Video: Unrest In Egypt Squeezes Gaza

Brilliant and inspiring: “Martin Luther King in Palestine” promo

Read more about this project here

Latest report from Gaza on the continued closure of the Rafah crossing and its implication on life in the world’s largest open air prison

Video: Israeli blockade of Gaza sea port began in 1967

Nigel Kennedy plays ‘Spring’ from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons with Palestine Strings and Members of the Orchestra of Life

BBC Proms 2013 from the Royal Albert Hall, London.

Nigel Kennedy plays ‘Spring’ from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons with Palestine Strings and Members of the Orchestra of Life as part of Prom 34.

This concert was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, scheduled for broadcast on BBC Four 7.30pm on 23 August 2013 and is available on-demand for seven days after broadcast. Radio 3 is streamed in HD sound online.

Also see on Mondoweiss Video: Stunning performance by young Palestinian violinist at Royal Albert Hall

Video: Against The Tide ضد التيار

Gaza’s Ark: A bid to break Israel’s blockade… from within

GAZA CITY: Palestinian labourers and foreign activists are working tirelessly to transform a large fishing boat into “Gaza’s Ark” with the aim of exporting local produce in the latest bid to break Israel’s blockade on the coastal strip.

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

Against the tide

I will not be polarized

I will not be factionized

Tribalized

Sectarianized

Colonized…and fragmented

Like a heartbroken nation

I will not be moved by hatred

Or blindly pick a side

And hide

Behind a well crafted slogan

I will not place my trust

In demagogy

I will embrace ideas

Not ideology

An enemy of my enemy

When a tyrant

Is MY enemy

Choosing the best of two evils

Is choosing evil

I will not fall for this game

Of demonizing an entire people

I will not delight when pain is inflicted

On another

I will not close my eyes

To inhumanity

I will defend my enemy’s rights

Because freedom

Is not a commodity

To be had by some

And denied to others

I will not delight

In the suffering

Even of those

Who oppressed me

More importantly

I will trust

My maternal instinct

What passed through my womb

Though precious…is not distinct

A beautiful human baby

Of flesh and blood

No different from that

Born by the ‘other’

There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’

Every death will be mourned

By a grieving mother

Her tears

More powerful

Than any flag

I will not be polarized

The rise of Palestinian citizen journalists in Gaza

A message to the Israeli Occupation Forces who fear Palestinian Children

According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, a 5-year-old Palestinian boy was detained by seven Israeli soldiers after throwing a stone on July 9th 2013. It is estimated that Israeli authorities arrest 700 Palestinian children every year.

You…

In the army uniform

Rifle in hand

And finger on the trigger

Standing on a hill

Dressed to kill

Breathing in the still

Air of the night

Breathing in

Every drop of light

Leaving only darkness

Breathing in

Every open field

Every tree

Every rock

Breathing in

Our space

Consuming us

And consuming all that surrounds us

You inhale our land

Our freedom

And exhale only oppression

You breathe out insecurity

And fear

Spew toxic words

Your lies

Pollute the atmosphere

Suffocating us

With tyranny

But nothing here

Nothing here

Nothing

Here

Can save you

Nothing can assure you

Or put your mind at ease

Nothing

No armor

No guns

No bombs

Can protect you

From our existence

Nothing you do

Can match

Our resistance

The cries of our babies

Are fierce

To your colonial ears

The cries of our babies

Are fierce

They penetrate you

And pierce

Through your armour

Dissolving it

Like white phosphorous

You

In the army uniform

Inside your tank

Wrapped in steel

Why do you fear

Walking amongst us

Our streets are filled with children

Does that terrorize you

You shoot one

Maim another

Arrest a few

But deep down you know

They will out live you

Out grow you

Out survive you

Their anger will explode

Inside you

So put down your guns

And take your drones out of our sky

Let our children paint it

Pastel blue

With a smiling sun

And a colourful rainbow

Palestinian singer Mohamad Assaf responds to Israeli occupation army spokesperson Avichay Adraee’s ‘lies’

Palestinian singer Mohamad Assaf, a finalist in the Arab Idol TV show has responded to the Israeli occupation army spokesperson Avichay Adraee denying the allegation that he faced pressure to withdraw from the competition by the Hamas government in Gaza. According to Quds news Assaf wrote an angry response on Avichay Adraee’s Facebook page saying he regretted being forced to visit Adraee hateful page which reeked of lies and deception, but he felt he needed to respond.

Assaf wrote that neither him nor his family were threatened or pressured to withdraw and he pointed to how his pictures are hung everywhere in Gaza as proof that the people in Gaza support him. Assaf also responded to Adraee’s comment about him having a ‘brilliant’  voice saying what would really be ‘brilliant’ is if you stop killing our children and stop occupying our land so that our people can enjoy hearing our singing and not the sound of your bombs falling.

Translated from original article in Arabic which appeared at this link http://www.qudsn.ps/article/17585

AlJazeera: Palestinian pawns Egypt’s refugees

Author visits the “informal village” of Palestinians with no basic rights – not even official refugee status.

Neither Gezirat Fadel village in Sharqiya or its people are officially recognised by the Egyptian government [AP]
 

While Palestinians commemorate the 1948 “ethnic cleansing” of Palestine – the Nakba – the “catastrophe” neither started that year nor has it ended. The Palestinian people have suffered for generations. Today, they continue to be treated as second class citizens in their own homes, denied basic rights of mobility and secure livelihoods in the occupied Gaza Strip and the West Bank and live precariously in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

The Egyptian role in Palestine has historically differed from its Arab neighbours. In 1948, Egypt was the only country to close its borders to Palestinians, out of a principled interest in keeping Palestinians within their nation. The policy was in some ways long-sighted, as many of those who fled in 1948 have not been allowed to go back. It has often been suggested that the relative dearth of Palestinians in Egypt, or the higher socio-economic status of this group, could be attributed to this policy.

Palestinian refugees in Egypt

Recently, however, Arab activists have stumbled upon a sizeable group of 1948 Palestinian refugees in Egypt. A few months ago, a group of four Palestinian and Egyptian friends came across the mention of a mass exodus of Palestinians from Bir il-Saba’ village in 1948; the refugees were said to have gone to Egypt. The friends found it strange, as they and others had persistently inquired about the existence of Palestinian refugee groups in Egypt at the Palestinian embassy and organisations in Cairo. They called on others to help them locate this community, which they eventually tracked down.

A few hours north of Cairo, in the Nile Delta governorate of Sharqiya, is the village of Gezirat Fadel. It is aptly named “Gezira” – island – because of its physical isolation at the time of its foundation, and Fadel after the name of one of the founders of the village. For the past 65 years, this village has been almost completely off the radar, by choice or ignorance, of any institution – whether be it the Egyptian or Palestinian authorities, non-governmental organisations or activistsNeither the village nor the people are officially recognised by the Egyptian government, and thus the informal village is left with no infrastructure or public services, and the people with no basic rights – not even official refugee status. Since locating the village, the friends have visited it several times, gathering information on its history and current conditions, and have been lobbying Arab and Egyptian media to shed light on the neglected community.

For the anniversary of the Nakba, they called on other activists to join them to visit Gezirat Fadel, to commemorate the occasion and convey the simple message that this community of refugees would not be forgotten. As Syrine, a Palestinian activist from Jerusalem, put it: “These people, the refugees, are the biggest victims of the Nakba. They are the ones we should commemorate it with.”

I joined over 80 activists, who were predominantly Egyptian and Palestinian, but included Swedes, French, Iranians and others. On an early Friday morning, the buses drove out of Cairo, past the lush Delta fields, through the busy Sharqiya capital of Zaqaziq, and on to a dirt road that eventually became too narrow for the buses to continue.

The activists descended from the buses with dozens of Egyptian and Palestinian flags in hand and a banner that read:

“In memory of the Nakba, Gezirat Fadel will no longer be forgotten.
Egypt and Palestine, one people, one struggle.
From Egypt to Palestine, the revolution continues and will prevail.
We will return, one day, to Bir il-Saba’.”

As we walked towards the village, the path, filled with rubbish and lined with mud brick walls, was an indicator of what lie ahead. After a 20-minute walk, clay houses and Palestinian flags waving from hay rooftops appeared. The villagers, overwhelmingly young children, were excited by the news of visitors and lined the streets, Palestinian kufiyas draped from their necks and greeted us in their mixed rural Palestinian-Egyptian dialect.

While the trip was primarily humanitarian in purpose – the group came with toys for the children and doctors who paid house visits – the political nature of it was effusive. Though the organisers insisted upon the independence of the initiative, the identity of involved activists as core actors from the ongoing Egyptian revolution was belied either subtly or quite explicitly as it appeared on the banner. The ideals of the Arab uprising – ones that insist uncompromisingly on freedom and social justice – translate very directly into political stances which in the case of Palestine not only oppose Israeli forces’ brutality, but also reject intermediaries and facilitators of ongoing occupation and displacement, Palestinian authorities included.

Mired in poverty

In Gezirat Fadel too, politics was palpable. It became starkly apparent throughout the day that the isolation of this village has nothing to do with geography or ignorance, but rather has been constructed by Egyptian and Palestinian authorities and beneficiaries.

As we entered the village, we were greeted by a village head, the “omdeh“. One of the few educated members of the village, he works in Cairo and dressed in a suit that contrasted with a population where village elders were donned in traditional Palestinian dress and others in simple, often tattered clothing.

Standing on an elevated veranda before the villagers and visitors, the omdeh proceeded to warmly welcome the activists and referred to the Nakba as a celebration, a marker of the day that Palestinians will return to their homes, with all the embellishments of Arab oratory. The omdeh described the village in shining terms, claiming that villagers earn decent incomes and thanked for the support from Palestinian authorities and the Egyptians who have welcomed them as “guests”.

The performance stood in stark contrast to the private interactions of the omdeh with organising activists and with the realities of village life. The refugee audience was markedly acquiescent as the omdeh spoke. Among the crowd, an event organiser spotted an employee from the Palestinian embassy in Cairo.

The activists had brawled with the employee days before in Cairo, over the embassy’s persistent denial of the existence of a Palestinian refugee community in Egypt, despite evidence that the embassy had direct ties with the village omdeh and that the ambassador had himself paid a visit to the community. The activists have also had a turbulent relationship with the omdeh since first visiting the village; the omdeh had initially threatened the activists, telling them that he would inform Egyptian intelligence services if they returned to Gezirat Fadel.

The omdeh‘s remarks were incongruent with observations of village life. The conditions in which the Palestinians of Gezirat Fadel live are nothing short of appalling. The village is home to over 3,000 people. Other than a “guest building” – which consists of a large room that is used for community gatherings and is internally adorned with a banner thanking Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for his contributions to the community – the village contains literally no public services. To say that the village was marked by poverty would be an understatement – on the way to the village, I spotted a young boy retrieving a tattered shirt from a pile of garbage and sewing it together to wear.

While the Gamal Abdel Nasser government had extended state services to Palestinians in Egypt, making it possible for Gezirat Fadel villagers to use state institutions at the same free or highly subsided prices offered to Egyptians, these rights were revoked in the Sadat era. The refugees must pay international fees to access most basic services; they have no right to property ownership.

A majority of the villagers are employed as day labourers on large tracts of land owned by Egyptian companies or families, as mechanics or in small shops in neighbouring villages, or collect and sort garbage. Donia, a 12-year-old refugee who walks for two hours each morning to join a reading class in a neighbouring village, said she aspires to work “for anyone who will employ me”.

While some mentioned the lack of legal rights, they were quick to thank Egypt for hosting them for so long. The hardships of their present lives were masked with evocations of their lost homeland. While most villagers have never laid eyes on Bir il-Saba’, even the youngest children describe it vividly, adding illustrative accounts of the night their grandparents were bombarded by Israeli fire in 1948, listing the death of relatives and recounting the journey to Egypt.

“We are Palestinian guests in Egypt, and will one day return to Bir il-Saba’,” was an unprompted phrase echoed by villagers of all ages. Eight-year-old Samih offered to show me his grandfather’s olive tree seeds, which he definitively told me that he will one day plant outside his family home in Bir il-Saba’.

Manipulation of power

While the population of many Egyptian villages may suffer from stark inequality and poor services, it seems particularly exasperated in the Palestinian case.

Basic rights for Palestinian refugees have often been presented by Arab officials as a contributor to resettlement, counter-productive to the right of return. What is apparent, though, is that these same institutions, while loudly touting their nationalism and dedication to the Palestinian cause, are largely removed from daily hardships experienced by the refugees.

One activist from Ramallah lamented the irony in the statements of Gezirat Fadel refugees who linked any hardships to a greater national cause and expressed pride in PA President Abbas, while in his home city political elites live relatively luxurious lives.

The link between personal interests and political institutions is a phenomenon that continues to have a real impact on people’s livelihoods in the Arab world. In the case of the Palestinian refugees, this is often intense, as in addition to community dynamics and Palestinian leadership, host countries add a layer of complication.

In the context of the Arab uprising, people are recognising and openly rejecting this manipulation of power. Despite the omdeh‘s threats, activists returned to Gezirat Fadel, openly challenged his statements in front of villagers and refused his monopolisation of the story of the refugee experience.

While for 65 years the right of return has been, and will continue to be, the essential demand of the Palestinian refugees, there is an evident need for an extension of basic rights to a community that suffers exponentially due to the politicisation of its identity. Arab governments’ hypocritical lip service to the Palestinian cause has long been transparent; Arab activists are now determined to bring it to an end.

Sarah Mousa graduated from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs in 2010, and was a 2010-2011 Fulbright Scholar in Egypt. She is currently a graduate student at the Center of Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University. 

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

Hundreds of Palestinian refugees arrived into Gaza from Syria displaced for the second time and pushed into the furthest corner of their historic homeland

Yousef Al-Helou from the Real News conducted this report from Gaza on the growing number of Palestinian refugees who have come from Syria into the Gaza strip

 

High hopes for Palestinian 3-D animated film The Scarecrow

The National

AFP May 18, 2013

Filmmakers in Gaza have finished making what is believed to be the first Palestinian animated feature in 3-D, in a bid to show a fresh perspective on life through a child’s eyes. Called The Scarecrow, the 40-minute production tells the story of a 9-year-old orphan named Rima and the scarecrow she was given by her parents who died in a car crash.

One day, the scarecrow – who represents the guardian of Palestinian land – is taken away by an Israeli soldier from the family’s land near the border and Rima sets off with her school friends on a mission to find it.

It is a story which evokes some of the suffering of Palestinian refugees, says the director Khalil Al Mazen. “The world is used to seeing Palestinian children surrounded by death, destruction and war, but this film focuses on their simple dreams,” he said.

“Judgement (on the conflict) is left to the viewer,” says Mazen, who holds a diploma in filmmaking from the Saint Petersburg Academy in Russia and has already made several films and documentaries.

Read more: http://www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/film/high-hopes-for-palestinian-3-d-animated-film-the-scarecrow#ixzz2TeAGc4lK

The Real News Report from Gaza Palestinians mark Nakba

Part 2 Audio Samah Sabawi Commemorating the Nakba: a 3CR radio special

Exposing the ethnocentric nature of the state of Israel, the ethnic cleansing and denial of rights to the Palestinians and how we can put a stop to it all.

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

Defying all odds, the first Palestinian Circus School flourishes

By Henrique Dores – April 24, 2013

Palestine Monitor

Roll up, roll up – ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, friends and foes – please put your hands together and give your warm welcome to the unparalleled, the outstanding, the one and only Palestinian Circus School.

This could perfectly be the opening line of one of the shows of the Palestinian Circus School. Currently submerged in an ambience of red noses, big shoes, squeaky flowers, stilts and many other props, the Palestinian Circus School (PCS) began as a small circus group in August 2006 thanks to the determination of Shadi Zmorrod and Jessika Devlieghere, who initiated the pathway to introduce circus arts from Palestinians for Palestinians, amidst Israeli checkpoints and M-16 rifles.

The whole idea of creating the first circus school in Palestine was to provide an effective alternative to the massive effects that the Israeli military occupation has had over the lives of young Palestinians, particularly since 2000.

The stories of unlawfully demolished homes, personal humiliations at checkpoints, physical abuses and arbitrary detentions, together with accumulated grief of having loved ones killed by the Israeli military, constituted the sole motivation of the initial core group of the founders of the Palestinian Circus School. To them, too many young people were turning to the streets for an outlet, struggling to achieve nothing else than survival.

However, before becoming one of the most credited and successful Palestinian NGO’s, there were some bumps on the road. From the very beginning, the idea of creating a Palestinian circus school raised suspicions about its necessity. However, the general skepticism did not affect the initial core group.

Shadi Zmorrod was given the opportunity by the Belgian circus school ‘Cirkus in Beweging’ to start with a first intensive training course for young people living behind the Apartheid Wall. Further contacts were made in order to ensure training for the people who would be involved in creating the future circus of Palestine, through an intensive three-week workshop. The excitement about these first achievements can only be compared with the disappointment that took over the group when this first initiative was cancelled due to the outbreak of the Israeli-Lebanese war in 2006.

“We are engaged in showing our progresses in more places, and we are trying to start touring in many other places, like the south of Europe, where circus is still very alive”

Nevertheless, the resilient group persisted on the foundation of the PCS, and despite the lack of financial support, they managed to obtain the required training throughout the help of some Jerusalem circus students and later on, after launching an international appeal, from Italy, France and US circus professionals. This was the definitive step towards the birth of the first Palestinian Circus School, which would culminate with its premiere in Ashtar Theater, where an encouraging audience of 250 people applauded their effort.

Progresses and ambitions

The new premises of the school, which only became PCS’s home in November 2011, are inspiring. Located next to the Latin Church in the old city of Birzeit, the building and site was given for a period of 15 years free of charge by Dr. Hanna Nasir to allow PCS to develop to its full potential.

“When we first saw this place, we thought it was desperately needing some work, but also that it was the perfect place for the school,” says Jessica Devlieghere.

Indeed, the PCS has been constantly developing, and the two small circus training halls existing in the building brought the school to heights impossible to reach under the previous conditions. Currently teaching three levels of education in the art of circus (beginners, preparatory and professional), the Palestinian Circus School provides annual summer camps and open days in order to allow communities to get more acquainted with the goals and the approach of the school. Moreover, since its foundation, not only was PCS able to tour all around Palestine, defying checkpoints, borders and other movement restrictions, but also performed in Belgium, France, Germany and Italy.

When asked about the current projects of PCS, Jessica promptly replies, “I don’t like to use that terminology. We want PCS to stay away from the whole NGO’s way of thinking. This is an initiative from Palestinians to Palestinians and everything we do has a social impact.”

The merits of PCS are easy to identify. Operating in difficult scenarios such as Jenin, Al-Fawwar refugee camp, Birzeit or Hebron, the school has been distributing hope all around Palestine.

“At the moment we have more than 150 students,” Jessica says. “We present circus as a form of therapy, as an alternative to the hopeless lives of many youngsters.”

PCS has also been working together with Social Rehabilitation Center in Jenin, where they try to improve the lives of young women.

But the vision of the adventurers that made possible PCS is bigger than ever.

“We are trying to extend our field of action, so that more people have access to our initiatives,” Jessica explains. “We are engaged in showing our progresses in more places, and we are trying to start touring in many other places, like the south of Europe, where circus is still very alive. Another of our immediate goals is to provide a real circus tent on the courtyard, to allow the many disciplines needing lots of height and space.”

The Palestinian Circus School is flying higher than never, and the people involved are committed in keeping the same enthusiasm they had in making this project come alive. In a sea of disappointment, where bombs and aggression are the language used, the Palestinian Circus School emerges as a safe port to everyone willing to resist occupation with a smile on the face.

 

Rana Baker responds to Dawber’s article in The Independent: Misconceptions Abound On Gaza’s Women, Politics

By: Rana Baker for Al-Monitor Palestine Pulse

Posted on April 25.

It has become commonplace when reading about Gaza to come across descriptions of it as an “Islamist enclave” or “Hamas-controlled territory” and so on. In case someone exists who does not know what Hamas is all about, commentators make sure their readers understand that it is the “fundamentalist” group bent on the “destruction of Israel” and nothing else.

The Palestinians of Gaza, therefore, are often categorized as either ardent Hamas supporters or suppressed dissidents, including women, who receive the severest treatment imaginable, not only from the Hamas government, but also from misogynistic and backward average male residents. Such categorizations are then followed by sweeping generalizations about each of these stereotypes. Whereas the Hamas supporters consist of “terrorists” and “bloodthirsty barbarians,” the dissents are seen as peace-loving minorities who seek neighborly relations with Israel, the occupying entity.

A recent example of such portrayals can be found in a feature story published in The Independent on April 13. In “Tales from Gaza: What Is Life Really Like in ‘the World’s Largest Outdoor Prison’?” the author alledges to provides “a small snapshot into life in Gaza.” Before he proceeds, however, he assures us that what follows are “testimonies” by people “who can rarely get their voices heard.”

At the start of six interviews, the author makes clear that all of those featured are men not because that was his intention — he is a Westerner who believes in gender equality after all — but because in his two and a half days in Gaza, he could not find a woman willing to speak to him “independently.” In fact, the only occasion when he had the chance to speak to a woman, he tells us, was in the presence of a male guardian, the woman’s husband in this particular instance. Hence, while he was able to “give voice” to men, his attempts to do the same for women were all thwarted.

Such assertions play into Orientalist notions. This usually results from foreign journalists coming to Gaza with a set of preconceptions about the place and its people and then seeking to confirm them rather than verify them. While Gaza is, indeed, no haven for women or anyone else, there are thousands of educated women who are willing to speak for themselves and do so in every field, from medicine, theater, and politics to fishing and farming.

Just a few months ago, a play written by the renowned Palestinian writer Samah Sabawi was read at one of Gaza’s cultural centers, which continue to thrive despite Israel’s ceaseless attempts at cultural de-development. Nearly all the participants who performed the play were women, as was the case with the vast majority of the audience. They were not accompanied by husbands, brothers or fathers in order to attend or to perform.

Events like this, however, hardly ever make it into the mainstream media. Moreover, any mention of a considerable number of women going out without a hijab instantly provokes expressions of surprise by those who have only heard about Gaza through mainstream and particularly Western publications. To say women in Gaza are also allowed to drive would sound like a lie to many ears.

Women are not the only part of this story. To claim that Gaza is “Islamist” automatically dismisses the existence of the leftist and secular groups there, most of which denounce religion in its totality. Homogenizing “life in Gaza” could not be more obvious than in The Independent feature.

Of the six interviews the author conducted, one was with a Hamas official, while four were with blue-collar male workers, and the remaining one was with an unemployed man. Despite being at odds with Israel, five of them belong to the category of “ready to forget the past,” has no problem inviting former Israel prime minister Ariel Sharon for coffee, and even views Yitzhak Rabin — the man behind the Iron Fist that broke hundreds of bone in the lead up to and during the first Palestinian intifada — as a man of peace.

With the exception of the Hamas official, the interviewees followed suit in reiterating the same unconditional desire to achieve peace with Israel that one might think no other viewpoint existed. At the same time, they viewed Hamas as the primary source of their distress. Israel was seen as only secondary to their everyday ordeal.

That no evidence was provided to challenge the views in question suggests that there is none — just as the author claims to have found no women able to speak to him. Thus, portraying the residents of Gaza as a homogenous people who all experience life in the same way is condescending at best and Orientalist at worst. The views expressed in the article are undeniably extant but do not reflect the reality.

Israel, which has launched two deadly assaults on Gaza in less than five years, is rarely perceived as a friendly entity. The vast majority of the politicized and non-politicized segments of Gazan society are not ready to “forget the past” that continues to shape the lives of 1.1 million local Palestinians officially registered as refugees at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

Rana Baker is a student of business administration in Gaza and writes for the Electronic Intifada

This article appeared here: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/04/gaza-misconceptions-women.html#ixzz2RVnXaJdB

Palestine on Screen—Why You Must See “Inch’Allah”

By SCOTT MCCONNELL • April 15, 2013, 12:24 PM

The American Conservative 

Inch’Allah,” Anais Barbeau-Lavalette’s feature about Israel-Palestine, may be the strongest effort yet to convey the emotions of the supercharged struggle over land and dignity in the present period. For nearly a half-century, those who wanted justice in Palestine hoped that some representation of their narrative could reach the screen. They lived in the shadow, of course, of the epochal power of  “Exodus,” probably the most effective propaganda film in world history.  A great many years ago I recall Andrew Sarris telling a Columbia film class that the Palestinians were enthused when Jean-Luc Godard got funding to make a movie about their struggle, but were disappointed by the results.  What they had in mind was something like a modern western, with the fedayeen in the role of heroic good guys, a project which was never really in the French auteur’s wheelhouse.

Numerous films have sought to convey  something of the moral ambiguity of the struggle, including Steven Spielberg’s “Munich.” I haven’t seen Julian Schnabel’s “Miral,” based on the novel/memoir by Rula Jabreal, the story of an orphanage for Palestinian  girls whose parents were killed at Deir Yassin.  Many had high hopes for the film, perhaps because of the widely acknowledged talent, warmth, and celebrity of Schnabel, but for one reason or another the movie never really took off.

“Inch’Allah” can’t boast the star power of Jean-Luc Godard or Julian Schnabel; its director, Barbeau-Lavalette, is young and highly regarded in the Quebec film world, but not any sort of household name. But her movie deserves the hopes and access to screens granted to “Miral,” and more. It is a tough, gritty, and intense portrayal of Palestinian life under the occupation and the moral dilemmas faced by those—like the Canadian doctor played by the gorgeous Evelyne Brochu—who get involved trying to help them. The Palestinians, three generations ago a rural and pacific people, have been ghettoized and hardened. More than any movie I’ve seen, “Inch’Allah” conveys the something of the feel of Palestinian life, sarcastic and bitter in the younger generations, old-fashioned in the older ones, trying cope under a system of domination and control far more sophisticated than anything South Africans could dream up.  Read more