Life in Khan Yunis

It’s interesting to read the news from this perspective. I mean, when you are the news, or when you are living the news that is being reported. On Monday I visited the Khan Yunis refugee camp, the target of many an attack by Israeli forces, to talk to Palestinian refugees there, to hear their thoughts on Israeli disengagement. It was quite an incongruous-and bleak-scene, as is often the case in Gaza. Crumbling refugee homes with pockmarks the size of apples stand like carcasses in front of the Neve Dekalim settlement, part of the Gush settlement bloc. It is shaded with palm trees, red-roofed villas, and the unspoilt pristine sands of the Khan Yunis beach, accessible to all but the Palestinians now. 

Another Wednesday at Kalandia checkpoint

Kalandia checkpoint, few vendors. As has been reported, every few hours they go over to the peddlers, and either they beat them or they turn over their carts with all their merchandise, or they both beat them and turn over their carts. Its seems that the favorite sport among soldiers at Kalandia during the last three years, hunting down and shooting at children from the Kalandia refugee camp, has been replaced with the abuse of vendors. Bulldozers, with their protruding teeth, are overturning the earth in the area that is now known as “the Quarry,” and is about to become a veritable Apartheid terminal. 

Kids with machine guns

My last contact with Phoebe was in New York City last May, when we met for drinks in Morningside Heights. She is by birth an Israeli citizen, and despite our political differences, we’ve maintained a warm friendship, with the exception of a week-long, I’m-mad-at-you silence here or there. More inevitable is the extent to which our paths cross at graduate school, and now the Middle East. At first I thought about asking her to meet me in predominantly-Arab East Jerusalem, because that would annoy her to no end. But I had turned over a new leaf. Dinner was on her turf. Zachary Wales reports from Palestine. 

A wall as a faultline separating the haves and have-nots

In April 2005, Nick Dearden travelled around occupied Palestine to witness the effects of over four years of Intifada and thirty years of occupation with the indie Glasgow band Belle & Sebastian. He witnessed the impact of the Wall on Palestinian communities, the expansion of settlements, fenced off Palestinian villages, settlers in Hebron, the dire situation of Bedouin, the effects of house demolitions and he visited the Gaza Strip. “Only when one reaches Rafah - the border line between Palestine and Egypt - does one realize that the violence these people have seen has been an even heavier burden than poverty they suffer.” 

Taa'been Kalil Marshood

Balata Refugee Camp commemorated the first anniversary of the assassination of Kalil Marshood. Perhaps 5,000 people sat in the hot afternoon sun to watch as bands played, youths performed plays, small girls sang, masked wanted-men saluted, fighters fired in the air and women old enough to be grandmothers danced with guns waived aloft, to a backdrop of rousing music and giant banners. The people had gathered in tribute to the life of a twenty four year old newly-wed known and loved as much for his work for his community, particularly with the children of the camp, as for his membership of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. 

The Sound of Music

The main Jerusalem-Bethlehem checkpoint to the Wall concerns a rather desolate area with few people walking and perhaps some cars waiting in front of the checkpoint. It is nowadays so difficult to enter Jerusalem that you do not need to wait long in the queue. Even the soldiers are less stressed and unfriendly than elsewhere, just lazy and indifferent behind their table in the shadow of the hot sun. I’ve got used to walking along those two or three hundred meters between the checkpoint and the Wall. You see little boys who try to sell their chewing gum, always in vain. In the past you could take a taxi after passing the checkpoint from Jerusalem, but now the area is empty of taxis. 

Reaching the un-reached

On a sunny Thursday morning, we headed towards Mneizel to immunize children against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) as part of the national immunization campaign. The drive from Jerusalem to Mneizel, a Bedouin area south of Hebron took more than expected. The drive that should normally take two hours, took almost four hours. It was not for the drive, but for the delayed access as a result of the Israeli manned checkpoint few kilometers before reaching Mneizel. As we drove in two cars, heading towards Menizel, we reached an Israeli manned checkpoint. As part of the security procedures, both cars were stopped. Unfortunately for the news crew, Dr. Iyad and Hanan were driving with them. 

"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. 

Villagers Open Main Street Near Nablus

What was planned as a demonstration became a direct action against the Israeli occupation: Hundreds of villagers and activists from Israel and abroad opened the main street from Nablus to Asira ash-Shamaliya, which has been blocked for many years. After the outbreak of the second Intifada the Israeli Occupation Forces blocked the main street leading from Nablus to the nearby village of Asira. This street connected more than 10’000 people from this town as well as villagers from Talluza, Far’a, Yasid etc. with Nablus. Besides that, this passage – also called “Saba’atash” (“17”) – is part of the route to the bigger towns in the north, Tubas and Jenin. 

Checkpoint of No Return

In a time of empty talk of peace and celebrating Ariel Sharon as a man of moderate politics, because of extremists’ protest against evacuation from Gaza, the situation on the ground in Palestine sees remarkably little change. Everyday life in the occupied territories is as always a continuous chaos of military interference. One of the most obvious and constantly present exponents is the Israeli grip on Palestinian freedom of movement, suffocating the fragile infrastructure. “I’m here to protect my country against terrorists,” the young man tells me shrugging as if he is not completely confident with his answer.