Nicole Gevirtz Reporting from Palestine. August 2nd, 2014
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Saying goodbye to Mommy Haifa and Daddy Adeeb and brother Elias. I can’t even type this. I can’t type how difficult that was. I want to stay there, guard the door with an AK-47, and make sure no Israelis fuck with them. They kept the news off so we could pretend the bloodbath isn’t happening.
“Today is Saint Elias Day! Eid Saint Elias! So it’s Elias’ second birthday. Why you leave on your brother’s second birthday?”
On the bus. We drove past whats left of the Lifta village. After the Zionists killed everyone and forced them to flee, they put Yemeni Jews into the homes. Now it’s another group of Palestinian house skeletons on the side of a hill. The Israelis want to make… a mall. Like you fuckers need another mall.
Visit to the Bahai Gardens; the obscure religious minority, another wave in the kaleidoscope of Islam, that both the Iranians and the Saudis enjoy persecuting and oppressing, constantly demolishing their religious sites.
Our tour guide is the guy who showed us around Lydd because the other guy just got arrested at a rally for Gaza and is not allowed to leave his home for a week.
The Fattoush Café in Haifa. Yes, it’s gorgeous and the Palestinians and the Israelis all look the same; like supermodels. You can’t tell them apart here. There’s a wudu fountain across from a Buddha fountain, lots of empty phrases and art about peace and love splattered all over the walls. They are playing Pink Floyd and I suddenly miss my dad terribly; we worship Floyd.
None of this feels real anymore. What the fuck did they do to Gaza today? Am I really fucking here during Cast Lead the Sequel? I am surrounded by silly hippie artwork while there is a genocide a few hours south. Palestinian waitresses are speaking Hebrew. I am paying too much for coffee. What the fuck am I doing here? Did I make a mistake? Should I have just joined ISM and gone to Gaza? I worry that when I get home I will never feel clean, never wash the Zionism off of me.
Hipster café playing John Lennon’s “Imagine.” I should be bleeding and hurting with the Gazans. I should be there with them. What the fuck am I doing here instead? If I knew they were gonna do this to you this fucking summer, you think I’d come here? Come enjoy your sea and your food while they butcher you? God forgive me.
Today Haifa is only 10% Arabs. Before ’48 it was the opposite. 90% Palestinian, 10% Jewish immigrants. Another “mixed city”: severe segregation, apartheid on steroids.
Al Bab, the founder of the Bahai faith, fled Persia and chose Haifa because of its port; so he and his followers could easily escape persecution, run for the boats.
The German Colony; built by the Protestant Christian Templars who are waiting for the third messiah and think he will show up in Palestine. The Germans settled here during the Ottoman period.
Nearby is Wadi al Nisnas; the ghetto that the European Jewish Zionists brought here and forced the Palestinians of Haifa into, the few Palestinians who stayed following the terror campaign of ’48. They were kept here ’49-’50 while their homes were stolen from them.
Skinny hipsters are walking around half-naked and eating expensive ice cream and I can’t tell if they’re Israeli or Palestinian and Gaza is caked in its own blood and I am praying for grey clouds and rain. Not a lot of flags in Haifa, definitely no Palestinian ones. So much of it reminds me of West Philly.
The Palestinian men who survived ’48, who lost everything, most became opium addicts to cope with the pain.
The political prisoner we are supposed to speak with has been re-arrested.
Akka; built out of the qurqah rocks from the sea by the Phoenicians. Occupied 30 times throughout its history. Destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed, rebuilt… It looks like Alexandria. It’s the citadel and the port. I’m in Egypt. The more modern parts were built by the British in the ‘30’s.
Palestine’s lighthouses light up at different times at night, and have different patterns so ships know which port they are approaching.
No Palestinian flags anywhere. An Israeli man wears a beach hat with the Israeli flag on it… but he’s wearing a Roger Waters “The Wall” t-shirt. This is an insane asylum.
I'm inlove with all the mosques here; they all have the pale sea green colored domes and are right next to all the churches.
The Column Motel from the 18th century; you sleep in the room on the second floor and your horse is in the stable right below you. The mayor wanted to turn renovate this building, turn it into a “Jews only” hotel, but the Ministry of Antiquities stepped in and stopped him because the site is over 300 years old.
On the surface Haifa seems very happy, thriving, families out with their children, lots of music and life, you’d never know there’s a horror show in Gaza going on simultaneously.
The clock tower, built in 1901 by the last Ottoman Sultan who touched Palestine. Like what he did in Yaffa; the clock tower meant modernity, economic success, a city of importance. 8 were scheduled to be built in Palestine but only 6 were constructed because WWI happened.
Akka’s souq. It’s almost as big and bustling as the one in Jerusalem’s Muslim Quarter.
The Al Jazar Mosque. Finally, a mosque. Finally, I get to be in a mosque in Palestine. It’s the fourth biggest one in the country. Moshe Dayan demolished a lot of it but it was rebuilt in the ‘60’s. The girls are given scarves to cover their hair before entering. I wrap it around my head with one hand. The other girls look like cats playing with yarn. They don’t know what an Imam is.
“You are Arab?”
“NO! I get this 10 times a day! I don’t know why! No.”
“But you ARE Muslim.”
“Umm… kind of.”
As we are leaving the very charismatic Imam shows up with his little daughter and speaks to us. He gives us the usual rundown of religious tolerance, we are peaceful, we want coexistence, etc… and he does this while there is a sign behind him; a sign for Gaza, the image of a bloody and crying baby, the sign asks for you to pray for Gaza.
You are forced to submit, you are forced to kneel, you are forced to scream “we are peaceful, we do not hate Jews” every waking moment of your lives while a genocide is committed against you by Jews. Only Arab Muslim people are asked to do this, are asked to relentlessly neuter themselves as they are murdered, asked to make themselves appear safe for American consumption in the hopes that Americans will view Arab Muslim people as human and therefore not hate them and therefore not murder them and therefore not support the Israeli (or Egyptian or Syrian) state security apparatus death machine from Hell that kills Muslim people all the time. Every waking moment you have to fight for your right to breathe.
“… and we will not surrender our capital city of Al Quds and our right of return is sacred. All Palestine’s children must come home.”
Okay, now you’re speaking my language This is only the second time the Right of Return has been mentioned in front of me. The only other time was at the ISM media office. We are surrounded by empty land without its people. We are surrounded by countries filled with Palestinian refugees. Yet no one is bringing up the Right of Return.
Akka’s pain is Haifa’s pain; apartheid on steroids, segregation, Judaization, you know this story, you know this cancer that has wrecked your home. Your home, that I’m allowed to enjoy, while they decimate you in Shujaiyeh.
We walk passed Saint George’s church; the Byzantine Christian warrior who defeated the sea monster that was eating all the pretty virgin girls. On the church is a poster of the young boy from Shoufat whom the Jewish settlers kidnapped, tortured, and burned alive. We are still waiting for another warrior. A new monster is here, still here, still murdering young defenseless people.
Walking towards the port there is a bright green Hamas flag waving from the tallest building around. It’s so high up I can barely see it.
Boat time. I know I get seasick but, okay, let’s do it. What’s the worst that could happen? It won’t be long. I’ll never get to do this again.
I had the most severe panic attack of my life. Within 5 minutes I thought I was gonna die. The nausea made me want to jump off the boat. I would’ve jumped off a building to get away from that pain. I am sitting there, and my mouth tastes of battery acid and the tears are flowing but I am not crying and there is tunnel vision and the music is too loud and crushing my skull and there is no way out and-
I wake up. Someone is carrying me off the boat. I blacked out. I hit my head. That’s a first. I gave everyone a heart attack. There’s an icepack on my head. I can’t believe that happened so damn fast. I was fine, then I was being put through Guantanamo Bay by seasickness within 5 minutes, and then out cold.
“WHY DID YOU GET ON THE BOAT!?”
“Imma walk it off, imma walk it off… can I have some hilwa?”
They give me a hilwa bar… in a Hebrew wrapper. YOU GODDAMN ZIONISTS THIS IS NOT JEWISH FOOD YOU STOLE THE FUCKING HILWA I KNOW YOU STOLE THE FUCKING HILWA YOU FED ME THIS WHEN I HAD TO GO TO A BAT MITZVAH GODDAMNIT
That’s what did it, my extremely severe panic attack in occupied Palestine. Not hearing the clashes and rockets at night, not knowing there is a genocide in Gaza nearby, not being intimidated by the Israelis with all their weapons at all the checkpoints, no. The seasickness in the Akka port is what finally did me in. That’s… terrible? Hilarious?
All the young cashiers and waiters and waitresses… Palestinian? Israeli? They look the same here. I think he’s Arab and he’s speaking Hebrew and I think she’s Israeli and she’s speaking Arabic and Gaza, and Gaza, and Gaza.
On the way to Tiberias we drive past a villa that was owned by Mahmoud Darwish. A CAT bulldozer, the Rachel Corrie killer, is nearby doing construction.
I’m still seasick.