Category Archives: Opinions

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.

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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.

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

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”.

Itamar killings: a modest proposal

No one approves of killing children — unless you were a T-Bag* of course. No one approves of killing in the first place. But this isn’t a utopia. This is the real world. Full of corruption, lust, obnoxious deeds, crimes and misdemeanors. So the very idea of eliminating murder is unfathomable, especially when the state of animosity between the murderer and their victim is as extreme as in this part of the world. Killing thus can be rationalized.

The same applies to killing children. But there is some criteria according to which one’s killing (children) can be defined as either permissible or outrageous.

Palestinians are said to have killed some Israeli children, three I believe? That was a week ago, in Itamar, y’know, some piece of land Israeli settlers stole, no that wasn’t stealing, they grabbed from Palestinians by force and built their houses on it. It was awful, mean and outrageous…I mean the killing. Not that the criminal murdered children (we already agreed ‘murder’ can be okay sometimes) but the way he did it! Oh, that was terrible.

You see, Israelis killed Palestinian children too. They have been killing them for the past 63 years. 124 Israeli children have been killed by Palestinians and 1,452 Palestinian children have been killed by Israelis since September 29, 2000.

But that isn’t bad killing. That is “good” killing because Israelis killed Palestinian children in a civilized manner, they killed them the right way, they killed them “well”, using modern technology, F16s, Apaches, bombs (there is a good one called white phosphorus bomb) tanks, y’know, machine guns, they killed Palestinian children with bullets, mortars…everything modern and new. Technology; you see?

But a knife? – This is what makes such an act outrageous. How can someone stab three children with a knife? Stabbing them to death…
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Gaza’s “angry young men”

“Write down, I am an Arab” wrote the late renowned Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, in the opening lines of his controversial poem entitled after its opening lines, boasting about and promoting then-declining Pan-Arabism. Toward the middle of the poem, he writes, his anger obviously amounting, “Patient in a country/ where people are enraged” and self-assuredly he concludes with a line he never knew it would become a slogan of his angry self-democratizing Arab fellows in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Bahrain and across the middle east, “Beware, beware/ Of my hunger/ And my anger!” Had the Arab presidents dwelled upon Darwish’s lines, they would have known how to avert their people’s anger. We are Darwish’s fellows, “angry” young men as well, living in Gaza, under siege, occupation, poverty, everlasting military conflict, social injustice, political corruption, repression…

Britain’s “angry young men” appeared in the 1950s and aspired to fight against the established sociopolitical order of their country. They had to endure the implications of a world plagued with two fatal wars. To our men, they left one thing: Osborne’s Look back in Anger. In a war-riddled Middle East, our young men, including me, are looking back, looking forward in anger.

It does not take someone a lot to be angry in Gaza. Anger is essentially characteristic of every normal Palestinian being, and he who is not angry in Gaza is, to put it bluntly, abnormal. When they have every reason to be angry, and they are not, they simply breach the rules of normal functioning. Anger, then, is a hypothetical state, and a useless word (This needs not be further explicated, does it?) However, some people are better at hiding their emotions than others, at self-suppressing their anger, unless they be forcibly suppressed by others. A few others are good at transforming their anger into wholesome energy by which they carry on with their lives, more determined, more patient. I’m of the worst kind of them all; my anger being daily transformed into obscene words as I fatuously spit them out.
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Reflections on the Palestine Papers and the Egyptian intifada

The other side of the PA and Mubarak’s detachment from their peoples’ demands

The Palestine Papers, a cache of around 1600 documents on diplomatic peace negotiations published by Al-Jazeera and the Guardian constitute a real blow to the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority’s (PA) claim it “won’t sell out.” The damage these documents have caused to the PA’s image is by no means less than the damage they have caused to the people they constantly claimed to represent. The majority of the Palestinians in Gaza had already lost faith in the US-backed authority, and what remained of this faith will melt away after the full publication of these documents.

Meanwhile in Egypt, the ongoing mass demonstrations constitute a parallel fatal blow to the already shattered image of the (US-backed) Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak.

While the Palestine Papers caused disappointment and wrath amongst all Palestinians in the West Bank, inside Israel and worldwide, the Palestinians living in the besieged Gaza Strip were in a state of shock as well, yet for an entirely different reason: the PA’s humiliating compliance to the Israeli demands compared to its arrogant intransigence in face of any reconciliation with the Hamas government in Gaza.

In addition to the concessions the PA offers on a number of permanent status issues, primarily, settlements, borders, Jerusalem, refugees and the openly conducted security collaboration with Israel, for the Palestinians in Gaza, the Palestine Papers most importantly reveal a great deal about the yielding nature of the Palestinian negotiators and the jaw-dropping friendly atmosphere surrounding them.

It is not necessarily compliant the position of the PA in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, one would suggest, insofar as they haven’t agreed on anything (which PA figures keep parroting, “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”) and it is of the essence of the negotiations process that you offer something in exchange for another, else we should not be negotiating in the first place, which is quite plausible. So such concessions, though unprecedented and totally unacceptable, up to a point can be justified. However, unfortunately for them, it is but this logic that already delegitimized the PA in the Palestinians’ eyes.

Such logic has in fact had a backfire function on the sophistic PA officials, namely the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat. As the continually failing reconciliatory talks between Hamas and the Fatah-dominated PA have proved over the past four years, the give-and-take logic is obviously not the case all the time, depending on who is on the other side of the table. And so failing to bridge the division amongst the Palestinians due to the firmness of each side’s position, the population continues to daily pay the price for this willing failure.

Before the Palestine Papers came out, it had always been hard for me to imagine the atmosphere inside the negotiations room which turned out to be something very unlike what I thought: a playful and full-of-jubilation atmosphere (at least on the PA’s side). As Laila Al-Aria from Al-Jazeera reports, “On June 30, 2008, as Livni was gearing up to run in the Kadima party’s leadership election, Qurei ]then senior Palestinian negotiator[ said fawningly, “I would vote for you.” A few months before that Qurei had similarly sweet words for Rice, telling her, “You bring back life to the region when you come.” I believe it would be hard to imagine such a high-spirited ambiance during the Hamas-Fatah reconciliatory talks that a Fatah official would pay a similar compliment to his Hamas counterpart.
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