This is the video of a poem I performed last November for Words And Strings event here in Doha, Qatar.
This is the second time I perform at a poetry event. I am overcoming the anxiety of performing in front of audience. I hope next performance will be better.
This article was originally published as part of “Life in Occupied Palestine” a special issue of Biography: A Interdisciplinary Quarterly.
I often wrote about how politics and personal life always collide . It’s been four years since I left Gaza and I’ve not been able to visit it. There’s no doubt that the suffering of those who live in Gaza is much worse than Palestinians who live outside of it. But in the article, I wrote about how it affects me and my family since it’s been almost impossible to see family anywhere (not in Gaza or Qatar).
A very long, a very hot summer is approaching Qatar, where I currently live. Some forced hibernation is awaiting me, since the heat is unforgiving. Yet summer is the time people look forward to the most, because, unlike me, they are going home to be with their families and friends.
When my friends ask me “Why are you staying behind? Why don’t you go home?,” my mind starts whirling, for how am I going to explain how I am being stripped of the very basic, the very ordinary, the very human right to be reunited with my family in Gaza-Palestine.
I could start by explaining that Gaza has two passages assigned for travelling. One is controlled by Israel and the other is controlled by Egypt. Jawed between the occupying power, Israel, which has been laying a very strict siege upon Gaza for more than seven years, and the unstable Egypt, which has been isolating Gaza ever since it reverted to military rule, Gaza is locked.
Israel lets very few people out of Gaza, and even fewer people in. The Rafah crossing, which is controlled by Egypt, has always been Gaza’s only outlet to the world. The crossing had its good days, when Egypt was under Morsi’s rule. But since the Egyptian military took over and started cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood at home, they have viewed Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas, as an extension of the banned group. As a result, the military government headed by General Sisi is suffocating Gaza by destroying the tunnels, and by constantly closing the Rafah crossing, Gaza’s only passage to the world. And when Egypt does open the crossing, it’s for a few hours, for two or three days. The trip is mired with humiliation, danger, and uncertainty.
So how can one, with a child, go home, when all these thrones are engulfing it?
I’ve been locked out for two years now. Ever since I left Gaza in 2011 with my husband to come to live in Qatar, I have not had the chance to pay home a single visit. [End Page 474]
There’s nothing worse than the feeling of bitterness that results from such forced exile. It’s the bitterness of being a daughter, a sister, and a friend on Skype and Facebook. It’s the bitterness of missing good moments with family. It’s the bitterness of not being there when needed. It’s the bitterness of not being there when you want to. It’s the bitterness of sorely missing your loved ones so dear that you look for all sorts of options just to meet for even a week. Worst of all, it’s the bitterness that all this is happening just because I am a Palestinian from Gaza.
When I was pregnant, I fancied giving birth in Gaza. But that wasn’t possible. After I gave birth, I fancied throwing my daughter’s first birthday party in Gaza. That wasn’t possible either. I fancied taking her to the sea, to play in the sand with her grandparents.
For five years, Gaza was subjected to brutal Israeli attacks that left more than two thousand Palestinians killed. The most recent attack was operation “Protective Edge.” This war left enormous physical, psychological, and economic damage. Though it ended with the signing of a ceasefire agreement, after fifty-one deadly days, the situation of the Gaza siege remains intact. There was hope among Palestinians in Gaza that their sacrifices would eventually mean that the siege would be ended once and for all. But yet again Israel, colluding with Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, refuse to give Palestinians in Gaza their freedom to move in and out of Gaza.
Gaza now isn’t only a scene of apocalyptic destruction, it’s also a scene of a human tragedy, as survivors have to deal with thousands of wounded, displaced, and traumatized, with no way in or out of the Strip.
My family, fortunately, survived. During this war, I had serious fears that after I hung up, that would have been the last call with them or the last time I see them on Skype.
With this cycle of wars on Gaza, followed by inaction to end the siege, I wonder when I am going to see my family again. I wonder where I am going to see them. Visiting Gaza with a toddler is a risky mission, and my family visiting me would involve a long journey of waiting for crossings to open and visas to be issued.
I am locked out, and the people of Gaza are locked in. And we are both waiting, desperately waiting, for the day where we can just be together at home. Till then, one only has the secret whispers of prayers that this all ends. There’s nothing worse than the bitterness of being considered a lesser human. That’s what occupation does. It’s what Israel does, and what we have endured, whether we’re in Palestine or in exile. [End Page 475]
Read more stories and narratives published in this series here.
Dawn of Doom’s day,
The Sun rose from the east,
The bombs came from everywhere.
Angels of death,
Prepared for this early rapture.
Agents of death
Unleashed mayhem of fire, blood, and smoke.
Masses on barefoot,
Masses march to the unknown.
Masses torn, thrown, buried, burnt
Thuds of breath gave a sign of life,
Behind you there’s a new graveyard,
Before you there will be the next graveyard.
The night of Doom’s day,
The Sun set in the west.
The serpents of light
The sky was ruptured.
The earth was unraveled.
Angle of death
Stood at the gate.
Prepared for an early rapture.
A night of a phantasmagorical sleep or death.
No one could tell.
A whirlpool of silence and shells.
Endless wait or a sudden end.
Above you flames.
Beneath you flood.
The Sun of Judgment day;
A Resurrection of justice.
Under the floors of earth,
Armed with their faith,
Rose the oppressed.
Masses shook off the rubble
And fended for themselves.
Masses carry their wounds.
Masses march the known.
Behind you there was a graveyard.
Before you there is freedom’s rebirth.
— F. (@Palestinianism) July 18, 2014
The Eid clothes that won’t be worn,
The toys that won’t be bought,
The sweets that won’t be shared,
The ball that won’t be kicked,
The swing that’s no longer there,
The smiles that won’t be captured,
The walls that won’t get painted,
The crayons that won’t be used,
The bag that won’t be filled with pens and books,
The bathes that they won’t run from,
The tooth fairies that won’t come,
The school report that won’t be received,
The bed stories that won’t be read,
The beds that are emptied,
The teddies that won’t be hugged,
They are gone.
Tell her that they are gone.
Tell him that they are gone.
Tell her that they flew like birds,
Tell him that they are in a better place,
Tell her that her wails won’t bring them back,
Tell him to let it all out,
Tell her to kiss them one more time,
And one more,
And one last time,
Tell him to stroke their foreheads,
Like it’s bedtime…
Alone and petrified, she whispers
Weenak yamma, weenak yamma,
Ya habeeby yamma, ya habeeby yamma,
Alone and devastated, he sobs
Ya habeeby yabba…
— Ayman Mohyeldin (@AymanM) July 16, 2014
“The constants and variables of Gaza, then and now ” is a piece that I wrote was published last week on Al-Jazeera English web-site. It’s a comparison between the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2008-09 and the recent one last month.
Gaza wakes up to a new dawn and a new day, blessed with fresh new hope. Gaza rises after a brutal eight-day Israeli assault, where, as usual, women, children and the elderly bore much of the loss. A ceasefire was announced on November 21 between the resistance and Israel, putting an end to Israel’s intensive bombing and the threat of ground invasion. Under this truce, Israel is obligated to stop targeted killings, stop cross-border incursions, and ease the movements of goods and people.
Full of destruction, mourning, and hope, Gaza woke up to a similar day four years ago after operation Cast Lead. Operation Cast Lead started with Israel targeting several sites in Gaza simultaneously, leaving more than 200 killed in one day. After a week of intensive bombardments, it started a ground operation that proved nothing but deadly to the civilian population.
Palestinians remained steadfast for 23 days without electricity and water. However, this time Israel’s “Pillars of Defence” was limited to larger scale bombings, though the targets were almost the same (infrastructure, civilian houses, empty lands, security compounds). Continue reading
“We’re the people, and this is our time, stand up, sing out for Palestine” these are the words of the newly released song by a group of artists under the name of “OneWorld”. Mixing the tunes of the Arabic Oud and darbouka with South African choir sounds, “Freedom for Palestine” is a musical celebration of solidarity with the Palestinians. Live from Gaza spoke with the writer and producer of the single, Dave Randall, to ask him about the project, its prospects and its receptions.
LivefromGaza: How did this project come into being? What motivated you to make the song featuring artists from around the world?
D. Randall: This song is my small attempt to show solidarity with Palestinians. I suppose I became interested in what was going on in Palestine when I first visited Gaza over ten years ago. I was actually on tour with Faithless, the band I’ve been working with. We were playing in Tel Aviv, and I had a day off, and I thought rather going to beach and look around the shops in Tel Aviv, I thought to myself I am going to go to Gaza to see what life is like in Gaza.
I think you see with your own eyes the way life is made so difficult by the Israeli government and army ,and subsequently I went to the West Bank, I’ve been to the West Bank three or four times. When you see how the Israeli occupation affects Palestinians lives, I think you want to do whatever you can to try to change that situation.
In my case, because I am a musician, the best what I could offer is music. I persuaded “Faithless” that they should join the boycott of Israel, and they did join the cultural boycott last year and around that the same time I decided to start working on this song.
The more the song had a feeling of internationalism, which is a political idea that I strongly agree with, the idea that no matter which country you are from; we are all brothers and sisters. I thought more internationalists feeling the song had. The most exciting recording session of all was the one we did in South Arica with the choir, The Durban Gospel choir, because there are a lot of black South Africans and white South Africans who remember the struggle against the racist apartheid in South Africa and feel a desire to help Palestinians with their struggle against apartheid and the activities of the Israeli state; they understand the type of oppression that is going on in Palestine.
LFG: The artists featured in the song come from different parts of the world, how the universality of music can help to raise awareness about the Palestinian cause?
D Randall: when people see that a group of musicians from different parts of the world have decided to get together to make the song, those who don’t know anything about what going on in Palestine will hopefully become interested and hopefully it will encourage them to find out. And those who do know hope they will feel that this is an act of solidarity. So my hope is that the song will give confidence for people to speak up about Palestine, to speak up against the Israeli illegal occupation.
LFG: Artistically speaking, can you explain how all these tunes were brought together?
D Randall: I have always loved the songs which bring different influences together. I had a band of my own called “Slovo” and on the tunes I made I tried to incorporate different influences from around the world. With this song thought it is important that the Arabic musical world was referenced through the darbuka and the oud. I wanted the song to be uplifting to give a sense of hope and optimism and also a sense of defiance rather than just be angry and confrontational. It is the sense of internationalism I referred to earlier, it was great that we were able to get the South African influence in the song as well as the Arabic influence and the London electronic influence. As it is something I love doing musically any way, it is important that different musical worlds coexisted on this song.
LFG: In the awake of the BBC’s censoring the word “Palestine”, how this will affect the song “Freedom for Palestine” in case it hits the UK charts?
D. Randall: One of the reasons why we’re trying to get the songs into the charts is so it is much harder for BBC radio to ignore it, because, of course, what they want to do originally is to ignore it, because they don’t want to upset people who disagree with the song. But if we get it to the charts, they’ll be forced to play it. There is a chart count on the Sunday, and therefore we will know for sure whether they have a policy of censoring the word Palestine, because it is not official policy at the moment. But it did happen with the Mic Righteous track a few weeks ago. At the moment it is harder for us to promote the song, because radio stations tend to avoid playing anything which might be considered politically controversial. But if the BBC do censor this after we secure the chat position, then this will become a huge controversy in itself. So, all the campaign groups here in Britain will challenge the BBC to explain why they cannot say that word Palestine on radio. This will create a dilemma for the BBC. We hope, we’ll completely remove their policy of avoiding the word. We hope this song will help to break the silence.
LFG: the single was endorsed by the rock band Coldplay and called “Evil propaganda” by the TV persona Glenn Beck, what are the reactions you received from ordinary people?
D. Randall: the overwhelming response has been incredibly positive. I have received messages of support from inspirational people like the American writer Alice Walker; she sent us this beautiful endorsement, and I am just about to post on the internet a video endorsement we received from Archbishop Desmond Tutu. So, the vast majority of people have really felt moved and inspired by the song. I feel humbled by the messages of support we received. But some were critical of the song, but that does not really bother me. Of course, there are a small number of very committed Zionists who like to attack people on the internet. There are people who don’t know much about the issue, they get the wrong impression when we talk about Israel and Palestine that we are talking about some sort of intractable conflict between two equals. But the truth is this is one Western backed heavily armed state, Israel, illegally occupying this place. And this song is on the side of justice.
LFG: In your perspective, what role art in general, and music in particular, play in the culture of popular non-violent resistance?
D. Randall: Music can play different role. The priority for me in this song was to build international solidarity with the Palestinians. I encourage the people in UK to take up the call of boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel, the (BDS). The direct non-violent resistance in the West Bank and Gaza is fantastically important. I’m sure there are lots of Palestinian artists and musicians who writing about that. If we raise any money by selling “Freedom for Palestine”, a good percentage of that will go to the “Stop the Wall’ campaign in Palestine.
LFG: What challenges did/do you face during and after making the song?
D. Randall: It takes a lot of time. And I had to spend some of my money on things like renting recording studios and tickets to Durban and so on, but I felt it was like the least thing I could do to send this message of solidarity. For the problems we face after we made the song is that some people in the music industry that don’t understand and do not want to know what is going on will be upset of such explicitly political song. They will be worried about the business interests they have with Israel and so on. It’s no doubt that when you get involved in any political activity, you will upset some people. I am afraid this inevitable.
I am deviating from your question a bit, but the way the people’s revolutions and the revolutionary process which is continuing in Egypt have inspired people in Britain hugely. So people in Britain are going on strikes and demonstrating against their own government. And they are doing this partly because of the fantastic events taking a place in North Africa and the Middle East.
LFG: What’s next for OneWorld, will the project expand to involve more artists?
D. Randall: I hope this track will give confidence to other people who have been nervous about speaking up for Palestine, nervous for the reasons I mentioned. I hope artists in America will record a song with similar message. I hope this will be one contribution to an ongoing cultural Intifada.
LFG: how can the people support this single?
D. Randall: People in UK should certainly buy a copy from I-tunes or HMV Digital. The single will cost 79 pence. For the people of UK this is potentially the best 79 pence you can spend for Palestine, because if we get the song into the charts, it will be a big story here in the UK. But for people in Palestine and other parts of the world, we just need your help to push the song out through your blogs and through the different social networks online. It is one campaign tool among others that together will move towards the end of occupation and the freedom for Palestine.
“A unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah is reached”, this piece of news caught almost everyone off guard. After four years of bitter political division between the two factions, they came to an agreement to form a national interim government and prepare for an election. The out of the blue deal is a step that is hoped that will end the political dichotomy and end the siege on Gaza.
Officials confirm that this initial deal comes as result of secretive talks. Moreover, with the new Egyptian mediation, Hamas and Fatah say that “all their differences” are solved. As much as this step is considered a breakthrough by many, Palestinians’ reactions range from skepticism to cautious optimism.
In a press briefing organized by the Institute for Middle East Understanding , this topic was discussed with Ali Abuminah, Fadi Quran, and I. The news is still fresh, the coming days will be revealing how serious and solid this newly signed agreement is.
You can listen to the discussion here.
In some other topic still related to Palestine, American hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco released the music video of “Words I Never Said”. The track is no typical mainstream hip-hop song. Fiasco exposes mainstream politics, media, and stereotypes. One of the reasons why I loved the song is that he criticizes the American policy towards Israel and its silence regarding the situation in Gaza. With its call to reconsider politics, and media, “Words I never said” is a remarkable song since the mainstream music industry became a tool of mass ignorance.
You can watch the video below .