Category Archives: Palestine

Make/Shift Magazine: Leila Khaled’s Revolutionary Life

Got my copy of Make/Shift magazine through the post recently with my little article in it. My piece is a Q&A with Sarah Irving who talks about the rise and fall of the Palestinian political left and Leila Khaled’s life after the (in)famous hijackings.

makeshiftmag issue 13

I genuinely love flicking through this mag as I always find something which blows my mind. Love.Love.Love. There’s a snippet of my article below but before that, the article (well, edit of lots of articles) that I really loved in this issue was about activism, burnout and caring for ourselves.

“I feel no different when I read posts like these than I did when I was working as a consultant in corporate america and the boss would send me emails on my “sick days” asking if I’d gotten a chance to review those documents, because, you know, above all, we gotta make sure we think of the company…. Last I checked, activists in the non-profit industry were accusing corporations of being greed, exploitative, blood-sucking a**holes who didn’t care about “people”, just “money.” I’m ashamed to say that after years of working with people in the non-profit industry, there’s not that much difference; just replace money with “self-righteous political agendas.”

To be completely honest, when I think about the times when I’ve been at my lowest and most strained, it’s been due to other activist guilt-tripping me into over-extending myself for some agenda I don’t even remember signing up for.

I’m lucky that I’ve been able to find others like myself, who believe just as much in caring for their communities as they do taking care of themselves, not necessarily as interdependent ideologies, but because — dare I say it — it’s possible to want to improve the world and have other interests that are not necessarily connected, including your own dreams, ambitions, peace of mind. God forbid the word “self” ever finds its way into the mouth of an activist. God forbid we actually practice the “self-love” slogans we slap on so many protest signs.”

Spectra Speaks


“i often struggle with copious amounts of shame, frustration and confusion over the fact that right now in my life all i have to give is going towards helping raise 2 children. It can feel deeply unradical, ordinary and anonymous. it is adding exponentially to my already intense isolation. While not my intention, my world has become this house, this home. As someone who is disabled and chronically ill, i am tapped…and this is capitalism at work yeah? its a set up. there is not enough. not enough time/money/energy.

and revolution. well…it’s THE thing.
but heres the thing, the front lines aren’t linear. they aren’t always dramatic. they
aren’t -out-there-. they are everywhere, including the kitchen. including the bedtime story and the hands on love of being present for need.

i’m learning to think less in terms of productivity, esp. since framing life that way will certainly end me, and think more in terms of sustaining… sustenance… support. this flies in the face of my lower class life that screams produce, keep the cards close or die. it challenges the ableism in my working class roots, the internalized high stakes drive to succeed. to avoid being trash. or criminal.”

Ambrose @ The Root Cellar 

Erin Aubry Kaplan also has a great piece about communicating (or not) with her mother via email over the years. Great read.

Leila Khaled's Revolutionary Life make:shift magazine

You can buy the mag here.


Aquila Magazine: Leila Khaled – Daughter of Palestine

leila khaledLeila Khaled is probably the reason the saying “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” was invented. Okay, so I am exaggerating but not by as much as you would think. At the age of 25 Leila Khaled and a fellow combatant hijacked a plane to highlight the plight of the Palestinians who had been forgotten in the refugee camps of Jordan and Lebanon since the formation of Israel in 1948. It was 1969 and a year later, after some plastic surgery to make she wouldn’t be recognised, she would hijack another plane. Some hailed her as a hero, others as a terrorist. I interviewed Sarah Irving, author of recently published ‘Leila Khaled – Icon of Palestinian Liberation’ to talk about the hijackings, assassination attempts, marriage and life in a political organisation.

Read the full article and lots more by purchasing the January edition of Aquila Style here.

Mapping Palestine’s Environmental Civil Society – The Good, the Bad and the Uncooperative


A study mapping the environmental actors in Palestine shows a desperate lack of co-operation between organisations and donors keen to play it safe with ‘practical projects’

The lovely people at Heinrich Böll Stiftung had done something that I have been procrastinating about for almost lifetime (well, not quite a lifetime but a good couple of years at least). They have mapped out the important actors and organisations on the environmental scene in Palestine. Exciting, right!? They have painstakingly gone through all those websites, NGOs and institutes with an environmental focus to bring us a clear image of the state of the environmental movement in Palestine. They found that out of 2,245 NGOs registered in the oPt only 104 were environmentally-focused and of these, just 56 were actually still active. More juicy details after the jump.

The Facts on Green Palestine

– 104 registered environmental civil society organisation in the West Bank and Gaza

– 56 civil society organisations are actually still active

– Over 70% of environmental civil society organisations feel that their relationship with other organisations is competitive rather than co-operative

– Limited funding and efforts to raise their grassroots presence are two main reasons for the competitiveness between organisations

– 8 key organisations in Palestine based on their size, the variety of programmes implemented and geographic range:

Most organisations complained that international donors attempted to remain neutral by focusing in practical action and lacked the political will to enforce real changes by addressing Palestinians’ rights to natural resources. As such many organisations felt their projects were simply ‘coping mechanisms’. Even so, the relationship between NGOs and funders was generally described as co-operative if highly dependent.

: For the full article and to find out the top 9 key green organisations in Palestine go to

: Palestine (Photo credit: Squirmelia)

Palestinian Women Are Being Failed by Refuge and Shelter Services

When I first heard about the murder of Nancy Zaboun in Bethlehem on Monday, July 30, all I could think about was that another woman had been let down by the system. A weak and underfunded protection system, which fails to support Palestinian women dealing with domestic violence and abuse in the West Bank, makes women choose between living with their abuser and being trapped in a women’s shelter where there is limited education, freedom of movement, or prospects of a better future. And, as a woman of Palestinian heritage, Nancy Zaboun’s murder makes me angry. I am angry that more was not done to protect her from years of abuse and finally murder. I am angry that resources are so poor that women often choose to risk their lives rather than enter a shelter. Continue reading

MMW: Life in a Women’s Shelter in Palestine – Q&A with Samar Hazboun

This post was written by guest contributor Arwa Aburawa.

Back in December 2011, gender-based violence hit the headlines in the Arab world whensoldiers brutally attacked a hijab-wearing Egyptian protester. Following the incident, there was widespread outrage that a woman would be treated in such a violent manner. And rightly so. However, it got me thinking whether there would have been such a public display of anger if that kind of abuse was happening in someone’s home. By someone’s brother or husband.

The answer to that question is an obvious one. And it reflects back not only on the politics and timing of the incident in Egypt but also on the state of Arab/Muslim society. It seems that public violence between strangers is just not acceptable whilst abuse that occurs behind closed doors between a wife and husband or even a daughter and father is a different beast altogether.

I want to make clear that this problem isn’t something unique to the Arab/Muslim region. It something I see all time in the UK where I live, and it’s something that frightens me. What also trouble me are the statistics about the level of violence and abuse that occurs inside our homes, not only in the Middle East but the world over. It’s our job to change that – to deal with the messy, troubling, disempowering and gut-wrenching issue of domestic violence and sexual abuse wherever we are.

Samar Hazboun, a Jerusalem-born photographer is doing just that. She has released a documentary called Hush, which exposes the harsh realities of life in a women’s shelter in Palestine. You can watch the short film here (and embedded below); please be warned that it contains explicit descriptions of domestic violence and sexual violence.

Hush has been exhibited in Ramallah and London, and promoted by the UN as part of their gender equality workIt also came second place in the “I Have Something To Say 2012” competition in Palestine. I spoke to Samar about her experience filming in the shelter, the role of the occupation and finding ways to improve the women’s integration with the rest of society.

Arwa Aburawa: Tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from, where you grew up, your studies and why photography is important to you.

Samar Hazboun: I was born and raised in Palestine and photography has always been a self-expression tool for me. It started on a personal level and then it grew to documenting other people’s struggles. The visual side to everything is very important. Photography is what allows me to bring the message as close to people as possible. Nowadays people don’t read as much as they used to and so it is easier to deliver a message through a photograph as it catches people’s attention faster than something that is written.

What drew you towards exploring the topic of gender-based violence and sexual abuse?

I guess what I am interested in is letting people face the truth. Seeing what is happening behind closed doors and getting a specific social class out of their comfort zone as these things happen all around them. I have always been interested in human rights but I noticed the lack of exposure or even willingness to discuss this matter. Whenever this topic is brought up people tend to ”Hush” each other – thus the title of my project.

When I started doing my research it was hard to find the real numbers and percentage of sexual abuse against women in the Middle East. A lot of the time these stories are denied or the women are killed which leads us back to square one of not really knowing what is going on. Some stories of violation don’t come until years and years of suffering.

Was it difficult to gain the women’s trust and permission to film in the shelter?

Yes. It took me more than a year to get permission to enter the shelter and I was actually the first person to be let in to document their life there. I struggled at first and faced rejection because to these women I was an outsider who was interested in covering a story and then leaving. Which wasn’t true. It was never a ”product” to me but an in depth project which will hopefully raise awareness and shed light on these stories… I worked with these girls for a period of two months during the first month I never took my camera with me to the shelter. I prepared workshops for them where we got to know each other better. I mean, just the fact that these women spoke about their abuse means a lot to me. There is a first step to everything.

Can you describe to us what a typical day in the shelter would be like?

Continue reading

Mario Cucinella: Interview With Gaza’s Green School Architect

I speak to Mario Cucinella the architect behind Gaza’s eco schools about building under conflict, water, education and bringing hope to a desperate region

Early 2013 will see the launch of a green school which will collect rainwater and regulate internal temperature using thermal technologies. Whilst such a project would not be noteworthy in Europe, this project is coming to the energy-scarce, water-poor and conflict-ridden region of the Gaza Strip. Constructing a green building in such a region definitely comes with a whole cache of problems- it also comes with a whole load of benefits. Building green schools that save water and reduce the amount of energy needed offers huge benefits to the people of Gaza. I caught up with Mario Cucincella, the architect behind the project to find out more.

Aburawa: Looking back at the profile of your work, most of the projects you are involved in are based in Italy. How did you get involved in the scheme to bring eco schools to Gaza?

Cucinella: I got involved in this project as I was invited to a conference by the Italian government which was about the future of Palestine and how a green economy could help Palestine’s economy and encourage development. At that meeting I met with UNRWA which is the UN organisation for Palestinian refugees and we talked about presenting a project about the green buildings I had worked on in the last couple of years as they were interested in the integration between green issues and architecture.

They took me to visit refugee camps and we went to Gaza to see the schools and so I proposed to them an idea of building a different quality of school. I mean, UNRWA builds a lot of schools as they are in charge of education and health and social problems- so they build schools, hospitals and lots of other things- and there was a big programme to build one hundred schools in Gaza and they were really interested in a new style or standard of building. Well, these things grow very fast and they were excited about my proposals and I guess, here we are.

Aburawa: There has been lots of press attention around the concept of green schools- could you tell us about some of the green features of the Gaza schools?

Cucinella: Well as you know, Gaza has a real issue with access to lots of resources. So for example, water is really polluted and 40% of the population still don’t have access to potable water. There’s also significant energy blackout and so that does affect how you can run schools and hospitals. The first idea was to collect rainwater as they don’t collect rainwater and in Gaza there are between 100-600mm of water a square a year- which is not lot but it’s still free water. They also don’t recycle water so the principle is to be able to collect maximum water for the school.

The other issue is that the schools are very low quality and they are not suited to their environment. In the summer the buildings are very hot and it’s hard for children to focus on their studies when it’s 38 degrees in the classroom. So another important feature is creating a sufficient thermal mass so that energy is stored and temperature can be better regulated. These two are not very complex principles but when you put them together you get something quite special which can really improve the people’s quality of life. And that was the agenda behind these buildings.

In Gaza it is notoriously difficult to construct buildings as there are issues around the ability to bring in materials due to the blockade. How will you be working around these restrictions to make sure the schools are built? Continue reading

Green Prophet: The Place of Politics in the Middle East’s Environment

I write about  the never-ending battle I have with myself when I’m writing on environmental issues in the Middle East about whether politics should be at the centre of my reporting or not…

A couple of weeks ago, Green Prophet reported on the news that Israelis and Palestinians were working together to build a restorative eco-park. It was a relatively feel-good piece showing that despite the political conflict, joint projects could be useful in building bridges between the two nations. One commentator, however, felt that our coverage was politically naïve.

H.Shaka remarked: “I appreciate that GP is trying to report on ‘green’ in the whole Middle East, including both Israel and the Arab world, and I have come to see this as a step in the right direction. However, given the strong political drivers in the region, I think GP should aim to be much more politically informed and balanced if it wishes to gain the respect of its readers, at least in the Arab world.”

From me personally, the comment struck a chord. I can see why the commentator would prefer that politics play a bigger role in the way we see green initiatives in the region. I am the first to admit that green campaigners can be a little idealistic about joint Israeli and Palestinian projects, and tend to ignore their political downsides. Continue reading