This piece was originally published on Riwayya, an online art and literary journal featuring original work from artists the world over.
Ten toy cars
Are all that stand between me and reality,
Where two rooms away
Mother calls my name —
Urgently, but not urgent enough.
I clatter my orange Camaro
Into the generic blue speedster I found
At the bottom of my toy bin just last week.
Pushing air through my teeth, I hiss
The way a banged-up Camaro might sound in the aftermath of a crash.
Like many children, I grew up with an assortment of diecast cars available for any given imagination. If I wanted to simulate a modern metropolis, I knew exactly how to guide my cars through construction sites and school zones. If a volcano erupted in the nearby forest, I knew that my Jeep could handle the marsh pits better than my slick-tired Thomassima III ever could. Even though I made a living out of crashing them, I always did so gently, doing everything in my power to keep the paint from scratching. I owned many more than ten toy cars but these were the ones I couldn’t live without.
She calls my name again,
This time with force.
I neatly rearrange my cars,
Careful not to warrant an imaginary parking ticket.
Mother sits in stillness,
Illuminated by violent flashes of white and blue
Leaving imprints, like sharp razored-wrinkles,
On a face grown weary with time.
Not once does she flinch. Read More
Photo credit: Unspecified AFP Photograph
Date taken: September 19, 1982
Location: Sabra Refugee Camp, Beirut, Lebanon
A Palestinian woman cries while civil defense workers remove the body of her relative from the rubble of her home in the Sabra refugee camp in the hours following a three-day massacre that claimed the lives of thousands. Read More
Momen Shweikh’s prank show Tawwil Baalak does it again. This time, with hidden cameras set up down the street, he and a young actress take on a small pharmacy in Gaza City.
Momen and the actress playing his daughter pretend to be homeless. Sharing a makeshift bed and a small bag of personal belongings, Momen audibly promises his daughter a comfortable apartment, complete with a large air conditioner and a microwave — basic amenities to many people privileged with a roof over their heads but quite the luxury to many more. Read More
Guest contribution by Amira Sakalla
In Gaza, we count the hours. We keep up with the days. Every eight hours. Off in the evening today. We do our best, as much as we can, at creating a system out of chaos. This is an affirmation of our humanity. Yes, even monitoring power cuts — this is resistance. We do our best to follow this pattern so we can plan our day. So that when the power’s off at home, we might be away.
What beautiful moments in Gaza we make for ourselves, which even in the United States, honestly, are hard to replace. We do not have much, but we enjoy these things. Trips to the market. Tea on the roof. Evenings at a cafe. Fridays on the beach. I deeply cherish these moments with my family, which taught me much of what I now know about life.
We have no control though, not in any sense. Despite our efforts, disorder will commence. I am not talking about shelling or drones, not this time. There are many different ways to commit a crime. Because following each of these beautiful times we have together, the moment to return must always come. This starts out, innocently, as a drive back in the car. Singing, laughing, and watching the Gaza scenery speed by. The air is filled with joy and our hearts are light — until we pull up to the house. The power is off tonight. Despite our calculations, extra hours of darkness await us. Read More
Photo credit: Alaa Badameh
Date taken: July 1, 2014
Location: Jenin Refugee Camp, West Bank, Palestine
Relatives grieve as Yousef Abu Zagha, 16, is prepared for his funeral in a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Jenin. The Israeli military shot and killed him exactly one year ago during heavy crackdowns following the discovery of the bodies of three Israeli settler youth who were kidnapped in the West Bank. Read More
Were you so hungry that you spent time, money, and energy to make the trip to Washington, D.C., and navigate your way through streets and sidewalks caked with the bloody footsteps of soulless lobbyists and politicians just to break bread with a man whose signature authorized the thousands of death transactions we have seen throughout his presidency? Were you so excited upon receiving your invitation that you managed to forget that just hours ago, you were condemning everything about the White House? Were you so ambitious that you thought your attendance was going to change our government’s perception of the Middle East and reverse years of war that have taken the lives of millions of Muslims?
I am never really sure which is the U.S. State Department’s bigger gimmick: the Iftar itself or the guest list, upon which are the names of leaders, diplomats, and alleged representatives who are already so disconnected from the country’s Muslim community that they and their legacies are virtually unrecognizable. The White House has even begun inviting local leaders and community organizers, recognizing their individual struggles and reminding those in attendance that Muslims are a friendly bunch with great potential. The whole event is patronizing, but just like we loathe celebrities until the moment they’re autographing our t-shirts, the attendees eat it up.
There is a certain amount of dignity you must leave at the front door before allowing yourself to be convinced that you matter, that the President is listening to your needs, that American soldiers are taught that Muslims are dogs only to stimulate their wild cartoonish imaginations, not to make it easier to shoot at them and their families. Read More
The month of Ramadan is upon us and with it comes the age-old debate: which foods are holy enough to live up to the sanctity of this month and which foods nullify your fast for the next seven years?
We have conducted a painstakingly comprehensive poll to lay this debate to rest once and for all. Because this is a Palestine-centric blog, and because Palestinians are responsible for most of the world’s debates, we have thoughtfully elected to filter the poll results so that they only include foods common to Palestinian cuisine.
We have also included photographs of the dishes accompanied by accurate historical information and helpful cooking tips for the reader’s benefit. Read More
Like many Palestinians living in the United States, Chicago-native Nader Ihmoud had grown tired of the way he and his fellow countrymen and countrywomen were portrayed in the public sphere. Either their achievements or contributions were entirely ignored or, when they did earn themselves a bit of airtime, the coverage was almost always negative, as though Palestinians had somehow failed to earn the privilege of fair media treatment. So Nader decided to do something about it.
As true to its name as something can ever be, Nader founded Palestine in America to do what traditional American media simply refuses to do.
We caught up with Nader and asked him a few questions about his latest project and about what he hopes to achieve.
SMP: What compelled you to start Palestine in America (PiA)?
Nader Ihmoud: I attended Columbia College, where I got my degree in broadcast journalism. My dream was to become a sports reporter, specifically a Chicago Bulls beat reporter. I even wanted to stay away from reporting on Palestine because I felt I was too passionate about Palestine to report objectively.
That all changed when two Palestinian boys walking home from soccer practice were shot by Israeli soldiers and attacked by military dogs. It was my senior year and I was responsible for a weekly sports column in The Columbia Chronicle, the school’s award-winning weekly. I wrote about the assault and how FIFA should step in, but during that week’s production cycle, I was informed that my column would be withheld — censored — for a week until the story could be corroborated. I had already confirmed the story through two news outlets, but my advisors chose not to run the story because no Israeli news outlet had reported it. The article ran the following week but I had to jump through hoops just to get it printed. That situation made me second-guess my dream.
After graduating, I turned my attention to Palestinian-Americans and their culture within the United States. The more I reported on Palestinians in America, the more I realized there wasn’t a publication in the U.S. that catered to us. That’s how I realized my newest dream. Read More
Thousands gather at the TD Arena in Charleson, South Carolina, on June 19, 2015, to honor the nine victims of a racially-motivated killing spree at a historically Black church. (Joe Raedie, Getty)
The Charleston church shooting happened on June 17, 2015, when 21-year-old Dylann Roof joined the South Carolina-based congregation in prayer and then opened fire. He shot ten people. Nine died, including the church’s senior pastor, in this act of domestic terrorism.
We begin by recognizing the victims by name, to pay our respects, to pray for their souls, and to remind ourselves that they are more than just statistics.
Susie Jackson, 87
Daniel Simmons, 74
Ethel Lee Lance, 70
Myra Thompson, 59
Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, 54
Depayne Middleton-Doctor, 49
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45
Clementa Pinckney, 41
Tywanza Sanders, 26
Guest contribution by Norah Al Bireh
Is it paradoxical or perhaps self-defeating to define the Palestinian diaspora, to divide it according to region, to study its integration or isolation as the compass sways us away from home? After living on both sides of it, with Palestine in the middle, the Americas to the West, and the Arab refugee population to the East, I feel that I am, as Edward Said may have once felt, the social pariah who will merely dwell, becoming so reclusive in the self that relating to any side now is impossible. Unique, lost, alone, I hide in my corner.
Being the Palestinian-American whose family had some element of home hanging on the wall, be it a framed picture of Jerusalem or a photo of our grandfather, return was on our mind. Even rocks from back home were in a vase, pieces of broken clay we suspected were something antique in nature, spewed across the land of my grandfather. These elements of home were thrown against the backdrop of drywall suburbia, paved walkways and driveways, with at least one almond tree, one fig tree, and of course the olive tree planted somewhere in the backyard of our fears. There was an excitement I felt as a girl when, driving along the industrial roads of California’s warehouse capital, I saw olive trees weighed down by its gifts. Yet they were ornamental, I suppose, and even when we did try to pick them, security guards were not too happy.
It is difficult to articulate how out of place I will always be. And perhaps it is human nature to constantly strive to be different, to hold onto whatever makes us unique and proclaim it as I had done in the United States, with too many flags, authentic propaganda posters, and Handala with his back always to me. He too was in the same corner. Read More