Palestinian journalist's letter to Alan Johnston

Dear Alan: From the depth of our hearts, I would like to say that we are really shocked and terribly sorry for what has been happening to you. Three years ago, the first time I met you at the French Cultural Centre when you were covering an art activity, I realized that you were the journalist the Palestinian people are in need of. The journalist who does not cover only bloodshed, violence and politics, but also knocks on all doors in Gaza: occupation, art, love, religion and all areas that show the entire world that we are human too. 

Existence is Resistance

My last day in Nablus I got to discover another one of the city’s gems: An-Najah University. I immediately took to the old architecture mixed with modern sculptures on the main campus, but what inspired me most was watching thousands of students return to the frantic bustle of daily university life so soon after soldiers had released the city from hostage. Resilience is a defining character of Palestinian identity in my experience, and I was more impressed than surprised to see Palestinians asserting their determination to get an education even in the most difficult circumstances. 

War and Irony in Hebron Hilltops

The small Palestinian Tel Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron is home to some of the most violent ideological settlers in the West Bank, who have moved into local homes by force and parade the streets with guns, terrorizing local residents including children on their way to and from school. Unlike most settlers in the West Bank who move to the Occupied Territories because the Israeli government encourages them to do so with financial subsidies and other programs, the settlers in Hebron are here because they believe the city of 150,000 plus Palestinians belongs exclusively to the Jewish people. 

Nablus Invasion Diary I: Occupied Homes and Minds

6 March 2007: We arrived on Sunday to help volunteers from the UPMRC (Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees) deliver food and medical services. Dozens of jeeps and hundreds of soldiers had surrounded the Old City and declared curfew on all of Nablus. Their stated mission was to capture or assassinate eight fighters from Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah movement. Meanwhile, the 40,000 residents of Nablus Old City were trapped in their homes, inside a war zone, unable to go to work or school, or even to buy food for their families. 

Nablus Invasion Diary II: Human Shields and Medical Obstruction

7 March 2007: Most of the jeeps pulled out late Monday night, but we all knew they would be back. Israeli officials announced that the operation was not over, as they had not yet achieved their objectives. Typically, the army will withdraw for several hours or a whole day, hoping the wanted men will move around and be spotted by a collaborator working with Israel, and then the army can pounce. Soldiers also remained in occupied houses, where they typically set up hidden sniper nests. 

Nablus Invasion Diary III: Resistance, Hypocrisy, and Dead Men Walking

13 March 2007: What most struck me about the Nablus invasion wasn’t the killing of unarmed civilians. It wasn’t the obstruction of medical workers and ambulances, or the indiscriminate detention of males, or the occupied houses and curfews. What I will remember for the rest of my life is the steadfast resistance of the people of Nablus. I came to Palestine to document and intervene in human rights abuses and to support nonviolent resistance to the Occupation. As I delivered bread and medicine with medical relief workers throughout the invasion, I wondered if I was really fulfilling my mission. 

Volleyball and Civil War

I heard my name called out as I walked swiftly past the main police station in Gaza City. One of the three policemen gathered there walked over to me, a cigarette dangling from his lips. I had met Ahmed the second week I was in Gaza, when I went to play volleyball with Palestine’s best team, located in the Jabalya refugee camp. Ahmed was their star player. Warming up that day I paired up with Ahmed, which lead to a slew of questions about my coming to Gaza and sparked the beginning of our friendship. 

Gaza's fishing industry under siege

Since the abduction by Palestinian resistance groups of Israeli soldier Gila’d Shalit on 25 June 2006, Israeli gunships have prevented Palestinians from fishing off the Gaza coast. This has severely affected both fishermen and food security for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Thirty-thousand people are dependant on Gaza’s fishing industry, but since last June, the Israeli naval forces have harassed those Palestinian fishing boats that dare leave the dock. In the main fishing site of Gaza City, called Almina, there are dozens of fishermen trying to feed their children under harsh economic conditions. 

A Day in the Life of Nablus Under Curfew

Nablus, 26 February 2007: Dr. Ghassan Hamdan, Director of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society in Nablus, got up at five o’clock this morning after just two-and-a-half hours sleep. Until that time, he had been distributing medicines and food and providing emergency healthcare services to the residents of Nablus’ Old City, who had been under an Israeli-imposed curfew and thus forbidden from leaving their homes since early Sunday morning. He was woken up by a call saying that a house just outside the Old City had been set on fire by Israeli soldiers and that there may be civilian casualties. 

Gaza: Non-Entity

Leaving Gaza requires one to walk through a long tunnel made up of turnstiles, X-ray machines, gates, cages and passport controls. This past Wednesday I found the tunnel ending abruptly ahead of me, a crudely fashioned wall barred me from the usual way of entry — instead, an opening to the right lead to an unknown place. I turned the corner and found myself in an Orwellian passage leading to a huge building with four automatic doors that were shut tight. Along this fenced-in passageway runs an anachronistic, medieval ditch, beyond it a mound made of rubble and dirt of the once magnificently fruitful region of Beit Hanoun.