Posts tagged “Palestine

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.


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.”

(more…)


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. (more…)


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. (more…)


Elaboration on the Opening of Rafah Border

I was asked to elaborate more on the issue of opening the Rafah Crossing in a written post, and so I am writing something brief as I am cramming for exams and uni work this month.

First of all I want to note in short what opening the Rafah Crossing would mean for Gaza. The opening of Rafah will firstly and most importantly allow Gazans to somewhat practice their right for freedom of movement which they have been long deprived of. Scholarship holders would be able to travel with ease, patients would be able to travel for treatment, and families would be able to reunite without the fear of being stuck on either side (in or out of Gaza), and so on.

The second most important thing would be raw construction material being brought back into Gaza to allow reconstruction to take place. And on this note, it is important to mention the hundreds of Gazan workers in the reconstruction sector that have been out of work and who would be finally brought back into work, reducing the unemployment level that Gaza is suffering from.

Equally important would be reviving trade in the Gaza strip and allowing a sufficient amount of decent goods to enter, thus reducing the prices and fortifying the Gazan economy. This has another value which is, hopefully, terminating the existence of smuggling tunnels- that, believe it or not, Gazans hate even more than Israelis as it put the lives of Gazans at risk and indeed caused the death and and injury of hundreds. In addition, it will give Gazans more options and choices, and alternatives to Israeli-made or smuggled products; and this will help Gazans themselves to participate in boycotting Israeli products.

Not to forget the medical insuffeciency and serious lack for the necessary medications and medical equipments that are prevented from entering the strip as well.

On top of all of this, the opening of Rafah at this point will allow Hamas to claim a massive victory against Israeli pressure, and will give new Egypt a stronger stand in Middle-East affairs.

As for Egypt, this move would add patent credit to post-revolution Egyptian policy which has been thus far following the desire of the Egyptian public. Being careful, however, so as not to idealise the new Egyptian government; especially that the Hamas-Fatah unity deal was brokered by Egyptian intelligence rather than the foreign office. As Palestinians, we have learned to expect the worst scenarios and be as realistic as possible, and in this case, we should not be expecting much. I mean until this moment, what has been said about opening the Rafah Border has not been implemented, and as the Egyptian head of the Rafah Crossing, Ayoub Abu Shaar, put it: The number of Palestinians who were denied passage through the Rafah crossing after the Egyptian revolution increased threefold compared to the numbers before the uprising.

So only time will tell.

Personally, What gives me pleasure in all of this is that Israel is pretty confused, and rather pissed! We can see Israeli figures at variance more than ever before haha. You see netanyahu threatening the PA and calling the reconciliation pact between Hamas and Fatah “a tremendous blow to peace”and asking them to choose between Israel and Hamas. On the other hand, you see Perez affirming “President Mahmoud Abbas is still a partner for peace with Israel” and that his decision to reconcile with Hamas “doesn’t free me of the need to talk with him.”

Oh. Click here to see my trip from Gaza to Egypt before the revolution through the Rafah Border