18 December 2014

Haifa Fragments


I'm excited to share with you that you can now pre-order my novel, Haifa Fragments, from the website of my publisher, Spinifex Press.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the friends that have supported me throughout the writing and editing process. My parents and daughter for putting up with me.

Special thanks of course to Susan Hawthorne, director of Spinifex Press, for giving me this invaluable opportunity to publish my work. And of course, Bernadette Green, my editor, who was simultaneously professional and gentle with my text.

I feel thankful for having completed this journey. Although it was tougher than I imagined at times, I cherish each moment of it.

I hope you enjoy reading the novel.

- khulud


25 November 2014

25 November - International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women




Today, 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, I will participate in a panel organized by the Coalition of Women for Peace for Diplomats and International Partners in Israel. The panel is under the title: "Protective Edge. Attack on Gaza: Women's Insecurity and Anti-War Efforts."

I have not prepared anything in particular for this panel, as I will share my very own personal experience during the last summer. 

* The personal insecurity
* The violent attacks on us after a peaceful demonstration
* Our attempts at making our voices heard, and finding an alternative to demonstrations through photography sessions , documentation, and poetry.

The below paragraphs were published by WorldPulse along with a short presentation of the photo album "War is Not My Language" in their Magazine.



In July 2014, Israel launched its military attack on Gaza, called Operation Protective Edge. The whole atmosphere inside Israel preceding and during this military attack was explosive in terms of Jewish-Arab relations. Anyone who dared raise a voice against the war or against the killing of civilians, or anyone who called for immediate cease-fire, was seen as a traitor and was attacked (sometimes verbally, sometimes physically).

We, a community of feminist activists from Haifa, Jewish and Palestinian women citizens of Israel, felt helpless. The public sphere was occupied by those advocating for the military action, and our voices against the war and against killing were silenced, often with violent means. We were physically attacked during demonstrations, Palestinian women feared speaking in Arabic in public spaces, and our spheres of action were rapidly shrinking. Thus, we convened an emergency meeting at the Haifa Women's Coalition House, and discussed our options. We took these photos in a safe space and shared them on social media—one of the only ways we had left to express our objection to the war and the killing, and to make our voices heard.

khulud khamis, 2014


22 November 2014

The woman in the frame - fragment from "Taboos in Arabic"



Bisan was waiting. Breathing, trying to be patient. But nothing happened. Well, everything happened, but nothing of any significance to be worth a click of the Leica. She was leaning against a stone wall in Wadi Nisnas, at the edge of the souk. She’s been here the day before with her Canon 60D digital camera, and shot more than 200 frames. Today, she was here with film – only 36 possibilities. After about half an hour, she gave in and put the camera to her eye. She stood there like this for a minute, a statue. Didn’t move the camera, just waited for the people to walk into the frame. And they did. Over the next hour, she shot 35 frames. She wasn’t being too picky, nor was she focused as she worked. Her mind kept wandering back to Muna’s touch.

She was impatient about seeing the results, but had no other option but to wait until tomorrow to develop the film. The last photograph has to be different. She studied her surroundings. All 35 frames were taken with the souk in the background, people either on their way shopping with just a purse, or of people coming back from shopping, with plastic bags. Taher told her to pick one spot and use the whole film without moving. She turned around and faced the other direction, still standing in the same spot. The view was much duller and less colorful. She held up the camera to her eye, positioned the St. John’s church in the upper right corner of the frame, and waited. She had one shot and she wanted it to be exquisite.

She was just now beginning to realize what Taher had meant when he said to be patient. There was absolutely nothing extraordinary about the frame. She felt like a predator waiting on its prey. However, she was caught unprepared when an ancient man walked by with a walking cane. Although he was walking slow enough for her to take the shot, she couldn’t make the decision quickly enough, and the man disappeared behind the corner. The same thing was repeated twice again: a young girl who ran by and a man in his forties dressed in jeans and a black shirt. That’s it, not waiting for any magnificent moment! The next person walks into the frame – click! She didn’t have to wait long. She was so focused on her frame that she didn’t even see the woman. All she saw was the form of a woman. Click. And she was gone. End of film.

It was already dusk when she shot that last frame, and her hand slightly trembled. But she got the shot at the right moment, just as the young woman turned her head and looked straight into the camera. Bisan wasn't sure if she noticed she was being photographed, but it was a spontaneous moment, one of those that street photographers would kill for.

***
She had her Leica slung over her shoulder when she walked in the house. Her father was helping her mother set up the table for dinner. "New toy, I see," he said in disdain.

Her mother shot him a sharp look, "Leave her be."
"Why should I? She's not doing anything constructive with her life. All her high school friends are already finishing university, and she's still stuck in that musty old shop with ancient Taher."

Bisan ate in silence, since her father was talking about her as if she weren't there. She wouldn't get in the same argument with him for the hundredth time. It was useless to try to explain to him that photography for her was so much more than a passing hobby, not to talk about the fact that the Leica was definitely not a toy. 

***
The alarm clock went off at 5:30 sharp. Although she didn’t get much sleep, Bisan jumped out of bed and was out of the house by 6:15. She walked the short distance to Kamera in brisk strides, passing on her way a young woman in a sweat suit, a hoodie partially covering her head, jogging up the street. Who in their right mind would abuse their body in such a way? Bisan didn’t practice any sport. She didn’t need to, as she walked everywhere, even up to the Carmel, through Haifa’s maze of stairs that ran from the bottom of the mountain all the way to Carmel Center.

***
Salma
As Salma jogged up the street, she noticed the young woman with the old camera slung across her shoulder. She couldn’t know it was the same woman who took her picture the day before, as she wasn’t really paying attention. What coincidence. Someone takes her photo the day before. And now, a woman with a camera at 6:20 in the morning! Stalker? She jogged up to the roundabout at the end of Khoury street and headed back, trying to look inconspicuous. The camera woman didn’t look in her direction; she seemed impatient getting to wherever she had to get to, her stride full of intent. Just my imagination, thought Salma, as she increased her pace. She wasn’t making any progress in the last couple of weeks. At least she got back on track with her running. She was almost out of breath, but decided to turn around again and job back up. She reached the roundabout, and as she was jogging around it, she saw the camera woman on Ha-Nevi’im street for a brief moment before she disappeared into one of the buildings. Salma again increased her pace, salty sweat dripping down her forehead and into her eyes, and jogged in that direction. She jogged all the way to the end of the street, taking in the entrances. These were mostly businesses, but all were still dark. Weird. She looked at her watch and realized she was almost running late. She would just have enough time to shower and head to the university for her much-dreaded meeting with Hiba. She still had nothing other than some haphazard notes that didn’t amount to anything that could be considered to be sound research basis.
***
Bisan
Bisan saw the jogging woman twice more from the corner of her eye, the second time when she was already inside Kamera, still with the lights off. She was trying to apply the patience technique to her daily routine. Taher said it helped. So Bisan now sat in the dark Kamera in silence. She couldn’t take more than five minutes before she dashed to boot the computer and then turn on the lights. At nine sharp she unlocked the door, but there were no customers until around eleven except for one man who came in for some batteries. Miraculously, there were only two email orders from the day before, and one that came in around ten thirty. None of them were due for a few days, which gave Bisan enough time to develop the film from yesterday. Some thought kept coming back to her, but it was so vague she couldn’t pin it down. Something about the way that jogger carried her body, which she only realized now that she was already working. Detail! Taher always said it’s all in the details. Need to pay more attention, even when camera not on hip and ready to shoot.

When Taher walked in with some fresh-out-of-the-oven mana’eesh, Bisan had already gone through all 36 frames. They were neatly stacked next to the computer, and Bisan had printed an A3 size of frame number 36.

“What have we here? First prints from the Leica! May I?” Taher was peeking at the large print from behind Bisan’s tangled mess of curls. She handed him the stack of photographs without looking up and continued to study the one in front of her. Taher took another look at it before settling down with to study the ones she handed him. Weird kid. He could see the larger frame had potential, if it only wasn’t just a tiny bit out of focus. Give the kid some slack. She’s just a beginner, her first film shots.

Bisan was focused on the face of the woman in the frame. There was something familiar about her. But there was something else. Bisan has seen this face somewhere else. Shit! My memory is like that of my eighty-something years old grandmother! She put the photograph in the bottom drawer and went over to Taher. “What do you think? Just remember, my first film, so please be kind.”

“Kind? These are great, Biso! For a first film, I mean.” Bisan was ecstatic. She knew Taher didn’t give away compliments so easily. “Ok, let’s get the constructive criticism then.” She dragged a stool over to his side and the bag of mana’eesh, trying to push the woman from frame number 36 who happened also to be the researcher to a corner of her mind for now. She’ll deal with it later.

(c) khulud khamis, 2014 from Taboos in Arabic, novel-in-progress
***

13 November 2014

It was the world slowing down for the minutes she held the camera to her eye.

I know, I said I wouldn't share any fragments of my new novel-in-progress, "Taboos in Arabic," but even I was surprised at the appearance of Bisan, an energetic young female character with flare. So here's a small bit of her life:

Bisan grew up in the instant world of digitals, where she could take an infinite number of photos and instantly see the results on her LCD screen. She could take twenty thirty forty a hundred shots of the same frame, using different shutter speeds and different exposure times until she got what she wanted. Not so with film. With film, she had to practice self-discipline. It was the world slowing down for the minutes she held the camera to her eye, waiting for the perfect moment to snap the shot – if ever a perfect moment could be captured on film. It taught her patience, and it taught appreciation of life’s gifts. With a film camera, she was on her way to mastering the art of photography, in small steps.

Waiting, she would notice details nobody knew even existed. And then, the snap. A fleeting moment that would never occur again – the sleek movement of the hand of a vegetable vendor, the bending of a woman over a tin can set up by a street performer, a child looking on in wonder, two elderly women greeting each other, a bicycle swerving between the cars. This is what life was composed of. Stop, take a deep breath. A film camera was Bisan’s way to feel the flow of life.  

(c) khulud khamis, 2014 fragment from "Taboos in Arabic" manuscript

8 November 2014

Israeli police kill young Palestinian citizen of Israel in cold blood

Kheir Hamdan, 22, from the Galilee village of Kfar Kanna in Israel, was killed in cold blood last night by Israeli police officers. The video clearly shows that there was no immediate danger or life threat to any of the police officers at the time of shooting. Kheir was in the process of moving away from the police officers when he was shot dead. More than one bullet was fired at him.


Racism? If this was a Jewish young man, this would have never happened.

Read the article in the English version of Ha'aretz: 

CCTV footage raises questions in police shooting of knife-wielding Arab Israeli


Photo taken from the Facebook page of Shutafut-Sharakah

26 October 2014

Buthaina - tenth woman in her family murdered

Last night, Buthaina Abu Ghanem, from Ramleh, was murdered in cold blood. Buthaina is the tenth - yes, you are seeing the correct number - the TENTH - woman from her family to be murdered under similar circumstances.

Skimming through the media, I find the English edition of Times of Israel is using the term "honor killing." The Arab website Arabs 48 has reported that the Israeli police are incapable of dealing with these kinds of murders in what they refer to as "the Arab street."

To the term "honor killing" I say: NO. These are not honor killings. These murders have nothing to do with honor. These are gender-based murders. These women were murdered in cold blood simply because they were women, and simply because they attempted to live a normal life and to exercise their rights and freedoms. And to those commentators on the Times of Israel article who blame Islam, I also say no. Religion has nothing to do with it. These women were murdered because some men still think they have the right over women's bodies and the right to control women. Religions are not violent. If a person is violent, then his Islam/Christianity/Judaism/Buddhism will be violent. People are violent, not religions.


The names of the ten murdered women are buzzing through my head.
Buthaina
Naiefa
Sharihan
Dalia
Sabreen
Suzan
Zeinat
Amira
Reem
Hamda

Ten women from the same family. Sharihan was only 16 when she was murdered. Dalia disappeared at the age of 16 and to this day the police have not found her body. Reem was murdered because she refused to marry a man she didn't want to. Hamda was murdered because of too many phone calls.

I am sitting in the safety of my home, and my heart goes out to the women of the family who are still alive, and I cannot imagine the horror they must live through, not on a daily basis, but moment to moment.

ENOUGH KILLING WOMEN. ALL WE WANT IS TO LIVE IN DIGNITY AND FREEDOM.




23 October 2014

my new passion





Words have always been at the center of my life. I breath and live through words. It’s my way of talking to the world, and in the last several years, my tool for feminist activism. However, several years ago, I suddenly felt that I need an additional medium for expressing my creative energies. I started studying jewelry design, but left after two months. Something was missing. Something was incomplete in my life. Then I had the invaluable opportunity to photograph feminist events. I started receiving positive feedback, friends telling me that I have “an eye.” I started taking my Canon 60D everywhere, it became an extension of my body.
I’ve been photographing for two years, mainly playing with my camera, experimenting, learning. I don’t necessarily look for beauty when capturing an image. Rather, I search for essence, meaning, emotions, a story, more often than not questions rather than answers.
I am thrilled to have discovered an art form where I can grow as an individual and as an artist, a field that is so vast that the learning experience has no limits.  

14 October 2014

udate

I haven't been uploading any new content recently for several reasons.

* I have been quite busy with proofreading my forthcoming novel, Haifa Fragments. While I was in the process of writing it, I posted fragments from it. Now it has gone to type-setting. The novel will be available on 8 March, 2015 and you will be able to buy a copy through my publisher's website, Spinifex.

* More recently, I have gone back to a second novel, which I started a year ago. The new novel I'm currently working on, Taboos in Arabic, takes up exactly those themes - taboos. As I am still struggling with raw material, structure, and style, the text is in no way ready for sharing publicly.

* Lastly, I have found a new passion. Another way to unleash and express my creative energies: photography. In the last number of years, I have felt that the medium of words is not enough for me in terms of expressing myself and my creativity, and I searched for something to complement writing. I found it in photography. So at the moment, I am spending quite some time playing around with my camera, experimenting, and learning. I might soon open a photography blog, and will update you on it.

* As I'm not sure when I will be posting new blog-posts (it can happen anytime), I invite you to subscribe by email to my blog. This way, you will be sure not to miss anything.

* In the meantime, you are more than welcome to follow my Facebook page: Haifa Fragments, or just connect with me through my personal profile.

in solidarity,
khulud



8 September 2014

the only way I know














I tried to – 
love you 
gradually.
but I failed.

I tried to – 
love only
parts of you.
and I failed.

So I settled for
loving you
the only way I know

wholly
completely
utterly

- khulud خلود

1 September 2014

clouds visit the mountains















losing you
in the rain
a tree drops
one leaf
then another

clouds visit the mountains
on road B311

against the flow of the river
through
in between
the mountains

finding you
losing myself
finding something new

khulud, August 2014, Austria

1 August 2014

erasing my language, silencing my voice, erasing my smile. But I rise and smile


You try to scare me. Make me shrink. Further.
Make me walk the streets of my city
My city
Trying to take up less space.
For two whole weeks that I’ve been avoiding public transportation. And when I had to take the train, and wanted to take my laptop out to work, I remembered it had stickers in Arabic on it, saying: “my right to live, to chose, to be.”
So the laptop remained in my backpack. Along with my language.
When my friend called during that same train ride, I mumbled quietly, “aha, hmmm, yeah, ok, bye.”
Before riding the train back home, I had on a shirt with the writing: “the personal is political” in Arabic and Hebrew. My friend asked me if I was sure I wanted to wear this shirt on the train. I looked down at the shirt, and again, packed my language inside my backpack.
For two whole weeks, they have succeeded in crushing me, in erasing my language, silencing my very voice, even my smile. The feeling was one of complete paralysis.

But today I rise, and I smile. Because erasing my smile would mean they have succeeded in their mission of crushing me. And today I raise my voice and say: with all the devastation around us, with over 1,400 dead women, girls, boys, and men in Gaza, with the all permeating sense of helplessness, and the crushing sense of hopelessness, we will not give you the satisfaction of yielding. We will not be crushed. Our smiles will not be erased, no matter how hard you try! No matter how hard you try to erase my language, silence my voice, I raise my voice for justice. And I refuse to lose hope, and I refuse to give up on my smile. Because we, sir, teach life! In spite and despite all your attempts to crush the life out of us. We rise, we smile, and we teach the world life!

khulud, 1 August 2014
Haifa

22 July 2014

Pogrom Documentation in Haifa 19/ July 2014




On Saturday evening, 19 July, 2014, some dozen Haifa feminist activists gathered in the Haifa Women’s Coalition house to prepare signs for the protest march scheduled to take place at 21:30 in Carmel Center, Haifa. The atmosphere was positive, there was a sense that we are doing something, raising our voice, refusing to be silenced. We took photographs of ourselves with the signs and with the word ENOUGH written on our palms in Arabic (خلص), Hebrew (די), and English. At around 21:00 we headed towards Carmel Center, to join the march, organized by the Hadash Arab-Jewish party.

As soon as we arrived, we were completely taken aback by the scene. At least 2,000 extreme right-wing protesters were gathered at the point from which our march was to begin. We were moved to a different nearby location. We were few. Some accounts say we were several hundreds, but I don’t think there was more than 250 of us. Maybe even 200.

We could not march. The extreme right-wing protesters kept coming in, and were spread over on the other side of the main street, mainly chanting “death to Arabs” and “death to leftists.” I felt fear rise in my throat. I began taking pictures. At one point, I realized that when the protest is over, it will be very dangerous to disperse. I searched for our international intern and made sure that she doesn’t leave alone. Then I asked three of my friends – separately – if I can join them in their car and if they can drive me home. Three, because I wanted to make sure that if I lose sight of any of them, I have alternatives.

The protest came to an end when the last of the protestors who came out of Haifa got on the bus and left. Or so we thought. This was just the beginning. At this point, we remained about 50 protestors – mainly from Haifa, who came on foot or by car. Our intention was to disperse and go home. The police began dispersing as well. But the extreme right-wing protestors didn’t show any signs of dispersing. On the contrary, they just kept multiplying. Not only that, we soon realized that they were spread in groups in all they alleys surrounding us, behind bushes at the entrances to buildings, everywhere. Ambushing protestors trying to leave. My friends and I (at this point we were 6 or 7) tried to leave through the back yard of one of the buildings, and soon were chased back by angry protestors who were ambushing us with the aim of attacking us physically.

Back with the group of 50 protestors, we found ourselves moving slowly down the street, with no clear plan of what or how. At one point, my 5 friends somehow succeeded to break away and leave. Later I learned that two of them were beaten, one ended up in the hospital for concussion.

I remained with the 50 last protestors, and we came to a corner and stopped there. The scene in front of us was terrifying. In my estimation, there were about 1,500 of them. Surrounding us, approaching us, chanting death to Arabs. I looked at the street, and saw maybe 15 regular, unarmed policemen where half an hour before where hundreds of policemen, some on horseback.

We shrank back. A young teenage girl began crying behind me. An older woman said let’s go into one of the apartments. I screamed at one of the policemen: get us a bus! Then at one of the organizers the same thing. It was so easy at this point to just call a bus and get the hell out of there. We found ourselves posting statuses on Facebook that we are surrounded, we began calling 100 (police hotline). At this point, stones began flying at us. Large. One of them hit my friend in the side of her head. We were now crouching, our hands over our heads. I could smell the fear among us.

To me, this seemed to go on forever. It went on maybe for an hour. Later I learned that from my friends who saw our calls for help on Facebook that many of them called 100. The police, realizing it’s getting worse, at this point brought in the water cannon and armed police. Still, the water cannon didn’t help disperse the angry crowd.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the police decided to start moving us alongside the sidewalk. We begin walking, chased by the angry mob. As we walk, they pop up from everywhere: from alleys, entrances to houses. Stones keep flying in our direction. We keep moving through the alleyways. I have a feeling the police has no plan, no idea of what to do with us. We walk for about one kilometre. We stop at a roundabout. Now the police officers are arguing about what to do with us. I try again: “bring us a bus!” About 15-20 minutes later, a bus drives past, one of the night lines. The police stops the bus, gets the passengers off, and we get on.

We start moving. To me, it seemed we were driving in circles, as the angry mob was still chasing us in their cars. To me, it seemed that the ride was taking forever. We didn’t know where the bus is taking us. Finally, we arrive at Maxim restaurant by the beach. The place is full of police, and the water cannon. We get off the bus, and there seems to be no extremists in sight. It seems that everything is behind us. We get on another bus that’s waiting there. We have no idea where this bus will take us. Yet there’s a feeling of relief. We all get on the bus, and the bus starts pulling away.

All of a sudden, and out of nowhere, rocks fly at the bus. Moments of terror. The side windows are broken and there is glass everywhere. We scream at the driver to keep driving, as the police has finally left us and we are on our own.

The bus arrives at the German Colony, an Arab neighbourhood. We disembark. At last, a feeling of some sort of safety. Still, I find myself looking around me. Some of us, who live nearby, disperse. The rest, about 25 or so, head to the headquarters of the Hadash party. I’m shaking. Three of my friends come and pick me up in their car.

During all this, about ten women friends of mine stayed close to their phones and Facebook, calling, sending messages, asking what can we do, how can we help, calling the police. They wanted to come and pick us up, but there was no way. There were literally thousands of these extremists spread out all over the Carmel Center.

My friends drive me home, and during the drive, we keep watching cars passing us by, making sure we are not followed. When we reach my neighbourhood, a Jewish one, we stay in the car for several minutes to make sure nobody is around. Then, my friend walks me home. In the safety of my home, suddenly, I fell exposed, unsafe. The cat’s movement causes me to jump. An hour later, a friend calls to bring me something. I walk outside to meet her, and she puts her finger to her mouth, indicating we should not speak in Arabic. We stand in the street, speaking Hebrew.

I sit at my computer and write a short description of my experience, and as I write, I realize that what went on there was a pogrom. I realize that it could have ended not with people injured, but with people dead. I shiver as I recall the eyes full of murder. People who actually wanted me dead. For being an Arab. Not for any other reason.

This is my personal account of what happened on Saturday night. I’ve heard similar experiences from other activists who were with us. For me, it is becoming scary just to walk down the street or ride the bus. I have explicitly told my daughter not to talk in Arabic in public spaces. I myself am afraid to answer calls from Arab friends while on the bus for fear of being attacked.

This is Haifa 2014.  

khulud khamis
Haifa 22 July, 2014


On the same day, before the protest, I wrote a poem called "war is not my language" 

Link to photo album of the "war is not my language photos:
link to photos from the demonstration:






19 July 2014

war is not my language - الحرب ليست لُغتي

photo from the album "war is not my language". All photos can be circulated, shared, and used, under condition credit is given. If possible, provide a link to this poem, and notify me (via email, facebook, comment here).

الحرب ليست لُغتي
war is not my language

no more of yours F-16s
no more of your tanks!
(and your other American made deadly toys)
no more of your Qassams[1]

no more!
Khalas!
we are sleepless
our bodies – collapsing, shaking, bloodied, amputated, dead.

الحرب ليست لُغتي
war is not my language

rule and divide
rule and divide
rule and divide
NO MORE!

we refuse.
we scream in desperation
let us live
stop the murder.

LIFT the siege off Gaza
LET the fishermen fish
and let the boys PLAY football.

الحرب ليست لُغتي
war is not my language

LIFT the siege off Gaza
LET the women live with dignity
and let the girls SWIM in the sea

divide and rule
divide and rule
NO MORE!

we refuse!
we stand up and loudly, clearly say
together, Jews and Palestinians –
we refuse your wars
we refuse to be enemies

الحرب ليست لُغتي
war is not my language


divide and rule
NO MORE!

(c) khulud khamis,
خلود خميس
Haifa, 19 July 2014
حيفا, تموز 2014





[1] searching for the correct spelling, I find out that Izz ad-Din Al-Qassam lived part of his life in Haifa, my home, playing a major part in laying the foundation for the Black Hand (al-kaff al-aswad) الكف الأسود

28 June 2014

the incompetence of words

the first time you
whispered the – 
word
it took my breath away
in the dark
I remained silent.

this word
for me
is too small to –
contain all that is
in my soul my mind my body

I remain silent
awed
at the incompetence of
words.

- khulud خلود

10 June 2014

the political is personal

The political is personal

My daughter, having grown up in a radical feminist environment of the Haifa Women’s Coalition house, mainly surrounded and supported by the community of Isha L’Isha – Haifa Feminist Center and Aswat, has grown up to become an assertive young feminist herself. It is a wonder seeing her growing up and forming her own opinions on different issues. I always learn from her, as she keeps reminding me in so many ways that there is not one feminism, but many feminisms. We have discussions on issues affecting women; sometimes we agree, other times we don’t.

The most recent disagreement between us reflects the disagreement within the radical feminist movement in general, and that is the use of our bodies in our struggles. Women have chosen to use their bodies throughout the years in different political struggles, which can be seen in recent years in the protests surrounding the Russian feminist punk rock protest group Pussy Riot and the SlutWalks.

My daughter took part in this year’s Haifa SlutWalk, and she decided to dress in a certain way, thus using her own body to make a political statement. For those who don’t know the history of the Slut Walk, it started in January 2011, following a remark by a “representative of the Toronto Police” who “gave shocking insight into the Force’s view of sexual assault by stating: ‘women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.’” (SlutWalk).

When I saw what my daughter chose to wear, my first reaction was to try to persuade her not to dress in this way. Here I had to negotiate my own identities as a feminist and as her mother. Here I also realized that the feminist saying we always stress, “the personal is political,” also works in the opposite direction. In this case, the political became the personal.

Of course we both agree that women should have the right to dress whichever way they want and not be sexually harassed. Our disagreement was on the way we each choose to make our political statement. I myself don’t use my body in my activism, but I respect women who choose to do so. And thus, ultimately I had to respect my daughter’s choice. She is, after all, a grown young woman who received feminist education and all the tools to make her own choices. She is free to choose to use her body in her activism.

It was not easy seeing her during the SlutWalk procession as on the personal level I had mixed feelings about it. However, I was so proud of her. Proud of her courage, proud of her assertiveness, proud of her choice to stand up for women’s rights.

  

23 May 2014

drawing histories

Maisoon drew with pencil the history etched into the walls, the sparks of weddings that never were outside the window into the black sky, the cracks between the stones unhealed scars, the mud the dried up blood of life unborn, the dust beneath her legs all those tomorrows that never were. It was a sketch of her grandmother's story the story of all grandmothers the home of all mothers only this one room. Into this one room she poured their laughter from before and also their grief from after and the blood shed.

- khulud, edited from Haifa Fragments, a novel forthcoming by Spinifex Press

breathing in the words

"Sitting here now watching the wrinkles of these old doors and writing such nonsense as the painting of the letters. But no matter it is only words but then I live my life through words I like to breathe them in slowly and fill my lungs with them and then feel them warmly spread through my blood to all parts of my body until I reach the saturation point but I can never reach that point. The more I breathe them in the more I want of them even now when I promised never to breathe these words out of my body again. But a time comes when I can no longer contain them within me and have to breathe them out somehow someway because ultimately I need to take a fresh breath. But life doesn’t wait Asmahan not for me not for you not for us. And so I must breathe all these words out and empty my body of them so that I could somehow someway pick up some fragments of me before they are scattered and lost completely."

- from Majid's doors of writing, edited from Haifa Fragments manuscript, forthcoming by Spinifex Press.

26 April 2014

Haifa fieldnotes - Wadi Nisnas souk

He walked into the tumultuous souk with abandon, his mind a blank, treading on unfamiliar ground. His was the clean supermarket, lit with sharp blinding neon lights, where every product had a label on it: where it was produced, by whom it was imported, who the distributor was, number of calories, the vitamins and minerals it contained, colour additives and other chemicals. They came in a variety of shapes, sizes, colours. Plastic, glass, tin, cardboard. In bags, bottles, and boxes. Smiling faces of young beautiful women and children (all light skinned with blue or hazel eyes, but of course) peeked from every shelf, winking at him, promising a better something. He did his shopping automatically, grabbing the cheaper product rather than the one that promised it had no artificial flavours added. But here, in this haphazard souk, with its own chaotic order, he felt out of sync. Olive oil was sold in plastic bottles which originally held bubbly drinks that tickle your tongue just so swiftly, flying through the nose like tiny dust particles that attach themselves forcefully to every in-breath. Ziyad couldn’t tell which olive oil came from the Triangle area and which from the North. To him, the bottles all looked the same – the only difference their single eyes – the plastic caps screwed in place. These came in reds, blues, grays, and greens. 

Ziyad puts two boxes with the same winking blue-eyed kid in his cart. Never mind that he doesn’t usually eat this cereal; it’s buy one get the second for half price. He can’t pass the deal. He pushes the creeping fact that the company has been suspected of trafficking in child labour out of the left corner of his mind. It has nothing to do with him. Those children don’t belong to his neat world. And anyway, if he didn’t get this brand, chances are the next one was produced in an illegal settlement or by women under inhumane employment conditions. So he clears his muddled conscience, shaking the grey specks like dust swept off old furniture. There was no way around it. 


The souk wasn’t free of child labour, either. But it was a different kind of child labour. The red, green and yellow apples still bore the fresh prints of children’s laughter inscribed into their skin. Sisters, brothers and cousins would chase one another around the family orchid, now getting tangled up in a grandmother’s wrinkled skirts, now passing under a ladder, picking up an apple here, stealing a hand-stitched scarf from a young cousin over there, running wildly, turning over a tank of lukewarm water. Chased by an uncle’s stick. The apples in the crates in the souk held on to these memories, to release the faint laughter of those children when sliced sharply by a knife to be served at the salu of another family. Ziyad didn’t know these secrets yet. The apples winked at him mischievously, teasing his taste-buds with their smooth colours like the waves tempting the rocks with their foam.

He stops at the first vegetable stall, where an ancient woman sits on the bare cream-coloured floor stacking up grape-leaves in neat little bundles. “Assalamu Alaikum, khalty,” he says after a moment’s hesitation. “Wa Alaikum Assalam, son,” she looks up with her dim eyes, wrinkled fingers resting on the stack she had just finished. He’s stuck. He was waiting for her to offer him today’s deal, or to tell him how delicious her apples were, but she remains silent. “Uhm… can you tell me where can I find Um Muhammad?”
“Um Muhammad,” the ancient woman rakes her memory, pausing to consult a dark, unswept corner of her mind. “The third stall on your left. I bet your mother sent you to her for oranges. She’s got the best ones, Allah be my witness.”
He thanked her, feeling awkward because she didn’t try to persuade him to buy anything from her. Later on, when he would frequent the souk several times a week, he would learn the ways things worked here. That you never try to buy a customer. Things are done ever so subtly at the souk.

***

He walks down the souk, passing an improvised stand with a boy of about fifteen selling freshly squeezed rumman juice. His face is dark from the sizzling Middle Eastern sun, his light brown eyes shimmering, catching the blood red of the fruit. His stark white tank-top in gleaming contrast to his olive skin, jeans smeared with thin strikes and dapples of various shades of rumman colour – some fresh, others old – like the cloth a painter cleans a brush on before dipping it into another colour.

Ziyad pauses at the side of the stand, watching a woman in her late thirties bargaining the price of a cup of the paradise drink. The young boy smiles politely, refusing to lower the already cheap price. The woman gets upset, her brow creasing, but she buys the drink anyway, not wanting to appear stingy. She walks away triumphantly, holding on to her trophy, sipping it ever so slowly. "A cold rumman drink to start the day with, muallem? Only five shekels for a taste of paradise.” The boy is already squeezing a fresh fruit into a tin cup with one hand, holding a sieve over it with the other so that the juice dripping into the cup is pure. “But you sold it for ten to that woman,” Ziyad says in confusion. “Ahlan wasahlan to the souk! So you’re new here?”
“How did you know?”
“Nobody asks a question like that. Ya’ani, nobody who knows how things work here,” the boy snickers, then continues in a more hushed tone, as if sharing a newly discovered conspiracy, “For everything in the souk, there are two prices. One for our brothers and sisters, and one for the Yahud. Don’t tell me you didn’t know this, muallem.”

Yes, of course. Ziyad remembers this traditional practice, though in mixed cities it also leads to some confusion or uncomfortable instances, usually when young Arab women are mistaken for Jewish. Most often, these misunderstandings end with laughter and an instant reduction of the price. He sipped his sublime clear juice, remembering the reason he was here.

- khulud, deleted from Haifa Fragments, forthcoming by Spinifex Press, 2014




8 April 2014

On Palestinians serving in the Israeli Defence Forces

I just had a short discussion on Facebook with a Palestinian living in Sweden, who claimed that MOST Palestinian citizens of Israel serve in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). He even said that Palestinians from Haifa, Jaffa, the West Bank, Al Khalil (Hebron), and Gaza serve in the IDF. I was quite taken aback from this statement, which is obviously not true. First, let me say that Palestinians from the West Bank (Al Khalil is in the West Bank) and Gaza do not and cannot serve in the IDF for obvious reasons.   

Now let’s move on to the issue of Palestinian citizens of Israel. It is true, there are several hundreds who serve in the army. Some for purely personal reasons, as they believe military service will grant them benefits – mainly economic, higher social status, and equality. Others have ideological grounds for their service. They believe they are Israeli, that Israel is their country, and they want to contribute and serve the country. They feel it is their obligation. Still others claim they are not Arabs at all, but only Arabic-speaking. They distinguish themselves completely from the Arabs and Palestinians.

But the problem is that mainstream Hebrew and foreign media are reflecting a distorted image of this reality. They focus on this small group, and the image viewers get is that the majority of Palestinian citizens of Israel are rushing to serve in the IDF. Yet they show only this partial image, ignoring the broad movement of youth mobilizing against all forms of recruitment – both military service and national/civil service. Palestinian youth within Israel are out on the streets protesting this, social media campaigns are running on Facebook and other new media channels. And not only the youth movement is out there, but also social change organizations are leading national campaigns against military and national service.