Analysis News

What the bones remember: Israeli doctors talk torture

How can signs of deliberate physical injury be detected years after they were caused? What are the physical and psychological ramifications of torture for its victims? How can we cope with the moral dilemmas raised by treating captives and prisoners? Physicians who attended the first workshop in Israel devoted to locating and treating torture victims share their insights.

By Einat Fishbain / ‘The Hottest Place in Hell’ (www.ha-makom.co.il)
This article first appeared in Hebrew here.

“I must admit that the issue of torture kind of passed me by,” says Dr. Revital Arbel, a senior gynecologist at a hospital in Jerusalem. “It was always out there somewhere, but I guess that I preferred not to see it. Then I monitored the pregnancy and labor of an Eritrean refugee who was raped in Sinai. Although I have been involved in these issues for years, working with victims of sexual assault, this was the saddest birth I have ever seen. I will never forget the sadness in this mother’s eyes when her son was born.

“I monitored the entire pregnancy not knowing she had been raped. When she came in to deliver the baby she was accompanied by an interpreter for the first time, and they told me the story. Slowly the things she had been through in Sinai began to sink in. Like other refugee women imprisoned in Saharonim, she had not been able to undergo a termination of pregnancy at an early stage. It’s hard to realize that women who arrive there pregnant are not given the opportunity to undergo termination. This causes appalling suffering. However late it is, it is always possible to stop a pregnancy in these circumstances – anything rather than see the face of a woman giving birth to her rapist’s child.”

Just as Arbel realized that eventually this suffering would not forever pass her by unnoticed, she received an invitation to participate in the first-ever training program in Israel for physicians and psychologists teaching ways to locate and diagnose torture victims. She accepted the invitation and became one of the first 16 participants to undergo training from foreign experts in working according to the Istanbul Protocol. The workshop is an ongoing project of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), in cooperation with the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)....

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Just another day of settler violence, IDF acquiescence

A group of 10 settlers assaults two Palestinian farmers, with IDF troops standing by. Just another day of occupation.

By Yesh Din, written by Yossi Gurvitz

The media is in the habit of reporting “price tag” attacks: they’re rather easy to report. There’s often arson, and the arsonist generally leaves a clear message. It’s very photogenic and allows the common Israeli to dismiss those nutcases who use wild violence, not orderly violence like the army does, mutter something about the government being unable to deal with them, and move on.

Those who are familiar with the subject of settler violence, however, know that “price tag” is not the important story, but merely the one that’s easy to tell. The real story, which hardly leaves any traces and therefore rarely makes headlines, is that of the daily terror intended to scare Palestinians away from their land. And in this story, the line between the violence of the settlers and the actions of the body purporting to be the sovereign, the IDF, is blurry, since the settler violence cannot exist without, at least, quiet assent from the military.

Here’s a story that didn’t make the headlines. One day at the end of February, Ahmed Bassam Ahmed Uda and his cousin, Fouad Daoud Salim Shkhada, both residents of the village of Huwara, went to work on Uda’s land outside the village. They worked uninterrupted for four hours, and then, as they finished working, Uda looked up and saw, on the nearby ridge, about four Israeli civilians coming down in their direction from the settlement of Yizhar.

Settlers throw stones at Palestinians as IDF soldiers stand by in the West Bank village of Asira al Qibliya. April 30, 2013 (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

[File photo] Settlers throw stones at Palestinians as IDF soldiers stand by in the West Bank village of Asira al Qibliya. April 30, 2013 (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Uda understood immediately what was about to happen, but believed everything would be fine: between him and the Israeli civilians were more than 600 meters and he intended to rev up his car and escape. But as he pushed the ignition, he was surprised to see more Israeli civilians jumping at him from a nearby ambush, stoning the car. He and Shkhada found themselves surrounded, and Uda decided to abandon the vehicle and attempt to escape...

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When it comes to racist border policies, Israel has no leg to stand on

The fuss ‘The Jerusalem Post’ made about its correspondent being denied entry to Saudi Arabia on religious, racial or national grounds is too much for one Arab-American journalist who was denied entry to Israel.

By Anna Lekas Miller

Passengers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport (Photo by ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)

Passengers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport (Photo by ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com)

On Friday, United States President Barack Obama landed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It was a whirlwind visit to reassure King Abdullah that even though the U.S. had backed down from intervening in Syria, had no intention of showing solidarity with the Arab world whatsoever and will continue negotiating with Saudi arch-rival Iran, Washington is still very interested in any oil that the desert kingdom has to offer.

However, a funny thing happened on the way to the desert camp. Although most of President Obama’s press entourage received the necessary visas to accompany the presidential visit without a problem, Jerusalem Post White House correspondent Michael Wilner was denied a visa to travel to Saudi Arabia.

The Jerusalem Post quickly condemned the action as exclusionary and anti-Semitic. In one of no fewer than four articles on its reporter’s exclusion, the paper’s editorial board asked, “How are we to understand the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s crass treatment of The Jerusalem Post, Israel’s only English language daily?”

We need look no further than the Kingdom of Israel’s crass treatment of a certain Open Zion reporter, who shall remain nameless. Just kidding, it’s me.

It was midnight on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport when my plane touched down. The applause of overeager American visitors and Israelis returning home filled the cabin. I was busy trying not to vomit. A few months earlier, after a seven-hour-long interrogation at the Israeli border, I had sworn I would never again set foot in Ben-Gurion Airport. However, after being invited to attend a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, I was back, Hebrew-language invitation letter in hand, along with the phone numbers of four good Jewish boys who promised to vouch for me.

It wasn’t good enough.

Four hours later, I was on a plane to Istanbul and banned from Israel for 10 years.

I will spare you the details of the interrogation, as I have written about...

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38 years later, Israel gives Palestinians new reasons to mark Land Day

Like other Palestinian national days, Land Day commemorations are less about the historical event as they are reminders of things happening today. Despite years of active struggles, Palestinians are finding themselves protesting the same threats to their land rights in 2014 as they were in 1976.

By Amjad Iraqi

House demolition in Anata, Northern Jerusalem, April 14, 2008 (Photo: Meged Gozani/Activestills.org)

House demolition in Anata, Northern Jerusalem, April 14, 2008 (Photo: Meged Gozani/Activestills.org)

March 30 marks the 38th anniversary of Land Day, which commemorates the mass Palestinian demonstrations against Israel’s sweeping confiscation of Arab lands in the Galilee in 1976. But like other Palestinian national days, the commemorations are less about the historical event as they are reminders of things that are happening today. Despite years of active struggles as second-class Israeli citizens, an occupied population or exiled refugees, Palestinians are finding themselves protesting the same threats to their land rights in 2014 as they were in 1976.

This is neither a nationalist nor ideological statement. Since 1948, the state has aggressively expropriated and minimized Palestinian lands and properties and transferred them to exclusive Jewish ownership. But rather than correcting its policies to realize the historical, human and civil rights of Palestinians to the land, the discriminatory practices have intensified. An alarming rise in forced displacement, unequal distribution and racist laws that target the land rights of Palestinians both in Israel and the Occupied Territories show that the state’s priorities continue to lie more with its ethno-nationalist ambitions than with the rights of non-Jews inside its borders, let alone the viability of peace with the Palestinians.

The last year alone demonstrates the severity of this vision. In 2013, at least 572 homes and structures belonging to Arab Bedouin citizens in the Negev were demolished, many of them destroyed by residents themselves due to threats of financial charges by state authorities. The number of demolitions in the occupied Jordan Valley doubled in 2013, with 390 structures destroyed compared to 172 in 2012. Dozens of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem also face the same threats to their homes. This means that hundreds of Palestinians every year, half of whom are children, are being forcibly displaced on both sides of the Green Line regardless of their citizenship or basic rights.

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An Israeli policeman's account of Land Day, 1976

On March 30, 1976, Israeli police repressed protests by Palestinian citizens of Israel against the confiscation of Arab land in the Galilee for use by Jewish citizens. Six protesters were killed, some 100 wounded and hundreds were arrested. Ever since, Palestinians in Israel, the Occupied Territories and the Diaspora mark Land Day on March 30. ‘Ha’olam Hazeh,’ a magazine published by Uri Avnery, was the only Israeli media outlet to challenge the state’s narrative of the events at the time. The following, a testimony from an Israeli police officer who was present that day, is short item ‘Ha’olam Hazeh’ published following the Land Day events.

(Translated from Hebrew by Ofer Neiman)

I was unfortunate (the swelling on my forehead will attest to that) to be a part of the police forces which were supposed to pacify the riots which had broken out amongst the Arabs of the Galilee on the day they called “Land Day.”

Reading the reports by journalists who were present on the ground, I cannot but throw down the yoke of silence imposed on me as a police officer, and set the record straight regarding a number of issues.

I am not a man of the left, but aspects of my view of what happened in the Galilee on March 30 [1976] will surely have me annexed to the left-wing bloc, for this bloc, in my opinion, is, to my dismay, the bloc holding the objective view.

On March 30 at 12:30 in the morning, my unit was called to a briefing, which was engulfed in hatred towards Arabs, and in which expressions mandating violence for the sake of violence against those who have violated our sleep, the Arabs, were voiced. When we reached the place, no stones awaited us, and therefore our ‘forces’ invaded the village in armored vehicles – associations with my parents’ stories about the British Mandate [come to mind].

In the face of the villagers’ practical discontent, the officers began to fight back with their submachine guns. These officers were very pleased with themselves, since after all, it is not every day that one can be a hero with such ease. And more than all others, a first sergeant and a logistics officer found relief from their abhorrence of the bureaucratic apparatus by shooting at the panicked villagers (the latter even hit two, one of them, it turned out, died due to this).

After the...

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Why Land Day still matters

Today, with no resolution in sight to the historic injustices inflicted upon them, Palestinians in Israel and elsewhere use this day to remember and redouble their efforts for emancipation.

By Sam Bahour and Fida Jiryis

Every year since 1976, on March 30, Palestinians around the world have commemorated Land Day. Though it may sound like an environmental celebration, Land Day marks a bloody day in Israel when security forces gunned down six Palestinians as they protested Israeli expropriation of Arab-owned land in the country’s north to build Jewish-only settlements.

The Land Day victims were not Palestinians from the occupied territory but citizens of the state, a group that now numbers over 1.6 million people, or more than 20.5 percent of the population. They are inferior citizens in a state that defines itself as Jewish and democratic, but in reality is neither.

On that dreadful day 38 years ago, in response to Israel’s announcement of a plan to expropriate thousands of acres of Palestinian land for “security and settlement purposes,” a general strike and marches were organized in Palestinian towns within Israel, from the Galilee to the Negev. The night before, in a last-ditch attempt to block the planned protests, the government imposed a curfew on the Palestinian villages of Sakhnin, Arraba, Deir Hanna, Tur’an, Tamra and Kabul, in the Western Galilee. The curfew failed; citizens took to the streets. Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as those in the refugee communities across the Middle East, joined in solidarity demonstrations.

Palestinians from the Galilee town of Sakhnin commemorating Land Day, March 30, 2013. (Photo by: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Palestinians from the Galilee town of Sakhnin commemorating Land Day, March 30, 2013. (Photo by: Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

In the ensuing confrontations with the Israeli army and police, six Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed, about 100 wounded and hundreds arrested. The day lives on, fresh in the Palestinian memory, since today, as in 1976, the conflict is not limited to Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip but is ever-present in the country’s treatment of its own Palestinian Arab citizens.

The month following the killings, an internal government paper, written by senior Interior Ministry official Yisrael Koenig, was leaked to the press. The document, which became known as the Koenig Memorandum, offered recommendations intended to...

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A proposal: A simple, effective mechanism to improve the world, one penny at a time

Corporations run the world. It’s time we run the corporations.

By Paula Schmitt

There’s a passage in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs that is emblematic of the darkness faced by consumers with any social concern. Apple is being visited by Danielle Mitterrand, the wife of the then French president, and while Jobs keeps force-feeding her all his sloganeering about technology and design, Mitterrand interrupts him to ask about working conditions, overtime, holidays. Jobs, of course, doesn’t answer.

Proponents of capitalism like to boast that their system is about choice; but choice of what? Of brands? Products? I want to be able to choose producers.

We are billions of individually irrelevant people shopping here and there, giving a few dollars every day until those small amounts accumulate into a powerful fortune in the hands of a few, the few that will eventually control our lives and the world we live in.

But if we had the means to determine which corporations are more conducive to a better world, and only purchase from them, we would be able to change life as we know it. Imagine if you could decide on behalf of Nike that instead of paying $100 million to Tiger Woods it should send that money to its stitchers in Asia, whose salaries are often as low as $32 a month? But, considering you don’t have that power, imagine what would happen if Nike could be certain it would sell more shoes by sending money to the stitchers instead of Woods?

Capitalism is not such a bad system – it may even be the least worse. But it must be properly applied. We shouldn’t just be choosing a product – we should be choosing the producers that pay higher salaries for blue-collar workers, that don’t pollute the environment, that spread the wealth, that help their communities, allow maternity leave, pay overtime and use healthy ingredients. But how can we make an educated choice if the main source of information on a product is advertising, and the main source of information on a company is PR firms?

I had to go through hundreds of pages to know I would never purchase another pair of Nike shoes again. But I cannot blame those who do because it took me, a journalist, a few days to learn there were Nike competitors who paid higher salaries to their stitchers and...

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The correlation between Arab economic power and attacks by the Right

If Arabs were still solely manual laborers in Israel’s economy, right-wing MKs would not be rushing to do everything possible to oust them from the labor force, strip them of their political representation and, ultimately, their citizenship.

By Ron Gerlitz

Palestinian construction workers in an Israeli settlement (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Palestinian construction workers in an Israeli settlement (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Of late, not a week has gone by without a senior Israeli government official or politician proposing to strip Israel’s Arab citizens of yet another basic civil right. Most recently, the coalition passed the “governance law,” which raises the electoral threshold from 2 to 3.25 percent. The new law could eject Arab citizens from the Israeli political arena and significantly harms their political rights.

This law followed a slew of similar initiatives, including a bill by coalition chairman Yariv Levin to allow employers to discriminate against job applicants who have not performed military service. This would give legal imprimatur to discrimination against Arab citizens in the workplace and promote a process of ejecting them from the labor force.

Levin is also trying to promote a policy that would distinguish between Christians and Muslims in the allocation of resources. By favoring the former, it would further deepen the budgetary discrimination against Muslims and create friction between the two communities. Unfortunately, the first law that distinguishes between Christians and Muslims was passed in the Knesset last month.

Finally, after attempts to expel Arabs from the Knesset, discriminate against them in the workplace and create cleavages within Arab society, we arrive at the ultimate political solution: depriving hundreds of thousands of Arabs of their Israeli citizenship by transferring them to a Palestinian state. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has make sure to repeat this idea alongside the more moderate political messages he has been presenting recently.

The message to the Arab citizens is clear: if you don’t shut up, you’ll come to a tragic end.

True, not all these troublesome ideas and efforts will be translated into legislation or policy. But even if one of them is realized, it would cause grave damage. In any case, the very fact that ideas of this type have penetrated the public debate is nothing short of an assault by the ruling party against the Arab citizens and against...

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Iranian nuclear talks: Not what Israel wants you to believe

How are the Iranian nuclear talks really going? The answer is: very well, thanks for asking.

By Shemuel Meir

Contrary to what some in Israel would have you believe, the Iranian nuclear talks are not stalled and are proceeding full steam ahead. Between official meetings in Vienna, the technical talks are continuing – and those talks are building the framework for a permanent agreement, which will lead to a non-militarized nuclear Iran. High-level banter in Israel about “deceptive discussions” has no basis in reality. The sides may not yet have reached the stage of mutual trust (which is anyway not necessary; it is preferable to concentrate on verification and intrusive inspections) but there is mutual respect. At the conclusion of the latest rounds of talks, the Iranian and American spokespersons said that these talks had progressed well. The nuclear talks are apparently not an exact replica of the talks-to-nowhere taking place with the Palestinians.

The Iranian nuclear talks are proceeding according to an interim roadmap (Joint Plan of Action) which determined clear parameters along the way to a permanent agreement. At the end of the process, Iran will have the status of a non-nuclear weapon state with the capability to enrich low-level uranium (up to 5 percent, which is not suitable for nuclear weapons) under tight and intrusive IAEA supervision. (Already, in accordance with the interim agreement, daily monitoring is carried out at the centrifuge sites.) At the final phase of the permanent agreement, Iran will be required to ratify the IAEA “Additional Protocol,” allowing intrusive, short-notice inspections of undeclared sites (i.e., on the basis of U.S. intelligence).

Israel’s insistence on “zero uranium enrichment” is not realistic and is not on the agenda of the negotiations. According to the interim agreement, after a “probation period,” Iran will be treated in the same way as all states that have signed the NPT — as non-nuclear weapon state. The duration of the “probation” period will be a tough nut to crack and will require creative diplomacy. Another difficult issue will be the heavy water reactor at Arak, whose construction has been frozen. The U.S. would like to see the closure of the heavy water option and its transformation into a light water electricity reactor, which would not pose a military threat. Iran has taken a positive step toward the U.S. and has hinted at its readiness to...

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'Hi, this is Rona from the Shin Bet'

The logic of Israel’s secret police dictates that it can summon left-wing activists and Palestinian citizens of Israel for friendly ‘chats’ about their political activities. Sounds like a movie script? Illegal? The State, it turns out, insists that this state of affairs is perfectly appropriate.

By Hagai El-Ad (translated by Sol Salbe) / ‘The Hottest Place in Hell’
Read this post in Hebrew here

In Israeli airports, certain people always “endanger security.” Well, it turns out that there are certain ideas that can also “endanger security” if there are people struggling on their behalf. If you’re in the first category but still want to fly, they will rummage through your clothing; if you’re in the latter category and you want to remain conscientious people, they’ll rummage through your thoughts.

Imagine, one day, you receive an unexpected phone call: “Rona” from the Shin Bet (Israeli Security Agency, also known as the “Shabak”), is on the line. She wants you to come in for a “chat.” You summon enough courage to ask what would happen if, instead of accepting Rona’s invitation, you pass the day chatting with other people. Rona explains that it is for your own good, and that it would be a shame if they had to send a cop car. You are convinced and show up – after all, the cops have other things to do…

During the “chat” they let you know that “they know what you are up to” – you’re involved in demonstrations against the occupation, or for Bedouin rights, for example. They ask about your friends and other activists who you don’t really know. About your studies, salary and family. Rona is quite curious. Basically, they tell you that you’re close to the edge, that they’re watching you, that for your own sake you better not slip, that you have an “opportunity to stop.” Otherwise it could become “a lot less pleasant.”

Sounds like a movie script? A bit exaggerated? Illegal? The State, it turns out, insists that this state of affairs is perfectly appropriate. In response to a petition filed by the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) against the “warning chats” that the Shin Bet conducts with various citizens, it stated: “Demonstrations by ‘Leftists’ against the Prawer Plan may develop into widespread confrontations between Jews and Arabs which may have broad security implications. Therefore, disturbances...

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Former Israeli AG: We should have evicted Hebron settlers

In an interview, former Israeli attorney general Michael Ben-Yair says he considers the situation in Hebron a form of Apartheid, refers to ‘Price Tag’ attacks as Jewish terrorism and regrets consenting to the construction of West Bank bypass roads for settlers.

By Yossi Gurvitz, for Yesh Din

Former attorney general Michael Ben-Yair (Photo by Yossi Gurvitz)

Former attorney general Michael Ben-Yair (Photo by Yossi Gurvitz)

About a month ago, I met with Michael Ben-Yair for an in-depth interview offering him a chance to share his thoughts on issues of highest national importance. Ben-Yair is best known to the public as a former attorney general who served in that position under Rabin’s second government. He is also a member of Yesh Din’s Public Council. The following text is a record of our conversation, with some unavoidable omissions.

A few weeks ago, we marked the 20th anniversary of the massacre in the Cave of the Patriarchs. You were there when the government decided how to respond. You effectively approved an arrangement that you later called Apartheid. How did this happen?

In the aftermath of the Goldstein massacre, there were two important steps I believe should have been taken: one which should have been taken but never was; and another that was, but was eventually only loosely implemented. Let’s start with the thing that wasn’t done: The Jewish settlers in Hebron were not removed following the massacre.

Would an eviction have withstood the test of the Supreme Court?

Shuhada Street in Hebron (Photo by Yossi Gurvitz)

Shuhada Street in Hebron (Photo by Yossi Gurvitz)

There were tense relations between Jews and Palestinians in Hebron even before the massacre. The removal of the Jewish settlers was not intended as an act of punishment. The plan to evict the Jewish settlers in Hebron, which was later restricted to the settlers in Tel Rumeida, was intended for prevention rather than punishment. There was a desire to prevent the very tense relations between Jews and Muslims in Hebron following the massacre. The massacre formed part of the tension that had already existed in the city.

I am not talking about the evacuation of the settlement of Kiryat Arba but about the Jewish settlers in Hebron, who were fairly few at this time, and...

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What BDS and the Israeli government have in common

Few of the people accused of boycotting Israel actually advocate or adhere to the central demands of the Palestinian boycott call. Ironically, those same people may be in the best position to help end the occupation.

By Ran Greenstein

JVP Boston activists protest the Veolia transportation company for operating bus lines serving settlements in the West Bank. November 14, 2012. (Tess Scheflan/ Activestills.org)

[Illustrative photo] JVP Boston activists protest the Veolia transportation company for operating bus lines serving settlements in the West Bank. November 14, 2012. (Tess Scheflan/ Activestills.org)

Opposition to the BDS movement has become a crucial test of loyalty to the pro-Israel cause in the U.S. Jewish community in recent months. It has not replaced the Iranian nuclear program as the most prominent cause for alarm raised by the Israel lobby and its allies, but it is moving in that direction.

Naturally enough, this heightened publicity is being celebrated by BDS activists as proof that their campaign is working effectively, and that they do indeed constitute a major problem for the Israeli government and its supporters. What better demonstration of your success than the fear of your opponents?

On the face of it this seems a bit curious. There is a big discrepancy between the achievements of the movement so far and the attention it has been getting. Without wishing to underestimate the impact of the campaign, it has been endorsed by student societies on a dozen university campuses in the U.S. and Europe, and by a couple of academic associations. Most of these expressions of support have focused only on the first of the three goals of the movement: to oppose the 1967 occupation, support the right of return of the 1948 Palestinian refugees and advocate full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel. Rarely has any high-profile group or body come out in support of all three goals combined.

If this is the case indeed, how can we explain the hysteria that has engulfed sections of the hasbara apparatus, in Israel and overseas, as expressed in speeches, legislation and expressions of outrage? To understand the issue we have to make a distinction between two types of BDS, which have been conflated in public discourse.

The first type is the BDS movement as embodied in the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)....

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I'm a Palestinian from Gaza, not an alien

The people of Gaza don’t need the sympathy of the international community, they need to be treated like human beings.

By Abeer Ayyoub

I’m a Palestinian from Gaza, not simply “a Gazan.” I’m not exactly what you see in the mainstream media: I’m no expert in firing rockets, I don’t live under rubble and I don’t rely on humanitarian handouts.

Actually, I was never aware of how people outside of Gaza saw us until I was given the chance to leave the isolated enclave for the first time. The first time I left Gaza was in 2012, when I traveled to Jerusalem for some work meetings. It was strange to find out that even Palestinians who live only dozens of miles away are also mislead by the media about the truth of Palestinians in the strip.

I was extremely overwhelmed to see the other parts of my homeland for the first time. I wanted to tell everyone I met that I was from Gaza, since most people never get to meet us in real life. “I’m from Gaza,” I announced to the Palestinian receptionist at the fancy East Jerusalem hotel with a wide smile. He went speechless before mockingly asking whether I had any rockets in my pockets. I expected such comments from Israelis, but never from a Palestinians.

The next day, I traveled from Jerusalem to Ramallah on a bus near Damascus Gate. After finding a window seat, a handsome man came to sit beside me. We made some small talk – I could tell he was from Bethlehem, but he had no idea where I was from. “I’m from Gaza,” I said. “ No way, but you are cute and smart!” he said. Once again, I went speechless. Where on earth did he get the idea that people from Gaza are any less cute or smart than those in Bethlehem?

These incidents could not prepare me for the reactions I would receive when I traveled to the United States a few weeks later, where some people had no idea that Gaza even exists.

So, for all those who are misled by photos of bombings and bloodshed: yes, there is an ongoing conflict in Palestine, not only in Gaza. And yes, Gaza is not an independent region, it is a part of occupied Palestine. These facts don’t make me an alien.

It became tiresome and offensive to repeatedly hear...

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