Hello from Rafah

Here in Gaza, we’re all listening to the radio and watching the news every hour (our only way of knowing what’s happening in the outside world), waiting to see what Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), Israel and the US are planning for us, and where our fate will take us. This has become more than a prison for the people of Gaza. It’s hard not to feel like animals in a zoo, where we are caged and have enough food for two weeks at a time to keep us alive, but not well or free while someone decides what to do with us. 

When Birds are No Longer Birds: An Allegory

In an imagined (but somehow very real) countryside there live various kinds of birds, living in peace and enjoying their life among trees, waterfalls and gardens. Once, the birds had an idea that they should elect a chair-bird with a board, all the birds responded positively to the idea, so they set a date for such an election process. They day they set was a winter day, while they are all hibernating. All the birds were involved actively in the electoral process, although the rains were falling heavily overhead, but they appeared very happy for such a remarkable day, unlike any they had ever experienced before. 

Gaza's Father Manuel

Father Manuel runs a school here and is the head of the Christian Affairs Department for the Palestinian Authority. He was born in Birzeit near Ramallah, and lived his entire childhood in the West Bank of Palestine, which was considered under the control of Transjordan prior to 1967. Father Immanuel happened to be on the East Bank of the Jordan River training to be a Roman Catholic priest when Israel conquered the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights and Sinai in June 1967. As a result of being on the wrong side of the river at the wrong time, he became a refugee. 

Fear Is a Powerful Stimulant (Part 3)

Our mobile health van drives just north of Beit Lahiya where we see a large crowd of people fleeing from the attack. We drive further north toward the village of Um Nasser, located right on the border with Israel, and right underneath the attack helicopters which are hovering about 1000 meters above us. We arrive at the village clinic. Because of the attack helicopters, patients are not showing up to be seen today. I am not as scared as I was on the first night at Hotel Al Deira, though we are in a more dangerous spot. I am strangely getting used to this. 

Fear is a Powerful Stimulant (Part 1)

Today is a holiday. It is Palestinian Independence Day, commemorating the day in 1988 when Yasser Arafat formally declared a Palestinian State in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Now 18 years later, this holiday seems like some kind of a cruel joke, since Israel still refuses to renounce violence and recognize Palestine’s right to exist. Under Clinton and the Oslo process, the Palestinians were forced to negotiate endlessly while walking backwards. Under Bush, Sharon and Olmert, there have been no negotiations, only unilateralism, arrogant violence, economic starvation and more disaster. 

Language and the crimes we permit in Gaza

As I entered the powerful new museum of the Holocaust at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem in early November, I was confronted by these words: “A country should be judged not only by what it does, but also by what it tolerates.” Kurt Tucholsky, WW1 veteran and pacifist, journalist and social critic whose books were burned by the same Nazi regime that stripped him of his citizenship, wrote the statement after Germany adopted the anti-Semitic Nuremberg laws. His sobering contention was brought vividly to mind during my visit to Gaza, Palestine ten days later. 

Pariah State: Meeting with the Prime Minister of Palestine

I first visited Gaza in 1968 and have returned more two dozen times, most recently in April 2002. Since then, Israeli authorities have prevented our visiting Gaza. I was eager to return, to renew friendships and see for myself the changes that have taken place. I also wanted to convey my support for those courageous people who continue to work for human rights, democracy and a political resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They persist despite formidable obstacles and being cut off from visitors. It is imperative, for them as well as for us, that those suffering such extreme isolation not be forgotten and that their voices still be heard. 

Imaginary Hugs In Palestine

Today I am crying alone. My friends Saed from Beit Sahour and Jenka (a very good American woman) are leaving for the States, where Jenka is living. The young couple have decided to leave Palestine, seeking a new life with no military occupation, no Apartheid Wall, no checkpoints, no bypass routes, no restrictions on roads. Saed, Jenka and myself have never seen or met each other in person since we began working together for the past couple of years, even though we all live in the same country, Palestine. But unfortunately for our friendship, the young couple is based in the West Bank and I am in the Gaza Strip.