Mahmoud Ghanim
Pacifism is a cliché, I shoot people with my camera, cut their heads in Photoshop

Pay less than a Gazan

Activists in solidarity to rescue a Palestinian in Hamas prisons.

COVID-19 is keeping all governments busy. People take shelter at homes; political and religious leaders are in quarantine; important meetings moved to the online sphere. Easter and Pesach are not taking place this year, not as usual anyway. The most that we can do is to help those in need in these circumstances and support each other spiritually, to make sure no source of livelihood is lost. This is especially crucial in Gaza, where the poverty rate reaches nearly 75%. However, Hamas recently arrested those who were trying to do just that: peace activist Rami Salam and others were arrested by Hamas for joining a Pesach-Easter-Ramadan dinner Zoom which was involving Israelis as well.

The phrase: the violent ones are the sacred ones. Since Hamas is accused of corruption, the death of 12 civilians last month because of Hamas digging tunnels under civil facilities, it seems the one falling down drags anyone else down with it out of fear not out of strength.

What comes to mind when you hear the word, ‘prisoner’?

I posed this question in a political leadership seminar last year. Some responded, “a thief”, “a criminal”, and other negative images.  Then I told my father’s story, a former political prisoner. An activist arrested for his political orientation, holding political awareness and human rights seminars.

Activists are concerned about the detainees’ status; they can’t check on them. They are wondering if Hamas is keeping any code of ethics while detecting someone for having Israeli FB friends. Another concern is if that will break the strong Rami, and stop him from achieving his dream of breaking the silence, paving the way for a whole generation to break social norms, fears, and erasing terms like “normalization”? Will our silence help his voice to be heard? Can our voice add fire to his flame? That is the concern of millions who wish to take a step towards peace, and change the status quo. Especially in a culture like ours, that is based on honor in the image of an individual.

The disease and the cure

Despite Rami’s participation in peace programs in the United States in 2017 and in India last December, he returned to Gaza, where the unemployment rate is 45%, the daily wage can reach $3 if available. His mission was to bring change and hope at a time when thousands of young people were dreaming to emigrate away from Gaza, which has been under siege for nearly 13 years. Rami is an engineer, a journalist, He recently led an initiative of daily spreading 1000 flowers with love letters, “Game changers” – an initiative aimed to increase the mental and physical health among children, as well as the youth cultural creativity festival.

The public discussions that followed the news of Rami’s arrest made me wonder if by staying silent in order to stay safe means actually dying slowly. Simulating fear is the real disease, and speaking up is the treatment.

“Let Them Eat Cake”

Jean Jacques Rousseau attributed this phrase to Marie Antoinette. regardless of the correctness of the phrase. However, it indicates that the environment shapes your standards; Some people consider signing a petition, donating, demonstrating, and speaking publicly as a big step. For Palestinians, there was a cost to hold a Zoom meeting to celebrate Pesach in the shadow of the global curfew. Palestinians took the risk, subjecting themselves to investigation on suspicions that amount to great treachery, which can result in a death sentence.

Thus, Palestinians walk more than half the distance when carrying out peace activities. They risk reputation, jobs, even lives.

Meet me halfway: 

Hundreds signed a petition in an attempt to create political pressure on Hamas to release these activists. It’s not Rami’s first time being detained, despite knowing his resilience, activists are trying to change this prevailing situation of human rights violation, women killing, hundreds of political prisoners. These are indicators of the status of a wide strip of Gazans, that Rami is one of them. Rami is lighting a candle into the darkness. But he can’t do this alone and imprisoned.

The question that arises? Can Corona be a spark of peace?

Cooperation between Arabs and Jews conducted in different sectors even before Camp David; John’s plan for water in 1955 even with Syria, which is considered a hostile country. 

People said: if corona doesn’t differentiate in religion and race, we shouldn’t too, we have more than corona in common. Muslims recite the Passover story in the Quran, Christians mentioned how they relate to the Passover that Jesus had before the crucifixion. We can fight over Hummus, but that night I was bragging as a Palestinian that I made the best matzot.

“It’s worse than Gaza”:

Israelis said this complaining about the curfew. On the other hand of this stereotype, if you were under a siege for 14 years, under a dictatorship? Does this make Palestinians and Israelis similar? We might agree that it took 10 plagues to take the jews out of Egypt, but it took 40 years to take Egypt out of the Jews. none of them was good enough to enter the land of Canaan. Will you now take a stand to host a Palestinian? Would you love your neighbor as yourself? Would you go to the other side? The Latin famous phrase says: divide and conquer, why don’t we say today: unite and anchor? Do you want Israel to be better than Gaza? Or you want to be a better version of yourself? Whatever you are doing you will be paying less than a Gazan.

About the Author
Mahmoud Ghanim, 29, Bethlehem/Palestine: a peace and environmental activist. A poet and writer part of Yala Young leaders for citizen Journalism a project of Peres center for peace and innovation, which connects young leaders from across the middle east and north Africa online.
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