Friday, July 11, 2008

Land of the cursed

A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine sent me a story he had received from someone by email, asking if I could publish it. It was the first-hand account of a Palestinian man, his Gaza-born wife, and their family, all of whom were born and raised in the West Bank. It was the story of their attempt to cross the Allenby Bridge into Jordan for a much needed break, and to visit with some relatives in Amman.

They soon learned that the curse of being Gazan-or in this case, or even being related to someone born in Gaza- followed them even to the West Bank.

Last year I reported on the issue of the 50, 000 some Palestinians living a life of legal limbo in the West Bank and Gaza (and abroad) because one of their family members lacks a hawia- the Israeli-issued ID card used to maintain control over the Palestinian population registry. In my own case, Yassine has not yet been granted a hawia, even though I applied for him in 2004. This is nothing compared to the tens of thousands who have been waiting since the mid 1990s.

Similarly, because Israel continues to control the Palestinian population registry (yes, even after Disengagement), it controls Palestinian movement; Palestinian life; and it tears that movement and life and the families that would want to enjoy them apart.

Gaza Curse

By: Mohammed AlMbaid

Dr. Mohammed AlMbaid is a Palestinian citizen living in Ramallah with his family. Dr. AlMabid is a governance and public administration expert with a PhD in Urban and Regional Planning.

I am a Palestinian father of three young children Nahla, Yousef and Mariam. My wife Rania, was born in Gaza city and we all live in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank city of Ramallah .

On 12 June 2008 , two of my children, Nahla and Yousef have cried as never before, they were punished for a crime they did not commit and could do nothing about; their mother’s birth place is Gaza .

Nahla who is nine years old just finished her 4th grade and Yousef who finished his 1st grade were so excited because I agreed to reward them for their high achievements in their school year. I decided to take them with me to the Jordanian capital Amman to spend few days with their aunt, from mother side, who live there with her husband, and two young children. Nahla and Yousef have been dreaming of this day for a year. They even planed what they will wear, which places they want to visit and restaurants they will eat at including McDonalds and KFC.

We left Rania and our youngest daughter, Mariam, who is less than 2 years in Ramallah. Leaving them behind was not our choice. The Israeli occupation authorities who still control entry and exit to and within Palestinian territories and almost every aspect of Palestinian life, have not recognize Rania as a resident of Ramallah. Our three children however, were all born in Ramallah, the same city where we have been living since we got married 10 years ago. So, in a “normal” world and in accordance with local and Israeli regulations, our children should be automatically getting a Ramallah residency.

On our way from Ramallah to Jericho , where we cross the Allenby Bridge to Jordan , I got a call from a Gazan friend. When I told him I was taking two of my children to visit their aunt in Amman he commented “you and your children are lucky, my children could not leave Gaza due to siege, at least your can.” We exchanged a laughter and I ended the phone call by saying “you guys in Gaza are cursed, I am glad my children are not from Gaza ”

At least, this is what we thought until we arrived at the Israeli side of the Allenby crossing between Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territories when the Israeli women solider stamped my passport allowing me to cross, but refused to allow Nahlah and Yousef to cross. According to her “in our computers, they are from Gaza ”. I was shocked to say the least; because this is the first time I hear this. How could that be? They are my children, born in Ramallah and have been living there since then. How and why they are registered as Gaza residents is beyond me. I tried to talk to the Israeli border police to explain the situation, but she was not very responsive. In fact, she was barely willing to talk to me indicating that it is my problem and I have to deal with it. As she was talking to me with a very straight and angry face, my two children were crying very loudly as they were afraid they will not be allowed to cross to Amman . This was their worst nightmare and it happened. Nahlah and Yousef were turned back and I had to return with them at 6 PM after the bridge was closed.

I did not know what to tell my children except that it is occupation in its most brutal face. As this madness was taking place, it came to my mind what and how my children were feeling and how such incidents may affect young people’s perception of the Israeli neighbors. It made me think whether the Israeli occupation authorities really recognize the devastating impacts that such policies -discriminate and racist that go against all international and national human rights conventions- have on Palestinian children, their psychology, their perceptions of the Israel as an apartheid state, the cruelty of its army and inhumane actions committed by its soldiers and entire governmental apparatus.

Since their birth, Rania and I have been very conscious about teaching our children to respect other people and their differences. We have numerously and persistently explained the difference between Occupation authority and Jewish people. We explained that our problem is only with the occupation no more, no less. While observing and listening to the discussion I had with the border policy and realizing how helpless her father was, Nahla hugged me and whispered in my ears “I hate these people, why can’t they allow us to go, we did nothing wrong.” Listening to Nahla made me very angry as I felt more helpless, how can I explain or justify that. I could not explain it. The situation is ridiculous and humane.

Now that I am back to Ramallah, I feel more helpless and disempowered for not being able to do anything about my children’s residency or that of the more than fifty thousands of Palestinian families that one or both parents are from Gaza , enduring the same or worse problems. The worst aspect of this saga is that no Palestinian Authority can do anything about it. The whole situation is in the hands of the Israeli occupation authority. And there is no indication they will solve this problem unless they are pressured to do so. I know neither I nor any other Palestinian can change it.

The story of Nahla, Yousef, Mariam and Rania and the stories of more than one and a half million Gazans living in the biggest prison on earth, the Gaza strip, and the other Gaza-related families like mine, should be brought to the attention of every human being who believe in justice, freedom and human rights.

I ask for your solidarity and support to stop this madness perhaps we can lift the curse from Gaza .

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Interview with the MOSAD

This is a little late in coming, but here it is anyway. Its an interview I did with former MOSAD spy chief cum Labor politician Danny Yatom (in person). It was published on Aljazeera's english site in two sections (parts 1 and two) but I'm going to include the complete uncut interview here for those interested, let me know.