art of resistance, Palestine

Ghassan Kanafani | Letter From Gaza.

12

//Photo @Loulou d’Aki , Make A Wish – Gaza//

Ghassan Kanafani wrote the Letter from Gaza in 1956. It was published translated into English in The 1936-39 Revolt in Palestine by the Tricontinental Society of London in 1980.

Today, a day after the horrendous Israeli attack on protesters in Gaza, which resulted in more than 60 killed and 2700 injured, I thought it would be appropriate to publish this letter – a look at the continuity of the oppression.

Dear Mustafa,

I have now received your letter, in which you tell me that you’ve done everything necessary to enable me to stay with you in Sacramento. I’ve also received news that I have been accepted in the department of Civil Engineering in the University of California. I must thank you for everything, my friend. But it’ll strike you as rather odd when I proclaim this news to you — and make no doubt about it, I feel no hesitation at all, in fact I am pretty well positive that I have never seen things so clearly as I do now. No, my friend, I have changed my mind. I won’t follow you to “the land where there is greenery, water and lovely faces” as you wrote. No, I’ll stay here, and I won’t ever leave.

I am really upset that our lives won’t continue to follow the same course, Mustafa. For I can almost hear you reminding me of our vow to go on together, and of the way we used to shout: “We’ll get rich!” But there’s nothing I can do, my friend. Yes, I still remember the day when I stood in the hall of Cairo airport, pressing your hand and staring at the frenzied motor. At that moment everything was rotating in time with the ear-splitting motor, and you stood in front of me, your round face silent.

Your face hadn’t changed from the way it used to be when you were growing up in the Shajiya quarter of Gaza, apart from those slight wrinkes. We grew up together, understanding each other completely and we promised to go on together till the end. But…

“There’s a quarter of an hour left before the plane takes off. Don’t look into space like that. Listen! You’ll go to Kuwait next year, and you’ll save enough from your salary to uproot you from Gaza and transplant you to California. We started off together and we must carry on. . .”

At that moment I was watching your rapidly moving lips. That was always your manner of speaking, without commas or full stops. But in an obscure way I felt that you were not completely happy with your flight. You couldn’t give three good reasons for it. I too suffered from this wrench, but the clearest thought was: why don’t we abandon this Gaza and flee? Why don’t we? Your situation had begun to improve, however. The ministry of Education in Kuwait had given you a contract though it hadn’t given me one. In the trough of misery where I existed you sent me small sums of money. You wanted me to consider them as loans. because you feared that I would feel slighted. You knew my family circumstances in and out; you knew that my meagre salary in the UNRWA schools was inadequate to support my mother, my brother’s widow and her four children.

“Listen carefully. Write to me every day… every hour… every minute! The plane’s just leaving. Farewell! Or rather, till we meet again!”

Your cold lips brushed my cheek, you turned your face away from me towards the plane, and when you looked at me again I could see your tears.

Later the Ministry of Education in Kuwait gave me a contract. There’s no need to repeat to you how my life there went in detail. I always wrote to you about everything. My life there had a gluey, vacuous quality as though I were a small oyster, lost in oppressive loneliness, slowly struggling with a future as dark as the beginning of the night, caught in a rotten routine, a spewed-out combat with time. Everything was hot and sticky. There was a slipperiness to my whole life, it was all a hankering for the end of the month.

In the middle of the year, that year, the Jews bombarded the central district of Sabha and attacked Gaza, our Gaza, with bombs and flame-throwers. That event might have made some change in my routine, but there was nothing for me to take much notice of; I was going to leave. this Gaza behind me and go to California where I would live for myself, my own self which had suffered so long. I hated Gaza and its inhabitants. Everything in the amputated town reminded me of failed pictures painted in grey by a sick man. Yes, I would send my mother and my brother’s widow and her children a meagre sum to help them to live, but I would liberate myself from this last tie too, there in green California, far from the reek of defeat which for seven years had filled my nostrils. The sympathy which bound me to my brother’s children, their mother and mine would never be enough to justify my tragedy in taking this perpendicular dive. It mustn’t drag me any further down than it already had. I must flee!

You know these feelings, Mustafa, because you’ve really experienced them. What is this ill-defined tie we had with Gaza which blunted our enthusiasm for flight? Why didn’t we analyse the matter in such away as to give it a clear meaning? Why didn’t we leave this defeat with its wounds behind us and move on to a brighter future which would give us deeper consolation? Why? We didn’t exactly know.

When I went on holiday in June and assembled all my possessions, longing for the sweet departure, the start towards those little things which give life a nice, bright meaning, I found Gaza just as I had known it, closed like the introverted lining of a rusted snail-shell thrown up by the waves on the sticky, sandy shore by the slaughter-house. This Gaza was more cramped than the mind of a sleeper in the throes of a fearful nightmare, with its narrow streets which had their bulging balconies…this Gaza! But what are the obscure causes that draw a man to his family, his house, his memories, as a spring draws a small flock of mountain goats? I don’t know. All I know is that I went to my mother in our house that morning. When I arrived my late brother’s wife met me there and asked me,weeping, if I would do as her wounded daughter, Nadia, in Gaza hospital wished and visit her that evening. Do you know Nadia, my brother’s beautiful thirteen-year-old daughter?

That evening I bought a pound of apples and set out for the hospital to visit Nadia. I knew that there was something about it that my mother and my sister-in-law were hiding from me, something which their tongues could not utter, something strange which I could not put my finger on. I loved Nadia from habit, the same habit that made me love all that generation which had been so brought up on defeat and displacement that it had come to think that a happy life was a kind of social deviation.

What happened at that moment? I don’t know. I entered the white room very calm. Ill children have something of saintliness, and how much more so if the child is ill as result of cruel, painful wounds. Nadia was lying on her bed, her back propped up on a big pillow over which her hair was spread like a thick pelt. There was profound silence in her wide eyes and a tear always shining in the depths of her black pupils. Her face was calm and still but eloquent as the face of a tortured prophet might be. Nadia was still a child, but she seemed more than a child, much more, and older than a child, much older.

“Nadia!”

I’ve no idea whether I was the one who said it, or whether it was someone else behind me. But she raised her eyes to me and I felt them dissolve me like a piece of sugar that had fallen into a hot cup of tea. ‘

Together with her slight smile I heard her voice. “Uncle! Have you just come from Kuwait?”

Her voice broke in her throat, and she raised herself with the help of her hands and stretched out her neck towards me. I patted her back and sat down near her.

“Nadia! I’ve brought you presents from Kuwait, lots of presents. I’ll wait till you can leave your bed, completely well and healed, and you’ll come to my house and I’ll give them to you. I’ve bought you the red trousers you wrote and asked me for. Yes, I’ve bought them.”

It was a lie, born of the tense situation, but as I uttered it I felt that I was speaking the truth for the first time. Nadia trembled as though she had an electric shock and lowered her head in a terrible silence. I felt her tears wetting the back of my hand.

“Say something, Nadia! Don’t you want the red trousers?” She lifted her gaze to me and made as if to speak, but then she stopped, gritted her teeth and I heard her voice again, coming from faraway.

“Uncle!”

She stretched out her hand, lifted the white coverlet with her fingers and pointed to her leg, amputated from the top of the thigh.

My friend … Never shall I forget Nadia’s leg, amputated from the top of the thigh. No! Nor shall I forget the grief which had moulded her face and merged into its traits for ever. I went out of the hospital in Gaza that day, my hand clutched in silent derision on the two pounds I had brought with me to give Nadia. The blazing sun filled the streets with the colour of blood. And Gaza was brand new, Mustafa! You and I never saw it like this. The stone piled up at the beginning of the Shajiya quarter where we lived had a meaning, and they seemed to have been put there for no other reason but to explain it. This Gaza in which we had lived and with whose good people we had spent seven years of defeat was something new. It seemed to me just a beginning. I don’t know why I thought it was just a beginning. I imagined that the main street that I walked along on the way back home was only the beginning of a long, long road leading to Safad. Everything in this Gaza throbbed with sadness which was not confined to weeping. It was a challenge: more than that it was something like reclamation of the amputated leg!

I went out into the streets of Gaza, streets filled with blinding sunlight. They told me that Nadia had lost her leg when she threw herself on top of her little brothers and sisters to protect them from the bombs and flames that had fastened their claws into the house. Nadia could have saved herself, she could have run away, rescued her leg. But she didn’t.

Why?

No, my friend, I won’t come to Sacramento, and I’ve no regrets. No, and nor will I finish what we began together in childhood. This obscure feeling that you had as you left Gaza, this small feeling must grow into a giant deep within you. It must expand, you must seek it in order to find yourself, here among the ugly debris of defeat.

I won’t come to you. But you, return to us! Come back, to learn from Nadia’s leg, amputated from the top of the thigh, what life is and what existence is worth.

Come back, my friend! We are all waiting for you.

Standard
art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict

Edward Said on Parochialism and Palestine.

edward said/Edward Said, photo via reformancers/

In ten days, on 25th of September, will be twelve years since Edward Said died. This month Middle East Revised will publish excerpts from Said’s books, interviews and films about Said and his work.

The following is an excerpt from Culture and Resistance, Conversations with Edward Said, Interviews by David Barsamian (South End Press, 2008.).

• • •

After you visited Israel, you went to Egypt, where you encountered some parochialism. Did that take you by surprise?

No, because I confronted it before. That is to to say, what you notice amongst Palestinians, whether inside Israel or on the West Bank and Gaza, is a sense of isolation. There’s no question that they live under the shadow of Israeli power. What is missing is easy and natural contact with the rest of the Arab world.

As a Palestinian, you can’t get to any place in the Arab world from Israel or the West Bank and Gaza without going through a fairly complicated procedure, which causes you to think three or four times before you do: crossing the border, you need permits, you go through endless customs. I must say, for Palestinians traveling throughout the Arab world – and this is also true of me, and I have an American passport, but the fact that it says on it that I was born in Jerusalem means that I’m always put to one side – you’re automatically suspected. So traveling and being in contact with the Arabs in the Arab world for Palestinains is very difficult.

More important even that is that very few Arabs who are not Palestinians come into Palestinian territories, and hardly any at all, practically none, go to Israel. One of the themes – and this is kind of complicated thing to explain, amongst the nationalist and radical intellectuals of most Arab countries, which would include the Gulf people, it certainly includes Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan – has been the opposition to what they called “normalization,” tatbee in Arabic, meaning the normalization of life between Israel and, in the case of Jordan and Egypt, Arab states who have made formal peace with Israel.

The peace with Egypt is described, as it is with Jordan, as a cold peace. The peace with Egypt is described, as it is with Jordan, as a cold peace. In other words, ordinary Jordanians or Egyptians, don’t go to Israel, have nothing to do with Israelis. Israeli tourists go to Jordan and Egypt and visit the historic sites in buses for short periods of time. But beyond that, there’s very little in the way of the kind of intercourse, say, exchanges between universities, learned societies, businesses, and so on, that occur between European countries or neighboring countries otherwise at peace in any other part of the world. One of the reasons for this has been the general refused, as an act of solidarity with Palestinians, of these intellectuals to have anything to do with Israel.

The problem this poses for Palestinians, trying to build institutions, is they are being cut off from the kind of help they can get from Arabs. For example, physicians and other medical professionals from Egypt, Syrian, Lebanon or Jordan could come and assist Palestinians in setting up clinics and hospitals. They could be involved in a whole range of activities from administration to the production of pharmaceuticals. But it doesn’t happen because of this stance against normalization. Similarly, university students who read important scholars, journalists, writers, and poets from various Arab countries don’t get the opportunity to meet them.

When I now encounter Arabs and go to those Arab countries, I say to them, especially to to the Egyptians, you can go to Palestine. You can go through Israel, because Israel and Egypt are at peace. You can take advantage of that to go to Palestinians and go to their institutions and help them, appearing, speaking, being there for some time, training them. No, they say, we can’t possibly allow our passports to be stamped. We won’t go to the Israeli embassy and get visas. We won’t submit to the humiliation of being examined by Israeli policemen at the border or their barrier.

I find this argument vaguely plausible on one level but really quite cowardly on the other. It would seem to me that if they took their pride out of it, if they did go through an Israeli checkpoint or barricade or border, they would be doing what other Palestinians do every day and see what it’s like. Second, as I keep telling them, by doing that it’s not recognizing Israel or giving Israel any credit.

On the contrary, it’s going through that in order to demonstrate and be with Palestinians and help them. For example, as Palestinians face the Israeli bulldozers as they expropriate land and destroy houses for settlements, it would be great if there were a large number of Egyptians and Jordanians and others who could be there with Palestinians confronting this daily, minute-by-minute threat. And the same in universities. Well-known writers, intellectuals, historians, philosophers, film starts could go, but they say, We don’t want to have to request visas from the Israeli consulate in Cairo. I said, You don’t even have to do that. You can ask the Palestinian Authority, which has an ambassador in Cairo, to give you an invitation to go to Gaza, and then you can go to the West Bank.

So there are ways of getting around it. It’s not so much only parochialism as also a kind of laziness, a kind of sitting back and expecting somebody else to do it. I think that’s our greatest enemy, the absence of initiative [my emphasis]. We’re always expecting that the Israelis are out there, the Americans, concocting conspiracies, the Ford Foundtion. Many people want to work with these people groups but are afraid to do it publicly. They do it surreptitiously.

And in public they express opposition and say, We are going to remain untouched by this. We are not going to normalize. We refuse to have anything to do with imperialism. We refuse to sit down and plan something that could actually help Palestinians and actually deal with Israel, not as a fictional entity but as a real power that is in many ways negatively affecting Arab life.

Standard
art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

Occupied Pleasures: (Girls) Just Want to Have Fun.

tanya/Gaza: A toy store van drives along Gaza’s beach high way/

Who says Palestinians don’t (like to) have fun? With a great sense of humor and a touch for details, Tanya Habjouqa captures the ‘occupied pleasures’ of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The following are only a few stories from her great photo series – be sure to check out her official website for more.

tanya23Hayat Abu R’maes, 25 (left) recently took a yoga lesson from a visiting American yoga instructor. She is now teaching the young residents of her village, Zataara, a small village on the outskirts of Bethlehem in the West Bank. The women are increasing in number each week. They call it, “inner resistance and that its proving to be the ultimate release.”

tanya26West Bank: Students from the Al-Quds University javelin team wrap up the last practice before summer vacation in the West Bank city of Abu Dis, next to the Israeli Separation Wall.

tanya44West Bank: After grueling traffic at the Qalandia check point, a young man enjoys a cigarette in his car as traffic finally clears on the last evening of Ramadan. He is bringing home a sheep for the upcoming Eid celebration.

astaGaza: A woman plays with two baby lion cubs born in the Rafah Zoo. Gaza once had six zoos, but two were closed due to financial losses and the deaths of large animals. Gazan zoo keepers are renowned for creativity in limited options, having famously painted a donkey as a zebra, smuggling in animals in the tunnels, and stuffing them once they are dead as animals are not easy to replace.

tahWest Bank : Two furniture makers take a break in a pair of plush armchairs (of their creation) in the open-air in Hizma, against Israel’s 26-foot high Separation Wall.

tanya5A young fiancee goes wedding dress shopping in Gaza. Her future husband is working in Libya, where she hopes to join him. Since the Israeli siege, many Gazans say that girls are marrying younger as there are less possibilities for both work and travel. Most young girls say they hope to find a husband who is based outside or will find work that will take them away from the confines of Gaza.

//all images © Tanya Habjouqa//

Standard
art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

Ali Ashour: Daily Life in Gaza (II).

alip

Ali Ashour is a young Palestinian photographer. I’ve already introduced his lovely work and written about his way of capturing beauty in Gaza and his happy-go-lucky perspective on things.

I am happy to be able to continue to present Ashour’s work and his new images of daily life in Gaza. Enjoy the photos, and for more – follow Ali on facebook.

ali2

ali100

ali99

alias

alii

ali4

ali1

ali6

//all photos © Ali Ashour//

Standard
art of resistance, Israel, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

A Year Later: Rebuilding Gaza.

Jehan_Abu_Dagga-children/photo via IMEU/

Institute for Middle East Understanding has a powerful new story out – it features six out of the tens of thousands Palestinians struggling to rebuild their lives a year after the Israeli summer assault on Gaza.

The following are the fragments of some of those stories.

Jehan_Abu_Dagga-family2/Jehan and her family, photo via IMEU/

Jehan Abu Dagga is a lawyer. Her home was seriously damaged by Israel’s most recent offensive in Gaza.

We weren’t able to leave so we decided to wait for the situation to get calm. When the dark came, I thought ‘We have to escape. We can’t be trapped here. They want to kill everyone.’ We tried many times to get out from our home to a safe place but we couldn’t get far in such dangerous conditions.

The kids wanted to sleep but we prevented them because if something happened, we were afraid we would not have time to wake them up. The situation started to get more serious and dangerous from all directions. We knew that we were stuck and could not get out with all the shelling and gas bombs. We spent one week under the shelling.

In the first ceasefire after that terrifying night, which was only for three hours, I asked my husband to go to our house to bring our official papers, IDs, and passports. When he returned, he told me that our home was bombed but it wasn’t completely destroyed.

I sold my jewelry to build the house we wanted and now we don’t have enough to rebuild it. My husband is a farmer and we don’t have that kind of money. I studied law and I worked as a lawyer but I stopped to stay with my children. Now I wish I didn’t study law. Maybe if I was a nurse, it would be better so I could help in these situations.

The most challenging moment of my life was when I had to choose a safe room in the house to put my children in for the many days while we were stuck inside during the attacks.

Yassir_Mahmoud_El_Haj4/Yassir and his family, photo via IMEU/

Yassir Mahmoud El Haj, 25, is from Khan Younis Refugee Camp in Gaza. His family’s house was struck by Israeli warplanes without warning during the first week of Israel’s 2014 attacks. Yassir’s parents, Mahmoud Lutfi El Haj and Basma Abd El Qader El Haj, and his six brothers and sisters — Najla, 28; Asmaa, 22; Omar, 20; Tareq, 18; Sa’ad, 16; Fatma, 14 — were all killed.

Then they took me to the hospital and I started to search for my family between all the injured people and I didn’t find any of them there. I lost control of myself and screamed, ‘Where is family?’ The doctor came and gave me a sedative and some of my relatives told me that my family is fine and that I could see them when I felt better. When I woke up, they told me that they were all killed. Then, my brother-in-law took me to my house again and I found that they were still taking out the bodies there and I saw my father’s and brothers’ bodies being removed.

After the war, I lived in my uncle’s house and then in my sister’s house in Rafah. Then I rented a house, and I faced many problems in finding an apartment. I don’t work and I don’t have the ability to rebuild the house, especially since I was living inside a refugee camp where the houses are very close to each other and full of people. Thirty people were injured that day and seven houses are unsuitable for habitation in addition to the many partly damaged houses around my house.

I have no one now. I lost my family in this life so I don’t expect any good days in future  — I’m only waiting for time to pass. The hardest moment in the war for me was when I came back from my friend’s house and I didn’t find my home. I just couldn’t understand that I just left all my family inside for only one hour and then found it destroyed. I regret that I went out; I wish I was there with them.

I want the world to know that Israel targets civilians’ houses directly. The children and the families who were killed during the war are the evidence of Israel’s crimes toward civilians in Gaza, so I ask the whole world not to support Israel. All my sisters and brothers were smart and had good grades in school and they were still so young. None of them were involved in any political or resistance parties. Fatma, my sister, and Sa’ad, my brother got 98% averages at school. My eldest sister, Najla, was first in her class in college and and she worked as a teaching assistant at her university.

I remember when we had our last dinner during Ramadan and gathered on one table and talked about the news and situations as any normal family. I wish I knew the reason why they bombed my house and killed my family. I still want to know why.”

Aysha_Saeed_Owda_El_Kurd2/Aysha among the ruins, photo via IMEU/

Aysha Saeed Owda El Kurd, a mother of five from Rafah, works as a nurse. Her husband was a prisoner in Israeli prisons for 14 years. In 1988, shortly after Israel freed him, he was killed.

“I play the role of mother and father in my family. I have a lot of responsibility because all but one of my sons can’t find work. After my husband was killed, I lived with my five children in a rented house until we were able to buy a new house.

When the war started in 2014, my son Ibrahim was supposed to come to Gaza and tried twice but the closure of the borders prevented him from coming and he wasn’t here when his brother was killed. My other three sons came to my house with their families in Al-Shaboura neighborhood because it was safer than the eastern areas where their house is beside the borders. During the ceasefire, my son Yasser went to check on his house like everyone else, to see what happened in the area and suddenly the ceasefire was broken and the Israeli army started to bomb randomly. The house was bombed with two missiles and Yasser was killed with two other people.

When I heard my son was injured, I remember that I walked the street at night under the continuous bombing to search for him. I tried calling him on his phone. I just couldn’t believe that he was killed. I asked my colleagues in Abu Yosef Al Najjar Hospital to ask about him and they told me that they didn’t know anything because the hospital was bombed. I felt they were also afraid to tell me the truth.

When we arrived, they told me the full truth, which I already knew in my heart — that he was killed. I asked to see him and went into the mortuary in the hospital and I saw him for the last time. I kissed him and said goodbye. It was extremely hard for me. There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t save him with medical treatment as I did for so many other people.

We’re currently 22 people living in the same house and we don’t have the ability to rebuild my sons’ house again because our income is not enough and because of the blockade.

• • •

For more – see the full article on IMEU.

Standard
art of resistance, Palestine

Ali Ashour: Daily Life in Gaza.

ali ashour 2

Ali Ashour is a young Palestinian photographer from Gaza. I recently stumbled upon his beautiful Ramadan photos from Gaza and was tempted to find out more about his work.

When I asked him about his motivation, Ashour said he started taking photos to show the beautiful side of life. He wanted photos that will make people happy and invite the good feelings to come out.

Living in Gaza isn’t easy, but through his photos he wants to challenge the persisting perceptions. “I insist in showing that people live despite the difficult circumstances, that they resist. I want to show the smiles on the faces of children..” Ashour says.

Take a look at some of his work, and for more – follow him on facebook.

ali ashour 5

11536026_1065821353446319_6805856618765273022_n

ali ashour 7

ali ashour 8

ali ashour 9

ali ashour 10

ali ashour

ali ashour11

tumblr_nq42nbof3P1rveni1o1_1280

10534302_1059380727423715_7398965500087785922_n

11666179_1071895842838870_5897695456743167359_n

//all photos © Ali Ashour//

Standard
art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict

Israeli Soldiers Speak Up About Gaza Atrocities & Orders for Indiscriminate Fire.

A new report based on testimonies of Israeli soldiers concludes the massive civilian death toll from last summer’s Israeli assault on Gaza resulted from a policy of indiscriminate fire.

1425203171_b3e5b6f6-a380-46b1-833a-3087ef13d8931421845089/photo © Breaking the Silence/

The Israeli veterans group Breaking the Silence released testimonies of more than 60 Israeli officers and soldiers which it says illustrate a “broad ethical failure” that “comes from the top of the chain of command.” More than 2,200 Palestinians were killed in the assault, the vast majority civilians. On Israel’s side, 73 people were killed, all but six of them soldiers. During the 50-day operation, more than 20,000 Palestinian homes were destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of people are still displaced.

Democracy Now! discussed the report with Avner Gvaryahu, director of public outreach at Breaking the Silence. He is a former IDF solder who served from 2004-2007 as a sergeant in a special operations unit around Nablus and Jenin. During the interview, we can also hear video testimonies from the soldiers.

In one of the testimonies, a first sergeant in the Israeli military, his voice distorted, describes what his commander told him:

The commander announced, “Folks, tomorrow we enter. I want you to be determined, task-oriented and confident. The entire nation is behind you”—the usual speeches. And then he spoke about the rules of engagement. And I quote: “The rules of engagement are: Any person at a distance that could put you at risk, you kill him with no need for clearance.” Meaning, anyone at a distance of 200, 300, 400 meters from us, isn’t an ordinary civilian. According to IDF logic, he must be there for a reason, because an ordinary civilian would flee the area, and so, we must kill him with no need for clearance. For me, it was just spine-tingling.

I said to him, “Let me get this straight. Any person I see in the neighborhood where we’re headed, I spot him and kill him?” He said, “Yes. Any sane person who sees a tank battalion in his neighborhood will run away. If he sticks around, then he’s up to something. And if he’s up to something, it’s against you. So shoot him.” So I tried to dig a little deeper and asked, “What if it’s an innocent civilian?” He said, “There are no innocent civilians. Your presumption should be that anyone within the area of battle, 200, 300, 400 meters from you, is your enemy.”

In one of the other testimonies, a staff sergeant talks about the first entrance to the Gaza strip during the operation Protective Edge:

During the first entrance [to the Gaza Strip] we were near Beit Lahia, in a place called the Bedou’iyya. We were there for a few days. When we got there, there were white flags on all the rooftops. We had been prepared for something very… For some very glorious combat, and in the end it was quiet. We set ourselves up in our spot and slowly, slowly, [the Palestinians] started returning. At one point early on an older woman came near, and one of the officers said she should be shot. They told him to fire [warning shots] in her direction, and after a few shots she backed off. Later on, lots of people with white flags came over and [warning] shots were fired near them, too.

• • •

For more on this story, visit Breaking the Silence.

Standard
art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict

Five For Friday: Graphic Novels on Israel & Palestine.

My love for graphic novels is like a plant in constant need of watering – I just can’t get enough. There’s a lot of great graphic novels from the Middle East, and about the Middle East, and they are as diverse as the area itself. This Friday, it’s five graphic novels – touching on and diving in – the complex issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

1. Footnotes In Gaza by Joe Sacco

sacco-footnotes-in-gaza

I love everything Joe Sacco does. His comics and his journalism are just a perfect match. In Footnotes in Gaza, he tries to dig up the truth about two bloody incidents that occured during the Suez Crisis. But this book is not just about the events that took place in Khan Younis and Rafah – Sacco does great work portraying the exhaustion of the people, slow killing through the decades of the conflict, disrupted reality, broken lives and blurred future.

2. Jerusalem: A Family Portrait by Boaz Yakin & Nick Bertozz

Jerusalem

Based loosely on Yakin’s family, the work follows a single family—three generations and fifteen very different people—as they are swept up in chaos, war, and nation-making from 1940-1948. Instability and poverty take a heavy toll on Izak’s family, driving its sons to seek empowerment via two major underground movements of the day: international communism and militant Zionism.

3. Waltz With Bashir by Ari Folman and David Polonsky

walz-with-bashi1r

I will never stop praising this graphic novel (and the film). One night in Beirut in September 1982, while Israeli soldiers secured the area, Christian militia members entered the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila and began to massacre hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinians. Ari Folman was one of those Israeli soldiers, but for more than twenty years he remembered nothing of that night or of the weeks leading up to it. Then came a friend’s disturbing dream, and with it Folman’s need to excavate the truth of the war in Lebanon and answer the crucial question: what was he doing during the hours of slaughter? This epic tale revolves around the issues of memory and rememberance, it’s about the conflict of two forces –  the need to remember and the instinct to repress horrific incidents. In the end – memory takes us where we need to go.

4. Not The Israel My Parents Promised Me by Harvey Pekar and J.T. Waldman

Not-the-Israel-my-parents-Promised-me

This is a final memoir (the book was finished posthumously) by a great American underground comic writer Harvey Pekar. It’s a monologue by a man raised by Zionist parents. Whether Harvey was going to daily Hebrew classes or attending Zionist picnics, he grew up a staunch supporter of the Jewish state. But soon he found himself questioning the very beliefs and ideals of his parents. In this memoir he explores what it means to be Jewish and what Israel means to the Jews.

5. Baddawi by Leila Abdul Razzaq

baddawi-cover

Fresh out of the box – Baddawi is a first graphic novel by Leila Abdul Razzaq, a young Palestinian-American artist. It is composed of stories of her father, about his life in a refugee camp in Lebanon where he grew up. Razzaq says she didn’t draw Baddawi because it is a unique story. She did it because it is a common story that is not frequently told. “As Palestinians, it is our responsibility to hang on to our heritage and our history, because it’s something that is being erased. We have to take control of our narrative because it is something that is being manipulated… At the end of the day, power is all about who controls the narratives and the discourse around a particular subject. I’m just another Palestinian trying to take back that narrative,” Razzaq says.

• • •

Previous Five For Friday:

Lectures and Interviews on Middle East & Islam

 

Standard
art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict

Time Travel Booth: Palestine, First Intifada.

Twenty-four years have passed since George Baramki Azar’s book Palestine: A Photographic Journey was published. It is not a groundbreaking book, but there’s something special about it. Azar’s photos of the First Intifada have a particular warmth and capture sadness, dignity and resistance the way not many photos (and photographers) do.

adds

Poems by Mahmoud Darwish and other Palestinian and Arab poets are interwoven with the photos and commentaries in a simple, heart sinking way. While we have come to visually associate the terms Intifada and Palestinian solely with images of young men wrapped in kafiyyehs hurling rocks at Israeli soldiers or waving the flags of Palestine, photos gathered in this book are different.

des

CaptureIn it, there are other Palestinians, Palestinians not so often portrayed in the popular media (even today, twenty-four years later) – there is the beauty of the land, life of the sheepherders, poets, joy of the children, the quiet defiance of the elders, and dignity they all salvage.

kol

I think this was one of the first books of photography that gave Palestinians a human face. It is truly sad that there was a need for doing that, but that was the reality. It still is, in a way. I already wrote about the issue of humanizing, and it is sad we’re still stuck on it, it is sad there’s still a need for showing humans as humans. Of course they’re humans.

pos

Writing about the First Intifada, we must remember couple of things. Palestinians started an uprising consisting of general strikes, boycotts of Israeli Civil Administration institutions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, an economic boycott consisting of refusal to work inIsraeli settlements on Israeli products, and widespread throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails at the IDF and its infrastructure within the Palestinian territories.

gba

IDF killed many Palestinians at the beginning of the Intifada, the majority killed during demonstrations and riots. Israel used mass arrests of Palestinians, engaged in collective punishments like closing down West Bank universities for most years of the uprising, and West Bank schools for a total of 12 months. Round-the-clock curfews were imposed over 1600 times in just the first year, and communities were cut off from supplies of water, electricity and fuel.

pal

During the six-year intifada, the Israeli army killed from 1,162 to 1,204 Palestinians – 241 being children – and arrested more than 120,000.  B’Tselem calculated 179 Israelis were killed in the same period.

The First Intifada ended. Almost three decades later (with one more Intifada down the road) the occupation is still there. But, like in Azar’s book, Palestinians are not giving up.

And they searched his chest

But could only find his heart

And they searched his heart

But could only find his people

Mahmoud Darwish, Earth Poem

/all photos © George Baramki Azar, Palestine: A Photographic Journey/

Standard
art of resistance, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Palestine

Khaled Juma: The Unseen Aspects of War.

Khaled Juma is a Palestinian poet, author of children’s books and plays. He was born in Rafah, lived in Gaza city for a long time, and has recently moved to Haifa. First Juma’s poem I ever read was Oh Rascal Children of Gaza, tribute to the children of the Gaza Strip which he wrote while the missiles were falling on Gaza last summer.

Today, I wish to post his text The Unseen Aspects of War, also written during the latest Israeli attack on Gaza.

“The most dangerous thing that happens in war is what is not said, what is not photographed, and what is not talked about. It is not just stories that are told here and there to stir up peoples’ emotions and make them cry, but it is the real crime against humanity: the crime that does not receive attention because the sound of blood is always louder. However, in the end the tragedy is the tragedy, and it is huge, but should not override our sense of the small tragedy. This is not a comparison between what happens in democratically advanced countries and what happens in Palestine, especially in Gaza, but it is an attempt to convey an image of what it means to live in a state of war, even if your house is not bombed, your son is not killed, and your wife is not injured.

The first thing I will talk about is the sound of the missile and its imaginary weight. What is the effect of the sound of a missile from an F-16, even if it does not kill or injure, a missile that weighs at least 250 kilograms, and often over 1000 kilograms. For its safety the plane cannot descend lower than 2700 metres, and therefore its noise cannot often be heard, nor the sound of the missile it drops. But all of a sudden, you hear the sound that usually comes after the explosion, because the speed of the missile’s explosion is much higher than the speed of sound.

The matter is not just related to the explosion, which gives you an idea about the Day of Judgement, but also the tremors that happen after the explosion. Israel tested the characteristics of missiles in order to destroy tunnels supposedly in the area of the bombardment. Therefore, you hear a sound, which at first sounds like thunder on the open sea, before the sky lights up momentarily. Then come the tremors, and before you recover from the shock of the missile, the next one comes at you. You cannot start counting to know when it will end, because they possess an unlimited number.

For example, they once bombed a ministerial compound next to my house with 13 rockets. It is not important if the missile kills or injures you, as the matter concerns where you are at the time of the explosion. Are you asleep? Drinking tea? Standing next to the window? You might get lucky in how your body reacts. Sometimes you fall to the ground from the rush of hot air caused by the missile. Or the window falls out of the wall, marking the end of its resistance. Or tea and sugar fall to the ground from the shelves. Or you find your neighbour at your door as the tremors forced him out of his house. All of this is only related to the sound of the missiles. As for what they do, no one remains who can tell us about what happens when a missile falls near them.

Second is the issue of terror and waiting, even in situations where there is no shelling. In war the body’s ability to gauge its surroundings, the shape of the eyes, and nerve sensitivity all change. Hearing becomes more acute, sense of smell surpasses that of dogs, and skin acclimatizes. Even the concept of time changes. These changes do not lie in a single factor, but hold sway over children’s fear, your personal fear, the smell of the air, spirits floating in the air, the horrible silence of mothers, and the worry of fathers who try to hid it. In war we become something else, somewhere between human and machine.

Third is a matter related to a of sense of security, for in all wars there are different sides. Anyone who is not a party in a war can feel relatively safe. But in Gaza, there is no such luxury. You are exposed to death if you are involved in a battle, if you are the neighbour of someone involved in a battle, or if you are the neighbour of a friend whose nephew is involved in a battle. Of course, this does not stop you from being bombarded even if none these of factors are present, as was the case with the four Bakr children, killed in plain sight of a large gathering of foreign journalists.

The fourth matter is related to you feeling as if you have transformed from victim to executioner. How would you feel if they bombed your house and you saw it on the Western news being displayed as the house of a poor Israeli, blown up by missiles coming from Gaza? Your tragedy of being bombed and killed is stolen from you, while you are prevented from screaming. In war you feel like you are alone. Nothing is with you. No one is with you. Even the doors, the television, the people and the crowds. It is most noticeable when you hear an expression like: “Israel has the right to defend itself.”

Fifth is what happens after the bombardment of houses. If you survive the missile, the house is the place in which we are raised and have memories. In this sense, when Israel bombs houses, it kills the life of the resident even if they are not at home. Are the memories we grew up with which are destroyed not pieces of us? Should we not consider the destruction of the places in which we were raised with these memories to be the destruction of a part of us, just like our hands, our heads, or our hearts?

Sixth is the issue of the wounded. For example, during the massacre of the al-Batesh family, 50 people were injured in the same raid. These injuries included 32 people who had to have limbs amputated. However, because the death toll was so large, these injuries were nearly ignored. After every war in Gaza, thousands of people with disabilities are not mentioned, other than as statistics.

The seventh matter is a psychological factor. Can you image a situation in which people who are being subjected to all of this pressure cannot scream or cry? Whether it is those who lose consciousness at the sound of a missile, or those who have lost their children, fathers, friends, an acquaintance, or maybe all of the above? I know a friend whose library was destroyed by a fire after being shelled by tanks in 2008. Even though he was educated and well aware of the situation, he has yet to recover from that situation and gets a tear in his eye anytime it is mentioned. So what will be the situation of our children? They do not understand what the word “Israel” means, or the meaning of the word “death.” They only know — as a child once told me — “Why doesn’t God love us?”

Eight is something related to the concept Carl Gustav Jung called “crisis storage.” The nature of this concept is related to a defence mechanism designed by the body for dangerous situations, especially in front of children so as to not terrify them. After the dangerous situation ends, the body recalls all the fear and confusion at once, which leads to misfortunes only known by God, that often produce imperceivable abnormalities. I recall that after the 2012 war, many people said to me: “It is strange that we did not feel scared during the war, but after it finished we feel terrified.” This is precisely the concept of “crisis storage.”

The ninth matter is the issue of geographical memory loss. When there is a place we are connected to that is bombed and destroyed by Israel, years later you are not able to tell your friend “I played here,” or “I studied here,” because “here” no longer exists. There is an erasure of geographical memory, and Israel tries to erase our connections to this land.

Tenth is the loss of safety and confidence in mothers and fathers due to their inability to protect their children. This subsequently leads to the breakdown of relationships between parents and their children.

War is cruel, it distorts the human characteristics within us, no matter our ability to withstand. Before anyone thinks about the restoration and reconstruction of Gaza after the war, they must think seriously about the way to restore the lives of the people of Gaza, and sew up the holes within them, because what Israel ultimately aims to do is kill us, or at least demolish our spirit and ability to live.”

Translated by Kevin Moore

/all the GIFs in this post are from the legendary Waltz With Bashir/

 

Standard