PHOTO ESSAY ~~ PALESTINIANS ARE THE SAME AS ANY OTHER PEOPLE

Such immense violence has been inflicted on Gaza, for so long. So much has been done to dehumanize the people living here, that we in the west have come to regard Palestinians in Gaza not as whole people, but as mere objects of pity; not as complex, thinking political beings, but as “recipients of humanitarian aid.”

‘Same as any other people’

By Jared Malsin

I’ve been critical in the past of feature reporting on Palestine that takes the form of “Palestinians + X” where X is anything other than violence. You see feature stories in the Western press Palestinian soccer teams, Palestinian musicians, basketball players, as if it were somehow remarkable that Palestinians engage in the full spectrum of human pursuits that people all over the world do. Sometimes these stories are couched in terms of “how remarkable these Palestinians are able to do [X activity] in spite of the occupation.” But sometimes not.

I tire of these features. I believe that these reports unintentionally and implicitly reinforce the racist expectation that Palestinians are extremists or inherently violent. So much time and journalistic energy is spent proving the tautological point that a certain group of people (Palestinians) are, in fact, human.

Well, I’m going to go against the grain of my own criticism today with this post, about a day of sports and art activities for kids staged in Gaza today. The reason I’m posting these photos is that, my spirits were personally lifted when I walked into Yarmouk stadium this afternoon to find kids running a relay race and teenagers painting murals in the late afternoon sun.

Such immense violence has been inflicted on Gaza, for so long. So much has been done to dehumanize the people living here, that we in the west have come to regard Palestinians in Gaza not as whole people, but as mere objects of pity; not as complex, thinking political beings, but as “recipients of humanitarian aid.”

Activities like today’s sports day do, in their own way, represent a non-trivial effort to overcome this dehumanization.

The games today also had an up-front political message. Banners were draped everywhere in the stadium proclaiming “No Gaza siege,” and “It’s our right to practice sports without [what] Israel imposes.”

The event was also a space to allow Palestinian youths to narrate their political circumstances. You can see in the photos below, what these young artists chose to depict was not all smiles and cheer: there are scenes of Israeli tanks crushing houses, Israeli soldiers aiming their guns at Palestinian children.

“It’s a message from the Palestinian people that we love life, and we have the right to practice sports the same as any other people,” said Ali Nazli, the head of the Al-Jazeera Sports Club in Gaza, which organized the event along with the British charity IF (International Friends).

The day’s activities included an attempt to break the world record for highest number of participants in a 12-hour-long relay race. The race was called “Gaza 100.” A simultaneous event was being held in London, to help raise awareness of the situation in Gaza, said Mahmoud Lubbad, the representative of IF in Gaza.

“These kids love life like all others all over the world,” Nazli told me. “The siege is a violation of human rights, and if we transmit this message, maybe the world will hear.”

I asked him if he thought anyone would listen. He said, “There is a heightened awareness throughout the world.”

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2 Comments

  1. Ben said,

    October 24, 2010 at 23:37

    The people of Gaza are no ordinary people, even if they try to behave as such. The people of Gaza are the few living people in a dehumanized world.

  2. world forum said,

    October 26, 2010 at 13:42

    The situation is very evocative of my heart. I love reading your articles. Many thanks for your information.


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