The Real News Report from Gaza Palestinians mark Nakba

The Real News: Fears from fundamentalism are growing in Gaza after Hamas’ latest public modesty campaigns

The Real News on repression and cultural resistance in Gaza with footage of Tales of a City by the Sea’s public reading

Israel’s Gaza Bantustan

First published on AlJazeera

Israel’s one state reality greeted us at the gates of the Gaza-Rafah crossing when we were asked by the Egyptian officer to present our Haweyah (Palestinian IDs) in order to be allowed through. It is not like we weren’t expecting this request, we knew that it would come down to this even though our Australian passports clearly showed Gaza as our place of birth we were still not considered Palestinian nationals in our own home city. Rather, we were treated like foreigners who needed an almost impossible amount of bureaucratic red tape designed to discourage the likes of us of ever thinking of visiting loved ones back home.

Allow me to explain: Since Israel’s establishment it has used the system of ID cards to differentiate between its Jewish and non-Jewish residents and citizens, a distinction needed in order to apply its apartheid discriminatory policies of separate and unequal treatment. When Israel occupied Gaza and the West Bank in 1967, its Interior Ministry began to also issue ID cards to the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. By 1982, Israel passed the Identity Card Carrying and Displaying Act requiring all residents of Israel both inside its 1948 borders and inside the green line in the Occupied Territories, who are over 16 years of age, to carry at all times these ID cards and to present them upon request to the authorities.

Israeli citizens’ ID cards come in blue plastic casing with the Israeli Coat of Arms on the outer cover. Palestinians prior to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority had orange casings in the West Bank and red casings in the Gaza Strip both with the IDF insignia embossed on the outer cover highlighting Israel’s military control. Palestinians in the Occupied Territories who were forbidden entry into Israel’s 1948 borders had green casings.

 

After the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority and as part of the creation of the illusion of progress, the Palestinian National Authority was handed some limited inconsequential powers. These included issuing Palestinian residents with ID cards. A pointless exercise given that the power to issue these cards hinged on Israel’s approval, which was selectively given. Not only that, Israel continues to this day to control the Palestinian population registry and to assign the actual ID numbers provided for the Palestinian ID cards; the all-important cards required to enter Gaza and the West Bank.

Much has been written about how the system of ID cards is used as a weapon to further cement the fragmentation of the Palestinian population as it confines the Palestinians to their geographic Israeli-controlled Bantustans, forbidding Palestinians with Gaza IDs entry into the West Bank and Jerusalem and vice versa. But perhaps the worst and most insidious effect this system has is in the way it is designed to control and monitor the movement of all Palestinians and to curb the Palestinian population by denying their diaspora the right to come home even if for a short visit.

As we stood at the Rafah crossing, we were confronted with this reality. The Egyptian officer insisted that only Palestinians with the Israeli-controlled Palestinian ID cards are allowed to use this crossing. These orders are a result of an unforgivable move, one of many, that were made by the Palestinian National Authority when in 2005, Palestinian negotiators led by Mohammed Dahlan (a Fatah leader with strong links to Israel and the US) signed an agreement with Israel on movement and access from and to Gaza. One of the conditions they agreed to was restricting the use of the Rafah crossing to Palestinian ID card holders. It is hard to fathom why the Palestinian Authority would have agreed to such an inhumane condition which in reality means that Gazan residents would be cut off from loved ones in exile.

After seven hours of waiting at the Rafah border and after exhausting every connection, every phone number, every thread of hope and every possibility, we managed to make it through. Once inside Gaza, it became abundantly clear that despite Hamas’ visible presence inside the city and the endless waves of green flags, we had arrived into an Israeli controlled Bantustan. The currency used here is the new Israeli Shekel, the IDs all the residents carry are issued by the Israeli interior ministry, all births go through the Israeli national registry, the essential products are all Israeli in this captive market. As I type this to the sound of the Israeli F16 hovering in the sky above, and as I look at the sea patrolled by Israeli cruisers, I am convinced that I am now inside Israel’s one state reality in a Bantustan they call Gaza.

Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian writer and Policy Adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian policy network.  

Follow her on Twitter: @gazaheart

Gaza 2012: Palestine’s Long Walk to Freedom

By: Haidar Eid

Published Wednesday, December 12, 2012

AlAkhabar English

 

The long walk to South Africa’s freedom is marked by two immensely tragic events: the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 and the Soweto Uprising in 1976, both of which led to the galvanizing of internal and international resistance against the apartheid regime. Ultimately, these events would lead to the long-called for release of Nelson Mandela and to the end of one of the most inhumane systems the world has ever seen.

Without Sharpeville and Soweto, among other landmarks towards victory over settler colonialism, South Africa would still be ruled by a minority of fanatic, white settlers claiming to fulfill the word of (their) God.

Palestine’s long walk to freedom has gone through similar harrowing events, beginning with the 1948 Nakba to the latest eight-day onslaught on Gaza.

In order to understand Gaza in 2012, one ought to trace its origin back to 1948. Two thirds of the Palestinians of Gaza are refugees who were kicked out of their cities, towns, and villages in 1948. In After the Last Sky, the late Palestinian thinker Edward Said argues that every Palestinian knows perfectly well that what has happened to us over the last six decades is “a direct consequence of Israel’s destruction of our society in 1948…”

The problem, he argues, is that a clear, direct line from our misfortunes in 1948 to our misfortunes in the present cannot be drawn, thanks to “the complexity of our experience.”

At 139 square miles, Gaza is the largest refugee camp on earth, a reminder of the ongoing Nakba. The inhabitants of Gaza have become the most unwanted Palestinians, the black heart that no one wants to see, the “Negroes” of the American south, the black natives of South Africa, the surplus population that the powerful, macho, white Ashkenazi cannot coexist with.

Hence the calls to “flatten” Gaza and “send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.”

In 2008-9, Gaza was bombed by Apache helicopters and F-16 jets for 22 days, killing more than 1400 civilians. As if that was not enough, Israel decided to return to Gaza in 2012 and repeat the same crimes in eight days, this time killing more than 175 civilians and injuring 1399. These are massive losses for a population of just over 1.5 million people.

Israel’s airstrikes, which damage essential infrastructure and terrify the civilian population, are a form of collective punishment against the Palestinian people. Even more, they are war crimes forbidden under international humanitarian law, specifically the Geneva Conventions.

Yet Israel consistently gets away with war crimes. The official, government-based “international community” does not seem interested in the suffering of the native Palestinians. The much-admired, “better than Bush” American president, Obama, thinks that “Israel has the right to defend itself.” The same right does not apparently apply to Palestinians.

Likewise, the British Foreign Secretary William Hague believes that Hamas is “principally responsible” for the current crisis, as well as the ability to bring it most swiftly to an end. This is in spite of the deadly siege imposed on Gaza for more than five years, so much so that Israel even used calorie counting to limit the amount of food that entered Gaza during the blockade.

The fact that Palestinians in Gaza are not born to Jewish mothers is enough reason to deprive them of their right to live equally with the citizens of the state of Israel. Hence, like the black natives of South Africa, they should be isolated in a Bantustan, in accordance with the Oslo terms. If they show any resistance to this plan, they must be punished by turning the entire Strip into an open-air prison.

Both the US and the UK display deliberate and unconscionable ignorance in the face of the brutal reality caused by Israel to Gaza. As a result of Israel’s blockade on most imports and exports and other policies designed to punish Palestinians, about 70 percent of Gaza’s workforce is now unemployed or without pay, according to the UN, and about 80 percent of its residents live in grinding poverty.

But don’t Obama and Hague know this?!

As Hamid Dabashi put it:

Obama is fond of saying Israelis are entitled to defend themselves. But are they entitled to steal even more of Palestine, terrorise its inhabitants and continue to consolidate a racist apartheid state…? Was South Africa also entitled to be a racist apartheid state, was the American south entitled to slavery, India to Hindu fundamentalism?

The only option for Palestinians is to follow the same route as the South African struggle. The South African internal campaign aimed to mobilize the masses on the ground rather than indifferent governments around the world. What hope could they have gotten from the likes of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, and Helmut Kohl? It was left to ordinary South Africans and global citizens to show their moral rejection of crimes committed by the ugly apartheid system.

In South Africa’s long walk to freedom, there was no compromise on respect for basic human rights. Apartheid’s attempts to point fingers at “black violence” and “intrinsic hatred” toward Western civilization and democracy, did not hold water.

Similarly, international civil society, and some governments, have seen through Israel’s propaganda campaign where the aggressor is turned into the victim. Across the years, Palestinians have been completely dehumanized. Instead of Reagan and Thatcher, we have Obama and Hague, blaming the victim and condemning resistance to occupation, colonization, and apartheid.

But South Africans did not wait for the American administration to “change its mind.” The global BDS campaign, steered by South African anti-apartheid activists, coupled with internal mass mobilization on the ground, was the prescription for liberation, away from the façade of “independence” based on ethnic identities. Similarly, the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions has been gathering momentum since 2005. Gaza 2012, like Soweto 1976, cannot be ignored: it demands a response from all who believe in a common humanity.

Gaza 2012 has, undeniably, given a huge impetus to this process by making all Palestinians inside and outside of historic Palestine realize that “Yes, We Can!” We are no longer the weaker party, the passive victim who does not dare bang on the walls of Ghassan Kanafani’s trunk in Men in the Sun, but rather Hamid in All That is Left To You, the Palestinian hero who decides to act.

Haidar Eid is Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University and a policy advisor withAl-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network.

Original article appeared here https://talesofacitybytheseadotcom.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php

 

As people dig out of the rubble, a Palestinian doctor says civilians were targeted by Israeli attack

Published on Nov 27, 2012 by 

CNN: Soccer stars protest Gaza bombing

December 2, 2012 — Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Palestine Stadium in Gaza City was bombed by the Israeli airforce last month during a conflict with the territory's ruling Hamas party.Palestine Stadium in Gaza City was bombed by the Israeli airforce last month during a conflict with the territory’s ruling Hamas party.

 

(CNN) — A group of soccer stars have called for Israel to be stripped of hosting rights for a top European age-grade tournament next year following last month’s bomb attacks on Gaza.

More than 60 players including Didier Drogba, Eden Hazard, Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba signed a petition which was posted on the website of former English Premier League and Spanish La Liga striker Fredi Kanoute.

“We, as European football players, express our solidarity with the people of Gaza who are living under siege and denied basic human dignity and freedom,” the statement said.

“The latest Israeli bombardment of Gaza, resulting in the death of over a hundred civilians, was yet another stain on the world’s conscience.”

American soccer star playing for Palestine

It cited reports of a bomb attack by Israeli forces on a football stadium in Gaza on November 10, which killed four teenage players, and said that two players from the club Al Amari had been detained in Israel “without charge or trial” since February.

“It is unacceptable that children are killed while they play football. Israel hosting the UEFA Under-21 European Championship, in these circumstances, will be seen as a reward for actions that are contrary to sporting values,” the statement said.

“Despite the recent ceasefire, Palestinians are still forced to endure a desperate existence under occupation, they must be protected by the international community. All people have the right to a life of dignity, freedom and security. We hope that a just settlement will finally emerge.”

Tel Aviv will host the European Under-21 Championship next June, when eight nations will compete in Israel.

European football’s governing body UEFA has already rejected calls to move the tournament from pro-Palestine groups including the disputed territory’s football association.

Refugee United: Palestinians debut at Homeless World Cup

“UEFA is an apolitical organization and (Israel) earned the right to host this competition through a fair, democratic vote,” UEFA president Michel Platini said in June.

“I am sure that it will be a beautiful celebration of football that, once again, will bring people together.”

World football’s governing body FIFA also says it does not interfere in countries’ political affairs, but said it would help rebuild the stadium in Gaza — as it did in 2006 following a similar attack.

“We see it our mandate to rebuild football infrastructure which has been destroyed,” FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said last week.

“Football brings people together and we will support any reconstruction necessary when football infrastructure is destroyed through disasters.”

Palestine: A national soccer team without a nation

Valcke’s statement was criticized by Israeli media, which reported that the stadium was used by Hamas militants to fire rockets at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Palestine’s bid for recognition was boosted last week when the U.N. general assembly voted to upgrade its status to that of a non-member observer state — a move which was opposed by Israel and the U.S.

“We came to the United Nations not to confront the U.S. and not to isolate Israel or to discriminate Israel. We came to preserve the two-state solution,” Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erakat told CNN’s Piers Morgan.

Read original article here.

Operation Pillar of Death: Naming Gaza’s Dead – a film by Harry Fear for GazaReport.com

Gaza children return to school after ceasefire

Samah Sabawi: Gaza and the responsibility of the international community on 3CR Radio

Why Israel will lose the war on Gaza

By Samah Sabawi

Israel’s current assault on Gaza will not bring Israel peace nor will it force the Palestinians to surrender.  Three years ago, Israel launched a brutal attack on the city it occupies and besieges killing more then 1400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and injuring thousands more while destroying most of Gaza’s infrastructure and turning vast landscapes where houses once stood into rubble. What happened in the years since then is a testimony of the Palestinian people’s real weapon – tenacity, a weapon no one in Israel can understand nor truly match.  A weapon Palestinians possess that will see them through until they gain their freedom.

When foreigners visit the Occupied Territories they are often struck by just how resourceful Palestinians are, how positive they remain and how ineffective Israel’s policy of subjugating them is. Yes, Gaza is an impoverished, besieged, overcrowded and occupied strip of land, but a closer look helps shed some light on exactly what it is that Israel is up against. 

This past year, despite the crippling siege on Gaza, some amazing things happened.   Gazans stood on the cutting-edge of urban agriculture:  they were learning through a UN funded project to produce fish and vegetables on their tiny rooftops.  The skill of learning to farm without soil in confined spaces is necessary in a place like Gaza where 1.6 million residents are cramped into 360 square kilometers of land and where much of the agricultural land is off limits because Israel maintains a 300-metre deep zone along the length of the border fence denying Palestinians access to their prime agricultural land.

Gaza opened its first ever paintball park bringing equipment and protective clothing through the tunnels that link Gaza with Egypt.  The game referee Rami Eid told Reuters this was important so “the youth of Gaza can play games that are played around the world”.  

Gaza also hosted this year for the first time an actual circus along with clowns and acrobats.  The circus that travelled through Egypt’s Rafah border brought happiness to many children who had never had such an experience.  Gaza also hosted its first ‘PalFest’, an international Palestinian literature festival along with poets and musicians coming from all over the world.

If that’s not enough to impress, Gaza opened its first restaurant for the deaf.  The stylish Atfaluna restaurant near Gaza port was hailed as one of a few facilities for the disabled in a besieged impoverished city where waiters and cooks use sign language. The restaurant was realissed with help from the Drosos Foundation of Switzerland in order to generate income for the deaf in Gaza, where the unemployment rate is over 25 percent.

This year, as always, the youth in Gaza were finding ways to express their creativity and their skills.  From amazing daredevil Parkour, learning how to surf, to rap songs and art exhibits, they were finding their confidence and were healing from the aftermath of the trauma of Israel’s last destruction of their city.

This year, Gazans lead the way to inspire people around the world as they literally turned rubble into art.  Gazan women driven by the determination to self-empowerment mixed with environmental awareness turned garbage and rubble into pieces of art that can be sold, this project was made possible with funding from the non-government organization ‘Supporters of Palestinian Environment’.

Despite the restriction on building supplies, Gazans used the tunnels to bring in cement and iron and have rebuilt many of the structures that were destroyed.  A highlight for many was the walkway ‘corniche’ by the sea side which many proudly posted photos of on their facebook profiles.

Within the walls of their big prison and in spite of the siege and the frequent Israeli bombardment, the people of Gaza managed to find the space to create, to dream, to build and to hope.  This is the essential stuff that resistance is made of.  This is why Israel’s recent attack will not defeat the Palestinians and will only hurt Israel in the end, exposing it for the tyrannical state that it is.  

Israel has launched a war to break the Palestinian spirit, to destroy all they’ve rebuilt, to uproot all that they’ve replanted.  This is a war on the Palestinian people’s tenacity to resist despair. Israel will lose this war because it fails to understand what it is up against.  A state that only knows how to destroy will never understand the art of turning rubble into masterpieces.  

Press Release: A new Gaza Massacre!

Press Release: A new Gaza Massacre!

14.November.2012

Besieged Gaza, Occupied Palestine–The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel, University Teachers’ Association and The One Democratic State Group condemn in the strongest possible terms the criminal Israeli attack against innocent Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. More than 7 people have been killed within the last 6 hours, including 7-year-old child Ranan Arafat. Charred bodies of injured children are pouring in to Al Shifa hospital and the other depleted hospitals around the Gaza Strip. This heinous crime also comes one week after the re-election of Barak Obama for a second term. Tel Aviv claims to have been given the green light to annihilate as many Palestinians in Gaza as possible.

Gaza has been enduring Israeli policies of extermination and vandalism since 2006. We reiterate our condemnation of the international conspiracy of silence and Arab impotence in the face of these continuous Israeli crimes. We note that not a single action against Israel has been taken by any Arab country. Will the Arab Spring stand aside and watch while we are being butchered? Empty rhetoric will no longer be accepted. Words of condemnation have to be translated into action!

We also reiterate our call on all civil society organizations and political parties to boycott Israeli embassies and compel their governments to sever their diplomatic ties with Apartheid Israel.  This time, Apartheid Israel must not get away with its crimes against the innocent civilians of Gaza.  All students and academics should stand in solidarity with their Palestinian colleagues and peers. We ask, what more does the international community need to see to be convinced to act than the dozens of dead corpses of children in Gaza? It is left to civil society and people of conscience to stop the ongoing massacre in Gaza.

Inaction has led us to this point.

 ACT NOW BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!

One Democratic State Group

Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel

University Teachers’ Association

One Democratic State Group
odsg.org/co

Palestinian farmers turn to organic farming

By DIAA HADID Associated Press

NUS JUBAIL, West Bank—The Palestinian olive harvest, an ancient autumn ritual in the West Bank, is going upscale.

In an emerging back-to-the-land movement, Palestinian farmers are turning the rocky hills of the West Bank into organic olive groves, selling their oil to high-end grocers in the U.S. and Europe.

The move is a reflection of the growing global demand for natural, sustainable and fairly traded products, albeit with a distinct Palestinian twist. The hardships faced by local farmers, ranging from a lack of rainfall to Israeli trade obstacles, mean that organic growing is one of the few ways Palestinians have to compete in outside markets.

“The Palestinian future is in the land,” said farmer Khader Khader, 31, as he stood among his organic olives in the northern West Bank village of Nus Jubail.

Organic farming has grown into a thriving business, by Palestinian standards, since it first was introduced in the West Bank in 2004. Now, at least $5 million worth of organic olive oil is exported annually—about half of all Palestinian commercial oil exports, said Nasser Abu Farha of the Canaan Fair Trade Association, one of the companies that sells high-end organic olive oil to distributors abroad.

The West Bank-based company purchases the oil at above market prices and pays what’s called a “social premium”—extra money to farming cooperatives to improve their communities.

About 930 farmers have fair-trade and organic certification, while another 140 are “converting” their land—a two- to three-year process during which they stop using chemical fertilizers and pest controls while monitors from Canaan and the Palestine Fair Trade Association provide training and check soil for chemical levels.

Their work is overseen by the Swiss-based Institute for Market Ecology, which is accredited to certify organic products for the U.S., E.U., and Japan. Hundreds more farmers are simply certified as fair-trade, where they and their workers are paid decent wages for their work and produce.

The trade is tiny when compared to major olive growers like Spain, Italy and Greece. But it’s significant for Palestinians, for whom harvesting olives is a cultural tradition that gathers even the most urbanized families.

An average of 17,000 tons of olive oil is produced in the West Bank every year by thousands of farmers, according to aid group Oxfam, which works on the olive industry. Most is for local or personal use, and only about 1,000 tons is exported a year, though that number is likely higher since many farmers sell oil informally through relatives abroad, Abu Farha said.

Organic farmers hope the high-end trade will keep them on their lands, despite difficult odds and high overhead costs.

Palestinians seek the West Bank as the heartland of a future independent state. Most of the 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank live under a semi-autonomous government. But Israel, which captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, wields overall control. Roughly 500,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank and neighboring east Jerusalem, taking away resources.

More than 120 Jewish settlements dot the West Bank, often encroaching on Palestinian farmlands or preventing farmers from reaching their land. Israel’s separation barrier, built to prevent militants from entering Israel, has swallowed nearly 10 percent of Palestinian farmland, according to U.N. estimates, limiting access and lowering yields.

Israel also controls more than 80 percent of the West Bank’s water in lopsided sharing agreements, said Palestinian water official Ribhi al-Sheik. In other areas dilapidated water pipes have wasteful leaks. Most farmers depend on rain and unlicensed wells, depleting already-stressed aquifers. In some parts, Israeli military authorities also ban rain-collecting cisterns. Badly planned Palestinian towns have paved over fertile lands.

Outside markets for fresh produce aren’t profitable. Goods must cross through Israeli-controlled export crossings, causing delays and lowering quality through exposure to sunlight and constant reloading from one truck to another.

Israeli military spokesman Guy Inbar said the long export process was solely for security reasons and “not intended to harm” exports, noting that Palestinians export some 100,000 tons of fresh produce a year. He said Palestinians access more water than what is allowed for under sharing agreements and that farmers with permits are able to reach land on the other side of the separation barrier.

The challenges sparked a new way of thinking: Palestinians had to make finished goods that could survive the rough growing conditions and lengthy journey to outside markets.

Fair-trade, organic products that can be rain-fed, particularly olives, were the perfect solution.

“It’s the future of Palestinian exports. The future is in added value, through environmental and social accountability,” said Abu Farha of Canaan Fair Trade. “People want to know: “Where is this oil coming from? Whose life is it changing?”

The changes are visible in Nus Jubail, a village crowded with olives and pines, its 400 residents in houses with blue doors and rooftops sheltered by grape arbors. A decade ago, most residents pressed their oil for personal use. Little was sold commercially and prices were low, said Khader, the farmer.

Around 2004, agricultural activists formed the Palestinian Fair Trade Association, seeking out farmers across the West Bank. They persuaded Khader to establish an organic cooperative of five farmers, allowing them to collectively press their olives and sell better-priced oil.

During the three-year conversion process, Khader and his colleagues were taught to grow olives without chemicals, pruning and plowing instead of using herbicides and fermenting sheep droppings into fertilizer. Once certified, Khader and his partners sold their oil above market prices, attracting other recruits. Now 18 of the village’s 30 farmers are organic.

This year, organic oil is selling for about $5.40 a liter—a dollar higher than conventional oil, said Abu Farha of Canaan Fair Trade, which purchases much of the oil. Other independent farmers are selling directly to consumers for $9 a liter, far above market price.

Farmers are going organic on other products, such as maftoul, a chewy sun-dried staple resembling couscous, as well as dried almonds and a spicy herb mix called hyssop.

But high-end oil is key.

In Whole Foods supermarkets in New York and New Jersey, it’s sold under the “Alter Eco” brand, Abu Farha said. It’s in Sainsbury’s in Britain, and in boutique shops globally through Canaan and other distributers. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, a popular organic, fair traded vegan soap, sources 95 percent of its oil—some 165 tons—from Palestinian growers, the soap company said.

Even so, challenges abound. Palestinian oil production is irregular because they can’t irrigate their crops and export costs are still high. Abu Farha of Canaan said some farmers have cheated by mixing conventional oil into their products.

Still, the move toward organic, sustainable farming is an important, elegant fight.

“I don’t throw rocks,” said farmer Khader, referring to young men who frequently hurl stones during demonstrations. He pointed to his rock-built terraces. “I use them to build our future.”

This article appeared in http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_21962774/palestinian-farmers-turn-organic-farming

Smuggling some fun: Teens sneak paintball game into Gaza

By REUTERS
GAZA

It was once the Jewish settlement of Netzarim, but now the site has been turned into the Gaza Strip’s first ever paintball park.

The arrival of the strategic action game in Gaza is offering Palestinian youths a chance to try something new.

But bringing the relevant equipment and protective clothing into the blockaded territory was no small achievement: everything had to be smuggled in through one of the 1000-metre (yard) underground tunnels that link Gaza with Egypt.

“We brought it over via a very hard route, via the tunnels from Egypt, so that we can play games that are played all over the world, so that the youth of Gaza can play games that are played around the world. This is a peaceful game and it’s really, really fun. There’s no danger whatsoever,” said paintball referee Rami Eid.

Palestinian youths have been teaming up for a chance to play the new game, which involves hiding behind positions laid out in a field, before jumping out to spray competitors with balls of colored paint.

“We came to play paintball today. It’s the first time I’ve played it and it’s a really fun game, a really nice game. We were a big group but it’s a nice game with suspense, preparation, action and war. Young men like us like these kinds of games. It’s a nice game and we’ve enjoyed it a lot,” said participant Ahmad Abu Ryaleh.

Paintball has become increasingly popular around the world in recent years, with national teams going head-to-head in regional and world tournaments.

Enthusiasts say it is a game of skill and team-work – something Gaza’s new participants are just discovering.

“I am really happy, I hope there will be more things like this because it is better for young people to use up their energy playing these games, rather than getting up to no good somewhere else,” said Abu Ryaleh.

But with an entrance fee of 10 shekels ($2.5), 50 shekels ($12.8) to rent the paintball field and 30 shekels ($7.6) for 50 paintballs, the experience is beyond the reach of most Gazans.

A recent U.N. report said tougher Israeli policies and settlement expansion were pushing all Palestinian territories deeper into poverty.

Amid persistently high unemployment, one in two Palestinians was now classified as ‘poor’, the UNCTAD report said.

Crocodile roams sewers in northern Gaza Strip city: report

Locals say the croc has evaded captors for two years, has slaughtered farm animals.

By Philip Caulfield New York Daily News

November 4, 2012

A crocodile lurking in the sewers has been terrorizing locals in small city in the northern Gaza Strip, according to a report.

Rajab al-Ankah, head of the Northern Gaza Sewage Station in Beit Lahia, said the five-and-a-half foot sewer croc most likely escaped from a nearby zoo as a baby and has avoided capture for more than two years, Al Arabiya news reported.

“The nets were set up to capture the crocodile, but it managed to escape,” he told the network.

“The slippery ground in the area around the swamps near Beit Lahia in northern Gaza made the escape easier and the crocodile disappeared once more.”

Local in Beit Lahia, in northern Gaza, said the croc slaughtered a farmer’s two goats that were grazing too close to the sewers.

The beast slips out of the sewage basins to hunt for food, and scurries back underground, evading captors, Ankah said.

“It came as a baby and now it is huge and the more it grows the more dangerous it becomes for the residents of the area and their livestock,” Ankah told the network.

Residents are hoping to catch the croc before it attacks a person, the network said.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/sewer-crocodile-terrorizes-northern-gaza-article-1.1196425#ixzz2BI5Siq1B

 

Gazans produce fish and vegetables in tiny rooftop spaces

by Sara Hussein

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories, Oct 29, 2012 (AFP) – Abu Ahmed looks out over a sea of grey, empty Gaza rooftops, and smiles as he looks back at the lush greenery sprouting in tubs and pipes on top of his apartment building.

He is part of a United Nations agency project to introduce cutting-edge urban agriculture to Gaza City, teaching Palestinians to farm without soil in the space available to them in one of the world’s most densely populated places.

Most of his rooftop is given over to an aquaponic system, which produces food by linking fish tanks of tilapia with gravel-filled planters.

The integrated system feeds the water from the fish tanks into the plant beds, where Abu Ahmed’s crops — lettuce, peppers, broccoli, celery and herbs — are fertilised by waste produced by the tilapia.

As the water trickles through the gravel, the plants absorb nutrients from the fish waste, cleaning the water, which then replenishes the tanks.

“The idea really was to help the poorest people in Gaza be able to grow some of their own food, and healthy food, grown without pesticides,” explains Mohammed El Shatali, the project’s deputy manager.

For Abu Ahmed, the project has been a major success.

Not only is he using the integrated aquaponic system, he had also set up his own subsidiary hydroponic system, growing additional crops in plastic pipes that are fed by the same water that runs through the aquaponic system.

“I had a bit of experience with agriculture and farming before, but nothing like this,” he says, examining the leaves of a celery plant.

Thanks to the project, the 51-year-old has been able to feed his 13-member family fresh vegetables and fish throughout the summer.

“The fish taste great, although I’m trying not to eat too many of them because I’m breeding new ones so I won’t have to buy more.”

There have also been other benefits from the system, he says, explaining that it cools the apartments below by providing shade.

“It’s great for the children. Nowadays they don’t see farming, they barely see trees or plants. It’s great for them to see this because it gets them interested in growing and planting things.”

Gaza’s 1.6 million residents live on just 360 square kilometres (140 square miles) of land, and much of that is off limits because Israel maintains a 300-metre (yard) deep exclusion zone along the length of the border fence.

Power cuts threaten fish

In Gaza’s main towns and cities, empty land is being eaten up by the construction of multi-storey apartment buildings, leaving little space for agriculture.

The challenges prompted the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to look for new ways to maximise crop production in tiny spaces.

In Gaza City’s Zeitun neighbourhood, 34-year-old Eman Nofal tends crops in a small yard next to her apartment. Peppers have been her biggest success this year, and both sweet and spicy red peppers dot the greenery in her planters.

Nofal’s husband was killed in fighting between rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas in 2006, leaving her the sole provider for their four children.

When she heard about the project, she thought it could ease the cost of feeding her family.

“It’s been great. It’s really easy, the children even help me maintain the plants,” she says, acknowledging that the concept was somewhat alien at first.

“All our lives, we learnt that farming meant growing things in the ground, in soil, so it was strange to hear it was possible to grow in water and gravel, but I love the idea.”

Nofal says the project also gives her pleasure.

“Just the way it looks is really nice. Sometimes I come out here just to enjoy the greenery and to watch the fish play with each other. It relaxes me.”

The project has faced setbacks, including the Gaza-specific challenge of power cuts of up to 12 hours a day, which shut down the pumps that transfer water between the fish tanks and plant beds.

“Electricity has been one of the most difficult challenges,” says Chris Somerville, an urban agriculture consultant with the FAO.

“At 30 degrees centigrade (86 Fahrenheit), the capacity of the water to hold oxygen reduces, and during the summer many of the beneficiaries had fish die.”

New participants will receive a battery-powered pump to tide them over during power cuts, and the FAO is experimenting with fibres that could be used in hydroponic systems to retain moisture when power cuts stop the water flow.

Initially, the project also had to overcome a certain level of scepticism, Somerville says.

“To tell agrarian societies that you’re going to grow plants without soil can sometimes be a bit of a jump,” he laughs.

But the project has been so successful that the next cycle will expand from 15 aquaponic participants to around 80, with another 80 homes operating hydroponic systems.

It will be the first time the FAO has implemented aquaponics on this scale, and the agency is now looking at implementing the project elsewhere in the world.

“To be able to take this Gaza model and bring it to other countries would really be a massive achievement,” Somerville says.

This article appeared in http://www.mysinchew.com/node/79207?tid=10

A circus comes to Gaza _ minus lions and ladies

By DIAA HADID, Associated Press – 7 hours ago

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The circus came to Gaza on Friday, accompanied by blaring music, juggling clowns and fire blowers — but getting it there required its own high-wire act.

No women performers were included for fear of offending conservative Palestinians and the Gaza Strip’s militant Hamas rulers, and the circus’ lone lion and tiger were left behind because of the high cost of transporting them legally into Gaza.

The Egyptian National Circus put on its first show of a month-long visit to the impoverished coastal territory on Friday, a sign of warmer relations between Hamas and post-revolution Egypt, which is governed by the Islamic group’s ideological parent, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Although it’s not state-sponsored, the Egyptian circus could only come because the country’s government loosened restrictions on the flow of passengers in and out of Gaza. More foreigners now enter Gaza, including the ruler of the resource-rich Gulf state Qatar earlier this week.

Once in Gaza, the Egyptians’ faced an unusual situation — most Palestinians here don’t know what a circus is.

“I think it’s going to be really surprising for most people,” said Riwa Awwad, 19, ahead of the opening night.

“Gazans are famous for not liking anything and I think they’ll do the impossible to entertain us,” said Awwad, who came with her extended family to the fairground on Friday.

In an ironic twist, the cheery circus with its flashing lights was held on the grounds of a notorious security prison that was destroyed during an Israeli offensive four years ago.

For the Gazans fortunate enough to see the opening show, it was a welcome relief from conflict and despair. The fairgrounds were packed with excited children in new cloths, women in glittery headscarves, others in black face veils, and men in suits and freshly pressed shirts. Families snacked on pumpkin seeds.

They hollered and cheered as a tight-rope walker wiggled his hips and belly-danced on a thread suspended above the ground. A performer hurled silver knives around volunteers. A red-clad fire blower shot whooshing, yellow licks of flame out of his mouth. Two clowns dressed in yellow-and-blue bumbled and fumbled as they tried to juggle, delighting children.

It took months to arrange the visit to the impoverished territory, where 1.6 million people live in a 25 mile-long sliver wedged between Israel and Egypt and face a punishing blockade imposed after Hamas seized control in 2007.

Aside from a circus’ brief visit in the 1990s, there’s never been anything like it since Israel captured the strip from Egypt in 1967. Israeli forces and settlers withdrew in 2005.

Businessman Mohammed Faris said he remembered seeing the circus under Egyptian rule in the 1950s, when Gaza was still a liberal place with casinos and bars. He said he recalled as a child seeing men walking on nails and female acrobats flying across stage.

“It was men and women – pretty women,” he said.

Not this time around.

Organizer Mohammed Silmi said female performers had to stay behind because the circus was worried that leaping ladies in tights would offend Gazans.

He said Hamas didn’t explicitly ban women but he was asked to abide by Gaza’s “traditions” when he petitioned to get the circus to come.

In practice, the circus wiggled a little around the no-women rule. At one point a man in drag, sporting a brown wig and red dress, sang and danced with Bunduk the clown.

After Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade that aimed to weaken the militants who seek Israel’s destruction.

Under international pressure, it was loosened after Israel raided a blockade-defying boat and killing nine Turkish activists aboard in 2009. Key restrictions still remain on exports and importing raw materials.

All the circus equipment came through the Rafah border crossing, but expensive fees and cumbersome paperwork kept the circus from bringing lions, tigers and horses across the border.

Gaza’s makeshift zoos and other merchants often bypass that problem by hauling animals through smuggling tunnels linking the territory to Egypt. In one famous scene captured on film, Gazans used a crane to lift a camel over the border fence as the animal twitched in the air in agony.

Animal welfare aside, Gaza’s main zoo recently turned to improvised taxidermy to keep its deceased animals on exhibit.

The area also continues to be violent. As circus technicians were setting up their tent earlier this week, Palestinian militants were fighting Israeli forces in tit-for-tat rounds of rocket fire and retaliatory airstrikes.

Egyptian technician Khalil Gomaa, 55, jolted upon every crashing boom. He told his children he was in Jordan so they wouldn’t be worried. “But I’m worried,” he said.

But the circus’ biggest challenge may be packing the 1,000-seater tent for the month-long visit.

A series of Palestinians interviewed didn’t know what a circus was, and the tickets — ranging from $5-$10 seats — are too expensive for most of Gaza’s traditionally large families.

Some 40 percent of Gazans live on less than $2 a day, a third are unemployed and most need U.N. donated food.

They include the mother of eight, Sabrine Baoud, and her unemployed husband. After the circus was explained to her, Baoud, 35, said she was glad her children didn’t know anything about it.

They’d never be able to afford to go.

Arab revolutions inspire sheep mutiny!

 

 

This year even the sheep have started to exhibit signs of rebellion!  A collection of funny Arabic toons with English translations.  Eid Said everyone.

On the left the sign says imported for Eid sacrifices, on the right a representative from “Sheep without borders” says ‘you are accused of war against barns and collective genocide against foreigners.

A sheep protest calling for an end to the ‘butcher regime’

One sheep says to the other ‘no need to worry, this year humans are busy slaughtering their leaderships’

Sheep disguised as a chicken carrying a banner “Watch out for bird flu”

Sign reads “A happy and blessed Eid, this year ask about friends and family before you ask about what you should eat.”

 

 

 

Getting ready for Eid: Palestinians smuggle sheep to Gaza through tunnel

Palestinians smuggled sheep to Gaza in a tunnel under Egypt’s border for the Muslim celebration of Eid Al-Adha, where goats, sheep and camels are slaughtered commemorating Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail on God’s command.  For more incredible pics go to http://www.demotix.com/news/1544458/palestinians-smuggle-sheep-gaza-through-tunnel-under-egypt-border/all-media

 

 

A compelling article: From manifesto to reality ‘Gaza Youth Breaks Out’

“My story is marked by violence, persecution, arrests, abuse and resistance,” writes Matte

It has been almost two years now since we wrote our manifesto. We called it a manifesto, but in reality, I’m not sure what it was.

Was it a manifesto, or was it a cry for help? Perhaps, an accusation, or even perhaps a demand to the world and to ourselves; a demand for change from the outside and from within.

It was before the uprisings began around us, and they have been roaring the last two years in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Bahrain. But we had felt like shouting in the dark, and while this raging had brought light into the darkness of the dictatorships around us, the night around us has not thinned even a bit. No, if anything, it has only become darker.

We had come out from under the rubble in 2009, when Israel had embarked on what they liked to call a “war” – which in actuality had been a massacre – leaving 1,385 people dead, among them 318 children. They left Gaza in ruins.

We had built up Gaza again with our bare hands, even though cement was blockaded; we had buried our loved ones and tried to cover the holes in our hearts which they left. A year later, we regained the strength to shout out our unbearable situation to the world, and to unite for a fight against the hell we were – and are – living in.

We too organised large demonstrations, even though they were overshadowed by the revolutions taking place in the surrounding countries. Our demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip began on March 15, 2011, bringing out a large part of the population onto the streets. We wanted to achieve the unity of our parties and leaders – Hamas and Fatah – who in the quest to have seize power and wealth have betrayed our land of Palestine and the dreams and demands of our youth.

For this we demonstrated, for this we put in weeks of work to bring the people of Gaza to the streets, for this we were knocked down by thugs on the streets, for this we have been arrested and abused.

And for this goal, we achieved what first had seemed promising: Discussions, negotiations and unity efforts by our leaders. And still, all of that ended up in empty promises.

Manifesto? That sounds too fierce, like a struggle that might produce victory. But we are tired, two years later. Tired of the empty promises surrounding us. There is a peace process, but one that is an insult to the word “peace”, and that makes one wonder for whom such a farce is still seriously maintained.

Under siege

Since 2006, the ongoing siege punishes us daily – we could mention all the UN conventions it violates, as if that wasn’t mentioned enough already. Collective punishment for all of us, for having elected the wrong party, for having held one Israeli soldier who is now free, while thousands of our prisoners languish in Israeli jails. Collective punishments for being Palestinians, for being born in Gaza.

And that siege means that our hospitals regularly declare a state of emergency because they don’t have enough medicine or medical equipment. This siege means that we are literally sitting in the dark most of the time – without connection to the internet and thus without any connection to the outside world – because there is no electricity.

It also means that the discourse in the media is about whether there is enough food coming in, whether the siege has lifted a bit and if now there are enough sorts of Israeli chips packets in our supermarkets. Like we are animals in a zoo and the question is whether we are fed enough. We are, I can tell you. We don’t need your aid packages, we don’t need your chips, nor your bread.

We had well-functioning factories, which were bombed away. We had rich land that could produce not only enough food for us, but enough to export it to the whole world. If that land wasn’t raped daily by Israeli bulldozers, and if we weren’t forbidden to enter by military declarations. There is still an ongoing siege, keeping us needy like beggars – and we get bread instead of rights.

There are talks about unity and re-elections, consisting of words which are so empty that it is not even worth listening to them.

And then there are the new Arab governments. The new Egypt, which wants to open the Rafah border crossing in order to no longer be complicit in imprisoning us in our 5 by 20 km hell. But even with so many visits by Hamas to Cairo, it’s still just words. When will this happen? When will there be open borders instead of just assurances? When will our children no longer be born into a world where there is no freedom, no adequate medical care, no work, no future, nothing but violence and falling bombs?

We are still young enough to fight for our own future, not only for that of our children, and yet old enough to be tired. Tired of the daily struggle for survival, which distracts us from our dreams. Tired of our own government, which meets our hopes with violence.

Story of resistanceWe are still young enough to fight for our own future, not only for that of our children, and yet old enough to be tired. Tired of the daily struggle for survival, which distracts us from our dreams. Tired of our own government, which meets our hopes with violence.

I still regularly keep in touch with people in Gaza. The talk is usually about the lack of electricity, bombs in the night, graduates with no job opportunities, the tight grip of the Hamas government, and walls that are nearly impossible to scale. Yes, mainly they talk about leaving. Leaving Gaza, leaving this prison and dumpster of the world. Many of my friends left like I did, and many more want to.

We wrote this manifesto because we wanted to live. Not because we wanted to be tortured, arrested and sacrificed. No, we are young enough to demand a future for ourselves, and we don’t see a future for us in Gaza right now.

My friends and I were forced to leave by a Gaza that has been made unbearable by violence and arrests through Hamas. A future in Gaza has been robbed from us by a siege that leaves us no jobs or opportunities. Nevertheless, even though we might be leagues apart and spread throughout the world, we will never cease to see a future for Gaza. Palestine, Gaza, that is our land, that is where we belong.

There’s an olive tree in my garden, and I have always dreamed of seeing my children playing under it. Wherever I might be now, one day my children will be playing under this olive tree, in a free Palestine, without fear for their lives, and that is what I will keep fighting for.

Yes, we are weary. But still, my story – and the stories of all the other amazing youth of Gaza – is and always will be a story of resistance, of resilience. Of always coming back to the land we belong to. We carry the hope of a free Gaza, a free Palestine and a future there for us in our hearts, and in our hands, in our daily work.

We struggle every day against our obstacles and for our dreams, and you can see that in all the amazing creativity coming out of Gaza, in our art, poems, writing, videos and songs, you can hear it and meet us in the talks we give all over the world.

Yes, we wrote a manifesto, and maybe that was just the bright and loud outcry of the beginning of a journey, whose path is hard and tiring, thorny and also often very quiet and dark. But it is always there.

So two years later, we say: We will be free. We will live. We will have peace. And we are always out there, fighting our daily struggle, full of the resistance we inherited from a long struggle for Palestine. We live and write and say and sing silent or load manifestos every day. Just listen to us.

Mohammed Matter ‘Abu Yazan’, from Gaza, is a political activist, writer and a member of Gaza Youth Breaks Out movement. He is currently in Germany, about to resume his studies.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.  

Source:  Al Jazeera  http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/10/201210159115846939.html