Nakba



I started to write this on my way home after a day that started way too early for the weekend, but if truth be told it is like any day that is a day for going to the Palestinian border. It started with the scramble to find the bus that will take us there. We had to reserve days before, yet we were told all the buses were full. We went anyway, and secured the last seats on one of the buses organized by AUB’s Civic Welfare League.  We headed off at 7:15 a.m. to Maroun al Ras, but first a stop in Shatila. We needed to drop off the extras on our bus. Instead we found more people and no bus. “All 2500 Lebanese buses have been commissioned and about 1000 more from Syria,” our bus driver told us. “They are expecting 150,000 thousand people,” he said. We all pitched in to hire another bus, where from I have no idea, but everyone was going to go. We pulled away and started off, and for the next three hours we kept seeing crowds. Some were on the street waiting for their buses, others in bus, after bus, after bus.  Slowly, excitement replaced the morning grumpiness. And with every kilometer we got closer we saw more and more people, and more and more buses.

 driving south

Just before we got to Sour, we were stopped. Not to be asked for our IDs or to be searched. It was not a military checkpoint, but rather the organizers. They were counting and logging. Bus number? From? How many passengers? The enormity of the organization slowly sinking in with every bus on the road, and every florescent vested organizer we saw. Once we passed Sour, and at every possible turn there were organizers with walkie talkies, and they waved us on in the right direction. At every three or four kilometers there were signs saying “To Palestine, X Kilometers.” With every sign we saw we became more jubilant “TO PALESTINE.”  Our bus driver, Zafer, was a darling. He would pick up the mic and point out towns and villages, he spoke of Hezbollah resistance and fighting the Zionist enemy, he gave us snippets of his wisdom, and he told us about the festival we were going to attend, as this was the fourth year it is being held. He made the trip that much more.

 

6 KM to Palestine

6 KM to Palestine

5 KM to Palestine

5 KM to Palestine

At the four kilometer point we were given caps and flags. At the three kilometer point we disembarked, we had to walk the rest of the way. And so we strolled, with hundreds of others down the path, past the two kilometer marker, and then we saw it. We saw occupied Palestine with its settlements, farm lands, and the electronic fence that marks much of the boundaries and walls the Israelis put up. There it was the valley below in all its spring glory. Below we saw people near a dirt road, we weren’t sure we thought they were Palestinians of 48. We later found out that they were people trying to get to the fence, still on Lebanese soil.

The caps

The caps

Walking to the border   
Walking to the border

Walking to the border

We continue to walk, past food vendors and organizers who made sure we didn’t stray off the path. We passed a gateway that read “The Iranian Garden” where people’s bags were being checked. And we walked in to see a massive sign in Hebrew and Arabic saying something along the lines of we shall return.  There was a festival area segregated by gender, and we walked into the Women’s one. There we tried to find a way down to the slope, we wanted to sit on the grass and just gaze at Palestine. Instead, we found no way down and were subjected to the ranting of whoever was speaking on the mic. Soon we heard gun shots, not one, or two, but a whole array of bullets.  We looked at each other and decided to take higher ground. But it felt like slow motion. I was amazed at what I saw. The women who were sitting down in the front rows stood up as if in unison and waved the Palestinian flags they were holding in defiance. Others started to gather their children who were crying in fear, wanting to get them to higher ground. It was sad seeing how quickly the children, traumatized by years of violence, started crying immediately and just wanted to go home. Ironically, home was the one place they couldn’t go, not in that moment.  And so we walked up to what seemed like a safer distance, we stopped to catch our breath and try to understand what just happened. We were told this was Lebanese army fire trying to keep back people who wanted to go to the fence, and we should not be scared. It didn’t make sense. In such an environment, in such a location, with so many people, why would you fire shots? Even if they were in the air?

people at Maroun Al Ras

people at Maroun Al Ras

The festival area and Palestine beyond

The festival area and Palestine beyond

We had made an agreement amongst us, the small group of three, that we would a- stick together, b- respect, and not question anyone’s decision to leave, or move at any time. And so we decided to go find a grassy spot to sit on, and from there watch and see what was happening in the valley below, but from a location farther away. And so we continued to move at a very slow pace back up the path. The atmosphere was slowly going back to that of a festive crowd at a picnic. People milling about, eating, walking, watching, smoking. We stopped for a bite to eat as it was nearly 2:00 p.m. and we hadn’t really had breakfast. But we realized the sound of sirens kept getting louder, and more frequent. We kept trying our phones, but the signal was weak, and kept coming in and out. Finally, someone on the phone told us the news. The shooting was not friendly fire anymore, and there were casualties, and deaths already. The Israelis had opened fire on the unarmed protesters at the fence. We kept trying to get more information from around us, from the internet, from others with access to TVs and radios. It was unclear how many were dead, and how many were injured. Numbers ranged from 3 to 50! We walked out and up, we were trying to get a glimpse of what was happening, and find out more information. We kept being pushed aside by soldiers running ahead, clearing a path on the crowded road, to make way for more ambulances coming out of the site. So many ambulances. They were on both roads the one we were on, and the dirt road below that we saw earlier. We were able to see the crowd from afar and the people running back and forth. We saw the Lebanese army mobilize in the valley below us, but when we saw the army trucks drive past us to mobilize on the top of the hill, that’s when decided it is time to leave. There was nothing we can do, except move.  Slowly, we made our way to the bus. All the while trying to call friends who we knew were there but couldn’t find, the phones were still not fully functioning, and everyone was desperate for a connection.  It took us over an hour to find our bus.Wwe walked through the parking lots, and then down the winding line of buses parked on the side. We were lucky it just three quarter ways  down the hill, others still had a long way to go.  We had thought if we found it, and found out when it would leave, we could walk back and see what was happening. But with an hour or so each way, and no phones, emotionally and physically tired, we stayed, and slowly the stories started to come in. People with pictures, film and experiences started to tell us of the horror that was taking place as we stood. The worst of which was one person from the AUB group, a student, had been shot in the back. It was the worst because that story just didn’t end with a retelling, or hearing the number of deaths and causalities. But because his friend who was with him needed to found and told, we were called and asked if any of us have the blood type (O-), as he was in desperate need. We had to drop of his friend who’s phone had died and was franticly trying to find more information, contact the dean, contact the friends, contact anyone who could contact his mother.  It still doesn’t end, as today I have heard he has been airlifted into AUH, in critical condition. He had been shot with a dum dum bullet that ripped through him. He has already lost a spleen, a kidney and parts of the bullet are lodged in his spine.

There are so many details that I can’t begin to piece together. The landmines that were still down there, the boy who lost a leg being pulled away from the fence as the shooting started, the young man who was walking amongst us his clothes completely soaked in blood. The fear and anxiety in some and the matter-of-factness of others. All of us knew the monster that is the Israeli soldier.

My story is not an exceptional one as you may have read and heard much more from the people who were at the fence. You may have read the news (I haven’t. I want to try and make sense of what I saw and heard already). This violence is nothing new, it just a fact. Israelis continue to use excessive force when they see a stone being lobbied against them. The use excessive force when a child stands in their way. They use excessive force when they see a Palestinian Flag. They try to erase us. They tried at Maroun Al Ras, and they couldn’t. They tried in the Golan and they couldn’t. They tried in Al Karama, Amman, and  Cairo, and they couldn’t. They tried in Qalandia, Gaza, and all our Palestinian cities and towns, and they just can’t. May 15, Nakba day is the day we will all remember. No matter how many people they kill, No matter how many demonstrations they stop, no matter how many homes they destroy. No matter. Palestine is my homeland.

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This is being circulated around the web and came into my inbox. We need to be vocal we need to be visible we need to use logical rhetoric. I am reposting their email that calls all of us to action. View their work so far and see how you can help!

 

Thanks.

S.

 

Dear friends,


We are a group of Arab women from Jordan who have come together in
response to the vicious attacks by Israel on Gaza. Our aim is to spread awareness across the globe on the atrocities and encourage all responsible citizens to act in the name of humanity. Help us give voice to those who have been silenced by doing the following: 

 1. Visit our YouTube links and rate us positively!

We need your views so we can become the first Arab youtube clip to get onto the most viewed page
The YouTube clips address the following:
On the Humanitarian Situation

On Israel’s Violations of Humanitarian Law
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxZoiYvNuqw&NR=1

On the Media Spin
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-8GqHL2J-I&feature=related

Our Call to Action
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAonLJHEuak

 

2. Forward this message to all your friends and encourage them to do the same! Make sure everyone you know watches these videos!

 3. Join our Facebook group and share our videos with your friends!

4.  Add our links on your website and/or blogs.

5.  View our Call to Action episode on You Tube on the 30th of January 2009 so that we may reach our goal of becoming the most viewed clip on YouTube so as to give the crisis in Gaza the exposure it desperately needs.

 

We need your support! Please help us! For more information, please
email at
voicesforpalestine@gmail.com

In solidarity,
Voices for Palestine
www.voicesforpalestine.com

 

The idea has caught on and The Palestinian Cultural Center (PCC), a centre that works to raise funds and send to Palestine, is having a souq. The souq is similar in style to the AID Gaza Souq that ran a couple of weekends ago (or was it last weekend?). The will be selling various items from food to table cloths, runners, cushions, ornaments, accessories… etc. They will also sell items donated by you the public in a garage sale.

 

So if you have anything around the house you don’t need, don’t want, or can spare and it is in good condition then donate to them. All donations and proceeds will go to Aiding Gaza in its huge reconstruction efforts.

 

When: February 3rd but please send your donations before then.

Time: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Where: The PCC in Rabieh

Contact info: 06 551 47 51

 

The struggle is not over and emergency relief is only part of the battle. Help Gaza today donate your items and go shop at the souq. Make a difference in someone else’s life!

This video was forwarded to me and though we think of Egypt right now as complacent in it stand against what is happening in Gaza, this video shows Egyptian actors coming together to rally the Egyptian street against complacency.

 

Watch till the end. http://vimeo.com/2885082

My body aches for Gaza and in a good way. Last night I was one of the lucky few who went to the ARAMEX warehouse in Qastal to help with the donations campaign for Gaza. There were nearly a hundred volunteers working last night. We prepared packages of food for our brethren in Gaza.

What amazes me is how tirelessly everyone worked pitching in with a smile working as a team. Many of us came as strangers and we left as strangers, but throughout we worked as one family… a team. Helping each other, working together, knowing that at the end of this day we have helped many.

Last night when I spoke to organizers of the group we had unloaded between 12-15 truckloads of donations and packed upwards of 900 boxes of aid, and yet we were a handful of volunteers.

The warehouse is massive to say the least, it is full with donations ranging from medical supplies, food, hygiene products, clothing, blankets and tents and every other random item you can think of. Children, youth and adults, men and women were all there. No one is too young or too old to help. Everyone can make a difference. There is so much work to do that I am calling out again to each and every one I know and don’t know.

If you have to go to the gym, this is defiantly a work out. If you want meet friends, then bring them here for an hour or two. If you have a family engagement then ask them to donate too. That argileh can wait, that meal, that coffee wont miss you as much as the children will miss warmth, and food.

Each one of us makes choices everyday on what to do, where to go, what to eat… we are privileged. Use that privilege; make that choice come help us sort out donations today, tomorrow, and everyday until we are done. Does Palestine, does Gaza not deserve two or three hours of your time? Come and let your body ache too and in a good way!

For more information go to 7iber.com where you can see pictures, videos and get directions of all the good work we are doing.

For those of you that want to protest but are not into demonstrations or want to do more than donate here are a few media and art initiatives that are alternatives you may want to explore. Please note that I am only aggregating these and do not have more information than is posted. Please contact the persons indicated for more information.

 


Initiative 1: Compass To Palestine

Person: Inas Bseiso

Contacts:

email- inasbseiso@gmail.com

facebook: Inas H Bseiso

 

As a response to the continuous suffering of the Palestinian people, I am initiating a project titled Compass to Palestine.

 

Monument, art installation, expression, contribution- these are just some of the words that I can use to describe it.

 

Please read the brief excerpt below and forward to your contacts.

 

Waiting for your feedback,

 

Best,

Inas Bseiso

 

 

Compass To Palestine

 

We honor our dead

Our dead are not numbers, they had stories.

Put a face to every number

Tell a story for every number

All photos and stories will be mounted on a compass

The arrow of the compass leads to Palestine

This compass will be designed and sculpted by volunteering artists and designers

The compass will be built on a piece of land in Jordan

The compass will be a living commemoration of the heroic sacrifices of the people of GAZA on the path to Palestine

The compass will be a living commemoration of the hope of freedom for people under occupation

Preserve the dignified memory of our dead

Your help is needed

 

*******

Send pictures and stories to inasbseiso@gmail.com or Inas H Bseiso on Facebook

 

Initiative 2: Media Initiative for GAZA

Person: Huda Shashaa

Contact: huda_shashaa@jrf.org.jo

 

A group of 4 Jordanian women have come together in response to the appalling attacks of Israel against Gaza, to give voice to the victims of this war and speak of the atrocities so hesitantly covered by western media channels. To date, the world remains silent as both Western and Arab leaders complacently watch another Israeli attack against the starving and imprisoned population of 1.5 million Gazans. 

 

The objective of this weekly discussion will be to reflect on the week’s atrocities against Gazans and work to debunk many of the lies and rhetoric used to justify Israel’s aggression and subsequently deflect attention from the real issues at hand. 

 

Each discussion will be 10-15 minutes, once a week, and will be structured to reach the largest number of people in the western world. 

 

We have had enough and we will no longer be silenced.

 

What it takes:

 

  • 5 dedicated women willing to discuss the topic in an educated manner. These women must be well-read and capable of expressing themselves in English in a captivating and passionate way.
  • Researchers to compile numbers of casualties, news and relevant articles. 
  • Producer to develop the program for each episode (the flow) 
  • Guest speakers
  • Dedicated camera crew

 

 

Initiative 3: Video Messages

Person:

Contacts:

Dear Friends,

 

Due to the ongoing Israeli aggression on Palestinian in Gaza, a group of activists in Jordan have come up with an idea to produce video testimonials or messages of people’s opinions on what’s happening in Gaza.

 

Instead of writing our opinions, we want to give faces and names to our voices, and break the stereotype of Arabs by showing people of all ages and classes speak their mind eloquently and directly to the camera.


Our target audience is the Western public. This can be achieved through sending these video messages to the western and international political and media figures such as President-elect Barak Obama‘s, the British PM , the French President, the head of the EU, the chairperson of the CNN and BBC and uploading these messages on their websites. We’re also aiming to upload these testimonials on websites such as U-Tube, TV channels.

 

Our goal is to saturate this medium with enough messages to create an audio-visual database of our voices. 


Each testimonial should not exceed 1 minute, with the content being every person’s name and nationality (city), their opinions in regards to what’s going on in Gaza, to demand a solution, or their interference to stop the Israeli aggression and/or the Israeli occupation. 

 

Of course every person is entitled to his/her opinion, but I urge you to take a look at the articles below and get an idea of the language used in order for us to speak the language that the West understands, and therefore create more powerful messages.

 

Since the duration of the testimonials is short please pick one thought and express it well.

 

http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article4933.shtml


http://www.mepeace.org/forum/topics/the-true-story-behind-this-war


http://www.ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/sheets.html


http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10055.shtml


http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10056.shtml


http://electronicintifada.net/bytopic/boycott-divestment-sanctions.shtml

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/02/israelandthepalestinians-barackobama


http://bit.ly/1zCC

 

If you are interested please get in touch with Salwa to facilitate your participation.

 

There are many more ways in which you can contribute. I will be more than happy to post these various initiatives if you send them my way. The killing must stop. People have to know we can not remain silent.

In my recent travels across the bridge I was able to visit what the world knows as Israel and the Arab world recognizes as Occupied Palestine. The wall, the checkpoints, the languages, the religions, the ideologies all split what was historically one into two. It’s jarring, it’s visible, it’s disturbing, and it’s all in your face. It is a border within a border.

What is really striking though is not the checkpoints, or the wall. You expect those, and even become intimate with them as they are everywhere in the West Bank. They are accompanied by soldiers, guns, barbed wire, cameras, questions, and they are EVERYWHERE. What is striking is the difference in lifestyle and surroundings not minutes from the wall. Even amongst Palestinians living within Occupied Palestine.

The urbanscape quickly changes from one of the familiar Middle East to that of the concrete and steel of the west. It is very evident that the West Bank is frozen in time, with little or no development taking place. It is paused in time, the roads, the buildings, the architectural styles, the farms, the people and their clothes even. I have been visiting in the past 30 years and it hasn’t changed much that, at least, is something I can count on. It is comforting, in a sad way, to know that I can see the same things, in the same place, in the same context, without fail.

On the other side of the wall it’s another story all together. It’s a modern scape with roads large and wide, highways, tall buildings, concrete, glass, and boulevards. They all look shiny and new in contrast. It is so different that you forget that you are in the Middle East and instead memories of Europe come to mind.

That is not the case In mixed cities though. Mixed cities are ones with both a Jewish Israeli and a Palestinian population. These communities “live” side by side and coexist. But the values, the histories, the languages, the spaces, the stones, the thoughts are contradictory. You see beautiful old Arab homes boarded up, waiting to be remodeled for use as offices or apartments. You see old homes dwarfed next to new modern buildings standing tall. You hear Hebrew spoken all around even from the mouths of Palestinian babes. Menus, signs, billboards all speak to one segment of the population. The oppression is all around in architecture, in the street planning, in the neighborhood segregation, in the food, it is omnipotent.

I may not have been surprised by all of this but there were things that saddened my even more than all of that. I’d like to share two: It saddened me that my friends found it easier to use Hebrew amongst themselves and with their children. It also saddened me that Palestinians were afraid of the West Bank and of being with Palestinians on the other side of the wall. When you can’t find the words to express yourself in your own language but rather in the language of the oppressor and you are afraid to cross to see your brothers and sisters then you know the end is near and the wall was there a long time ago only now its made of cement. Is it making what was one two or is it making two one?

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