+972 Magazine » News http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Sun, 30 Aug 2015 00:46:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 WATCH: Palestinian women and children prevent arrest of minor in Nabi Saleh http://972mag.com/watch-palestinian-women-and-children-prevent-violent-arrest-in-nabi-saleh/111117/ http://972mag.com/watch-palestinian-women-and-children-prevent-violent-arrest-in-nabi-saleh/111117/#comments Sat, 29 Aug 2015 11:05:33 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=111117 An Israeli soldier attempts to detain a 12-year-old Palestinian boy during a demonstration in the West Bank village. His mother and sister make sure that doesn’t happen.

See update below.

The weekly demonstration in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh took a particularly violent turn on Friday after an Israeli soldier tried to detain 12-year-old Mohammed Tamimi, leading to a fierce scuffle with his mother, sister and aunt. Eventually the soldier was led away by another soldier.

The incident was captured on video by Bilal Tamimi, a local Palestinian journalist. The soldier can be seen running down a hill chasing Mohammed, who had his arm in a cast after breaking it during clashes in the village a few days earlier. He eventually catches up with Mohammed, puts him in a headlock and pins him against a rock. The soldier then sits on Mohammed, preventing him from moving.

An Israeli soldier holding Mohammed Tamimi, 12, in a headlock during a demonstration in Nabi Saleh, August 28, 2015. (Karam Saleem)

An Israeli soldier holding Mohammed Tamimi, 12, in a headlock during a demonstration in Nabi Saleh, August 28, 2015. (Karam Saleem)

Others can be heard yelling at the soldier that Mohammed is a child, and that his hand is broken. The soldier calls out for someone to come and help him, and turns to the activist standing next to him and mutters something about “leftists being trash.” He then drags Mohammed forward and pins him down again. At this point Mohammed’s 15-year-old sister, Ahed; his mother and his father, Nariman and Bassem; and his aunt Nawal arrive, along with other activists.

Mohammed’s family tries to pull the soldier off the boy, tugging at his arms and head. The soldier responds by flailing his arms wildly at them, trying to hit them, and putting his hand around Ahed’s throat. They continue trying to pull him away until another soldier arrives and leads him away. As he is walking off, the soldier throws a stun grenade into the middle of the crowd.

Ahed (left), Nawal (right) and Nariman Tamimi (behind the soldier) try to stop Mohammed, 12, from being arrested by an Israeli soldier at a demonstration in Nabi Saleh, August 28, 2015. (Karam Saleem)

Ahed (left), Nawal (right) and Nariman Tamimi (behind the soldier) try to stop Mohammed, 12, from being arrested by an Israeli soldier at a demonstration in Nabi Saleh, August 28, 2015. (Karam Saleem)

At the same time, two other soldiers were busy arresting a Palestinian and an Italian activist with the International Solidarity Movement, both of whom are currently still in detention.

“The soldiers came out of nowhere, and no one realized what was happening. They were masked and had no gear, only a rifle,” Karam Saleem, a photojournalist who witnessed the event, told +972.

Bassem Tamimi, Mohammed’s father, told +972 that Ahed and Nariman had to be taken to hospital after the demonstration in which they were assaulted by the soldier. Bassem’s other son, Salam, was also shot in the foot with a rubber bullet.

Family members Nariman and Ahed Tamimi reiterated that the village is struggling for humanity, justice, peace and dignity, and that they need their freedom.

In a statement, the IDF claimed that Mohammed had been throwing stones, a claim denied by an Israeli activist who was present. The statement also claims that the soldier did not realize he was dealing with a minor.

The day after the incident, Manal Tamimi, a prominent activist in the village, received a message online threatening that her home would be burnt down in a “price tag” attack (link contains graphic language).

Nabi Saleh has seen a sharp increase in violence in recent months over Israeli settlers’ annexation of the village well. Manal Tamimi was shot in the leg with live ammunition during a recent demonstration, and Nariman Tamimi was on crutches for a number of months after being shot in the leg with live ammunition last November.

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Bilal Tamimi, the journalist who recorded yesterday’s events, was arrested last week along with two Israelis and eventually released without charge after a judge ruled the arrest should never have occurred.

A house in the village was recently demolished and IDF soldiers stationed at the village have also been caught on camera throwing stones at photojournalists and firing tear gas canisters directly at protesters–at the same spot where Mustafa Tamimi was killed four years ago when a gas canister struck him in the face.

UPDATE (Aug 30): On August 29th, the day after the incident, the IDF filed a complaint with the Israeli Police. Officials from the Samaria and Judea District police force told the Hebrew-language news website 0404 that “the attackers are well-known and will be arrested soon.”

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Why a pro-settler group wants to talk about ISIS http://972mag.com/why-a-pro-settler-group-discusses-isis-destructions-of-antiquities/111089/ http://972mag.com/why-a-pro-settler-group-discusses-isis-destructions-of-antiquities/111089/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 13:57:50 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=111089 An Israeli group working in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan is presenting ISIS destruction of antiquities as a cautionary tale for its own struggle with Palestinians.

By Yonathan Mizrachi

Archaeological dig at City of David (rachelsharon/CC BY NC ND 2.0)

Archaeological dig at City of David (rachelsharon/CC BY NC ND 2.0)

A group that manages the City of David’s archaeological site in the heart of the village of Silwan in East Jerusalem, the “Elad Foundation in the City of David,” is holding its annual archeology conference, entitled “ISIS: Is it possible to stop the destruction?” It will deal in part with the destruction of antiquities in Iraq and Syria.

That the so-called ISIS group is destroying ancient ruins is indisputable. The organization documents it with videos and is proud of what it sees as symbolic conquests. Just this week the destruction of a major temple in the biblical city of Tadmor (Palmyra) in Syria was reported. But the conference title implies that aside from concern for antiquities and heritage, someone is also considering measures to prevent the destruction.

Elad is not interested in the destruction of antiquities in Iraq, but rather, here, in Silwan, on the Temple Mount, and in East Jerusalem. They say “ISIS” but the intention is perceived here in Jerusalem as “Islamic extremists.” Israeli organizations has not prevented the destruction of antiquities in Iraq and Syria, and, so far, neither has the international community. However, if we focus on the Israeli discourse on the destruction of antiquities, then, according to Elad there is much to be done.  The group has seen itself for a long time now to be on the forefront of fighting Muslims’ destruction of ancient ruins.

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After construction undertaken by the Islamic Waqf led to the destruction of antiquities on the Temple Mount / Haram al-Sharif in the 1990s, it was Elad which invested funds and acted to sift the debris dumped into the Kidron Valley. To this day, it is one of the key projects that Elad finances and operates in East Jerusalem. But this activity, presented as an attempt to rescue the antiquities of the Temple Mount, has no archeological value and its importance is primarily educational and political, both in terms of having archaeologists engaged in sifting through the dirt, and with its links to settlers in East Jerusalem.

The message is clear: Muslims aims to destroy antiquities and Israel intervenes to prevent such atrocities.

Elad’s main struggle is to control Silwan. It operates the City of David archaeological site as a means of strengthening its grip on the village and presenting itself as an archaeological body interested in the ancient heritage of Jerusalem. In the eyes of the settlers who live in Silwan, only Elad is able to protect the antiquities. The Palestinians, they claim, are uninterested in them, or likely to harm the archaeological site once Israelis leave.

ISIS’ destruction of antiquities is raising fundamental questions about the relationship between archaeology and the western presence in the Middle East, such as, how the West makes use of archeology and who is responsible for antiquities and heritage sites. Archaeology began with colonialism in the Middle East in the early 19th century. In the past, the West saw a need to explore the sites and transfer the archaeological remains to its own palaces and museums. Later on, these ancient sites became part of the sovereign states wherein they were located. But even then, most of the research was done by western universities and the majority of visitors came from the West. The antiquities trade is also based on western customers who buy stolen antiquities from dealer coming from Arab countries.

From the 18th to the early 20th century, excavations were done without a coherent method, with an objective of finding valuable artifacts. These excavations damaged ancient sites as well as our ability to understand their evolution and history. Until the arrival of colonialism in the Middle East, a significant portion of the sites remained intact for thousands of years.

While archaeological research has long disregarded many of the methods used in past centuries, in Jerusalem, the Elad-funded Israel Antiquities Authority still considers them as legitimate tools in Silwan and in the Old City. For example, in the Givati Parking Lot excavations, the IAA removed Muslim layers, and excavated using tunnels and in underground spaces–methods that destroy antiquities and have been discontinued a century ago.

What the West did and sometimes is still doing in the name of the law or under rules it has devised and which are ostensibly in place to preserve heritage sites, ISIS does in front of cameras in the form of documented destruction. ISIS is destroying antiquities perceived to be part of a legacy of heresy and association with the West.

ISIS and right-wing organizations in Israel and the West are using archaeology for the same purpose–to distinguish themselves from others and to portray a division between ‘good’ and ‘evil.’ In conservative circles in the West that see Islam as a threat, the shock from the destruction of antiquities is related to the perception of the gap between the two cultures.

It is easy to forget that the Palestinians are not ISIS, that Elad is not a protector of antiquities as it presents itself to be, and that Jerusalem is a city whose heritage is shared. No matter how many ancient sites are being destroyed in the war in Syria or Iraq, it is here in Jerusalem where joint preservation of the relics of the past will ensure the future of those places and our ability to respect and accept one other.

Yonathan Mizrachi is an archaeologist and director of Emek Shaveh, an organization which deals with the role of archeology in the political conflict and in Israeli society

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Settlers take over East Jerusalem home in the dead of night http://972mag.com/settlers-take-over-east-jerusalem-home-in-the-dead-of-night/111098/ http://972mag.com/settlers-take-over-east-jerusalem-home-in-the-dead-of-night/111098/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 12:40:05 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=111098 In the latest of a number of home takeovers in Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, settlers took up residence in a home they said belonged to Jews before the establishment of the state of Israel.

A Jewish settlement is seen in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, East Jerusalem, March 28, 2007. (Activestills.org)

A Jewish settlement is seen in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan, East Jerusalem, March 28, 2007. (Activestills.org)

A group of Israeli settlers moved into an apartment building in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Thursday.

The group of at least 20 belongs to the Ateret Cohanim settler organization, which purchases properties in neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and has taken legal action in order to evict the Palestinian owners of those buildings.

In this latest case, it claimed that the white stone, five story building was located on land belong to a historical Jewish real estate association established a century ago by the Yemenite Jewish community of Jerusalem.

One Palestinian family of eleven, headed by Jawaf Abu Sneineh, remained in their apartment, claiming that they had already paid the year’s rent. They are reportedly still living there, though they say they are afraid of the settler residents above them, according to the Associated Press.

The late night move almost doubled the number of Jewish settlers in the neighborhood and added to already high tensions regarding disputes over land ownership in the area.

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Silwan is currently home to several hundred Jewish settlers and some 50,000 Palestinians. It is an impoverished area just on the outskirts of the Old City of Jerusalem, and it has been the target of the Ateret Cohanim organization in recent months.

Palestinians have frequently resisted the eviction orders in court, where they say the Jewish Israelis are almost always given preference.

Many of the takeovers of Palestinian homes have taken place in the dead of night, in the efforts to “avoid unnecessary friction with some of the local Arabs during the day,” according to a statement released by Ateret Cohanim.

The settlers, holding just as many bags as they could carry, as they quietly made their way through the alleys, were accompanied by armed soldiers–a move that critics say only further exacerbates the tensions.

Americans for Peace Now president and CEO Debra DeLee condemned the takeover and said in a statement, “By not blocking the settlers’ hostile takeover of assets in a Palestinian neighborhood, Israeli authorities are fanning the flames of violence and supporting the extremists who strive to thwart a future Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.”

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PHOTOS: Construction for Jewish town to replace Bedouin village draws ire http://972mag.com/photos-construction-for-jewish-town-to-replace-bedouin-village-draws-ire/111065/ http://972mag.com/photos-construction-for-jewish-town-to-replace-bedouin-village-draws-ire/111065/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 17:18:45 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=111065 Israel is moving forward with a controversial plan to outright replace a Bedouin village with a Jewish town in the Negev/Naqab.

Protesters march as construction begins for Jewish town to  replace Bedouin village. August 27, 2015 (Amjad Iraqi)

Protesters march as construction begins for Jewish town to replace Bedouin village. August 27, 2015 (Tom Mehager / Adalah)

About 200 Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel took part in a demonstration on Thursday in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in southern Israel, where the state plans to destroy the village and replace it with a new Jewish town called ‘Hiran.’

The protestors chanted slogans, such as, “No to demolitions,” and “No to racism,” and some took to social media to share images and posts under the hashtag #Save_UmAlHiran. A number of members of the Knesset Joint Arab List joined in solidarity with those demanding that Israel respect the Bedouins’ right to stay on their land.

Protesters march as construction begins for Jewish town to  replace Bedouin village. August 27, 2015 (Amjad Iraqi)

Protesters march as construction begins for Jewish town to replace Bedouin village. August 27, 2015 (Amjad Iraqi / Adalah)

Earlier this week, Israeli construction workers moved tractors onto the village hilltop,  just a few hundred meters away from the Bedouin families’ homes. The protestors marched uphill to the construction site, where policemen had set up fences in anticipation of the protest.

According to one of the workers at the site, the authorities have begun to clear the area in order to set up temporary housing for the Jewish families that are expected to move into the new town. Most of these families are currently living in an encampment in the nearby Yatir forest, supplied with electricity and water and sponsored by the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The idea, it appears, is to move the new Jewish inhabitants closer to the land in order to hasten the building process and pressure the Bedouin residents to leave.

Protesters march as construction begins for Jewish town to replace Bedouin village. August 27, 2015 (Amjad Iraqi / Adalah)

Protesters march as construction begins for Jewish town to replace Bedouin village. August 27, 2015 (Amjad Iraqi / Adalah)

This is despite the fact that the villagers have filed a legal motion to the Israeli Supreme Court demanding a second hearing and reconsideration of its ruling in May 2015 which approved the state’s plans to evict the 700 Bedouin villagers and build the Jewish town of Hiran. Adalah, which has represented the villagers in the Israeli courts for 12 years, has warned that the Court’s ruling “permits the implementation of further plans to dispossess and displace the Bedouin of the Naqab/Negev [region of Israel], such as the Prawer Plan.”

Contrary to the state’s longstanding claims, the Abu al-Qi’an tribe are not trespassers on the land. The Israeli military government transferred them there in 1956, after it displaced them from their original home in Khirbet Zubaleh in 1948. This fact was affirmed by the Supreme Court as well as the lower courts.

Protesters march as construction begins for Jewish town to   replace Bedouin village. August 27, 2015. (Amjad Iraqi / Adalah)

Protesters march as construction begins for Jewish town to replace Bedouin village. August 27, 2015. (Amjad Iraqi / Adalah)

Nonetheless, the Court asserted that the state had the right to retrieve the land, and the villagers were being amply compensated by being moved to Hura, a recognized township mired in its own housing crisis and other social problems. Umm al-Hiran’s sister village, Atir, home to about 300 residents, is also to be displaced and its land used to expand the man-made Yatir Forest.

Raed Abu al-Qi’an, a resident and activist from the village, told +972, “The government has no problem with Jewish citizens living on this property – so why should they have a problem with us? They allow rural communities to be built for Jews across the Negev – why not us?”

Protesters march as construction begins for Jewish town to   replace Bedouin village. August 27, 2015. (Amjad Iraqi / Adalah)

Protesters march as construction begins for Jewish town to replace Bedouin village. August 27, 2015. (Amjad Iraqi / Adalah)

Embracing his young son, standing next to him, Raed added, “We have always said, and continue to say, that we have no objections to Jewish families living here or nearby us – but not in place of us. That is racism and injustice.”

Protesters march as construction begins for Jewish town to replace Bedouin village. August 27, 2015 (Amjad Iraqi / Adalah)

Protesters march as construction begins for Jewish town to replace Bedouin village. August 27, 2015 (Amjad Iraqi / Adalah)

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WATCH: Israeli, Palestinian women ‘fast for peace’ http://972mag.com/watch-israeli-palestinian-women-fast-for-peace/111049/ http://972mag.com/watch-israeli-palestinian-women-fast-for-peace/111049/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 13:50:38 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=111049 To mark the anniversary of last summer’s Gaza war, a group of Jewish and Palestinian women from the “Women Wage Peace” movement launched a “protest fast” in a tent outside the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. The women have been criticized for choosing to present themselves as part of a political movement. However, the group believes that one cannot talk about “peace” without occupation, and cannot demand peace negotiations without recognizing the right of another nation to live here.

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PHOTOS: The Gaza families obliterated in just 51 days http://972mag.com/photos-the-palestinian-families-obliterated-in-just-51-days/110877/ http://972mag.com/photos-the-palestinian-families-obliterated-in-just-51-days/110877/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 13:59:37 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=110877 Out of the 2,200 Palestinians killed in last summer’s assault on the Gaza Strip, over 80 percent were civilians. Nearly 150 families lost three or more relatives, with some families disappearing entirely. Activestills’ Anne Paq returns to Gaza to tell the story behind the numbers.

Photography: Anne Paq / Activestills.org, Editing: Shiraz Grinbaum / Activestills.org

Photo of Abdallah Abdel Hadi Al Majdalawi, (13) in the ruins of his home in Jabaliya, Gaza Strip, seen on March 19, 2015. Abdallah was killed with two of his brothers and two cousins on an Israeli attack which destroyed their two homes; on August 3rd, 2014. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

A photograph of Abdallah Abdel Hadi Al Majdalawi(13) in the ruins of his family home, Jabaliya, Gaza Strip, March 19, 2015. Abdallah was killed with two of his brothers and another two cousins during an Israeli attack that destroyed their two homes on August 3rd, 2014. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

“Time will reduce the pain, but we will not forget our brothers”, told me 18-year-old Ibrahim Al Khalili in the midst of the burned ruins of the family factory, when I visited them in November 2014.

The entire immediate families of Ibrahim’s brothers, Ashraf and Ahmed, were killed: Ashraf’s wife, Nedaa’ (28) and their children Deema (4), Ziyad (3) and Mahmoud (8); as well as Ahmed’s wife, Aya (23), and their daughter Lama (5). A big fire broke out in the factory due to the plastic and wood materials stored there. The bodies were burned so badly that when they arrived to the morgue they were burned beyond recognition.

Framed photo of Ahmed Mustafa Zo’rob (15) and his brother  Mohammed Mustafa Zo’rob (12), seen in their home in Rafah on February 10, 2015. They were both killed on August 1st, 2014, during an attack on the home of their uncle, together with 14 other members of their family, including their mother and two other siblings. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Framed photo of Ahmed Mustafa Zo’rob (15) and his brother Mohammed Mustafa Zo’rob (12), photographed in their home in Rafah on February 10, 2015. They were both killed on August 1st, 2014 during an attack on their uncle’s home, together with 14 other members of their family, including their mother and two other siblings. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photo of Taghrid Shabaan al Kilani put on her bed, in  Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip, September 18, 2014. Taghrid was killed together with her husband Ibrahim and their five children in an Israeli attack on July 21, 2014, targetting the building they flew to in Gaza city. Ibrahim and her children hold German passports as Ibrahim was living in Germany for 20 years and was working there as an architect. They flew their home in Beit Layhia after they saw leftlets launched by the Israely army, urging the residents to go to Gaza city. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

A photo of Taghrid Shabaan al Kilani is laid out on her bed in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip, September 18, 2014. Taghrid was killed together with her husband Ibrahim and their five children in an Israeli attack on the building to which they fled in Gaza City on July 21, 2014. Ibrahim and her children are German citizens; Ibrahim had lived in Germany for 20 years and was working there as an architect. They fled their home in Beit Layhia after the Israeli army dropped warning leaflets in their neighborhood, which urged the residents to go to Gaza City. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

The eight members were the last ones waiting to be evacuated when an Israeli soldier fired a shell that fell on them. Seven-year-old Mahmoud was the only person who wasn’t killed on the spot; he remained conscious and witnessed the death of his entire family. At the Shifa hospital he fell into a coma, and died four days later.

I was at the morgue of the Al Shifa when the bodies arrived. One carbonized arm, unable to bend, was sticking out of the green plastic bag where the bodies were put before being taken for burial. In another plastic bag, three bodies, the one of a woman and two children, were glued together.

Photos of Aseel Mohammed Al Bakri  (4), her mother Ibtisam Ibrahim Al Bakri  (38), and  her sister Asmaa (5 months), displayed in the ruins of their home, in Al Shati’ refugee camp, Gaza city, September 11, 2014 . They were killed by an Israeli attack on their home on August 4, 2014, with 2 other members of their family. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photos of Aseel Mohammed Al Bakri (4), her mother Ibtisam Ibrahim Al Bakri (38), and her sister Asmaa (5 months), displayed in the ruins of their home, Al Shati’ refugee camp, Gaza City, September 11, 2014. They were killed by an Israeli attack on their home on August 4, 2014, with two other members of their family. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photo of ten members of the Balata family on the ruins of the home of Abdel Kareem Balata, Jabaliya refugee camp, Gaza Strip,  September 9, 2014. In total 11 members of the family were killed, including 9 members from the immediate family of Naeem Balata (Naeem, his wife and 7 of their children) by the Israeli attack by shelling on his brother's home on July 29, 2014. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photos of 10 members of the Balata family seen in the ruins of the home of Abdel Kareem Balata, Jabaliya refugee camp, Gaza Strip, September 9, 2014. A total of 11 members of the family were killed, including 9 members belonging Naeem Balata’s immediate family. Naeem, his wife, and seven of their children were killed by  Israeli shelling on his brother’s home on July 29, 2014. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

On that same day I stood outside the morgue and took a photo of Ismael, another Khalili brother, embracing someone while collapsing in tears. How can one forget such a scene of devastation? I tried to find out their names, and the location from which they arrived. Someone explained that this was the Al Khalili familiy from Al Tuffah. “They were unable to escape, and because of the factory, they were caught in the fire,” I was told, writing down the details. But in the chaos at hospital, flooded with constant flow of dead and injured, it was often impossible to even catch the family’s name.

The Khalilis were one of many families in the Gaza Strip that were obliterated last summer by Israeli attacks. According to the United Nations, 142 families lost three members or more in single Israeli strikes, a terrifying statistic. Some families, like those of Ahmad and Asfraf Al Khalili, were completely wiped out. Many families were gathered together during the offensive, which meant that any strike on someone’s home was even deadlier than usual, especially at night.

Photos (from left to right) of the killed siblings Mohammed (12), Yara (8) and Nadeen (16) Mahmoud Al Farra, held by their mother in their home in Khan Younis, February 22, 2015. 9 members of the Al Farra family were killed in the street by an Israeli missile while they were fleeing their home after it was attacked on August 1st, 2014. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photos (from left to right) of the killed siblings Mohammed (12), Yara (8) and Nadeen (16) Mahmoud Al Farra, held by their mother in their home in Khan Younis, February 22, 2015. Nine members of the Al Farra family were killed in the street by an Israeli missile while they were fleeing their home on August 1st, 2014. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photo of Abdel Hadi Hayyel Abu Dahrouj (2) on a mobile phone, shown on March 17, 2015 in Al Zawaida village, Middle Gaza. Abdel was killed on August 23, 2014 together with his entire immediate family- his father Hayyel (28), mother Huda (25) and his brother Abdullah (3) . In total 5 members from the Abu Dahrouj family were killed in the Israeli attack. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photo of Abdel Hadi Hayyel Abu Dahrouj (2) on a mobile phone, shown on March 17, 2015 in Al Zawaida village, central Gaza. Abdel was killed on August 23, 2014 together with his entire immediate family — his father Hayyel (28), mother Huda (25) and his brother Abdullah (3). In total five members from the Abu Dahrouj family were killed in the Israeli attack. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

I went back to Gaza in September with the idea of documenting some of these families, starting with the ones I encountered during the summer. What happened to them? What remains of their memories, and how can the ones left behind go on with their life? What about the injured, the widows and the orphans left behind?

Long lists of names with ages of people was published, but I wanted to see the faces — to find the old photos from their photo albums. I wanted to get the stories out. I wanted these families to be remembered.

Read: What I learned touring the rubble piles of Gaza

Soon the project, called “Obliterated Families,” went beyond what I intended. In collaboration with Al Mezan Human Rights Center and, over the course of the following months, I visited and documented 50 families. Some may have lost a few loved ones, others, like the Abu Jame’ family, mourned the death of 25 members, of whom 18 were children. How can one cope with such immense loss?

Photos of 7 killed members of the family of Mohammed Atta Mahmoud Al Najjar, seen in the home of Mohammed's brother, in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, February 18, 2015. In total 8 members of his family were killed, by an Israeli attack on his home on JUly 29, 2014.  Among them the entire immediate family of Atta was killed- Atta (29) ; his wife Ibtisam (21) and their two children Mohammed (2) and Rafeef (3). Atta worked for the civilian police. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photos of the seven members of Mohammed Atta Mahmoud Al Najjar’s family seen in the home of Mohammed’s brother, in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, February 18, 2015. A total of eight members of his family were killed by an Israeli attack on his home on July 29, 2014. His entire immediate was killed: Atta (29); his wife Ibtisam (21) and their two children Mohammed (2) and Rafeef (3). Atta worked for the civilian police in Gaza. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photo of the Al Haj family held by Fida'a al Haj in their temporary home, in Khan Younis refugee camp, February 18, 2015. Only two members featured on the photo  -Yasser (26) and his sister Fida'a (27)  are still alive, as 8 members- Mahmoud, his wife and 6 of their children- were killed by an Israeli attack on their home on 10 July 2014. Yasser was visiting friends and witnessed the attack while Fida'a was staying with her husband's family. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photo of the Al Haj family held by Fida’a al Haj in their temporary home, Khan Younis refugee camp, February 18, 2015. Only two members featured on the photo —Yasser (26) and his sister Fida’a (27) — are still alive, after eight members (Mahmoud, his wife and six of their children) were killed by an Israeli attack on their home on July 10, 2014. Yasser was visiting friends and witnessed the attack while Fida’a was staying with her husband’s family. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photos of Ibrahim Abdullah Abu Itta (67) and his wife Jamila (55), see in the ruins of their destroyed home in Jabaliya refugee camp, Gaza Strip, February 23, 2015. They were killed together with two of their sons, and one grand-child following an Israeli attack on their neighbours' home, on July, 24, 2014. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photos of Ibrahim Abdullah Abu Itta (67) and his wife Jamila (55) seen in the ruins of their destroyed home in Jabaliya refugee camp, Gaza Strip, February 23, 2015. They were killed together with two of their sons and one grandchild following an Israeli attack on their neighbours’ home on July, 24, 2014. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photos of the killed members of the family of Zaki Wahdan seen in a frame in their shelter in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, February 18, 2015. 8 members of the Wahdan family, mostly women and children were killed in an Israeli attack in their home on 22 July 2014. The attack occured after the Israeli soldiers left the home that they occupied and after they told them to stay inside the house. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photos of the members of the family of Zaki Wahdan seen their shelter in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, February 18, 2015. Eight members of the Wahdan family, most of whom were women and children, were killed in an Israeli attack in their home on July 22, 2014. The attack occurred after the Israeli soldiers left the home that they occupied and were told to stay inside the house. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

The survivors’ suffering is only exacerbated by the fact that many of them are displaced — some still live in the ruins of their own homes — and have little prospect of any kind of justice or even a better future, due to the political stalemate and the siege.

One of the aims of the project is to raise awareness over these families and support their call for justice.

Photo of the German passports of Ibrahim al Kilani and four of his children, seen in their home in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip, September 18, 2014. Ibrahim Taghrid was killed together with his wife Taghrid and their five children in an Israeli attack on July 21, 2014, targetting the building they flew to in Gaza city. Ibrahim and her children hold German passports as Ibrahim was living in Germany for 20 years and was working there as an architect. They flew their home in Beit Layhia after they saw leftlets launched by the Israely army, urging the residents to go to Gaza city. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photos of the German passports belonging to Ibrahim al Kilani and four of his children, seen in their home in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip, September 18, 2014. Ibrahim Taghrid was killed together with his wife Taghrid and their five children in an Israeli attack on Gaza City on July 21, 2014. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photos of 7 members of the Al Louh family displayed  on the carpet 18-year-old Eman used (large photo on the left) when she was praying and killed, seen on September 16, 2014 in  Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip. In total, the Israeli attack which took place on 20 August 2014, killed 8 members of the Al Louh family and destroyed two of their homes. The immediate family of Ra'fat Al Louh (Ra'fat, his wife and their three children) was entirely deciminated. Eman Al Louh was hit by a piece of concrete which flew from the window and killed her while she was praying in her home located around 150 meters from the center of the attack. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photos of 7 members of the Al Louh family displayed on the carpet 18-year-old Eman (large photo on the left) was using pray when she was killed, seen on September 16, 2014 in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip. The attack, which took place on August, 20, 2014, killed eight members of the Al Louh family and destroyed two of their homes. The immediate family of Ra’fat Al Louh (Ra’fat, his wife and their three children) was entirely decimated. Eman Al Louh was hit by a piece of concrete which flew from the window and killed her while she was praying in her home, located around 150 meters from the center of the attack. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photos of the three siblings of the Ammar family who were killed- Eman (9); Ibrahim (13) and Issam Khalil Ammar (4), displayed on the wall next to their door of their flat in the Cordoba building, Gaza city, February 25, 2015. The three children were killed on July 20, 2014 by an Israeli attack on the residential building. In total 11 persons were killed from two families- the Ammar and Al Hallaq families. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)  .

Photos of the three siblings of the Ammar family who were killed in an Israeli airstrike: Eman (9); Ibrahim (13) and Issam Khalil Ammar (4), displayed on the wall next to their door of their flat in the Cordoba building, Gaza City, February 25, 2015. The three children were killed on July 20, 2014 by an Israeli attack on the residential building. In total 11 people from the Ammar and Al Hallaq families were killed. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

An old photo of Mohammed Al Hashash (at the time of the attack which killed him he was 20) seen on one his school certificates kept by his family in their home in Rafah, Gaza Strip, March 18, 2015. Mohammed was killed together with his four brothers, his mother and one cousin by Israeli attacks on the street when they were fleeing their home, on July 29, 2014. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

An old photo of Mohammed Al Hashash (who was 20 years old when he was killed) seen on one his school certificates kept by his family in their home in Rafah, Gaza Strip, March 18, 2015. Mohammed was killed together with his four brothers, his mother and one cousin by an Israeli attack on their street as they were fleeing their home on July 29, 2014. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

The Activestills photo collective is providing a selection of photos from the ”Obliterated Families” project for download for anyone who wants to expose the issue in their community. So far, street exhibits have been held in the France, Poland, Germany, South Africa, Luxembourg and the United States. These images have yet to be shown in Israel where the victims of the Gaza Strip were mostly excluded from the mainstream media and narrative, making them invisible and easily dismissed.

Photos of the members of the Jouda family killed: first row, the mother Rawia (43); and, the second row her children from left to right, Tasneem (14), Raghad (12), Osama (6), and Mohammed Issam Jouda (8), seen on March 19, 2015; on the location of the attack, in the garden in front of their home, in Jabaliya, Gaza Strip. The attack occured on August 24, 2014 by a missile fired from a drone directly on them while they were sitting outside because of the heat. Two children survived, as well as the father. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photos of the Jouda family killed seen in their garden, where they were struck by a missile fired by an Israeli drone on August 24, 2014. First row, the mother Rawia (43); second row: her children (from left to right), Tasneem (14), Raghad (12), Osama (6), and Mohammed Issam Jouda (8). Two children and the father survived the attack. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photos of  Radad Ahmed Tanboura, 36 and his children- Ahmed (15) and Amna (13) held in the hand of their mother and Radad's wife, Elizabeth in the flat the remaining members of the family currently live in Beit Lahiya, Northern Gaza, March 19, 2015. The attack killed the three members of the Tanbura family on August 25, 2014.  Elizabeth was inside the home and was injured in the attack, while the other children were outside and then survived. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photos of Radad Ahmed Tanboura, 36, and his children, Ahmed (15) and Amna (13) are held by Radad’s wife, Elizabeth, in the flat where the remaining members of the family currently lives, Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza, March 19, 2015. The attack killed the three members of the Tanbura family on August 25, 2014. Elizabeth was inside the home and was wounded in the attack, while the other children were outside and survived. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photos of Nabil Siyam's five children, among them four are dead and only Bader (in the bottom right corner) survived, seen in their home in Rafah, November 13, 2014. In total, 13 members from the Siyam family were killed following the attack which occured on July 21, 2014. Around 30 members of the family were fleeing in the street when an Israeli missile hit them.Bader (4) was badly injured and had a kidney removed, while his father Nabil had his left arm amputated. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photos of Nabil Siyam’s five children, four of whom died from an Israeli attack on July 21, 2014, seen in the family home, Rafah, Gaza, November 13, 2014. Only Bader (bottom right corner) survived. A total of 13 members from the Siyam family were killed. Around 30 members of the family were fleeing in the street when an Israeli missile hit them. Bader (4) was badly wounded and needed to have his kidney removed, while his father Nabil had his left arm amputated. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Al Mezan Human Rights center will publish the photo galleries on their website, while a web documentary focusing on 10 families — including the Khalili family — is in the works and is slated for release next month. The film’s introduction shows Ismael walking among the ruins of the homes. He walks and looks straight at the camera set on the roof. His gaze still haunts me. I will not forget, nor should any of us.

Photos of Afnan Wesam Shuheebar (8), Jehad Issam Shuheebar (11), and his brother Wassem (8) seen in Afnan's home in  Gaza city, November 17,2015. The three children were killed during an Israeli attack on 17.07.2014 while the children were feeding birds on the roof of the family's home. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photos of Afnan Wesam Shuheebar (8), Jehad Issam Shuheebar (11), and his brother Wassem (8) seen in Afnan’s home in Gaza city, November 17, 2015. The three children were killed during an Israeli attack on July 17, 2015, while the children were feeding birds on the roof of the family’s home. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photos of seven of the 8 members of the Al Khalili family killed, put on the location on the attack, Gaza Strip, November 12, 2014. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

Photos of seven of the eight members of the Al Khalili family killed during last year’s war on Gaza, laid out at the location on the attack, Gaza Strip, November 12, 2014. (Anne Paq / Activestills.org)

You can follow the project using the #ObliteratedFamilies hashtag. 

Related:
UNRWA funding crisis puts 500k Palestinian children at risk
Permanent victims of war: Who remembers Gaza’s children?
A year after Gaza: The only lesson we can draw from Protective Edge

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PHOTOS: Hundreds of asylum seekers released from Holot — with nowhere to go http://972mag.com/photos-hundreds-of-asylum-seekers-released-from-holot-with-nowhere-to-go/111002/ http://972mag.com/photos-hundreds-of-asylum-seekers-released-from-holot-with-nowhere-to-go/111002/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 18:35:26 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=111002 Approximately 600 African asylum seekers were released from Holot on Tuesday morning, following a High Court ruling. But their ban from entering Tel Aviv or Eilat — where much of their community lives — left them feeling helpless and confused.

By Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Hundreds of asylum seekers leave Holot detention center, two weeks after a High Court ruling ordered the release of all asylum seekers held there for over a year. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Hundreds of asylum seekers leave Holot detention center, two weeks after a High Court ruling ordered the release of all asylum seekers held there for over a year, August 25, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Hassan, a Sudanese asylum seeker, looks on as he stands outside Holot detention center, where he has been held for the past 20 months. Tuesday was supposed to be a happy day for him — the day he was being released following a High Court ruling two weeks ago.

But the decision by Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, which forbids the released asylum seekers from living in Tel Aviv and Eilat, caused Hassan to decide to stay in Holot. “They told me this morning that if I refuse to be released, they will take me to Saharonim prison, and that I will not be able to stay in Holot,” he told +972. Eventually he agreed to be released, and decided to look for friends to stay with outside of Tel Aviv.

Although the state has attempted to present Holot as an “open detention center,” and despite the fact that the number of roll calls per day has been reduced from three to one, Holot does not allow these people to lead normal lives. The detainees there have repeatedly complained of poor food, of being stuck in the middle of the desert and of having no way of getting to work or studies.

An asylum seeker leaves Holot detention center, Negev Desert, southern Israel, August 25, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

An asylum seeker leaves Holot detention center, Negev Desert, southern Israel, August 25, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

At 8:30 a.m., immigration enforcement authorities began releasing hundreds of asylum seekers who have been detained in Holot for over a year. According to the High Court ruling, detention of refugees Holot will be limited to one year. A total 1,200 asylum seekers are expected to be released in total.

Meanwhile, Israel’s immigration authority issued thousands of new orders summoning asylum seekers to Holot starting on August 31.

The 600 asylum seekers released Tuesday morning (600 more are expected to be released the following day) gathered outside Holot, looking confused and carrying with them the few items they have managed to amass. For many, the decision to prevent them from working and living in Tel Aviv and Eilat is “worse than imprisonment,” according to the released detainees.

Without the option of living and working in the area where the majority of their community lives — or even to be hosted by their friends — until they find a job, the asylum seekers are worried about their future.

An asylum seeker stands outside Holot detention center after being released, August 25, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

An asylum seeker stands outside Holot detention center after being released, August 25, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Every asylum seeker released Tuesday morning was given 64 shekels, of which 23 were used on a bus ride to Be’er Sheva. From there many continued on to the cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod, Hadera, among others.

Their release forms state that their permit is valid for two months, and that they are forbidden from working or living in Tel Aviv and Eilat. At the end of those two months, they will need to go to the Interior Ministry and ask to renew their conditional release visas. An attempt by Haaretz to find out what the punishment for violating their conditions of release remained unanswered by the Interior Ministry.

A Channel 2 news team stood at the entrance to Holot on Tuesday morning, asking every released detainee where he was planning on going. Many answered “I have nowhere to go” in shame. Others admitted off camera that they were going to Tel Aviv. “I have nothing to look for somewhere else,” one of them told +972. “Work, friends, and a feeling of home — all of them are in Tel Aviv.”

Dozens of asylum seekers wait at a bus stop outside Holot detention center upon being released, August 25, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Dozens of asylum seekers wait at a bus stop outside Holot detention center upon being released, August 25, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The ban on entering Tel Aviv caused much confusion among the asylum seekers, who were unsure whether they are allowed to switch buses in Tel Aviv on their way to the north, visit friends, or use services provided to them by aid organizations located in the city.

From prison to a hotel

Jamal Omar, an asylum seeker who is expected to be released tomorrow and has worked in an Eilat hotel for years, took part in an Israeli reality show. As filming came to an end, Omar was promised a two-year scholarship for university studies. However, Omar was taken to Holot before the show even aired, dashing his dreams.

“I am happy to be released,” he told +972, “but on the other hand I cannot work. I can’t live in Tel Aviv or Eilat, so where will I go?”

“I worked in Eilat, and my boss suggested that I work for the same hotel chain in other cities, but I have yet to make a decision,” he added. Omar still hopes the show will make good on its promise for a scholarship. “I hope it will happen. That is what they promised me.”

Dozens of asylum seekers crowd around a bus after being released from Holot detention center. According to Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, the asylum seekers are forbidden from living or working in Eilat and Tel Aviv, where large refugee communities live, August 25, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Dozens of asylum seekers crowd around a bus after being released from Holot detention center. According to Interior Minister Silvan Shalom, the asylum seekers are forbidden from living or working in Eilat and Tel Aviv, where large refugee communities live, August 25, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

“The problem is that the state does not want to provide a real solution. Instead of preventing us from coming to Eilat or Tel Aviv, they need to give us work permits, that way we can figure things out anywhere in Israel. I haven’t decided where I will go when I am released. Even after I leave I will feel like I was jailed for no reason, without breaking a single law. I have been imprisoned for 17 months, and right now they are sending me back to live in different cities, while summoning new asylum seekers.”

Inspectors vs. released detainees

As the asylum seekers were getting ready to leave Holot, Nissan Ben Hamu, the mayor of the southern city Arad, announced that he will not allow asylum seekers to enter his city. A photo that went viral on social media showed city inspectors standing at the entrance to the city, ostensibly to prevent asylum seekers released from Holot from entering the city.

An asylum seeker poses for a photo outside Holot detention center on the day of his release, August 25, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

An asylum seeker poses for a photo outside Holot detention center on the day of his release, August 25, 2015. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

“This morning, following a decision by the High Court of Justice, several hundred infiltrators were released from Holot detention center… the decision of the Interior Minister to prevent their entry into Tel Aviv and Eilat raises the probability that these people will move to cities in the southern part of the country,” Ben Hamu wrote on his Facebook page. “As of this morning I instructed municipal inspection and policing teams to reinforce their presence at entry points to the city, including the central bus station and throughout the city.”

According to an Arad city council member, the decision does not constitute official policy, but rather is a PR stunt by the mayor. Approximately 20 asylum seekers who had lived in the city prior to being sent to Holot entered Arad without a problem at around noon. In the city center, inspectors — who do not have the same authority as policemen — detained a number of asylum seekers who had returned to the city. They were released after a short while.

Approximately 60 asylum seekers are expected to arrive in Arad on Tuesday.

Related:
Exclusive: Despite dangers, Israel sending asylum seekers to home countries
High Court approves detention of asylum seekers without charge
Detained asylum seekers hint at new strategy

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Voices without borders: Four young writers from Gaza tell their story http://972mag.com/voices-without-borders-four-young-writers-from-gaza-tell-their-story/110470/ http://972mag.com/voices-without-borders-four-young-writers-from-gaza-tell-their-story/110470/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 13:06:34 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=110470 Young Gazans are finally getting an opportunity to present themselves to the world in their own words. +972 speaks to some of the participants in the ‘We Are Not Numbers’ writing project about hope, love, war and, of course, writing.

Two young men do acrobatic tricks on Gaza beach, Gaza Strip, September 1, 2013. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills)

Two young men do acrobatic tricks on Gaza beach, Gaza Strip, September 1, 2013. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills)

“…and then you would think that whole years would go by, and you would still come to look through the cracks in the fence and would see the same ramparts, the same sentries and the same little corner of sky, not the sky above the prison but another sky, distant and free.”

- Fyordor Dostoyevsky

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Just over a year has passed since the most brutal war the Gaza Strip has yet witnessed. It was perhaps the most internationally-covered event in Gaza in a tumultuous and torturous decade, yet the war and its coverage highlighted a long-running problem: that the international media frequently lacks nuance when covering the Gaza Strip and its inhabitants.

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All too often, when it comes to Gazans, we find ourselves talking about them without them. +972 Magazine’s Samer Badawi, who was in the Gaza Strip for most of Operation Protective Edge and reported for the site from there, stressed in a recent conversation: “We need to ask ourselves: Do we have any new ideas for how to talk about Gaza? If not, when was the last time we asked a Palestinian in Gaza what she thinks about this? Where are the new voices?”

A new project, “We Are Not Numbers,” is bringing those voices together. The initiative acts as an incubator for young Gazan writers, giving them opportunities to hone their craft. The act of writing also allows the project’s participants to transcend boundaries and, at least via their imagination, cross borders. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it provides a platform from which young Gazans can engage with the world and tell their stories in their own words – the voices that were so sorely lacking during last summer and its aftermath.

With this in mind, +972 Magazine spoke with some of the writers participating in “We Are Not Numbers” about hope, love, war and, of course, writing. Here they are, in their own words.

Eman Basher, 23, Jabaliya refugee camp: ‘We will keep coping until we get the big prize: Freedom.’

Eman Basher, 23, of Jabaliya refugee camp, Gaza Strip (Eman Basher)

Eman Basher, 23, of Jabaliya refugee camp, Gaza Strip (Eman Basher)

On the war last summer: “We used to have electricity for one hour a day during the war. I used to send letters to my friends on Facebook and wait for “seen” to appear so I can make sure they’re still alive.

My family went to shelters for one night. When my father saw how rough the situation was, he brought us back and he said let us die at home, at least we can die with dignity. Most of the windows of our house were broken due to the strikes, but it was nothing compared to other people.

Sometimes I really have this bad selfish feeling that somehow we earned this, that somehow we deserve it for having a very corrupt government that we cannot fight. Both governments take the blame for not at least burying the hatchet and starting over, as one hand. But the idea vanishes as soon as I see the destruction that follows innocents. They really don’t deserve it.”

On living day-to-day: “We don’t try to cope, it just happens. We feed on hope. They say power is going to be on for six hours a day. We cope, waiting for it to become 8 hours until it really does. They say we are facing a financial problem and there won’t be any salaries for three months. We cope, until the problem is solved. We keep coping until we get the big prize. Freedom. I have never seen or talked to a person here who has lost the hope that we are eventually getting back to our stolen lands.”

On celebrating Eid in Gaza: “Today in Gaza the ceremonies of Eid are so happy. We missed that the last Eid. The last Eid was eidless. But I am thrilled to get all the joy out of this one. I spent Ramadan working in teaching and translating and then I got the last five days of Ramadan off. I spent it making Palestinian cookies, reading “A Thousand Splendid Suns” and helping my mother in the kitchen. Today we cleaned the house, the rugs, the windows and everything preparing for Eid to come.”

On reading: “I read “Mornings in Jenin” and it was one of those books that changes lives, yet we are the heroes of the stories. It was like astral projection – me looking at me in the book, looking at my past and my ancestors and everything they went through.”

On simple dreams: “I would like to live in a country in which I do not drink vinegar thinking it is water because it is too dark to see it. I would like a country in which I do not turn 23 without visiting Jerusalem, my capital, not even once. I would like a country in which I won’t tell my children I survived three wars. And I would like a country in which I can have a conversation with you freely on the phone without fearing that its battery is going to die at any moment.”

On her feelings about Gaza: “Maybe I can say the hated loved city. This prison made us worship simple things. Try to bring a small rose to a stranger and see how he jumps out of happiness. These things are extraordinary to my people. To say you’re sorry first, to kiss your friend all of a sudden, to dance strangely in front of your very old grandmother. Their eyes would just sparkle spontaneously. Our eyes sparkle for the simplest reason, I’ve been observing. And this is what the most horrific wars can not kill. So whenever this city gives me the ugliest days, I fight back with my eyes. I hate her. I hate her nagging, her loud voice, her corruption, her destruction, her people’s restrictions, but I love her eyes. The war gave us more than it took; appreciation for everything. And as long as this city has these eyes, it won’t die. This is what I believe in.”

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Ahmed Alanouq, 21, Deir al-Balah: ‘Writing is a powerful form of resistance.’ 

Ahmed Alanouq, 21, of Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip. (Ahmed Alanouq)

Ahmed Alanouq, 21, of Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip. (Ahmed Alanouq)

On the war last summer: “I think that we were all targets for the Israeli war machine. I witnessed many horrible scenes of civilians targeted. I also lost my dear brother [Ayman, a Hamas fighter].”

On gratitude: “I think that the wars have left me so many things to be thankful for. I think I am so lucky I survived and my home too. I lost only one brother, but others lost their whole family. I think now I am stronger and capable of many things.”

On writing: “For me, I think writing is a powerful form of resistance, more vital than armed resistance. Writing gives me relief. I believe in what I am doing with “We Are Not Numbers,” and I want to accomplish a lot for my people.”

On the international media: “The international media only shows the weak side of us being victimized and they forget that we also resist. My goal now is to show the world the real face of Israel and I am doing this through the project.”

On how he sees Gaza: ”Love, hope, resilience.”

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Anas Jnena, 20, Shuja’iyah: ‘In Gaza, where there’s hope, there’s resistance.’

Anas Jnena, 20, of Shuja'iyah, Gaza Strip. (Anas Jnena)

Anas Jnena, 20, of Shuja’iyah, Gaza Strip. (Anas Jnena)

On the war last summer: ”Many dreams and wishes were destroyed by the war. The hope of a better life in Gaza died as the reality got more complicated.”

On living day-to-day: “There are many times that thoughts of giving up overwhelm my soul. I feel like I need a little hope that things will get better, that this won’t last forever, and it’s hard to find such hope. I have five brothers and a sister who are all younger than me. They want to live. Looking in my sister’s eyes when she tries to help us while we’re working makes me feel responsible. That I have to fight on and resist.”

On existence as resistance: “I think the greatest and most powerful form of resistance we Gazans practice is living under such wretched conditions and circumstances. Not attempting suicide is resistance.

In Gaza, where there’s hope, there’s resistance. And yes, most Gazans are hopeful people.”

On the international media and outside perceptions: “The international media deals with Gazans just as mere numbers. They don’t realize that behind every Gazan there’s a story that he wishes to express. And that’s what I try to do by writing. I want them to know that first of all, we LOVE. I always feel annoyed when some Americans claim that we teach our children hatred! Even some American friends attacked me with such criticisms.”

On hopes for the future: “Honestly, my dreams are not that big. My ultimate goal would be having a dignified and normal life, where I don’t have to worry either about my family or for my life.”

On how he sees Gaza: ”Giving, loving, but oppressed.”

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Shrouq Aila, 20, Jabaliya refugee camp: ‘I write I live. This is what I believe in.’

Shrouq Aila, 20, Jabaliya refugee camp, Gaza Strip. (Shrouq Aila)

Shrouq Aila, 20, Jabaliya refugee camp, Gaza Strip. (Shrouq Aila)

On her family history: “My family is from Yibna, now Yavne. They were expelled and came to Gaza in 1948.”

On how she is spending the summer: “I am currently in my summer semester at university. I’m also working as a freelance translator and waiting for the power to be up. Usually it is six hours a day, but today it is eight.”

On learning English: “I love English. I’ve been practicing it for five years, through talking with friends that are native speakers and reading books or articles.”

On why she joined the project: “People get bored with reading about killing and damage. So I turned to the other side. People have to know that we can find hope in hopeless places, especially Gaza!

People outside Gaza have to live and feel what we feel. You can not imagine the tremendous amount of grief that surrounds Gaza. Yet what connects us with this land is LOVE despite the war.”

On writing: “To write means to fight. Writing is existence and a way to fight back against Israeli propaganda. It is a way to resist. Writing also means for me to fly beyond every border and siege, to break rules and walls. Writing empties the heart of every feeling that aches within you. I’m the kind of person that if I conceal words inside my heart, I will die. I write I live. This is what I believe in.

I am working on a new piece about Khaled Hammad, the journalist that was killed last summer when Israel shelled an ambulance. His wife, Hala, was six months pregnant when he was killed. Now there is a baby, his little girl Toleen. The story will be about their lives without Khaled, the husband and father.”

On existence as resistance: “For me being alive is not only a sign of existence. Everyone lives. But you have to make sure that your living is also an act of resistance. This will happen when you speak out about everything you feel, see and hear.”

On the war last summer: “When you became too close to death, you start to appreciate everything around you, even housework. During a war you start missing everything whether you like or hate it.

We love life the same as others. I wished the war to be over and promised myself to never get mad again, whatever I face. But after the offensive was over, I realized that war is never over. The stories and pain occupy the air.”

On how she sees Gaza: ”Love and war, sorrow and joy.”

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Latin American diplomats: We can be doing more to pressure Israel http://972mag.com/latin-american-diplomats-we-can-be-doing-more-to-pressure-israel/110970/ http://972mag.com/latin-american-diplomats-we-can-be-doing-more-to-pressure-israel/110970/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 15:31:51 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=110970 Speaking at a one-day conference in London, Latin American diplomats call for tougher policies, including sanctions and boycotts, against Israel for its ‘polices of apartheid.’

By Ben White

A year after Israel faced widespread censure from Latin America over its attack on the Gaza Strip, diplomats from the region have warned that a further deterioration in relations could be on the cards.

Speaking at a conference in London on Saturday, Ecuador’s Minister of Culture Guillaume Long warned that should there be a repeat of the 2014 war, which he described as a “genocide,” then Israel can expect similar, or even more serious, steps from other Latin American governments.

Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom Roberto Sarmiento speaks during a panel at the 'Palestine & Latin America in the 21st Century' conference. Left to right: Ecuador’s Minister of Culture Guillaume Long, Sarimiento, Islam Channel's Director of Int'l Operations Carl Arrindell, Councillor of the Cuban Embassy, and editorial director of Huffington Post Arabi Wadah Khanfar. (photo: Middle East Monitor)

Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom Roberto Sarmiento speaks during a panel at the ‘Palestine & Latin America in the 21st Century’ conference. Left to right: Ecuador’s Minister of Culture Guillaume Long, Sarimiento, Islam Channel’s Director of Int’l Operations Carl Arrindell, Councillor of the Cuban Embassy, and editorial director of Huffington Post Arabi Wadah Khanfar. (photo: Middle East Monitor)

The remarks were made during a panel discussion at “Palestine & Latin America in the 21st Century: Building Solidarity for National Rights,” a one-day conference organized by U.K.-based media organization Middle East Monitor (MEMO) held at Westminster’s Methodist Central Hall. According to MEMO director Daud Abdullah, the conference was inspired by the diplomatic and popular support from Latin America for Palestinians during last summer’s “Operation Protective Edge.” Building on these developments, a key emphasis throughout the day, from politicians, academics, and activists alike, was the growing significance of relations and solidarity between countries in what is often referred to as the “Global South.”

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Minister Long appeared on a panel alongside Bolivia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom Roberto Sarmiento, Cuban embassy councillor Jorge Luis Garcia, and former Al Jazeera director general and now editorial director of newly-launched Huffington Post Arabi Wadah Khanfar.

Sarmiento, whose government cut diplomatic relations with Israel in 2009, told delegates that “the voice of the South” is growing stronger in its condemnation of an Israeli regime he described as a form of “apartheid.”

In his address, Long noted that while Latin American solidarity with Palestine has a long history on the political Left, what is new is that this Left is now in power in many countries across the region. The Left remembers, Long pointed out, the “historical role Israel has played in Latin America,” with its arms sales and support for dictatorships and right-wing paramilitary groups.

Echoing the words of the Bolivian ambassador, Ecuador’s Minister of Culture said Israel’s “policies of apartheid” were viewed by the region’s governments through the lens of anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism — a “sensitive issue in Latin America.” Support for Palestine, meanwhile, is considered as part of a wider “struggle against the many injustices of the global system.”

During the session’s Q&A, Long revealed that his “trip here was really lobbied against,” but declined to elaborate on the exact nature of the pressure when I caught up with him during the break. “When we’re thinking about south-south relations,” he noted, “even in the simplest of contexts, there are always people who try [to prevent it].”

Conference delegates expressed some frustration that Latin American governments were not going further, especially in terms of economic sanctions. Responding, Minister Long said that speaking personally, he believes “more steps can be taken with respects to boycotting Israeli goods.” Emphasizing the positive steps taken already, Long noted that “this is the start, not the end point.”

The Bolivian ambassador, meanwhile, backed a “regime of sanctions” targeting Israel, as the panel expressed frustration at Israel’s actions both in Gaza as well as in the West Bank. For Minister Long, Israel’s “recent policies have amounted to geopolitical suicide,” as the two-state solution becomes increasingly difficult to achieve.

Israeli historian Ilan Pappe speaks during a panel at a conference on Palestine & Latin America in the 21st Century, London, United Kingdom, August 22, 2015. (photo: Middle East Monitor)

Israeli historian Ilan Pappe speaks during a panel at a conference on Palestine & Latin America in the 21st Century, London, United Kingdom, August 22, 2015. (photo: Middle East Monitor)

Other speakers during the day included Grenadian politician and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senator Peter David, who delivered the keynote speech, as well as academics including University of São Paulo historian Arlene Clemesha, U.K.-based Chilean professor Francisco Domingues, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, and Beirut-based academic Dr. Mohsen Saleh.

A third panel looking at questions of public opinion, social movements, and the media featured former Al Jazeera Latin America correspondent Dima Khatib, the President of the U.K.’s National Union of Teachers (NUT) Philippa Harvey, and Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns coordinator for Latin America Pedro Charbel.

Speaking to +972 during the break, the Ecuadorean minister emphasized how even less radical governments in the region are “fed up with this kind of unilateral action, ‘I’ll do what I want regardless of what the world says’ type of politics both on behalf of the U.S. and Israel.” Further mistakes, Long predicted, will mean Israel gets “wider and wider rejection, not just in Latin America but globally.”

Ben White is the author of ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’ and ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy’. His articles have been published by Middle East Monitor, Al Jazeera, Middle East Eye, Huffington Post, The Electronic Intifada, The Guardian’s Comment is free, and others. He tweets at @benabyad.

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British national challenges Israel’s policy of deporting peace activists http://972mag.com/british-national-challenges-israels-policy-of-deporting-peace-activists/110938/ http://972mag.com/british-national-challenges-israels-policy-of-deporting-peace-activists/110938/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 11:36:52 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=110938 Israel’s Interior Ministry banned British peace activist Gary Spedding from the country for 10 years, claiming that he was an anti-Semitic liar who might start a riot. Unlike other activists who have suffered the same fate, Spedding isn’t giving up without a fight.

British peace activist Gary Spedding holds up his passport, with a refusal stamp from the Israeli border authorities. (photo: Aaron Dover)

British peace activist Gary Spedding holds up his passport, with a refusal stamp from the Israeli border authorities. (photo: Aaron Dover)

An Israeli court is slated to rule next month on a case involving a British human rights activist who was denied entry into the country, deported, and banned for 10 years, who claims that the Interior Ministry is targeting him for his political views.

It all began on January 9, 2014. Gary Spedding, a 25-year-old British pacifist and human rights activist, arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport for a short visit of a little over a week in Tel Aviv and Bethlehem in order to meet with local activists (myself included) and political leaders. It was supposed to be Spedding’s fifth visit to Israel/Palestine in four years, with the previous four going off without a hitch.

The visits were intended to allow Spedding, who is committed to peace between Israelis and Palestinians, to continue learning about the issue from up close, and talk to people about the relative success of the Northern Ireland peace agreement. Despite his young age, Spedding is a one of the central activists in the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland — the only joint Protestant-Catholic party in Northern Ireland’s parliament.

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But upon stepping up to the passport control at Ben-Gurion Airport, Spedding was taken to a small room where he said the security team logged onto his mobile phone without permission and scanned through his contacts, text messages and email, manually copying some of the content onto a notepad. He also underwent a lengthy full-body check, and was eventually jailed before being deported. I was told by the Administration of Border Crossings, Population and Immigration that Spedding had been banned for 10 years because of his activities on social media, fearing that he could start riots in Israel or the occupied territories if allowed into the country. Countless activists have undergone the same procedure, from artists to intellectuals to left-wingers.

Spedding began his legal battle against his deportation while still in detention, and continued to pursue upon his return to Britain. After Attorney Gabi Lasky failed to convince the Interior Ministry to change the decision, Spedding submitted an appeal to the Entry to Israel Law Review Tribunal.

These kinds of bans have become more common over the past few years. Those banned include the likes of Professor Noam Chomsky, the 2012 Flytilla activists, activists from Christian organizations or Palestinian aid groups — not to mention foreign nationals of Palestinian descent, who come to visit their families.

This is just a short list, but it is rare that someone takes these cases to court. The court’s ruling could have potential consequences on the Interior Ministry’s policies vis-a-vis other foreign nationals, whose political beliefs are critical of the government.

The ‘anti-Semite’ who marks Holocaust Remembrance Day

According to the Interior Ministry, Spedding was lying about the reasons behind his visit to the country, had previously volunteered for an organization despite only holding a tourist visa (which does not allow volunteering), entered areas administered by the Palestinian Authority without Israeli approval, and that there is a potential that he could cause a riot.

On the face of it, the ministry’s claims seem serious. Upon closer examination, it is difficult not to laugh at their absurdity. For instance, while searching his phone, the security team at the airport found that Spedding had been briefed on “how to act and what to say at the passport control” in order to enter the country. However, according to the conversation included simple instructions such as “be yourself” or “be polite,” adding that should he be detained, Spedding ought to drink water and read a book.

Israeli activist Michal Vexler arrested at TLV airport while demonstrating in favor of the 'Welcome to Palestine' fly-in protest on April 15, 2012 (photo: Activestills.org)

Israeli activist Michal Vexler arrested at Ben-Gurion Airport while demonstrating in favor of the ‘Welcome to Palestine’ fly-in protest, April 15, 2012 (photo: Activestills.org)

According to a report by the Administration of Border Crossings, Population and Immigration, Spedding was also hoping to travel to the West Bank village of Bil’in. How did they know? Because after announcing on Facebook that he would be traveling to Israel/Palestine, one of his Facebook friends asked him whether he is planning on coming to the village, a question Spedding did not answer. This is how the State of Israel determined that Spedding is on his way to Bil’in, where he may lead demonstrations and riots.

The report also claimed that Spedding had made anti-Semitic remarks in one of his correspondences. In a private chat with one of his friends, which took place after he was accused by right-wingers on the internet of being anti-Semitic, Spedding joked that he is “looking forward to our anti-Semitic adventure together.” Spedding, who is active in raising awareness over Holocaust Remembrance Day and has organized and spoken at conferences on the Holocaust, was offended by the baseless claim.

Another allegation made against Spedding was that he was involved in organizing a protest against an Israeli speaker at Belfast’s Queens University in 2011. Following the protest the speaker’s car was attacked by people unrelated to Spedding, and whom he tried to stop and later denounced, suffering himself from persecution for supposedly supporting the Israeli speaker. Queens University later officially stated that Spedding had nothing to do with the attack, and since that incident he had already been in Israel three times with no problem whatsoever getting in or out. And yet, the Interior Ministry still lists the incident as a reason for banning him from the country.

Classified material

The report also includes a summary of Spedding’s interrogation by border security agents, which is full of lies and inconsistencies. It falsely claims, for example, that Spedding stated that he had previously volunteered for an organization while in the country, and includes a quote in which he allegedly stated that he came to Israel in order to meet with “members of Knesset who support the Palestinian people.” While Spedding is in contact with a number of MKs, and did not hesitate to tell this to the agents, he never described them as “supporters of of the Palestinian people.”

In the first appeal, Lasky debunked the state’s claims one by one, emphasizing that while the state has the right to determine who can come in to the country, it does not have the right to act arbitrarily without any criteria. In Spedding’s case, Lasky explains, the decision was unreasonable and disproportionate, and was a result of the Interior Ministry’s objections to his political beliefs and activities.

In its response to the appeal, the state simply reused the same arguments it had brought up earlier, completely ignoring Lasky’s claims. In addition, the state also handed over a folder full of classified material against Spedding, preventing him from defending himself from the claims made against him.

Fundraising for future activities

I first met Spedding in 2013, when he invited me to speak about the Israeli occupation before the Northern Ireland Assembly. He also helped me to set up personal meetings with some of the assembly members to talk about the country’s relatively stable peace agreement, which I ended up turning into an article in Haaretz.

It was clear then that Spedding is a true pacifist who opposes all forms of violence, racism, or oppression. “Gary is one of those souls who you can tell feels it on a personal level when there is no peace in the world, and especially in this country,” says Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg, who met Spedding in Northern Ireland as part of an envoy of Israeli MKs who traveled to the country to learn about the Good Friday Agreement.

Solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on Republican walls (Haggai Matar)

Solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on Republican walls, Belfast, Northern Ireland. (photo: Haggai Matar)

“I’m hopeful the court will see that most of the ‘evidence’ the Interior Ministry is presenting is of a heavily politicized nature, taken from right-wing blogs and doesn’t substantiate an actual ‘case’ unless they want to admit banning someone purely because they don’t like their politics.” Spedding tells me.

Spedding explains that his presence in the country is important to him, and that both his ban and the outrageous claims of the Interior Ministry have left an indelible stain. “What makes my case unique is that it was the first time the ministry has publicly admitted they monitored my social media feed and gave that as partial reasoning for my deportation. I hope that if my case is won it might open up a route for other activists to challenge their deportations.”

Spedding’s legal battle against the Interior Ministry is a costly one, and he cannot take on all the expenses himself. He is still a student, and his political activities — whether on internal issues in Northern Ireland or those relating to Israel/Palestine — is done in his free time and on his dime. The legal expenses cost tens of thousands of shekels, and he has been able to fundraise nearly all of the money from friends and supporters, but would appreciate any assistance. You can help Spedding and donate to his efforts through Paypal or with a credit card here.

Dimi Reider contributed to this piece. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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