Across the killing field

Yesterday, I joined thousands of Palestinians who streamed across the once impermeable and deadly wall that divided this battered border town into two, to visit family and friends they had not seen in decades, to shop, or simply to see Egypt for the first time. It was yet another journey into the surreal. There I was, after all, standing in the Dead Zone known as Philadelphi corridor by Israelis, the killing field by Palestinians, the very location where Israeli tanks once nested awaiting orders to pound this refugee camp, their tracks still imprinted in the sand, the Palestinian homes they destroyed spread out like carcasses in the background. The once deadly frontline of the Israeli army had become a porous free-for-all. 

They were finally gone

After 38 years and 67 days, they were finally gone. They being the Israeli soldiers and settlers of course, that for so long made our lives miserable here in Gaza. I went to tour the vacated colonies-as a journalist, but also as an ordinary Palestinian. Like thousands of other Palestinians, I was simply curious, and, in the end, giddy, awe-struck, and in absolute disbelief. I got up early, wasting no time after the last of the soldiers left to take a peak at what lay beyond the once fortified colonies, that although only metres away, for Palestinians, may as well have been on a different planet. 

Disengagement: "A donkey, a goat and a cow"

The Israeli political and military establishment didn’t just put a donkey, a goat and a cow into the Palestinian lands they put in the whole zoo. This morning I received an e-mail from a friend in Washington D.C. He expressed his sympathy for the Israeli settlers who he had watched being removed from their homes. It is his birthday today. I thought that rather then e-mail him a moral lesson all the way from the Gaza Strip or tell him the stories of the 30,000 Palestinians who lost their homes during this Intifada I would send him an old Jewish proverb that sums up the situation in Palestine one week after the start of the redeployment. 

Welcome to Costa-del-Gaza

The two sides of present-day Gaza are the poverty-stricken Palestinian population and the Israeli settlers who control about 45% of the land. But neither population is united; the divisions within each are as real as those between them. And the Israeli soldiers present in numbers to protect the settlers are now charged with overseeing their withdrawal - and if necessary, eviction - by August. The settlers are far from homogeneous. They include religious Zionists from Hebron, growing in numbers in the southern part of the Gaza settlement blocs, who believe that disengagement is a denial of the will of God; but there are also social-welfare recipients with their bags packed, who are ready to go upon payment of substantial compensation packages. What will Gaza become after Israeli occupation? Eóin Murray reports on embattled Jewish settlers and Palestinian fears. 

The Crushed Citizen

I was invited to attend a reception in Ramallah yesterday by my former scholarship sponsors, the Academy for Educational Development. They said they’d take care of the permit, though no guarantees were made. A few days ago I received word my permit was one of several that were approved. “Congratulations, you’re going to Ramallah.” I am excited-it’s been 4 years since I’ve been to Ramallah. Though it is only an hour away, permits are rarely if ever issued to Gazan Palestinians wishing to travel to the West Bank. I call up all my friends, relatives, and colleagues there. I even wonder if I can make it to Jerusalem on Friday. 

"Key of Return", a Marriage Gift in Gaza

“I was 17-year-old when I was arrested, I spent four years and a half in Israeli prisons, on the charge of fighting Israeli occupation. Through making keys, I feel as I am still fighting for my rights.” He said that his “biggest dream” is to return to his grandfather’s house. “I hope the UN resolution 194 will be implemented, to be able to return to our home and to be a warded compensation for tens of years living as a refugee.” Nasser Flaifel tells about his own way of commemorating the 57th anniversary of Nakba, his adherence to the right of return, and how he makes keys to remind us and the world that Palestinians will never forget their right to return. 

Palestinian workers under "moral terror"

In the heart of Jabalia Refugee Camp, there was no more room in the two-room 50 square meters house of Mahmoud Al-Dhabous 42. He is an unemployed father of 7 children, lost his work because he refused to “betray his people.” The washbasin in the kitchen is broken. The door of the bathroom is full of holes while the two rooms packed with sleeping children, clothes and books. Al-Dhabous is a sample of thousands of Palestinian workers the Israeli intelligence have been trying to recruit them as traitors for a permission of work inside Israel. For nine consecutive years, Al-Dhabous has worked for a factor of greenhouses in the industrial zone of “Eretz”. He has been jobless for more than a year. The Israeli intelligence prevented him from working as he refused to “collaborate”. 

Lock down in Gaza

We are preparing now for lock down. I have this sense that perhaps a prison guard has in an American high security prison. I’ve seen it in the movies. The prisoners are causing too much trouble and you hear the heavy black boots of the guards stomp down the iron corridors. Then one of them shouts “lock down!” or some other phrase that hides the brutality of what is about to happen. Someone else pulls a huge switch and the sound of metal clanking metal is awesome. That’s the preparation now. The Israeli occupation army is building everywhere. I thought they were mean to be disengaging? Eóin Murray reports from Gaza. 

Election day polls open in Gaza

“It looks like Eid,” someone tells me. Indeed, it is a sunny day in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. In the early morning at some of the polling centers Gazans slowly show up. Members of the Central Election Commission are ready for the day. Boxes are sealed in front of the very few international observers in this part of the Gaza Strip. Local observers, including volunteers from various human rights organizations and party affiliates, are waiting to see what is going to happen. 

Gaza families live in the shadow of death

The last thing that young Suha Ayub Ibayd remembers before a barrage of tank fire ripped through her home is huddling together with her parents and eight brothers and sisters. They had taken cover in the middle of their living-room floor hoping to find shelter from the mass of military machines that had rumbled into their neighbourhood minutes earlier on October 6. Now she lies listlessly in her hospital bed, trying to absorb as well as any nine-year-old could the events of that morning. She survived with relatively light wounds. The same cannot be said, however, about her younger sister, fighting for her life in the hospital’s intensive care unit, or about many of her neighbours.