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Wednesday 23 July 2014

I am the bullets, the oranges and the memory: Mahmoud Darwish: Ahmad Al-Za'tar / Fadwa Tuqan: Hamza


Smoke from Israeli strikes rises over Gaza City, in the Gaza  Strip. A police spokesman said Israeli aircraft have hit dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip, including the home of the late leader of Hamas' military wing, several mosques and a football stadium

Smoke from Israeli strikes rises over Gaza City, in the Gaza Strip. A police spokesman said Israeli aircraft have hit dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip, including the home of the late leader of Hamas' military wing, several mosques and a football stadium: photo by AP,  22 July 2014

Mahmoud Darwish: Ahmad Al-Za’tar

For two hands, of stone and of thyme
I dedicate this song. For Ahmad, forgotten between two butterflies
The clouds are gone and have left me homeless, and
The mountains have flung their mantles and concealed me
From the oozing old wound to the contours of the land I descend, and
The year marked the separation of the sea from the cities of ash, and
I was alone
Again alone
O alone? And Ahmad
Between two bullets was the exile of the sea
A camp grows and gives birth to fighters and to thyme
And an arm becomes strong in forgetfulness
Memory comes from trains that have left and
Platforms that are empty of welcome and of jasmine
In cars, in the landscape of the sea, in the intimate nights of prison cells
In quick liaisons and in the search for truth was
The discovery of self
In every thing, Ahmad found his opposite
For twenty years he was asking
For twenty years he was wandering
For twenty years, and for moments only, his mother gave him birth
In a vessel of banana leaves
And departed
He seeks an identity and is struck by the volcano
The clouds are gone and have left me homeless, and
The mountains have flung their mantles and concealed me
I am Ahmad the Arab, he said
I am the bullets, the oranges and the memory

 Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008): Ahmad Al-Za’tar, 1998, translated by Tania Nasir, 1998


A Palestinian man carries a wounded child to an emergency room in front of the media at Shifa hospital in Gaza City on July 20
: photo by Khalil Hamra / AP, 20 July 2014

Chancey Operations in Shujai'ya: Changing the boundaries, or a farewell to humanity?

A reflection of the destruction at al-Aqsa Martyrs Mosque, a mosque in Gaza CIty razed on 22 July as part of Israeli's Operation Protective Edge: photo by AA, 22 July 2014

Omar Ghraeib: Why I vowed not to have children in Gaza

Israel said the ground invasion into Gaza would be limited, which makes you think that the tanks would only advance a few meters in. That was the case for the first two days. Little did we know that Israel planned widespread ethnic cleansing and massacres. Israel’s goal was to wipe out an area, and the people who reside in it, too.

Things started escalating at around 10pm on Saturday. Israeli drones swooped down lower and started buzzing loudly. Tanks advanced. Apache helicopters and F-16 warplanes bombed and also provided cover. And then the eastern Gaza City neighborhood of Shujaiya started getting hit hard.
Non-stop shelling. I heard it all from my house. I couldn’t even keep up with the number of explosions and artillery rounds.

Hundreds and hundreds of families evacuated, leaving their homes and lives behind, seeking refuge in any calmer place, even though nowhere is safe in Gaza.
They walked in the streets, holding nothing but their kids, trying to escape death. Some even climbed into the shovel of a bulldozer. Many were just wandering in the streets with no destination in mind or nowhere to go.

Smoke rises as flames spread across buildings after Israeli strikes in the Shijaiyah neighborhood in Gaza City

Smoke rises as flames spread across buildings after Israeli strikes in the Shijaiyah neighborhood in Gaza City. The airstrikes set off huge explosions that turned the night sky orange: photo by AP, 20 July 2014

Huge ball of fire

Many ended up gathering at al-Shifa hospital, only to see the bodies of their relatives, neighbors and friends arrive.

I don’t know how to describe that night. I am at loss for words and out of breath. Gaza looked like a huge ball of fire as Shujaiya was being burned.
All of Gaza was under darkness. Power outages have reached twenty hours per day, or even more. We could hear the merciless attacks on Shujaiya, people screaming and fires burning.
All we had was a radio to let us know what we already knew but wanted to deny. We kept holding onto the last thread of hope until we had to face the truth: the people of Shujaiya were being butchered.
Every night we count down the hours, waiting for dawn to start breaking through, lighting up the sky and pumping Gaza with sun. But not that night. We were hoping the sun would take its time so we could delay seeing what the light would reveal.
We expected what had happened, but what the light showed was beyond devastation.

Civilians flee from Gaza City’s eastern Shujaiya neighborhood where more than seventy people were killed and hundreds injured by Israeli shelling on 20 July
: photo by Ashraf Amra / APA Images, 22 July 2014

Beyond natural

We couldn’t recognize Shujaiya. It was like a tsunami of bullets had struck the area. Or a blazing earthquake. Something natural but disastrous. But what really happened was beyond nature or even humanity. It was like the 1948 Nakba all over again, with scenes similar to the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre. There were flashbacks to the Cast Lead masssacre of five-and-a-half years ago, too.
The Red Cross proposed a humanitarian ceasefire in Shujaiya so that medics could pull out the dozens of dead and hundreds of injured. Israel refused the ceasefire at first, then accepted it, and then broke it by bombing the area and opening fire on medics and ambulances.
Medics managed to pull out 72 dead Palestinians, their bodies splayed across the streets. 

More than four hundred injured people were taken to the hospital. Medics say that the numbers of the dead and injured may increase dramatically.
International and local journalists, medics and doctors were crying in pure disbelief. They reported seeing a massacre that can’t be unseen.
I guess we are all scarred for the rest of our lives.
Pictures of devastation and destruction were circulating from that morning on. But what was very painful, to the extent that I stopped breathing, are the pictures of parents carrying their dead and injured children while they wept in a way that could move mountains.
When will Palestinians be recognized as people? As humans? As civilians?
When will our children have human rights and be safe?

Two Palestinian youths mourn the death of a family member at Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital, 20 July 2014: photo by Mohammmed Asad / APA Images, 20 July 2014

Self defense?

Can you imagine the devastation of a father who is holding his child dead in his hands? 

 Can you imagine his loss? And how ashamed and guilty he feels for not being able to protect his child?
That’s why I vowed to never, ever to have children here. I will not bring them to this world and fail to protect them. I will not watch my children die. It is too painful watching other children die and their parents weep; I can’t handle going through it myself.
How could the world consider wiping out a whole area and its residents as “self defense” and “righteous?” How can children be considered “militants” and “terrorists?”
The mosque nearby started calling for a donation campaign, only to make me feel more powerless. What can you give to those who lost their loved ones, their houses and a life they once knew?
I wished I could give them my heart or ease their pain in any way, but I couldn’t, so I joined a trivial donations campaign. How can money or material things ever make up for the loss of your child?
I spent hours feeling numb, paralyzed, breathless and stunned. I couldn’t shed a tear.

And then, tears started flowing. So abundantly. They were very hot, and burned my cheeks.

On Tuesday, the Gaza-based Ministry of Health said that more than 600 Palestinians have been killed and 3,700 injured since the beginning of Israel’s ongoing offensive against the besieged Gaza Strip, including the 72 killed and 400 injured in the Shujaiya massacre.
People were showered with tank shells while they slept at home in their beds. People either fled or died under the rubble.

Farewell to humanity

As I bid farewell to my humanity and soul today, and mourn them, I bid farewell to the dead Arab nation and Arab leaders, but without mourning. Human rights organizations, as well — I bid them farewell; they have always failed to protect human rights. Reports and documents do not protect innocent children.
I also bid farewell to all aid agencies in Gaza, for using the blood of Palestinians as a propaganda stunt to collect millions in “donations.” I bid farewell to international humanity.

Omar Ghraeib: Why I vowed not to have children in Gaza, via The Electroic Intifada, 20 July 2014 

Omar Ghraieb is a journalist and blogger from Gaza

Israeli cannon fires artillery shells from an artillery unit near the Israeli border with Gaza. Four Palestinians were killed and 50 others wounded when Israeli shells struck a hospital in central Gaza, despite a call by the UN Security Council for a truce

Israeli cannon fires artillery shells from an artillery unit near the Israeli border with Gaza. Four Palestinians were killed and 50 others wounded when Israeli shells struck a hospital in central Gaza, despite a call by the UN Security Council for a truce: photo by EPA, 22 July 2014

Meron Rapoport: New boundaries drawn in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

On 11 September 2005, when the last Israeli soldier left the Gaza Strip, ending 38 years of military and civilian rule, no one seriously thought that this withdrawal could be reversed, that Israel might one day come back and control directly this narrow and densely populated piece of land. For most Israelis, Gaza was considered always something between a nuisance and a nightmare. “For my part, Gaza may drown at sea,” said Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin right after the Oslo agreements, reflecting the long-time Israeli dream to get rid of Gaza and its refugee camps, a constant reminder of the 1948 war that never really ended.

In the decade that followed the unilateral withdrawal, Israel was not able to forget about Gaza. Operations Cast Lead in 2008 and Pillar of Defense in 2012 were just the picks of an almost continuous violent confrontation: 15,000 rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza into Israel, thousands of Israeli air strikes and few dozens of “targeted killings”, occasional ground incursions into the Gaza Strip and a practical Israeli siege on Gaza from land and sea. The Mavi Marmara incident in May 2009 was part of the enforcement of this siege. Although locked behind fences and walls and free of Israeli settlers, Gaza was always at least in the back of Israel’s mind.

Yet until some two weeks ago, the option of reoccupation of the Gaza Strip and reinstatement of Israeli rule was off the table of Israeli decision makers. To support it was considered political suicide. Operation Solid Rock (the English version Defensive Edge does not convey the original meaning of the words in Hebrew) changed all that. For the first time since 2005, such an option is not discarded offhand. Politicians support it openly, senior military experts endorse it and even the public seems favourable. In a poll published today in Israel’s Hayom newspaper, 77 percent oppose a ceasefire in the current situation and 65 percent think that the scope of operation “Solid Rock” should be the overthrow of Hamas’s rule in Gaza, something which will be almost impossible to achieve without full control over Gaza.

Change of mind

How did this change of mind come about? The continuous firing of rockets into Israel, 16 days into the conflict, did play a part. True, only two civilians were killed and due to the effectiveness of the Iron Dome system, there is no real panic among Israeli civilians, but life is disrupted, especially in the southern parts of the country. Absence from work rose from 6 percent in the beginning of July to 33 percent two weeks later. The fact that the army admits its inability to stop these rockets certainly does not help Israelis to feel reassured. In the same poll, 68 percent estimate that there is a slim or zero chance that rocket launching will stop when the operation is over.

The tunnels -- which were dug under the border between Gaza and Israel, and from which dozens of Hamas fighters keep emerging almost on a daily basis -- played a much bigger role. Not only did they allow Hamas to hit Israeli soldiers in their own territory, they pose a psychological threat which is difficult to cope with for the residents of the nearby kibbutzim and cities. The fact that the enemy could pop up any moment from under the ground is conceived as a sort of nightmare.

Israeli soldiers rest next to artillery shells from an artillery unit near the Israeli border with Gaza. The death toll after 14 days of fighting was at least 509, Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qedra said, adding that some 3,150 have been injured

Israeli soldiers rest next to artillery shells from an artillery unit near the Israeli border with Gaza. The death toll after 14 days of fighting was at least 509, Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qedra said, adding that some 3,150 have been injured: photo by EPA, 20 July 2014

These feelings explain the huge majority in support of the ground operation, whose official goal is still to detect and destroy these tunnels. The relatively high losses, 27 soldiers killed up till this morning, serve only to strengthen the will of the army and public to prove that they did not die in vain. Naftali Benet, who leads the hardliners in the cabinet, went as far as threatening to break down the government if a ceasefire were to be signed before the full destruction of all tunnels in Gaza. 

But it seems that the real reason lies deeper. “The story of repeated deterrence rounds just does not work,” says Dr Gabi Sidoni, retired colonel and head of the programme on Military and Strategic Affairs in the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) and one of the drafters of the Dahiya doctrine, which is based on deterrence. “The result of every round is that Hamas is getting stronger. It surely got stronger compared to Cast Lead. You put a fence, and they come underneath. It is a problem we cannot live with, it cannot be accepted.” Therefore, according to Siboni, there is no choice but to “go in and clean Gaza” from Hamas.

Tuval Diskin, ex head of the Shin Bet, who only recently criticised the Netanyahu government for creating an illusion that the status-quo could go on without a political settlement with the Palestinians, expressed similar views in Yediot Ahronoth today. Israel has the ability to widen its ground operation in to populated areas, claims Diskin, and even stop completely rocket launching into Israel. Hamas will fight fiercely and might inflict a “painful price” on Israel, but its ability to resist a direct confrontation with Zahal is weaker than expected. The conclusion: “without such an operation, a problematic status quo situation will be created, whose meaning is continuous blood shedding with no ability to win”.

Window of opportunity

While there is no doubt that if Israel chooses, it can reoccupy Gaza as, at least for now, it seems that the Israeli public is ready to “pay the price” in human lives and economic losses. Unfortunately, it is certainly ready to inflict a terrible price on Palestinian lives, whether they are military activists or civilians. Contrary to the massacre in Sabra and Shatila in 1982, the huge number of dead bodies in the streets of Sjaja'ia did not have any substantial effect on Israeli public opinion. So far it seems that international public opinion, helped by Egypt’s hard line against Hamas, is not openly anti-Israeli, if not supportive in many cases. This, of course, may turn upside down, but it is evident that Israel feels it has a “window of opportunity” to do things it did not dream to do before.

We will not “return to a living death” of siege and blockade, say Gaza civil society leaders: photo by Ashraf Amra / APA Images, 22 July 2014

Siboni says that the “cleaning” may take a few months, even a year or more. Two and a half years passed between Operation Defensive Shield in which Israel took over the cities of the West Bank in 2002, till the end of the second intifada. But provided that the international community and the Arab world will allow Israel to repeat this model in Gaza, and provided that the West Bank will remain relatively calm and that the number of Israeli casualties will not make the public change its mind about the war in Gaza, the huge question which remains is what Israel will do with Gaza the day after.

Siboni is saying that Israel will have to choose between reactivating the military administration in Gaza, cancelled after the withdrawal in 2005, or handing it over to President Abbas’s government, after crushing Hamas’s ability to govern and fight. The terms of this transfer of power are not really clear. Diskin is offering a detailed model of demilitarisation of the Gaza Strip. The deeper the demilitarisation would be, the more the siege on Gaza would be lifted.

We are still very far from full reoccupation of Gaza by Israel. There is little doubt that such a move could lead to terrible bloodshed. But what is interesting in this change of heart of the Israeli establishment towards Gaza, in this readiness to reoccupy it even at the cost of many Israeli lives, represents an understanding that Israel cannot keep on running away from Gaza, that Gaza will not drown itself in the sea of its own free will. After years of negation, Israel finally admits that Gaza could not be separated from the West Bank, that there will be no solution to the Palestinian problem without a solution to the problems of Gaza. Is this not what the people of Gaza, and even Hamas, wanted all along? Is this not the reason they didn’t settle for the Egyptian “quiet against quiet” formula? What is sure is that the Gaza war is changing the map of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

New boundaries drawn in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Meron Rapoport via Middle East Eye, Tuesday 22 July 2014 15:16 BST

Meron Rapoport is an Israeli journalist and writer, winner of the Napoli International Prize for Journalism for a inquiry about the stealing of olive trees from their Palestinian owners. He is ex-head of the News Department of Haaretz, and now an independent journalist.

Gaza: The Pantry of the Future-Devourers: photo by Ibrahim Abu Mustafa, 28 May 2007; image by AnomalousNYC, 5 June 2007

No ceasefire without justice for Gaza (22 July 2014)

As academics, public figures and activists witnessing the intended genocide of 1.8 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, we call for a ceasefire with Israel only if conditioned on an end to the blockade and the restoration of basic freedoms that have been denied to the people for more than seven years.

Our foremost concerns are not only the health and safety of the people in our communities, but also the quality of their lives -- their ability to live free of fear of imprisonment without due process, to support their families through gainful employment, and to travel to visit their relatives and further their education.

These are fundamental human aspirations that have been severely limited for the Palestinian people for more than 47 years, but that have been particularly deprived from residents of Gaza since 2007. We have been pushed beyond the limits of what a normal person can be expected to endure.

A living death

Charges in the media and by politicians of various stripes that accuse Hamas of ordering Gaza residents to resist evacuation orders, and thus use them as human shields, are untrue. With temporary shelters full and the indiscriminate Israeli shelling, there is literally no place that is safe in Gaza.

Likewise, Hamas represented the sentiment of the vast majority of residents when it rejected the unilateral ceasefire proposed by Egypt and Israel without consulting anyone in Gaza. We share the broadly held public sentiment that it is unacceptable to merely return to the status quo -- in which Israel strictly limits travel in and out of the Gaza Strip, controls the supplies that come in (including a ban on most construction materials), and prohibits virtually all exports, thus crippling the economy and triggering one of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in the Arab world.

To do so would mean a return to a living death.

Unfortunately, past experience has shown that the Israeli government repeatedly reneges on promises for further negotiations, as well as on its commitments to reform.

Likewise, the international community has demonstrated no political will to enforce these pledges. Therefore, we call for a ceasefire only when negotiated conditions result in the following:

  • Freedom of movement of Palestinians in and out of the Gaza Strip.
  • Unlimited import and export of supplies and goods, including by land, sea and air.
  • Unrestricted use of the Gaza seaport.
  • Monitoring and enforcement of these agreements by a body appointed by the United Nations, with appropriate security measures.
Each of these expectations is taken for granted by most countries, and it is time for the Palestinians of Gaza to be accorded the human rights they deserve.


  • Akram Habeeb, Assistant Professor of American Literature, Islamic University of Gaza (IUG)
  • Mona El-Farra, Vice President and Health Chair of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society
  • Ramy Abdu PhD, Chairman of the Euro-mid Observer
  • Abdullah Alsaafin, Palestinian Writer/journalist
  • Ali Alnazli, Businessman
  • Adel Awadallah, Head of the Scientific Research Council
  • Hanine Hassan, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Sheren Awad, Journalist
  • Yahia Al-Sarraj, Associate Professor of Transportation, IUG
  • Tawfik Abu Shomar, Writer and political analyst
  • Hasan Owda, Businessman
  • Ibrahim AlYazji, Businessman
  • Walid Al Husari, Chair, Gaza Chamber of Commerce
  • Nael Almasri, Dentist
  • Wael El-Mabhouh, Political researcher
  • Rami Jundi, Political researcher
  • Ashraf Mashharawi, Filmmaker
  • Mohammad Alsawaf, Journalist
  • Hasan Abdo, Writer and political analyst
  • Kamal El Shaer, Political researcher
  • Omar Ferwana, Dean of Medicine Faculty, IUG
  • Iyad I. Al-Qarra, Journalist, Palestine newspaper
  • Musheir El-Farra, Palestinian activist and author
  • Khalil Namrouti, Associate Professor in Economics, IUG
  • Moein Rajab, Professor in Economics, Al-Azhar University - Gaza
  • Basil Nasser, Planning advisor
  • Hani Albasoos, Associate Professor in Political Science, IUG
  • Arafat Hilles, Assistant Professor, Al-Quds Open University
  • Imad Falouji, Head of Adam Center for Dialogue of Civilizations
  • Moin Naim, Writer and political analyst
  • Yousri Alghoul, Author
  • Mohammad Jayyab, Editor of Gaza Journal of Economics
  • Mousa Lubbad, Lecturer in Finance, Al-Aqsa University
  • Iskandar Nashwan, Assistant Professor in Accounting, Al-Aqsa University
  • Shadi AlBarqouni, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Adnan Abu Amer, Head of Political Department, Al-Umma University
  • Wael Al Sarraj, Assistant Professor in Computer Science, IUG
  • Said Namrouti, Lecturer in Human Resource Management, IUG
  • Khaled Al-Hallaq, Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering, IUG
  • Asad Asad, Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs, IUG
  • Hazem Alhusari, Lecturer in Finance, Al-Aqsa University
  • Shadi AlBarqouni, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Deya’a Kahlout, Journalist, Al-Araby newspaper
  • Raed Salha, Assistant Professor in Geography, IUG
  • Sameeh Alhadad, Businessman
  • Tarek M. Eslim, CEO, Altariq Systems and Projects
  • Sami Almalfouh PhD, Senior engineer
  • Fayed Abushammalah, Journalist
  • Fadel Naeim, Chairman of Palestine Physicians Syndicate
  • Zeyad Al-Sahhar, Associate Professor in Physics , Al-Aqsa University
  • Iyad Abu Hjayer, Director, Palestinian Center for Democracy and Conflict Resolution
  • Wael Al-Daya, Associate Professor in Finance, IUG
  • Younis Eljarou, Head of the Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip
  • Donia ElAmal Ismail, Head of the Creative Women Association
  • Zeinab Alghonemi, Head of Women for Legal Consulting Association
  • Amjad AlShawa, Palestinian Nongovernmental Organizations Network (PNGO)
  • Mohsen Abo Ramadan, Head of Palestinian Nongovernmental Organziations Network (PNGO)
  • Abed Alhameed Mortaja, Assistant Professor of Linguistics, IUG
  • Talal Abo Shawesh , Head of Afaq Jadeeda Association
  • Zohair Barzaq, Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip
  • Marwan Alsabh, Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip
  • Ghassan Matar, Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip
  • Rania Lozon, Writer
  • Ashraf Saqer, IT Specialist
  • Samir AlMishal, Mishal Cultural Centre
  • Jamila Sarhan, Independant Commission for Human Rights
  • Jalal Arafat, Union of Agricultural Work Committees
  • Khalil Abu Shammala, Aldameer Association for Human Rights
  • Jamila Dalloul, Association Head of Jothor ElZaiton
  • Maha Abo Zour, Psychologist
  • Psychologist Ferdous Alkatari
  • Yousef Awadallah, Health Work Committee
  • Yousef Alswaiti, Al-Awda Hospital Director
  • Taysir Alsoltan, Head of Health Work Committees
  • Taghreed Jomaa, Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees
  • Imad Ifranji, Journalist, Alquds TV
  • Jehal Alaklouk, Activist
  • Adel Alborbar, Boycott Committee
  • Hatem AbuShaban, Board of Trustees of Al-Azhar University - Gaza
  • Saleh Zaqout, Secretary of the Red Crescent Society for the Gaza Strip
  • Mohammed Alsaqqa, Lawyer
  • Nihad Alsheikh Khalil, Professor of Modern and Contemporary History, IUG
  • Mohsen Alafranji, Lecturer at Media Department, IUG
  • Nedal Farid, Dean of Business Faculty, Al-Aqsa University
  • Salem Helles, Dean of Commerce Faculty, IUG
  • Ahmad Ali PhD, Economic Analysis
  • Raed M. Zourob PhD, Head of the Department of Preventive Medicine, Ministry of Health
  • Mosheer Amer, Professor of Linguistics, IUG
  • Moheeb Abu Alqumboz, Lecturer
  • Fatma Mukhalalati, Supreme Court judge
  • Fahmi Alnajjar, Supreme Court judge
No ceasefire without justice for Gaza: The Electronic Intifada, from the Gaza Strip, 22 July 2014

Narrow alleys, corrugated roofs in the Gaza refugee camp: photo by Einkarem1948, 10 June 2009

Fadwa Tuqan: Hamza

Hamza was just an ordinary man
like others in my hometown
who work only with their hands for bread.
When I met him the other day,
this land was wearing a cloak of mourning
in windless silence. And I felt defeated.
But Hamza-the-ordinary said:
‘My sister, our land has a throbbing heart,
it doesn't cease to beat, and it endures
the unendurable. It keeps the secrets
of hills and wombs. This land sprouting
with spikes and palms is also the land
that gives birth to a freedom-fighter.
This land, my sister, is a woman.'

Days rolled by. I saw Hamza nowhere.
Yet I felt the belly of the land
was heaving in pain.
Hamza -- sixty-five -- weighs
heavy like a rock on his own back.
‘Burn, burn his house,'
a command screamed,
‘and tie his son in a cell.'
The military ruler of our town later explained:
it was necessary for law and order,
that is, for love and peace!
Armed soldiers gherraoed his house:
the serpent's coil came full circle.
The bang at the door was but an order --
‘evacuate, damn it!'
And generous as they were with time, they could say:
‘in an hour, yes!'

Hamza opened the window.
Face to face with the sun blazing outside,
he cried: ‘in this house my children
and I will live and die
for Palestine.'
Hamza's voice echoed clean
across the bleeding silence of the town.
An hour later, impeccably,
the house came crumbling down,
the rooms were blown to pieces in the sky,
and the bricks and the stones all burst forth,
burying dreams and memories of a lifetime
of labor, tears, and some happy moments.
Yesterday I saw Hamza
walking down a street in our town --
Hamza the ordinary man as he always was:
always secure in his determination.

Fadwa Tuqan (1917-2003): Hamza, English translation via The HyperTexts

Overground sewage in Gaza refugee camp. Suffering and deprivation is apparent throughout the Gaza refugee camp where the vast majority of families live on less than $40 USD per month. The putrid odor from overground sewage, coupled with the dusty deserts surrounding the refugee camp make living a daily challenge for residents of the camp. Sewage and waste water accumulates in the overground sewage systems shown above. These sewage "lines" in the camp collect from holes in the floors of the homes or dumped directly into ditches that run beneath each home in the camp. Despite being plagued by severe poverty, residents of this refugee camp are regularly forced to pay Jordanian authorities exorbitant amounts to have the excreta/sewage pumped out of their homes into special septic tanks. The Gaza refugee camp in Jerash, Jordan is home to 24,000-34,000 Palestinian refugees who fled from Gaza, Palestine in 1948 and 1967. Unlike Palestinian refugees from other districts of Palestine, the Palestinians in the Gaza refugee camp are considered persona non grata in Jordan (i.e. they are denied an identity, not granted identification papers and, therefore, denied the right to work and travel freely throughout the country). Most Jordanians and Palestinians living in the capital of Amman remain unaware of the Palestinians in the Gaza refugee camp, prompting many experts to describe these refugees as the "Forgotten Ones": photo by Einkarem1948, 25 May 2009


TC said...

Darwish's poem was written in Lebanon. It documents the 1976 siege and massacre at Tal Al-Zaatar during the Lebanese Civil War. Tel al-Zaatar (The Hill of Thyme) was a UNRWA administered Palestinian Refugee camp housing approximately 50,000-60,000 refugees in northeast Beirut.

Fadwa Tuqan's poem was written in Nablus, where she lived and died.

Mose23 said...

Not even an hour now.

Platforms that are empty of welcome and of jasmine

Nothing as empty as that (excepting certain promises).

Be the BQE said...

Tom, Thanks for your continued attention to this escalating tragedy--if that is even the right word. The compositions of photographs, poetry and dispatches take me closer than any news "coverage" I know of. I am struck by the image of the little girl running in the alleyway in Gaza in 2009, carrying a container of water, I suppose in each hand. Why is was she running then? Where is she now?

TC said...


The two lowest photos come from the Gaza refugee camp in Jerash, Jordan, where thousands of people displaced from Gaza by the 2008-2009 offensive fled. The identical caption appears with both shots; I've placed it with the final shot. The photos were taken by UN relief worker. They reveal the horrendous conditions in the camp; when the IDF reiterates its self-congratulatory claims of maximum restraint, and suggests that those in Gaza ought to simply go away to escape the horror, places like this -- designated foreign ghettos -- are what they mean. And at this point the designated ghettos are all full up, the roads closed, travelers blown up on sight. So even the miserable subjugation of a refugee camp is beyond the means of most vulnerable Gazans at this point. And it's very hard too imagine such a thing as an invulnerable Palestinian, at this point.


No, not even an hour now. Sometimes it's ten minutes, sometimes five. Sometimes the "knock on the roof" (warning shot), sometimes nothing at all, no warning, people overcome by exhaustion daring to doze a bit and -- a tank shell blows up the building. From hell to eternity for those within.

So many of the mutilating wounds now requiring amputation. The fellow who says he supposes "we'll be scarred for life", perhaps an understatement.

A war without laws conducted by beings to whom international law does not apply.

Scarred for life, yet again. While the overwhelming mass of "spectators" turn away -- death and destruction spiraling up, media buzz trending down.

Most of what is said and seen in the place where this is happening is never seen or heard in the outside" world -- that place in which, as the Gazans know all too well, they were forgotten long ago.

They've had to go it alone, increasingly.

Their ordeal has produced pain and suffering and loss on an inconceivable scale. It has also produced great poetry. Fadwa Tuqan was twenty four years senior to Mahmoud Darwish. Their specific experiences differed. Their cause was the same. To me, both are great poets who speak of the things that matter in a language and with a credibility inaccessible to journalism or editorial.

In the exhaustion of the past two weeks and of the attempt to represent in a balanced way the images and words from the center of this historical tragedy, it would be inevitable that I've overlooked or misrepresented this or that bit of the larger picture. If so, apologies. It's a cottage form of "coverage" motivated by the desire to allow others' awareness of what I've learned. Hopefully some will be finding it of use. Certainly it can not be sustained for long.

Nor, one would have assumed, based on the past, can the killing.

One is constantly being brought up short now by the realization that all previous assumptions concerning the capacity of "civilized societies" to excuse, deny and wish away, largely out of social constraint, the palpable sufferings of and blatant injustices committed more or less routinely against a people whose place in history is coming to seem unique -- the forgotten, who will stubbornly not forget, and finally can never be forgotten.

And yet, the reality, very little we can do or say from this distance that might be heard without shouting down.

Worse still, not that much being done or said, at that.