Palestinian photographer devotes decade to capturing life in Gaza

Photographer Fadi Thabet’s “Mona Lisa of Gaza,” which shows a girl with red hair and pale skin, was displayed at the artist’s exhibition in Gaza Port, Gaza Strip, July 12, 2017

GAZA PORT, Gaza Strip — Hundreds of faces reflecting hope, sadness, a sense of loss or anger look back at those visiting photographer Fadi Thabet’s open exhibition at the Gaza Port, west of Gaza City.

The 1,000 photos are the result of Thabet’s work that spans over a period of 10 years, during which he took pictures in different parts of the Gaza Strip. On July 12-13, the large exhibition, organized and funded by the Palestinian Ministry of Culture in Gaza, occupied 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) of wall space.

Thabet, 38, chose to convey the aesthetic aspect of Gaza and its people through his photographic work, focusing on hope and life rather than the destruction and human suffering that usually is portrayed to the world.

“I took it upon myself to photograph moments of happiness in Gaza and convey a message of love and peace from my city,” Thabet, the winner of the 2006 Arab Organization for Photography Award, the 2017 Hamdan Award and the 2016 Abdulrazzaq Badran Photography Award, told Al-Monitor.

For 10 years, Thabet roamed Gaza’s marginalized areas in the north and east as well as some of the slums in the south, most notably the neighborhoods of Beit Lahia and the Nahr al-Bared camp in Khan Yunis.

Thabet would travel many months at a time to document the daily lives of the marginalized, especially children, women and the elderly. He decided to organize an exhibition when his collection of photographs became substantial.

Thabet’s photos that were posted on social media over the last few years caught the attention of humanitarian groups and human rights activists, who contacted Thabet to provide financial and medical assistance to the areas he portrayed. After seeing his photographs, doctors came to the various areas and Thabet introduced them to the families he had met.

Fadi Thabet’s photos, taken over 10 years, were placed in an area of 1,000 meters wall space in Gaza Port, July 12, 2017  

“Many Palestinian photographers also came to Gaza to take photos after they saw my pictures and the suffering of the people here,” he said.

Thabet hopes that the exhibition — titled “A thousand pictures from a besieged city” — will be acknowledged by the Guinness World Records as the first exhibition in the world to include 1,000 human photographs of aesthetic value. Thabet told Al-Monitor that he had decided against postponing the exhibition, scheduled for mid-July, for more than two months so that the Guinness World Records committee could travel to Gaza to see it firsthand.

“No photographer in the world has ever included 1,000 pictures in one exhibition. I have sought to prove this through international photographers and agencies. I wanted to break a record with the number of pictures captured,” he said.

With his photos of the children of Gaza, Thabet seeks to focus on Palestinian children’s rights as set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and their right to safe and happy living conditions. He noted that Palestinian children in Gaza, despite the beauty of their innocent appearance, are deprived of playing and having fun and living in a safe environment.

Thabet is in the process of contacting international exhibition organizers to exhibit his photos abroad. He said he hopes that the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, which remains closed, will be reopened.

Young men of Gaza pose among Fadi Thabet’s photos that describe the last 10 years of their daily life, July 12, 2017  

One of the most prominent photos of the exhibition that gained international fame and was photographed with a fixed lens is the “Mona Lisa of Gaza.” The photo, inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, shows a girl with pale skin and red hair in a similar pose as the woman in the painting.

Thousands of Gazans visited the exhibition at the Gaza Port. Painter Lina Shaheen came to see the diverse scenes and to learn from Thabet’s experience and use it in her paintings, which feature young children and the elderly.

“It is nice to have this exhibition here. It is very important for me and my colleagues to take advantage of these photos, which are similar to paintings. We receive many invitations to visit art galleries in France and Italy, but due to the closure of the Rafah border crossing with Gaza we have not been able to leave. But this beautiful exhibition makes it up for me,” she told Al-Monitor.

Visitor Ahmad al-Jayyar was surprised by the large number of photographs in the exhibition, and he and his family took pictures standing next to the photos.

“When we talk to foreigners on social networking sites, the images they recall seeing from Gaza are of violence,” he told Al-Monitor. “Unfortunately this is how everyone pictures the Gaza Strip. But I made sure to take pictures of all the exhibited photos to show my friends abroad the amazing pictures that portray life in Gaza — even if these include suffering.”

(Source / 27.07.2017)

IDF hopes to reach Palestinian youth directly with new online show

A still image from a “4Youth” edition, uploaded July 19, 2017

On July 20, the Israeli military launched “4Youth,” a video magazine aimed at young Palestinians and intended to enable Israel to engage in a direct discourse with them. Its producer, the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), considers this target audience vulnerable to official and independent incitement by Palestinian media and social networks seeking to undermine any possible normalization of ties with Israel.

The three-minute video magazine, edited like a fast-paced news broadcast, is posted to COGAT’s Al-Munaseq website, Facebook page and YouTube. The COGAT unit prefers not to call the content news, stating that the clips are presented are to expose young Palestinians to a view of Israeli society with which they may not be familiar. In other words, the idea is to show Palestinians that Israelis are not the monsters they are made out to be in Palestinian media and that the reality is more complex.

The first edition consists of a report about the new hours of the Israeli-run Allenby Bridge crossing with Jordan, allowing Palestinians to leave and enter the West Bank 24 hours a day. It also includes a survey of favorite Palestinian tourist destinations and a piece about an Israeli DJ, Ran Salman, who enjoys popularity in the Arab world. Future editions will deal with a range of social, economic and cultural issues — everything but politics — that the editors think will interest the young generation of Palestinians.

The new magazine is part of Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman’s game plan to bypass the Palestinian leadership and directly address Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The first such channels were the Al-Munaseq website, Facebook page and Twitter account. The second stage, the magazine, targets a more specific audience, the one believed to be the key to the trends sweeping Palestinian society.

Palestinian organizations are courting the younger generation to obtain their support and mobilize them for political protests and rallies as well as clashes with Israeli soldiers, such as the ones organized in recent days by Fatah to protest developments at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque. The broader context of this campaign is the power struggle within the Palestinian leadership and preparations for the succession of its 81-year-old leader, Mahmoud Abbas.

A COGAT source told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that there is a wide gap between the discourse on Palestinian social media — “where the tone is violent, aggressive, inciting and inflammatory” — and the limited willingness of young Palestinians to take part in demonstrations and violent clashes with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). COGAT has concluded that while there is a guiding hand behind Palestinian social media, where the strident voices are more pronounced, and the Palestinian media often toes the line of the radical activists, most of the young are a silent, level-headed majority dubious about the true intentions of those seeking to mobilize them.

“This is the role of the young people’s magazine,” said the source, “to fill the gaping vacuum between the incitement that rules out normalization [with Israel] and calls for violence, and the situation on the ground, which is often quite different. I’m not trying to paint an idyll in the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians, but the fact is that even before the launch of the video magazine, in three months the Al-Munaseq Facebook page attracted more than 190,000 followers, with comments on its content, many quite positive. That says a lot.”

The 4Youth magazine was launched just 24 hours before what the Palestinian leadership called a critical” Friday, referring to the day for mass prayers to protest the metal detectors installed by Israel at the entrance to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites. Nonetheless, the magazine makes no mention of this current event and does not use it as a platform to urge Palestinians to stay away from it.

According to the COGAT source, the young Palestinian generation is educated, unemployed or working for low pay and frustrated. It is in no rush to accept directives. The content of the new magazine could make them think differently, or at least to suspect that political forces within the Palestinian Authority are manipulating them.

Several Israeli media initiatives by activists and civil society have targeted Palestinian youth in past years. The question now is whether the target audience will view the IDF magazine as Israeli propaganda depicting a virtual reality. According to the COGAT source, the answer is “no.” He explained, “We have set ourselves a target of providing truthful reporting. There are no manipulations, just real information.” Israeli media are considered credible, he said, as are the reports on Al-Munaseq, even though it is an outlet controlled by the army.

The source elaborated, “Proof of that can be found not just in the number of followers and clicks, which is far beyond our wildest expectations before we launched Al-Munaseq, but also in the feedback we’re getting from young Palestinians. We get many private messages from which we see that we’ve managed to convey information to them that they’re not getting from Arabic-language media and social media. Among the messages and the feedback there are also some attacking us, condemning and cursing us, but most of them are businesslike and not critical. Often you get the sense that they’re surprised that no one has told them anything about important things, such as high-tech initiatives for young Palestinians and calls for cooperation or various openings of crossings and easing of restrictions.”

Unlike in the past, when more encounters took place between Israelis and Palestinians (even during the second intifada, 2000-2005), which were sometimes successful in breaking down walls of suspicion and demonization, today’s young Palestinian generation rarely gets a chance to see Israelis other than armed soldiers. There is no certainty that COGAT’s efforts will change the entire picture, but the magazine appears to be an important tool to show that in between the darkening clouds covering the region, there are also other hues.

(Source / 27.07.2017)

Hamas: EU ruling is ‘unjust’

Head of Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh at a press conference in West Bank on 11 May, 2017 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Head of Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh at a press conference in West Bank on 11 May, 2017

Hamas has condemned a decision by the European Court of Justice to keep the group on its list of terrorist organisations, according to Mugtama.

In a statement yesterday the Gaza Strip authority said it would continue “challenging unjust political decisions” after the EU’s top court overturned a 2014 recommendation that the group should be removed from the blacklist and sanctions against them lifted.

The group also said that the current legal framework must be used to defend the Palestinian cause.

“[Hamas] is well aware of the extent of the political and media support enjoyed by Israel in western institutions, and it is also aware of the growing popular support for the Palestinian cause,” said the statement.

Read: Hamas is a legitimate resistance movement, Qatar envoy to Algeria says

Hamas added that it would “remain under all circumstances – whatever the legal or political rulings levelled against it – loyal to its political path, committed to defending the rights of their people without any concession or abandonment of any piece of Palestinian land”.

Although the group has not carried out acts of violence in Europe, the EU has imposed a travel ban on all those affiliated with Hamas and froze the group’s assets in 2001.

(Source / 27.07.2017)

Israel injures 56 worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque

Some 56 Palestinians have been injured by Israeli occupying forces as they re-enter Al-Aqsa Mosque for the first time in two weeks, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

Following the removal of security measures implemented by Israeli forces yesterday, the mosque authority and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for worshippers, who had been staging a sit in outside the mosque, to enter the compound today.

Read: Palestinians to return to Al-Aqsa, Muslim leaders say

However, they were met with a heavily armed Israeli presence in the mosque’s courtyard. Occupation forces used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the large crowds who were attempting to pray.

Israel has since closed the gates to Al-Aqsa only allowing worshippers out of its grounds while banning others from entry.


Tensions are still high amid reports of protests planned in Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories tomorrow, in defiance of the Israeli occupation and its continued aggression against Al-Aqsa.

Clashes over access to Al-Aqsa have already killed seven Palestinians and injured over 1,000 in the past two weeks.

(Source / 27.07.2017)

Army Renews Orders Occupying A Palestinian Home Near Qalqilia

27 JUL
10:34 AM

The Israeli army decided, Thursday, to keep the soldiers, who occupied a Palestinian home four weeks ago, in Azzoun town, east of the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia, in the property until next Wednesday.

The property is owned by Mohammad Rasem Hussein, in the northeastern part of the town; it has been occupied by the soldiers, who turned it into a military post and a monitoring tower, since the begging of this month, after they forced Hussein and his family out.

Mohammad was supposed to retrieve his property this morning, but when he went there, the soldiers handed him a new military order, issued on Wednesday evening, extending the illegal takeover of his home until next Wednesday.

In addition, the Nablus office of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS), in northern West Bank, has reported that the soldiers abducted four young Palestinian men, after invading their homes and violently searching them, in the governorate.

Furthermore, the soldiers invaded several areas in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, illegally confiscated cash and a car, and abducted seven Palestinians, in addition to summoning a former political prisoner for interrogation.

In related news, the soldiers abducted two Palestinian men, both former political prisoners, from their homes, in the West Bank governorate of Bethlehem, and installed roadblocks in many areas in the northern West Bank governorate of Jenin.

(Source / 27.07.2017)

Israeli court extends detention order against two female prisoners

2 Females court al-Maskoubiya

Israeli military court of al-Maskoubiya extended the detention order against two female captives: Rawan Ambarfrom Ramallah and al-Bireh governorate and Sabrin Abu Sharar from al-Khalil. The order was extended to eight days under the claim of continuing judicial procedures, Palestinian Prisoner Society revealed on Thursday.

Israeli Occupation Forces arrested Ambar on July 23 and Abu Sharar on July 26. Detainee Abu Sharar was also arrested in Israeli jails last year.

(Source / 27.07.2017)

Tens of Palestinians injured as Israeli forces raid Al-Aqsa hour after reopening

1 hour after reopening al-Aqsa Mosque

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Just one hour after thousands of Palestinian worshipers entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem for the first time in nearly two weeks, clashes erupted inside the holy site, as Israeli forces fired tar gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at worshipers.The Palestinian Red Crescent released a statement saying that its crews had provided at least 37 worshipers with medical care. According to the group, some worshipers were treated for rubber-coated steel bullet injuries and tear gas inhalation, while others were physically assaulted and pepper sprayed by Israeli forces.As clashes took place inside the compound, Israeli forces closed the Remission Gate (Bab al-Hutta) entrance to the compound.Israeli soldiers also took down the Palestinian flags that worshipers had raised at the top of Al-Aqsa Mosque in celebration when they entered the compound.

(Source / 27.07.2017)

EU court rules to keep Hamas on terror blacklist

EU court Hamas

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The high chamber of the European Union Court of Justice (ECJ) overruled on Wednesday a 2014 decision by its general court to cancel sanctions against the Hamas movement.

In December 2014, the General Court ruled that the original listing of Hamas, the de facto ruling party in the Gaza Strip, on the European Union (EU) Council terrorism blacklist in 2001 was not based on sound legal judgement, but on conclusions derived from the media and the Internet, and recommended that the EU cease its freeze of Hamas assets.
The court nonetheless stressed at the time that the decision to remove Hamas was based on technical grounds and did “not imply any substantive assessment of the question of the classification of Hamas as a terrorist group.”
The Grand Chamber of the ECJ however overturned the General Court decision following an appeal by the EU Council, stating that the court had “erred in law” in deciding that the EU Council needed to conduct its own investigation before ruling that Hamas represented “an ongoing risk of…being involved in the terrorist activities.”
The Grand Chamber referred the case back to the General Court for judgement, effectively stating that at this stage there were insufficient facts to decide whether or not Hamas represented an ongoing risk of involvement in terrorist activities, a legal source told Ma’an.
Hamas would only be removed from the EU terror blacklist if the EU Council decided to remove it, or if a legal investigation by the General Court concluded that it did not constitute an “ongoing risk” the source added.
While the EU Council is legally bound to carry out reviews every six months on whether a group or individual should be kept on the list, the Grand Chamber ruled that the review “does not require any new material on which the Council may rely in order to justify the retention of the person or entity concerned on the list.”
As of Wednesday evening, Hamas had not issued a statement in response to the ruling.
The European Jewish Congress hailed the decision, adding that “one just needs to look at Article 7 of (Hamas’) charter to know their proudly stated genocidal aspiration to the mass murder of Jews all over the world.”
However, Hamas’ new charter released earlier this year affirmed, in a departure from the group’s 1988 charter, that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “is with the Zionist project not with the Jews because of their religion.”
“Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine. Yet, it is the Zionists who constantly identify Judaism and the Jews with their own colonial project and illegal entity,” the charter said.
Hamas has long rejected being labeled a terrorist group, arguing that international law allows armed resistance to a military occupation, and that its victory in 2006 legislative elections make the movement the legitimate ruling party in the besieged Gaza Strip.
While the European Union has imposed travel bans and frozen Hamas assets since 2001, the group has not carried out acts of violence in the EU.
In July 2016, Hamas notably condemned a deadly attack in the south of France, expressing solidarity with families of the dead and injured, and stating that the group rejected all forms of extremism and terrorism.
(Source / 27.07.2017)

Israeli forces install iron gate at an entrance of Bethlehem-area town

Iron Gate Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces installed an iron gate at an entrance of the village of Janata on Thursday, southeast of Bethlehem in the southern occupied West Bank.Palestinian security sources told Ma’an that Israeli forces installed a large iron gate at the eastern entrance of Janata, without providing and reason for the measure.Local activists said that the installation of the gate “aims to restrict the life of Palestinians by closing the gate at any time Israel wants to.”

An Israeli army spokesperson said they were looking into reports.

Palestinian communities are routinely subjected to arbitrary road closures by Israeli military forces for purported “security reasons,” an act which rights groups have denounced as amounting to collective punishment.
(Source /27.07.2017)

Jordanian officials say Israeli embassy staff will not return until guard is prosecuted

Embassy occupiers

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The Jordanian government has made a decision not to allow the Israeli ambassador to Jordan and the embassy staff to return to Amman until “gaining complete assurances” guaranteeing that the Israeli embassy guard who shot and killed two Jordanians will be prosecuted in Jordanian court, Jordanian media reported on Thursday.Staff members of the Israeli embassy to Jordan, including a security guard referred to only as Ziv — who killed Jordanian citizens Muhammad Zakariya al-Jawawdeh, 17, and Bashar Hamarneh in what Jordanian media and officials said was a professional dispute — had returned to Israel on Mondaynight after a day of high tensions following the shooting incident.According to Jordanian media, head of the Jordanian Royal Hashemite Court Fayez al-Tarawna confirmed during his visit to al-Jawawdeh’s home on Thursday, that the Jordanian government would continue to follow up with the case in accordance to international diplomatic laws in order “to achieve justice.”Official Jordanian news agency Petra reported on Monday that the case had been referred to a prosecutor for further legal steps, as Jordan and Israel have sparred over whether the security guard should be handed over to Jordanian custody.Israel, meanwhile, has refused to allow Jordanian authorities to question the injured Israeli security guard, citing his immunity under the Vienna Conventions — a body of international law which Israel has been accused of regularly violating.Relations between Israel and Jordan were already tense before the Amman shooting, as Israeli authorities had installed increased security measures in the Al-Aqsa compound, which is under Jordanian custodianship, following a deadly shooting attack on July 14.The move has sparked protests from Palestinians, who said it was the latest example of Israeli authorities using Israeli-Palestinian violence as a means of furthering control over important sites in the occupied Palestinian territory and normalizing repressive measures against Palestinians. Major solidarity protests were also staged in Amman.

Seven Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed since the attack, and at least 1,090 Palestinians have been wounded during demonstrations which were violently repressed by Israeli forces across the occupied Palestinian territory.
Israel has since seemingly backed down at Al-Aqsa after two weeks of protests, although the Knesset has meanwhile pushed forward legislation seeking to consolidate Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem.

(Source / 27.07.2017)