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”.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.