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.
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.
Associated Press photographer Bernat Armangué tells the story behind some of his images that have featured on front pages around the world in the last week
Palestinians flee their homes after an Israeli forces strike on a nearby sports field
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.
Smoke rises after an Israeli forces strike in Gaza CityThis air strike (pictured above) was at around 6 in the morning. It’s just in front of our office building, which is why I had this close view. But due to the proximity of the explosion, it was complicated to shoot: we strongly felt the air-expansion caused by the blast, the extremely loud sound and obviously your heart accelerates a little.
A Palestinian man kisses the hand of a dead relative in the morgue of Shifa hospitalThis was the last picture I took that day. I spent most of the day taking photographs of Palestinian rescue workers recovering people under the rubble of homes – some of them alive, some of them dead. That day 11 members of the al-Dallu family were killed when an Israeli missile struck the two-storey home of the family in a residential area of Gaza City. Some bodies were recovered and brought to the morgue, so I went there to take some pictures. While I was there, another family came to check if it was true that one of their relatives had been killed. They cried, held his body and one of them kissed his hand while saying goodbye. It was a rare tender moment there.
A Palestinian woman is helped after being injured during an Israeli forces strike next to her houseIt was early in the morning and we heard an explosion nearby. We arrived at the scene (pictured above) and saw a woman injured by shrapnel. She was being helped to safety.
Palestinian mourners cry during the funeral of Salem Paul SweliemMost of the population in Gaza are Muslim, but there is also a Christian community. A member of the family pictured above died of shrapnel wounds after an air strike. The photograph shows the family members leaving their house to attend the funeral mass.
A Palestinian man rides past a destroyed area after an Israeli airstrikeThis building (pictured above) was destroyed during the night. It was aHamas government complex known as Abu Khadra. It is less than 100m from our office, so we literally jumped from our beds during the air strike due to the loud noise and the shaking of our building. I arrived at the scene at first light and started to take pictures. Donkeys are used a lot as transport in Gaza, and I guess this man was probably on his way to work.
Osama Abdel Aal is rescued after his family house collapsed during an Israeli forces strike in the Tufah neighbourhoodThis picture shows Osama Abdel Aal moments after being rescued. His family house collapsed during an Israeli forces strike in the Tufah neighbourhood. The first thing he did was point and tell the rescue team that there were other family members buried beneath the rubble.
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.
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
On 21 September 2012, the International Day of Peace, the Nomadic Memorial Cast Lead was first performed in The Hague, City of Peace and Justice. From the 30st October till the 2nd of November 2012, the nomadic monument was shown in Bozar, Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels. For the finissage on the 2nd of November 2012 – All Souls’ Day – the acknowledged Palestinian playwright and actor, Taher Najib gave a lecture-performance.
Reminiscent of a graveyard, the Cast Lead installation consists of 1430 unique books ‘floating’ above the floor in battle-array. Each copy of the book has the name of one of the casualties of Operation Cast Lead, carried out by the Israel Army in Gaza during 2008/2009, on its cover. The books contain texts by writers, artists and thinkers from both the East and West. Each of these books is a monument filled with knowledge that proved incapable of changing the course of events.
Would you like to cooperate in the realisation of this work of art? For the price of €65, you will receive your own unique book as part of the work of art Click to order the book.
In January 2009 when Israel bombarded Gaza for three weeks, they called their assault ‘Operation Cast Lead’, Amnesty International had a better way to describe it; they called it ’22 Days of Death and Destruction’. Today, we are reliving that nightmare once again, and once again I find myself searching for words…
Searching for words
Gaza…I search desperately
For words… for definitions
To tell the story of ammunitions
Exploding in a child’s body
I try to shout my indignation
But I am lost in vocabulary
Drowned in phrases as old as me
And I am as old as the Occupation
I need new words
How hard it is to find
Definitions that can restore
Humanity to a small strip of land
Along the Mediterranean shore
Siege, starvation collective misery
Familiar words in my head they linger
Bombs fall from the sky every day
Powerless words I can’t use any longer
I need new words
“Palestine is occupied….”
These are now hollow words…
“Palestinians are oppressed…”
These are now daily words…
“Palestinians are dispossessed”
These are now…tired words
“Palestinians….have a right to exist”
Words often spoken…worn out words
I need new words
Gaza…my home city
My earliest memory of Jasmine flowers and meramiah tea
My first taste of sour lemon dipped in salt
My first climb on an almond tree
Gaza, my destiny
My father’s heart sky and sea
My mother’s first love
My sister’s first breath
My pride and dignity
Gaza is under fire
Obliterated by hate
Strangled by a demonic desire
To erase my history
Gaza is in pieces
And I…the writer…
What language can possibly save me?
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
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.
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.