+972 Magazine » Mya Guarnieri http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Thu, 24 Jul 2014 15:42:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Israel’s Bedouin: Civilians in death alone http://972mag.com/israels-bedouin-civilians-in-death-alone/93965/ http://972mag.com/israels-bedouin-civilians-in-death-alone/93965/#comments Sun, 20 Jul 2014 13:32:08 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93965 Israel denies Bedouin citizens basic services in life but claims them as civilians when they die.

Over 400 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its current military operation in Gaza. According to the United Nations, approximately three-quarters of Gaza’s dead are civilians; many are children.

In Israel, two civilians have been killed. One was a Bedouin, the 32-year-old Oudi Lafi al-Waj, who lived in an unrecognized village in the Negev (Naqab) desert, near Dimona. Several Bedouin children have also been injured by rocket fire since Israel began “Operation Protective Edge.”

Bedouin villages do not have air raid sirens, nor are they covered by Iron Dome. They also lack bomb shelters.

Israeli policemen stand by as a bulldozer demolishes the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib for the 64th time (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli policemen stand by as a bulldozer demolishes the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib for the 64th time (photo: Activestills.org)

In the wake of al-Waj’s death, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, a non-governmental organization, “submitted an urgent request” this morning to the Israeli High Court for an answer on the petition the organization filed last week requesting that the state provide bomb shelters for the Bedouin.

But in a Sunday hearing at Israel’s High Court, the “state expressed its position that there is no need to provide additional protective facilities to these communities, and advised the Bedouin residents to protect themselves by lying on the ground,” ACRI reports. The organization added that “officials claimed that protecting the Bedouin villages was a low priority.”

               Read +972′s coverage of the latest round of violence

Responding to today’s hearing, ACRI Attorney Auni Banna remarked:

State officials completely disregarded the fact that in villages where there are no shelters, no sirens, and where the houses are built mostly of aluminum – a falling rocket is exponentially more dangerous. The state’s conduct conveys a sense of how they distinguish one type of blood from another, and the abandonment of the Bedouin in the unrecognized villages.

While the High Court declined to take immediate action on the matter, it did request that the respondents–Regional Councils and the Ministry of Justice–respond to concerns raised in the petition about the villages’ infrastructure within 30 days. 

This is not the first time that Israel’s highest court has failed to protect the most basic human rights of the country’s Bedouin citizens. In 2013, the Israeli High Court rejected a petition from the NGO Adalah requesting that the state provide water to the unrecognized Bedouin village Umm al Hiran.

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Residents of Umm al Hiran must travel four kilometers to buy water from a citizen who charges “exorbitantly high prices,” according to Adalah.

The High Court’s 2013 ruling denying Umm al Hiran access to the national water network “contradicts the Supreme Court’s 2011 decision in which it held that the right to water is a constitutional right and that the Arab Bedouin living in the Naqab… have the right to “minimal access to water,” Adalah pointed out.

Now, Israel wants to include a Bedouin man in its civilian casualty toll.

But Israel claims al-Waj in death only. And the state will surely exploit his death to justify its military operation in Gaza. But in life, in Israel, al-Waj was less than a civilian. He was just a Bedouin—not worthy of basic services or even shelter against rockets.

Israel, state of all its victims
PHOTOS: A life of discrimination for Negev Bedouin
How can you possibly oppose this war?

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Death in Gaza, fireworks in Bethlehem http://972mag.com/death-in-gaza-fireworks-in-bethlehem/93937/ http://972mag.com/death-in-gaza-fireworks-in-bethlehem/93937/#comments Sat, 19 Jul 2014 16:26:21 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93937 Though tawjihi, matriculation, celebrations seem light on the surface, they point to a bleak political reality in the West Bank.

I heard the first gunshots at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, 30 minutes before the “humanitarian ceasefire” went into effect.

My elderly landlady stuck her head out the window. “What’s going on?” she shouted to where I sat in the garden. She speculated that it could be clashes in Dheisheh refugee camp, which is within earshot of our house. But when we heard fireworks and horns honking, we figured it was a celebration. “Maybe,” I told her, “it’s because of the Israeli acceptance of the ceasefire. Maybe people see it as a Hamas victory?”

Majeed Al-Zeem, 52 year old, stands next to an hole caused by a missile launched by a drone which caused his injury, Gaza city, July 14, 2014. The missile was launched by the Israeli army to warn the family that they are going to conduct an airstrike on the house next door, a policy known to be termed "knock on the roof". Israeli attacks have so far killed more than 180 Palestinians.

Majeed Al-Zeem, 52 year old, stands next to an hole caused by a missile launched by a drone which caused his injury, Gaza city, July 14, 2014. The missile was launched by the Israeli army to warn the family that they are going to conduct an airstrike on the house next door, a policy known to be termed “knock on the roof”. Israeli attacks have so far killed more than 180 Palestinians.

And then a neighbor, another elderly woman, arrived. On my street—and I would venture to say that this is true for much of Palestine—elderly women are consummate collectors of information. My landlady once ferreted out my partner’s cell phone number, knowing only his exceedingly common first name, his not-uncommon last name, and the village his family hails from.

Over the cracks of live fire, which echoed through the valley, our neighbor told my landlady that high school seniors had just gotten their tawjihi scores. Tawjihi are matriculation exams, and their scores determine what college or university one will be able to get into, as well as what departments they will be admitted to.

The noise went on for a couple more hours and resumed in the evening. After iftar, the sky lit up with fireworks. As I headed towards the neighborhood dukkan (bodega), a few men stood in the street, watching the display with awe and disgust.

A friend from Beit Jala put it simply that night, as we sat in the garden. “Shu malhom?” What’s their problem?


It might seem belated or curious that I’m writing about this on Saturday. But in the Bethlehem area, tawjihi celebrations are still a topic of discussion.

Last night, I visited some Palestinian friends in Beit Sahour. “Did you hear all that noise on Tuesday?” my host asked, shaking his head. “Unbelievable. There’s a massacre in Gaza and people are shooting off fireworks.”

“Okay, if you want to celebrate, fine,” he continued. “But be respectful of what’s happening. Take your celebrations inside.”

My host added that one of his brothers was so upset by the celebrations—he though they were so disrespectful of what Gaza is going through right now—that he threw eggs at honking cars.

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While my host said that the young people’s parents should not have let them celebrate in the streets, he said that it pointed to a much larger problem.

“We have no leadership,” he said. He explained that a good political system—one that works for the Palestinian people and their freedom, one that cares about Gaza and sees no division between the territories—would have held the scores until this military escalation is over. Or they would have issued some sort of an announcement requesting that people keep the situation in Gaza in mind as they celebrate.

And that’s what this is really about. Leadership. That’s what I hear over and over and over again in the West Bank: we want to protest, we want to do something, anything, but we have no leaders.


This came up again in another troubling conversation, the day after Israel began its ground incursion into the Gaza Strip.

“What’s happening in Gaza makes me sick,” my friend Layla said. Layla used to be an activist. Now, she’s just trying to keep her head above water.

Layla is angry and sad, but she also feels powerless. We talked about how protesting seems increasingly futile in the West Bank. How the Palestinian Authority does Israel’s bidding by putting down demonstrations. And that, at this point, getting arrested at a protest would not be a provocative act of civil disobedience. It would just seem useless.

So rather than rallying for Gaza, the youth celebrate tawjihi.

“There are Dayton forces all over,” Layla said, referring to the American general who was in charge of training the Palestinian security forces—security forces that don’t make the people feel safe but, rather, oppressed and silenced. “Maybe we could do more if we were abroad.”

On dual standards and the hypocrisy of peace
The abnormal reality of the occupation and its ‘escalations’
Gaza diary: ‘A second of silence, then the bombs go off’

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What does Israeli ‘acceptance’ of ceasefire really mean? http://972mag.com/what-does-israeli-acceptance-of-ceasefire-really-mean/93642/ http://972mag.com/what-does-israeli-acceptance-of-ceasefire-really-mean/93642/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 10:35:42 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93642 The Israeli cabinet voted to accept an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire Tuesday morning. Hamas, who was not consulted, is in direct discussions with Cairo but has criticized the initial proposal. What does all this mean?

1) Israel is willing to return to the status quo, a status quo that serves Israeli interests. Sure there is occasional rocket fire from Gaza but Israel has the Iron Dome and, in the sparsely populated south of the country, the rockets usually fall in open spaces. The occasional rocket from Gaza actually helps Israeli hawks strengthen their case for continuing the “occupation” of the West Bank (an “occupation” that, in the wake of Netanyahu’s recent remarks, should be understood as a de facto annexation). The Israeli right points to the rockets from Gaza and says, “Look, we withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and all we got is rocket fire!”

Returning to the status quo also means that Israel strikes Gaza from time to time and kills Palestinian civilians there and in the West Bank without garnering much scrutiny from the international media and, by extension, the international community. Returning to the status quo would also mean an end to the immediate damage to Israel’s image caused by the horrific photos and footage coming out of Gaza, and global protests against what Israel calls “Operation Protective Edge.”

Hussam Shamdi sits on an missile which did not explode from the air strike which destroyed his home the day before, in Tel al-Hawa neighbourhood of Gaza City, July 14, 2014. (photo: ActiveStills)

Hussam Shamdi sits on an unexploded missile from an Israeli air strike, which destroyed his home the day before, in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City, July 14, 2014. (photo: ActiveStills)

2) Accepting the ceasefire, as Israeli officials admit, gives Israel the green light to “defend” itself with even more force than it’s using now. Just a few hours ago the Israeli cabinet voted to accept the proposed ceasefire. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked at a press conference, “If Hamas continues to fire at Israel, Israel will have the international legitimacy to take action.”

But how can Hamas possibly accept a ceasefire it wasn’t consulted on and especially one that would mean a return to the status quo, including the blockade that the United Nations calls “collective punishment“? Hamas’ terms for a ceasefire are reasonable: that Israel lifts the blockade of the Gaza Strip; that Israel ends aggression in the Occupied Territories; and that Israel releases Palestinian prisoners, many of who were released in the Shalit deal and re-arrested in the West Bank during the so-called “Operation Brothers’ Keeper.”

Instead, the ceasefire proposes to hold indirect negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian parties to arrive at a “final truce,” as the WSJ puts it.

But as Khaled al-Batch, an Islamic Jihad leader, was quoted in Al Jazeera:

It is not acceptable to start observing a ceasefire for short term then negotiate the terms. We have experienced this in the past and it has failed.

What is needed now is to agree on the demands of the Palestinian people, chiefly ending the siege and opening the border corsing [sic], then a zero hour can be agreed upon. Otherwise, history will repeat itself, period.

Or as the armed wing of Hamas, Al Qassam Brigades, remarked about the proposed ceasefire: “For us, it is not worth the ink that wrote it.”

Israel’s “acceptance” of the ceasefire – a ceasefire that Hamas wasn’t consulted on and, accordingly, does not meet Hamas’ terms – really isn’t an acceptance at all. As many observers were quick to say, it’s a public relations move. It could also be understood as an attempt to  pave the way for a ground invasion.

The occupation will last forever, Netanyahu clarifies
The unfolding lie of Operation Protective Edge
The abnormal normality of the occupation

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The abnormal normality of the occupation and its ‘escalations’ http://972mag.com/the-abnormal-normality-of-the-occupation/93534/ http://972mag.com/the-abnormal-normality-of-the-occupation/93534/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 08:33:28 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93534 To pretend as though the events of recent days are extraordinary is to ignore the context that led to this ‘flare-up’ and is disrespectful to the millions of Palestinians who wrestle with the occupation every day, in both the West Bank and in Gaza.

Palestinians from the West Bank with permits to enter Israel wait at the Israeli military checkpoint in the separation wall controlling movement between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, June 12, 2014. (Photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Palestinians from the West Bank with permits to enter Israel wait at the Israeli military checkpoint in the separation wall controlling movement between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, June 12, 2014. (Photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

It’s Wednesday. The death toll in Gaza is in the dozens and rising as Layla*, a Christian Palestinian, gets into my car. We live in Bethelehem. She needs a ride to pick up her tasrich (permit) from the Civil Administration’s office in Gush Etzion, where Israel and the Western media claim that the current “flare-up” began.

Layla laughs at our clothes as she opens the passenger door. With her sleeveless top and above-the-knee skirt, she says, she looks like a settler. I’m in long sleeves and jeans, which Layla calls “Abu Dis style,” referring to the conservative Muslim village where I teach. Although we joke about our clothes, I wonder if they reflect the increased tension of recent days; I wonder if they reflect the anxieties neither of us want to admit to.

We leave Bethlehem and merge onto a road that’s shared by army jeeps, Palestinians, and Jewish Israeli civilians and settlers. Layla sighs, “I don’t know who to be afraid of anymore, Mya,” she says. We reason that being together keeps us safe from everyone. No matter who might stop us, we’ll be able to reason with them in their own language. Both our clothes and words will be familiar.

But, as we drive deeper into Gush Etzion, we quickly notice how “normal” things are in the West Bank. “Look at all the settlers,” Layla exclaims, tapping on the window as we pass them. Even though it’s midday, even though it’s blisteringly hot, even though three Israeli boys were murdered not far from here, even though Mohammed Abu Khdeir was brutally murdered by Jews, even though settlements are illegal, even though Israel is pummeling Gaza, there they are. Settlers. Waiting for buses. Hitchhiking.

A lone soldier crosses the road in front of us. “Oh, isn’t he afraid?” Layla asks, sarcastically.

“Look,” Layla says again, pointing at an Israeli woman standing by the side of the road in a skirt, her head wrapped in a scarf. “They’re everywhere.” Layla’s voice is indignant, conflicted. Indignant that the media has made it seem as though Jews aren’t safe; conflicted that they are.

“It seems they are having a very normal life in the street. And then they say that they are afraid and they drive us [Palestinians] crazy with their ‘security’ issues.”

Aadi,” normal, I say in Arabic.


That’s what this so-called “flare-up” is. More of the same. Yes, there is obviously a surge in the pace of violence and death and destruction and arrests since Israeli officials decided to shamelessly lie to the public and exploit the tragic death of three Jewish boys so they could embark on a campaign against Hamas. Yes, events are happening closer together than they usually do; yes, the timeline is sped up. But violence and death and destruction and arrests are the norm under Israeli occupation. And to pretend as though the events that have occurred in recent days are extraordinary is to ignore the context that led to this “flare-up” and is disrespectful to the millions of Palestinians who wrestle with the occupation every day.

Yes, recent weeks have seen mass arrests in the West Bank, but ask my students—many of whom have family members in Israeli jails—if arbitrary imprisonment is normal or not. Ask my quiet, pious, straight-A student whose beloved brother was taken from her for over a year on trumped up charges of stone throwing.

Or young West Bankers might talk to you about Samer Issawi, who was held in administrative detention without charge for 17 months. Or ask the more than 5,000 Palestinian prisoners who are currently being held in Israeli jails, many on administrative detention. Or ask the estimated 700,000 who have been imprisoned since the occupation began in 1967.

Ask young West Bankers when this “flare-up” began and they likely won’t date it to the murders of the three Israeli boys. No, maybe they would point to May, when 17-year-old Nadeem Nowarah and another protester, 16-year-old Mohammad Odeh, were shot to death by Israeli soldiers during a demonstration.

Or pick any other number of Palestinian children who have been killed by the Israeli army recently as your starting point. Like 14-year-old Yusef a-Shawamreh. Or we could date the beginning of this “flare-up” back to December 2013, when 15-year-old Wajih al-Ramahi was shot in the back by Israeli forces.

Or, rather than starting with the kidnapping of the three Jewish boys, why not begin the timeline with the kidnappings of Palestinian children from their beds by Israeli soldiers?

Citing a report by the non-governmental organization Defence for Children International, Al Jazeera states: “In the past 11 years, DCI estimates that around 7,500 children, some as young as 12, have been detained, interrogated and imprisoned” in Israeli military detention. “This is about 500-700 children per year, or nearly two children every day.

Israeli Border Police officer detains a Palestinian child at a protest in Kufr Qaddum, January 25, 2013. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Israeli Border Police officer detains a Palestinian child at a protest in Kufr Qaddum, January 25, 2013. (Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

As for Israel’s unrelenting bombings of Gaza, as for the loss of civilian life there, we should also remember that this, too, is normal—Palestinians who live in the Gaza Strip die on a regular basis. What we see in recent days is an acceleration in the deaths that are part of life in Gaza. And just as innocent civilians have been killed during this “flare-up,” so have they been killed in times when the international media has been paying less attention.

Earlier this year, the Israeli non-governmental agency B’TSelem noted a spike in the number of Palestinian civilians who were killed by Israeli forces near Gaza’s perimeter fence. In March, after 57-year-old Amneh Qdeih was shot dead along the fence, B’Tselem noted that it was “the fifth incident in the last three months in which Gaza residents who were not taking part in hostilities were killed by Israeli security forces near the perimeter fence.”

Palestinian children take pictures of each other in the No-go zone near Erez crossing, during the weekly demonstration against the occupation in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, February 7, 2012. Every Tuesday Palestinians and supporters march from Beit Hanoun into the "buffer zone" or the No-go zone , where the fertile land has been made inaccessible to Palestinians due to the imminent danger of shooting by the Israeli army. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinian children take pictures of each other in the No-go zone near Erez crossing, during the weekly demonstration against the occupation in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, February 7, 2012. Every Tuesday Palestinians and supporters march from Beit Hanoun into the “buffer zone” or the No-go zone , where the fertile land has been made inaccessible to Palestinians due to the imminent danger of shooting by the Israeli army. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Even when there is not an “operation” per se taking place, Gaza is subject to bombings by the Israeli air force. This year nine Palestinians in Gaza, including one child, were killed by Israeli strikes before the current “flare-up.”

There’s also the Israeli blockade, which visits violence upon the people of Gaza by crushing their economy, devastating healthcare, and curtailing educational opportunities. To name a few. The blockade is also a psychological and social battering of Gaza. Its disastrous effects cannot be overstated.

That it’s not just about this “flare-up” was the sentiment some Palestinians expressed to The Washington Post’s William Booth:

One afternoon, we were talking to a gathering of middle-aged men… I asked them if they thought the war, or whatever one calls this, would go on long.

“Who cares?” answered Abu Ahmed, 46, an out-of-work construction worker. I asked what he meant. “We lived in hell before, we will live in hell again,” he said.


In the West Bank there are insidious forms of everyday violence. Things that, on the surface, might not look like violence. Like getting a permit.

Layla and I arrive at the Civil Administration’s Bethlehem area office. She enters her identity number into a machine, which spits out a slip of paper. She approaches an entryway that is blocked—floor to ceiling—by a barred turnstile. On the other side, a soldier sits in a booth behind a thick, glass window. The message of the architecture is: the soldier’s life is valuable and he must be protected from the dangerous savages. The architecture itself is accusatory, condemning, and violent.

“Excuse me, I’m here to get a permit,” Layla says politely, in English, through the bars.

Ma?” What? The soldier shouts, in Hebrew, through the intercom. Layla doesn’t speak Hebrew.

Tasrich?” Layla tries again.

He unlocks the turnstile and Layla enters and passes through a metal detector. She disappears into the building.

There are about half a dozen men in the waiting room, including three who are there to be interrogated by the mukhabarat, intelligence, the Shin Bet. The soldier tells one of the men, “Come, come.”

He heads to the turnstile and waits to be let through.

“No, no, sit,” the soldier barks in Arabic.

The man returns to his seat. Only to be told to come again. Only to be sent back to his chair.

It seems like the soldier is playing with the man.

Once she’s inside, Layla discovers that the computer “isn’t working” on Wednesday. She won’t be able to get her permit. We leave, making the 20 minute drive back to Bethlehem, only to turn around on Thursday afternoon—when the death count in Gaza is even higher—to make the drive back to Gush Etzion again.

This time, Layla has brought lollipops to lighten the mood. She offers me a cherry Chupa Chup and unwraps the strawberry one for herself.

There are more people in the waiting room then the previous day. Today, it’s mostly women, including a young mother with a tiny newborn, a baby girl. The young mother and the women are waiting to be interrogated by the mukhabarat. They’ve been waiting for a while when we arrive and they’ll still be there when Layla and I leave an hour and 40 minutes later with the permit she shouldn’t need—part of her family was from Jaffa. They were on the land before the state was. Now, they’re refugees. And when Layla and I went back to Jaffa a few months ago to look for the house, she couldn’t even find it.

The women sit and wait as the soldier on the other side of the bars calls out random names—names of people who aren’t there. It seems like he’s calling out every name but theirs. It’s Ramadan and it’s hot and the women are fasting. Their faces are tired. They move and sit by the open door, the one source of fresh air in the room. There is a sign on the wall opposite the women that reads “Drinking Water” in Arabic. But the water fountain is unplugged and dusty.

And they sit and they wait as the soldier shouts, “Amal? Amal?” through the intercom.

I wonder if the soldier knows that this name means hope.

Layla and I leave. On the way to the car, she tells me she met Palestinians inside who were also there on Wednesday for hours waiting to get permits for medical reasons. They were told to return Thursday and waited for hours again.

“This is called structural violence, Mya,” she says. “It’s dehumanizing. And it’s humiliating to wait for an 18-year-old to give you a piece of paper that allows you to get into Jerusalem or any part of ‘48 [Israel] except for Eilat. I don’t know what their problem is with Eilat. What’s there in Eilat?”

She shrugs and laughs, “They’re so silly, I swear.”

As we drive away, I wonder how long the women waiting will be there. I remember what countless Palestinians have told me. That one of the things, perhaps the most valuable thing the occupation steals from them is their time. “Land can be taken back,” they say. “Time cannot.”

A Palestinian worker wait outside the Ni'lin checkpoint. In the background the settlement of Hashmonaim, West Bank, October 21, 2013. (Photo: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian worker wait outside the Ni’lin checkpoint. In the background the settlement of Hashmonaim, West Bank, October 21, 2013. (Photo: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

The time that people spend waiting: for permits, at checkpoints, driving circuitous routes to reach places that before the occupation and before the separation barrier took them half the time. I can’t count the times that Bethlehemites have told me that they miss going to Ramallah to meet friends for coffee. How it used to be a short trip, how it used to be possible. “Now,” they say. “It takes an hour and a half just to get there.” How these relationships have been lost or weakened as a result.

This is the normal, everyday violence of the occupation. This is what the Israelis don’t want you to think about when they start their timeline of this “flare-up” with the kidnapping and murder of the three boys.

*Not her real name. “Layla” wishes to remain anonymous for, as she put it, “security reasons.”

What ‘no country in the world’ should tolerate
Shock, not awe, among ‘battle-hardened’ Gazans
A frightening new era of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel

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‘My best friend was Jewish’: A young East Jerusalemite speaks http://972mag.com/my-best-friend-was-jewish-a-young-east-jerusalemite-speaks/90592/ http://972mag.com/my-best-friend-was-jewish-a-young-east-jerusalemite-speaks/90592/#comments Tue, 17 Jun 2014 17:30:32 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=90592 I teach writing at a Palestinian university in the West Bank. Several of my students have been gracious enough to share their experiences with +972, albeit anonymously. This is the final installment in the four-part series. 

With the other pieces, I’ve let the student speak first, only adding my comments at the end. But this excerpt points toward a surprising ideological issue that arose between my student and myself, so I feel the need to preface it.

During discussion in class one day, the subject of Israel’s renaming of destroyed Palestinian villages arose. This student felt frustrated with my insistence on using only Arabic place names and she took a position that proved unpopular with her peers: that both the Jews and Palestinians have historical and emotional connections to the land and that, accordingly, both the Hebrew and Arabic names should be used and respected.

Not only was I surprised by her stance, it also challenged me. My student seemed more comfortable and more at peace with Israel than I am. Our in-class discussion, as well as the essay she wrote shortly thereafter, opened many questions, and they’re questions I don’t have answers to.

Has my student, who grew up in East Jerusalem, been brainwashed by attending (Israeli-controlled) public schools? The difficult economic situation and the housing crisis there–both results of the occupation–forced my student and her family to leave East Jerusalem in 2009, two years before Israel took the step of outright censorship of Palestinian textbooks. However, as an employee of the Israeli school system tells me, Palestinian teachers who are openly critical of Israel risk losing their jobs. Hatim Kanaaneh does a nice job of giving a firsthand account of this in his memoir A Doctor in the Galilee. He also describes how those who march in line with Israeli ideology might find themselves rewarded.

So is my student just repeating what she learned in a school system that strips her of her Palestinian identity? Or are her views the result of being a part of the normalizing, “co-existence” program she mentions below? Is she just being pragmatic or is she just navigating the reality she finds on the ground as best she can?

The process of moving from one town to another takes weeks, and they were the toughest weeks in my life… All that was because the work of my father stopped in Jerusalem, because his boss broke the contract to expel my father from work because he wants younger workers who do not have the responsibility of the family, also the homeowner did not want to give my father a chance until things return to normal and he wanted the money on time, and also the problems of paying bills for electricity, water and taxes became a big issue for my father and he was in horrible condition. The only solution was moving to Jericho and live with grandparents. We couldn’t reject or oppose my father’s decision because we coexist with the situation. At the same time it was difficult in terms of leaving  my childhood friends, and going to the school and  spending my last days with them. They tried to cheer me up, but I was completely sad, as no one wants to leave his friends and move to another town especially if the town is in the west bank.

However, on the first day of October 2009 we moved fully to Jericho. I did not think that my life would be in this bad shape, I still curse that day, the fateful day as I called it. The situation was new to me, new lifestyle, when you were born and raised in a society that is completely different from the society where you live now, people have a different way of thinking, especially about the idea of having a peace with  the Jews. When they open a discussion in the class about the relation between Palestinian and Israeli, they were always violent and they don’t want to think about having a peace with them. Since when I was a little kid, I had a lot of Jewish friends and my best friend was Jewish too.

I was a member of Association of  Children of Peace, and I can’t change my thoughts directly to fit with [West Bankers'] thoughts,  plus [the students in Jericho] were saying the “lands of 48″ which I called it Israel and the west bank… that was what I learned in the school in Jerusalem and if I say Israel instead of 48, they start a fight with me, and I couldn’t argue with them because I have nothing to say to convince them that not all the Jews are our enemies.

Also, their view of life is also different, and I just came and prioritize on them by expressing my opinion which is different from the way they think of. As no one accepted me in my new school because I am from Jerusalem and they think I’m with the Jews. I was alone all the time and act like I don’t care about their harmful words, all they were doing is criticizing, makes me feel that I’m not one of them. But my family was beside me and support me by reminding me that better days are coming, but I just have to wait and fight. It was difficult for all of us, not only new life, also living in a house with my grandfather and grandmother and two aunts. There was no personal life, if you cry, scream, shout, laugh, dance they want to understand why, you don’t have the right to complain about anything, you have to act normal. Now I got used to it and that doesn’t mean I like to live in Jericho, but sometimes you have to leave things as they are and let it go.

More from this series:
The ‘smaller’ indignities of occupation
‘Land isn’t enough; the army takes olives, too’
‘Dad’s in prison’: A young Palestinian woman speaks

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The ‘smaller’ indignities of occupation http://972mag.com/the-smaller-indignities-of-occupation/90190/ http://972mag.com/the-smaller-indignities-of-occupation/90190/#comments Mon, 28 Apr 2014 07:52:02 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=90190 I teach writing at a Palestinian university in the West Bank. Several of my students have been gracious enough to share their experiences with +972, albeit anonymously. This is the third of four short essays. Read parts one and two.

As my siblings and I sat alone in an unfamiliar place waiting for my mother, I tried my best to keep a strong face in front of them. How I felt, on the other hand, was the exact opposite of strong.

It was the middle of July during the summer of 2006, the first time I came to visit Palestine. My mom, my siblings and I, all made the tiring journey across the Atlantic ocean so that we could visit the place we had a connection to. We landed in Tel Aviv Airport at 3 p.m. and I couldn’t have been more excited to see what this “homeland” was all about. But as we made our way to the visa booth, we were escorted into a long hall with empty white rooms. The soldier, who could barely speak English or Arabic, pointed my siblings and I to a single room and took my mom somewhere else.

When I realized what was happening, my panic took over and I rushed to the soldier to tell him to leave us with our mother, but he wasn’t having it. Across the hall was another room with another Arab family, including one older woman. When she saw what was happening she told me to sit down, and not to worry. I couldn’t see how I wasn’t going to worry when I was suddenly in charge of caring for my two-year-old sister, my five-year-old brother and my nine- and 10-year-old sisters. I was only 11 at the time.

We sat there for four hours waiting for my mom, but it felt like a lifetime. No one would tell me where she was, or what we were waiting for.

My siblings, especially the younger ones, wreaked havoc on the area we were waiting in. They screamed, cried, complained about hunger and even decided they needed to use the restroom. At first, I did what I was taught, which was to subdue my siblings into listening to me and behaving, but after an hour of doing that, they just stopped caring. The panic I had been keeping down, finally surfaced and I began to beg every Israeli soldier who passed by me to tell me where my mother was, to no avail. My younger sibling took this advantage to walk out of the room and go on an adventure and I just stood there watching them go from room to room looking for something interesting to do. I had reached my limit, it seemed that we were going to be there all day.

Finally my mom was led back to us and we all took a sigh of relief, especially when she told us that we could finally leave the airport. That day I decided that I was never going to go through the Tel Aviv airport again.

Yes, the Israelis eventually allowed the family to enter the country. But that’s not the point. Not only were these children subjected to discriminatory policies, they went through a frightening experience just because they’re Palestinian. Unsurprisingly, their American passports did not provide them any protection. To Israel, a Palestinian is a Palestinian — regardless of their age or nationality.

My student’s story is also a reminder that the occupation of Palestinian land is not just about arbitrary arrests and imprisonment and death and the violation of freedom of movement. It’s also about the smaller indignities, like a child being separated from her mother at the airport; like not being able to use the restroom; like being corralled into a room, even if one is eventually released. And, eight years later, my student’s reaction to and memory of these “smaller indignities” actually remind that there is no such thing as a small indignity.

More from this series:
‘Land isn’t enough; the army takes olives, too’
‘Dad’s in prison’: A young Palestinian woman speaks

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‘Land isn’t enough; the army takes olives, too’ http://972mag.com/land-isnt-enough-the-army-takes-olives-too/89395/ http://972mag.com/land-isnt-enough-the-army-takes-olives-too/89395/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 11:34:44 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=89395 I teach writing at a Palestinian university in the West Bank. Several of my students have been gracious enough to share their experiences with +972, albeit anonymously. This is the second of four short essays. Read part one here.

I went with my family to our olive groves in order to pick  olives. We went there full of happiness. When we arrived each one of us took his pail and stared to pick olives. We raced to see who could pick the most olives as quickly as possible.

When we finished in the afternoon, the Israeli soldiers came and forced us to give them what we picked. When my father objected, they threatened him.

And so my student and her family turned over the pails of olives, the fruit that they’d joyfully picked together.

No, the Nakba wasn’t enough for Israel. It’s not enough that the Palestinians have been dispossessed, that Israel continues to eat away at what little land the Palestinians have left, that many Palestinian farmers can’t even reach their property. It’s not enough that Israel restricts freedom of movement, hijacks water resources, and stunts the Palestinian economy.

No, none of that is enough. When Palestinians do have access to their land and their olive trees, and when a family has a nice day harvesting their hard fought crop, Israel can’t stand that either.

The war on the Palestinian olive harvest

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‘Dad’s in prison’: A young Palestinian woman speaks http://972mag.com/dads-in-prison-a-young-palestinian-woman-speaks/89077/ http://972mag.com/dads-in-prison-a-young-palestinian-woman-speaks/89077/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 11:47:25 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=89077 I teach writing at a Palestinian university in the West Bank. Several of my students have been gracious enough to share their experiences with +972, albeit anonymously. This is the first of four short essays.

It was a sunny day. I woke up at six o’clock to get ready for my new life because it day was a big day; it was my first day of college, so I was super excited and nervous at the same time. I wore my new clothes and asked mom for her blessing. When I arrived at the college I took some lectures and met new people. The whole day was super awkward; it is natural because it is a new thing, new experiences and finally, I went back to home. When I entered I started to yell, “hey I’m back, I am here.” But it was like nobody was there.

I thought that I would find my mother waiting for me and she would start asking about my day but that did not happen. I was like, “hello, does anyone hear me?” I went to the living room; my family was sitting there and they were sad.

I asked them what is wrong. Did something bad happen? After a while they said, your dad, Israel took him to jail after they hit him and broke his pelvis. I was totally shocked. I asked them, why? What did he do? As I know, he has a permit, right! Mom answers he had one but his permit was not extended it is not valid, so that is why. But they could give him a chance to make new one.

Oh yes, Israel does not care about these issues. If they see he has a green ID and he does not have a permit, without thinking they will take him to prison. Simple as that.

I had told him before. I told him that he should stop working there, but he always said that work in Jerusalem is much better than work in territories because there the wages are better than in the territories.

Seven months have passed without seeing my dad, without hearing his voice. My father is my hero. I cannot imagine my life without him, without his blessing. Every moment I think about him. Is he okay?

Because of nothing they took him away. I just wonder about his crime. Did he kill someone? No. Did he assault someone? No. So what was it? Going to his work for his children, in order to ensure them a dignified life? He is suffering not only because of the jail but because of his kids. He could not sleep without coming to our bedrooms and saying goodnight, sweet dreams and giving us a kiss. While I was writing this paper, I imagined his face, his smile, and I smile back.

Her story illuminates not only the heartache suffered by prisoners’ families but also the ripple effect that imprisoning one person has on all of Palestinian society. It also points toward the extreme economic pressures Palestinians face, in part due to the occupation, and the desperate measures they’ll take to try to push back against their circumstances — risking imprisonment just for work.

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Girls throw stones, too http://972mag.com/girls-throw-stones-too/88912/ http://972mag.com/girls-throw-stones-too/88912/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 18:22:18 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=88912 Bethlehem’s Aida refugee camp is located right next to the separation barrier and the massive Israeli checkpoint known as 300. As Aida is subject to frequent raids by both Israeli soldiers as well as Palestinian Authority forces, it sees regular clashes.

A young woman who lives in Aida told me that last week, when Israeli forces entered the camp, she and other girls threw stones at the soldiers. Before the soldiers had a chance to arrest or shoot at them, the girls scattered, running into any house they could.

The young woman told me that while an elderly woman let her into her home, the old lady scolded her. “Girls shouldn’t be throwing stones,” she said. “That’s the boys’ job.”

“But all the boys do is sit inside, typing on Facebook,” my acquaintance protested.

Graffiti in Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem, January 19, 2013. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Graffiti in Aida refugee camp, Bethlehem, January 19, 2013. (Photo by Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

She added that while some people consider advocating for Palestine on social media a form of resistance, she doesn’t feel that it’s making a difference on the ground here. Or at least it doesn’t make a difference from her perspective, as a refugee who lives in the West Bank, who passes through military checkpoints every day, whose right of return seems like a distant dream even though it’s guaranteed by UN resolution 194.

The young woman threw stones because she felt there is nothing left to do. She is fed up with everyone: the Israelis, the PA, the Palestinian political parties, Palestinian leaders (or a lack thereof), the international community; the people who spend time on their computers rather than making a revolution; those in her society who think women can’t or shouldn’t fight for their rights when there is an occupation to fight; those who think that fighting the occupation is a man’s work.

The media plays a role in the latter, she says. “All you ever see is pictures of boys throwing stones,” she told me. “What about us?” By depicting the Palestinian struggle as a man’s struggle, it creates and reinforces the idea that women can’t or shouldn’t participate.


I could draw some conclusions here about how this moment shows the many obstacles that make a Palestinian intifada unlikely. Or I could be optimistic and say something about one woman and her hope. But maybe there’s no larger lesson here. It’s just another day in the refugee camp.

‘The NY Times’ investigates a Palestinian hobby
When the stones fly the wrong way

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When will Israelis start speaking Arabic in public? http://972mag.com/when-will-israelis-start-speaking-arabic-in-public/88293/ http://972mag.com/when-will-israelis-start-speaking-arabic-in-public/88293/#comments Tue, 11 Mar 2014 16:24:05 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=88293 A disturbing encounter at a Jerusalem mall reminds Mya Guarnieri that speaking a second or third language does not mean you have to give up your own.

Living in Bethlehem, working at a Palestinian university, studying Arabic; writing about the occupation and Israel’s treatment of migrants; standing by my partner, who is under intense pressure from his family to leave me because I’m Jewish. All of this could be considered “political work.” But maybe this isn’t the type of work that affects change. Maybe change happens on a smaller scale? With smaller seeds?

I was in Jerusalem’s Talpiyot neighborhood running errands when, as I entered a shopping center, an Ethiopian security guard was arguing with a Palestinian employee. “You shouldn’t speak Arabic here,” the Ethiopian man yelled. “This is the Jewish state and, here, we speak Hebrew. You want to speak Arabic? Go to Ramallah!”

A year ago, I would have yelled at him that this is Palestine and that Hebrew is the occupiers’ language. But I’ve learned that coming out swinging doesn’t sway anyone’s opinions.

“Wait a second, wait a second,” I smiled. “We should all speak Arabic, we should all speak each other’s languages. We’re here together, there’s no other way forward.”

“You speak Arabic?” the Palestinian fellow asked.

“I’m learning.”

“You see?” the Palestinian fellow said to the Ethiopian security guard. “She speaks Arabic and Hebrew. We can use both here.”

It might seem ridiculously simple. But it reminds that the conflict isn’t just about land and borders. It’s also about public space and which language we hear and use in that space.

Speaking Arabic in public can be considered an act of resistance. I remember Palestinian boys from Jaffa cruising down my old street in central Tel Aviv, driving slow, playing Arabic music at top volume: a moving protest that said “We are here and we refuse to disappear. We refuse to sit quietly where you tell us.”

But having one language in public doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for the other language. Speaking a second or third language— simply including it in the public space—does not mean you have to give up your own. Language can be about more than protest, and perhaps the way we use it can also forge new spaces.

Which, perhaps, is what I was trying to tell the Ethiopian security guard. I wonder if I made him think. Did telling him, in Hebrew, that Hebrew-speakers do indeed have a duty to learn Arabic make him realize that not everyone in the Jewish state agrees with him? Will he realize it doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game? Does he know that we are already living in one state and it’s just a matter of time before the political system comes around? Did I make the Palestinian man feel, just for a moment, that he has allies here? In a country that probably feels like it’s closing in on him all the time, did I widen the space for him a tiny bit in that moment, when I spoke with him in my halting Arabic?

Do interactions like these make a difference? Might these small moments add up to more than the big work, which often seems to take us all nowhere?

Read more:
The power of speaking Hebrew in Gaza
I Don’t Know Arabic, but I do. And yet don’t
Who speaks Arabic anyway?

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