Soldiers Invade Bethlehem, Kidnap Four Palestinians

[Friday evening, December 27, 2013] Dozens of Israeli soldiers invaded the Saff Street, in the center of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, broke into and searched several homes, and kidnapped four Palestinians.

Israeli Soldiers Invading Bethlehem - Radio Bethlehem 2000
Israeli Soldiers Invading Bethlehem

The Radio Bethlehem 2000 has reported that more than 15 Israeli military vehicles invaded the area, firing rounds of live ammunition, concussion grenades and gas bombs, and broke into the home of resident Nidal Souman, a political leader of the Islamic Jihad.

It added that soldiers kidnapped Omar Sami Al-Hreimy, 45, his son Sami, 20, Abdul-Salam Sumaan, 45, and his son Nidal.

Clashes took place between the invading soldiers and local youths who threw stones and empty bottles at them, while the army fired gas bombs, concussion grenades, and gas bombs before withdrawing from the city.

Medical sources said that several Palestinians suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation, and received treatment by local medics.

On Thursday, soldiers also invaded Bethlehem, and kidnapped six Palestinians, after violently breaking into their homes and searching them.

In related news, the Census Department of the Palestinian Ministry of Detainees published a report revealing that Israeli soldiers kidnapped 3874 Palestinians in 2013, including hundreds of children.

The ministry said that among the kidnapped were 1975 men, ages 18-30, and 931 children.

(Source / 27.12.2013)

Destroying Syrian chemical arms at sea ‘threatens environment’

The destruction of part of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal aboard a US ship carries “multiple risks” as such a procedure has never been tested at sea, a French environment watchdog has warned.

International experts gathered in Russia on Friday approved a plan to ship Syria’s most dangerous chemical weapons to Italy for their eventual destruction aboard the specially-equipped US vessel Cape Ray.

The unprecedented plan, part of a US-Russian deal for Syria to surrender its stash of more than 1,000 tonnes of chemical weapons, will see Danish and Norwegian frigates escort cargo ships loaded with the deadly agents from the Syrian port of Latakia to international waters off the coast of Italy.

But according to French NGO Robin des Bois, the plan to dispose of the chemical weapons at sea is “adventurous” and poses a serious threat to the crew and the environment.

In a report published on Thursday, Robin des Bois pointed to Cape Ray’s single hull and the absence of transverse partitions as indicators that the ship was not suited to perform such a critical task.

“Adjustments being made to the Cape Ray cannot guarantee that the ship will remain afloat should it incur severe damage,” such as a water leak or a fire, said the NGO, which is specialised in monitoring vessels and the impact of the ship-breaking process on the environment.

‘Pilot system designed for ground use’

The 200 metre-long Cape Ray is equipped with the newly developed Field Deployable Hydrolysis System (FDHS), which was designed by the Pentagon to neutralise components used in chemical weapons.

According to Robin des Bois, the FDHS is a “pilot system (…) designed for ground use”, which has never been tested before in such a vast operation.

“To attempt a first use on such a scale aboard a ship is an adventurous operation that carries multiple risks for the crew, the technicians, and the environment,” the NGO added.

The UN has set a target date of June 30, 2014, to destroy Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s entire chemical weapons arsenal.

The most hazardous materials, many of which are still scattered across several sites in the war-torn country, are to leave Syrian territory by the end of 2013.

Sources close to the operation say neither date is likely to be kept.

(Source / 27.12.2013)

Experts agree naval plan for Syria disarmament: Russia

 

One of two cargo ships intended to take part in a Danish-Norwegian mission to transport chemical agents out of Syria docks in Limassol, December 14, 2013. REUTERS photo

One of two cargo ships intended to take part in a Danish-Norwegian mission to transport chemical agents out of Syria docks in Limassol, December 14, 2013.

Russia said on Friday that international experts have agreed a plan for shipping Syria’s most dangerous chemical weapons to Italy for their eventual destruction aboard a US ship.

Moscow hosted talks between representatives of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and disarmament specialists from countries including Syria and the United States aimed at finalising a plan for removing the war-torn country’s chemical arms.

The US-Russia deal for Syria to surrender its stash of more than 1,000 tonnes of deadly agents averted Washington-led strikes this summer aimed at punishing President Bashar al-Assad for a chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds and which the West blamed on the regime.

Russia has accused Syrian rebel forces of staging the August 21 strike near Damascus.

A top Russian negotiator said Friday’s talks in Moscow resulted in general agreement about how the arsenal can be shipped out from Syria’s Latakia port via Italy to the specially-equipped US ship Cape Ray.

“Everything went well,” ITAR-TASS quoted the Russian foreign ministry’s security and disarmament department head Mikhail Ulyanov as saying.

“We reached an understanding about how we are going to cooperate in Syrian territorial waters during the process of moving the chemicals from the port of Latakia to international waters.” Several nations have already announced their offers of help.

Danish and a Norwegian frigate are waiting in Cyprus to escort Nordic cargo ships to collect the chemicals from Latakia.

The Nordic vessels will take the most dangerous chemicals to an Italian port. These will then be loaded aboard the US Navy’s Cape Ray vessel for their destruction in international waters.

Norway’s ships will then return to Latakia to pick up the remaining chemicals so that they could be destroyed at commercial facilities outside Syria.

The most hazardous materials still remain scattered around 12 sites in Syria and the international effort will most likely fail to meet its deadline of removing these Category One agents by the end of the month.
Russia this month air-lifted 75 vehicles and other equipment to Syria to help move the agents to the country’s main port

(Source / 27.12.2013)

Saudi Arabia: Outlawing Terrorism and the Arab Spring

The kingdom is codifying current legal practices that do not distinguish between terrorists and nonviolent activists.

King Abdullah is expected to decree a new “penal system for crimes of terrorism and its financing” in the coming days. This comes on the heels of amendments to the country’s criminal procedure law earlier this month.

The terrorism crimes legislation passed December 16 by the Saudi cabinet defines terrorism as “disturbing public order,” “endangering national unity,” and “defaming the state or its status,” among other endeavors. A criminal procedure law change that came into effect December 6 legalizes indefinite detention of prisoners without charge or trial.

Together, the new regulations will tighten the legal framework for the kingdom’s approaches to terrorism, nonviolent dissent, and other activity deemed offensive to the government. To date, Saudi Arabia does not have a written penal code, and judges sentence defendants according to their own interpretations of Islamic law based on the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings, as noted in a Human Rights Watch report released December 18. King Fahd decreed a criminal procedure law in 2001, but judges do not consistently adhere to its provisions. A Specialized Criminal Court has tried both terrorism and peaceful expression cases since it was established in 2008.

2011 ORIGINS

The popular Arab uprisings that began three years ago this December also inspired some Saudis to demonstrate on their own streets for change — which is not allowed in the kingdom. Public protests were held in early 2011 by nationals calling for the release or trial of relatives detained for long periods without charge; by Saudi Shiites demanding social and political reforms; by teachers and unemployed university graduates desiring improved labor conditions; and by women asking for driving rights.

The terrorism crimes legislation passed by the cabinet on December 16 was originally drafted in early 2011 in this context. In July of that year, the draft law was leaked to Amnesty International, which criticized its contents, leading to public criticism and mockery of the draft by local human rights campaigners. The Saudi leadership blocked Amnesty International’s website and shelved the draft. A change in the legal length of detention without charge or trial, from six months to an indefinite period, was also part of the 2011 draft.

This time around, in apparent recognition of the previous criticisms, the Saudi minister of culture and information, Abdel Aziz Khoja, identified first among the “most prominent features” of the new 2013 terrorism legislation “the principle of balance…between the risks…from such crimes, and the protection of human rights being preserved…by Islamic law.”

LIKELY TARGETS

The new legislation can be expected to support existing state policies against political dissent, perceived nonconformance with religious values through activities such as women’s driving, and terrorism itself. It may also support wider and tougher action. Targets of the new laws may include:

  • Women’s driving rights campaigners. These campaigners have been charged recently with “disturbing public order,” which would be a terrorism crime according to the new legislation passed by the cabinet.
  • Shiite protestors in the Eastern Province. These protestors have been charged with “terrorism” and “instigating unrest,” among other charges.
  • Muslim Brotherhood associates and supporters. Some such figures have shown increased political activity following the ouster of former Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi.
  • Terrorists and terrorism financiers. This includes those linked to the 2003-2008 al-Qaeda campaign in the kingdom, such as the Saudis sentenced last month for the December 2004 attack on the U.S. consulate in Jeddah.
  • Demonstrators protesting the long-term detention of prisoners without charge or trial. The new amendment to the criminal procedure law that legalizes indefinite detention would help legitimize targeting the demonstrators for security action.
  • Prisoners themselves who have been detained for long periods. The new criminal procedure amendment would help legitimize these prisoners’ detention.
  • Human rights and other civil society activists. These activists have been charged with “breaking allegiance with the ruler” and “attempting to distort the reputation of the kingdom,” among other charges.

The penalties for committing the newly defined terrorism crimes, to be issued at a later date according to the Ministry of Interior, will likely represent a tactic of intimidation more than an actual change in policy, given judges’ history of not adhering to the existing criminal procedure code. The 2011 draft law imposed a minimum prison term of five years for promoting so-called terrorism acts verbally or in writing; ten years for belonging to a “terrorist” organization; and twenty-five years for establishing, leading, organizing, or administrating such an organization.

POPULAR REACTION

The new legislation has deeply disappointed human rights activists and other Saudis calling for reform from inside and outside the kingdom. At the same time, many of the kingdom’s nationals likely perceive the terrorism crimes law as helping secure society and preserve conservative Saudi values. Activist campaigns like those for human rights and women’s driving rights have not garnered major support on the streets from Saudis, who feel strong loyalty to the king.

Likewise, the new amendment legalizing indefinite detention probably is not viewed unfavorably by many inside the kingdom. Saudis typically associate longtime detainees without trial with the deadly al-Qaeda campaign that took place across the country during the previous decade. This is the case even though nonviolent activists have also suffered from prolonged periods in prison without charge or trial.

The human rights campaign, for one, is growing in the kingdom. It is aided by the country’s large young adult population connected on social media and the thousands of young Saudis returning home from U.S. university studies after Washington reopened the door to Saudi students in 2005. These factors are likely to have an impact on popular responses to Saudi government practices toward calls for reform in the near term.

CONCLUSION

This month’s legislative developments in Saudi Arabia are a testament to the domestic pressures the royal family continues to feel three years into the Arab Spring. President Obama has made it clear that Saudi stability is a Middle East policy priority. At the same time, the kingdom’s muddying of the waters between terrorism and nonviolent expression once again brings into sharp relief important differences on political, social, and religious rights between the United States and its strategic partner. Private discussions with the Saudi leadership regarding the issue — perhaps including rewards for progress — remain important to our own and longer-term Saudi interests.

(Source / 27.12.2013)

Video: Israeli soldier fires at Palestinian woman at close range

 

This video shows Israeli occupation forces shooting Palestinian woman Manal Tamimi with a rubber-coated steel bullet at close range.

The disturbing sight of soldiers firing on unarmed civilians occurred as occupation forces assaulted participants in the weekly demonstration against land theft and colonization in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh today.

The unarmed Tamimi can be seen walking towards the soldiers, apparently ordering them to leave the village.

As she approaches, one of the soldiers fires at point-blank range.

Tamimi was hit with four rubber-coated steel bullets in her knees and legs and was later taken to a hospital in Ramallah, according to a press release from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.

Under no circumstances could this be described as “self-defense” by the occupation forces since Tamimi clearly posed no threat.

The occupation forces, moreover, were engaged in an offensive action: invading Palestinian homes and property in support of an ongoing and systematic program of colonization and land theft – a war crime.

Israel has stolen almost 1,000 dunums (250 acres) of the village’s land and settlers from the nearby Halamish colony have destroyed hundreds of its olive trees.

In a similar incident in 2011, an Israeli soldier shot Mustafa Tamimi in the face with a tear gas canister at close range, killing him. Lina Alsaafin, who witnessed Tamimi’s killing,wrote about it for The Electronic Intifada.

Attacks on Nabi Saleh

Wattan TV reported that three women and two journalists were injured in the Israeli attacks, which employed tear gas, sound grenades and rubber-coated steel bullets.

The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee named the two journalists as Abbas Momani and Muath Mishal, a cameraman for Turkey’s Anadolu news agency.

Israeli occupation forces also sprayed foul-smelling water at people’s homes.

This is not the first time that Israeli forces have been caught on video attacking villagers in Nabi Saleh, sometimes with lethal force.

(Source / 27.12.2013)

Why does Israel treat Gaza farmers sowing wheat by hand as military targets?

(Photo by Charlie Andreasson)

December is the time for farmers in the Gaza Strip to sow. But for those with fields near the Israeli separation barrier, it is highly dangerous. Sure enough, we were met by news that an 18-year-old was shot an hour earlier when he was checking his bird nets here in Khuza’a in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. To sell small birds can earn a few bucks, but also makes the hunter the hunted. This one was lucky. For him, a day’s hospital visit was enough.

That our presence and our yellow vests are desirable cannot be mistaken. Without any directive, some of us get up on the tractors as protection for the drivers while the rest form a row between the field and the Israeli barrier. Here the open fields were once interspersed with olive and other fruit trees, trees devastated by Israeli bulldozers. Now they can only plant wheat, a crop that grows without daily care.

(Photo by Charlie Andreasson)

The fields to be plowed were not large, and after they been sowed, we came closer and closer to the fence. We saw the barbed wire rolled out in large circles before the fence, the towers with machine guns, the large mounds of dirt and tanks coming up behind them, the military Jeeps that stop for a moment before continuing. But we also saw the green fields behind all this, where irrigation is permitted. The contrast is great.

The work takes us closer and closer to the barrier. Activists with yellow vests still sit on tractors, but the rest of us are no longer in a row. We are now very close to the fence, so we walk directly beside those sowing by hand. It would look funny at any time, in any other part of the world, but here it is deadly serious. Maybe 70-80 meters from the fence, the ground is completely disturbed by bulldozers and tanks. Deep traces of crawlers are everywhere, some of them made earlier in the week, we are told. The tractors cannot plow there, and the farmers are not trying, either. And they can only hope that the Israeli soldiers will not tear up their fields and plow down the wheat before they reap. It has happened in the past and will most likely happen again.

(Photo by Charlie Andreasson)

Done for the day, we walk back. Not a a single bullet has been fired at us this time. But I find one in the ground, one that didn’t find its target, and show my Israeli souvenir for the others. But no one reacts significantly. Someone strikes out with his arm over the fields: there are plenty of different kinds of ammunition fired here.

I try to understand how the soldier who shot early that morning reasoned. What made him shoot? Did he feet that he did his duty, believe that he erased a potential threat to the state of Israel? Did he get a pat on the shoulder from his commander, or backslapping by his peers in the barracks? When he comes home, will his proud mother serve him his favorite dish, and will his father open the forbidden cabinet to invite his to taste something stronger now then he has become a man?

(Photo by Charlie Andreasson)

But above all, I wonder what makes them think that farmers who sow by hand are really a threat forcing the soldiers to shoot them. What makes them so afraid that they take shelter in bulletproof guard towers or tanks. How the State of Israel can be protected by bulldozing Palestinians’ fields and destroying their crops. And how to get an entire nation to believe that these farmers are a threat to their existence. I do not understand it. But I understand that our presence can mean the difference between life and death.

(Source / 27.12.2013)

NGO: Five Palestinians die of hunger in besieged Yarmouk

A fighter from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command walks past destroyed buildings in the Yarmouk refugee camp in the Syrian capital Damascus on Sept. 12, 2013
BEIRUT (AFP) — Five people, including an elderly man, a woman and a disabled man, have died of hunger in a besieged Palestinian refugee camp south of Damascus, a monitoring group said Friday.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s troops have sealed off several rebel-held areas ringing the capital, some for more than a year, prompting fears of a worsening humanitarian disaster as citizens run low on food and fuel.

“Five people died, including an elderly man, a disabled man and a woman, as a result of malnutrition and the lack of the necessary treatment,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group relying on sources inside the war-torn country.

Their deaths were “the result of the siege imposed by regime troops” on the Yarmouk refugee camp, it said.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees and several rights groups have called on the Syrian regime to lift the siege of Yarmouk, and on both troops and rebels to allow aid into the camp.

Last week, UNRWA chief Filippo Grandi warned: “The situation has progressively deteriorated: 20,000 remaining Palestinians have been trapped inside Yarmouk. … If this situation is not addressed urgently, it may be too late to save the lives of thousands of people including children.”

The Syrian army has besieged several rebel areas, including Moadamiyet al-Sham southwest of the capital, where several people have reportedly starved to death.

Extreme shortages of food led rebels in the town to announce a truce with the regime starting Wednesday, on condition that food was allowed in, but the ceasefire was broken a day later.

On Friday, the local opposition council said that while “no food aid has yet entered the town. … the parties to the truce remain committed to the agreement.”

It also said in a statement that relatives of people trapped in the siege were meeting in the Dama Rose hotel in the heart of the capital with regime representatives.

“No details have yet been given for the delay in the arrival of humanitarian supplies,” the council said.

After rebels seized control of Yarmouk in December 2012, the camp became embroiled in the armed fighting taking place across Syria and came under heavy regime assault. Regime forces eventually encircled the camp and in July imposed a siege on the camp, leading to a rapid deterioration of living conditions.

Fatah leader Abbas Zaki told Ma’an in mid-October that Yarmouk’s population of 250,000 had dwindled to 18,000 after two and a half years of conflict in Syria.

Syria’s nearly three-year civil war has claimed an estimated 126,000 lives and displaced millions of people.

(Source / 27.12.2013)

US: Third group of Palestinian prisoners to be released a day late

WASHINGTON (Ma’an) — Israel has informed the United States that the third group of veteran Palestinian prisoners will be released a day later than originally promised.

Spokeswoman for the US Department of State Jen Psaki said in a statement, “Although we had expected the release to occur on December 29, we have been informed that technical issues made it necessary to do the release a day later.”

The Undersecretary of the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners Ziad Abu Ein told Ma’an that delaying the release one day will ruin the joy of prisoners and their families who await their release.

Abu Ein added that all the preparations to greet them were made for the 29th but will now have to be postponed to December 30.

The news comes a day after Israeli military radio announced that Israel planned to announce the construction of 1,400 new settlement homes in the occupied West Bank to coincide with the prisoner release.

Israel agreed to release 104 veteran Palestinian prisoners who have been in custody since before the 1993 Oslo Accords as part of a plan to resume peace negotiations after talks were halted for more than two years.

The release of two dozen Palestinian prisoners on December 29 is the third part of that four-stage deal, and Israel has already released 52 prisoners in two previous rounds.

The last batch are expected to be released in March 2014.

Direct negotiations began in July between Israel and the Palestinians in a US-led attempt to restart the deadlocked peace process. Israel has announced plans to build thousands of homes in illegal settlements across the West Bank over the course of the talks, inhibiting US efforts.

The Palestinian negotiating team resigned in protest against continued Israeli settlement construction in mid-November, dealing a major blow to negotiations between Israel and the PLO that had already been stalled.

Negotiator Mohammed Shtayyeh told AFP at the time that they resigned in response to “increasing settlement building (by Israel) and the absence of any hope of achieving results,” following Netanyahu’s announcement that Israel would build 20,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank.

The internationally recognized Palestinian territories of which the West Bank and East Jerusalem form a part have been occupied by the Israeli military since 1967.

(Source / 27.12.2013)

Egypt: Three killed in pro-Brotherhood rallies

Muslim Brotherhood supporters run for cover during clashes with police in Helwan on the outskirts of Cairo on Dec. 27, 2013.

At least three were killed and 265 pro-Muslim Brotherhood protesters were arrested on Friday after country-wide demonstrations in Egypt, according to the interior ministry.

Security forces fired tear gas at stone-throwing protesters in several Egyptian cities, in an attempt to quell demonstrations after the end of midday Friday prayers, the usual time for demonstrations from pro-Brotherhood groups.

The protests came amid a tightening of security in the capital after the Muslim Brotherhood and its allied groups renewed calls for mass rallies against the interim military-backed government – two days after Cairo declared the Brotherhood movement, from which ousted Islamist President Mohammad Mursi hails, a terrorist group.

Anti-riot police chased student protesters demonstrating against security forces at the Islamic al-Azhar University in the capital, while footage aired on private TV networks showed students hurling stones and setting fire to tree branches to defuse tear gas.

Police also clashed with protesters in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya, while state media reported that police fired tear gas at other demonstraters in Cairo, according to Agence France-Presse.

The interior ministry said a man was killed the night before in clashes around al-Azhar University between Islamist students and civilians who oppose them.

Constant protests

Since Mursi’s ouster, the Brotherhood and its allies have held constant protests demanding his reinstatement and denouncing the interim government.

The government’s labeling of the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization means that any participants in rallies in support of the group will be sentenced to five years in prison, while the group leaders could face the death penalty under anti-terror laws, a security spokesman said, according to the Associated Press.

The terror designation came after a suicide bombing of a police building that killed 15 people.

The government blamed the Brotherhood for the attack despite a Sinai-based jihadist group claiming responsibility.

(Source / 27.12.2013)

Five Years After the Cast Lead Operation: ‘Gaza Writes Back’

It was five years ago that Cast Lead began. Now a book of short stories, Gaza Writes Backmarks the anniversary. The book’s editor, Refaat Alareer, answers questions about the collection: 

gazaArabLit: How did the idea for this collection come about? How did you put out the call for submissions? Did you tell the writers it was to commemorate Cast Lead?

Refaat Alareer: I’ve been teaching World Literature and Creative Writing at the Islamic University-Gaza (IUG), and at other Gaza training centres, ever since I finished my MA in Comparative Literature from UCL, UK in 2007. And I always had the idea of collecting the best pieces written by my students in a book. Going global became a necessity after the hateful Israeli Offensive of 2008-09. I met Helena Cobban in Gaza and threw the idea of a book of young talents into her lap, and later, thanks to Annie Robbins of Mondoweiss.net, Helena saw the potential in the project. In October 2012, Helena and I discussed a number of possible book projects and later decided a book of short fiction is the best place to start.

Since many of the writers are my own students (and friends), I contacted them and informed them of the idea of a book to mark the fifth anniversary of Cast Lead. We had a couple of fruitful workshops, and I took many of their suggestions into consideration. Later, I announced the project through Facebook, Twitter, local universities in Gaza, and personal contacts.

You should know that maybe only four stories were written in order to be submitted to the book. Many had already been written a year, two, or even three before I asked for submissions. But all pieces were written after the Cast Lead Operation.

I received tens of submissions (around 70!), and with the help of Sarah Ali, Sameeha Elwan, and Diana Ghazzawi, we managed, with difficulty, to narrow them down to 23 stories by 15 writers. Choosing the 23 stories was one of the toughest things I have ever done, because there were many more stories with strong potential.

AL: You say, in the introduction, that you wanted this collection to be “without the mediation or influences of translation or of non-Palestinian voices.” Why without translation? Are there particular effects of translation (on literature) that you’ve seen that you were trying to avoid?

RA: As much as I believe in the importance of translation, when it comes to literature I strongly believe many things get lost in translation, no matter how accurate. Therefore, our efforts were directed at improving the English creative writing skills. So that the writers think in English and express themselves in English. Also, the book comes to encourage and give a nudge to those who write in English, as that will enable them to write more and be in touch and in dialogue with the whole world. Maybe in the future we can work on a book of stories originally written in Arabic.

AL: Why young writers?

RA: Because they have a lot to say. Because they are doing most of the work these days. Because they are leading all the campaigns to make the world aware of the ills and pains Israeli occupation is bringing on Palestinians. Because young people have their worldviews and visions that are worthy of being heard. Because there are many more young Palestinians who write in English that old ones. And because the young have largely been marginalised from mainstream discussions.

AL: It’s interesting that so many of the young writers are women. Do you think this is particular to those who write in English?

RA: This is particular to those who write in English and in Arabic as well. In Palestine, we have more women joining universities than men, more women journalists than men, more women activists than men. Women are in many ways taking the lead, in writing, in activism, and in struggle.

AL: You quoted Sameeha Elwan, in the introduction, in saying that the Internet has changed the storytelling process among Palestinians (who have been fragmented since ’48). Will this collection somehow make use of the Internet? Will any of the stories appear online?

The encouragement the writers received from people in Palestine and all over the world was a catalyst for more writing. That means without the internet, many of the pieces could have been forgotten or not written in the first place. 

RA: Much of the support for the young writers came through the internet. They first started by posting their creative pieces in forums, and personal blogs, and Facebook, and then Mondoweiss, the Electronic Intifada, the Palestine Chronicle and other websites. The encouragement the writers received from people in Palestine and all over the world was a catalyst for more writing. That means without the internet, many of the pieces could have been forgotten or not written in the first place. Social media platforms have been the major battlefields in the recent years. Facebook pages, YouTube Videos, and Twitterstorms have brought awareness about the Israeli occupation and human rights violation and about the suffering of Palestinians in Jerusalem, Gaza, areas occupied in 1948 and the West Bank. Currently, we are very much depending on social media to promote the book and raise awareness about Palestine.

I think with permission from the publisher, certain extracts from the stories can appear online (some already did).

But other than that, we hope that some of the pieces can be made into films or short videos.

AL: One of the PalFest authors, who has taught workshops in both Gaza (by video link) and the West Bank, has said that — because of life, and life-and-death issues — it’s generally been difficult for talented young authors to follow through on writing projects. Do you find that’s true of young authors in Gaza?

RA: To some extent, when it comes to online courses or tutoring, it’s true. Imagine yourself not having electricity for most of the day! However, in the many courses I held in Gaza, there were a lot who joined and benefited from the creative writing sessions such as short story writing, poetry writing, and general creative-writing skills.

Israel is making it very difficult for Palestinians to live a decent life. Israel has caused every possible hindrance to prevent Palestinians from being. Still, that very same thing was the very cause that led many to write back. For many of us, writing is an act of resistance, but it is also an act of life, meaning writing happens no matter who we are and where we are. We write, therefore we exist.

AL: Most of the selections are very short. Some of them are powerful snapshots — the pain and embarrassment in Sameeha Elwan’s “Toothache in Gaza” and Muhammad Suliman’s “Bundles” — but they’re more like “flash fiction” than short stories. Did you ask for very-short pieces, or is this how the writers turned in their work?

The micro-stories, in my opinion, suit the atmosphere they came to life in and reflect many aspects of Palestinian life.

RA: When the book was announced, I asked for “short stories/short fiction stories.” No word limit was imposed. The micro-stories, in my opinion, suit the atmosphere they came to life in and reflect many aspects of Palestinian life. The stories, by zooming so closely into a very precise moment, show how brief life, hope, and dreams under occupation can be. Even the abruptness that characterises some of the pieces tells of a promising story suddenly coming to an end because the main character is killed. Because of Israel. Because there is occupation. It is true many of the stories begin in medias res, but at the end no resolution is made, as the suffering, the pain, and the deprivation continue to linger, haunting readers for a long time after reading the story. In other words, the story still ends in medias res.

Writing longer pieces is something I started working on with a couple of the writers. Although this might require a lot of time, effort, and training, some told me that the idea of writing longer stories, even novels, is lurking in their minds. Hopefully, the attention of this anthology will receive will encourage them to write more and write longer pieces.

AL: What comes after Gaza Writes Back?

RA: I am hoping the stories will get the attention of film producers. I know at least a couple of the stories can be made into great movies, or at least short movies.

Helena Cobban and I have several plans for other book projects to follow. The focus will also be to bring young voices to forefront. At the same time we will work on translating the book into Arabic, French, Spanish, Malay, among other languages.

(Source / 27.12.2013)