Friday, April 11, 2014

Humans of Palestine ... which Palestine exactly?

One of the things I got introduced to this past year was the “Humans of ... “ phenomena, facebook pages and blogs that start like this and end with a name of a city and then they're filled with pictures of the inhabitants of this city joint with a little hint of their own life stories. This whole notion started with Brandon Stanton, the young photographer who started roaming around the streets of New York, talking to people, asking them questions, or simply just taking their pictures and then posting them online for everyone to see. It helped in breaking this ice-cold image of New Yorkers that a lot of people assumed they had, instead he presented them as more of the “humans” they really were. After his blog got famous, other photographers around the world followed his lead; for instance now we have: Humans of Shiraz, Humans of Egypt (though here it's an entire country not a city), Humans of Boston, Humans of Beirut, Humans of Cairo, Humans of Paris, Humans of Casablanca ... etc (you get the idea!)

So, naturally, as a Palestinian I was interested in knowing if there's a page like this for Palestine. No, I didn't go looking if it was for a particular city in Palestine; I started looking for Humans of Palestine as a whole. How extremely and utterly idiotic that was. I completely forgot the reality we're living, the Palestine we've been raised on all of our lives no longer exists, so which Palestine will I find through this page?

That was my first mistake, I assumed there's one page. Once again life keeps proving how naive and senseless I am.

So I found three pages named “Humans of Palestine”, one with pictures and stories from Gaza, the other two are basically from Ramallah. Naturally I sighed, and banged my head into the wall only a 1000 times, and cursed Arafat's Oslo Accords -the same reaction I have every time I'm reminded of the fractions we're living in.

After I was done with my little fiasco, I started wondering ... which freaking Palestine was I looking for? The Ramallah-bubble Palestine, the Gaza-prison Palestine? Or the long lost and always forgotten Jerusalem-Palestine? Oh sorry, Jerusalem is part one of the missing puzzle (actually it's also split in two; West and East depending on which you prefer really); historical Palestine (Palestine 1948; what is now called Israel) is the second lost piece of the Palestine puzzle.

So maybe it's better to stick to names of the cities, maybe it'll help in reflecting the reality of the Palestinian Islands we're living in, maybe we'll go with something like “Humans of Ramallah”, “Humans of Nablus”, “Humans of Beit Hanina”, “Humans of Kufor Akab”, “Humans of Yaffa”, “Humans or Akka”, or “Humans of Beit Hanoun” ... etc. And don't think I've forgotten about Jerusalem, but you know, it has it's own delicate situation.

So I looked it up, and again -of course- I found two pages called “Humans of Jerusalem”. The funny part was, one was created by Palestinian photographers and the other by Israeli and American photographers. I gotta admit, this did make me laugh a bit. Akhh, how our lovely “conflict” is everywhere.Yet they ended up choosing the same name for their pages. It tells us something, doesn't it?


So I've talked to photographers from both pages, because they had the same cover photo -displayed below- with the addition of the word Palestine to one of them, and for some reason I've assumed this was a joint-peace project between Palestinian and Israeli photographers to focus on the “human” part of life in Palestine\ and what is now called Israel; if such part even exists. Yet it turned out that the Palestinian “Humans of Jerusalem” page was created in response to the Israeli-American one. Also, one of the Israeli photographers said that, “We've asked Palestinian photographers to join us but they refused.” You know, since we're not really peaceful people who like to do peaceful activities that would actually demonstrate how humane Israelis and Israel are. 

 The Israeli- American one

The Palestinian one

So to make things less confusing, maybe the Israeli photographers should call their page “Humans of West Jerusalem” and the Palestinians would call theirs “Humans of East Jerusalem”, because calling both of them “Humans of Jerusalem” as a whole, as one united holy city, is “politically incorrect” on so many levels! And we can use less drama in our lives right now.I mean the the on-going hookups and break ups between the PA and the Israeli government are too much for our hearts to handle; specially because of their own dilemma over the  "Jerusalem-situation", that is yet to be determined.

Moving on ... this got me thinking though. If we wanted to make pages of cities then maybe we should also do ones of refugee camps as well, I know they're part of the cities they're in at the moment but still, they'll have different stories to tell than these of Palestinian cities under occupation or Palestinians cities that have been turned into Israeli cities, or Palestinian cities under the Gaza siege. 

Or maybe even better, we can go by areas A, B, and C. So these pages would be like, "Humans of area A", or "Humans of area B" and so on. But they might face some problems, since some of these areas are designated as either Open Landscape Areas -where no "humans" can live- or as "closed military zones". So, I don't know how successful these pages would be. Or even some pages would be named after the Apartheid Wall ... the options in Palestine are limitless!!!! 

Of course, that would be feasible if Palestine as a whole did exist. But who knows,  since we can't unite Palestine on real ground we can do it in cyber world. 

If you took me seriously, then please stop reading, I don't want to shatter your hopes. 

But seriously!!!! Who are we kidding, this could never work. What is Palestine? and what is humanity? We might be humans in appearance, we laugh, cry, love, and hate. We have dreams, hopes, and aspirations. We break down sometimes and other times we're full of hope. We fight with our family members and hang out with our friends. Yes, we do “human” stuff.

But for how long?

We're stripped off of this humanity every single time we go through an Israeli hellpoint (aka Checkpoint), every time there's an Israeli raid over the Gaza Strip, every time there's another kid shot by an Israeli soldier in a refugee camp, every time a house is demolished in Jerusalem (East Jerusalem), every time a Palestinian is arbitrarily detained in Lyd, Yaffa, Akka  by Israeli police ... Every time we spend one more second under this inhumane lifeless Israeli occupation.

Add to that, the same actions -almost- by our second occupation - the Palestinian Authority. 

So as much as I'd LOOOOOOVE for the entire world to see the “human” aspect of Palestine, it's still not a play I want to be part of. You can't focus on the human aspect with complete negation of other important and powerful aspects .. I don't know, maybe we should put into consideration Imperialism, Colonialism, illegal Occupation, Capitalism ... "aspects" of life that dehumanize you on daily basis, in our case it's the joint effort of the Israeli Occupation and the Palestinian Authority. 

After all, you'd only hear colonizers say “Let's put our conflicts aside and focus on our humanity”, while the colonized would simply ask, “but would our humanity be enough?”

I only wish if it was. 

P.S. if you're still wondering, YES, there is a tint of sarcasm.

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