Saturday, June 25, 2005


An addendum to my previous post: On my way to Gaza city, I would learn that 17-year-old Iyad al-Nabaheen was shot dead by Israeli snipers as he was catching birds with his friend north of the Breij refugee camp. I couldn't help but think that could have been Siham. Or one of the other boys wading in the water. Or my own son, Yousuf. But Iyad's death didn't make it anywhere. His obituary could be found in the 7th or 8th paragraph of an article talking about an attempted female suicide bombing at Erez, and the killing of an Israeli settler in the West Bank. Rest in peace, Iyad. May your soul fly higher than little Siham's kite.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A room with a view, please

It’s interesting to read the news from this perspective. I mean, when you are the news, or when you are living the news that is being reported, and while all the while you write the news.

On Monday I visited the Khan Yunis refugee camp, the target of many an attack by Israeli forces, to talk to Palestinian refugees there, to hear their thoughts on Israeli disengagement (the subject of a forthcoming article).

It was quite an incongruous-and bleak-scene, as is often the case in Gaza. Crumbling refugee homes with pockmarks the size of apples stand like carcasses in front of the Neve Dekalim settlement, part of the Gush settlement bloc. It is shaded with palm trees, red-roofed Mediterranean style villas, and the unspoilt pristine sands of the Khan Yunis beach, accessible to all but the Palestinians now.

Abo Ahmed is one of the refugees I met. The view from the second floor of his home on the edge of the camp overlooking Neve Dekalim, and an Israeli sniper tower, is to die for (no pun intended). The military base aside, there is nothing but the clear blue of the lonely Khan Yunis Mediterranean. “Nice view, right?” he told me jokingly, the wall behind him pockmarked like a piece of Swiss cheese from the hundreds of Israeli shells and bullets that have hit it. “One of those holes could have been in me”. It’s was the first time Abo Ahmed has been able to enjoy this view since he built is a few years ago.

His neighbours children, living under a zinc-sheet covered with torn blankets, giggled when they saw me. “Please take our picture” asked a little girl, Siham. So I did. Maybe it would help them forget the daily reality they face, that children should never have to face. Overhead, a drone whirred menacingly, and a helicopter gunship cruised the coast. “See those planes, they come and shoot missiles at us,” they explained expertly. Planes they have seen too many times before. War has been their teacher.

Nearby, a group of Palestinians who live in the Mawasi enclave-completed sealed off from the rest of Gaza by israeli forces- sat under a the shade of a handmade palm-leaf canopy waiting for the Tufah checkpoint to open, so they could return home. A day before, 3 of Mawasi's residents were brutally beaten by Jewish settlers form teh Gush bloc.

Meanwhile, the children trotted off into the horizon, dangerously close to the Israeli sniper tower, trying to fly a rustic paper kite one of the older boys folded together. Next to them, a group of boys cooled off in a pool of salty wastewater that pours into a sand pit here from the settlements, the byproduct of an Israeli desalination plant. This is their playground. Soon, the Israelis call the Palestinian DCO to ward them off. And life goes on for Gaza's refugees.

Young boys fly their kite on the edge of Khan Yunis refugee camp, in front of a beach they cannot access. An Israeli settlement lies to their left, an sniper tower to their right. Posted by Hello

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Sunset in Gaza. "Take me to the beach at sunset, so I may hear what the beach says; when it returns to itself quietly, calmy." -Mahmud Darwish Posted by Hello

A Palestinian man and his son make a living selling roasted sweet potatoes on Gaza's beach Posted by Hello

And life goes on...

There is nothing quite like summer in Gaza, when the Strip’s million and a half some Palestinians head to the beach, their only outlet under this collective prison they call home. It is a perplexing scene, at once heartrending and uplifting.

Shabab donning greasy hairdos, look-cool shades, and European-style jeans, occasionally accessorized with a Palestinian Kaffiya, strut their stuff as they keep a subtle eye out for the girls. Woman (abayas and all), men, and children all submerged at once as the wild Gaza Mediterranean swallows and regurgitates them time and again.

Vendors trying to make a living, whether by way of selling chips, candied apples, roasted sweet potatoes, summer corn (Israeli and “baladi”), and even mulukhia leaves, all on local horse-drawn carts. Ponies, camels, and Arabian stallions. Children making games out of an empty cola bottle and a piece of string, or flying their dreams on handmade kites, which crowd the lonely Gaza Sky. The lone windsurfer, ignoring the lifeguards futile pleas to mind the current and waves today.

In the background, the dull thud of home-made mortars can be heard landing in a nearby settlement, in retaliation we would later learn, of a beating and shooting 4 Palestinians enjoying what would have otherwise been a similar afternoon on the beach took from extreme-right Jewish settlers. For Gaza’s Palestinians, life goes on.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Now that's more like it Posted by Hello

The new road sign relects the reality in teh West Bank... Posted by Hello

road signs remade

Ok, this is by far the most original piece of political resistance I'vse seen here: a group of activists changed a number of Israeli road signs on a major highway leading to illegal settlements to reflect the "political realities on the ground"...kudos to them for effectiveness and originality. Just wish it had gotten more attention. Here's my coverage of it:

Thursday, June 02, 2005

al-Arish, Egypt at sunrise. Posted by Hello

Tariq Bourne: a man on a mission (killing the infinite number flies disturbing his peace) Posted by Hello

Yousuf explains to his uncle Tariq that is going "bye bye" on the horse Posted by Hello

Relax, your'e under occupation.

After a brief 5 day hiatus to the Egyptian border town of al-Arish, we are back in Gaza. Yousuf and I left rather suddenly to meet up with my parents and my brother Tariq, who had come from the states for a brief vacation. He was afraid if he came to Gaza, he’d get stuck due to an Israeli rule banning Palestinian men and boys between the aqges of 16-35 from leaving the Strip.

So once again Yousuf and I braved the labyrinths of the Rafah crossing (aka, the Rafah border tourist resort). Leaving wasn’t so bad. And the three days we spent on a chalet on the beach were incredibly relaxing. Coming back, though, was a blast (no pun intended).

The highlight of the return journey (besides having to change Yousuf’s poopy diaper on an open sidewalk with inept Egyptian soldiers behind me and Israeli tanks in front of me) was a conversation I had with an Israeli soldier after 4 hours of waiting in a bus crammed to capacity.

It went something like this:

My mother: Why are you making my husband wait for so long while you search a small carry-on bag?

Soldier: It’s for your protection. What if there was a bomb in there?

My mother: Has there ever, in all the time you’ve been here, been a bomb smuggled into luggage on the crossing??

Soldier: [Silence]. Why are you so angry? Aren’t you comfortable here on the Israeli side? Its air-conditioned you know.

Me: You do realize we just spent 4 hours in an aging, un-airconditioned bus with a 14-month old baby?

Soldier: Yes, but that’s not our fault, we would never subject you to such conditions here on the Israeli side. Here, you can relax

Me: Are you aware that the reason we wait in that horrible bus in the blazing heat for hours on end is because you so command it? We aren't allowed out of the bus, or through to the Israeli side, until the Egyptians get your approval.

Soldier: Oh…

Me: And isn't true that on certain days, when it suits your fancy, you let as many buses as you can through as quickly as possible, but on other days like today, you let the people suffer and marinate in there?

Soldier: That’s true…

Me: Why???

Soldier: I really don’t know

Soldier’s superior [In Hebrew]: Come here and stop talking to her. And tell her to get off the search table she’s sitting on. Its not proper.

Soldier: He says to get off the search table. He says “its not proper”

Me: NOT PROPER??? Where do I begin with what’s “not proper”. Is making 100 sick children, elderly folks, men, women, and infants wait in a 60-seat bus for 4 hours without allowing them out for air proper??? [Laila walks away irate, chasing after Yousuf, who has made a game out of the baggage conveyor]

End of conversation.