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Conflicting emotions in Gaza over prisoner exchange

First published by the IMEU
By: Jehan Alfarra

Photo: 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.”

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Gaza Think Tank- The PA’s UN Palestinian Statehood Bid

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.

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Why I am saving up for a punching bag

By: Jehan Alfarra

Imagine a tumor, a big lump of frustration muddled up with helplessness settling inside your heart and getting pumped through your veins and the entirety of your body, and it has no cure. You only wish you can reach down, thrust your hand into your heart and squash that toxic chunk of aggravation between your wobbly fingers. Eradicating it, though, is a treatment you are denied; the only eradication that you can have is the Israeli termination of your life, and along with it the termination of your despair. You may only resort to immunotherapy, which very much depends on your creativity in enhancing your immune system and endurance levels. It would be safe to say that every Palestinian is, one way or another, inflicted with this malignant cell. Where I live in Palestinian Gaza, people are inflicted with this helplessness and hopelessness , but to make matters worse, there is also a time bomb planted inside of their chests as well, ticking away and ready to detonate any passing moment. Life is a mere existence rather than real living. At times, escapism and absolute indifference are your only means of relative happiness.

In Gaza, men have ‘learnt at a very young age what it was to be angry- angry and helpless’. They are encompassed by a cloud of vulnerability and are impelled  to watch their integrity being ripped out at every uncertainty and inability to do and be, but as Gaza men are transported with rage, the defiance and struggle against the nasty tumor knows no break. It is a full time job.

In Gaza, even the most moderate and serene women are intensely preoccupied with a paradoxical desire and passion for ranting, cursing, and at times, simply crying. Watching their lives, and if married the lives of their children and their husbands preordained and constrained by what Israel, coordinating with Egypt, permits. Read the rest of this page »

Blackout. Are They Testing For A New Assault?

Jehan AlfarraThe setting
Place: The balcony of my bedroom.
Time: August, 10, 2011. 3:00 am (Suhoor).
Surrounding environment: A nice breeze, a starry sky, and the noise of neighbouring power generators + Israeli drones.

The characters: Myself, my mind, and Israeli drones.
The mood: Concern and agitation
The props: A mattress, a fluffy pillow, my blue bear, a laptop, a cell phone, a chocolate bar, and a bottle of water.

As I, trying to put my mind to sleep, contemplate the troubling beauty of the lights of not just the stars but also the Israeli warplanes in my sky, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Cast Lead II?
It has been pretty quiet on the whole since this blackout started. I often fear quiet under such circumstances, but the company of my family and the TV screen that I cursed just the other day kept my mind off of things.
It really did not seem to be a big deal at the beginning when I tried to come back on twitter and the connection failed after I had finished my iftar. It happens more often than not due to the random power cuts that causes disruption and messes up the settings of my router. I picked up my phone to text someone only to find that there was no cell phone signal, either! My mom’s phone happened to be on the table in front of me, so I attempted to use hers, though there was no signal whatsoever on that one, too. A couple of hours passed with my mind itching until we all felt that something was not right. We contacted our relatives using the landline, and it turned out the whole strip was experiencing the same thing. Read the rest of this page »

Is Gaza Occupied?

So a journalist sends me a few questions for an article she is writing, those are the questions and  my quick answers.

1. In your opinion, is Gaza “occupied” by Israel?
2. What do you want Americans to know about the situation in Palestine?
3. What do you want Americans to know about the Arab or Muslim world?
4. Any additional comments

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The straw that broke the camel’s back, an iPod

Gratitude seems too heavy a word and a sentiment to me these days, as the swelling list of my losses up until this point has been preoccupying my mind. I have been thinking of myself and myself alone for a while to the point I feel I have become somebody I am not and never wanted to be, yet still getting slapped in the face- hard. Never before have I been selfish, and no one I knew could ever call me selfish. In fact, most people I met have told me that my selfless efforts to help those around me and to advocate something essentially just is what earned me their respect and appreciation, and thus thinking of myself now feels way too awkward for I have never asked for anything specifically for me. I have been contended with the privileges I had, and what God has bestowed me with in general. And I, like most Palestinians, try my bestest to appreciate life whenever I can and live it to the fullest, though from a bleak outlook on it. My pessimism is what made me happy in the first place, and it is what helps Palestinians cope with such life, injustice, and discrimination. It is when you do not expect something good from this world that you appreciate whatever it is you have, and as Swift said, ‘Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.’ But, I have been gradually losing that ability, and it is agitating me. I had accepted life in this part of the world as it is with the good and the bad, though I was blessed with something that turned my life upside down and made me way too happy to be myself, and then life slapped me with my worst fear to the point I can’t but look at everything I have, and everything I don’t, look at everything I do, and everything I don’t, everything I think I deserve, and everything I don’t. I knew there would eventually be a point in my life where I realize that nothing but a mirage is what I have been living, as the days seem too shallow now, too pointless, too painful, and too hard to escape- OVER A POSSIBILITY.

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When humanity fails: The Rafah Border

This is absolutely ridiculous! Here is some of the footage we taped complied in a short report:

I am writing this and I am REALLY hating it. It has been a while since I’ve blogged, however it seems as though most of my posts are becoming about the Rafah border and all the claptrap around it, and I am not in the slightest happy about it. Might as well change the title of my blog into ‘Rafah yesterday, today, and tomorrow: stinging sameness’!!

Jehan Alfarra

Bravo Israel! The Palestinian Cause in Gaza has become the Rafah crossing, amongst a few other things. The Palestinian cause has become an appeal for basic human rights for Palestinians, such as the freedom of movement, the right to medical treatment, and so on. People have gotten to a certain point where all they think about is an easy life and mere survival. Even on an international level, all the attention has been shifted to the closed crossings of this enclave. The international community are rarely addressing the right of return or the rights of Palestinian detainees nowadays, as Israel has successfully managed to create a crisis they deny on a 360km piece of land that would shift all of the world’s attention away from Israel’s immense crimes and expanding settlements.

Anyhow, I will write about this as it makes me absolutely angry at how ugly the Palestinians here in Gaza are being treated, and how this degradation and humiliation has become the daily life of hundreds of human beings holding a Palestinian passport. I have talked in my previous post about the siege and what opening the border would do or mean, and I have also shown my cynicism over the recent ‘permanent opening by Egypt’ news. On Saturday, (July 2) I went to Rafah myself to see what things are like now and if there is any change. I was feeling very indifferent and wore light purple (a colour I usually very much dislike and wear on bad days). It took us an hour to reach the border, and while in the car we were cracking some jokes and being ironic about Rafah and Egyptian statements in this regard. As we reached there and saw the closed gates, anger started building up inside me, slowly. I kept my cool and smile, and we decided to interview people and see what is going on.

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