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I forgive myself
For having stayed,
Lying there frozen,
Unable to move.
I forgive myself
For not screaming,
Not kicking,
Resting my fists.
I forgive myself
For my no that was left unheard,
Trapped in my movements,
Trying to meet hands that refused to listen.
I forgive myself
For not leaving,
When I wanted to go.
For coming back, when I needed to stay away.
I forgive myself
For denying,
Not daring to understand,
Unwilling to think.
I forgive myself,
For breaking into thousand pieces,
For the glue
that refused to hold.
I forgive myself
For mornings in which I couldn't get out of bed,
For days that went on wasted,
For nights I failed to sleep.
I forgive
My moments of weakness,
And those in which panic caught the breath in my chest,
For forgetting how to dream.

I forgive myself,
And say again that I'm not guilty,
And remember that I'm not the one to blame.
I forgive myself,
And next year, maybe,
I'll find the strength to forgive you.

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In my ventures through the London poetry scene, I went today to a poetry event titled Great Men. It is apparently part of a greater project fully named "Great Men Value Women". On the event page they described their aim as "a project to engage and involve men and boys in the gender equality movement." I find it to be a very unique thing in the feminist landscape, which doesn't often approach men in such a direct way, and certainly not in one which is attempting to be educating and enriching, not blaming and intimidating. For the first time in a long while, I have seen an endeavour that sees men as full partners in a feminist movement, and it was very refreshing. The project is only in its initial stages, and their first lectures are scheduled to November, but judging by the very committed men and women that I have met today, it will be something worth following.

Throughout the evening, poems were read, and songs were sang, by women and by men. Notable in my opinion was the concluding act by Grace Banks, and a poem read by a girl called Diana, whose surname slipped my mind, about what feminism is, and what it isn't, which was brilliantly sarcastic. By the stage stood a small table with notes and pens on it, and on the wall, there were sentences that the attendees were asked to complete. Amongst them was "Gender expectations make me…" I wrote this poem, in response to this sentence.

Gender Expectations Make Me

Gender expectations make me

Act weak,

vulnerable,

Helpless.

Gender expectations make me

Smile

Yes, smile, again,

Hold my head high,

Not too high.

Not high enough to look men in the eye,

Just high enough to look sexy.

Gender expectations make me,

Question myself,

Seek reassurances,

Ask for help,

But not ask for teaching,

Never doubt the fact I'm wise,

Yet always doubt the fact I'm pretty.

Gender expectations make me,

Paint my nails in deep red,

Whenever I'm having a bad self-confidence day,

Take off my glass for photos,

Make up my face for familial holidays,

Avoid judgement.

Gender expectations make me,

Scared,

To walk the streets at night,

And sometimes during daytime.

Be alert,

Always check who strides behind,

Gender expectations make me,

Know my fear is just,

Walk faster,

And faster,

Run home. Seeking shelter.

Gender expectations make me,

Angry.

For all the things that I have lost.

Or never have been offered.

For all those roads I never crossed,

And paths I couldn't wonder.

Gender expectations make me,

Furious,

For being told I was too smart for a girl,

For being told that roleplaying was for boys,

For not being taught judo or ju-jitzo, or karate, or aikido,

Or any other form of martial arts or self defense, or both.

Gender expectations make me,

Rage against conventions,

They make me scream,

They make me fight,

They make me rebel.

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The new law, which subjects any African refugee who attempts to enter the state of Israel to three years (or longer) in prison without trial or due process, is an amendment to the 1954 Prevention of Infiltration Law that defines an infiltrator as anyone who:

“has entered Israel knowingly and unlawfully and who at any time between the 16th Kislev, 3708 (29th November, 1947) and his entry was –

(1) a national or citizen of the Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Saudi-Arabia, Trans-Jordan, Iraq or the Yemen ; or

(2) a resident or visitor in one of those countries or in any part of Palestine outside Israel ; or

(3) a Palestinian citizen or a Palestinian resident without nationality or citizenship or whose nationality or citizenship was doubtful and who, during the said period, left his ordinary place of residence in an area which has become a part of Israel for a place outside Israel.”

In other words, the 1954 law targeted Palestinian refugees, who were evicted from their homes during the 1947-1948 nakba and attempted to return to their lands in the new state of Israel. These are refugees that Israel created and, in violation of international law and numerous UN resolutions, Israel continues to leave these people without a homeland.

But in both Israeli history and the contemporary media, the Palestinian refugees are not refugees—they are “terrorists” or “infiltrators,” intent on destroying the “Jewish and democratic” state.  While a very small number of Palestinian refugees were, indeed, militants, the vast majority were people whose sole “crime” was acting upon their desire to return to their lost homes.

Today, the language the state of Israel and the local media use to describe African refugees is equally misleading. For the most part, they are not called “refugees” or “asylum seekers”—even though Israel tacitly acknowledges their status by not deporting them. They are called “infiltrators” who pose a “threat” to the state. Additionally, they are falsely labeled by the state and media as work migrants.

At the end of the day, the justification for both the 1954 Prevention of Infiltration Law as well was the new amendment is one and the same – the maintenance of the Jewish character of the State of Israel. Thus, in the name of the Jewish majority, the state of Israel deprives refugees, whether Palestinian or African, of their most basic human rights.

A sign held in the demonstration against the "Infiltrators law", TA, 10/01/12

Published originally in AIC and Mondoweiss.

http://www.alternativenews.org/english/index.php/topics/israeli-society/4052-maintaining-a-jewish-state-at-refugees-expense

http://mondoweiss.net/2012/01/infiltrators-and-the-jewish-state.html

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A Palestinian family, mother, father and a 10 years old son, a British activist and myself, a strange company, what can I say, are making our way from Jayus to Tel Aviv. We arrive at Qalqiliya checkpoint, or in its formal name Eliyahu crossing, and I get but a taste of the Palestinian checkpoints experience.

 

“ID” demands the soldier.

She's staring at 3 blue ID cards, and one British passport with growing suspicion, matching faces and photos and asks me:

“So, how do you know each other?”

“We're friends”

“All of you?”

“Yes. All of us.”

“How do you know him?”

“I met him in Scotland.”

“I keep the Ids, turn right, park the car, and get searched.”

“Everybody out of the car.”

“Stay in the car.”

“I said, everybody out of the car.”

I'm thinking to myself “Will you simply make up your mind”, as I'm opening and closing, and reopening doors.

A rifle points at us, and there's a finger on the trigger. A different soldier starts shooting questions at me.

“Where are you from?”

“Where is he from?”

“Where do you know each other from?”

“Where are you coming from?”

I'm tackled, I don't know what's the correct answer to this one, olive harvest in Jayus, certainly isn't.

“I gave them a tour of the area. We came in from Kfar Qassem.”

“Don't look at him, answer me!”

“What he said”, I mumble.

She knows that I'm lying. I know that she knows.

For some reason she doesn't press it any farther, and sends us to get searched inside.

Metal detectors look the same everywhere, but the rifle is still there, and the finger is still on the trigger, even as it is pointing to the floor.

Four adults and a 10 years old boy are waiting for their bags.

“What's that?”

“A tripod”.

And the bag goes back in for another round.

“Don't take any phone calls in here!”

(And certainly don't mention that you are being held in a checkpoint.

They hand me back a bunch of Ids, because it is only me that they are speaking with.

I refuse to smile, utter the obligatory Thanks.

We head quickly back to the car, not leaving them any time to change their minds.

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In the last couple of years, I have had the growing feeling that the main struggle of the LGBT community in Israel, or to be exact the main struggle done in the name of the LGBT community in Israel, is the Israeli Hasbara diplomatic struggle.

They use us to promote tourism to Israel. We are used to mock the flotilla initiative.

They use us to wash in pink the blood that Israel has been spilling.

They use us as the fig leaf meant to hide the state's shame.

They use us in order to portray the state of Israel as liberal and enlightened, waving around the flag of rights that were never granted to us, the flag of security that we've never felt, the flag of equality and acceptance that we've never experienced.

This is not our struggle!

We are not here to promote gay tourism, we are not here to assist Israel's diplomatic efforts, we are not here to pinkwash war-crimes!

We are here to fight for our rights!

We are here to fight for our right to housing, to jobs, to physical and mental security, to a family of choice, to acknowledgement and acceptance. We are here to promote a society with no oppression, no racism, no discrimination, a society which is diverse as well as equal. A society with no privileges, a society that is just and free. We are here to promote a society in which gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders, queers, Palestinians, Mizrachis, migrant workers, and every Other, whoever she may be, enjoys the full rights that they deserve.

One more thing we must keep in mind. When the state of Israel prides itself in its tolerence and acceptance of the LGBT community, we must ask it, which community is it willing to accept? Because just like the TA municipality approves the tent-city in Rothschild blvd, the glory and the attraction, and the beautiful youths, but kicks away the tents in Levinski – the single-mums and the refugees, the work-migrants and the drug addicts – out of the way, so the state of Israel is willing to allow for male gay pride, with the glitter and the disco lights, but not for the butch-femme couple that walks hand in hand down the street, nor the gay Palestinian from Hachshmal garden, nor the FTM who wants to be addressed in male pronouns, yet doesn't want to undergo a surgery, nor the polyamorous bisexual that wants both her male and female partners to be acknowledged.

And some final words: when the LGBT community had only started forming, there were, indeed parties, and there were dances, but above all there was struggle. We haven't won the rights we do have because we asked for them nicely, nor were they presented to us on a silver platter by the Israeli state. Blood, sweat and tears have been spilled in order to allow us to march here today, in Jerusalem, and yes, also in Tel Aviv.

I have a feeling that somewhere along the way a part of this equation got lost. So it's true that if I can't dance to it, it definitely isn't my revolution, but it's about time to bring back the revolution into our dance!

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"There must be something worth living for


There must be something worth trying for


Even some things worth dying for


And if one man can stand tall


There must be hope for us all


Somewhere, somewhere, in the spirit of man"

Never have I seen so many people excited by the “None”. Someone was running around, between all the people crowding before the demonstration asking “Have you seen it?”, “Have you seen it?”, but in fact she had been asking about the things we hadn't seen. We hadn't seen a yellow gate, we hadn't seen a watch tower, we hadn't seen soldiers, we hadn't seen a white skunk truck on the top of the hill, waiting to spray us with its foul smelling water. We hadn't seen a wall, in Bilin.

More than three and a half years after the supreme court's decision, over six years after the popular struggle in the village had started, we had climbed up the hill, and crossed the border line, marked with colour remnants, and skunk odors. We were not stopped by clouds of gas, but our eyes were tearful nonetheless. I walked back and forth, between the road, and the tree and the walkway, unable to grasp the fact that there was not a single soldier standing there blocking my way.

The Friday prayer took place outside, just like it did in the demonstration in which we had celebrated the supreme court's decision, three and a half years ago. Back then it took place by the fence, now it took place on its old route. I watched them kneeling on their prayer rags, and a feeling of clemency was carried by the soft summer breeze, and our hearts were bursting with happiness.

Someone walked around in a shirt that read “From Berlin to Bilin, The Wall Must Fall”. I stopped by him, and gestured towards the fenceless landscape lying ahead of us, and smiled, words were unnecessary. “You can't kill popular resistance”, “The wall must fall”, “Bilin, Bilin, don't despair”, and all those other slogans that we shout so regularly, were suddenly charged with meaning, and a new found hope.

The road leading to the new wall is long, and the singed fields leading towards it – a farewell gift from the settlers -serve to remind us that the struggle is far from being over, and a lot was lost along the way, but the olive-trees are standing, green and proud, and we can't wipe those smiles off our faces, and happiness sparkles in our eyes, as the foundations for the new neighbourhood are laid. And the music from the truck fills the air, and the dances wouldn't stop, and chocolates in golden wrappings that reflect the sun, are thrown into the air, caught by enthusiastic children and adults.

And the occupation is not over yet, and the oppression goes on and on, and the wall, in its new route still annexes thirty percents of the village lands, and the road is still long and winding, and the end is yet to be seen on the horizon, but we have torn down the wall in Bilin, and for several euphoric moments, nothing else mattered.

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It is Sunday morning, and I am at the Nakba Day protest in Qalandyia refugee camp. The long and beautiful march with the songs, slogans and high spirit has been dispersed quickly with massive shooting of tear-gas, and all attempts to resume the march have been dispersed as well, with ever growing violence.

I am running away from another salvo as I spot five adolescents carrying someone who was injured. No paramedic can be found in the area, so I run after them, my first aid kit on my back, hoping that I can be of some assistance. They bring him to a room that is open to the street, in a side alley. An ambulance is parked at the entrance, from which two other wounded people are being removed. Five or six paramedics and a single doctor are running around between several people, only thin blankets separating them from the floor, trying, at the very same time, to wave away the people crowding outside, waiting to find out about the condition of the friends that they have carried in earlier. I address the doctor, telling him I have got some basic first aid training, and offer my help. He gives me some instructions, shows me were the equipment lies, and tells  me to care for the next wounded person that will be brought in.

The wounded  are  streaming in incessantly. Every minute, or two, three at most, an ambulance stops by the entrance, and three paramedics rush to it asking "Mutauta" or "Raz"? (Rubber bullets or gas?) While the injured are being carried off. Those in severe condition are carried in on a stretcher, which doesn't leave much space in the narrow room. Then  they are clumsily taken off the stretcher. There is not enough time to follow the right procedure of carrying someone who has been wounded. The rest of them are carried in by paramedics and friends, who grab their legs and hands, and more often then not forget to support their heads, and place them on the floor, as close to the wall as possible, to make room for the wounded who are yet to arrive.

 

At these scarce and numbered moments of recess in the stream of wounded ones, we cut onions, reorganize the room and the equipment table. Piling gauze pads and bandages on one side, alcohol and cotton wool on the other, shaking and straightening blankets, and sweeping away all the onion leftovers that fall from them.

Most of the wounded people fainted from an overdose inhalation of tear-gas. Breathing some fresh air, an open shirt, a fresh onion scale leaf, and some light slapping usually suffice to help them regain consciousness. In the worst cases we bring the oxygen balloon. They lie and sit all around, gasping, coughing, taking short breaths, their eyes  shut tightly against the pain, as the tears stream down their cheeks, and we gently try to lift the upper lid, and absorb the remnants of the gas. Others were directly hit by gas canisters and rubber bullets, and as time goes by we see more and more of these injuries.

At some point, we run out of oxygen, not metaphorically speaking. The last balloon is empty, and a guy is choking in our hands, and all we can offer him are a piece of onion, cotton wool, an encouraging touch, and  the fear that is written all over our faces, that this time it will not suffice.

Scattered pictures… I am rolling a white bandage around Huria's head. She was hit by a rubber bullet in her temple. She is surrounded by friends, holding her and supporting her… Someone was directly hit by a gas canister in his chest. Luckily, the canister did not break the skin. Nonetheless there are some hectic moments. We can't find the statoscope, or the blood pressure monitor. He will be fine… Two little girls half-fainted from the gas. In their tears the gas and fear mix together. I hug one of them as I put an alcohol pad to her face. Her mother and her sister are on the floor, on the other side of the room. Someone is taking care of them. Several moments go by. They sit and hug, leaning against the wall, trying to breathe, together. I give them one last look. There are many others that need my caring…. In a sideway look I spot a guy leaning against the wall. None of us has paid any attention to him, because he had already been treated. His head drops, his hand becomes limp, I run over to him, hold his hand, and start calling him "Mumtaz, Mumtaz". I am having a basic conversation, using my poor Arabic, trying to make him stay with me, so that he will not lose consciousness. So that we will not lose him… More, and more, and more.

After an hour, and dozens, if not more than that, of injured people taken care of, the improvised medical clinic is moving to a different location. I follow the paramedics down the street, as I spot someone falling, I rush over to take care of him. In all the turmoil I lose the others, so I rejoin the demonstration that goes on and on.

And all of that happened before they started shooting LIVE ammunition.

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