Where to Go, I’m Palestinian!
A Place Called Home
The story is similar to thousands of young people in Palestine, every one with minor variations. “I heard this before” somebody told me when I was inquiring about Omar Karem, the Palestinian journalist from Gaza. It’s not that he heard Omar Karem’s name before, but he heard the same story before.
The harassment of journalists in Gaza is known by the activist community, no one want to be named, or be in the story because a lot of my activists friends dreaming with going to Gaza, and no one want to have trouble with Hamas before they even try to get inside Gaza.
It is not easy to enter Gaza, you might say why? if they need the exposure of the situation, why do Hamas makes it difficult for peace activists to enter Gaza?
There are many stories, really Not official stories, but people that live in Gaza and know the procedures and the politics of Gaza, know that you have to know somebody in the Government, be part of a convoy, or have terrific credentials. If you do not meet the requirements then you need an invitation from an organization from Gaza, specifying your purpose to visit Gaza, then you need to summit that invitation to the Egyptian embassy who at the end is the ultimate and sole authority for your transfer thru Egyptian Land to transit to Gaza, then even after you might have attained authorization or transit visa from the Egyptian Government, you still have to convince Hamas that you are not spy of US or Israel.
Recently I read an article published by a journalist who try to enter to Gaza and was denied because he did not have a “fixer” authorized by Hamas.
I have a dear friend in Gaza, his name Omar Karem by now you know this name, because we have published few articles on him, related to his multiple arrest by Hamas, his crime taking pictures to share with the world, his photography experience, and his journalistic and photographic work.
He keeps repeating the same answer to the security forces, “my word is my weapon to help Palestine, my camera is my only tool to snap photos, to share to the world, to tell the world the atrocities that Israel commit in Gaza”.
Omar has been detained in numerous occasions by the security forces of Hamas, the first time when he was deported from Egypt on May 2009, after spending 7 months in an Egyptian prison, his crime!, being Palestinian. At his arrival in Gaza in May 2009 , he was kept in jail for one week, after numerous calls to family members, and government official he was finally released.
He is tired of the situation in Gaza, his future is uncertain, Gaza future is uncertain, Omar tried everything to stay sane in a a country, where everyday is surviving day. he has done what many young Palestinians have tried, going to school is a good way to stay sane, to keep the faith in the future, to learn new skills, to be prepare for..’when the Occupation ends’., and working to survive.
It is not easy to get hire in Gaza, there are no jobs in Gaza, the well paid jobs are by UN or other International Organizations but they do not hire Palestinians, and the other jobs that he can take are fill very fast, the opportunities are almost non existent. He become peace activist, journalist and photographer, but Hamas has kept a continual eye on him, why? he does not understand.
He was almost integral part of the Italian Convoy last year, he spend 9 days with them, serving as a guide, translator and companion, seems that this brought some attention from Hamas, he was harassed many times by the security forces, detained, interrogated, his laptop and phone confiscated few times, beat, threaten and there is no reason, he is being investigated in numerous occasions and nothing is found against him, and even after he was released, he still being harassed.
Last year after the last detention, he tried to leave Gaza, he got the authorization from Hamas and he got all his belongings and say good bye to family and friend, only to be returned from Egypt side with the explanation, after two arduous day, that he can not enter Egypt, “For Security Reasons”.
Every time that he has an encounter with Hamas, he has come out clean, well Omar said; “I do not belong to any political Party, I m peace activist, I write for blogs spreading Israel crimes, I want to liberate Palestine, I use my camera, I m not criminal, I m not spy, why do Hamas always attack me”.. Did Hamas become too Extreme?
There are other activists in Gaza that have been under the scrutinizer eye of Hamas security forces, like Mohamed Mazzer author of GBO Manifesto, who has been arrested more than 20 times, his crime telling the truth.
We wonder what are the arguments to detain journalists and photographers whose only purpose is to give us to the world the events in Gaza, for Omar be treated as enemy is hurtful, he, that knows the treatment from Israelis, while living in West Bank, and being detained for more than a year in Israel Prison for being Palestinian, for not carrying a permit, a piece of paper that should say that he is Palestinian, what ironic for Palestinians being punish for not having identification card, as if being born in Palestine is not enough.
After the March 15 March on 2011, the situation turned more gray for him, he was arrested 3 more times, and again his camera, his phone taken away, last December while photographing the tunnels in Rafah he was arrested reason, No reason, Hamas will say “non of your business”
“Please come with no banners, no flags, no colors, security forces please do not give bad image to the world. Do not copy the practices of Israel, we are tired of repression and oppression. Support us, in the new Palestine Nation that we all try to build. Tomorrow is a new day, to rectify the errors, to take lessons of the past. Inshallah” Omar Karem, Gaza, March 15 2011 Palestine One Nation
“I’m Omar Karem, I’m Palestinian. I live in Gaza, Palestine, I want to denounce to the Minster of Interior office of Gaza, the actions of some of their security officers, abusing their power, they are harassing the citizens of Gaza with out authorization from the Minister office .
On March18, 2011,They stopped me and took my laptop, phone, passport and personal that I was carrying with me that day, they took me to some rooms around the Unknown Soldier Plaza- and they hit, kick me, and threat me…and say bad words and called me Zionist, they said that I work for American agenda.
Unknown Soldier square, in the room of the jendi mahur. I was going in my way to to sign for the internet, some security officers stopped me.they kick me, 10 or 15 men asking me questions, before calling to the police station. They took, my passport, id card, my laptop,. They took the file for my cv, my cell phone, all his certificates from journalism.”
He is organizer of the Rachel Corrie memorial, and active member of touristic department in Gaza, helping restaurants and hotels to organize events, but none of that matters, he is treated as if he is enemy of Gaza, to the point that he feels unwanted and unwelcome in his own Land.
Last March 2, 2012, again security forces went to his home, forcefully enter his home, destroyed most of his family pictures, important documents, they took his lap top, his passport, and went to invade his personal files, he was blind folded and taken to a police station for investigation and release next day, without his passport or ID card, he was advice to report every week with them, they told him if they don’t find anything on him, they will return his passport, well they did not find anything and his passport was returned.
After few weeks of relative calm, he return to his “normal” life, going back to his journalist hobby and photography passion, on March 10, under Israel assault, suffering the fear of being the last day under the bombs, he decided to visit the cemetery to have a moment of quite and could not resist the temptation to shoot few pictures, Gaza Cemetery is a beautiful and peaceful place, and as a bad movie again Hamas security show out of nowhere telling him, that he can not be there, that it was security area, as if the cemetery is less safe than any other place in Gaza, they demanded the ID, to what Omar told them, that he has the right to be there, that he was Palestinian, that he was just relaxing, they got mad and took his camera and phone and ask him to go next day to the police station to retrieve his items.
How sad, Gaza is being besieged by Israel, for the last two years they have been suffering the worse crisis in the last decade, for the last two months they barely have few hours of electricity, and to top all that Israel has been shelling Gaza for the last two weeks, and Hamas adding more sorrow to their lives, how cruel and insensitive of them.
I can understand that the Government want to be careful with persons, that they do not trust anybody, could be that Palestinians that have contact con internationals give the idea to Hamas to be working for a ‘foreign country’.
“I came to this site to take photos of the trees and flowers, two security guards with out any reason came to me and took my camera and my phone, and told me that I shouldn’t be here, that this is security area, and that I put my self in danger and people of Gaza. They know the area of war, Gaza cemetery its very nice, with orange and lemon trees, grapefruit and flowers, This is the Gaza Strip’s eastern cemetery.They told me you have to go at 10 clock, we will be waiting for you, to come to the station of special forces of (alamn aldakhly )
Why Hamas do this to me?, do they want to kill my will to fight against Israeli?, why they always always say, you cant be here, you cant take pics, some others have told me, that I may not stand to good because I live here, because I try to protect the people, I want the world to watch how Israel kills the civilian population.It’s not fair Hamas, You are wrong.”
After many times going to the station, they finally returned my phone, they call many of my friends and family, they did not gave me my camera, I have to go to talk to Interior Minister Ahmed Bahar, why I put me thru all these struggles, they are pushing me out of my land. They are making my life impossible to live.
I prepared myself to leave Gaza, and planing to go to Egypt, yesterday I was granted permission from Hamas to go to Egypt, and new surprise
Egyptian authorities tell me that I m in the black list and barred to visit Egypt, because I fought the Mubarack Regine, because I participated in many protests to open the Rafah border, now I feel more trapped than ever, the other place that I could go, has denied my right to dream, they have told me that I can not ever go to Egypt, what I suppose to do now?.
How to fight?, If my weapons are my words, How to fly? if my wings are clipped, How to leave?, when all the doors are closed,
Where to go?, when I don’t have a place to call home. I m Palestinian, This is my home, My Land. I born Palestinian, let me BE.