Blocking Out the Sun

My Palestinian mother has a favorite expression that she likes to use. Whenever she wants the curtains pulled back, a window or door opened to the outside world, or just wants to get out of the house, to be outdoors, she would always say that she wants to ashoof wijih rabie (roughly translated: “to see the face of my God”). Last summer, while my family and I were in Palestine, we got to see and experience, first hand, the magnificence of God’s face and the ugly face of occupation and oppression, the Apartheid Wall that is being built by Israel. Mike Odetalla writes from Beit Hanina. 

Saida's Six Days of Curfew

I am writing this by candlelight in a family living room in the Palestinian West Bank town of Saida where I am currently under military-enforced house arrest, along with 3,500 others. The living room of my adopted home is packed full of people. They have no choice but to stay inside. If they open their front door they will be confronted by the machine gun of one of the hundreds of heavily armed Israeli soldiers who invaded and occupied this sleepy farming town three days ago. Donna Mulhearn has spent the last week in the Palestinian West Bank town of Saida under curfew and military occupation with its people. 

Feast of the Tree

It happens that Dutch books emit a political message that I do not wish to repeat to the kids. Many years ago a well-intentioned lady gave me a book about “Donald goes to Israel.” For her, Palestine was Israel, and she did not realize that Israel is not the name which Palestinians use for their country. But the book became one of Jara’s favorites after I changed the name of Israel into Palestine, the kibbutz into a Palestinian village, and Moshe into Musa. The book was about Donald and grandma Duck visiting the Israeli feast of trees [Tu Bishevat, in Hebrew]. The Ducks, of course, came to help the pioneers in planting trees so as to make the desert bloom. In fact, we do have a feast of the tree here too. 

The Writing on the Wall: Maha Abu Dayyeh

The Writing on the Wall is a series of interviews with Palestinians who live close to the Wall. Van Teeffelen asked three questions: How is your daily life influenced by the Wall and the checkpoints? What does freedom mean to you? What are your sources of energy? Toine van Teeffelen speaks with Maha Abu Dayyeh, director of the Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC) in Jerusalem. her office is close to her home. When its completed the Wall will block the street she had to cross to her office. “As long as there is a society that resists there is hope. I see people resisting as a profound, courageous expression of choosing life. I see it all around me. It may not be tangible in the immediate, but when people choose life, there is hope.” 

"Democracy" under Occupation

Perhaps you saw images of flag-waving youth in Ramallah. Or maybe you heard the optimistic words of George W Bush and other world leaders about new opportunities for peace. Yet from where I was sitting in the West Bank city of Nablus, one thing was clear: voting for a president in a state that does not actually exist will not change much in the lives of the people here. It is clear how much the Palestinians want peace and good government, but after hearing the glowing, yet often patronising, cliches about ‘Arab democracy’ that have been bandied about in the media recently, the fact remains that Palestine can never experience true democracy while it remains under occupation. 

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 on the eve of the elections

Arjan El Fassed talks to Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip on the eve of the election for president of the Palestinian Authority. El Fassed is a co-founder of the Electronic Intifada and a member of UCP’s election mission, accredited as international election observers. 

Mahmoud Abbas campaigns in Nablus

Three days before the general election in Palestine - the first since January 1996 when Yassir Arafat was elected president of the Palestinian National Authority - Abbu Mazen a.k.a. Abbas was to visit Nablus. He had waited until the end of the campaign possibly because his nearest rival, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi is well loved in this, his mother’s native city. But on this day, January 6, 2005, the Israeli soldiers stationed at the Hawarra checkpoint were unusually polite as people passed through without incident or excessive waiting as international television cameras recorded the historic moment. 

The election buzz

We should have known that Gaza would be closed. However, someone told us that the border might be open and that we would be able to pass. Together with a colleague, who is also an accredited elections observer, we left the West Bank this morning to go to Gaza. Yesterday, Israeli forces killed seven Palestinians, most of the same family, when they fired a tank shell into an agricultural area in the area of Beit Lahia in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. The tank shell killed three brothers, three cousins and their neighbour. EI’s Arjan El Fassed writes from Ramallah. 

The Writing on the Wall: Hania Batar

The Writing on the Wall is a series of interviews with Palestinians who live close to the Wall. Van Teeffelen asked three questions: How is your daily life influenced by the Wall and the checkpoints? What does freedom mean to you? What are your sources of energy? Toine van Teeffelen speaks with Hania Bitar is director-general of the Palestinian youth association Pyalara. “As an organization you always want to challenge tough challenges, to be stronger even than the Wall or the barriers. We really try to overcome whatever measures the Israelis take. We try to make the people connected despite the fact that they are disconnected. As Palestinians you feel that anybody living outside this Wall just doesn’t care.”