Gaza through the eyes of someone far from home

Guest contribution by Deena Kishawi

As the days of summer pass, I have tried hard to ignore the news. Not because I don’t want to know the goings-on in the world but because I know that if I see or hear something that strikes a nerve, my heart will shatter just as forcefully.

Since Israel’s aggressive operation on the people of the Gaza Strip began on July 8, I’ve shielded my eyes from the images of bleeding children, emotional mothers, and demolished houses. I’m afraid that I might see something I recognize from my visits to Gaza or someone I met — perhaps a relative or a friend. I’m afraid that my memories of Gaza will be tarnished with destruction and not the gleaming sun-lit beauty I remember from my time there exactly one year ago.

Today, I look back at my journeys to Gaza and desperately wish that I had stayed so that I could be there to help or provide some kind of support to the victims of the invasion — all 1.8 million of them. But not everyone gets to stay.

It is hard to stomach the news, but it is hard to stay away from it as well. When I finally gave in and searched for news on the latest in Gaza, I came across a photograph taken by journalist Ayman Mohyeldin that shows a the raw emotion and heartbreak of a mother after learning that her son had been killed with his cousins on the beach. The Israeli Navy fired two shells one after the other at the boys who had earlier been chasing each other on the wet sand. Four died. [Read more…]

‘I will stand up to my oppressors once more': A travel diary of a Palestinian forced to leave home

Guest contribution by Mohammed Yassin

My name is Mohammed Yassin. Right before the 10th grade, I moved with my family to Palestine where I stayed for the rest of high school. I expected things to be different, yes, but I did not expect the riveting life changing experiences I would quickly come to face

This is not a story of the happiness or love or joy that I felt in my years in qada Ramallah where I felt more at home than anywhere else. This is a story of heartache, a story of struggle that culminated on that cruel day of departure when my time in Palestine was up.

I decided to write a memo of each part of my rough journey back to the United States. The emotions, the anguish, the mental torture I experienced — I tried my hardest to record it all.

The Last Ride

I am sitting upstairs by myself because I can’t bear to sit with anyone at the moment. I’m staring uninterestedly at the images flickering across the television screen when my mom calls my name to tell me that the taxi driver has arrived. Her words echo in my head. The moment I’ve dreaded this whole year is finally here. I knew this day would come but I prayed with all my heart that it never would.

I slowly drag my feet along the floor, hoping that if I stalled, something might happen and put our journey on hold indefinitely. I drag my feet even slower, but nothing interrupts our plans. [Read more…]

Criminalizing Dissent: State Violence Against Black and Palestinian Youth

Guest contribution by Bayan Abusneineh

On May 15, a date when Palestinians around the world commemorate the Nakba, the Arabic word for “catastrophe,” 17-year-old Nadeem Siam Nuwara and 16-year-old Muhammad Mahmoud Odeh Abu Al-Thahir were shot and killed by the Israeli military. Al-Nakba symbolizes the day that preceded Israel’s declaration of statehood and the day when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled. The two boys were participating in a demonstration near Ofer military prison when they were shot. They had been protesting Israel’s use of administrative detention, a tool used to imprison Palestinian men, women, and children on the basis of “suspicious” behavior, and expressing their support for the Palestinian hunger strikers. The killing of the two innocent boys proves how Israel kills with impunity.

Mass incarceration of Palestinians

Political captivity and mass incarceration are part and parcel to the Zionist settler-colonial regime. Physical and psychological forms of torture have been employed as colonial tools, designed to not only intimidate Palestinians through terror, but to also prevent and stifle all resistance movements, including throwing rocks. According to the Prison Support and Human Rights Association, Addameer, as of April 1, 2014, there were approximately 5,265 Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli prisons and detention centers, including 186 administrative detainees, 20 women, and 202 children. Twenty-four of these children were under the age of 16. Administrative detention is the right to arrest and detain without charge or trial, and Palestinians cannot even view the evidence used against them in these cases. [Read more…]

Tatreez: Intricate expressions of the Palestinian experience

Guest contribution by Wedad Yassin

Tatreez, or traditional Palestinian embroidery, is significant to me not just because it is evidence of our culture and existence but also because each intricate cross-stitch reminds me of how much we really have to say.

Whenever I walk through the streets of Palestine, whenever I go to Palestinian weddings, I find elderly women wearing their hand-sewn thwab, their life stories intricately threaded onto their bodies. They always walk with such pride and confidence in their thwab. But that’s expected. After all, to ‘read’ a thobe is to read a lifetime of blood, sweat, and tears. Years spent climbing the same hills from one village to the next, decades spent tilling the soil under the sun — whatever the story is, whatever the experience is, it belongs to her, displayed in bold colors for the world to see.

When I was taking these photographs, one of the ladies jokingly asked if I was secretly trying to replicate her tatreez pattern.

Leish biddik itkalldi tatreezi?

I laughed and for a split second thought about hugging her. It’s crucial to acknowledge that these hand-sewn thwab are like fingerprints. A pattern can be copied, but it could never carry the same significance that it does for the woman who stitched the original pattern with nothing more than a personal story to guide her hands.

[Read more…]

The Nakba equipped me with a spirit born of catastrophe but destined for triumph

Guest contribution by Deanna Othman

May 15 marks the 66th anniversary of al-Nakba or “The Catastrophe,” the day that led to the systematic dispossession of two-thirds of the Palestinian population — exiled from their homes, bereft of their property, land, and dignity. This day, with the creation of the state of Israel, came the creation of the Palestinian refugee crisis. The creation of a nation on the land of another nation, with people forcibly removed from their villages — villages that would be expunged from the map, but not from the memories of those who inhabited them.

Yes, with Israeli Independence Day came celebration and mourning. One people’s celebration led to another’s degradation. Humiliation. Deprivation.

According to the Institute for Middle East Understanding, as of 2008, more than 4 million Palestinian refugees were registered with the United Nations, and at least another estimated 1 million were not registered. Thus a majority of the Palestinian people, around 10 million persons, are refugees.

These refugees remain outside of a home that they are not allowed to return to — a home many have never known. [Read more…]

Gendering al-Nakba

Guest contribution by Bayan Abusneineh

May 15, 2014 marks the 66th year of al-Nakba, the Arabic word for catastrophe. Palestinians are united around the world through the collective memory of this date. This date to commemorates the displacement of over 750,000 Palestinians following the Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948. Since its declaration, the State of Israel has used Palestinian women’s bodies to execute blatantly racist imperial policies in an attempt to control the Palestinian land, people, and culture. These tactics of state violence aim to not only instill fear in the entire population – both men and women – but to destroy their bodies, their culture, and their humanity.

This piece places Palestinian women at the center of analysis to see how the State of Israel perpetuates both race-based and gender-based violence. Sexual violence cannot be confined to individual acts of rape, but rather how such violence encompasses a broad range of strategies to not only destroy Palestinian bodies, but to weaken the strength of their ties to their native land.[1] Similarly, the Israeli occupation is inscribed on the bodies of Palestinians, particularly those of Palestinian women. Histories of land confiscation, expulsion, and sexual exploitation by the Zionist settler-colonial project are marked on each of their bodies. [Read more…]

Father of Chicago Bulls star played a football match against Palestine’s national team

Guest contribution by Nader Ihmoud

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah’s father Yannik is a famous French tennis player who also played soccer at the international level. The elder Noah played in a rather historic international match between the Palestinian national team and a French club on October 8, 1993, according to One Hundred Years of Football in Palestine, authored by Issam Khalidi.

In the book that described the history of football in Palestine over a 100-year period, Khalidi said the match was played in Jericho in front of an audience of 10,000 people. The match was part of a push to get Federation Internationale de Football Association [FIFA] to recognize the Palestinian Football Federation. The Palestine team was formed using athletes from local leagues in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Palestine defeated Variétés-Club de France 1–0 thanks to a goal by Mahmoud Jarad Sinno. [Read more…]

I apologize, I am sorry

Guest contribution by Nadine Darwish

Dear USGA Senate at Loyola,

I am sorry.

I am sorry for bringing divestment to your table in the first place, let alone three times.

I am sorry for not remembering that advocating for human rights for Palestinians is controversial and makes people feel sad and uncomfortable.

I am sorry for having faith in you to override Pedro’s veto after you voted twice in favor of the resolution.

I am sorry that you missed an opportunity to stand on the right side of history and fulfill your duty as senators in making sure that our university contributes to the advancement of justice.

I am sorry that you sat there and looked in the faces of Palestinians who worked tirelessly on this resolution and essentially told them their existence is controversial and thus should be swept under the table. [Read more…]

The Mourning of the University of the Martyrs

Guest contribution by Hasheemah Afaneh

A moment of silence overcame everyone standing in the square in front of the student council as chanting students carried Saji Darwish’s body through the streets of Birzeit University. It was silence filled with grief, hurt, anger, and questions of why, why, why… and it was this helpless moment that had me toss and turn last night. Sobs, silent cries, and zaghareed gave life to that moment of silence that cast everyone under its spell until Saji’s body reached the main university gate to go back to his family one last time.

The night before, social media “noisemakers” (i.e. posts) made noise about how Saji Darwish, a sophomore at Birzeit University studying media, was shot and killed by Israeli forces while walking with his family’s cattle. Birzeit University’s student council made an announcement to cancel all classes and call on everyone to join together to pay their respects to Saji on campus and then in Beitin, Saji’s hometown.

Clouds filled the bright blue sky as students filled the square and the streets surrounding it. Saji would never see the sight of the blue sky and his fellow students again. Shortly after, the president of the university, deans, and professors came to join. I looked around at the professors, many of whom have been teaching at Birzeit University for years now, and wondered what they were thinking. Were they thinking of their loved ones as was I? Were they thinking of how matters are getting worse? Were they thinking of the peace negotiations that seem to give more violence than peace? Were they thinking ‘may God give patience to his family’? Were they thinking of the martyrs’ monument on campus listing some of the names of students that were killed in the First Intifada, giving Birzeit the name of University of the Martyrs? [Read more…]

Rachel Corrie’s Inspiration Lives on Eleven Years Later

Guest contribution by Manar Mohammad

“We have got to understand that people in third world countries think and care and smile and cry just like us.

“We have got to understand that they dream our dreams and we dream theirs.

“We have got to understand that they are us. We are them.”

This is a short part of a speech that Rachel Corrie, then a mere ten years old, wrote for her school’s Fifth Grade Press Conference on World Hunger. (Watch the video here.) Back then, Rachel had only peeled back the curtain enough to reveal what she had inside of her. She grew up as a passionate and thoughtful child, questioning the world and writing about these thoughts in countless journals, as if one day these writings would speak back to her and give her the answers she needed. She did not know how to help, only that she wanted to, until she was a college student and joined the International Solidarity Movement in Gaza. [Read more…]

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