Wednesday, January 28, 2009

From a hillside in Brooklyn

I read in the Guardian today ('Israel rushes to withdraw troops', January 19th, 2009) that one house in Gaza, which had been used as an Israeli base during their invasion, had the words 'Arabs need to die' and 'Arabs: 1948-2009' scrawled on the walls. And I read during the invasion that some Israelis would go sit on the hills surrounding Northern Gaza to watch, even some to cheer on. If it was Ariel Sharon that was the Butcher of Beirut, his successor Olmert, with Livni and Barak, have become the Butcher(s) of Gaza.

My girlfriend and I sat in our apartment, like many around the world, and watched in horror as the Israeli campaign unfolded. I wondered, as we checked the news with great fervor, if it must not break her heart to see such things in Palestine in 2009, as her father was of the many Palestinians expelled during the Nakba. 1948-2009, history repeats itself and grows crueler with every day. But there was no expulsion this time, there was nowhere to go. Just more killing. Me, I'm a foreigner there, at least as I liked to tell myself during my time in Palestine and even now. I have my emotions, my morality, my knowledge, what else do I have? I ask myself this question every day, I know in part to protect myself.

Like those Israelis sitting on the hills, I too have watched the slaughter from a distance, albeit for different reasons and with different reactions. But as their government is carrying it out behind Gaza's walls, my government has armed their government to the teeth and stood by with quiet approval. I paid for a piece of those guns, those missiles, those fighter jets, those helicopters, that white phosphorous. Willingly or not, I'm less of a foreigner to the conflict than I like to believe.

I know, I know, people will say it's just privileged guilt. No, it's rage, sorrow and shame.

Ian Maley, American
Brooklyn, NY

Saturday, January 17, 2009

We WON'T be victimized: An attack too close to home

I thought I was dreaming, or still hearing explosions. After all I'd only been asleep for an hour and a half, and it wasn't far fetched that the tanks may be firing from outside our front door. Wednesday night into Thursday morning had seen the most intense bombardment of Gaza city so far, and last I'd heard before drifting off was that the Israeli forces had advanced as far as the end of our streets, into the Tel al Hawa neighborhood. They'd already seized buildings there, so what's to prevent them from making their way a little further in.

I wandered, as reality began to come into focus, who it was banging on my bedroom door, and even before regaining full consciousness, made my way out to the living room. The house was in disarray, my family and my relatives ran back and forth collecting things, putting things on, carrying things. It was about 8:00 am

My cousin, who works as a Cameraman, and whom I haven't seen since the attacks began was standing at the door. "I have an armored press vehicle downstairs" he said, as I glanced at him questioningly. He was wearing a PRESS vest and helmet "You have two minutes, I'm here to take you all away".

I got ready before asking any more questions, and we all left the apartment, not having time to lock the doors. Most of the residents had already left and a few were gathered at the inside entrance of the building. As we approached them we were asked to stay there for a few moments by the doorman, during which I learned why we had to evacuate immediately.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Headquarters, right across the streets, had received notification from the Israeli military that it would be bombed within the hour. This was unprecedented, but our shock had to be put on hold. The buildings surrounding the headquarters, including mine, had also received a warning. They would all be targeted 20 minutes later.

We finally got the ok to cross the street to the car. We ran one at a time and got in, and were off. My cousin drove frantically. We didn't know where we were going but we had to move out of the area. We began hearing the bombs fall behind us, and we kept moving forward. The car shook left and right, maybe it was the explosions, maybe the speeding, I didn’t know, and all I could think about was my home.

We decided to go to the house of distant relatives, we didn't know them very well but at a time like this every home in Gaza is open to relatives and strangers alike. We got to their door and my cousin drove off to take care of other relatives.

Shortly afterwards we heard that the top floors of my building and neighboring buildings had been struck by missiles. We were relieved that they hadn't been big enough to cause damage to the rest of the building, and we guessed that at worst, the damage to our home might be confined to broken windows and debris entering through the openings (the ceiling and some walls had cracked too). Later we heard that the UNRWA complex had been bombed. The entire supply of diesel had caught fire, which lead to the explosion of parts of the building. We were about a mile away and we could see the massive thick black cloud rising into the air.

We spent the night trying to get information on the whereabouts of my brother, whose home was raided by Israeli troops. He had been detained and his wife was left at home with Israeli soldiers pointing their rifles at her head till late in the evening. When she finally called us after the soldiers left she was frantic with worry. It wasn't until the next morning, Friday, at six am that we were relieved of our fear for him. The Israeli soldiers had held him all night, blindfolded and handcuffed in the cold, and interrogated him, along with 5 other men. My brother and 2 of them were finally released. The other two were transferred to a yet unknown location and my brother was able to find his way out of the closed off military zone, his neighborhood.

We returned to our apartment today, Friday morning. We weren't deterred by warnings that our area was still not safe. We weren’t hindered by reports that after retreating, Israeli forces had once more advanced into the area at the end of our streets. It was a unanimous decision by all of us, and we would let nothing drive us out of our home, victimize us, debase and displace us ever again. It was too personal an attack and we had to draw the line even if it was with our own blood. Arriving at the entrance we saw many of our neighbors pulling up in cars and walking in with their children. We all looked at each other, smiling, embracing, knowing, and experiencing emotions of elation, solidarity and pride.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

First Person: Living in Gaza, Under Starlight and Bomb Blasts

As big sister, I accompany two of my five younger siblings to the roof of our 14-story building. We head up there whenever we can, even if people say it makes us easy targets. We climb 13 floors of stairs just to stand and look out on Gaza and breathe in 15 minutes of air before we duck inside again. "Burning City," the children call it. Columns of smoke rise from various locations in the distance changing the color of the sky and the sun. The entire landscape is transformed. We can make out the locations of several of the many public, residential and landmark buildings that have been turned to piles of rubble. Israeli tanks now block the roads where we used to drive along the coast. Dark, ominous warships look out of place so close to our beautiful Gaza shore, which had been one of the only escapes and source of relaxation for the besieged people of the Gaza Strip. Earthen barriers have risen in the Zatoun area, cutting off the densely populated, heavily bombarded neighborhood from the rest of the city.

Our entire lives is now one long chaotic stream of existence: waiting in line each morning to fill up containers with water from the only working tap on the ground floor of our building, baking homemade bread from the depleting supply of flour we managed to obtain a few days into the offensive, turning on the power generator for 30 to 50 minutes in the evening to charge phones and watch the news. Meanwhile, the constant in our lives has become the voice of the reporter on the small transistor radio giving reports every few seconds of the location and resulting losses from the explosion we just heard, or other attacks farther off on the Strip. This is not to mention the relentless sound of one or more of the Israeli Apache helicopters, F-16's or drones flying overhead. (See pictures of Israel's deadly assault on Gaza.)

On Friday, while we gathered around for dinner, we heard an explosion that shook our building more violently than any we have experienced so far. The panic and frenzy caused tempers to flare within seconds as each of my siblings argued about what we should do. Leaving the building might be dangerous, but remaining inside could be equally hazardous if the building was being hit by missiles.

People on the outside shouting and banging on our door (we are on the first floor) confirmed that the building had indeed been hit. Within moments we had thrown on jackets and shoes, grabbed a previously prepared file containing our official documents and left our home. We ran across the street, gathering with the other residents in front of the gate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency headquarters. Young wide-eyed children, wailing infants, men and women stood begging the guard to open the gate and allow them to take cover inside. The guard refused. "Go to the UNRWA shelters", he shouted, "there's one 10 minutes away." We all knew that those shelters weren't safe, that 48 people have already been killed in them.

We found out what happened as an ambulance pulled up to the curb. "It was just a small rocket," someone said. "There was just one injury, a small boy on the 12th floor, a block from the wall fell on his back, the rocket came through the window. Small rocket. Everyone can go back to their apartments."

It was a paradoxical sense of relief that came upon us yet everyone, including the injured boy's family, was thankful that the off-target rocket was not a forewarning of another larger strike. Thousands of other families in Gaza have already been subjected to the horrors of destruction and displacement. We have seen the results of the vicious slaughter of scores of children after the Israelis hit the United Nations school where they had sought refuge. A few broken bones are far better than having skulls smashed or chests torn open. That's how we see it. That's our logic. (See pictures of heartbreak in the Middle East.)

We are now unable to distinguish joy from fear. My 11-year old sister laughs as she imagines how people all over the world watch the horrific events taking place in the Gaza Strip. "Its like we are a scary movie. I'm sure people eat popcorn as they watch," she says. My 12- and 14-year old brothers act out scenes from our reality while quoting Metal Gear Solid 4 and Guns of Patriots, their favorite video game, and we laugh hysterically at their performance. Moments later we tense up at the sound of a violent, close by earthquake-like explosion, and resume our laughter when the building stops shaking.

Before returning to our building, I couldn't help but stare at it for a moment and think that our homes might not always be safe places. But, still, they give us a sense of warmth, security and protection that are worth fighting for til the very end. I also couldn't help staring at the sky. The stars were beautiful and seemed to shine brighter than ever. I could make out several constellations and I counted five Israeli warplanes.

Safa Joudeh
Gaza, Palestine

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Fifth Day

This is the fifth day of the Israeli military operation on Gaza called 'Cast Lead'. Horror and destruction is everywhere. There are things that are not well reported in the news, feelings!! I have three children, a daughter Nour who is 14, a son Adam who is 9 and another son Ali who is 3. We live in an area in Gaza city that used to be described 'safe'. Nowhere is safe anymore. My children cannot sleep and I cannot help them. The feelings of helplessness and guilt (which always accompanies your inability to protect or at least comfort your children) are stronger than those of fear and horror. My daughter was telling a journalist on the phone yesterday that she had never got the real support she sought from me whenever there was a shelling. I was shocked!! I felt so guilty because my daughter felt my fears. But is it not normal to be scared after all?! Adam is asthmatic and he uses a ventilator. Due to the stress and the pollution resulting from rubbles, he is getting more frequent asthma attacks and there is no electricity for his ventilator. Each time he has an attack, we have to put the generator on for him and then put it off. There is no enough fuel to keep the generator on and we have no idea till when this is going to continue. Ali has no idea what this is all about. All what he does is scream in fear whenever there is a bombing and when it is over, he uses his imagination to tell stories about 'qasef - bombing'. The kids do not sleep. We spend our days and nights in one single room with my sister in law and her daughter. You feel the stress and fear. You can see it on everyone's face.
Last night I was thinking about all this. I do not want anyone of my family to get hurt and I thought if anything should happen, I pray it happens to me and not my kids. Then I thought I do not want my kids to see me torn into pieces. The scenes on tv of people killed are so terrifying and I know what it means for children to see such thing. What I really want is for all this to end and for me and my kids to live just like anyone else in the world. I want to get rid of the feeling of guilt towards my kids. Was I mistaken to have kids in the first place? Do not I have the right to be a mother? But am I really doing a good mother's 'job' in being the source of comfort for my kids. I know it is not my fault but I knew also that I live in Gaza and Gaza has never been a healthy environment to raise children. Was I that selfish to think about my own feeling to want to be a mother and ignoring my expected failure to protect my kids?
Nirmeen Kharma Elsarraj, Palestinian

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Aerosol Arabic - Free Gaza Graffiti Mural in Birmingham

Please checkout this video!

Aerosol Arabic - Free Gaza Graffiti Mural in Birmingham

Submitted by Muna Shami
Washington, DC

The Narcicyst Feat.Shadia Mansour

The Narcicyst Featuring Shadia Mansour-Hamdulilah _Gaza Remix_.mp3

I Remain

When I was a kid, I wanted to be the wind. I thought what was this beautiful being that was so strongly able to be felt, but never seen. She traveled countries, knew nothing of borders, blockades, visas. She saw all the wonders of the world, carried smiling faces, cries of newborn babies, joy, happiness, childish giggles and jokes. She attended everyone's weddings and tasted every pie on every counter top. She delivered the kisses of loved ones and the dreams of all.

But today she mourns- she carries screams of horror. She yells in my ears and awakens every earthly being dead or alive. She has called upon the sun to dim her rays and the clouds to join her in mourning. She beckons the leaves, the grass and every organism in existence to shout and they reply. The people run inside, shut their windows, they can not understand why the earth is yelling- why she is crying. It is just too loud to handle. Too real to fathom. But even inside, the wind pounds on their doors and shatters their windows.

She Yells, أنا قوية, و مستمرة
انا صامدة , ماكنة مثل الحديد.
أبقى حتى توقظ.


As she continues to voice her fury upon the coma state of the world, a putrid smell of blood and tears rips through your nasal passages. While the world paces indoors in fear and confusion, I join my friend the wind outside, dressed in black and with nothing more than a kaffiya made of honor and anger to keep me warm. Despite the ear piercing screams of the earth, I sit and stay, because today she is the only one who understands.

Hebatullah Issa

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Calm Day

I woke up to the smell of freshly baked bread, at around noon today. I stay up most of the night and catch a few hours sleep after the sun rises.

The house was freezing cold, as it has been for the past few weeks. I put on a number of heavy sweaters and a robe and wrapped a scarf around my neck, readying myself for yet another day if incessant drones and constant nearby explosions.

My mother has taken to making homemade bread the last ten days. Thanks her careful management of the small amount of cooking gas we have, and to her idea of buying a gas oven in anticipation of an Israeli invasion only days before the attacks began, she is able to bake occasionally. Furthermore, we had found a store with its doors partially open in our area a couple of days ago and were able to stock up on flour.

Having lunched with my younger siblings and my parents on bread, cheese, eggs and some leftover pasta, we all went out onto the balcony, and what a beautiful sunny day it was! The iciness had dissipated somewhat with the early day sun, the few trees outside were green and luminous and birds were singing!

We all stood for about half an hour, looking out through the metal railings like caged birds. We could hear an occasional explosion in the distance but that did not deter us from standing there breathing in the fresh air we so longed for.

It was time for the daily chores. My 3 brothers took 3 containers downstairs, where the residents of the 14 floor building we live in crowded around a small tap that had running water. Luckily we are on the second floor, most of the others had the task of walking up and down the stairs. All of our area has been without water for about a week. When they got back me and my sister poured some of the water into pails in the bathrooms and in the kitchen, and tried to tidy up the house as much as we could.

My father, a physician who's medical center is located on the ground floor of our building, went down to see a few cases. During this time his patients try to keep in touch with him via phone only, but some emergency cases manage to make it to his clinic.

The first few days of the attack we were all glued to the radio, but for the past few days, being confined to our home, we have begun to become restless and agitated. I have started to read again, and write using a paper and a pen instead of my laptop, then type up my writing when I'm able to. My brothers are spending time with the neighbors kids inside our building and my sisters try to keep the phone occupied for as long as possible (very inconvenient) . We have also began to spend a lot of time together, and value each other as people, friends and companions instead of just family.

Later that evening we all gathered around are television, after turning on the power generator, which we do for only an hour a day, due to the extreme shortage of fuel. Today was different however. There was non of the usual excitement, the rushing to charge cell phones and check emails, the flipping between TV channels… The atmosphere in our home, which had come close to being gay earlier in the day, was somewhat downcast and gloomy. We all understood what the other felt, we had lead the exact same life for the past 11 days, we had grown into the exact same state of mind, and we were experiencing the exact same emotions. Instinctively, and by the collective mentality of a people living under tyranny, not to mention the feelings communicated by family and friends, and the surprisingly similar courses of speech and action we knew that the state we were in was reflective of every single household in the entire strip at the moment.

It was a state of unease, a state of nervousness, disquiet, dissatisfaction and need to experience life again. It was a state that made you feel lost in limbo and wandering if the real world ever existed. It was a state of wanting to be anywhere but here, wishing that the clock would turn back and things were as they had once been before. It was a state of missing your school, your friend who you will never see again, your office that had been destroyed and the corner store that has been turned into a pile of rubble.

My mother looked at us all and, in a soothing and understanding voice said "its ok, at least we have our home, at least we're together, at least we're safe".

"But what does that mean if you're entire life has been taken away from you" asked my 12 year old brother.

At that moment a news report was telling the story of the the Samouni family in Alzatoon area of Gaza city. 60 people living in one large building. Several families, brothers, their cousins their children and their nephews and nieces, their elderly parents. 60 people. Israeli tanks entered Alzatoon last night and called on the family to stay within the building through microphones after posting a tank outside their front door. 60 people in the house. Israel proceeded to bomb the house, striking it through artillery fire. At least half of the 60 people died, the rest were seriously injured. One young man who had survived was sobbing hysterically as he lay in the hospital bed and the camera rolled.

I looked at my younger brother, I admit I was a little hard on the young boy but I couldn't help saying somewhat distastefully, "that's what it means"

That morning our relatives had left in order to clean out the rubble from their home and try to make it as inhabitable as possible. We worried for them, but the activity on the street told us people were ready to resume their lives, at least partially, despite the ongoing offensive against the city and its people.

Safa Joudeh, Palestinian
Gaza, Palestine

Monday, January 5, 2009

Worst Day of All

Today is the eighth day of this horrible war. To me yesterday was the worst day of all. When I woke up in the morning one of my friends called, his voice was very weird and when I asked how was he. He was like "fine, but have you got any news about some of your friends?" I was really scared, and asked him what's wrong? He told me Christine died. I was in a big shock, and till now I don't believe it. I threw the phone and started crying. I called some of my friends to make sure, and all of them were sad about her. She has been my friend for almost four years and we used to go to school and to the YMCA together. I'm sad, afraid, and worried at the same time, because she could've been my sister. I feel very sorry for her and her family.
Her parents did the best they can do, but it wasn't enough so the result was dying. What if my parents couldn't protect me and give me the support I need...will I die too?
What I can say now is that my future is almost destroyed.
An Israeli rocket hit my school this morning, and the school was destroyed completely. I really can't imagine how come they're bombing religious and educational places such as mosques, schools, and universities (etc…)
In every explosion we feel our house shaking and about to be destroyed; what about the people that already lost their homes? I'm crying for the loss of one of my friends... what about the people that lost at least five of their relatives?
Depression and fear are filling our souls and surrounding our homes…what's next?
I actually don't wish for anything as much as I wish that this war will end soon and that the Palestinian people can live like any other people and Palestinian children can enjoy their childhood like any children in the world.

Nour Kharma 9th Grade
Gaza, Palestine

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Catastrophe in Gaza (Live Report)

Last night (January 3rd), we realized that if there is any truth to Israeli WAR minister, Ehud Barak's words, its that this invasion will be a long one. At approximately 9:15 pm local time Israeli Forces entered the strip from 3 Locations. From the east of Gaza city and the northern town of Jabalia and Beit Lahia, tanks rolled into the Palestinian residential areas while Israeli F16 created a cover from the sky. At the same time, Israeli tanks and infantry troops entered Rafah from the south east, while tanks shelling and artillery fire rained on the Mintar area of Gaza city. Israeli warships were simultaneously barraging Gaza city from the sea. The entire strip was surrounded and being heavily pounded by Israeli missiles and artillery fire.

Many people were not even aware that the invasion had begun, thinking the whole time that Israel had intensified its air raids. The city of Gaza has been without power for a few days now and radio batteries were running out. Almost all the residents of Gaza city have been confined to their homes for over a week and all of the stores have been closed. People rely mostly on word of mouth to get the news, a very small few are lucky enough to have generators and leftover fuel.

These attacks, this war is being waged against an unarmed civilian population at the most desperate and bleak time of times. Israel has been systematically and indiscriminately using its most advanced of military capabilities against a defenseless population, 3 quarters of which is women and children for 8 days prior to the invasion. People are weak, physically and morally, and dealing with a great amount of loss and frustration. This is to speak nothing of the 18 month siege that Gaza is currently barely able to hold up under.

For the past few days we have seen over ten mosques, holy places of worship, bombed, frequently while people were praying inside. We have seen children being pulled out from under the rubble looking like there was not a single bone unbroken in their small bodies. We have seen hospitals overflowing with bloody corpses and people taking their last breaths. We have seen friends on television being resuscitated at sites of Israeli air raids. We have seen entire families swept of the face of the earth in one blow, and we have seen our streets, homes, neighborhoods become unrecognizable ruins from the amount of destruction.

And yet Israel continues to blatantly and insistently affirm that the offensive is not aimed at the civilians and that its war is against political and military wings of Hamas. Meanwhile we, the people of Gaza, are collectively experiencing a kind of terror and violence no human being should ever endure One almost begins to suspect that the Israeli WAR forces are acting on a delusion that they created and that they have come to believe. Otherwise, they would have expected what would happen during their invasion of the Strip. Then again, it came as a surprise (a pleasant one) even to us, and that, should we have been in a right state of mind, we would have undoubtedly anticipated

Israel has come into our homes, is fighting us in our streets and is expressing its brutality against us in full force. How do we react?

All Palestinian factions have united and are out facing the enemy, using all the military capabilities that they collectively have. Although these capabilities are incomparable to the military strength exerted by Israel, yet it has made us more certain than ever that Palestinians will fight to the very end to protect their own. It has shown us that resistance, courage and love are an integral part of the Palestinian identity that will never change despite all the hardships we endure. It has given us a moral boost, which comes at a time when we need it most.

The Abu Ali Mustafa brigades, of The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Alquds brigades of the Islamic Jihad movement. The Alqassam brigades of the Hamas movement. The Salah el Din Brigades of the Popular Resistance Committees, Al Aqsa Martyrs brigades of Fatah, all have come together as one united front and at a high, almost affirmed risk of peril are out protecting our streets and our homes, all ready to die if that means preventing the death of one more helpless child. We are united and we have accepted our fate recurrently, but Gaza's almost 80% refugees will NOT be massacred and displaced yet again by people from the outside guided by tyranny and greed.

There are estimations out there as to the collective count of the united military resistance fighters from the Palestinian factions, the number is thought to be a few thousand. The Israeli troops within and around Gaza at this moment are approximately 33 thousand, with more reservists being called in within the next day. The disparity is not only in troop numbers however. The Israeli forces are supported by the Israeli Navy and the Israeli air force. The ground forces include artillery, tanks, engineering forces and intelligence agency support. The Israeli soldiers are equipped with the most modern weaponry and intelligence devices.
Palestinian fighters, on the other hand, have to make do with their home made projectiles and a bare minimum of basic weaponry in order to defend themselves and their people against the Israeli military might.

At the moment, and in the midst of the aggression it is hard to make sense of the current situation or make future predictions. It's hard to come to grips with the numbers and the extent of our losses. It's hard even to remember a time when basic necessities such as food, water, warmth and daylight weren't a luxury. At this point, bare human instinct is at work, the need to protect your loved ones, the need to ensure shelter and the instinct of fight or flight. We have fled for too long, Gaza is our last refuge and our home after we were displaced from what is now called Israel. All this happened but 60 years ago. What more could they want? We have nowhere left to go. Now is a time when all forms of resistance are legitimate. They have disregarded every single international law there is. So now is the time to fight.

Safa Joudeh, Palestinian
Gaza, Palestine

Saturday, January 3, 2009

elegy for a misbegotten truce in Gaza

they say revenge is seasonal
this day

I watch a parade of souls
file past my mind
each one holding another's face
in his own dead hands

they are not separated
in their geographies
- these souls -

all cellular constellations
ideological discrepancies
pigmentations of skin
the outlines of an eyelid or lips--


was right or first
least worthy
most oppressed--
was chosen
or cursed--


there is no better season
for grief
but this day

as I watch the silhouettes of souls
moving through my mind
using a word
they barely knew in life:


Mikele Rauch, American
Boston, Massachusetts

my language

i woke up saturday morning…the light was beautiful streaming through my window…my family was coming down to dc that day to visit me…it was going to be a good day…

i called them to see where they were…to find out whether i actually had to drag myself out of bed…they sounded strange on the phone…i asked what was wrong…they made up some excuse…they had left late that morning and were still driving…i went back to sleep…

a couple of hours later i woke up again…called them again…and again they sounded strange…

i got out of bed and like i do every morning i went straight to my computer…my front page (bbc news) pops up…and my heart stopped…

a million thoughts rushed into my head i couldn't even think clear…no reaction…nothing...i scanned the news report after report...and then come the videos...i watched the first video of people running around...bombings...smoke...the second video same...until i heard a man my language..."oh god...oh god" my language…the minute i heard the words…it hit home…i felt my blood i felt it...and i started crying...for the next three hours as i watched the news and made phone calls in confusion of what has happened…i was still crying…i called my parents…"why didn't you tell me?!"…

i am currently working with a peacebuilding organization concentrating on the palestinian-israeli conflict. for the past year…in an effort to maintain my sanity…i have worked on the art of compartmentalization…work was work…and the palestinian-israeli conflict was work…i…a palestinian…have somehow…finally…in the past two months…gotten to a point where i've somehow managed to do so…i didn't cry or always get angry…cause it was simply work…

on saturday i cried for that whole year…and in that instant…when i heard those words…in my language…i remembered how much it hurts…

in the first three days…most of the time i couldn't breathe…i saw images…read articles…heard my language…and every time i couldn't breathe…i'm so far away and yet the minute i heard those words…"oh god oh god"…i was right there…and my mind was everywhere but here…

i have this great luck of always landing when things get rough there…after years of being away i somehow managed to live there throughout the whole period starting in the events of october 2000…as well as landing a week before the 2006 war…for the first time i'm not there…i'm here…in this city…walking in streets filled with people who haven't seen the images…heard the screams and cries…and aren't watching as my people are dying…

always a challenger of religion…something i never felt very connected to…yet a few days ago…after watching some more images of my people…screaming in my language…i emailed my dad and said: "yaba, if there's a god…where is he today?"…

for the first time in a very long time i cried over my country and my people…maybe it's because i feel like this time it's different…maybe this time i'm different…my words won't have an effect… i don't even know why i'm writing them…maybe i just want them to leave me…

irene r. nasser
washington, dc

Friday, January 2, 2009


At approximately 2:40pm yesterday, Thursday 1 January 2008, Israeli aircrafts fired heavy missiles at the house of Nizar Rayyan, a leader in the Hamas movement, in the Jabaliya refugee camp, causing massive destruction in the camp and killing 16 of its residents, 11 of whom were children. The victims were identified as:

  • 49-year-old Nizar Abdul-Qadir Rayyan;
  • 40-year-old Nawal Ismail Rayyan;
  • 46-year-old Hyiam Abdul-Rahman Rayyan;
  • 45-year-old Iman Khalil Rayyan;
  • 25-year-old Shirin Said Rayyan;
  • 2-year-old Asad Nizar Rayyan;
  • 3-year-old Usama Nizar Rayyan;
  • 3-year-old Aiysha Nizar Rayyan;
  • 4-year-old Reem Nizar Rayyan;
  • 5-year-old Halima Nizar Rayyan;
  • 5-year-old Meryam Nizar Rayyan;
  • 6-year-old Abdul-Rahman Nizar Rayyan;
  • 12-year-old Abdul-Qadir Nizar Rayyan;
  • 12-year-old Ayia Nizar Rayyan;
  • 15-year-old Zainab Nizar Rayyan;
  • 16-year-old Ghassan Nizar Rayyan
The victims are from the same family. The body of Ghassan was still under the rubble of the house at the time this release was drafted. Moreover, 12 people, including five children and one woman, were injured this raid. It also destroyed 10 houses completely and caused damage to another dozens of other houses.

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights

First Day of the New Year in Gaza

January 1st 2009

It's interesting how, at the most terrifying and horrific of times, we still manage to make light of the events, and even enjoy a dark sense of humor that surprisingly comes out not inappropriate and even the more amusing given the constant state of tenseness and apprehension.

My 10 year old cousin was eating a sandwich, when my younger brother, 12, looked at him and, quoting a line from one of his favorite video games in his dead on imitation of the characters voice, while being extremely amused by the fear in the younger boys eyes, said "enjoy it, it could be your last!" I looked at him for a second and began laughing almost hysterically.

On another occasion, we looked around for my twelve year old and 14 year old brothers during an intense bout of air strikes and realized that they had snuck back to the living room, the room directly in front of the area being bombed, and were watching a sports channel. "But we had to see the scores" they retorted after being severely reproached". They're becoming desensitized, I thought, I went through this before while living in Ramallah in 2002. I laughed so hard, they had become totally oblivious!

I've had a lot of time to contemplate, the last few days, and looking at my siblings, I wonder how the rest of the world envisions the people who occupy the most despondent and unruly military zones in the world.

My younger brothers spend their free time out with their friends, or playing basketball and soccer at youth clubs. They are passionate about sports, play station, and music. They play the guitar and are exceptional students. My brother who's in collage is obsessed with computers and gadgets, he's an engineering student who comes up with the most ingenious projects for his classes. He listens to music and plays the guitar and prays regularly. He's an honor student who has big goals and big dreams.

So please understand why I am infuriated when I see how we are portrayed on television. Hordes of bearded, teeth-gnashing, stone throwing blood thirsty savages in rags and tatters. And please don't blame me for feeling utter rage against the state of Israel, that has been intentionally targeting the unwary, guiltless, promising children and youth of the Gaza Strip in its vicious attacks over the past 5 days. Already, between 40 and 50 children are dead while hundreds lie in the hospitals, seriously injured or disabled for life.

The people of Gaza have been suffering for decades under systematic and tyrannical oppression by Israel, the latest of its measures has been the siege and closures imposed on the strip that have completely devastated the livelihoods of Gaza residents and caused the economy to fall into an unprecedented and crippling depression. The people of Gaza have long been denied the means that have been afforded to the residents of countries with the same, possibly less, resources. And yet the amount of resourcefulness and zeal we demonstrate is a testimony to the potential of progress and advancement that lies within us.

To the rest of the world, Israel represents the democratic, civilized, patriotic, western, state whose representatives are well groomed, clad in smart suits and silk ties and talking all sorts of political correctness, stringed with terms such as self defense, civilian population, Palestinian terrorists and middle east peace.

And so after Israel launched its military offensive against Gaza 5 days ago, claiming that offensive was a retaliation against Hamas' firing rockets into Israel following the cessation of the period of calm, to many, the Israeli attacks were justified. Never mind that Israel failed to at least ease the siege that has been slowly killing us over the past year (to be more precise over the last 3 years.) Never mind that Israel continued its incursions into the strip and its murder of innocent civilians throughout the truce. Never mind that compared to Isaeli gunships, war planes, tanks and other weaponry, Hamas rockets seem like toys. Never mind that our children are robbed of anything that resembles a normal life and future.

And yet we are continuously accused of being on equal terms with one of the strongest military forces in the world.

So while being cooped up in the house, watching local news stations when we have electricity, still in a state of disbelief, I wonder if the rest of the world would be so harsh in its judgments if they had the opportunity to understand. I wonder if people would as easily accept the unsubstantiated claims that the engineering faculty building of the Islamic university, which has been flattened during the attacks, was a workshop that produced qassams, if they had seen my brothers reaction. When he came back from a walk to the university building the next day, his face was white as a sheet and he had tears in his eyes. "Its all gone he said, even the project (electric car) we've been working on all semester." We'd seen pictures, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Did he seriously have any hope that the car had survived.

A few hours ago, the home of one of Hamas' senior leaders, Nizar Rayan, was struck by 4 missiles. Not only was the entire building flattened, killing all who were in it, but several other buildings surrounding it looked like they were about ready to collapse. It is said that there were over 19 deaths, most of them women and children, and scores of injuries. The entire street was littered with debris and rubble. We saw the images on tv, children being lifted from beneath the rubble, headless corpses loaded into plastic body bags, the whole works. We sent a taxi to pick up my aunt, whose home lies 100 meters away from the Rayan building, and had caved in due to the attack. She and her children arrived, shaken, but all in one piece.

Today the temporary halt of rocket fire coincided with the restoration of power to our home, at least for a few hours, at about 5pm. My brothers went to their rooms and played their videogames, I sat on the couch and read, and my sister went to take a nap. We tried to busy ourselves with regular daily activities in a situation that is anything but commonplace.

Safa Joudeh, Palestinian
Gaza, Palestine

For a Name Who Has a Face and a Home

364 Dead. 4 Dead. Hundreds Wounded. 7 Wounded. These are the reported numbers from 3 days of bombs, missiles, and death in Gaza AND Southern Israel. I have waited to write this note, to control my anger and hopelessness because I want my words to bring hearing and sight to the deaf and blind. I will not write about politics, strategy, history, or philosophy. Too much has been written about that. Not enough has been written about people. A Palestinian friend of mine wrote it best; “I know for most of you these are news items, but this is my home.” Palestine is not my home, nor is Israel. But Palestinians and Israelis are my sisters and brothers and they are dying. They are burning alive, charred bodies, soon to be burned and buried souls, intent on more death and destruction. They have names and we must know them.

Callousness has led us to this day. More callousness will not lead us to a new day. “Collateral damage” is callous. “Proportionality” is callous. Such words speak of news reports, television pundits and disconnection. But I am not disconnected. I have close friends studying in Israel. Close friends living in Palestine. Close friends living in Lebanon. When bombs and missiles and people start dropping on those places they will drop on my friends. And they will eat the heart with rage and anger and despair.
How does one repair burned flesh? How does one put back together torn and mangled earth? We forget about the earth, the land we all so desperately seek. But seek and we have not found. We have found instead our blood and brains, littered and dumped as refuse.

The names and faces I know are not garbage. The earth I have seen is not garbage. The God I know is not garbage. And so I ask for a shelter of peace, to mend and repair torn bodies and souls. A shelter to pause. For I know a pause is all I can request. Politics and strategy and history and memory are for the future. A future uncertain and more so each day. But a pause. For my sisters and brothers in Gaza and Israel, for friends and loved ones. To remember that a home is not a news item and a body torn and shattered, bloodied and bruised has a name and a face and must be known.

Hal Steinberg, American
Washington, DC

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Giving names to numbers

The first 187 names of those murdered in the ongoing Gaza massacre:

Ibrahim Al-Jamaj
Ibrahim Al-Jamaj
Isma'il Al-Husari
Isma'il Salem
Isma'il Ghneim
Eyman Natour
Eyhab Ash-Shaer
Ibrahim Mahfoudh
Abu Ali Ar-Rahhal
Ahmad Al-Halabi
Ahmad Al-Kurd
Ahmad Al-Lahham
Ahmad Al-Hums
Ahmad At-Talouli
Ahmad Zu'rub
Ahmad Abu Jazar
Ahmad Radwan
Ahmad 'Udah
Ahmad Abu Mousa
Ahmad Tbeil
Adham Al-Areini
Osama Abu Ar-Rus
Osama Abu Ar-Reish
Osama Darweish
Ashraf Ash-Sharabasi
Ashraf Abu Suhweil
Amjad Abu Jazar
Ameen Az-Zarbatli
Anas Hamad
Anwar Al-Bardini
Anwar Al-Kurd
Ayman Abu Ammouna
Ayman An-Nahhal
Ibrahim Abu Ar-Rus
Basil Dababish
Bassam Makkawi
Bilal Omar
Bahaa Abu Zuhri
Tamir Qreinawi
Tamir Abu Afsha
Tawfiq Al-Fallit
Tawfiq Jabir
Thaer Madi
Jabir Jarbu'
Hatim Abu Sha'ira
Hamid Yasin
Husam Ayyash
Hasan Baraka
Hasan Abid Rabbo
Hasan Al-Majayda
Hussein Al-A'raj
Hussein Dawood
Hussein 'Uroq
Hakam Abu Mansi
Hamada Abu Duqqa
Hamada Safi
Hamdan Abu Nu'eira
Haydar Hassuna
Khalid Zu'rub
Khalid Abu Hasna
Khalid An-Nashasi
Khalid Shaheen
Raed Dughmush
Rami Ash-Sheikh
Raafat Shamiyya
Riziq Salman
Rif'at Sa'da
Rafiq Na'im
Ramzi Al-Haddad
Ziyad Abu 'Ubada
Sarah Al-Hawajiri
Salim Abu Shamla
Salim Qreinawi
Sa'id Hamada
Salim Al-Gharir
Suheil Tambura
Shadi Sbakhi
Shahada Quffa
Shahada Abd ar-Rahman
Sabir Al-Mabhouh
Suhayb Abu 'Iffat
Suhayb Abd al-'aal
Tal'at Salman
Tal'at Basal
'Aasim Ash-Shaer
'Aasim Abu Kamil
Abid Ad-Dahshan
Abd ar-Raziq Shahtu
Abd as-Sami' An-Nashar
Abdul-Fattah Abu 'Uteiwi
Abdul-Fattah Fadil
Abdullah Juneid
Abdullah Al-Ghafari
Abdullah Rantisi
Abdullah Wahbi
Arafat Farajallah
Azmi Abu Dalal
Isam Al-Ghirbawi
'Alaa Al-Qatrawi
'Alaa Al-Kahlout
'Alaa 'Uqeilan
'Alaa Nasr Ar-Ra'i
Ali Awad
Imab Abu Al-Hajj
Omar Darawsha
Omran Ar-ran
Anan Ghaliya
Gharib Al-Assar
Fayiz Riyad Al-Madhoun
Fayiz Ayada Al-Madhoun
Fayiz Abu Al-Qumsan
Camellia Al-Bardini
Ma'moun Sleim
Mazin 'Ulayyan
Muhammad Al-Ghimri
Muhammad Al-Halabi
Muhammad Asaliyya
Muhammad Az-Zatma
Muhammad Az-ahra
Muhammad Gaza
Muhammad An-Nuri
Muhammad Abu Sabra
Muhammad Abu 'Amir
Muhammad Abu Libda

Muhammad Hboush
Muhammad Al-Mabhouh
Muhammad Sha'ban
Muhammad Abu 'Abdo
Muhammad Salih
Muhammad Tabasha
Muhammad Al-Habeil
Muhammad Abdullah Aziz
Muhammad Abdul-Wahhab Aziz
Muhammad Awad
Muhammad Abd An-Nabi
Muhammad Salih
Muhammad An-Najari
Muhammad Hamad
Muhammad Barakat
Muhammad Muhanna
Mahmoud Al-Khalidi
Mahmoud Abu Harbeid
Mahmoud Abu Matar
Mahmoud Abu Tabour
Mahmoud Abu Nahla
Mustafa Al-Khateib
Mustafa As-Sabbak
Mu'ein Hamada
Mu'ein Al-Hasan
Mumtaz An- Najjar
Mansour Al-Gharra
Nasser Al-Gharra
Nahidh Abu Namous
Nabil Al-Breim
Nathir Al-Louqa
Ni'ma Al-Maghari
Na'im Kheit
Na'im Al-Kafarna
Na'im Al-Anzi
Nimir Amoum
Hisham Rantisi
Hisham Al-Masdar
Hisham Abu 'Uda
Hisham 'Uweida
Humam An-Najjar
Hanaa Al-Mabhouh
Haytham Hamdan
Haytham Ash-Sher
Wadei' Al-Muzayyin
Wasim Azaza
Walid Abu Hein
Walid Jabir Abu Hein
Yasser Ash-Shaer
Yasser Al-Lahham
Yahya Al-Hayik
Yahya Sheikha
Yahya Mahmoud Sheikha
Yousif Thabit
Yousif Al-Jallad
Yousif Sha'ban
Yousif Diab
Yousif Al-Anani
Yousif An-Najjar
Younis Ad-Deiri

Gaza's Children

I want to share a couple of my drawings with you. They're originally photos by Kai Wiedenhofer, a German photographer. His book is called "The Palestinians from Intifada to Intifada" and it's really good.
They're pictures of children from Gaza in the old Intifada.

Nada Dajani, Palestinian
Jerusalem, Palestine