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 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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Palestine Is Calling… Do You Hear?

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Spoken Word Poem – Click on Link Below to Listen to it…

Palestine is Calling…Do You Hear?

Palestine is Calling… do you hear?

Will you look into my eyes or will you avert your gaze

Will you notice the tears that stream for endless nights and days?

For they are weeping tears that shall never cease

Until our land, our Palestine has found her peace…

Can you without conscious keep burying children killed in their sleep?

When will you learn that humanity is one, we exist under the same skies, under the same sun

Our people are seeking refuge where none exists as the blood of innocents’ flows, coursing like rivers on sun baked streets

Faith cannot grow on the graves of the many and actions speak louder than words!

Hope stands strong in the face of darkness where light is a candle and life carries on

Hatred will flourish when none can find peace an eye for an eye will forever increase

Prayers and dua are made daily, but without action, mean nothing

Action is needed to push for peace, for freedom, for sanctity, dignity, and we all must do something

Greed and power make the world blind and in the darkness that follows who will be left behind?