Nights of Terror in Bil’in Palestine

sound bombs market incident.gifFour hours ago in the Palestinian Village of Bil’in, Israeli Defense Force Soldiers stormed through the streets of Bil’in in the dead of night while mothers, fathers, grandparents and children tried to sleep.

The entire village was awoken to the sounds of explosions.  Terrified, mothers, grandparents and children hid in their homes as the men of the village went out to see what danger there was, to see and try to understand what was happening.

They were met with the sights of Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Soldiers throwing and setting off sound bombs in the streets, in front of homes, for no other reason than to terrorize and intimidate the Palestinian people who slept.

These soldiers and their actions are nothing more than cowardliness at its finest and I say this sarcastically and with rage.  As they set off the bombs, they all ran to their trucks like cowards and drove off into the night.

The men of Bil’in rarely sleep at night, and when they do, it is never more than a few short hours.  Living in a constant state of heightened traumatic stress levels, leave them no choice.  Their families cannot sleep safely without the men remaining awake to keep watch, to protect them to the best of their abilities against acts of barbaric terrorism at the hands of IDF Soldiers.

276This is sadly a regular event in Bil’in and surrounding villages.  Often, IDF Soldiers indiscriminately storm Palestinian homes in the dead of night with no other reason than to intimidate, make their presence forever known, leaving the homes ransacked, and families terrorized.  There is no morality or humanitarian concern extended by IDF Soldiers, they have the free reign to conduct themselves at will under the guise of security checks.

In this video you will see my partner, Haitham Khatib, with camera, stepping out into the streets of Bil’in during one of these night terror activities.  You will hear Haitham’s voice greet the soldiers repeatedly with the word “Salaam”, it is Arabic for “the Peace”, this greeting is met with IDF Soldiers throwing sound bombs at Haitham.

 

 

Palestine ~ Life in Constant Contrast

Life in Palestine is one of constant contrast between normal day-to-day things and conflict between resistance and Occupation Apartheid.  Both circumstances speak to the strength and resiliency of the Palestinian people.

12570873_951774111580541_1844476624_nThough there is no escaping the reality of life under Occupation Apartheid.  The efforts and fight to live a normal life is an inherent objective of every Palestinian.

Conflict in Palestine has become as routine as breathing.  But unlike breathing of our own free will, it is like breathing through a respirator, breaths we wish to take on own taken but instead with the aid of a machine and the machine is resistance.  Last Friday, January 16, 2016, these photos, taken by photo journalist, Ahmad Hasaballah in Gaza, of strong, young and determined Palestinian men, wanting only peace, wanting the same life and future we all want and some are lucky to have, were taken during a protest against Occupation Apartheid along the border of the Gaza Strip, Nahal Oz.

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When the outside world see these images in mainstream western media, they assume that the Palestinian youth are the aggressors; but such is mainstream, western media.  These young men cannot protest, in the most peaceful ways without being bombarded by occupation forces who shoot live rounds of ammunition, and launch gases, each with the intention of indiscriminate harm and is some cases death.  In an effort to counter affect these brutal attacks, Palestinian youth light fires to rubber, in the hope the smoke will shield them from attack.

12576249_951774181580534_1290131458_nArmed with nothing more than stones, they continue to protest, to demonstrate, in the hopes that the world take notice, not forget them, not forget that they live in the world’s largest open air prison, imposed by occupation apartheid.

It is scenes like this that occur all over Palestine daily.  The heartbeat of Palestine beats forever strong.  The hope and fight for freedom is undying.  What the Zionist Occupation Government strives to break in spirit, serves only to strengthen the resistance and continued resistance is how freedom is won.

1486702_10207231457037710_4323727660591484658_nResistance comes in many forms, determination, passion, and desire for freedom is humanity’s greatest desire and hope.

Here in the beautiful village of Bil’in, just outside of the city of Ramallah, my partner, Haitham Khatib plants young olive trees on his land.  The trees themselves are a testament to the strength and resiliency of the Palestinian spirit.  And like the green branches of these beautiful and fruitful trees, they bend, yet not break, only grow stronger, day by day, just as every Palestinian child, adolescent and adult does.

12400849_10207312459542722_3699667204299069361_n 12508948_10207312456702651_2758681669371870625_nTilling and caring for the land is a part of the rich heritage and culture that is Palestine.

Haitham takes great pleasure and pride in his land, as all Palestinians do.  But these images carry a power statement of a resistance to Zionist Occupation, a statement that Palestine will be free, that her people are strong, determined, strive to live with dignity and humanity.  Together Haitham and I strive to tell the world the truth about Palestine, her people, their lives, their hopes and dreams.  Together through word, images and videos, we will achieve this and the world will take notice, see the truth of what is happening daily in Palestine under Occupation Apartheid.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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…