Category Archives: Eye on Palestine

I saw Ramallah protest

Originally published on openDemocracy

News from Ramallah which has plunged me into cynicism repeatedly over the years has transformed my mood into one of unqualified optimism for the first time. Over the past few days, Ramallah has restored my faith in the untiring free spirit of the people of Palestine. It has given me hope. Ramallah, by its own initiative, may have finally secured its place in Palestinian history as something that is, for the first time, not notoriously PA-dependant but rather astoundingly and heroically PA-opposed.

“They’ve occupied your land; don’t let them occupy your minds,” one friend advised me after listening to me speak so despairingly about the current situation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. I knew this was a precious piece of advice since one of the reasons I have always thought the status quo looked so unprepossessing is the level of manipulation and ‘mind-control’ deemed necessary not just by the Israeli occupiers but by the various political agencies across the political landscape in Palestine, particularly the Palestinian Authority (PA) which, until very recently, has had quite a sure hold over the minds of Palestinian people, particularly the youth, continuously and falsely feeding them a crudely self-contradictory narrative of an independent Palestinian state soon to be realised in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank while at the same time firmly holding onto the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, all this of course being conditional, we were told, on keeping the faith with our wise and experienced leadership.

Various incentives were deployed in order to keep the Palestinians in check, primarily the vision of economic prosperity, security (possibly the most incomprehensible word for a Palestinian) and development, all fulfilled through the building of the infrastructure of a future Palestinian state. What comes under the ‘infrastructure’ heading can, for the sake of simplicity, be understood as, on the one hand, security-related, though for the word security to have any meaning in this context it has to be attached to Israel, i.e. it has to be understood solely as Israel’s security, and translates as the sudden delivery of the collaborationist, western-backed PA’s Dayton-well-trained security apparatus (including police, intelligence and even riot-control forces), sufficiently equipped and excellently trained to deal with any stability-threatening situations as well as individuals or organisations who might be seen as posing a threat to Israel’s security — hence the large numbers of political prisoners inside PA prisons. On the other hand, there is the non-security-related infrastructure, i.e. infrastructure which is designed for the benefit of, not necessarily in the interest of, Palestinians in the occupied territories, and somehow this is bizarrely reduced and is in reality seen only in reference to the building of restaurants (including one KFC), cafes, hotels, streets (preposterously named after Russian presidents and to their embarrassment!), hospitals, sometimes schools and so on and so forth. All of this is meant to mirror the level of progress and, it is counterfactually claimed, independence, which Palestinians have come to achieve thanks to the commendable efforts of the Palestinian Authority.

Meanwhile, fear, intimidation, and detention are used as a part of a strategy to stifle any criticism and silence whoever dares openly question the supposed wisdom of the PA’s leadership, let alone take action against it.

Israel on the other hand has dreadfully stepped up its policy of colonial expansion as it continues unabatedly to occupy more Palestinian land and build more settlements (or more precisely colonies), forcing Palestinians out of their homes only to demolish them; the scenes of women and elderly people humiliated at checkpoints which have patently dotted the geographic scene in the West Bank has become an everyday reality, schoolchildren are constantly stopped, searched and kicked by helmeted Israeli soldiers during the day and traumatized by the same soldiers storming their way into their homes in the middle of the night and pointing their guns at them while in bed; arbitrary arrests have increased; the separation wall, and most significantly the graffiti and drawings all over it encapsulate several actual levels of misery, extreme vulnerability and despondent incapacity on the part of Palestinian people living under military occupation.

Gaza, meanwhile, has become, not only as is often mentioned, the largest open-air prison on earth, but more accurately described as the largest twenty-first-century concentration camp, where a population of over one million and a half, mostly poverty-stricken people, totally dependent on humanitarian aid and relief agencies for their daily subsistence, is sealed off from the rest of the world, its youth unemployed, its children uncared for running bare-foot down the streets, drinking extremely contaminated water from pipes lying across the camp’s narrow alleyways, and callously subjected to up-to-10 hour daily power cuts while thousands of power generators are regularly enlisted as a power alternative, resulting in several unfortunate deaths and an extremely unnerving clamour damaging to normal mental functioning, in addition to uncontainable pollution, prices skyrocketing, freedom of movement and crossing the Rafah border having become out of the question, while Israeli unmanned drones buzz ceaselessly above in the sky and rarely does a day go by without a series of targeted shelling or assassinations…

Over the past few months, there have been a few incidents which commentators from within the Palestinian spectrum thought might constitute the spark that would finally bestir the Palestinians into their long-awaited third Palestinian intifada. Dozens of analyses with different theses have regularly appeared in several newspapers and online publications all coming to the same pleasant conclusion of the impending collapse of the western-backed Palestinian Authority and the increasing prospects for a third Palestinian intifada which has now become closer than it has ever been. We read, cheered, circulated the post, awfully cursed the PA at the top of our lungs, and sat in anticipation. That one opportunity never came good, or in fact it has arisen quite a few times, every time more intensely and with more force than the time before, but nothing happened. Things continued to simmer beneath the surface, and the spark seemed too weak to rouse the Palestinians into any form of collective action that might shake off their infinite apathy.

As around 2000 Palestinian prisoners embarked on a mass hunger strike inside Israeli jails, a state of anticipation reigned amongst Palestinians, and it was said time and again that this would be the last straw that broke the camel’s back and that it is about time Palestinians joined the Arab awakening and took action— most likely in the form of, mass mobilization, large-scale demonstrations, and civil disobedience against not only the Israeli occupation but also the PA as the power enabling and facilitating this occupation through their despicable silence and shameless collaboration with the Israeli authorities.

Behind the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strikes, some commented, was a message very much indicative of their lack of faith in the power of the masses on the ground as prisoners took things into their own hands and won the battle all by themselves – this tone was even largely present in several of the letters written by many of them in which they appeared to be desperately pleading with their people to take action for them…

I became dangerously cynical and hopeless, and lost the pride once deeply-rooted in me as a Palestinian brought up with the heroic images, scenes, anecdotes, and music of the first and second Palestinian intifadas as the point when the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation had reached its heights. I lost that pride. For a moment, I felt ashamed of myself being a Palestinian, completely powerless and apathetic in the face of this oppression. “Where are the Palestinians,” gnashing my teeth, I asked myself time and again.

I was recently discussing the situation in the West Bank with a Palestinian from Ramallah who is currently conducting PhD research at the LSE . Although we both were down-spirited at the end of the discussion, having left one another with a bleak image of the status quo, he still thought change is somehow looming and the status quo is no longer sustainable. “Don’t despair, and keep up the hard work!” he cheered me up before we departed company.

Only a few days later on July 1, protests took place in Ramallah against a scheduled meeting between PA president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli vice prime minister Shaul Mofaz. Although there has been a growing level of discontent amongst the Palestinians, none would have expected a protest of this kind to take place in Ramallah. That by itself is a huge achievement for everyone who is full of rage at the current situation. One has to acknowledge though the folly of the PA president’s decision to meet with an Israeli official as notorious as Mofaz. This created a situation in which Palestinians from various political backgrounds and affiliations united — only at the very early stages and before it was officially postponed — in staging protests against the meeting.

The brutal crackdown by PA security and intelligence forces has proved a widening, deplorable disconnect between the PA president and the youth on the ground. Instead of listening to the youth’s demands, Abbas completely isolates himself in his presidential palace while the people chant against him and the PA’s collaboration with Israel. He needs to know he is loathed by an increasingly huge number of the Palestinian youth before it is too late for him. Abbas in the eyes in an ever-growing number of Palestinians has proved that he is not different from his Arab predecessors as he continues to follow their steps even in the way they tried to quash protests and silence dissent. As a matter of fact, both Ben Ali and Mubarak were his closest allies. The parallels between the Arab western-backed dictatorships and the PA are striking and unmistakable. However, the PA has become a fully-fledged western-backed dictatorship now, before the state it is meant to rule over has even come into existence.

As the first protest was quelled, another protest, this time against police brutality, was planned; but, completely ironically, it was met with even more police brutality. During a third protest, the youth marched to the PA compounds known as al-Muqata’a and sharply and unequivocally chanted against the PA’s collaborationist policy and against Saeb Erekat as the head of the Palestinian negotiating team and, most significantly, against the Oslo Accords. It does not matter for how long the protests persisted. The fact that the turnout was not particularly massive is not relevant also. What matters is that the people — a considerable number of them — have finally spoken up, nowhere but in Ramallah, and not only against the Israeli occupation, but most significantly against the Palestinian Authority and its collaborationist policy. The first barrier of fear has been shattered for good, and that is what truly matters. Standing up against the PA is no longer an improbable scenario. Things will never be the same for the PA establishment.

“Where are the Palestinians?” – Picture from Eye on Palestine by Ahmed Mesleh

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.

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!

The Palestinians’ “Land Days”

Illustration by: Abdul Rahman Al Muzayen

On May 30, 1976 while thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel were protesting against the expropriations of their homelands, Israeli security forces shot and killed six young Palestinian citizens of Israel and injured many. Had Israeli security forces been able to foresee the consequences of this foolish act, they would have practiced the highest level of self-constraint. They would have probably pleaded with these protesters to go home. They would have done anything but kill them.

Commemorating what they have died for, the Palestinians, for 35 years on end, honored the memory of these six young protesters on what has become “The Land Day”.

Politics has always been part of a Palestinian’s life. So unconceivable it is for Palestinians to disengage themselves from politics. When they are angry, it is politics that angers them; when they are hopeful, it is politics that gives them hope. Sometimes politics starves them. And sometimes when they die, they die due to politics. Eventually, they become politically experienced and sophisticated.

Yet, rarely are they aware of their tragic political status. A few of them know that they do not possess a state of their own. Try and tell them this fact. Simply, they wouldn’t bother. A state is not what Palestinians would feel worried to have or lose. To them a state is a meaningless enigmatic concept. A farmer never knows what “state” stands for, neither does a fisherman. A teacher would possibly know, but he would never feel it. All of them, however, know one simple word, one grand concept, one sacred entity. It is a reachable concrete and spiritual one. The land.

This is how they raise their children. They raise them to love their land and feel it under each step they take. These children soon start to see this land in the morning sky above, they soon touch it on the seashore, and feel it in the rainfall. A while later, they accompany their fathers to the graveyard and watch a relative embrace this very land. They would sink their bare hands into the sands and join in burying this very dead man.

And while they are still little children, they blend into this land. Their love for it becomes unfathomable. Beauty, to these children, is “an olive tree growing before their own eyes.”

As they grow up, their life becomes more complicated, and inevitably more political. They start to suffer and feel the pain of living under occupation, under siege, and behind the wall. The pain of crossing checkpoints, of being discriminated against, of being bombed and fired at, of watching their siblings buried under this land. The majority of them would start to hate everything around them. They would feel angry and worried to the extent that they would abhor their surrounding. And the would curse.

They would curse a variety of things: life, Israel, politics, Gaza, Egypt, and perhaps even Palestine. These all become to them base and immoral entities. However, never will a Palestinian curse the land. Gaza, when cursed, is miserableness, wicked people, crime, hellish nights, bombing, starvation…anything but never the land. Palestine, when cursed, is Israel’s security, political factions, the Apartheid Wall, settlements, checkpoints…anything but never the land.

To Palestinians, each day of the year is a “Land Day”. Each pulse is so land-loving; each breath soon vaporizes into the land; each tear soon waters it, and each body eventually embraces the land— on the real “Land Day”.

One Night of Bombing

I’m lying. The are two actually. Earlier, I tweeted, “I was lying all the time. I used to say I got used to it, you actually never get used to being bombed by F-16s!”

It was but another night penetrated with the brain-wracking constant droning mixed with the sounds of a slight rainfall. I didn’t bother, however, and continued my nightly chores, indifferent to the omnipresent presages of an “unappealing night”. Time and again, I was told this was going to be a hellish night due to the last bombing that took place in Jerusalem.

One would wonder what Palestinians in Gaza would have to do with a bombing that took place in Jerusalem. But to someone like me, and to Palestinians in Gaza, I’ll just borrow the words of another Palestinian, “If someone caught flu in Tel Aviv, we, Palestinians in Gaza, were to blame. We would have to bear the consequences!”

A few reports say this is part of a larger Israeli political conspiracy to relieve the ever amounting pressure they are put under by provoking Hamas into firing rockets onto Israel and showing themselves as the victim. Some say it is a desperate attempt to end any Palestinian effort to end the disunity between the two largest Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah. Israeli media, however, report these attacks are just retaliatory. I’d try to understand if it were retaliatory, but it is Israel that started all of this mayhem.

I didn’t care, and whatever were the reasons behind this would-be hellish night, I didn’t bother for myself. I thought that I got used to it. But I kept tweeting and providing latest updates whenever the droning increased or lowered. Someone told me, “your obsession with the unmanned drones inspires me.” He thought it’s an obsession, but it’s not. It’s some mechanism to release myself from this nerve-wracking noise, which at some point, would seem eternal.

But it was not. Soon enough the droning ceased. The rain stopped falling. It was all quiet, and I started to feel worried.

A friend tweeted, “this must be quiet which precedes the storm!” I knew It was. So everyone was soon getting ready and preparing himself, psychologically and emotionally in case the bomb fell in his neighborhood. I was soon trying to envisage the bombing in my mind before it fell for real. Waiting for a bomb is far more torturing that the bomb itself.

A few minutes later, we started to call for ending this state of dreadful quiet by sending the drones back “People want the drones BACK! ” I tweeted.

We waited and waited, but no bombs fell at all. We started to feel extremely apprehensive about what’s going on! Had we been bombed, things would have seemed normal.

After what seemed to be ages, and as if conforming to our demands, F-16s and Apaches started flying in Gaza sky only to simultaneously start shelling various areas across the Gaza Strip. Once an F-16 shows up, a bomb follows. One doesn’t even have time to ponder its horrific blasting sound. A few were injured, two of them were children.

The night was up, and I went to bed.

The next night, at an unguarded moment, the nearby area was heavily bombarded by five F-16 bombs. I wasn’t prepared. I never thought it would come this early. As each bomb fell, the whole building shook back and forth, my heart dropped, and I cursed. The five bombs having fallen, I felt like screaming my heart out like a child. I felt as if I wanted to be as simple a little boy pouring out his heart to his mother, “Mom, I hate Israel!” But I kept silent and continued my nightly chores.

Illustration by: Zahraa Hassan

The Earth Woke Peacefully: in Commemoration of a War


For the first time in twenty-two days the Earth woke up without a start. Even though the sky was spotted with a few randomly dispersed clouds, it was bereft of the disturbing tones of the overhead drones which had now disappeared. The earth had woken peacefully, peacefully enough not to bear with the frighteningly gigantic burden of a new bomb to be dropped onto her surface bestowing on her some savagely massive shake. Peacefully enough not to endure the deafeningly immense sound of another bomb tearing down through its stratums. The earth had woken peacefully enough not to feign warm-heartedness as she embraces a new lifeless body laid into her deepness, and peacefully enough not to feel the insufferable pain of watching herself fight a losing battle against a huge bulldozer mercilessly extirpating a new sapling that had just issued from her sand. The earth had not woken with a start to mournfully open her arms for a new falling bird that had failed to estimate the looming dangers of flying amidst a sky that covered an unbending race of humans: the bird flew so as to bring his brood a few seeds to feed upon and yet had to pay the inexorable bill of love and care. The earth had woken peacefully, and peace obviously had known its way through the countless bullets, rockets, mortars and bombs which had been horrifyingly raining on this part of the earth, and, it seemed, it had finally been able to guide itself through the jet-black darkness of the multiple graves. Peace, as far as one could tell, had flown out from the bottomless earth up to the very heights of the sky where the soaring birds could finally replace the awful scene of mighty jets and warplanes.

Continue reading

Gaza, in Gaza, Fourteen Years in Gaza

Republishing a pretty old article of mine.

Gaza …

Fourteen years in Gaza have taught me to believe that it is inconceivable for anyone who, on a Friday morning, hasn’t been walking up and down the bustling aisles of a public market while the sweating traders, at each side of the aisle, are calling at the top of their voices in well-rhymed phrases with the prices of their commodities, it is unimaginable for them to appreciate the enormous capacity and the charming power of the small word, and that to perceive how far significant these four letters are is next to impossible.

Gaza … Fourteen years are too much for me to make me realise what an improper behaviour that is, having visited a friend, you leave your cup of tea, not untouched, but rather unfinished, your plate of candy, no matter how stuffed you are, not finished. The more heartily you devour it, the more pleased your host is.

In Gaza, you and your friends meet together at home; you take issues with them, and they yell at you, but you never yell at them; they throw the pillow behind their backs over at you, and you never respond. Meanwhile, your mother knocks on the door of the guests’ room and calls out to you from behind, rebukingly bidding you to lower your voice, although she knows it for sure that your voice was hardly audible and that it is your friends who are making all this fuss. All this fuss, in Gaza, is about the day of the “Tasha” – the Arabic for a small trip inside the town – you and your friends will be going on. The trip will be to nowhere special but to a street! A mere street. All that which makes it differ from other streets is a statue standing upright in the middle of the island separating the two sides of the road; the statue is called “Al-Jundy Al-Majhoul” The street is special, for it is a little wider than all other streets in Gaza. With all these privileges, the street, therefore, becomes a destination for you and your friends; and, for its own sake, you and your friends spend hours arguing to decide on a date where everybody is free that you can gather and visit the statue, together!

Gaza …

Fourteen years have taught that I should not be staying up late at night the eve of Friday. They have taught me how much I would regret if I dared to do it. Continue reading