Thursday, May 17, 2007

The ghostly streets, the ghostly skies

We’re used to things going from bad to worse very quickly here. But we never expected the situation to get as bad as it has over the past few days.

After a terrifying 24 hours, we awoke this morning to sporadic gunfire, and ghostly streets.

IT was a welcome change. Sleep-deprived and anxious, my colleague Saeed, on his first visit to Gaza, and myself, headed to Rafah in the southern part of the Strip to continue shooting a series of documentaries we are working on.

Though the gunfire had subsided, the gunmen were still patrolling the streets, each this time casually manning their own turf, masked and fully armed.

Impromptu checkpoints were still set up along the main Gaza-Rafah road, and we were stopped for ID and affiliation checks.

As we approached Rafah, we received word that clashes had broken out there, too, following the funeral of 4 Hamas men killed in an Israeli air strike the night before.

We decided to avoid the town centre, and headed instead to film near the border area along Rafah’s edge. Young children blissfully flew handmade kites above the iron wall separating them from the Egyptian Rafah. Their "atbaq" flirted in the infinite sky above with kites flying their way from the Egyptian side. "We play a game with the Egyptian kids" they explained of their unseen counterparts. "We meet here, through our kites, and see who can catch the other's kites quicker by entangling. So far we're winning-we've got 14 Egyptian kites" he announced proudly.

The children are small enough that they can wiggle their way through the cracks of the large iron gates along the wall-where once Merkava tanks made their unwelcome entrance to battered camps here. And so they can call out to their Egyptian friends, and learn their names and new kite flying techniques.

Even then, we could hear the fearsome roar of Israeli fighter jets overhead, interspersed with the banter of machine guns from feuding factions.

I then received a call from my father back in Gaza City-a tremendous explosion-the result of F-16 jet bombing a nearby Hamas compound - had just sent intense shockwaves through our house. It was so powerful that it blasted off the windows from my cousin’s home in the neighbourhood behind us. This attack was followed by another then another, and then another.

Hamas's Qassam Brigades have sent a barrage of rockets into Israel over the past two days. It has been in an attempt to redirect the battle towards the occupation, they say.

There have been six Israeli aerial strikes since this morning. The latest one happened just as we departed Rafah back to Gaza City. The victims this time were two young brothers, standing near a municipality garbage truck that was obliterated.

Even as I record this from back at home, we were shaken by another large explosion, Israelis tanks are amassing at Gaza’s northern border, and unmanned Israeli drones are whirring menacingly, incessantly, overhead in great numbers patrolling the ghostly skies that only the kites can reach, preparing, perhaps, for yet another strike against an already bleeding, burning, and battered Gaza.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mother from Gaza - sister Haddad,

The ordeal you and other Palestinians face in Palestine indeed has only one solution. The solution that you discussed with Ali Abunimah in your interview about his book.

Unfortunately, the Palestinians have been co-opted in all dimensions for the past 100 years and new faits accomplis have been systematically constructed in Palestine. This co-optation is now even to the extent of the choice of language to describe the plight of the Palestinians by many Palestinians (mainly the leadership) themselves and their so called 'left' and 'liberal' exponents.

Many assumptions and presuppositions have been axiomatically accepted as the basis upon which all discourse must be constructed.

Just FYI - I tried to unravel a small component of this intellectual co-optation (there is of course a dozen others including financial, strategic, military, PR, media, etc.) in my essay: "The endless trail of red herrings" at

As the "60/40" commemoration of Nakba/Naksa is being held (, and is holding its 5th annual conference to figure out what to do - besides lament - I wrote the following letter to al-awda and badil which I hope you can bring to your audience. For while remembering is important so that a) our children may never forget, b) the spectating world 'looking from the side' can be shamed into action and never be allowed to forget their uncourageous silence as an innocent peoples are wiped out with their complicity and tax dollars, simply remembering is the fastest way to complete faits accomplis - in another couple of decades, the land of Canaan will be United States of Israel.

The letter is appended below.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Project Humanbeingsfirst
Date: Tue, 15 May 2007 13:01:58 -0700
Subject: What is occupation? What is enough? What does the solution space look like?

Dear Al-awda "5th Uniting for the Return" conference organizers and
distinguished speakers in Southern California:

You may also have noted that is commemorating the Nakba and
Naksa with the "60/40" slogan, just as you are also gearing up to
figure out how to return to your homeland. While such key advertising
campaigns and conferences to keep the awareness of the issues at the
forefront are important, especially in the West, and especially for
the Paliestinian refugees in Diaspora who got out of the line of
continued live fire (unlike the refugees still in the holy land of
oppression) - in order to continually counter the "... the old will
die and the young will forget... " syndrome - these campaigns and
conventions do little to revert the faits accomplis by the powerless.
All they succeeed in doing is create a greater mourning circle for the
event, and then life moves on for those living in the diaspora, just
as it continually constricts the life blood of those still living
under oppression and occupation.

This is the sad story of the Palestinian people over the past 100
years - unable to percieve what's happening to them through strategic
long term planning by their formbidable and Machiavellian foe, and
unable to counter efficaciously while working assiduously on a
treadmill of laments and vacuous resolutions. Such was noted in this
"Open Letter to Amnesty International, USA" (on

I wrote the following letter to Just forwarding you FYI -
in case you wish to take some of its points into account for your


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Project Humanbeingsfirst
Date: Mon, 14 May 2007 14:34:12 -0700
Subject: What is occupation? What is enough? What does the solution
space look like?

Hello dear Palestinian friends at Badil and Right of Return Campaigners:

The "40/60" theme on you website is telling of the intense
sufferring of the Palestinians, and also of the continual co-optation
over the past 100 years of the Palestinians in how this fait accompli
has incrementally come to pass. This co-optation still continues...

May I kindly direct your attention to the following essays at

"The Endless Trail of Red Herrings"

"Open Letter to former President Jimmy Carter"

"Introducing Palestine, Peace not Apartheid"

If you deem it appropriate, please do add them to your discourse space to
broaden the discussion of what is "apartheid", what is "occupation",
what is "enough", what is "justice", and what is "fairness".

Unless the problem space is properly and cohesively formulated, and
unambiguously articulated with a singular penetrating focus based
entirely upon non 'ubermensch' moral grounds, the diffused attempts at
seeking 'expedient solutions' by disparate groups each having its own
arbitrary definition of apartheid and occupation based on their vested
interests (and limited agendas) will continue to create new red
herrings fully facilitating the fait accompli unfolding before our
very eyes - to the very last Palestinian remaining in the Holy Land of
Oppression as he sadly takes his last breadth on his own homeland!

The foe is formidable - the only way to disarm it is to disarm its
philosophy in the eyes of those who support it on the global
chessboard. Unless the Palestinians realize this and go on the
offensive making cohesive demands on only justifiable moral grounds,
and create infrastructures and lobbying groups powerful enough to
impact superpower indigeneous politics, Palestine is United States of
Israel in another 50 years - while you guys go on commemorating each
subsequent nakba and naksa with meaningless slogans.

With Kind Regards

1:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello. I just heard you on Democracy Now and was told of this blog. I was wondering if you could comment on your oppinion of Israels actions in this conflict.

I myself am a Political Science student, and a Jew, so I am always involved in issues relating to Israel and Palestine. I often find myself confused as to whether I agree or dissagree with actions Israel takes (the same way I'm often confused as to whether I agree or dissagree with actions the USA takes).

I often get very biased oppinions, especially over here, where I think its easier for people to be blindly loyal to which ever side they sympathise with by self filtering the information they receive; but any oppinion and information I can receive from those who live with this situation more intimately I feel gives far more insight to the situation.

Thank you, and I hope you stay safe

2:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Assalamu'alaikum, :)

May God The Best Protector bless & protect you well. I'm almost rendered speechless, I guess a weak me can only pray.

There's no strength but all comes from God The All Mighty. From God we come, to God is our return.

May God keep your spirits up. Amen.

4:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mohammed Dahlan, George's Pinochet

12:27 PM  
Blogger Nasrawi said...

allah y5aleekum... we will always stay tuned to blogs like yours where reality is correctly conveyed.

Thank you for blogging.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Helena Cobban said...

Laila, stay safe habibti. Thanks for your witness.

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is called reaping what you sow. When you build a culture of violence you end up with violent young men who will turn their guns on anyone.

Israel's drones will remain "incessantly" in the sky until those young men stop trying to murder the innocent citizens of Sderot.

8:24 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I am saddend by the depth of pain and suffering that is put upon the people in Gaza (no matter what the side). I keep you and your family in my prayers. And although I am only a "yank" I am still the mother of 4 sons...and I can commisorate as a mom to another mom. Please be safe. Thank you for your candid, informative, and sometimes painful blogs.

9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Laila,

I have heard your commentary on Democracy Now and have read your most recent blogs as well as the article in the Guardian. I am deeply touched by your capacity to reason and to continue your wonderful work despite the irrational tragedy that surrounds you. We are almost the same age, I am 28 years old, but my life is a sheltered and comfortable one, in a quiet Canadian suburb. The arbitrary allotment of our destinies might not be for us to understand, but that doesn't and shouldn't appease my guilt and shame for not being able/or strong enough to reach out and help. The level of awareness in Canada and the US about the Israel-Palestine conflict is deplorable (as you are surely well aware). As professor Norman Finkelstein describes in his compassionate and extremely well researched books, the greatest paradox of this conflict is that the Palestinian people, the true absolute victims of this brutal occupation, have been, the help of the mass media propaganda machine, hideously transfigured and demonized into perpetrators and fanatics. Every morning I get up with the same obsessive thought in mind that I HAVE to do something about this, that no one has the right to remain a spectator and plead innocence, that there is blood on our hands in a very real way and that after each night of tranquil sleep we simply choose to pathologically wash it away and get on with our business. For whatever is worth, I would like to ask your forgiveness for my implicit guilt and to make you a promise that I will find a way to step up and contribute, within my limited cerebral capacity, to spreading the truth and raising awareness.

P.S. This may sound ridiculous to you and if it does it will not offend me in any way, but if you ever need volunteers to do research for any of your projects (documentaries, articles), I would be deeply more than willing to offer my services. In case you'd ever want to take me up on that offer my email address is

9:38 PM  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

Your blog is of immense importance. But I would rather you and your beautiful son and your father and friends were all safe.

Well, there are many things I would rather have happening. What an insightful mother to tell your little one the sounds were popcorn. I'm a mother I understand that need to protect the little ones from all that is around them. But it is heartbreaking nonetheless.

All good thoughts to you.

10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Murder In Gaza


Al Jazeera English airs exclusive footage of a series of deadly Israeli air attacks in the Gaza Strip, one of which struck as Gaza correspondent Nour Odeh was live on air.

2:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Imposition Of Great Power On Powerless People

Must Listen Audio Interview With John Pilger

Internationally-renowned investigative reporter and filmmaker John Pilger talks about the limitless occupation in Palestine, the war in Iraq, the current pathetic state of mainstream journalism.

2:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

God bless the children. Your kite flying story is truly amazing. And heart warming. God willing there will be peace someday soon.

6:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You did not mention Dahlan this time as the cause of the misery in Gaza ... I guess the guys at "Electronic Intifada" wil not be so interested in this piece too.

Ahmad Taha _ Jenin

9:21 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Great article on the Guardian's CiF, Laila.

It's provoked a huge amount of discussion

10:01 AM  
Blogger janinsanfran said...

Thank you for your witness. May God keep you and yours safe.

7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Laila,
did you that your blog( a mother from Gazza) is famous here in Iran!
we wnat to know what you and other palestinians think about IRAN?

12:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ukti its been a few days since you said anything and i know i can't be the only one worried about you

you don't have to say much just please let us know you and your baby are ok?

10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Laila

Heard you on BBC radio 5 this morning. I am bit of a news addict and what I heard from you was pretty much what I would have expected. What would have surprised me would have been a aspiration to sort out the internal problems amongst the palestinians and to work with Isreal to live in peace and security. Hamas/Hezbula provoke Isreal to get a predictable response. Obviously these things are beyound our control. All we can do is be nice to each other.

Salam, shalom

Narendra (UK of indian origin)

4:01 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Hi Laila,
Thanks for blogging! Your blog is wonderfully written and helps us all understand what life truly is like for a Palestinian woman.

4:11 PM  
Blogger tassoula said...

Laila is famous all over.She is the witness from Gaza.We still praying for all of you!Keep safe!

12:18 AM  
Blogger John Mullis said...

Dear Laila
We can only watch in horror as this tragic drama unfolds before us daily and pray. Especially for you and Yousef that God would keep yout spirits high, and your head low! You are a great wittness.

1:04 PM  
Blogger JohnB said...

Laila, InshaAllah, you and your family remain safe. That is most important.

You bear witness to the madness that has overtaken the world. We could argue here forever over who is right and who is wrong. While we do, how many will die needlessly?

The killing must stop.


4:06 AM  
Blogger iNFaMoUsJeSt said...

We are keeping you in our prayers!
Don't die on us; keep strong like you have always done. We need you to speak out the truth. CNN is giving us headaches of "censored" news.

Much respect for you, Laila! *MUCH* RESPECT.


5:16 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm a journalist working for a magazine for journalists in the UK - Press Gazette - and would like to speak to you. Could you please let me have contact details.

Best wishes,
Julie Tomlin,
Deputy Editor,
Press Gazette

4:37 PM  
Blogger ATHENA said...


9:24 PM  

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