+972 Magazine » Life & Culture http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:26:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 COMIC: Meanwhile… http://972mag.com/comic-meanwhile/94621/ http://972mag.com/comic-meanwhile/94621/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:26:25 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94621 By Eli Valley


Eli Valley is a writer and artist whose work has been published in New York Magazine, The Daily Beast, Gawker, Saveur, Haaretz and elsewhere. He is currently finishing his first novel. Eli’s website is www.EVComics.com and he tweets at @elivalley.

Previous work by Eli Valley on +972 Magazine:
Google Glass for the Gaza gaze
What if Mahmoud was named Jonah?
The hater in the sky

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Hope during wartime: A Palestinian return http://972mag.com/hope-during-wartime-a-palestinian-return/94658/ http://972mag.com/hope-during-wartime-a-palestinian-return/94658/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 11:25:01 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94658 The displaced former residents of Kafr Bir’im decided in the summer of 2013 to return to their village, and since then, they haven’t left. The author and his partner visited them one year later.

By Eitan Bronstein Aparicio (translated by Ami Asher)

We had to travel as far as Kafr Bir’em to find faith in these sad and desperate times, during the terrible war on Gaza. We spent an entire day with the Bir’em returnees. The last time we visited this community of internally displaced villagers was exactly one year ago, in their traditional summer camp, organized in order to educate the younger generation never to give up on their right to return to Bir’em (the village’s original residents were expelled during the 1948 War; they were promised the right to return, but were never granted permission by the military). There were scores of children, youth and adults there, singing and dancing in the open church’s court.

Far from a sultry and depressed Tel Aviv, we found determined people hanging on to hope and home against all odds. Ever since they decided to return, there wasn’t a single night they did not spend in the village – sometimes dozens of them, sometimes less – running various social activities and simply living there.

Kafr Bir'im summer camp. (photo: Eleonore Merza)

Kafr Bir’em summer camp. (photo: Eleonore Merza)

Northern Israel is relatively quiet these days, and the weather is pleasant, but the distance from the violent attack on Gaza is repeatedly erased when troubling news reaches us. “Thirty people were arrested in the antiwar demonstration in Haifa, including Saher Jeries from our village,” says my friend Nahida Zahra, one of the leading returnee activists, in a proud voice. Asil Abu-Warda shows me a picture of his arrest by an undercover policeman disguised as a Palestinian. “Is Asil also a girl’s name?” I ask and recall Asil ‘Asle, who was murdered during the October 2000 incidents while sitting and watching a Palestinian demonstration near Arabe, inside sovereign Israel. Abu-Warda seems to read my mind and tells me that ‘Asle was her classmate. “My mother would always argue with his mother on who chose the name first. I was born two months before him, so clearly my mother was first.”

We are having lunch in the shade of a tree, the tasty menu including mujaddara and vegetable salad. The dessert was a lesson for me – after a short trip among the destroyed village homes, the kids return with a bag full of tiny purple-green fruits that look like plums. Indeed, this is a type of plum called Arasia. Nahida says the trees keep growing in the village, bearing fruit every summer since 1948.

“What next?” I ask her. “Where do you want to take this activity of return?” She tells me they held a workshop with a professional facilitator and 30 village refugees, discussing that question exactly. It is now clear to them that the most urgent challenge is to recruit as many community members as activists.

Children in Bir'im eat 'Arsia,' a type of fruit native to the village. (photo: by Eitan Bronstein Aparicio)

Children in Bir’em eat ‘Arsia,’ a type of fruit native to the village. (photo: by Eitan Bronstein Aparicio)

The Israel Land Authority is working to expel them from the village once again. The cemetery, church and adjacent kitchen are beyond dispute, but any other sign that the returnees are laying claim to village property is immediately removed by the ILA. It also uses punitive measures and tactics of harassment: its inspectors have blocked the road leading from the cemetery to the church, which had been previously used to transport equipment and drive the village elders to the center of Bir’em. In addition, the regional council, which until now had approved the summer camp every year, informed the returnees this year that the Israel Land Administration [ILA] won’t allow it.

The returnees keep close contact with the internally displaced villagers from Iqrit, whose story is very similar to that of Bir’em’s. Both had obtained the High Court of Justice’s approval of their right to return, but this was subsequently denied by the IDF and later the Israeli government. The displaced persons of these two villages acted legally together for years to change this policy but finally reached the conclusion that this strategy would achieve no concrete results and decided to return without the state’s permission.

I comment that their actions are reminiscent of actions taken by Israel and individual Israelis, in that it is not completely legal. Nagham agrees. “Indeed, it is similar in a way, but we have moral law and justice on our side!” We enjoy tea seasoned with mint and za’atar grown in the garden near the church. In a recent court hearing, the ILA demanded that it be destroyed as well, but the judge refused.

The church at Kafr Bir'im. (photo: Eitan Bronstein Aparicio)

The church at Kafr Bir’em. (photo: Eitan Bronstein Aparicio)

It’s cool and windy outside, but very cozy inside the tent we’re sleeping in. The only disturbance is Hezi the rooster, named after the chief ILA inspector acting against the Bir’em returnees. He crows insistently, but slowly this becomes a background noise for a sleep deeper and longer than in recent troubling nights.

In the morning, George is already waiting for us in the kitchen with coffee. He surprises us with a poignant statement so early in the day: for him, Bir’em is both a blessing and a curse. It’s the place of his hopes, of political action and sweet grandfatherly memories. On the other hand, it is an ongoing curse that has been tormenting the internally displaced ever since 1948.

Some of the activists pitched tents where Kafr Bir'im's school used to be. (photo: Eitan Bronstein Aparicio)

Some of the activists pitched tents where Kafr Bir’em’s school used to be. (photo: Eitan Bronstein Aparicio)

While his mind wonders, somebody walks into the central courtyard and starts obsessively taking pictures. George asks who is she. She mutters, “Dvora from the ILA”. Every few days they come here to document the villagers’ activities and demonstrate their resolve to kick out the returnees. The villagers’ uncompromising struggle against Israeli authorities highlights what my partner Eleonore kept telling them, over and over again, throughout our short stay: what you are doing is so important, and so impressive!

Eitan Bronstein Aparicio is the founder of Zochrot.

On Easter, Palestinians resurrect their destroyed village
Who’s afraid of the right of return?

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Gaza war diary II: No one is safe, everyone is a target http://972mag.com/gaza-war-diary-ii-no-one-is-safe-everyone-is-a-target/94361/ http://972mag.com/gaza-war-diary-ii-no-one-is-safe-everyone-is-a-target/94361/#comments Sat, 26 Jul 2014 13:58:47 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94361 Walid Abuzaid offers a look into the everyday reality of living in Gaza during the current violence. As the fighting worsens, he asks why Palestinians should settle when they haven’t got the rights they deserve.

By Walid Abuzaid

Thursday, July 17

It’s 10 p.m. when the power finally returns. The electricity has been down since 11 p.m. last night. The power company said the electricity lines were down during the bombardments and that there’ll only be six hours of electricity every day.

I turn on the water heater so I can finally shower in the morning, since Eimar is asleep at last and I don’t want to make any noise. As I brush my teeth, I’m reminded of the salty water I have to shower in. When I asked the tower guard, Abu-Zeyad, about it when I returned home at the beginning of July, he said the water pipes for the whole neighborhood were damaged a while ago and no one has repaired them. I remember Mohammed, my friend from Beit Lahia, complaining about it since moving here after the war began. The water they use back in their home is really sweet water coming from the wells.

People of Khan Younis gather at a water well to fill some plastic jugs of safe drinking water, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Israeli attacks have killed 566 Palestinians in the current offensive, most of them civilians. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

People of Khan Younis gather at a water well to fill plastic jugs of safe drinking water, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

We gather around in the living room, the TV is on the news channel; we don’t follow any Ramadan series this year. Although Lamar forces us every once in a while to switch to MBC so she can watch the prank series with the sharks. We still check the news channels during every commercial. Nirmeen, my step-mom, tells us about her friend from university that has a Swedish passport. She and her family left in the morning and they’re now safe in Jordan. Lamar hears this and angrily asks my father, “When are you going to get us passports so we can travel whenever we want?” I’m speechless, so is my father. I wonder how many desperate fathers and mothers don’t have an answer to that question.

Friday, July 18

My father can describe the situation with no other words but these: “Sabra and Shatila.” Names are all I can think of – Akram, Ahmed, Khaldoun, Karam, Karma, Mohammed, Abu-Zeyad. Am I going to hear their names on the radio? Images of everyone I know in Shujaiya are rushing through my mind.

I talk to Khaldoun, my best friend from high school and also my neighbor ever since I’ve lived here. He’s also Karam and Karma’s older brother; their family house is in Shujaiya and they were staying there with the rest of the family when the attacks occurred. He says, “Once you’re in that situation, you aren’t able to think about anyone else – not your brother or sister, not your parents, just yourself. All you can think about is the possibility of your imminent death. You can’t run, you can’t hide, and you can’t not be scared.”

Ambulances can’t get to Shujaiya while it is being heavily bombarded. There are images of people dead in the streets. With no discrimination, everyone was a target. I can’t help but feel angry, helpless, and afraid. I don’t want to lose anyone. I don’t want anyone losing anybody anymore.

A Palestinian killed during the latest round of Israeli attacks against Al Shaja'ia is seen under the rubble of a house, Gaza City, July 20, 2014.  (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian killed during the latest round of Israeli attacks against Al Shaja’ia is seen under the rubble of a house, Gaza City, July 20, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Saturday, July 19

Jet maneuvers make the girls go crazy. Nirmeen is being smothered by Eimar’s fear. Lamar is beside her on the ground, crying and covering her ears. It sounds like a rocket is falling but it goes on forever. No explosions, just the fear. This goes on for over an hour. My dad thinks the Israelis are widening their ground incursion. Wasim and I have no words to share, we both know that we are as frightened as Eimar and Lamar.

We listen to the radio all through the night; the electricity is down tonight, too. Shujaiya is being obliterated. Nirmeen’s uncle, Emad, and his family left their house just minutes before it was targeted. They didn’t know it would be hit, but neither did the people now under the rubble. Tanks don’t send out warning shots.

I talk to my friend Basel, who is also a photographer from ActiveStills; he was in Shujaiya during the ceasefire. “Walid, we have to meet so I can explain the situation,” he said. “I can’t express it over the phone. It’s just terrible. I’ve been covering many places during this war, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Abu-Zeyad manages to get out safely along with his family. They are now living in the guard’s room here – three families in a single room. I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved and happy to see someone. Abu-Zeyad is the neighborhood’s godfather. He was the first person I hugged the day I came back to Gaza.

Gazans flee the Shejaiya area after Israeli tanks invaded the area, bombarding it heavily, causing over 60 casualties and hundreds wounded, July 20, 2014.  (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Gazans flee the Shejaiya area after Israeli tanks invaded the area, bombarding it heavily, causing over 60 casualties and hundreds wounded, July 20, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Sunday, July 20

While Nirmeen is doing the laundry on the balcony, we are startled by a huge explosion. As soon as I get to my bedroom window to check where it is, another blast, less than a minute apart. Wasim and I duck for cover, while Nirmeen holds the girls in the hallway. She’s probably more scared than they are. The Abu-Ras family house is hit. They’ve been living in this neighborhood for more than 20 years. I can see clothes and window frames among the rubble from the balcony. I can’t see the house itself though, as the view is blocked by a building between our tower and the family house.

Today our dinner is spaghetti with meatballs; we’re low on food. We might go out tomorrow; I’ve been noticing people are going out more. People around me are getting fed up and desperate. I’ve been thinking about what would happen if they target our house. My brain is nagging me more and more with every night that passes. I can no longer lie to myself every morning, saying it will be over soon.

Monday, July 21

Today it’s the Khalaf family house; they live just around the corner. It was an unmanned plane that targeted it this time. The family has left the house with bags slung over one shoulder, and a child on the other. Some guys stand a safe distance away and charge the house with their cameras, expecting the F16 to strike any minute. But no explosion, the girls and Nirmeen stay in the hallway for over two hours, shivering with every unusual sound. My brain ticks again and the questions are back. What would I take with me? Should I just grab the girls and run down eight floors? How can someone pack memories into a backpack?

Gazans flee the Shejaiya area after Israeli tanks invaded the area, bombarding it heavily, causing over 60 casualties and hundreds wounded, July 20, 2014.  (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Gazans flee the Shejaiya area after Israeli tanks invaded the area, bombarding it heavily, causing over 60 casualties and hundreds wounded, July 20, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

We send our condolences to our friends in the Netherlands, after we find out that they’ve lost friends in the plane crash in Ukraine. They do not grieve alone during these times, and we let them know that we are here for them. We know all too well what it means to lose a loved one.

My mom calls after dinner and cries her soul out. She also heard about the Abu Jame’ family – 26 people from the same family killed, including 18 children. She apologizes for only seeing me once since I came back home. She can’t help but feel guilty because she insisted I come to Gaza for the summer. She was the most anxious for my return – well, I was the most anxious, really.

Mourners fill the mosque during the funeral for 24 members of the Abu Jamea family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Reports indicate that 15 of the 24 killed were children of Abu Jamea family.

Mourners fill the mosque during the funeral for 26 members of the Abu Jamea family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Reports indicate that 18 of the 26 killed were children of Abu Jamea family.

The electricity comes on for only four hours today, from 5-9 p.m. As soon as it’s on, the charging race begins. I have to wait until one phone is fully charged so I can connect my second phone. Meanwhile, Wasim goes back to Abu-Malek’s store downstairs, refills the water gallon, gets a couple of packs of cigarettes, and comes right back up – he doesn’t want to walk up eight floors. The tower generator no longer works for the elevator when the electricity is down, there isn’t enough fuel. The UPS batteries barely charged, so we only get two extra hours of light and Internet tonight.

Tuesday, July 22

We throw out most of the fruit and left over food from the fridge. It has gone bad because of electricity shut downs. I really should have eaten the watermelon right after it was sliced. The electricity situation is getting worse.

As we listen to the radio in the kitchen, people are in calling and saying they’ve been targeted and that ambulances can’t reach their areas. They’re pleading with the Red Cross and humanitarian agencies. I call a friend of mine, Eweida, to check up on him, because the bombardments are getting closer to him in Tal El-Sultan, Rafah. He assures me that it’s closer to the border than he is, and that he is safe. We were supposed to meet in his house for qedra, a delicious type of rice, before the war started. He’s not getting away with it though; as soon as the war’s over, I’m demanding my feast. Most people living near the border are suffering. Tanks are ruthless, or those in them.

Today moves slower than ever. The ground invasion is getting worse, but the resistance is stronger than in the 2008 war. Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance. If it was 2008, the Israelis would have occupied the Strip by now. The people are backing the resistance because they can’t handle a war every two years. They’re taking more children every two years, stealing our future every two years. The resistance’s demands for a 10-year truce are the same demands the Palestinian people beg for. Would any other human settle for less? We don’t want to lose any more of our children. We don’t want our children to suffer like we have.

Palestinian children ride bicycles past a bomb crater in Gaza City, July 14, 2014.

Palestinian children ride bicycles past a bomb crater in Gaza City, July 14, 2014.

Wednesday, July 23

The electricity isn’t coming on today. They’re saying they’ve almost run out fuel, and the one remaining generator can’t feed the whole Strip. I probably shouldn’t have let Lamar play on my phone last night.

I try cauliflower for the first time today. I stay away from it when I have the privilege of choosing what to eat, but today I didn’t. It’s actually pretty good. After dinner Wasim and I sit in the dark and compare our years in the U.S. I went to Maine, and he to Indiana. When I ask him what he misses most, he looks at me as if I’ve asked a rhetorical question, and then says, “Living, man.”

We join the rest of the family in the living room. The girls are playing with the mini-swing they have in the corner. My dad and Nirmeen are on the couches closest to the window, smoking. The sky is bright and starry, but after a second we notice something strange. Those little lights that are going on and off are way too many tonight. We count at least 12, and those are only over the sea of Gaza. It really is getting worse, as are our thoughts. We can’t even trust the stars anymore.

Thursday, July 24

The electricity comes on at 4 a.m. We are already up, playing cards in the living room. We begin our charging routine and continue our game of cards. We’re sick of watching the news, so we keep it on the news channel but mute the volume this time. Three and a half hours later, after the girls get up early, as usual, and everyone has taken a shower, the electricity goes out again.

After dinner we notice that the gas container is almost empty. It’s too late to call anyone to figure out where we can refill it. I doubt any stations are open during these times, and if they are, it will probably take days to refill since a lot of people are in the same situation.

Medics at the Al-Shifa hospital mourn their colleague targeted and killed in Shejaiya neighbourhood earlier today, Gaza Strip, July 20, 104. Spokesman of the Palestinian ministry of health Ashraf al-Qidra said rescue teams evacuated more than 80 dead bodies from destroyed houses in Shejaiya including 17 children, 14 women and 4 elderly people. More than 200 injured people were taken to al-Shifa Hospital. Death toll in the Gaza Strip accedes 392 with over 2650 wounded since the beginning of the Israeli offensive. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Medics at the Al-Shifa hospital mourn their colleague targeted and killed in Shejaiya neighbourhood, Gaza Strip, July 20, 104. A spokesman of the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Ashraf al-Qidra, said rescue teams evacuated more than 80 dead bodies from destroyed houses in Shejaiya, including 17 children, 14 women and 4 elderly people. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Friday, July 25

Wasim calls a friend of his from school, Mohammed, to check up on him. He also offers to refill our gas container in a couple of days, and that we can take one of theirs until ours is full. People are helping each other with whatever they can. Some are donating clothes, food, money and blood; others are opening their houses to their relatives and friends who live in dangerous areas or have already lost their homes. Some are not as fortunate and take refuge in schools. These people were also a target. No one is safe.

I’ve stopped wishing for it to be over. I think that feeling has started to grow on everyone around me. I don’t want it to be over until we get what we deserve, until we live in peace without the fear of being a target. I don’t want it to be over until the children are safe, all the children, until they can no longer be stolen before their time. I don’t want it to be over until I can go to Cyprus by boarding a ship I can see from my living room window. I don’t want it to be over until Wasim is able to “live” in Gaza. I don’t want it to be over until Lamar doesn’t have to ask for another passport. I don’t want it to be over until Eimar can enjoy a bonfire instead of a boat on fire.

Gaza war diary: ‘A second of silence, then the bombs go off’
Israel has alternatives to this war

Israeli, Hamas war crimes becoming increasingly hard to distinguish

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Palestinian human rights leader: ‘Cast Lead was a joke compared to this’ http://972mag.com/palestinian-human-rights-leader-cast-lead-was-a-joke-compared-to-this/93968/ http://972mag.com/palestinian-human-rights-leader-cast-lead-was-a-joke-compared-to-this/93968/#comments Sun, 20 Jul 2014 18:17:49 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93968 LISTEN: Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard speak to Raji Sourani, founder and director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, about the ongoing destruction in Shujaiyeh, the use of human shields and the fate of Gaza’s civilian population. 

By Michael Sfard and Raji Sourani

Raji Sourani: Hello

Michael Sfard: Raji? This is Michael. Can you speak now?

R: Yes, yes.

M: So, how was last night?

R: Well last night was difficult, the worst in the last two weeks. This is incredible evil. Ambulances weren’t able to reach the areas which were under heavy bombardment by tanks and F16s. And F22s were used too last night. And these kinds of bombs that we are not familiar making the houses last in an earthquake. You know, it just shakes for a few seconds.

M: There are no warnings before?

R: No no no. It just on the top of the people, on their heads. It is a war zone, not bombing. You see slain [people]. Six to eight bombed per minute. Not for 10 minutes, or one hour, all the east side of Gaza, Zeiton, Shujaiyeh, eastern Jabaliya, nothern area, eastern Khan Younis, eastern Rafah…

M: Israeli friends reported that the IDF, the Israeli army made notifications that the civilians could go to some areas. Are there any areas that are safe to be?

R: No, there is not safe place in Gaza. You can be in the street, in my office or home and you will be bombed and away from my house, sixty meters a house was bombed by an F16. This can anywhere, whether it a drone, F16, and tonight they used F22. Gaza, Michael, I’m telling you, 350 square kilometers, two million people are living in it. It is one of the most densely populated areas on earth. Anywhere you move. You can ask people from the northern or eastern areas to move but you are taking about 400,000. They ask eastern Khan Younis, where to go?

Relatives mourn on family members at the Al Shifa hospital as more bodies arrive from the Shejaiya area, July 20, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Relatives mourn family members at the Shifa Hospital, July 20, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

So far there is 70,000-80,000 [civilians] that moved since mid-day yesterday (July 19), but where are the people can go? UNRWA? Each school hold 1,500-2,000 people. There is shortages in the UNRWA schools. It’s madness. I have never seen anything like this in my life.

M: Do you think it is worse than Cast Lead?

R: That was a joke. This is very, very serious. I think the army is losing their minds. They really want to inflict pain and terror on the civilians. I have no objection to do that with Fatah, with Hamas, with PFLP, they are competent, they are resistance. But I’m telling about hitting the flash, they are bombarding randomly. Bombing the civilians houses. Many, That is why many families fled. I challenge if in Gaza, one million people, if any of them slept.

M: Raji, what are the PCRH figures of civilians killed since the beginning?

R: Only yesterday we had something between 70 to 80 killings. And injuries you have much, much more.

M: And since the beginning?

R: It has exceeded 420.

M: Now you told me before that there is a suspicion for the use of DIMES?

R: Yes, that is what the doctors are telling us, including international doctors. They see we don’t see clean wounds, they see sharp ones; it is a very strange kind. There are hemorrhages, amputations.  You hear the rockets and then it is over, you are hurt. It is like X-Files.

M: And there is no shrapnel?

R: No. Tonight and the night before, they are using tanks heavily, and using heavy artillery. On the civilians areas. Of course the tanks don’t use DIMES – these are tank bombs.

M: Are the Hamas forces visible around the streets of Gaza?

R: No. You can’t figure out one of them. You don’t see them, they are ghosts. They don’t function from the civilian areas. They don’t move anything. Everything was planned in advance.

M: But what do you mean they don’t function from civilian areas? They do shoot.

R: You don’t see any of them them.

M: But some of the rockets are shot from civilian areas. This is something that is quite clear, no?

R: Of course. All of Gaza is a civilian area. By definition. Where these rockets are coming from? Of course. But “using civilians as shields” is nonsense and disgusting. And it doesn’t exist. The plains they (Israel) are using [for targeting Hamas), but you don’t hear any second explosion, Michael. You don’t hear. They would say we bombed the south because it is a storage area, but if they would bomb [a storage area] it will destroy 20-30 houses around them, but this is not the case.

M: Raji, how many PCHR people do you have on the ground now?

R: How many?

M: I mean, are field workers still going out?

A body lays at the Al Shifa hospital as more bodies arrive from the Shejaiya area, July 20, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Al Shifa hospital taking in bodies from the Shujaiyeh area, Gaza Strip, July 20, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

R: Yes, we had our own field workers, and we depend only on our accounts. We don’t take any over accounts, including hospitals. We may take these numbers to compare. We have field workers from Rafah to Beit Hanoun, and in between, and we have our lawyers, for this documents, also. We have an aim to represent most of the families who has been raided, including the family who lost their children on the beach.

M: Now I understand that as this time there no indications of use of white phosphate right?

R: No. We haven’t noticed that at all.

M: Raji, take care.

R: Last night people were pleading for them to go and take the injured. And they couldn’t do anything for them. People died bleeding, literally, especially in Sajahiya, and Zeiton, and Turkman area

M: I will be in touch, and what can say, I hope this ends soon.

R: We will remember this in a good way. This is tough, it’s  unprecedented, it never ever came up to this. Keep well.

M: You too.

Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call.

PHOTOS: Scenes of devastation from deadliest day in Gaza
WATCH: Dozens of bodies strewn in the streets of Gaza
How can you possibly oppose this war?
Gaza war diary: ‘A second of silence, then the bombs go off’

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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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Gaza war diary: ‘A second of silence, then the bombs go off’ http://972mag.com/gaza-diary-a-second-of-silence-then-the-bombs-go-off/93889/ http://972mag.com/gaza-diary-a-second-of-silence-then-the-bombs-go-off/93889/#comments Sat, 19 Jul 2014 15:40:33 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93889 Despite the danger, Walid Abuzaid couldn’t be separated from his home in Gaza for very long. And though coming home means facing possible death, he refuses to give in to hate. 

By Walid Abuzaid

Thursday, June 27

I was in Cyprus when it all started. When we heard about the kidnapped teens, we were thrilled by the possibility of another prisoner release. Hamas would be held responsible for the kidnapping, but we treat our prisoners well – at least the one prisoner we’ve ever had.

It’s my last night in Cyprus and one of so few in which I smile before I go to bed, for tomorrow I’m on my way home. I know it isn’t the smartest decision I’ve ever made, but I miss Gaza. I miss my life.

Two young men do acrobatic tricks on Gaza beach. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Two young men do acrobatic tricks on Gaza beach. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

“I don’t want to fucking go to Cairo, I want to go to Gaza. How many times do I have to tell you? Do you want me to say it slower?!” I yell at the woman at the gate who takes my passport and makes me watch every passenger get on that fucking plane until the gate closes. “Wait here, please,” she says for the 10th time, before whining about Arabs in Turkish to the lady next to her, who lends me her seat while I wait. An airline employee official who speaks Arabic finally arrives. She hasn’t come for me, but rather for the Yemenite whose Saudi residency has expired. He isn’t allowed to go to Cairo either; nor does he want to.

For three days I’m being prevented from traveling to Cairo from the Istanbul Airport, since Rafah crossing isn’t open until Sunday. I try explaining that I do not want to enter Cairo, and that I agree to be held in that disgusting deportation hall in the Cairo airport until the border opens. Yet, nothing I say changes the officials’ minds. In Arabic, “How do you even know Rafah will be open?” the translator dares to ask me. I refuse to even glance at him and continue to scream in English at the cold officials. It’ll be three days of this.

Rafah crossing, where the Gaza Strip and Egypt meet. (photo: Activestills.org)

Rafah crossing, where the Gaza Strip and Egypt meet. (photo: Activestills.org)

Monday, June 30

I’m finally home, after my dad spent a lot of money to buy me another plane ticket on a different airline. I only had 30 euros for the way back; that’s what was left from the 250 euros that my uncle sent from Germany.

Fuck. My bag is still in Cairo, but who cares – I’m home. I’ll go to my other uncle, the lawyer, and have him write a contract that will allow my relative in Egypt, Mohammed, to collect my bag for me. Then I’ll go to the bar association to make it all official, before sending the papers through DHL and waiting a week for them to arrive. After that, Mohammed may have to wait a few hours at the airport until he receives my bag. Following that, all that’s left is to wait for the border to open again. Simple!

This isn’t even what I intended to write about, god damn it.

Tuesday, July 1

I’m getting ready to embrace my mom, after not seeing her for almost a year. “Wasim, we’re fucked; they’ve just found the bodies of the three Israelis. Don’t tell mom.” My younger brother, of course, decides to use that as an excuse to tell mom that I’m still not in Gaza in order to surprise her when I get to her home. Wasim is like that. He arrived from Indiana just a couple of days before I did. He was there on a year-long youth exchange and study program – the same one I did in 2012. We call it a taste of freedom.

Wednesday, July 2

My mother cries all through the night, a sense of déjà vu overwhelms me as I recall the night of Nov. 11, 2014.

Back at my dad’s, home, we discuss the repercussions. My father and I don’t usually agree, but this time we both know something bad is going to happen. He asks my stepmother, Nirmeen, for the grocery list. She points out that she has already evaluated the situation and the list will be longer than a week. Lamar, my younger sister, comes along for one last ride before she has to stay in an apartment for an unknown length of time. She understands. She remembers October 2012, she was three years old then.

Thursday, July 10

We are in the living room with an incredible view. We can see Gaza’s entire harbor. I try to cover two-year-old Eimar’s ears when a rocket drops and destroys a mini yacht called “Gaza’s Arc.”  She can’t sleep yet; she’s scared. She likes the fire though. She laughs.

A fisherman stands near Gaza's harbor. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A fisherman stands near a bombed out boat in Gaza’s harbor. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

“You look upset, you’ve been watching that boat for 30 minutes, what’s wrong?” Wasim wonders. “I don’t know what was in it,” I respond, “I don’t know why they bombed it, but I know someone loved that boat. That boat was someone’s dream, they just killed someone’s dream. That’s far worse than killing them.”

Friday, July 11

My dad and I go out for the first time in five days to get rgag, a kind of bread made in a saj oven, for the delicious Fatteh dish. It’s 5:22 p.m., the electricity’s been out for three hours. It’s the usual eight-hour rounds and the batteries are almost out. The windows of the house are open and the sweet wind is blowing in. I can hear the jets, drones, gunboats and the occasional thud. Eimar is still awake.

Saturday, July 12, 8:23 p.m.

I’ve just finished eating and I’m heading to my room for a long-awaited smoke or two. My mind is rushing with thoughts of the Brazil vs. Netherlands match. I saw a photo of Neymar with the rest of the team earlier today. I hope Brazil saves some face and wins the game – that would cheer up my Brazilian friend Pedro a bit. I’ve been to Amsterdam, and have friends there too, so I also want the Netherlands to win. Oh well. I’ll go on Facebook before I start looking for a good online stream of the match, one that can tolerate my agonizingly slow Internet speed.

“Breaking: Al-Qassam Brigades threatens to hit Tel Aviv with J-80 rockets at 9 p.m.”

8:28 p.m.

“You still want to go donate blood?” Wasim asks sarcastically. I don’t indulge him this time. A couple of minutes later my mom calls. She succeeds in convincing me not to go out tonight. I haven’t moved from my place yet. I’ve smoked four cigarettes so far. It’s 8:58 p.m.

9:00 p.m.

My dad asks me to take the car keys to the guard tower so he can park it in the underground garage. A chance to buy more cigarettes, I tell myself. I’m dreading the fact that I have to walk rather than “borrow” the car to drive to the market, since, like last night, Abu-Malek has closed up his shop. I don’t blame him. Tonight will be a particularly loud one, and I’m rehearsing the lies I have to tell Eimar.

Displaced Palestinians in Gaza find shelter in an UNRWA school. (photo: Activestills.org)

Displaced Palestinians in Gaza find shelter in an UNRWA school. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Sunday morning, July 13

As Wasim so elegantly put it in a Facebook post, “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off! I can wrap it all up in one sentence, but I can never make you feel it.” As Wasim, who sleeps in the bed under the window, rushes toward me for cover, I run to the window. I’m curious like that. Wasim and I can feel the heat. His leg sustained second-degree burns in 2008, though now he is just shaking.

They bombed Ansar, a nearby cluster of Hamas government buildings. I doubt they had any rockets there, since they are surrounded by four residential towers that allow people to see everything that moves there. I find it hard to believe that we would miss the transport of rockets in or out. The attack was to be expected anyway. My dad is relieved – he now expects quieter nights since there are no more suspicious targets around us. I disagree.

An Israeli airstrike over Gaza. (photo: Activestills.org)

An Israeli airstrike over Gaza. (photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

We are watching the World Cup final in the Gaza Hotel’s reception area. It is 30 meters away from our tower, they have a better Internet connection. We’re close friends with the family who owns the place, especially Madj, the owner’s son. They don’t have anyone staying in the hotel anyway; they rarely ever do.

Palestinians in Bethlehem gather to watch the World Cup. (photo: Activestills.org)

Palestinians in Bethlehem gather to watch the World Cup. (photo: Activestills.org)

No one celebrates Germany’s win. Gaza is occupied with a match of its own.

Saturday afternoon, July 14

As soon as my dad and I drive though the garage door, we’re startled by another ear-splitting explosion. We stare at each other for three seconds, both of us thinking the same thing: that was close. We no longer discuss the not-so-loud ones anymore. We rush, we don’t stop. The streets are empty, like in one of those zombie movies. I think of Will Smith and giggle inside.

Sunday, July 15, 11 p.m.

When the electricity finally returns and the elevator is working we go downstairs. Abu-Malek is open tonight. We share a couple smokes and laughs with a friend of mine from high school, Mohammed, and his brother, Ramadan. Our minds can no longer stand the house arrest we’re in; we cannot be forced into depression. They haven’t occupied our smiles… yet. Mohamed and Ramadan live in Beit Lahiya in the north of the Strip, but they came to Gaza City with the entire family because it’s safer. Or so they think. They’re in an apartment two blocks away now, and I bet they miss their beautiful garden. Only three kids are playing in the garage of the opposite tower. Usually I can’t count those noisy rascals, but they’re quiet tonight.

Wasim and I watch the helicopters from the window while they bombard residential towers. We see a yellowish flash from what seems to be nowhere in the bright, night sky, directing us to where we should expect it. Then the notorious red-flamed explosion is accompanied by a thunder-like roar that makes us duck, even though we know it’s far away. I think it’s just a reflex, but hell, you can never be safe enough.

Monday, July 16, 6:05 p.m.

I’ve been up since 6 a.m., the electricity was down from 7 a.m to 3:30. The gunboats and helicopters kept me up as they roared through the night. I just read that four children, none of them older than 11, were killed on a near beach. They were all members of the Baker family. Ahed Atif Baker (10) Zakaria Ahed Baker (10) Mohamed Ramiz Baker (11) Ismael Mohamed Baker (9). What kind of target were they?

I wish Eimar and Lamar never grow up. I wish they annoy me for the rest of my life, come into my room every morning and bite my ear until I wake up. I wish for them to stay safe and ignorant, since ignorance truly is bliss. I do not want them growing up hating their Palestinian passport because it takes months until it gets them somewhere, if it does at all. I do not want them hating their fate for putting them in an inherited feud that will not be over anytime soon. I do not want them hating every Arab leader for not having any balls. I don’t want them to live the life I have lived, or see the things that I have seen. I do not want them to live in war. I do not want them to hate.

Hamda Abdun, age 4 , lies in a bed in Al Shifa Hospital after having been injured in an Israeli air strike, Gaza City, July 14, 2014. Four members of his family were injured.

Hamda Abdun, age 4 , lies in a bed in Al Shifa Hospital after having been injured in an Israeli air strike, Gaza City, July 14, 2014. Four members of his family were injured.

I want them to grow up with grace. I want them to live with freedom, and not only taste it. I want them to be able to choose whether to spend their summer in the isles of Bethlehem or Berlin. I want them to dine in Naples and have knaffeh in Nablus. I want them to love and to have their hearts broken. I want them to love life and see how beautiful it can be. I want them to be grateful and appreciate every minute they have. I want Lamar to be able to take every ride with us. I want Eimar to sleep peacefully. I want them to live in peace. I want them to love.

I am representing myself, Walid, and myself only. I am not affiliated with any political or religious movement. I am among the few who, when Egypt chooses to be merciful, can leave Gaza occasionally. I am among the lucky few. I will choose to come back to Gaza over and over again, in times of peace and most certainly in times of war. I am helpless, a statistical number to many, a hashtag perhaps, another Gazan, another Palestinian. I am a son, a step-son, a brother, a cousin, a friend, a dreamer, a lover, a fighter. I support the resistance, I am part of the resistance, equipped with a couple thousand words in a war of history books.

But, this is non-fiction.

Shedding the pretense of ‘precision’ in Gaza
This is a war of choice. Netanyahu’s choice
The unfolding lie of Operation Protective Edge

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An open letter to the family of Mohammed Abu Khdeir http://972mag.com/an-open-letter-to-the-family-of-mohammed-abu-khdeir/93751/ http://972mag.com/an-open-letter-to-the-family-of-mohammed-abu-khdeir/93751/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:33:40 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93751 As Israel and the Palestinians descend further into open violence, concerned Israelis challenge their fellow citizens in an attempt to forge a joint Israel-Palestinian resistance to violence. 

(Translated from Hebrew by Idit Arad and Matan Kaminer)

Our hands shed this blood, our hands set Mohammed Abu Khdeir on fire, our hands fanned the flames. We have been living here for too long to claim that we did not know, we did not understand, we were not able to foresee. We witnessed the actions of the vast machine of incitement to racism and revenge operated by the government, the politicians, the educational system and the media. We watched Israeli society become neglected and poor, until the call to violence in all its forms became an outlet for many, fighting for their place in the margins of society, teenagers and adults alike. We saw how the meaning of being Jewish was emptied and sharply reduced to nationalism, militarism, a struggle for land, hatred of gentiles, shameful exploitation of the Holocaust and the “Teaching of the King.”

More than anything, we witnessed how the State of Israel, through its various governments, has passed racist laws, enacted discriminatory policies, labored to enshrine the occupation regime, preferring ongoing violence and victims on both sides rather than a peaceful agreement.

Palestinians carry the body of Muhammed Abu Khdeir through the streets of Shuafat. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Palestinians carry the body of Muhammed Abu Khdeir through the streets of Shuafat. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Our hands shed this blood, and we wish to express our condolences and our pain to the family of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who are experiencing an unthinkable loss, and to the Palestinian people as a whole. We oppose the occupation policy of the government and we are against the violence, racism and incitement that exist in Israeli society. We refuse to gave our Jewishness identified with it, a Jewishness that includes the words of the rabbi of Tripoli and Aleppo, the wise Hezekiah Shabtai who said: “Love thy neighbor as thy self” (Leviticus xviii).

This love of one another does not only refer to the love of one Jew or Israeli for another, but to also loving our neighbors who are not Jews. It instructs us to co-exist with them through love, and pursue their safety and welfare. That is not only what common sense tells us, but also the holy Torah, which commands us to go about our lives in a pleasant manner, despite and in the face of the state’s actions and the words of our official representatives.

Contrary to the prohibition of murder in Judaism and Islam, our hands shed this blood. We therefore pledge to continue our struggle inside Israeli society – Jews and Palestinians together – in order to change society from within, to fight its militarization and bring forth an awareness of those who are in the minority and therefore victims of this militarization. We will fight against the choice to pursue war, the indifference to the rights and lives of Palestinians, and the continued favoring of Jews within the cycle of violence.

We shall strive to offer a human bond – a bond that is political, cultural, historical, Israeli-Palestinian and Jewish-Arab; a bond that can in part be reached through the history of many of us who are Jews of Arab origins and, as such, members of the Arab world. Our way is that of a struggle for civil equality and economic change, on behalf of the marginalized and oppressed groups in our society: Arabs, Ethiopians, Mizrahim (Jews of Arab descent), women, the religious, migrant workers, refugees and many more.

On the face of it, the stronger side in the conflict has the ability to use nonviolence to break down the racist regime and the cycle of violence. In the face of the complacency of many Israelis, we seek to lead nonviolently, while they prefer to allow the regime of injustice and the cycle of violence to remain in place, and expect “solutions” to somehow spring out of this never-ending merry-go-round of violence – its current face being the war against Gaza – thus bringing only more death and calls for revenge from both sides of the fence and pushing any sort of agreement further away.

Right-wing protesters shouting slogans at Palestinians during riots that irrupted following the finding of the bodies of three teenaged settlers near Halhul, West Jerusalem, July 1st, 2014. The riots broke during the funerals of Eyal Yifrah, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16-year-old, that were kidnapped and killed in the West Bank. A few right-wing persons were arrested during the riots. (Tali Mayer/Activestills.org)

Right-wing protesters shouting slogans at Palestinians during riots that irrupted following the finding of the bodies of three teenaged settlers near Halhul, West Jerusalem, July 1, 2014 (Tali Mayer/Activestills.org)

Our hands shed this blood, and our wish is to create a joint civil fight with any Palestinian group that wishes to join us in our struggle against the occupation, against the violence of the occupation regime, against the disregard of Palestinian human rights. This will be a fight for an end to the occupation, either through the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the Palestinian territories or through the creation of a single state in which we will all be equal citizens.

Our hands shed this blood. By saying so out loud in our society we are forever accused by the nationalistic propaganda of being one-sided, of condemning only Israel’s crimes and not those committed by the Palestinians. To this we reply first and foremost: he who supports or justifies the killing of Palestinians by extension supports – and in fact encourages – the killing of Israeli Jews. In the same vein, he who supports or justifies the killing of Israeli Jews supports and encourages the killing of Palestinians. The wheel of revenge is large and fast moving, but we are against any form of violence, and seek a nonviolent solution to this violent situation.

Objecting to Netanyahu’s ways does not necessarily mean support for Hamas; the reality is not dichotomous. Other options exist on the axis between Netanyahu and Hamas. Furthermore, we must emphasize that we are Israeli citizens and the center of our lives is in Israel. Therefore, our main criticism is that of Israeli society, which we seek to repair. These murderers came from among us. There are, of course, grounds on which one can criticize other societies. Nevertheless, we think that every person’s duty is to first examine closely and critically the society in which he or she lives and only after so doing to apply this approach to other societies. If we were Palestinians we may have turned our efforts to criticism of Palestinian society, and perhaps we would have tried to create a left-wing alternative to its current regime.

We are aware of the criticism that exists within Palestinian society of its rulers. Sadly, support of such criticism by us, the citizens of the occupying state, does not always help the growth of such voices within Palestinian society. We are also aware of the lack of symmetry between the State of Israel, which is a regional military and economic occupying power, and Palestinian society, which suffers from an inward split, has no independence and which is under Israeli military control in a state of occupation.

An Israeli mobile artillery piece sits near the Gaza border, July 13, 2014.

An Israeli mobile artillery piece sits near the Gaza border, July 13, 2014 (photo: Activestills)

Our hands shed this blood, and we know most of the innocent Palestinians murdered over the last 66 years by Israeli Jews did not receive due justice. Their murderers were not arrested, tried, or put in jail, unlike the six Israeli Jewish youngsters suspected in the murder of Mohammad Abu Khdeir. Most innocent Palestinians were killed by men in uniform, sent by the government, the army, the police or the secret services. When these men have killed innocents, whether from the air, with artillery or on the ground, this has sometimes been defined as a “human error” or a “technical glitch”. Reference to them included only a faint apology (such cases were rarely investigated and mostly end with no indictments, and simply dissolve into thin air). Most are ignored by law enforcement agencies, the military and the media. The unique speed with which the suspects were apprehended this time is due to the fact that these murderers, like those of the Jewish Underground (who were quickly pardoned), like Ami Popper, Baruch Goldstein etc., were not in uniform. With the exception of the soldiers convicted of the Kufr Qasem massacre in 1956, who spent no more than a year in prison, military personnel in Israel have seldom been tried for such crimes, including in the cases of the worst atrocities.

Our hands shed that blood, and even now, when Benjamin Netanyahu wishes to express his condolences and to condemn the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, he does so in the same breath, expressing a racist and dangerous claim of Israel’s moral superiority over its neighbors: “There is no place for such murderers in our society. In that we stand apart from our neighbors. In their society murderers are seen as heroes and have squares named after them. But this is not the only difference. We prosecute those who incite to hatred, whilst in the Palestinian Authority incitement is carried out by the official media and the education system, calling by large for Israel’s destruction.”

Left-wing activists during a protest in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. The protest ended with right-wing nationalists attacking a small group of left-wing activists with little police interference. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Left-wing activists during a protest in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. The protest ended with right-wing nationalists attacking a small group of left-wing activists with little police interference. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Netanyahu forgot that several individuals suspected of being war criminals served in various Israeli governments, some under his very leadership, and that the number of innocent people murdered in the last 66 years of the conflict paints a very different picture. When we look at the numbers of Jewish Israelis and Palestinians killed, we find that the number is much higher for Palestinians.

Netanyahu also forgets, or tries to make us forget, the widespread incitement propagated by his own government in recent weeks, and his own words on revenge after the discovery of the bodies of the three kidnapped Jewish teens – Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah – when all of us were in deep shock: “The revenge for the blood of a small child has not yet been created by the devil, nor the revenge of the blood of such young and pure boys.” There were those who interpreted the “blood revenge” in terms of an eye for an eye, and a child for a child, the logic of which would leave us all blind, orphaned and bereaved.

Our hands shed this blood, and instead of declaring days of fasting, mourning and repentance, the government has now decided to go on a military operation in Gaza, which it terms “Operation Protective Edge.” We call on the government to stop this operation at once and to strive for calm and for a peaceful agreement, something that the Israeli government has opposed in recent years. Gaza is the history of all of us; it is the oblivion of our history too. It is the most painful place in Palestine and Israel, and in its very cemetery is buried the poet Rabbi Israel Najara, who may well be chanting from the heavens words in defense of both us and the Palestinians. Gaza consists of mainly refugees displaced from the coast in 1948, and since 1967 its inhabitants have built up many of the houses that are now being bombed.

In the Israeli development towns all around Gaza lives a population of mostly Jewish refugees from the Arab world and their descendants. They were forced to leave their countries of origin after the War of Independence in 1948, in the operation poetically labeled “From the ship to the village.” As they arrived on the shores of Israel, they were transported in trucks at night directly to those development towns. They did not stop in the center of the country, lest they remain there. In the south they worked in the fields and factories of the southern kibbutzim and moshavim surrounding the development towns. Gaza has been endless wars and invasions since the war of 1948: retaliations, 1956, 1967, the invasion of Ariel Sharon in 1970 and again in 1987, 2000, 2009, 2012 and 2014.

Family and friends of Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel, three Israeli teenagers who were abducted over two weeks ago, take part in their funeral in the city of Modiin, Israel, Tuesday, July 1, 2014.  Tens of thousands of mourners arrived ro Modiin in central Israel for a funeral service for three teenagers found dead in the West Bank after a two week searches, raids and arrests in the West Bank, as Israel accused Hamas of abducting and killing the young men. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Family and friends of Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel, three Israeli teenagers who were abducted over two weeks ago, take part in their funeral in the city of Modiin, Israel, Tuesday, July 1, 2014. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Gaza is our hopelessness. Our common origins seem to be pushed further and further away: after 40 years of possibility for a painful historic compromise between the two national movements, Palestinian and Zionist, this option is gradually evaporating. The conflict is being reinterpreted in mythological and theological terms, in terms of revenge and avenging that revenge, and all we can promise our children is many more wars for generations to come, spreading the killing amongst both peoples, and the building of an apartheid regime that will require even more decades to dismantle.

Our hands shed this blood, and we think we must examine together our common, bloody and tragic 100-year history in a global context. At the beginning of the conflict, European colonialism was at its height. It captured large parts of Asia and Africa, economically and militarily exploiting the people it occupied. It treated the occupied cultures as inferior and primitive, and massacred many, many of its subjects. Following that, many nationalistic movements, even in countries just freed from colonialism, adopted violence as a guiding principle and sought to “cleanse” their national territory of those they considered foreigners. They did so on the grounds of race, nationality, religion, ethnicity and culture, thus bringing on themselves a continuous state of war.

We seek to work against this tendency in world history. Through the various communities of our society: Jews and Palestinians, Arabs and Israelis, Mizrahi and Ashkenazi, traditional, religious, secular and orthodox. We choose to oppose the walls, separation, dispossession, deportations, racism and colonization, and to offer a joint and common future as an alternative to the present depressive, oppressive and violent state of our society. We wish to build a future that does not surrender to the cycle of violence and revenge but in its place offers justice, reparation, peace and equality; a future that draws on the common elements of our cultures, humanity and religious traditions so that our hands will no longer shed blood but will have the opportunity to reach out to one another in peace, with the help of god, Insha’Allah.


Orly Noy, Yossi Dahan, Inbal Jamshed, Yossi Granovsky, Eliana Almog, Eyal Sagi Bizawi, Varda Horesh, Herzl Cohen, Sivan Shtang, Yossi Vazana, Dori Manor, Yardena Hamo, Itay Kander, Avri Herling, Michal Chacham, Mirit Arbel, Yoav Moshe, Avi – Ram Zoref, Sa’ar Gershon, Yotam Kadosh, Tziki Eisenberg, Noam Gal, Amit Lavi, Sarit Ofek, Mati Shmuelof, Andre Levy, Chico Bahar, Naama Kti’i, Ronnie Karni, Tal Gilboa, Rebecca Mondlak, Arnon Levy, Noam Ben-Horin, Avtasham Barakat, Udi Aloni, Diana Danielle – Schramm, Yoram Meltzer, Rami Adot, Chamutal Guri, David China Woolf, Izzy Wolf, Yael Aharonov, Yonathan Mizrachi, Naama Sason, Idan Cohen, Zvi Ben – Dor Banit, Inbal Eshel – Chahansky, Matan Kaminer, Yotam Schwimmer, Hagit Mermelstein, Asaf Philip, Aliza Weston, Eli Bar, Dafna Hirsch, Yael Ben Yefet, Maya Spector-Behar, Erez Yosef, Yael Golan, Noa Eshel, Efrat Shani – Shitrit, Sigal Primor, Aviad Markowitz, Ilona Pinto, Tamar Novick, Dganit ElKayam – Cassuto, Alimi Sarah, Itai Snir, Diana Achdut, Liron Mor, Yoni Silver, Or Shemesh, Gal Levy, Dana Kaplan, Daniel Shoshan, Ziv Yamin, Michal Nitzan Re’ut Bendriam, Yuval Ayalon, Yuli Cohen, Oren Agmon, collected Ja’akobowicz, Jonathan Vadai, Michal Goren, Eli Oshorov, Yuval Dreyer – Shilo, Tal Shefi, Yehuda Ben-el, Moran Tal, Nurit Ben-Zvi, Eli Shmueli, Dalit Metzger, Menashe Anzi, Meir Amor, Shoshi Shamir, Eran Kalimil Misheiker, Noa Heine, Sahar Shalev, Eli Edelman, Ran Segev, Albert Swissa, Sergio Yachni, Roy Hassan, Zilla Zalt, Mazal Moyal Cohen, Abigail Eren Hozen,, Efrat Issachar, Shlomit Carmeli, Uri Ben – Dov, Tamar Mokady, Yahav Zohar, Yif’al Bistri, Yair Meyuchas, Rony Mazal, Odelia Goldratt, Idit Arad, Eldad Zion, Yotam Cohen, Noa Mazur, MIchali Bror, Or Barkat, Oz Rothbart, Esther Attar, Ronit Bachar Shachar, Adi Keysar, Ela Gringoz, Noga Eitan, Tamar Saraf, Hila Chipman, Yegev Bochshatav, Tomer lavi, Roni Henig, Vered Kupiz, Shai Shabtai, Yael Gviraz, Tamar Achiron, Gai Ayal, Hagit Bachar Morris, Amira Hass, Avraham Oz, Yael Barda,  Moti Fogel, Pnina Mozpi- Haaller, Yuval Ivri, Almog Behar.

This article was first published in Hebrew on Haokets.

Let’s talk about Gaza, Sderot and the racist devaluation of lives
‘Our’ murderers – what would Arendt and Buber say?

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I am the woman who translates the names of the dead http://972mag.com/i-am-the-woman-who-translates-the-names-of-the-dead/93701/ http://972mag.com/i-am-the-woman-who-translates-the-names-of-the-dead/93701/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 17:29:19 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93701 In these frenzied days, I look for routine and find it in the task of translating names. Not that anyone reads all of them, but here’s another child, and another, and a last name that gets repeated again and again. And then I realize that a whole family has been wiped out.

By Michal Rotem (Translated by Sol Salbe)

For several days now I’ve been translating the names of those killed in Gaza to Hebrew. It was not my idea, and I’m not an expert in literary Arabic, but I volunteered my meager translation skills to help John Brown, because it seemed the right thing for me to do, for some odd reason. Every day my capabilities seem to grow, and I freely scan though Palestinian news sites and the website of the Ministry of Health in Gaza, plucking out more and more names of the dead.

But I’m oblivious to it. Like a robot, I sit and translate more and more names of the deceased and I do not comprehend at all what this list really is. Every so often it hits me, when suddenly in the middle of the list, I encounter a series of names that are too similar, with too big an age range and from the same locality, and it dawns on me that these are the names of members of a family that was wiped out in a single moment. I press on with the list, which expands by the minute, unmindful of its various meanings. But then comes a familiar last name, and I realize I may know people in the Negev/Naqab from this family, and I come back to reality. The names that share first names with close friends of mine also make me sad, because I remember that ultimately these are human beings.

Bodies are carried from the morgue of Al Shifa Hosptial, Gaza City, July 13, 2014.

Bodies are carried from the morgue of Al Shifa Hosptial, Gaza City, July 13, 2014.

There’s something very anodyne about this list: name, place of residence, age. Some people have their details missing, some are updated in the days following. I’m not sufficiently versed in these matters to know who was a senior Hamas commander, who fired rockets and who is just trying to live their life – a life that was taken in a minute. All the names are listed one after the other, without notes about the deceased’s degree of involvement in the situation. When I start to think about it, some things become clearer. Dozens of children, aged one-and-a-half, three and 11, and even 16, along with older women aged 73 and 80, are all victims of this intolerable situation.

In my quest for routine these days, I seem to find it in updating this list. I don’t think anyone really sits down and reads the list name after name, thinking who s/he was and what s/he did just before it was all over. But out of desperation I want to believe that there are people for whom this awful list of names will have some impact, turn their stomachs, make them want to stop everything and choose a different path.

The list is updated every few hours, and for every person involved in the fighting there are several other names of victims who have no connection to the fighting. Dozens of names are added every day. Regardless of your stance on Gaza, open the list and try to read out loud one name after another. You can choose to read just the kids’ names. Then please try tell me that this killing must not stop.

Read this article in Hebrew on Local Call.

Nobody should be a number: Names of those killed in Gaza
‘We stay together or we leave this world together’
What Israel’s ‘precision bombing’ of Gaza looks like

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Israel bars prominent Palestinian artist from traveling to N.Y. exhibit http://972mag.com/israel-bars-prominent-palestinian-artist-from-traveling-to-n-y-exhibit/93586/ http://972mag.com/israel-bars-prominent-palestinian-artist-from-traveling-to-n-y-exhibit/93586/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:18:32 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93586 Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar travels regularly to exhibit and discuss his art. This time, the Israeli army simply said no, you can’t go.

Khaled Jarrar

Khaled Jarrar (photo: Susanne Hakuba, courtesy of Gallery Ayyam)

Khaled Jarrar, a prominent Palestinian artist based in Ramallah, was supposed to be in New York by now for an exhibit at the New Museum, a Manhattan hotspot for contemporary art.

Except Israel isn’t letting him go. Jarrar arrived at the Allenby border crossing at 3:00 p.m. yesterday. Rather than cross into Jordan, as he has done many times over the last few years, he was told he could not exit due to “an intelligence order.” After 10 hours spent waiting, he returned home at around 1 a.m. today.

Jarrar, 38, told +972 that dozens of others Palestinians were turned back while he was waiting at the crossing, though many others were let through. He has no idea why he was refused, as he has traveled regularly over the years to exhibit his work, and has never had a problem. He explained:

After a very long wait and without understanding what was happening, I was informed that there are “security reasons” that will prevent me from traveling until the 1st of August. For now, that means that I missed my morning flight from Amman to New York, that I will miss the opening of the show at the New Museum, and that I will miss my ‘artist talk’ with Lamia Joreige and Charif Kiwan, with Natalie Bell, that was supposed to happen on the 16th of July.

Yesterday was the longest day of my life and a day of humiliation. I felt real racism on the part of the security at Allenby Bridge. When this one soldier was talking to his superior officer,  I understood he called me “zevel” ["garbage," in Hebrew -NY]. I shouted at him that I was no “zevel” and he was impolite to call me that. No one listened to me, like I did not even exist.

Jarrar's "State of Palestine" postage stamp. Among the countries that printed the stamp were Germany, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway.

Jarrar’s “State of Palestine” postage stamp. Among the countries that printed the stamp were Germany, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway.

The Allenby Bridge is the only entry and exit point for the Palestinians of the occupied West Bank. It is controlled by Israel, which often closes it to entire categories of Palestinians. During the search for the three Israeli teenagers who were found dead on June 30, Israel imposed a blanket ban on the exit from Allenby of all Palestinians from Hebron—a move condemned as collective punishment by Amnesty International.

Jarrar is a Ramallah-based multimedia artist well known for his “Live and Work in Palestine” project, which created a  a “State of Palestine” passport and postage stamp he designed as an expression of sovereignty and resistance against the occupation. More recently, he made a 70-minute documentary called “Infiltrators,” about the risks taken by Palestinians finding ways around the wall that separates them from both Israel and much of the West Bank. The film, which has received five international awards, will be featured in the New Museum exhibit. This is the trailer:

Jarrar regularly travels internationally on behalf of his art — for a sense of how often, you can see a list of all the festivals that have shown his film here; he  attended most of them. Israeli authorities granted him a permit to travel to Jerusalem for an interview at the American consulate just last month, and he returned from an exhibit in Paris only two weeks ago.

It’s unclear on what security grounds Jarrar was refused exit via Allenby Bridge, leaving him effectively trapped in the territory. It’s also unclear how and whether the general escalation turned him into a threat in the last two weeks following his previous trip, and why exactly he and the people refused with him will cease to be threats on August 1.

+972 Magazine contacted the Civil Administration — the inaptly named branch of the army that controls Palestinian civilian movement— to ask why Khaled and the dozens of others in his situation were refused exit, but so far they have not responded. I’ll update you if they do.

Leaving Palestine: ‘Give ‘em something to talk about’

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There’s still room for optimism: A letter to Sayed Kashua http://972mag.com/theres-still-room-for-optimism-a-letter-to-sayed-kashua/93546/ http://972mag.com/theres-still-room-for-optimism-a-letter-to-sayed-kashua/93546/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 08:42:35 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=93546 ‘You were supposed to be optimistic, you were supposed to give us hope. Instead you are only proposing despair.’ A letter to Israel’s best known Hebrew-language Palestinian author, columnist and entertainer, who after the racism and violence of recent weeks wrote that he’s lost hope in coexistence.

By Maisalon Dallashi

Palestinians from the West Bank enjoy the Mediterranean Sea on the last day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, Tel Aviv, August 11, 2013. The three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday marks the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. The Israeli army generally issues entry permits to Palestinians during Ramadan, allowing many to visit the beach for the first time. (Activestills.org)

Palestinians from the West Bank enjoy the Mediterranean Sea on the last day of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, Tel Aviv, August 11, 2013. (Activestills.org)

Dear Sayed,

You broke my heart when you cried out in your weekly Haaretz column. You’ve made the tears trickle down of their own accord. You made me want to escape out of my body and run. This is not how I imagined our first meeting. In my mind I saw a more optimistic encounter in which I described your great and scorching columns to you, those that left a spark of hope in me.

After I read your column I was not afraid to step out of my house. I relied upon my Ashkenazi appearance to finally be of good use. I escaped to where I always do when the world is too suffocating, to a viewpoint that looks over the sea from the old city of Jaffa.

On my way I passed through the alleys of the flea market, a place that has become into a major hit among the trendy middle-class people of Tel Aviv and the area. I saw a sign there greeting the Muslims for the month of the Ramadan. It was hung above one of the Arab coffee shops, perhaps the only Arab coffee shop there. Nice.

I searched for spelling or grammar typos in the greeting’s text and could not find any. Even more surprising and wonderful! I must have gotten used to embarrassing and neglectful mistakes in Arabic signs, like those where the dot is placed over the wrong alphabetical letter and the sign turns into a joke, and not to mention translations of street signs, which I always check the Hebrew to make sure the Arabic version contains no lies.

I kept walking, gradually noticing that there are almost no Arabs around. I thought to myself: perhaps it is because the time for  Iftar, the meal that breaks the fast, is approaching? But then I recalled that even in other months— i.e., not Ramadan, there are rarely any Palestinians in the entertainment joints that have re-taken Jaffa in the past decade. Then I recalled once more that I meant to escape from thought, so I left it at that.

Meanwhile, I kept walking and saw a restaurant with three African guys. Something didn’t add up for a moment. Have I ever seen them outside the kitchen, not taking care of our needs and actually sitting at a table and being treated as ordinary customers? Yet again, I preferred not to sink into sad thoughts about racism that I was walking to escape from that day, to escape all the calls of racism with which people have meticulously decorated social networks and news websites.

War machines between Jaffa and Gaza

I kept walking. In the background, the Muezzin begins to read a chapter of the Quran. It’s a custom during the month of  Ramadan that seems to me to be mental preparation in the last minutes before the end of the fast: The women and mothers are busy with final touches to the feast they have been working on for at least half the day. For the men on the other hand, it is a distressing period as they await near the delicacy piled table. They don’t even bother to set the table even if only the mother fasts. Again, I remembered that I didn’t escape in order to think about patriarchal relations that reinforce themselves during the month of the Ramadan, or the religious coercion against the “kufers,” us, who don’t fast.

Finally I reach the hill that looks over the sea. The Hebrew and Arabic start to fade in the background and for a moment, the Jewish-Arab scene looks like a harmoniously conducted game like no other. I don’t hear any word about the events of the past two weeks.

The sun is going down. The Hebrew and Arabic were replaced by voices of tourists. Gradually, Russian, Italian and English become the only sounds in my ears. Such a moment “abroad,” only 10 minutes away from my house. A perfect moment!

But then the world became cruel again. A military helicopter broke the stream of Italian conversation that was playing in my ears. I looked and speculated where it was going. Is it one of those helicopters that fly to drop bombs on Gaza? Is it reasonable that they will simply fly up there, so easily recognized from the skies of Tel Aviv? It always seemed like a demon, far far away and only present in the news.

Ugh! Again with these thoughts. This time I decide to listen only to the notes of the street player’s saxophone and to give him a few shekels in gratitude, of the heightened sense of overseas travel that he bestowed upon me, and for reminding me how much better the world could be. A world without frightening people who roam the streets to tell heroic stories of how they beat up a Palestinian worker or women wearing hijabs, and without people who keep looking for the next child to burn alive.

Imagine, Sayed

I was thinking of a world without oppression and supremacy of one nation over another, a world where we, the Palestinians, also know how to forgive and let go of all the years of oppression. A world where we’re not asked to show gratitude for a piece of paper within a blue cover (our identity card), a world where the hardships of the weak are not used to recruit traitors. A world where the generation of young Palestinians will be proud of its identity and language, a generation that can attend to better schooling, education and values. A generation that is benefited by the world and walks with their chins held high, filled with pride and “cara’me” (dignity) that was taken away from the previous generations.

A world in which Jews who are preaching to the rest of the world to uphold better values of humanity actually stand on the lookout, making sure no people or nation will endure the most terrible things of all that their grandparents endured, a world where they know how to talk about a social and economic protest without detaching it from the occupation and the broader political dimensions, a world where they will feel safe without being persecuted for their religion. A world where the police are entrusted with the personal safety of all citizens and do not distinguish between one murder and the other!

A world where people do not simply believe governments or TV channels, and who know how to put their shows and presentations into proportion. A world without Class A and Class B citizens, special numbers on passports. (Yes, I know that a series of numbers with an asterisk that starts with ‘4’ from the left, is code for an unmarried Arab woman who is considered suspicious because she is under 30 years of age and flying alone.) I imagine a world without borders or checkpoints, where no one wishes death upon another, where people empathize with the suffering of the other nation and succeed in seeing some humanity in them. A world with enough space for all religions, without any of them being more correct or right, a world where people cry from the pain of a neighboring nation.

So, in contrast to you, Sayed, I decided to fight and keep dreaming of a more optimistic world where one can think differently. When it comes true, please do not stay in the U.S.!

Maisalon Dallashi is a sociologist and a researcher at Tel Aviv University. She studies the politics of the language and translation in the asymmetric relations between Jews and Arabs. In the past, she hosted meetings between Jewish and Palestinian youth and wrote in the Arab press about intra-community issues such as the employment of women, and the nightlife of youth in the Arab community.

Translated from Hebrew by Hadas Leonov. Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call.

A frightening new era of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel
Jews and Palestinians pay the price for latest wave of violence

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