Palestinian photojournalist appeals for support to exit Gaza to accept award

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Palestinian photojournalist Ashraf Abu Amra from the city of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip has appealed to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate for assistance to travel to Moscow from the blockaded coastal enclave to accept an award.

Palestinian photojournalist

Palestinian photojournalist

Abu Amra won second place in the Top News category for the Andrei Stenin International Press Photo Contest, it was announced on Thursday.More than 7,000 young photojournalists from 71 countries competed for the awards in different five categories.Abu Amra was also a winner in the 2015 competition, but was unable to travel outside of the Gaza Strip due to the ongoing Israeli blockade of the territory. The awards ceremony is scheduled to be held on Aug. 30. “This award means a lot to me. Through my participation in the ceremony, I would be representing Palestine in a competition joined by the most outstanding journalists from all over the world. My goal is to raise the voice of Palestine in front of the whole world,” Amra told Ma’an on Saturday.

Abu Amra was awarded for a photo he captured in 2015 of bereaved Palestinian father Yahya Hassan, holding the body of his two-year-old daughter Rahaf during her funeral. Rahaf was killed by an Israeli airstrike in October.

Abu Amra’s appeal comes as Israel’s military blockade of the Gaza Strip approaches nearly a decade. The blockade has plunged the Gaza Strip’s more than 1.8 million Palestinians into poverty, while the destruction from three Israeli offensives over the past six years and slow reconstruction led the UN in September to warn that Gaza could be “uninhabitable” by 2020.While Egypt’s Rafah border crossing has remained the main lifeline for Gazans to the outside world, Egyptian authorities have slowly sealed off movement through the border since democratically-elected president Muhammad Morsi was toppled by the Egyptian army in 2013.Due to the constraints on Palestinian movement through the crossing, many are commonly barred from leaving or entering the Gaza Strip, some for months at a time, as the crossing is only periodically opened by Egyptian authorities, stranding Palestinians on both sides of the crossing during closures.

In 2015, the Rafah crossing was closed for 344 days. According to UN documentation, the crossing has been partially opened for 14 non-consecutive days since the beginning of 2016. Over 30,000 people are registered and waiting to cross, according to the Palestinian authorities in Gaza.



Israeli designer eroticizes the Palestinian keffiyeh

By Philip Weiss


Tanya Habjouqa, a photographer, reported on her Facebook page a few days ago:


Cultural appropriation to an extreme….in a chic Tel Aviv mall, I stopped in my tracks when I saw the Palestinian and Jordanian Keffiyeh fabric filling an entire boutique. Chic sexy dresses, funky flouncy skirts, long hippie draping gowns….minimum cost 150 USD. No sign or explanation of where this material came from. Even my husband stood frozen in alarm, peering in window. It really was too much. Even by the standards here.cloth1

We went on to Dodo Bar Or’s site. She is an Israeli designer with stores in Tel Aviv and an international following. Her foto’s at right. designer

Her new line is based largely on the Palestinian keffiyeh, a symbol of Palestinian resistance. Some of the fashions eroticize the keffiyeh. I can’t imagine Dodo Bar Or is considering the sentiments of 20 percent of the Israeli population, let alone the millions under occupation a few miles away. Many are sure to be offended by these clothes.



The bookseller saving Jerusalem’s Palestinian identity

Stripped of their rights, the last wall of Palestinian resistance is culture, says owner of a Jerusalem bookshop.

By Urvashi Sarkar

On Jerusalem’s busy Salah Eddin Street, where cafes, grocery stores, money exchange centres and jewellery shops proliferate the landscape, a prominent board at number 22 announces itself as the Educational Bookshop.

Shortly ahead, across the road, is another bookstore and cafe, also titled the Educational Bookshop. Both belong to the Jerusalem-based Muna family; the first sells Arabic books and stationery while the latter sells English books. “The bookshop started with one bookseller: my father. Now we are six brothers who read, recommend and sell books,” said Mahmoud Muna, manager of the English bookshop.

Upon entering the English bookstore, a shelf stocked with books by noted Palestinian academic Edward Said catches the eye. The presence of Said at the entrance is significant since it was his family who originally owned the Arabic bookshop. palestinian books

Muna traces the connection: “The Edward Said family had bookstores in East and West Jerusalem. They ran the Palestine Educational Bookshop on Salah Eddin Street, where they sold stationery and books,” Muna told Al Jazeera.

The shop changed hands a few times. When Muna’s father, Ahmed, bought and established it in 1984, he dropped Palestine from the title, since it was illegal then to have the word ‘Palestine’ in the title of an entity or the Palestinian flag. Therefore, the name was changed to The Educational Bookshop.

The history of both bookshops is a reflection of the reading preferences of Jerusalem’s inhabitants, both locals and tourists, over the years. During the 1980s and early 1990s, the Arabic bookstore stocked mostly books in Arabic on politics, history, poetry, literature and fiction, and some English books on tourism.

A turning point came in 1994-95, when, according to Muna, many Palestinians stopped reading. “Palestinians had been reading about the supposed light at the end of the tunnel, promoted by nationalist Palestinian writers who wrote about how the peace process would bring freedom,” recalls Muna.

But after the 1993 Oslo Agreement, things changed. “It turned out to be lies, and people stopped trusting books. Consequently, the bookstore also suffered.”

Muna characterises the post-Oslo years as a time when Jerusalem received an influx of international NGO workers, diplomats and journalists. “Jerusalem’s newcomers sought to understand Palestine and the Middle East better and wanted English books. We made a conscious decision to increase our English selection.”

Therefore, Imad Muna, the eldest of the Muna brothers in charge, decided to increase the English selection of the store. 

Muna still remembers the ripples created by the publication of Said’s Peace and its Discontents, published in 1996. “It was the first book to criticise the Palestinian Authority [PA], exposing the peace process and Oslo. We sold hundreds of copies in English and Arabic to Palestinians and foreigners. The PA banned it, but we could sell it since being in Jerusalem we are not under the PA.”


‘The bookshop started with one bookseller: my father. Now we are six brothers who all read, recommend and sell books,’ says Mahmoud Muna [Courtesy of the Muna Family/Al Jazeera

The bookstore expanded on Said’s collection, also stocking books by Israeli historians like Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim, who were critical of the Israeli narrative. Realising that there was a big market for English books, in 2007-08, a new bookstore was established with only English books, along with a cafe and a literary-cultural space called the Jerusalem Literary Salon.

“We also witnessed a revival of Arabic readership during this period to which the Arabic bookstore catered.”

Muna reflected on the need to present the Palestinian story in English. “There were no proper English bookstores in Jerusalem, and the only English books were in Israeli bookshops which portrayed the Israeli viewpoint. British and American authors with orientalist perspectives were writing about Israel and there was very little on the Palestinian viewpoint. This, however, changed in the 90s.”

The English Educational Bookshop was the first of its kind in Palestine. “This was the first bookstore that sold books in English by Palestinians and about the Palestinian viewpoint,” he says.

Central to the identity of the two bookstores is their location in Jerusalem. “We want to reinforce the notion of Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. We may expand to other areas, but our main area of functioning needs to be Jerusalem,” Muna says, acknowledging that a Jerusalem location renders it inaccessible to many Palestinians who face restrictions on entering Jerusalem.

The English bookstore also hosts cultural and literary events, such as readings, screenings, exhibitions and talks. The bookshop, according to Muna, plays a role in the larger spectrum of cultural resistance and it is being viewed as reinforcing Palestinian culture and identity. 

“The Palestinians have been stripped of their rights, political representation and freedom. The last thing we have is our culture – the last wall of resistance, which Israel will find very hard to break down. The mission of the bookshop is to reinforce Palestinian culture and identity.”

The store has about 1,500 titles encompassing history, fiction, politics, poetry and even cookery. “These are serious books, not propaganda. We sell books on Palestine written in different parts of the world.”

The bookshop has titles from across the Middle East. Muna says: “This is not a Palestine-Israeli conflict; it was and is an Arab-Israeli conflict.”

The operations of the bookshop are not without hurdles, with the delivery and clearances of books often delayed. “Our books come from the US, UK, India, France, Germany, Jordan, Egypt and Spain and pass through Israeli security,” he said.

“The Israelis pick on titles. They do not like books such as the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe or Jeff Halper’s book on Israeli manufacture and sales of arms. They also do not like books on Hamas, or with provocative covers. The delivery of such books is delayed by two or three weeks. But since there is no censorship law over English books, no books are confiscated.”

Books from Syria, Lebanon and Iran cannot come directly. Instead, they are routed through Jordan.

Muna recalls when Mordechai Vanunu, who had revealed Israeli nuclear secrets, was kidnapped twice from the store. “When the Israeli army come, they create a scene. Once a man was shot outside, and our CCTV cameras recorded it.” According to Muna, the Israeli forces closed the shop for hours and wanted to take the camera. The lawyer, however, convinced them to take only the footage.

They took the phones of customers and deleted pictures. “Sometimes, they spray chemical skunk gas in our neighbourhood, and the foul odours enter our store, too. We do not know if we are being targeted.”

On the positive side, Muna points out that there has been a renewal of Palestinian Arab readership. He describes the current readership as fiction preferring, predominantly female, and in the 17-22 age bracket. 

“The older generation consumed mostly history and politics. The new readers like books on romance and sexuality. I want them to read more serious, classic stuff: Books on Palestinian history, Arab nationalism, Arab communism, and the great literature of the Arab world.”

“They [young readers] use social media and ask us about books we don’t know of. As a bookseller, this ought to be disconcerting, but it makes me happy.”

Source: Al Jazeera