Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Scream

By Edvard Munch

Everything was grey and dark and filled with glittery charcoal dust. It was a warped setting, and I was traveling in between time zones. The scenes flitted every few seconds but there was something constant, and it was the feeling of dread, that heavy leaden weight in the pit of your stomach.

Finally one scene was forming into something concrete. My uncle Mahmoud was standing against a wall, anguish etched into every fiber in his body. I looked around and saw people sitting on mattresses, bowing their heads and silent. It was a funeral wake. There was a bombing. Someone had died. The people were blurred, their setting not important. Mahmoud was propped up by the wall,  his face ashen and smeared with dirt and dust. Where were his children?

My mother suddenly appeared and was standing next to the wall. And then Mahmoud spoke, in a mechanical way of someone forced to speak.

"I didn't want to take all the children out of the house. I wanted to leave the girls behind, perhaps the house would be safer for them. But we all fled."

What was he talking about? How many girls did he have? I began naming them on my fingers...ah that's right, three boys, five girls..the twin girls are five years old now, followed by the youngest, who is three. Mahmoud stared right through me.

"If I had insisted on the girls staying behind, then the twins wouldn't have been killed."

"Stop it," my mother whispered. "Stop blaming yourself, stop."

As the realization dawned on me, the scene began to flake away, dissolving into darkness. I woke up gasping for breath, my mouth open in a silent scream, the sheets drenched with tears.

A few hours later, when the sun was properly up, I read the news that for the first time since the summer invasion, Israel had bombed the Qarara area of Khan Yunis. No one was killed, but another layer was added to the post-traumatic stress disorder to the people there. Mahmoud's family woke up screaming, and I wondered if they preferred to be alive screaming or to die all together to end this nightmare once and for all.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My son was my dream. My dream has been killed.

My son was in uniform in the morning. He is in a casket now," Tahir Ali, cried out as he came to collect his 14-year-old son's body from the hospital. "My son was my dream. My dream has been killed."

I often wonder how people are so comfortable in bringing children into this world. Schoolchildren are "soft targets" for dangerous psychopaths. 

132 of them. Plus 9 faculty staff.

Over 1,000 schools targeted since 2009.

The leader of the monsters said: "We targeted their kids so that they could know how it feels when they hit our kids."

The smallest coffins are the heaviest. 

Recycled quotes. No analysis, no theorizing, no poem, no ad nauseum essay on humanity/inhumanity.

There are just no words.
Source: BBC

Saturday, November 29, 2014

District Line

Stopping, guttering, surging forward, slowing down
Bodies swaying, heads lolling, nodding off
A rhythmic pattern
With a book open on my lap
Eyes drooping, then flashing awake again
Marking Simon Bolivar's cry of "We shall never be happy, never!"
The montoneros rose up, surged forward,
only to be cut down brutally, exterminated
There's a creativity in stopping their motion
A horrific creativity that belies evil
Let's go to Latin America this summer, we agreed
We'll drink with the peasants, have tempestuous affairs, destroy the system, or become martyrs
for a cause that's a million miles away from our home.
The lulling again
A shiny patent leather heel emerges underneath an expensive coat
My mud-stained shoes wink and grin
A herd of cattle avoiding eye contact in rush hour
and all other hours
I rest my head on the glass panel
The flag was burned, and a few people objected
The majority whooped and cheered
Another stop, followed by a fluid motion
A land, because of its richness, made its people poor
Final destination
We were pulled out of the womb
And avoided making this world a habit
Fish swimming against the current
How harrowing
No rest for our arms or respite to our souls until we break the chains of those who oppress us
He said. How do we get out of this labyrinth?
No standing on the left.
We shall never be happy, never!

- an attempt at a poem

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dog's Walking Song

I will eat clouds with you, my famous Verónica. 
It will be the night of sirens, of police searching 
empty apartments for a starfish, 
of the bird that wanted to be a girl. 
It will be the day when the school flew.
The bicycles, the rollerblades
have worn down the moon and you don’t come
for teatime at home when it snows. Don’t you know?
I see a forest spinning in the washing machine.
But whenever you want, when you say so,
I will eat with you the hot apples
that tell us: time is a dream, too, the lost fisherman
who in the heavens made of linen wouldn’t know how to read my cards anymore.
Just a bit, a story, a small fragment.
That’s what we are,
drifting cupcakes.
But OK, what are you saying, so solemnly.
Now it doesn’t tend to rain and sunshine doesn’t come in: everything’s different,
say it like this,
everything’s in a different way.
It’s OK, it’s OK, what I want to say
is that we’ve seen things no one would believe:
for example, the harbor on the roof of the room.
I remember vaguely having once gone ashore there,
and everything was orange, the cars, the merchants shouting,
and the machines’ cranes cawing, and mosques in flames, insurrections perhaps.
No one knew to tell me: so many people in turbans.
What will I do with these fragments,
this work of burying bones.
There’s an antique piano on the hill.
When you return Ornella. The privateer plunders the Estate
Delegations in each village.
That’s also how I remember being happy
and another way was by invading the freshness, the years
were leaping forward like trout, the crystal was breaking
and that was our fortune. You came singing in the avalanche.
And now you already see it: inclined this way, I couldn’t spread the morning over us,
the yellow rollerblade that was scraping lines on life.
Oh llamando, llamando, llamando. This is the voice of the shepherds calling.
I wanted to live there and solitude
would ring out at times because you
were speaking or returning from work. And the children tell me
about our trip from yesterday, the moments never
will return and they are mine.
Perhaps our home wasn’t beautiful, deserted in twilight,
with the centuries breaking in like branches?
Do you like this outfit?
I will open the walnut shell’s windows.
With perhaps a little bit of our childhood, with a rusty gesture,
with the white words of winter, with the longing to be
fugitives and young, learning to swim in the adventure,
with that living moment, with the moss on my snout,
traveling through the land from rooftop to rooftop,
with some sort of smile, with the first months of love,
with the days that fall from our ellipse,
with your embrace, which is water, with the things we were,
binding all of this, who knows,
perhaps we have a satchel,
a happy satchel and to walk, to walk.

* By José Luis Rey, translated by David Francis

h/t Budour

Saturday, November 22, 2014

ما نشهده من الماضي والحاضر والواقع

انني أشعر أكثر من أي وقت مضى أن كل قيمة كلماتي كانت في أنها تعويض صفيق وتافه لغياب السلاح وأنها تنحدر الآن أمام شروق الرجال الحقيقيين الذين يموتون كل يوم في سبيل شيء أحترمه، وذلك كله يشعرني بغربة تشبه الموت وبسعادة المحتضر بعد طول إيمان وعذاب، ولكن أيضا بذل من طراز صاعق.

-غسان كنفاني

I feel, more than any other time, that the value of my words is like a silly compensation for the absence of resistance weapons, and that it now bows in front of the glory of the real men who die every day for something I respect. All of that makes me feel a sense of longing similar to death, and the happiness of a dying person after a long journey of faith and torture, but also a striking sense of humiliation. 

-Ghassan Kanafan

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

من اتعس ما يكون


 اليوم كان ابن كلب مسخم وملعون. علمونا أن لا نشتم الدهر ولكن نحن فعلياً نقصد الأحداث, والله يعلم ما في القلوب. الاجتماع مع المديرة الساعة ٩ صباحا.. وطبعا فقت من النوم الساعة ثمانية ونص وخمسة ابرم واتمتم والطش هون وهناك, ستيانة, بلوزة, فرشاية أسنان, جرابات.. وين الجينز؟ يلعن ها- لبستهم اختي وطلعت على الجامعة وأنا نايمة…كإنه فش جينز في كل البيت إلا تبعوني, طيب, رح اورجيها لما تروّح -- فش وقت للردح يا بنت اتحركي. اللي بعده, انت يا بنطلون تعال البسني. صحيح رن المنبه بس رجعت أنام, رجعت للحلم. كنت أحلم فيه للمرة الثانية وحرارة جسمه لما احتضنا خدعتني وفكرت أن الحلم هو الحقيقة.

 وصلت المكتب الساعة التاسعة الربع ٩،  إنجاز عظيم. طليت على المديرة متوقعة  أن تعبس بوجهي ولكنها فاجأتني بابتسامة صادقة: "أهلين , صباح الخير. آه يلا. "
 حضرت نفسي وجلست بمقابلها.
"إحنا بدنا نعمل تقليص.. فش تمويل واللي بوخدوا رواتب صعب نكمل معهم. "

 وافقتها الرأي. كنت أنظر إليها ولا أرى سوى إبريق القهوة السادة الساخنة وسيجارة الصباح  تلوّح لي.

سكتتْ  ثم قالت: "يعني انتِ كمان . بس أنا متأكدة رح تحصلي على شغل تاني, هيّك بتكتبي منيح. بعدين معطيتك شهر ترتبي أمورك, منيح؟"

منيح . رسمت ابتسامة سخيفة على وجهي وهززت رأسي بشكل أوتوماتيكي.  تصورت نفسي وانا أقلب المكتب على ظهره وأجعجع بأعلى صوتي ، ولكني بلعت الغصة الحامضة  وتركت الغرفة..لم أهتم كثيراً لعملي هذا فلماذا أهتم الآن لتقليصي؟

ركبت سيارة سرفيس للبلد ..ومن هناك  سرفيس آخر لسجن بيتونيا/ عوفر.. وبعد أول نقطة تفتيش سرفيس آخر لنقطة التفتيش الثانية. سمعني المجند المغفل البدين وأنا أتكلم بالإنجليزية مع صديقتي الكندية وسألني:  من وين إنتِ؟

 تجاهلته. كم مرة يجب أن يسلو أسئلة غبية؟! على الحواجز, عند نقاط التفتيش, على جسر اللنبي, وأحياناً أثناء المظاهرات السلمية.. أيعقل أن فتاة  فلسطينية ترتدي الحجاب وتتقن اللغة الانجليزية!  يا له من اندهاش عظيم!

أشارت المجندة  لي أن أتبعها بعد ما أمروني بخلع جزمتي ووضعها على ماكينة الأشعة.  لم أشعر أن الجحرة والشتائم الداخلية التي وجهتها لهم كافية.

تبعت المجندة إلى غرفة التفتيش الشخصي، بدأت تمرر ماكينة الفحص اليدوية  بين رجلي أكثر من مرة.. أمرتني أن أرفع  بلوزتي. رفعتها والحقد ينقط مني.. أما الكراهية فتمركزت في فتحة أنفي. سلمية سلمية, أجائتني رغبة أن أضحك بصوت عالي. أمسكت المجندة بستيانتي من الأمام وأدخلت أصابعها بالداخل وهي تنظر إلي،  حدقتُ في وجهها ببرودة. أصابعها لازالت بالداخل. وانزلق الكلام بشكل تلقائي من فمي: "شو, شايفة  من كبرهم أنه مهرّبة بلطة أو شاكوش؟!"

تجاهلت كلماتي  وقالت لي: "لفي.." إستدرت  برشاقة راقصة الباليه.  رفعت رأسي وركزت بصري على الحائط.  تبنيت اللغة  الفصحى المبالغة  والتي يستعملها الأشرار في مسلسلات الرسوم المتحركة  وخاطبتها ذهنيا: "لن أهتم بك يا وسخة, لن أكترث لاستفزازك يا بغيضة."

انزلقت يداها بجيب البنطلون وهي تعصر وتدير أصابعها على مؤخرتي. نظرت إليها : "شكلك مستمتعة؟" رفعت حاجبها وابتسمت بشكل بارد ثم نطقت: "أوكي, يو كان جو ناو."


 مسحت يدي على قميصي وخرجت من الغرفة بكرامتي. ولم أشعرها أني تضايقت أو انحرجت أبدا. وصلت ساحة الانتظار حيث عائلات المعتقلين ينتظرون وقت محاكم أبنائهم.. تفاجأت عندما رأيت غرف المحاكم.. ما هي إلا عربات مثل كرفانات مستوطنة جديدة ..الحارس وراء السياج ابتسم لي وبعد ما أمرته (نعم, أمرته) بالانجليزي ( لا أحب مخاطبتهم بلغتنا ) أن يؤشر لي على العربة التي يحاكم فيها  "فلان" اخبرني بكل نغاشة أنه لا يتكلم الا اللغة العربية.

تذمرت: "والنعم .. ازغرد واصقفلك يعني؟"
-ولا شي .

لا أعرف في أي عربة ستجري محاكمة " فلان." اخذت افتح أبواب العربات ( عددها ستة ) واطل برأسي داخلها حتى لاحقني جندي وبدأ يصرخ في وجهي. حاولت  تجنبه  لكي لا أفقد أعصابي. تدخل الحارس الذي لا ينطق إلا اللغة العربية  بسرعة  ووجهني إلى العربة الأولى.

دخلت وكان فلان واقف, يرتدي زي سجن الاحتلال (الشاباص)  يجيب اعلى اسئلة المحامي بكل هدوء..وكأن في هدوئه استحقاراً عميقاً ممتداً من المحكمة العسكرية للكيان الصهيوني بأكمله. الجندي الذي كان يترجم من العبرية للعربية صغير السن ومن السهولة استحقاره,  وكذلك  القاضي الذي يجلس وعلامات الملل مرسومة على وجهه. المترجم والمحامي الفلسطيني تجادلا أكثر من مرة بخصوص الترجمة.

- سي في .. شو سي في؟؟
- يعني السيرة الذاتية بالعربي 
- والكلمة العبرية؟

تدخل المعتقل فلان: اسمها سي في..مفيش كلمة إلها بالعبري.

 رن  هاتف المجند الآخر الذي كان في الغرفة وأجاب دون أن يخرج من غرفة المحكمة.  المدعي تثاءب ونظر حوله بضجر ليعْلمنا بطريقته  ما أنه هنا رغماً عنه  وأنه  يريد أن يكون في مكحمة مدنية في مدينة أخرى احتلها هو وأجداده. رفع القاضي رأسه قليلاً  وهو يستمع للجندي الذي يترجم والمحامي الفلسطيني وهما يتخاصمان على كلمة أخرى تم ترجمتها بشكل فظ. المعتقل مازال واقفا بكل هدوء والحارس ينظر إلينا نحن الحاضرون بكل ارتياب.


خرجت ودخلت عربة ثانية, غرفة المحكمة رقم خمسة. هذه العربة أصغر بكثير وفيها عدد من المقاعد المنزوعة من مكانها. انتبهت لهذا لاحقا لأن عيني تجمدت على الفتية الثلاث خلف القفص بقربي.. والذين أيضا  يرتدون زي الشاباص وايديهم وارجلهم مكلبشة. لسعتني الآية القرآنية: " إنهم فتية آمنوا بربهم وزدناهم هدى".

أولاد صغار! عيونهم تتراقص بين محاميهم والقاضي وأهاليهم..حاولت أن أطمئنهم  بإبتسامة  أدركت  كم هي سخيفة.. ولكن ماذا علي أن افعل؟! وعلى ماذا يمكنني طمئنتهم؟ على سنتين او ستة  أشهر أو شهرين حبس مع كفالة؟ هؤلاء الأطفال يشكلون تهديداً وخطراً أمنياً على دولة النازية. صدق من قال ان اللص دائما ينظر وراءه بقلق وتوعك.

جلس والد أحد الاولاد بجانبي وكنا أقرب لهم وفوق ثرثرة القاضي والمحامي والمترجم, تحدث مع ابنه الذي كان أصغر واحد في المجموعة.      

                         -محمد, كيفك يابا؟                                  
                                      -الحمدلله منيح                                          
                                      -امك وخواتك بخير وبسلموا عليك                            
                                      -الله يسلمهم..سلم عليهم                                    
                                      -محمد بتنظم وقتك في السجن؟                                      
                                      -بتنظم وقتك في السجن؟ تضيعش وقتك ضلك اقرأ                            
                                      -آه عم بقرأ كتير                                           
                                      -في كتب كثير؟                                        

 نزق المترجم المجند, هدووووء! شيكيت! تواصلت المحاكمة. هنا أيضاً يوجد جندي يتكلم ويلعب على تليفونه. همس الوالد بشكل حاد, مسخرة. ثم قال بصوت أعلى بقليل:                          

                                 -محمد بعد ما ضربوك في سيارة الجيب, ضربوك كمان مرة؟ 
                                 -عندك اواعي وغيار؟                                  
                                 -من وين؟                                    
                                 -أعطوني أول ما دخلت القسم                  
                                 -مين اللي أعطوك؟                            
                                 -حاولنا نجيب اواعيك بس ما سمحولنا              
                                 -مش مشكلة

انتهت المحكمة بتأجيل الجلسة للأسبوع القادم . وقف الفتية. أسرع الوالد بآخر توصاية:  

                                -توخذش أدوية منهم                            
                                -حافظ على صلاتك..ابعد عن اللي بدخنوا..دير بالك ابني                              
                                - سلام يابا

قبل أن نخرج جاؤوا بالفوج الثاني من المعتقلين. شباب في أوائل العشرينات من أعمارهم. حدقوا بنا، وضاق خلقي! احسست بلحظتها أنني صغيرة, تافهة, حشرة . اردت ان أتقيأ. جئنا لننتظر محاكمتهم وننظر اليهم كأننا في متحف ما وبعد ساعة نفترق.  يرجعون إلى السجن ونحن نذهب إلى المقهى أو العمل أو البيت ونكتب عن التجربة من وجهة  نظرنا وهي مازالت مطبوعة في ذاكرتنا الهاوية. هل يوجد أنانية أكبر من هذه؟ بلحظتها قلت لنفسي: كلنا في سجن واحد. أي سجن أكثر صعوبة؟ الزنزانة وساعة الساحة والكنتين والزي البني؟ أم السجن الأكبر المليء  بالاوهام وحركة السير والمطاعم والأهالي وقيود المجتمع والفردانية بسبب عدم التأقلم مع كل هذا؟

من هو الأكثر صعوبة واكثر انضغاطاً؟


أدركت لاحقاً أن من الممكن قد وقعت في فخ التفكير الليبرالي. تذكرت عندما تجولت وسط المدينة عندما كنت في السنة الثانية من الجامعة لأسأل مجموعة عشوائية  من الأفراد ماذا يعني لهم "السجن" وفقا لمشروع بحثي للجامعة. عندما سألت السؤال لصاحب مطعم وبار ركز مرفقيه على الطاولة وصمت لفترة. حاولت قراءة عينيه. هل عانى من تجربة الحبس أيام شبابه؟ هل سؤالي دفعه لتذكر التعذيب الذي تلقاه من الصهاينة؟ في النهاية نظر في وجهي, وقال ببطئ: السجن...هنا. أشار إلى رأسه. سقط فكي من مكانه. أغلقته وبلعت ريقي وانتظرته ليكمل.

"السجن..حالة ذهنية. احنا بنرسم لحالنا حدود وقوانين. عندما نحرر عقولنا, سوف نتحرر بالواقع."

تخيلت ردة فعل الأسرى إذا سمعوا ما قاله صاحب المطعم والبار. في المساء, عندما جلست وكتبت عن المشروع, اندرج كلامه في ورقتي تحت لعنة "الليبرالية."

فهمت وجهة نظره لاحقا, بعد الخروج من قفص الجامعة الذي يكبح ويمنع التفكير البديل ويدفعنا لتصنيف كل شيء بالأبيض والأسود. عرّف الفيلسوف السجن بأنه أكثر من مجرد حرمان الانسان من حريته, وضاف أن الروح تشكل حبس للجسم.

محمد ١٤ سنة. عندما انهالت عليه قوات الاحتلال بالضرب المبرح أثناء اعتقاله, كسروا تقويم أسنانه. محمد متفوق في دراسته. في برهة خاطفة, ابتسم لأبيه ثم خرج وعاد إلى السجن. بقي هناك شهرين بتهمة رمي الحجارة على المستعمرين. هنالك حالات لايمكن إلا ان تكون في سياق الأبيض والأسود. والحقيقة هي أن واقعنا عبارة عن كابوس مليء بالقضبان والسلاسل الخانقة.

عدت إلى رام الله. وصلت مكتبي. استقبلوني الأجانب الذين يعملون معي  برواية أحداث ليلتهم الماضية يروون لي بالتفصيل الممل عن الحفلة الموسيقية (كنت حابة أحضرها ولكن لا أستطيع لأنها في القدس).

-كانت حلوة كتير .. لا لا كانت روعة..كتير انبسطنا.

سئمت منهم. كل مرة بعد يوم الجمعة أو يوم الاثنين يأتون إلى المكتب بكامل طاقتهم  وإشراقهم يتكلمون عن مغامراتهم في حيفا أو يافا التي لا تخرج عن سياق البار والبحر والنوادي الليلية ..تخليت عن فكرة التحدث معهم بخصوص الحياء والحساسية والأخلاق الطيبة والقضية الشائكة (لم يفهموا) من اعلان ورواية رحلاتهم إلى بقية هذه البلد الملعونة لشعب الله المغضوب عليه والمتقوقع في كانتونات.

ذهبت إلى المطبخ وحضرت القهوة السادة. ركزت مرفقي على المجلى ونظرت من النافذة التي تطل على الساحة الخلفية للكنيسة المجاورة لبناية المكتب. في وسط الساحة,  تمثال مريم العذراء ينظر للسماء. وجه مريم المرمري  يبدو منهكاً وصبوراً ومتناقضاً. عيناها الفارغتان تخاطبان السماء بأسى, وشفتاها مدموغتان بالرضا. 

علمونا أن كل شيء مكتوب في اللوح المحفوظ, وأن القدر لا يتزحزح إلا بالدعاء المستجاب. وتعلمنا أن هذه البلاد تجعل من المؤمن كافر, أو تلقيه في حفرة المصير: هكذا تدور الحياة, قضاء وقدر, كل شيء مكتوب, هل تعترض على حكم ربنا؟ 

نعم, أعترض. أعترض على سخافتكم واسترضاء  نفوسكم المريضة بصب لعنة الكون علينا تحت تفسير القدر. جائتني رغبة  في أن أدير تمثال العذراء إلى مكان آخر يطل على التلال والأفق الممتد للبحر والحياة, وليس إلى السماء. فكرت بلحظتها وقلت لنفسي: "إذا طلعتي من البلد إوعك ترجعي. إوعك ترجعي للكابوس والقيود والسجن الملموس والسجن الذهني."


ولكن..هل ينجو المرء من الحبس حتى اذا تركه؟

أمهات السجناء العزابية من "الفرسان الثمانية" في ٢٠١٢ أخبروني عن أمنيتهم لأولادهم عندما كانوا يرتجفون بين الحياة والموت في "مذبحة الرملة" (مستشفى السجن):  "نفسي أزوجه لبنت حلال وأفرح فيه". وبعد خروجهم واستعاد عافيتهم من الإضراب ، قالولي بإستحياء اجابة لسؤالي عن خطتهم المستقبلية: "ان شاء الله سأتزوج وأربي عائلة وأبقى فعّال في قضية الأسرى."

اين هم الآن؟ انهم يقبعون. اعتُقلوا مرة أخرى عادوا يعدون أيام انتهاء مصيرهم.

وماذا عن محمد وأبيه؟ خرج محمد بعد شهرين مع كفالة. مرّت اكثر من سنة بعد تجربته واستشهد أخوه الأصغر منه سنا عُروة يوم ١٨ تشرين الأول. اقتحمت قوات الاحتلال قريتهم سلواد, ورصاصة القناص الاسرائيلي لقيت هدفها ومزقت شريان رقبته لتخرج من رأسه, ورشت الأرض بقطع من دماغه. كان الوالد في الولايات المتحدة, وأسرع الى جنازة ابنه.

                                    -شو صار يا محمد؟                              
                                                  -تصاوب عُروة بس هيهم نقلوه للمستشفى                          
                                                  -شو صار يا محمد؟                            

 هل من مفر من كل هذا؟ قصصهم وروايتهم وتجاربهم واسمائهم واحلامهم وطموحاتهم واعتقالهم وحياتهم قبل الاعتقال وحياتهم أثناء الاعتقال وحياتهم بعد وحياتهم الآن..

كنت أعتقد  أن "كل هذا" سيصبح  ذكريات مغبرة بمجرد انتقالي لعالم آخر مليء بالأوهام والإلهاء المرحب، و لكن كل هذه الذكريات والمشاعر والقصص تجتاحني الان، لأجد نفسي على مركب قُذِف في بحر من أمواج الشك والاحتراس والتأملات.

لا, لا يوجد مفر. نحن من الأدباء والكتاب (والاضافة الأخيرة إلى المعجم-المدونين) أصحاب الحس الذاتي و-بين قوسين-النقطة المقيتة التى تجعل العالم يدور حولنا اخترنا الهروب من الواقع ومستنقع الاشمئزاز والموت والظلم والاضطهاد على عدة مراحل. ولذلك تأخرنا. تعمقنا كثيرا, وتعرقلنا هناك.

تخيلت الأسير فلان, الذي وقف بكل هدوء وتكتم في المحكمة وحاول يصحح الترجمة...تخيلته ينظر إلي من زنزانته (نعم, فهو أيضا تم اعتقاله بعد ثلاثة أشهر من خروجه) بشفقة ورثاء ويقول: استمري بالمنفى الاختياري, واستمتعي بهذه العاصفة التي لم ولن تفارقك أبدا. انها لعنة الدنيا, فلذلك اعفينا عن صراعك الداخلي. استمري بكتابتك الركيكة, فمن المعروف ان الفعل لن يأتي من اشكالك. البحر الهائج الوجيه الذي انتِ فيه أهون من السجن, الا تعلمين ذلك؟

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Inas Shawkat Khalil

Inas Shawkat Khalil, killed by an Israeli settler on October 19

When I found out she was his daughter, I was jolted back to ten years ago. Ten years...a single decade. I forgot older people continue to grow. An adult is still on the ride, growing, developing, turning into husbands, fathers, wives, mothers. As a teenager you expect the adults in your life to remain stagnant, forgetting they also have lives of their own.

He was our driver for the first year we moved to Ramallah. He took us to school every morning and picked us up every afternoon.

I can’t remember if he smoked inside the car or not. He didn’t wear his seatbelt, because there wasn’t a fine against that back then. None of us wore seatbelts. The car was always clean, and sometimes I’d feel sorry for him as he’d stand patiently outside in the sweltering heat trying to spot us from the shrill gaggle of chirping schoolgirls. A girls’ high school is like hell on earth, with so much drama, wild imagination and sexual repression. Not to mention that the teachers regarded any male outside the prison walls of school over the age of puberty as a threat to their sacrosanct students.

He was polite, and made us feel at ease by either not talking or sticking to generic subjects like the weather. Whenever we were late coming down in the morning, he would good-naturedly sit in his taxi and wave off our apologies, even it was a particularly frosty morning.

Gradually, school wasn’t the only place he would drive us to. He got to know my grandmother’s and my aunts’ houses. As the months went by, we gave in to small talk. I wonder what impressions he must have had of my siblings and I, with our accented Arabic and excessive politeness. These are the only memories I have of him because they've become watered down in the torrent of other blended years, representing something akin to the outer ripples from the stone thrown in the river.

I can’t remember his face. It's not as captivating as his daughter's. He was just another twenty-something year old Palestinian young man who put too much gel in his black hair, wore the low-waist faded blue jeans that guys his age found popular, and displayed the inexplicable style of growing his pinky nail that a lot of taxi drivers adopt.

We didn’t have a car back then, and it took us a couple of years to finally settle down which meant that throughout that period, we lived in five different houses. The last one was a 15 minute walk to school from the main road. The only problem I had with that was enduring the daily verbal sexual harassment from the uniformed and armed bastards, that is, the Palestinian Authority security forces. I hated it, and I hated them, but there was never a chance a crazy Israeli settler would run over and kill me. Guess that’s one of the perks of living within the parameters of the PA compound security zone.

His daughter looked like her mother. I’ve avoided clicking on the link to the video where his wife, grief-stricken and shocked, cries as she tries to speak while the camera encroaches into her space. In some of the other photos, she's clutching their daughter's Hello Kitty bag.

What were you going to learn at your nursery that day? Did you normally walk with your friend Touleen Asfour? Did your families teach you to hold hands whenever you walk on the road? Were you a precocious child, who could already read and write and count to 100? Did you enjoy painting, or colouring, or drawing? Why didn’t your father take you to school that morning, Inas, oh God why didn’t he?!

I’m not blaming him, it’s not that. I don't even know if he still has his taxi. I forgot he got older, you see, and that he got married and became a father. Maybe it was such a routine walk for you they had no reasons to worry or imagine the worst-case scenarios. It’s devastating. I wish he drove you there. And then picked you up later that afternoon, instead of from the morgue.

Rest in power, little Inas. It might comfort your parents knowing that you’re above us, watching us. It might not. I don’t know. Ensuring safe roads to walk on for God’s chosen miserable folk was never part of the neoliberal state-building agenda. It just seems so inappropriate to turn this into a surge of vitriol directed against the monsters that are in control of the land and the vile beasts that profit from that control, who fill their decadent hollow voids in their lives at the expense of little girls walking to their nurseries. 

Your father drove me and my sister and brother to school once upon a time. He's a good man, reliable and patient. Ten years is a long time, as well as a fleeting moment. You were born in the middle of it, and you're already gone. I hope your parents will have the patience to endure. It seems gratuitous saying that as you were snuffed out of their lives by that murdering cowardly settler. Your sweet quiet smile won't be forgotten. It's not enough, it never is, and we're cursed with remembrance in the face of this continued atrocious impunity. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Yes Folk


On a warm grey morning in Glasgow, the city of decisive contradictions and figurative language involving tiresome Braveheart renditions of "Freedom!" and kilts and haggis, I clambered into a taxi just off of George Square. My previous experiences reporting live from the belly of the beast in attractive war zones taught me that it never gets old to equate an entire country with one city and jumble them all up with repeated stereotypes and imagery. I was eager to begin my intensive, award-winning analytical journalistic probing of the most loquacious specimen of any given native in a foreign country: the driver.

As a white van nearly corralled us off the road by veering into our lane without so much of a blinking indicator, the driver-- as testament to the universality of all other cab drivers in the world-- swerved to one side and swore.

"What the fuck are you doing you stupid wanker!"

My alien but otherwise cultured self savored the swear words as my senses tingled with the colloquial litany. I briefly imagined myself at a dinner party relaying to a captive audience the unique experience of being in a car with a foul-mouthed taxi driver. I smiled inwardly. Everyone will be so jealous of my awesome adventures, I thought.

We pass by Queen Street, and I seize the opportunity to get the conversation flowing.

"I bet that name will have to be changed once independence comes," I remark offhandedly.
The driver chortles.
"Pity the queen loves Scotland," I press.
"Aye, it's true. She has an estate called Balmoral she always comes to. Look, I don't mind the queen as a person, I just hate what she stands for, you know, the entire establishment."
"So are you voting yes?"
"Of course sister. And I'll give you two reasons why. Bloody traffic!" he suddenly yelled.
"Traffic is rather unusual at this hour," I offer.
"I don't fucking get why though. It's never like this."
"The vote..."
"I'm getting to that. First of all, I want my vote to count. Whoever I vote for has to represent me and my community and not be in fucking Westminster all the way in London. The second reason is that I don't want my country to be involved in foreign bloody wars. Blair, Gordon, Cameron- what's the difference? They're all pricks."
"Fair enough."
"So where are youse from?"

My insides deflate. "Palestine," I grumbled.
"Oh I'd love to go there! you've got family there?"
"Yes," I reply stoically.
"Are they ok? Do you know any charities I could donate to? I'd love to help-"
"The armed resistance? That's a good idea."
The driver laughed nervously. Then he shouted, "Fuck! Stupid GPS just turned off! I have to pull in this road, this will only take a couple of minutes, sorry."

Conversation ends.


That night, at a packed dinner party that served vegetarian haggis and bolognese, J. walked in the room with a dog called Ruben that had a Palestine flag tied around its neck.

"Some guys on my way here didn't like that," he said as I stroked the dog's head. "They were all like, is this Scottish independence or Palestine independence?" he rolled his eyes. "I told them I'm for the autonomy of all countries. They looked confused, like 'autonomy' was too big a word for them to understand."

We talked more, about how we were hopeful and nervous and optimistic and cautious for the following day's vote.

"All our lives we've been told, no you can't do this. No you can't live here. No you can't have this job. Yes's different." He closed his eyes and lifted his face upwards. "When people hear yes, yes, yes,'s what we need." He suddenly opened his eyes. "And fuck the socialists, the ones who have a mortgage to pay and are proper middle or upper middle class. How long are you here for?"

"A few days."

"I lived in London once. I actually liked living there. They were easily hiring anyone to build Canary Wharf, and they'd pay me a few hundred quid a week, banknotes straight in my hand. But the English are such arseholes. Once I asked someone for directions and he shouted-" here he imitated the inevitable Cockney accent-"I don't have any change! Get lost guvnor!"

Before I left, J. gave me one last pearl of wisdom.

"When we hug, we do it on the left side so that our hearts can touch. The British introduced the handshake, a formal way of greeting to show the other person that you weren't carrying a gun. We're having none of that though."


I don't understand first world countries. They get offered independence like it's a fruit platter and they reject it politely with a "No Thanks." What kind of official anti-independence slogan is that in the first place?

Want some tea?
No thanks!
Want independence?
No thanks!

The best reaction I saw was in Edinburgh. A guy, obviously still recovering from the crushing disappointment and drunken nights was walking with his two young children wearing a blue t-shirt with the words "55% of bed-wetters" emblazoned on it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Conversations from Gaza

Down in the underground vaults, he walled in Fortunato after chaining his hands to the stone. The amontillado was forgotten. And at the end before his final plea of "For the love of God, Montresor!" Fortunato laughed and laughed.

This was a dark story of malice and revenge, and there's no comparison to the snippets of conversation relayed below. (This title is so generic by the way.) The only similarity in both is the laughter that seems so out of place. Our previous conversations never dwelt on the gravity of the situation, the horrors that she witnessed and still cannot speak of not even to herself, or the anger and depression and frustration that has been coursing through our bodies, tormenting us and depriving us from sleep for the duration of a month and a half. Instead, we breathlessly speak of the resistance, the journalists we don't trust, the foreign journalists we both worked with separately, and sometimes about our families. We talked about the future once or twice. We both declared there was no place to be in times of shelling, heavy bombardment and flat out ground invasion other than Gaza. We understood why. We understood each other. We viciously and deservedly tore apart the West Bank, the "solidarity" and the lack of anger that has failed to materialize in the streets, and mockingly praised them on their own self-congratulatory initiative of finally boycotting Israeli products, somewhat. We think of the larger picture, and the rest of the country. The cause that simultaneously became so clear and yet so far removed from reality. We imagine what we'll do once we see each other again. Tear this motherfucking place upside down (wherever that will be) is one suggestion we're quite fond of.

Why are you laughing?
What else is there left for me to do?

Once she started with a premonition.

"I think I'm going to die soon."
"That's a very likely probability."
"I had a dream I was getting married and was wearing a white dress."
"Yep, no escaping from that dream. Death is upon you my friend."
"I was wearing the dress, and I had a fight with the groom, and I ran away before the wedding started."
"Wait a minute, that means you ESCAPED death! Oh my God! We can call you the living martyr now! You rascal, you escaped from the jaws of death!"

We laugh and laugh. Peals of laughter cause us to briefly disappear from the screens before reemerging again, out of breath and mouths open. In the middle of it I'm suddenly gripped with an urge to cry and say, stop it, this isn't normal, we're talking and laughing about death. Instead, I fight the panic rising in me and laugh some more.

Once we've calmed down again, we talk again about the first time we did this or the first time we tried that. Soon, we're laughing again. 

She tells me there are things she saw that she cannot speak of. She doesn't know if she ever will. She's not ready to verbalize the horrors branded in her mind with white hot fire. But sometimes, words tumble out. 

"They told me not to go in, but I did. I just had to see. I saw their bodies, six bodies on the bathroom floor. The blood. I shrunk back into the wall, and my eyes and nose were leaking. Hyperventilating and crying nonstop."

We talk about relationships and people. Why don't our friends understand we want to be left alone, we'd rather mope and sulk and heal alone, go through the rounds of gripping depression alone, shut ourselves up in a dark shell all alone?

"It gets harder as we get older…this whole interacting with people thing. Human relationships."
"Selfish bastards. Why don't they get it?"
"I always said humankind needs to be wiped out."
"I pray for us to be nuked. The entire country. The people."
"The resistance is on it. They're targeting Dimona next, just wait and see. Start fresh. New people. New country."

She tells me what she plans on doing. Getting her driver's license and learning how to swim. I'm flabbergasted at the last one.

"I can't believe it. I don't know you any more."
"What, now I'm not a proper Palestinian because I don't know how to swim?"
"Oh, it's not like you've lived your entire life next to the sea!"
"I know..but it's not really a sea we have!"
"I used to go early in the morning. You can wear a bikini and tempt the little fishies."
"I want a beach where I can swim in the daytime, properly. So if you were thrown in the middle of the sea, would you survive?"
"Probably not… I taught myself how to swim so I'm not the strongest. I'd panic and swallow a lot of water and drown."

The reason for swimming is that she wants to jump off the wall in Akka. I tell her that's probably one reason I'd go back to the country, to jump off the wall as well.

"Akka is beautiful. Once I asked the kids jumping off when they started doing it and if their parents know. One replied, duh! My dad taught me!"
"Wow…so wonderful. I don't want to jump and drown, you know?"
"Jump in wearing a tire around your waist..or floaties."
"Har har."
"Ok, another thing we're doing. We're jumping off that wall in Akka."

She cries as she tells me what she did for work today. I try not to, but cry as well.
"The mother told me stories of her three dead children…detailed stories. We were all crying. My taxi driver later told me from now on he'll wait for me in the car because he doesn't need to listen to this kind of shit."
"It's so fucked up."
"The F-16 missile hit the bedroom the children were playing in. There were no bodies, just bits of them blown to pieces."

On the night the air strikes were particularly heavy in her neighborhood, we spoke for hours. Talking animately, she suddenly froze as a loud boom resonated outside, loud enough for my room in London to hear and make my heart stop.

"Thunder," I offer.
She rolls her eyes. "Yes, thunder."

She continues.

"Nothing, absolutely nothing will get me to leave my home. Even if God came down and told me to leave I wouldn't. You don't see it…the living situation in the schools is absolutely terrible. Each classroom has a hundred people sleeping in it..the trash is all over because no one comes to collect it..infections are everywhere..harassment is everywhere…it's the dirtiest, overcrowded, most desperate place to be in. No thank you, I'd rather die in my home than evacuate to a fucking UNRWA school."

Another boom. Louder this time.

"Oooh, heavy thunder." I try to smile and end up grimacing.
"I need psychological rehab. Thinking of going to Sinai for a few days once this is all over."
"I'm glad you said that. If you said something like 'I won't heal unless it's in Gaza' I would have shot you."

There was a reason we talked like this. There was a reason we deliberately ignored cursing Egypt like we usually do, at least twelve times a day. We believed that after this prolonged terror campaign and massacre, after so much suffering and people killed and homes demolished, after so many sacrifices, there will never ever again be a return to the status quo. It was the point of no return. It's a bit funny; as a population we are obsessed with return. But this time, no. The siege will be lifted our way.

After the ceasefire, which has already been violated by Israel more than once, we talk again.

"Everything is worse. Nothing is getting better. I don't want anything from this world, just my sanity and my happiness."

We're waiting for change. She can afford to wait unlike others, but not for long. No one can.

We didn't laugh this time.

Friday, August 29, 2014

One of us: الشهداء منا وفينا

الشهيد القسامي مصعب علي
The martyred resistance fighter Mus'ab Ali

الشهيد القسّامي مصعب علي (24)

مصعب من هؤلاء الذين أُدرِجوا تحت بند "مجهول" في قائمة الشهداء، لا لشيءٍ إلا لخوفنا الدائم خلال الحرب وبعدها من العملاء قاتلهم الله، ومن قصف منزله بعد استشهاده كما يحدث كل حرب مع كثير من المقاومين. اليوم تنتشر صوره وأراها على صفحات أناس لا أعرفهم، مرتديًا زيّه العسكريّ، حاملًا سلاحه، وأفضّل هذه الصورة لسببٍ أجهله. مصعب درس في كليّة صناعية "تبريد وتكييف". قدِم إلى بيتنا قبل بدء الحرب بأسبوع وقام بتصليح غسّالتنا. لم أرَ شخصًا في أدبه وأخلاقه. مصعب كان أحد المقاومين الذين اشتبكوا مع قوات الاحتلال في الشجاعيّة وقتلوا 8 جنود صهاينة، ثم اشتبكوا معهم مجددًا في حيّ السلام شرق جباليا. حاصرهم العدو جوًا وقُصفت العمارة التي كان فيها هو واثنان من رفاقِه بانتظار "قوة خاصة" إسرائيلية لمهاجمتها. استشهد ثلاثتهم معًا. تم إخلاء جثث الشهيدين في اليوم التالي، ولم يتم العثور على جثة مصعب لأن الركام كان كثيرًا وكانت المنطقة لا تزال خطرة. في هدنة الخمس أيام، وبعد مرور 8 أيام على استشهاد مصعب، تمكّن أهله من إيجاد جثته تحت الأنقاض. حفر أبوه وأخوته بأيديهم، وساعدهم جيران المنطقة. 8 أيام، وخرجت جثته صحيحة سليمة (طبعًا تحلّل جثث الكثير من الشهداء لا يعيبهم؛ هذه كرامات يختصّ بها الله من يشاء). بقي تحت الركام 8 أيّام، لا يعرف أهله عنه شيئًا سوى أنه استشهد ورفيقاه. 8 أيام! هؤلاء أحقّ الشهداء بالذكر والتبجيل. هؤلاء، من نتجنّب ذكرهم أمام الإعلام لأنهم ليسوا "مدنيّين"، عاشوا وماتوا ليحيا المدنيّون بكرامة. هؤلاء أطهرنا وأنقانا وأكثرنا فهمًا للحبّ. هؤلاء، الذين يغادرون بصمت ويتركون صورًا فوتوغرافية تُعدّ على أصابع اليد الواحدة، لا يأبهون للتسميات التي يطلقها عليهم العالم الظالم. في بيوت عزائهم، يرعبنا صمود أمهاتهم وجلدهنّ، يرعبنا يقينهن الذي سرعان ما أن نتركهم يتحوّل إلى شلّال من الدموع لا يهدأ. صبرٌ وبكاء، يمتزجان ويفترقان. هؤلاء من في جنائزهم يبكي الأغراب ويردّد الأب "الحمدلله، إنا لله وإنا إليه راجعون. الحمدلله." هؤلاء من استشهدوا لنحيا نحن. هؤلاء من صدقوا الله فصدقهم الله.

(كتبت هذا النص سارة علي من غزة)

The martyred Qassam fighter Mus'ab Ali, 24 years old

Mus'ab was one of those who were classified as "unknown" on the list of people killed in Gaza. It was done out of our constant fear from the collaborators (may God strike them down) during the Israeli aggression and after, and out of the possible demolishment of his house that happens during every war to a lot of the resistance fighters.

Today Mus'ab's pictures were circulated on social media and I see them on the pages of people I don't know. In those pictures he's wearing his military uniform and carrying his weapon. I prefer this picture [posted above] for reasons I can't quite explain. 

Mus'ab studied "refrigeration and air conditioning" at an industrial college.  He came to our house a week before the Israeli aggression started to fix our washing machine. I've never met a person with such impeccable manners. Mus'ab was one of the unit of fighters that confronted the Israeli occupation army in Shuja'iyeh and killed eight Zionist soldiers. His unit faced the Israeli army again in the Salam neighborhood east of Jabalya. The enemy besieged them from the air and fired air strikes at a building he was in with two of his comrades as they were waiting to attack a "special unit" from the Israeli occupation army. The three of them were martyred together. The next day, the bodies of the other two fighters were pulled out from the building, but Mus'ab's body was hard to find due to the immense rubble, not to mention that the area was still very much under danger. During the 5 day ceasefire, that is eight days after Mus'ab was killed, his family were able to find his body under the debris. His father and brothers dug through the rubble with their bare hands, and were helped by their neighbors. His body did not carry any markings of decay. He remained eight days under the rubble, and his family knew nothing except that he and his friends was killed. Eight days!

These martyrs are the ones that deserve to be mentioned and revered. These martyrs, who are avoided being mentioned candidly to the media because they are not "civilians"...these are the ones who lived and died so that the rest of the civilians could live with dignity. They are the purest and and the finest and compared to us, have the better understanding of what love is. They who choose to leave us quietly and leave us a few photographs of themselves that can be counted on the fingers of one hand. They do not care about the names that the cruel world calls and defines them by. At their funeral wakes, we are in awe of the steadfastness of their mothers. They shock us with their certainty that as soon as we leave, turns into waterfalls of tears. Patience and tears! They blend in together and are inseparable.

At their funerals,  strangers mourn them and cry over them. And Mus'ab's father contains himself by repeating the verse, "Thank God, I am to God and to Him we return. Praise be to Allah." 

They are the ones who died, who chose the path of martyrdom in order for us to live. They believed in God and God in turn believed in them.

As written by Sarah Ali, translated by myself