by: Rafat Abushaban
Gaza – Palestine
Entering the Danger Zone: Gaza Under Fire
Last month seems very distant from now. We were a team from the Business and Technology Incubator/IUG from Gaza participating for the first time in the Growing SMEs conference and meetings organized by BiD Network in the Netherlands held as a part of Global Entrepreneurship Week when the latest Israeli massacre on Gaza took place
The event was visited by Princess Maxima of the Netherlands and the Minister for Foreign Trade who have applauded the development of start-ups and businesses in Palestine. I am still catching up with my late work that has been delayed for weeks after experiencing intensive ground shaking Israeli air strikes in the Gaza strip last as Netanyahu’s government and the military decided to do a quick and dry operation to end military capabilities of Palestinian faction in Gaza, but events have escalated in a totally different and unexpected way, ending with the resignation of the Israeli defence minister a few days ago.
I have witnessed the last massacre “operation Cast-lead” in 2009 and can relate on how today looks different
We Were Taken by Surprise
While sitting in partner meetings in the event, a member of my group rushed in with the news. “There is a war in Gaza”, she said. We stood there in silence for a few moments and then it was all over the TV. It was a total surprise for some of our team members who were travelling outside Gaza for the first time as we debated on whether we stay put or rush back to our families under the Israeli shelling.
We have witnessed the last cast-lead operation three years ago and we know what the worst scenario can be: “The Israeli military firstly eliminates a so-called Bank of Targets including governmental buildings, shops, electricity generation plants, empty grounds and underground tunnels with thousands of rockets killing and wounding anybody around. After the infrastructure is devastated, a ground operation starts with tens of thousands of Israeli troops in high-tech tanks supported by artillery and jets to sweep the ground before the ground forces”.
Despite this, the government of Gaza has called on their essential staff to return to their works challenging the defacto Israeli curfew in a step that have stimulated people to leave their houses to buy necessary goods for their families in the case of the escalation continuing for a long time. We then made our decision to go back no matter what happens.
Entering the War-zone
After two sleepless nights travelling back, we have arrived at the Egyptian town of Rafah which is the twin city for the Palestinian town with the same name where the famous Rafah crossing to Gaza exists. Along the borders between Gaza and Egypt, there is a network of underground tunnels used to smuggle goods and foods into besieged Gaza as there is no commercial border between the two countries. The only borders for importing food, goods, medication, tools and equipments are under total Israeli control and are closed most of the time. Every now and then, Israeli air-strikes target these tunnels along the border line.
The clouds of smoke in Gaza could be seen clearly from far away which has raised our stress. We have arrived at the crossing early morning before the border was even open. The scene of tens of people queuing at the gates to enter Gaza was amazing and shocking in the same time. We had three or four air strikes a hundred meters away from the crossing where the ground and windows of the nearby Egyptian buildings were heavily shaking. When the border was open at 9 o’clock, a missile then has struck a nearby tunnel as if it was welcoming us back. People were talking around and joking to lift up their spirits and man shouted: “Let’s go. The air strikes air awaiting us!”
After finishing the inspection and entering Gaza, we were praying that we can make it home safely. I was asking about if we can go back using a potentially safe road along the beach, but I was told that it was destroyed. We discussed the possible routes of entering the city and then went with a taxi on a full speed. The roads were nearly empty except for ambulances, fire trucks and a few travellers like us rushing to reach their destinations before a strike occurs nearby. Israeli jets could be heard very clearly from everywhere along the way and destruction was visible in various places. We have passed through a couple of totally destroyed police stations and civilian buildings while the radio was giving the latest news about rockets being fired from Gaza
Home, Sweet Home
I was telling the driver for the directions to my home. When we have gotten closer, the road was blocked by the rubble of the vacant Saraya buildings that were targeted a few hours ago. Arriving a little late could save life sometimes!
The Saraya buildings –that were used in the old times as a military base and a prison by the PA- were targeted many times in the past until it became a deserted piece of land, but that did not prevent targeting it again and again, as apparently the Israeli bank of targets was running out.
We took and alternative route and finally arrived and I rushed to see my family members and friends. Later on that day, the air strikes were escalated so much as full civilian buildings were brought to the ground. Aldallou family including their four children were killed under the rubble of their home and the scenes of these children were on the television for the world to see.
When the night hours came in, the air strikes intensity and number increased dramatically and most people could not sleep before dawn, especially with the type of missiles used by the Israelis to shake the ground intentionally, which does feel like an earthquake. Unmanned air-drones could be heard all day long with their loud noise, looking for targets on the ground on a 24 hours basis.
The rubble of the Saraya complex in Gaza after being targeted many times by Israeli jets
Media offices in the main street of Gaza were targeted killing and wounding civilians and journalists and destroying media offices. A local bank that is used to pay the salaries of thousands of employees was fully destroyed in Gaza by direct missiles. The people who have died from the continuous bombings have exceeded 160 individuals with over a thousand wounded, mainly children, elderly, and entire families. Israeli propaganda messages were transmitted after hacking some local Palestinian channels and radio stations warning and threatening people. Other flyers were dropped from planes asking people living near the borders to leave their homes and move to city center, which most of the people has ignored.
On the last day of the escalation, the Israeli jets targeted a major civilian complex used by the government for arranging the travels of citizens called Abukhadra that was totally destroyed. The whole neighbourhood was affected and many nearby buildings caught fire
The rubble of Abukhadra complex in Gaza after being targeted by Israeli jets
Emergency Services were on the Go
Since the last massacre on Gaza in 2009, there has been an obvious change to the system and response of emergency services in the Gaza strip. Health services and Fire-fighters have undergone major restructuring to respond efficiently and quickly in a crisis time, which was evident during the last week. As soon as an airstrike occurs, one can see ambulances and fire trucks rushing to the place within seconds, not minutes. This has helped to save the lives of some, like when some media reporters were trapped inside Alshorouq tower as it was targeted two days ago and then the emergency crews and people managed to get them out of the burnt building.
Electricity and telephone teams were also something to be proud of. As soon as poles were destroyed, emergency teams rush into the place and restore it within hours. I can compare this with what has happened during the last massacre when the electricity poles where cut for more than 20 days. However, that does not mean that the electricity crisis is over as we still get electricity according to a schedule for a few hours every day.
Despite all the killing and destruction, the Palestinians have won by their patience. A cease-fire agreement was signed after 8 days of the aggression stating that the blockade on Gaza will be removed and people will be free to travel and import/export goods with the outside world. Still after one day of this agreement, a young man was killed by Israeli fire in Khan-younis in the Gaza strip for getting close to the border. Only time will tell if this agreement can last for long
United we can overcome the hurdles and defeat the occupation
Rafat Abushaban, a Palestinian activist living in Gaza. You can follow his blog on www.zaitoontree.com
Palestine – Gaza
Last week, I had an assignment to write an article about Women’s right. During my writing I found that i have a very narrow minded in women’s rights issue. I haven’t met a Chinese women nor a French one. What are the challenges that they facing in their life? Their main problems? .. I haven’t truly met any women except the Gazan ones as I’m living in Gaza.
So I decided that my article wouldn’t express The women’s rights but The Gazan’s women rights.
Nowadays, The developed countries target is to build up a perfect societies and the humanity is their basic rule.
As we all know that women’s role is complement whether she stands in the kitchen for cooking Or in the conferences hall to discuss, negotiate and manage her own business. Somehow both of these lifestyles outcomes is a productive woman.
In my opinion, Human rights is nothing but a culture. And usually cultures are gained by environment. Respecting women is a value which should be learned in schools, Universities and streets.
In my town “Gaza”.. I think the problem that women weren’t taught how to ask for their stolen rights in addition to their bad knowledge about their own rights.
freedom, dignity, humanity, respect, femininity and so on” these words for the majority is only words. They don’t know what is the real meaning or even how to apply these simple rights, also how their life would be after having a real woman life!
For example, I believe that one of the greatest women’s rights is to make mistakes without being judged whether from the society or herself! besides women can be educated and cultured in a very good way. Woman can be a wife or a politician.
As Islam said.. that we all were born to be free.
It’s time for us as a women to load our voices but first we should be totally convinced that we have a right to be whatever we want and that’s how we can convince the others.
Social Media Networks Burst Out the Arab Revolutions…
It seems like the world has shrunk into a tiny capsule where all seems within reach. The world moves so fast, and technology becomes easier, cheaper and available to everyone around the world with each passing day. Evolving so rapidly, internet access, social media networks, smart phones and cameras are utilized to be the pieces whereby the whole world is connected together. Once a piece of news is shared, it travels the world in a collaborative manner.
It is Continue reading →
When you are scared out of your wits and you don’t know what’s happening with you. trying your best to make yourself feel better while you are waiting for something and you don’t know what will happened to you ,, it’s the difficult thing a person can feel..
My journey with allergic started two years ago,, all I remember from the night I discovered that I Continue reading →
On 26 July 2012, the Gaza Culture and Development Group (GCD) organized a meeting with the Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza , Mr. Turner. The meeting opened with Mrs. Rawya Shawa, Chairman of the Board of Directors of GDC, welcoming Mr. Turner and all of the attendees and summarizing briefly the GCD current projects, namely Model United Nations and Kiyan Blog. Mrs. Shawa addressed the meeting by expressing her pleasure on behalf of the members of board of directors of the GCD to host Mr. Turner.
Mr. Turner, in turn, expressed his appreciation of the services offered by the GCD. He introduced himself as a Canadian citizen who has been working in humanitarian affairs & peace keeping missions in different countries. He appreciated the GCD projects, namely Model United Nations (MUN) as he participated in several conferences of MUN in high schools.
Mr. Turner also talked about UNRWA mission as the largest operational body under the UN around the world and the second largest employer in the Gaza Strip, pointing out that his job as a director is fundraising and setting general strategies and advocacy.
The attendees posed a number of questions on the significance of Palestine Model United Nations, and UNRWA’s role in the development and improvement of Gaza infrastructure and people’s life. Mr. Turner welcomed everyone’s concern and stressed that s.
The meeting concluded by Mrs. Shawa’s thanks to Mr. Turner for accepting to meet with the GCD’s projects target groups, and she hoped for future meetings. Mr. Turner, in turn, thanked all attendees and expressed his desire to participant in other meeting.
the dusky skies growl
the gloomy clouds gather up
they’ve reached a point where they can’t keep it no longer bottled up
the skies cry as I watch the little rain drops trickle down my window
as if they were tears
tears filled with nostalgia, longing, rage and anger
mixed feelings that combine all together
forming a never ending sea of despair
I’m stuck in the middle of it on this old feeble boat of mine
hanging on to the one thing that’s keeping me alive
I’m lost, cold and lonely
my so called paddles are all wrecked up now by the power of the outrageous waves of fury
the wind of sadness hits me hard but I try and stay steady
I breathe in the cold breeze as it takes everything inside of me along with it as I breathe out
leaving me hideously empty
echoes fill my hollow chest
oh how I wish the darkness from down under would just pull me in deep instead
the horrible winds are eating me bit by bit
the painful agony rips through me
as I watch myself slowly fade
A Palestinian particularly from the Gaza strip is characterized by the following.
First, politics is of his/her interests. That is to say, in order to be sociable, he/she should watch the news.
Second, places such as theaters, libraries, sport clubs do not exist in life.
Third, after being a volunteer and when he/she is to apply for a job, his/her CV will be full of ‘useless’ courses, and he/she will realize that they made no progress
Forth, when you are like others with green eyes, you’d better not to tell. Your intention will never be understood correctly.
If only everyone focuses on what he/she is good at, they will achieve something better. And let’s not forget to unite our aim.
by: Rafat Abushaban
The Fifteen hundred Palestinian hunger strikers have won their fight and will be treated well in Israel’s prisons from now on”; that was the cry of the people after Israeli government declared via the Palestinian Authority that it will adhere to the demands of the prisoners on May 14th. What was not revealed then is that this government was not ready to comply with prisoners’ demands and as a result, many of these prisoners including Mahmoud Sorsok and Akram Rikhawi are still undergoing their hunger strikes up until now.
Prisoners demanded for their basic human rights out from Israeli Prisons Service through undertaking hunger strikes for weeks. As far as the prisoners are concerned, Egypt has reached an understanding with the Israeli government to take the demands of prisoners into consideration and improve the life standards for their daily lives in detention. Although some demands were partially fulfilled by the Prisons Service, the misery of Palestinian prisoners is still ongoing.
After the victory of Hana shalabi and Khader Adnan who were freed last February and April respectively after going in such strikes, the stakes are high to end the Israeli inhuman acts in prisons once and for all. At the very least, prisoners demanded that detention conditions return to what they was like 12 years ago before the second intifada broke out. Many leaders of the previous hunger strikes are now threatening to get back to disobedience.
So, why to get angry for the sake of these prisoners?
1. Administrative detention as a strategy
Israel has adopted the administrative detention according to the British mandate emergency laws from 1945. This form of detention is applied when the Israeli state wants to lock somebody up but has no charges or evidence against them. The Administrative detention can be renewed every six months and for infinity as long as the detainee signifies a ‘threat’ according to the Israeli army or intelligence service.
The administrative arrest was commonly used to detain thousands during the first and second Intifadas to get rid of Palestinians stimulating resistance and disobedience against the Israeli policies, and it is still used up to this moment. In this context, Ahmed Saker has suffered from 13 years of imprisonment that were renewed each 6 months without a trial. That is why many Palestinians say that Administrative detention has a beginning but no ending.
After the declaration on the 14th May by Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah that the Israeli government will end unjustified administrative detention, a number of detainees including Hosam Khader and Mohammed Alnatsha were subject to the extension of their administrative arrest period for 6 months without charges.
2. Solitary confinement
Prisoners seen as ‘most dangerous’ who have an effect on other fellow prisoners are locked up in a special kind of imprisonment where they live alone for 23 hours a day in small room often with no windows where they do not have access to the outside world news, books, television and radio. Right now, Derar Abusisis is still held in such conditions despite the Israeli declaration that it will not keep any prisoners under this category.
3. No visits or belongings from Gaza
Ever since the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped into Gaza and kept there for 5 long years, the anger by the Israeli army and intelligence service -that tried so many leads to free him but Continue reading →
By: Rawya Shawa
The 1.7 or more million Gazans beleaguered by an unjust siege for six years and still controlled/occupied by Israel have a sole retreat to enjoy the summer holidays.
It’s the magnificent Beach of Gaza that people resort to in summer holidays. A long time ago, Gazans used to erect their own tents and spend days on the Beach, swimming, preparing and eating their meals, and playing games at nights.
Nowadays, there is a big problem which is the cancellation of UNRWA Gaza Games that target students. As a result, students are left with no shelter to enjoy their summer holiday. Despite the attempt of some private sectors to provide summer programs to engage the students, there are families that cannot afford the fees of such programs. However there are free of charge programs offered by non-governmental organizations, a few of students join for the lack of privileges, such as food and clothes.
Families and their children are requested to keep the Beach clean, respect the privacy of others, and protect their lives. On the other hand, the local authorities are responsible for keeping the Beach clean, providing efficient life guards, and providing safe and friendly spaces to stay and play.
Like before, the authorities should never interfere and obstruct people’s freedom and behavior. In other words, people should feel free enjoying the sightseeing of the Beach like any another nation.
- In modern history, elections are considered a tool to measure people’s tendency towards choosing their leadership.
The entire world is now witnessing a presidential election in Egypt, which is the central power of the Arab world. This is the first real election in history that will be held in Egypt on 25 and 26 May 2012.
This very historical event is furiously heating up among the candidates of head of state. The winning president will assume power with no stated authorities assigned to his mandate!
It’s noteworthy that the majority of the newly Parliament elected after the Revolution are Islamists? Out of the 13 candidates, opinion polls indicate that there are 4 front-runners, including two Islamists and two former officials from the deposed regime.
Unfortunately, 70% of Egyptians are illiterate; I assume those will play a major role in the race? Additionally, the unprecedented media in Egypt, including the audio-visual, will affect the mood of people.
As Palestinians, we have experienced the failure of democracy after the victory of Islamists. We believe that Egyptians should accept the result of the election no matter who wins. Their acceptance is an indicator of success of what is so-called “democracy” in the Arab world.
20 May 2012
By : Rawya Shawa
It has been prevented (prohibited) for Gaza woman to smoke both cigarettes and hubbly bubbly (hookah) in public. I’d like to thank who issued this kind of order that merely pertinent to woman!
I wonder why the government of Gaza headed attention to one half of society and ignored the second half regarding health?!
In principle, I’m against smoking. However, it is considered one of the human rights that should not to be intervened for both females and male.
Talking of both spheres of health and economy, smoking has adverse effects. In modern societies .it is not taboo! But prohibited in public places, such as public transportation, shopping areas, hospital, and workplace. I believe the reason beyond this ” prohibitation ” is the public health of individual.
Economically, smoking can significantly affect the budget of youth. I’d like youth to remember how much “a penny saved is penny earned” is important. Instead of burring tobacco (money), youth ought to be responsible and think of a “black” day that may come!!
Palestinians’ Indifference to Occupation?
Following the formal letter of President Abbas’ to Prime Minister Netanyahu, Palestinians have had different responses!!! Some are reluctant to proceed with the negotiations with the Israeli side as Palestinian legitimate conditions are always rejected by the latter. Others are absolutely against renegotiation?!
What struck me is that the majority of Palestinians are indifferent vis-à-vis the political situation. A friend of mine said that he stopped watching the news a long time ago! I believe our leadership failure to reach an agreement after each futile negotiation made people fed up with the current political situation, and thus reschedule their plans and priorities in life, such borders, fuel, and jobs. As a result, we have become an indifferent people.
Is it because our leadership failed to deliver any success in the political level during the past sixty years? Or is it because the negotiator team failed politically and legally to negotiate the details of the agony of Palestinians?
by: Wagehah Al-Abyad
As a Muslim, Smiling’ is something our prophet urged us to do, also smiling is a nature reaction for being a human.
I remember a very funny guy who was behind the donkey cart. He was screaming through his modest microphone and he was making jokes loudly, truly for one moment he made me forget the garbage which is everywhere in the street also the sunlight which was straight to my head, the people’s frown faces and finally my long tiring day. He just made me laugh.
What surprised me that everyone was looking at him strangely and they didn’t even smile. Although they think he’s a fool guy, I think he’s normal.
smiling is like you are radiating the positive energy to make yourself and others happy.
I believe that universities and colleges are the platforms of youth’s voice and innovative ideas and thoughts. That was certainly true 40 years ago. Sorrowfully! this belief has been deviated by political forces!
In our time, I for one think youth today have effortless interests in life, thinking of activities such as: sports, enjoy technology, study, share emotions of love and hatred, and the like. Their mindsets(?) are based on economic hardships that are a result of the global financial recession, which, in turn, brought about an unstable political life.
Such a situation leads us to evaluate the role of our educational minarets of universities and colleges today. The evaluation should include the provision of cultural values and creative ideas. My direct question now is “who is responsible for the lack of youth critical and creative thinking?”, particularly in the absence of the role of universities_ a source of the formation of collective consciousness in the sixties.
Are Palestinians aware and conscious of what’s happening around them? Are Palestinian governments planning for development and progress? Do they discuss and propose solutions to the political, social, and economic problems encountered? Do Palestinian people have confidence in their leadership? Do they know where they are heading to? Are they going to live another similar 60 years of occupation and chaos? Are they certain of what to tell their descendants, the future generation? Are they certain of their future? Is it going to be a prosperous life without anxiety and frustration? Is the new generation going to enjoy freedom, unity, and independence like any other nations in the entire world?
These issues are posed to be discussed from a national perspective.