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'The Gaza Crisis Is Underreported'
[Interview] Blogger Haitham Sabbah outlines his take on the current conflict in the Middle East
Amin George Forji (amingeorge)     Print Article 
Published 2009-01-08 11:05 (KST)   
It is a tough thing to live in a war zone. It is even tougher to live in Gaza, where there is never a shortage of armed conflicts between Hamas and the State of Israel.

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The ongoing Gaza conflict, however ugly it may look, reflects a scenario that the world has become accustomed to. Throughout the conflict, Haitham Sabbah , a a blogger who identifies himself as "an uprooted Palestinian blogger" has been providing the world with alternative information from the mainstream media about the crises through his blog, Sabbah.

In a recent interview, he pictures what life is like for ordinary People in Gaza, during the war. He believes the crises has been largely under-reported in the mainstream media, one reason why he has intensified with blogging. Although he advocates for a truce, between Israel and Palestine, he adds that this must be preceded by "justice".

I interviewed him through a series of emails between Jan. 4 and Jan. 7.

[The opinions expressed in this interview are solely those of the speaker, and do not necessarily reflect the author's beliefs.]

OhmyNews: You identify yourself as an uprooted Palestinian blogger. What exactly do you mean by that? How long have you been blogging about Palestine? What has been your experience?

I'm a Palestinian by origin; however, I was born in Kuwait. Like more than 3 million Palestinians in exile, Israel did not allow my parents to return to their homes after 1967 war, so they were forced to live in exile. From the day I was born until now, I got only a couple of chances to visit my occupied homeland - Palestine. However, 1986 was the last time Israel would allow me in. I'm turning 40 this coming April and a father of three kids. One of my dearest wishes is to get a chance for my kids to visit occupied Palestine. Imagine that my eldest boy is now 10 and he only saw Palestine on TV and in books. It's because of all of this that I feel like an olive tree, 'uprooted' from its roots in the Holy Land of Palestine.

Carrying the olive tree on my back, I traveled to so many countries around the world. For example, when I finished my high school, and because I'm Palestinian, had to travel far to India to find a seat to continue my studies. Had I been living in my country, at least I could have the option to study there or travel abroad. Similarly after I finished my bachelor degree in Engineering, Electronics and Communications, I worked for a few years in this country or that, for as long as I can get a resident permit. For the last five years I lived and worked in Bahrain.

So, as you see, being a Palestinian is not easy. This is why Palestine, with what this entire name carries from the past, present and in the future plays a major role in my life.

I've been blogging since before the blog bubble burst wide after the American war on Iraq started. From there onward and especially after 9/11, I noticed from the American blogsphere how effective this media can be and found it to be the only available way to express my political opinions. My main objective behind blogging is bridging the gap between the West and East, educating Western people about the real history of the Arab/Israel conflict and exposing the lies that are sometimes spread in the media.

It is not easy to present an alternative source of information, especially when it criticizes a world superpower and the Zionist State of Israel. There have sometimes been attempts to hack my blog, and as you can imagine, this is surely to distort the information I write in the blog.

It was also interesting to meet a lot of people online. In fact, most of my friends now are either Americans or Israelis (of course Jews). All of whom I met on my blog over my nine years of blogging.

How would you weigh in on the ongoing Gaza conflict, at least from a blogger's point of view? Has the mainstream media been objective in their broadcasts?

The mainstream media has never been objective in covering the Israeli occupation of Palestine. For example, during the first day of the Israeli criminal air strikes on Gaza, CNN reports focused on the causalities on the Israeli side and the projectiles fired by Hamas from Gaza and ignoring the massacre of more than 300 Palestinians in Gaza -- more than half of them were civilians.

On the other hand, Israel stopped mainstream media from entering Gaza. They know that once they do that, the whole world will see the war crimes they are conducting there. Now that we are left with only Al Jazeera reporting from both sides, the world was left with no option but to believe what the Jewish State Hasbara ("explanation") tells them.

Israel is claiming that they are defending their citizens, but what about Palestinians defending themselves too in Gaza? During the six-month truce, Israel killed tens and injured hundreds of Palestinian, most of them children. On the other hand, since when has the occupation had the right to defend itself? Why has the world chosen to forget that Israel is the occupier and Palestinians, including Hamas, have the right to resist the occupation? Someone would say that Israel withdraw from Gaza. Great, then how come the land, sea and borders are all controlled by Israel.

Besides the images we see on TV, how is the situation on the ground with ordinary citizens? Is there a sense of hopelessness, loss or fatalism?

Actually I don't think you have seen enough on the TV. What they don't show you is more than what you saw. Check some of the videos I published or some of the slideshows and photo albums to see for yourself that the atrocities and war crimes in Gaza are beyond imagination. Have they mentioned on your TV that Israel is using depleted uranium and phosphoric bombs? Have they shown you the 100 kids, women and elders gathered in one house then deliberately hit by air strikes, killing more than 60 of them? Have they shown you the massacre of civilians including children and women in more than three UN schools where they killed more than 50? Have they shown you the endless number of injures in Gaza hospitals? Have they shown you injured people being operated on without anesthesia? Have they shown you two people being operated on in the same operating room? Have they shown you bombarding mosques, universities and medical staff? Have they shown you the starving people of Gaza?

On the other hand, have they shown you the line of Palestinians standing on Rafah border from the Egyptian side and waiting for the Egyptian authorities to allow them to RETURN to Gaza? Yes, this might be shocking to some, but Gazans are not running from their land. Those who were outside are returning to their homes and loved ones because they chosen to die alongside their families than running away from the Israeli war crimes.

Gazans have chosen their destiny. In fact all Palestinians did that the day they elected Hamas. They all chant "Freedom or death." Yes, they are crying to stop the war crimes, but death will not stop Palestinians from fighting endlessly until liberation.

Some Palestinians are dead, some are living, but most are not yet born.

Do ordinary citizens you talk to feel this war was uncalled for, or was unavoidable? What is their judgment of the crisis?

Most, if not all, knew that it is coming. Not because they did something wrong as all believe in their right to resist, but because they knew that Israel needs some blood for its coming elections. It is nothing new. Israel did it before and most probably they will do it again. It is election season in Israel. From the first day of the Israeli war on Gaza, the Israeli leaders started counting how many new seats they gained in the Knesset.

Palestinians will never stop their fight and resistance for their freedom and return of their land. The Israelis know this. Israel knows that no matter what they do, no matter how many they kill, the projectiles will not stop. They might reduce them for some time, but Palestinian resistance will always come from out of the ashes.

If you were to pass a strong message to Hamas and Israel right now, what exactly would you tell each of them?

I would say stop the bloodshed and accept life with each other. A two-state solution may never happen. Palestinian refugees will never give up their right to return home, so the so-called two-state solution will always be a dream. No matter what you do, no matter what you agree on, if Palestine is not a state for all, the bloodshed will not stop. We need justice.

There is increasingly a call for a cease-fire. In your opinion, how can the two sides reach a long-lasting truce at this particular point in time?

Only if both sides accept the deployment of UN peacekeepers, open all crossing gates, remove the apartheid wall and remove all road blocks. Here I'm not talking about Gaza only. Gaza is part of occupied Palestine. Although the West Bank looks quiet, it's boiling from inside and liable to explode at anytime. Therefore, a long lasting truce can be reached only when Israel shows its intention for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, not only Gaza.

Do you have any message for the rest of the world?

I will use the words of one great man -- Edward Said -- who said: "Remember the solidarity shown to Palestine here and everywhere... and remember also that there is a cause to which many people have committed themselves, difficulties and terrible obstacles notwithstanding. Why? Because it is a just cause, a noble ideal, a moral quest for equality and human rights."

Another Palestinian poet, Samih Al-Qasim, said it all:

"I hope I could have more time to write love poems only, because I feel it, and I want it, and I need it. But you can't be concentrated in love poems when your life is threatened. You have, first of all, to defend your life, your existence."

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Should Israel implement a cease-fire in Gaza?  (2009-01-02 ~ 2009-01-26)
I don't know
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Amin George Forji

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