Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Noor's first protest!

I know I have to post more (newer) pictures of Noor...most of my days and nights are consumed with either nursing or attempting to sleep (or in some cases, both at the same time!) and yet somehow I have found myself committing to a variety of talks, interviews, and articles when I should be on "maternity leave" (right!).

Last weekend my family and I participated in a small vigil/protest to end the siege on Gaza. Noor attended too-though she slept through it! Yousuf insisted on placing a sign on her car seat.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Down goes the wall

Last night I received a text message from my dear friend Fida-"its coming down-its coming down!" she declared ecstatically. "Laila! the Palestinians destroyed Rafah wall, all of it. All of it not part of it! Your sister Fida."

More texts followed, as I received an periodical updates on the situation in Rafah, where it was 3 am.

"Two hours ago people were praising God everywhere. The metal wall was cut and destroyed. So was the cement one. It is great Laila, it is great" she declared.

For the first time in months, I sensed a degree of enthusiasm, hope...relief even, emanating from thousands of miles away, via digitized words, from Gaza. Words that have been all but absent from the Palestinian vocabulary. Buried. Methodically and gradually destroyed.

[Palestinians stock up on fuel in Egypt's Arish. Picture by Fida Qishta]

Of course the border opening will only provide temporary relief, and the ecstasy it generates will be fleeting, as it was in 2005 when shortly after Israel's Disengagement, the once impervious and deadly, sniper-lined border became completely porous. It was an incredible time. I will never forget the feeling of standing in the middle of the Philadelphi corridor, as it was known.

Of standing there with hundreds of thousands of other Gazans, savoring the moment of uninterrupted freedom, in this case, freedom of movement. Goats were being lobbed over the secondary fence; mattresses; cigarettes; cheeses. Egyptians took back bags of applies from northern Gaza, and comforters. For two weeks, it was the free market at work.

[The Rafah Wall, from the Palestinian side. Picture by Laila El-Haddad]

Once a nesting ground for Israeli tanks, armored bulldozers, and the like-all of the war metal-the face of the occupation- that became synonymous with destructions and death for us in Gaza, and particularly for the resident's of Rafah, Philadelphi had so suddenly become nothing but a a kilometre of wasteland, of sand granules marking the end of one, battered, besieged land, and the beginning of the rest of the world.

But traveling this short distance had previously been so unthinkable, that the minute it took to walk across it by foot was akin to being in the twilight zone. You couldn't help but feel that at any moment a helicopter gunship would hover by overhead and take aim.

It was then that I met a pair of young boys, 9 and 10, who curiously peered over the fence beyond the wall, into Egypt. In hushed whispers, and innocent giggles they pondered what life was like outside of Gaza and then asked me: Have you ever seen an Egyptian? What do they look like? They had never left Rafah in their lives.

[picture by Laila El-Haddad]

And so once again, this monstrosity that is a source of so much agony in our lives, that cripples our movement and severs our ties to each other and to our world, to our families and our homes, our universities and places of work, hospitals and airports, has fallen through the will of the people; and sadly, once again, it will go up. Of course, Mubarak has tried to take credit for this, blabbering something about how they let them open it because Gazans were starving, while arresting 500 demonstrators in Cairo for speaking their mind against the siege.

The border opening also will not provide Gazans with an opportunity to travel abroad, b/c their passports will not have been stamped leaving Gaza, but it will at the very least give them some temporary respite from the siege. I emphasize temporary because this too, just like Israel's on again-off again fuel stoppages is not going to resolve the situation. Allowing in enough supplies to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, in the words of the Israeli security establishment, somehow makes sense in the logic of the occupation; as does escalation; and cutting fuel in response to rocket attacks. And Israelis can all learn to forget Gaza, at least long enough to feel comfortable.

People often ask me why such things-meaning people powered civil protests that can overcome even the strongest occupation- don't happen sooner, or more often, or at all for that matter. We underestimate the power of occupation to destroy a people's will to live, let alone resist and and attempt to change the situation. This is the worst thing about occupation, whether a military occupation like Israel's, or a political one like Hosni Mubarak's in his own country. And it is only when you can overcome the psychological occupation, the occupation of the mind, that the military occupation in all its manifestations can be defeated.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

My new year's surprise!

Well, I was planning on posting my latest article in the Guardian Unlimited-reflections about Gaza in 2007. Instead, I got my own little new year's surprise-we welcomed (drum roll please....) little Noor into the world at 1:36pm January 1 ! 13 hours too late for a tax deduction, as Yassine will note :) This girl sets her own rules form the get go.

I would like to post in length about the experience, but I am sure you will forgive me if I seek a little rest :) In brief, let's just call it an unplanned natural delivery! I ignored my own body's signals that I was in labor (not to mention my husband's!) and convinced myself it was nothing, until I was quite in its advanced stages.

We rushed to the hospital, and by the time we got there, little Noor was about ready to pop out of the oven. It took only about an hour for her to show up. Of course I was confronted with the grim news from my doctor and nurse as I screamed my way into the delivery room (epidural please! now!!!) that there was simply no time for pain medication at that point. Talk about nature taking its own course!! All they could manage to give me was a small dose of morphine, which only made me dizzy and gave me delirious recollections of the doctor having a conversation about sushi and pregnancy with Yassine as I pushing ("just think" he said, attempting to comfort me, "you can have sushi again!").

Anyway, I will save you all the painful details, just suffice to say it was certainly all worth it when I saw her precious little face. And Yousuf, of course, is already assuming the role of older brother like a pro-including schooling her in the ways of spiderman (he attempted to pose like Spiderman in all his pictures with her :)).

And for those of you wondering, yes, we took the laptop with us to the hospital :)