Non-Violent Resistance

12802832_10207624467422724_3862330094032505984_nTomorrow we will hold our normal peaceful Friday demonstrations which we have held for 11 years now. The Weekly Friday Bil’in peaceful demonstrations include Palestinian, Israeli and International activists.

The demonstrations always start peacefully from the Palestinian and International activist side… every week we take the same path, we march towards the wall on our land. The soldiers are always waiting for us, at least 2 hours before we arrive. When we reach about 200 meters in distance from the soldiers they open direct fire on us with tear gas bombs and rubber bullets…

For anyone who may believe our demonstrations are violent they are misled by Israeli propaganda! In the 11 years time of these peaceful protests we have not heard of ANY Israeli Occupation Soldiers being injured, HOWEVER, we have had two Bil’in Palestinian villagers killed (by tear gas bombs) and thousands of Palestinian, Israeli and International demonstrators injured and some very seriously again caused by tear gas, rubber bullets, and direct soldier assault. Hundreds of demonstrators including Internationals have also been arrested and many deported during these demonstrations.

Hundreds of very old olive trees on this land have been burned during the demonstration, by the soldier tear gas.

Once the soldiers start shooting some Palestinian kids throw stones.. its their way of releasing and demonstrating their anger and frustration and resistance against this illegal occupation AND the Israeli THEFT of the our village lands, which lands have still not been returned.

Our village land has been stolen since 2005 – and we no longer have any access to it – a new Israeli settlement has since been built on OUR land.

Please remember that our village and our daily lives are under the constant real threat of harassment by the Israeli occupation soldiers who by day or night have and can drive through our village dropping sound bombs and tear gas without any reason .. and who also conduct night raids and home invasions and arrest demonstration participants, including kids!

Please understand… we are doing our very best… in these difficult circumstances!  Haitham Khatib

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!

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

The Beauty of Palestine in the Midst of Adversity

10399930_10207287576040650_2724086413947299816_nThere is so much beauty in Palestine; in the land, historical sites, the people and their lives. (picture of Bil’in)

What I find incredibly inspiring and deeply moving about the Palestinian people is their level of resilience and love of life, family, culture and rich heritage.  Most of all the people still smile, still laugh, even when there is much sorrow, challenge and adversity.  I believe this is just a few of the reasons why I am so drawn to Palestine and the Palestinian people.  I can relate to their lives on deeply, personal levels.

In communicating and speaking with more Palestinian people within Palestine, I am constantly humbled, impressed and in awe of their inner strengths, positive attitudes, hopes and ambitions for their futures.  Even in the most dire of circumstances, they find within themselves a joy for life, eager to talk with me and share their lives with me.

12391873_10207140420841862_6367682972143767518_nThere are many losses daily in Palestine; loss of land, homes, and lives.  The struggle never ends and the uncertainties are forever present, and yet the Palestinian people stand strong, with great dignity and humility, genuine grace and integrity.  They are a proud yet humble people, examples for the world to take note and follow.

I think the wisest comment I have heard is from my project partner, Haitham Khatib, when talking about resistance to oppression and the fight for freedom.  Haitham said to me, “the best way to fight is to stay alive to fight”, this comment is more profound than it seems on the surface.  It is easy to fight an enemy or government with force, but it is quite another to fight with intelligence, strength, honor and grace.  Some may think that unless you physically fight, you cannot fight strong, but I believe the best way to fight is choosing not to engage on the level of your oppressor, but instead by example.  Setting the example that life is worth something, that national pride runs deep with roots so deep that no bulldozer or bomb can uproot.

12592683_10207380116034092_8130824517245051477_nJust like the beautiful, ancient olive trees that blanket Palestine, nourishing her people and being a living reminder of strength and beauty, the Palestinian people strive to continue to live, grow and hold hope for their future, for a free Palestine.

This beautiful tree sits on Haitham’s land in Bil’in and Haitham describes her best “This old and elegant olive tree sits patiently and proudly on my family land. She gives us fruit faithfully and I admire and look after her. I will always cherish and protect this beautiful tree…for she holds the memories of my family’s past, is a witness to our present, and gives us strength and hope for the future!”

I cannot begin to explain how much I have and continue to learn from Haitham, not only about the history, culture and heritage of Palestine, but a wisdom he has and continues to impart that most surely has changed my life.

11406852_503481033141428_2842954878522085789_nMy other partner on this project is Fadi Thabet; like Haitham, Fadi is also a gifted photographer and what Fadi does not say in words, he speaks volumes through his amazing photography.

Through the lenses of both of these brave, strong and persevering men, we can glimpse into the lives of the Palestinians living in the West Bank and in Gaza.

Social Media is such an amazing tool, and an equally powerful weapon.  It draws the world closer together.  What I have found so amazing, is that Haitham and Fadi are good friends, but have never actually met face-to-face because of the restrictions imposed on Palestinian people by the Israeli government.  Haitham lives in the West Bank and Fadi lives in Gaza, but they both share the same passion and the same hopes.  Both showing the world the truth about Palestine and her people through their photography and videos.  I am so honored and feel so privileged to know and work with these two men.

The written word is also powerful and most effective when it reaches into the hearts and minds of the reader, provoking thought, emotion and question.  It is our hope that my writing and Haitham’s and Fadi’s photography, the message we bring about Palestine, the Palestinian people and the truth about their lives under occupation will bring greater awareness and spark positive change for a free Palestine.

12647068_590645524424978_4682047169581463836_nGaza is one of the most drastically affected areas of Palestine, but home to some of the most beautiful Palestinian people, some I have begun to get to know.

The children here in one of Fadi’s photos smile, and exude strength, embody everything that is Palestine.  To the outside world, this photo may seem playful and innocent.  What is underlying this innocence is the fact that these children are standing around an outdoor fire, not because they are camping like many of us in the west do, nor are they playing.  They are trying desperately to keep warm because Gaza is under continuous siege by Israel, a lot of the people in Gaza are living in under inhumane conditions, with tremendous shortages of heating fuel and gas to cook, they are forced to build fires to keep from freezing.

12359979_580168558806008_6629681144378964015_nIn the face of this adversity, of these daily struggles, the children still smile and a smile is worth a thousand words.

This inner strength is born from generations of Palestinians who have throughout history been a people who overcome great odds, and when all seems destroyed and where others would give up, the Palestinians remain forever strong, beautiful, dignified and hopeful for their future and the future of a free Palestine.

Palestinian Strong – Palestinian Proud

1359_990710824319345_5007116844199080076_nWhen I started this project, my book “Faces of Palestine” two months ago, all the knowledge I had about Palestine was from history, documentaries, news stories over the years and books written about Palestine.  Through all of this, I realized something was missing, the voice of Palestine from the people first hand, from their mouths, from their families, their individual histories and experiences, their perceptions of the world around them and the world that is Palestine under occupation and oppression.

It is not my intention to write my book about the complexities of politics, or the complexities of religion.  My intention is write about the humanity of Palestine, the Palestinian people who are and remain forever strong and proud.  About their losses, tragedies, and great triumphs in the face of adversities unimaginable. Rich in centuries of culture and heritage, uniquely their own, traditions and values that are passed down from one generation to the next.

Over the last two months, I have met and have the distinct pleasure of now knowing many Palestinians that live within Palestine and some who live throughout the world, but whose hearts and roots remain forever in Palestine.

1888612_10202934194408830_6174820751435918259_nMy closest partner on this project and dear friend, Haitham Khatib, has and continues to spend countless hours with me, teaching me more about the Palestinian people, their cause, their lives, what they feel, think and experience.  Haitham has and continues to teach me more than I have learned in my lifetime about Palestine.

I am also learning from others more about the beautiful lives of the Palestinians, the ones the news and mainstream media never shows, and rarely talks about, if they acknowledge at all.

The last two months and ongoing, serve to validate why I am doing this, why I am writing this book, their stories, showing their faces, giving voice to their truth – and I am more encouraged, dedicated and determined to see this project through, to see it a success.

I have actually been asked quite a lot recently a question by people reading this site, my articles and my posts on social media – “are you Palestinian? you must be, because you have the heart and courage of a Palestinian”, I take this question and comment as a distinguished compliment, one that I am honored by.  My answer has now become, in all sincerity, “my heart and soul are Palestinian most surely”.

Someone said to me recently, “Maria what you are doing is remarkable and good, and greatly appreciated by the Palestinian people, but please don’t be disappointed if your efforts do not bring about big and drastic change for Palestine, because the machine of what works against Palestinian freedom is huge”.

My response was one of great determination and I explained I have no delusions or unrealistic expectations about what my book will accomplish.  Then, reverting to my inner poet, I used the following analogy… I am one person, but one person can bring about change in lasting ways; when you look at a still pond of water, where nothing breaks the surface tension of that water, and you pick up stone, throwing it to the center of the still water; what happens is the surface tension of the perfectly still water is now forever changed, never to revert to exactly as it was before the stone fell.  Once the stone has landed and sunk deep to the bottom, what remains are hundreds of ripples that spread and grow, bringing change forever to the water and the land it touches.

12494996_10153888178442533_2887465968704746376_nThis is what I hope to achieve with this book.  To be the stone thrown into the still water of the pond.  To provoke the reader, to draw the reader into the real lives of the Palestinian people.  To invoke a need to seek the truth, the need to take a stand with the humanity of the Palestinian people, to create a compelling hunger in the reader that they may begin to question their own knowledge of Palestine, their own perceptions and misconceptions about Palestine.

Even if my book only affects a handful of readers in these ways, this project, this book will be a success and be the ripples of the pond that bring positive change for Palestine and the Palestinian people.

For me, this book is only the beginning of what will be a lifetime of ongoing support, advocacy, and activism for Palestine and the Palestinian people, to bring awareness to the world and be a voice, one of many, speaking for Palestine; for a free Palestine.

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.

 

 

 

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…