Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Sucks to be you...

Poor Abu Mazen. I cast a sympathy vote for him this week, I really do.

Yesterday, farmers dumped truckloads of spoiling strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, and carnations near his home in protest of the ongoing unilateral closure of the Karni/al-Mintar commercial crossing by Israel and the impotence of the PA in doing anything about it. Dairy products and other food stocks including baby formula have dwindled in Gaza markets since the closure on january 15, with the only factory here in Gaza not able to meet the demands of all of the strip’s 1.5 million people. Farmers have been unable to export their two main products of this season-carnations and strawberries to Europe, tomatoes and cucumbers to the West Bank and Israel, and they have been left to rot or as feed for the goats.

With disgruntled members of his own party shooting at his house, demanding his resignation after their crushing defeat in the elections, and calling him an “Israeli agent” on one hand, and farmer’s dumping piles of rotten tomatoes on his lawn in protest of the continued closure of Karni commercial crossing for 3 weeks and counting on the other hand (as one taxi driver put it “this is what I call democracy-only in gaza are people allowed to burn tires and dump tomatoes in front of the president’s house), all while trying to appease western governments to continue to speak to and fund his government.

To quote a popular blog award on AOL’s instant messenger, “It sucks to be you”.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Yesterday, after a trip around Bait Hanun with fellow journalists to speak to newly elected Hamas officials as well as people and gunmen on their thoughts, we headed to the Erez Crossing. My colleagues needed to head back to Jerusalem where they were based.

I hadn’t been to Erez in a while, namely because there is no point. I am not allowed to travel to the West Bank, let alone Israel, based on some arbitrary decision of some security official in the Israeli security matrix. Or maybe not so arbitrary. The point is, as I got out of the taxi, and looked down the long, turnstile filled corridor modeled after a cattle shed, I realized that for me, this is, as Shel Silverstein put it, Where the Sidewalk Ends.

Going to Erez always serves as a stark reminder of what Gaza has become, because it is sometimes easy to forget when you are trapped inside the snow globe that there is a glass dome surrounding you; it starkly reminds of the limits and the absolute control I am subject to; of the fact that I am a prisoner in my own land; that I am deprived of that most basic of human rights: freedom.

In the distance, I could see the village of al-Siyafa, living under the terror of the newly formed no-gone zone. Any movement can be deadly for these residents, who for five years lived sandwiched between settlements and captive to fear. Their movement is limited during the day and they do not move at all in the dark. Meanwhile, construction continues of a concrete wall north of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia, where the borders are also being reinforced with the placement of new military bases and observation towers. The eastern part of Beit Hanun was also declared a closed military zone last week, and the Israelis say anyone getting within 150 metres will be shot.

Welcome to the new, improved Gaza.

A momentous day (but miles to go)

In case you get the wrong idea, this post is about potty training, not elections. Not to digress from the theme of the past few posts, but yesterday was a momentous day in my household: Yousuf, whose morbid fear of sitting on our toilet I'm sure Frued who have a field day with, finally made his own little, um, you know what, in a potty of his own. See, the regular toilet (which he once loved in days gone by) wasn' working for us, even witha cover. So we opted for a little potty instead (called "nunu" or "nuniah" here in gaza). He seems to enjoy sitting on it (although that's the extend of it, going is another matter). Yesterday we had our first successful experience however (which has since not been repeated). At least we are making progress beyond the pee pee-stained persian rugs that I am sure my father is going to bill me for one day.

Interestingy, the nunu is actually Israeli made. It made me realize how many things here that are so staple are Israeli products (especially now that the Karni commercial crossing is closed for over 20 days, subject of another post). There is even this candy that is very populuar here-this puff of marshmellow creme/meringue on top of a butter biscuit and all covered with chocolate and foil. We call it it "kosha", but I realized the foil has hebrew on it. My aunt says she remember it being introduced after 1967. So if any of you Israelis out there can help me out here-tell me if you know what I"m talking about and what you call it to satisfy my curiosity...

ok addendum to this post, i was informed the sweet in question is called "krembo". You can see a picture on that link. Apparently the forerunner is a danish variant of the krembo, which was introduced to Israel in 1966 by the Whitman Company.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Amidst the mayhem, the crimes continue

This is a brief post whose purpose is to serve as a memorial for a little girl who has received scarce if any mention in the preoccupied media in recent days. Her name was Aya al-Astal. Aya was 13 years old. Aya was carrying a basket, and got lost on her back back home to the Qarara area of south-central Gaza on Thursday, not far from the border fence with Israel. Israeli occupation forces shot her four times with live ammuniation, two rounds at least hitting her in the neck on Thursday, after suspecting she was a dangerous terrorist (their defense: "she got close to the fence"). But the media was too busy covering the "political earthquake that shook the region." Four bullets. To the neck. This from arguably the most sophisticated army in the world. Apparently, the soldiers mistook her basket for a bomb. Binoculars anyone? Medics found her body, riddled with bullets, hours after she had been murdered. May you rest in peace littl Aya. May you rest in peace.

Chris Mcgreal, the Guardian's ever-reliable correspondent here, covered Aya's story here in horrific detail on January 30, 2006:


Friday, January 27, 2006

The street reacts, in more ways than one

Minutes after official results were announced last night, the street erupted in celebration, with Hamas supporters and others taking to the streets , honking horns, handing out sweets, lighting fireworks in the downcast sky.

It was clear that no one-no one, expected then to win. Strolling around the streets at night, it also became obvious, on a very basic level, why people voted for Hamas. Forget about the political horizon (or lack thereof) for a moment.

I was speaking to a storeowner about the results, when a friend of his burst in, beside himself. "did you hear? did you hear? i couldnt' sleep all night. I can't belive it!". He was a munipality employee, who barely made enough money to feed his family. His son had been injured in internal clashes 6 months ago, his groin muscles torn, and disabled, sittin at home immobile. For 6 months, he has been chasing the PA for some medical compensatin, and hasn't received a penny "while those nobody's travel around in their BMWs. " "Is that fair? tell me?" Why did Hamas win? Remember, said the man: "The feeling of oppression is a very powerful factor."

Its also about priorities. In Israel, security was a priority in 2001, and that is why the Israeli people i think voted in Sharon, the same Sharon they so fervently demonstrated against in 1982 in the streets of Tel Aviv. In Gaza, the priorities are security and survival. "A family with 10 children living under the poverty line is not going to think first about relations of the new parliament with Israel or the US or the EU. He is going to think about how he can feed those children," another m an told me.

Fateh supporters were hardly celebrating. Their reactions ranged from shock, to denial, to bitterness and arrogance and humiliation, and finally lashing out against t heir own corrupt leaders tonight.

Yesterday, I spoke to Taha Nabil, a 25-year-old police officer in the bloated Palestinian security forces whose functioning is likely to be streamlined by the new Hamas government. He expressed his concern for the future and his shock that what he called a newcomer like Hamas could win so overwhelmingly. "I see all these celebrations, and, well ... I just hope it's for the best," he said, fireworks blasting all around him.

"Since I'm a police officer and a Fatah supporter, I am not very happy by the results. I just hope the fruits of the victory will not be exclusively for one party or people. Who is Hamas anyway? We were the ones who began the revolution. Hamas have only been around for 10 years, and suddenly, out of nowhere, they changed Gaza." The question that Nabil and other Fatehawis are asking themselves tonight is "how and why".

Tonight, Fateh lashed out in a very different way. Young supporters, known as "shabeeba" here or "shabeebit Fateh" swarmed Mahmud Abbas's house, calling for his resignation in three days, and blaming the "old guard" of the fateh leadership and their corruptoin for their curshing defeat. They then swarmed the legislative council, where they created bonfires out of government vans, scaled the walls of the building, and ripped out air conditioners.

They were only slightly calmed down a very emotional Mohammad Dahalan, who appealed for them to "make their voicees heard" in a mass Fateh Rally to be held Sunday (afraid to see how that turns out), and said Fateh will persevere despite what he referred as "conspiricies" against it. They then marched throughout the city shooting wildly, reminding people via loudspeakers "FATEH IS NOT DEAD!" and asking them provakatively :"Do you really want to be ruled Hamas??"

Testosterone, crushing humiliating defeat, and AK-47s: not a good combination.

And if your Bush and company, be careful what you wish for.

See my articles in Aljazeera here and here for more.


A Hamas supporter biking down Gaza's streets last night, which saw full-blown, heart-fealt celebration, complete with fireworks. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Democracy 101

Just when you think you have things figured out here, they turn topsy-turvy on you.

In a matter of a few weeks, Sharon becomes comatose; the Palestinian streets go from chaos hinging on anarchy to an unsettling calm and then the Islamic group Hamas, contesting elections for the first time and thought to be lagging behind Fatah by every measure, sweeps the first parliamentary elections in 10 years, shattering the ruling party's long grip on Palestinian politics.

Welcome to Gaza.

The latest events can only be described as a political earthquake, both locally and regionally. Not only are these the first truly democratic and hotly contested elections in the Arab Middle East, but also the first time an Islamic party has come to power through the system and the popular will of the people.

To say we are entering a new stage is an understatement. Everyone knew Hamas would do well in these elections and that they would constitute a significant challenge to the ruling party. But this well?

As one commentator on my Guardian blog put it, "Checkmate! Isn't democracy a wonderful thing?"

Check out my final post in the Guardian for more.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

"A democratic wedding"

That's the popular in Palestine these days to describe the elections, which have finally taken place. I'll make this post brief, as I'm exhausted from covering the vote all day. As I write this post, testosterone charged Fateh hooligans have taken to celebrating in the streets, honking horns, flying their trademark yellow flags, and shooting into the air (one bullet just nicked our family room's window).

Initial exit polls show Fateh with a narrow lead in the national districts, but pollster Shikaki says its very possible they will not form a majority. Either way, its pertinent to remember the significance of all this-that Fateh and Hamas have nearly split the vote in half. I think both parites will be please because Hamas doesn't want to be a majority and have to make the difficult decision.

A little on the voting itself: my finger looks horribly bruised (according to yousuf, who asks "wa wa? wa wa? meaning is it hurt? everytime he sees it). I tried to convince the election worker to only put the tip of my finger in that dreadful ink, but she dunked the whole thing in there. All tricks to make the ink removal easier failed to follow through (clear nail polish painted on before the voting; vaseline, etc.).

The election workers -more like election nazis- were taking theier jobs very seriously, which was good up to a point. sometimes i felt they focussed too much on procedure, too little on actually helping voters who may have been confused. At one point I put my ballot into the box, and didn't fold it, and got yelled at in front of ëveryone "no no you MUST fold it-stop" . I felt like I was carrying a bomb all of a sudden, and got very nervous, and finally the man calmed me donw "its ok, just go sloooowly, take your time."

More tommororw I hope!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Signs in front of a polling center: no guns, no cigarettes, no cell phones. Posted by Picasa

Let's vote already!

With less than 12 hours left to voting begins, Palestinian security and internatinal observers have deployed, campaigning has (finally!!!!) ended, and everyone is waiting in anticipation for the big day to finally be over with already!

To help the voting process go smoothly, the Central Elections Committee published page-long ad explaining to voters how to properly cast their ballots. The ABCs of Palestinian voing, if you will. Any aberrations, they warned, will disqualify it.

Only a check or an X may be used to indicate the preferred choice in the provided boxes. No other marks, such as say, an O, may be used. No double Xs, as in XX. No multiple choices. No unstamped ballot sheets. No comments of any sort on the ballot. And finally, no checks or X's outside of the designated "X box". Is everyone keeping track here?

To simplify matters, each list or individual nominee is designated with a symbol next to it, such as palm trees, crescents, hearts, spades, etc. Ok, sounds simple enough, if not dumbed down, but in the days of hanging and dimpled chads you never can be too careful. Especially given a poll released today showed 3.3% of the participants cast blank ballots.

Personally, I just want the elections to be over and done with. Our walls have been disfigured. Our privacy invaded (recently with SMS messages). And Gaza resembles a horribly decorated circus (I pity the custodial workers come Thursday morning), what with the banners, flags, and incessant campaign trolleys perusing down the city streets, blasting music and messages. Yallah khalsoona! (translation: get it over with already!)

For more check out my latest post in the Guardian, including my interview with a moronic EU election observer.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Birthday surprises

"Happy birthday mama! Now can I eat the cake?" Posted by Picasa

Yousuf (with a mouth full of cake) and I celebrate my 28th birthday together at a Gaza restaurant. The staff surprised me with a cake, the really loud obnoxious Egyptian style "happy berth-day to you" song, and sparkers. I was ready to bury my head under the table (especially given there were several ministers in attendence in election dialogue) Posted by Picasa

Countdown to crunch time

It's crunch time. With four days left until the big day, post-prayer in Gaza Friday afternoon saw dozens of election rallies and “festivals” complete with colourful (if tacky) banners, fervent partisan politicking, folk music, revolutionary songs and dabke dances.

Things are getting heated between the frontrunners, Hamas and Fateh, who have been exchanging blows over credibility over the past few days. Polls show a dead heat between the two.

In the northern part of the Strip, young guard Fateh icon Mohammad Dahalan tried to rally a crowd of 20,000 in a last-ditch effort to win the northern Gaza districts.

"Are you going to allow Hamas to take the north as they say they will?" he asked, to defiant cheers of his supporters. He added that Hamas should apologise to Fatah for calling the 1996 elections "treason", and "admit" that the Fatah plan - negotiations based on the Oslo Accords – ultimately "triumphed" (um...yeah..history lesson anyone?).

I guess even in battered Gaza one cannot escape the deluge of dirty election politics.

For more, check out my latest post in a 5-part series for the Guardian Unlimited (yeah yeah, so I'm using my blog to make a pitch for my other blog, but its hard to double-blog, and do my regular work for Aljazeera, and take care of Yousuf, so cut me some slack, :) )

Friday, January 20, 2006

Return of the Drones

It's late, but I can't sleep. Israeli drones are whirring inceasantly, forbodingly, overhead.

Mostly, I think, its an intimidation tactic, like the Sonic Booms (which have ceased over the past week, but which the Israeli High Court said the army could continue using last week). The drones are unmanned and often carry missiles, and are controlled remotely from some operation room, where army commanders can, in the privacy of their own barracks, view what's going in Gaza from above perhaps. You can' help but feel like some macho young Israeli soldier is getting a kick out of playing a real-life video game tonight; its our own sick Reality Show. "Smile Gaza, you are ALL on Army TV!".

You feel like the noise enters your brain after a while. Whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr...then it gets a little louder and more intense if the plane gets lower or focuses in on a target...WHIRRRRRRRRRRR...then dies down a bit rrrrrrrr. Like a very large, menacing mosquito, right above your head, but of course with more deadly consequences. You almost want that rocket to get launched somewhere just so the whirring will stop. Oh. Now there are two of them, or are they three?

They are particularly eery in the dead of night when the only other noises are an occasional car screaching past or late-night election poster-plasterers attempting to stick something up on our apartment building wall (all the cats were killed off accidentaly by the Municipality's rat poison last year). Well, back to bed I go, or so. I guess.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A donkey rests near a wall plastered with campaign posters in Gaza City yesterday.  Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Fateh hotline

As an electioneering strategy, to help come clean about their tarnished image, the Fateh party has set up a toll-free hotline which they’ve advertised in the daily papers for queries about candidates, with the tagline “we promise an answer to every question.”

I decided to give the number a shot.

“How do you propose to combat corruption and keep the streets safe?” I asked, concerned as any good citizen should be.

“What a beautiful and nice question,” a young man replied on the other line.

“Here at Fateh, we don’t deny we made mistakes. We all make mistakes. But we’re bringing in new faces. The wrongs can be rectified. Our election programme is well-known, we want to protect pluralism. And as a sign that democracy is thriving, remember that Mahmud Abbas only won by 62%, not 99% like in some countries, right? And also, freedom for all Palestinian prisoners is not just a slogan for us- it’s one of our top priorities. I’m sure you have relatives in Israeli jails…”

Me: “Er, and the lawlessness?”

Young man: “Sure, sure….chaos and weapons and the rule of law. Well, as you know, they were on Abu Mazen’s list of priorities when he ran for president. These aren’t just words, we mean it.
“Now tell me who are you voting for?”

Me: I haven’t made up my mind yet.

Young Man: “How can you not have made up your mind? There’s no time left! Isn’t the decision obvious?

[Silence, as a I contemplate the potential of outsourcing call centers to Gaza]

Young Man: Wait wait, don’t hang up, let me tell you about corruption. If a mischievous boy is alone in his house, he is bound to wreak havoc. But if his brothers are there with him, they will put him in his place. That’s how we view the parliament. All of the parties have some corruption in them. We want to include the whole family in the decision-making process.”

[More silence]

“We’ve been part of the struggle for liberation for 40 years now!”

“We shouldn’t take the actions of a few people to represent all of the party.”

“So we have a few rotten apples.”

Me: “I really have to go now. But thank you for taking my call.”

“Please, please. Call again with any questions, and we promise to provide an answer.”

[End of Conversation]

For more, check out my second blog installment in the Guardian this afternoon.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Somewhere, over the rainbow...

A rainbow forms an incongruant beam of beauty over the Gaza Strip yesterday after several days of musky rain. Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Election Dance-in the Guardian

As Eid comes to an end, election campaigning has swung back into full gear here with the big day less than two weeks away. Check out my

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Israel to Patty R: deal is a no-go

Well, apparently, Patty's comments about Sharon's stroke being an act of God struck a raw nerve in the Israeli Tourism Ministry (after all, why should us Palestinians be upset?)-his 'steal-of-a-deal' was nixed. According to Haaretz, the $50 million tourism partnership where a zio-Christian disneyworld would have been built on land (cleared of its indigenous Palestinian inhabitants, who are fifty-years on denied the right to return to this empty land) leased for free in al-Jaleel is a no-go, due to his rash bashin' of Sharon (whose sense of smell doctors are apparently trying to stimulate by placing shawarmas by his bedside, according to Israeli radio).

I guess God does work in mysterious ways.

A very Gaza Eid

Eid, specifically Eid ul-Adha (the festival of Sacrifice) in Gaza means many things. First and foremost, it means MEAT (some here jokingly call it Eid il lahma..the eid of meat), since it is recommended that Muslims who can afford to slaughter sheep or cows to remember Abraham's sacrifice and distribute the meat to the poor, to neighbours, and to family. Unfortunately many people insist on doing it "the old-fashioned way", i.e. slaughtering the animals (though in a humane manner) near their homes, which means streets streaming full of blood (thank God it rained). Let's just say it was enough to make me consider becoming vegetarian.

Besides the meat, Eid here also means the usual-dressing up or buying new outfits, gifts and "eid-iyya" for the kids (some bonus gift money they get from each visiting relative), candy and chocolates and Eid cookies with date filling, crazy mini metal ferris wheels that suddenly pop up on Gaza's streets offering rides for a shekel a pop (I call them death-traps, they are so insanely dangerous) and of course, something so uniqely Gazan that even a West Banker wouldn't know it, there's Sumaqiyya! (Pronounced in true Gazan dialect as "Sumaggiya").

I guess you could call it one of Gaza's national dishes. Made on special occasions, it basically consists of chunks of tender meat, cooked with chard, tahini (sesame paste), dill, garlic, chilis, chickpeas, and of course-Sumac (from where it derives its name) and eaten with Arabic bread. Many people have a love-hate relationship with it-I guess you could call it an acquired taste, but it is definitely one of those dishes you won't find anywhere but Gaza!

My mother, preparing Sumaqiyya. Posted by Picasa

The meat is first cooked with chopped chard (saliq) before the other ingredients are added. Posted by Picasa

Fill 'er up. After it is finished cooking, the sumaqiyya is poured into bowls to cool. Posted by Picasa

The final product! While it may be an acquired taste, it really is much better than it looks, I promise. Posted by Picasa

Yousuf shows off some Eid candy he (very proudly) purchased on his own with his "eidiya" (the money that elders give to kids on Eid). I think they are gummy strawberries, which I ended up eating half of. Sugar makes everything better (and God knows we've had enough sugar this Eid). Posted by Picasa

Yousuf enjoys some warm 'Kunafa Nabulsiah' (shredded dough-stuffed with melted goat cheese from Nablus and drenched in warm rose syrup) with my parents in al-Jundi al-Majhool park in Gaza City near our house. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Yousuf admires (drools over?) the countless trays of Biqlawa in a sweets shop in Gaza City the night before Eid. Posted by Picasa

Eid Mubarak!

A shopkeer fills an order of Eid cookies ("Kaak" and "Ma3mool") for anxious customers on Eid eve in Gaza yesterday. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 08, 2006

What will he say?

As Sharon lies on his deathbed, well wishes and prayers have poured in from around the world for the “man of peace” as President Bush put it, the “man could never be stopped”, to quote the liberal Haaretz.

Before Arafat died, he was decried as an “obstacle to peace”; and post-mortem, there was a “new window of opportunity.” The world was considered a better, safer place.

But Sharon? Well. Sharon is Sharon. He is a man of peace. Of peace. A piece of this, a piece of that, makes a whole I guess. A whole lot of peace.

Peace. Like how peaceful, I think, those souls he crushed must be now. Those souls of Sabra and Shatilla. Of Qibya and Braij. Of Rafah and Jabaliya, Jenin and...

Now I'm sure people are saying-yes, but people change. Sure. Change. Change is the only constant right?

Ask Iman Hims's family, who picked up her pieces. Her peace. Or Nooran Deeb. Or or or...

Ask Akram Salah, 39, an unemployed father of eight from Rafah. His home-and his life- was demolished last year.

"Let me tell you something about Sharon," he told me. "Opinions on peace and how to achieve it differ from politician to politician. But the only language Sharon knew was the language of destruction and war. My entire life's work was destroyed by Sharon in one night.


The Butcher, the baker, the... Whitewashing of Ariel Sharon.

"Apologise for what?"

And I think, will he meet those pieces, on his final day?

And when he meets his Maker, what, then, will he say?

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Evangelical Right of Return

I'm speechless. The Israeli government-which never ceases to amaze- has now reached a new nadir. While Palestinian refugees, like my husband, continue to be denied the right of return to their own land, the Israeli government prepares to give a large slice of that land to Pat Robertson & co. for an Evangenlical Disney Land of some sort, according to the Guardian:

The Israeli government is planning to give up a largeslice of land to American Christian evangelicals to builda biblical theme park by the Sea of Galilee where Jesus issaid to have walked on water and fed 5,000 with fiveloaves and two fish. A consortium of Christian groups, ledby the television evangelist Pat Robertson, is innegotiation with the Israeli ministry of tourism and adeal is expected in the coming months.

So let me see if I have this straight: I'm denied entry to the West Bank because I'm a journalist. Yassine is denied entry to his own home because he's Palestinian. And Evangelical Christians pick up the pieces. Yassine, have you thought about joining forces with the Christian right? It just might be your ticket home. See Umkahlil's post for more.

United we stand!

I first heard this being announced over loudspeaker in Gaza City by members of Hamas, and Rafahpundit confirmed it. Six Palestinian factions (specifically, their military wings) have come together to form a "Special Joint Force" to steal from the rich and give to the poor ala Robin Hood...no I'm kidding (but close).

The SJF "will act totally independently from the official PA Security Forces" to preserve law and order and to protect Palestinian civilians given ever increasing security lapse in Gaza. i.e. to do what the PA hasn't.

The Ministry of the Interior spokesperson Tawfiq Abo Khosa dismissed the idea, saying that "nobody whatsoever is entitled to take the law into his own hands by claiming that the Palestinian Authority is not doing its job. There are many obstacles and those militant groups are one of these obstacles."

Militant groups? How about one GROUP singular Mr. Abo Khosa, your very own Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Interesting to see how this one will work out, given they are all are heavily armed. On the other hand, it may just work if there is some kind of balance of power. Guess who was missing from the lineup?

Check out the full translated declaration.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

When it rains, it pours

Boy, when it rains here in our troubled little part of the world, it really does pour. Fateh militants plough through the egyptian border and riot with Egyptian police. The Palestinian election committee resigns in protest of ongoing anarchy. All while Qassams fall near Ashkelon, and Ariel Sharon suffers a major, likely irreparable stroke (hours after Israeli papers report an election corruption file will be re-opened).

Off to get my umbrella.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A poster of the candidates for Mustafa Bargouthi's "Independent" Party list. Underneath it says "For and Independent Palestine" Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Let the games begin!

As per my last post, I made it safely through night, I'm pleased to report. The Apaches eventually dispersed, perhaps after being unable to find their intended target. For them to be hovering so low over Gaza City's Remal neighbourhood was rather unusual, and very frightening.

Instead, I woke to the marching of campaigning Palestinians with their various accessories, including megaphones blasting out campaign messages, and drums being banged about throughout the streets (one group even had two clowns and a dabke group-quite a site, like a parade, which Yousuf enjoyed thoroughly).

Today of course, I was reminded rather intrusively, marked the first official day of legislative council elections campaigning.

Gaza's main city square was litterly plastered with posters and banners hanging every which way which sprung up almost over night. Some were for local independent candidates promising to "serve Gaza's people". But the most prominent banners so far were those of Hamas, which is clearly building its campaign on its repuation of honesty and its promise to combat corruption, all while standing up to Israel (their election insignia is "a hand that builds, and a hand that struggles/resists).

As one of their banners read"(roughly translated), "al-Islah (reform, and also the name of their party) means security, and our party means guarantees." Another banner stated simply: "Hamas: Faith. Work. Change. Reform"." An election float of theirs travleing through Gaza city declared by megaphone "Vote for List 3, the List of the Inner Jihad" -a reference to the struggle for self and societal reform and improvement, as advised by the Prophet Mohammad.

Also making a prominent showing was Mustafa Barghouthi's "Independent" party list who are building their camapaign on similar promises of combatting corruption adn providing a just and democratic alternative to the ruling party (though they are not nearly as popular as Hamas, they do seem to have a lot of campaigning money).

I haven't yet seen Fateh start campaigning full-fledge, though given their reputation for over the top fanfare and excessive spending in past (municpal) elections, it should be big and interesting (to see how they will combat their increasingly sour repuation).

People here can hardly keep track of the different parties (6 off the top of my head) and lists of independent candidates. Perhaps I'll do a rundown in another entry.

Apaches overhead

I'm working late tonight, and as I'm typing, I can hear helicopter gunships hovering above my apartment in Gaza City. They are not distant, but rather directly overhead. I'm waiting for an inevitable missile to go flying over our house. So far, that hasn't happened, but the signs do not bode well. Last night, the booms continued at odd hours of the night. One shortly after two, another afer 6am.

here come the helicopters again, better duck and cover just in case...and brace for the night ahead.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Moving up in the world

I finally got myself to put Yousuf in a nursery. Not because I needed someone to watch him, but because I wanted him to be exposed to some other children his age a few times a week. I realized the time had come for him to make contact with the outside world when he began banging his head against our kitchen wall in a state of advanced boredom. I'm kidding of course. But really, the kid needs some friends. So I searched and searched, and the more nurseries I saw the more worried I got. Gaza doesn't exactly have the best child care centers to put it mildly (my dream is to one day establish a children's museum/centre here). Until finally I found a cute-and clean-little place nearby that only takes a limited number of children to avoid overcrowding (and doesn't resort to sedating toddlers with food and sleep to keep them inactive). Today is officially his second day, and he's loving it-perhaps more than I. I miss his morning banter and desperate plees to rescue him from my mother as I'm working by my desk. But I'm sure its for the best. Next thing you know he'll be graduating college. My little boy is growing up.

"Are you going to leave me here all on my own?" Posted by Picasa

Yousuf, with a bag of apples, and a bag of toys, gets ready to head to "hadana"-nursery. Posted by Picasa