Interview with Iranian/Australian Writer & Actor Osamah Sami by Kyriaki Maragozidis. Originally broadcast 13/6/16 Live to Air on Voiceprint Arts, Three D Radio 93.7fm in South Australia.
Interview with Iranian/Australian Writer & Actor Osamah Sami by Kyriaki Maragozidis. Originally broadcast 13/6/16 Live to Air on Voiceprint Arts, Three D Radio 93.7fm in South Australia.
“Tales of a City by the Sea’ is a perceptive story that magnificently captures the drama of star-crossed lovers in the besieged Gaza strip.”
In Daily – Adelaide’s independent news
This is wide-eyed saga of everyday Palestinians struggling to survive and find normality, hope and love in a region affected by hostility. It is an oddly poetic tale, whose complexity and subtleties of differing narrative viewpoint are maintained by axioms, a strong multi-cultural ensemble and superb lead performances.
Samah Sabawi’s script has received widespread acclaim for its insight into Palestinian life. The playwright’s remarkable sensitivity and artistry confers enormous authority on this portrayal of a beleaguered people.
The play focuses on Jomana (Helena Sawires), a Palestinian woman living in a refugee camp, and depicts life under the Israeli bombardment and siege. She is chaperone to her cousin Lama (Emina Ashman), who is unhappily engaged to Ali (Reece Vella).
When Rami (Osamah Sami), an American-born Palestinian doctor, arrives on the “Free Gaza” boats in August 2008, he and Jomana fall in love. When it is time to leave, Rami promises to sell his clinic in America and return to Jomana and his ancestral homeland.
The play gives us a prophetic flavour of the way people can culturally, politically, ideologically and physically be separated. There are sharp, pertinent scenes in which the lovers speak over Skype and renew their promises. But will the pair live happily ever after?
This play stands or falls by its love affair between the thoroughly decent Texan doctor, Rami, and the poetically romantic Jomana. And this love affair has all the passion of desperate people in desperate times and precarious situations. Sawires is well cast; she puts presence into every scene and bounces well off Sami, who brilliantly portrays an American caught between multiple loyalties. Read more…
The Barefoot Review
Where there is a wall, there is also a city its inhabitants call home in the sacred and emotional way expected of communities deeply attached to their history and culture; especially those coping with just over half a century of war in all its guises and forms, greater or lesser, challenging their right to exist.
Samah Sabawi’s Tales of a City by The Sea is poetically beautiful, discerning and honest in its examination of life in Gaza.
No angry, politicised, locked in sensationalism to be found here, despite what has been said of this work during 2016. Sabawi’s play is an astutely balanced, modern appraisal of what it means to live as a Palestinian under siege. Read more…
Adelaide Theatre Guide
June 11, 2016
This is a tale of conflict and survival told principally through the stories of two couples during the 2008 Gaza war.
Jomana (Helen Sawires) is a Palestinian journalist in Gaza who meets American born Palestinian doctor, Rami, (Osamah Sami) who arrives on board one of small boats that breaks the Israeli blockade.
Ali (Reece Vella) and Lama (Emina Ashman) are residents of Gaza. He loves her but she’s unsure whether to marry him or not.
The play traces the development of these two relationships amid the death and destruction that is everyday life in Gaza.
Samah Sabawi has created a potent narrative that brims with raw examples of the reality of living under a hostile authority. She explores relationships and family values in a place where people fight to retain some sense of normality amid the daily death toll; where “funerals and weddings have become part of daily life”. Read more
We come from diverse backgrounds including Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Palestine, Malta, Malaysia, Thailand, Italy, Bengal, India, Chile and the UK. We have people of various faiths including the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths. Our play is a celebration of the power of inclusivity and a testimony to breaking down cultural and racial barriers!
Writer Samah Sabawi
Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian Australian Canadian playwright, commentator and poet. Her plays Cries From The Land and Three Wishes had successful runs in Canada; Tales Of A City By The Sea enjoyed a sold-out season at La Mama in 2014 and an Arabic premiere at Alrowwad’s Cultural Theater Society in Palestine, and was selected for the 2016 VCE Drama Playlist. Sabawi’s poems feature in WITH OUR EYES WIDE OPEN (West End Press 2014), GAZA UNSILENCED (Just World Books 2015) and I REMEMBER MY NAME (Novum Publishing 2016). She is co-editor of DOUBLE EXPOSURE: Plays of the Jewish and Palestinian Diasporas (Playwrights Canada Press 2016).
Original Direction Lech Mackiewicz
Lech Mackiewicz is a Polish director, playwright, and actor. He formed Auto Da Fe Theatre Company in Sydney in 1987. He specialises in creating intercultural collaborative performance, having directed theatre in Poland, Japan, China, Korea, and Australia. Lech’s directing credits include: Felliniana (Belvoir St Theatre); King Lear (Playbox Theatre); Kafka Tanczy (Teatr Zydowski); Beckett in Circles (Suzuki Company of Toga); An Oak Tree (Teatr Wegierki); The Hour Before My Brother Dies (Teatr Jaracza); and Everyman and the Pole Dancers (Metanoia Theatre). He is a graduate of the National Academy of Theatrical Arts (PWST) in Cracow, and the University of Technology Sydney.
2016 Remount Direction Wahibe Moussa
Wahibe Moussa is an award-winning performance maker, and writer. In 2007, Wahibe received the Green Room Award for her role as “Mahala” in Theatre @ Risk’s production of Tony Kushner’s Homebody/Kabul. In 2014 she was one of ten dramaturgy interns at Melbourne Theatre Company, a Playwriting Australia Fellowship initiative. Wahibe’s practice is informed by her own experiences as a migrant child, her collaborations with Refugee Artists, and a commitment to understanding Indigenous performance and story making practices. This is Wahibe’s directorial debut.
Producer and Set Design Lara Week
Lara Week is a designer for performance and creative producer. Her design credits include: NaGL: Not a Good Look (Metanoia Theatre), Between Heaven and Her (La Mama Theatre), and The Conference of the Birds (Centre for Cultural Partnerships). Since 2011, she has been associate producer for Tribal Soul Arts, producing decolonial arts programs and performances in Africa, Europe, and Australia. She is dedicated to creating spaces where people with different skills and perspectives can share ideas and produce work together.
Lighting Design Shane Grant
Shane Grant has been Audio Visual Technician for St Kevin’s College for the past nine years. Previously, he was Production Manager with Strange Fruit and Technical Manager at Gasworks Theatre. Shane is an accomplished lighting designer having worked extensively with companies like Ranters Theatre, The Torch Project, NYID, La Mama and many others. Shane has a BA Dramatic Arts (Production) VCA from 1994. He sits on the Green Room Awards Association Theatre Companies Panel. Shane is currently an artistic director at Metanoia Theatre and the Technical Manager of the Mechanics Institute theatre in Brunswick.
Sound Design Khaled Sabsabi
Khaled Sabsabi works across art mediums, geographical borders and cultures to create immersive and engaging media based experiences. He is a socially-engaged artist who specialises in multimedia and site-specific installations that often involve people on the margins of society. Khaled has worked in detention centres, schools, prisons, refugee camps, settlements, hospitals and youth centres, in the Australian and broader international context. Khaled makes work that is in continual transfer from the physical to the philosophical, to interconnect the interrelatedness and cycles of life.
Sound Mixer Max Schollar-Root
From his roots in The Australian Theatre for Young People and the NSW Performing Arts Unit State Drama Ensemble, Max Schollar-Root found his passion in musical performance and composition while studying at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He works as a band leader with Ungus Ungus Ungus, a theatrical and multi-modal performance project combining live music, technology, and dance, presenting nationally at large-scale festivals. As a Registered Music Therapist trained at The Melbourne Conservatorium of Music he runs early childhood music programs and works with adults with intellectual disabilities.
Production/Stage Manager Hayley Fox
Hayley Fox gained a Bachelor of Creative Industries majoring in Theatre at QUT (2005) and a Master of Arts in Writing at Swinburne University (2010). Her most recent stage management credits include: Werther and The Spanish Hour with the Lyric Opera of Melbourne; The Road to Woodstock and An Evening with Sarah Vaughan for Neil Cole; Diva Power Regional Tour for Arts Events Australia; Wuthering Heights with the Australian Shakespeare Company; and In Between Two at the Sydney Festival for Performance4a.
Assistant Stage Manager James Crafti
James Crafti is excited to be working on Tales of a City by the Sea as it combines two of his passions: theatre and Palestine. On the former James has directed a variety of plays such as Mutha, The Deserters, Rope, Creationism and Seven Jewish Children. He was also an assistant director on Yet to Ascertain the Nature of the Crime. James has also been an organiser with Campaign Against Israeli Apartheid, Australians for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Jews Against Israeli Apartheid.
Producer Daniel Clarke
Daniel Clarke has worked in Australia, the UK and US as a theatre director, producer and artistic director. He is has recently taken on the role of Programmer, Performing Arts at Arts Centre Melbourne, after five fulfilling years as CEO and Creative Producer of Theatre Works, St Kilda. Daniel was the Artistic Director of Feast in 2007 and 2008, winning the prestigious Arts SA Ruby Award for Community Impact. He has also worked for Leicester Haymarket Theatre Company as Creative Producer/Associate Artist and was awarded the 2015 Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award Facilitators Prize.
Helana Sawires – Jomana
From a large, creative Egyptian family, Helana Sawires has always lived within the realm of the arts. Early on Helana developed a love for percussion, very much influenced by her father. Since graduating from Newtown High School of the Performing Arts (2011), Helana’s projects include: Short and Sweet Theatre Festival; Banana Boy (upcoming short); and W.O.W Casula Kid’s Festival (storyteller/drumming workshop). Helana landed her first major film role in 2015 in Ali’s Wedding (Matchbox Pictures). She was accepted into the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in NYC (2014), completing a Chekhov Intensive Course, which further influenced her unique expression across all forms of art.
Osamah Sami – Rami
Osamah Sami is a failed cricketer and a struggling Muslim. His memoir Good Muslim Boy was Highly Commended at the Victorian Premiere’s Literary Awards. He also co-wrote Ali’s Wedding, Australia’s first Muslim Rom-Com, and co-created the Web Series Two Refugees and a Blonde. Lead roles in films include Ali’s Wedding, Journey, 10 Terrorists! and Saved. TV roles include: Kick, East West 101, Rush, Sea Patrol, City Homicide and Jack Irish. He has performed at Belvoir St, MTC, La Mama and a dozen independent houses. His role as “Amor” in MTC’s I Call My Brothers earned him a Green Room nomination for Best Lead Actor.
Emina Ashman – Lama
Emina is a Malaysian born actor, dancer and theatre-maker. Before relocating to Australia (2012), her theatre credits in Kuala Lumpur include Beasts and Beauties, Lysistrata and Fragments. As a 2014 VCA graduate, her credits include Agamemnon, The Three Sisters, The Little Prince and Plus Sign Attached (with Living Positive Victoria). Emina played “Julie Bishop” in Lucky Country (Melbourne Fringe 2014). Last year, she read the role of “Christine” in Michele Lee’s Moths for MTC. She also played “Antonia D’Agostino” in the sell-out season of Adam Cass’s Bock Kills Her Father (La Mama, Melbourne Fringe 2015). She has recently completed a diploma in creative writing, specialising in writing for performance and poetry.
Reece Vella – Ali
Reece Vella graduated from The Actors College of Theatre and Television in Sydney (2010) and has been acting professionally for the past six years. Check out his Star now if you are into name-dropping. He harbours a passion for new, eccentric and challenging work. Since moving to Melbourne, Reece’s stage credits include: Everyman and The Pole Dancers; Tales of a City by the Sea; Between Heaven and Her; and most recently Night Sings Its Songs. Reece is elated and moved that a remount of Tales of a City by the Sea has taken life, confirming his everlasting hope in stories of humanity.
Alex Pinder – Abu Ahmed
Alex Pinder works as an actor and theatre director. Recent credits at La Mama include performing in Waiting For Godot (as “Lucky”) and In the Middle of the Night and Other Stories, and directing Buzo’s Norm and Ahmed. Other work includes directing a reading of In The Day I left Home by Raahma N Kalsie, for MTC NEON 2015 and MTC Cybec 2016, playing “Page” in The Merry Wives of Windsor at 45 Downstairs and Perth’s Fortune Theatre, and “Howard” in The Dead Twin.
Rebecca Morton – Samira
Rebecca Morton has been singing and acting all around Australia for longer than she cares to admit, from opera to music theatre to Shakespeare and Noel Coward with state theatre companies. She writes and tours highly portable, one act music theatre shows, and recently joined Alchemy 7, a group of artists who create a fusion of sculpture and song. She is also working with a new company, RAPt, which connects people through theatre. She is absolutely delighted and proud to be part of this very exciting and important play.
Cara Whitehouse – Multiple Roles
Classically trained, Cara Whitehouse has played roles in children’s puppetry to the Greeks, working in Melbourne and Singapore. Recent work includes Tales of a City by the Sea (La Mama 2014), Remember M with innātum Theatre, The Woman in the Window, and “Elektra” in The Oresteia. Cara’s film work includes multiple shorts with a web series in development. A certified Fitzmaurice Voicework teacher, Cara’s training encompasses Conservatory Actor training at Lasalle College of the Arts Singapore, Knight-Thompson speech work (NYC) and continued training at the Howard Fine Acting Studio.
Aseel Tayah – Singer
Aseel Tayah is a creative director, art producer and installation artist. She has been part of number of theatre productions at the Malthouse, Platform, La Mama, Polyglot and Metanoia Theatres, together with her own art works that have been displayed prominently in Palestine and Australia. She travels around the world to discover, photograph and be inspired by people’s cultures and histories. She creates interactive experiences that invite audiences to participate through her design of space, and the presence of her body and voice.
Ubaldino Mantelli – Multiple Roles
Ubaldino was in the 2014 Melbourne premiere of Tales of a City by the Sea at La Mama. He’s played major theatrical roles in the Geelong region, including performing for the National Trust and in the ensemble-devised Daylight Savings, led by James Pratt. Ubaldino trained under Kerreen Ely-Harper, Stephen Costan, Jenny Lovell, Danielle Carter, Karen Davitt and Nicky Fearn in the VCA Acting Studio 12. He’s been a producer, presenter and performer on community radio. In 2016, Ubaldino can be seen in James Burke’s short film, Sick Home.
Poster Design and Cover Art by Ahmad Sabra and Aya El-Zinati.
To buy tickets:
Melbourne: The show will be staged at the La Mama Courthouse theatre between May 11 – May 29th. La Mama Theatre is nationally and internationally acknowledged as a crucible for cutting edge, contemporary theatre since 1967. The Courthouse is located on 349 Drummond St, Carlton. Click here to purchase tickets for Melbourne shows.
Adelaide: The show will be staged at The Bakehouse Theatre June 8th to June 18th – June 18th. The Bakehouse is a charming, intimate live theatre at 255 Angas Street, near the east end (Hutt Street). Click here to purchase tickets for Adelaide shows.
Sydney: The show will run at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre on 1 Powerhouse Road, Casula. There will only be two performances scheduled for August 3rd. Click here to purchase tickets for Sydney shows.
مسرحية حكايات مدينة على البحر تبدأ في ملبورن في الثاني عشر من تشرين الثاني نوفمبر. المسرحية عبارة عن قصة حب وانفصال وستعرض على خشبة مسرحين في اليوم ذاته. على خشبة مسرح لاماما في ملبورن، ومسرح الرواد في مخيم عايدة في الضفة الغربية.
كاتبة المسرحية هي الكاتبة والشاعرة سماح السبعاوي، وقد استضفناها في استديوهات الأس بي سي مع اثنين من فريق العمل. استمعوا هنا إلى سماح السبعاوي، والممثلة نيكول شمعون والممثل أسامة سامي.
NOVEMBER 12 – NOVEMBER 23
Written by Samah Sabawi
Tickets can be booked up until 4:00 pm on the day of the performance, otherwise try your luck at the door.
Please allow plenty of time to arrive at our venues, as we have a no latecomers policy.
This is part of our Tales of a City by the Sea video series. To learn more about this project click on the home page, or visit our youtube channel and watch other short videos from the various key artists involved in this project. We are now half way through our fundraising campaign. Please bring us closer to our goal by making a donation, and by helping us spread the word by way of sharing our videos on social media and talking to your friends about this unique new and exciting project.
The Ark, which is being fitted out to carry goods and more than 100 passengers, is near completion and is expected to set sail for Europe in the latest high-profile attempt to challenge Israel’s maritime lockdown on the tiny Hamas-run territory.
If they are successful, this will be the first time goods from Gaza have been exported by sea since the signing of the 1994 Oslo Peace Accords.
Significantly, this attempt to alleviate the effects of the seven-year blockade comes from within Gaza, where locals refurbishing the 24-metre-long (78 feet) vessel want to take matters into their own hands, rather than waiting for help from the outside world.
“This will help fishermen, farmers and factory workers in Gaza to market their products,” said Abu Ammar Bakr, who was a fisherman for 40 years before turning his hand to repairing boats.
Mohammed Abu Salmi, who owns a furniture shop, was equally buoyed by the prospect of shipping products overseas.
“Export by sea will resuscitate farming and light industry in Gaza and will ease unemployment… and help to lift this oppressive blockade,” he told AFP.
“We have great experience and produce great furniture,” Abu Salmi boasted.
“We exported to Israel and from there to Europe before the blockade, and people abroad are asking for our products,” he said, pointing proudly at the dining tables and chairs fashioned in his workshop.
Among the items which are to be carried on board for export are fruit and farm produce, furniture, embroidery and other crafts, organisers say.
“The aim is not aid or humanitarian like the boats that were coming to Gaza, it’s a commercial venture to support the Palestinian economy and pave the way to exporting Palestinian products,” project manager Mahfouz Kabariti said.
But a sense of apprehension marks the preparations.
A plaque at the entrance to the quay on which the Ark is being built remembers the nine Turkish activists who were killed in May 2010 during an Israeli raid on a six-ship flotilla trying to reach Gaza in defiance of the blockade.
Although the international outcry which followed the deadly raid forced Israel to significantly ease the terms of its blockade on Gaza, which was first imposed in 2006, tight curbs remain in place on exports and travel.
Breaking the siege ‘from within’
Under the terms of the current restrictions, Gaza fishermen are not allowed to enter waters more than six nautical miles (11 kilometres) from the shore, with naval patrol boats known to fire on those who step out of line.
It is the prospect of a confrontation with Israeli forces that is worrying some of those planning to join the boat on its blockade-breaking mission, with Abu Salmi afraid the navy might “open fire and sink the Ark, or arrest those on board like they did in 2010 and seize the goods”.
Organisers of the project are unsure what action Israel might take.
“I hope Israel won’t stop the boat from sailing to European countries,” said Kabariti.
“It is natural that the Israeli authorities might not allow a boat to set sail from Gaza. But we want to send our message to the world, whether the occupation allows it to sail or not,” he said.
“We want to draw attention to the blockade which is preventing Palestinian products from being exported, and we have an ark that we can use to do it.”
Among those planning to join the Ark on its maiden voyage are a number of foreign activists, who include Swedish national Charlie Andreasson who also took part in the ill-fated Freedom Flotilla of 2010.
The aim, said Andreasson, is “to break the siege”.
“Why would they stop it?” he asked, somewhat naively.
“We’ve been sending ships to Gaza to try to break the siege, and this time we are turning it around and sending a ship from Gaza out to Europe with goods — so we’re trying to break the siege from within,” he told AFP.
Andreasson has been working on the project since early June, when activists managed to raise enough money from European donors to buy up the old fishing boat.
From its purchase to completion, including labour, Gaza’s Ark will have cost an estimated $150,000 (114,000 euros), with its website showing that so far, $110,000 has been raised.
Dozens of people are working to restore the Ark, with local fishermen receiving a salary for their labour and foreign activists volunteering.
The project’s mission statement, according to the website, is to “challenge the illegal and inhuman Israeli blockade”.
For fisherman Bakr, it would be a huge blow if the Ark — which will sail under the Palestinian flag as well as several international ones — never left port.
Fisherman and factory workers would have to watch their goods “festering in warehouses because they’re unable to export them”, he said.
This article first appeared here
The play Tales of a City by the Sea is a unique and poetic journey into the lives of ordinary people in the besieged Gaza strip prior to, during and after its bombardment during the winter of 2008. Jomana, a Palestinian woman who lives in the Shati (beach) refugee camp in Gaza falls in love with Rami, an American born Palestinian doctor and activist who arrives on the first Free Gaza boats in 2008. Their love is met with many challenges forcing Rami to make incredible decisions the least of which is to take a dangerous journey through the underground tunnels that connect Gaza to Egypt. Although on the surface this love story appears to explore the relationship between diaspora Palestinians and Palestinians under occupation, there is a broader and more universal theme that emerges – one of human survival and tenacity. Tales of a City by the Sea avoids political pitfalls, ideological agendas and clichés by focusing on the human story of the people in Gaza. Although the play’s characters are fictional, the script is based on real life events and is a product of a collection of real stories the author Samah Sabawi and her family have experienced during the events of the past several years. Sabawi has written most of the poetry in the play during the three-week bombardment of Gaza in 2008/2009.
The writer Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian-Canadian-Australian published writer, commentator and playwright. She has travelled the world and lived in its far corners, yet always felt as though she was still trapped in her place of birth Gaza. The war torn besieged and isolated strip has shaped her understanding of her identity and her humanity. So what else could Sabawi do but to indulge in Gaza’s overwhelming presence and to succumb to tell the stories of her loved ones back home. Her most recent play Tales of a City by the Sea is dedicated to them and to all of those who still manage to have faith and hope even as the sky rains death and destruction.
The script is available to interested theatre makers upon request. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Follow Samah Sabawi on Twitter @gazaheart
Samah Sabawi’s professional bio can be found here
For more information on Samah Sabawi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samah_Sabawi
A reading of the play Tales of a City by the Sea took place in Gaza city at the Qattan Centre for the Child followed by a discussion on January 17th 2013. The reading was part of ongoing efforts by international artists to break the cultural siege of Gaza and to work collaboratively with local talent. What resulted from this event was a profound experience for both the writer, the cast and the audience. The audience feedback (video will be uploaded next week) highlighted the need for creating more space for cultural and artistic events in the besieged Gaza strip.
The Gaza team from left: Khaled Harara, Eman Hilles, Sameeha Olwan, Ayman Qwaider, Mohammed Ghalayini, Manar Zimmo, Alaa Shoublaq, Samah Sabawi, Mahmoud Hammad, Najwan Anbar, Alia Abu Oriban and Ayah Abubasheer.
Sameeha Olwan reading the part of Jomana.
From left Mohammed Ghalayini reading the part of Rami, Ayman Qwaider reading the part of Ali and Mahmoud Hammad as Mohanad.
Manar Zimmo reading the part of Lama.
From left: Mahmoud Hammad as Mohanad Alaa Shoublaq as Abu Ahmed, Mohammed Ghalayini as Rami and Ayman Qwaider as Ali.
Eman Hilles was the narrator of our Tales.
Gaza esteemed musician Mohamad Akilah.
Najwan Anbar reading the part of Um Ahmed
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
During this last Israeli offensive inside the Gaza Strip we were working 18 hours every day, non stop. We usually started at 5am taking pictures of the Israeli air strikes and rockets launched by Palestinian militants. At first light we would cover the direct consequences of these air strikes: destroyed buildings, bodies in the hospital morgues and funerals. In situations like this, there is no fixed agenda; reality changes every minute. It is the experience you have as a photographer and a certain level of improvisation that leads you to tell the story as well as you can and as fast as possible. Our working day finished late at night and then we would attempt to do normal things: eat, take a shower and try to sleep in between the air strikes.
You don’t decide what to photograph, you decide where not to photograph, which is always based on a hypothetical average of risk. There were certain areas that were constantly affected by bombs, which I avoided. My main priority was to show the life of the people in Gaza; I followed them in their houses, on the streets, to the morgues.
The way the people of Gaza face their reality is very different to my life. I guess I tried to transmit some of this through the pictures. In my job, I work with a team of journalists, photojournalists and TV crews. Everyone tells the same story in a different format. But specifically on the street I work with my colleague Majeed Hadman, known as a “fixer”. He helps me in everything; he’s half of my vision and my hearing and most importantly: he’s my friend.
This article appeared in The Guardian Photography Blog
By: Haidar Eid
Published Wednesday, December 12, 2012
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.
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
Published on Nov 27, 2012 by TheRealNews