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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gaza war - 3rd anniversary: We moved on

Gaza war - 3rd anniversary: We moved on 



Gaza, December 27, Today we mark the 3rd anniversary of Israel’s vicious war on Gaza. Three years have passed. Wow. Three years ago today, at 12:30 pm, I was playing with my nephew in the living room when the whole ground shook. Israeli F16s, Apaches and drones suddenly filled the air and bombings were happening. We never guessed it was the start of a vicious war that will leave us with no water, electricity, food or movement for 24 days. 

I remember running to my nephew and trying to cover him with my body. And then hell opened. Hundreds of Gazans were killed in cold blood while thousands got injured. Neighbor hoods were wiped out and death filled the air.

Three years after, here we are. Gaza is stronger, brighter, better and life springs from every corner of it. We have moved on. You see now many new buildings and many others under construction. Psychological and physical wounds are healing well.

We honor the martyrs, injured and medics today for giving their life to Gaza and by keeping the land moist with their pure blood. Life goes on and people thrive for life even more now. I will steal Rafeef Ziadeh’s sentence and say, “In Gaza, we teach life Sir”. Maya Angelou said: “When you know better, you do better”, and boy she is right. We know better know, we have seen better and we are doing much better.

Yes, three years have passed and now its time for us to make a vow: “We promise ourselves and the world to make Gaza a better stronger place; we will make our society better by starting bettering ourselves from within”. “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”. I remember one day during the war in Gaza, I felt so dark inside that I doubted I would ever see the dawn of tomorrow but when I woke up the next day I saw the sun lighting up every grain of sand in Gaza. I believe in tomorrow now thanks to Gaza.

I went out today to shop for books and the weather was very warm and beautiful. I walked through Gaza’s streets holding my head up high, looking at the sky and smiling. We survived. We made it. I believe that we made it for a reason; we survived just to make Gaza a monumental place that the world will never forget.

Three years passed and we still demand the prosecution of Israel’s war criminals and we will never stop demanding our right to see those cold blooded monsters behind bars. I will not remind Gazans of this day because we will never forget what we went through, I will not remind the world because the world never gave a crap.

Believe it or not but I am grateful today, we are overwhelmed with the support and love that we indulge in coming from people around the whole world. And we have also witnessed recently allot of BDS successes. Palestinians are now stronger in Palestine and around the world. We have a cause that makes us stronger and makes us wanna fight till the last breath to gain our freedom.

We are more determined and focused now. We are more aware and we have made people around the world more aware too. Gaza’s light has touched hearts around the globe, why shouldn’t I be grateful?
Today I feel a pinch of freedom, today I feel happy and proud.

I will post here a picture of a Palestinian child that lost his family and his house during the vicious war in Gaza; he was standing near his completely-demolished house looking frightened and lost. He didn’t understand what happened and what did he do to deserve such a tragedy. Those of you who are my friends already know how many times I have shared this picture and I will never stop. I wish I can turn the time back so I can be there for that innocent child, I wish I was there to hug him and tell him everything will be alright. I wish I was there to tell him that after three years things would be much better and people would be healing and moving on. I will never ever forget this little boy’s picture in my life, its carved in my head and heart:


Finally, I would kindly ask you to help Gaza, Palestine and Gazans move on instead of reminding them of the tragedies they will never forget. We don’t want to dwell on the past, we want to move forward. We will never forget but we have the right to move forward and live and make our country better. Help us heal. We appreciate all the support. Believe it or not, we are the land of love and abundance and we send you all our love and gratitude.

All my love,

Omar from Gaza

Monday, December 26, 2011

Revealing "The Guardian" lies: Hamas didnt stop Christmas in Gaz

Revealing "The Guardian" lies: Hamas didnt stop Christmas in Gaza


Gaza, December 26, I can’t help but share my fury after reading “The Guardian” and seeing their false and misleading article and how its full of mistakes. Let’s dissect their mistakes one by one:

1-      Their headline: Gaza Christians long for days before Hamas canceled Christmas. Correction: Hamas didn’t cancel Christmas and Christians celebrate it every year. In fact, last night Latin Patriarchate Church held a mass celebrating Christmas and flocks of Christians attended it.

2-      They published the article on 23rd of December. Correction: Christmas in on the 25th.

3-      They mentioned that over 1.5 million of Gazans live in Gaza. Correction: According to Statistics centers in Gaza, over 1.8 million Gazans live in Gaza

4-      Christians are fewer than 1,400. Correction: Christians in Gaza are between 2,000 and 3,000 according to Al Arabiya.net and Wikipedia.

5-      Hamas attacks Christians in Gaza. Correction: Attacks on Christians in Gaza were carried out by individuals or extremist groups not by Hamas or the regular people of Gaza.

6-      The Guardian mentioned in an indirect way that racism is carried out against Christians in Gaza. Correction: Christians in Gaza live and pray freely, they are treated with equality.

7-      The Guardian wanted to show how the Palestinian division affected Christians mostly. Correction: The Palestinian division affected all Palestinians.

8-      The Guardian failed to mention the repercussions of the Israeli unjust illegal siege on Gaza and chose to blame Hamas for everything.

9-      They blamed the bad economy in Gaza on Hamas not on the Israeli illegal blockade.

10  They didn’t mention that Israel puts age limitation for Gaza’s Christians. They let those who are under 16 and over 40 only visit Bethlehem.

Need I right more?
If you aren’t convinced yet, I wrote an article for the media line about Christmas in Gaza and how Christians celebrated it, check it here:





Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Westernizing Islam: Bikini is the new Hijab

Westernizing Islam: Bikini is the new Hijab



I find it startling that we started linking the fact of being open-minded to having a western mentality. Who said that being open-minded means we should have a western mentality? It seems like it’s a trend now to show how open-minded we are by picking on Islam and attacking some Islamic aspects to sound cool and hip and open-minded, we thrive to measure up to the American standards of being open-minded. Its mind boggling to read, hear and meet people whether in Gaza, Palestine or the Arabic world talking about how much they are very proud of being “Western” and “open-minded” and how being religious is so “Two thousand and late” or so “1990s”. Really? Are you for real?

I was born and raised in Europe; I came to Gaza to a whole new culture. I knew I was Muslim but I didn’t learn more about my religion till I came here. I am proud of my blended culture and proud of being Muslim and liberal. I am too open-minded for my own sake which usually puts me in trouble; I am usually accused of either being too liberal or less religious. Both are untrue.

I find myself torn between defending liberal people who choose to be Muslim yet open minded (like girls who are good Muslims but choose not to wear Hijab yet) and in the same time defending religious people who are often accused of being narrow minded, too religious, terrorists ….etc. Women who wear Hijab in the western world are often harassed, slandered and sometimes dangerously attacked like Marwa Al Sherbini (Egyptian woman who was attacked by a German douchebag just because she was wearing Hijab and he later stabbed her to death when she decided to take him to court). Some European countries placed ban on Niqab which made many of Muslim women’s lives hellish and hard.

In the Arab world, women who decided not to wear Hijab yet are often attacked, slandered and harassed. People give themselves the right to judge them and call them many things including: “hookers, sluts and bitches” just because they aren’t covering their heads and they claim that they are doing it because they honor Islam. Well news flash: Islam never asked you to judge, attack and slander people for any reason even if its defending because its not really an “Islamic” act. Islam asks us to respect everyone and all religions. I don’t see people pressuring men for not praying or fasting yet they feel so powerful about pressuring women to wear Hijab.

The western media and governments got so worked up to blame, frame and put shame on Islam for every wrong thing in their countries to cover up their corruption. Islam, Muslims and Arabs became a target. This shows how powerful Islam is and how powerful Muslims are which pushed those directions to focus on deforming Islam’s image. Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance whether you wanna believe it or not.

Ofcourse, some Arabs and Muslims contributed a great deal in deforming Islam’s image. Let me not talk about people elsewhere, let me talk about what I saw with my own eyes. I see some shameful Gazan youth who believe that its very cool and western to degrade Islam so they can get publicity or a trip to a foreign country or an invitation to a conference….. etc. How hideous is that? I see foreign organizations and INGOs in Gaza trying their best to focus on how Hamas is using Islam to oppress people and how some girls in Gaza are forced to wear Hijab and how frustrating is that? Seriously? You left all the bad things happening in Gaza and the suffocating siege imposed on us and suddenly you wanna do the community good by “liberating” Gazan girls from wearing Hijab?

I am not with Hamas nor am I defending it. Hamas has its bad and good sides just like Fatah and all other Palestinian factions. But if I say that our biggest problem in Gaza is Hijab then I would be the most disgusting guy on earth. I personally know some of the most powerful, independent, clever, educated, cultured, influential and inspiring girls in Gaza whom I was honored to know and meet. I never really cared whether they are veiled or not. Some are veiled and some are not but they are equally brilliant. Hijab doesn’t stand in the way for those who wear it or don’t.

What is really pathetic is seeing how some foreign organizations and journalists using Gaza just to attack Islam. I see them writing about religious oppression in Gaza (which doesn’t exist) and how they cant move without wearing Hijab. Come to Gaza and you will see foreign journalists moving freely even if they are wearing a jeans and a T-shirt, you will see veiled and non-veiled girls and you will see that not only do women have freedom but they are also a force to be reckoned with. Women actually wear Jeans and T-shirts in Gaza and I don’t find that so shocking. Let me just share how sick I got when I saw the Anti-Niqab protests in Europe, European women were degrading Hijab in every way possible including wearing Niqab over a bikini and even wearing nothing but Niqab. How disgusting and idiotic.

I laughed my heart out when I read about Aliaa Magdi, the Egyptian thing, who saw that she should share her naked photos to show her revolutionary side. She called it the new "Naked Revolution". She -somehow- decided to link revolution with naked art and claimed that freedom of speech must enable Arabs of sharing their naked photos. No thanks, I will pass. What the hell is wrong with her? What on earth is the link between revolution and nudity? I have no respect for her or her boyfriend who likes to always link sex to everything on earth. They are disgusting and lame and they will do anything for fame.

Oh yeah and lets talk about the honor killing. I don’t support honor killing in any way, shape or form. I am against violence and I do admit that we heard and still hear about some horrifying stories about honor killing in the Arab world. Some stories are not justified and others show how the girl was killed because of a misunderstanding. But lets not forget that crimes exist all around the world. So westerns don’t kill? A western man never murdered his wife\sister\mother\daughter\girlfriend\neighbor…etc for no apparent reason? America has the highest crime rates and yet I never saw it being attacked for “Western” honor killing. Some of the crimes there are much more awful than the Arab honor killing cases. I am not justifying the notorious phenomenon of honor killing in the Arab world; I am just saying lets condemn it internationally so we can be fair to the victims and to ourselves.

Women have been always taking a part in Gazan community. They are equally active, educated and employed if you compare them to men. They have the freedom of movement too. The phenomenon of early marriage has reduced greatly because Gazans are more aware now. Majority of young women are getting married due to love stories and freedom of choice. Women are seeking and occupying high positions in the employment field becoming even higher than men sometimes.

Its fascinating to see how Gaza is evolving and growing in every aspect yet we still see foreign and local attempts to keep us busy with dilemmas from the stone age. We moved on so its time for others to move on and embrace our growth. Its also shameful to see some young Gazans falling in this trap which is deforming the very productive image of Gaza’s bright youth.

So consider me boring for the saying the truth but I don’t wish to be invited to a European country or praised by an American journalist or supported by France just to attack Islam or Gaza. I would rather stay here and raise my voice and say: “We are way hip, cool and advanced than you think; believe or see”.

Why do Muslims and Arabs have to always try hard to fit in and be accepting? Why doesn’t the world embrace us like we embrace it? Why do they want us to become something else? Why do they want us to become like them? Why do they want us to degrade our culture and religion to gain their respect? Why are we always pressured to justify ourselves?

My last advice or message: Please let’s stop judging each other. Its 2011 for god’s sake. People are categorized by being good or bad not by wearing Hijab or not. Not all women wearing Hijab are angels and not all women not wearing Hijab are right. Live and let live. Give love to receive love and lets embrace each other with our differences, imperfections and different perspectives.

From Gaza with love, less judgment and a huge hug,

Omar

Follow me on Twitter: @Omar_Gaza




Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gaza: Beautiful moon, Eid, Resilience, Gratitude


This pic was taken by my friend near his house.


By: Artist Khaled Jarra


Gaza, November 10, Last night, the moon in Gaza was like a beautiful portrait that you notice in a museum and you just cant stop checking it out. Its not the first time we witness such a spectacular moon but its something to watch each and every time that it happens. The moon was full, luscious and shiny rounded by a big shiny pearly Aura with a glowing star underneath it. Some took pictures of it while others thought its not unusual. For me, it was a spiritual and beautiful moment. I kept watching and smiling, thinking and reflecting, bathing in those pearly rays and stood in awe of what I was witnessing.


Tonight, at 12:00am, the date will change into 11.11.11. . Some of you might not see it as a big deal while others might be stressing way too much about it. For me, I will look at the moon again and celebrate the spiritual moment. Sometimes the universe goes through special moments and its nice to live them.


We just came out of four days of Al-Adha Eid in Gaza. This year was no different. The weather was cold and Israel ofcourse bombed us but that didn’t stop the people and the children from celebrating the joy of eid. Nothing stop Gazans. Living in Gaza for a number of good years now, I would say that only 1 word can describe Gaza and Gazans: RESILIENCE. Gaza and Gazans are phoenixes. They rise from the ashes even stronger than before. I cant be blessed enough to witness Gaza growing and see how more resilient it gets every year. Gaza, I salute you.


This year, Eid witnessed a new event in Gaza. Gaza’s first ever Tent-shopping festival. It was new and unprecedented. I wrote a feature about for the media line. Check this link if you wanna know more:


http://www.themedialine.org/news/news_detail.asp?NewsID=33636
 
I wanna share a special story and experience I went through and ended up learning allot from. Recently, I went through a number of accidents in one night. I should have been more injured but thankfully it wasnt that bad. I ended up depending on only 1 leg for those past couple of days. I realized how hard it is to rely on one leg. Seeing or Hearing or watching about people with a broken leg or people who lost a leg makes you sympathize with them but you never feel what they go through until I experienced it myself. It gives you tremendous strength & patience! Then you realize how blessed you are & how blessed they are each in his own way! I wanna send a special salute to people with 1 leg or a broken leg, You have my respect & love! ♥I would likes to also Thank all my Facebook friends, blog followers, twitter followers and all my local, national and international friends and fans for trusting me and supporting me. You are all amazing and I am so blessed to have you in my life. You make my heart glow and beam.


 
I always get overwhelmed when I see the Pro-Palestinian supporters supporting Palestine in so many ways. They endanger their lives, work, reputation, losing friends and sometimes even losing family’s support just because they stand by us. Here is a video by a Canadian student who chose to show her support for Palestine in her graduation ceremony. Bless her heart.

I also shared a picture of a Palestinian passport stamp that I hope we use and see very soon. This was made by Artist Khaled Jarra and shared by my friend Laurent Schuman. It made my day. I pray, hope and wish that Palestine becomes free in my lifetime and I get to celebrate it with my awesome friends everywhere.
Finally, I wanna wish you all the best. May spread love, justice, freedom and kindness and may your hearts glow with happiness and joy. Lets not give up on ourselves and loved ones. Lets always keep hoping.
Gaza and Gazans rock.

Follow me on Twitter if you like: @Omar_Gaza

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New international boats set sail to break Gaza's siege



■Irish and Canadian boats in international waters on their way to challenge illegal siege policy


■Palestinian activists call for end to international complicity in Israel’s crimes

■Support actions taking place throughout the West Bank and inside Israel

Gaza, November 2, Two civilian boats, the Canadian Tahrir (Liberation), and the Irish Saoirse (Freedom), carrying 27 people from nine countries (including journalists and crew), are currently in international waters making their way to the beleaguered Gaza Strip to challenge Israel’s ongoing criminal blockade of the territory. A Palestinian youth activist from Haifa has joined this renewed international mission to challenge Israel’s unrelenting stranglehold on Gaza via the sea. The message they carry is one of unity, defiance, and hope, in spite of Israel’s policies that have physically separated Palestinians from each other. The “Freedom Waves to Gaza” organizers chose not to publicize the effort in advance given Israel’s efforts to block and sabotage Freedom Flotilla II last July. The boats, which set sail from Fethiye, Turkey, are expected to arrive in Gaza on Friday afternoon, sailing from international waters straight into Gaza’s territorial waters without entering Israel’s waters. The boats carry symbolic cargo - $30,000 in medicines, along with a diverse group of passengers, all committed to nonviolent defense of the flotilla and Palestinian human rights.

“Israel has caged Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, prohibiting physical contact between us. We want to break the siege Israel has imposed on our people,” said Majd Kayyal, a Palestinian philosophy student from Haifa on board the Tahrir. Kayyal added, “The fact that we’re in international waters is already a victory for the movement. Israel’s siege of Gaza is untenable and it’s a moral responsibility to put an end to this injustice.”

Turkish news also reported that a number of Turkish boats have "secretly" started moving from Turkish ports heading to Gaza to break the siege.

Meanwhile, a statement signed by Palestinian youth urged the international community and the U.N. in particular “to take urgent action to protect this mission as well as to end its compliance with Israel’s criminal blockade of Gaza.” They condemned the U.N. Secretary General’s previous declarations calling for aid to Gaza to go through "legitimate crossings and established channels," despite the U.N.’s own admission that Israel’s failure to own up to its responsibilities has created an unprecedented crisis of human dignity.

Throughout the week Palestinian activists in the West Bank and inside Israel are organizing solidarity actions with the Freedom Waves mission, including a presence outside the UN compound (Tokyo Street, Ramallah) and rallies across West Bank towns.

This is the 11th attempt to break the siege of Gaza via the sea, with five missions arriving safely in Gaza between August and December 2008 and the remaining violently intercepted by Israel. On May 2010, Israel attacked passengers of the Freedom Flotilla in international waters, killing nine civilians and injuring over 50. Israel’s actions were widely condemned and led to protests around the world. Efforts to bring a second flotilla to Gaza were foiled by the government of Greece last July following pressure by Israel and Western governments, as well as by acts of Israeli sabotage.

Israel has intensified in the past days its aerial bombardments on Gaza, underlining the need for international initiatives of deterrence similar to this one.





Monday, October 31, 2011

US cuts funding for UNESCO after admitting Palestine as a full member

Palestine, UNESCO & USA


Gaza, October 31, The UN's cultural agency voted to admit Palestine as a full member on Monday.


UNESCO said 107 member states voted in favor, 14 states voted against, and there were 52 abstentions.

The resolution needed 81 votes to pass, the UNESCO representative said.

The United States, Canada and Germany voted against Palestinian membership. Brazil, Russia, China, India, South Africa and France voted in favor. Britain abstained.

The Obama administration has decided to cut off funding for UNESCO because it approved a Palestinian bid for full membership.


State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says Monday's vote triggers a long-standing congressional restriction on funding to UN bodies that recognize Palestine as a state before an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is reached.

Barack Obama speaking about the situation in Egypt at the White House, Feb. 1, 2011.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the UN cultural agency's decision was "regrettable" and "premature" and that it undermines the international community's shared goal to a "comprehensive, just and lasting peace" between Israel and the Palestinians.

Carney added that Monday's vote was a distraction from the goal of restarting direct negotiations between the two sides.

Delegates to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization approved Palestinian membership in a vote of 107-14 with 52 abstentions. U.S. lawmakers have threatened to halt $80 million in annual funding to UNESCO if Palestinian membership was approved.

Nuland went on to say the U.S. would refrain from making a $60 million payment it planned to make in November.

But she said the U.S. would maintain membership in the body.

"The UNESCO General Conference’s action does not diminish our determination to work with UNESCO to advance U.S. national interests. Therefore, we will maintain our membership in UNESCO and our commitment to UNESCO," the State Department said.

The Palestinians want full membership in the UN, but Israel opposes the bid. The U.S. ¬says it would veto a vote in the Security Council.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called UNESCO's acceptance of a Palestinian state "anti-Israel and anti-peace."

"This is only the beginning", said Ros-Lehtinen. "The Palestinians will now seek full membership at other UN bodies."

J Street urged the U.S. not to cut funding, saying disengagement from UNESCO would weaken the country's international standing. "In addition to undermining our own national interests, it would also deprive Israel of its most vocal and powerful advocate in a key UN organ," said Dylan Williams, J Street’s Director of Government Affairs.

The U.S. Congress is also currently considering new legislation that would impose additional restrictions on American funding of the United Nations, threaten cutting aid to the Palestinian Authority, and slashing military assistance to key foreign countries in retaliation to their support for the Palestinian bid for full UN membership.

Germany also said Monday that the UNESCO vote on Palestinian membership was likely to make it more difficult to achieve peace in the Middle East.

A Foreign Ministry statement from Germany said that the country opposed the vote.

"There is a danger that the UNESCO application will further harm the already difficult indirect talks recently begun under the aegis of the Middle East Quartet," the statement said.

The Palestinians are seeking full membership in the United Nations, an effort the U.S. has threatened to veto in the Security Council. Given that, the Palestinians separately sought membership at Paris-based UNESCO and other UN bodies.

Sources: Maan News, Reuters, Haaretz






Thursday, October 27, 2011

Behind Bars, Palestinians Find Love, Marriage

Behind Bars, Palestinians Find Love, Marriage



I know it took me time to add a new blog post, for me writing is all about inspiration. I have been working on this feature for the past week and now I bring you a story that inspired me, enjoy.

He is Fatah, she is Hamas; they were both freed in last week’s prisoner swap


GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – He was from Fatah and she was from Hamas, the two rival Palestinian movements. They were both serving multiple life sentences. They had participated in killings – she for her role in a Jerusalem restaurant bombing, he in connection with the killing of an Israeli.

As lovers go they could not have been more star crossed, yet Nezar and Ahlam Al Tammimi met, fell in love, got engaged and finally married while they were sitting in Israeli jails. Both were among some 450 Palestinian prisoners swapped for Israeli hostage Gilad Shalit last week.

“Nobody believes me when I say that I never ever lost hope. I always saw the light at the end of the tunnel and now I am free,” Ahlam, 31, declares.

Married behind bars, the two now plan a big wedding – as soon as they can finally see each other. They don’t know when that will happen: Under the conditions of their release, Nezar was returned to his home the West Bank while Ahlam was flown to her family in Jordan.

Ahlam was born in 1980 to a Palestinian family that moved from Palestine to Jordan in 1967. Ahlam has two brothers and four sisters. Recalling Ahlam’s childhood, her brother Fakhr Al Tammimi said: “Ahlam was a rebellious child with a strong personality. She never took the easy way and always thought out of the box. My sister had Palestine in her heart and always wanted to go back there.”

In 1998, Ahlam began studying media and journalism at Birzeit University in Ramallah. In September 2000, as the Second intifada erupted, Ahlam felt like she had to do something. During her university years, Ahlam was working for Al-Milad magazine and Al-Istiqlal television station, both local media outlets, because she believed in working and studying at the same time.

“I met a fellow Palestinian in the university who inspired me, it turned out he was a member of Hamas. I expressed my desire to join them. He told me he has to ask his superior because Ezzeldin Al-Qassam brigades have no female members. After a few days, he came with an approval, which made me the first female Ezzeldin Al-Qassam brigade member,” Ahlam explains.

Ahlam helped Ezz Al Din Al Massri, 20, to blow himself up in Sabarro restaurant in Jerusalem in August 2001, which killed 16 Israelis and injured 150. Her role had been to choose the location and secure transportation to reach that location. Not long after, she was arrested.

Israeli security forces stormed Ahlam’s house at 3:00 a.m. They handcuffed her, blindfolded her and dragged her into interrogation. She was sentenced to do 16 life sentences for her deed.

“Israeli police used both mental and physical torture on me to admit my role in the operation but it wasn’t important because my fellow members had already confessed about my role,” Ahlam shared. During that time, Ahlam and her family were mourning the loss of their mother. “Aside from the mental and physical torture, I was also going tough times because of my mother’s death. Things were harder and darker.”

“I was placed in solitary confinement many times, sometimes for a reason and sometimes for no reason. The cell is so small and dark with dark walls and built underground. It’s just like being jailed in a tomb. If I hadn’t of turned to God, praying and Qura’an, I would have lost my mind.” Ahlam recalls.

“Let me share with you a funny story, I was sentenced with an extra year to my 16 lifetimes because I had a fight with an Israeli female prison guard. This incident kept me laughing for days, as if I would care less about an extra year added to my jail time of 1,548 years.” Ahlam says laughing.

Ahlam wasn’t veiled before jail, but she began to wear the hijab in jail and also got her first Palestinian identification card while in Jail.

Ahlam heard about Nezar Al Tammimi, her relative, 38, who was jailed in 1993 during his university years. He was also studying in Birzeit back then. He was sentenced to life in prison for belonging to a Fatah cell responsible of kidnapping and killing an Israeli in the Jewish community of Beit El near Ramallah. Ahlam admired him. Ahlam actually visited Nezar in jail before she was jailed herself. The spark of mutual admiration that they felt back then developed over time into love.

Ahlam and Nezar started exchanging letters while in jail. “Each letter would take a month to reach Nezar and another month to get his response back. I would place the letter in the mail and send it to my family. My family would send it to Nezar’s family. Nezar’s family would send it to him.”

“Nezar would go through the same process to send me a letter. Our letters were so precious, they took so much time and they were our only means of communication. We would share experiences, express our love and share our virtual dreams of being and living together after our marriage,” Ahlam says with a broad smile and a sparkle in her eyes.

The two were not only separated by bars but by membership in rival movements. After briefly sharing control of the Palestinian Authority, Fatah and Hamas fought each other for control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 and have failed to patch up their differences despite a declaration of national unity last spring.

On an August day in 2005, Nezar’s fellow inmates threw him a party to celebrate his engagement to Ahlam. Simultaneously, Ahlam celebrated a party in parallel with her inmates. After that, their one and only meeting came in March 2010, when they were both summoned by the Israeli intelligence to be questioned about the relationship between them and their future plans.

“After exchanging letters and falling in love we both decided to get engaged even if we were both jailed for life,” she recounts.

Their fathers arranged the documents and sent them copies of the marriage contract in jail. Nezar sent his wife wedding rings but the Israeli prison administration confiscated them all, she says.

“Initially, it was purely a familial attachment ungoverned by factional politics even though our link is a practical demonstration of the factions' call for Palestinian unity,” Ahlam told Uruknet.info, a Middle East website. “As Nezar and I have been united by this engagement we hope to be a beautiful demonstration to the factions of the unity that is possible, God willing, through comprehensive reconciliation.”

With the release of the Palestinian prisoners October 18, Nezar was sent to Nabi Saleh, his hometown in the West Bank where he was welcomed as both a hero and bridegroom.

But Ahlam, denied entry to the West Bank as a condition for her release, says she was obligated to fly to Jordan to join her family. The couple met briefly at Cairo Airport's Sheraton Hotel on their way to their final destinations.

Arriving in Jordan, Ahlam says she was overwhelmed when large numbers of family, friends and fans came to Amman’s Queen Alya airport to welcome her. “I only met my family twice during my 10 years of jail time, which made me drown in despair sometimes. I missed them so much.

Meeting my father and the rest of the family means the world to me,” Ahlam says in tears.

Ahlam says she already feels rejuvenated by being reunited with her family. “There is a whole new generation in my family that I missed out on. Photographs and names have turned into people that I am eager to know,” Ahlam adds happily.

Ahlam’s dream now is to settle down after a huge wedding that reunites her with her husband Nezar. “All I dream about now is to live with Nezar, settling down and raising our future children.”

According to Ahlam, Plan A is Nezar’s trip to Jordan so they can hold a real wedding there and live together. If Nezar is denied access to Jordan, then Plan B is for both Ahlam and Nezar to request permission to visit Gaza and settle there with the support of the Palestinian Authority and Gaza’s Hamas government.

Ahlam is trying her best to acquaint herself with all the new technology that has become available during the years she was imprisoned, including means to communicate with Nezar till they reunite. “I was told that we can cam-chat with each other using motion picture and voice both at the same time, whatever that means,” Ahlam adds with a laugh, “It certainly sounds like a cooler way to communicate than the mobile telephone.”

I originally wrote it for the media line: http://www.themedialine.org/news/news_detail.asp?NewsID=33569

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

UN Palestinian statehood bid: Gaza has no saying

Whether you are with or against UN statehood bid, if you live in Gaza you are asked to shut up



Gaza, September 21, So, what do you think about the awaited UN Palestinian statehood bid? OH SHUT UP. I don’t care what you really think. How would you feel if someone did this to you? Well, let me tell you it truly sucks. I have been doing my homework for days reading the opposing and supporting opinion of the UN statehood bid. I read every point: 194, right of return, Palestinian lands, borders, Palestinian prisoners, war crimes and so much more. I read so many opinions and so many debates whether with or against this UN statehood bid. Just when I was getting ready to write a new blog post discussing those issues and these points, Hamas issued a statement declaring their prevention to any events or rallies relating to UN statehood bid whether supporting or opposing.


So, all my hard work goes in vain. Apparently, Gaza’s opinion isn’t important. So we should remain silent, stay at home, watch the news on TV and just feel nothing???? How can I remain silent? How can I stop myself from rallying or hitting the streets? And why should Gaza be always oppressed?

Why do Gazan youth have to always turn to social network and blogging instead of hitting the streets freely and express their opinions and voice?

I saw the West Bank on the news today. Huge numbers of Palestinians rallying in the streets defying the Israeli occupation forces to express their opinions freely. They weren’t asked to shut and feel nothing like us in Gaza. How cant I be jealous? How cant I feel less Palestinian when I watch my fellow Palestinians challenging the Israeli forces in the West Bank to have their voice heard?

I felt ashamed. I felt less Palestinian. I felt frustrated and outraged. I felt numb. Israeli siege makes things hard enough and now its harder because I felt like I am separated from the West Bank even more. I felt like Gaza isn’t a part of Palestine.

I can hide inside my house and record a video saying my opinion, or maybe turn to social media and blogging, or call a friend and discuss this with him\her but nothing feels like being free enough to hit the street and SHOUT your opinion and rant out loud with no fear or Oppression.

How will I stop feeling ashamed and coward and be able to hit the streets after this bid fails or succeeds? ONLY IF we were allowed to even do that. I failed myself and my country today and I don’t feel like I deserve to share my opinion or even track the bid’s coverage or participate in it.

I am sorry Palestine. I am sorry I was asked to shut up and remain silent. I am sorry I have to stand still and say nothing while you go through a historical momentum. I am sorry I cant hit the streets and shout your name out loud. I am sorry that Gaza doesn’t seem like a part of you. I am sorry Fatah and Hamas havent reconciled yet. I am sorry we aren’t one. I am sorry we aren’t all of us in this together. I am sorry that it doesn’t matter whether I am with or against this bid. I am truly sorry Palestine.

So I am doing what I was told to do. I am shutting up and remaining silent. Don’t ask me if I am with or against because it doesn’t matter what I think or want. I will do my best to feel numb. I will do my best to forgive myself for not being able to be a part of this historical momentum that will make a difference for my country and my people whether it succeeds or fails.

I always felt proud that I live in Gaza, always felt Palestinian more than any other Palestinian. Today, I feel different. I am ashamed. I wish I was living in the West Bank or any other country. I would have been able to speak out loud of what I think.

I love you Palestine. I hope you forgive me one day and I hope I can forgive myself also.


Follow my silence on twitter: @Omar_Gaza



Friday, August 5, 2011

Israel renews attacks on Gaza, 4 injured

Round 2 of the Israeli attacks on Gaza



Gaza, August 5, Israel decided to renew its attacks on Gaza again using air raids and again timing them at dawn. People usually are awake by that time since its Ramadan. Israeli warplanes carried out several air raids on several targets in Gaza.


The first air raid targeted a poultry farm located to the east of Deir Al Balah, considered at the center of Gaza. The second and third air raids targeted a security HQ. located in Deir Al Balah too. The third air raid targeted Asda’ media city in khan younis which led to a huge fire that broke out into it. The fourth air raid targeted a free zone in Beit Lahya, Northern Gaza, which led to the injury of three people –as official medics said- from which two of these injuries were guys who lost their lower limbs and the third injury was a kid.

Earlier that night, a man was injured after heavy Israeli shelling on Jabaliya, northern Gaza. Witnesses also reported seeing Al Rayes Mountain being shelled, no reported injuries.

On the other hand, Israeli soldiers station in the control towers on the borders with Rafah, southern Gaza, opened sporadic fire towards the houses and farms of Gazan citizens nearby which led to the flee of Gazan farmers and some Gazan families to a safer places until the sporadic fire stops.

Its noteworthy that Gaza is under attack for the second day in a row now.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Israeli warplanes attack Gaza at night

Israeli warplanes attack Gaza at night


Gaza, August 4, A couple hours after midnight Gaza was shaken by a huge explosion, turns out that the Israeli F16s and other warplanes bombed “Badr” security HQ. that belongs to Hamas which is located in Al Naser neighborhood in Gaza city, its noteworthy that this time security HQ. was bombed countless times before.


A few minutes later a huge explosion rocked Northern Gaza, Israeli warplanes bombed a second security HQ. that belongs to Hamas there. Then they moved south and started bombing the tunnels area in Rafah city, Southern Gaza.

Medics reported that two children were injured due to those Israeli nightly attacks on Gaza.

The Palestinian resistance fired 2 grad rockets earlier from Gaza into Israel, caused no injuries, so Israel used this incident as a pretext for their attacks.

Israel never needed an excuse to bomb Gaza, they didn’t have or need one when they started the vicious assault on Gaza back in 2008-2009 that lasted for nearly one month and left thousands of martyrs, injured, demolished houses and destruction behind.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Gazan Defies Handicap to Live Life to Fullest

Abdul Qader Abu Lubda overcomes birth defect, poverty and social stigma


GAZA CITY, Gaza – Abdul Qader Abu Lubda is walking down the street in his n Gaza City neighborhood one afternoon this week. In one hand he has a sheaf of papers perched precariously between his palm and two short fingers. In the other, two stumpy fingers are holding a heavy bag. But Abu Lubda doesn’t look or act like he’s struggling..

Along the way he is smiling and greeting neighbors and acquaintances. When someone stops him with a question, he easily puts down his load and takes a pen and piece of paper from his shirt pocket, confidently jotting down words with the pen positioned between his two fingers. In a minute, he is back on his way.

Born with a rare condition that left him with two deformed and short hands, each with only two fingers, Abu Lubda doesn’t just handle the ordinary challenges of day-to-day life with ease and aplomb. In a steely defiance of his handicap he has mastered a host of hand-centric skills, mastering the game of ping pong, learning to paint and making handicrafts. And, in a society that looks down on the disabled, he has found a wife and is father to four children. Now, he is taking on a college degree.

“You were shocked when you saw me carrying heavy bags with two fingers,” he tells a visiting reporter. Heavy set, with dark hair and a trimmed beard, Abu Lubda fits easily into the Gaza street scene by his looks and dress. “You should have seen me carrying my children when they were toddlers. I even held two of them at a time in each hand.”

The ease with Abu Lubda, 34, copes with his disability belies the many years be spent struggling to overcome his physical limitations and more importantly the psychological blocks to accepting who he was and what he could or couldn’t do. In a part of the world where suffering and redemption are usually framed in political terms of the Palestinian struggle against Israel Abu Lubda is rare instance of a Gazan whose challenges were intimately personal and physical

“I went through a phase in my life when I lost touch with reality. I was doing everything a normal person can and was even doing much more sometimes. I didn’t feel disabled,” he recalls. “I was angry when someone would label me as disabled. But then I learned the lesson, if you want to overcome your disability you should accept it first and not deny it.”

Even today, it took convincing to get Abu Lubda to tell his story. “I’m not extraordinary, you know. I’m just like everybody else, I just worked extra hard on myself.”

Life in Gaza – a tiny enclave of 1.5 million people, impoverished and cut off from the wider world by Israel’s embargo – but Abu Lubda and others with physical handicaps must also contend with social stigma placed on them. While more and more services are available from organizations like the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS), many grew up without the help of trained professionals and families with the knowledge and resources to help them. Abu Lubda serves as mentor for many of them.

Basel Muqdadi, 11 years Abu Lubda’s junior, was born with the same condition. The two were introduced two years ago and since then, he says, Abu Lubda he become his mentor and inspiration. “When I met Abdul Qader I was blown away and immediately saw him as my role model,” he told The Media Line.

“It’s hard to be young and disabled, especially in Gaza,” says Muqdadi,. “People either judge you or show you pity with little consideration to your feelings. No matter how amazing you are at the end of the day you are called ‘disabled’ by your friends and family and by your society.”

Abu Lubda was born in 1977 in Rafah city to a poor family that already had five children to raise. He was left largely on his own to figure out on his own how to cope with his disability. Slowly, he trained himself how to tackle actions as simple as holding a pen, over the years gradually emerging into an independent, self-sufficient teenager. If he was ever angry at himself for his fate, he never blamed his parents for not knowing how to raise him.

Left to his own devices, he says, he became driven to achieve a better life and overcoming his disability.

“Yes, you sometimes ask your parents and God why you? Why did you have to be disabled while others are normal?” he asks without any hint of self pity.

“I was frustrated at my early age, especially when I saw my parents feeling confused and frustrated because they didn’t know what to do with me. Gaza back in 1977, there were much fewer associations for the disabled and fewer awareness programs,. Families with disabled children were considered as jinxed or cursed, which doesn’t make you feel exactly happy when you are just a little kid who was born with a condition and didn’t actually do this to himself.”

He also took advantage of every opportunity that came his way from professionals, which led him to the PRCS when it embarked on a new program to teach the disabled sports and other activities. “I trained hard and grabbed every opportunity I could to become better, better trained and stronger,” he recalls.

When he was asked in which program he wanted to enroll, he answered: “Thank you, I’ll take them all.” He wasn’t joking, and a few years later he was competing in ping pong, was painting and engaged in handicrafts. “I thrived to absorb every bit I can from every program because I had bigger plans in mind,” Abu Lubda adds proudly..

He is a member of a slew of Arab and international clubs for the disabled athletes and, travelling to Lebanon, Jordan, Dubai, Syria and European countries on a special visa, he has won medals for ping pong in Arab and international competition.

He holds a paddle confidently between his two fingers as if he had no handicap at all. Perhaps why his four children – two boys and two girls have never asked him about his disability. They simply didn’t see it.

“I had to sit with them and explain the condition I was born with,” he says, adding with a laugh: “I don’t want them to think that I’m normal while all other people are disabled because they have five fingers and long hands

The toughest challenge for Abu Lubda is making a living. He gets about 1,000 Israeli shekels a month ($293) in the form of an allowance for the disabled. Sometimes it works out to less than that. “It brings me nothing these days aside from rent, water, electricity and life expenses,” he says, but expresses no bitterness.

“I’m luckier than others. I get paid sometimes for training others and participating in competitions or handicrafts exhibitions “Other disabled people don’t get any financial help at all and can’t find jobs because disabled people here are degraded. They’re considered to be less than normal people regardless of the fact that they can be even more.”

While the PRCS gave him a chance to acquire skills and confidence, he says not enough is done in Gaza to help the disabled. “Although you hear about many associations caring for the disabled people in Gaza, most of them are just a front for a bogus association that gives very little actual help to the disabled,” he says.

Abu Lubda isn’t resting on his laurels. He is now planning to apply to enter a business administration program at Al-Quds Open University because it offers a flexible program that doesn’t require students to always attend class. He sees himself working in an organization in an administrative post.

“I didn’t get the chance to go to college, I was busy learning everything else,” he explains. “But I guess now is the right time.”

An inspiring story that gave me pleasure while writing and sharing. It was published on:

http://www.themedialine.org/news/news_detail.asp?NewsID=32873
 
and
 
http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article482008.ece

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The 3 Palestinian scams: Rafah border, Reconciliation & Electricity

Scams are no fun, specially local ones


Gaza, July 31, When you hear the word “scam” the first thing comes to your head is the hundreds of emails we get into our junk mail on daily basis either promoting money laundry or just selling bogus stuff. We all detest scams so much, but what if those scams were local and focal to the extent that they control your daily life? I bet you would detest them even more.


Our first and biggest most hilarious scam is\was the reconciliation, back in April Hamas and Fatah collided to come up with the most shameful scam in the Palestinian history: so-called reconciliation. The news of the reconciliation initial agreement broke suddenly and people around the world “including news agencies” were sharing whispers on how sudden and strange the news came. We heard nothing about preparations or initial meetings or nothing. We just heard “what we considered back then” the good news.


While Palestinians were busy celebrating, Hamas and Fatah were assigning dates and meetings to make this reconciliation final and start working on practical steps, but it never happened. They kept postponing the date for creating the transitional government saying they needed more time –more time maybe to benefit from this hoax- and people continued celebrating.

Apparently March15th movement and protests in Palestine were creating an international buzz which led Hamas and Fatah to come up with hoax to shut us up. They deceived us and few weeks ago both conflicted and STILL CONFLICTED parties Hamas and Fatah announced that the reconciliation reached a dead end after Hamas’s refusal of Salam Fayad and Fatah’s persistence on assigning Salam Fayad to the new transitional government. I feel ashamed because I was one of those who believed this hoax and thought that it might actually work –how na├»ve- and actually fought those who said it’s a hoax and asked me and Palestinians to becareful and not to believe in this.

Second Scam: After Egypt’s unprecedented revolution and victory in toppling Mubarak and his old regime, media outlets rushed to quote Egyptian officials who vowed to help end the siege on Gaza by opening Rafah border with less restrictions and adopting a new approach towards Gazans.

Another hoax well planned and advertised by the “new” regime in Egypt which is proving day after day that its not really different than Mubarak, same regime but different names. Media outlets then started singing and chanting about Rafah border’s great opening and that Gazans can easily travel and started predicting the future by saying “Rafah border opened, it’s the first step towards breaking the siege”. What was really funny is that I woke up everyday reading those headlines and laughing my heart out. Nothing changed at Rafah border. The first few days of this alleged new system failed epically. Then Hamas and the new Egyptian regime sank in bickering and fights and at the end Gazans were left sieged and bound to Gaza with minimal hope of traveling.

*Drum rolls*

The third and final ridiculous scam: lessening the daily long power cuts in Gaza by operating the third generator –Yeah Right- this made headlines to all local news networks.


Gazan officials in the power and energy Authority in Gaza resorted to local agencies to allegedly let Gazans know some good news about easing the daily long power cuts. Many officials said that the third generator in Gaza’s only power plant will be operated which will lessen the daily power cuts. Many Gazan officials backed up each other and kept their stories straight. Then they came up with a new scenario, “Gaza’s power plant has only 3 generators, two of them work and the third was completely damaged and took a lifetime and so much money to fix, it will be operated during the summer and Ramadan only”. Everyone believed these allegations until they saw no change in the daily power cuts. If anything, the power cuts were expanding and this was driving Gazans mad. The weather is super hot here in Gaza during summer and tomorrow is Ramadan which will require us to fast till 7 pm Gaza local time, the sun goes down at 7:30 – 8 pm in Gaza which leaves us with many hours of heat each day.


Ramadan will definitely be a challenge but Gazans are very used to this and we have seen even worse. But what makes us mad are those continuous and shameless local Palestinian scams made by Palestinian leaders and officials. Its like your own people are degrading the level of your intelligence, wouldn’t you be pissed off?


I guess that leads us to one thing: Never believe a Palestinian leader until you see practical and real steps taken on ground, even then don’t believe him and wait till the steps are made on a continuous basis, even then don’t believe him and wait till he finishes all his steps, even then don’t believe him and wait till he turns to the media to say what you believed in was a complete lie. Oh well, in the end, just don’t believe any Palestinian leader when it comes to internal issues, believe your instincts and experiences.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

UNRWA beach camp in Gaza burned “AGAIN”

Lets play the blame game


Gaza, July 30, I guess it became a routine to hear about the burning or vandalizing of UNRWA’s children beach camp in Gaza, it has happened a few times over the past year and it happened yet again this year. Let me just brush over the official shared news in the mainstream media, UNRWA’s website and the top news agencies in the world:


CNN used UNRWA’s press release about the incident:

A U.N.-sponsored summer camp in Gaza was vandalized Thursday morning, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency said. Officials say a group of masked militants torched a U.N. flag and a stage, and damaged a billboard carrying Finnish, American and Australian flags.
The attack took place just hours before 15,000 local children attending UNRWA Summer Games prepared to smash a Guinness world record for the largest number of people flying kites.

"The igniting is an unacceptable cowardly act and severely harms the image of Gaza," said Adnan Abu Hassan, a legal adviser for the U.N. in Gaza. "We didn't expect this to happen, especially since this is the last day of the summer camp."

Abu Hassan said security was extremely high to ensure the safety of the children. "We have asked the government in Gaza to investigate the matter. Our answer to the attack is to continue the occasion as normal."
"The stage is set for another dramatic piece of world-record mega-theater," UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said in preparation for record-breaking event.
"It will be nothing short of miraculous to achieve this under the punishing, illegal blockade. Three-quarters of a million children are being collectively punished, and there must be transparency and accountability to end this affront to our humanity. The kites will provide another iconic reminder of the beauty and potential of these children, despite the injustices they face," Gunness said in a statement released 24 hours before the attack.

Many other news agencies followed CNN’s footsteps while other pro-Israeli media outlets saw an opportunity to lash on Gaza and Hamas. On the other hand, all local and international human rights organizations in Gaza rushed to condemn the incident and “as usual” demanded actions, investigations and revelation.

Here is a background of similar incidents: It should be noted that during the summer of 2010, two attacks were launched on UNRWA summer camps by unknown persons. The first attack was launched on 23 May 2010 on a summer games camp on the beach in the west of Gaza City while the second attack was launched on 28 June 2010 on a camp in the west of Zawaida village in central Gaza Strip. No results of investigations were officially published with regard to these two attacks.

I am not here to join the others and play the blame game here, I am here to be the voice of the voiceless Gazan children.

I see that responsibility should be held to both Hamas (Hamas De Facto government has been ruling Gaza for several years now) and the UNRWA empire. These accidents happened before so I would expect from an organization such UNRWA to learn from it, and I would expect from a ruling political party like Hamas to learn from it also. They both failed to protect Gazan children and they both participated in lessening the “already” few places that Gazan children can have fun in and enjoy their summer.

Gaza is a small city yet neither Hamas nor the UNRWA could put their hands on the direction or people behind this yearly vandalism and I find that hard to believe, accept or swallow.

I have a question for the UNRWA: How come you spend millions on protecting all UNRWA foreign workers in Gaza and UNRWA’s visitors in Gaza by hiring body guards and shielded cars but you cant pay to ensure Gazan children’s safety? Why cant you spend some of the millions of donations that you collect to operate and place those camps on ensuring their safety by hiring body guards or security guards?

My second question goes to Hamas: How can you consider yourself as a strong political party that rules Gaza yet fails to protect its children? How can those anonymous masked men burn those camps down without being found or held or prosecuted? And how can It happen so many times?

During those past two years we have witnessed the burning of many newly built resorts in Gaza, and I cant understand how and why cant Hamas stop them? Or ensure that the streets of Gaza are safe?

Its one thing to speak and brag about security and it’s a totally different thing to enforce those brags by actions.

My third question goes to the Human Rights Organizations in Gaza: Why play the blame game when you should be raising questions and concerns about the safety of Gaza’s children? Why cant you see the real victims? And why focus the attention on UNRWA and Hamas instead of demanding more steps towards ensuring the safety of Gaza’s children?

At the end of the day, the only affected ones here are Gazan children. Their safety was threatened and they lost a place where they can spend a joyful summer. Yet UNRWA rushed to issue reports and collect donations, Hamas rushed to stress on the fact that it will do its best to catch those criminals and the local and international human rights organizations in Gaza rushed to play their blame game. My question is: Who will make it up for those children? Aren’t they the real victims here?

This act of vandalism for me represents two huge and major failures and ego blows to both Hamas and the UNRWA. I just pray they realize this fact and work better next year and care about those children rather than prioritizing their best and own interests.



Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A child that touches my heart deeply & profoundly

A picture that always overwhelms me
A Gazan child with tears in his little eyes



I havent written a new post in a while now, honestly I still feel like I don’t want to add any new posts but I am obliged to add something because I have a responsibility towards my readers, followers and those who trust me.


I started thinking of topics and I was lost between the new Palestinian scams: Electricity, reconciliation and Rafah border or maybe to write about all three of them or perhaps choose a new topic. I kept thinking for a few days till a few seconds ago I came across a picture that a facebook friend shared. I shared this picture many times before, I was pinned to my laptop looking at this pictures for days, thought about it for a loooooooooooong while and even cried my heart out whenever I saw it.

Honestly, this Gazan innocent cute little child is much more important than anything else. Yes, perhaps there are urgent matters that ought to be discusses and shared but despite the fact that this picture is 2 years old yet it still touch me and overwhelm me like it was taken yesterday.

You might expect me to say that this picture brought back the horror and miserable memories of the Israeli vicious barbaric assault on Gaza 2008-2009. Well, I am sorry to disappoint you but it doesn’t. It just makes me think of that child and what he felt at that moment seeing his safe home brought to the ground like it never existed, his childhood was violated, his family was shattered and all he can do to let his sadness and fear is to cry and shed those crystal-clear tears.

This picture arouses many feelings inside me, it makes me wish I was there to hug him and hold him and tell him everything will be okay. It makes me wish I was superman and had the ability to save him and his house and perhaps save Gaza. This child represents all Gazan children who lost their lives, parents, houses, families, dreams, souls and many other things in the process. Their only guilt was that they were born Palestinian and they live in Gaza. WOW I guess that makes them guilty right??!!!

If I could pay half of my life just to be able to go back in time and hug this child I swear I would in a heartbeat. Please cherish your children and work hard to give them the best life you could because some parents don’t even have this simple privilege.

If you are a parent, uncle, brother, sister, auntie, grandmother, grandfather or just a human then Please go hug the nearest child around you and let him\her know you are there to make their life better and safer.

Follow me on twitter: @Omar_Gaza

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rafah border facing a crisis

Rafah border: A dream that remains a dream


Gaza, June 1, A major crisis mounted between Egypt and the De Facto government of Gaza yesterday regarding Rafah border, which left both sides to exchange accusations of failing to create a mechanism to facilitate the crossing of Palestinians in both directions through Rafah crossing.


High-leveled security leaders on both sides held an important meeting last night to discuss the ongoing crisis at Rafah. They both agreed upon reducing the number of passengers passing per day 250-400 only, and the requirement of sending the lists of passengers who want to cross before the day of their travel. The meeting also tackled the entry of students who are already enrolled in foreign universities abroad and NOT those who got recently accepted. The Egyptian side had a few conditions in mind, one of these conditions is that the Palestinian side has no right to object on The Egyptian side’s decision to prevent any passenger from traveling. Also, any patient enters must be examined by the Egyptian medical committee before letting him pass.

Both sides lashed at each other accusing, resenting and objecting. Gaza’s De Facto government accused Egypt of backing down on their promises of implementing a new eased mechanism for the Palestinians who wish to cross the Rafah border saying that Egypt allowed Palestinians to cross “easily” on the first day only, last Saturday.

On the other hand the Egyptian high-leveled Security leaders came out with statements stressing that Egypt provided facilities for their Palestinian brothers, which are considered as “unprecedented” and also defied Israel in order to open the Rafah crossing permanently and Egypt also provided facilities for the passing of those who are less than 18 years and more than 40 years to easily cross from Gaza into Egypt without a visa as well as the fact that they are screened with full transparency on the Egyptian side.

An Egyptian security source, who preferred anonymity, said that the Egyptian authorities have found a number of Palestinian elements who are listed on the Egyptian black security list because they are related to smuggling through the tunnels, and cases of other security issues that the Egyptian side cant allow to pass through. Those were issues which needed to be discussed but both sides postponed the meetings of discussing their cases.

Salama Baraka, Palestinian border official, showed resentment regarding the increase in the number of cases prohibited to enter or exit Gaza listed on the computers of the Egyptian border security to five thousand Palestinian, sparking the Palestinian side who wants to double the numbers of Palestinians crossing from the Gaza Strip to Egypt.

The Palestinian side said that Rafah border isn’t working in full force because the Egyptian home-land security crew no longer exists, which leaves both sides with double the work and time to screen and inspect travelers and let them through.

The Egyptian side said that they offered more facilitation but they cant let anyone and everyone pass through, they are obligated to implement a thorough inspection to filter the people who want to pass, their biggest priority is Egypt’s safety and the international agreements of preventing Palestinians with security issues. They believe that 25-400 Palestinians passing each day in both directions daily is enough and this will give them the needed time to inspect. While the Palestinian side say 25-400 Palestinians passing each day isn’t enough and that thousands of those who previously-registered need to pass first.

The first day Rafah border opened due to the new regulations –a day of celebration to Gazans- 530 Palestinians passed in both directions and the second day around 845 Palestinians have crossed in both directions and the third day only 250 passed into Egypt which sparked the whole crisis.

The meeting was chaired on the Palestinian side by Dr. Ghazi Hamad, Chairman of the Palestinian Crossings Committee in Hamas’s De Facto government in Gaza and the Egyptian side was chaired by leaders of the Egyptian national security.

Rafah border’s opening was a dream that went back to being a dream after an attempt of turning it into reality, Gazans havent got the chance to feel happy or relieved. A crisis hit Rafah border and now doubts are camping over it. Will it open again or will the problems will be deep enough to cause more restrictions and closure?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Round up on Palestinian affairs, Arab affairs & international affairs

Round up: Nakba, Gaza, Rafah border, Egypt, Beyonce & More








Gaza, May 16, Ofcourse, I will start by rounding up Nakba historical events yesterday. Palestinians, Arabs and internationals marched in masses yesterday in many countries commemorating the Palestinian that happened 63 years ago. Nakba day is when nearly 800,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes by armed Jewish gangs who confiscated their lands and homes, captured many of them, killed many of them and forced many of them to leave their own homes.


Starting from Gaza, hundreds of Gazans marched in masses reaching a few important borders:

1- Rafah border: Man Gazans protested there in parallel with my Egyptian activists who also showed up on the Egyptian side of Rafah to show support to their Palestinian brothers and sisters.

2- Many Gazans also marched in Khan Younis till they reached the border there.

3- Many Gazans marched in masses reaching Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, where Erez checkpoint is located (links between Gaza and The West Bank).

Ofcourse, Nakba events and the preparation for a 3rd intifada scared Israelis since a while ago when they pressured Facebook to close the 3rd intifada’s page on Facebook because thousands were liking the page every 5 seconds. Then, they reached out for many countries and started media propaganda campaigns to stop it. When Gazans approached Erez checkpoint and advanced a little, the Israeli forces there went ballistic and started firing tear-gas, bullets and tank shells on them. One Gazan was martyred and nearly 190 got injured. Many were poisoned, most of the injured were children, 3 were critically injured and among those was a journalist named Mohammed Othman who was directly shot by the Israeli forces.

In the West bank, 1 martyr fell and 100s got injured throught the West Bank after being shot. Israel used many tactics for cracking down on those un-armed Palestinian youth, they dressed plain clothes and also disguised as journalists to arrest Palestinian un-armed youth.
Palestinians and Lebanese people also showed up in Maroon Al Ras, again the Israeli forces there near the border line went crazy and killed 10 of them and injured many others.

In Golan heights, also many Palestinians and Syrians showed up. Israeli forces went crazy and killed 5 of them and injured many others.

In Jordan, many Palestinians and Jordanians marched to show support of Nakba until the Jordanian police cracked down on them injuring many.

In Egypt, thousands showed up in Tahrir square raising and waving the Palestinian and Egyptian flag in a spectacular view showing support of Nakba. Then, many showed up infront of the Israeli embassy to protest and demand its removal. Many decided to sit-in until the Egyptian army cracked down on them and arrest many including two Egyptian bloggers, twitter sensations and tahrir sq. revolutionists:

1- Tarek Al Shalaby (@tarekshalaby on twitter, plz follow him if you are on twitter and make #FreeTarekShalaby trend) and join this facebook page for his release:
http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/freetarekshalaby
 
2- Mosaab El Shamy (@Mosaaberizing on twitter, plz follow him if you are on twitter and make #FreeMosaabElShamy trend) and join this facebook page for his release:

http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/Free-Mosaab-ElShamy/211994268821603?sk=info

Help us demand their freedom now Please.

Really funny Reality checks, no they are not jokes, they r real:


1- Israel filed a complaint to the UN saying Palestinians were “violent” while commemorating Nakba day. Let me remind you that Israel killed 15+ yesterday and injured 100s of un-armed Palestinian youth.

2- Bashar Al Assad, Syrian fascist president, showed his anger towards Israel’s brutal attacks against the Palestinians in Golan Heights. So, its okay to kill your own people but when Israel wants to shoot them you get angry??!!!! EXCUSE ME?!.

I get asked about Rafah border nearly every day. Any new news? Any new facilitation? Its opened right? Gaza isn’t sieged anymore right? And so many other questions.


Clearly, many misconceptions are flying in the air and they need to be cleared. Gaza’s siege is mainly imposed by Israel and was (and still a bit is) backed by Egyptian government. So even if Rafah is widely opened Gaza will still be sieged by Israel. Rafah border opens on old regulations where only 3 categories can dare try to get out of Gaza:

1- Who seek medical care outside (not all cases, just those who are in critical state).

2- Who seek education abroad and own a visa.

3- Who owns either accommodation permits or foreign nationalities.

Even those previously mentioned cases cant guarantee a definite exit, they can be denied and returned for any reason and sometimes for no reason. Facilitation was spoken about by the Egyptian government but nothing took place yet. Egypt and Hamas both want Rafah border to be controlled by Egyptians and Palestinians only. Israeli will not approve –ofcourse- and will attempt to disrupt this by either occupying the border or bombing it.

Israel fired warning shots against the Spirit of Rachel Corrie, a Malaysian ship carrying a humanitarian aid cargo to Gaza. People on board are fine and safe gladly but they were worried when both an Israeli armed ship and Egyptian ship were surrounding it and going around it.

Here are some link with more info:

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=24783

http://www.presstv.ir/detail/180131.html


Ofcourse Egypt’s uprising rocked our world for so many days, many of us were glued to the TV cheering for tahrir square revolutionists and praying for their victory. It was so inspiring that many were touched but yet many had the thought of “KACHING”. They use everything and monetize every huge event so they made books, documentaries, films and so many other things. But come on, we are wise enough to know who is supporting Egypt’s uprise and who is trying to just make money out of it.


Beyonce, a very clever American entertainer\artist, decided to immediately benefit from this and recorded a song called “Who rules the world (Girls)” and guess what: The video clip’s idea is a heroin who starts a feminine revolution to rule the world and she even wwears something very similar to the folkloric Egyptian Pharaoh outfit, hmmm sounds familiar? Check this teaser out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrYy75PUbnE&feature=player_embedded

One Last thing, I will be interviewed live with Dr. Mustafa Al Bargothi, Dr. Eyad Sarraj and Joseph Dana to talk about Nakba events with Ismail Khalidi from the IMEU, tune in on this link:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/imeu/2011/05/16/the-nakba-day-protests-and-their-significance

Ok, Thats all for today. Thanks for reading.

Follow me on twitter: @Omar_Gaza and @GazawiNews

Follow the IMEU on twitter: @theIMEU

And on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/theIMEU            

Follow Joseph Dana on twitter: @ibnezra

Love and peace to all,

Omar 4m Gaza

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Gaza's avant garde beauty revealed

Revealing Gaza's avant garde beauty

When you remember Gaza or hear of it the first few things that come to your mind are: siege, suffering, power cuts, water-fuel-supplies shortages, war, martyrs, injuries, horrible living conditions, challenges, desperation, biggest open-air prison and similar stuff.

But what you don’t know is that Gaza is much more than this, Gaza holds beauty. Unfortunately Gaza’s beauty is covered and deformed by Israel’s constant barbaric attacks on Gaza that leaves no choice or time for anyone to stop and think about such unique beauty. I think it will do Gazans, Palestinians and pro-Palestinians good to read and watch something good and happy and beautiful about Gaza for a change, therefore I decided to dedicate this post to Gaza’s beauty by revealing Gaza’s avant garde beauty in a number of pictures below.

Pictures shedding a light on Gaza’s natural beauty taken by the amazing and talented Gazan Phtographer, Mohammed Asad:


























Photos taken by the artistic Wasseem Sarraj:






Miscellaneous:











P.S. It was very hard to find photos of happy children in Gaza so I tried to collect a few. If you dont believe me, google "Gaza children" and see that all the pictures are of devastated Gazan children. Since this post is supposed to be happy and beautiful I will end it by saying I hope you enjoyed it.