Saturday, August 31, 2013

Clarification + Confession Time!

In my very first blog entry, I talked about how easy life was abroad (in the U.S.) and how free life was of the daily humiliation we face here in Palestine due to the Israeli Occupation -well, I wasn't completely honest. I had my share of humiliation and self-loathing half-way across the world as well. 

So, confession time!!!

The reason I was able to go to New York and study at NYU for a whole semester is how my journey to self-loathing and humiliation started in the U.S., but I won't get into that now. This story would need it's own blog to get to the bottom of it. 

BUT, after I was already there walking around New York City streets. Enjoying Mocha's at its Coffee Shops, not missing one bookstore that I came across ... and so on; the self-loathing and feelings of humiliation had to disappear somehow, and they did. 

You see, for any Palestinian (or at least most of us) to be able to enjoy our stay at the U.S. we have to completely disconnect ourselves of the reality we're in at that moment, to live in complete denial. I had to keep telling myself that I have to forget the fact that I'm currently staying at the country that has Israel's back. 
The country who's the main source of weaponry and military equipment to Israel. The country that doesn't even recognize Palestine as a country, merely as a nation! Technically as a Palestinian, I don't even exist to the U.S.!

So let's go again. Life was easy and free of humiliation; only in contrast to life under the Israeli Occupation. Meaning that, it was nice to live for four months without checkpoints. Or having to witness someone's house get demolished because the Israeli government would rather give building permits to Jews who came from all across Europe over Arab Palestinians who were already living there, and hence get their houses demolished. Or have a cultural Palestinian event in Jerusalem get shut down by the Israeli Government because to them it's a threat to "security". Or not to get arrested for raising the Palestinian flag or having a lecture about the current racist policies applied by the Israeli government over Palestinians. Or not being able to see your favorite Hiphop Band because most of the time they're not allowed to perform in Jerusalem. 

I mean, I had the chance to address a huge number of students about the current situation in Palestine under the racist israeli occupation, a chance I would've never had back home. I even got to see DAM (favorite Palestinian Hiphop band) at a concert live, that for sure never happened back home. Hell, for a change I got the chance to talk about the Apartheid\Annexation\Separation Wall and not have to actually feel its physical presence when looking through my bedroom window. 

Therefore, in order to be able to enjoy the luxuries I don't get to have back home I had to completely forget where I truly was. For instance I had to completely deny the fact that part of the money I spent on mocha's at Dunken Donuts went (as part of taxes) to the Jewish National Fund and U.S. military; both of which are destroying lives back home every single day. Back then, I won't lie, I did enjoy most of my time there but now that I'm back home, it's something I have to live with every single day! 

While being there a friend of mine and I would joke around and say, "Before coming here we had " half dignities" (you can guess why by now), but after coming here with this program (which we'll discuss later) we no longer have any dignity left in us". We were joking then, but now it couldn't have been more real.  

Friday, August 30, 2013

The "Settlement" across the street

This is written by a very close friend of mine. She lives extremely close to Beit El , not a pleasant sight for the eye or the heart. This is written by Ruba Bakeer, enjoy. 

"My grandfather’s house’s yard, some plastic chairs, some colorful lights, and the trees around us; this was the most beautiful hall for a family “Henna” party yesterday (kind of like a Palestinian Conservative Bachelorette Party). With all the joy and happiness, a moment of reflection made its way to the depths of my mind, and the thought, to be honest, drew a smile on my face.

Just across the street, and a couple empty pieces of land, there stands one of the biggest Israeli settlements in our country. In the settlement just across the street, I thought, there lays a whole different world.

I don’t really think there is going to be a war in the region. However, the next two days would either confirm my thoughts, or I’d be watching rockets and planes from our veranda. So if you’re not acquainted with the subject, it is just that in the next few days a third world war might pop up; with America, seeking for world peace as it always is, threatening to bomb  Syria; and other countries, divided as allies or enemies are threatening each other as well. Whether there is going to be a war or not, the probability of it has some consequences, at least for some.

In my grandfather’s house, we were having a “Henna” for my cousin. In the settlement just across the street, Israelis were hurrying to get chemo masks and food supplies, as we saw pictures and heard news. Probably, they were learning about shelters and procedures to be made in the case of a war. In the settlement just across the street, they were preparing themselves for a possible death. Us on the other side, were just celebrating life."

 To have a clue, in case you don't, about what Ruba is talking about read this article

Monday, August 26, 2013

From Qalandia Refugee Camp to Palestinian Diaspora: "Stay there!"

It's the 26th of August. The weather has been burning hot for the last couple of weeks, but not this morning. This morning couldn't have been colder. Three murdered in addition to over 15 injured during a raid by the IOF (Israeli Occupation Forces) at Qalandia Refugee Camp this morning (

I'm not related to any of them  nor do I know them, still when you hear one name after the other being announced through mosques' minarets you can't help but feel as if something has died within you. Our house is a couple of kilometers away from the camp, even through the distance you can still hear their mothers' wailing and crying, it's not a sound easily erased or ignored.

As custom rule it, these 3 young lives are martyrs now. Some might say they died for their country and freedom, others will glorify them and call them heroes, but in reality all that has happened was three young -once full of life, dreams and promises- men have been murdered by a bunch of 18 and 19 year-old (IOF) with guns too heavy to hold or even handle.

So people can turn them into Gods or Angels, glorify them as much as their hearts wish to .. yet that won't change the fact that they're gone for good, leaving widows behind them,  sons and daughters, mothers and fathers ... and the list goes on and on.

Witnessing these frequent events makes one think of other Palestinian refugees living in Diaspora, not the ones in refugee camps. No, but the ones living in the United States  attending Harvard, or the ones raised in London. These Palestinians which most of them are part of SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) or activists outside of this organization working for Palestine. Spreading awareness, raising funds, writing books .. etc. These Palestinians were raised on stories told by their grandmothers, grandfathers, and parents about Palestine. About Orange and Lemon trees that surrounded their houses in Yaffa, or the morning's aroma that sneaks up on you while sitting on the house's balcony in Akka and how they've lost all of that because of the 1948 war = Nakba, and the dream of return and how they'd fight till the last day of their lives to make that dream come true.

To them I say, "Don't". Don't come back, yes keep fighting for the dream. Continue to preach about Palestine, the Apartheid Wall, Palestinian Refugee Camps and how awful the living situations there are, hellpoint (aka checkpoints), racist policies by the Israeli government, settlements and outposts, house demolitions .. etc. Continue to do all of that, but don't come back.

Palestine no longer exists. Your grandparents' house you've always heard stories about is now inhabited by Israeli immigrants who are allowed to live there while you -as a non Jewish person and Palestinian- aren't. Even the neighborhood where your family's house used to be, the neighborhood that had an Arabic Palestinian name once, it's probably called now something like Yahood (a neighborhood in Yafa that used to be called Abbasiyah). You won't find people there speaking Arabic, maybe one or two but the rest will speak in Hebrew.

You might think it's hard living away from home, or tolerating this injustice of having your family and country's history be erased like that, but in reality.. you have no idea how blessed you are.

You can write your books, speak at conferences, join the BDS campaign, hold events .., you can even come visit here, visit Palestine (West Bank, Gaza, Palestine 1948) and go abroad to share your experience but that's about it! You won't have to deal with soldiers at hellpoints on daily basis. You won't have to bury a 19-year-old for being shot by an Israeli soldier. You won't have to see your neighbor's house get demolished and do nothing. You won't have your university colleagues getting arrested for raising the Palestine flag and calling for a "Free Free Palestine". You won't get hit by the israeli soldiers or the PA security for participating in demonstrations against the useless negotiations. It won't take you a week of planning just so you can visit a friend on the other side of the Apartheid Wall. You won't deal with settlers attacks ...

Yes you might go through that when you visit, but at the end of that trip you have a safe place to go back to. No Israeli soldiers, helicopters, hellpoints, daily humiliation, house demolitions, get shot and drop dead in a second, get suffocated with a gas canister .. etc. No, only Palestinians living in Palestine get to have these "luxuries". You talk about it, we live it! So it might be easy for you to say yes we will return, yes we'll end the occupation but the truth is far away from that.

So again go ahead, make your promises .. write your poems .. raise the Palestinian flag and chant "Long Live Palestine" .. go across the U.S. and the U.K. and the whole world, spread the word .. but don't come here, because you won't stand it, tolerate it, or last long enough to talk about it. The dream you have will die within a week of staying here. You can fight across the distance for Palestine, but up close you simply die, the three dead men are an example of that.

Therefore, listen to a fellow Palestinian. In order to keep your dream and yourself alive; stay there.