Thursday, May 31, 2007


Yesterday a headline on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict went rather unnoticed: the Gaza Strip is up for sale.

In its latest move of genius Israel is contemplating dealing away its responsibility for Gaza after having sown the seed of Gaza's death over the past 59 years. Israel is considering a plan that would ask the Arab League to take responsibility for the Gaza Strip in exchange for "a package deal" in which “negotiations between Arab and Israeli representatives on the Arab Peace Initiative" would begin. The Arab league, a body that is often made powerless by its internal differences and external limitations, is in no place to take on such massive task. After the unilateral Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip in September 2005 former prime minister Ariel Sharon claimed Israel had ceased any control over the strip and its future was now in the Palestinians hands. Yet, the facts on the ground reveal another reality. All economic borders continue to be controlled by Israel, the only outlet for civilians travelers is opened and closed at Israel’s whim, airspace is off limits to Palestinians, while limits are constantly set on fishermen off of Gaza’s coast, while laborers that for years found work only in Israel have been rejected access to Israel since disengagement with no where else to go.

Israel is taking another step in trying to disinherit itself of the responsibility for her past actions.

Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman goes a step further... words are hard to come by for such disproportionate, one-sided and historically egocentric statements.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Story- on the Creation of the Gaza Strip

...Fatima was in her teens and on her way back from the new school for girls that had opened the previous year. Tired from a long day of parroting what the teachers asked her to memorize, she was heading home when she met her elder brother who hurried her along, yelling at the womenfolk in the house to hide wherever they could, because "the Jews are coming."

Fatima knew in a timeless way, in those days of May 1948, that the Jews were coming. For the last six months shreds from the daily news -- traditionally the domain of the men in the village -- had reached her. She was aware that the British were leaving and that the Jews were occupying nearby villages at a frightening rate. She also heard the men complaining about the Arab world's betrayal: its leaders made inflammatory speeches, promising to send soldi
ers to save Palestine, but not matching their rhetoric by any real action. Yet the daily routine of those days was not interrupted even once, so that the threatened arrival of the Jews was like an evil spell, against which the blue-painted door and ornate ceramic Hamsa -- the amulet hand hanging on one side of it -- should be sufficient protection.

But on that fateful day the evil spirits were stronger than any talisman or benevolent djinns hovering over the village to safeguard it, as they had in the past, from Crusaders, Napoleon and other would-be invaders who frequented the Palestine coast on the way to another conquest, or seeking a Christian redemption of the Holy Land...

read on

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Forgotten Village

The catastrophe of the Bedouin village, Um Nasser, is long past its short moment in the world’s spotlight. Yet, here nothing has changed since that dreadful day just over two months ago. The people are living in tents along the side of a hill at the top of which rests a tank. During my visit there planes flew overhead and a surveillance balloon hung in the air filming our every move there. For Salim Abu Eteq every step is recorded, every motion noticed. At night when homemade projectiles are launched into Israel from Gaza just west of the village, the tank on the hill constantly fires its shells over the heads of the villagers below.

Salim’s home was destroyed in Beit Hanoun when he lived there a few years ago, so he moved to Um Nasser. Here his home was hit by an Israeli missile that was meant for his neighbor’s home. So he moved his family into a shack. This shack is what was wiped out when the sewage flood came on March 27th. His mother and 1 year old boy were killed that day. When I met Salim just days later, he was taking refuge in a UN tent with the survivors of his family. Today, he is afraid to reach even that tent with the tank located just hundreds of meters away.

But the world has forgotten.

He kept insisting to visit me in my home, inside I cringed. How can I host this man in my home with walls, a full fridge, comfortable bed, a guest room and couches, with a door that locks at night? How can I?

I diverted the course of the conversation. The stench of sewage filled the air and I longed for the comfort of the van I would be driving home in.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Illegal Land Theft in Artas

Driving through Jerusalem I saw tourists taking pictures of the sites of what is considered this holy city. The past hours I had spent in the village of Artas surrounded also by cameras and foreign visitors, these were not documenting the stones of the past, but the injustice of the present.

The village of Artas lies in a valley, the settlement of Efrat has been built on the village’s land along with land from neighboring Al-Khadr. Last week the villagers had received word that the Israeli army had its eye on some of the land close to the settlement-colony. Together with Israeli and International activists a constant presence was maintained on the land until last Sunday at 5am the army came to clear the land of its trees. The plan seems to be for sewage pipes to be placed in the Palestinian valley to dispose of the Israeli colony’s waste. If this plan is carried out the entire valley will be polluted and the trees and crops that grow there will die.

I don’t understand what could be going through the mind of the soldiers we met on that dusty path in Artas. After Friday prayers the villagers joined the Internationals and Israelis to try and reach the newly cleared land in solidarity with its owner. The army was prepared, they blocked the path and would not let anyone through. What does one such soldier think he is achieving by stopping Palestinians from reaching the land they own? Whom is he serving? How does he believe to be protecting his countrymen and women by covering up, by protecting the stealing, stealing, stealing of other’s land? Where does she believe the rich Jewish heritage of Justice is in such acts of land theft? The group of us chanted for a while and there was some moments of push and shove which did not lead far.

In some ways such an event seems weak and pointless to me. On the upside with the presence of the crowd and the media, the villagers were able to express their opposition to the army’s illegal activities, and yet we were not able to achieve anything substantial. Pictures were taken of a stronger army standing in the way of peaceful and unarmed farmers and supporters from around the world. But then what are they to do as their land is taken from them before their very eyes? Today, we stood powerless before an army, armed to the teeth, only to communicate a message, that this is injustice.
The illegal Israeli colony looms over the demonstratoin in the background.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Gas: Another form of Israeli exploitation in Gaza

In what has been lablled an "amazing turnaround" Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has upturned Ariel Sharon's policy of not trading with the Palestinian Authority. Gaza's only natural resource, natural gas located in the Mediteranean was discovered by British Gas Group 7 years ago.

Israel's Jerusalem Post reported, "The change of heart, government officials said, was simply the product of economics, since buying the gas from Egypt, another option, would cost twice as much."

The Times quoted Nigel Shaw, the BG Group vice-president in the region saying, "this is a chance for greater economic prosperity in Palestine and that is only good for peace."

Such a statement loses its validity asIsrael reportedly plans to pay the PA with "goods and services." This would continue Gaza's status as a massive prison where goods are going in and few are coming out. If this deal goes forward as planned, it would play no role in boosting the Palestinian economy, the most vital of needs for Palestinians today, and rather furthers its status as a detention center with no hope of economic progress.

Israel's sudden change of heart, is another form of hyopcritical exploitation of Palestinians, receiving rare Gazan resources in exchange for humanitarian services that further bind Palestinians in external reliance. This is one more undone opportunity for the building of Gaza's future.

Since the forming of the new Hamas government in May 2006, Israel continues to withhold monthly tax payments of $600 million that it is required to pay the PA. At the end of the day, Israel continues to do what it wants and gets what it wants at the cost of the Palestinians.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sderot created the Gaza Strip

Yesterday eight members of one family were murdered on the spot in Israel’s latest military strike on Gaza. The target, doctor Khaleel Al-Haya, a Hamas member remained unharmed. Later in the day Islamic Jihad responded by firing two home made rockets into Gaza. One Israeli citizen was killed, another wounded.

This sounds like a horrible, but straightforward series of events. The only aspect that calls for attention is that one of these attacks is considered terrorism, while the other is mentioned in most media outlets only in passing, and referred to as a legitimate attempt on a bad man’s life. As Israel’s extra-judicial assassinations in Gaza once again become the norm, Gaza is being cast into deeper and deeper despair.

A month ago I visited Sderot and met with Dvora Babyan, an Israeli citizen of Iranian and Libyan descent. A homemade Qassam rocket hit her house on April 21 causing damage to the building but causing no fatalities. Having come from Gaza that morning, I had the sense I was overhearing Dvora’s words as if spoken to a Palestinian living in Gaza.

“We have sense, we are not barbarians. They are barbarians, we want peace but they are not interested… When we strike we have to take into consideration the civilians, they don’t do this,” she said.

Dvora’s mindset entails a particular logic that Israel’s aggression, because a familiar military apparatus is carrying it out, necessarily verifies its legitimacy. It barely matters who is killed or how many bystanders are dead if the intentions are those of a recognized military body. Why? Because behind the decision to carry out one such execution is expected to be a well-thought out and legal procedure, unknown to all and yet accepted by the general public. The targeting of a certain Hamas actor is a foreign scene; a rocket hitting a villa in a nice neighborhood of Sderot on the other hand is too close to home not to become a successful headline that grips reader’s attention.

In her thought process Dvora simply avoids the fact that in this rocket attack on the Gaza Strip eight civilians were killed, including a 16 year old boy and two men over 60; for since these civilians were killed by the army, they must be legitimate targets. At the least their deaths must have been a worthwhile sacrifice in light of the threat posed by the assassination’s intended target.

Going one level deeper and trying to assess the moral dimension of such a perspective, it seems that by placing on a scale the death of a Palestinian family on one side and the security of an Israeli community on the other, the balance is retained. The only matter here being that such an imagined weighing is itself a logical fallacy, because the targeted deaths of innocents will never provide security, it will only harbor further revenge. The myth of violence comes into play here, which believes that the assassinations of a few will create security for many. In reality, this myth provides cover up for Israel’s actions of the past. Dvora went on in desperation,

“Where will I go? This is my country, this is my home, there is no other place.”

Sadly, Dvora would be surprised to know that these questions are not foreign to the Palestinians living only kilometers from her home.

Israeli historian Benny Morris writes this, "the Jewish state would not have come into existence without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them… There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing." Today Gaza is reaping the consequences of this “necessary” ethnic cleansing. Refugees arriving in Gaza in 1948 must have asked themselves, “Where will I go? This is my country, that was my home, there is no other place.” The home they were referring to lay in the uprooted villages most of which were destroyed shortly after their Palestinian inhabitants were driven from them. No insurance agents came to assess the damages in Palestinian homes that day. No journalists came to write reports. They must have been haunted by that same question, “what barbarian would do this to me?”

The difference between these two cases of questioning is the fact that the coming into existence of Sderot created the hell that the Gaza Strip is today. A little town by the name of Sderot become home to poor immigrants in the early 50s, only years after it had been cleared of Palestinians living in what was the village of Najd. Another resident of Sderot told me that when he got there in 1989 he thought he was in “the safest place in the world, in the middle of nowhere.” And yet, it was not the middle of nowhere, he had moved onto what was once someone else’s land and adjacent to where that displaced person and their displaced descendents were held imprisoned. There, his displaced neighbors daily faces the consequences of the past. This past is what is allowing for the hell of that very town, Sderot.

“Fear is the hardest thing …People rather go shopping in [the near by town of] Ashqelon than in Sderot because it is safer,” Dvora said.

Gazans have nowhere to escape to.

Today fear fills the hearts of Gaza’s people. A fear that they may one day return from their perpetual search for charity and donation empty handed (80% of Gazans are receiving international food aid); a fear of waking to another day of hopelessness (70% of Gazans are either unemployed or largely unpaid government employees); a fear that the economic disaster they are experiencing today may overcome their lives (60% of the population live under the poverty level of $2 per day); a fear is that this economic crisis will divide the entire population in inter-factional feuding and result in a lawless chaos as factions and political parties vie for the little power that does exist in Gaza.

Over the course of the past week Israel has begun to evacuate Israeli citizens from Sderot and has moved them into a camp in Tel Aviv. Gaza’s only outlet to the world via Egypt has been closed for the past ten days as Gaza’s citizens remains locked in Gaza, like a detention center. When the border opens it is only the lucky few who can “go shopping in Ashqelon.”

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Listen to Ilan Pappe

Download an mp3 radio interview with Israeli hisorian Ilan Pappe addressing the debate on the one state or two state solution for Israelis and Palestinians.

part 1

part 2

From Gaza to the Wall

In the the West Bank town of Beit Ummar Palestinians are rather ashamed and disturbed with what is taking place between their brothers in Gaza. Many West Bank residence feel a total disconnect with Gazans, they are separated by Israeli checkpoints and borders that are inaccessible for a majority of Palestinians. These borders have driven a wedge between these two communities that are one people. It is the more obvious of the two examples of Israeli’s strategy of Conquer and Divide being utilized to fragment and divide Palestinians between each other, West Bank from Gaza, Hamas from Fatah, exiles outside of Palestine from Palestinians within.

Abu Louai kept repeating how depressed Palestinians are, there is so little hope, such a bleak outlook for the future, he told me, "compared to Gaza at least here in Beit Ummar we have work." In Om Salamona near Beit Ummar ongoing efforts are taking place to demonstrate the building of the wall there. Just this week I understood why Palestinians are calling this the third Nakba, catastrophe, because it is the third time that their land is being annexed by Israel. First in 1948, then 1967 and today its ongoing. In Om Salamona land is being lost yesterday, today and tomorrow as the Israeli bulldozers build on land that is not theirs, in order to wall off further land that is not theirs. And all our friendly Western institutions sit by writing reports that have no teeth says Amira Hass an Israeli journalist living in Ramallah.

“In 2002, following the release of a report on the impact of Israel's closure policy, the previous World Bank representative in the occupied territories, Nigel Roberts, praised the Palestinian society's endurance and suggested that any Western society would have collapsed had it undergone an economic disaster similar to that experienced in the territories. Today, five years after that report's warnings and pleas, Palestinian society's collapse is more worrying than ever - primarily in the Gaza Strip and Nablus, which not coincidentally are the areas facing the harshest Israeli siege.”

“And why should Israel take into consideration the warnings of the World Bank when they have no teeth? The Western countries chose to punish the occupied with very concrete means - but not the occupier, which it sees as part of their Enlightened Civilization. They thus signal to Israel that it may adhere to the same policies whose impact the reports are warning against.”

In Gaza, Israel is imposing economic subjection is an unseen enemy, far away. In Om Salamona, a village just south of Bethlehem, the bulldozers are there in sight, the soldiers stand by their side as more and more land is unjustly confiscated from Palestinians. Here, the villagers are doing something about it, using non-violence.

On Friday Palestinian villagers, international and Israeli activists demonstrated the route of the wall, which runs right through Palestinian land. The army showed up en masse in opposition to any public efforts of disapproval of Israeli policies.

On Saturday a small field of a Palestinian family was planted with olive trees, where trees had been cut down by the Israeli army. The army again appeared, took lots of pictures, surrounded the activists and farmers and then disappeared. Later piles of stones and dirt were removed from a small road that leads to a farmers land. The Israeli army had blocked it preventing the farmer from cultivating his land; another form of collective punishment.

Unless the world speaks out, this will be the course of the wall around the town and villages of Bethlehem.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Burning buildings in Gaza City

Earlier today a building a few minute from my place was taken by Hamas militants. A neighboring building was occupied by Fatah forces and fire was exchanged throughout the day. Eventually the building occupied by Hamas was surrounded by Fatah forces, the Hamas members inside have now set it on fire. Hamas has reportedly occupied other buildings in a Fatah dominated area of Gaza City.

My friend Abu Wa'al and
his family have had to leave their home and are sleeping in the school he works at because armed militants are squatting on the roof of their building.

The Aljazeera office in Gaza City is under fire with 30 journalists locked inside it.

Qassams struck Sderot close to the home of Israeli Minister of Defense Amir Peretz and Israel has vowed to retaliate appropriately.

Eeports have been heard that when Israel bombed Hamas headquarters in Rafah, where factional inter-fighting has not yet reached, Fatah members came to their rescue and pulled them out from beneath the rubble.

Hamas has announced a cease-fire to begin at 8pm.

Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian president has called all parties to hold their fire.

Israeli attack on Rafah Hamas headquarters

This report from AP just minutes ago..

"GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli aircraft fired missiles at the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on Wednesday, Palestinian officials and the Israeli army said, and Hamas confirmed that one of its security buildings was hit in the strike.

Palestinian rescue officials said several people were buried under rubble after the strike but that their condition was not immediately known. A photographer at the scene said there appeared to be dead.

The Israeli army confirmed its aircraft had fired on southern Gaza, but did not give details. Palestinian security officials said at least three missiles were fired from an Israeli helicopter."

Is Israel choosing sides and sending in reinforcements to cover Fatah? Is Israel trying to spread to chaos from Gaza City to the rest of the Gaza Strip where there has been relative quiet?

First reports coming out now are saying that at least five are left dead and many severely injured.

Erin Brokovich in Gaza

I woke up just before 6am today. The shooting doesn’t usually wake me, but the past two days it has been of a different nature. I looked outside only to see two guards ducking for cover, I decided to try and get some more sleep. Yesterday 16 people died, 60 were injured. In the evening, when things seemed quieter I ventured downstairs with Mohamed to the little “park” next to our building. The trees and flowers were planted there just 2 weeks ago. Abu Raed told his boys to water the plants even though they had been watered the day before because “we don’t know when we will be able to water them again.”

Yousef, a close friend of Zakaris’ was among the dead yesterday. I had bought some of my favorite Egyptian cheese from Yousef a few months ago in Rafah. He was part of reinforcements that were ambushed as they arrived on the scene of 200 National Security forces that were under attack by Hamas. Zakari had no words to share on the phone, neither did I.

Earlier in the evening Mohamed and I witnessed an attempted attack on the presidential headquarters by gunmen on boats. The coast was beautifully lined with fishing boats on the horizon and suddenly we heard gunfire and red flares filled the sky. Just hours earlier I saw Fatah men playing volleyball on a makeshift volleyball net. Somehow sports and warfare seemed to be compatible. Over his radio Mohamed heard that a Fatah man had been picked up on his was to the Shifa hospital, killed and left on a street in front of a popular restaurant. Despair filled his face. He turned off the radio and we watched ‘Erin Brokovich’. Somehow the statement Julie Roberts makes at the end of the film that money could buy anything one ever needed rang hollow. Money won’t buy security here; bringing justice to the historical events that have created this conflict is the only thing that will bring about change.

After dinner Mohamed told me he thought he had a sleeping sickness. He was tired all day. He had slept till 11am, then took a nap from 1 to 4:30 and by 11 was tired again. I believe Mohamed is depressed, because hope is missing. He will never forget the memory of his nephews being murdered in December. Mohamed is continually dreaming of a life elsewhere, outside of these walls, beyond this place he is supposed to call home. He has only lived here for the past five years, like so many others he has grown up in a whole slew of countries, Yemen, Syria, Tunisa, Libya and Egypt. He doesn’t feel at home here, he doesn’t belong anywhere. Beyond all the TV headlines, beyond all the fighting yesterday, this is what the nakba, the catastrophe of displacement is really about.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

In Gaza adding Castrophe to Catastrophe

The streets are closed this morning still. Reportedly another truce was formed last night, but things remain as they are, this morning the house of Rami's brother was attacked with RPGs. I believe no one was harmed. Rami just came back from Cairo where he was in a car accident and had to have surgery. Now he has returned to this chaos, this hell where Palestinians are fighting each other rather than recalling the events of the nakba, the catastrophe that took place 59 years ago today when over 200,000 Palestinians were exiled to this place called the Gaza Strip. Ali Abunimah quotes Israeli historian Benny Morris, "the Jewish state would not have come into existence without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them… There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing." Today Gaza is reaping the consequences of this “necessary” ethnic cleansing.

The only time I left home yesterday was to go to my favorite fruit store just down the street. The place was closed first the time in the course of the two years that I have been here. Three soldiers sat on the sidewalk in front of the sealed store. The kids in my building seemed to be loving the traffic standstill, all around my building they are playing football, using the roadblocks as goals, the guards are their spectators, no doubt tempted to lay down their guns and join in the game.

Earlier that day the Minister of Interior had resigned. This one man was the glue that held together a very shaky unity government. In a press conference he explained, "I cannot agree to be a minister without jurisdiction since we need deeds rather than words." During his time in the post he complained that neither Fateh nor Hamas gave him the jurisdiction he needed in order to control the rival factions on the streets. This Interior Minister was a figurehead.

The invisible hand stirring this pot of anarchy in Gaza is a vague entity called the “International Community.” With the USA at the forefront they have been trying to suffocate Hamas ever since they won a majority of parliament seats in democratic elections early last year. Over the course of Hamas’ tenure in government international aid has not been blocked but actually increased, with just one minor clause… that the aid be limited for humanitarian use. Thus 80% of Gazans survive from such handouts but are left without jobs and totally unempowered to provide their families with a livelihood. The donated money cannot be used to build a house, to create a job, to fix a street or to repair a sewage pipe or improve water facilities, but food can be carted into this prison and distributed to unemployed fathers and their children. What were to happen if this aid stopped flowing? Palestinians would actual go hungry, then we would see people starve, but the invisible hand won’t allow for that, because it would force the “International Community” to actually search for viable solutions to the crisis that has been brewing in the Gaza Strip since May 15th 1948.

Meanwhile, since their election loss the US has financed Fatah to train their military. Fatah party members have been recruited all across the Gaza Strip for intensive training in Gaza to prepare them for further training abroad.

Friday night my friends Jamal and Ibrahim came over to play cards. They are from Beit Lehya in the North of the Gaza Strip. That week Fatah had summoned Jamal for 45 days of intensive closed training starting Sunday, in exchange for 600 shekels, $150. Jamal told me a friend of his would get him excused from the training; he has no interest in participating in any military activities in Gaza. Ibrahim’s cousin is being trained in Russia; another cousin is about to return from Yemen after basic military training there. Over the past week heavy activity has been sighted at a number of Hamas training locations in Gaza. Funds reportedly are received from Iran and other donors.

The Gaza Strip has become the playground for world bullies to play out their differences.

It seems that since February when the Mecca Agreement brought about a unity government both Hamas and Fatah have taken this time of relative calm to build up their military wings. It took the two parties five weeks to agree on one man to play the mediating role of Interior Minister. Hani Al-Qawasmi was suggested by Hamas and approved of by Mahmoud Abbas’s office but he was a straw man with little if any authority from either party. Yesterday he finally threw in his cards and it seems the whole house of cards is collapsing in his wake.

This morning a Hamas man was killed. Later in the five Fatah National security members were reported dead after their convoy was ambushed. Two men that escaped were killed by the Israeli army at the border. 450 Fatah fighters entered Gaza today where they were training in Egypt. After not being able to leave his house this morning Dr Attalah has spent some hours in the hospital and now is returning home to be with his family. The shifa hospital where he works is desperately calling for people to donate blood. The area surrounding my friend Abu Ghassan’s house in Jabalya has been declared a Hamas territory; the block I love on is a Fatah stronghold.

Today, on the 59th memorial day of the Palestinian Nakba, catastrophe is being added to catastrophe.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Arundhati Roy on the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

This is a 9 minute clip from the film "We." featuring Arundhati Roy. The title seeks to counter
the western world war-cry of 'There is no you, there is only me'.

Watch the full length

What are you going to to do with this information?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Gaza, Calm before the Storm

This must be what they call the calm before the storm.

By 7pm all the main street intersections in Gaza city were filled with guards wearing face masks. It seems every time a new security plan is declared in Gaza the situation gets worse. This morning my friend Jamal greeted his neighbor Baha' Abu Jarad as he left his home for a days work, ten minutes later Baha’ was dead. Jamal, shaken up, informed me of the incident over the phone, while trying to hold back tears.

This morning I spent with the Sisters of Charity at their shelter for disabled children in downtown Gaza City. One boy, Abbas, can’t stop smiling, always active and excited about something unknown to me.

When I first started going to the shelter a boy called Na’el, with a consistent look of fear in his eyes, would hold on to me not wanting to let me go. Sister Delphina told me that was the first time since he had arrived at the home that he had allowed a male to hold him. Na’el is deaf and she assumed he had been abused by his father before he was dropped off at their shelter. Na’el can walk but he has to be holding on to something, either a person’s hand or a table, door or his little wheeled chair. So today sister Dolphina and I tried to get him to walk on his own because I am sure he can, he just doesn’t trust himself. As soon as I would try to let go of his hand to let him walk alone his face would fill with an immense expression of fear.

Today Gaza is filled fear. A fear that the economic crisis that affects everyone might overtake them. A fear that one day this seemingly unending hunt for a donation, for charity might leave one empty-handed. And a fear of the looming internal chaos in light of this shaky economic state of being.

The different atmosphere one senses in the Gaza Strip compared to the sister's home must have something to do with either place's warden. The Sisters of Charity live out an undying love and concern for the children in their care; Israel, legally responsible for a people they occupy, has thrown away the keys to a piece of land they would rather forget about.

One day soon Na’el will walk on his own.

I trust that one day Gazans will live the life of peace they so long to live, free of the closure, the embargo and the prison walls surrounding them today.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Photo Exhibition: 40 Years of Occupation

An exhibition curated by Israeli activists ActiveStills. In their own words:
"The territories occupied by Israel in 1967 multiplied its territory by three and was seen as the greatest success Israel could hope for. Is it truly a victory ? who are those who still pay the price for it? As victory celebrations are held in Israel the only narrative is that of the greatness and heroism of the state. While in fact settlements continue to expand on Palestinian land who's owners have been expelled, millions of people live in a reality of imprisonment, oppression, dispossession humiliation and denial of basic human rights. That reality is a mirror to Israeli society, an image it refuses to see. Those are the achievements of the war."

Go directly to
Gaza: Hostages

Friday, May 11, 2007

Gaza, Robbed Love

Today I moved around Gaza City from meeting to meeting. On the streets movement was limited, as it is Thursday and at least for schools and government institutions the Hamas government has added Thursday to Friday to make for an unprecedented two-day weekend in the Gaza Strip.

This morning once again a new security plan was reportedly taking effect. One taxi driver told me the success of the plan would be seen only after 10pm tonight. I caught a hint of cynicism in his voice. If the lawlessness can be retained after dark then there might be some truth to this new “plan,” or else it would prove to be talk like the last one. Another driver told me, “I see no change, what security plan?” And yet another explained to me that the real issue was an economic one, as long as there are no jobs, there are no opportunities for the future, nothing, no matter what sort of plan is developed, would ever change anything.

The streets once again are littered with garbage as the municipality employees are on strike. Just two weeks ago the same garbage piles were littering the street, just higher, but I was told, since the workers never received what they were promised. They are now striking again. The stench of burnt waste fills the air.

Every taxi I entered today was old and worn, and somehow represented something of the state of the soul of this place and its people. One car had a metal bar welded behind the two front seats, I imagine, to keep them up. The owner of a car, which had the steering wheel held together with tape told me at night cars older than his were being stolen and still they say they are implementing security. Hopelessness could be heard in every word spoken to me; someone pointed out that still no one really knew where the British journalist was, is this the way we treat guests, he asked. In one vehicle there was talk about the owner of a shoe shop being kidnapped, when ransom was paid for him, the perpetrators took his brother and demanded further ransom.

In Gaza, these stories are told like the weather or sports is discussed in other places.

And the sense one gets is that it is inevitable that this society will implode like it did early on this year. How to reduce the hate for the murderer of your brother, how to suppress the anger one feel towards one’s government, towards the perpetrators of crimes, towards one’s occupiers? Israel’s policy of conquer and divide is succeeding. And the world is not listening and the misery, the frustration, the unemployment, the endless cycle of despair and the search for an ordinary life goes on. I have to confess that somehow all this is beginning to rob me of my love for this place.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Demands for Alan Johnston reported

It seems there is word about Alan Johnston.

BBC is testing the tape that was sent to Aljazeera in Gaza. In the video demands are made for the release of Abu Qatana, a Palestinian held in a UK prison. It shows Johnston's BBC ID and pictures of Abu Qatana. This is the first demand of such a political nature made for a foreigner kidnapped in Gaza.

Let us hope that Alan's release is near.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Walking and Real Sardines

While I was crossing the border from Jordan I got a call from my friend Naser in Bethlehem. He had wonderful news for me, his oldest boy was going to have surgery to try and fix his walking disability that he has had since birth. The only bad news was that Naser was not yet able to collect the percentage of the surgery costs ($2,750) that he needed to cover. Mu'ad is one of the most expressive and happiest boys I have ever met. His difficulty in walking has not stopped him in the least from being an active and excited kid who mainly just wants to have fun and play with his father's friends.

On the road to Gaza Abu Alaa, my driver today translated the Hebrew news for me. Ismail Haniyeh the Palestinian prime minister threatened to kill Israeli captured soldier Gilad Shalit if Israel were to begin an incursion into Gaza. If this act were to be carried out Israel promised to kill Ismail Haniyeh and every other Hamas cabinet official.

After a 10 day trip to Cairo I am back in Gaza, home, sweat home. After walking through the corridors of the daunting Erez checkpoint I arrived at the last turnstile at which point I found Abu Amjad sitting on the floor waiting for the sliding gate to open which releases every traveler into the open-air prison of Gaza. Abu Amjad owns a factory in Gaza, he has been selling his goods to Israel for the past 22 years and today, without explanation, he was rejected entry there for the first time. Just another usual day for another Palestinian lacking the right of most any other human being traveling in a seemingly dignified country.

picked me up at the Gaza border and invited me to his house for lunch. We had sardines, I had never had the pleasure of eating anything but sardines from a can until I moved to Gaza. These fish are so small that you can actually just eat the whole thing, save the tail. Of course we also had mulukheya, and a nice little tomato/ onion dip and humos. Daher was sleeping when we arrived around 2pm and was rudely woken and dragged out of the room so we could sit there. Abdallah, the youngest met us at the door and spread the rumor that I was there for a visit.

Arriving at my house I found Ayman and Mohamed watching a movie there. I filled them in on my travels. Mohamed is just recovering from a fever. Tonight I ate two cookies I got at a goodbye party in Jerusalem yesterday. O
n the balcony I had a glass of wine that I bought at a monastery on my way to Gaza and smoked a cigarette. The fishing boats were out and their little lights filled the horizon, surrounded by the darkness, down below the presidential guard were making their rounds, chanting unintelligible chants, sirens filled the night from time to time, far away gunshots were heard at times.