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Dr. Adnan-al-Bursh’s Dream

Dr. Adnan-al-Bursh’s Dream

I have spent all my life around doctors. My father, a number of uncles and cousins are doctors. I spent many hours with my father’s colleagues at the hospital where he worked in my childhood when he took me along to make me study under his direct supervision. I was fortunate enough to gain admission to a medical school and from thereon all my teachers and most of my friends were doctors as well. I mention this as I have some insight into the life of doctors due to my personal experience.

What sort of life do doctors lead here? Well, we complain about the tough working hours, laugh at the hapless and often corrupt administrators running the hospitals, talk about private practice and buying new cars, try new and old restaurants, shop at malls, plan tours of northern areas or exotic destinations like Turkey and Malaysia, and disparage our colleagues when they aren’t within earshot. This is the upper-middle-class utopia that parents dream for their kids when they make every effort to secure a place for them in a medical school. Many of us then start dreaming about a higher utopia after securing admission. Instead of “settling” for the Pakistani upper-middle-class dream, many of us work hard to move abroad and enjoy the American or British upper-middle-class dream. This short summary essentially sums up the hopes and aspirations of most doctors in Pakistan.

But what about Adnan-al-Bursh? Sorry, Dr. Adnan-al-Bursh, Professor of Orthopedic Surgery. Sorry, Adnan-al-Bursh “the mirror”! Yes, he is the mirror by looking at whom we can see our own hideous visage. Born in Palestine, he grew up getting trampled under Israeli boots in Gaza. Why did he become an orthopedic surgeon? Because the Israeli fascists broke his thigh during the First Intifada and the injury made him realize the importance of this field! How did he manage to become an orthopedic surgeon, being from occupied Palestine? He did his fellowship in Orthopedic surgery in the UK. Wait! He managed to go to the UK and become a qualified orthopedic surgeon! Why on earth didn’t he just stay there and enjoy “the dream”? He had a family dependent on him, he could always donate money for the victims of Israeli fascism while staying in the UK, so why did he choose to return to Gaza i.e. the largest open-air prison on the planet? Well, I am just guessing here but maybe “his dream” was not similar to our dream. His dream was spawned by the nightmare of Palestine. He didn’t ask the question “What difference can a single man make?” He just girded up and did his utmost. He returned to Gaza to heal the mangled kids, the torn limbs, and the broken spirits. He put himself and his family in a place where they could be bullied, bombed, imprisoned, and tortured any day.

When I was in medical school, I had the good fortune of befriending a Palestinian class fellow. He was from Gaza. When I asked him how life was in Gaza, he said that in the morning it’s a normal life with people going about the daily chores but at night it’s Jihad, Jihad, Jihad. I confess that I didn’t fully understand what he meant. I confess that even now I don’t. How can I understand him when I have never faced the bombs and bullets of genocidal fascists? But I know this much that there was never any “normal” life in Gaza. It was all Jihad (Righteous Struggle). The contrast between “day” and “night”, “war” and “peace” was merely a matter of degree and intensity. Dr. Adnan’s “dreams” spun around Jihad. The Jihad to save as many limbs and as many kids as he could. The Jihad to learn as much as he could (besides being a highly accomplished surgeon, the man also had a masters degree in political science). The Jihad to stay in Gaza and never forsake the claim to the land which righteously belonged to his nation. The Jihad to show true humanity to Israeli barbarians.

Four months ago, amidst the horrific ongoing genocide in Gaza, Israeli forces arrested him along with many other medical workers. Their crime: they were trying to treat the people wounded by the Israeli war machine. They were actively trying their best to slow down the Israeli wheel of suffering and pain that was crushing the Palestinians. Four months later Dr. Adnan-al-Bursh was brutally tortured to death. Why was he dealt with in such a way? Several reasons come to mind. The foremost among these is that Israel is sending a message to educated Palestinians, those who have the means to lead a comfortable life elsewhere. The message is: Forget your homeland and live in peace elsewhere or get ready to endure the most horrific scenarios possible. It is the same message that Israel delivers with every bombing and every killing. As per the Israelis, there are only two choices for Palestinians, live elsewhere or die in Palestine!

But there is another reason as well. A more visceral and animalistic reason. Israeli people have dehumanized the Palestinians in their minds to such an extent that even the mere existence of an educated and sophisticated Palestinian professional seems like a disturbing aberration. Confronting such an individual brings out their deep-seated insecurities to the fore. They feel threatened and afraid. They mask that fear with false bravado that takes the form of immense brutality (even by Israeli standards). They “stamp” their authority and reaffirm their world-view by crushing such a person physically into a pulp. Anyone who has seen the famous movie “Schindler’s List” would remember the scene when the Nazi commander Amon Goeth is told by a Jewish engineer that a building is being built wrongly. He sneers at the “educated Jew”, and orders her to be shot. When she protests that she was only doing her job, Goeth calmly replies, “And I am doing mine.” Then he justifies his decision to his subordinates by saying, “We are not going to have arguments with these people!”

Like Amon Goeth and the Nazis, the Israeli fascists are also quite ignorant of the fact that such barbarity only ensures that more and more powerful symbols to galvanize resistance keep on being created. Ultimately, a stage comes when the tyranny is overpowered and overthrown. Dr. Adnan-al-Bursh was just a doctor, albeit an exceptionally skilled and motivated one, performing one surgery at a given time in life. He was just one man, and after all, how much of a difference can one man make? But by torturing him to death, he has been transformed into an invincible symbol. A flag that will continue to rally the Palestinian resistance until its inevitable victory. He has joined the ranks of Al-Qassam, Abdul Qadir al-Husayni, Hassan Salameh, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Fathi Shaqiqi, and many other martyrs.

Lastly, I will just say that Dr. Adnan-al-Bursh is not an icon just for Palestinians, Arabs, or even Muslims. He is an icon for all medical professionals worldwide. The values of hard work, honesty, empathy for patients, altruism, selflessness, and dedication to duty are essential for all medical professionals. Forget Hippocrates, doctors all around the Islamic World would be better served if they took an Adnan-al-Bursh oath to serve humanity even in the worst of conditions at the time of graduation! Maybe the memory of Adnan-al-Bursh will motivate many of us to abandon the materialistic “American Dream” and co-opt the “Adnan-al-Bursh Dream”. The dream to serve the weak selflessly. The dream to fight the tyrant gallantly. The dream to live a life worthy of a Muslim, and the dream to die a death worthy of a Saint.