Archive for October, 2011

Confusion over Palestinian prisoners – Shalit swap deal

October 13, 2011

Palestinian prisoners -and they are thousands in Israeli jails- started a hunger strike in September27 to express their anger and rejection to the inhumane treatment they have been receiving since the recent instructions by Prime Minister Netanyahu in late June 2011 to strip Palestinian prisoners of claimed “privileges” they “enjoy” in Israeli jails.. For more details: PCHR Condemns Collective Penalties against Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli Jails

Yesterday, I joined Palestinian families of prisoners in their protest in ICRC – Gaza. Many of whom where former prisoners joining in solidarity, members of International Solidarity Movement ISM, and activists who have been hunger striking for 9 days who –overwhelmingly- triggered in me feelings of both shame and embracement when I learned that four of them were hospitalized early that day.
To express their genuine support to prisoners and to rid themselves the feeling of helplessness, Palestinian and international activists and bloggers not only tweeted and blogged to spread the truth but also started a 24-hour #tweepstrike #HS4Palestine ‘Hunger Strike for Palestine’ in October 12 in solidarity and celebration of the fighting spirit of those imprisoned, deprived and abused.

“What about the rest of prisoners who are still hunger striking? Why did not Hamas wait until the prisoners’ demands are met?” a young activist expressed her opinion with a mixture of anger and disappointment. “The prisoners’ protests of today and everyday are represented by all political factions but Hamas. I believe Hamas wanted to be in the picture again even if that meant losing the one and only card they have. Very smart indeed!” she added.

Whether the claims of Hamas’s attempt to hijack the attention off the prisoners’ hunger strike are true or not is irrelevant, all those questions echoing people’s minds are valid ones and one wonders if they will be answered anytime soon.

Another activist whose father is a prisoner added to the list of unanswered questions “Why did Hamas reach this deal now, they had Shalit captured for five years? We are still on hunger strike and the media coverage no longer cares to give attention to those suffering when both Hamas and Israel projected their heroic prisoner-exchange deal to the world!” Although Hamas’s list of prisoners is representative of all Palestinian political parties yet Palestinians seem unhappy that Hamas is taking full credit for the Operation Dispersive Illusion “Hamas never captured Gilad Shalit, Salah Al Deen Brigades did and Hamas got involved in later stages. It wasn’t pleasant to see Hamas celebrating so victoriously and flying solo. All Palestinian factions were marginalized in this and Hamas acted totally on their own.”

Standing there, I could not agree or disagree. There was no room for words, but my wide-open eyes saw whatever hope left in those families’ eyes “ripped off”. Could I let myself rejoice for all those women who will finally be reunited with their beloved family and children who’ve been longing for a warm embrace for too long? For the mothers whose hair had grown grey and whose beauty had faded away cause what meaning has life when heart is departed from soul? Could I rejoice for those fathers whose children had grown to be men without colors, men of grey, smell of sweat, and taste of beans, unsalted beans?!
My mind has told my heart to rejoice, and I promise I will try, but my mind cannot let go of the images stuck in my head, the images of lost faith in the Palestinian leadership, the religious, the patriotic, and the secular. Would we regain trust on those who promised that no deal would be reached with Israel without Ahmad Sa’adat and Marwan Barghouti? Who promised the deal will include at least 1500 prisoners? Would we regain trust in them when their definition of “prisoners’ release” is “exile” overseas and “deportation” to another jail called “Gaza”? Will our leaders (and they are too many) ever reconcile (with themselves) and stop giving us lies and false hope to gain grounds locally, regionally, and internationally (each with their allies that serve their interest)?

I am sharing this with you because today my heart cried, because those in jails taught me freedom, taught me bravery, and integrity. Today I am Palestinian because of you and if Palestine is fragmented, our struggle is not!


A former prisoner playing with her child who was born in Israeli jails-Taken by Bashar Lubbad

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#AB11 You blog, you’re an Arab. Oops, but you’re Palestinian!!

October 3, 2011

Long story short:
My Palestinian friends and I were denied entry-visa to Tunisia. Latest news say that the Tunisian embassy in Ramallah declared that the Tunisian ministry of interior refuses to clarify why it banned the Palestinian delegation from entering Tunisia. And according to France Press Agency that called the Tunisian ministry of interior, the ministry refused to comment on the incident.

Details?
Last month I received a call saying that I was nominated along with a group of Palestinian bloggers from the West Bank, 48 lands & Gaza to the 3rd Arab Bloggers Meeting in Tunisia this year 3-6 October 2011. My heart jumped out of my chest and I was just happily overwhelmed. That was not because I’m from Gaza and I don’t get the chance to travel so easily, not because that personally I just had my first-time travel just last June and this would be my second, not because I’ve been\still harassed by the local authority of Hamas since the moment I set foot in Gaza on 27 July 2011 while “NO ONE” is managing to solve my problem, not because I finally managed to get my passport back from Hamas interior security and I’ll be able to use it again, no! I was getting the chills every time I have the thought of participating in such an event because it’s being held in Tunis, the bride of the Arab revolutions. The whole idea of meeting bloggers, activists and tweeps from all over the region who I know many of them in the wide world of internet, the experience I would’ve got from all of the experts who should give us some of their knowledge is just beyond amazing but for me there was nothing I waited for more than setting foot in the land of Bouazizi.

Usually and since ever Palestinians face all kind of difficulties in order to travel. Best case scenario, you would miss the opening day or half of the days of the big event you’re invited to, if you made it in the first place! But usually, you wouldn’t get the visa at all. Last month, I was also among a group of Palestinians invited to a summer camp in Lebanon for Palestinian activists from the region. I missed it and apologized as I was having my final exams, but my group decided to go. They were told it’ll be arranged for them to cross Rafah crossing to Egypt. They have to wait there for a few days and they’ll be given the visas to Lebanon. They waited 14 days on their own expense, were told they’re rejected for security reasons to finally managing to get some strongly influential people to intervene and get them the visa. My friends missed the event, had to be hosted by some family with no financial coverage and taken on some sight-seeing. So, the whole trip had no point then.

It is inevitable that the Palestinians would be going through hell in order to be out but wasn’t the Arab Spring supposed to change that?
This subject was discussed on twitter and had different reactions, but everyone agreed on the necessity of having an explanation for what happened to us. Some of the tweets I liked:
@tounsiahourra (Tunisian): I boycott this meeting. This transitional government doesn’t represent me. Its ministry of interior refused to let the Palestinians enter. This ministry is racist. Shame.
@JawazSafar: is it true that Palestinian bloggers were refused entry to Tunisia? the same Tunisia that had a revolution this year? #AB11
@tounsiahourra: “Al Karama” Tunisian Flotilla managed to get into Gaza today, excellent but there are Palestinians who couldn’t cross their borders to Tunisia because of Tunisia.
@hamfarouk: The Palestinian lives under the Israeli oppression, American veto, European guilt towards the Jews and finally the Arab ban for his young bloggers.
@lilianwagdy There are Turks, Americans and Europeans @ the Arab Bloggers meeting but no Palestinians #Shame #Fail #AB11

A Palestinian friend, and a blogger living in Cairo -Asmaa Alghoul shared this on her facebook: “This is Tunisia’s government after revolution: They gave visas for tens of Arab bloggers to participate in a conference with Global Voices while rejecting all the Palestinian participants from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the 48 lands. They made me ,as a Palestinian, sign a pledge forcing me to commit to the visa’s specific duration and I was the only one to be told to do so of all the Egyptian bloggers I was with and at the end I was rejected…Shame!”
Another friend “Samy” commented on my facebook status saying: “Arab revolution is an oxymoron!”

Today is the very first day of the big meeting. I am watching from behind my laptop screen and you can do that too. Follow the great hashtag #AB11 on twitter.
While following I read some interesting criticism from some participants such as:
@maroooo: You don’t speak neither English, nor French? Then you’re not an Arab #ab11. That was his comment on the fact that it is a meeting for ARAB bloggers while the speakers speak English and French.
@lilianwagdy:with Due respect to the guys of the Tor Project, we revolted so we wouldn’t have to be anonymous when we use the internet.. #AB11
@trikinesrine: why not mention the impact of Arab revolutions on Spain, and the USA!!! (wall street) #AB11
@lilianwagdy: Ok now two American geeks from the Tor Project are on stage now #AB11… I think we went to the wrong conference #WhereAretheArabSpeakers ?

I wish if I was there with them bitching and criticizing right from the hot spot, but all I have is the “retweet” button.
Thanks for everyone who worked hard to get us the visas, thanks for who nominated us and for the participants who remembered us, and that one nice Tunisian lady who really felt the injustice and thought that boycotting the event is her way of saying no to what happened. Finally, the least that could be done here is giving us an explanation why we weren’t given the visas.