Author Archive

Friends of Palestine in the British Parliament

On June 2nd, I met up with several members of the British Parliament’s Friends of Palestine, as part of a politically independent group of Palestinian Activists in the UK. Our aim is to emphasise the need for the UK government to recognise a Palestinian state, to pressure the Israeli government into lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip, and to try to bridge the gap in views between the British parties and the Palestinian-British community.

Ibrahim Khadra, Fady Abusido, Richard Burden MP, Suhad, Yousef Alhelou, Jehan Alfarra, Basem Farajallah, Lama Zomlot

Ibrahim Khadra, Fady Abusido, Richard Burden MP, Suhad, Yousef Alhelou, Jehan Alfarra, Basem Farajallah, Lama Zomlot

Before the 2015 UK General Elections last month, I produced a report for Middle East Monitor looking at whether Palestine was a vote changer in the elections this year:


Controversy in Gaza over sale of Banksy’s painting “Bomb Damage”

Jehan Alfarra

Rabie Darduna, the 33-year old owner of the door on which Banksy painted an art piece he called “bomb damage” during his visit to Gaza earlier this year, claimed to have been tricked into selling his door for 700 NIS ($175) to Belal Khaled, a Palestinian graffiti artist and Banksy-fan.

The door was the only thing left standing of Darduna’s home, one of an estimated 20,000 Gaza homes reduced to rubble during Israel’s military campaign against the Strip last summer, and it is estimated to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

On his facebook page, Khaled denounced the media coverage of the sale describing him as a conman, and stated that his intention for buying the door was to preserve it in case the house was to be rebuilt and the door was to be destroyed or misplaced in the process. Khaled also said that he wants the painting to tour world galleries in order to raise awareness about the Palestinian Cause and the Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip, claiming he has contacted Banksy about this.

Legally speaking, Belal Khaled has done nothing wrong. The sale was completely legal and the owner signed off on the contract. And given the current state Gaza is in after the war and the lack of attention by official cultural bodies, the painting might indeed be better preserved in the hands of the artist. Though regardless of his intentions, Khaled did keep the real value of the painting from the owner and convinced him that this was a good deal. The ethics of the sale are rightfully questionable for taking advantage of the family’s homelessness and dire need for money, as well as their ignorance of the real value of Banksy’s artwork.

The sale has understandably sparked heated debate in Gaza. While many people found the sale outrageous, accusing the buyer of fraud, others claimed the door would have been damaged or stolen anyway had it not been bought and preserved. One fact remains though; Banksy’s paintings were intended for the people of Gaza, and not for Rabie Darduna or Belal Khaled. As such, “Bomb Damage” should ultimately be preserved as the property of the Palestinians of Gaza.

The painting on the door depicts the Greek mythological Goddess, Niobe, who turned into stone while weeping over her murdered children, and it is one of four art pieces that the anonymous British street artist, Banksy, created during recent trip to Gaza.

Banksy's art piece "Bomb Damage", Gaza

Banksy’s art piece “Bomb Damage” depicting Greek methological Goddess Niobe, Gaza

"Bomb Damage" no more


Oxford Brookes Scholar fighting for his life in Gaza

First published on the Middle East Monitor with edits
By: Jehan Alfarra

00008Hassan Alhallaq, the third recipient of the annual Gaza Oxford Brookes Scholarship scheme founded following Operation Cast Lead, is at Al Shifa Hospital fighting for his life after an Israeli airstrike killed his 8 months pregnant wife, his 2 little kids, his mother, and his sister.

Having left his home in Karama due to the intensity of the Israeli bombardment in the area, Hassan took his family to Sheja`eya to stay with relatives. As the Israeli ground troops carried out an intensive operation in Sheja`eya neighboured on July 19 as part of their ground invasion, Hassan had to evacuate once again and headed to his sister’s flat in Rimal, in the centre of Gaza City. Without any prior warning, an Israeli airstrike targeted the Alhalaq family flat on July 20 killing Hassan’s mother, So`ad, his 29-year-old pregnant wife, Samar Yaaqoubi, and his two sons Kenan, 6, and Saji, 4. Hassan’s sister Hala was also killed along with her husband, Hani, and their baby son. Hassan’s father survived the attack, while he sustained serious injuries and was immediately transferred to the ICU at Shifa hospital. (more…)


When you find your missing son being murdered in a viral video

Jehan Alfarra

While tweeting about a friend who lost his entire family yesterday, I saw repeated and persistent tweets sent by a dear friend, Mohammed Alqattawi, to Joe Catron, asking him to respond as a matter of urgency.

Feeling restless and uneasy, I asked Mohammed in a private message what was so urgent and if there was anything I could do, but he only asked for Joe’s number. I gave him the phone number. “We’ve been looking for my cousin from Sheja`yea for 2 days now,” Mohammed messaged me back a few minutes later. “We just watched a video that Joe tweeted of an injured Palestinian shot by an Israeli sniper while searching for his family. It is my cousin.”

Having watched that video earlier in the day, hearing that just took it to a whole new level for me. The nameless, wounded, innocent soul taken so outrageously by an Israeli sniper on camera, in front of the rescue team, and during the hours of a humanitarian ceasefire, belongs to my friend’s cousin. “I clicked on the link to watch the video, and his mom and sister swiftly recognised him by his voice,” Mohammed continued, “and his dad came running and watched his son get shot and say the shehada.”

My body went numb as I read these lines. Already up though the night mourning a friend of mine, now I am mourning another. Salem Shamaly and his family got split while evacuating Shejai`yea neighbourhood in light of Israel’s latest massacre in the area. And ever since the rest of the family made it to Mohammed’s home, him and his uncle have been looking for Salem everywhere. They spent all of yesterday searching Al Shefa hospital and asking around, but to no avail.

Senseless loss, however, is not a strange notion to Gaza and its people. Submerged in grief, Mohammed’s uncle got up to pray and read some Quran, hoping God will grant him some sort of sublime patience he needs in order to calm his wailing daughters. Salem was only 20 years old, the only son to his father and the only brother to his 7 sisters. To the international community in general and the western world in particular, which seems to be overlooking Israeli war crimes and violations of the International Humanitarian Law over and over again, Salem is but another number added to an already overflowing toll of Palestinian deaths. To his friends and family, Salem will always be the precious gem he has always been.


I missed my graduation ceremony, how cool is that?

So on Wednesday night (June, 27), my friend Lina Al Sharif tweeted me a congratulations for graduating on that day. Funny thing is, her tweet was actually how  I found out my graduation ceremony was early on that day. I didn’t know when the ceremony was lol; that’s how messed up my life is at the moment! Oh well, I never planned on going in the first place, but it sill felt weird and funny. Thanks anyway Linz, you’re such a gem :) congrats la all my friends!

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A Reflection…

Anger? Sorrow? Joy? A combination of the three? A combination of the three. They passed, the last couple of months, so slowly like a snail making its way across the dead sea. Yet so swiftly, they passed, like a scorching fire eating up the remnants of a thin-paper made, abandoned journal. There was all the time in the world to write and to pour onto the paper this limitless drift of emotions, yet very little time. Duties, dreams, anger, stress, LIFE – all melted and merged into a darkening chaos that held sway over me.  It was these very things that always pushed me to blog my heart out. This time the high dose of anger, of frustration, and of longing, however, has been paralyzing.

The list of what I wanted to speak of or rant about is swelling already. There is the dreamlike pack of books I received as a gift all the way from the UK from sweet Vicky whom I never even met, there is Diwan Ghazza and so much inspiration and hope, there is the talent show I have been working on, and there is also my unanticipated trip to Malmo, Sweden. Equally, there has been  my unprecedented frustration with the Palestinian leadership and desire to quit twitter and stop reading news for some good time, there has been my laptop busting because of electricity instability, and there of course has been the fuel/electricity crisis that stripped us all in Gaza from any feeling of dignity (an article I wrote on the matter) – 12-18 hours of electricity cuts a day that affected every aspect of our living and one that made the sole intention of our days to try and find electricity/fuel/water, or turn on generators, and pass the time.  Waking up to no water in the toilet because of no electricity, forcing me to go to a restaurant in order to use the damn bathroom, sure was enough to ruin my mood for an entire day. Hearing this person’s story and that person’s story, thinking about newborn babies dying in hospitals, and struggling to get online, to charge my phone, or to use electricity for anything at all has all struck me forcibly. Overwhelmed with joy when it’s on, and weighed down with anger and irritation whenever it’s out or back during sleep hours. Electricity became everything. It became our dream, and also our worst nightmare. I cannot fathom the considerable transformation of our Palestinian cause, the cause of the land, of the refugees, of Jerusalem into a struggle for basic human rights and a dignified, equal life. (more…)


Motor for My Valentine..

*When sorrows [In our case; MASAYEB] come, they come not single spies, but in battalions* Hamlet

My week!
1- Cyber attacks and hackings into internet servers in Gaza caused random cyber blackouts. I received 6 messages so far from the internet company apologizing for the disconnection.
2- My laptop screen stops working because of the weak and unstable electricity generated by our retarded power generator.
3- Fuel is not allowed to get into Gaza, causing an electricity crisis. (considering the 8-hour schedule we had since the siege was imposed on Gaza wasn’t a real crisis -_-“)
4- Valentine’s: The power plant shuts down and the 6 hours per day electricity  schedule starts. Our power generator stops working. I can’t use my laptop even if it was fully charged (battery lasts for 3 hours) because the screen doesn’t work and I need to connect it to a pc monitor temporarily, which requires electricity.
5- Internet crisis continues, so even during the six hours, internet keeps going on and off.
6- No internet in most internet Cafe’s
7- If I want to go to a restaurant to make use of their electricity and do some work I can’t because the laptop screen doesn’t work and I can’t just take a PC monitor with me!
7- We get a new power generator, but the fuel problem is continuing and I don’t know when we’re going to run out and become unable to turn it on.
8- Water bumps occasionally stop because of the electricity crisis.
9- It’s so fucking hard to take a God damn shower!! It is cold and we need to turn on the water heater for at least 30 minutes before any shower, and because it’s a heavy load on the power generator we can’t turn it on unless there is electricity! Now imagine, 6 hours per day that sometimes come when we’re asleep or when we’re out should be made use of for showers not just for me but also the rest of the family!
10- I had to miss #LoveUnderApartheid! :( but am happy it was trending worldwide on twitter!! Listen to Lina’s story :(, to Tayseer and Lana’s, and to Laila’s..
11- INTERNET IS STILL EFFING ME UP, I’ve been trying to upload this damn video I made quickly as soon as we got electricity back on the 14th for 3 days now! But YouTube uploads aren’t resumable..
12- Am forced to delays tons of crap (more…)


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