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.
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:
First published on the Middle East Monitor with edits
By: Jehan Alfarra
Hassan 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…)
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.
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…)
Palestinian youth join boats set to challenge Israel’s siege of Gaza
- Irish and Canadian boats in international waters on their way to challenge illegal siege policy
- Palestinian activists call for end to international complicity in Israel’s crimes
- Support actions taking place throughout the West Bank and inside Israel
First published by the IMEU
By: Jehan Alfarra
The recently announced prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel, and the hunger strike of Gazans acting in solidarity with striking Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails, have elicited overlapping and at times contradictory emotions from Gaza’s residents.
Upon hearing the news of the Egyptian and German-brokered swap, Gaza celebrated with chants of joy in rallies throughout the Strip. Afnan, a girl of twenty and a daughter to Palestinian political prisoner Jalal Saqr, received the news with great disbelief. The tears rolled down her face uncontrollably as she spoke about the anticipation of hugging her father for the first time. “I was a baby when they detained my father. I am married and pregnant now and I still haven’t seen him! I cannot wait to hold him!” she added as her eyes doubled up with tears of joy. The news was not any less overwhelming to Fatima, the wife of political prisoner Salama Mesleh, than it was to Afnan. “I dream day and night of having a child. My husband and I lived together for no more than a year before he was taken. The Israeli soldiers broke into our house, searched it and turned it upside down and then took him. He entered his 19th year in prison last week, but I have always known my patience would pay off.”
By: Jehan Alfarra
I miss the day when my little Barbie toy and my fluffy and soft teddy bear were all that mattered. They were the things I clung to the most and the things I held on to too tightly when I layed down in my tiny little bed, with its white-painted wooden bars around, to sleep. I would squeeze the fuzzy ball between my tiny fingers and close my eyes, without having to worry about a Palestine and a world of prejudice and misplaced integrity.
Though I am no child no more. My voice matters, and whether I liked writing or not is irrelevant. Writing is a duty first and foremost, and a way to let off some steam second. I have been brought up to two doctors, thus my life have been more privileged than ordinary residents of the Gaza Strip, my father originally Gazan, and my mother a refugee. I have been raised on the stories of the Nakba (Palestinian Catastrophe/formation of Israel), and how my mother’s family were thrown out of their houses in 1948 for an Israeli family to live there instead. My mother’s grandpa was shot by the Israeli Hagana gangs, and my grandpa was a kid back then. He is still alive and dreams of going back to their small house and their farm.