This week on The Electronic Intifada podcast:
Weeks of raids, invasions, attacks and killings by Israeli forces and Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank: we’ll speak with an eyewitness to recent violence in Jerusalem’s Shuafat neighborhood after a 16-year-old Palestinian boy was kidnapped and murdered on Tuesday. Read transcript and listen to individual segment
Ayed Abu Eqtaish of Defence for Children International - Palestine talks about Israel’s policies of collective punishment and the attacks against Palestinian children over the last three weeks. Read transcript and listen to individual segment
A report from Chicago: how a son of Palestinian immigrants became one of the city’s busiest barbers. Read transcript and listen to individual segment
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Zalameh: What’s happening right now, really, is a culmination of several past weeks of incitement of the Israeli political establishment and the Israeli public in general. Since the three settlers disappeared, Israel implemented a policy of collective punishment of all Palestinians, and that implied closure of all Palestinian cities, erection of the checkpoints, and even here in Jerusalem, we have seen escalations of religious zealots and Israeli public in general occupying the public space very visibly.
One example, the recent Jerusalem Day parade, where there are chants you normally hear, “Death to Arabs,” so there is already a buildup happening in relation to incitement against Palestinians, so this was a culmination of Palestinian … my neighbor, who lives right next door to me here in Shuafat, was taken in the early hours by settlers and he was killed. There was already an atmosphere where Palestinians were attacked in more than one way — physically, but also being told that “you don’t belong here” and “you’re just a guest.” This is pretty much Israel’s policy within Jerusalem — that Palestinians are not part of this city, and this is an exclusivist Jewish city.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Can you talk about what happened on Tuesday in Shuafat? Can you talk about what it was like there on Tuesday and continuing into today?
Z: Muhammed [Abu Khudair] was taken at about 4am, and from the early hours — it’s the month of Ramadan, so we all woke up to eat, and then after that we go to the mosque at 4:20. And news started spreading that the boy was taken, and he was taken by settlers. But there was still a lot of confusion — what was going to happen, if he would come back, and so on. And then about 7:30am local time, after 4:30 since people had been gathered at the main road of Shuafat, we got the news that the body had been found. And obviously, the people’s reaction was that they were very angry that this had happened to a child from their neighborhood here in Jerusalem. And from there on, there has been intense clashes throughout the whole day. The Israelis were deployed here in the hundreds, heavily armed, and basically youth on the other side, throwing stones. And this kept going for the whole day.
And even though it’s really hot right now and people are fasting, the youth were really angry and determined — they kept the clashes going. But it’s really interesting to note that these sort of clashes are quite rare in East Jerusalem. You see a lot of it happening inside the West Bank, in Qalandiya and other cities within the West Bank. But in East Jerusalem, not so much. So I see this is as a turning point. I’m not saying it’s a game-changer, but it’s definitely a turning point — we’re getting close to what we can say is a moment where there is a more collective spirit which was missing all the last five years since [Salam] Fayyad took over and [Mahmoud] Abbas’ security coordination with the Israelis took over — there was a lack of collective spirit, and now there is this general feeling that they’re under attack by the Israelis, plus the decades-old occupation, and so on. Everything is there, and the emotions are realy at the boiling point.
NBF: Have you been able to speak with Muhammed Abu Khudair’s family? What’s the mood like on the ground in Shuafat, two days after his murder?
Z: I went today to the mourning tent of the family. I talked to his cousins, his uncles, and they’re really — first of all, they’re upset that the Israelis haven’t released the body yet. People want to mourn for their son, the son of their neighborhood. And the Israelis have still kept the body. And at the same time, they really don’t expect the Israelis to bring justice and bring the perpetrators to accountability. And this is because already, from the very beginning, they haven’t cooperated in full with the investigations in the sense that a lot of — they’re [the Israeli authorities] trying to make this into a family feud, and bringing other hypothesis which really is impossible given that the family itself has CCTV of the settlers taking the kid from the street. And the Israelis confiscated the CCTV from the neighborhood — not only the official one from the light rail, which runs through Shuafat, but also [the neighborhood] — they’re not being transparent. And by now, we want answers and so far no answers have been given. And we know, historically, also that justice won’t come from the Israeli side.
We — from what I’ve heard today at the mourning tent — it’s expected that the body will be brought during tonight or tomorrow morning, so they’re expecting to do a burial after Friday prayers. And as you know, not only in Palestine but throughout the Middle East, Friday is a day off and it’s a time where everyone congregates at the mosques, so I think the atmosphere is ripe for protests — not only here in Shuafat, where it has been the center of the protests, but throughout East Jerusalem.
Adding to this is Ramadan, so the Old City and the al-Aqsa Mosque will be really full, and it’s really expected with all of the emotions of the past couple of days, really for things to erupt. And we know that the Israelis will be ruthless, also, in their repression.
Ayed Abu Eqtaish: Israel started these punitive measures against the Palestinian community after the disappearance of the three settlers in the Hebron area. Almost all Palestinian territories have been affected by the collective punishment policy. More than five hundred Palestinians were arrested, and some cases, the Israeli authorities issued administrative detention orders against some of them. So this policy is not a new policy for the Israelis when something like that is happening. The ready response is to attack the Palestinian community.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Ayed, can you talk about the impact of the policies of Israel’s collective punishment as we’ve seen the last two weeks on children?
AAE: In general, this policy is not directed — we can’t say it was directed at children, it was directed towards the Palestinian community and Palestinian citizens in general. It was clear through imposing restrictions on the rights of movement of Palestinians. The number, for example, of arrested children during the first operation was the same as usual. So we can’t say that children were directly affected from this policy. But they’re affected as part of the Palestinian community. DCI can confirm that nine Palestinians have been killed, among them one child, at the hands of the Israeli army, and another at the hands of the Israeli settlers. At this point, DCI is investigating and collecting information regarding the killing of the Palestinian boy from Jerusalem, but there is indication that his abduction and killing is in revenge for the killing of the Israeli settlers. So we are in the process of getting information from eyewitnesses and collecting information in this regard.
But as I said, there are so many cases of attacking children. By the way, the abduction of this child was not the only incident — there was an attempt to abduct another child from the same area. And I believe that this policy, or what the Israeli settlers are doing, because the Israeli political leaders charged the Israeli settlers in order to [enact] revenge. We believe it’s the responsibility of the Israeli government, the occupying power, to protect the lives of civilians who are living in the occupied territories.
Rami Almeghari: When the airstrikes began early on Tuesday dawn, while most of the people here in the Gaza Strip were preparing for the suhour meal, the meal that people take before their fasting day starts, we have Ramadan month these days, like many people, myself, I was preparing for the meal, my family was awake for the meal, and welcoming of the new fasting day, the second fasting day, and that was very horrific for the people of Gaza. The Israeli F16 jet fighters were hovering overhead, buzzing overhead, and they started shelling different areas, different locations in the Gaza Strip, some of the locations are near the town where my family live, it’s a town that’s close to my town. Others in the south and in the north of Gaza, different locations actually.
There were about more than thirty locations, thirty-five, which Israel says belong to Hamas group and other armed groups, armed factions in the territory. These strikes resulted in the injury of four people in southern Gaza where the Israelis hit a site near one of the evacuated Israeli settlements in southern Gaza. Four people who are said to be guardsmen of one of the locations there, you know many of the evacuated settlements are used for planting, for agriculture, are used for entertainment, like amusement parks or something like that, so four people were injured, moderately and slightly, according to medics in the Gaza Strip.
Last Friday, two young men were killed by an Israeli drone in western Gaza City in Nuseirat refugee camp. So the likelihood of casualties among civilians are high, are still high among the frequent attacks on the Gaza Strip. The people here in Gaza, the civilians, always pay the price of Israeli attacks on the territory, despite the fact that this is coming out of political maneuvers, political controversy, by the Israeli echelons, by the Israeli politicians.
Buthayna Hammad: I went there, it was a planned event — we planned it over a month and a half with my boyfriend and his family. So his mom, his dad, his sister, his brother-in-law, one of his brothers canceled and didn’t go — that was my reason for going, was going with this Honduran family. I brought with me a Honduras jersey which I wore, brought from his mother from Honduras — she had taken a trip over there — and my Palestinian flag.
When I went there to hold the flag, I held it in front of — it’s complicated for me to describe where it was in the stadium, because one of their responses from BBVA [stadium] was that I was blocking the aisle, I was blocking views — so I want to make it clear, I was standing in a position that was not blocking anybody. You walk up the stairs from the concourse, in front of you there’s the stadium, and you walk to your right and left, you walk to your seats, and there’s stairs from there. So the only thing that was behind me was the stairs up from the concourse — no seated people, it wasn’t obstructing any view.
That was after me sitting down and watching the game. And the reason I felt I could stand there was that I saw several other people standing there and several other flags hanging from that one spot. So my boyfriend and I walk over there, and we’re hanging the flag and we’re cheering for Honduras. Nowhere in the time of the match did I exchange any type of verbal obscenities with any fan of Israel. So it was just cheering for Honduras, and I wasn’t even using the obscenities that the Spanish speakers were using at the time against Israel. No profanities.
Then, I was told to sit down after a few minutes, so I go and I sit down and I was told a moment later by the manager to stand up and come with him to the concourse. I walked with him, and as you know, there was several security and HPD [Houston Police Department] officers waiting, as a show of force. And the first question he asked me was, “why are you carrying that flag?” It wasn’t a question I thought of in advance, because it’s something people do. So when he asked me why I was carrying this flag, I said, “I’m Palestinian.” And he goes, “they’re not playing. They have nothing to do with this match.” And I said, “They have everything to do with this match because I’m here, and I’m representing Palestine, and I’m wearing a Honduras jersey and I’m cheering for Honduras, so this is the reason why I brought the flag.” That’s when he told me that my flag implies “a racial slur.” And that’s when the conversation just goes — really, are you really telling me this flag is a racial slur? And that’s when it goes on to the statement that I had written. I had asked him several times, “what country am I in, that you are denying me entry as a patron, that you are telling me that I cannot carry this flag — what country?” And I’ve been to Israel-Palestine, and I’ve been treated a certain way, been to other countries where you’re at their mercy.
So I had asked him several times, and then I’d asked him why I can’t carry this flag — this is what people do. And I said would it be ok if I carry a US flag? And he said yes, that would be ok. So on to tell him that I wasn’t there as a hooligan, I was there with this family, and I wasn’t doing anything wrong — he wanted the flag, he wanted to take the flag from me. I was telling him, I’m not giving you the flag. I told him, listen, I will keep the flag — it was wrapped around my shoulders — I won’t wave it, if you’re threatening me with these two options, but you’re not taking this flag.
Finally, after I threatened him, and I said, “how would you like it if I out you and I let everyone know how you as a representative of BBVA treated me today?” that’s when he offered me a two-part compromise, and the first part was what I wanted, which was the ability to retain my flag, and to go back to my seat, and the second one was “here’s a business card, I’m looking out for your safety, call me if anyone bothers you.”
So at this point, BBVA is claiming that I was there to instigate Israeli supporters, that I was blocking the view, that I was blocking the aisle, that I was just being disruptive. And then they also said that they were being proactive in the sense of their safety. I was on the Arab Voices radio show, they were invited to the show and didn’t come, but they released a statement saying “we apologize for the poor use of terminology, however we stand behind our actions to be proactive in the arena of safety.”
If they had an issue of safety, that would have been the first thing out of their mouths — not that my flag was racist.
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Buthayna, how are you fighting back, and have civil liberties organizations come to your defense?
BH: Honestly right now, it’s the voice through ADC [American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee], ACLU has said they’re interested, Palestine for Civil Rights, also another civil rights organization, is interested in participating, and right now, what I’m doing is using them as an outlet for a voice. And they’ve been very successful in sending letters to the mayor, to the city of Houston, to the chief of police, to the BBVA, and explaining the seriousness of this issue. So there’s been a lot of support with civil rights groups.
NBF: And finally, will you go back to the stadium, and will you bring your Palestinian flag next time?
BH: That is a very good question. I actually intend to go back to the stadium on July 26, and I’ve started a Facebook page which I’m going to start again a campaign — our intentions are to go watch the Dynamo versus Aston Villa. Our intentions are to support Dynamo — this is our local Houston club. And also, for the Dynamo organization, to see the number of community members who are upset with this — whether or not they’re Palestinian or American, or Arab, I’m hoping to address this with the presentation of the Palestinian flag, in support of the Dynamo match. We’re not there to start any problems, but we’re hoping that Dynamo will pressure BBVA to at least give us a respected and deserved apology. Not me, but the whole community of Palestinians who are upset about this.
So this is our plan, we’re going to start a PayPal for anyone who wants to buy their tickets, because I’m going to secure at least twenty. It’s to maintain the awareness that this community is upset with what was said by BBVA and this is the number of people that represent your fans and the Palestinian cause.
Nader Ihmoud: Fadi Fareh, known to his customers as Jordan, went from begging friends to let him practice cutting their hair at his uncle’s shop, to owning his own barber shop seven years later.
Fareh, a 20-year-old Palestinian American, bought Chicago Fadez last thanksgiving. Fareh’s parents came to the United States as newlyweds from the Palestinian village of Turmusaya in the occupied West Bank with the purpose of starting a new family and supporting those who stayed back home. Fadi, who will be married in August, will use his success to support his new family and those who are still back in Turmusaya.
Fadi Fareh: I started cutting hair when I was in grammar school, all through high school. A lot of my clients are from the school I went to [Taft high school].
NI: Fadi never went to school for cutting hair Instead he practiced on friends at his uncle’s barbershop. Najeh Awad was the first brave soul to donate his head for practice.”
Najeh Awad: I’ve know him since he was a baby. Our parents were friends before we were friends. To me he was like my little brother. When he came to me about becoming a barber I wanted to support him. Back then I would’ve never expected him to be like this.
NI: Fadi’s first try was a failed attempt. Najeh remembers walking out of the barbershop bald, but Fadi’s early mistakes have helped him become one of the most established barbers in Chicago’s northwest side.
Fadi estimates that he has 500 customers, and on his busiest day he will give between 50 and 60 haircuts. He credits a lot of his early success to the Palestinian community that he grew up with in Chicago. Over a hundred of his regular customers are Palestinian Americans, he says.
Because of the high volume of patrons, Fadi doesn’t take appointments and does not give his friends special privileges such as cutting in line. His best friends and family members are left sometimes waiting over an hour for a haircut if they come on a Friday or Saturday, Fadi’s busiest days.
Fadi’s first stint ended after three years at his uncle’s barbershop, The Fade In. He took his few talents only a few blocks away to another Palestinian American owned barbershop, Fade by Tom. For the next four years Fadi would continue to better his craft, and build his clientele while developing the courage to branch out on his own.
Because of the amount of clients Fadi brought with him to Chicago Fadez he says tensions are high between the nearby Palestinian barbershop owners. Today there are three other Palestinian American owned barbershops within two miles of Chicago Fadez.
FF: From the old place I was working at, I actually took all my customers and half of their clients too.
NI: How does your uncle feel about this?
FF: He doesn’t feel real good about it … not at all.
NI: So there’s a little rivalry?
FF: Yes. Actually a lot of rivalry.
NI: Despite his success at being a barber and a business owner, Fadi’s dream is to be a Chicago police officer in the narcotics division. He recently received his associates’ degree in criminal justice and completed an internship with the police department.
FF: I wanted to do that but I got my own barbershop now, so I’m gonna do this for now and then in the future if I want to pursue a career in criminal justice I’ll do that.
NI: For The Electronic Intifada in Chicago, I’m Nader Ihmoud.