Category Archives: Diaries

My friend has a story

My story on openDemocracy as part of the Gaza Voices column:

This isn’t my story. But it could have been, and it can be the story of any young Palestinian living in this small besieged part of the world. Only that it bears much more painful profundity being the story of that particular man who chose to be nicknamed “Awsaj”— the Arabic equivalent for Lycium, which is some kind of a thorny shrub that bears red berries and is used sometimes for hedging.

Awsaj is my new friend whom I have met only twice, the first meeting lasting for no more than a quarter of an hour at a mutual friend’s, and the second born out of my initiative to venture out southward to the far eastern areas of Khan Yunis near ‘the Green Line’ (a phrase which refers to the demarcation lines marking the lines between Israel and other territories including the Gaza Strip occupied by Israel in 1967). Awsaj is an intelligent human being. He is an angry young man with such a variety of contradictions which, though they can be seen almost everywhere in Gaza, would make any description of him sound like the figment of an eccentric writer’s imagination. To be painstakingly interested in perfumes, to hold a degree in IT studies, and to voraciously read such a fussy amalgam of Jubran Khalil Jibran, Edward Said, Karl Marx, and Marquez, these are all signs of a human being with an especially sophisticated interest. To be, on top of this, a self-sustaining farmer absolutely adds up to an unparalleled elegance.

We arrived at Awsaj’s farmland where, in perfectly farmer-like style, he was diligently ploughing the land with a shovel, and as we hailed him from a distance, he looked up, waved back to us, and wiping the sweat off his brow with the back of one hand, placed the shovel aside with the other, and walked in our direction to welcome us. “He can’t be a farmer,” I said to myself, “he’s trying to look like one!”

Soon he was chopping small pieces of wood to add to the small fire he had just built in order to make us some of his special manually-ground black coffee. I had already formed a considerable admiration for Awsaj, both inspired by and jealous of his exhaustive knowledge, his avidity for reading, his ardent passionate talk and angry criticism of almost everything. We shared several targets of scathing criticism. We were particularly sarcastic about “our” buffoon politicians. These, we agreed, are complete morons whose very presence in the positions they occupy is only a matter of fortune, or the arbitrariness of fate, or, as some would say, demonstrative of the injustice of this world, a world in which it is hard to believe there is any logic at work. It is their job to lead the “country” (a word we use almost always cynically) down the road into, well, the abyss. They are an untouchable gang; mostly silly, possibly educated but unquestionably unthinking, blinded by an absolute loyalty to the party they belong to. “Morons, indeed!” he sighed. They are of two sorts: the openly treacherous, base and self-interested collaborators and, most annoying, the completely delusional. Although they are one step away from, probably unknowingly, following the exact same steps as their lousy predecessors, they never stop indulging in self-aggrandizement and claiming the moral high ground and relentlessly bore you with their unexciting oratory. “You know what,” Awsaj told me, “I have no problem with the first kind of politician. It’s similar to working like a prostitute: although everyone else knows they are one, the prostitute is still okay, possibly even proud, about being one. As simple as that, my friend!”

He was unorthodoxly and harshly critical of parents as fosterers of hypocrisy, mental impotence, personal insecurity… Though at some point, a fiery debate erupted between us over his unwarranted criticism of how people’s relationships are no more governed by affection, care and mutual respect for the other, but rather largely dominated by private interests where, in the normal state of affairs, it should be presumed that hate pre-exists any human communication. Nevertheless, our personalities were largely drawn to each other, and Awsaj made such a favourable impression on all of us.

To be equipped with a critical mindset and a desire to learn and read is enough, at least in our eyes, to make someone worthy of being held in high esteem by their interlocutors. But that’s not the case in a local community that is concerned, first and foremost, with outward appearances and thus can be easily manipulated and mind-controlled, a society that no longer has the slightest appreciation for complaining, outspoken and ungovernable personalities, a society that is highly polarized in politics, social convention and religion and every other field of life, and a society that has no understanding, acceptance or tolerance for the other, or the different. “I am right, and everyone else is wrong. Things should be done my way. This is when victory will come your way. This is when you can liberate Palestine!” Awsaj furiously and succinctly reproduced this doctrine of fanaticism while we both continuously shook our heads in sympathetic agreement.

To have to face these things, however — or, more precisely, to tell yourself that you do — and to display, on top of that, some interest in politics, to steer most of your conversations toward politics in Palestine, essentially saying nothing about the conflict more than stating its most obvious facts (like, for example, ‘not every Jew is a Zionist!’), to always talk to your international ‘friends’ about how Palestinians are craving to live in peace and to simplistically speak of “peace”, time and again, as the solution to ending this conflict as though “peace” per se was not the problem in the first place and as if there actually was unanimous agreement on the meaning of the darned word. Moreover, to have the kuffiyeh wrapped around your neck or flung over your shoulders every now and then, and to stress to your interlocutors the fact that you run a blog, never mind how infrequently you update it or the sort of stuff you post on it, and you are then the very guy who is likely to be identified here as an activist, which is an appealing personality, largely regarded as a promising peace (and potential human rights) champion by roughly everyone working in the field here, particularly by a bunch of foreign journalists with whom you engage in seldom profound, political discussions and who you might win over, but by no means does your knowledge about Palestine, Israel or politics match theirs.

Awsaj is of this type, for which so little space has been left in our society. There is still something much more characteristically appealing about him, i.e. (what he boastfully dubbed) his wide-ranging experience and “history of struggle”. And out of this history, there is one specific experience which Awsaj found himself narrating to his guests that, listening to, we agreed must uniquely underlie this man’s personality, at which I insisted that it would not go unrecorded.

Almost every Palestinian must have been in direct contact with Israel, and by ‘Israel’ I mean Israel as it is referred to by ordinary Palestinians, the occupation and its actual manifestations, its war machine, the military establishment, its rogue army and every other Israeli atrocity it inflicts upon the Palestinians; and every Palestinian, therefore, must have been a direct victim of Israeli crimes. There is no such thing as an indirect victim within the context of the Israeli occupation and its ubiquitous oppression of the Palestinian people, being essentially a conflict between a state (i.e. Israel), on the one hand, and individuals (i.e. Palestinians) on the other. Israel as a state and in the above sense is an enemy of every Palestinian as an individual, as far as they are its direct victims. It’s no big deal therefore when I am told that this old man had spent twenty years in Israeli prisons; that this little boy’s parents were killed during Israel’s last airstrike in Gaza, this old woman’s son was assassinated by Israel in the 1980s; these two kids were traumatized during a night raid by heavily-armed Israeli soldiers in Nabi Saleh, or this student from Gaza has lost their scholarship because they were not allowed to travel, and so on and so forth…

The weighty significance of Awsaj’s experience, I believe, resides in the fact that it encloses within its narrative several Israeli actualities. Whereas most of the endless Palestinian encounters with Israel lose an extremely large share of their actual significance once the real encounter is over and is narrated time and again as a past experience, Awsaj’s experience seems to have acquired vitality and a renewed reality each time he has narrated it since. During his powerful narrative, Israel would borrow such a physical existence that it was no more an abstract entity but had become embodied in the Israeli soldier, the Israeli jeep, and the female officer’s broken Arabic phrases, the Bedouin collaborator, the scars across my friend’s back… The reason? It definitely lies somewhere in relation to Awsaj’s human passion and dramatic eloquence. During the course of his narration, Israel becomes one single intimidating and repulsively antagonistic entity that one will have to face with nothing but piles of pent-up anger and extreme hatred, both securing the last vestiges of their almost lost humanity.

The sun having sunk, we head towards our friend’s home, having already chatted for what seemed to be ages. Straight backed, we walk, gossip and whistle, leaving behind neatly-queued, graceful thyme saplings, four scattered coffee-soiled plastic cups, a dying fire, and several untold stories.

Talking Palestine

I used to blog every now and then about my life in Gaza before I moved to London. Since then I haven’t written down anything though my life here is absolutely nowhere near normal or commonplace. Moving to London in fact has been the most overwhelming experience for me given the fact that I have never been out of Gaza for the past seven years and now that I moved to live in such, I was told, a grand and outstanding city pursuing my studies on a subject that couldn’t be of any more relevance to me than Human Rights at one of the most world leading universities with such massive diversity of staff and students such as the London Schoolf of Economics.

The primary reason is definitely  that I no longer have had the kind of plenty of free time I used to have back in the Gaza Strip due to the immense amount of school work that I have to do weekly.

However, just like how in Gaza, it used to be the case that the huge gaping void of time and space generated mainly due to ubiquitous power cuts dominating every aspect of my life and shutting me in that always instigated me to write, in London it is the absence of this void that kept me from writing. An incredible host of distractions: the joy of life absent power cuts; some tourist attraction always somewhere around the corner of the street; the luxury of always having a high speed internet connection no matter where I am, endless supply of books and magazines, to name but a few, are a few pleasures I am not used to having in Gaza.

Still, I have always had too many overflowing reflections that I wanted to share. The latest of which is the most unsettling to me. It is a thought I had since the term has ended and, ironically, it’s probably due to this very fact that I finally managed to find some free time to write about it.

Freedom of Movement

Basically, any conversation with classmates about the holidays eventually begs the question, “What are your plans for Christmas?” sometimes followed by a clichéd inquiry, “Are you going home?”

I would stammer, I would feel dumb having found out that I have no plans, feeling embarrassed only to recall a friend’s invitation to his birthday party in the north of England only to remember that the question was actually about a holiday plan and that celebrating a friend’s birthday barely counts as one. I would smile foolishly, and struggling to get words out of my mouth, I would respond, “you know what; I don’t think I have any plans, but I’d really love to go home, but I can’t.”

“Why?”

“I mean it’s going to be really hard for me to go back go Gaza and come back in time for the second term.”

“Why?”

“Because if I want to go home, I will have to fly to Cairo, take a six-hour drive to Rafah, cross into Gaza, and, when it’s time to come back, getting out of Gaza is going to be a really hard and long process due to the fact that only a very limited number of people are allowed to travel every day, so what people usually do is book a day to travel on a while earlier which basically means I might never be able to get out for the second term in time.”

At that point a tempting suggestion would usually turn up, “But what about going on a trip to somewhere in Europe?”

“yea,” sounding so skeptical, I would respond,  “but I don’t think it will work.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, I think it’s going to be really hard for me to travel to anywhere in Europe since I need to get a VISA. I can tell you, if you’re Palestinian, VISA applications are an undesirable experience plus you need to have a good convincing reason why you need to visit Europe. Had I not been a student, I would have never been here in the first place”

“Oh, I see.”

This time, having given a plausible response, I would wear a broad smile on my face, feeling relieved the conversation had finally come to an end.

Only then, I would start to think how distressing it is to be Palestinian. Why does it have to be that only me, and no one else, is not allowed to have plans for the holidays? That I can’t think of going home unless I might never be able to get out of Gaza again. That I can’t think of joining my friends’ journey to Bosnia and Serbia because I might not get a VISA. That I might miss the whole term if I “fly home” for the holidays; that I have to stay here for the whole year while everyone around me will be gone. “Only for the sole reason that I happened to be Palestinian.”

Violence against Israelis

As I sat in the library so hopelessly trying to finish a 60-page article in two hours, I found myself eavesdropping on a conversation that was going on at the desk just behind me. A few whispered phrases flew out of the conversation and just made their way to land in my ears so deafeningly. I was shook so terribly at their infuriating offense and stark negligence. “Violence against Israelis” was the most recurring phrase throughout the whole conversation. I was trying to pull together the bits I could hear to make out what exactly was being deliberated. I was soon thinking I shouldn’t expect that much from a bunch of people using such a phrase like, “violence against Israelis” since, at best; it must be the same old story of “the occupation is wrong, but the Palestinians are also responsible for using violence”.

Responsible for what is quite easy to deduce since according to these people the Palestinians should learn to pursue the Gandhi-like, peaceful, non-violent resistance against the Israeli occupation instead of targeting Israeli civilians by firing rockets into Israel.

In fact, as I thought about it later, I rebuked myself a big deal for I could have walked up to this bunch of idiots and, after introducing myself as a Palestinian, I could have bombarded them with a history lesson about the Palestinian nonviolent resistance which they don’t bother to talk about and then ask them how they feel about denying a people’s history as they continue to blame the victims and in their awfully patronising manner keep preaching the Palestinians about nonviolent resistance while these nonviolent, peaceful protesters continue to be murdered every single day by the Israeli war killing machine.

The two-state solution isn’t dead

The Palestine Society at the LSE once had a cultural stall on the university campus where we celebrated the Palestinian culture in an amusing manner. Some had the kuffiyeh wrapped up into a turban around their heads; others put on the traditional Palestinian dress crafted into beautiful black and red patterns, while others ate hummus, oil and olives and smoked shisha.

Our stall caught the attention of numerous students who stopped by and asked us questions about the stall and what this all meant. However, toward the end of the event, one student stopped by and said that he had a question which he’d like to hear the answer to by anyone of us. I must admit I thought this sounded a bit awkward which made me feel uneasy about it.

As I introduced myself to him, he told me how sympathetic he feels with the Palestinians and that he believes there should be a solution whereby both peoples will finally be able to live together in peace. He then told me he just wants to know “what I think about what’s going on or what I believe would be the solution to this”. Feeling baffled, I looked him in the eye, in an attempt to make him elaborate a bit on his question. He replied, “I mean what do you think of the one-state solution and the two-state solution?”

I felt greatly relieved this turned out to be the question, for if there was anything I could talk about with regard to “solutions”, it was this specific issue. So as I told him my opinion which is basically that the two-state solution is dead, and it’s not about which solution is more doable but rather it’s about the facts on the ground where we already have one state. They are two peoples living (unequally) in one actual state; I told him one of these two peoples is oppressed, discriminated against, and done great injustice…bla bla bla

As I finished, the guy, who didn’t stop nodding during my speech, looked at me and said, “yea I think you’re right.”

My face started to break into a broad smile before he went on to say, “However I still think the two-state solution could work only if the Palestinians agreed to move to live in Jordan!”

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One Night in the Dark

Illustration by: Bissan Rafe Alhussien (Qasrawi)

I always believed to write is to “make less the dept of grief.” But it’s been long since I wrote down anything, and indeed I spent long and hard time attempting to convince myself that this latest recurring experience of mine isn’t any different and, like many other episodes in my life, can be recorded well.

There is no phrase in regard to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that I hate as much as that of “the suffering of both peoples”, “the fear both peoples have to go through”, “the trauma both peoples experience” and the like, usually made in places like the U.N. general assembly’s podiums, the International Court’s or even in the White House. Not that I care whether those neatly-suited, shiny-black-shoed politicians are neutral or one-sided— meaning pro-Israel because there are definitely no such politicians who are on the side of the Palestinians—  or whether they have the sort of genuine interest needed to solve this seemingly insoluble conflict. But considering the fact that I sometimes tend to be a little bit selfish, I hate that my personal suffering, let alone the suffering of 1.6 million Palestinians living in Gaza, be seriously sabotaged by such phrases once analogized, and hence diminished, to the state of fear felt by a few Israelis in the aftermath of firing often-homemade missiles onto Israel, occasionally not mistaking their target and falling into a huge deserted land in Israel and, once fallen, absolutely resulting in no casualties whatsoever except on very rare occasions.

However, the other day I was sitting in the heart of my pitch dark room, immersed in sweat and hemmed in by the wild hems of a few frenzied generators drifting through space and time and forcing their way into my head to crowd themselves into some little unengaged space of my racked brains meant to absorb the words neatly seated before my eyes onto the pages of The Diary of Anne Frank. I wiped sweat off my brows and continued reading. The unnerving hems of the generators swarmed into my brain like the throngs of mostly pale-faced short-tempered passengers with whom I was packed the other day in some little stuffy room, some puffing on their cigarettes, some fanning themselves with their official documents, all of us, however, waiting for our names to be called out to get a stamped ticket. Not that we were crossing into Egypt on that day but rather we were trying to ensure that, at least two months from that date, the time when our travelling has been scheduled, when we  go to travel through the Rafah crossing, we won’t be turned back, having already reserved a place to travel two months in advance. Anyway, my pains paid off, and I got my ticket. That experience is past.

In my room, meanwhile, I was engaged in my life-time struggle against the unforgiving oppression I had always failed to familiarize myself with. I was being normally punished for a misdemeanor I have never committed in the first place.

It seemed then all the suffering in the world combined into one I was bound to endure. I was the center of the world’s unfortunate beings. The Wretched of the Earth. I was a starving child in Somalia, a Syrian demonstrator shot in the neck in the streets of Hama, a pregnant mother dying at a checkpoint in Palestine, a besieged Palestinian schoolboy in Gaza helplessly sinking into the depths of despair. “But I can’t be that selfish,” I would think, “here is a guiltless Anne Frank in a wardrobe hiding from her imminent death at the hands of a Nazi officer. And she wouldn’t complain!”

But while Anna hid in her wardrobe, and Iona confided in his mare, I had neither a wardrobe nor a mare. Darkness is the only place where one can hide from the dark. I had nowhere to hide, and I had no one “to whom I can tell my grief”.

I always told myself, “had it not been for these eight cursed hours when power was cut off, I would have never complained.” But now my wrath had grown so immense to be curbed. My chest is now brimming with pent-up ages-old anger the causes for which, unlike their united implications on me, vary disparagingly. I was stifled. I was half-way through my desperate endeavors to stop myself from cursing the place where I have grown and become a man whose tongue can strikingly respond to the most abominable of curses— having already learned them in the aisles of the camp and furnished myself with a remarkable arsenal of phrases and swear words.

I picked up the candle and looked at the clock as it ticked time away. 10:15 pm. I guessed, “I still have two more hours ahead before the power is turned back on,”

I had to think of some way to while away these two hours. “I can do anything but leave myself to my besetting thoughts,” I murmured trying to break the had-it-not-been-for-the-generators silence. I knew if I did, I would be eventually be left with nothing but a pathetic state of gloom and hopelessness. I couldn’t afford a new strike of despair; it would take me ages to recover from it. Not even the beautifully resuscitating spectacle of our neon bulbs flickering back into life would relieve me this time.

I wanted to escape this gruesomely fiendish place. I was exhausted. My breaths grew fast and short. Sweat started to flood down my body. I didn’t want to think anymore. I desperately attempted to shut the omnipresent scene of the dark out of my mind. One more moment contemplation of the flowing endless succession of the generators’ revs would cast me straight into an abysmal void where all I could do then is but scream at the top of my lungs.

Putting out the candlelight, I groped my way through the dark as fast as my feet could carry me, straight and out of the room, rushing down the stairs until I was out in the street. I leaned against a wall, drew a deep breath, and uttered a vile curse.

In a display of utter disregard to the generators all around me, I walked on and on curiously exploring the street lamps and flashing car lights. My thoughts immediately wandered to the several “foreigners” I had met and their naive remarks  on living in Gaza. I thought wryly, “They don’t know a god damn thing about living in Gaza! Gaza is such an awful place to live in!”

No sooner had this thought crossed my mind than I ducked at the sound of a missile being fired from a neighboring area. I instantly cursed. I needed to get back home as quickly as I could, for I had no doubt what would follow. And in no time, possibly before the fired missile had even reached its target, a deafeningly F-16 bomb hit the area and shook the ground from below my feet. My heart skipped a beat; I cursed and longed for home.

Back home, still teetering on the edge of despair, I lied on my bed, and, indifferent to the dark, the generators’ noise, the clock’s ticking and the Apache’s hovering, I kept on cursing knowing that somehow I would eventually fall asleep and that this misery of mine will come to an end. Somehow.

My friend has a story…

"Montasiba al Qama" by Samih al Qasim; Photo by Salman al-Msjen

This isn’t my story. But it could have been, and it can be the story of any young Palestinian living in this small besieged part of the world. Only that it bears much more painful profundity being the story of that particular man who chose to be nicknamed “Awsaj”—the Arabic equivalent for Lycium which is “a thorny shrub bearing red berries, some kinds of which are used for hedging.”

Awsaj is my new friend whom I met only twice, the first meeting lasting for no more than a quarter of an hour at a mutual friend’s, and the second born out  of my initiative to venture out southward to the far eastern areas of Khan Yunis near “the green line.” He is an intelligent human being. Young, enthusiastic, and bright. Awsaj embraces such a variety of contradictions which, though can be seen almost everywhere in Gaza, would make this man’s description but a figment of an eccentric writer’s imagination. To be painstakingly interested in perfumes, to hold a degree in IT, and to voraciously read such a fussy amalgam of Jubran Khalil Jibran, Edward Said, and Karl Marx, these are all signs of a human being with a specially sophisticated interest. However, to work, besides this, as a farmer absolutely adds up to your  unparalleled elegance.

We arrived at Awsaj’s farmland where, in a farmer-like style, he was diligently plowing the land with a shovel, and as we hailed him from a distance, he looked up, waved back to us, and wiping the sweat off his brow with the back of his hand, he placed the shovel aside with the other, and walked in our direction to welcome us. “He can’t be a famer, he’s trying to look like one,” I said to myself.

As soon as he was chopping small pieces of wood and adding them to the small fire he had just started to make us some black coffee, I had already had considerable admiration for Awsaj and started feeling jealous of his exhaustive knowledge, his avidity for reading, his ardent passionate talk and angry criticism of almost everything. We shared several subjects of our criticisms together. We were particularly sarcastic of “our” buffoon politicians. He was unorthodoxly harshly critical of parents as fosterers of hypocrisy, mental impotency, personal insecurity. Though at some point,  a fiery debate erupted between us over his undue criticism of how people’s relationships are no more governed by affection, care and  mutual respect for the other, but rather largely dominated by private interests where, in the normal state of affairs, it should be presumed that hate is pre-existing to any human communication, our personalities were explicitly largely drawn to each other, and Awsaj could make such a favorable impression on all of us.

To be equipped with a critical mindset and insatiable desire to learn and read is enough, at least in my and my two mates’ eyes, to make you worth being held in high esteem by your interlocutors. But that’s no that case. To have these things, however—or to pretend that you do—and display in addition some interest in Israel-Palestinian conflict, to always talk of peace as the solution—as though peace were not an impasse in itself—to ending this conflict, to have also the Kuffiyeh worn over your head from time to time, and to stress to your interlocutors the fact that you run a blog, never mind how less frequent you update it or the sort of stuff you have on there, you are then the very guy who is likely to be indentified as a peace (and potential human rights?) champion by roughly everyone working in the field here, particularly by a bunch of foreign journalists with whom you engage in seldom profound, political discussions and who you might win over, but by no means can your knowledge about Palestine, Israel and politics match theirs.

Awsaj is of the first kind. There is still something much more characteristically appealing about him, i.e.,  (what he boastfully dubbed) his wide-ranging experience and “history of struggle”, and out of this history, there is one specific experience which Awsaj found himself narrating to his guests and, upon listening to, we agreed it must be uniquely underlying to this man’s personality, and which I insisted it would not go unrecorded.

Almost every Palestinian must have been in direct contact with Israelis, and by “Israelis” I mean Israel’s atrocities; and every Palestinian, therefore, must have been a direct victim of Israeli crimes—there is no such thing as indirect victim within the context of Israeli-Palestinian conflict being essentially a conflict between a state (i.e. Israel), on the one hand, and individuals (i.e. Palestinians) on the other. So it’s no big deal when I am told this man had spent twenty years in Israeli prisons, or that little boy’s parents were killed during Israel’s last offensive against Gaza and so on…

The weighty significance of Awsaj’s experience, I believe, resides in the fact that, it encloses within its narrative several Israeli actualities. Whereas most of the endless Palestinian encounters with Israel lose an extremely large share of their actual significance once the real encounter is over and is narrated time and again as a past experience, Awsaj’s experience seemed to have acquired validity and renewed reality each time he narrated it since, during his narrative, Israel would borrow such a physical existence that it was no more an abstract but became embodied in the Israeli soldier, the Israeli jeep, and the female officer’s broken Arabic phrases, the Bedouin  collaborator, the scars across my friend’s back…The reason? It definitely lies somewhere around Awsaj’s human passion and dramatic eloquence.

The sun having sunk, we headed toward our friend’s home, having already chatted for what seemed to be ages. Straight backed, we walked and chatted, leaving behind neatly-queued, graceful thyme saplings, four scattered coffee-soiled plastic cups, and several untold stories.

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.

From the place he loved, in memory of Vittorio.

Vittorio's tattoo on his arm: moqawama (resistance)

Vittorio: (Vik, Victor, Victorio. Full name: Vittorio Utopia Arrigoni) a Palestinian martyr, only a bit braver, who was abducted and gruesomely killed at the hands of an Israeli-salafist gang on 14 April 2011. Later it happened that he was not dead: he was still living in the hearts of all Palestinians.

‎”Ween?” (the Arabic for “where”) was the first thing Vittorio ever asked me. He was looking for my phone number and sent me a FB message titled, “ween”. Today I ask him the same question: “ween?”

I can’t think of one reason that would make a “Palestinian” kill someone like Vittorio. A man who dedicated his life to fight injustice. A man who abandoned the luxury of Rome and came to one of the most turbulent regions in the world in order to expose Israeli atrocities committed against Palestinians. A man on whose right arm, the Arabic word for resistance “Moqawama” was brilliantly tattooed in big words. A hero in whose eyes there was a whole lot of unmistakable meanings of profound love, loyalty, hope, sacrifice, truth and courage. Vittorio has done for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank more than those who killed him. He was more Palestinian than many other Palestinians. Vittorio would have competed with Hamas rockets about who’s done more damage to Israel. He was such a nightmare for them that needed to be eliminated. Vittorio is a great disheartening loss to Palestinians, and Friday, 15 April is such an overwhelmingly melancholic day in the history of Palestine.

Vittorio is a man who loved Gaza, he loved Gaza’s land, its sea, and its sky. Two things Vittorio obviously loved to do: to wave the Palestinian flag, and to sing “Onadikum” (I call upon you!). Wholeheartedly, Vittorio sang, “Onadikum” time and again. He poured his heart out as he sang it. It’s probably the only thing he could say so fluently in Arabic.

Today, we took to the streets to tell the world how grieved we are at the loss of Vittorio, to convey a message to Vittorio’s family in Italy that in Gaza we are all Vittorio’s family. That We condemn in the strongest terms the shameful and outrageous act of abducting and murdering Vittorio by a bunch of criminals whom we disavowed the moment they had that vicious thought in their minds. We will not forgive those who betrayed Vittorio in the place he loved, the place where he felt most secure, where he would be angry to be treated like a foreigner. He warmly embraced our cause, so we will never stab him in the back. We’ll give him a warmer hug.

Today, though ridiculous I only wished Vittorio were alive to live this very day with us and see with his own eyes how much we all love him. We are all Vittorios.

Now that you moved to live in our hearts, we’ll become stronger and fiercer in the battle against occupation, humiliation and injustice. Vittorio. Such an inspiration to all of us. You taught us that life isn’t worth living if one isn’t ready to fight against its injustice, and that’s what gives it a meaning, that’s what makes it all beautiful. Now, empowered by your “memory”, we’ll carry on the fight together.

Vittorio wanted to fight injustice, but life was too unjust for him to fight.

‎”The injustice of it [life] is almost perfect! The wrong people going hungry, the wrong people being loved, the wrong people dying!” John Osborne.

Vittorio is one of the wrong people.

In memory of Vittorio Utopia Arrigoni
15 April 2011

Yes for a no-fly zone over Gaza!

I, for one, hate to study with company. It’s 3:05am. I’ll be tested on American literature at 11:00am. Less than eight hours separate me from the exam, and yet I have plenty to cram into my mind but…

As usual, I got company. Company that is like no company. Company that I can’t even think of ridding myself of. Bullying company. Though American-made, they don’t seem to have the same interest to study American Literature. Indispensable company. Fucking company!

Yes, I got company.

In the presence of this company, I have to double my efforts as I attempt to memorize (I mean “memorise”, that one seems to be American-made) a line or a paragraph. I have to elicit a few parts of this anarchy surrounding me, block these parts out of my mind, elicit a few parts of the same anarchy, memorise them, and then cram them into my mind…etc.

But I am not a loon to do that crazy stuff. To hell with another “A”!

However…

I still demand a no-fly zone over Gaza.

Because why should my little sister (though I have no little sisters, so you can think of any little girl living in this part of the world) know such a word like “qasf” (shelling)? Why should this word be part of her early vocabulary along with “Mama”, “Mayya”, and “T’at’a” (meaning potato)? If you still insist on teaching her that word, I can do the job without her having to experience an actual animated presentation of the word meaning each time she wanted to pronounce it.

I, therefore, demand a no-fly zone over Gaza.

I am not in the money, and I simply hate the fact that my cousin’s wedding party in the open should be accompanied with such a grand military airshow in celebration of his marriage. Yes, sure we can do without an airshow. It is just ridiculous, we cannot have Apaches and F-16s flying over Gaza each time someone is having a wedding party. No need for that. We do appreciate it, but my cousin can definitely get married without military airshows. So we demand a no-fly zone over Gaza.

My father loves to watch Al-Jazeera, my mother loves the Turkish series al-Ard al-Tayyiba (the good land) and I love Barcelona. We love watching T.V. Why should you fly your drones above my house and obstruct the transmission of signals by my satellite, leaving me struggling with another anarchy inside my T.V. screen. You can’t do that to me each time I wanted to watch T.V. I am human, and I have feelings. I want to support my favorite team. You can’t go on violating basic human rights like that.

For that reason, I demand a no-fly zone over Gaza.

We, Arabs, are obsessed with music. It’s probably the only thing we can do without someone else’s help. I love the Oud. But each time I come to listen to my favorite music, you just send your planes flying over Gaza, playing me symphonies of various kinds. Worse yet, once in a while you send a whole orchestra of drones, Apaches, and F-16s all playing their music synchronously. Yes, a party! I appreciate that help, but I really never loved your sort of music. You can’t tell me what sort of music I should listen to. Please, you should stop violating my personal freedoms, else…(just saying!)

Finally, it is not necessary that each time you want to kill a Palestinian, they have to be torn to pieces, beheaded, or whoops…VAPORIZED! The paramedics would be grateful if the body remained in one spot instead of spending several hours collecting tiny pieces of flesh, remnants, signs of (once) a human being!

Why on earth should we have a yes-fly zone over Gaza. We demand a no-fly zone over Gaza because there is no fucking reason whatsoever that we have a yes-fly zone over Gaza!

Don’t keep BUZZING…I wanna FINISH reading this dirty American-made stuff!