camp. He had attained financial security and social stature at a young age. He was on course for a comfortable and happy life with his family. He was envied among his peers (that didn’t know him very well) for the success and distinction.
Those who knew Abu Mohammad saw the true picture of the man. He was a man of principle who never forgot his roots. Money didn’t blind him and social stature didn’t swell his head. Abu Mohammad was a Muslim intent in rejuvenating the true adoption of Islam in life. He and other founders of the Islamic movement led by Sheikh Ahmad Yassin worked tirelessly to achieve their goals. And in less than a decade from his return to Egypt, Dr. Abdel Aziz El-Rantisi was an integral part of the successful effort to build a strong grassroots movement that adopted Islam as a way of life.
Dr. El-Rantisi’s efforts included winning the elections of the Physician’s Syndicate in the Gaza Strip for the first time by the Islamic movement. It included participation in the establishment of the Islamic University of Gaza. It included bringing thousands of people to the understanding that Islam is the solution to the problems and difficulties of life under the occupation and in other circumstances.
A Man for All Seasons:
After his release from occupation jails, Dr. El-Rantisi came home to find that Hamas had suffered a severe blow at the hands of the Palestinian Authority security forces. Immediately, Dr. El-Rantisi took the lead role in the rebuilding of the movement. But the Palestinian Authority would hear none of that.
And in less than a year from his release from occupation jails, Dr. El-Rantisi was in Palestinian jails. He spent 15 months before being released because his mother passed away. He was arrested twice after that; but was finally released at the beginning of Al-Aqsa Intifada. In total, Dr. El-Rantisi spent more than 27 months in Palestinian jails!
During the Intifada, the Palestinian Authority tried unsuccessfully to arrest him twice. Why? Dr. El-Rantisi was a firm believer that liberation comes through sacrifice. And that resistance is the way to liberate the land and live in freedom.
Passing of the Torch:
On 22 March 2004, occupation forces murdered Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the founder of the Islamic movement and Hamas in Palestine. Instead of accepting Sheikh Yassin’s offer for peace that he made a few weeks earlier, the occupation forces replied with murder. The intention was to paralyze Hamas and put an end to resistance.
Two days later, Dr. Abdel Aziz El-Rantisi was elected the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. He held a large rally to accept the nomination and vowed to continue to road of resistance. And contrary to the estimates of the occupation, Dr. El-Rantisi gathered Hamas around him and took steps towards increasing Hamas strength and dedication to resistance.
On 17 April 2004, the occupation forces murdered Dr. El-Rantisi. And again, they failed in stopping the flow of Hamas in Palestinian veins. The Islamic Resistance Movement gained strength; and resistance became the common denominator for every patriotic Palestinian. The dream of ending Hamas was buried with Dr. El-Rantisi.
Dr. El-Rantisi left behind another story of heroism and dedication. He left behind Um Mohammad and 2 sons and 4 daughters