The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Posts tagged occupation
Living with the enemy in the Gaza Strip

Yousef Bashir, 22, lives with a bullet lodged near his spine.  “When I imagine myself without the bullet in my back I ask myself would I be the same?” he said. “That bullet talks to me and I talk to it everyday. It is a very personal thing that I go through,” he continued. “I know that it was put there to destroy my life. I look at it and I say I am not destroyed yet.”

Bashir has very personal ties to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. He grew up in the Gaza Strip next to the Israeli settlement Kfar Darom, which was evacuated in 2005. The battle lines ran right through his house. When the second Palestinian Intifada broke out, Israeli soldiers moved into his home. Bashir was 11 years old at the time. His father, Khalil Bashir, refused to leave the house and so the family - Yousef Bashir, his grandmother, parents and his siblings - spent five years living with the soldiers, who occupied the top two floors.

The soldiers tried to make Khalil Bashir leave the house so many times, Yousef Bashir said. But his father would say, “Why don’t you leave this house, this is my house.” His father was afraid if they left they would never see their home again.

The Israelis divided his house into areas A, (full Palestinian control ), B (Palestinian civil control and joint security control with Israel) and C (near full Israeli control) - just as the West Bank had been divided as part of the Oslo Agreements. In Bashir’s house, Area A was the room in which they were allowed to stay on the ground floor. Area B included the bedrooms, kitchen and bathrooms. Area C was the second and third floors of the house. Bashir never asked for permission from his parents to do anything, he said. But he had to get permission from the Israelis to go outside or to watch a soccer game on television, he said. “I had to negotiate with them.”

It was not an easy time. Most of the soldiers were extremely rude. “Most of them were harsh,” Bashir said. “Most of them were at war.” Camouflage and barbed wire covered the roof and there was a machine gun and security camera posted on top of the house. Bashir said he had seen the bodies of a number of young dead Palestinian men near his home. The circumstances of their deaths unclear. Violence was no stranger. His second oldest brother was shot in the leg, his father too was shot.

Then it was his turn. On February 18, 2004, workers from the United Nations visited Bashir’s family to see how they were coping with their living situation. After 20 minutes, the Israelis ordered the U.N. to leave. Bashir and his father walked the U.N. workers back to their car. “As we were slowly reversing we heard a single shot fired,” said Stuart Shepherd, who had the time was with the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “Yousef basically just fell to the ground immediately, just crumpled.” He was 15 years old at the time. The bullet stopped near his spine. “Yousef had his back to the Israeli observation tower and was waving goodbye…at the time when the shot was fired,” according to Shepherd. (Disclosure: I worked with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, but not at the time Yousef Bashir was shot.)

Bashir does not know the Israeli soldier who shot him. According to media reports, the Israeli Army apologized for the shooting.

That tragedy allowed Bashir to escape the hell that the Gaza Strip has become. After Bashir was stabilized in a Gaza hospital, he was transferred to an Israeli hospital. Bashir credits the Israeli doctors with saving his life and giving him the ability to walk again. He went on to study in Ramallah, which is where I met him years ago. He later went to the United States, where he is currently studying international affairs and diplomacy. He fundraises to pay for his college tuition. He still needs physical therapy twice a week and takes pain killers.

But Bashir said everyday he chooses not to be angry, something he learned from his father who died recently from a stroke. Everyday, Bashir chooses to forgive, but it is challenge. “I hear the news, I see how the Palestinians are treated,” he said. “But deep inside me I can never find any reason to hate.” Bashir cannot return to Gaza to see the rest of the family he left behind because he is afraid the Israelis would not allow him to leave once in the occupied territory. He does not want to risk his education in the U.S. Perhaps if the Palestinians had their own state things would be different.

“We should have had a state a long time ago,” Bashir said. A state would mean more responsibility and perhaps more problems he thinks. But once you are a state, “you are responsible for everything that happens within your territory,” he added. “But it is a good thing to show the world that we want to live in a democracy… We are willing to live in peace.”

“I was never a child,” Bashir said. He was seven years old the first time the Israeli settlers came into his house. They hit his mother and destroyed everything inside the house, burning things. His family locked themselves in the living room, but his oldest brother - who was in the sixth grade then - was not able to make it into the room in time and the settlers broke his teeth.

What should happen to the settlers should the Palestinians get a state? Bashir said he is not interested in what would happen to the settlements. “I am interested in knowing how long would it take for the settlers to realize that the ultimate price for their lifestyle is my freedom.”

Bashir said that when the last group of Israeli soldiers left his family’s house in the Gaza Strip, two of the soldiers thanked his father for his unwavering determination to be a peaceful man even in the most trying times.

“At the end we got the house back and they left,” Bashir said. “We did not fight, we did not carry a weapon, we did not fire anything,” he added. “We just believed in peace… and that is how it should be in the future.”

Links for 10.29.09 to 10.31.09
Daily News Egypt - In Focus: The Brotherhood Crisis | Khalil al-Anani's take on the Brothers' troubles.
Frontlines: Who will be the next leader of Egypt? | Front Lines - the week that was | Jerusalem Post | Funny how much traction Amr Moussa's comments have made in Israel, where they remember vividly his criticism of Israel.
Is this the man to follow Mubarak as Egypt's next president? | World news | | On Amr Moussa.
Powerful Islamic movement sees leadership struggle | On MB's woes.
War and Peace | New blog from Rob of Arabic Media Shack, focusing on war, history and strategy.
Lesson Unlearned | Foreign Policy | Nir Rosen says the 1983 attacks on Us Marines in Beirut was the fault of senior Reagan officials who intervened in Lebanon's civil war on the side of Christian militias.
A Witness In Palestine | Anna Baltzer, Jewish-American pro-peace activist.
A search engine with a mind on settlements | Antony Loewenstein | I'm switching to Bing, and I hate Microsoft: "Jewish Billionaire, Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google, donated $1 million to the so-called Hebrew national Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) which heavily encourages Jews around the world to immigrate to Israel and the United States. The organization is one of the biggest supporters of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories."
In Afghan Village, French Outreach Yields an Ambush - | On French Foreign legion in Afghanistan: "Some Legionnaires, like a pensive Italian art history graduate, had enlisted for adventure. Others, like a thin Estonian, signed up to escape potentially lethal problems at home. The Legion wipes out minor criminal records and provides new identities and a French passport in exchange for a five-year contract. "Believe me, I feel safer here in Afghanistan," the Estonian said."
Alaa Al-Aswany: When women are sinners in the eyes of extremists - Commentators, Opinion - The Independent | On Somalia and extremism, among other things.
BBC NEWS | Technology | Egypt seeks ethical mobile users | Code says "don't annoy people by having loud conversations", "choose non-annoying ringtone", etc. Akhiran! Wonder if it says, "Don't sit at qahwa trying different ringtones for an hour" or "Answer phone quickly or put it on silent rather than stare at it for 10 rings".
Squaring the circle and erasing the margins | Good commentary on the recent J Street conference.
YouTube - ‫لقاء اليوم - ريتشارد غولدستون‬‎ | Khaled Daoud interviews Richard Goldstone on al-Jazeera.
Lebanon: Israel arranged Katyusha fire to keep tensions high - Haaretz - Israel News | Suleiman was praised by West before, will he be listened to now: "Lebanese President Michel Suleiman on Thursday suggested that Israel had arranged for collaborators in his country to fire Katyusha rockets at the Galilee earlier this week, in a bid to keep tensions high in the area."
'Israel's Self-Described Greatest Concern' - Jeffrey Goldberg | More poisonous Jeffrey Goldberg: anti-Zionist Jews are not real jews, they're anti-Zionists with Jewish parents; the Leveretts are apologists for Tehran. No sense of irony here about Golberg's sycophancy towards Bibi Netanyahu here.
West Bank land belongs to Jews, says Israeli army judge | These people are insane: ""But over the past quarter of a century, the Israeli army lawyer and then military judge at the forefront of arguably the most significant battle in the occupied West Bank – the confiscation of Palestinian land for the construction of Jewish settlements – has come to see himself as in service of a higher duty. In an unusually frank interview, which offers insights into the melding of religion, politics and law that underpins land seizures in the occupied territories, Agassi has laid out his belief that Israel has a biblical claim to territory beyond its borders and that he, even as an immigrant, has a right to live on it when those born there do not. `When we [Israelis] say that this is a political conflict, then we lose the battle,` he told the Guardian, adding that it should be remembered that the ancient land of Israel is `given to us by the Bible, not by some United Nations`.
Tens of Thousands of Palestinian Children at Risk of Forced Displacement in OPT | "Whilst most attention has focused on home demolitions and community evictions, new research by the children`s charity Save The Children has revealed intolerable living conditions are driving families to abandon their land and homes, even though most will be worse off once they do so."

Links for 09.11.09 to 09.12.09
ANALYSIS / Clock is ticking for Iran as Israel appears ready for strike - Haaretz - Israel News | Amos Harel sees an Israeli strike in late 2009 / early 2010, with the goal being setting back the Iranian nuclear program.
Middle East Report Online: Dismantling the Matrix of Control by Jeff Halper | "Until the majority of Palestinians, and not merely political leaders, declare that the conflict is over, the conflict is not over. Until most Palestinians believe it is time to normalize relations with Israel, there will be no normalization. Israel cannot “win” -- though it believes it can, which is why it presses ahead to complete the matrix and foreclose the possibility of a viable Palestinian state. The failure of yet another peace initiative will only galvanize international efforts to achieve justice for the Palestinians. Only this time the demand is likely to be for a single binational state, the only alternative that fits the single-state, binational reality that Israel itself has forged in its futile attempt to impose an apartheid regime. "
Chakchouka tunisienne / Bakchich : informations, enquêtes et mauvais esprit blogs | Cool French language blog from on Tunisia. Note recent post had Ben-Ali's brother-in-law bill people for attending their wedding.
Who is Travis Randall: the lies from Egypt « Bikya Masr | Bikya Misr on Fahmy Howeidy's fabrications about Travis Randall.
MIT Press Journals - World Policy Journal | "Egypt’s Looming Succession Struggle" by Michael Hanna. [PDF]

The Palestinian Archipelago

[Click for full size.]

An amazing map of Palestine, if you replace all of the areas controlled by Israel (roads, settlements, etc.) by water. The best illustration of the unworkable Bantustan model imposed by Israel I've seen.

From Strange Maps.

Note: The original is from the excellent L'Atlas - Le Monde Diplomatique 2009.

Update: I forgot to add how much this map reminds me of a story we highlighted in which a solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict is proposed: a Dubai-like creation of new islands to expand the landmass.