Promising Signs of Change for Palestine

10276060_10153358175693325_998773002538043109_n Change never comes easy and never comes fast, and never without heavy sacrifices, but change eventually comes nonetheless…

The European Union together with other Western Governments are putting continued economic pressures on Israel to force the current, Zionist government to comply with international laws, agreements and Accords, and cease their aggressive actions against the non-Zionist population of Palestine.

There is no denying that Palestine is living under Israeli Zionist Apartheid. Just in the last week, one of Ireland’s largest materials firms, CRH has admitted that cement from its Israeli affiliate was probably used in the apartheid wall and has pulled out of Israel, disposing of all its assets there. CHR Pulls Out! (article) .

In over 60 years, around 700 Jewish communities have been established in Israel’s pre-1967 borders – but just seven for Arab citizens (and those were built in the Negev for ‘concentrating’ the Bedouin population). The average Palestinian community inside Israel has lost up to 75% of its land since 1948, while a quarter of all Palestinian citizens are internally displaced, their property confiscated for use by the state and Jewish towns.

An estimated 90,000 Palestinian citizens live in dozens of ‘unrecognized villages’, which suffer from home demolitions and a lack of basic infrastructure. Israeli officials openly talk of ‘Judaizing’ areas and tackling the ‘threat’ posed by non-Jewish citizens. Residency in 70% of Israeli towns is managed by committees that filter out those deemed ‘unsuitable’ for the ‘social fabric’.

Add to this ongoing violation of UN Agreements and International Accords, the internal strife between a divided Palestinian government consisting of the Palestinian Authority, Fatah and Hamas and it feels overwhelmingly hopeless that change and freedom for Palestine is coming, let alone achievable.

However, there are continued international movements, such as the BDS Movement ~ The global movement for a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights – See more at: (Click here to learn more)

The campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) is shaped by a rights-based approach and highlights the three broad sections of the Palestinian people: the refugees, those under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Palestinians in Israel. The call urges various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law by:

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

The BDS call was endorsed by over 170 Palestinian political parties, organizations, trade unions and movements. The signatories represent the refugees, Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

These boycotts are slowly being felt by the Israeli economy that continues to face many challenges. In the short-term its inability to duplicate its success in the telecommunication industry into other growing industries hampers its economic outlooks. Its inability to foster large multinational companies in the last decade also calls into question its ability to employ large numbers of people in advanced industries.

It is imperative for the international community to continue to take a strong stand against the Zionist imposed Apartheid occupation of Palestine.  Peace is possible, and freedom for all Palestinians is possible.  Prior to the Zionist occupation, Arab Muslims, Jew and Christian lived together as neighbors, as friends in peace.

12494996_10153888178442533_2887465968704746376_n To quote a friend “One state (of Palestine) is the only solution but needs world intervention to make it happen.”

Hatred, racism and violence is not born, it is created.  Just as these innocent children demonstrate, we are all humanity, “we are one, we live under the same skies, under the same sun.”

 

 

Daily Struggles in Gaza

10299321_948670508557568_1488982116_nHow much suffering can the human being endure?  Throughout history humanity has proven to be the worst perpetrator of violence, aggression and oppression against itself.  The daily struggles of Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip is immense, forced to live in what is internationally called the world’s largest open air prison, many of those living in the Gaza Strip are living in sub-human conditions, caught in the middle of ongoing conflict between the Israeli Occupation forces and their own Hamas government body.

Yet, in the face of it all, the Palestinian people continue to stand strong, believe in hope, and hold on to that hope that Palestine will have its freedom from occupation.  The youth of Gaza strive for education, to better themselves, to become leaders for their people and their country while experiencing the daily threat of occupation forces.  For many it becomes too much bare; too much to be provoked daily, unable to even walk the streets in peaceful demonstration or protest, against efforts that serve only to break the human spirit and will to live.

12511581_948670498557569_222890157_nThe young men in these photos are risking their lives to demonstrate against occupation of their land and show that they will not be broken, they want only for the world to see and take notice that beyond all political issues, they only want to live in peace, to live, educate themselves and have a future where they too can prosper and contribute to the world around them.

It is important to note, the young men in these photos are not the aggressors, they are only trying to take a human stand against the violence and struggle they are forced to face every day.  These photos have been provided to me by a photojournalist living and working in Gaza, Ahmad Hasaballah.  He has been kind enough to offer his work as a contributor to this site and to the Faces of Palestine project.  I am honored that he has offered to help me show the world the humanitarian struggle, stories and faces of the Palestinian people, especially those most harshly affected by Israeli occupation in Gaza.

12528116_948670521890900_315511345_nJust in the last 23 years Gaza has seen three wars between Occupation Forces and Palestinian Resistance.  Thousands of Palestinians have been killed and continue to die daily due to a severe lack of housing, food, medical care and the basic necessities of life itself.

These young men are armed with nothing more than their bare hands, will to live, and as you see in this photo a simple sling shot used for self defense against Israeli rifles, tear gas launchers, and worse.  These clashes are common daily occurrences along the wall that separates Gaza from the rest of Palestine.

 

 

Palestine Is Calling… Do You Hear?

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Spoken Word Poem – Click on Link Below to Listen to it…

Palestine is Calling…Do You Hear?

Palestine is Calling… do you hear?

Will you look into my eyes or will you avert your gaze

Will you notice the tears that stream for endless nights and days?

For they are weeping tears that shall never cease

Until our land, our Palestine has found her peace…

Can you without conscious keep burying children killed in their sleep?

When will you learn that humanity is one, we exist under the same skies, under the same sun

Our people are seeking refuge where none exists as the blood of innocents’ flows, coursing like rivers on sun baked streets

Faith cannot grow on the graves of the many and actions speak louder than words!

Hope stands strong in the face of darkness where light is a candle and life carries on

Hatred will flourish when none can find peace an eye for an eye will forever increase

Prayers and dua are made daily, but without action, mean nothing

Action is needed to push for peace, for freedom, for sanctity, dignity, and we all must do something

Greed and power make the world blind and in the darkness that follows who will be left behind?

The Heartbeat of Palestine is Forever Strong

12507505_10207250070903045_3963995446949797361_nI have had a number of people ask me about why have I undertaken such a challenging project and topic for a first book.  My answers to such questions as to why are of a deeply personal nature, but most of all, out of a strong conviction to represent truth about the Palestinian people, their lives, their history, their culture, their daily struggles, triumphs and losses, from the perspective of the Palestinian people themselves.  Written with compassion, empathy and again conviction.

Many books and articles have and continue to be written about Palestine for many years.  A lot of these books and articles have been written from the Israel-Palestine conflict perspective, the media perspective, or written with specific political or religious agendas.

10390_579743015515229_7102048630844304312_nI want this book, The Faces of Palestine to stand out from the rest, to be different, a multi-biographical first hand account of life in Palestine.  What the mainstream tends to do is write about Palestinians as if they are numbers, purely statistics, devoid of names, culture, emotion, stories and tears.

Through the local volunteer work I do in my city of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, I have had the great opportunity to meet and help refugee families coming from conflict hot-zones in the middle east, specifically Syria.  However, yesterday I had the amazing privilege of meeting a family from Palestine that made their way to Canada and arrived with the influx of Syrian refugees in the last two months.

I was introduced to this family by a dear friend I have the honor to work with as a volunteer, she introduced me in such a way that I felt so honored and humbled, she said “this is Maria, she writes about you, about Palestine, her heart is in Palestine”, and this is very true.  As I spoke with this family, they asked me questions about what this project is about, The Faces of Palestine – when I explained, I was embraced by the mother, who in tears told me, “thank you, because of what you are doing, together in partnership with Haitham Khatib, Fadi Thabet, Sary Baraka, Hani Qtra and others, Palestine is not and will not be forgotten.”

I will be able to meet with this family again very soon, and will include their story about their journey to Canada and their great desire to one day return to Palestine, a free and peaceful Palestine.

As this project moves forward and I am getting to know Haitham, Fadi, Sary and Hani better, more closely, I find myself using words like warriors, leaders, and heroes to describe them.  They are examples of resiliency, strength and determination to their families and their communities.  They risk their lives to share their work with the world on a daily basis.

12540613_10207253160300278_6290747767393099132_nHaitham especially, in many pictures, some you will see here, he wears bullet proof vests, helmets, gas masks, to achieve one of his greatest passions, photography and photo journalism.  Unlike the occupation forces that surround him, his village and country, Haitham’s weapon is one that is stronger and more powerful than any rifle, tear gas launcher, or tank – it is his camera.  Much like the expression “the pen is mightier than the sword”, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, so together, with my writing, and Haitham, Fadi, Hani and Sary’s photos, our force to bring truth is stronger than any conventional weapon; put this together with social media, and the faces and voices of Palestine will be seen and heard, clear and strong.

The Fishermen of Gaza

PalestineFishermenOfGaza-600x600The Fishermen of Gaza… once a thriving, prosperous industry in Palestine, fishing has now become a life threatening effort for fishermen who now struggle to catch enough to feed their families.  In this book – The Fisherman of Gaza, by photographer Fadi Thabet, a joint partner with the Faces of Palestine project, their story is boldly told through his pictures.  “The fishermen of Gaza are under a strict blockade policed by the Israeli Navy to keep within 3 Nautical miles, if they are allowed to leave the shore in the first place. Any violations by Gazan fishermen is punishable by violent and swift harassment, boat seizures, the destroying of fishing nets, arrests and even death.”  Learn more about their lives through the vibrant, compelling and provocative pictures.  You can purchase Fadi Thabet’s book through this link – Fisherman of Gaza

 

Reaching the World Through Pictures

10307423_10207226390471049_750754423298798378_n“I feel very honored and proud to see that my work is going around the world. Though I have never been personally in certain countries and regions, my books and the  message they convey have arrived in many places. That’s enough for me!  Knowing and seeing this gives me more strength and perseverance to continue with my work in bringing the world the Faces of Palestine. Thank you very much, Haitham Khatib.”

You may order Haitham’s books through this link – Through My Lens…

 

Helping Those Most in Need in Gaza, Palestine

Hani 2 I have had the honor of talking with Hani Qtra, a volunteer at Enterprise Community Training Centre and Crisis Management in Gaza.

Hani’s organization works in some of the worst marginalized border areas stricken with the most fragile groups of Palestinian citizens, and they specialize in helping them from a psychological aspect and social awareness perspective and often with the children by encouraging them through play and art therapy that allows the children to find a means of expressing and releasing emotional stresses and fears in safe and meaningful ways.

Hani

Hani and his team carries out their efforts to help others, people whose marginalized lives and homes have been destroyed by the Israeli occupation of their homes and land in the Beit Hanoun border area. These people are forced to live in small-iron caravans not fit for human habitation as the iron structures are dangerous in extreme summer heat and in the severe freezing cold winter.

These people have lost everything, homes, land, and necessities of life itself.  Hani’s team strive to work with and help these marginalized people, many of which are suffering from severe psychological distress of conditions like PTSD that are incredibly prevalent.  Hani’s team try to bring a greater social awareness of these conditions. 

The ones most affected from Hani’s team observations are the children who suffer greatly from the effects of deep psychological trauma and many have issues of aggression, fear, anxiety and depression, all of which is seen in the low academic achievement levels as a result of several wars, constant conflict, crises and government neglect in providing a humane standard of living through housing and financial aid.

Hani 5

Hani and his team are working with people to help give them a sense of security and provide an atmosphere of ongoing psychological, and social support.

The reality for Hani and his team is a severe lack of necessary resources, supports and supplies to meet the ever-increasing demands and needs of the many displaced people in Gaza.

Hani 7

Hani, his team and others like his, working in Gaza, within the camps, need help desperately, in the way of financial support, supplies and other resources to continue their efforts, especially with the children they see and treat.

For those of you reading this article, if you wish to support Hani, his team and organization, please contact Maria Atherton, head of the Faces of Palestine literary project at facesofpalestine@gmail.com