In Gaza refugee camp, you would need a wizard’s wand to have a New Year’s celebration

Child in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in Gaza, Dec. 31, 2018   

“I have not worn lipstick  since my wedding ten years ago. So feeling happy in a Gaza refugee camp, you need a wizard’s wand to change this misery. What new year are you talking about bro?” said Samar Al-Atrash, 33, a mother of seven children living in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in Khan Younis, on December 31, 2018.

As she moves through a 130-square-foot space in a dark tent, among dozens of ragged clothes and dented cooking pots, Samar does not even have the capability to celebrate the new year. She and her husband Esmaeel, 33, moved to the camp after they lost their house in the 2014 war on Gaza.

Samar feels “little happiness.” She does not have a dressing table mirror to reflect her exhausted face and she is still unaware of President Trump’s last August announcement that his administration would no longer fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

I asked Samar how her family and she might celebrate the new year. “Once I might be able to save some flour and vegetable oil from UNRWA aids to bake a pound cake, then I would invite the neighbors,” she replied as she cooked sorrel outside the tent.

And speaking of the UNRWA cut, she says: “If that really happens, it means real death.”

The 69-year-old agency provides services to about 5 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza. Most are descendants of people who were driven out of their homes or fled the fighting in the 1948 war that led to Israel’s creation.

A few yards behind Samar’s tent, Nesreen Zourob, 28, was preparing spaghetti for her six children. Her husband Mahroos is stuck in Morocco. He sold his donkey cart for 1200 US dollars, but his money ran out before he could complete his plan to immigrate to Belgium, according to his wife.

Both Nesreen and Samar’s families are originally from the village of al-Muharraqa, five kilometers east of the fence that separates Gaza and Israel.

Nesreen moved to the camp in 2008 when she lost the ability to pay rent on an apartment in the adjacent city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

“2017, 2018 or even tomorrow [2019] are just days eating more health from us,” she says. “Getting out of this damned camp or reuniting with Mahroos, then I can say we can celebrate. But it seems one day I might hear he drowned in the sea dreaming of a good life in Europe instead being a refugee forever.”

Gaza has always been poor, though conditions for the 2 million people who live in the crowded seaside territory have worsened as the numbers of unemployed laborers there reached 250,000 and poverty has reached 60 per cent of the population, according to local reports.

As for the upcoming general election in Israel in April, Nesreen says that it is merely “counting more wars and death to Gaza”. Benjamin Netanyahu, Avigdor Liberman, Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, and Ariel Sharon are all “dumps from the same mentality,” she says. “No one will give us roses, they just compete to kill.”

While Abdulazeez Abu Sitta, 29, unemployed, felt compelled to spend the new year with his friends in the camp. He said he has no coins for a taxi fare to join the celebrations of the 54th anniversary of the founding of Fatah in conjunction with the new year, when a torch was to be ignited in the center of Gaza city.

Abdulazeez think the entire world is moving towards war. “I think we will miss the stable situations after the US moved its embassy to Jerusalem. That was just what Israel needs to get the green light, to eliminate the Palestinian issue,” he said.

Jehad Abu Muhsen, a 49-year-old mother of two, had just ended her daily routine by carrying crushed stones on a horse-drawn cart to a nearby stone crushing workshop, for $1.50 US for each load.

“There is no beautiful or happy years here in the camp nor the whole Gaza,” Abu Muhsen told Mondoweiss. “This man [Trump] is going to spoil the world, while the biggest losers are us the Palestinians.”

The Abu Muhsen family once owned a palace in Jaffa, with 40 dunums of lemon and orange orchards.

“Today I have a 140-square-foot space tent surrounded by high walls of waste and car wrecks,” she said. “Don’t forget to visit us in 2020, son, you might find us vanished. Or at least bring some flour for pound cake for the next new year.”

(Source / 02.01.2018)

What Gaza Wants

By Haidar Eid

Palestinian protesters react to tear gas during clashes with Israeli forces during the Great March of Return in the southern Gaza Strip on May 15, 2018

Four years after the Israeli Occupation Forces perpetrated a massacre upon the population of Gaza, the third in 5 years, Apartheid Israel insists on committing more crimes by targeting civilians protesting peacefully every Friday demanding their internationally-sanctioned right of return to the towns and villages from which they were ethnically cleansed back in 1948. The latest round of Israeli war crimes has resulted in a new massacre ; since March 30th, when the first of a series of marches took place at the eastern fence of the Gaza Strip, more than 220 innocent civilians, including 34 children and 5 women, have been murdered brutally as they demonstrated non-violently.  More than 2000 have been injured, some very critically. (Statistics taken from Gaza Ministry if Health)

As we, Palestinians of Gaza, embark on our long walk to freedom, we have come to the conclusion that we can no longer rely on governments; instead, we request that the citizens of the world oppose these ongoing deadly crimes. The failure of the United Nations and its numerous organizations to condemn such crimes proves their complicity. We have also come to the conclusion that only civil society is able to mobilize to demand the implementation of international law and put an end to Israel’s unprecedented impunity. Our inspiration is the anti-apartheid movement. The intervention of civil society was effective in the late 1980s against the apartheid regime of White South Africa. Nelson Mandela, before his eminent death, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, amongst other anti-apartheid activists, did not not only describe Israel’s oppressive and violent control of Palestinians as Apartheid, they also joined this call for the world’s civil society to intervene again.

In fact, we expect people of conscience and civil society organizations to put pressure on their governments until Israel is forced to abide by international law and international humanitarian law. It did work last century; without the intervention of the international community which was effective against apartheid in South Africa, Israel will continue its war crimes and crimes against humanity.

We need to be more specific about our demands. We want civil society organizations worldwide to intensify the anti-Israel sanctions campaign to compel Israel to end to its aggression.

It has become crystal clear that the international conspiracy of silence towards the incremental genocide taking place against the 2 million civilians in Gaza indicates complicity in these war crimes.

It is high-time that the international community demand that the rogue State of Israel, a state that has violated every single international law one can think of, end its medieval siege of Gaza and compensate for the destruction of life and infrastructure that it has visited upon the Palestinian people. But this should also come within a package of demands to be made by all Palestine solidarity groups and all international civil society organizations that still believe in the rule of law and basic human rights:

  • An end to the siege that has been imposed on the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip since 2006 for voting against the fictional two-state solution and the Oslo Accords;
  • The protection of civilian lives and property, as stipulated in International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law such as The Fourth Geneva Convention;
  • That Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip be provided with material support to cope with the immense hardship that they are experiencing at the hands of Israeli Occupation Forces;
  • Immediate reparations and compensation for all destruction carried out by the IOF in the Gaza Strip;
  • Holding  Israeli generals  and leaders accountable for  war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the civilians of Gaza;


  • An end to occupation, Apartheid, and other war crimes committed by Israel.

Why is that too much to ask? Were the anti-apartheid and Civil Rights movements too demanding for calling for an end to all forms of racism, institutional and otherwise ? And was the international community wrong to heed their calls?

(Source / 10.11.2018)

Gaza’s iconic ‘liberty protester’ shot in the leg by Israeli forces

By Ahmad Kabariti

Aed Abu Amro, 20, is the owner of a small kiosk that sells cigarettes in the al-Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City’s south side. On October 22 he reached internet infamy after photographer for Anadolu Agency Mustafa Hassouna captured a shirtless Abu Amro gripping a Palestinian flag firmly in one hand and a slingshot in the other during a protest at the fence that divides the Gaza Strip and Israel. The picture has been shared more than 50,000 times.

When the image went viral it was compared to Eugène Delacroix’s famed painting “Liberty Leading the People” where lady liberty incarnate leads an armed crowd to oust King Charles X during the Second French Revolution while clutching what later became the flag of France.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Dylan Sebastian Evans@DylanSebEvans

Like Mustafa Hassona’s stunning photograph of twenty-year-old Aed Abu Amro, Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People depicts the fight for freedom as fiercely and unashamedly patriotic: ‘[A]lthough I may not have fought for my country, at least I shall have painted for her’.

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Laleh Khalili@LalehKhalili

Holy shit what an image. “13th attempt to break the Gaza blockade by sea”. Photo by Mustafa Hassouna (Andalou Agency for Getty):

Yesterday Abu Amro was shot in his leg with a rubber bullet while the Israeli navy was cracking down on the marine protests in the northern city of Beit Lahia that borders Zikim beach in Israel south of Ashkelon. I saw paramedics carry him off of the sandy shoreline. Abu Amro was struck when Israeli forces opened fire on a rally of 15 Palestinian boats unmoored from Gaza City’s port and headed towards Israeli waters. The scene was frantic as the fire came amid a barrage of tear gas also fired on the flotilla.

The flotilla protests have coincided with the Great March of Return demonstrations, meaning weekly Palestinians are facing off with Israeli forces at both the land barrier and on the seafront.

Aed Abu Amro winds a slingshot and waves a Palestinian flag, Friday, October 26, 2018.

Aed Abu Amro waves a Palestinian flag at a protest in the Gaza Strip on Friday, October 26, 2018.

Friday October 26, 2018.

Friday October 26, 2018.

Friday October 26, 2018.

Aed Abu Amro displays his iconic photograph, Friday, October 26, 2018.

When I spoke to Abu Amro two weeks ago, he addressed the possibility of becoming injured. At that time, he said told me he “longed to taste the lovely pain of being shot by those Israeli snipers” because “we must struggle as long as injustice and humiliation are being practiced on Gaza people.”

Abu Amro said he has not missed any of the more than six months of protest that began in Gaza on March 30, 2018 and continue each Friday. Since the blockade over Gaza began 11 years ago, he has not been able to leave the enclave. He insisted, he will continue to protest at “whatever cost to him.”

Abu Amro was pleased that his image evoked a likeness to the French painting. That day he spent a total of three hours protesting, shirtless.

“It is really good to compare my shirtless image to this topless woman. I think she will inspire me,” Abu Amro said timidly while showing the French painting on his cell phone to his friends who circled around.

Delacroix painted the iconic image in 1830 commemorating those who took up arms and marched under the motto of liberty, equality and fraternity.

“I felt proud once I saw the image delivered into my Facebook inbox by a friend,” he said, “While going to protest, I am not interested in getting my photo taken by journalists, but that one has fueled me up to continue protesting.”

Aed Abu Amro, Friday October 26, 2018.

Friday October 26, 2018.

Friday October 26, 2018.

Describing the day the photograph was taken Abu Amro said he and some friends were monitoring the march from afar when plumes of thick smoke from tires burned by protesters and tear gas fired by the Israeli military created a thick cloud.

“This chaos warmed me up,” said Abu Amro who then rushed toward the fence separating Gaza from Israel. Some have suggested Abu Amro is motivated by despair and hopelessness, but he said that he does not feel that way.

“I have never miss a single lesson at my bodybuilding club and I am a Street Workout athlete,” he said, “My people, my friends and I love life more than the whole of people around the world.”

Hassouna, the photographer who snapped the photo told Mondoweiss Abu Amro looked like a “rebel for his people’s just cause.”

“Abu Amro and everyone from his generation do not have weapons, rather stones which have become an inherited element of Palestinian culture of resistance the occupation,” Hassouna told Mondoweiss, “I am very proud to convey this image to the whole world who supports Gaza, and to the lovers of humanity and freedom.”

Friday October 26, 2018.

Friday October 26, 2018.

Friday October 26, 2018.

Abu Amro comes from a humble background. He lives in a 970 square foot house with his family. It is uncomfortably overcrowded. Although the weekly protest location is only three miles away from his home, reaching it is not an easy task. Abu Amro earns about $2.70 a day from his cigarette counter. “Despite my hardships, I share half of what I bring with my family, and the other half pays for a taxi to get here,” he said of his commute to get to the demonstrations, which raises the question of why he does not take a bus, like thousands of other protesters? Abu Amro said the buses are paid for by political parties and he is an independent.

“So nobody can accuse me that I support any political faction, I come alone with my desire,” he said.

(Source / 07.11.2018)

Annexation is in the air

The Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territory Occupied Since 1967, Michael Lynk, speaks at UN Headquarters in New York City, October 26, 2017

A warning about imminent annexation of the West Bank was given on Tuesday by UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories S. Michael Lynk, on the eve of his delivery of his annual report to the General Assembly.

He was introduced by Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies Rashid Khalidi, with commentary by Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Diala Shamas. The talk was co-sponsored by the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University and the Department of Middle East, South Asian and African Studies at Columbia University

Lynk, law professor at Western University, London, Ontario, distributed a draft of his report to the General Assembly, warning of the trends to annexation, to the audience for his talk at Columbia Law School, “Annexing the Future: Israel, Palestine and International Law.”

Much of the report itemizes the legal and political trends in Israel that point to formal annexation, including the Knesset’s March 2017 settlement Regularization Law and this year’s Nation-State Law, which in combination build a foundation for expanding sovereignty to the entire “Land of Israel.”

Israeli parties and politicians are expressing aspirations for annexation, and there is higher and higher public approval in the Israeli public.

The UN human rights monitor said that he has not been permitted to enter the Occupied Palestinian territory by Israel since his appointment in March 2016, and visits Amman, Jordan, to receive reports and confer with Israeli and Palestinian human rights activists and witnesses.

He said that  “annexation trends in the occupied territories, particularly with respect to the West Bank, are quickening, and annexation is in the air, and formal annexation may be occurring sooner than we are thinking.”

He gave the audience his five conclusions pointing to annexation, saying the Oslo process was based on the idea that Occupation and rule over Palestinians is “not sustainable” for Israel, as a self-evident truth. “However, [Prime Minister] Netanyahu has stated that he is only willing to concede a “Palestinian State-minus, with all of the settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley remaining Israeli possessions,”

I think here, as part of my closing remarks, might be a good time to revisit Oslo’s assumption about sustainability, which is premised on the supposedly irreducible fact that Israel has no demographic or political choice but to withdraw from all or most of the occupied territory and allow a sovereign Palestinian state to emerge if it is to retain its Jewish character and democratic values.

It’s my point that this working assumption about sustainability is being left behind by the galloping realities of the occupation, and I might cite just five examples for you:

First, I think this assumption fails to account for the creative thinking among the ascendant Israeli right — that it can comfortably live with the model of permanent rule over the Palestinians that would deny them citizenship and democratic rights.

Secondly, I say that overlooks the striking degree of control that Israel exercises over the Palestinians, as it confines them to smaller, denser, and more fragmented islands of land through a sophisticated security method of walls, checkpoints, control over the population registry, and overwhelming military superiority.

Third, I think this assumption overestimates the willingness of the Oslo sponsors — particularly Europe, which is Israel’s largest trading partner, and America, its military and diplomatic patron — to challenge Israel with any meaningful consequences should it retreat, as it has, from any lingering commitment to a genuine two-state solution.

Fourth, it disregards Oslo’s escape clauses that have allowed Israel to pocket the cost-free features of the occupation, the large amounts of European and international aid to fund the Palestinians, and the annual $3.8 billion dollar military package that the United States gives to Israel, while Israel continues to thicken its presence throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and continues the blockade of Gaza.

And finally, I think, this assumption begs the question of whether a genuine two-state solution was ever possible in the absence of the international community’s political will to enforce the clear obligations and prohibitions of international law that could have stemmed Israel’s revanchism over the last half century.

Lynk pointed to the reprieve of the village of Khan al-Ahmar as giving him hope, protected by the work of Jewish and Palestinian human rights activists and civil society organizations. “They are the bridge to each other. They all speak the language of human rights. They are fluent in it. And the work they do is highly professional, and to me they are the genesis of what a future society, either a genuine two-state solution or a one-state democratic solution, could wind up looking like in Israel and Palestine. They give me hope, or else I would have left the job some time ago, because it’s dreary and it’s soul-destroying to tell you all this depressing news without telling you there is some hope for some optimism, some rainbow beyond all this,” he said.

(Source / 26.10.2018)

Fragmented thoughts from the Eastern fence of the Gaza open-air prison

Palestinian protester hurls stones towards Israeli forces during clashes on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, in al-Bureij in the center of Gaza Strip on April 18, 2018

By Haidar Eid

I am writing this piece after returning from one of the marches today at the Eastern fence of the Gaza concentration camp where six young men have been brutally shot dead and more than 112 injured by Israeli snipers. Sources from the Palestinian Ministry of Health are telling me that the number is expected to rise.

Zionism originated as a racist colonial movement, with the agenda to ethnically cleanse the land of Palestine of its indigenous population, in order to set up an exclusively Jewish State at the expense of the Palestinian people. History has proven that if unchecked, this agenda also allows Zionism to pose a dangerous threat beyond Palestine’s borders to the rest of the Arab world. The Zionist terror against us includes the continuation of ethnic cleansing and racism in the land of Palestine, sentencing surviving Palestinians to a life in exile in different parts of the world.

Our present focus on a constructive program for Palestinian liberation is based first and foremost on our insistence on the right of return to our national homeland, primarily as a natural right, and secondly as a right enforced by international law.  For this reason, it is not surprising that Palestinian nationalism is being carried on the shoulders of the sons of the refugee camps, those who have taught themselves through their experience of the reality of being refugees, that they must insist upon recognising and rejecting this reality.  They are the sons and daughters of those who will return, not those who are refugees.

Therefore, it is not surprising that our fellow Palestinians who remained within the 1948 borders, have lifted up their banners to insist that they are there to stay, clinging to the right of return.  Nothing can obstruct this vision of a people determined on life, despite the short sightedness of the USA and complicit EU.

The demand for the right of return has been and will always be the focal point of Palestinian self-determination, with the wishes of the whole of the Palestinian people, having justice and democracy on their side in facing Zionism, as a purely exclusivist ideology. We must ask uncomfortable questions; how did things become so distorted, in this historical confrontation faced by the Palestinian people? In the South African context, the equation was clear. It is mind-boggling! In fact, it is so absurd that we continue to be burdened by this kind of questions about ourselves.

We see that the answer lies within the Palestinian concessions, which reached their culmination in the 1993 Oslo Accords. The Oslo Declaration showed the capitulation of the essence of freedom and self-determination for Palestinian liberation, and allowed the page of ‘terrorism’ to be attached in fabrication.  The negotiation for the right of return was merged into a discussion of the institutions of self-government, which would be called a ‘state’.  This complicity involved the deception of a ‘two state solution’ as a cover to settle the issue of Palestinian nationalism and the rights of the Palestinian people.

All this indicates that there is a need to absolutely refuse the fate drawn for us by the Israeli and American right-wing governments.  There is also an urgent need to work politically to offer an alternative to this reality, instead of searching for alternatives which not only have proved to be delusional, but threaten our very existence.

The final judgment is approaching. Either exist, or be wiped out from history.  Therefore, it is the moment of truth, either be steadfast during this certainly delusional settlement, the settlement of a state, a Bantustan, with partial authority over the Palestinian people, or the delusion of a settlement under Israeli citizenship, regardless of the right of return.  We, marchers at the Eastern fence of the Gaza Ghetto beg to differ! We want the full menu of rights, or nothing!

(Source / 13.10.2018)

‘Teargas became my daily meal’ — the endless harassment of a Jerusalem neighborhood makes life unacceptable

Human rights activist Abdulwahab Sabbah is director of the Dar Assadaqa community center in Abu Dis, part of London’s human rights and twinning organization, Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association

My friend Abdulwahab (Abed) Sabbah is the director of Dar Assadaqa, a community center in Abu Dis, East Jerusalem. He is the Palestinian half of London’s human rights organization CADFA, the Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association. He sent me an account of an IDF attack on his family in their apartment in Abu Dis on September 4, and followups. 

What a day. We started early, at around 2:30 AM, when savage mercenaries from the Israel IDF invaded my father’s and my house. They started to knock hard on the main door, and when my father open the door, eight of them entered with their weapons into the house before I woke up and went down to see what was happening. By that time, five of them went up to my house [apartment], woke my family and pushed them downstairs to my father’s. All of us were held in one room; and the soldiers started to go into the rooms, one by one. They took our mobiles [cell phones] and IDs [and] birth certificates. My little daughters were sitting staring, not knowing what is happening. Who are these people with guns and masks wandering in our house, and shouting and pushing? My father was as usual the strongest and fought back.

First, they wanted to arrest my son Mohammed. They took him up stairs without allowing me to go with him, and when he was ready they asked about my youngest son Yassar, who was out helping to prepare our cousin’s wedding, which is today. By the end they gave me a military order: to come to the Israeli military camp in Abu Dis at 10 AM.

Four other young people, together with the wife of a “wanted man” (as they said), were arrested. And 10 houses at least were invaded at the same time in Abu Dis today.

None of my five kids were able to to go to school today. My poor mother and father did not manage to sleep worrying about my sons and me. As for me, I went to the military camp at ten, as they wanted. They take my ID and hold me until three thirty PM. No one spoke to me; just waiting. Then they gave me my ID and asked me to leave.

Abed Sabbah wrote to me again on September 10: 

Today the army came back to Abu Dis boys school. I was there also, and again more teargas. It became my daily meal. I am going back to what I used to do last year: to go early near the schools to try and save the school day and help kids reaching the school safely because the army returns early and makes a checkpoint next to the schools.

I asked him for his view of the reason for the IDF’s attacks. 

I don’t know if you can explain about the place, the East Jerusalem area, and its complete isolation by the wall, settlements, and checkpoints controlled by Israeli military camps, as it is all considered as areas B and C [of the occupied territories, in which Israel has complete control]. Among the past 30 years hundreds of young people, including children under the age of 16, were arrested by the Israeli army, and sent to prison for months if not years for joining demonstrations against the occupation or throwing stones.

These young people will be arrested from their schools or in the middle of the night from their house, and will be sent to Israeli settlements around the area for interrogation, where they will be tutored and made to signs on statements written in Hebrew language, which they can’t read. Then they use [the ‘confessions’] in the military courts, where the young ones will be given sentences, including making their family pay thousands of shekels to release their children. Our children are facing this situationfor years, together with having to be all the time targets for the Israeli soldiers, on the streets, and inside their schools. Many, including my own son, was shot by [rubber bullets]. When he was 13 one of the [bullets] hit him in his face.

In the night they came to the town, they entered 10 houses and arrested 5 people and one woman, and searched their house, destroyed their furnitures, and in the end they released the women and two men without any charges. Next morning we saw a film published by the Israeli army, talking about finding guns and weapons in Abu Dis — just to say to their people that they are doing their job.

For me, I [have often been] a prisoner. I was arrested by the Israeli army 7 times– which none of them I was charged. It was all administrative detention, which is imprisonment without a trial. The first time I was 16. So now my sons are facing the same punishment, maybe because I am working for a human rights organization calling for justice for Palestine. My sons and family are targeted. All I want is to protect my family and my people from this wild daily harassment which is getting harder and harder.

The life that we are living is not at all acceptable. Generation after generation have to face this terror and live in fear. It’s about time to break this inhuman situation and have free equal life for Palestinians.

I asked Abed about the risk that publishing this account might put his family at even higher risk. 

My family should be prepared for that. We are living inside it. Let the world know who are these people and stop finding excuses for their crimes.

(Source / 15.09.2018)

The families of Khan Al-Ahmar insist on their right to remain and defend their village

Israeli policemen scuffle with Palestinian demonstrators in the Bedouin village of al-Khan al-Ahmar east of Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank

One night towards the end of 1986, with the harsh December cold hovering over the hills of Jerusalem, my mother decided, after nine long months of suffering, to bring me into the world. I was a rascal, she later told me, the moment I plopped into the nurses’ waiting hands I began my battle with life. If I had known that earlier, I would have chosen to remain calm in my mother’s womb.

The village of Khan Al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem, was the first land my feet touched. I spent my childhood chasing after my mother as she walked two kilometers to the nearby spring to collect water, or staying at my grandmother’s house watching her weave cloths and tent coverings from lamb’s wool and goatskin. Sometimes, I would stay at our neighbor’s house when there was no one home to watch me.

My father was busy tending the herd with my grandfather. We only had a few heads of sheep and goats to provide our daily sustenance; my grandfather lost his crops and half his riches in the war of 1948 when he was displaced from Beersheba in the south of Palestine. He wasn’t the only one who had to leave everything behind; all of my family shared the same fate. Some of them settled in Khan Al-Ahmar and others fled to Jordan and resided there. My grandmother’s eyes would silently convey the struggles they faced and their yearning for Beersheba. Injustice and tyranny became our inheritance, like a 2000-year-old Roman statue that must be preserved and held onto.

After my grandfather suffered through displacement and the pain of occupation he died, leaving us to continue the struggle. Many of the Jahalin tribe lived in Khan Al-Ahmar for many years and continue to live there today without the most basic needs; no electricity, no water, without education or healthcare or services, without anything. The best way to describe it, is that Khan Al-Ahmar passed through the twenty-first century as if it were the last century BC. Yet, it remained steadfast and strong in the face of the occupation and the flocks of settlers, and it will remain, refusing to give up or to succumb to another nakba.

When I turned six, I joined the rest of my young family members in line at the side of the main street connecting Jerusalem to Jericho. There, we waited for transportation in order to attend a school in Jericho, 30 kilometers from Khan Al-Ahmar. I clearly remember the trucks, laden with oranges, rumbling by at six in the morning on their way from Gaza to Jordan, always stopping to take a passenger or two. I also remember the daily newspaper car, heading towards Jericho each day. Those were difficult times; winter was a heavy burden on students, and the summer heat was also a lure to leave school and think about taking a job that would contribute to the household expenses. Most students didn’t even complete elementary school because of these difficulties.

In 2009, the citizens of Khan Al-Ahmar decided to build a school aided by Italian and local organizations. Modestly built, with classrooms formed by car tires and planks of wood, it was hoped that the school would provide a safe, accessible, educational environment.

But when the school opened its doors, no sooner had the 200 students settled at their desks than the desert foxes and highwaymen issued orders to have the school demolished. As if that wasn’t enough, they also issued orders to demolish residential buildings, herd shelters, and young couples’ homes. They even issued orders to demolish the mosque that had been simply built with wooden planks covered with goatskin to block the sun.

In the nine years from the day the school was built in Khan Al-Ahmar until today, the village lived through a many forms of economic, social, and psychological harassment. The army blocked any type of building materials from entering into Khan Al-Ahmar. They forbade entry to energy sources such as solar panels and electric generators, as well as medical equipment. In summary, anything that would improve Khan Al-Ahmar’s chance of survival was forbidden. But that wasn’t all. Large sections of Khan Al-Ahmar’s desert were closed off to prevent grazing, water wells were destroyed and the desert was declared a military zone. They barricaded animals, people and land and I did not realize that it was all due to building a small school. I imagine if anyone asked me the reason for this blockade and I answered that it was due to building a school, they would shake their heads at me and move onto another subject telling themselves that I was surely lying, because what power in the world would destroy a school? They would think that we must be a threat to Israel’s national security or plotting to build a nuclear reactor. When in reality, our dreams have fallen by the wayside, our hopes have been lost in the orange trucks and our talents have been smashed on the rocks of siege and the gates of oppression.

The thieving hunters’ eyes never stray from the prey, and yet we dream of finding justice one day.

However, despite nine years of legal battles to defend the right of our school’s existence, to protect our ancestors’ homes, our clansmen’s homes, the shelters of our herds and our goatskin-covered mosque. Despite our efforts to protect our children’s future, our Bedouin heritage and identity, the fabric of our society and our familial connections. In spite of our attempts to remain in the place where we were raised, among our childhood memories with ancestors and families. Despite all the resistance, all the patience and all the hard work, it was no use. In 2018, the judge’s gavel in the Israeli Supreme Court slammed down on the dreams of the rightful owners, shattering any trace of humanity, ruling in everything but justice. The Court issued a decision to demolish and vacate Khan Al-Ahmar, and I wondered to myself, “How can there be hope, for how can a grain of wheat complain about a chicken?” After the demolition order was issued, the occupation’s wolves hurried to carve roads between the houses and close all the pathways into the village. They announced that Khan Al-Ahmar was now a closed military area.

The very next day, bulldozers came into Khan Al-Ahmar to demolish the village and all that the citizens could do was to stand bare in the face of the criminal monsters and their heavy machinery. Youths, children and women were all attacked that day. Thirty people were injured and six arrested, including a 19-year-old girl who was assaulted by press cameras, her hijab ripped off, her dignity violated. After the battle, the criminal authorities ordered a curfew within the village and blocked anyone from entering or exiting, including the press corps and medical personnel. A suffocating siege ensued. After that cursed day and after another petition by the people of Khan Al-Ahmar to the ‘Chicken Supreme Court’, a temporary stay of demolition orders was granted – until the occupation could find another excuse to displace the residents. It is expected, that after many court sessions, after the people of Khan Al-Ahmar refuse all offers from the occupying forces, and insist on their right to remain and defend their village, the bulldozers will come to crush the lingering dream of survival, of preserving the heritage and the very fabric of their identity.

Translated by Lama Khouri

Editor’s Note: After a long and courageous struggle, the people of Khan Al-Ahmar lost their battle when the high court in Israel declared that the demolition can go ahead.

(Source / 08.09.2018)

Decades of displacement continue in al-Walaja as Israel demolishes more homes

Khaled Abu Kheyara

Khaled Abu Kheyara stands in front of the rubble of his home that was destroyed by Israeli forces

It’s been three days since Khaled Abu Kheyara, 32, was faced with the moment he had been dreading for the past year.

In the middle of the night, as bulldozers and armed Israeli soldiers surrounded his home, he woke up his three young children and told them their home was being destroyed.

“It was around 3:30am when the soldiers arrived to our home,” Abu Kheyara told Mondoweiss as he sat among all his family’s belongings in his new home — a small tent made of metal rods and tarp.

“We barely had any time to take out all of our belongings before they started demolishing the house,” he said.

Abu Kheyara’s home, which he shared with his brother and his family, was the first of four buildings that Israeli forces destroyed on Monday morning in the Bethlehem-area village of al-Walaja, in the southern occupied West Bank.

As forces moved from one home to the next, Abu Kheyara told Mondoweiss that villagers and activists from Bethlehem came to the scene to try to barricade the homes.

“We were just trying to protect our homes and they just started firing at us and violently pulling people, even the women, out of the buildings,” he recounted.

Video of the violent evacuations show Israeli forces pushing, shoving, kicking, and punching men and women in attempts to get them out of the houses. Forces also fired sound bombs, tear gas, and rubber bullets, injuring at least 10 people.

“Despite all our efforts, by 11:30am, they had finished what they wanted to do and left al-Walaja,” Abu Kheyara said. “They went back to their lives, and left us to deal with the destruction.”

Abu Kheyara and his family members and neighbors, who come in and out of the tent with coffee and some snacks for the children, told Mondoweiss that around 40 people were left homeless, 30 of them, he says, are children.

A family history of displacement

Abu Kheyara and his family, like many residents of al-Walaja, come from what locals call the “old al-Walaja.” It is the historic land of al-Walaja, visible just over the mountain from Abu Kheyara’s home, that was annexed and made part of Israel in 1948.

As a result, most of al-Walaja’s residents — including Abu Kheyara’s family — became refugees, fleeing to the present day area of the village, which is only around 30% of the village’s original land, and sits on the Palestinian side of the Green Line.

“My grandfather’s home in the old al-Walaja was destroyed when Israel took over the village in 1948,” he said, as he pointed to the lush green mountains in the distance, dotted with Israeli homes.

“And after he was displaced from there, and he came here and built a home here, they also destroyed that home,” Abu Kheyara said of his grandfather.

Following its 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israel unilaterally expanded the boundaries of Israeli‐controlled Jerusalem and illegally annexed more Palestinian territory, including another 50% of the “new al-Walaja.”

When part of the new al-Walaja was illegally annexed by Israel, Palestinians living in the area came under the jurisdiction of the expanded Israeli Jerusalem municipality, though to this day, they have not been offered Jerusalem residency, nor do they receive any services from the municipality.

“The only service that the municipality gives us, is demolition service,” Abu Kheyara said, as he pointed to the rubble of his home behind him. “They say we are under the rule of the municipality, but we don’t enjoy any of the services that Jews living in Jerusalem do. No Palestinians do.”

“My grandfather’s homes were destroyed, they [Israel] destroyed my father’s home, they destroyed my brothers’ homes, multiple times, and now the destroyed my home,” he said, as he counted off the demolitions on his fingers.

He estimated that throughout his family’s history, Israel has destroyed their homes at least 10 times.

“But of course, we are not the only ones,” he said, as he gestured to his neighbors, who nodded their heads in agreement.

“No one, absolutely no on in al-Walaja gets permits from Israel. It is impossible. In the Jerusalem-area of the village, and the Area C part of the village,” he said.

“To build a house of my own, it has been a dream of mine forever,” Abu Kheyara, who had been living with his wife and kids in a rental apartment until recently, told Mondoweiss.

“And in just a few minutes, they took that away from me.”

The future under occupation

As Abu Kheyara spoke to Mondoweiss, his children and nieces and nephews played inside the tent, the rubble of their home in the background.

“I don’t know how to describe my feelings,” he said, as he looked over at his young daughter sitting on the dusty earth.

“Every day, the kids ask ‘Dad, where is our kitchen, where is our bathroom, where is my bed?’, and I have to tell them that they don’t have a bed anymore. I can’t explain what this feels like.”

When asked about his fears, hopes, and dreams for the future, Abu Kheyara expressed that he just wants his children to grow up with peace and security.

“They are already surrounded by the occupation from all sides here in al-Walaja,” he said, as he listed off all the Israeli settlements surrounding the village, and the separation wall and military checkpoint a few hundreds of meters away.

“It is devastating when you have to tell your kids that ‘we don’t have a home right now,’ but I tell them we will rebuild soon, and surely, we will rebuild,” he said.

Despite the tens of thousands of shekels lost to the home that he worked so hard to built, and tried so hard to protect, Abu Kheyara insists that he will build another home — even if there is a sure chance it will be demolished again.

“We have to build, not just for our children to have a home but to maintain our rights to this land,” he said defiantly. “They can keep destroying our homes, and trying to kick us off this land, but we will never leave.”

(Source / 08.09.2018)

The language of Palestinian freedom

Graffiti Bethlehem

Graffiti on the Separation Barrier near Bethlehem, West Bank

Ash Sarkar, of “I’m literally a communist” fame, recently set Palestine Twitter ablaze with an unusual pronouncement:

Ash Sarkar@AyoCaesar

Dr Kristin Ross suggested that words like “defend” and “protect” are better for mobilising political solidarity than “fight” or “resist”.

For this reason, I’m making a decision to try and speak of Palestinians’ right to protection and self-defence rather than resistance.

Reaction against this message was swift, but Sarkar, who in a single tweet appointed herself guardian of Palestine’s anti-colonial struggle, has yet to engage her Palestinian critics, many of whom patiently explained the importance of terms like “resistance.”  The lack of engagement isn’t surprising; any half-sentient pundit quickly learns that it’s okay to upset Palestinians if their antagonists are happy.

Some observers absolve Sarkar based on a recent piece for the Independent (London) in which she apparently makes a strong defense of Palestinians.  A close reading of that article, however, shows it to be subtly deferential to liberal orthodoxy.  The article uses crafty diction to elide Israeli colonization and instead conceptualize the state’s brutalization of civilians as an unfortunate example of disparate military power (an argument that tacitly normalizes Zionism).

Sarkar proclaims:  “the erasure of Palestinian voices in narrating their own history is itself in concurrence with the Israeli state’s strategy to delegitimize Palestinian struggle for self-determination in all its forms.”  This point might be more compelling had Sarkar not taken to Twitter the next day to dispose of words any cogent Palestinian would use if given the opportunity.

The decision to sanitize resistance into pleasant soundbites had clearly been made by the time she wrote the article.  Sarkar refers to Palestine-Israel as a “conflict” eight times (including the headline) and seems fond of “asymmetry,” which brings to mind a Foreign Policy shindig in a hotel ballroom with maroon carpet and plastic chandeliers; words like “colonization,” “ethnic cleansing,” “genocide,” “ethnocracy,” “imperialism,” “settler,” “apartheid,” and “Zionism” are absent.  I’d normally chalk up the lexical dullness to the editing practices of corporate media, but Sarkar’s tweet suggests that Independent editors probably had an easy time making the language conform to house style.

“The fundamental issue,” Sarkar proclaims in closing, “is about our right to stand in solidarity with oppressed peoples in highly asymmetric conflicts.”  Note that Palestinians are absent from this appeal. The fundamental issue isn’t the right of oppressed peoples to fight, resist, or do much of anything else; it is about the Westerner’s right to solidarity, an insidious logic given the article’s pretense of centering Palestinians.

And what’s this about “highly asymmetric conflicts”?  Which others does she have in mind? Police officers versus Black children?  The National Guard versus water protectors? Slaughterhouses versus herd animals?  Monsanto versus organic crops?

Sarkar’s lack of self-awareness is alarming, as when she argues, “[I]t would be fair to say that the military asymmetry of the Israel-Palestine conflict is matched in the media.  Language itself is a battlefield.” Word choice is important to public discourse says the person who just referred to settler colonization as “military asymmetry” in a major newspaper.

Sarkar’s unfortunate tweet gives us an opportunity to examine the uses of language in political and activist formations.  The vocabulary of Palestinian nationalism exists in Arabic and has been subject to debate for over a century. Much of that vocabulary isn’t easily translated, so by having the conversation in English we’re already displacing Palestine onto foreign terrain.

Nevertheless, it’s viable to maintain the spirit of the homeland and to support those seeking its renewal.  Leaving aside the dubious act of forfeiting language important to the very people under discussion, we have to examine who benefits from the forfeiture.  “Resistance” doesn’t simply denote obstinacy; it connotes political and economic self-realization. “Fighting” isn’t an irrational desire to inflict harm; it is a necessary survival mechanism.  The colony cannot maintain its endurance without antagonism. These points are elementary to decolonial theory; it is baffling that a self-proclaimed communist would so breezily dismiss them.

Sarkar and her mentor Dr. Kristin Ross—who came out of nowhere—want to explore what is permissible and persuasive to Western audiences, a useful concern.  But the Western audiences they invoke as universal are in fact media bosses, sitting politicians, think tank wonks, and other such functionaries. We cannot make decolonization palatable to the liberal wing of the ruling class—and even if doing so were possible, it would be undesirable.  The purpose of decolonization is to upend inhuman norms, including those of speech and elocution. Limiting our imagination to rhetorical customs in the metropole commits us to invisibility.

Communicating to people in the West is important—even better if they decide to listen.  I don’t want my argument to be read as a disavowal of conversation in either friendly or hostile environs.  I submit instead that it’s not the responsibility of dispossessed people to assure their oppressors’ comfort.  In the end, if arbiters of respectable opinion won’t accept Palestine’s national liberation movement as it actually exists, then it’s not because of language, but a fundamental difference of politics.  No amount of dissimulation will alter this reality.

Finally, relinquishing the venerable language of Palestinian struggle is a conciliation to Zionist discipline.  The colonized have only a few sources of power: native knowledge, cultural memory, filial bonds, historical legitimacy.  Perhaps their greatest power is a refusal to absolve the colonizer’s perpetual violence. Zionists are desperate for affirmation; the sharp tones of our dialect foreclose that possibility.

Saying “fuck Israel” may not be prudent and yet we should have learned by now that kowtowing to Zionist angst isn’t a prelude to approval, but a voluntary disappearance.

(Source / 21.08.2018)

One State: A view from Gaza

Great March of Return protest Karni

Great March of Return protest at the Karni crossing between Gaza and Israel, July 20, 2018

By Ahmed Abu Artema

There are those who believe that Israel’s recently-passed Nation-State Law represents a failure of the one-state option, as it formalizes the exclusively Jewish nature of the dominant state in Palestine and with it, the disenfranchisement of the non-Jewish population.

The new law could also be viewed, however, as betraying a fear on the part of the occupying power that the de facto imposition of one state on the ground holds within it the seeds of the dismantling of the colonial project from the inside. Seen in this way, all of the decisions, laws and actions taken by the occupying power to insist upon the specifically Jewish character of the state are but desperate attempts to go against history and legitimize an order that is both unfair and unsustainable.

There are many reasons why the One State idea may never be realized: the tremendous imbalance of power, the rising racism in Israeli society, that Palestinian society itself may not not yet be fully ripe for embracing such an inclusive idea. These challenges, however, should not lead us to underestimate the intrinsic power of the idea itself. History shows that a prophetic vision can begin with few followers and still be carried forward by the intrinsic power of its message.

There are many arguments for One State. First, it is the most realistic option, as it is takes into account both sides of the human equation: on the one hand, the fundamental right of all Palestinians to return to their homes in freedom from occupation, oppression and second-class citizenship, and on the other, the reality of the existence of millions of Jews that live in Palestine.

Concerns about the fate of the Israeli Jews in a liberated Palestine have until now been a major reason for the weakness of international support for our cause. This dilemma is solved by a One State solution that clearly calls, not for “throwing them into the sea” (an idea that is as unfair as it is unrealistic), but for the recognition of full rights and equality for all.

It is true that there are people who came to Palestine with the intention of expelling Palestinians from their homes and taking their place, but guilt can only be ascribed to individuals, not entire nations; and children cannot be held responsible for the crimes of their parents. There are generations of Israelis who know only this land as their home, and they are not responsible for the fact that they were born here.

If my primary goal as a Palestinian is to return to my land, it is of less concern to me who else stays or goes. The most important thing for me is to regain my rights and see the era of displacement and oppression brought to an end.

The idea of One State is aligned with the spirit of our time. The global consciousness has evolved away from the idea of nationalism toward one of citizenship. Millions of Arabs today are citizens in Europe and America who enjoy the same rights as all other citizens of those countries. Why can’t Jews live in Palestine in exactly the same way – on the basis of citizenship and not of Occupation?

There are many Palestinians who have emigrated to the West whose interests have become linked to their new homeland. They – and still less their children and grandchildren – would not necessarily return to a liberated Palestine, because their new countries have become an integral part of their lives. It is also possible for new generations of Israeli Jews, who are similarly connected to Palestine, to have a way to live in this land without remaining in the unacceptable position as occupiers.

There are some who reject the idea of coexistence with Israeli Jews in a shared land out of a subconscious fear that sharing the same society with people of other ethnicities and religions means we will all become alike. Yet Palestinians in the West already live together with many other groups, including Jews and even Zionists, in one state and under one law. In a single multi-ethnic Palestinian state each group will still be able to maintain its shared bonds of religion and culture without having to live in walled ghettoes like the people in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem today.

We Palestinians can have our full rights in a single state. We may still have to struggle for them using the tools of peaceful civil struggle, as Palestinian Member of the Knesset Haneen Zoabi and activist Raed Salah do today, but it will be far less costly and bloody than the struggle we face today in West Bank, Gaza and the Diaspora.

The truth is that we already live in a single state, governed by Netanyahu in coordination with the Palestinian Authority (as former PLO chief Saeb Erekat has publicly admitted), and we are left imploring the Israeli government to open its checkpoints to let patients out for treatment and medical supplies in for our hospitals. The Gaza Strip is a prison inside this one state, whose people are struggling to break down their prison walls. 1948 (“Arab Israeli”) and West Bank Palestinians also live in ethnic enclaves within this single state as second-class citizens and non-citizens in the land of their birth.

Thus, the One-State thesis does not call for the establishment of a new reality, but for a struggle based on the existing reality: a struggle to bring down the walls, end ethnic discrimination, and build in their place a state that insures equality, dignity and freedom for all people. This is more realistic than seeking the end of Israel or even the creation of a separate Palestinian state – and also more just.

Implementing a One-State solution will not be easy, and the Occupation will fight hard against it, but since when has a ruling elite’s refusal of change been a reason to give up the struggle for fairness and basic human equality? The power of the One State idea is not its amenability to the Occupier, but its intrinsic nature as both the least costly and the morally superior solution. That should make it worth our while to reimagine our struggle in the light of this vision.

Our problem is with the racism and the occupation of Israel, not with the existence of Jewish people in Palestine. Our goal is to topple the project of Occupation while allowing anyone born in Palestine to remain here based on equal human rights as citizens of a single state.

The simplicity and justness of this vision should compel us to reformulate our struggle toward its attainment.

(Source / 18.08.2018)