Nicole Gevirtz Reporting from Palestine. The Pali Journal, summer 2014
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"Yes, I'm Israeli Arab."
"So you're Palestinian."
"No, Israeli Arab."
Tel Aviv airport... like an obnoxious Hebrew Disneyland.
The drive from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was epic; the land is heartbreakingly beautiful. I say "heartbreakingly" because it's empty. Giant rolling hills of desert and trees and rocks... empty... where you know villages should be standing. One giant heart that's been hollowed out.
Jerusalem to Bethlehem; like night and day. Huge Jewish settlements tower over you from the tops of hills, and then... ghetto. One right turn and... ghetto. Not even Atlantic City NJ is that obviously segregated.
Hebrew is everywhere. On the toilet, on the hummus, everywhere. Like a little slap in the face each moment.
Finally hearing the call to prayer off in the distance.
Food. Oh God. Real. Palestinian. Food. In Palestine. Oh God.
Must conserve every drop of water. Washing, drinking, every drop of water becomes priceless. #Apartheid
I walked home. I walked from Bethlehem to Beit Sahour. Did not get lost. Awesome.
"Horrriya!" means freedom but my pathetic white girl "huriya!" means... mermaid. For serious. Mermaid.
Getting to the Dome of the Rock will be a work in progress; it's only open 3 days a week for a few hours in the morning.
Did my best to calmly explain to my temporary little brother, a Christian, that the minorities of Syria are not the ones who are predominantly the victims of the new Nakba. I sat in on a Christian-Muslim relations panel. Palestinian Christians are scared to death of Al Nusra, unfortunately.
Moroccan catcall: "Zweeenaaa!"
Egyptian catcall: "Psst psst PSST PSSST!!!!!!!"
Palestinian catcall: *drives by, yells out the window* MASHALLAAAHHH!
I like that one. That one is funny as Hell. Also, thank you for your perfect English. My Arabic classes start Monday.
My classmates are spineless hippies. If you say "peace" enough in front of me my ears start to bleed. True story. They full of themselves but they don't seem toxic. No Stalinoids here; just an avalanche of pathetic idealism and naivete. And they love to talk about themselves. *gun in mouth*
That is not a fucking wall. You're gonna have to pick a different word. That is not a fucking wall. That is a concrete monster that rapes the earth and crushes the human soul. Fucking disgusting, as expected.
Aida refugee camp. That's a little piece of Hell. Miserable, angry, rowdy, bored young men and boys forced to live in garbage... garbage that has Hebrew on it. The girls were all inside. A little hijab peaks out every now and then from a window. Then the ritual begins; IDF fuckers make an appearance, the kids start yelling and howling and throwing rocks, then the IDF comes in and fires at them. An IDF soldier drove through the street, stopped, pointed his gun directly at the boys, and pretended to fire at them. He did this in front of us, smiling, on purpose. So we get the fuck outta there and as we get back to the entrance there's a ton of loud booms behind us. They're shooting tear gas canisters at the kids.
We get out of the camp, and right next to it is the fancy Intercontinental Hotel. There is a fucking mansion next to the goddamn refugee camp. Everyone hears what's going on in the camp; no one gives a shit. They used to it.
Went shopping to feel better. Bought a tea set that looks so ancient Salahuddin could've used it.
We go hiking tomorrow.
Watching a non-Arab experience zaatar for the first time: priceless.
None of the Palestinians I’ve spoken to believe that the Israeli teenagers have actually been kidnapped… and they don’t believe it’s a pretext for cracking down on Hamas either. “It’s a training exercise for the new IDF recruits. That’s all.” They know they are Israel’s guinea pigs for both weapons testing and military operations.
Long, long hike today. I am totally out of my element. I’m a book worm, a nerdy computer junkie, and I’m being put through boot camp. My body hurts. When this adventure is all said and done I will sleep for a thousand years.
Hiked through Wadi al Makhrour; agricultural land near Beit Jala. It’s beautiful, it’s paradise, it’s epic, it’s majestic… and it’s empty… except, of course, for the illegal Jewish settlement on the highest hill. The hippies keep wanting to take pictures of me. No, sweetheart, I will not stand here and smile while ethnically cleansed, emptied, stolen, Arab land is behind me with a Zionist colony on top of it. They’re not seeing what I’m seeing. I’m seeing the Palestinian farms that weren’t built and the lives that they weren’t able to have.
Al Makhrour ends with Battir village. It’s 3,000-5,000 years old and sits atop the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway… which Palestinians are not allowed to use today. For a while this was the armistice line that Israel and Jordan agreed upon, then they went back on their word and took it over during the ’67 war. Battir was just named as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. This way the Israelis can’t build the apartheid wall through it, which they were planning to do. We met the head of the village council who spear-headed the effort to save the village. Battir had a lot of support from an Israeli advocacy group, so maybe that’s why it’ll be saved. There’s a documentary in the works too.
ISIS is on everyone’s minds. People are genuinely scared to death, and as a result, a select few are swallowing Basharist bullshit; “The foreign invasion! They trying to hurt the government and President of Syria!” and then the white savior peaceniks just smile and nod. There’s chauvinism here that can’t be denied; “The Palestinian struggle is the best, is the most beautiful, is the only Arab struggle that’s important,” etc etc etc
Keep in mind, an average Palestinian Christian in Bethlehem isn’t going to do what you and I do. They’re not going to sit at the computer for 5-10 hours a day and read about Syria from the mouths of Syrians. They have lots of other things to worry about; prison, police brutality, random arrests, their children being kidnapped, their houses being demolished, their land being stolen, etc. Plus, they’re completely disconnected from Syrians. It’s not like the Israelis would ever allow Syrian refugees to permanently seek shelter here. Zionists are not opening their doors for Yarmouk. That’s a pipe dream. Zionism is responsible for the disconnection. I, as an American, have more Syrian friends than an average Palestinian because Syrians are able to actually get into America. There was a point in time when you could drive from Al Quds to Dimashq; now that’s a pipe dream too.
My temporary little brother was supposed to start his Hebrew lessons yesterday. He was held at a checkpoint for 2 hours. By the time he got out of there the class was over. He’s a Palestinian Christian, taking Hebrew lessons, prevented from going to class by Hebrew-speakers.
I’m sincerely homesick. The hippies make me nauseous, I want my dog, and I miss my Syrian friends in north Jersey.
I hate how safe I am here. Morocco was more troublesome than this. It feels... I don't have the word for it. Zero harassment. Zero danger. Morocco was more stressful than this.
what i want is equality, not to be treated as if i own the place. the equality is not here, but the privilege is.
I had a mild brain orgasm this morning. My volunteer work at the Holy Land Trust will be to write up a manual on non-violent resistance in an Islamic context. I screamed like a little girl at a boy band concert. My entire mood is better. This is how I know I need to return to the US and get serious about obtaining a master’s degree, and maybe eventually a PhD, in Middle East studies or Islamic history or wutever; my brain is fucking STARVING. I want to research all the fucking time, I want to write all the fucking time, I want to teach forever, I NEED INFORMATIONZ. I want to sit at the computer, in a library, and read and write and type and read for 5-8 hours a day. Sorry I’m not sorry.
The tension at night is suffocating. Even the wind expresses hypertension. The day is normal, but with nightfall comes the assault. Even if you don’t see it or hear it, you feel it. At night is when the Israelis beat people, damage homes, kidnap the kids, and shoot the young men. All the camps are being raided (that’s code word for “rampant child abuse”). People are very much on the fence about whether or not a third intifada is on the way. There’s a lot of apathy in some areas, and in others it’s the opposite. Regardless, everyone knows who the target will be if and when the third intifada erupts; the PA. The wretched little Mubaraks who work with the IDF and who’ve got the Palestinians by the throat economically.
I can’t believe how quickly I’ve bonded with my host family. We have breakfast and dinner together, we talk a lot about everything, they ask me about my day, I can make them laugh a lot, they look forward to when I come home… It will be Hell to say goodbye to them when the time comes. My temporary little brother still couldn’t get to his Hebrew lesson. Today the students are on strike… which is okay, because I prefer that to him being stuck at a checkpoint for 2 hours for NO fucking reason (that happened yesterday).
My Arabic teacher is an older woman whom every single person instantly falls inlove with. Within 30 seconds of talking to her you want her to be your mom. Nothing but warmth and love and sweetness, I can’t even handle how lovable this woman is. She is a refugee from Yaffa. Her family fled to Amman in 1948, so most of her younger years were spent in Jordan. Her father got a job as a book keeper with UNRWA. Her mother was fluent in French and English, so she became a teacher in one of the camps in Jordan. My teacher went to school in Beit Jala while her parents worked in Amman. In 1965 she married a man from Bethlehem. And then… ’67 war. So now she is a refugee AND occupied. Her whole family gets the Jordanian passport. She does not.
Wednesday evening is the Dheisheh camp.
Friday is Jerusalem, Silwan, and Sheikh Jarrah.
Oh my fuck.
My host father, Adeeb, has a vegetable garden that he adores. He walked into the house this morning, his arms filled with eggplants, as if he was carrying gold. He visits his tomatoes 7 times a day. “They are his other sons! My husband has vegetable children.”
I spent 5 hours at the computer this morning reading and typing about Gandhi’s politics and how deeply connected he was to Islam. No Islam = No Gandhi. I serious’d. I don’t think he would’ve been half as powerful as he was if it wasn’t for the Quran. I knew of his occasional praise for Mohammad, but daaaaamn that’s just scratching the surface dude, for serious.
Sami Awad of The Holy Land Trust; I’d follow that man to the gates of Hell if he asked me to. Very smart, very pragmatic, and understands everything about everything about everything.
The recent abuses by the IDF in the West Bank have been a serious PR embarrassment for Israel; 300-400 people have been rounded up and arrested, and 5 young men have been killed… but nothing changes. There’s condemnation, there’s outrage, there’s disgust… and nothing changes. Zionist impunity 24/7.
An average of 100 homes are demolished every year. A farmer is forced to pay thousands of shekels in fines so he can get back his sheep that the IDF kidnapped because they were grazing too close to a “nature reserve” (military zone; random patch of open space that the Israelis want to keep Arab-free). 63% of the wall is complete, but 50,000 Palestinians illegally cross it every day. They could totally put together some homemade explosives and fuck shit up if they wanted to… but that goes against the moral fiber of their being. 99% of these folks don’t have a mean bone in their body and couldn’t hurt a fly.
The Israelis are still digging and still fucking up Al Aqsa because they still looking for their stupid fucking temple. Bethlehem’s last heavily forested area was decimated, razed to the ground, and a Jewish settlement was built on top of it… and nothing changes.
I attended a talk at the Alternative Information Center. The AIC headquarters is a 5 minute walk from me. They’re all Italians. I heard SO much Italian spoken tonight. And then they mix it with the Arabic so I even more lost than normal. The AIC felt very hipster; no hijabis or bearded religious dudes in attendance, so I be keeping my guard up with these folks because I don’t know what kind of secular Stalinoid garbage they may or may not be capable of. I ain’t makin the same mistake twice, I’ll tell ya that right now.
The talk, given by one of the advisors at Al Shabaka, was about the vulture capitalists here that be engaging in all the economic normalization; they deal with the Israelis as though they were normal business partners rather than an occupying power that has ruthlessly violated Palestinian rights for almost 70 fucking years. The biggest supporters of Oslo were, of course, the powerful business figures. Palestinian vulture capitalists profit from the occupation of Palestine. Shocking, I know. Industrial zones with labor exploitation. Joint investments in Jewish settlements and private security firms. Fractured unions that are so corrupt there’s zero trust between them. It’s impossible to get a medium to large scale economic project up off the ground without some normalization with the military occupation, and that’s just how the Israelis and their Palestinian vulture capitalist collaborators want it to be. There is a constant pressure on the working people, on the majority of the civilian population, to make them feel helpless. There’s normalization with the Zionist state, and then there’s an even worse problem; the normalization with oppression. This is the biggest modern political problem in the Arab world; a very small, wealthy, elitist, vulture capitalist group of folks are running entire countries as if they are private clubs just for them.
Taybeh beer. DARK Taybeh beer. And kanafe. Sweet Jesus yes
My biggest fear now is falling in love with this place too much… only to have it taken from me, only to be homesick every day, only to have a nervous breakdown if the IDF decide to raid my temporary home in the middle of the night (which is a possibility these days)… Maybe the homesickness will pass. Maybe Sami Awad will like my writing so much he helps me get a job. Maybe Bethlehem University will come calling and they won’t take no for an answer. Maybe I'll adjust and no longer want to go home and sleep for 10,000 years. I really have no fucking idea what is gonna happen.
... oh god, dark taybeh beer :')
God almighty, what a wretched day.
The Arabic classes are shit. We’re not being instructed in how to read it or write it and I’m stuck with people who can’t say “saba el 7eir” correctly.
Dheisheh concentration camp. It hurts the eyes. The IDF go in and hurt and kill people all the time, almost daily. If you die in custody your family doesn’t get your body back for years, and when it does come back the organs are missing. They don’t trust HRW or Amnesty International. Why should they? They’ve been recording these abuses for years and nothing gets any better.
I met a young man, a former political prisoner, who loves Bashar.
I met an older woman, a matriarch of a large family, who has survived ethnic cleansing and military occupation her whole life. Sons have been killed. She shows me her keys to her house, her house she still can’t return to… and I feel nothing. I feel nothing because she loves Sisi.
And she hates the Arab Spring too. “Everyone having revolutions, now no one pays attention to Palestine.” Zero Arab solidarity in that house.
I met an older man who thinks ISIS is supported by the US in an attempt to destroy the Syrian “resistance regime” and that the biggest threat to Palestine is “radical Islam.”
In the camp there are posters of Hugo Chavez everywhere. I wanted to put a gun in my mouth.
They’ve been brutalized their entire lives, and this is the end result. This is the long-term effect of Zionism; desperate for a messiah, many will cling to wannabe Stalins who give them a drop of attention. Very reminiscent of German attitudes following the catastrophe of WWI, and how the League of Nations fucked them over, pushed them to the edge, made them desperate, and created the environment that Hitler could thrive in.
I kept telling myself, “You know what you know. You know that all the polls show that most Palestinians in Palestine do not share these political views,” but that didn’t stop me from having a panic attack on the side of the street.
And the hippies don’t know shit. They don’t see what I see.
Breakfast is the best part of my day. There is nothing better than that beautiful traditional Palestinian breakfast. It feels like I am eating a history book. I completely adore my host family. We eat together, we talk a lot, I seriously appreciate their company. They are who I socialize with the most and they keep me calm when the hippies are driving me insane or when the refugee camp is giving me nightmares.
Every morning Fairuz is playing from the TV followed by scenic views of Lebanon. They visited in ’66 and go on and on about how beautiful it was and how much they loved it… then the ’67 war. Nakba part 2. Occupation. It took their freedom. How can they get to Beirut if they can’t even get to Haifa?
Haifa. My host mother’s name. Haifa can’t get to the city she is named after. Shit is fucked.
Dinner with them is the second best part of the day. God bless this woman; she surprised me with fried eggplant. I was so happy I thought I was gonna cry. I haven’t had this since Morocco. I haven’t had this in over a year. Eggplant became my power animal in Morocco. I danced in the kitchen.
Adeeb showed me the little garden that he worships and spends most of his time in. “Where’s Adeeb?” “In the garden.” Always! *something something hadiqah something hadiqah something something hadiqah* Putting my hand in Palestinian soil… not gonna lie, I got goosebumps. That totally happened. He asked me if we have land at home. We do. Lots of land... but we don't know how to use it. Fucking sad. I should be, could be, growing my own food... like, a lot.
I hate how cut off from the local population I feel. I haven’t been able to talk to or hang out with any hijabies yet. W’allah, I need my Islam fix.
The Holy Land Trust office is next to Nijmeh Shari3; Star Street. This is where Mary and Joseph walked to get to the manger, it leads you to the church where Jesus was born, and it used to be a thriving market place. I got tons of photos on my computer at home of bustling Palestinian markets from the 1800’s. Apparently, a lot of them are on Star Street. We were shown photos of what it used to look like. I recognized ALL of them.
Today Star Street is alive but just barely; it’s lined with green metal doors that are bolted shut. It’s like a ghost town in the early morning. Kids break rocks out of Star Street and throw them at the IDF when they get too close to Bethlehem and start assaulting people at night. Most of the stores have been closed since the second intifada. Israel’s rampage destroyed Bethlehem’s tourism industry. It’s slowly been recovering the past few years.
Most of the Christian tourists who visit Star Street come with Israeli agencies… agencies that tell them to stay away from the Palestinians, to not purchase anything from them, to avoid them at all costs, and that those crazy dangerous Arabs will steel your money. The few business owners that are left on Star Street can’t make a decent profit because of this. Christians from the West go to visit the Church of the Nativity, believe every racist piece of shit that comes out of the mouths of their Israeli tour guides, and then leave without giving anything back to the Palestinian community.
In 2011 UNESCO granted the Church of the Nativity and Star Street the Endangered World Heritage status. Israel and the US objected to this. Recognition from UNESCO means that the tourism industry gets a little better, means that the Palestinian economy gets a little better, means that the Palestinians stay on their land… and we all know who doesn’t want that to happen. Ethnic cleansing by bureaucracy. Israel wishes it could perform a Cast Lead every day, but it can’t get away with that again, so it has to do ethnic cleansing “lite.” That’s all I’m seeing and hearing every fucking second; ethnic cleansing lite.
Jerusalem (not the Old City, I was told), Silwan, and Sheikh Jarrah tomorrow. It’s gonna be rough. These days East Jerusalem is nothing more than a Jewish settlement that rules over a defenseless Palestinian majority that is forced to read Hebrew. Constant house theft by Jewish settlers, constant Palestinian demonstrations against such atrocious colonial behavior… and nothing changes.
There’s 2 liquor stores near my house… My will power will be at a negative 45 after tomorrow.
June 27th- 28th:
The Gilo checkpoint appears menacing and is designed to intimidate, designed to make you feel like a prisoner… but it was easy for me to get through. I’m white so they just barely checked my passport. And it wasn’t crowded at all because of what’s happening; Operation Brother’s Keeper. That’s the name of Israel’s most recent, ongoing, assault of the West Bank. 1,000 houses have been raided since June 12th. Massive collective punishment. All the popular human rights groups are freaking out; Adalah, Yesh Din, B’tselem, Gisha, Rabbis for Human Rights… but nothing changes. No lives are saved. No houses are protected. Nothing changes.
Coming out the other side of the checkpoint; one of the most insane things I’ve ever seen; an African Israeli Jew holding a gun that looked like it was designed by HR Giger. Black folk are treated like sub-humans in Israel, and here he is, with a uniform and a killing machine in his hands, part of the IDF so he can get decent healthcare and insurance and housing… When the Israeli military does experiments with anthrax or radiation on Israeli soldiers and civilians, it’s always the black and brown ones.
We get on a bus, we drive for a few minutes, I blink, and it’s Israel; Hebrew everywhere, upper-middle class people walking their dogs, chubby Americans with blue eyes and kippahs, no hijbies, no skinny and tired looking old Arab men.
We drive a little more, I blink, and it’s Palestine. We’re in Silwan; ghettoized, Arabic everywhere… but there are Israeli flags on top of the nicer houses. I can’t breathe. The hippies I’m stuck with are engaged in mindless chatter about Harry Potter. It’s so searingly hot that I can’t breathe.
Poor Silwan; it’s a microcosm of the Zionist destruction of Palestine. All the levels of Hell are here; extreme impoverishment and environmental destruction, constant assault, rampant child abuse by the IDF, constant home demolitions that families are forced to pay for, and constant Jewish settler violence (they shoot to kill, they shoot to paralyze, they run over Palestinian children with their cars). Children’s centers are ordered by the IDF to be demolished 24 hours after their construction is completed. All the children are traumatized and the parents don’t know how to care for kids who suffer from PTSD. A group of little school girls with pink backpacks gets swarmed by Israeli security forces in black uniforms and white helmets. It takes ambulances hours and hours to get to Silwan because of all the checkpoints and red tape so people die from injures all the time. The people pay taxes to the Israeli government but don’t get anything in return; no playgrounds, no healthcare centers, nothing. They are dirt poor and they have to pay for their own oppression. There are security cameras all over the place. Jewish settler violence is filmed all the time. The IDF erases the footage. Even the restaurant signs for Palestinian-owned businesses get destroyed. House theft by bureaucracy; the Israeli government cancels Palestinian house deeds that go back hundreds of years.
What is done to the Palestinians of Silwan is very similar to what is done to the Arab Jews in Jerusalem’s Old City and south Tel Aviv; they’re not white enough, not rich enough, so they are under daily assault as well, even though tons of Mizrachim serve in the IDF.
In this Hell, in this Zionist rape of an entire Arab community… there are Birthrighters. A huge fucking swarm of Birthrighters. Ugly, loud, obnoxious, heartless Americans who look like they just stepped out of a country club, speaking English and Hebrew, laughing and smiling, wearing their shorts and their designer sunglasses and their cowboy hats, stomping around like they’re on spring break, being guided through the streets that the IDF keeps clean for them, being told that the Arabs are aggressive, being told that this land is not Silwan, but rather, the City of David. One of the young men, my age, goes to the edge of the cliff to take a picture of the Palestinian town his people are colonizing to death. He’s standing where I was just standing. It takes all my willpower to not run up and push him off the cliff.
A few filthy rich Jewish settlers are brutalizing the lives of 55,000 Palestinians in Silwan. You WASPs. You fucking WASPs. That’s why I never fit in with you; you’re the new WASPs.
There’s a lot of Zionist adults touring the area too; fat, ugly, shorts, white faces, sunglasses, cowboy hats, designer hand bags, stomping around a Palestinian town that’s being abused to within an inch of its life, enjoying themselves. The kids and adults keep walking in between us and our Palestinian guide for the day, keep interrupting, keep yelling, start chanting something in Hebrew that sounds evil. We keep having to move out of their way. I’m not moving; I stand in the middle of the stairs and make them go around me. One of the hippies I’m with here isn’t so bad; Sam from London, Jewish like me. He overhears one of the adult Zionist tourists (who looks like he belongs at a GOP convention) close to him say that all the Arabs are so “aggressive.” Sam loses it; “HE’S MORE OF A BROTHER TO ME THAN YOU! *pointing to our Palestinian guide* YOU MAKE ME SICK!” Birthright in Silwan; making terrible things look fun, with lots of pretty flowers covering up atrocious human rights abuses.
Early 2011, the Arab Spring; Silwan was temporarily liberated from the terrorism enacted by the Jewish settlers. They got scared and they left. They felt Tahrir Square and Deraa in Silwan for a few months. I look down from the cliff; there’s a little house with a German flag hanging from it. It’s Palestinian. A lovely stone mansion towers over it. There’s an Israeli flag hanging from it. It’s a Palestinian home that was taken over by a Jewish American, now guarded by the IDF. A Palestinian boy, in dirty clothes, desperately tries to sell olive wood carvings to a Birthrighter, and I wish I was dead for a few minutes.
Our guide through Silwan is a young man named Mahmoud; he’s been arrested 4 times in 2 years. He helps to run the Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan. That’s where the hope is in this Hell hole. A small handful of social workers for 576638876467893664 traumatized people. It took them 2 years to get a permit to build a cultural center where the children can go to play music and learn how to use computers. After the second intifada the center in Silwan was shut down, and the women were imprisoned in their homes, made to be nothing more than maids and cooks. The women have to battle two different sets of oppression. Once the center reopened a few years ago the women swarmed it. They make art, they learn how to use computers, and they published a cookbook that got really popular in France. Every get together we have, every talk, every little adventure… it’s always a man who is the guide. I’m still waiting for a hijabie to speak with us.
Before the occupation Silwan was very green. The Zionists turned it into a garbage dump. On the roof of the information center they have a beautiful garden that overlooks the city. The water apartheid is very severe, even more severe than in Bethlehem. They are forced to purchase water from Israeli-owned companies to keep their garden alive. Their land, their water, their city… they’re not allowed to have any of it.
Mahmoud has a Jordanian passport without a nationality. His travel documents are Israeli. He has Jordanian residency but without citizenship. He knows he’s Palestinian but he doesn’t get to have any documents that prove he is Palestinian. His existence is viewed as an inconvenience. If he stays in Jordan for more than 5 years he’ll lose his residency. This is just scratching the surface of the immense difficulties average Palestinian folks have to deal with when it comes to travelling.
I’m trying so hard to pay attention; the heat is destroying me. Everything burns. Everything hurts. I’m fantasizing about snow.
They’ve built a lovely little library at the center in Silwan. The library in the municipality isn’t free, so they made their own here for the people to access. Mahmoud’s office is filled with the only weapons against occupation that he’s allowed to have; the camera, the gas mask, and the blue helmet worn by journalists. Next to the library is the computer lab where the kids learn how to use the internet and make their own hip hop music videos.
The center in Silwan sells some really beautiful jewelry and kuffiyehs and art made by the women. There’s a big necklace that screamed at me. I couldn’t leave without it. It’s probably the most important material thing I’ll ever own; stones brought in from Jordan by Mahmoud, then made into a necklace by one of the female artisans in Silwan. It’s never leaving my body. Silwan; so much human ugliness and so much human beauty in one place.
I got a little taste of Jerusalem on the way to Sheikh Jarrah. Damascus Gate; finally. Sweet Jesus yes.
Met with Moriel Rothman; that guy is like a hit of Prozac. Refusenik. Very good dude. He writes a lot, he protests all the time, he chases away the JNF, very good dude… but through him I can see how the Israeli left can easily fall for neo-Stalinist/Ba’athist garbage. The quest for justice in Palestine can become so all consuming, so all encompassing, that there are times when they can’t see the forest for the trees (ie; upset about Israeli airstrikes killing a few Syrian shabi7 yet they couldn’t give a fuck less about the Syrian Holocaust going on next door committed by the Assad regime, or they fall for that Russian “Nazi Ukraine” propaganda).
The moral decay of Israel’s society is front and center in the media… but nothing changes. There was an initiative make Israel’s gun control laws even stricter because lots of men in the IDF were going home, snapping after whatever violence they witnessed or engaged in that day, and then shooting their girlfriends and wives (see “Gun Free Kitchen Tables”). Extreme force is normal, apocalyptic thinking is normal, militarism and nationalism is the religion rather than Judaism, and it’s all front and center in Israeli life. They know what they are but they don’t care… so nothing changes.
A visit to Sheikh Jarrah, not far from Damascus Gate. Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem with 3,000 residents. It’s under attack by Jewish settlers every day, and the Israeli government supports their efforts to evict the Palestinians and to then take over their homes. The settlers are always very violet; thugs from Brooklyn who set things on fire, armed to the teeth, unleash German Shepards on the children. The Israeli Left has been demonstrating in Sheikh Jarrah since 2009. Sometimes it’s big, sometimes it’s small, sometimes there are arrests, sometimes the police don’t care; it’s unpredictable.
That was best moment of my life. I got to stand there, in Sheikh Jarrah, with a Palestinian flag in my hand… and there was honking and yelling and cheering from all the Palestinian folks driving by. A lot of them have lost hope; that’s why the protest is 99% Israeli. So many of them are tired, and afraid, and hopeless, and think this is the best it’ll ever get. Also, there’s a greater risk to their safety. A lefty Israeli gets arrested for a few days at the most. But a Palestinian? That could be weeks, months, years in a jail cell before seeing a lawyer or a judge. The heat was SO terrible, but they put that flag in my hand, and the call to prayer sounded, then I be like, “What pain? I’m fine.”
There’s an older white savior hippie here who I want to strangle because he doesn’t know shit about anything. “Damascus Gate? What’s that? Shisha? What’s that? Habibi? What’s that?” It’s fucking embarrassing.
Shisha, in Jerusalem, finally I bought a ton of white peaches that smelled like Heaven and ate almost all of them. I’m a fruit monster at home and haven’t had much in the past few weeks…But next to me a Palestinian waiter is forced to serve the American Jewish Zionists who are destroying his country. I hear that several thousand African refugees have left the Holot concentration camp and are marching towards the Egyptian border. In this heat, how could they find the strength to do this?
Israeli leftists, blogs, slam poetry, demonstrations, cultural centers, interfaith dialogue, peace workshops, for years and years and years… and nothing changes. I skipped dinner and fell asleep in my clothes when I got home.
I tell my host mother Haifa, over breakfast, that I want to raise an army and go save Silwan. She smiles and laughs, but nothing more is said. We are all waiting for the next Salahuddin… and nothing changes.
Thank God I never gave in. I never did Birthright, I never joined Hillel, I never gave up and ran away and did Aaliyah. I got close, but never fully went for it. I never gave in. I never gave in. I never gave in.
Resting today. Qalqilya, Tulkarem, and Jenin tomorrow. Oh my fuck; Jenin.
If you were to cut me open right now, I would bleed Turkish coffee. Not complaining.
So much walking. So much hiking. I will have thighs of steel by the time this adventure is over. I look in the mirror and I don't recognize my legs!
Silwan needs (and deserves) a Salahuddin. Silwan will be on my mind for the rest of my life.
It's painfully hot again. I am missing all the First World things; the fast car, the fast internet, the air conditioning everywhere, not having to treat water as if it is liquid gold. Everyone is miserable and indoors because the heat is so bad.
I wish I could take my host family to the beach. No checkpoints, no prison walls... just get in the car, and zey go to zey beash. This awful heat, and the beautiful sea is right there and they can't get to it.
On the way from Beit Lahem to Tulkarem, we pass through Ubidiyeh; the only Palestinian village in the West Bank without Jewish settlements. The impoverishment is heartbreaking, and a CAT bulldozer, the Rachel Corrie killer, sits alone in a field.
Drive past Jerusalem, drive past ancient Greek Orthodox monasteries… Empty land, empty land… Lifeless too. The dead olive trees jut out of the ground like hands coming out of a grave. Suddenly the land is green again; it’s a settlement. Maale Adumim. They take all the water. They kill the earth.
We drive past an industrial zone; Palestinian slave labor, severe exploitation, by the Israeli government, by the Jewish settlers. Underpaid, overworked, helping to construct the illegal Jewish colonies that are destroying their country. If they want to put food on the table many do not have an alternative. Thousands just had their working permits cancelled entirely because of the recent kidnapping incident. They had next to nothing, and that gets taken away from them too.
We drive past the military headquarters of the notorious Golani brigade; the baby killers, the rapists of Southern Lebanon, who Sabra Hummus hands out care packages too. Expensive cars and mean-faced Jewish settlers are all around.
A tall, dark green forest appears, and it’s completely alien and out of place. It doesn’t belong. It’s not supposed to be there. It’s the work of the JNF; covering an ethnically cleansed Palestinian village with pretty trees and then declaring that it’s a nature reserve.
There are thick outlines made of stone all over the land we are driving by; houses. They are what’s left of the Palestinian houses. Skeletons. Palestinian house skeletons.
We drove through Nablus; entire roads are off limits to the Palestinians because of the Jewish settlers. The throw rocks, fire guns, use Arab children for target practice.
I’m inlove with the long coats all the Muslim ladies wear here. I should try to bring one home for myself… and wear it only when it’s freezing out. How do you girls wear these things in this heat?
As first glance Tulkarem seems exceptionally pretty; the houses are pastel pinks and beiges, the land is very green, bright flowers are all over, we drove past a cemetery that looked very peaceful and well-kept, and even the street art celebrating Jerusalem looks extra artsy. The beauty ends real quick; there’s a lot of destruction going on. The Israelis started building the apartheid wall here during the 2nd intifada. Home demolitions are constant and unpredictable. People die in their homes as they are being bulldozed without warning. There’s a massive electric fence off in the distance and dozens of burned olive trees are next to it. Most of the homes still standing have orders to be demolished.
The white savior fucktards keep talking about religion. This is not about religion; this is an ethnocracy. This is about racism and white supremacy. No one is talking about the Right of Return. All this empty land and no one is talking about the refugee question, the elephant in the room, the elephant that sits next to me every fucking second.
The town of Qalqilya has been ruined; cut in half by the wall. It was once a huge commercial center and now it’s a ghost town. 200 businesses were bulldozed in one day during the 2nd intifada. Families are separated. Israeli flags hang from checkpoints where Palestinian homes used to be.
The heat is killing me and I think I’m gonna die.
The wall comes right up against a home filled with children. Kids have to wake up every morning and see that monster. The Israeli soldiers shine light into their bedrooms at night. Another house is literally divided in half; half of it was demolished. To separate a house like that is to separate a family. Now people have to drive several hours around the wall to go see one another when, before the wall, they either lived in the same house or were a 5 minute walk away.
The house that was cut in half; the family has turned the damaged half into a beautiful garden that climbs the wall. Our Palestinian guide today is an older gentlemen;
“Look at this wall. Israeli culture. Look at these flowers. Palestinian culture. If that is democracy we don’t want your democracy. If this is terrorism then let us keep our terrorism. We condemned the Holocaust, we condemned 9-11, they have over 70% of our land, then they took Iraq… All our lands are occupied. What more do you want from us? They made a Holocaust in Lebanon in 1982. They made a Holocaust in Gaza in 2009… What more do you want from us?”
I squeeze his shoulder and tell him thank you. Nothing else needed to be said.
One of the white savior hippies I’m with, an empty-headed blue eyed blonde, she takes a flower from the family’s garden without asking.
“What more do you want from us?”
An hour drive from Qalqilya to Jenin; more empty land where the folks of Yarmouk should be living. In Jenin it’s no longer the heat that is suffocating me; it’s the ghosts. That walk from the bus to the Freedom Theater felt like a walk through a haunted house. Something squeezed me. Something sucked the air out of my lungs. The others are oblivious.
Jenin’s Freedom Theater Juliano Mer Khamis’ photos are everywhere. The white saviors don’t know who he is and I have to fill them in. Freedom theater indeed; it’s the only freedom the children have. Absolutely priceless. For the girls it’s freedom from the kitchen; “We have to go from our father’s home to our husband’s kitchen!” “I won’t end up in the kitchen!” “They say the streets are only for boys, so we come here to have freedom.”) The girls always have to fight at least 2 different sets of oppression. For the boys it’s freedom from self-destruction. It prevents them from killing themselves, from getting involved in too much violence; “They want to destroy us. Not kill us. Destroy us. They want to keep us illiterate.” “I was a guerilla fighter for seven years. The revolution is in the theater now.” “There is the cultural occupation and then there is the military occupation. The cultural occupation is stronger.”
Adnan, one of those in charge, tells us about Juliano’s life, his parents, his mother’s activism, what they all did for the children here; “His mother got cancer, and so did we: Oslo. The PA. The corruption. We thought we were going to have a state… The money that first went to the NGO’s then started going to the PA instead… During the 2nd intifada we skipped the stones and went first to the guns, which is what the Israelis wanted us to do. We put ourselves where they wanted us to be.”
Yasir Arafat returned to Ramallah, so Sharon had a score to settle. Wave after wave of young men from Jenin, hopeless, brutalized, miserable, blew themselves up. Sharon flattened 500 homes. Over 50 people were murdered by the IDF. Some were buried alive as their homes were demolished. 80-90 lightly armed Palestinians up against 120,000 Israelis. 120,000 of the 4th most advanced army in the world. Apache helicopters rained bullets down on the kids.
I’m the only one taking notes. The hippies look bored.
The theater did their own version of Animal Farm. It’s fucking brilliant because it’s not fake; it’s their real life. That’s exactly what has happened to them; the PA are all Napoleon pigs and wretched little Mubaraks. We skip the refugee camp in Jenin. We’re told the tension is too high. Clearly, any future career for me doing humanitarian work in a camp is completely out of the question. Jenin’s ghosts strangled me in under 5 minutes.
I get home before my host family this time. They were at a wedding. They’re dressed up all nice, laughing and chatting, showing me pictures of the gorgeous wedding they just attended.
Life goes on, and that’s pretty good.
Got a quick taste of Jerusalem’s Old City souqs today. Tagged along with one of the program coordinators to a bookshop then had some time to go exploring.
There’s a bookstore. On Salahuddin Street. That has everything that has ever been written about Palestine, Palestinians, Jewish anti-Zionism, Arab Spring, everything that has been said. Khalidi. Finkelstein. Kassir. Pick an author, pick a book, pick a documentary, pick a movie, I guarantee you it’s there. Everything I have ever read, ever cited, ever heard of, ever planned to read but haven’t had the time yet. It’s there. Everything is there in this bookstore. The truth, the documentary record, the history, right there, out in the open… and nothing changes. It doesn’t make a difference. A pack of Birthrighters walk by on the other side of the street. It doesn’t make a difference.
Retail therapy. Walking through Damascus Gate. It smells like my second home. It smells like Morocco. All the heavy spices hanging in the air. Zaatar and cumin and sumac hitting you in the face. It’s a love tap. I couldn’t stay long. I left with a shiny new dagger so my Moroccan one won’t be lonely. Walking through the souqs while wearing flip flops means my feet turn black. Mountains of candy are everywhere!
Dagger is khanjar. Stone is khajar. I’ve been calling my Moroccan dagger “the stone” for over a year. Fucking idiot.
Tourists. Everywhere. White folks. Everywhere. Americans. Europeans. Christian Zionists. Comfortable and safe in occupied Palestine. Silwan is being annihilated around the corner. Sheikh Jarrah is under attack nearby. Jenin is a haunted house. Tulkarem is being killed. The white folks are fine, so who cares. A Jewish Midwesterner attending Hebrew University tries to talk to me on the bus; “Is this your first time in Israel?” My blood boils. I glare at him then glare out the window. “You know, it says in the Bible…” I glare out the window. “I think I’m gonna help teach English to the Palestinian kids in Beit Jala.” I glare out the window.
It’s your fault the kids in Beit Jala are impoverished and illiterate. Your people took everything from them. The water, the land, the air, everything. You took everything. You took everything. You took everything from them. I never gave in and did the same even though it felt like the entire fucking planet wanted me to do so.
Retail therapy. Fruit market of Beit Lahem. I bring home three giant mangoes for me and my host family to share.
When the cool breeze at night hits me I get homesick. I can’t wait to stop sweating profusely 24/7.
Palestinians pay 12 shekels per liter of water. Israelis pay 4. Palestinians get an average monthly salary of 1200 shekels. Israelis get 5000.
Kids are rolling burning tires into Beit Lahem’s Nissan Circle and the garbage goes up in flames.
“This shit makes Israelis want to kill Palestinians!”
“At least there are tourists. A 3rd intifada will destroy us. The tourists will leave.”
“UNRWA is all we have. It’s our oxygen.”
“The UN needs to get the fuck out of Palestine.”
Intense division. Everyone is choked off economically in varying degrees, so everyone is pitted against one another. Most of the refugees are Muslim. Yes, they are discriminated against in the workforce by Christians.
A man with Juliano Mer Khamis’ face sits behind me at the café and my heart stops for 5 seconds.
I am going to take everything from you.
Your job, your dream career, your school,
All the opportunities to lift yourself out of poverty.
I am going to take your family away from you.
They will be dispersed all over the world and you’ll never get a reunion.
9 months to see your sister.
15 years to see your mother.
6 months to be in the same place at the same time so you can actually marry your fiancé of 10 years.
Your brothers will be imprisoned for breathing too loudly.
I am going to make you sick. I will take your medicine.
I will take away your healthcare centers. I will make it impossible for doctors to get to you.
The life-saving machines in the hospitals won’t work anyway because I will take your electricity.
I will take your TV, your internet, your stove, your washing machine
Even though you touch the sun every morning I will prevent you from building solar panels.
I am going to take everything from you. Every cloud, every inch of sky
You can’t move, you can’t breathe, you can’t eat, you can’t drink, you can’t read, you can’t escape
Unless I say so, unless I feel a little generous that day.
I will steal or destroy your lands that are suitable for farming so you can’t feed yourself.
Instead, you must pay me a lot of cash for some decent food or stay dependent on overseas humanitarians for the rest of your life.
I will prevent you from building… anything. You can’t have anything.
Your sea, your only temporary escape from me, will be polluted with your own garbage
And you will swim in it anyway, you will get sick, and then I’ll tell everyone
“Look how disgusting they are” and everyone will believe me
It’s not even your sea. I was here first. This random passage in the Bible says so.
I will close every border around you, I will shut down every factory
I will impoverish you to the point of schizophrenia, and then you will hurt yourselves and one another
Then I will say, “Look at those animals killing one each other” and everyone will believe me
Food, healthcare, education, clean water, a job; I will make all the obvious basics seem like privileges
It’s your fault I shut down the road through Jericho that you used to take to get to Ramallah once a millennium. You fought back for a little while. You did not submit enough.
I will bomb you so much that you think it’s normal, that you can recognize what kind of death machine is flying overhead. Your family in Beit Lahem that you haven’t seen in 10 years will know that I am coming to hurt you because of the sounds in the sky.
I will deny you democracy and then say, “Why can’t you have a democracy like me?”
I will make the UN your second government, and God help you if there’s a massive refugee crisis next door because then your food packages will decrease.
Speaking of which, just look around you, look at your neighbors. Aren’t you grateful that things here are better? You really should be thanking me.
I will take the air from your lungs, the sight from your eyes, the skin from your bones, the enamel from your teeth, the roof from your house, I will take everything. Over and over and over.
Because… I’m scared of you.
Because… No one stops me.
Because… I can.
…so we spoke to a lovely young mother from Gaza today over Skype. Finally, a hijabie It was a miracle that the internet connection happened and lasted as long as it did.
“A normal life… a normal life… Just let us have a normal life.”
I sit at the table and work on my research paper.
Someone sets down an Israeli milk carton in front of me.
Bright, big, Hebrew letters in my face.
I punch the milk carton off the table without thinking.
Severe knee-jerk reaction.
Good thing it was empty.
Breakfast was tense. Really tense. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry... I'm sorry about what's happening." That's it, that's all I can say, half-crying "I'm sorry." It was the first breakfast with my host family that was actually tense and sad. I showed them how Egyptians eat mangoes. That lightened the mood a bit.
Walking to the office in the morning the environment felt eerie. Indifference, fear, dread... Probably a combination of everything. It dissipated by the afternoon. My host family was normal again by the afternoon too. The wave of fear rises, people can't breathe, the violence deescalates, people feel okay again, some relief washes over everything, don't think about tomorrow... The normalization of oppression. An abusive relationship.
The heat is destroying me. It's not as soul crushing as Egypt but it's close. All my energy; gone. Like walking with your feet in cement. So tired, you want to snort the Nescafe; send it directly into your bloodstream. I dream of snow and long black winter coats and running with my dog through the slush.
CUNY. The Middle Eastern Studies master's program. It's a strong possibility. The commute from home in NJ is reasonable. There's a work-to-study program.
I'm making plans to spend my last week here, in mid-August, volunteering in Nazareth, helping the kids with their English. I have no idea what I'm doing. Diving in head first. I'll figure something out between now and then. Maybe use music, maybe teach them to sing The Beatles
"Shopping" is now an Arabic word. The kids say it all the time. *something something shobbing something something shobbing*
I have to get to the Dome, I have to get to al Aqsa. It will be the greatest regret of my life if I don't get close to 'em while I'm here. I'm asking around about the best days and times to head there, getting directions, which bus to take and when, etc. I'll have some free days away from the office in late July. I have to abide by the schedule til then. I REALLY have to fucking get there... because it's not for me. It's for the 857363667373547584 Arab Muslim friends on my mind who can't get there.
I'm amazed we got to speak with someone from Gaza at a time like this. No one in the office thought it was gonna work out. O_0
The normalization of the violence is half the problem. The other half is the public’s reaction to who the violence hits the most; the refugees, the poor, the Muslims, in the camps. The disposables and undesirables. And they’re usually boys.
If an Israeli shot a Christian girl in the face, right now, the reaction would be different. Like one of the Christian middle to upper class, computer savvy types who works at the office I’m interning at. I’m looking across the room at this girl; hipster, tight clothes, no hijab, perfect English. I’m thinking to myself, “If it was you that died in Jenin this morning, that was murdered by the IDF this morning, it’d be a little different around here.” People would be shocked and upset and make a lot of noise… but the IDF can kill and torture and mutilate the bodies of poor, Muslim, refugee boys, who don’t speak good English, and that’s fine now. The camps are isolated. This is one of many reasons why the earth doesn’t shake with rage when a boy is murdered, why a 3rd intifada might be a pipe dream; class warfare.
Stateless, refugee, poor, young Muslim man = Disposable
My host parents, Haifa and Adeeb; Christian Palestinians who visited Lebanon in ’66. One of their fondest memories. They adore the place. They haven’t been allowed to get back there. Most mornings Fairuz is playing from the TV while we eat breakfast. Scenic photos of Lebanon appear in the screen. They watch it longingly. I want to go back in time and fix everything, change everything, prevent everything. I would fix everything. Keep the railroad that went from Alexandria to Istanbul. Keep the bus service that went from Haifa to Beirut. I would repair everything.
Our speaker today is a force of nature; Lucy Talgieh. Unstoppable human rights defender, social worker, feminist. She does it all; works at the conflict resolution center, a trainer in gender issues, helps coordinate the network of women’s advocacy groups, provides counseling and legal aid, she does it all. So today was the day where it’s like “Okay kids, women’s rights and gender equality in the Arab world is REALLY fucking TERRIBLE right now, and you don’t see it or feel it because you’ve got your white American tourist privilege, so we’re gonna dive into someone else’s nightmare today.” Lucy laid out everything; the honor killings, the oppression in the workplace, abortion is impossible, contraception is next to impossible, institutionalized tribalism that subjects female members of society, the insane amount of domestic violence, the bullshit laws that don’t protect women and girls, blaming rape victims for what was done to them, the violence against gay men and how it’s connected to woman-hatred, more honor killings, more honor killings, more honor killings… She covered all the bases very well.
I felt nothing. Everyone else in the room was visibly shocked and upset, even the ones who have spent some time in other parts of the Arab world… and I felt nothing. That worries me. Am I just very knowledgeable and with a thick skin or have I become horribly desensitized by the violence I have experienced, witnessed, read about, and written about? Yes, a former flame, an Egyptian, went insane and tried to kill me. Yes, I became very sick, was in and out of the hospital for months, and did not think I was gonna live to see 2014. Yes, the Arab man who I wanted to build a life with tried to take mine… and he was a product of his environment. He’d been brutalized, traumatized, impoverished, disenfranchised, his entire fucking existence. That’s all he knew. He thought oppression and violence was normal. So let that be a lesson to you kids; you can love great white sharks and want to spend the rest of your life advocating for their well-being, but that doesn’t mean you should go swimming naked in the Pacific ocean and think that a shark isn’t gonna do what a great white shark only knows how to do.
Lucy doesn’t go into the connection between military occupation and domestic violence until I bring it up;
“Violence against women is a symptom of a damaged society, but it’s not the disease… at least not here. Here the disease is the foreign occupier who is brutalizing everyone, impoverishing everyone, and desensitizing everyone to violence in the first place. Men who are oppressed by other men will oppress their women, will take it out on them. Could you speak to that? To the connection between the military occupation and the impoverishment creating the environment which allows domestic violence to sky rocket?”
“Yes! I absolutely agree with everything you’re saying and…” so on and so on and so on.
All this woman-hatred plants the seeds for an Islamophobic backlash that hurts women in a different way. West Amman wants to be seen as modernized, so Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab get fired from their jobs or have great difficulty getting one in the first place. According to Lucy, at Bethlehem University, 60% of the Muslim girls enter the school wearing the hijab because their parents won’t let them leave the house without it. Then, at the school, in a safe place, free from their overbearing parents, they take off the hijab. Both of these situations make me sick. Don’t even get me started on the oppression the niqabis of Egypt are facing down right now. If you like the hijab, wear it, and no one should force you to take it off. If you don’t like the hijab, don’t wear it, and no one should force you to put it on. THE END. See how simple that was? GET ON MA LEVEL.
The less sexual freedom and equality women have in the public sphere the more likely they are to experience sexual violence in the private sphere. Historically speaking, more consensual sex usually gives us a more feminist country. If a woman is able to have autonomy and authority in her society the less woman-friendly traditions within her culture will quickly be brushed aside in exchange for a more relaxed, tolerant, and overall sexually open environment. Violence against women and girls will diminish rapidly. For a man to not see a woman as an equal means that he does not see her as being fully human, and therefore not deserving of the same rights and privileges as him. A strict adherence to a patriarchal and culture results in both otherisation and sexual repression. This is creates a society in which all women could potentially be victims of sexual violence and harassment. To glorify masculinity means to privilege it at the expense of everyone else who is not a man, thus half of society ends up subordinated because they are women and therefore not viewed as normal or as fully human. If men are seen as superior to women then women are seen as not only inferior to men but inferior just through their existence; their right to just be. More often than not what is viewed as being inferior or abnormal is female sexuality itself. When maleness becomes the standard by which all things are judged, femaleness will be viewed as abnormal. The woman’s negative reaction to being beaten and raped is seen as the problem, not the man’s violent behavior because his culture tells them that maleness is normal and femaleness is not. An anti-feminist culture will most likely produce a violent husband and it criminalizes the presence of women in the public sphere. Terror outside the home is a reliable reflection of terror within the home. If a woman is subordinate in her own political party she’ll most likely be subordinate in her own house.
Ideologically justified violence against women becomes culturally permissible in sexually repressed societies. Cultural structures of oppression are dependent upon violence, or the threat of violence, to coerce compliance against the victim who society has decided to deem as inferior. Fear of harm is what keeps the “inferiors” in place. Alongside violence cultural structures of oppression include a hierarchy, the practice of objectification, and coercing the target into submission. All of this empowers the men to continue their patterns of sexually punishing women. A culture of acceptance is what sustains this power relationship. The criminalization of sex and femininity creates a ripple effect that works to prevent simple, respectful, non-violent, human interaction between the genders. Laws alone are not enough. Patriarchal myths and misogynistic ideas become the rule of law in people’s minds as a result of cultural indoctrination regardless if their government or religion tells them differently. Religious laws that demand gender equality can be very helpful, of course, but it's not enough. Violence towards women and girls is part of a wider cultural disorder. If the men are powerless in all other aspects of life then the use of violent power over women could be a reaction.
A Palestinian woman engages in consensual, unprotected sex with her boyfriend. She gets pregnant. The boyfriend leaves her, not wanting to be a father, not wanting to be a husband, not wanting a family. If her parents find out that she had sex out of wedlock and got pregnant, they could kill her for it. She runs away to a shelter, a shelter with a lot of armed guards. She stays there, gives birth, and then returns home… without the child. The child is sent to an orphanage, never knowing his/her mother or father. The mother is too scared of her own family to raise her baby.
Someone asks Lucy if there are any men who work in her inner circle to advocate for women’s equality. She almost laughs at the question. “No, no.” “Not one?” “No.”
Everyone is very upset. People are invited to the meditation for yoga. Yeeeaaaahhh, no thanks. I walk home. The men in the neighborhood recognize me now. Random men stop their cars and yell “You goin to Beit Sahour?!?!?!”, offering me a free ride. Is it the stereotypical Arab hospitality or a death threat? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
That being said, all the poor refugee Muslim boys the IDF shoots for no reason and no one cares? Those should be considered a type of honor killing as far as I’m concerned; it’s not about religion, the perpetrator gets support from the community, the victim is seen as less than human; an object to be eliminated, the perpetrator is rewarded with a renewed sense of power, the laws are toothless and don’t protect the vulnerable, if the victim fights back they are demonized… this shit sound familiar? Parents aren’t murdering their own children, but you get the idea.
If you are a non-white individual you should be able to call attention to issues of social justice in your community (women's rights, sectarianism, homophobia, economic security, etc) without living in fear of an elitist, self-appointed, white savior coming in and passing a severely insensitive judgment upon you (because that's always the first damn thing to happen). Sometimes the silence around these issues of social justice is a reaction to that. The last thing you want and need is a white savior (with zero knowledge of your history, culture, religion, ongoing oppression, etc) proclaiming that "all your men need to be reprogrammed."
Did I cover all the bases? I think I hit a home run with this.
Tomorrow evening we’re going to Wad Rahal to prepare and eat iftar with a big family. This weekend is Yafa, Ramle, and al Lyd. I’m fuckin beat
Al Lydd. This is where the Zionist militias in 1948 used fighter-bombers for the first time to bomb the city and the airport. It was one of the largest massacres in Palestine’s history; 426 men, women and children. 176 were killed in the Dahmash mosque. Most the 19,000 inhabitants of the city fled.
Today the Arab neighborhoods of al Lydd, now called Lod, are drug infested slums. The Palestinians pay taxes but don’t get any government services. Its church is from the 4th century. Its mosque is from the 7th century. The city is 7,000 years old. The Zionists demolished the Old City in the 1960’s. George Habash worked as a doctor here in the British hospital. Street names have been changed to honor the IDF. Ghettoized. Disenfranchised. All of Habash’s family’s land was stolen by the Israelis through the crooked court system.
In the New City the anti-Arab discrimination is very severe. As a “mixed” Jewish-Arab city that means the Jews get all the privileges, but even the Jews are segregated from one another. There are apartment blocks for African Jews and different ones for the Eastern European Jews. 2,000 Jewish Arab homes are under threat of demolition; Egyptians, people from Cyprus… it’s one of the poorest cities in the country. A massive Ottoman era train station is in front of it so the entrance is constantly being closed by the Israeli authorities. It’s a drug-infested slum that has been severely isolated. Each block is a different drug bin. “The house under the mango tree? That’s where you get cocaine.” It’s a heartbreaking garbage dump. There’s one open kinda green space; a playground that the British built. The Palmach used it to imprison men and boys and then steal their homes while they were locked up. “We didn’t have a word for ‘ghetto’ in Arabic before Zionism.” The law the Zionists made was “If you’re not in your house, we can take your house.” Jewish immigrants from the former Yugoslavia were put in their homes, so then even the homes become segregated.
The town was placed under curfew by the Palmach. George Habash’s sister was shot to death while trying to bring food to her aunt. My favorite artist, Ismail Shamoot, is from Lydd. His wife is from Yaffa. He too was forced to live through Hell because of what the Zionists did to this town.
1990’s. Operation Improving the Negev; Bedouins from the south were ethnically cleansed from their lands and put in this garbage dump, put in tents for almost two decades, all their farmland stolen. Then they were forced into these nasty steel shacks without electricity, water, air conditioning… You’re a Bedouin; you’ve got 3 wives and 20 children, and you are forced into a garbage dump.
’87 was the intifada. By ’88 there were enough Palestinian collaborators floating around that the Ministry of Defense decided to buy some of the homes here and put the Palestinian collaborators in them. You were in serious trouble if you got caught with a walkie-talkie because that meant you were a collaborator with the Israelis.
The oil company here, Delek, started in the 70’s. Terribly unsafe, severe exploitation of the workers, people came home with 10 different kinds of cancers at one time. Now there’s no Arabs working here and machines do most of the work so it certainly doesn’t help the community economically. Next to Delek is what used to be a soccer field for kids. The Israeli Jews who work here turned it into a parking lot. The kids got upset, damaged some of the cars, and now it looks like a prison. It’s all walled up with the oil company’s employees cars inside.
There’s garbage and sharp things and security cameras and barbed wire everywhere. It’s overwhelming.
There are 2 schools in Lydd. The principal of one of them is a Palestinian collaborator who was friendly with Ariel Sharon. Because of his connections all of his sons and brothers and uncles are also school principals and administrators. When a member of this family sells drugs or rapes a woman he gets off scot-free. The curriculum at these schools is all in Hebrew. A Palestinian child is forced to learn Hebrew so he/she can learn math and science.
Meanwhile, if you’re a decent human being, rumors can destroy your life. Did you have a Palestinian flag in your car? Did you bring your kids to a demonstration? Are you a member of the Balad party? What little wealth you manage to have will be taken from you. Across from the 2 schools is a Palestinian neighborhood with no addresses. It’s not on the map. It’s not recognized. It’s a neighborhood filled with people and the streets don’t have names. They pay taxes and get zero government services. They had to build their own road. All the homes are under threat of demolition. To get a decent amount of water and electricity they have to pay the Israeli authorities under the table. Collaboration and normalization is the only way these folks can survive.
The wall around this impoverished and neglected neighborhood, separating it from the lush and pristine Jewish settlement on the other side, was completed last year. Now what used to take 5 minutes takes 5 hours, like ambulances. It takes hours for the ambulance to get to you from the nearby hospital, so people die from injuries all the time that they shouldn’t have to die from. The ambulances also get lost because there’s no addresses or house numbers.
House demolitions are weekly. The IDF come at night on horseback to intimidate the people, all the bulldozers trailing behind them. $50,000 to build a house on your own land. $200,000 fine for “making the Israelis demolish your illegally built house.” You have 5-10 minutes to grab all your belongings and leave or the IDF will pull you out or they’ll just demolish your home with you in it and kill you that way.
We’re running late. The bus floors it. We’re going past the wall at 10 million mph. Something huge and bright green-
SSSSYYYYYRRRRIIIIAAAA FFFLLLLAAAAAGGGG!!!!!!!!! SYRIAAAAAA FLAAAAAAAG!!! AAAAUUUUUGGGHHHH!!!! THERE’S A SYRIA FLAG ON THE WAAAAALLLLL!!!!!!!!! OH GOD IT WAS HUGE!!! BRIGHT GREEN PERFECT SQUARE FRESHLY PAINTED!!!!!!!
We turn a corner so fast everyone goes flying, and the flag is out of my sight. I’m gonna get in touch with one of the program coordinators and try to hire someone who can drive me back to al Lydd when I have a free afternoon. I know this doesn’t sound logical; let me spend money I don’t have so I can be safely escorted a few hours away, back and forth, in and out of a drug-infested slum so I can get a few good photos of some graffiti. This is the Middle East; logic has nothing to do with anything, and I would go to the end of the fucking Earth for that flag and for anyone who waves it.
Back to miserable al Lydd; drug dealers are seen as pillars of the community. That’s who has wealth and some status, that’s who can help you out if you’re desperate for cash. Suddenly we’re on a normal street that’s been paved nicely, and the apartments appear livable. We’re in the Jewish neighborhood/settlement/colony/whatthefuck. It’s all Russians and many aren’t even Jewish. Israel was used as a transit to the US by people, Jewish and non-Jewish, who were desperate to escape the Soviet Union. Many stayed in Israel. There’s over a million Russians in Israel and many are Christian. In this very pretty, affluent neighborhood they either don’t pay taxes or pay very little taxes. The government gave them an allowance to build their homes. Apartment buildings tower over a neglected Arab cemetery. It houses Jewish settlers from Gaza. Before they built their homes here they celebrated Purim by stomping into the area and screaming “All Arabs out!” They bought the land from the Israeli authorities for 10 shekels. That’s $3. They took over the high school and kicked out the Arab students, forcing them to go to school in Yaffa.
We turn a corner, and it’s another Arab neighborhood that has been ghettoized. Here is the Dahmash mosque where the Palmach, led by Yitzkhak Rabin, massacred a few hundred people in ‘48. 130 were children. The mosque wasn’t reopened until 2000. Before that, the Jewish settlers turned it into… a clothing store… a children’s clothing store. They massacre babies then sell baby clothes in the same place. There’s another mosque about a block away, and its minaret looks deformed. The Israeli authorities forced the people to decapitate their own mosque’s minaret. Why? Because they can see Tel Aviv airport from it. “They treat us like we are bombs.” 5,000 Jewish settlers have been funneled into Lydd to counter the Arab “demographic threat.”
Ramle; it’s just as tragic and enraging as Lydd. The pristine suburbs are for the Jewish settlers and then ghetto for the Arabs, which is up for demolition. Massive piles of rubble are everywhere; it’s what’s left of people’s homes. Israeli flags are everywhere. I’m told that one fourth of all Palestinians in the West Bank are civilian collaborators who work with the Israeli police (rather than the PA, which is Arab police, not civilians, who work for the Israelis).
I see the cemetery of Nabih Saleh; the 14th century Shia Muslim scholar; neglected, almost nothing, forgotten about. We can’t find a Palestinian restaurant that is open. They’re all closed because the settlers tried to kidnap someone yesterday.
“When we hear ‘democracy,’ ‘improvement,’ ‘development,’ we get scared.”
The autopsy report is in. The boy was burned alive. The Palestinian teenage boy who the settlers burned and assaulted and murdered. They didn’t mutilate the dead body. They burned him alive. I’m supposed to be writing a manual on Islamic non-violent resistance while Jewish sociopaths are burning Arab children alive.
Nazareth; Hebrew everywhere, Hebrew that hurts my eyes. The shagged edges and hard right angles. Bourgeois hotel. Hipster café. I’m reminded of Philadelphia. There’s a big, fancy wedding in the church. Mostly women, they all look like supermodels; rail thin, skimpy outfits, high heels that they can’t walk in. It’s another world from where I just came from. On my way back to the hotel from visiting the Christian cemetery next to the church, there’s a demonstration. All young men with flags and kuffiyehs and sound bombs and chanting. They’re obstructing traffic. Thank God. Yes, please, do something, they burned that child alive, do something.
At the bourgeois hotel there’s a wireless kiosk with language options; English, Hebrew, Russian, French… No Arabic. I have to rush back to the hotel because HANIN BADASS BALLS OF STEEL ZOABI OH GOD YES <3 She comes down the stairs, I hear her voice before I see her, I dance and scream like a teenage girl at a boy band concert. She shakes my hand and pats me on the back, says she was late because she was at the demonstration outside.
She thoroughly educates everyone about the apartheid situation Palestinians in Israel proper are living under. She’s a firecracker, she’s everything I hoped she’d be, I watch as the kids’ brains grow, and they actually ask her good questions. She dominates and enlightens the entire room. It was amazing. The same problem in ’48 is the same problem of today; not acknowledging the existence of the majority of the people who already fucking live here.
“My problem is not 1 state or 2 states. This is not my problem. My problem is justice.”
“I am not the marginalized minority. I am the indigenous majority that is marginalized.”
“The state sees me as a guest in good cases… I am not a guest here. They are the ones in my house.”
“You are just as bad as the Arab regimes. Don’t tell me to be grateful.”
“This is not building for the Jews. This is destroying for the Palestinians.”
“The Nakba is Israel’s history.”
She’s going on and on and on and it is fucking AWESOME and I wanna let out an AMEEN! after everything she says but I contain myself.
“They are not just confiscating land, they are confiscating homeland.”
“I am not an Arab Israeli. I was Arab before Israel. They want to tame us and divide us.”
Israel runs Acceptance Committees. There are 573 villages in Israel proper. These committees kick out Arabs because they upset the “social harmony.” Apartheid on steroids. Palestinians can’t live on their own land while Jewish settlers roam freely, damaging churches, kidnapping and killing children. People are prevented from speaking Arabic at work and there’s that plan to conscript Christian Palestinians into the army.
“If Israel allows me some rights I should be grateful and join the occupation, yes? Absurd!”
There’s an agreement in the Israeli universities to keep the Palestinian student population down to below 11%. 1.2 million Palestinians have Israeli citizenship. Only 8% of the universities, 9% of the government, 2% of the private sector. 56% are under the poverty line. Jewish Israeli income is 3 times higher. Marginalize, disconnect, fragment, impoverish, repeat. No wonder a 3rd intifada can’t get up off the ground even though Palestine could be won in a street fight.
“The loyalty laws. The state demands me by law to be loyal to Zionism. Absurd!”
“The meaning of democracy is to fight against ideology. Here the struggle for democracy is a violation.”
“You don’t like Arabs? Zionists came to the wrong part of the world.”
“The occupation does not embarrass Israel. It’s done in the name of ‘the war on terror.’ Don’t advise me, don’t get ethical with me; you have Guantanamo.”
She wants an unarmed intifada. She says the bus bombings hurt Palestinians just as much. She’s talking about what I’m writing about; a civilian jihad, even though she doesn’t say the “J” word. I’m amazed she’s still in the country and that they haven’t chased her away like they did with Azmi Bishara.
“They want the good Arab who will struggle as an Israeli citizen and not as a Palestinian.”
She was fucking epic. I watched the IQ of the white saviors and the hippies shoot up by 50 points.
She leaves, I have a quick dinner, and then I bolt for the entrance so I can get to the protest that’s around the corner. I’m standing outside the hotel, and I’m hearing a lot of gunfire, but not seeing anything. The security is forcing all of us back into the hotel. Someone grabs my arm and the doors are slammed in front of me. I’m told that the taxis aren’t even coming into the area. I’m told there are rubber bullets and tons of rock throwing. I get more news; the little cousin of the teenager who was burned alive? The little cousin who had his face smashed in? He’s an American citizen. Fucking baby killers. A middle-aged Jerusalemite in the hotel lobby says, “Don’t worry. Everything will calm down.” I don’t want you to fucking calm down.
Bare minimum of solidarity; go and witness. They’re not letting me do it. They’re watching me like a hawk. They don’t go away until I’m in my room. The hippies get drunk and talk about themselves in the room next to me. I open my window and move my bed closer to it so I can hear what’s going on.
Islam permits self-defense.
Self-defense is not murder.
Self-defense against a Goliath is not violence.
Nazareth; I snuck out of the hotel real early so I could go see the church. The singing, the praying, the singing, the imagery, is like someone is pouring soothing ointment on my hot and angry brain. It’s more therapeutic than anything else I’ve ever experienced.
Over breakfast one of my fellow volunteers expresses to me her discomfort over Lucy, the balls-of-steel feminist social worker who spoke to us last week, and how she brought up honor killings. The volunteer is not upset about honor killings. The volunteer is upset that a Palestinian woman is raising awareness about them. These bleeding heart liberals, who are afraid to be called racist, make me sick. Apparently, women’s rights are not a social justice issue if the male oppressor is being oppressed by others. If you’re too busy hurting and marginalizing 50% of your own population because they are female I can guarantee you that your chances of fighting off a foreign occupier or implementing a democratic revolution will severely decrease.
On the way to Yaffa, we drive past the spot where the demonstration began yesterday afternoon. On the tree in the middle of it “horriyah” is written across in big white letters.
3 hours of Hellish nauseating traffic to get to Yaffa. Homicidal rage, I want to murder the bleeding heart liberals I’m stuck on this bus with. I absolutely loathe 75% of these fucking people. At this point in my life I’d be more comfortable sitting next to John McCain. Sorry I’m not sorry. Get a haircut, hippie, you don’t know shit about geopolitics or Islam.
Once in Yaffa, my eyes adjust and all the Hebrew doesn’t hurt them anymore. All the Arabic is gone, the graffiti feels soft and benign. I’m in a very pretty, middle to upper class, hipster town. Relieved to see a few hijabies here and there.
Fuck my existence; someone at the Discover Yaffa office has a Nasser fetish. 2 different Nasser photos. Well, fuck you too. I decide to do the Raba3 hand signal in every annoying group photo they make us do. They’re all oblivious, it doesn’t even matter.
Yaffa is stunning. Palestinian city, military occupied since ‘48, part of the unified city Tel Aviv-Yafo since ‘50. An Arab cultural center and economic hub under the British Mandate, it was bigger than Nablus and Gaza City. Now the Palestinians here are trapt in small, impoverished neighborhoods that have high crimes rates while Jewish Americans and Israelis come here for the gated communities. It’s “mixed” which means the segregation is very severe. If you’re a Palestinian it’s your Jewish neighbor who is killing your people. Again, “We didn’t know ‘ghetto’ before Zionism.” Sever Judaization; the street names are changed to be more Jewish, and a gorgeous green house that belonged to a prominent Arab family in the 1930’s has been turned into an Israeli military court where they sentence the refuseniks.
The Greek Orthodox school that George Habash attended is here. There are 4 different churches right next to one another.
Yaffa is close to everything; Beirut, Damascus, Amman, Gaza, Akka, Alexandria… It was the heart of the Arab Near East, and it was stolen, torn out of the ribcage. It’s historically important port was closed in 1965 when the port of Ashdod in Israel was completed. Historians believe that Yaffa is the only port in the world, which can boast uninterrupted inhabitation throughout its entire existence... then Zionism comes in and steals everything. Gentrification, gated communities, skinny blondes buying expensive shoes while the Arab fishermen are being forced out. In the harbor the boats wave American flags next to Israeli ones.
I wrote the word “shamooti” in my notes. I don’t remember what it means. Goddamnit.
Alexandria. The sea. It looks like Alexandria, it looks the same… it is the same. Someone stole it and now it’s a hostage. Zionists use random, obscure bits and pieces of the Old Testament to say that Yaffa belongs to them. A lot of them are athiests who don’t believe in God but they do believe that He gave them the heart of the Arab Near East.
Yaffa was a gateway to Palestine. Occupied by Egyptians, Persian, Mamluks, Napoleon, the Ottomans, everybody got a turn. For a full century it’s oranges were the most famous in the world. The British built the wave breaker in the ‘30’s. The port attracted foreign workers from Syria, from Morocco, from everywhere. The Yaffa port was worth more than all the ports of Lebanon combined.
’48: The population of 120,000 shrunk to 3,000. The Haganah and other Zionist terrorist militias chased people into the sea. People were desperate to get on ships, there’s too many, some capsize. To lighten the load people are asked to throw their belongings overboard. Their belongings, wrapped in blankets… like their babies. Their babies were wrapped in blankets too. People were accidentally throwing babies overboard in their panic.
Israeli news is shown on a giant TV screen on top of a newly constructed building, towering over the harbor.
We walk through the Old City. It’s gorgeous… but no Palestinians. Plenty of white folk, expensive jewelry stores, Judaica, art galleries. The stone is qurqah; the natural sandy rock that both Yaffa and Akka are built from. There’s a big bronze door to one of the buildings. It’s looks Moroccan. It looks like it’s straight from Rabat. Our guide tells me I’m right; it was brought from Morocco.
There’s Saint Peter’s Church and then… the mosque. The Yaffa mosque. I cried. The pale green dome and the blue sea behind it. I cried. I’ve seen it 46356785837 times on the computer. I cried. I got the mosque in my eyes. I’m told that a Jewish Israeli hipster has turned it into an art gallery. The courts supported him when an Islamic organization tried to get the property back. Modernity brought the Holocaust, brought development, brought destruction. There’s a street behind me that shouldn’t be there. A Palestinian neighborhood used to be there. The Zionists used it for weapons training; they blew up the houses and experimented with explosives.
Nablus, famous for its olive oil soap, got the technology from Yaffa. There’s an abandoned soap factory close to the mosque. It’s now a bat cave.
Despite the Nasser fetish revealed in his office, our tour guide is great. He’s working on his PhD about Yaffa and that’s why he’s a walking history book about the city. He speaks about Hannah Arrendt and Judah Magnes. Again, I’m watching the hippies’ IQs shoot up. Awesome. <3
He takes us to the wall of the Great Mosque. This is where the sabiil used to be; men who would give water to all the travelers coming into the city. Now the road is covered in expensive clothing stores. One of the plaques on the wall says something like, “Nothing is simple unless you make it simple. You can make pain simple.”
…and I’m homesick. There are young, middle to upper class women with tattoos and nice clothes, walking their dogs. That’s me. That’s the world I come from. If it wasn’t hotter than Hell, ethnically cleansed, the beating heart torn from the Arab ribcage and still held hostage… I could live here.
Yaffa; gorgeous, stunning, mind fuck. Jewish men with kippahs are selling nargilehs. I eat a Lebanese kabob and a Lebanese salad in a Jewish Israeli restaurant, there’s Hebrew everywhere, but Fairuz is playing, and I’m in occupied Palestine.
I thank our guide for showing me the mosque, and I tell him a little about myself, and that I could live here if everything was different, if history was different. After everything I say he’s like “W’allaaahhh?” “You know Syrians? W’allah? You were in Egypt last summer? W’allah?” He says, “Okay, you go get da master’s degree, you get da PhD, maybe you write a book, then you emigrate here, okay? We need normal people here.”
He says Israel is scared to death of the Palestinian unity government and that if they can’t kill it they will destroy Hamas in the West Bank. “All of Syria’s pain, Egypt’s pain… Palestine not on anyone’s tongue no more.” International law permits self-defense against an occupying power, but that won’t work here. They will be called terrorists and the West will believe them. It needs a Ghaffar Khan style of unarmed insurrection. He’s talking about what I’m writing about, a civilian jihad, but he doesn’t say the “J” word.
An Ottoman era prison becomes an Israeli prison becomes a boutique hotel. One third of the clothing shops around it were Islamic religious property. Now a Jewish lawyer in Tel Aviv owns them all. This is across the street from Yaffa’s clock tower. Built in 1901 by the Ottoman Sultan in charge at the time, it was a gift to the city as a symbol of modernity. He did this in the two other most important cities at the time; Akka and Nablus. In ’48, in front of the clock tower, two Zionist terrorists dressed as Arabs and sent a car bomb into the city. The explosives were hidden in the truck by oranges. Hundreds were killed, including many children from an orphanage. Behind the clock tower there used to be a club called Zaarafiiyeh; old men, Yaffa refugees in Amman, still talk about it. Bellydancing, music, drinking. Downstairs from the club was the taxi station. From here you could get to Damascus or go north to Beirut through Haifa. Farther in front of the clocktower there was an Egyptian souq and a Syrian fruit market. I wanna cry.
Yaffa, the former economic center of Palestine, with its souq built by the Greek Orthodox church after the 1870’s. Today the market, although amazing and overwhelming and filled with lots of pretty things to buy, is all Israeli.
We tour the gated community. Andromeda Apartments. It’s absolutely stunning, and equally enraging. I’m living under water apartheid in Beit Lahem with my host family, and here there are big beautiful fountains. What’s the neo-liberal discourse? It says that states can’t be welfare states forever and that the free market should be given a free hand and that will solve poverty. The poor can sell services to the rich and the rich will pay more, and all the boats will float… but that’s not what happens. The rich come in and they don’t want to be a part of the local community. Today, Palestinian Arabs constitute about 25,000 inhabitants out of a total of 35,000 people in Yaffa. The wealthy, white American and Israeli Jews moving into the gated communities want nothing to do with the majority population. The real estate increases, then the prices of everything else increases, so Palestinians in Yaffa pack up and move to Nablus because it’s cheaper. Ethnic cleansing comes in many different forms. The political result; the deliberate economic transfer of the Arab community.
Expensive cars are driving by. The Ethiopian Jews are the garbage men cleaning the streets.
The greatest real estate market tactic ever; the view. Jewish vulture capitalists are selling the view at Andromeda Apartments, selling the Palestinian sea to wealthy Jews who can afford it, who want to buy it, people who are… like me.
Across the street from the Greek Orthodox school that George Habash attended is a mural to Naji Ali; father of Handala. Handala was very active in the cartoons before ’82. ’82 was Lebanon. ’82 was Sabra-Shatila. He stopped moving after that. Naji had to flee from Kuwait, to London, to never getting home. Beneath the mural is the Yaffa bookstore; it’s a cultural center that has poetry readings and sells Palestinian and Egyptian literature.
King Faisal Street led to the Yaffa port. Now it’s Yehuda Ami Street. We stop at the Salma Coffee Bar. It’s a different kind of art gallery; it’s showing photos of life in the Balata refugee camp. On the inside of the door in the café’s bathroom it says, “If you put your head in the sand today your teeth will crunch tomorrow.”
Following the Nakba all the Palestinian teachers were gone. Children were taught by Jewish Iraqi immigrants. Palestinians were going to their now occupied homes, begging the intruders for pillows and blankets. Men eat opium and chug alcohol to numb the pain. Overthrowing geography.
Beach. Swimming. I am bringing home some seashells and rocks. Beach. Heaven. It felt like Alexandria.
9 people. Israel bombed Gaza while I slept and I wake up to 9 dead people who should've been swimming with me, in their sea, in Yaffa.
You would never know that Gaza is being bombed. You would never know that over 100 minors have been arrested in the past 3 days. The recent settler violence in Jerusalem. You would never know any of it in Beit Lahem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour... Everything is so fragmented, disconnected, everyone feels 10 million miles away from one another. The distance is an illusion. The distance is the fucking Matrix.
end the occupationS; the israelis, the PA, the palestinian vulture capitalists, the culture of female oppression, the tourism industry... i am not sure what order this should go in.
a lot of the economy depends on tourism. people are afraid to rock the boat. "atleast we have tourists," "a third intifada will ruin us," "atleast a lot of americans come here to spend their money" the tourism is like putting a bandaid on a cancer.
There are almost 2 million Palestinians in the West Bank.
2 million Palestinians are not marching in the streets.
1 million Palestinians are not marching in the streets.
Several hundred thousand Palestinians are not marching in the streets.
This is not Syria or Egypt… yet.
I know you want to see a Third Intifada that will shake the earth. You are projecting. I am here and it’s not happening. My host family just returned from a weekend vacation in Jericho. They are not rich, they are not the upper class, they are… like my parents. Average, older folks who just want some normalcy. The taxi drivers turn off the radio when news about Gaza comes on. Today at the office things were very calm and no one seemed worried or upset about anything, at least not more than they usually are. I played with some children, met their parents… The earth is not shaking.
The violence, the clashes, are in very small pockets throughout the area, but nothing huge is happening. What is happening is “the normal.” People are tired, and scared, and hopeless, many are content with what they have, and they are frightened to death that they will lose what little wealth and stability they got if they make too much noise. I can’t hate them for this. They have been annihilated and broken so much, they have worked so hard, they have tried so hard, and what did they get? The PA. Oslo. The peace process. They are tired, they are desperate to hold onto what little security they can get, 99% of these folks couldn’t hurt a fly, they’ve never had an army, and no one comes to the rescue. No one helps them, and no one really can in the face of the military juggernaut that is the Jewish state.
What is making noise is the sky. The sky is rumbling. I can hear planes, and I know whose planes they are, what kind of planes they are, where they are going, and what they are going to do. And I am so sorry Gaza, I’m so sorry.
sirens. there were sirens and booms at around 10 PM. air raid sirens over jerusalem and tel aviv too. 3-4 big booms. no dead israelis, lots of dead palestinians. air raid sirens designed to make you scared.
A whole section of Ramallah used to be part of Jerusalem, but was cut off from it by the wall. Countless people’s lives were destroyed; their houses demolished, their land stolen, their ID cards invalidated so they can no longer enter Jerusalem. Qalandiya used to be an airport, and now it’s the infamous checkpoint.
Entering Ramallah’s city hall. Westernized Palestinian teenage girls sit outside. They look American. They chant, “Sisi yes! Morsi no!” and I want to put a gun in my mouth.
Last night the unbreakable Sheikh Khader Adnan was arrested again. When I was with Jewish Voice for Peace in 2012 we fasted one day in solidarity. I thought it was silly (how the fuck is this gonna help Khader?) but I did it anyway. Last night there were clashes nearby in the Aida camp. It’s not news; it’s the normal. The IDF fuck up Aida all the time. What the fuck am I supposed to do? Go in there and be a human shield all by myself? There should be an army of Bethlehemites behind me and there just isn’t.
At the city hall we meet with a young American-Palestinan woman named Gavin who works for Addameer. She’s an encyclopedia about political prisoners and the IDF’s human rights abuses. Since 1967 there’ve been 800,000 political prisoners. One fifth of the population. Every family, each community, suffers from this. Now we’re seeing 50, 60, 95 people arrested in one sweep because of the kidnapping incident. Constant administrative detention. Imagine having Guantanamo Bay in your neighborhood and you know several people who’ve survived the ordeal. Today the number of administrative detainees is the highest its been since 2009.
Gavin says that folks would rather have life sentences than administrative detention; it’s psychological torture for them, their family, their entire community. Everyone prepares for your release from prison only for your sentence to be renewed. Now the Israelis are trying to legalize force feeding the hunger strikers. Gitmo, Gitmo, Gitmo. They want 473536848363536 Gitmos. For now the bill has been halted. The most recent mass hunger strike came to an end. Hunger strikers included boys as young as 18. It was 63 days before the Israeli authorities entered negotiations with the leadership. Severe medical negligence; the doctors are prison guards. Young men, arrested for no reason, starving to death, shackled to their beds, kidney failure, falling into comas, not allowed to use the bathroom for 12 hours, not allowed to change into clean clothes for 30 days, the Red Cross didn’t get to the imprisoned until they were already in the hospital. The prison guards eat food and cook in front of them. They dangle force feeding tubes in front of them. Fucking Nazis.
I think of Egypt; 20,000 hunger strikers getting zero attention. At least Westerners come to Palestine and give a drop of attention.
What happened recently to Tarek, the little boy, the American-Palestinian from Florida, who got his face smashed in, who was arrested and brutalized, whose cousin was burned to death by Jewish settlers, there’s a video of him saying over and over “I’m angry. I just want to go home.” It’s another form of ethnic cleansing; Tarek will never want to step foot in Palestine ever again.
A 14 year old boy from Silwan has been arrested 12 times in 2 years. He can’t go to school consistently. He’s terrified of everything. He’ll never want to join a demonstration. He’ll want to leave Palestine too somehow.
The hunger strike leadership gets put in isolation immediately. Minors are detained with adults, charged as adults. Prison guards fire water cannons into the cells to hurt them. When a child is arrested it takes 2-3 days for the family to locate where the fuck they are. Psychological abuse is constant; “I’ll rape you.” “You’ll never see your family again.” “You’ll never go to school again.”
The volunteers I’m with… I see their faces change now. Their faces look like mine; the permanent bitch face. Good; get fucking angry. Because you were partying and getting drunk in Tel Aviv for July 4th. Feel bad. Feel REALLY fucking bad.
Very few female prisoners but it happens. Pregnant women are threatened with abortion, forced to give birth while imprisoned, while shackled to their beds, zero special medical care. Palestinians with Israeli citizenship aren’t subjected to military courts but the system is so crooked it doesn’t even matter. Israeli serial killers get better treatment than a Palestinian charged with a petty crime. Israeli serial killers get to see their wives and have babies, get weekends outside the prison walls.
What’s worse than the Israeli military courts? The PA courts. The double occupation. The PA arrested Khader Adnan too. The IDF comes into Area A to illegally bulldoze people’s homes, and the PA… leaves. They just fuckin leave. Coordination between the two is constant. Palestinians are partially militarily occupying themselves. This is called the peace process. PA courts are, of course, kangaroo courts and painfully Kafkaesque. 96% of those imprisoned in the Israeli military courts report being tortured… and the PA courts are worse. God only knows what the fuck they are doing. Palestinian Gitmos.
700 people have been arrested since June 12th. You die in prison under torture your family doesn’t get your body back until your sentence has been completed. Then they have to do DNA tests to make sure it’s actually your body. Tear gas canisters are thrown into the cells and people die from inhalation. Jews are gassing people to death. 54 political prisoners have died from torture since ’67.
The trials are 3 minutes. The conviction rate is 99%.
Addameer’s offices get fucked up all the time; rooms raided, computers smashed. Now people Gavin sees at work every day have been arrested. Gavin is Palestinian, but was born and grew up in California. She came to Palestine from Jordan specifically for this job. She was involved with the SJP on her campus. It’s a job, it’s a fight, I would never be strong enough to handle.
The teenagers outside are chanting Sisi’s name. My compassion fatigue is at an all time high. I can’t trust anyone here. If you could vote, would you vote for an Arab Hitler who promised you your freedom while killing your neighbors and taking orders from the West? Shit, maybe.
Our next speaker is a force of nature; Rula Salameh. Producer of Budrus. Co-Producer of My Neighborhood. Just Vision's outreach liaison in Palestine; organizing events, interviewing activists, working with educators, journalists and community leaders. She was one of the founders of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation in 1993. She is a member of the International Federation of Journalists and sits on the Board of Palestinian Friends Without Borders. All of this I knew; she’s an irreplaceable pillar of the community. What I didn’t know was her personal story.
She’s from East Jerusalem and sat on the student council at Birzeit during the First Intifada. The IDF shut down the schools because, ya know, the dangerous hotbeds of revolutionary activity are usually where the books are at. She began to advocate for education. She traveled to the UK when she was 19. There she met her husband; another Palestinian who has never been able to step foot in Palestine. He got a tech job in Doha, she went with him, they got married, and she got pregnant… but Rula knows what the laws are; she has to give birth in Jerusalem or her baby can’t get an ID card. So she goes home… and her husband is prevented from going with her. Allow a Palestinian exile into Palestine? No way; he could be a terrorist, ya know. The Israelis denied him a visa. Rula gives birth to her son in Jerusalem without her husband there… and her child is still denied a birth certificate. Why? Her husband back in Qatar. He doesn’t have the documents to prove that he’s Palestinian. And, ya know, he could be a terrorist.
Rula fights the system. If her son doesn’t get the birth certificate this will ruin him; school, housing, medical insurance, it all rides on the paperwork. Rula’s husband is making the big bucks in Doha at his tech job so he can support her and all the lawyers. Thousands of dollars just to sit down with a lawyer and have them say to you, “No, I won’t take this case.” The bureaucracy, the red tape, it was absolutely dizzying and stressful, I could just barely follow along.
Her son, age 2, they finally get their day in court. She’s given 2 options; she could go to Jordan for the necessary documents for her son and give up her Israeli ID. When she wants to come back to her home in East Jerusalem she can just go to the Israeli consulate in Jordan and get a visa… what a shitshow. Rula doesn’t believe that for 5 seconds; they’ll deny her a visa and she’ll never see home again.
Second option; divorce. If she divorces the exiled husband who has never been to Palestine the court will give an Israeli ID to her baby son.
No birth certificate means her son is a refugee in his own city, his own country. She’s forced to choose between a life with her husband and a life with her son. She’s forced to get a divorce. She stays in Palestine with her son, fighting the system, fighting to get him a birth certificate, she helps to build a radio station while fighting to get the documents for her baby. The birth certificate she gets is temporary; 2 years. It has to be renewed. Age 2 her son gets the birth certificate and he can leave to go meet his father for the first time in Doha. She didn’t trust the Israelis with her child’s education. She got in touch with Yassir Arafat and he made it happen; her son got into a decent private school because he pulled some strings. Her son sees his father when he’s 6, then again when he’s 8. Most of their relationship has to be through Skype.
In East Jerusalem Palestinians get an Israeli ID, but not an Israeli passport. They get the Jordanian passport, East Jerusalem residency, and no Israeli citizenship. If you lose your papers you’re fucked.
Rula speaks about living in Doha with her husband before she was pregnant, before the Israeli courts forced her to get a divorce; “We had a palace, we had drivers, lots of shopping… but’s a fake life.Our history is here. Our roots are here.”
Rula had to hide the divorce from her family for years. The stigma is tremendous. Anti-feminist values; a divorced woman? A single mother? Blasphemous! The triple occupation; the oppression of the female half of the community. She has to live with her parents and sister even though she’s a pillar of the community; journalist, media consultant, constantly traveling with NGOs… She’s blamed for the divorce. I’m not joking. She’s blamed for the divorce; “You couldn’t protect your marriage.” Fucking ridiculous and embarrassing. She built the youth center in Aida with help from an Irish advocacy group, for fuck’s sake. She pulls charity money from the wealthy Palestinian families in the Gulf and distributes it to needy families in East Jerusalem that the PA isn’t helping. “You couldn’t protect your marriage.” GO FUCK YOURSELF.
“I keep busy all day. The past is too painful.” She working on another documentary about women’s roles in the First Intifada and why things have gotten more repressive towards women since then. She’s an Arafat; she can travel, she can carry her community and her country with her, she’s a one-person show… but she’s a woman, and divorced, so you don’t recognize her name or her face.
Her husband has lived in the UK most of his life. His Arabic is terrible. She didn’t want that for her son.
She’s from Beit Hanina. She was born in Shoufat. It’s the same neighborhood. She sees the settlers all the time. The community is terrorized. The dead 15 year old, Tarek’s cousin; the settlers forced him to drink gasoline before setting him on fire. “It’s a new way of killing. A new process of teaching how to hate.” Now Rula walks her 17 year old son to school. “I don’t want to get that call that something happened.” She doesn’t let him go out to the cinema Thursday nights anymore.
“Peace is a very bad word now… Now I can feel the hate in the Palestinians. We need social workers to be honest; this is an environment for terrorism.”
We went to Rawabi; the first Palestinian planned city, the largest private sector project ever carried out in Palestine. International planning principles, sustainable environmental practices, state of-the-art infrastructure. It’s huge and incredible. It will include a commercial center, art spaces, educational and medical The investment in Rawabi will exceed more than $1 billion USD. Developed by experts from Birzeit and An-Najah Universities. 5,000 housing units. 23 neighborhoods. Public and private schools, arts and medical facilities, mosques and a church, green recreation space. Will be home to 25,000 residents, with additional subsequent construction phases that will ultimately serve a city with a population of more than 40,000. This construction project has created between 8,000 to 10,000 jobs. After completion, Rawabi’s businesses will generate between 3,000 and 5,000 permanent jobs. Paid for by Qatar; it’s a massive Qatari project.
I got the chills; a Palestinian metropolis in the making. A Palestinian flag flying high from construction equipment. Development, without ethnic cleansing, in Palestine. Modernization, without destruction, in Palestine. All the material comes from the nearby stone quarry. An amphitheater in the making, the cornerstone of a future church, jobs for people in which they don’t have to work for the Jewish settlers who murder their kids. To this the hippies respond with, “Eww… neo-liberalism.”
The billion dollar man spearheading this is Bashar Masri. A CEO, a publisher of a newspaper, trained in chemical engineering, managing director of a real estate company, established the first fund that invests in the Palestinian private sector. “But… eww… capitalism… and stuff.”
It’s a huge risk, a massive investment in occupied Palestine. “It’s volatile, but it’s home.” No gated communities here. “This is defying the occupation. This is in spite of the occupation. We will build our country even before the occupation ends.” The security concerns come from the nearby Jewish settlers. They steal flags and damage the equipment. “I tell my people to avoid them at all costs. I don’t want a shrine here. No ‘martyrs’ here. What can be replaced by money will be replaced by money.” It’s a huge confidence booster for people; “Look what we can build.” Neo-liberalism sells and people want it and people buy it. You’re gonna have to get comfortable with this. I don’t know what else to tell ya. Grow the fuck up and see the good in it, the potential here for a better future. Resistance comes in different forms.
Masri takes care of a handful of stray dogs on the property. Those are some very happy dogs; belly rubs and drinking from a fancy fountain
Back to Ramallah. It’s a shopping mall. Crowded and noisy and bustling. It feels like a capital city, an international city. There’s a KFC across from dress shop. 3836366475948 dress shops. The Mexican restaurant has nargilehs. It’s a mall… and you’d never know that Gaza is being attacked again. I’m told that 32 people are dead. Gaza is under attack. Ramallah is busy shopping. Gaza under attack; it’s their normal. Out of sight, out of mind. No, there will be no uprising, no intifada. This is not Syria or Egypt… yet. The IAF bombing Gaza is their normal. What would be their abnormal…?
#RamallahUnderAttack … that would be the abnormal. Get it?
The leftist fucktard white saviors I’m with are reading the news for the first time in their lives and sweating over Gaza. Ramallah isn’t sweating over Gaza. Ramallah is stalking me and eye-raping me as I walk around and take photos.
“Umm like Lebanon should get involved!”
“Hezbollah is busy ummm helping Syria!”
This^ is from the empty-headed giggly bimbo who can’t pronounce “saba el 7heir” correctly… after she was done masturbating to the Electronic Intifada on her iPad, of course.
I feel fucking disgusting. The number two reason I was apprehensive about coming here was because I knew the kind of fucking horribly stupid Westerners this cause attracts. The number one reason I was apprehensive about coming here was because of my Zioguilt; just another American Jew enjoying Palestine while Gaza and Yarmouk die. Then I’m told that the death toll is 38. Ramallah is busy shopping and hitting on me.
I miss my puppy dog and my Syrians in Jersey. I want snow and a long black coat and my car and Alice in Chains.
*her name is randa, Gavin is her Irish colleague. And I don't envy you going to ramallah at all. hope that city burns to the ground.
*There's absolutely nothing neoliberal about a Qatari-sponsored commercial development, schools, and residential housing. Compared to living on UN/PA hand outs/patronage, normal-type capitalism like that is progressive.
*insert meaningful commentary about Gaza here*
Everyone is fucking miserable and I want to cry all day. The hippies and tourists are goofing around and smiling. No rallies, no mass protests, only the air of a funeral. It’s the PA; the second boot on their necks. People are afraid, people are suffocated.
All your assumptions about Palestine are wrong; no, this is not a hotbed of revolutionary insurgency rebellion uprising whatever. People are burned out. People are heartbroken. People want normalcy. People want… Turkish soap operas and good schools for their kids.
Rachel Corrie died because not enough people were standing there with her.
The rockets from Gaza… You are doing what the Israelis want you to do. Islam permits self-defense, international law permits self-defense… that won’t work here. That hasn’t worked here. Use your mind like you use your weapons.
I walked in on a young Muslim man praying at the office. He was in tears. We talked.
“You know about Rabaa?”
“Yes, I was nearby.”
“It was peaceful.”
“Yes, I know. I was lied to. The anarchists and socialists lied to me. They said it wasn’t peaceful.”
I went to the church. The silly Americans are afraid of pain, of rage, of silence.
There’s no one powerful in this region whom you can get behind 110%; every government is genocidal in varying degrees, almost every militia, almost every politician is a war criminal. There’s no one coming to save the day. The bright lights get snuffed out very quickly; the Kanafanis, the Abdul Qaders, the Bassel Shehadehs, the Julianos… They get a very short shelf life.
Your solidarity belongs with the dead.
On a more positive note, I saw Hamid Imam in NYC on the TV here. I'm not kidding. I turned on the TV and saw ma Syrians. Awesome.
sirens and booms, sirens and booms
Curfew. They're putting us under curfew. We can't stay out past 10 and if we don't comply they kick us out of the program. Son of a bitch
***88 people killed so far in Gaza, 0 killed in Israel. 522 people injured in Gaza, 2 injured in Israel. These numbers DO matter. I've always said that in these instances Hamas ought not to fire rockets into Israel, not because Palestinians don't have the right to resist and retaliate against Israeli violence and oppression, but rather because it's a purely symbolic and entirely ineffectual act that is seized upon by Israel and its supporters as a justification for the terroristic mass murder that it is currently carrying out in Gaza.
If, after everything I have told you these past few days, you still cheer for the rockets coming from Gaza, you might have to be dead to me. You're being irresponsible and selfish. Now you and the Zionists have something in common; you both want those rockets. You want war for a people who want normalcy and to just be left the fuck alone already.
In the morning it's a sleepy funeral outside. At night there are small clashes with the police. Same shit, different day, nothing changes. No huge protests, no mass demonstrations. People want normalcy. 5-7 boys throw some stones, there's some tear gas on a random street corner or in a camp, 1-2 boys are arrested, released the next day. Wake up, start all over. It's the normal. It's a ritual, a game, a dance.
Hamas rocket lands in Ramallah. "Whatever." That's the attitude, and no one's hurt so... whatever.
I spent the whole morning and afternoon reading and writing about the Muslim Brotherhood. It's maintaining my sanity in the face of such terrible indifference and loneliness. I found the circumstances around Hasan al Banna's assasination to be very heartbreaking... and a little reminiscent of the circumstances around Gandhi's death.
I'm avoiding the idiot Americans as much as humanely possible. They come to a region of the world that they know nothing about and think they are doing something constructive to help it. Leftist posturing, extreme narcissism, they talk about themselves a lot, the peace workshop circle jerks. I'm sorry, Palestine, that these are the kind of Westerners you attract. They'll get arrested by the IDF for a few hours for you, but only to write something terrible about their experience for the asinine Electronic Intifada, or even worse, the garbage Mondoweiss. The 15 minutes of fame. And nothing changes. Not one inch of Palestinian soil is liberated. Not one Palestinian refugee gets to come home.
God bless the Israeli advocacy groups who throw their weight around and manage to save places like Battir.
The people are not mobilized, and nothing will get better until that happens. Anything less than that becomes a waste of time, becomes routine becomes... the dance, the ritual. There's no escalation. Anything less than several hundred thousand to one million Palestinians in the streets of the West Bank, anything less than an unarmed massive civilian uprising... Anything less than... Homs.
Don't call me an activist; I am not comfortable with that at all. I read, I write, I go to school, I share things, I travel sometimes, I try to tell you the truth about things... That's it. All the compliments you give me? Give them to... firefighters. Give them to the firefighters in your district. That's where the praise should go. From what I've read, Rachel Corrie was a very humble girl. I don't think she'd be comfortable knowing there's a cafe in Ramallah with her face on it. It feels exploitative, and the last thing the folks in this part of the world need is another cafe.
My host Mom and Dad, Haifa and Adeeb, used to watch Al Arabiyyah News in the morning. After the recent assault on Gaza, now they watch RT Arabic and Al Manar; the Hezbollah shitshow. It's sad to watch this happen, but it's to be expected.
One of the men at the office shows me a video on the computer; a baby in Gaza is pulled from the rubble. He's alive after being buried in it for 48 hours.
It looks like Syria, it looks like Syria, it looks like Syria, it looks like Syria.
Big demonstration for Gaza... in Port Said.
Big demonstration for Gaza... in NYC.
Ramallah goes shopping.
We're heading to the Tent of Nations tomorrow
Sunday I will find out where the Westerners are going... and then head in the opposite direction.
The routine, the song, the dance, the ritual, the normal.
No Tent of Nations because the settlements around it are being targeted by Hamas. Hamas rocket hits nearby Gilo checkpoint. Pockets of IDF on a few street corners. Young men throw stones. Some tear gas happens. Wake up. Start all over.
A few young men throw stones x infinity. No adults, no women, no girls, no religious Muslim folks. A handful of boys every night. That’s it.
Hamas rockets = Zionist collaboration; you’re giving them exactly what they want. You’re doing half of the hasbara for them. Doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result. Rockets from Iran, with Hezbollah’s assistance. I’m holding Iran partially responsible for Gaza’s plight. You’re playing the ritual. You’re not saving the lives of any Palestinians. You’re not helping nobody. You're feeding into the cycle of violence that Israel depends upon for its PR.
Israelis in Sderot set up lawn chairs and watch Gaza die. Sderot; a Palestinian village, ethnically cleansed, then turned into a transit camp for Arab Jews used as slave labor by their Ashkenazi overlords.
The quiet during the morning is suffocating. That’s what makes me uncomfortable. It’s a loud silence that hurts. At least at night there’s some communication; booms and sirens and what not.
One of the volunteers was arrested at a little demonstration in a small village outside of town. They held her for a little while, let her go, not a scratch on her, but she can’t leave Bethlehem for 2 weeks. Her host family is not supportive of what happened. They don’t want one of those women who, ya know, lives outside the kitchen. So now she will be put in a different home because of the tension. Fucking sad. She got arrested for no reason. It didn’t accomplish anything… accept, of course, shine a light on the triple occupation; the IDF, the PA, the oppression of women.
At this demonstration a few Palestinian men wore outfits that were replicas of the prisoner uniforms in Hitler’s death camps. Now that I’m actually here I don’t approve of the tactic. I’m not in Auschwitz. This isn’t Poland circa 1939. I’m safer in occupied Palestine than I was in liberated Morocco. The nights are rough, the poverty is making me a little crazy, there are areas that are absolutely wretched, Gaza is a bleeding broken heart, but 8,000 people are not dying every 24 hours. Constantly bringing up the Nazi shit is not helping us. Only having a few dozen people at a demonstration is not helping us. A couple dozen boys throwing stones is not helping us.
Thundering sky… I’m sorry, Gaza.
Israelis get hospitalized for shock when the sirens go off. They are terrorized by their own culture.
The threat of the IDF raiding my home is real now and if I go off on them it’ll make everything worse. As long as they don’t put their hands on my temporary little brother I don’t think we’ll have a problem, but if they see that I am upset they could hurt the family and shit will escalate.
I don’t want war for people who want some fucking normalcy, who want to be left the fuck alone already.
I had no idea there were so many dead Syrians in Gaza. That’s all I’ve seen on the internet today; dead Syrian people who are being falsely misrepresented as Gazans. Outrageous.
Rawabi, the wonderful giant Qatari-funded project, the first Palestinian planned city, offering jobs and sustainable development, a glimmer of hope and real economic success for folks here… I was told that 2 years ago the pathetic Electronic Intifada ran an article chastising the CEO who is spear-heading this Godsend of a development project, Bashar Masri, because he allegedly does not adhere to BDS dogma strongly enough. That’s fucking hilarious.
I’m sorry Gaza I’m sorry. Fuck you Egypt.
I did it. I went to Jerusalem. By myself. I found my way to the Dome and Al Aqsa. By myself. I snapped one shot near the Muslim entrance before the Israeli guards chased me away. It’s open for non-Muslims only very early in the morning. I have to find a night/day when I am not exhausted and can make the trip to Jerusalem before the sun rises.
I got close. I found my way there. I can get back and take pictures for everyone <3 That one shot was worth more than allllllllll of the pretty things in the souqs that I wanted to buy.
The Holy Sepulchre. I think I’m Christian now. I was almost in tears the whole time. That’s what the churches here do to you. Neither my words nor my photos are gonna do it justice. Hearing Russian, Italian, Arabic, English speakers all at the same time. The imagery, the singing, the praying, the smells… All of it totally transports you somewhere else.
I found my way from Yaffa Gate, to Al Aqsa, to the Sepulchre, then to Damascus Gate, and I got on the right bus home. *victory dance*
I churched it out. This is all I want to look at now. Back in Bethlehem; the Syrian Greek Orthodox Church and the Milk Grotto. I am floating on air. There is nothing I can do to protect Gaza. What I can do is protect myself by engaging in suicide prevention; my nightmares have been terrible, very consistent, and it hasn’t been this bad since last fall when I returned from Egypt.
Lunch at Casa Nova; it’s the expensive place next to the Church of the Nativity. It’s quiet, never crowded, never filled with the white savior hippie kids. Yes, I will pay a little extra for food that reminds me of home and to avoid your ignorant Stalinoid asses. On the other side of the restaurant was a very formal looking meeting; CIA. They were totally CIA. White American men in suits and shades. It was a Palestinian Christian woman from the municipality and several Agent Smiths discussing Hamas. Too many rockets have hit the area.
“A Jewish state that respects its minorities is totally acceptable, right?”
“Do you feel that Hamas is ruining the good thing you guys got going here in Bethlehem?”
Fucking clueless settler colonialists. This woman, from the municipality, had to speak to them as if they were children. “Actually, no, that’s not the reality of the situation…” “Well, no, see, the Israelis arrested my husband…”
Above where they are sitting is a big screen TV. It’s playing Al Manar, the Hezbollah shitshow. It’s nothing but Gaza’s pain and the exploitation of that pain. Promo videos showing Hamas and Hezbollah working together. The glorification of the Iranian rockets that give Zionists half their hasbara, half their bullshit justification for committing a massacre of defenseless people. Whole families were wiped out a few miles away while I was skipping around Al Quds. *gun in mouth*
If you support the rockets it’s because you care about looking good.
“Pro-Palestinian” Syrian Holocaust deniers on Twitter suddenly give a fuck about the people of Yarmouk because Yarmouk held a massive rally in solidarity with Gaza.
You all want war and death and misery for a community of very chilled out people who just want some fucking normalcy; Israel, America (Jewish then non-Jewish), and resistance junkies (Hezbollkhara and Hamas groupies). In that order.
My host father, Adeeb, and all his 8 siblings want the 2-state solution. I don’t know what to tell ya. I now know quite a few Palestinians who want that. According to the non-Arab BDS dogmatists I know back in Philly my host father is a traitor.
Adeeb’s youngest sister is named Nahaiyya; it means “the end” because she was the last of 9 babies.
Nahaiyya; resistance junkies who fetishize Arab people. Nahaiyya; stop projecting your wet dreams of violent revolution onto others.
My temporary little Palestinian Christian brother saw this and asked me what my hand signal means. He doesn't know about Raba3... So I tell him about Raba3; the violence I heard, the lies that were told, the men crying like babies, the screaming, the liberal traitors... Now he knows. And that's all that we have the power to do; tell the truth and correct the narrative.
All’s quiet on the Western Front.
It’s not Rabaa (before it was killed).
It’s not Homs (before it was stolen).
It’s not even Taksim.
Small clashes in Ramallah and here near Rachel’s Tomb.
Small pockets of Jewish anti-Zionist resistance in Tel Aviv.
Normal assaults on the camps using tear gas.
Hebron is on fire but, again, that’s normal.
Imagine 2 million West Bankers confronting the wall in an organized, peaceful fashion. This country could be won in a street fight. Too fragmented, too divided, impoverished bantustans that can’t reach one another, grinded down, crushed.
The little brother studies Hebrew. The uncle works in construction on a Jewish settlement. Both don’t like Gazans because “they have too many kids.” They say Abbas is their President. Fucking sad.
The PA, the double occupation; you’re imprisoning and torturing yourselves half of the time.
ISIS; genocidal maniacs who work for Assad and kill the Syrian revolution… but they have leaders, don’t they? And funding, and man power, and weapons… did I mention leaders?
The uselessness of the NGO’s becomes apparent when you learn how many there are. Dheishe camp has 70.
AIC. Skype with Gaza. You know all this. We’ve been through this before.
A 7 day assault. Over 170 are dead, most are civilians, many are children, over 1,000 wounded, 900 homes destroyed. They target families. They wait until Iftar is over to strike. 70,000 are displaced. No bomb shelters. Shooting from the sky and the sea at the same time. “I don’t want another Nakba. I will die in my home. I will not make the same mistake my ancestors made.” Ambulances, mosques, schools, hospitals under siege.
Lose internet connection. Recall on Skype. Try again. Come back.
You know all this. We’ve been here before. Children are targeted. 700 airstrikes in a week.
Lose internet connection. Recall on Skype. Try again. Come back.
You know all this. We’ve been here before. All the medicine is running out. Not enough hospital beds. Life stops. Farmers can’t reach their land. Ramadan shut down. Drones, drones, drones.
Lose internet connection. Recall on Skype. Try again. Come back.
The ISM; they’re the human shields around the hospital in Khan Younis. Zero evidence of any Hamas activity at the hospital, of course. It’s being hit because it’s a hospital.
We’ve been here before. Every 2-3 years we are put through this and nothing changes.
Too many drones are over Gaza City. The internet is gone.
Walking home, past a car, a cloud of weed hits me in the face.
Israel wants you to get violent.
Israel depends on you to get violent.
You give them a gift when you get violent.
And the only greater gift… is your indifference.
I think I am a stranger here.
Totally nerve wracking experience. Sweet Jesus. x_X
Go through the checkpoint between Beit Lahem and Al Quds. The Israeli guards lie to me, tell me my visa is expired, trying to get a reaction out of me;
"The date says it's expired."
"No it's not; look at it."
"What did you say?"
"Look at the date it's fine."
"Where are you from?"
Go through security in front of the Western Wall. Lie through my teeth about who I am and why I'm here. 2 guards; one is an American Jew from Jersey and the other is an African Jew whose non-Jewish brothers and sisters are being held in the Holot concentration camp. Oh my fuck, I have to talk to you and smile? Son of a bitch...
Go through security to get close to Al Aqsa. Heart in my throat the whole fucking time. Tons of Zionists asking me a million questions. Lie through my teeth again and again. This is what I thought Ben Gurion airport was gonna be like but wasn't. They keep asking me about my notebook; guards, visitors, keep asking about my fucking notebook. I be like, "Shit, I'm a dead woman. If they want to look in my notebook I'm screwed. They're gonna see a ton of Arabic names and essays about Palestine. I'm so fucked."
Jewish death squads everywhere. NOT COMFORTABLE and they all smile at you and say good morning. They all got weapons all over them, lots of Black Jews amongst them, it's a serious mind fuck.
Crawling with soldiers. Crawling with police. Weapons and weapons and weapons. NOT COMFORTABLE I CAME HERE TO GET CLOSER TO ALLAH WHY ARE YOU HERE WITH ALL THE DEATH MACHINES AND THE UNIFORMS!? It felt like the whole Israeli military was stationed here.
The Dome I sobbed.
Get close to Al Aqsa; sound bomb goes off right near me. I am the only person around who flinches. It's the normal.
Lots of older Muslim people, men and women, just tryin to pray and sit in peace, but there be sound bombs and soldiers stomping... It felt toxic. I didn't stay long. It felt sick.
I put my hand and forehead on one of the pillars around the Dome and said, "Okay, I love you, yalla bye."
*sound booms sound booms sound boombs*
Just leave the Muslims alone already. God almighty, could you just let them have their holy sites please? Fuckin Hell.
Watching my host family, and all their friends, watch news about Gaza is the saddest thing. I can’t be around them now. They all sit around the TV and watch Gaza die for a few minutes, and then they change the channel to some of this garbage pop music video stuff. They want to know, but they don’t want to know. They want to acknowledge, but they want to escape. The hopelessness is very heavy. I walk almost everywhere, up the hills, down the hills, overlooking the city all the time; quiet, peaceful, friendly… submissive, afraid, tired… All the leaders are dead, in jail, or just plain impotent.
I keep telling everyone how safe I am here, but no one believes me. They don’t want to believe that the folks here are anything other than the pop culture image of the REVOLUTIONARY ANTI-COLONIALIST INTIFADA-MAKERS RAWR. I hear lots of Arabic being screamed into a megaphone outside… protest? No, he’s just selling his watermelons.
I wake up every morning to the sound of men singing Fairuz The house next to mine is being remodeled. The two men working on it sing Fairuz. I can’t sing along and I can’t tell you which songs they’re singing but I hear it and I know it’s her. Her album, live from Damascus in 1960; go buy that on iTunes immediately.
I can’t imagine being a Syrian man and having to sift through all these shabi7 videos; you’re watching your own body get torn apart over and over and over.
In 2012, the last time there was a massacre in Gaza that we couldn’t do anything about, we did see on the social media photos of dead Iraqis incorrectly labeled as dead Palestinians from Gaza; it happens. We are not experts in this field; we just have the internet. We see something terrible, we’re outraged, we share it without thinking. But this time around, there’s an extra sting to it. This time around it’s photos of dead Syrians being incorrectly labeled as dead Palestinians from Gaza… by people who deny the Syrian Holocaust. Syria is Obama’s Rwanda, the greatest refugee crisis since WWII, and they go through a Gaza type massacre on a weekly basis. That's why it hurts a little extra; you denied annihilation, now you are using photos of the annihilation you denied to shine a light on someone else's annihilation that you are more comfortable with acknowledging. And we keep having to talk about this shit because it keeps happening. Every fucking day, it keeps happening. Every fucking day there are apparently 464748464 dead Syrians in Gaza.We'll stop talking about this shit when you shabi7 sympathizers stop denying the Syrian Holocaust and then incorrectly labeling the evidence as being the crimes of Zionism.
Did you really just bring an SSNP flag to a rally for Gaza?
Did you really just bring a Hezbollah flag to a rally for Gaza?
Shitheads like you, shitheads too busy killing their own people, to ever be a threat to Israel.
Iran and Egypt and everybody busy working real hard to turn their countries into prisons above ground and mass graves below ground. No one is, or has ever, really come to the rescue.
The little brother and I are eating dinner. The TV shows the dead boys from Gaza. They’re all mangled up and torn to pieces. They were playing on the beach. An hysterical father. An ambulance. Loud music screaming "Falasteen" over and over again.
And we’re eating dinner… like it’s okay, like it doesn’t matter, like it’s normal.
It is. It is the normal now.
“We are just surviving, I think. There’s nothing for me here. We see on the internet the opportunities overseas, so we go there, and we don’t want to come back… Things got worse for us after Abbas went to the UN. Strange.”
esterday. To Ramallah. By myself. All day. Didn’t leave until this morning. Slept there. ISM. Computer madness. Jews Against Genocide press release with Tali and Neta. The IDF kills 3 Gazan children as we begin to work on it. Spokesmen Miko Peled. Ilan Pappe signs it. The Andalou Agency with the interviews becomes the most popular article that day.
Neta Golan saves my ass from the silly HLT curfew.
Photos from international rallies for Gaza involving bloody baby dolls to represent the all the murdered kids.
IDF shells Gazan hospital.
IDF demands hospital be evacuated.
Hospital filled with injured, sick people who can’t leave.
IDF tells hospital, “Why won’t you evacuate? Don’t you care about your patients?”
People get the info out to Reuters and BBC.
Hospital shelling dies down.
Ground invasion threat rises up.
Gaza is a one hour drive. One hour. No checkpoints, no borders, no obstacles. Gaza is 60 minutes away.
8,000 soldiers called up to invade. A mosque is hit. One missile = 47 injured. They are shooting at ambulances when they go to retrieve the injured even though international activists are there with them.
Computer madness. If Palestinians blew up an Israeli hospital, if Muslims blew up a Jewish hospital, if brown folks blew up a white folks hospital…
To the past; Palestinian kids in Syria on their way to school hear people being tortured in one of the detention centers in the middle of the day. They wanted you to hear this.
We miss you, Morsi. There are no good guys coming to the rescue.
Sun is up. Lie down. News of the Turks wrecking havoc on the Israeli embassy. Fuck yeah.
Wake up. 1 dead Israeli soldier. Over 230 dead Palestinian people. Israelis are threatening the life of the Arab CNN correspondent who covered the murder of the 4 kids on the beach.
Ground invasion? Ground invasion.
A very cute, little girl hugs and snuggles with me. And she is no longer only a cute little girl. She is the very precious and vulnerable living thing that they want to murder.
Zombie walk to the bus home. Neta gives me a book; Bel Canto. Terrorists and their hostages become human to one another and fall inlove.
Ride home from Ramallah was terrifying. I will never get used to your crazy driving. Almost home, almost home. Lunch, relax, shower, wait, phone rings; “We’re having a meeting, can you like ummm get here? Kay thanx.” For fuck’s sake…
Lifta, Dead Sea, Akka, Haifa, Galilee, Tiberias, Hebron. Wonderful. Traumatic. Hebron will be the worst day of my life.
Star Street in Beit Lahem has lots of security cameras because of how much sexual harassment has increased the past 3 years. The place is dependent on tourism. The place has police to specifically protect tourists. I’m left alone because the cameras are watching the men. We have been told, repeatedly, that the man who works at the Banksy shop is dangerous and to be avoided.
Home raids occur between midnight and 5 AM. The IDF come for you when you think you are safe.
Deliver those who are being taken away to death, And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back. If you say, "See, we did not know this," Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?
If you say, "But we knew nothing about this," does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?
Don't excuse yourself by saying, "Look, we didn't know." For God understands all hearts, and he sees you. He who guards your soul knows you knew. He will repay all people as their actions deserve.
You used to have an Iranian friend.
He went to Harvard. You thought he was great.
He supported you when you were going through the trauma of learning about the crimes of Zionism because your Jewish parents didn’t know shit about anything and had been lying to you about the situation your entire life.
He kept you in check so that your anti-Israel rage didn’t spill over into the field of antisemitism.
He taught you about Orientalism.
You so smart and cool, I wanna be just like you.
Then you went to Egypt, and you saw the Zionists and the fascist militants and the air that was thick with woman-hatred
A country that does not value human life because people die all the time
The friendship with the Iranian became strained.
He didn’t want to hear that the hatred of women was a problem,
Or about the revolution that killed itself,
Or that such an adventure almost murdered you.
Maybe he felt responsible for you ending up in such a place.
A culture of death
Then you became aware of Syria.
Then you and the Iranian friend couldn’t even speak to one another
Because he couldn’t give a fuck less about the horror,
Because he equates humanitarian intervention in the Syrian genocide to the American occupation of Iraq,
Because you think Iran lives on a highly sectarian monstrosity that has poisoned Shia Islam the way Israel has poisoned Judaism,
Because you think Iran is a contender for the Fourth Reich and Imam Hussein is rolling in his grave, Because the Iranian friend worried more about Shia shrines than about the lives of Syrian people.
Because you thought you were Shia.
Because you wanted to celebrate Ashura.
Like, a lot.
Only China beats out Iran in the capital punishment department.
Another culture of death.
Because you and the Iranian friend are in Palestine at the same time.
And you see him as your taxi is driving away.
And your heart breaks.
And there’s no rally here for Gaza for you to attend.
And there are no Syrians here for you to talk to.
And the Western far-left has turned the Palestinian cause into an intellectual ghetto.
And you knew that before you came here.
And now your Palestinian-Syrian internet ladyfriend in Gaza has been missing for 4 days.
You know she was born in the hospital in Yarmouk.
The hospital the Syrian Air Force bombed to pieces.
You know her sister is still in Damascus, with her Syrian husband.
And there was a chemical weapons attack in Syria last night for the 5 millionth time.
Another chemical weapons attack to be overlooked, ignored, denied
By the Western pro-Palestinian intellectual ghetto.
Over 300 dead Gazans
No Third Intifada, no Day of Rage.
People are too tired, too nice, too quiet
Morocco has big protests for Gaza.
Places you’ve been have big protests for Gaza
A Palestinian man tells you,
“I look at the TV but I don’t feel anything. In Gaza they are Palestinian like me but I watch the screen and I don’t feel anything.”
Another culture of death
Beit Lahem is eye-raping you today and you’re not sure why
The Syrians never eye-raped you
You are a stranger here
And should go home in a few weeks.
My temporary little brother is hilarious:
“Mubarak wasn’t so bad.”
“Yani… Saddam Hussein was worse.”
“Aywa, Saddam killed more people. There was the Kurdish genocide.”
“And he still had a lot of support.”
“Mubarak did not have a lot of support.”
“Maybe he didn’t kill enough people!”
“Assad still has support.”
“You see? The more people you kill the more others will like you.”
“Should I be a dictator?”
“A Palestinian Christian dictator… We have not had one of those yet, have we?”
The visit to Lifta was cancelled today. Don’t know why. Tour of Al Quds instead.
We meet our guide for the day:
“Dude… you’re not Palestinian.”
“How did you know? What gave it away?”
“Your whole face! You’re Egyptian!”
I was right; he’s an Egyptian Copt who was born in Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter.
Across the street from the Yaffa Gate is Mamilla, meaning “safe place of God.” Palestinian Arab neighborhood with roots going back to the late 1800’s. It was destroyed, taken over in ’48. Destroyed some more, taken over more in ’67. A wealthy Canadian Jew has turned it into a shopping mall.
The walls surrounding the old city are Turkish, built by Sultan Suleiman in the 1600’s. There are 8 gates. Yaffa Gate is supposed to be the Bab al Khalil; the door to Hebron. It leads to the road to Hebron through Beit Lahem. The platform I am standing on, outside the gate, is where Muslims come to pray when the IDF decides not to let them in so they can’t get to Al Aqsa. Yaffa Gate has a road going through it because of Germany’s Wilhelm II. He came to visit in 1897 and the Ottoman Turks opened up a road just for him.
The Jewish women here cover their hair with a scarf, but that’s not controversial because they are white and not Muslim.
The 2 tombs next to the Yaffa Gate upon entering are the engineers. You almost miss the tombs because the IDF are standing on top of them; black Jews serving the state that wants them dead. The Christian Quarter is straight ahead. The Armenian Quarter is to the right. Also to the right is Kishlei; a police station. First it was run by the Turks, then the Brits, now the Jews.
In the Christian Quarter the racist maniac Jewish settlers are doing their thing; taking over Arab houses through the barrel of a gun and with the support of the government. It began here after the 1st intifada. All of this insanity is completely illegal, but that doesn’t stop the Israeli state from giving the settlers bodyguards and weaponry. Now these very gentle, normal, average, nice Palestinian Christians who just want some fucking normalcy have to deal with violent crazy racist maniac Jewish settlers, armed to the teeth, living in the bigger houses that tower over them. That’s what it means when a house around these parts has the Israeli flag hanging from it.
The Holy Sepulchre. On a Sunday. Oh God <3 The singing, the praying, the incense, the chanting. My happy place.
“Nicole, the last time you were here, did you hear Jesus tell you that you were the Messiah?”
“No, but I do think I’m gonna have to convert to the Greek Orthodox when I get home.”
“But you’re the one who’s been to 5 million mosques, right?”
“Yeah. I’m surprised by this too.”
The Golgotha; where he was crucified. The Via de la Rossa; where he walked. Constructed by the Byzantines, 4th century, between Queen Helen and Constantine. The Greek Orthodoxy owns most of the sites. Assyrians are singing somewhere. Armenians are praying somewhere else. Across from the church is the Mosque of Omar, our first Caliph. He refused to turn the church into a mosque so he built his own instead. The Golgotha; you light the candles, you touch everything. I will go back on a Sunday alone.
I was convinced that I was gonna come home with a suitcase full of hijabs. I plan to come home with a suitcase full of Byzantine style Christendom paraphernalia instead.
The Christian women here cover their hair, but it’s not controversial because they are white and not Muslim.
The tomb of Christ. Air thick with incense. The singing. I’m happy. Armenians to the left. The Copts are behind the tomb. The Assyrians are behind them. Then the Catholics are around the corner. I’m happy.
Gaza’s population of Christians is only 1.7%. A few hundred families. 2-3 churches. 1 convent. I want to see you someday.
Up to a roof to get a view of the Dome and Al Aqsa. A group of Birthrighters is there. Silly, stupid Americans with an Israeli guard armed to the teeth. The illusion of danger. The illusion of strength.
Walk to Zion Gate. My skin is crawling. Too many young IDF. Too much Hebrew. The inside of the gate is severely pock marked with bullet holes from ’67.
The young IDF… they’re all bullies and jocks and wasps… everything I fought against in school age 5-19. Every bully whose hand I took and slammed in his own locker because he called my gay friend a faggot. Every jock who intimidated my handicapped friend during gym class, so when we played baseball I would push her in her wheelchair to all the bases with me.
For a few minutes it’s not even about Zionism; it’s about these fucking bullies who hurt the weak.
Mount Zion. The site of the last supper. The Franciscan order. <3
King David’s tomb. My skin crawls. Too much Hebrew. The singing is creepy.
Around the corner the Benediction church commemorating Mary; where she fell into eternal sleep, her body rising to Heaven to be reunited with her son. There’s singing <3
A Jewish woman walks by, wearing a shawl around her head, her 8 kids following her… but no one gets upset about that because she’s white and not Muslim.
The stores are selling machine gun pendants next to the Star of David pendants.
Oh GROSS; the Ashkenazi Hurva Synagogue. Built on top of a mosque, now what’s left of the mosque is closed.
Oh GROSS; close to the Western Wall, across from Al Aqsa, is the headquarters of the Third Temple builders; far right, messianic, racist psycho Orthodox Jews who want to build their temple on top of the Dome.
I’m just staring at the Dome. Everyone else disappears, all sound stops. If I look at it long enough I can take home parts of it in my eyes.
The Moroccan Quarter, a whole Arab town filled with people, is what used to be in front of the Western Wall. Then came ’67. Demolished, destroyed, murdered, ethnically cleansed.
We’re standing in front of the Western Wall. We’re told to go see it. My skin crawls. Ugly Americans are everywhere. I don’t want to touch it or look at it or be near it.
Make a left, down into the Muslim Quarter. I’m comfortable again; the familiar spices in the air, the souq, the cute ladies in the pretty hijabs, the giant colorful Ramadan lamps that are as tall as me. <3
Look up; Israeli flags. Ugh, no, why are you here? There’s a house that towers over the souq. It was taken over by a friend of Sharon, a friend complicit in the Sabra-Shatila massacres.
I’m exhausted every day. I am not sleeping. There are nightmares. They involve animal cruelty. They are metaphors. A bird, with the Pan-Arab flag colors, is repeatedly run over by a car.
We drive through Shoufat, where the teenager was murdered by the Jewish settlers; kidnapped, dragged into the woods, set on fire, burned to death. We stop at the wall in Beit Hanina; 2 young men, the age of the boy who was murdered, climb down from the wall, squeezing through the barbed wire.
They do this so they can get back and forth from Jerusalem.
Massacre in Gaza, freaking out, drunk
General strike. All the stores and NGO’s are closed today. A ghost town. Tonight lots of ambulance sirens.
Gaza massacre. During Ramadan. Gaza massacre. An hour away from me. Ohhh kossomak yisrael…
Everything is fucking disgusting.
Palestinian-American Basharists harassing Syrians who come to their rallies for Gaza are fucking disgusting.
Egyptian Zionists who engage in genocide denial are fucking disgusting.
You think the Israelis aren’t laughing at you when you behave like this?
They are laughing all the way to the bank.
They depend on you, habibi.
You who are too busy murdering your own people to ever be a threat to Israel.
You, who have turned the cause for Palestine into an intellectual ghetto.
You, who support Iran’s holocaust of the Syrian people.
You, who support the mass murder of Egypt’s Brotherhood.
You want me to compare and contrast the death tolls?
Will that make you uncomfortable?
You want me to stack up the numbers and compare Gaza today to Raba3 last summer?
Compare Gaza today to (insert every Syrian city and town and village here since 2011)?
Is it too soon for that?
Syrian Arab Army committing mass rape and ethnic cleansing and 36557326547595 chemical weapons attacks and 75% of your photos of dead Gazans are actually dead Syrians whose pain you deny.
Egyptian army setting the Sinai on fire, raping and torturing everyone in their jails, the worst repression since 1952, an army supported by the West, a revolution that committed suicide.
You support Sisi and Bashar? Tattoo a bright blue Star of David on your forehead because that is who appreciates your violence the most.
On a more positive note, I finally got one of the tour guides from al Lydd on the phone, thank God. He said he will take a photo of the Syrian flag that’s on the wall for me and send me the photo in a few days. Jesus H Christ, I so hope he comes through for me. Getting back to that area is mission impossible; a drug slum, far away, in a neighborhood that has no addresses, where the Israelis come at night on horseback with their monster bulldozers every evening.
Did I mention there be a lot of ambulance sirens tonight?
One of the new volunteers here is a girl from China. Gaza’s pain is waking her up. She’s talking about Tiananmen Square for the first time in her life. She’s talking about the rampant human rights abuses back home for the first time in her life. “I do nothing for my country. I am ashamed and feel guilty.”
There was a decent sized protest in Ramallah yesterday . During the daylight hours. A few hundred people. Get bigger. Go out when the sun is out. Get bigger. Please. Involve everyone. A couple dozen young men throwing stones after midnight is not enough; that is the normal. I repeat; that is the normal. We need more than the normal, more than what we are used to, more than what we expect. We need the entire community involved the moment the sun goes up. BIG protest in Nazareth earlier today. Someone says a few hundred, someone else says a few thousand. Wutever! Keep going, keep going. Shake the fucking earth! Over 500 Gazans are dead.
One of the new volunteers is a Jewish girl from Texas. She broke down today. Back home she is friends with a Syrian who recently emigrated, who she helped find a job. She saw him post on facebook a photo of Hitler saying, “I didn’t kill enough of them. I’m sorry.” This girl has been here for only a week and she’s heartbroken. Then our tour guide at the Holy Sepulchre alluded too much to the Jews killing Jesus. She’s breaking down today; “Why should I care when I get spat in the face? I gave up a month of my life to be here. You will only hurt me again.”
I’m about to keep it real, and you will get very uncomfortable and offended. You ready?
That cancerous sense of betrayal… Honestly, I feel that every fucking second. Not because I’m a Jew, but because I’m a woman.
Israel is an apartheid state for anyone who isn’t Jewish enough.
The Arab-Muslim world is an apartheid state for its female population.
No one can tell me otherwise. I’ve been around the block a little bit now.
You can’t throw your pseudo-intellectual Orientalism shit at me anymore and expect me to swallow it. The amount of energy that is put into keeping down your women, imprisoning your women, hating your women, hating public affection, hating intimacy, creating sexual repression, rampant sexual terrorism, honor killings, female genital mutilation, insanely high rates of domestic violence, hating everything a woman does no matter what it is, saying they’re all whores when you’re the only sluts I see…
You put that energy into opposing Israel? Palestine would’ve been liberated yesterday.
As much as I support the Egyptian Brotherhood, the Syrian Salafists,
as much as I support every Muslim person who is fighting and dying to create democracy in their home, always in the back of my mind;
“Dude, you are shit on women’s rights. Would you deny me my freedom?”
And none of you want to talk about this because
1; you know how fucking terrible the problem is and
2; you’re guilty as sin. You know you’re guilty as sin.
How do I know that you know?
How do I know that you’re guilty?
You can’t even say the word.
Go on. Say it. Real slow. Out loud. In public. And support it.
You can’t, can you?
Everything that I owe my freedom to, the air in my fucking lungs, the reason my eyes open in the morning… You can’t even acknowledge it.
You deny feminism, you deny me.
Deny the abuse in your home, then deny the police state violence outside your home.
If you think there isn’t a connection there you’re kidding yourselves.
I view your freedom as a Muslim, as an Arab, to be non-negotiable.
I expect this to be reciprocated.
You have imprisoned 50% of your own population in the kitchen, and then you wonder why your nightly demonstrations aren’t big enough to make a difference, you wonder why your governments are shit and totally lack any kind of compassion and mercy and sensitivity.
Deny women the right to work, to go to school, to have sex, to leave the house, to fucking exist. It’s ridiculous.
Everything I see here, read about here, write about here… Male violence. Over and over and over. Male violence. That 100 page book about Syria I did? 75% of that was about male violence. Male violence, fear of being viewed as weak, fear of intimacy, ignorant chauvinism on steroids, different shit but same story over and over. If you’re a man and you think this doesn’t hurt you… hahaha, okay. I talk to mostly men here, it seems. If you are reading this, you are most likely a man…
… are you gay and in the closet? I talk to a lot of men here. That’s means there’s quite a few of you who are gay and hiding it. How many of you young men, who speak with me every night and day, who speak to me about freedom, how many of you are imprisoned in the closet because to behave like a woman in your culture could be a death sentence?
You are facing down fascist military juggernauts out to exterminate you… and your sheikhs are arguing over how thick a woman’s socks should be and your gay brothers can’t hold their boyfriend’s hands in public for fear of bodily harm.
Guess who is large and in charge at the ISM office? Feminist ladies. Ruh oh.
Feminism. Say it. Say it, or we’re gonna have to break up. You wanna deny me my freedom? You wanna be a threat to my existence? Okay, goodbye! I am convinced that the implementation of feminist values would help prevent future Saddam Husseins from gaining so much outrageous popularity. Totally convinced.
Speaking of which, Israeli “academic” Dr. Mordecai Kedar thinks the IDF should start raping women and girls in order to prevent rocket attacks. I’m in a fucking insane asylum, and a different one awaits me when I go home because the Jewish American community is either supportive of the genocide in Gaza or completely indifferent. I’ll find a church I like and that’ll be the end of this Jewishness stuff because I really can’t handle it no more. Been trying to reconcile this for years. The fight is over now.
My little brother just informed me about yet another occupation; the Greek occupation. The Greek Orthodox Church buys up the land out from under the people, takes over the institutions, prevents Christian Arabs from becoming nuns and bishops and priests. Son of a bitch!
The Holy Land; turning spirituality into ethnicity, all sect and no religion, all politics and no God. Well done!
Big protest in Nazareth. Okay,check twitter. Israeli media says 500 people. Palestinian media says 3,000 people. American pro-Palestinian media says 20,000 people. they're getting bigger. the protests are getting bigger lots of action in beit lahem last night. now do this during the day, all day, involve the women and the adults and then we might get somewhere. treat every city like it's a tahrir square sit-in plz (minus the gang-rapes)
i just wanna sit here and cry all morning but i guess i should go eat breakfast and try to get some work done at the office instead. the news keeps getting worse and worse and worse... rumors of poisonous gas, piles of dead babies, all the hospitals being annihilated...
this was my fucking nightmare. a repeat of the egypt situation last summer. for there to be a massacre happening nearby and there's absolutely nothing i can do about it. gaza is one hour away. forget the borders and the checkpoints. gaza is, naturally, technically, one hour away from me.
i can't fuckin breathe. i can function well for a few minutes aaaaaand then it's gone.
Crushing depression and I want to leave but I don’t want to leave. If I verbally rip your head off for no reason it might be you but it’s more likely me.
Beit Lahem is back to normal; the strike is over. The clashes during the night are erased by the sun, as if they never happened. They remain concentrated near the wall and Rachel’s Tomb. The camps are under assault but it’s “the normal” assault. A few extra demonstrations have popped up in the villages near Beit Jala.
How many Palestinian Gandhis are being tortured by the PA as you read this?
The minuscule amount of hope I am feeling is coming from the US. So many giant rallies for Gaza, and I’m watching the media change. I swear to God, on my honor, I’m watching the media creep along and get better. I compare 2009 to 2012, compare 2012 to 2014, I swear to Christ I am seeing a difference.
… not fast enough. Never fast enough. Samantha Powers wrote about this; genocide is so overwhelming and massive and horrific that average folks can’t comprehend what’s happening. Speaking of which, have you ever accidentally cut your finger so badly that you scream and immediately think of the Syrian mukhabarat? Sweet Jesus, what did I do to myself?
My host family didn’t watch the news this morning for the first time in a week. They can’t handle it anymore. The news isn’t on the big screen TV at Casa Nova either. People want to pretend it’s over. Over 600 are dead. 4,000 are injured. Almost 100 kids are dead.
Our guide today is the legendary walking talking encyclopedia that is Prof Mazin Qumsiyeh.
Al Wallaja. You know this story. The stolen land, the ethnic cleansing, the Jordanian collaborators, the impoverishment, the uprooted community, the cemetery where even the dead aren’t allowed to rest in peace and be left alone by the Israelis. You know this story.
We meet a sweet old man, Abu Nidal, a farmer who gives us almost all of his figs, who couldn’t hurt a fly, who is warm and generous when I think he should be homicidal and bitter after what has been done to him. He used to be rich. He had so much land. The Israelis took everything. Again and again and again. They take everything. His kids are gone. One in Sweden, one in Chile. If they want a better life they have to leave, are forced to leave. He has a daughter. She lives in Jerusalem. 5 minutes away. He’s not allowed to go visit her. The result of Oslo. The result of the PA. You know this story.
“This slow execution… the world said we are unwanted people… gone like the Iroquois… But we are useful; the Israelis need us to experiment on. They have their weapons that need the testing.”
“The Arab countries all conspire against us… You, who oppress, God watches, you will pay a price.”
“They, over there. They, the settlement. They don’t want to live together. They want to destroy everything and live by themselves. They have different values.”
Nidal speaks Hebrew fluently. He has Israeli friends who assist him financially now that his livelihood has been destroyed and stolen over and over and over by the state.
“We are sick now. Broken. Sick people can’t help one another. We need help from the outside.”
“Americans; you have the homeless in your streets. You go take care of your people. Why you take care of Israel when you have homeless people? I don’t understand. There are poor Jews in Israel. There are Jews in Israel that are poorer than Palestinians here, but the state spends millions on the settlements.”
After every sad thing he says, Nidal gives us a big smile and a “ahlan wa sahlan.”
“The PA is an Israeli concoction. We all know this. This not a secret. They put down the demonstrations, don’t let the youth protest. This why we can’t rise up, why we can’t do more for Gaza. But what could we do?”
“Protect Jews? What are you talking about? Everyone knows what you did to those Yemeni people! You took their babies. And you hate black Jews so much you won’t let them donate blood but make them serve in the army. You sterilized the Ethiopian women. This how you protect Jews?”
“Israel feels like the claws of the cat. The cat is Europe a lot of the time.”
“Some settlers are victims too. They ignorant, brainwashed, the system put them here, put them in danger. I feel bad for some of them. They scared and angry and not aware of anything. The system put them here, not caring for their safety. The state doesn’t care; its people are disposable.”
Mazin has been arrested by everyone; the Israelis, the PA, the Jordanians, the FBI. Everyone gets a turn. Abu Nidal is speaking in Arabic and Mazin is translating for us. Nidal laughs about something, says “Hitler” a few times. Mazin doesn’t translate that part, and says something different.
The Jewish girl isn’t here with us anymore. The blonde from Texas who got her feelings hurt. She saw too much antisemitism from the Arab friends on facebook, then our tour of the Holy Sepulchre got too “Jews killed Jesus” flavored. She broke down yesterday and now she’s gone. She didn’t last a week.
If I ever witness the PA do what they do my eyes will bleed. I hope I don’t run into it. I can’t handle that shit. I can’t handle a Palestinian beating and torturing another Palestinian.
Kerry went to Cairo, sat with mass murdering Sisi, said some stupid shit.
Illyas, my lil bro here, tells me that people were not allowed to have motorcycles here in Beit Sahour for a long time. Only a few years ago did the Israelis allow them to start to purchase them because… ya know… terrorist moozlim scary a’rab motorcycles, ermehgherd! And they control what kind of cars can be brought into the area too. You can’t buy a Ferrari because… well… that’s a very fast car… so, ya know… terrorist moozlim scary a’rab Ferraris… right. Mohammed Asaf, Mr Arab Idol, bought himself a Camaro. The Israelis wouldn’t let him bring it here. He has to keep it in Dubai.
What they want more than motorcycles? Another Arafat. They are starving for another Arafat. I hear his name mentioned constantly. The charismatic political powerhouse who actually did something for them. The PA doesn’t do shit for anyone other than police brutality on behalf of the Israelis. What the PA gave the people? Passports. The PA gave you some fucking passports. Aren’t you fucking grateful?
Adeeb, host father, worked as a principal at the school nearby. This school is where Arafat would fly to, where he would land in Bethlehem.
Illyas tells me about how meaningful it was to have the Pope here; to see the helicopters fly him in, to see him go to the wall, to see him travel without the bullet proof car. “Oh… someone cared about me a little.”
The uncle is here and fighting with my host parents. The uncle packed up and moved to Germany. The uncle wants to sell part of the family’s land. It’s such a difficult decision; your land that you are not allowed to use, to go to, your land that once made you wealthy, stolen from you but you can still see it. Do you sell it? Resign yourself to the situation and make the most of it? Do you hold onto it as a matter of principle?
Check the e-mail; a friend is dead. A few weeks before I left I got in touch with a childhood friend who I hadn’t spoken to in years. I found out that she’s a drug addict in a rehab clinic. I found her and spent a day with her. Gave her mother my e-mail address so she can let me know if anything happens. Well, the thing happened. They let her out, she relapsed, and OD’d/suicide/who the fuck knows.
Miriam. Her name was Miriam. From my childhood. She was born in Russia and came to the US when she was a kid. We met in elementary school. She was like me; super sensitive with crushing depression and piss poor social skills without medication. We lost touch during our late teens. She’s dead now. And she was your average American Jewish Zionist. She told me that she went on Birthright a few years ago and that it was the happiest experience of her life. “I belonged somewhere. I did not feel like an alien. It was not Russia but I was home. I was no longer this weird foreigner.” She told me, “When I get better I will go back to Israel.”
If she had stayed in Israel she’d be alive and happy.
there are nightmares and i am not sleeping. i'm supposed to share the same land as the gazans and try to sleep at night? you're fuckin crazy. i am heartbroken and lashing out at people. if i see one more SSNP flag at an american rally for gaza i will take a fucking internet hiatus.
I've got nothing for you today except a profound sense of saddness, loss, and failure.
Almost 700 murdered.
Over 4,000 injured.
The Israelis put us, put them, through this
Every 2-3 years because they know they can get away with it.
A beautiful country has been destroyed
A great people have been humiliated and broken
And we should all be ashamed.
You should all be ashamed.
We should all be ashamed for what we have allowed to happen
To this land and it's people.
Because Palestine's enemies are right here with me.
The hippies, the peaceniks, the white saviors, the liberal Zionists, the fake leftists
Who speak of dialogue and coexistence and peace and religious tolerance
In the middle of an ongoing genocide that's happening right in front of them
They want Palestine to redeem them
Rather than the other way around
I work with the enemy
I have to eat lunch with the enemy
I have to sit in Arabic class with the enemy
The enemy you allowed to come here
Egyptian pretend "revolutionaries"
You wash away your guilt and shame in wet dreams of Palestinian soil
But you don't actually liberate this country or bring home it's children
And you certainly don't take care of the Palestinian people
Exiled to your villages and cities
If anything, you make them think
An occupied West Bank isn't so terrible
That's what you do to them
I shouldn't have to be here
Homesick, tired, hurting, sad, unhealthy
To relay this to you
I shouldn't have to be here
Ripping innocent people's heads off left and right
Out of frustration because
What else am I supposed to do exactly?
But you know this story
You know everything I'm going to say
And you know what will happen to Gaza tomorrow
And we should all be ashamed
i can't risk to be arrested; they'll deport me. i have to see more and experience more and go teach english to the kids in nazareth my last week here. if i kept working in an office, this is good; i won't do something i'll regret
rachel corrie died because she was alone. not enough people were standing there with her. when i have an army behind me then yes lets go face down the bulldozer. where is my army?
The British occupation of Palestine isn't over.
The BG Group. It took over gas exploration rights in Gaza’s offshore drilling areas in 1999. This agreement was signed with the PA. 2000; they found the gas fields they were looking for. Arafat held a special ceremony for the occasion. People hoped that they could join other Gulf countries as a major gas exporter. Gaza’s gas reserves are valued at more than $6.5 billion. The BG Group and another company from Greece took a combined 90% of the ownership with only 10% for the Palestinians. Israel is the sole purchaser of this 10% so they set their own conditions to any sale agreement. Gaza’s off-shore oil fields are holding 1.6 trillion cubic feet in recoverable gas. Since the Oslo Accords were signed Israel has systematically reduced Gaza's maritime jurisdiction from 20 nautical miles down to only 3.
2000; the BG Group originally set Egypt in its sights for the sale of Gaza's gas. Tony Blair coerced the BG Group to lean more towards Israel. The plan involved developing an underwater pipeline that would take Gaza’s gas to an Israeli refinery in Ashkelon. This deal specifically would have provided the Israeli government with 10% of its annual energy requirement. Tony Blair literally intervened on behalf of the Israeli government.
2003; Ariel Sharon actually vetoed a deal that would have allowed would allowed the British to supply Israel with Gaza’s natural gas, but that’s not what the Israeli imperialistic endeavors dictate. Sharon took over in 2001 and under him the Israeli Supreme Court decapitated Palestine’s sovereignty over Gaza’s off-shore gas fields. He said, point blank, “Israel would never buy gas from Palestine.” The whole Eastern Mediterranean coastline, the Levant Basin, is home to a large amount of gas and oil reserves. Israel would like to see all of these gas fields under its control.
Negotiations between the Israelis and the Brits fell apart in 2007 due to Hamas' victory. The BG Group withdrew from the negotiations with Israel and even closed its office there. Israeli defense minister and former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon in 2007 stated, “Hamas will either benefit from the royalties or it will sabotage the project and launch attacks against Fatah, the gas installations, Israel – or all three… It is clear that without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place…” Gaza’s democratic ambitions were ruining Israel’s billion dollar oil and gas deal with Europe, the UK in particular. Hamas declared that all of the Israeli government’s agreements with the PA, including the deal over Gaza’s natural gas resources, were illegitimate... which they are.
2007; Knesset approves Olmert’s proposal to purchase gas from the PA. That summer a BG Group official told the Jerusalem Post that "BG and Israel have arrived at an 'understanding' that will transfer funds intended for the PA's Palestinian Investment Fund into an international bank account, where they will be held until the PA can retake control of the Gaza Strip." Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya'alon, the IDF chief of staff at the time, advocated that the only way for Israel to successfully develop Gaza's gas fields, and keep all the wealth to themselves, was through an military incursion to destroy Hamas and its constituency. There was also that contract signed in 1999 between the BG Group and the PA under Arafat that the Israelis wanted to get rid of. Cast Lead began in December 2008 but was planned in the previous June... the same time that the Israelis contacted the British, hoping to resume the negotiations over Gaza’s gas fields. Negotiations were ongoing as late as October of 2008.
Late 2010 Netanyahu described securing the offshore gas fields in the Levant Basin, which includes Gaza’s offshore gas fields, as “strategic objectives that Israel’s enemies will try to undermine… Israel will defend its resources.”
2011; Netanyahu starts negotiations with the Zionist proxy PA over the development of Gaza’s natural gas. Netanyahu wasn’t sure how reliable the gas deliveries from Egypt would be in the near future. #Jan25 These talks included Netanyahu's personal envoy Yitzak Molcho and... Tony Blair. All Palestinian leaders were excluded.
Scientists of Israel’s Nation Gas Authority have said that the government made a conscious decision not to publicize that Israel will need 50% more natural gas than has been expected. Israeli off-shore reserves will be empty in under four decades. This report was covered up until Ha'aretz obtained a leaked copy.
May 2013; Israeli officials were in negotiations with the BG Group. If everything went ahead as planned Gaza’s natural gas fields could be producing gas by 2017 and generating up to $7 billion of revenue annually.
Early 2014; Hamas condemned the PA’s deal to buy $1.2 billion worth of gas from the Israeli’s over a 20 year period. Also, the PA has meet with the BG Group to develop the Gaza gas field while totally excluding Hamas, of course.
Moshe Ya’alon, the former IDF chief of staff who advocated the destruction of Gaza in an effort to steal it’s natural resources in 2007, is the current Israeli defense minister and thus the man in charge of Israel's current massacre in Gaza. Israel is looking to avert an energy crisis. Palestine being internationally recognized as a sovereign state would solidify its offshore rights, and therefore it would be able to keep its oil wealth.
There are 10-20 occupations here at any given moment. It takes that much colonialism and corruption and global conspiracy to prevent Palestine's liberation.
There was a decent sized protest in Beit Lahem last night Nothing like Ramallah (if that were the case it would’ve woken me up and my family would’ve attended it) but I’m told that all the different factions were there and marching together. The children handed teddy bears to the few IDF fuckheads who showed up. One young recruit, he smiled at the kids, accepted the teddy bear, and his commander immediately sent him away in a jeep.
Today was al Auja; the Environmental Center with the Friends of the Earth Middle East. The al Auja Spring, an extremely important source of water that has recently been annexed by the Zionists and made into a national park. The Jordan Valley is the water apartheid on steroids. The valley covers 30% of the land, and before the Naksa ‘67 over 250,000 Palestinian people lived here. Today only 65,000 folks are left. Oslo gave it to the Zionists. The bullshit peace process gave it to the Israelis.
Settlements, military zones, fake nature reserves, more settlements, more military zones. Place is crawling with nasty racist Jewish settlers, all terrorizing the people. 25,000 of the remaining 65,000 Palestinians in the live in Jericho; a prison surrounded by checkpoints and barriers. The Israelis control 90% of the valley.
Before ’48 the people were very wealthy; 95% of their economy was based on agriculture, the Jordan river flowed all year round, enough water for everyone. Now everyone is totally impoverished, the river is polluted and drying, people are forced to work as slaves on the Jewish settlements. Now only 20% of their economy is agriculture. Getting only 60 shekels per day to work on constructing the racist Jewish colony that is destroying your country and taking away your livelihood. No rights, no insurance, nothing.
Sewage from the settlements goes directly into the fucking river, and they built dams so they take all the water that they don’t pollute. They showed us photos of the river from the 1800’s; I couldn’t believe the immense biodiversity that used to be in this miserable desert. You Zionist sons of bitches; you took the gateway to the Garden of Eden, where Jesus was baptized, and you turned it into a desert that is now your garbage dump.
And now the Dead Sea is drying up as the Jordan River dries up. Now it’s got over 3,000 dangerous sink holes. The Palestinians are stuck with these private artisan wells to get their water; it’s shallow, salty, impossible to get a permit for, and the Israelis control how much of this shitty water you can actually get if you manage to get a well. The al Auja spring made enough water for everyone here. It was sufficient for everyone. Somebody fucking stole the whole thing. It’s a myth that there’s not enough water to go around. It’s a myth that there’s a battle for water in this country. There is enough for everyone. The Israelis get 4 times more water and there are 8 settlements around al Auja. They are populated by the super crazy dangerous Jewish settlers from Gaza; armed to the teeth and messianic. Everything rots because the trees are thirsty, because the settlers take everything over and over.
6,200 Jewish settlers controlling 50% of the land… a land that is home to 52,000 Palestinian people, but they only get to control 6% of the land. And the Israelis built Road 90; the Death Road. It goes right through al Auja, cuts it in half. Al Auja was divided after the 2nd intifada. Lots of children here are now forced to cross this dangerous highway in order to get to school and that’s why it’s called the Death Road. The highway connects the settlements to one another. God forbid your child get run over by one of the Jewish settlers as he or she is walking to school because they’ll die before the ambulance gets to them; checkpoints turn a 5 minute walk to the hospital into a 30 minute waiting game.
Internationals are not safe here either. I remember seeing a video of a demonstration here in early 2012; Norwegian activist was hit in the face with a gun and then some talk show lady host in Tel Aviv described the activist as a Nazi because he had blonde hair.
Yes, home demolitions, as always; piles of rubble everywhere. We’re driving, it’s nothing but miserable desert, we go over a hill and… Green. It’s green. It’s the settlers. Their date trees. There’s a bright green forest over the hill. Son of a bitch. By the way, they water those dates with sewage water. Israeli dates are small, dark, the worms go for them real quick, and they have to be refrigerated. You steal the land, the water, the air, the sky, and you have no idea how to use any of it properly. Lulz.
One Jewish settler has his own forest, has more water than the entire village.
We meet with a Bedouin man, Misai, and his wife. He was forced here by the Israelis; he’s originally from the Be’er Sheva area. His little shack, his farm, what little he has, all up for being demolished. 75 families here are at risk. The IDF enters their homes, without warning, just to terrorize them.
“I respect women and they send in a woman soldier. They send in a woman soldier with her gun to frighten me, to frighten others. I will not yell at a woman. What am I supposed to do?”
The settlers get all the electricity and the water. Misai and the other Bedouins get nothing. A settler comes in and within 24 hours gets electricity and water. Misai has been living here for 35 years and gets nothing. Misai is a butcher who raises animals and knows his way around the mountains, so he’s been able to do kind of okay for himself; he has a nice car, can feed himself and his wife. Poor farmers who try to take back some of their water from the settlers get fined for 9,000 shekels. That’s 5 years worth of income for the whole village. The IDF harasses the farmer relentlessly, sometimes stealing their livestock and giving it to the settlers.
Misai apologizes for not giving us tea or coffee; it’s Ramadan. He apologizes for this 3 times. He points to me and says, “You look Arab, you should be fasting anyway!”
The village had a school nearby but the settlers made it unsafe. People are afraid to leave their homes, afraid for their children 24/7. And poisonous snakes live here. They weren’t a problem until the occupation. Now it takes forever to get to the hospital in Jericho. Now people die from snake bites.
“Area C, Area A… doesn’t matter! Soldiers go everywhere. It’s a farce.”
The village mosque is a steal shack where the IDF harass people all the time. They can’t even have their little mosque. They haven’t been allowed into Al Aqsa for Ramadan this year either. The kids don’t want to go to the mosque anyway. The children now associated the mosque with the scary Jewish soldiers and their weapons and the teargas.
“They want to make life worse and worse so we’ll leave. Where am I supposed to go?”
I ask Misai about the PA: “They protect the Israelis from the Palestinians. They always call Netanyahu, they act like wives who are controlled by their husbands. The PA is Netanyahu’s wife. They useless; they can’t get water for themselves, how you bring me water? Waste of my time.”
“What would you do in our situation? Getting through the checkpoints depends on the mood of the soldier. A rocket is me asking for our rights.”
One time Misai managed to get to Tel Aviv to see the beach. It was a nightmare for him. The police beat him up, stole his ID, arrested him for “missing” his ID, and when they finally let him go back home they were waiting for him in his house.
“A British woman activist saved my life. We were out in the field with the sheep. The soldiers showed up. I know they would’ve shot if the British girl was not there.”
Misai’s cousin died during the 2nd intifada. He was in his home. A sniper took him out when he got too close to a window. Misai was offered money to collaborate with the IDF. A big check was placed in his hands. Misai ripped it up.
Back in the van, I’m told 60 Gazans have been murdered this morning. It’s not even lunchtime yet and the IDF has murdered 60 people in Gaza.
Qumran. The tourist spot for the Dead Sea. I’m gonna be sick. Ahava is everywhere. I have to walk through an Ahava store. The men who work in the diner are Palestinians with Israeli citizenship; forced to speak in Hebrew and English to all the Israelis and Europeans who come to visit, then speak Arabic to one another in private in the kitchen when no one is looking. The white savior hippies I’m stuck with are shopping at Ahava. I’m gonna be sick.
Kalia Beach at the Dead Sea. I hate you. I hate you, Dead Sea, I hate you. You are covered in half-naked Israelis and Europeans. The mud feels like silk but the water is hot and slimey. Obnoxious American party music is pumping in the background.
I walk to the spot where the Israeli teenagers just were… They made a tank. They made a little tank, on the ground, out of the mud on the beach. Genocide in Gaza and you’re relaxing on the beach, making little death machines out of the mud. I’m gonna be sick. The people who work here, the janitors, are Palestinian.
The fifth or sixth or seventh occupation (I’ve lost count at this point) is the tourism industry.
Looking at the mountains; it’s Jordan. If and when the next Salahuddin shows up with his army I want him to come over that mountain and wreck this place. Hit them where it hurts; their precious beach, their precious Dead Sea with the mud and the Europeans and the Birthrighters and the hipsters in the bikinis. You wreck this fucking place.
I am not sleeping and I can’t function. The heat is relentless, the homesickness severe. It was difficult enough for me to force myself to come here in the first place because of my intense Zio-guilt, and now I’m here and they’re raping Gaza and tearing it apart while I’m an hour away so I can’t function… and there isn’t much I can do anyway.
Holy Sepulchre. On a Sunday. I was there all morning and afternoon. I touched everything, I attended the Assyrian service that goes on behind Christ’s tomb, was asked by tourists several times if I was Palestinian, I had a shopkeeper customize a cross necklace for me. The praying, the singing, the imagery, the incense, the candles, it’s the happy place
Walking home from the bus stop, a man and his little boy are going the same way as me. His son is on his shoulders, holding onto his dad’s ears. There are several thousand photos of me and my Dad just like this. The man says he loves my tattoos and gives me a handful of candy from the bag he’s carrying.
If I was that father, that very sweet and gentle man who worships his baby boy, I don’t know if I would want a Third Intifada. I would be scared to death of the repercussions, scared to death of what could happen to my baby boy if the Jewish death squads decided to heavily invade Beit Lahem, scared to death of losing what little security and stability I’ve managed to get a hold of. If I knew I had some serious support it would be different, but there are no invading Arab armies coming to save the day.
Home. The grandchildren are here. The host family is BBQing. They are used to the pain, the oppression, they can find ways to continue to live and do things and be happy. They can sleep at night.
10 people killed, 600 injured in the rallies for Gaza here. Several others have been killed and injured by settlers and Jewish mobs. It’s impossible for me to tell now if this is the normal or if a serious escalation will take place. The military occupation, the colonization, it’s all so severe that people are killed every day. It feels quiet, it feels like people are recovering from the past week. Many people are still being hospitalized.
A few thousand anti-war demonstrators in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square last night, about 5,000 people, only half the size of the Third Intifada-appetizer that just went down in Ramallah, but it included Combatants for Peace and the Bereaved Families Forum. They were met by a few hundred right-wingers, the baby killers, the Kahanists who scream “Death to Arabs” and “Send leftists to Gaza.” They spit, they throw eggs, they assault, the police allow it to happen while they pepper spray the activists.
We need outside help. It’s changing but not fast enough. There’s a new poll. Only 25% of young Americans support Israel’s genocide in Gaza.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian Nazi army has destroyed over 1,600 of Gaza’s tunnels. I swear to fuck, there are now parts of Egypt that are more Zionist than America. I hope you’re happy as you rot in jail, Tamaroders. You deserve to be there and I have no sympathy. You made the revolution commit suicide, what you did to the Brotherhood is unforgivable, you were fucking idiots and sell outs, and I have no sympathy. Morsi, for all his incompetence, was the best goddamn thing to happen to you in your whole lives and in your parents’ whole lives, and you threw him away. Kossommmmmak Masr.
Gaza needs the Ikhwan and Gaza needs a Morsi. EGYPT IS ISLAMIC STATE WANTS DEMOCRACY Y U NO UNDERSTAND U NASSERIST PIECE OF SHIT ALLAHU AKBAR Why is Egypt rooting for Israel to crush Hamas? Whose fault is this? God almighty, there is NOTHING worse than the Arab “liberal.” You shed crocodile tears for Gaza while being responsible for the military coup that is now blocking aid to Gaza and turning your entire country into a prison. Your leaders, your best, your brightest, now dead or imprisoned or exiled or in hiding. You love Palestine but not the Palestinians. How come I am more comfortable with the Ikhwan than you and I saw a few thugs associated with them behead a Christian in front of me last summer in broad daylight? For fuck’s sake Egypt GET ON MA LEVEL
Where is Razan Zeitouneh? :’( </3
Church of the Nativity. Every morning. Alhamdulilah.
Bad news; Mazin Qumsiyeh is a Basharist idiot. His facebook wall is atrocious; filled with tinfoil hat conspiracy theories about ISIS and Syria. The good news is that there are a few folks there calling him out on his bullshit. Fuckin sad. The walking talking encyclopedia is a fool when it comes to the greatest refugee crisis, the worst humanitarian disaster, since WWII. Maybe if he got some Syrian friends this problem would be fixed. That’s really all it takes; go talk to some Syrians, read a few books about them, you’ll understand this shit. I promise. What’s your fucking excuse for not doing this? I’m an American, Damascus is not in my backyard, yet I have no problem understanding what is happening to these people and being completely fucking outraged by it. What I don’t understand is the ignorance I’ve seen here. Boys in Ramallah still sharing photos of Aleppo circa 2013 and saying it’s Gaza 2014. What is wrong with you? You don’t talk to Syrians on the internet? Jesus H Christ! Go talk to some Syrians on the internet! And then head to the library! What is the problem!? I’ve seen libraries and bookstores here! The Bethlehem Peace Center has a bookstore. There are books about Syria, about the tyranny, about the oppression, in that bookstore. GO READ SOMETHING.
I’m worried that the worst enemy of the solidarity movement, at this point, is itself. You retweet blood thirsty monsters like Galloway? Okay then, so don’t cry when no one takes you seriously. Palestinians deserve better, especially when Hezbollah and Iran and the Assad regime are murdering them even more than Israel does. Over 2,000 Palestinians in Syria are dead. Even Wikipedia can get this shit right (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_Syrian_Civil_War)
Reality: Rafik Hariri. The countdown to his murder at the hands of Syrian agents in Lebanon began five months before his death. A powerful, popular, moderate Sunni Lebanese politician is a huge threat to Syrian hegemony, so Bashar offered political and financial support to Hariri’s rival; President Emile Lahoud. Hariri was obviously much more experienced for the job; he headed five cabinets during his tenure, dominated the country's post-war political life, was credited with reconstructing Beirut after the devastating 15-year civil war, and had worked as Lebanon’s prime minister for a decade when Lahoud came onto the scene. Hariri met with Bashar al Assad in Damascus 2004 to discuss this conflict of interests. Hariri was warned that if he got in the way of Lahoud’s power grab either him or Walid Jumblatt would lose their lives. Bashar threatened to come after Hariri’s family “anywhere in the world.”
Rafik Hariri left the meeting in 2004 knowing that he was a dead man walking, and he decided to follow through with his death sentence for the greater good of Lebanon. He submitted his resignation as Prime Minister and announced to the world that he was considering a presidential campaign against Lahoud. His decision was met with a tremendous outpouring of public support. Now Bashar began to sweat; Hariri called his bluff and his presidential campaign could lead to a large popular movement against the Syrian occupation. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1559 calling for a “free and fair electoral process” in next Lebanese presidential election, stating that foreign interference was not allowed, and calling for the remaining Syrian troops to leave. Hoping to maybe save his life Rafik Hariri met with Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Walid al Moallem and tried to convince him that Resolution 1559 was not his doing. Everyone knew that Hariri had enough votes in parliament to block Lahoud’s presidential extension. A huge failure for Bashar in his father’s favorite satellite state was around the corner. This is inspite of the fact that Hariri was not a threat to the power of Syria’s Shia Lebanese allies, Hezbollah, in the slightest. In an interview with the BBC in 2001 he described Hezbollah as being “the ones protecting Lebanon against the Israeli occupation” and he called for sanctions against Israel. He also refused to send Lebanese troops into Iraq and wanted no part of the American neo-con agenda, unlike Bashar al Assad who was (and probably still is) a very important partner in America’s “War on Terror” (the agenda? Kidnap, torture, imprison, murder all the Muslims you can find).
February of 2005; Rafik Hariri was killed when explosives concealed inside a parked van were detonated as his motorcade drove passed the St. George Hotel in Beirut. 22 people in all died in the massive explosion. Hezbollah shamelessly blamed Israel, but no one other than Hezbollah’s groupies bought the propaganda. Hariri’s murder was so morally repulsive, and the culprits so obvious, that Lebanese sovereignty suddenly mattered to outside world. The sloppy assassination backfired tremendously; the movement to end the Syrian occupation was strengthened and the Sunni silent majority of Lebanon came to life temporarily during the Cedar Revolution. The February 14th assassination of Rafik Hariri became Bashar’s defining action of the early 2000’s. Rafik knew Bashar was going to murder him if he did not back down. Rafik did not back down. There’s a word for that; a martyr.
Stupid shit that some Palestinians and A LOT of solidarity activists believe; Rafik Hariri was killed by the West to sow disunity… but Rafik Hariri was pro-West so it’s good that he was killed. I shit you not, that’s the logic they use; he was pro-West but the West killed him. lol ok
4 months later the Assad-Hezbollah-Iran trifecta from Hell took out Samir Kassir. 6 months later they killed Gebran Tueni.
By the way, look up what “jihad” really means. Jesus Christ was a jihadist.
Don’t ask me about Shujaiyyeh. I can’t do it. I am too close to it. I can’t do it. I feel sick every moment. I can’t say the death toll and I can’t look at the photos. I am right here and the Jewish monsters did this to you an hour away from me. I can’t touch it yet. It took me almost a year before I was able to discuss Raba3.
The locals are no longer afraid of the tattoos. They come up and talk to me about them now. They are used to seeing me and aren’t nervous around me anymore… but I think this is my last week in Beit Lahem. This weekend is the Galilee and from there I find my way to Nazareth to go help teach English to the kids for my last week here. <3
The Holy Land Trust wants to take us to a Jewish settlement Thursday… Kiss. My. Ass. If you want me, I’ll be in the Holy Sepulchre, saying goodbye to it, and bringing home bread for my family. The special bread, that they love, that has the sesame seeds on it, that they wish they could get more of, but can’t because they’re not allowed to go to Jerusalem.
When this is all said and done, I don’t want you to forget about Gaza. We didn’t talk about it for a while. We had a lot of other terrible shit to worry about, I know. It’s been real bad everywhere. There’s ISIS, there’s Assad, there’s Sisi, there’s Iran… Because I go home and stop writing, because eventually the Israelis will stop bombing it for a little while, don’t forget about Gaza. Don’t forget about Gaza.
Hilwa. Ate my first Palestinian hilwa <3 Soft and sweet and lovely and it’s like silky sand in your mouth…
Sand in my mouth. I’ve eaten this before. Sand in my mouth.
I’m 10 years old. I’m forced to go to my 10 millionth bat mitzvah. This was my Hell as a child. Going to a bat mitzvah meant putting on an uncomfortable dress, being stuck in a car for 5 hours, going to a strange place, sitting through the service, forced to listen to the awful music at the party, the obnoxious adults dancing, the obnoxious DJ yelling, I don’t know anyone, I’m painfully uncomfortable, I’m crying in the bathroom, I want to go home, I hate this shit, everyone is rich and full of themselves, everything is blue and white and there’s pictures of Israel everywhere and I don’t know why because I don’t know what the fuck that is, I had to go through this 10 million times, “Sweetheart, you’re almost 13, do you want a bat mitz-“ “GO FUCK YOURSELF!”
Bat mitzvah #857464674: There’s a mountain of cake candy something on the table. I reach up and pull some back down under the table with me (yes, I was hiding under the table; it was dark and all the obnoxious rich people left me the fuck alone). I take a bite; sand in my mouth.
… you Zionist sons of bitches. Did you fucking steal the hilwa too? You Zionist sons of bitches; that one bite of hilwa took me back to age 10. Did you fucking steal this?
My host family opens up to me and tells me about how, in 2002, the IDF raided their home. A handful of Jewish death squads, with 2 german shepards, comes into their home, makes them stay in the bedroom for 3 hours while they bring in and interrogate one of the neighbor’s kids for throwing stones, force him to become a collaborator otherwise he gets jail time.
Hamza al Khatib… was the state’s version of an honor killing.
This is my last week in Beit Lahem. I go to Nazareth in a few days to help out at a day camp for kids before heading home. Relieved; I’ll miss the visit to Hebron. I cannot witness that horror. I do not want to see it. Ever.
How am I gonna say goodbye to my host family? How the fuck am I gonna get through that?
There are 400,000 Christians in the Palestinian diaspora. I’m looking online at Eastern Orthodox churches in the Philadelphia area that I could join.
By 3 PM the Israelis have murdered another 100 people in Gaza. Another 200 are injured. That’s just this morning and early afternoon. The TV is a bloodbath; an assembly line of dead babies, all broken teeth and burnt skin and shattered bones, grown men reduced to sobbing like children, and I am sobbing on the inside because it takes too much energy to do it on the outside.
“They want a Third Intifada, but you saw in Ramallah; they have nothing to fight with.”
“Now we are just treating each other as numbers.”
“Neekol, how do you think we solve the big broblem?”
“Democracy. No more Jewish state. Equal rights.”
A Gazan woman, age 50, a Christian, was killed. My little brother, Illyas, sees this on facebook. He sees Palestinian Muslims pray for her soul, and then he sees Egyptian and Tunisian Muslims say, “No, she is not a real martyr because she was not Muslim.”
“Neekol, why US support Israel? What do they get out of this?”
I explain the military-industrial complex as simply as I can in under 2 minutes.
“Neekol, for 10 years, my family has been having Americans here. They come here, they know nothing. You come here. You know things. Why?”
“Jews are acting like Nazis and it’s an abomination before God and humanity.”
“Oh, okay… Obama can’t do anything.”
“He’s a coward.”
“It’s the system… Jimmy Carter said so many great things… after he was president…”
“It’s the system.”
“Part of me… I feel bad for the Palmach.”
“The people… they were taught their whole lives that this was their land. They didn’t know any better.”
“Oh no… they knew. They knew you were here. Trust me. They knew you were here. The JNF trees. They try to cover you up. Those ugly trees stick out real bad. They not fooling anyone.”
“But they smart because they make the people believe what they want… I used to say ‘yes, we have hope.’ I can’t say that anymore! Hahahaha!”
Back to the office. The Palestinian tinfoil hat came out REAL bad today and it was VERY ugly. Brace yourselves…
George Saadeh. Director of one of the Greek Orthodox high schools here. Deputy mayor of Beit Lahem municipality. In 2003 he almost lost his life and his whole family when the Israelis pumped his car full of bullets at a flying checkpoint. He was full of bullets, so was his wife and 2 children in the back seat. His 12 year old daughter died on the spot. All of Beit Sahour was terrorized by this. Saadeh is begging the Israelis to get him an ambulance. They are stalling, telling him to wait. His family is bleeding out. They all start screaming until finally an IDF ambulance comes to them.
… but George isn’t talking about his reconciliation efforts with Israeli peace groups, or his family’s strength and perseverance. George is hysterical. George is talking about ISIS and the Christians in Mosul. George has lost his mind. George is a Basharist. George thinks the Israelis are behind ISIS. George thinks the US was behind 9-11. George thinks the Syrian revolution is a lie. George smears the Ukrainians as well. Yes, he went there. George won’t shut the fuck up. If I had run into George my first day here I would’ve packed up and left. It was a freakshow. “It’s on the net! You can read it! It’s on the net!” One of the program coordinators actually has to cut him off because he sounds like a mental patient. The other volunteers can’t wrap their heads around any of the insane shit that came out of his mouth.
He’s still talking. He’s still talking about ISIS, Mosul, Baghdadi is secretly an Israeli, the Egyptian Ikhwan who burned the churches worked for Obama, there were Nazis in Ukraine, he won’t stop, he won’t stop.
He denied the Syrian Holocaust, he denied the Arab Spring, he denied Ukrainian self-determination, he denied the crimes of Russian imperialism, he aligned himself with Assad, “Our politics are very sophisticated! Read between the lines!”
It was ugly. It was the ugliest thing I’ve seen here. Uglier than Aida camp. It was living human garbage. That is what he has been reduced to; Zionism almost murdered his whole family, and this is the shell of a human being that is left. Thank God I didn’t have to hear him speak my first day here. I would’ve left. I would’ve packed up and left.
Back home. The TV is a bloodbath. Lots of different Arab pop singers together. A promo video of gore and pain; really nasty footage of the carnage committed by Americans in Iraq, by Americans at Gitmo, by Israelis all over Palestine, spliced with Hezbollah coming to save the day. Torture, pain, humiliation, crying and screaming men from Baghdad to Gaza, child murder by Americans and Brits and Israelis, then… Hezbollah flag, the liberation of southern Lebanon… then… 9-11. As if to say, “You got what you deserved.”
I’m in an insane asylum, and Zionism has made it as such; exploit your pain, deny someone else’s, exploit your pain, deny someone else’s… and no one comes to the rescue. No one comes to save Gaza.
The cycle will break, the cancer will recede, when the Jewish state is destroyed.
Host Mommy Haifa taught me how to make Turkish coffee <3
Host Mommy Haifa didn’t know that Muslimahs put stuffing under their hijabs… she doesn’t have Muslim girlfriends? How could she not know this?
Church of the Nativity. Every morning. The singing, the praying, the incense, the happy place.
Yes, the overwhelming majority of Israelis support the genocide in Gaza, and if you are shocked by that then you are clueless about this particular region. They don’t hide their feelings; they cheer in the streets, in public, for the murder of Arab children. This is not a secret. They are insane, and it’s that small minority of Israelis who are not genocidal maniacs that need your support so very badly. Seek them out and love them.
I’m relieved about exiting this program and spending the last week here with the summer camp for kids; no more Basharist lectures, no more Syrian Holocaust deniers, no more white savior hippie pseudo-intellectual masturbation, no more spineless peace workshops, I’ll watch the news less, I’ll write less, I’ll be with the children instead.
According to every book about Palestinians they say “bukra fi al mishmish” constantly.
According to my Palestinian host family, Americans brought that silly phrase here. They never say it. And they don’t debka either. The amount of stereotypical behavior promoted by solidarity activists is shameful.
49 people in Gaza were murdered by the Israelis between midnight and noon.
A racist genocidal maniac leading rabbi in NYC says all 2 million Gazans are guilty and should be exterminated.
Eid Mubarak; there are colorful balloons everywhere and the girls are dressed extra pretty. I am trying so hard not to allow every waking moment become a soul crushing funeral. Walking is difficult. I am moving in cement.
*stop apologizing for how tired you look*
*remember to say ala albak after sahtein*
*remember to buy one of those mother of pearl Syrian boxes that they import from Damascus*
*forget about your weight for 5 fucking minutes and go enjoy that traditional Palestinian food that you can’t get at home*
*talk to the shopkeepers, smile, talk about the tattoos, practice the Arabic*
*take pretty pictures, buy that pretty scarf for mom because you missed her birthday*
Lots of Asian tourists. A little boy parrots “alloasalaamalaykum” every 5 seconds and everyone laughs.
*remember to shower, remember to sleep*
…it’s gonna be worse than Cast Lead, isn’t it? At the rate it’s going, it’s gonna be worse than Cast Lead. It hurts to smile. I go buy mangos, the fruit seller sees how tired I am, takes pity, gives me a pear for free.
An e-mail from Dad. He read my research paper on Islamic non-violent resistance. He said he cried. I didn’t talk to him about Egypt; the revolution that died, the Raba3 massacre a few blocks away, the beheaded Christian, the burning churches, the RevSoc-iopath idiot man-child piece of shit fiancé that almost murdered me, the counterrevolution that killed democracy and denied the Syrian Nakba and has sent the Brotherhood to the depths of Hell for daring to empower the oppressed… Dad hates Gigi Ibrahim now too.
Home. The little brother and I wish that the guys from Qassem who killed the 10 or so Jewish death squads had taken 1 hostage so they could have a tiny bit more political leverage… but then again, the IDF would just kill him to prevent any kind of hostage deal.
Everyone is breaking down; UNRWA officials, doctors, reporters, everyone can’t keep it together and is sobbing on camera. All the schools, all the hospitals, every living thing; kill, kill, kill. If you are shocked by this you don’t know Yisrael.
Holy Land Trust invites tinfoil hat wearing Basharists to come speak to us and then puts “visit an Israeli settlement” on their itinerary. If you are shocked by this you don’t know the lost cause that is far too much of the solidarity movement.
My host family, they have photos everywhere of their relatives… and so many have died from cancer. Stress is cancer’s gasoline.
A man in Bethlehem recently hung himself with a rope.
The settlers are still trying to kidnap children. They made the blood libel a reality.
It’s gonna be worse than Cast Lead, and I am trying not to hate God.
NIN is performing on my stomping ground back home. Trent Reznor is practically my third parent. I will see you someday <3 and I’m pretty sure your song “God Given” was about Israeli apartheid, but shhhhh I won’t tell no one.
It’s gonna be worse than Cast Lead, and the West Bank is powerless to do anything… and so are you and me.
My mom read my paper on Islamic non-violent resistance. I’m amazed. She actually fucking read it. And she cried. This is great. Okay, things will be much better when I get home. My mom read about the beauty of legitimate Quranic jihad and it touched her. Ha! Okay, awesome.
The mosques are calling for the people of Beit Lahem to go donate blood in Ramallah. I asked while I was there but was told internationals can’t.
I will be teaching children in Nazareth next week to sing The Beatles <3
Still working on getting to Al Lydd so I can get a photo of the giant Syria flag painted on the wall, or so someone else can get a picture of it for us. I’m breathing down the neck of one program coordinator, I’m harassing and stalking one of the tour guides until he calls me back, I’m on top of another program coordinator so that maybe the itinerary this weekend will include a stop in Al Lydd… seriously, I might get the fucking itinerary changed just so I can get this photo. I ain’t fuckin around. If I don’t get that photo I will make sure someone else does. It needs to be seen. It was painted to be seen.
This is America’s genocide in Gaza and Israel is its weapon. Worse than Cast Lead. Can you even imagine that? Can you imagine something even worse than that horror? I am not sleeping and when my brain finally lets me rest there are only nightmares about animal cruelty as metaphors for the situation. Absolutely fucking heartbroken.
Big rally for Gaza coming up in DC on August 2nd… how many SSNP and Hezbollah flags do you think will be in attendance? Dripping with Palestinian-Syrian blood? Should we do shots each time we see one? What should we drink?
Stop crying. Stop crying. Stop crying.
37 settlers stormed the al Aqsa mosque this morning. A 25 year old Palestinian man was found burnt to death in his home last Tuesday. I no longer know what is escalation and what is “the normal” under military occupation. A population of 2 million Palestinian people and yet… quiet. Mostly quiet. What can they do other than donate blood?
Gaza needs the Ikhwan, but the Ikhwan are all dead and locked up and disempowered. Egypt’s solidarity movement was decimated by the US and the liberal traitors. It will take a generation to undo the damage done by June 30th.
They wanted me to go visit a settlement today. The joke writes itself. That’s what they think is appropriate at this time, at any time. I am at a loss for words over that one.
They asked me to engage in a war crime.
They asked me to engage in a war crime.
They asked me to engage in a war crime.
Because it’s normal here.
It’s one thing for you to want to dialogue with those human garbage cans. That’s your choice. We have free will and you are free to do shit that I think is fucked up. It’s another thing to ask me to step foot in a war crime.
I went to say goodbye to the Holy Sepulchre instead.
In Christ’s Tomb a sweet old lady, a French Catholic who has lived in Jerusalem for 28 years, spews out Zionist propaganda to me, saying that there are weapons in the schools and that’s why Israel has to bomb the schools. My last memory of the Holy Sepulchre is of a genocide denier in Christ’s Tomb vomiting up hasbara.
The room behind Christ’s Tomb is where the Assyrians pray. It’s empty. I sit on the floor for an hour alone. A stray cat keeps me company.
The sweet old lady from France, who loves Jesus, who was nice to me, who was nice to the stray cat… she’s a murderer, and Arabs and Muslims need to be protected from her. The Nazi does not always wear a uniform.
My little brother, Illyas, his uncle (one of 6-8 uncles) moved to Iraq and became very wealthy. He lived in Baghdad and worked as a stone mason… building castles… for Saddam Hussein. Building castles for the Arab Hitler who annihilated the Kurds and the Shias and the Sunnis and everything he touched. So my host father’s brother was a loyal worker of Saddam Hussein. Yes, that terrifies me. A cog in the death machine, and we are all guilty of that to some degree.
The uncle got rich and was able to care for all his children. Then Saddam invaded Kuwait, the Iraqi currency plummeted, and Illyas’ uncle lost everything. The uncle worked himself to death to rebuild his wealth and died a few years before the American invasion. His children sold everything and moved to Jordan.
Hilarion Capucci. Born in Aleppo in 1922. The retired titular archbishop of Caesarea for the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. 1947; he was ordained a priest of the Basilian Alepian Order. 1965; he was appointed archbishop and consecrated. 1974; he was arrested by the Zionists for smuggling weapons into the West Bank for the Palestine Liberation Army. Sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Maximos V, the patriarch of the Melkite Church, says "Is this Bishop reprehensible if he thought it was his duty to bear arms? If we go back in history we find other bishops who smuggled weapons, gave their lives and committed other illegal actions to save Jews from Nazi occupation. I do not see why a man who is ready to save Arabs should be condemned."
Capucci was among the prisoners whose release was demanded by Palestinian plane hijackers in 1975 and 1976. He was released in 1978 due to intervention by the Vatican. 1979; Capucci played a key role during the Iran hostage crisis. He made several visits to the hostages, helped the release of the bodies of the American soldiers who had died in the refueling accident during the rescue mission, and negotiated an agreement for the release of the hostages… but the plan collapsed because the French press published the story before the agreement had been approved by Iran's Parliament. Sons of bitches!
2009; he was on the Lebanese flotilla that tried to reach Gaza. 2010; he was on the Mavi Marmara from Turkey. The Zionists arrested and deported him. During a reception for the return of the Mavi Marmara to Istanbul, he gave a speech to the assembly.
I google his name… and so many photos… of him… happy and smiling… and friendly… with Bashar al Assad… hugging him, holding his photo, standing with the bloody red Ba’athist flag, as recently as 2008.
Stop crying. Stop crying. Stop crying.
It’s worse than Cast Lead.
It’s worse than Cast Lead.
It’s worse than Cast Lead.
Host mommy Haifa makes me breakfast and says there is a ceasefire.
Host mommy Haifa turns on the TV.
We see nothing but gore and blood and pain and fresh wounds.
A man lies on a hospital bed, and he no longer looks like a man.
His arms and legs are gone, and his face is burnt off.
Someone’s father, brother, son, reduced to blood and skin.
Next to him is a little boy, bleeding from his head, crying, “Mom, Mom…”
Host mommy Haifa turns off the TV and goes back to bed.
Host daddy Adeeb falls into a depression and naps on the couch.
I go to the church.
Not one Arab army or militia lifts a finger to stop Israel.
Not one Arab army or militia has the power to do so.
The Armenian service, 9 AM, is still the most beautiful thing I have ever heard in my life.
I still can’t believe this program thought it was appropriate to take the volunteers to visit a settlement. They tried to make me commit a war crime, they tried to make me pollute my soul for all eternity. They did this… casually. Like it’s nothing. “Settlers for Peace,” “Settlers for Coexistence,” “Settlers for Dialogue,”… an insult to injury. On a good day I want to see you all in prison. On a bad day I want to see you all publically executed, perhaps crucified. You do what you do in the name of Judaism, the religion I was born into. You have poisoned my life as much as you have poisoned the Arab world. You should all be hanged. Abominations before God and humanity.
A professor from Bethlehem’s Bible College, Munther Isaac, comes to speak with us. The Greeks got a hold of the Holy Sepulchre 500 years ago. Only bishops can become Patriarchs and the bishops are kept Greek. The Greek occupation that steals the houses of God from the Arabs.
“We’ve been hurt by the West. Even the Christians that are not Zionists, they don’t acknowledge we are here. Divestments and such, that is great but… they don’t talk about us a lot.”
“I remember reading my Bible when I was 10, and seeing ‘Phillistines’ and confusing this with myself, with ‘Falasteeniyeh,’ and the Phillistines are the bad guys and the Israelites are the good guys.”
Imagine your own Holy book dehumanizing you at age 10.
Religion is not the problem. The problem is what you fucking awful, stupid, nasty, racist, idiot humans do to it. Religion is too good for you. God is too good for you. God deserves better than you.
It’s worse than Cast Lead.
It’s worse than Cast Lead.
It’s worse than Cast Lead.
Finally got the tour guide from Lydd on the phone. He says he will attend a demo for Gaza in Lydd this Sunday, will take a photo of the revolutionary Syria flag painting for me, and e-mail me the photo. I made him promise. I made him promise. I made him promise. He is showing us around the Galilee this weekend. I will make him promise again.
“There are lots of those flags there! You only saw one?”
“SEND ME PHOTOS OF EVERY ONE! BUT I WOULD BE HAPPY WITH ONE! I AM ON A MISSION FROM GOD!”
Small demo in Manger Square, between the Omar Mosque and the Church of the Nativity. It’s only a few dozen young men. It’s over by the time I get there.
When Sami Awad asks for me he says, “Where’s the crazy one?” <3
I’m told that Hamas has kidnapped a Jewish Nazi. Alhamdulilah. *high fives*
We are told there is a demo in and around Aida camp, up by the wall, past Nissan Circle. We are told it is big and dangerous. I fuckin HAULED ASS. I fuckin RAN. Hungry, tired, sick from the heat and the depression, I RAN up all the hills to get to the camp.
*in the daytime! big and dangerous! lots of tear gas! 3rd intifada AAHHHH!!!!!*
It’s over by the time I get there. A few dozen young men are already leaving. There’s some rocks and an empty street and a cloud of tear gas. The end. It was the normal. A guy named Mohammed shakes my hand, thanks me for stopping by, asks about the tattoos, and gives me some coffee. Yatiq alahffiyeh <3
It’s worse than Cast Lead.
It’s worse than Cast Lead.
It’s worse than Cast Lead.
For fuck’s sake, someone help us.
Spent the evening at an Orthodox school in Sheppard's Field. The scouts. There's a big awesome camp for the young people. They do marches and demos and build giant forts and sing and have bonfires and have obstacle courses... It's a place of normalcy, stability, confidence, a healthy childhood... I'm so glad I got to see this. I'm so glad the kids here have something this awesome. They build tents for Jerusalem and learn about their capital city that they are prevented from visiting. They perform plays about Gaza to help them cope with their grief.
"You Arab but can't speak Arabiiyeh?!"
"I'm not Arab!"
"YOU LOOK MORE ARAB THAN MY SISTER!"
The young people have an easier time going overseas than they do seeing their own country. All the NGO's and cultural groups work real hard to give them an alternative freedom of movement. All the kids have been to Chile, Sweden, Russia... but not cities in their own country, not the places I get to witness this weekend.
I have to say goodbye to my host family tomorrow morning. I'm gonna die. I’m gonna cry in my breakfast.
This weekend; Haifa, the Bahai Gardens, the German colony, Wadi al Nisnas, Akka, Tiberias, Mt of Beatitudes, Capernaum, Tabgha... oh my God, oh my God, oh my God...
Then I jump off the bus and get to Nazareth. Still not sure where I'm going but tayyib, maashi, yalla, bye.
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. <3 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 <3 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.
Sunday, August 3rd:
Sea of Galilee in Tiberias. The lowest freshwater lake on earth. It’s dark turquoise. You ever see something so amazing you start laughing? I was laughing. It’s surrounded by churches. Built in the ‘40’s by an Italian architect the church on the Mount of Beatitudes has 8 sides to represent the 8 Beatitudes.
The Catholic Church; complicit in the theft of Palestinian land. They work with the Israeli government to lease this land, to control the churches that they want. Everyone wants a piece of Palestine. Always atleast several dozen different occupations.
We stop at Tabgha, the Church of the Primacy and… Syria. I realize I am looking across the sea at Syria. The Golan. I am looking at the Golan. It’s Syria. *don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry* Taking home a rock from the Galilee shore. Lighting candles in the church, my notebook is falling apart in my hands, Syria is next to me. *don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry*
The Orthodox Church in Capernaum. EPIC. EPIC. EPIC. Orthodox Byzantine Christiandom orgasm. It was overwhelming and breathtaking. The church for the 12 apostles. Words won’t do this place justice.
Israeli dates are garbage, as I was warned; watery, cold, flavorless, and black.
I’m told we are on our way to the Golan. *don’t fucking cry* The idiot young people I’m stuck with don’t know anything about anything. They learned that the Golan is Syrian territory 5 minutes ago. I tune them out as much as I can so my ears don’t bleed. They come here and they don’t know anything. They weren’t aware of the Syrian Holocaust until I said something. They call the genocide in Gaza a “war.” Why are you here, stupid privileged Westerners? Why are you here? What makes you come to a land, filled with so much pain, you know nothing about? I’ll never understand you awful people.
The Golan is green and lush, trees are everywhere, signs warning of Israeli landmines, the piles of stone outline where the houses used to be… Syrian house skeletons, Palestinian house skeletons, all over this land. Israeli flags but not many. There are only 5 Syrian Druze villages left.
Six Day War; Israel invaded Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and it militarily occupied the remaining 22% of Palestinian land. Menachem Begin openly admitted that it was a pre-emptive strike, saying “…we again had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.” Israel invaded and ethnically cleansed Syria’s Golan Heights. One thousand Syrian people were expulsed. The Syrian regime had, in an effort to force the UN to demand Israel abide by a cease-fire, announced the fall of the Quinetra Governate in the Golan Heights three hours before the Israeli military actually took it over. The Golan Heights were given up in an effort to avoid any more confrontation between Syria and the overwhelming Zionist threat. Hafez al Assad's rise to power was bound up with a right-wing reaction to Ba'athism in the aftermath of the disastrous defeat of the Arab armies in 1967 war. Like in 1948, the Syrian armed forces again were no match for the military power of the Israelis. They gave up the Golan Heights and this voluntary defeat strengthened the more conservative forces within the Ba'ath Party and the military. Hafez al Assad would become their spokesman. In his memoir Sami al Jundi described neo-Ba’athism as being nothing more than “the latest version of backwardness,” and he fully believed that its proponents were responsible for the massive failure and absolute humiliation of the 1967 June War.
Syria attempted to regain control of the Golan Heights in 1973 and it was another failure. Even worse, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat began to make moves towards both the US and Israel. Following the October War of 1973 Hafez al Assad found himself forced to practically become the security guard for Israel’s northern border. Colonel Rafik Halawi, the Druze commander of the infantry brigade that was destroyed by the Israelis in the Golan was executed under the orders of Hafez before the war even came to an official close. The Syrian regime claimed he was killed in battle with Israel and anyone who was caught saying anything otherwise was threatened with torture and imprisonment.
Quinetra. The Israeli tank. The idiot children I am with… they are jumping and climbing all over it, happy as can be. You fucking disgusting humans. Oh God, what would your Palestinian host families think if they saw you do this? You don’t care, you don’t give a fuck. It was fucking awful to watch this. One of the older program coordinators expresses to me how upset she is. One of the younger program coordinators is joining in with the kids and climbing the tank, laughing, smiling. May you all rot in Hell.
Syria. It’s lush and green, cool and windy. Windmills off in the distance. Mountains and mountains and mountains. The UN camp. A Druze man is selling apples and jam, giving us a free sample of his homemade honey-sesame spread. The wind almost knocks me over.
Drive past the border, a huge Israeli flag flies high over a green field of bushes and trees, followed by more Hebrew signs warning of land mines. Drive past the empty houses; Syrian people’s homes. Ethnically cleansed, dilapidated, covered in graffiti. Drive past an IDF military base. Giant cows are grazing around Syrian house skeletons made of stone.
Every place we stop at has these tourist stations that play an audio recording of Zionist propaganda; “And the Israelis fought bravely against the Syrian onslaught…” The background is soft music from Disney while a robot woman’s voice vomits up hasbara.
Golan Heights coffee shop. My skin is crawling. Hebrew, Israelis, IDF… and the idiot children I am stuck with are taking photos with them. Oh my God, may He strike you all down. May you all rot in Hell. I overhear an Israeli soldier say, “When ISIS is finished in Syria they will come here and we are ready for them.” I hope you fucking destroy one another. Yes please; annihilate one another at the same time and let us be free from you both.
Drive to Nazareth for them to drop me off at the summer camp for kids I will be volunteering at my last few days here. I am sick from exhaustion. The summer camp is completely chaotic. Zero structure. I was there for only 30 minutes and a boy shot me in the shoulder with a BB gun.
My host family in Nazareth is filthy rich. The father works in security. There are security cameras all over the place. I am in a mansion with rich Palestinians who live in Israel. I want my home in Beit Lahem. I could cry. I am in a mansion with rich people who work overtime to keep the place spotless. I could cry. Bourgeoisie. Everything is expensive. Oh God no… why? Spotless, fancy kitchen, nothing even remotely spiritual or religious anywhere, and they don’t cook. I could cry. I want my home in Beit Lahem. There are “house rules” to keep this heavily sanitized place spotless. You could eat off the floor. One drop of water outside the sink and the mother, who looks like a supermodel and is paler than me, has a stroke.
“This is your first time in Israel?”
“Yes this is my first time in Palestine.”
“Most of my friends are Muslim. I feel pretty Muslim.”
“Oh, so you are a terrorist.”
The host parents won’t even be here. They are off to vacation in the Jordanian part of the Dead Sea. I used to wake up and hear Fairuz each morning, now there is garbage American pop music blasting from the next room. Zero Palestinian flags anywhere. They are impressed that I used to work as a makeup artist. That’s what they value.
I want my family in Beit Lahem. I am in an Israeli Arab mansion during Cast Lead the Sequel.
I want to go die in Gaza.
You can cry now.
You can cry now.
You can cry now.
Monday, August 4th:
I almost had to be hospitalized. I had a nervous breakdown in Nazareth in the morning. That much exhaustion, that much depression, that much hunger, that much disgust with my environment. I made it to the summer camp for the kids and then lost my mind. I kept sobbing, I kept blacking out, I couldn’t stand up, I couldn’t breathe. Too much, it’s just too fucking much. Hours of pain and crying. I couldn’t breathe, I’m begging for help.
A girl with big blonde hair is holding me in her arms and praying to Jesus for me and gives me a few moments of healing.
I am trying to explain my pain, but I keep blacking out and I can’t breathe. “Gaza… exhaustion… PTSD… My friend might be dead. She’s not supposed to be in Gaza. She was born in Yarmouk… I’m so tired… Egypt, I was there. Shimaa can’t leave her house… Please, I need something to eat… I have to go home now… The Syrians are dead… I am not sleeping… I’m so sick…”
I’m talking to several different people on different phones so I can coordinate my way back to Bethlehem. I don’t remember what I’m saying. I’m sobbing and everything hurts and I can’t breathe. I managed to get all my luggage from the cold hearted empty mansion with no food and am driven to a bus station and I take that back to Jerusalem and a taxi driver comes to take me home to Beit Lahem.
Sobbing and suffocating on the phone with I don’t even know who. I don’t know how many people at the Holy Land Trust were working overtime to help me get back home and avoid the hospital that I can’t afford. I am trying to explain my pain over the phone. I can’t. “The sickness is in my head. My brain is telling me that I am dying.”
I have PTSD. I have denial about how bad my PTSD is. When I am starving I think I am back in Egypt, locked up in a filthy apartment without any food for hours and hours by the RevSoc-iopath who I thought I was going to marry and build a life with. I panic. I panic. I panic.
The Afula bus station. All the Hebrew, all the Israelis, all the IDF, all the weapons… they are giving me dirty looks. They think I’m Arab. I am (temporarily) tan with too much eyeliner. I am wearing the counselor shirt from the summer camp that has Arabic all over it. I am wearing the cross pendant that was made for me in Al Quds. They think I am Arab and are giving me nasty looks with all their mean faces. Hebrew sounds cold and heartless.
The taxi driver who takes me home to Beit Lahem is the Israeli Arab who drove me to Beit Sahour from the airport when I first got here. I am trying to explain my pain. I can’t. He hugs me; “Da whole Middle East, iz a big broblem. It very hard what you do.”
Mommy Haifa and Daddy Adeeb. I cry like a little kid when I see them and know I am home and safe and comfortable again and they feed me and hug me and I am okay, I am okay. I am trying to explain my pain. I can’t. “Why you still crying? You home now. Come eat.” “You didn’t bring me a gift from Nazareth?”
I can’t leave 2 homes and be okay. I can’t be in a cold, heartless mansion with robots and be okay, especially when they don’t eat. I couldn’t manage one day without my second family in Beit Sahour.
I use my brother Elias’ phone and I hear my mother’s voice for the first time in 2 months. I realize then I have lost my mind and should’ve gone home last week, but I would’ve missed out on the Golan if that happened. My family gets me a new flight home and it leaves tomorrow night.
I can’t hack it anymore. Time for home. I serious’d.
Tuesday August 5th:
It’s the last time my eyes will open in the morning in Beit Sahour… and a Hamas rocket landed in Beit Sahour at 8 AM. Did not hurt or kill anyone, thank God, but damaged an empty apartment building and got very close to hurting a mosque.
My plane for home leaves at 11:30 PM. I was supposed to spend the day relaxing with my host family for the last time. Instead, unfortunately, I spent 95% of the day going in and out of different police stations and speaking with different men of the PA because a mentally deranged young man verbally abused me in a sexual manner in broad daylight and attempted to assault me. Then I find out that he’s mentally handicapped, the PA is going to give him a harsh sentence, so I go back to the authorities to get his sentenced reduced right before my taxi comes to take me to the airport. I cannot make this shit up.
I left to go to the ATM to get money to pay Jozeph, the Israeli Arab taxi driver buddy, to take me back to Tel Aviv airport that night. A really sick looking young man is stalking me. He gets right on top of me and is verbally abusing me in English, threatening to fuck me, rape me, grab my ass, etc.
I’ve been in Beit Sahour for 2 months. Zero problems such as this. Now I’m thinking, “This is it. My time has come. This is the day I am raped and murdered in broad daylight by an Arab man in an Arab land.”
So I’m screaming bloody murder, telling him to get the fuck away from me and that I’ll kill him, I’m running across the street, it’s very busy with lots of cars, and one almost hits me. The sick bastard is following me, still verbally abusing me and threatening me, he tries to touch me, I get in his face and scream bloody murder some more, he gets scared and walks away… then he comes back, and I scream bloody murder in his face some more, then he finally walks away.
He did this to me in broad daylight, on a busy street, in front of a church and… right next to the fucking POLICE STATION near souq al sha’ab. So I get to the police station, they’re outside hanging around their truck, I tell them about the attack I just went through, we all hop in the truck and we track down where the sick fucker ran off to. We’re back at the police station, I give them my story and… he’s flirting with me. The young, cute officer is flirting with me.
“You’re from NJ? That’s nice… I like New York… I’ll see you there sometime?”
“I’ll see you in Hell after I take your badge. I’m gonna call the Holy Land Trust, have them send some people down here to be with me to make sure you do your fucking job and that things run smoothly, that cool?”
He looked like I castrated him. He shrunk away and I physically saw his heart break.
So some folks from the Holy Land Trust show up, I tell them about the attack I just went through, and I’m pressing charges. Yes, I’m leaving in a few hours and can’t be in court tomorrow, but I’m pressing charges. The family of the demented young man shows up and they’re hysterical. They’re attacking me.
Then we all leave the police station in Beit Sahour and go to the PA headquarters in Beit Lahem. They want to take my report, speak with me personally, and see that I get to the judge ASAP. This is taken with the utmost seriousness; abuse and harassment of internationals, especially the volunteers who come here because of their beliefs and politics, is a grave offense. Abuse and harassment of any tourist is a grave offense; this city depends on people like me to come here, spend their money, help out however they can. I give my story to the PA, the chief of police meets with me and tells me how sorry he is that this has happened to me, that he appreciates me coming here.
“So when he realized he did not have a chance with you…”
“This was not flirting. This was abuse. This was not flirting. This was assault. This was a prelude to a sex crime, which is an atrocity against humanity. If you do not punish him now he will do something worse. You are not free because your women are not free.”
This was the first time these folks from the Holy Land Trust heard me speak, heard me raise my voice. They pissed themselves. Everyone from the PA and the Holy Land Trust is apologizing and loving me… fuck, the PA took damn good care of me… how am I supposed to hate you now? The double occupation took care of me when I was threatened with sexual assault. Fuck.
So then we’re off to the court, I say my story a third time, it gets translated into Arabic, again there are a mountain of apologies for what has happened. The TV is on. Almost 2,000 Gazans have been murdered by the Israelis. Almost 10,000 are injured. And I know I have made the right decision to leave tonight. I cannot stay here and enjoy your food and your sun and your land and your sea while they do this to you. I should be bleeding with you and I am not.
I return to the PA office to finish filing the report… and I hear the sick bastard crying in a cell somewhere. Everyone is verbally tearing him apart; the police, the Holy Land Trust, his family… shit, maybe the PA were already torturing him. A family member is begging me for forgiveness. Get the fuck away from me.
Finally, I am back with my host family, but this isn’t over. Beit Sahour is a small town. All the families know one another. The Holy Land Trust explains to my host family what happened, and now the family of the sick bastard is calling my host family. They want to meet with all of us. Again, I am getting a mountain of apologies from practically the entire West Bank at this point.
The family of the sick bastard and someone from the Holy Land Trust comes to meet with me. I am informed that the sick bastard is mentally handicapped and that’s why he looked so fucking awful. His whole family is shocked by what he did, the Holy Land Trust is shocked, my host family is shocked, all of Beit Sahour is upset for what happened and is apologizing to me. My host brother Elias; “We have been taking in internationals for 20 years. This has never happened before.” This piece of shit retard did not attack only me; he has hurt the entire fucking community. The whole town is crushed with shame this afternoon.
I left the police station convinced that the sick bastard was going to be locked up for several days. I felt satisfied with that; the PA is rough and he’s mentally handicapped. Fine, several days in the slammer and the whole community is ashamed. Good, that’s enough… but I am given 2 options; if I do not recant my testimony he’ll be locked up for a year. If I do recant my testimony the Holy Land Trust will follow through with the case and he’ll spend 3-6 months in prison.
A mentally handicapped person… in a PA jail… for a full year. Absolutely fucking UNACCEPTABLE. I will not put up with this. Up with this I will not put. I will not pollute my soul. I will not be the oppressor.
I have to go save Issa Qumsieh, the fucked up evil young man who threatened me with sexual assault in broad daylight, I have to go save him from the PA. I decide to recant my testimony right before the taxi comes to take me away to the airport. We’re off to the tourism police to make this happen… and there’s an insanely handsome officer behind the desk… and he keeps staring at me and I keep staring at him. It was electric. GOD ALMIGHTY TODAY!? I FIND HIM TODAY!?
We’re in the office, it’s me and 4 men screaming at one another. People are pissed, people are losing their tempers, they want me to recant my testimony, they don’t want me to recant my testimony, a fist fight between the different men in front of me almost breaks out! They take it outside… and I am alone in the room with the insanely handsome officer for a few minutes.
“What’s your name?”
“Where you from?”
“Oh… like the Persian poet.”
“Yes. Hafiz. I’m from Nablus.”
He’s tall and handsome with blue eyes and reddish hair. <3 Worst. Timing. Ever. He works in the tourism police office right across from the Church of the Nativity, the church I went to every morning. Son of a bitch! Worst timing ever. I was threatened with sexual assault earlier that day and now I have a plane to catch.
So the fist fight and the screaming comes to an end, and I am able to sign some papers and recant my testimony. I save the sick bastard from the PA. He’s mentally handicapped, his family is crushed, the town is ashamed, he’ll be locked up for 3-6 months, that’s enough. Khalas! KHALAS!
“But you were so adamant about punishing him! We were all behind you on this!”
“I WILL NOT LET YOU IMPRISON A MENTALLY HANDICAPPED PERSON FOR A YEAR! THAT’S OUTRAGEOUS! I AM NOT THE PALESTINIAN AUTHROTY! I SHOW YOU JUSTICE NOW!”
Goddamn PA! I have to save Issa Qumsieh of Beit Sahour, I have to save the 24 year old sick man who tried to hurt me, I have to save him from YOU. He stuck a knife in the community today, he robbed me of my time with my family, but I will not put up with this. Up with this I will not put. You will not lock up a mentally handicapped kid for a year in a PA dungeon on my watch. SORRY I AM NOT SORRY.
I was told several times to delete this event from my memory; they are afraid I will hate Palestine. I was begged to not be angry with them. They are afraid I will turn my back on them all. It doesn’t matter how much I say I love them; they are scared to death that they have lost an ally.
I’m rushed home to say goodbye to my host family. Again, there is a mountain of apologies and shame. Host mommy Haifa gives me some olive wood carvings and a bag of zaatar. My heart is breaking. Jozeph takes me away to the aiport, and afterwards he hugs me goodbye too.
The interrogation at the check-in. Yes, it’s as absurd and awful as you have heard, even for American Jews like myself. You are asked a lot of silly, stupid, terrible questions designed to make you sweat, designed to make you feel like a criminal. She asks me everything under the sun… except about the tattoos. Tattoos mean, to an Israeli, that I am an average shit for brains American that does not give a fuck about Palestine… but she is not asking me about the tattoos. I get the feeling she knows me. All my lies are rock solid, that I’m just a nice Jewish girl visiting Israel to make my parents happy, I have reservations from hostels I did not stay at, I have stories about visiting synagogues that I did not actually visit. I am rock solid, so she’s asking me stupid questions.
“You’re wearing a skirt; are you religious?”
“Why don’t your parents know any Hebrew?”
“You visited the Hurva synagogue? Where is that?”
It was fucking absurd. She was a younger version of the evil nurse that torments Jack Nicholson in “One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest.” The interrogation is a pissing contest; who blinks first? I make her blink first. I stare her down, I stare her right in the fucking eye, and I smile with every word that comes out of my mouth and I am in her face. She blinks first. Her shoulders hunch over, he voice quiets, she looks down at the floor.
You Jewish Nazi cunt. How many defenseless babies and grandmothers did you burn alive in Gaza today? You ain’t shit to me no more, sweetheart. I just took on Arab sexual terrorism and the PA in the same afternoon. She lets me go within 5 minutes.
The interrogation doesn’t end. I’m on the plane. The Mossad is next to me. There are 2-3 Israeli security agents on every flight. One is next to me. Big tough soldier guy is next to me and asking me questions almost the whole flight. He’s right on top of me AND HE FOLLOWS ME. I got stalked twice. He follows me. They know who I am. He follows me and stays on top of me through customs and through the baggage claim when my plane lands in Philly, still talking to me, still asking me questions:
“How long will it be before you are home?”
“You live with your Mom and Dad right?”
“Did you have a Bat Mitzvah?”
“I will sneak up on you like Hamas! Hahahaha!”
This happened to me, not as severe, but this happened to me on the way into Palestine in the first place. Another big tough looking guy was sitting next to me. And he’s asking me, “Do you like Moroccan food?” My blood ran cold on the flight into Palestine. I got a new passport so the Israelis would not see the Moroccan and Egyptian stamps. “Do you like Moroccan food?” asked the random Zionist security agent on my flight into occupied Palestine. Unreal, dude.
Finally, Mom and Dad. Finally, home. I’m home. <3
Fuck Israel. You watching me? Kiss my jihadi Jew ass.