On February 13th 2012 (I won’t say ‘one day before Valentines’), #LoveUnderApartheid became a Worldwide TT for a few minutes and was a trend in the US for several hours (!) as thousands of Twitter users tweeted the hashtag.
Impressive accomplishment for those of us who “talk Twitter”, but what was it all about?
Earlier that day, a video called “Checkpoint date: When dinner isn’t the only check you have to worry about” was widely shared on Facebook. The video’s lighthearted, straight-to-the-point message, conveyed in a funny and easy-to-associate-with way easily made its way to the hearts and minds of thousands to the extent that it was trending on Will Ferrell’s FunnyOrDie.com! The video is a promotional trailer for “Love Under Apartheid”, which is a project that “uses videos to document Palestinians’ stories describing how romantic and familial relationships are affected by Israeli laws, occupation, and siege.” Something to think about?
The videos tell the personal love stories of Palestinians whose love is succumbed to Israel’s state-organized apartheid laws. The stories range from Samer not being able to visit his mother in Jerusalem, where she eventually died of cancer, to Palestinian-American Laila (Gaza) and Hesham’s (Jerusalem) inability to visit Palestine together as a family. The videos tell several other emotional stories.
On a personal level, I know of several stories like Samer’s and Laila’s (who happens to be a family friend). I also know of groomless weddings, Skype proposals and short-distance relationships that are more impossible than long-distance ones. Over the past few years in Gaza, many weddings were celebrated by the bride alone as the groom was unable to return to Gaza for a vast array of reasons, ranging from Rafah Border problems to travel restrictions. Read all about #GazaWedding (my friend Lina met her husband Mohammed over Twitter and he proposed over Skype). The story is unique and the wedding was a blast! Think handling a long distance relationship is a challenge? Try handling a short-distance relationship—say a 90 kilo distance between Gaza and Jerusalem, or even 15 kilometers between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. It depends on several factors, the most important of which is the 18-year-old Israeli checkpoint soldier’s mood, but it also has to do with the color- not of your skin, but of your ID card. 2012 Apartheid.
The miracles/abnormalities/exception to this case occur when you choose to live outside Palestine (if you can get legal residence) and thus forever reliniquish your right to raise a family in Palestine.
Apartheid and occupation entail a LOT of suffering that is usually documented in academic papers, fact sheets and big numbers and statistics. The beauty of #LoveUnderApartheid lies in its humanity, and in the faces of the people in the videos telling their very own personal story. [Insert your favorite love quote here] and think about it for a second- what would life be like without love? In Palestine, love is what keeps us going. It’s one of the few things that we can control under Israel’s rigid apartheid system, which is why it should be labeled as “Love DESPITE Apartheid” :)
I can’t but end this post with excerpts from Mahmoud Darwish’s “A Lover from Palestine”:
Come to me wherever you are
Whatever you have become
And return color to my cheeks
And meaning to my being
Return and take me into your eyes
Take an olive branch
Take a verse of my tragedy
Take a stone from our house
So that our descendants
Will remember their way home
Palestinian are your eyes
Palestinian is your name
Palestinian your thoughts-dreams
Palestinian your mantilla, your body
Palestinian the words-the silence
Palestinian the voice
Palestinian in life
Palestinian in death