Talking about me – October 2023 – March 2024

15 March 2024

Talking about Me

My name is Hossam, I will be 56 years old this coming July. I am married to Abeer, my beloved wife and we have one lovely girl, Salma, 23 years old.

I was born as a Palestinian in Gaza; I did not choose that. I grew up in a large poor family, I did not choose that, either.  My father is a bit educated; my mother is not. I did not choose them, I simply accepted all of that.

I grew up realising that we are under occupation with strange soldiers speaking a strange language in our streets. Stopping people in the streets, searching them, humiliating them, arresting them. My father used to warn us not to get close to the soldiers. Why? I don’t know.  And as a child, I did not understand why and what was happening. I thought that this is life, and that this is how it is all over the world. At that time, as a young boy, to me the whole world was Gaza City. In fact, all that I knew were some streets in Gaza City. So, I had no opinion.

At the age of 16, I wanted to go to Israel, many people did. So, I took a taxi to Tel Aviv. It was that simple in the early 1980s. Tel Aviv, what a city! It is so big, so beautiful, so clean. High buildings, shiny stores, sparkling beaches, new cars, traffic lights, painted pavements! Why wasn’t Gaza like Tel Aviv? I did not know. In Tel Aviv there are people, normal people, yes speaking a strange language but normal people. Why can’t we live there? Why don’t they live among us in Gaza and the West Bank? Why must we get permits to enter Tel Aviv? Why can’t we live together?

They look human like us, we look human like them. 

I grew up more and realised that a military occupation means slavery and no rights for the occupied people.

Then, when I worked in Israel for 5 years from 1985 to 1990, I realised that we are welcomed there, as long as we are obedient under the occupation. We are good, as long as we accept being cheap labourers without rights. We are then well treated like a good slave or a nice pet.

We could not accept this. In 1987 the first Intifada took place, a public uprising against the occupation. It took several forms; throwing stones at soldiers, writing anti-occupation graffiti on the walls, setting fire to car tyres in the middle of the streets to block army vehicles from passing, and calling for a boycott of Israeli products.

This movement was met with severe violence; shooting, killing and arresting thousands of young men.

I was one of these young men, and I was arrested in 1992 for 9 months, accused of protesting against the Occupation and throwing stones at soldiers.

(In 2012, | went to the USA. On arriving at the Washington DC airport, I was stopped by the visa controller and asked if I had ever been arrested, even though I had put the answer in the visa application, so he knew. | said yes, and he asked, why? I said, because I threw stones at Israeli soldiers in 1992. He asked if it was wise to throw stones against a machine gun, and I said, it seemed very wise at that time. He laughed and allowed me in.)

In 1993, I became involved in theatre, and humanitarian work. It changed my life, I decided to continue resisting the occupation as an individual with my own words, by my acting on the stage, by my efforts to help people in need, and by trying to bring awareness of our cause to Europe and any other place I could get to. For all my life since then, I have denounced violence. I can’t see it as a solution to any conflict or disagreement. Yet, for all of our lives we have been exposed to severe violence by the Occupation, all types of violence, killing, injuring, arresting, starvation, depriving us from basic human needs or human rights, treating us as nothing, less than people, less that human beings.

Terror! What is terror if it is not the Occupation?! What is terror if it is not blocking people at checkpoints, depriving them of their identity?!

The first time I ever travelled abroad was to Spain in 1995. We did not yet have the Palestinian passport. Instead, we had something called a ‘Laissez Passer’ issued by the Israeli authorities: Name, ID number, photo, birth date, and the nationality: Unidentified.

This is exactly what they wrote in front of the nationality identification: Unidentified.

It was a shock, it hurt, it was humiliating, it was and still is not fair.

I came to understand more as I witnessed the arrival of the Palestinian Authority; the corrupt one. Are we free? Are soldiers out of Gaza? No! They are there at Nitzareem Junction, south of Gaza City, with their tanks and guns and checkpoints. They are there at Abu Holy in the middle of Gaza Strip, with their tanks and guns and checkpoints and armed observation towers. They are there at Rafah crossing, and they still have full authority to allow or prevent anyone from crossing in or out.

Again, everything is in their hands. Our export, import, travel, movement, taxes, water, electricity, communications, all are controlled by the Israeli occupation.

Realising that this was the result of the Oslo Agreements makes me feel even more humiliated.

In 2000, the second Intifada, again, a public uprising against the Occupation began. This time, some Palestinians had guns, and they used them. Hamas started its terror attacks and suicide bombings. And, as if the Israelis were waiting for this to happen, their retaliation had no limits; bombing, killing, closing whole neighbourhoods, blockades, arresting thousands of people.

Why do they think that any nation will accept to be enslaved forever? Why don’t they realise that the only solution is to set people free so that they can decide and determine their lives and their future for themselves?

And now I have come to see Hamas taking over Gaza, with the same practices of corruption, even worse than with the Palestinian Authority. Moreover, they treat people with clear discrimination, if you are not Hamas, you are a stranger. Speech censorship. How many times have young people protested for unity between Gaza and the West Bank, between Hamas and the Palestine Authority, only to be met with the iron hand of Hamas?

I have come to realise that the main cause of Hamas’ creation is the Occupation itself. Israeli policy for the last 17 years has been to keep Gaza and the West Bank separated so as to undermine any possibility of unity and the development of a Palestinian state. For years they allowed Qatar to fund Hamas. They wanted Hamas there to claim that they can’t negotiate peace while a terror organisation is in control.

I am now witnessing the complete destruction of my city, witnessing the assassination of more than 30,000 of my people, the injuring of more than 70,000 of my people, the destruction of 60% of my town’s houses. Living the fear, the terror, the starvation, the famine and the slow death of 2.3 million people.

The last few days I don’t feel well at all. The least effort I make makes me feel tired, exhausted. Today I found someone with some scales in the market, with a piece of paper on which was written: weigh yourself for 1 Shekel. I did, I am 69 KG. The last time I weighed myself, before the war, it was 85 KG. This is a severe drop, unhealthy, I know, because of the type of food we have; with no meat, no chicken, no fish, no fruit, no nuts, and unsafe water. Yes, I am sick.