The rise of Palestinian citizen journalists in Gaza

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.

MIFTAH: The vibrant canvas that is Palestine

Date posted: April 29, 2013
By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

Oppression can do strange things to people. When it is oppression in the form of a decades-long military occupation, it means the occupied people run the risk of becoming one-dimensional in the sense that the occupation is what defines them and shapes their past, present and future.

For the Palestinians, this is true to a large extent. Because the Israeli occupation consumes us, preoccupies our everyday lives and effects the smallest aspects of it, we find ourselves thinking mostly about this occupation and ways to resist it, do away with it, or at least work around it.

The thing is, the Palestinians are hardly one-dimensional. The fact that the occupation has taken over so much of our lives does not mean we do not have the potential to embrace other less discouraging aspects of life itself. In the past week, Ramallah – the hub of Palestinian cultural life – has seen Palestinian Fashion Week, the Contemporary Dance Festival and a Spring Festival for children. All of the above activities have been distinctly Palestinian but they were not solely catered to the traditional theme of occupation and oppression, which the Palestinians have grown so accustomed to and believe is the only way the world views them.

Read more…

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.

 

Al-Akhbar: Visualizing Palestine Design Against Injustice

Written by: Yazan al-Saadi

Published Sunday, April 14, 2013 by Al-Akbar English 

 

A quote at the bottom right corner of the graphic reads: “We are not in search of death, we are looking for real life.” The words are from the 1989 declaration of the Tiananmen Square hunger strike.

This was Visualizing Palestine’s first infographic and it was quite a compelling start.

More than a year later, other stunning infographics were produced. These elegant images range from a simple demonstration
of childhood births at Israeli checkpoints to a more complex image detailing the inequality of water distribution in the West Bank.

“Visuals are important because of their speed, its adaptiveness to social media, and the fact that the mind captures more from visuals than from texts,” Joumana al-Jabri, one of the co-founders, remarked to Al-Akhbar during a lunch on a Sunday afternoon that gathered most of the VP team at her apartment on Bliss Street.

The use of images and graphs to emphasize the daily injustices experienced by Palestinians by the Israeli colonial occupation is not entirely unique, but what makes the works produced by VP groundbreaking is the group’s ability to streamline and bond documented facts with eye-popping visuals.

The bread and butter of the project’s work are rooted in its embrace of a multi-disciplinary approach. In this way, diverse strands are tied together, further strengthening the emotional and intellectual impact of each graphic.

The staff of VP are very much aware of the power they hold.

In the Beginning…

The idea of VP was conceived by Ramzi Jaber in the early months of 2011. Like most good tales, it began with a journey and personal questions.“The story I tend to tell is this: I was part of TEDxRamallah, and for a year and a half I was going from village to village, asking myself why as Palestinians are we in this mess and who is doing something about it,” he said.

On his trips, he’d hear shocking statistics, like the fact that each year, 700 Palestinian children are incarcerated in Israeli jails. To Jaber, the injustices committed in Palestine are “the most documented injustices on earth.”

“I was shocked on two levels – shocked by the whole colonial aspect and the sheer injustice, and shocked by my own ignorance,” he said.

At the same time, Jaber was in awe of the growing popularity of TED, prompting him to think about how to take Palestine’s statistics and “present it through the power of storytelling.”

In April of that year, Jaber attempted to establish such a project using volunteers. According to him, he spent months organizing two workshops that brought in researchers and designers, but zero graphics were produced. According to him, the problem they faced was two-fold: the amount of expertise required was difficult to find since this was a new endeavor and it required a stable, committed team rather than volunteers.

Soon after, Joumana al-Jabri, a designer and architect mainly based in Dubai, and Ahmad Barclay, an architect by training, were brought into the fold. Immediately, they began looking for others.

Naji El Mir, a designer based in Paris, and Hani Asfour, founder of PolyPod, a multi-disciplinary designing company located in Lebanon, became key partners at VP, as well as the main designers behind many of the graphics.

“Infographic is like an iceberg, you see one-tenths of it and there is so much below that of work being done. We needed researchers, people who sit down and do huge amounts of research and we still need more,” Jaber said.

Today, VP is a small core team of eight individuals, most in their twenties and thirties, and each providing their own unique skill set. Recently, Saeed Abu-Jaber, a young designer from Jordan was hired. In terms of research, text, and copy-editing, Zaid Amr, in Palestine, and Chris Fiorello, in Beirut, were added.

“Most of the people are from a mixed background so this adds a nice flavor to the design. We aren’t brought together by nationality or driven by jingoistic tendencies, and we are not an activist project that simply wants to save ‘the poor helpless victims,’” Barclay stressed.

Infographic 101

How does VP create an infographic?Mainly, if an urgent news story breaks out, the team decides to develop an infographic in order to give context to what is happening. “Often, or almost always, the news is misrepresented or isn’t given context by the media. The rule of thumb tends to be that if the news is more prominent, it is more likely to lose its context,” Jaber said.

The final element, which is not the main focus of VP presently, is to highlight the absurdities of daily injustices. As an example, Jaber spoke of how Israel prohibits Palestinians holding different color-coded IDs from marriage, a restriction he had personally experienced and was keen on highlighting sometime in the future.

Once a topic is selected and fleshed out through various brainstorming sessions, the researchers gather the data and verify sources. From there, it is passed on to Barclay who molds it into a story.

The hardest part, according to Barclay, is the ability for one close to the data to take a step back and try to look at the bigger picture. He pointed out that there may be topics that simply can’t be visualized easily, topics and data that are segregated by borders, complicated stories that are hard to simplify on a static, two-dimensional image.

“It’s a good and bad exercise, in the sense that how do you get to the core message that strikes people and is rooted in analysis and facts? How do you tell the story to engage and motivate people, without becoming jingoist? How do you get people to understand an idea better or that the continuation [of injustice] isn’t inevitable?” he emphasized.

Abu-Jaber, the newest hire, said, “The beautiful thing is choosing. Finding that point of the story that grabs you. I like the process. It is quite fantastic because you’re learning something new while you’re designing. Essentially, you need to educate yourself.” For Abu-Jaber the work with VP offered a much more meaningful experience than his previous experiences working in fashion and magazine design.

“The work I used to do before made me feel dead inside. But this has a point and I feel like I’m doing something meaningful. This is like design activism,” he chuckled.

After this stage, a brief is made and shared with the designers, who proceed to translate the words into an alluring visual. The visual product is reviewed in order to ensure that the story is still intact.

“The facts are always the red-line. We actually go beyond, and try to maneuver the story to put the context in because you can take the facts out of context. So we maneuver it to include context, and puts the fact right where it needs to be,” Jaber said.

Once all parties are satisfied, it is published online.The final step is to track the graphic’s impact, seeing who shares it and what type of debates it generates. This entire process can take anywhere between three days and three months.

The structure behind the process came out of a lot of trial and error, or as Jaber joked, “more error than trial.” But a structure was shaped, and in the spirit of the project, it was presented as an infographic available online for others to see and use.

Yet even now, the production isn’t entirely without kinks. “We need more effort, more people,” Jaber stated, “People who are dedicated, committed, and have the required skills. It’s harder than getting money.”

Funding, the bane for every organization on the planet, is particularly an issue, especially for a team that is independent from political backing. The VP team are planning to tap into crowd-funding campaigns through sites like Kickstarter, rather than the traditional grant route. This way, they hope, will continue to ensure the project’s ideological independence.

Visualizing International

Since its first graphic, VP has steadily been building a strong following, particularly within the NGO, civil society, and international solidarity sectors. For Jaber, it’s a sign that VP is on the right track.

“Success to me is that our visuals are being used effectively. I’ve heard that people have used them in conferences and in schools. They use our visuals to deliver a message, and the more that effectively happens, the better,” he said.

As another sign of success, the graphics by VP have been translated into more than seven languages, such as Arabic, French, Spanish, Korean, and Finnish. They have penetrated parts of the mainstream media, popping up in Al Jazeera English, the Huffington Post, and elsewhere. And there is still more to come.

“Our next plan is to move into other media. We are very keen to go into animation, dynamic infographics, or even crowd-designed graphics,” Jabri stated.

But it is the ambitious concept of Linked word Visualizing Justice that has the most potential. The idea builds from the successes of VP and first conceived during an American tour by Jaber.

“We were being contacted by lots of people around the world who wanted to use the same form of visual styles for their causes and communities. They saw that communications is what rallies and mobilizes people together. So we wanted to provide tools and platforms for people to do the same thing in other cause. That’s our plan, but right now we are barely surviving as it is,” Jaber explained.

“Visualizing Justice became our platform that allowed us to transfer knowledge and become an umbrella for other groups to visualize topics other than Palestine – such as Visualizing Syria, Visualizing Burma, and Visualizing Water,” Jabri said.

Jaber reflected on the end-game for VP. He pointed to how the end of Apartheid was brought about by the achievement of a “world-wife understanding.”

“When people understand, it translates into action. Positive change is happening, whatever it is,” Jaber said with a wide smile.

The Japanese technological-fashion designer Issey Miyake once wrote, “Design is not for philosophy, it’s for life.” Can design really change realities and lives? In the case of Visualizing Palestine’s designs, it seems to ring true.

This article first appeared here

Classical music moves into the camps of Palestine

Published March 23rd, 2013 – 07:00 GMT on AlBawaba
How often does one see pictures of brave Palestinian children facing up to Israeli soldiers and tanks, armed only with stones in their hands and often paying with their lives for daring to do so?

Ramzi Aburedwan was one such child, who grew up in the refugee camp of Al Amari near Ramallah. At the tender age of 8, he witnessed his best friend being killed during an Israeli military operation. He then found himself throwing stones during the first Intifada and as a street combatant Aburedwan seemed destined for an Israeli prison or a Palestinian martyr’s poster. But fate decided to intervene.

At 17, he was invited to a music workshop in Al Bireh, adjacent to Ramallah, where he fell in love with the art and started to learn to play the viola. Replacing stones with a musical instrument led to a journey of channelling his anger into creativity and of personal transformation.

After studying for a year at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music (ESNCM) in Ramallah and thereafter attending a summer workshop in the United States — at the Apple Hill Centre for Chamber Music of New Hampshire — he enrolled at the Conservatoire National de Region d’Angers.

In 2000 Ramzi created the ensemble “Dal’Ouna”, music that symbolised the link between East and West. It flowed from an encounter between Palestine and France, from the melting of pure traditional Middle Eastern songs with mixed jazzy compositions, played on Western classical musical instruments (viola, violin, clarinet, flute, guitar, piano), and traditional Eastern instruments (bouzouk, oud, darbouka, bendir, etc).

In 2005, he was awarded the “DEM” gold medal for viola, chamber music and music theory. While in France, he also learnt to play the piano.

Yearning to share his knowledge and experience, and inspire a new generation of Palestinians, by helping their anger and frustrations find musical expression, Aburedwan established Al Kamandjâti (The Violin) in October 2002. It was to be the place where Palestinian children and youth could learn music and develop their culture.

In August 2005, Riwaq, the Palestinian architectural organisation engaged in conservation and rehabilitation, completed the renovation of the Al Kamandjâti Music Centre in the old city of Ramallah and it was here that Aburedwan launched his nonprofit musical enterprise, funded mainly by European donors.

Taking music to the people, Al Kamandjâti set up music schools for Palestinian children in various cities, villages and refugee camps. These music schools offer children the opportunity to learn to play music, to discover their cultural heritage as well as other musical cultures, but above all to explore their creative potential.

In addition, Al Kamandjâti produces numerous concerts and several music festivals throughout the year as part of its mission to bring music to all Palestinians.

Aburedwan explains the rationale: “Perhaps the least recognised effect of the violent Israeli occupation on the lives of Palestinian people is the undermining of culture, art and leisure. When a regime wants to weaken a people, it uses psychological, cultural and physical means. It attempts to erase tangible evidence of that people’s unique cultural heritage. Our struggle must be cultural and militant, artistic and political, and economic. But on no account should we forget the primary reason behind the projects and activities led by Al Kamandjâti, which is to educate children, who suffer most from the unjust politico-economic situation.

“We cannot afford to sit back and wait for favourable political decisions which would establish a Palestinian State,” he says. “We must proactively work on galvanising Palestinian cultural life. We must give our children the opportunity to think beyond soldiers and tanks. They must think creatively, not about the destruction of their country, but about rebuilding their way of life and future.”

In the West Bank, Al Kamandjâti today provides music training to around 500 students in places such as the Al Amari, Jalazon, Qalandiah and Qaddura refugee camps, the village of Deir Ghassana, the old cities of Ramallah and Jenin, and in Tulkarem.

Since 2005, Al Kamandjâti, with ten French musicians, has also organised annual music workshops in the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon, where, today, they have 60 students at Bourj el Barajneh and Shatilla.

In Palestine, Al Kamandjâti employs 22 musicians who teach violin, viola, cello, guitar, flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, trombone, trumpet, saxophone, piano, accordion, oud, nay, Arabic percussion, orchestra, singing, harmony, choir, improvisation and music theory.

“Music is a universal language,” Aburedwan says. “We encourage Palestinians to use this artistic tool to harmonise and enrich their cultural life, promoting international awareness and recognition of the Palestinian nation.

“Through music, Al Kamandjâti seeks to show that education and culture can transcend and overcome the Israeli violence from which Palestinians suffer,” he adds. “Learning music provides children with a form of expression to channel their energy creatively and constructively. Are not today’s children tomorrow’s adults? Classical music is, for the children, a discovery. We introduce each one to an instrument. Moreover, these workshops enable children to gather in a disciplined setting, whether as neighbours or friends or new acquaintances”.

Many young international musicians have been working at Al Kamandjâti, discovering music and a practical approach to mastering various instruments with Palestinian children. Jason Crompton came from New Jersey four years ago to visit his sister in occupied Jerusalem and after learning about Al Kamandjâti, he stayed on to teach piano and conduct the orchestra. He learnt Arabic to communicate with the children and eventually married a fellow teacher from Italy, Madeleine, who teaches the flute and also works with UNRWA schools in the refugee camps around Ramallah. They have a child and now live in Ramallah.

“The feeling of sharing in the musical experience with anyone who wishes to indulge is special and we believe that we belong here,” Crompton says.

Their story lends credence to the oft-held belief that music transcends both borders and barriers. At Al Kamandjâti, it has been an enriching experience for both the Palestinian children and the teachers of many nationalities.

Not only does Al Kamandjâti teach Palestinian children how to play music, it also teaches some of them how to repair, maintain and tune instruments.

Shehadeh, a young man who has been involved in setting up a local lute-making workshop, spent three months in Italy with stringed-instrument makers who had previously been to Palestine, learning to repair and make instruments. Today his workshop adjoins the Al Kamandjâti building in Ramallah.

Al Kamandjâti organises The Music Days Festival in June, in partnership with the French Cultural Centres Network. The festival lasts 12 days and takes place in more than ten Palestinian cities. A Baroque Music Festival follows in December and various churches in the cities of the West Bank and occupied Jerusalem host it.

Al Kamandjâti also engages in exchange programmes abroad with partner organisations. Some students have been given the opportunity to take part in music workshops abroad to improve their technical skills. Khalil, the coordinator, explains, “We had nine students who completed their scholarships in France last year — in violin, percussion, bass, clarinet and guitar, and two of them learnt how to fix string-section instruments.

“We have two blind brothers, Mohammad and Jihad, who today teach percussion and oud at the Helen Keller Centre in [occupied] Jerusalem,” he adds.

Today, Al Kamandjâti stands for Aburedwan’s transformation from a stone-pelter to a viola player and his dream of sharing his knowledge and experience with his people, bringing joy to the children growing up in refugee camps and under occupation.

This article appeared on http://www.albawaba.com/entertainment/palestine-camps-music-479027

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

Published on Nov 27, 2012 by