The Faces and Lives in Gaza: part two…

imag0313Gaza, Palestine, an oceanic jewel of the Mediterranean.  Once a thriving, industrious, prospering and beautiful sea port; one that welcomed the world.  Now, Gaza is a place that possesses remnants of its former self, a paradise now in a surreal existence between living and hell.  An open air prison and active practice target range for IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces).

The people of Gaza continue to impress me, amaze me, inspire and humble me.  Gazans are so strong, emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually; forever holding onto and believing that Palestine will be free.  A people that in spite of incredible odds, challenges and despair strive to better themselves, educate themselves, and preparing themselves for a better future.

For some that means leaving the land they love so dear to pursue better opportunities for higher education and employment.  This is easier said than done for many, but the ones who do make it out, do so with every intention and purpose of making their way back home to help others, to help their families and build a better future for Palestine.

What I find frustrating on behalf of those who have honored me with their individual stories of their lives in Gaza, is that Occupation goes to extremes to exterminate the Palestinian people at every turn, and yet, when those fortunate enough to be accepted into Universities outside of Gaza, outside of Palestine all together, or are granted international Visas, are often denied exit from Gaza to pursue these opportunities.  This is a living contradiction of what the Zionist Occupation desires most.

12107046_758686997577013_5556221131851724603_nOngoing strife and conflict, hardship and for many displaced still after aggressive IOF action in the last four years, the choices to be made are difficult at best; people being forced to choose alliances in order to survive, something that is directly unspoken, but indirectly implied.  Forever cautious of what they speak and how they speak, especially to outsiders, I have come to gain greater respect for the Palestinian people.  Trust has been betrayed all to often, and broken beyond repair in many cases.  It is not easy for Palestinians and those especially living in Gaza to speak freely about their lives and existence.  Especially with ever-increasing threats from the Zionist Occupation Regime to control and eliminate those that speak out against occupation and its actions against Palestine and her people.

12096576_761478657297847_8423740922874530974_nI am ever protective of those with whom I have the honor to speak with, whose trust I have earned and been granted with great care.   These are amazing people, from those with families to those still hoping to one day have families of their own; the level of ambition, dignity, integrity and pride are qualities they all possess and ones I admire and look up to.  People who have so little, yet give of themselves so much to those who have even less is commendable and speaks to the true human spirit of compassion.

Gazans are happy, strong and dignified people, that in spite of tremendous loss, tragedy, ongoing daily conflict and intimidation at the hands of IOF, they still find reason to be grateful and to smile.  The more I get to know the Palestinian people, and those specifically in Gaza, the more I am deeply touched emotionally.

10432532_4855501202416_8886210532923147255_nIt is quite a surreal existence to live in such a compacted, high density population and yet, not have hatred and bitterness, at least not on the scale we on the outside would assume they should have.  This is the very nature of a peaceful people and the Palestinians are a peaceful people at the core of their being.

The conflict and resistance actions that most of us see in mainstream media, when put into perspective really forces you think.  You too would fight back when you and your entire existence has been controlled and dictated to brink of breaking your very will to live.  One point I continue to try to make for you the reader, is to put yourself, allow yourself, to actually think and feel what these people have had to live with and against now for three generations and beyond.  To have your every move, every action, thought, effort to be controlled.  Occupation in Palestine is occupation not only of land, but of the people themselves, every aspect of their day-to-day life existence is at the hands of their oppressor, the Zionist Occupation Government of Israel.

10276060_10153358175693325_998773002538043109_nImagine also the dire circumstances of living with government factions of Palestine who cannot agree among each other how to rule fairly and justly.  This creates a triangulation of control with the Palestinian people caught and trapped in the middle.  Professionals that work within Gaza, and in the West Bank, some who have not been paid regular wages and salaries for two years and beyond; why? because one faction insists the other is responsible.  It is common sense knowledge that a house divided surely falls; but it is obvious that common sense in government and governance is not a common occurrence.  Who suffers then?  the citizens, the innocent people of Palestine.

Is it not enough to suffer under Occupation?  let alone suffer at the hands of your own leaders who cannot agree on how to best help to unite and strengthen their own country.  Yet, Palestinians strive to unite, to become one, of like mind and purpose and as long as these efforts are continually made, Palestine will be free and strong.

*Photo credit:  M. Baroud

*Photo credit: I. Abu Hewella

 

 

 

 

Resistance To Occupation

bilin

 

Today marked the 11th Anniversary of peaceful, non-violent resistance and demonstrations in Bil’in, Palestine.  Many attended today’s demonstration and peaceful protest in Bil’in; Palestinian families, men, women and children, international and Israeli activists against the Occupation of Palestine; Jew, Muslim and Christian all in solidarity with Palestine, protesting peacefully and demonstrating in unity.

However, today’s event was met with aggressive and brutal assault by IOF who bombarded the peaceful crowd of people with tear gas and rubber bullets.

Reports at the time of writing… five people were injured and many others were affected with respiratory difficulties from inhaling the tear gas.

The resistance movement in Bil’in specifically, is as strong today as it was 11 years ago.  This speaks to the resilient spirit and will for freedom that all a Palestinians crave and fight for daily.  The weekly peaceful, non-violent demonstrations against the Occupation of their land and country is forever determined, with many supporters standing with the Palestinian people on the ground in Palestine and internationally. The Palestinian people are undeterred by the aggressive and hostile counter efforts of IOF making their presence at these demonstrations known and felt, smelled and tasted. Still, the Palestinians resist to exist and nothing will change this as they fight for their freedom.

12744072_10207527811406384_8385312092911760881_nMy partner and co-author, Haitham Khatib was there as always, faithfully filming and taking photographs. The IOF’s presence was forceful and the use of tear gas excessive. Here Haitham is helping his friend and colleague, a cameraman with Palestine TV who had been shot directly at with a tear gas bomb. This is how Occupation meets peaceful demonstration – with hostility and barbaric means.  Even with masks and face coverings the intense tear gas permeates through, burning eyes, skin and lungs.  Haitham was joined with two of his long time friends and colleagues that have come every year without fail to cover these events, to continue to document and report on the ongoing resistance and hostilities.

AliAli dar Ali

 

Shmikh al Jagoop

 

 

 

Shmikh al Jagoop

 

 

 

There is added importance to today’s demonstration and that is the need to gather to encourage and to strengthen, to hold on to hope that an end to occupation, an end to apartheid, and an end to the genocide committed daily by the IOF Soldiers and illegal Zionist settlers will soon become things of the past.

11 years11 Years of Resistance and still Palestine will resist ever determined, ever hopeful.

Palestine will be free!

 

 

 

 

 

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.