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 .


Blogger John Mullis said...

Assalamu Alaykum Laila
One would have to ask, did there people learn anything from their own experiences at the hands of Nazi Germany?

Please assure your friends that people who care continue to pray for freedom and justice for all Palestinians.

Khuda Hafiz

10:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Laila!
It makes me so furious. 'Unfair' is just the first letter of the adjective that can begin to describe this madness, but I don't know how to spell it.
But have you heard about the Free Gaza Movement? Breaking the siege by boat! This is how to act when all words fail.

2:20 PM  
Blogger UIFPW08 said...

I hope in Palestina Free
Morris fron Italy.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Beyonce said...

yea it is very unfair...and it upsets me even more because i can do about it. my feeling of powerlessness sets in.

6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to John Mullis.
You ask whether we learned anything from our experience at the hands of Nazi Germany.
Well, perhaps the fact that these people are alive is one sign that something was learned?
Perhaps the fact that the soldiers did not smash this man's children with their rifle butts is another sign?
And while we are at it, may I remind you of one Samir Quntar who did smash a 4-year-old girl's skull with his rifle butt after shooting her father right before her eyes? And he was only 15 or 16 at the time.

a Jew from Israel

2:46 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Macaire said...

I think that this is a terrible state of affairs. I can see where the father would be frustrated, and where the children would cry. I would too, if my father promised me an outing and the authorities refused. It's just like being in prison. Hopefully, soon, things will change.
And I feel very sorry for the people who are using Quntar as a scapegoat for their anger. He served thirty years in prison for a crime he committed - he was punished and paid for it. I remind you, anonymous, that two British teens only served 7 years in prison for horribly murdering a 3 yr old. They are free now, and no one is pointing at them and using their names to stir up hatred. Shame on you.

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

jennifer, shame on British justice or lack thereof. Was your teenagers' crime racially motivated or just an act of sadism? Are any parents in Britain willing to let them babysit their toddlers? And did they learn their lesson in jail? Because Quntar wants to return to Israel and kill some more.
Anyway, he should have served four life terms, because he was responsible for taking four lives. Yet he was pardoned so we could bury two soldiers who were snatched from Israeli soil.

5:15 AM  
Blogger Save the Oocytes! said...

I wouldn't be identifying Laila's "side" with Quntar.

8:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Laila, as you are no doubt aware, most of what America understands of the Middle east comes through an Israeli filter. YOur blog is a serious help in our understanding of things from the Palestinian prospective. I do link to your site from time to time in an attempt to give my readership some balance to what they already hear.

I have also added you to a meme that I will be posting later today. Feel free to play if you would like. I'm sure we would all be enriched by learning more about you and your life.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Marcel Dubois said...

You ask whether we learned anything from our experience at the hands of Nazi Germany.
Well, perhaps the fact that these people are alive is one sign that something was learned?
Perhaps the fact that the soldiers did not smash this man's children with their rifle butts is another sign?
And while we are at it, may I remind you of one Samir Quntar who did smash a 4-year-old girl's skull with his rifle butt after shooting her father right before her eyes? And he was only 15 or 16 at the time.

a Jew from Israel"

1/ Alright, you didn't extermine the Arabs, that's incredible. [But Benny Morris thinks it's a grave mistake] You learned a whole lot about not exterminating people.
I mean, it really is a difficult lesson to learn. Every few years we see some nation exterminating another. And the Jews are so great, not doing that extermination thing.

2/ Also, I think the point that guy made was that the Nazis attacked and discriminated against innocent people, based on their race. Didn't learn that part huh ?

3/ "Perhaps the fact that the soldiers did not smash this man's children with their rifle butts is another sign?"
Perhaps they didn't do it to this guy, but they did it to another.

Let's not waste our time with horror anecdotes. We know Palestinians have done horrible things to Jews and Jews have done horrible thing to Palestinians.

There are two undebatable points to be made: imperialism and colonialism are wrong. Palestinians civilians die in higher numbers than Jews.

Conclusion, regardless of who did what, LEAVE THEM ALONE.

10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is simply a horrible situation. I can't wait for the day when there is peace between Jews and Palestinians. My heart aches everytime I read about the Gaza strip, how the Jews sent back refugees who are escaping the genocide in Darfur becasue is an enemy country, how Palestinians want guns to be traded through the Rafah tunnels to solve their isolation. Diplomacy, understanding, and forgiveness doesn't seem to be an option for any of the parts. The only option seems to be death, torture...violence.

7:03 PM  
Blogger Stephen Pearcy said...

This good article appeared on page A-1 of today's San Francisco Chronicle:

11:08 PM  

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