Archive for the ‘Uprooted Palestinians\’ Testimonies’ Category

Tamim-Al-Barghoutipar Tamim Barghouti, traduit par Eric Lamy

À trois reprises, les médias furent trompés : “la gravitė de la famine était exagérée”, “les témoins oculaires mentaient” et “les victimes de la faim n’avaient faim que de célėbrité”. Dans ces trois cas précis, les forces assiégeantes mangèrent et burent devant les caméras des reporteurs, juste à côté du camp, pour mieux humilier et insulter ceux qui y vivaient.

Le camp de réfugiés de Yarmouk (à Damas) est assiégé depuis des mois, soumis à des bombardements terrestres ou aériens. De nombreux réfugiés sont morts de faim, n’ayant d’autre ressource que de se nourrir de feuilles ou de cactées ; le manque d’eau potable à également entraîné des affections intestinales et des maladies de peau.

Des nouveaux-nés ont péri de même, ainsi que leurs mères, des personnes âgées, des malades et des blessés, à cause du manque de médicaments. Toute personne qui essaie de quitter le camp est abattue, et le camp à été bombardé à de nombreuses reprises.

Même quand le régime syrien a permis l’entrée de l’aide dans le camp (grâce à la pression des médias étrangers), il a aussitôt refermé le siège quand l’attention des médias s’est relâchée.

Les tentatives des soutiens du régime syrien pour nier leur responsabilité vis-à-vis de Yarmouk sont pathétiques : le camp jouxte Damas. L’armée syrienne est seule responsable, légalement et moralement et aussi sur le plan régional, puisqu’elle contrôle entièrement la ville.

Quoique les supporteurs du régime prétendent qu’ils ont le droit pour eux, leurs actions immondes seraient moins ignobles s’ils ne prétendaient pas les accomplir au nom d’une cause prétendue.

Pour ce qui est d’affamer les Palestiniens, le régime syrien en a une longue expérience, peut-être même la plus accomplie que tout autre pays arabe. Trois des quatre pays qui entourent la Palestine ont été impliqués dans la mort de Palestiniens. Septembre, Sabra & Shatila et le blocus de Gaza… Pour autant, un seul pays sur les quatre fit couler le sang Palestinien à trois reprises : Tel Zaatar, la Guerre des Camps de réfugiés, et le camp de Yarmouk aujourd’hui.

À trois reprises, la scène se répète : le régime syrien utilise des milices alliées et leur donne l’ordre d’encercler le camp. Concernant le camp de Tel Al-Zaatar (1976), Damas a utilisé les milices chrétiennes maronites (et notamment les Phalangistes de la plus importante milice chrétienne), sans oublier les “forces Kataeb”, les “gardiens du Cèdre” et le “mouvement Marada”.

Au cours de la Guerre de Camps (1985/1988), le régime syrien à recruté la milice shiite Amal qui était, à l’époque, en conflit armé avec le Hezbollah pour le contrôle de Beyrouth et du Sud-Liban. Le Parti de Dieu ne prit pas part à la Guerre des Camps, mais Amal ouvrit le feu sur les Palestiniens et, simultanément, attaqua le Hezbollah.

Comme aujourd’hui, le régime syrien s’appuie directement sur son armée ainsi que sur des milices Palestiniennes inféodées, comme le Front Populaire pour la Libération de la Palestine – Commandement Général (FPLP – CG) et le groupe Fatah al Intifada.

Dans ces trois différents camps de réfugiés, l’eau et l’électricité furent d’abord coupés : les gens furent privés d’approvisionnement jusqu’à manquer de tout, jusqu’à mourir de faim. Dans ces trois cas, la faim à poussé les gens à manger des feuilles et à réclamer des fatwas pour être autorisés à manger des chats, des chiens et des cadavres d’animaux. Les femmes qui s’aventuraient jusqu’aux puits et autres pompes de forage à l’extérieur du camp étaient abattues par les snipers positionnés autour du camp.

Hussein Ayyad et Maysa Khatib, habitants de Tel Al-Zaatar, ont raconté que les corps des femmes tuées par les snipers tombaient dans les puits ; les gens étaient obligés de puiser l’eau dans laquelle restaient les corps des martyres. Impossible de les en retirer car les snipers continuaient de leur tirer dessus.

Dans ces trois exemples précités, les médias furent mystifiés : l’importance de la famine était exagérée, les témoins oculaires mentaient, et les victimes de la faim n’avaient faim que de célébrité. De la même manière, les forces assiégeantes mangeaient et buvaient devant les caméras, près du camp, afin d’humilier et d’insulter plus encore les habitants du camp.

Une des chaînes de télévision libanaise qui soutient le régime syrien à diffusé un reportage sur le Camp de Yarmouk montrant les soldats loyalistes en train de manger avec un des reporters de la chaîne, niant que les habitants du camp soient affamés et imitant les scènes où du lait maternisé était gâché pendant les sièges de Sabra & Shatila et de Burj El-Barajneh (dans les années 80). Le premier, imposé par le Liban et soutenu par Israël, dura trois mois, de juin à septembre 1982. Le second, mis en place par le Liban et soutenu par la Syrie, à duré 4 ans, de 1985 à 1988.

À chaque occasion, le régime syrien s’est justifié en arguant que les Palestiniens entretenaient des opinions radicales, qu’ils étaient des résistants invétérés. Mais Damas ne s’en prit jamais à Israël, même quand l’état hébreu à bombardé Damas. À chaque fois, l’humiliation des Palestiniens relayée par les médias était un élément essentiel de la guerre livrée contre eux. Non content de démoraliser les gens dans les camps et tous ceux qui les défendaient pendant le siège, il fallait aussi salir l’image de la Palestine, des symboles politiques et culturels Palestiniens. Il fallait aussi semer la confusion dans l’opinion publique syrienne et libanaise, dans leur réaction à de telles actions et, enfin, les convaincre de ne rien tenter pour s’opposer au siège des camps de réfugiés.

Refugee camp in Damascus, SyriaLe 9 janvier 2014, le porte parole de l’UNRWA, Christopher Gunness à déclaré que “la profonde souffrance des civils de Yarmouk s’aggrave. Les rapports confirment que la malnutrition est extrêmement répandue, de même que l’absence de soins médicaux, surtout pour ceux qui ont été blessés à cause du conflit, ainsi que les femmes prêtes à accoucher, avec des conséquences fatales pour certaines d’entre elles.”

Le journal britannique The Guardian relate que le même porte-parole de l’UNRWA déclaré, le 9 février 2014 (un mois après sa première déclaration) que le Dr Ibrahim Mohammed, qui travaille au sein de l’UNRWA, à sauvé un bébé de 14 mois appelé Khaled, souffrant de grave malnutrition. Depuis 2 mois, ce bébé ne vivait presqu’exclusivement d’eau. Noor, sa maman de 29 ans, avoua qu’elle n’avait, pour toute nourriture, que des décoctions d’épices. Quand il n’y en eut plus, ils se mirent à manger de l’herbe, mais celle-ci vint aussi à manquer.

Dans un message attesté du Réseau Euro-Méditerranéen pour les Droits de l’Homme (REMDH), une organisation basée à Genève qui collabore avec l’UNRWA pour apporter de la nourriture au camp, le REMDH rapporte qu’une jeune fille de 15 ans, prénommée Heba et son bébé de 5 mois, à raconté au personnel des Nations Unies qui distribuaient la nourriture qu’ils n’avaient pas mangé depuis trois jours, et qu’elle n’avait pas pu donner le sein à son bébé. Quand les infirmiers donnèrent de l’eau au bébé, il se mit à gonfler, n’ayant rien avalé depuis plusieurs jours. Les infirmiers en furent si inquiets qu’un médecin de la Croix Rouge Internationale dut le prendre en charge.

Ces exemples de famine furent accompagnés, dans le passé, par le massacre de quiconque tentait de quitter le camp. Dans le cas de celui de Tel Al-Zaatar, par exemple, après avoir affamé le camp pendant des mois, les Phalangistes, soutenus par le régime syrien [de Hafez al Assad, père de Bashar] annoncèrent qu’ils allaient autoriser les Palestiniens à quitter le camp afin d’être acheminés dans des refuges de la Croix Rouge. Quand les Palestiniens commencèrent à quitter le camp, les miliciens les massacrèrent, comme le raconte Maysa Al Khatib, une des survivantes de la tuerie, dont le témoignage fut, avec celui de Hussain Ayyad, publié dans l’appendice Palestinien du journal libanais Al-Safir du 12 août 2013 et du 15 septembre 2012.

“Tous les hommes de plus de dix ans qui tentaient de quitter le camp, comme de nombreuses jeunes filles, jeunes femmes et femmes âgées furent massacrées. Un des assassins s’approcha d’une jeune femme qui portait son nouveau-né de deux jours. Il empoigna son bébé et le projeta au loin. Celui-ci retomba dans des arbres mais la mère ne put localiser l’endroit où son bébé avait atterri.”

Une jeune femme blessée aux jambes se traînait parmi la foule. Un des meurtriers dit à un autre : “emmène-la donc sous le figuier, pour lui donner un peu de bonheur !” La femme répondit que la mort était mille fois préférable. Il la tua d’un coup de feu en disant : “crève donc !”

“Ghazi, mon cousin, portait ma grand-mère sur ses épaules, pensant que le fait de la porter lui éviterait la mort. Mais ils la tuèrent avant de l’assassiner. Une vieille femme glissa et tomba dans un fossé : comme elle tentait de s’en extraire, un des assassins lui dit : “où vas-tu ? Reste donc là où tu es ! ” Et il lui tira plusieurs balles dans la tête.

Abu Yaseen Freijah, un infirmier de l’UNRWA, vêtu de sa tenue blanche, soutenait sa femme, qui avait reçu une balle à l’épaule. Les meurtriers s’emparèrent d’elle et lièrent ses jambes à deux voitures, qui l’ont écartelée.

Mon cousin Ali, âgé de 17 ans, doux et inoffensif, fut attaché à l’arrière d’une voiture qui démarra en trombe. Abu Akram, un marchand de tissu bien connu, essaya de dissuader les assassins de s’en prendre à son fils en leur offrant tout l’argent qu’il possédait. Ils tuèrent son fils sous ses yeux avant de l’abattre, et de prendre tout son argent.

À ce jour, les coupables du massacre de Tel Al- Zaatar et de la famine organisée imposée pendant la Guerre de Camps n’ont pas été punis. Certains d’entre eux sont même devenus ministres ou responsables de conseils représentatifs, au Liban ou en Syrie. Ces tragédies se répètent dans le Camp de réfugiés de Yarmouk. Bien que le début de la tragédie à Yarmouk soit semblable à celle de Tel Al-Zaatar, nous devons agir pour que tous ces gens-là ne finissent pas de la même manière !

Tamim Al Barghouti est un poète palestinien et un scientifique engagé en politique. Il vient d’une famille lettrée. Son père est le poète palestinien Mourid Barghouti et sa mère, romancière érudite, est Radwa Ashour, d’origine égyptienne. Cet article fut publié en arabe dans le journal Shorouk, le 25 février 2014.

 

This is a transcript of a presentation given by Palestinian anarchist Budour Hassan on 17 November 2013 at a Teach in on Syria in New York organized by the MENA Solidarity Newtork US . There is a link to the video of the presentation below.

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In April of 2011 a famous megastar Egyptian blogger told Syrian revolutionaries that they needed to raise Palestinian flags during the demonstrations on Friday just to prove that they support the Palestinian resistance and to deny the narrative by the regime that the regime supports the Palestinian cause.

Now I asked myself then, do Syrians have to do that? Do Syrians have to raise the Palestinian flag just to prove that they support Palestine? Do Syrians have to show their nationalist credentials so the world supports their cause? And the answer was clear to me then: No, Syrians do not have to do that. Now a Syrian friend told me at the start of the uprising that we avoided raising Palestinian flags and talking about Palestine not because we don’t support the Palestinian cause, but because this cause was exploited by the regime to a degree that turned it into just a political tool, and we love Palestine so much that we don’t agree to turn the cause into a political tool, and this is why we avoided using it. And I think that Syrians do not have to do this, Syrians do not have to wave a Palestinian flag to prove that they support us. Because Palestine is not a flag. Definitely Palestine is much more than that.

Palestine is the refugees in Yarmouk camp who supported the revolution from the first day, who aided displaced Syrians and who participated in protests, documented the uprising, and helped as much as they could. The revolution is also the Palestinian refugees in al Raml refugee camp in Latakia who took a hard beating by the regime and had to deal with a heavy crackdown starting from July 2011. And the revolution lives not in the palaces of the regime, nor in the speeches of a resistance leader who thinks that just because he leads a resistance movement this gives him the right to speak in the name of Palestinians, and to kill innocent people in Syria not just in the name of resistance but also in the name of Palestine. So this is why I think that Syrians do not have to prove anything to anyone.

Secondly, even though if we suppose that the Syrian regime does in fact support the Palestinian resistance, does it mean that this allows the Syrian regime to control Syria, to prevent people from expressing their opinions, to kill and torture hundreds of thousands of Syrians just because they dare say no to more than 40 years of oppression, to more than 40 years of injustice? Of course not. Even if Bashar al Assad was the only person capable of liberating Palestine I would not support him, and I’m sure that many Palestinians would not do so either. Because our liberation cannot be established on the enslavement of another people, particularly when this enslavement is an enslavement of our sisters and brothers in Syria.

And in fact the truth is that the Syrian regime has never truly supported Palestine; for the Syrian regime, Palestine has always been a fig leaf and always been a political tool. And it started from the 1970s when the Syrian regime helped other militias in Lebanon to crack down on the refugees in Tel al-Zaatar. The siege and massacre in Tel al-Zaatar cannot be forgotten. And the massacres that the regime helped the Amal party in Lebanon commit in the 1980s also against refugees in Lebanon and against the PLO cannot be forgotten either. And the siege the regime is imposing in Yarmouk refugee camp, preventing people from getting medical aid or baby milk, preventing people from going in and out of the refugee camp, cannot be tolerated and cannot be just ignored, as many are doing unfortunately just because they think that this regime is for resistance, and that this regime is for the human rights of Palestinians.

Now the thing is that me as a Palestinian, I don’t need to say this for many people just to convince them about the justice of the Syrian cause. Because in my opinion it is very clear that this revolution was a revolution for freedom and dignity. But unfortunately for many of us here in Palestine, because there is a polarization among Palestinians, as is the case in many other Arab countries, about the Syrian regime, we had to say it over and over again and to try to convince our comrades — or our former comrades – that they need to stop supporting the Syrian regime, that all we hear about the Syrian regime’s support of resistance is nothing but propaganda.

Now unfortunately it didn’t really help. People mostly stick to their opinions regarding the regime. If we want to talk about what the reaction of Palestinians toward the Syrian revolution is, it varies. Unfortunately the left, mostly the mainstream left, supports the Assad regime. And here lies the irony, because one of the most supportive parties of the regime is called the Israeli Communist Party, and it supports the regime because, it says, “Well, this regime is against imperialism.” But at the same time these people had absolutely no problem in participating in protests alongside Zionists in Tel Aviv, liberal Zionists for instance. So how can you say that you support the Syrian regime because it is against imperialism and on the other hand participate in protests with Zionists?

And also there are others who say that we supported the Syrian Revolution when it was nonviolent, but then after it got violent we couldn’t support it anymore, and it was hijacked. So yes, the Syrian Revolution was indeed hijacked, and we know that there are many Salafis, many jihadists and many other groups, and many pro-America and pro-imperialist groups that tried to hijack the Syrian Revolution. But that does not by any means tarnish the Syrian Revolution, and it also doesn’t mean that just because a revolutionary movement was hijacked that we should stand on the sidelines and stop supporting it.

Of course there are still so many revolutionaries working on the ground, many of them are nonviolent, and there are even many nonsectarian armed brigades that we cannot ignore. If the revolution was hijacked we don’t just go and start blaming the people for it being hijacked. We actually do everything to side with the people in order to get the revolution back on the right track. And this is what many leftists couldn’t understand.

Now on the other side of the spectrum you have the right wingers and the Islamists who support the Syrian Revolution but not truly because they believe in the right of freedom and dignity, but because they think that it is a Sunni uprising against an Alawite regime. Now this is why it was for me very hard to participate in protests organized by Islamists in support of the Revolution, because for me, although of course there are religious movements inside the Revolution, it still a Revolution for freedom, equality, social justice and dignity. And this is why I cannot agree with the line of the Islamists here in Palestine who support the Revolution just because they see it as Sunni versus Alawite.

Now there is a small section among the Palestinian left that supports the Syrian Revolution that doesn’t lecture Syrians about what they have to do, and how they failed. And we managed to organize a few protests, in Haifa for instance, in Jeruslaem, and in other places in Palestine. Although they were small protests I think it meant a lot for us to show the Syrian people that yes there are people in Palestine who stand with you, and there are people who don’t buy into the regime propaganda.

I mean it says a lot that in Syria right now there is an intelligence branch, one of the most notorious intelligence branches in Syria, it’s called “Palestine.” That means that there are people being tortured, including Palestinans, by the way, that are being tortured in the name of Palestine, in the name of our country, in the name of our cause, because we believe it is a cause for freedom.

Now to those Palestinians and to those people who believe that the Syrian regime is truly supportive of Palestine, and who do not support the Revolution, who stand on the side and say “no, we don’t want to support the Revolution, or who remain neutral: I say you have a Palestine and I have my own.

Your Palestine is an intelligence branch in Damascus that kills and tortures people, while my Palestine is Khaled Bakrawi, the martyr from the Yarmouk refugee camp, who was arrested and tortured to death. Your Palestine is a speech by Bashar al-Assad, while my Palestine is the chants of Syrian freedom fighters in Hama. Your Palestine is just empty rhetoric, while my Palestine is people in Bustan al-Qasr raising the picture of Samer Assawi, the hunger-striking prisoner.

My Palestine is people from the north to the south chanting in solidarity with Gaza during the recent war on Gaza last year and saying “Oh Gaza, we are with you ‘til death.” They did it when they were bombarded by the Assad regime and they were shelled. My Palestine is that of the Syrian Revolutionary Youth in Damascus who raised a pamphlet in solidarity with the Palestinians in the Nakab and said “Prawer shall not pass!”

So Syrian revolutionaries, even when they face the most terrible cases of torture, of persecution, and of crackdown, they still remember their sisters and brothers in Palestine, they still chant in solidarity with them and do not forget about the prisoners.

So I think it is very important to remember that, and to remember the hundreds of thousands of Syrians and Palestinian prisoners who still languish in regime jails, for example Ali Shihabi, the communist Palestinian who has been detained in Syrian regime jails for almost a year, and Maher al-Jajeh also, another youth activist from Yarmouk refugee camp, who has been detained by the Syrian regime for more than a year and no one knows what is going on with his case now.

Also we will not forget the martyr Anas Amara, who was murdered simply because he was trying to get aid into Yarmouk refugee camp and trying to break the siege. And my Palestine is that also of Jihad Asad Muhammad, the Syrian journalist who even prior to the Syrian Revolution was always writing in solidarity with Palestine, and who like many others did not believe that this Palestine is Bashar al-Assad’s Palestine, but this is a cause that interests all Arabs.

So I just ask one last thing: I ask people who think that Bashar al-Assad supports Palestine or still believe his propaganda, just go over history a little bit, read more about what he and his father did to Palestine and to the Palestinian camps. And even if you are not convinced, don’t let this fact, don’t let political gains affect your support of the Syrian revolution. Because it is obviously not about geopolitics. We do not know whether if the revolution wins in Syria how will that affect the Palestinian cause. It might indeed damage us, I do not know. But I do not care on the other hand. Because my support of the Syrian Revolution is unconditional.

And I do believe that even though it is getting more and more complicated, and despite all the terrible groups that are trying to hijack the Syrian Revolution, especially the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, which we obviously oppose like so many Syrians, the same Syrians who started protest against the regime and are also protesting against the Islamic State, so I have faith in these people. I have faith in a woman like Souad Nofal, I have faith in those who are so resilient and steadfast in Damascus and in Daraa, birthplace of the Revolution, and in Aleppo and in Salamieh, the fantastic city that has been protesting since the first days of the uprising.

So I have faith in these people, that even though things are getting more and more complicated, that they can manage to keep the uprising going, and even if this means bad things for my cause I really do not care. What I care about is the freedom and dignity of my Syrian sisters and brothers, and to reject that my name or my country or my cause be used or coopted by the Syrian regime to kill and persecute my sisters and brothers in Syria.

pal ymPALESTINIAN YOUTH MOVEMENT
In general, the Palestinian refugee camps in Syria, and particularly Yarmouk camp, formed as the capital of the diaspora, are among the largest groups of Palestinian refugees and have been the starting point for many resistance operations, fueling the Palestinian revolution in its various stages and sacrificing many lives for Palestine. The last demonstration of resistance to their just cause was shown with their bodies alone during the commemorations of al Nakba and al Naksa at the border of the occupied Golan heights between Syria and Palestine, with eagerness for their stolen land, carrying with them the keys of return to their homes from before the brutal Zionist occupation, which they were forced to flee. Undeterred by the threats of the enemy, fire was opened and the bullets brought down many young martyrs.

Under the tense and disastrous circumstances in Syria, the camps have shared a large portion of what is happening as a result and it has led to the displacement and dispersion of many Palestinian families as well as their fleeing to different places within Syria, to neighboring countries, and European countries, effectively repeating the tragedy of Nakba once again to the very details, and in even worse conditions than before in light of a worsening Arab climate preoccupied with their own internal affairs. Further, the PLO has ignored any responsibility it has toward our Palestinian people present in the camps, without even minor levels of communication with the stakeholders of this situation to even mildly alleviate this tragedy.

For months, the Palestinian people have suffered numerous partial sieges and blockades imposed to prevent the entrance of aid and relief, from food and medicine for the camps to preventing the wounded and injured from seeking medical treatment outside the camps, having lost medical supplied at hospitals within the camps. In these past days, a full siege has been imposed on Yarmouk camp, which positions potential for a human catastrophe and which is threatening the lives of our families and brothers and sisters trapped inside the camp.

We, in the Palestinian Youth Movement, reject and condemn the policy of collective punishment against our steadfast families, brothers and sisters in the camps and we call on all concerned international actors, and UNRWA in particular, to exercise its role and fulfill its duty of providing relief to the Palestinian refugees. Furthermore, we call upon the PLO in request for the declaration of a state of emergency and for the PLO to intensify its efforts and pressure to lift this blockade, for the claim of legitimacy and representation is not just a slogan to chant as they please, but rather it is a responsibility to its people.

As the 65th commemoration of the Nakba approaches, we recognize that the tragedy of al Nakba is carried on as part of our daily lives, and rests on the shoulders of our brothers and sisters in the camps in unparalleled ways. However, our brothers and sisters in the camps remain steadfast as always and will remain the foundation of the Palestinian experience, and the meaning and basis of representation is lost if it does not represent the nucleus of its people, especially in the worst and most difficult of conditions.

Until Return and Liberation

www.pal-youth.org
in Arabic
http://hosted-p0.vresp.com/1383031/6f86706c4a/ARCHIVE

Commemorating 60+ Years of the Systematic Murder of Palestinian Land. The first part of a three part series for Land Day

As I stood on the roof and watched Jerusalem stretch in front of me, with the sun reflecting on the golden Dome, I felt angry and felt how unfair the world is. I was born in Jerusalem, went to school there and practically grew up there knowing almost every corner, every street and every alley in it. I have more memories in Jerusalem than any other place in the world, all cherished ones. But now, I am not allowed into the city anymore because I am Palestinian. As I stood there, with tears in my eyes, I envied every Palestinian with an American or European passport, because they can come and visit Jerusalem. I envied every foreigner who can visit the city whenever they choose. I even envied the birds singing on the cypresses before me, because they could fly over Jerusalem and fill their eyes with its beauty and their lungs with its air. In my childhood, Jerusalem was the only major Palestinian city I knew well and loved. In the eyes and mind of a child, to me Ramallah was a cold city, Bethlehem was the “village” nearby, Nablus and Hebron were the places “to visit my uncles in Israeli prisons” and Jericho was too hot. Only Jerusalem was perfect: with its bustling Old City, the old bus station, Salah Al-Deen Street, Al Musrarah, the walk to the Notre Dame, the walk down Wadi Al-Joz and up to Al-Tur and the walk up to Ras El Amoud. I walked on the roof and saw the mountains on the Jordanian side, clearly visible during mild weather. Late afternoons, coming back home from school, one would witness a breathtaking sight going down the steep street in Sawahreh: a marvellous mixture of simple houses, some with old traditional domed roofs, barley fields or olive groves spreading against a curtain of mountains. Between the mountains and the last of the houses a strip of blue was visible. We always thought it to be the Dead Sea. Well, I personally still like to think of it as the Dead Sea. It was a combination of colours that rarely showed itself, but when it did, it was truly breathtaking.

 

To the south I could see Mount Herod in the distance. I have watched this artificial mountain since my childhood and always wondered at its shape. It always looked far away to be reached, but at the same time so close, an integral part of the view surrounding my home. I used to think about the impossibility of climbing that mountain, because it had steep sides, one would keep slipping and would never reach the top. I did “climb” that mountain years later, during the work on a TV documentary on Bethlehem. During the 2002 IOF invasion of the West Bank, my parents told me that Israeli fighter jets used to pass over Sawahreh on their way to Bethlehem. After a few minutes, the sound of explosions would rock the sky, as the IOF bombarded Bethlehem and the surrounding towns, villages and refugee camps. Since hearing this, every time I see Mount Herod I can’t help thinking of Israeli jets on their way to destroying yet another part of Palestine and kill innocent unarmed civilians. In Sawahreh, Israeli jets roaring in the sky were always a common thing. Some of Sawahreh’s vast lands had been confiscated for so-called “security reasons” and were used as a training area for the IOF. We would often hear sounds of explosions and the house would shake, or hear Israeli jets coming and going. One time, my sister, my brother and I thought that they were preparing for war, and since we had no army of our own, had no jets or tanks or bombs to protect ourselves, we held a meeting to decide on the best way to protect the family. The only solution we could think of was to build an underground shelter. I don’t know where we got the idea of a shelter from, since Palestinians have no shelters, but most probably from one of those WWII films the Israeli TV kept showing. We did start digging, using our hands and small pointy stones, but realized after a while what a lengthy and hard process that was, and instead decided that in case a war does break out we would use the water well as a shelter, i.e., after removing all the water.

 

One would think what a beautiful view, Jerusalem on one side, Bethlehem on the other with mountains and an imaginary sea in the background. Unfortunately, this scenery is interrupted by the Jewish illegal settlements Maale Adumim and Kidar, spreading themselves on Palestinian hills. Many Palestinian villages and town are surrounded by illegal Jewish settlements. Some are surrounded by settlements from one, two or three sides. Others are surrounded by illegal settlements and the Apartheid Wall. Sawahreh is surrounded by the illegal settlements of Maale Adumim from the northeast and Kidar from the east and by the Apartheid Wall from the west. Kidar settlement is the closest to us. Before the first intifada, Kidar settlers used to come and walk through our main street, among Palestinian houses. So sure they were of themselves, acting as if the land belonged to them. I remember once we were playing in the land, when a group of settlers walked up the street. We stopped playing and just watched them. I didn’t understand settlers and settlements much at the time, but I remember knowing that these people had no right to walk on our streets. We used to spend our holidays in Dheisheh refugee camp, where the IOF would shoot to kill little children, and then we would come back to Sawahreh, where settlers were walking our street. Those close to Kidar used to sell home-made white cheese and yoghurt to the settlers, who thought us too quiet and peaceful, so they called us “Kiryat Shalom” or the village of peace. It was something I always felt ashamed of, knowing that the settlers thought us too peaceful to bother with, while their army and their fellow fanatic settlers were attacking Dheisheh and killing people there. If the illegal settlers of Kidar were so very interested in peace with us, why did they steal our lands to expand their settlement, knowing that our livelihood depended on these lands? You can’t have peace with your occupier, because the only peace they will offer you is a masquerade, not a real and just peace. In Palestine, power cuts are a regular thing, and whenever we had no electricity and had to study using candle light, which often hurt our eyes, I used to look through the window and watch Sawahreh, Abu Dees and Ezariyyeh drown in complete darkness, while Kidar and Maale Adumim would be lighted like a Christmas tree. Even as a child this made me think of how unfair the situation was and that these settlers and these settlements don’t belong here.

 

I remember as a child how “far away” Maale Adumim seemed. But as I grew up, so did the illegal settlement. The danger of this expansion never really registered in my mind until one night I dreamt that I opened the window of my bedroom to find myself looking into the courtyard of a Jewish house. The settlement had eaten the land all the way from where it stood till our house, and our house and the land surrounding it was next. I woke up sweating and my heart beating fast. So real was the threat, I realized at the time, that I knew it was not a mere nightmare. The next day I went at the back of the house to the spot where one could get a direct view of Maale Adumim and tried to calculate how much time we had before my nightmare became reality. I thought we still had time to act, but I was mistaken. Since the 1990’s the settlements have been expanding and are eating more Palestinian land at an unprecedented pace. In this area there are several illegal Jewish settlements such as Maale Adumim, Alon, Almon, Kidar, Kefar Adumim and Mishor Adumim, with a combined population of some 40,000 settlers. The largest, Maale Adumim was established in 1975 on confiscated Palestinian land and lies 14 km to the east of Jerusalem. It has a population of 35,000 illegal Jewish settlers and a jurisdictional area of 50 km². Road networks have been also established to connect Maale Adumim and neighboring settlements with Jerusalem and with the Jordan Valley. Palestinian land would be confiscated, declared a “closed military zone” and later used for illegal settlement expansions.

 

On the day of my arrival to Palestine for a short visit, I watched in shock as I passed Maale Adumim at how huge it has become. Within the space of two years, since my last visit, it had doubled in size, to say the least. Standing there on the mountain top, with a wall surrounding parts of it, it reminded me of a fortress from the middle ages. Although I am a fan of fortresses, this one brought only anger and disgust. The lands opposite it, which I distinctly remember were planted with olive trees, had become bare land, the trees uprooted and the land destroyed to make way for more illegal settler houses and roads. At the entrance to Maale Adumim stood a single olive tree, as huge as life and older than any illegal settler on this land. It was clear that this tree had been uprooted from some Palestinian field, maybe even from our confiscated land, and replanted here. Macabre, I thought and could only shake my head at the sad view of that lonely olive tree. Olive trees are like Palestinians, they grow in groups, surrounded by family and friends. That tree stood there alone, a reminder to every Palestinian that this is what the so-called peace process had done to us, and that if this process is allowed to go on, every single Palestinian will end up like that tree, alone and uprooted.

 

The plan to expand Maale Adumim, known as the “E-1” Plan, which was initiated by Rabin in 1994 and approved in 1999, led to the confiscation of yet more Palestinian land. This Plan is an important part of the “Greater Jerusalem” scheme, which includes Maale Adumim, Beitar, H´Givat Ze’ev, Gush Etzion, the Ariel bloc, the Hashmonain bloc and the Jordan Rift, and aims at annexing large areas of the West Bank to Jerusalem. This plan expands the jurisdictional boundaries of Maale Adumim and its satellite settlements to the Israeli Jerusalem municipal boundaries, linking Jerusalem with surrounding settlement blocs and linking the Maale Adumim bloc with with other settlement blocs such as Pisgat Ze’ev, Pisgat Omer, Neve Ya’acov and the French Hill. Also, a wall is being built around Maale Adumim and its satellite settlements, which will completely encircle East Jerusalem and 61 km² of Palestinian land. The “E-1” Plan aims to completely cut off Jerusalem from the rest of the Palestinian Territories, disconnecting the geographic contiguity of Palestinian Territories by dividing the West Bank into two parts, thus ensuring that no viable Palestinian state would ever come to existence. Last year, roads were paved and a bridge, main junctions, public squares, police stations, checkpoints and side walls were built in the “E-1” area. This area will cover some 13,000 dunums confiscated from Palestinian villages around Jerusalem and is to house an additional 15,000 illegal settlers. Two Israeli-only roads will connect settler roads southeast of Bethlehem with roads to the northeast, including connecting Maale Adumim and other Jerusalem settlements with the Ramot Ashkol settlement. For the construction of these roads, tens of houses in Sawahreh, Abu Dees and Al Tour are to be demolished. To prevent Palestinians from entering Jerusalem or using Road Nr. 1 that passes through the E-1 and Road Nr. 60 that passes through East Jerusalem, an “alternative” road is being constructed for Palestinian use and is to connect the Southern West Bank with its Northern part. For the construction of this road, the IOF issued a military order in 2007 confiscating 1,128 dunums of Palestinian land from villages between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim, i.e. Sawahreh, Abu Dees, Nebi Musa and Al Khan Al Ahmar.

 

Blocking the southern entrance of Sawahreh is the “Container” checkpoint, which is now being expanded to become a permanent border-like crossing. Passing the checkpoint, one would not imagine what beautiful landscape lies behind the Israeli stone blocks and control tower. Locally, we call it “Barriyeh”, the wilderness or the prairies. Green meadows decorated with red poppies wherever one looks. My favourite spot there is a low area, surrounded by hills and naturally-formed stone structures. Here, running was not possible because of the tall vegetation that covered the place. We would imagine ourselves swimming and race each other or play hide and seek. Then, when we would feel hungry, we would have something to eat under the olive trees. Relics of family history decorate caves in that area and cherished memories of childhood lie behind the checkpoint, making them off-limit to us. The last time I went there was just before leaving for Germany and I had not set foot again. Our lands there, including the olive fields, which were a source of income for my family, were confiscated in 2003. Today, only those few who originally had their houses behind the checkpoint are allowed in, but no one knows how long before their houses will be demolished for some reason or other so as to close the area completely.

 

The “Container” checkpoint is a passage between the north and the south of the West Bank. It is one of more than 630 Israeli checkpoints and road barriers all over the West Bank, aiming to restrict Palestinian movement on Palestinian land. Travelling to the south, one would have to take the “Wadi Al-Nar” road. Wadi Al-Nar, the Valley of Fire, is most probably called so because of its steepness and the danger of driving there. It was a dirt road connecting Sawahreh with Ubediyyeh, rarely used except maybe by villagers travelling on donkeys. With the signing of the so-called peace process, Jerusalem was closed to most Palestinians and this road was used instead as a link left between the south and the north. If one is stuck behind a truck on that road, the meaning of “Valley of Fire” becomes clear, for when driving up the road, one has the continuous feeling that the truck will turn over any minute and everything behind that truck would be squeezed underneath it. As children we would follow the shepherds with their herds whenever we could. We would eat figs, search for snake nests in caves and play at the old ottoman stone circles. Every time we were there on the hills, we would go exploring a bit further. It was mostly steep hills, where we learned to slide slowly down a hill, using our left foot as a break. Here, there were no illegal settlements and no IOF soldiers, or at least they were not visible. When it was time to go home, instead of taking the direct way, we would go all around the hills, passing the “sacred river” to the old Sawahreh houses and further back home. The “sacred river” as we called it, was a small “river” running through the Wadi Al-Nar. Greenery was along both sides of this river, giving it a genuine river look, like those we used to see in cartoons. The vegetables growing around the riverbanks were double the size of the ordinary vegetables we would buy from the supermarket. Later, and to our great disappoint, we found out that the reason for the extraordinary growth of these vegetables was the waste water. This “sacred river” was actually the flow of waste water from Maale Adumim and other settlements in the area. Not only was their waste water contaminating our lands, their solid waste was being dumped and burned on our lands as well. Several studies have shown that illegal Settlements comprise a major environmental threat. Waste water and industrial waste from settlements is dumped on Palestinian lands, contaminating the soil and the water supply. Palestinian plans to treat waste water are usually rejected by Israel, and in one incident Israel insisted that a treatment facility for Tulkarem be built on the other side of the Green line, for no other reason than to use the treated water for its own interest.

 

During my last visit to Palestine, I wanted to see these hills again and enjoy the beauty of a Palestine that was free of illegal settlements and IOF checkpoints. It was late afternoon and as I looked around me I saw Mount Herod in the distance, with Palestinian villages decorating the hills all the way from there to Jerusalem. And opposite them, Palestinian hills extended all the way to meet the Jordanian mountains in the horizon. There was no Apartheid Wall, no IOF checkpoints and no settlements. Although I knew they were there, breaking the natural bond between Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, they were not visible from where I stood. I saw the old stone houses with the traditional domed roof, a herd of sheep with a shepherd who was playing the flute, the sunset adding a magical touch to the whole landscape, and there, at that moment I felt what it would feel to live in a truly free Palestine. I started taking photos and wondering how long before the Israelis would wipe out this landscape and all traces of Palestinian existence here. I went home, thinking that the Palestine I grew up in is not the Palestine of today. The Palestine of today is the rest of the so-called peace process with its illegal settlements, the Apartheid Wall, the IOF checkpoints and “Herrenstraßen” that are eating Palestine from inside, like a cancer, destroying the land piece by piece. I remembered that lonely olive tree in front of Maale Adumim and hoped that those still disillusioned by the “peace process” would wake up and act before it was too late.

 

Sources:

http://www.arij.org

http://www.peacenow.org

http://www.poica.org

http://www.btselem.org

http://www.imemc.org

 

2008 marked the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel and the simultaneous destruction of Palestinian civil and political society. The two events are as intimately connected as two sides of a coin, yet each side offers a distinct narrative that remains at odds with the accounts of the other. Feelings of belonging and claims of ownership irrevocably separate, yet permanently connect Arabs and Jews in their struggle for a land that is called Palestine by one group and Israel by the other.  Each of the two cultures wants to hold on to every inch of land claimed by its opponent. The Palestinians strongly feel that they belong to the land, while the Israelis insist that the land belongs to them.

The narrative of displacement and experiences in exile of the modern Palestinians remains relatively unfamiliar to most Westerners and especially to the majority of Americans. By contrast, Israel’s narrative of rebuilding a homeland for the Jews has been deeply imbedded in the Western psyche and continues to dominate the political discourse regarding the Palestinian / Israeli conflict. The documentary films we create at SittingCrow Productions explore the personal narratives and artistic expressions of Palestinians. 

Some of the films that we have completed, as well as others that are currently in progress, present the memories of a small group of men and women selected from an aging and rapidly dying generation of Palestinians who directly experienced the catastrophic ethnic cleansing of their homeland in 1948. They are referred to as the generation of the Nakba (the Arabic term for the Great Catastrophe that began in 1948) and are the men and women who directly experienced the destruction of Palestinian civil and political society as well as the ethnic cleansing of 85% of the Palestinian population from the land that became Israel in 1948. The survivors of that generation are now in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Many still live in refugee camps in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and neighboring Arab countries, while those who were not expelled in 1948, or managed to return to their homeland, live in Israel as Arab citizens of the Jewish State. Their stories have seldom been recorded, and their experiences and memories of life before, during and since 1948 are rapidly disappearing as that generation ages and dies.

Other films that we are producing at SittingCrow look at Palestinian men and women who use art, poetry and dance as a way to rejuvenate the traditions of a shattered culture and to revive a history that has long been suppressed and denied. Their art bridges the shattered past of Palestinian society with the tragic present of life under occupation and reaches for a desired future of peaceful existence. 

During periods of extended political conflict, art can often be the best way for a society under the stress of cultural annihilation to sustain itself, critique its attackers and project its historical identity to the world. This is very much the case in Palestine today, where art is seen and used as a tool of cultural survival. Driven by a desire to persevere as a historical culture in the face of an extended military occupation, the visual, literary and performing arts are flourishing in complex ways in Palestine. 

The recent and current projects at SittingCrow Productions are a continuation of the focus on displacement, exile and identity construction that have been at the core of my artwork over the past two and a half decades. During the past two years, those topics have been developed and presented in the form of documentary films. Prior to that, these issues were explored and continue to be presented in the form of paintings and drawings. My name is John Halaka, I am a Visual Artist and the founder, creative director and producer of the work that comes out of SittingCrow Productions. I am also a Professor of Visual Arts at the University of San Diego. As an activist artist, my creative work serves as a vehicle for meditation on personal, cultural and political concerns. I present personal narratives in my films and create allegorical images in my paintings in order to raise questions, for myself as well as for the viewer, about some of the pressing issues of our time. Our goal at SittingCrow is to present the viewer with complex and seldom heard narratives that compel her/him to reflect on their relationship to the cultural, political, historical and emotional issues presented.

Our films are designed and intended to be screened at community forums, universities, schools and religious centers, where they can provoke discussion and reflection regarding the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. If you would like to screen one of our films and invite me lead a discussion regarding the past, present and future of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict as well as our relationship to that conflict, you can e-mail me at sittingcrowproductions@gmail.com or call me at 619.260.4107. I welcome your comments and feedback regarding the films and this website. Please feel free to email me with your comments and questions.

Our projects at SittingCrow Productions have been funded through small grants and community contributions. We greatly welcome and need financial support from the community. If you would lilke to contribute to one of our current productions please contact me at sittingcrowproductions@gmail.com or call me at 619.260.4107.

For additional information about my painting and drawing projects please visit my other web site at www.johnhalaka.com.

Thank you for your interest and your support.

John Halaka
SittingCrow Productions

 

Zionist influx into Palestine started in 1882.  There were 6 waves of Jewish immigration between 1882 and 1948.  As a result of these waves, the number of Jews living in Palestine increased to about 650,000.

 

During the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, the Zionists asked for the creation of a state in the territory that includes all of Mandate Palestine, Southern Lebanon up to the Litani River, the Golan Heights and part of Western Jordan along a line parallel to the Hijaz railway and ends in Aqaba.  From there, the line goes northwest to Al Arish in Egypt.  (David McDowall, Palestine and Israel: The uprising and Beyond, Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989, p. 20.  See also: Simha Flappan, The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities, New York: 1987, p. 17) 

 

In 1948, Ben-Gurion considered acceptance of a Jewish state in part of Palestine as a bridgehead for future expansion whenever the time was right.  His vision was spelled out in a letter to his son, Amos, stating that “A partial Jewish State is not the end, but only the beginning… We shall bring into the state all the Jews it is possible to bring… We shall organize a modern defense force, a select army…and then I am certain that we will not be prevented from settling in the other parts of the country, either by mutual agreement with our Arab neighbors or by some other means.  Our ability to penetrate the country will increase if there is a state…”  (Michael Bar-Zohar, Ben-Gurion: A Biography.  New York: Delacorte Press, 1977, pp. 91 – 92)

 

In a round table meeting with the French at the Sévres Conference, Ben-Gurion proposed a plan for settling all the issues in the Middle East.  The plan included eliminating Nasser in Egypt and partition of Jordan, with the West Bank going to Israel and the East Bank to Iraq.  In exchange, Iraq would sign a peace treaty with Israel and undertake to absorb the Palestinian refugees.  Moreover, Ben-Gurion requested that Israel would annex southern Lebanon up to the Litani , with a Christian state established in the rest of the country.  Ben-Gurion added that the Suez Canal would enjoy international status, that the Straits of Tiran would be under Israeli control, and that Syria should be placed under a pro-Western ruler in order to stabilize the Syrian regime.  Official confirmation of the Sévres protocol was received by Ben-Gurion on 26 October and was warmly congratulated by Menachem Begin.  (Ibid, pp. 236-244)

 

Golda Meir even denied the mere existence of the Palestinians by stating that there is no such thing as the Palestinians.

 

Within 5 decades, the Zionist dream began to evaporate.

 

In spite of all the Zionist atrocities aimed at Ethnic Cleansing, Palestinian Arabs living within the borders of Mandate Palestine are approximately 4.5 million.  Within ten to fifteen years, Arabs living in Palestine would become the majority even if the Palestinian Refugees living outside Palestine were not allowed to return to the homes and lands that were usurped from them. 

 

In spite of having a large army equipped with all the high-tech weaponry provided by the U.S., Israel failed to deter or stop Arab resistance.

 

In March, 1968, Israel attacked the village of Karama on the East Bank of the Jordan and faced a bloody and heroic stand by the Palestinians.  This battle gave the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) a psychological boost and increased its influence.

 

On 24 May 2000, Israel was obliged to withdraw from Southern Lebanon, which was occupied since 1978.

 

On 12 July 2006, Israel started an ‘open war’ against Lebanon.  The war stopped on 14 August 2006.  During this war, another massacre was committed in Kana, about 54 innocent civilians, including about 37 children, were killed in an air raid, and there was a lot of damage and destruction.  However, Israel failed in achieving its goal of ending Hizbullah.   

 

On 27 December 2008, Israel launched ‘Operation Cast Lead’ against the Gaza Strip and committed a massacre killing more than 1300 men, women and children and injuring more that 5500.  The war was ended on 18 January 2009 without achieving Israel’s goal of ending Hamas.

The game is over.  The Zionist lie of a ‘land without a people for a people without a land’ did not fool any one.  What we are witnessing these days is the end of the beginning and the beginning of the end, which will not take long: 5 – 20 years…

Poster courtesy Badil.

Palestinian women photojournalists: from taking photos of holy places to documenting burned babies

 

The first woman photojournalist in the Arab world was the Palestinian Karimeh Abbud (1896-1955)  

 

Palestinian women started taking photographs of families and holy places, ceremonies and weddings, but ended up taking pictures of bodies of killed young children, shelled schools ruined homes, and lots of blood

 

Research by exiled Palestinian journalist Iqbal Tamimi

 

Introduction 

The difficult circumstances in Palestine facing journalists in the occupied West Bank and Gaza forced many media establishments to choose employing local journalists who know the nature of the area, besides minimizing the amount of risks reporters and photojournalists face when covering clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza.

 

This Essay will focus on Palestinian women photojournalists working within the Palestinian territories; thus excluding hundreds of Palestinian women journalists who are working all over the world after their families became refugees, or forced to exile.  

 

Early photography in Palestine

Photojournalism started after photography was introduced to Palestine in the late-nineteenth century by the British who undertook the first archaeological excavations in the Holy Land and tried to document their findings and the areas they investigated by pictures as Rachel Hallote reported (2007 pp 26-41). The British were followed by the Germans, and eventually by the Americans. Photography was introduced by people who came searching for evidence about biblical subjects and connections. Some elder Palestinians claimed that these excavations were part of a planned agenda to pave the way for the Jews to occupy Palestine well ahead the Nazi’s aggression on the European Jews. Americans were deeply involved in the archaeological photography in Palestine, but the British Palestine Exploration Fund dominated the photography activities in Palestine since the 1860s.

Photojournalism in Palestine is considered a male dominated profession as is the case in almost all Middle Eastern countries, but Palestine has always been the first country within the Arab world to offer women the opportunity to be in the lead to break old social moulds when it comes to pioneering work and education for women. As an example the first Arab woman to hold an academic title as a professor and to establish an institute in a western country was the Palestinian Kulthum Odeh (1892 -1965) as Tamimi (2008) reported.

During the same period another woman from the same city of Nazerath named Karimeh Abbud (1896-1955) was the first Palestinian woman to become a professional photographer. Karimeh lived and worked in Palestine in the first half of the twentieth century, research shows that she might have been the first female professional photographer not just in Palestine but in the entire East. Karima had her education in Nazareth, and at the Schmidt Girls School in Jerusalem, and the American University of Beirut in Lebanon.

 

Ahmed Mrowat (2007 p 72-78) reported that Abbud started photography in 1913 in Bethlehem after receiving a camera from her father as a gift for her 17th birthday. Her first photos were of family, friends and the landscape in Bethlehem. Her first signed picture available at present is dated October 1919. She started by setting up a home studio, earning money by taking photos of women, children, weddings and other ceremonies. She also took numerous photos of public spaces in Haifa, Nazareth, Bethlehem and Tiberias. When local Nazareth photographer Fadil Saba moved to Haifa 1930, Karimeh’s studio work was in high demand. The work she produced in that period was stamped in Arabic and English with the words: “Karimeh Abbud – Lady Photographer. She took photos of areas that have religious significance like Kafr Kanna in the Galilee associated with the Cana village where Jesus biblical stories claimed he turned water into wine. This village flourished in the 16th century, as it lay on the trade route between Egypt and Syria. Karimeh also took pictures of Mary’s Well near Nazareth or “The spring of the Virgin Mary“) which is reputed to be located at the site where the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she would bear a son. The well was positioned over an underground spring that served for centuries as a local watering hole for the Arab villagers.

In the mid-1930s, she began offering hand-painted copies of studio photographs. In a 1941 letter to her cousins, she expresses her desire to prepare a publicly printed album for her photographic work. According to Mrowat (2007) Karimeh ultimately returned to Nazareth, where she died in 1955. Original copies of her extensive portfolio have been collected together by Ahmed Mrowat, Director of the Nazareth Archives Project. In 2006, Boki Boazz, an Israeli antiquities collector, discovered over 400 original prints of Abbud’s in a home in the Qatamon quarter of Jerusalem that had been abandoned by its owners in 1948. Mrowat has expanded his collection by purchasing the photos from Boazz, many of which are signed by the artist.

 

While Palestinian male photojournalists started few years earlier than Karimeh as Nassar reported (2006 pp. 139-155) it was Yessayi Garabedian the leader of the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem who started the first photographic workshop in Palestine. One of Garabedian’s pupils was the famous Garabed Krikorian as Ankori (2006 p36) reported that he established his photographic studio in the Old City of Jerusalem and worked in it from 1885 until 1948. Krikorian was entrusted to prepare the famous Sultan Abdul Hamid Albums on Palestine and later became the official photographer of Kaiser Wilhelm II during his visit to Palestine in 1899. Krikorian worked in his workshop for over forty years. His son Johannes travelled to Cologne in Germany to further his photographic training and came back after years of study and training to become the preeminent studio photographer in Jerusalem.

 

Another of Garabed’s students was Khalil Raad who opened his studio in 1890, across the street from the Krikorian studio, leading to intense competition between the two pioneering photographers. Peace was found when Raad’s niece, Najla Raad was betrothed to Johannes Krikorian and she became known as the peace bride. But unfortunately the historic photographic studio was tragically destroyed in 1948 by the Jews during their attacks on the city. 

 

Palestinian women photojournalists now 

I requested some information from The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in the Palestinian Authorities for (2008) regarding the percentage of female Palestinian photojournalists registered officially, the Palestinian authorities statistics built its findings on ownership documents of photography studios showing that there are 201 Palestinian female photographers in the West Bank of a total of 984 photographers, 783 are males. This statistic was obtained from officially registered studios excluding the number of photographers in Gaza where it is difficult to obtain statistics by the Palestinian Authorities, besides there is a number of journalists who are not registered officially. A female photojournalist in Gaza Eman Mohammed explained to me the amount of social difficulty she faced for stepping in a male’s territory, she also expressed her determination to overcome obstacles as she said “going to take photos at invasions, airstrikes, violent demonstrations, and hot zones seemed like the only way to prove to everyone that I can handle this job, but I could never go there without getting verbally offended or harassed”.

 

Eman mentioned violent demonstrations, invasions, and airstrikes for her subjects unlike the subjects documented by Karimeh, because she had no other choices for such subjects are part of everyday life in Palestine. Should she had another choice maybe she would choose to take photos of fashion shows or festivals, art galleries or anything that is not related to death and destruction, but this is her city and this was the hard reality she had to face.

 

During the Visa pour l’image international photojournalism festival in Perpignan, France, from August 29 to September 11, 2005 Jack Crager (2005 p10, 15) reported that the exhibitions featured reflected individual photographers’ efforts to highlight major trends, during the exhibition all three participating Palestinian photographers’ images were of funerals in the Gaza Strip. Burgess (1994 p20-22) also reported that during the 1994 World Press Photo annual awards in Amsterdam, the top award went to Larry Towell’s image of Palestinian boys playing with guns for the camera. Palestinian photojournalists do not only witness and document attacks, they become sometimes part of such bigger picture. Smyth (2005 p12-14) wrote a feature article about three Palestinian photojournalists and brothers based in the Gaza strip who are employed by Reuters. Smyth reported that their work regularly takes them to scenes of chaos and destruction in which they are sometimes, inevitably, involved and face the possibilities of injury, she wrote of Jadallah one of the three Palestinian brothers photographers being injured four times through his work, and she reported on the more tragically still, funerals they have to cover that is often involve friends and relatives. Smyth argues that their intimate knowledge of Gaza that allowed the brothers to take photographs different to those of Western photographers based in the area. Sure if you are part of a place you would see things differently because you are not only doing your job, you are affected by what you are trying to capture from another angle, you are not totally independent of your emotions. 

 

Eman like almost all other Palestinian photojournalists could not get official training so she was trained as an individual by several photojournalists, and she had to convince her community that photography was only ‘just a hobby, not a lifetime career’ to escape more scrutiny. She had worked for different agencies for free just to have her pictures published.

 

Unlike Eman, Enas Mraih another Palestinian female photojournalist she was lucky to work with Alhadath newspaper published in Palestinian territories occupied 1948 called now ‘Israel’. She was invited to Denmark to participate in a workshop with 28 other journalists from 6 countries: Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Occupied Palestinian territories of 1967, Besides Israel and the country host. Enas was even chosen to be on the cover of ‘Crossing Borders’ a magazine published in Denmark and circulated in the Arab world. Enas was accompanied by another two Palestinian women photojournalists; they were Kholoud Masalhah, and Qamar Thaher. Enas was more fortunate than other female Palestinian photojournalists in being able to participate few times in conferences to discuss the Palestinian Israeli conflict, and the struggle of Palestinians fighting for the right to be treated equally like Jewish citizens living in the same state holding the same Citizenship, but still suffer racial discrimination by the Israeli government for being Israeli Arabs.

 

Laila Abu Odeh is another female photojournalist working in Rafah who was a victim of aggression by Israeli forces; she was shot in her thigh by the Israeli soldiers while filming the destruction caused by the Israeli shelling of The Rafah Camp near Salah Eddin Gate on the 20th of April 2001.

 

Palestinian women started taking pictures of families and holy places, ceremonies and weddings because this was part of every day life, but ended up taking pictures of bodies of killed young children, shelled schools and homes, and lots of blood including their own for the same reason. Having been living in an area where everything is disputed including the rights of journalists, there are no institutions those women can request assistance from for training or protection. They are women armed with cameras chasing the truth no matter what the consequences are. Some of them end up in jail like Isra’a el-Amarna the photojournalist from Dheisheh refugee camp who has been detained by the Israeli occupation authorities. Isra’a was working in photography to support her poor family when the Israeli occupation authorities arrested her on accusation of membership to Qassam Brigades, and that she had the intention to carry out a martyrdom operation. A camera is as powerful as a gun but those who use cameras are not the coward ones.

 

Bibliography

Katz, Lee M. (2000) Life, limb, & a deadline to meet Editor & Publisher 11/20/2000, Vol. 133 Issue 47, p14 

 

Hallote, R. (2007) Photography The American Contribution To Early Biblical Archaeology 1870-1920. Near Eastern Archaeology 70 no1 pp 26-41

Tamimi, I.  (2008)  The Palestinian Kulthum Odeh (1892 -1965) the first woman to hold the professor title in the Arab world, London Progressive Journal. Issue 41 October 2008

Mrowat. A (2007) Karimeh Abbud: Early Woman Photographer (1896-1955) Jerusalem Quarterly (Institute of Jerusalem Studies) Issue 31: p. 72-78

 

Mrowat, A (2007) Photography As Ethnographic History. Depiction of Israeli-Palestinian Conflict since 1948, The Institute of Jerusalem Studies.  

 

Nassar, I. (2006) Familial Snapshots: Representing Palestine in the Work of the First Local Photographers History & Memory – Volume 18, Number 2, Fall/Winter 2006, pp. 139-155 Indiana University Press.

Ankori. G. (2006) Palestinian Art Reaction Books, London P36

Mohammed, E. (2008) Proud with no pride of the “me” I choose to be Voices from the Frontline. Available online at: http://www.peacexpeace.org/content/en/yourstory/write?memoir=148&showhidden=hb8fea1a312984aae10183bef02bd1f26 accessed 20/1/2009

Crager, J. (2005) See it now American Photo v. 16 no. 5 (September/October 2005) p. 10, 12

 

Burgess, N. (1994) Going Dutch British Journal of Photography v. 141 (June 8 1994) p. 20-2

 

Smyth, D. (2005) Funeral days British Journal of Photography v. 152 (September 7 2005) p. 12-14

 

The Zionist Electorate Warmongers
The last parliamentary elections of the Zionist entity proved beyond doubt that there is no right or left as well as there are no extremist Zionists and no moderate Zionists, they are equally extremist in their hatred of Arabs, and their aim to fulfill their final goal that is to complete their ethnic cleansing of every single Palestinian Arab still sticking to their land from their historical homeland, Arab Palestine. Zionists consider the indigenous Arab population as an enemy within the entity; so being as such it is either our death or uprooting.

The Zionist elections: A society competing with itself…

The result is the same… It is either me or you!!!

An-Nahar – Beirut

For the first time in twenty years the veil dropped off the face of the Zionist candidates and their parties’ programs by dropping the deceiving and unwanted peace from their electoral programs, of course with the Arabs. In the past they always claimed that Palestinian Arabs are the obstacle to peace, and they are, Zionists, who call for it.   

Jonathan Cook, wrote on February 09, 2009 in the “The Nation
quoting Elias Khoury, a 33-year-old architect from the village of Ibilin in Galilee, who had been a lifelong supporter of the Communist Democratic Front, the only joint Arab-Jewish party represented in the Israeli parliament. No longer. Tomorrow, when Israelis head to the polls to elect their next government, Mr. Khoury – one of the country’s 1.2 million Arab citizens – will be staying home rather than casting a vote.

Zionist elections

An-Nahar – Beirut


Khoury said, “I’ve given up on the talk of coexistence,” and added. “Now it’s clear it is just empty rhetoric. After the attack on Gaza, I am sure there will never be two states here. It’s going to be either a Jewish state with no Arabs, or an Arab state with no Jews. Voting any Arab party into the parliament is a waste of time.” Of course this is a reflection of the over 90% or actually more of the Zionist electorate that endorsed the Zionist war waged last December/January, as well as being anti coexistence with Palestinian Arabs as well as in other occupied Arab territories.

Cook added, “His ominous vision of the future reflects disillusionment with the Israeli political system, he said, rather than extremism. ‘We are living in an extreme situation imposed on us by Israel.’”        

The Zionist imported society on all levels, of interests and professions had been cooking for their hatemongering and as thus warmongering against Arabs at large and Palestinians in particular, the vast majority of their university professors, historians and “philosophers” such as Benny Morris of Ben Gurion University in the Negev and Martin van Creveld, a former professor of military history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a world-leading writer on military matters, who both, like all their other colleagues, claim to be speaking on behalf of the civilized white European world, which has the right to annihilate third world peoples to establish their new civilized democracies on their lands,  of course with no exception Zionist military personnel are the teachers for and revivalists of Zionist hatred and warmongering.

Martin van Creveld said in a September 2003 interview in Elsevier (the Dutch weekly) to directly or indirectly threaten all Arab with atomic warheads, which Zionist leaders try to deny also directly or indirectly: “We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for our air force…. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under.”

Van Creveld like his fellow professor Morris who blamed Ben Gurion for not completing the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948, Creveld talked about ‘collective deportation’ as Israel’s only meaningful plan for the Palestinian people. “The Palestinians should all be deported. The people who strive for this [the Israeli government] are waiting only for the right man and the right time…”

The same person who wants to deport Palestinian Arabs from their own land, which we are sure as a historian knows better than to falsely claim that this land isn’t theirs said, “They are after our civilization. We must summon the forces of civilization and the force and the power to act against them now, when we have the power and when we still have the time to do so.”

In reviewing the elections campaign programs, you don’t have to read in between the lines, the above quote is in block letters, and was and shall still be ruminated by each and every one of the winning and losing candidates for which they receive high cheers and applause shall keep echoing as long as the Zionist entity is still in existence, which shall certainly shorten its life span…

WRITTEN BY IQBAL TAMIMI
Since the first minute the Zionists arrived in Palestine during the first half of the 1900s their policy was clear, it was to empty the land of its indigenous people and house immigrant Jews in their place. Almost 6 million Palestinians are now scattered all over the world as refugees since then, and hundreds of thousands were massacred and housed under the soil for resisting to abandon their home land.

The Telegraph published an article 5 Feb 2009 by Damien McElroy titled Britain offers to accept Palestinians who fled Iraq (30 widows with children!)

The article is about efforts to resettle Palestinians who have been forced into squalid desert refugee camps on the Iraqi border in the hardest conditions including facing hazards of fires and floods that have claimed many lives such as the story of Ahmed Mohammad who lost his pregnant wife when a fire engulfed his tent last month. “The fire took seconds to burn and I could only rescue my son.” said Ahmad. There are more than 800,000 Palestinian refugees still living in Syria and 224,000 are registered with the UN as refugees.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/palestinianauthority/4527498/Britain-offers-to-accept-Palestinians-who-fled-Iraq.html

many Palestinians were never granted citizenship in the countries they fled to, they and their offspring are scattered now all over the world from Europe to Chile. Governments like that of the UK have a moral obligation towards those Palestinian refugees for two reasons: the first is due to the British government’s role and policies since the Balfour Declaration which was a direct contributor to the Palestinians’ misery, and the second is its role in the Iraqi war that ended up with forcing the refugee Palestinians of Iraq to become refugees again. But still a solution like accepting 30 widows is not going to be the perfect solution. These Palestinian widows from the Tanf refugee camp in the desert must be grateful for this kind gesture, but this action solves the problem of 30 widows only, thus discriminating against male refugees who are as much victims as women. Men like 81-year-old Mahmoud Abdul who fled Haifa in 1948 from Palestine to Baghdad, then Amman, Damascus and now again he is with many other Palestinian refugees are in the no-man’s land holding tight to one dream only, they want to be citizens where they can set up homes and feel no one can take that home away from them. Saving the lives of 30 widows is a drop in the ocean regarding solving the problem of 6 million refugees. And we should not brag about accepting to rescue 30 widows after causing 6 million people become exiled and refugees.

Solving the problem of 30 widows or ‘spearheading’ this attempt as the Telegraph has called it, is not good enough, year after year Israel has been forcing more Palestinians to become refugees by enforcing different methods of pressure and expulsion. Even though Palestinians are grateful for such generous gestures they would rather be home in their own properties, taking care of their lands and feeling dignified instead of feeling like a heavy guest.

The new effort to resettle Palestinian refugees outside Palestine is another attempt to patch another hole Israel punctured while being sure that other countries should find a way to mend. Since 1948 Israel has been expelling Palestinians from their country, thus entering the circle of displacement over and over again. The only suggestion Israel keeps coming with is why don’t other Arab countries accommodate them? This is the most ridiculous statement made to escape the blame and dumb problems created by its policies of expanding occupation on other people’s steps. Israel’s continuous suggestions that the Palestinians should be absorbed by other Arab speaking countries is the most ridiculous statement ever, sharing a language does not in any way give a valid reason to accept such responsibility, it would be like a great mixture of people invading Australia because their God told them Australia will always be theirs regardless of where they came from or when they embraced that religion, and then demanding the UK to take the Australian refugees in because they speak English.

The Telegraph was fishing in muddy waters when it said in its report “After turning a blind eye for years, Syria feels it has done enough. There has to be a resettlement solution that allows these people to resettle in a third country.” Why should Syria or any other Arab country solve a problem created by Israel with the blessing of USA and UK? Syria itself is suffering the Israeli aggression and occupation of its Golan Heights and the stealing of its water resources by Israel.

Israel is still refusing to declare its borders, and was and still is expanding illegally on Palestinian land, Israel is still turning a blind eye to the international community and a long list of UN resolutions demanding its withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories and to stop building more settlements on Palestinian land, Israel is still stealing the resources and lands and properties in the Occupied Territories and still gets away with it. The media shows every day Israel being defended by the USA and UK governments, and shows the friendly visits of top politicians visiting Israel on the Palestinian occupied land, yet emphasising Israel’s RIGHTS to live in peace, what a load of ridiculous heap of pathetic policies, they are visiting an occupied territory and yet demanding safety of the occupier not the victims. But one knows well that such visits are not returned back because most Israeli politicians are wanted for war crimes, and the people in the USA and UK have a different stand from that of their government and sympathise with the oppressed Palestinians. Should any Israeli official gamble with his life and visit the UK I am sure he will be executed by being stoned by hales of shoes by the citizens who showed great support and sympathy to the misery of Gaza people.

Should the UK not do something regarding Israel’s continuous policy of forcing Palestinians to exile, one day it will find itself facing the moral obligation of not only taking the 13,000 Palestinians who fled to Syria with faked Iraqi identities but much more than this figure. The UK and other European countries have to bear in mind that if Israel was not stopped by international collective effort, those countries will be forced to clean Israel’s mess, and pass this inheritance to the coming generations.

http://www.cbs.com/thunder/swf30can10cbsnews/rcpHolderCbs-3-4×3.swf
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