What Do You Tell The Children?

12705364_10207502216166519_1983000440533773367_nImagine yourself and your children in the place of the Palestinian people, not figuratively only, but through an empathy and sense of humanity, allow yourself to feel through these words…

For the Palestinian, the only freedom they attain is when they are killed by illegal occupation forces.

How much longer will Palestine have to live under illegal occupation before the world cares enough to force change? Occupation is not just militarily, it is occupation of every aspect of life for the Palestinian, physically, emotionally and psychologically; it is control of the land they live upon, the food they eat, the water they drink, the air they breathe, their every movement.

qalandia-checkpoint Imagine waking up every day as a child in Palestine, having to face fear, apprehension, dread, uncertainty, and insecurity… seeing death around them, the destruction of homes and land, watching people shot and bleed to death in the streets. Imagine having to go through armed checkpoints just to go to school, to work, to seek medical care… These are the daily realities of children and families in Palestine.

How do you explain to your children that they should have hope, to one day build their homes on their own land that their fathers and grandfathers built upon, begin their lives, to work and start families, when all they know is to be controlled by a people and government whose sole purpose is to extinguish and exterminate their very existence?

How can we teach them of peace and the possibility of peace, when all they see, hear, smell, touch, and taste is destruction? Please do not listen to any Zionist propaganda stories… The history of Palestine will never change; the heritage and culture, the land and lives all per-existed Zionist Israel, and the truth of this cannot be changed, or erased, and the truth will always prevail.

15377_781How do you answer your children when they ask why? how? and when? when will freedom come?  Palestinians are strong, resilient, and proud people with equal measure of humbleness and dignity.  A people who even in the darkest hour believe that tomorrow brings promise of change, and hope for freedom.

As you sit in your safe homes, with your families, your lives, think of these things, and imagine if tomorrow you too were living under illegal occupation.  It is not an easy or comfortable thing to allow yourself to do or think about…why? because you are human and if such things did not make you uncomfortable than you would not have any sense of humanity within you.  Yes, these things, these realities for the Palestinians make you feel helpless, like the matter is insurmountable, but I beg to differ.  That feeling you have in the pit of your stomach right now as you read this, that is your conscience and sense of humanity feeling for other human beings.

12714003_1203917762970535_501863132_nWhat can I do? is a question you may be asking yourself.  What you can do is seek out the truth yourself, do not follow western constructed and formulated media reports.  Even scholarly works themselves that debate who is right and who is wrong about Palestine is not sufficient to base your knowledge.

This article is one of many building the end product, the book – a book that tells the real stories about Palestine from the Palestinians that live and die its truth.  Not opinions about politics or religious ideologies, but the humanity side of Palestine and her beloved people who just like you and me desire nothing greater than to live in peace, safety, security and protection.

12373276_577873235702207_3999923954135502275_nMy life through the ongoing research for this book has been forever touched and changed in incredible, positive and humbling ways.  I have sought the truth for myself and what I have found is so poignant and powerful that I now know this book will be first of many about Palestine and her people, the history and the future of Palestine.

Together with my partner and co-author Haitham Khatib, our hope is to open the doors and welcome you into the truth and lives of Palestine.  We hope that you find what you seek and that you too will be touched by the humanity and lives that you will meet through our book.  That such experience will serve to bring awareness, provoke thought and cause you to question what you have known and been told.

The Faces and Lives In Gaza… part one

_78161886_bcb93f9e-d92a-4ea5-bf96-f1f13121b96aThis is a brief introduction, a first in a series of pieces I will be writing specifically about Gaza, Palestine.  There is ongoing conflict and genocide committed against Palestinians throughout the country daily, but Gaza has been hit particularly hard by serious war efforts led by the Israeli Occupation Forces.  Two *Intifadas, the first being between 1987 – 1993, the second being between 2000 – 2003 and the three conflicts between Israeli Occupation Forces and the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory in the Gaza Strip: Gaza War (2008–09), also known as Operation Cast Lead. 2012 conflict, also known as Operation Pillar of Defense. 2014 Israeli Occupation – Gaza conflict, also known as Operation Protective Edge.

The sole objective of the of these conflicts between Occupation and Gaza have been to isolate, control and imprison the Palestinian people along the Gaza strip.  Ongoing hostile actions, conflicts, and brutality prove this.  Gaza is under complete siege, surrounded, cut off from major supplies of food, water, fuel and other necessities of life, electricity, humanitarian aid, medical care and intervention.  Sewage, clean water supply and infrastructure has been drastically compromised and destroyed.

12342557_574282929394571_6864647132469184041_nApproximately 60% of all Gazans are under the age of 16 years.  The unemployment rate is nearly 50%.  The people of Gaza are held in precarious limbo, forced to choose from choices no one should have to choose.  To struggle to survive and work wherever they can find work, to fully submit to the barbaric brutality of Occupation’s continuous efforts to exterminate the Palestinian people, or to take an assertive stand in resistance; some joining Izz ad-Din al-Qassam to fight to protect Gaza and the people of Gaza against Occupation forces.

This is an entire population of people who have know nothing other than extreme conflict, loss, tragedy and torment.  More than two generations of people.  The most amazing observation for me has been in the incredible capacity of the Gazans to survive with strength, dignity, determination, undying resistance and hope that they will see Palestine free and Gaza once again open to thrive as a sea port and entry for the world.

Abdul KarimI have spoken for many hours to an amazing Gazans, Abdul Karim, one who I consider a dear a friend, who managed to get out of Gaza, out of Palestine, to study Middle East Politics at the University of Exeter in the UK and has in the face of so much inhumane adversity made a success of his life through higher education and hard work.

He lives and works abroad still, but his family remains in Gaza under siege.  He spoke of living through the Intifadas, and additional war conflict, of walking and running through the streets of Gaza while bombs were exploding around him.  The traumatic experiences of seeing friends, neighbors and families killed, shot, burned and blown to pieces; of being part of recovery teams to collect the dead.  In the face of all of this, he never once gave up hope for his future and has never given up hope that Palestine will be free so he can one day come and go freely to see his family and his dearest friends.

Abdul’s story is but one of so many.  It is humbling to speak to Gazans that have managed to find success, some more so than others, in the midst of utter inhumanity, against insurmountable odds.  I speak of those who I have the honor to know, teachers, photographers, journalists, university students, and humanitarian workers.

Iyad AbuHewella3I have learned and seen first hand that those who have the least, work to give the most to those who suffer greater than themselves throughout Gaza. Such as Iyad Abu Hewella, another content contributor to this site and ongoing project, who strives to help through humanitarian efforts and donations to help the displaced children and families in Gaza.  Iyad is a recent graduate of Al-Hazar University in Gaza earning a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and Education and did so within four years during the last two major war conflicts in Gaza at times where he had little to no resources.  During this time Iyad also worked to help support his family and volunteer many hours to humanitarian aid efforts and press agencies.

Ahmad HasaballahThere is a spirit of resilience that words alone do not do justice in describing when speaking of the Palestinian people.  Young photographers, like Ahmad Hasaballah (pictured), who is a content contributor to this site, who risks his life to document through his photography the ongoing, constant conflict in Gaza along the Apartheid wall and fences that serve to enclose the population in what is internationally known as the world’s largest open air prison; as well as journalists that put their lives on the line in Gaza to capture ongoing conflict and share their work, photos and videos with the outside world via social media and writers, and activists like myself, in the hope of continuing to keep the plight and suffering of the Palestinians in the eyes of the world.

12717654_597912320364965_8392424495705107041_nTo put life into perspective through the eyes of Gazans, that even in such horrific existence, they all still find reasons to smile, to exude great dignity, pride, and to live, to love, to resist occupation and hold on to hope for the future of a free Palestine.  I see this side of Gaza most through the photography of my partner in this project, Fadi Thabet.  Fadi is both a skilled and experienced professional photographer and teacher in Gaza.  Fadi strives to keep the true inner beauty and spirit of Gaza and her citizens alive and shining bright.  Fadi’s spirit and energy expressed in his work is compelling and moving, drawing the viewer closer into the lives of his subjects.  Fadi’s photos draw us, the viewer, to want to know more about the people, their lives and their hope for the future.

12647508_595618550594342_3097947244721155719_nThe history and heritage of Gaza is rich in culture and diversity of race, faith and beliefs.  Once a major thoroughfare of trade and commerce, one can still observe the remnants of this once thriving and successful city in the beautiful people of Gaza.

These are the faces you will not see on the nightly news of mainstream media, especially media in the Western world.  The Palestinian people are alive, strong, and are struggling every day to exist, and they do so with an unprecedented level of dignity, warmth, pride, and indestructible resistance against the illegal occupation of their lands and over their people, believing that Palestine will know freedom and gain independence.

*Intifada (انتفاضة intifāḍah) is an Arabic word literally meaning, as a noun, “tremor”, “shivering”, “shuddering”.

 

 

The Darkness Amidst the Light

12717567_10207461494028491_7780378066106641359_nThe story of Palestine and her people cannot be accurately told without reflecting on the darkness of occupation amidst the light that shines in spite of it, the light of Palestine and her people.

Daily, Palestinian people in cities and villages throughout the country are subjected to repeated trauma, psychological warfare, and heinous brutality, inhumane criminality, and outright slaughter of innocents.

At the time of writing, there was yet another *IOF Raid of the village of Beet A’oor, near the village of Bil’in outside of Ramallah City in the West Bank of Palestine.

This is the third raid in a weeks time in and around these villages and each time, the quiet peacefulness, the momentary stillness of the night when the Palestinians can, if only for a short time in their sleep, escape the darkness, not of the night skies, but the darkness in the humanity that surrounds them and that darkness is occupation.

We hear the term PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder used often to describe the psycho-emotional state of someone who has been subjected to horrific circumstances that have left them living in a constant state of fear, anxiety, and worse.  We see this condition in soldiers who have fought in wars, in people who have lived through and survived wars, torture, rape and more.  Imagine now, that every man, woman, and especially child, in Palestine lives with this condition to one degree or another every, single day of their lives.  The difference being, there is no “post”, this is a constant in their lives.

12549118_10207349185580850_6749160876028093984_nThese raids happen in the dead of night, almost always between the hours of 1am and 3am.  Many *IOF *APC vehicles filled with soldiers, armed with rifles, guns, tear gases, and sound bombs, storm into these villages, shooting guns, throwing tear gas, and sound bombs through the streets, under the windows of sleeping children and mothers.

The men, the fathers, grandfathers, husbands, brothers, rarely ever sleep during these hours.  They lay awake, in a constant state of apprehension and expectation of the next raid.  More often than not, they lay awake in the main rooms of their homes, fully dressed and ready to defend their families, and those like Haitham Khatib, photographer and videographer, and others like him, rise to capture the evidence as it happens, to then share with the outside world, what is happening, what they are subjected to constantly.

The objective of the IOF using such tactics is to instill a sense of fear, uncertainty, and sheer anxiety, especially in the children exposed to this almost daily.  This is barbarism on such a depraved scale, there is no conscience, no humanity, no morality among the IOF and the occupation government that controls them.  The Palestinian people have the same human rights as the rest of world, to live, to exist with dignity and strength, to thrive, to sleep in peace, in freedom from this tyranny.

I choose to use my gift for writing to give a loud voice in support, solidarity and unity to and for the Palestinian people, their lives, their stories, their tragedies, and their triumphs.

The majority of the free world believes in freedom; freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom to human rights – we all need to raise our voices and take a stand against the ongoing torment, genocide and apartheid taking place in Palestine everyday.

Haitham AL Boo Age 16 Halhool Village near Hebron 03 05 2016Children and youth are being killed daily by IOF.  Innocent lives taken, leaving families broken and traumatized in the wake of such barbaric acts and crimes.

Examples like the senseless and unwarranted killing of Haitham AL Boo, age 16 from Halhool village near Hebron, slaughtered on February 5, 2016.  In the eyes of Israel, the lives of Palestinians, especially children and youth, bear no value and are free to exterminate at will.  It does not matter what any of these children could possible have done, they do not deserve to be slaughtered like animals.  The reality is, these young people, some in showing their resistance, are typically armed with no more than a few stones to throw against armed tanks and APC Vehicles.

Haitham Al Boo’s story, is but one of hundreds and thousands like his.  According to 2015 reports from the Defense for Children International – Palestine, almost 2,000 children have been killed by live fire just in the West Bank alone since the year 2000.  This number increases weekly.  In an article from Aljazeera news from October 2015,  “Israel violates international law by killing Palestinian children..”, “Israeli forces have been using “disproportionate violence” against Palestinian children as they killed at least ten this month during the ongoing unrest that engulfs Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.”  “Between October 6 and 12, at least 201 Palestinian children were injured by Israeli soldiers or settlers in the West Bank and Gaza, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.” To read the full Aljazeera article, click on this link – Israel ‘using excessive force’ on Palestinian children.

Mohammed Abu Khader age 16, of PalestineEven when Israel’s IOF are held to account, it is a joke.  Take for example the recent court case regarding the murder of Mohammed Abu Khader age 16, of Palestine, who was kidnapped during the month of Ramadan in 2014 and was burnt alive in Jerusalem by a group of inhumane occupation settlers. This was a heinous act of racist violence against not only a Palestinian youth, but against humanity itself. The occupation court ruling has sentenced the members of the accused group of settlers to only 21 years in prison  with the possibility of release after only 10 years. How is this acceptable? How is this justice for such a horrific crime? The family of Mohammed Abu Khader must live with the painful loss of their son and live with no justice for his horrific murder.  (*note that the typical sentence length for murder in Israel is usually a life sentence, commuted to 30 years).

 

*IOF =Israeli Occupation Forces

*APC = Armored Personnel Carriers

 

 

 

 

 

With The Sun Comes Hope

1888454_10207192556065210_8997645204048485790_nVery few photographers can capture the soul of what they see through their lenses.  Not only the souls of human subjects, but the soul of all they photograph.  The ones who have this gift have the ability to speak a thousand words, touch a thousand emotions, and stir the very soul of those who see and enjoy their work.  Such a photographer possesses a deeply profound and beautifully poetic flare.

My Partner, Haitham Khatib epitomizes and possesses all of these gifts and qualities.  His photography is a visual documentation and testament of his history, of life in Palestine, and the very essence of Palestine’s soul.

In talking with Haitham about his work as a photographer and my work as a writer and a poet, we find we share the same perspectives, and personal introspection of the Palestine and the Palestinians we want the world to see, to feel, to sense, and to be forever moved and changed by.

12360248_10207125113899198_5954398593356885989_nThere is something quite remarkable about the rising and setting of the sun from and upon horizons.  To behold such amazing beauty, let alone capture in the moment, is moving, romantic and spectacular.  Many photographers capture these moments in their work, but for Haitham the rising and setting of the sun over his beloved Palestine is very personal to him, the sun is a favored subject in his work.  For the Palestinians, every sunrise brings a fresh sense of hope for their future, encouragement and strength; and with every sunset brings a calm, peaceful and quiet reflection of self, of hope, of purpose and of something greater than themselves.

1936541_10207192555225189_4803221565003273270_nThere is calling to the soul with every sunrise and every sunset, a personal, emotional time, and one that through Haitham’s work we can all share in those moments with him, with Palestine and the Palestinian people.  A connection that without his work we would not have the privilege to experience.

12631358_10207407638922147_7487545467186298821_nI look forward to the day that I stand with Haitham and view the magic of sunrise and sunset over Palestine firsthand, to see, to feel, to experience what he does every time his lens steals a moment in time, of beauty beyond measure.