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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Gaza: Life goes on despite Roadblocks and Landmines

Gaza: Life goes on despite Roadblocks and Landmines

Behind those trees there is a fence a few meters away
with Israeli tanks and watchtowers behind it. Its dangerous
to get closer and take pics. They might open fire.

Gaza, January, I recently realized that my journey in life is in parallel with Gaza's struggle, we meet at a turning point, and if I had to name it would be: "Roadblocks and Landmines". This has both a literal and a figurative meaning with many layers and dimensions.

We navigate through the maps of our lives left to detect our own roadblocks and landmines if we are smart enough, and\or circle them with a red marker if they were inevitable. Either way, it's our responsibility to manage our path and lick our wounds if we couldn’t help hitting a 
roadblock or stepping on explosives.

Gaza, too, left to face the unknown on its own, left to suffer silently and expected to stay strong. 
Gaza, too, is filled with roadblocks and landmines both literally and metaphorically speaking. Gaza, too, is left to navigate through the darkness guided by voices that claim to have intentions of creating light, but in reality they are nothing but loud useless vibrations.

I often commended Israel for its intelligence, and was intrigued by their tactical and long termed strategic planning of how to kill the spirit of a nation they occupied. I saw the plan in action here in Gaza. We all think we are experiencing slow death due to siege, occupation, unemployment, the lack of freedom of movement, water shortage, electricity crisis and the list goes on and on and on…..

Until I started noticing something in myself and in the people around me. something unexpected. Unplanned. very surprising. A sudden sense of unbreakable determination. Being invincible, like we have the strength to defy the world and the power to stand against all odds. I smirked. I just realized that what "clever Israel" planned is actually majorly backfiring. And in reality, everything we are going through is just empowering us to exist more and more.

Ofcourse, I am not finding or giving Israel excuses for the deplorable psychological and devastatingly physical warfare that it uses against Palestinians across Palestine. All the inhumanity, massacres, wars, imprisonment, terrorism, instilling fear, violence, internationally banned weaponry and endless land theft are against every International law. All I am saying is that those tactics are actually working against their set goal.

Let me give you a few examples: Instead of us being scared, we are becoming fearless. Instead of weakness, we are becoming invincible. Instead of the unbearable pressure due to lack of resources, we are mastering the art of adapting. Instead of becoming tired and giving up, we are becoming hungrier for freedom and justice.

I admired Mahmoud Darwish since an early age, I was fascinated by his command. He managed to make a whole room of people go silent and absorb every letter he uttered, I often wondered what was his secret. I then discovered that he managed to grasp Palestine and the Palestinian spirit more than anyone especially when he says things like "We suffer from an incurable Malady: HOPE.", that’s the power of Palestinians and Darwish himself.

Take a trip along the borderline in Gaza, from south to north, you'll find people living inches away from the fence that separates them from Israeli tanks and watchtowers. They wake up every day to a very scenic view from their windows, they see fully armed Israeli soldiers on top of their tanks and watchtowers, they can even hear them interact. They feel and hear every movement done by each soldier and tank. And if that wasn’t enough, Israeli warplanes are constantly buzzing over their heads.

I talked to these people, who shocked me with their smiles. They were acting like waking up to Israeli tanks outside your window is so normal, it baffled me.

"We got used to it, they don’t phase us. Yes, we get scared at night hearing tanks move and Israeli soldiers shouting. The warplanes also sound louder at night, but we would never leave our land under any circumstances", they all said unanimously adding to my confusion.
Those people varied. Some lived in partially damaged houses, some were luckier and lived in rebuilt houses while others lived in caravans or little plastic huts on their land that once housed their dreams and future. They barely have electricity and water (its not much different everywhere across the strip), they face unbearable coldness and fear at night, yet they don’t see leaving as an option even though they were all affected by every Israeli assault or war on Gaza.

I have to admit, only standing there for a few minutes, looking at Israeli tanks being so nearby, left me at unease. I could see Israeli snipers on the watchtowers, I could see and hear the buzzing Israeli drones on low altitude. I felt uncomfortable and violated. How can those people just live through this agony every day?

Yes, we live in a prison under collective punishment for nothing we did. We suffer from allot of circumstances, injustices, economical bust, a crumbling infrastructure, lack of basic human needs and human rights, suffocation, unemployment and a million other thing. But we love life and we burst with hope and the will to keep going.

Perhaps there is a single sentence that you'd hear in every Gaza home or street: "Life goes on", its not just a saying or a mantra, it’s a way of life.

From Gaza with strength and light,

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Back to Basics: Stay true to yourself

Back to Basics: Stay true to yourself

Gaza, I decided to go back to basics, not only in writing, but also in many aspects of my life. Since school days, I dreamt of being a journalist who gives the world compelling human stories and I pursued it immediately. I started this blog as a little cozy place where I can be me and write to myself and to a few others who would be interested in seeing how I unfold with time. I used writing as my therapy.

Then the world forces you to evolve and mature, if I may say. You lose your breath trying to catch up, sidetracked by people who want to mold you in whatever shape they see fit. I was pushed to obsess over viewership, I was told my writing wasn’t "professional enough", some said my style is too simple pushing me to become a little pretentious and some others wanted to just break me down saying they had my best interest in mind. Yeah right.

I caved in. I started writing for an American news agency. I started using complicated words found on a simple Google search of "Complex writing glossary". I started checking the views every two minutes. Everybody around me succeeded in influencing me, and I was eager to please. I started feeling fancy.

I got high on the hype of being published on prestigious websites. I started abandoning my aesthetic and slowly lost my voice to please others and fight less with editors.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t happy even though my dream came true. I was making money out of writing compelling human stories to have them manipulated by editor, but at least I was attending to everyone's image of who\how I should be.

Soon enough, after draining battles of discussing my writing rates and vicious fights with editors who could find no mistakes in my writing yet broke my style and voice down until it was irrelevant and what they published sounded like nothing I would have written.

I detached myself from writing in what felt like a painful slow progression, I decided not to write for money and I just lost the passion for it. What was once my remedy and joy ride turned out to be my misery and nightmare. I tried going back to writing after a while, but every time I did, my hands froze and my mind went into a complete shutdown mode. After I failed my talent, it decided to fail me. "Fair enough", I thought to myself.

My last blog post was nearly two years ago, yet people still emailed me and told me –Both in person and online- that they read my blog. I felt constantly embarrassed and flabbergasted, why would people still be interested?

I started reminiscing on the old days when I only wanted to write to fulfill my passion and perhaps inspire one person at least. I remembered how writing was a joyful experience of artistic release and a breath of fresh air. The days when viewership didn’t matter and all I cared about was writing and nothing else. It brought a smile to my face and reignited a spark inside me.

The last three years have been rough. Too many changes, drastic ups and downs and I lost myself in the process of what I thought was "The natural progression". I only started recently to slowly gain my old self back and it feels good. I closed a chapter and started a fresh one. Here I am, back to writing to myself and to whoever is willing to read, even if it was only one person in any part of the world, I am writing for you and me.

I am back to offer the same narrative of rawness and realness I once was known for, and my dorky  humor. I am back to share what is happening on ground but also to reflect a positive tone. I am back to my beginning days when I wrote for the sake of writing not caring how personal it gets or how crazy I sound. I am back because nobody has the right to own my voice or shut me up or control me. I am back because many people miss the human and relatable feel in my writings. I am back to prove that nothing is worth giving up on your talent for. I am back to tell you to keep believing, keep being you and always listen to your gut and I promise you it will pay off when you least expect it.

Consider this as a wakeup call to go against submitting to the norm, or what people expect from you or want you to be. Think of it as a plea for you not to give up, not from a preacher but from a person who went through it and knows how it feels. Take it as invitation for me and you to embark on a new journey where we stay true to ourselves and to everyone around us.

The happiness you waste your life looking for exists within, which makes external affirmation useless so never sacrifice who you are for someone else. Every person in your life might leave you for any reason, all you have is yourself so own it and work on it. Be your own person.

Together in good and bad,
Omar Ghraieb 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Art of "Soul Mating"

The Art of "Soul Mating"

Gaza, January, We grow up with preconceived notions about many definitions in life. But most of us reach a phase in life where we start asking big questions and resorting to spirituality in order to help us make sense of the life we are living in such a rapidly interchangeable world. 

As you start looking inwards and unfolding your layers, you embark on a very exciting yet frightening journey of discovery and soul searching. You come face to face with your ego and if you break it then you will meet your soul and although you had it since you were born, you feel like you are getting to know it all over again. Then we start wondering about soul mates and soul mating.

The official technical definition of a soulmate is a human with whom you share a natural and profound affinity with, invincible kinship of spirit and mutual attraction (not necessarily physical or sexual). That definition is very accurate, but not until you feel it and go through it you are able to come up with your own understanding and definition of what a soulmate is or means. At first, it feels like you are heavily drawn to someone in a way that you cant explain, then this dilemma explains everything. Life is weird, isn’t it?

Many thinkers, philosophers, writers, gurus and others delved into the state of having\finding a soul mate and shared their own point of view about it. Paulo Coelho, for example, wrote in “Brida” saying that only a few people can recognize their soulmates by seeing a light in their eyes or on their left shoulder. I agree on the eyes part, the eyes are the window to the soul. But you can’t expect from all the people to see “light”.

My personal belief is that we are all but shreds or shards of the same soul. We are taught that we have only one half and one soulmate. I beg to differ. I believe we have many soul mates and we all are like puzzle pieces. If we are all combined in the right way, we make one soul. One entity.

I am no spiritual guru, I don’t go into deep meditations and I haven’t seen any other worlds. Atleast not yet. But I believe there are many ways to spot your soulmate, some of which I don’t know yet some I do know about. Ofcourse, you can spot them threw recognizing a light in their eyes or an aura around them. But the most effective and powerful way is the heart.

Whether you physically meet a soulmate or not, your heart connects with their heart. It might be someone of the same gender or opposite gender. It might include physical attraction and it might not. What is guaranteed that you will bask in unconditional love that enhances every corner of your being, it rids you of all the negativity and complexity of the “ego and it helps you become more you.

Your soulmate isn’t necessarily your spouse or relative or best friend. And yes you have a number of soulmates, but you are lucky if you find one. It can be rough at first, like two puzzle pieces that go together but the sharp edges are in grave need of adjusting. So do have patience. Nothing in life is ever easy.

The beauty of a soulmate is how solid and real the connection becomes. Sex or no sex, it doesn’t matter. It won’t make it stronger or weaker. All shades of blue are blue in the end.  And perhaps the strongest perks of a soul mate is the drama/jealousy-free dynamic. How can you be jealous of your ownself? Or have drama issues with yourself?

Silence will only make sense with your soulmate. You don’t need words to understand each other although communication is key, especially at the early stages of coming across each other. And the uniqueness stands in being so close to each other yet you know when exactly to give each other space. Think of it as commitment but without any chains. Can you imagine it?

We spend our lives searching for love and happiness. And even if we do, we always feel like there is something missing. Only your soulmate can complete you. You might be happily married, massively successful or simply a fully grounded human but you will never feel fulfillment until you meet a soul that you click with and suddenly everything around will start making sense.

A soulmate exists to take you higher and helps you experience emotional nirvana and an exceptional peace of mind. There are certain feelings and places that only a soulmate can take you to and make you feel. Whether its euphoria, a profound sense of security, infinite serenity, perfect companionship, unconditional love, maximum level of honesty and continuous support or simply a better sense of “Self”.

A soulmate is merely a different version of you that exists to complete you. Together you are better and apart you are simply incomplete. You are not afraid to have a conversation and you are never worried of losing them or yourself. It’s like the perfect key to a lock that opens a whole new dimension of everything. An enhancement to your senses and to the experience of “life”.

Some are lucky enough to marry their soulmates or find them in their relatives or immediate family members. But others have to search the world for them and find them in the utmost unusual and unexpected places\situations.

That sounds very good, right? Well, only if you embrace it or understand it. Unfortunately, its not like that for everybody. Some sift through life without recognizing or finding even one soulmate. While some others get frightened and run away. Some don’t understand and others prefer to stay away from its complexity, they have no idea what they are missing. Most think they are obliged to fall in love or have a sexual relationship with their soulmates, which is very wrong.

Even if you were married or in love and you came across a soulmate, that doesn’t mean betrayal or a change of heart. If you think of a soul mate as a love interest or sexual object only then you are missing the whole concept of it. A soul mate transcends beyond sexuality and love, it’s something more, much much more. A soul mate is like your spiritual compass in life.

Soulmate or not, I hope we live our lives being always consciously alerted. Have your heart opened and lean on it for insight, don’t just count on your eyes. Be kind, and kinder. Be tolerant. We can’t accept ourselves fully unless we have the ability to accept others the way they are. Being you doesn’t mean being against others. We are all one. Be brave, embrace life and others. Don’t give in to the confinements of society or people or to the ugliness of your ego. Be the soul mate you dream of finding in others. Be strong enough to recognize and embrace others, but also love yourself in a healthy way and lean on yourself.

Love, live and let live.

From Gaza with love, light and inner peace,

Omar Ghraieb

Friday, January 16, 2015

Mom: How I lost my universe

Homage to Mom: How I lost my universe

Gaza, January, “What took me so long?”, a question that tantalized me since the early morning because today marks the 18th anniversary of my mom’s death, or passing, as I like to call it. I never dared to blog about it before because its too emotional and too personal. Who knows what I will end up sharing. But since I am becoming more real and shedding my ego, I guess it’s time I open up about that life-changing state.

My mom was a typical mother in a sense of being a hard working woman who gave birth to five children and doing her best to raise them all well. But she was no typical woman. She was a Palestinian who was born in Palestine but had to become a refugee with her family due to occupation and Nakba. They ended up swinging between the Arab countries, especially Lebanon and Syria.

She married a Palestinian, a revolutionary, which left her playing the role of a single mom of five in a foreign country (Cyprus) as her husband travels and works. It wasn’t easy but she made us feel like she was invincible and could handle anything. She was a human of feelings, her heart embraced everyone and she treated everyone with love, care and tenderness.

We moved to Gaza in the late 1990s, it was hard on us but for her she was used to this shredded life. She was worried about us but also was happy that we will return to a part of occupied Palestine and reunite with my dad. Four months later, she passed away, after securely getting us to “Safety”.

I was 9, but I remember that day like it was yesterday. I swear, the last few days before that day felt so weird. Her conversations with me were different, the look in her eyes was different and she had this air of worrisome surrounding her all the time. I woke up to head to school with my sister like any other day. But the weather was so gloomy, dark and rainy. The sky was trying to tell me something but I didn’t get it right away.

My older brother came to “confiscate” us from school. Yes, he literally confiscated us, we were put in a car and told we were heading home in the middle of a school day. I kept looking at the sky, it was trying to protect me but couldn’t prepare me for what I will see. The rain never stopped, if anything, the weather got worse.

My body was alerted, my instincts kept telling me that something was wrong but not in a million years did I imagine that loss. My mom was my everything. My compass, my universe and the center of everything.

There were so many people everywhere, especially in our house. I saw my mom laying there without moving. I didn’t need anyone to tell me anything. I felt a chill take over my spine and heart. I felt like the house was empty without her, even though the house was packed with people all around. I felt alone. And I have been feeling alone since then even when I am surrounded with family and friends.

Losing a parent, a mom especially, changes your whole life. It’s like walking through a dessert without a compass, or going on a pilgrimage without a destination in mind, or going through a maze in complete blindness. You lose the sense of security. You go through life always feeling like there is something missing. A permanent void opens in your heart and you just learn to live with it.

I don’t look like my mom but my soul looks like hers. I had the privilege, blessing and honor of living with her for only 9 years but she gave me love and she taught me so much that it could last for a lifetime. I feel like I was an extension of her heart and soul. She is a part of me and I am a part of her. She left earth 18 years ago, but she never left me or my heart.

They say time heals and helps you forgot. Its very true and accurate. But not when it comes to the loss of your mom. I find myself missing her more and more every year, I find myself also needing her more and more. I try to always remind myself of her face, her scent, her smile, her voice and the look of love she used to look at me with. I don’t always remember everything, it used to make me angry and make me feel like I am losing her all over again. But now I realized, I might forget some things and remember others but I will never forget how she made me feel.

I believe that I am a feminist because of her. I am also proud to be the fruit of interracial love. Everything helps make the person you become. But what I am most proud of is the authenticity she passed onto me and setting an example of how to keep your soul and heart connected in influential harmony and how to keep them in sync. She touched everyone with her love. She wasn’t my compass only, she was the compass to many of her friends and family as well.

Some people leave us but they leave so much presence behind that they are more present than people who are still alive. I hope I am making sense.

Mama, my love to you is something that resembles you. It’s a never ending spring. May you rest in peace and never leave my heart. May you keep inspiring me and may your words keep ringing in my mind. May you be proud of me a fraction of how much I am proud of being your son. If I had the choice of being your son for 9 years or being somebody else’s son for a lifetime, I will choose you because love and presence transcend beyond time. You remain my compass and my pillar of security. I always yearn for you.

I kindly ask you to please honor and love your mom, don’t take her for granted and don’t think that there is all the time in the world. You never know what might happen so show your mom all the love, respect and care she deserves. Treat her like your queen, don’t wait any occasion to make her feel special. And please, hug her and kiss her from me.

From Gaza with yearning and nostalgia,
Omar Ghraieb.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Storm vs. Porn Star

Storm vs. Porn Star

Gaza, January, Perhaps its easier to always blame our failures on others instead of having the guts to be self-critics. It’s easier to live on the faded glory of history and pretend like it still gets us high even when it doesn’t. Even drugs don’t last that long. Yes, we once were a glorious nation in the past. We changed and inspired the world. We set example and we had everything rolling for us as an Arab nation. But that was so long ago that it’s time to wake up and face our fears and flops if we ever dream of shining again or even rising.

But I guess we are busy blowing up lame issues out of proportions and being consumed by mainstream media and\or by the highly demanding world we live in. we forgot our humanity, our duties and also the history that we will only bring up to sooth our rapid decline downwards. Or shall I say the rock bottoms that we keep hitting as a nation?

Between a shivering storm alerting an alarming climate change, and the storm we help create surrounding an Arab-American, we lost focus.


Let me start by saying this: Who the hell suggested we start calling storms by “Arabic” names and why? I just don’t get it. Why would you want to make sure to call a catastrophic storm an Arabic name? have we gone bankrupt in the department of creativity that our only way to revive the Arabic culture by naming storms “Huda” and “Zeina”? if that doesn’t raise a red flag about us needing a wakeup call then honestly I don’t know what will.

I remember how we would laugh whenever we would read about “Climate Change”, like it will never happen to us or in our time. I watched Al Gore’s documentary about it and I understood how the climate is changing dramatically (to the worse) each year. Summers are becoming hotter and winters are becoming way colder. Temperature has went down to 1 degrees Celsius in Gaza, which never happened before. Who knows what will happen to the world’s climate in a few years!

A very harsh cold storm hit the Arab world bringing snow, lethal coldness, trouble and tragedy. It snowed in many places, and rain did its part in places that saw no snow. As usual, the refugees paid the biggest price, along with the homeless and displaced. Syrian and Palestinian refugees lost children who died out of harsh coldness simply because a tent and a blanket cant keep you warm in such icy conditions. Children also died in Gaza after being displaced due to the latest Israeli barbaric war that caused a huge loss in people, buildings and everything else.

I felt guilty because I had a roof over my head and blankets while others are dying. I felt helpless. But also felt rage and disappointment in our Arabic nation, and in myself. Instead of wasting millions on Fireworks, Christmas decorations, mansions and other ridiculous things that the Arab world is so proud and showy about, we would have managed to help protect the refugees and displaced from this blind and harsh storm.

Arabic countries, leaders, embassies and people (including me) failed those refugees and left them to freeze to death. We call ourselves a nation, but do we really care about each other?

I would loved to have seen Churches, mosques, embassies, leaders and us the people open our arms and try to accommodate those displaced, if only through this storm. But excuses always stand in our way. Like myself for example, I resorted to prayers and asking others to pray or help while I was helplessly sitting in my own home. Sure, yes, I told myself that we had no electricity or heating, the weather outside is lethal and catastrophic that no one could leave the house. But its all excuses. We should have tried to do more. I tell myself before I preach anyone else. We failed each other and its becoming “OK” when it shouldn’t be that way. We are mastering ways to mask compassion and humanity with excuses. We, all, could have joined efforts to help save those refugees everywhere. But we didn’t. So tell me, what kind of nation are we now? Because we are no longer representing our honorable history. If anything, we are smearing it.

Porn Star:

Mia Khalife. A trending hashtag and the talk of the town. A Lebanese-American young girl who became a porn star only recently. Yet, thanks to us Arabs, and our endless contradictions, we helped turn her into the “Best Female Porn Star” of the year and the hottest discussed topic. Instead of dealing with serious issues, we go on and waste our energy on commenting or rejecting an issue that shouldn’t even concern us.

Who cares what Mia Khalife does or thinks? I don’t. She doesn’t represent Arabs or Lebanese people or Christians. We are asking the world not to label us and narrow us down by linking Islam to two stupid guys who attacked Charlie Hebdo. Yet, we focus on Mia Khalife and hold her responsible for smearing Arabs and attacking Islam. REALLY? SERIOUSLY PEOPLE? HOW COME?

We are the ones who turned her into a superstar and gave her actions importance. Like those who commented on her wearing Hijab in her porn videos. How did you know that? And why did you watch her? I bet 90% of those who attacked her watched all her videos and got her the highest ranking. Congratulations for being a bunch of idiots. All of us.

She took the Arab media by storm overshadowing the deadly storm that was killing refugees. People rushed to comment and hashtag her on all social media bringing her into a global trending hashtag. Do you think she really cares about what you think? She doesn’t even care what her parents think. So save your energy and invest it elsewhere.

I am not defending nor attacking Mia. I honestly don’t care what she does or who she is or the low hits she takes at Islam. She is after all trying to gain the utmost publicity and money. And Islam is a religion and a faith that can’t be touched by Mia or people like her, its not that vulnerable.

My reoccurring question would be: When will we wake up and start focusing on critical issues instead of wasting time on mundane matters? When will we stop contradicting ourselves and actions? And when will we face our flops in order to advance as a nation?

Lets mind our own business so we can move forward and stop wasting our time judging others and analyzing them.

From Gaza with a boggled mind,
Omar Ghraieb

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Paris March of Hypocrisy

Paris March of Hypocrisy

Gaza, January, Once again, the world fails me but doesn’t fail to impress me with how biased it can be. Two words: Paris March. It made me feel like this: I am an Arab, I am less. I am Muslim, I am less. I am Palestinian, I am less. I am human, I am less. My blood means nothing.

World leaders (including Arabs, and the Palestinian president) marched in Paris to support the “Freedom of Speech” and stand against terrorism. Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister, was front raw ofcourse because he is against violence which is why he waged a war on Gaza not long ago killing hundreds, including tens of children. Netanyahu loves “freedom of speech” so much that he killed 17 Palestinian journalists during the latest war on Gaza.

As if the death of Muslim officer, Ahmed Merabet, who was doing his job defending Charlie Hebdo HQ.s wasn’t enough, and the French Muslim Hero (whom, in reality, doesn’t have the French Citizenship) that saved Jewish lives during the attack on a Kosher supermarket, still isn’t enough. I will have to once again say I am against Paris attacks, as a Muslim and a human being. Although words are louder than actions, yet nothing defends Muslims enough no matter what they do or say.

Charlie Hebdo will start printing one million copies instead of the usual 60 thousands. Talk about publicizing and monetizing tragedy. Just wondering why no mention in the media about Nigeria's Boko Haram Killings? Arent those also Islamic Extremists?

Only few months ago, many innocent lives were harvested in Gaza by the evil terrorism of occupation including tens of children and a number of journalists. Why didn’t any world leader come to Gaza and march? Why didn’t Arab leaders visit Gaza and speak up against Israel? Why did my own president visit Paris yet didn’t visit Gaza after it was burned by Israel?

The answer is simple and easy. Our lives don’t matter. Our blood is cheap. As humans, we are less. I cant help but respect Europe for honoring their blood and forcing the whole world to do so. But as an Arab, I feel ashamed and let down. We once were a nation that was the most advanced, respected and imitated. But now, our blood is worthless, even in our own eyes.

Paris urged Netanyahu not to come to the march, he wasn’t invited. Haaretz wrote about it. Hollande, the French President, wanted to focus on the matter in hand and didn’t want any other spotlight to deviate the attention to other mundane issues, say for example the Israel-Palestine conflict. Yet, Netanyahu, and as usual, did whatever he liked without giving a damn about what others think. So he attended uninvited. Just like he keeps killing Palestinians. The world won’t stop him after all.

Only then did France invite the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who was also asked not to come at first. And ofcourse, Abbas rushed over there. So we are not considered equals. If Netanyahu didn’t come uninvited, Abbas wouldn’t have been invited. Why did Abbas decide to go march and walk side beside with leaders who failed Palestine so many times? Why didn’t he visit Gaza after the Israeli war? Its beyond me. Oh, and Netanyahu was only a few feet away.

Which brings me to a very sad melodramatic conclusion: The world is so obviously blunt about my worth as an Arab Muslim Palestinian. I AM NOTHING. Many countries think I don’t exist, and those who recognize my existence do it in a symbolic way. I am already considered as a terrorist even when I am not. As a holder of Palestinian passport, I need a visa everywhere, and nowhere would grant me a visa unless I pay loads of money or ask for a divine intervention. And when\if I make it, I will be interrogated, searched and perhaps strip searched at most airports. I will have a target on my back everywhere I go. I am under the microscope. I am forced to respect and support all freedoms even though the world denies me my basic human rights. I will be labeled, narrowed down, ridiculed and automatically seen as a suspect of any incident around the world. Freedom of speech is exclusive for the West.

Ironic how I feel like my life’s mission is to fight for human rights when I, myself, don’t exercise any basic human rights. It’s actually funny and a little melancholic. Don’t you think?

But the question remains: Till when will I keep fighting for ultimate equality when most don’t even care about my blood, worth or rights? I honestly don’t know.

I might get fed up one day soon. And I might end up in California, become a plastic boy and binge on Sangrias all day. Oh wait, that’s only if the US gives me another Visa. And I don’t end up being jailed or spied on because I am an Arab and a Muslim. Sigh. Now even silly dreams are not an option.

From Gaza with whatever love left inside,

Omar Ghraieb

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Why I am not Charlie Hebdo

  Why I am not Charlie Hebdo

Gaza, January, If you haven’t heard about the "Paris attacks" you probably have been living in a parallel universe. And if you did, then you probably didn’t hear about the police officer Ahmad Merabet, a Muslim, who died while trying to defend Charlie Hebdo even though they were insulting his religion.

#JesuisCharlie hashtag took over the world and the cyber sphere, people from around the world rushed to show their support to Charlie and ofcourse took a chance to attack Muslims spewing all kinds of profanities and racial commentary. A campaign to #KillAllMuslims was launched by those who support Charlie, ironically. They think violence is the answer to violence. How ignorant can people be is beyond me.

Muslims, as usual, rushed to declare their innocence by trending the #NotinMyName hashtag that is trending often since Islam and Muslims are constantly under the microscope.

I am not Charlie, nor did I participate in the #JeSuisCharlie phenomena. I also didn’t participate in the “Not in my name” campaign as a Muslim. Why you ask? I will tell you.

Lets me start by saying that the world doesn’t think all lives equally matter. I condemn Paris attacks. Yes, I think of Charlie as a racist who manipulates Satire into insulting religions to get his few minutes of fame and become a hero. However, I don’t believe that violence is the solution and I condemn Paris attacks. Killing 12 people doesn’t help, did it ever? No. It never did. Islam never asked us to kill in its name. ISIS are already doing enough to deform Islam and make it look like a religion that is based on terrorism, we don’t need to add to that. Even if the world denies me of all freedoms, I still strongly believe in them and support them.

Murders, killings and crimes are committed every day by people from different nationalities, backgrounds and religions but they are never labeled or narrowed down to a certain race or religion unless they are Black, Arab or Muslim. If you are all three, then you will probably be a suspect even if you did nothing and happened to be passing by an incident.

I will not defend myself or my religion simply because not every individual represents their nationality or religion. Some people are stupid and they do mistakes. Stupidity and terrorism have no religion. So blame the person not their background. And judge yourself before you judge others because you are not perfect and if you feel like all Muslims should be killed because two Muslims committed a crime, then you are no better.

I am perplexed by a world that is so biased. Where were those who defended rights, freedoms and journalism when Israel was blowing Gaza up killing children and journalists? Where were they when Muslims were going through mass killings in Burma? Or is the European blood more worthy than other blood? Or are freedoms exclusive to Europe only and shouldn’t be defended everywhere else as well? Or are Muslims and Islam easy targets and speaking up against Israel is a taboo?

I stood with Paris against the attacks even though Paris didn’t stand by me or Gaza. They tried hard to oppress and prevent protests in our support when Israel was burning Gaza and the government stood still. Yet, I am the one who need to be defending myself as a Muslim? Why? And how is that fair?

I am not Charlie. Je Suis pas Charlie. Je Suis Gaza, Je Suis Muslim, Je Suis Palestinien, Je Suis Palestine and Je Suis Ahmed. I am Gaza, I am Muslim, I am Palestinian, I am Palestine , I am Ahmed and that doesn’t mean I am a terrorist. I will not defend myself because I did nothing. I stood by Paris yet France only recently and symbolically recognized Palestine. So for the past 26 years of my life I didn’t exist in France’s eyes. Yet I support Paris. Because I am a human being, a Muslim, Arab and Palestinian. I don’t condone the killing of innocent people and I support all freedoms and equality, yup, believe it or not. My dream is ultimate freedom and equality.

I will never be like Charlie but I would definitely look forward of being equal to Charlie. When I feel like my life matters, my blood is worthy, when I live in an equal world that will stand by me like I am willing to stand by it. When the world recognizes that I exist and gives me my rights. When people defend all innocent people the same. I will be Charlie when I find any authenticity in what he does and in the world we live in.

From Gaza with dreams of peace and equality,

Omar Ghraieb