Monthly Archives: June 2011

Gaza Proles

Source: indymedia ireland

It is true smuggling tunnels make it easier for Palestinians in Gaza to have their basic needs of food, oil, even electric machines, and electronic devices, and above all of cars somewhat met; without tunnels our life would be inconceivably harder than it already is. But that never means Gaza economy is “flourishing”, or that the tunnels have “boosted” Gaza economy. Gaza is not Ramallah, after all. It is true also that every once in a while, it occurs to the compassionate Israeli authorities that the Gaza population, although they deserve to rot in a hell-like Gaza for electing a terrorist organization such as Hamas to be their government, their humaneness shall always prevail over all other urges for vengeance, hatred and political schemes, and it shall never cease to astound the US and world benefactors; it is true they allow some of these basic needs—not cars, of course –into Gaza. Only that enough is enough, but “some” is not enough. Only that “some” is not equivalent for the “sufficient amounts” promulgated by Israeli telescreens.

“Some” is not sufficient for a Gaza kid to spend his school vocation larking about in the aisles of the camp with his playmates. That Gaza has a sea is such a blessing. There is no sea in Ramallah. On their vocations, Gaza kids go to the sea, rarely with their families and mostly on foot, swimming and frolicking along the seashore, splashing around in the unclean seawater. They almost have fun. Being such a generous vent, Gaza sea is always crowded with its population, largely with kids and women. It is however very unsettling when this sea, being such a typically tempting attraction, turns to be a vent for these kids where they never bask in fighting the unruly waves and the graceful sands but rather where they sell their little commodities to the crowds of people who will have inhabited every little space all about the beach.

The other day, I had an argument with my brother about how authentic a description of the loud banging sounds endlessly produced by the sea such as “harmonious/melodious” is. That was utter noise, I believed. But not until I was struck, indeed reminded, with what “noise” truly means by the small rivalry vendors, fantastically inventing the most poetic phrases, and high pitchedly calling out with the prices of their commodities in attempt to promote a sack of chips or a packet of nuts, or rather to inspire someone here or there coaxing them into buying their stuff. All along the beach, they speed up toward every single group of people offering them to buy anything in return for the cheapest prices ever. Only in Gaza, scores of these little kids become tireless, pale-faced, grownup vendors.

A few days ago, while I was taking a cab late at night, I had to get into the back seat of the car since the front one was already occupied by an old man. For reasons unknown to me, I fixed my eyes on him: he was tall and thin, his back slightly bent, so I assumed the old man was exhausted by work. Suddenly, as if nudged by my bold looks, the old man look back to catch me scrutinizing him and shot me a short look before he turned his head again. I was right to surmise his face was grey with fatigue, but still that look baffled me greatly, though I came to conclude it only blended together fatigue and undue anxiety.

In a moment, the driver slowed down his car as we approached the turn and asked the old man next to him if this was the place he wanted to get to. The old man muttered incomprehensibly, and as though he were recovering from an offense just caused by the driver’s downright inquiry, he looked out of the window and roamed the place with his eyes. To my amazement, he told the driver to drop him somewhere else. “Take me to wherever you are going.”

The old man had neither a destination nor an abode. He turned to be a homeless prole.

We arrived at Jabaliya, where I was heading for. The car was already moving at a moderate speed when a little boy ahead of us vigorously motioned to the driver. Once the car stopped, the boy got closer, and in a low voice, he asked the driver to give him a ride home for free.

Through the driver’s several inquiries to the boy, I came to know that the boy is one of the noisy vendors who work along the beach all day long, and that he had walked all the distance from the Gaza seashore up to Jabaliya, all on foot, and that he could no longer endure the pain tearing through his legs. The boy cheerfully told us that he sold all his commodities. And that he had money we also knew.

No sooner had I got off the car than it dawned on me I just accompanied three sorts of the Gaza proles.

Imprison me to make me free!

Below is my latest article for the Electronic Intifada

Source: Electronic Intifada

Palestinians were in disbelief over the news of a reconciliation deal between the two largest Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, brokered by Egypt which, meanwhile, repeated that ending the siege is a priority. Palestinian youth living in the besieged Gaza Strip were quick to start envisioning a new life in a Gaza free from both from the political divisions and the siege.

In 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections, beating Fatah into second place. Fatah has long dominated the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and controlled the Palestinian Authority since it was created after the 1993 Oslo accords. Hamas is not a member of the PLO.

A year later, a short-lived Palestinian national unity government uniting the factions fell apart amid US-supported efforts to undermine it, and Hamas ousted Fatah from the Gaza Strip in a distressing fierce ground battle.

Ever since, the population of Gaza has been destined to live under severe hermetic siege imposed by Israel along with the former Egyptian government of ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Plenty of reports were written addressing the humanitarian crisis that resulted from this siege, along with Israel’s aggressive policies toward Palestinian civilians. Solidarity convoys have cascaded into Gaza one after another in an attempt to alleviate the suffering inflicted upon the Palestinians as a result of the siege.

For the youth in Gaza, one thing, however, has been bizarrely disregarded, which is the positive side of Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip.

Despite its many severely negative results, Israel’s siege of Gaza has offered Palestinian youth a service none had offered before. It offered new paths for us in our struggle for freedom, deepened our patriotic sentiment and finally created an environment that fosters a collective sense of selflessness and cooperation. It has created a young generation that truly cares.

Back in 2006, when Israel’s policies to besiege Gaza were still new, the people of Gaza were still unable to estimate the magnitude of the debacle ahead of them. Shortly after, prices started to shoot up, crossing borders became difficult, ubiquitous power cuts mercilessly dominated every aspect of life.

It was unthinkable, even for the Palestinians in Gaza, that they would be able to carry on with their new life for a long time.

Perhaps that was Israel’s logic. They might have thought: “They won’t be able to tolerate the base life we will force them to live under, we will suffocate them from every direction, we will cause them so much pain to bear. Soon they will blow up from within.”

But we didn’t. And unexpectedly, almost four years since the siege has started, and despite pervasive misery, human suffering and collective punishment, life still goes on.

For us, the youth in Gaza, life under siege was profoundly different. Unable to cope with its oppressiveness, life at first was intolerably tormenting. Anger and frustration were the outcome of our dashed hopes each time we came to realize the fact that ending this siege was anything but foreseeable.

Helpless, we were left to the vast amount of darkness surrounding our minds and bodies. Every now and then, we could escape this suffering momentarily as we loosened ourselves of our oppressive surroundings. This meant spending some time by the Gaza seashore dotted with Israeli warships at night, or at some cafe nearby where the musical bubbling of our water pipes were inescapably mingled with the unnerving hums of a few frenzied power generators.

However, no matter how much we tried to separate ourselves from the political context surrounding us, we couldn’t. We were thrown back into it by the huge extent of misery imposed upon us.

Many of us thus were left with a political mindset which ultimately triggered us into fruit-bearing action.

Plenty of Gaza youth have had an interest in politics, following up on news, reading reports and analyses. Reading has become the last and sole resort when we had nothing else to do. Soon we were demanding more and more books to read.

Reading has struck a new light in the dark; it has blown new winds into the stillness, and added flavor to our humdrum lives. It was too beautiful to resist. Besides reading, many Gaza youth remarkably developed an interest in documenting Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians through writing, blogging, making films and networking. Israel was their interest. Everything that has to do with Israel was worth stopping for; it was a sign of sophisticated interest. On the ground, hyper-activism was largely manifest in the immense variety of activities carried out and administered by youth groups, social movements and networks.

One of the remarkable youth groups newly initiated inside Gaza is the Palestine Youth Advocacy Network “PYAN”— which is also a word in Arabic that could mean exposition, representation, rhetoric or radiance, all of which have to do with the nature of work the team undertakes.

The network defines itself as “a fresh movement towards democratic endeavors in Palestine and breaking misconceptions about the occupied territories through global dialogue and reporting from the ground.” It operates regularly, holding workshops in coordination with international and local institutions with the intention of “[playing] an innovative role in assisting the Palestinian youth get the knowledge and acquire the skills needed to be up to the challenge of advocating their cause and sacred rights in the face of the misinformation imposed by the western mainstream media.”

Samah Saleh, a cofounder of PYAN, told me what role the siege has played in setting up the advocacy network and the abundance of other youth groups:

“The siege has everything to do with the emergence of PYAN. Gaza has been under siege for about four years, quite the same years young Gazans my age [have] been busy attempting to understand the interaction of global, regional and internal politics on their lives. In Gaza, the siege was the elephant in the room and Gazans were on their own, living, defying the siege’s intrusion on their every life, no matter how simple. We formed PYAN to be the platform of Gaza’s youth that addresses their urgent need to bring their stories out of besieged Gaza to the world.”

It isn’t quite appealing to speak of the inhumane siege without focusing on Israel’s crimes against Palestinian civilians. But having already blasted away any cliched representation of ourselves as terrorists, we now refuse to be continuously framed as dying of hunger or retreating to a corner and sitting in the dark. Our ability to turn each suffering into a source of inspiration preserves our dignity and fuels our unstoppable determination.