Palestinian artist brings Japanese origami to Gaza

Ahmed Humaid

In this January 16, 2019 photo Palestinian artist Ahmed Humaid, 29, works on one of his origami sculptures in his house in Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip. Origami, the Japanese art of paper folding, is an unlikely pursuit for an artist living in the Gaza Strip, which has been largely cut off from the outside world since Israel and Egypt imposed a crippling blockade on the Hamas-ruled territory more than a decade ago. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Wafaa Shurafa, Associated Press, Jan 27, 2019

GAZA CITY — In a small studio packed with sculptures made of scrap metal, Palestinian artist Ahmed Humaid has found a new medium in origami, the Japanese art of paper folding.

It’s an unlikely pursuit for an artist living in the Gaza Strip, which has been largely cut off from the outside world since Israel and Egypt imposed a crippling blockade on the Hamas-ruled territory more than a decade ago.

But the 29-year-old Humaid, who has no regular job, says interest in origami is on the rise.

“With more people asking about it, this work has turned into a source of income for me,” said Humaid, who lives in Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.

Humaid practices a form of origami in which he folds and forms the pages of an entire book into a readable inscription of calligraphic letters.

He has no formal training. He said he learned about origami when he saw some photos on Instagram. He began following Japanese artists and wrote to them. Some offered help and feedback.

When he made his first origami work in October, it took him 15 hours to finish. He shared the photo with some Japanese artists who acclaimed the work.

Since then, Humaid has sold 45 works locally, including books folded into names that lovers have given to each other as gifts, as well as logos for local businesses. Depending on the size and number of letters, he charges 50 to 100 shekels (about $15-30) per order.

Unemployment in Gaza, a coastal enclave sandwiched between Israel and Egypt, stands at more than 50 percent, according to U.N. and other international estimates. It is even higher among Gaza’s youth.

Humaid would like to expand his business beyond Gaza’s borders, but the blockade has cut off virtually all exports, and Israel and Egypt heavily restrict travel into and out of the territory.

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December 6, 2018
Film: 5 Broken Cameras

The Marquee Cinema, Union South
1308 West Dayton Street , Madison
7:00 pm

Join UW Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the UW Middle East Studies Program, and the Wisconsin Union Directorate Film and Society & Politics Committees for a screening of the documentary Five Broken Cameras.

The documentary will be followed by a moderated discussion and Q&A with Professor Nevine El Nossery. Five Broken Cameras follows the resistance of one Palestinian farmer and his village against encroachments by the Israeli army.

Israeli Incursions into Gaza Are the Rule, Not the Exception

Israeli troops have crossed into Gaza over 70 times this year alone, according to the UN. And those are only the incursions we know about.

File photo of Israeli troops deployed along the Gaza border. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
File photo of Israeli troops deployed along the Gaza border. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Henriette Chacar, +972 Magazine, November 14, 2018

[Editor’s note: In accordance with our legal obligation, this article was sent to the IDF Censor for review prior to publication. We are not allowed to indicate if and where the article was censored.]

Since Israeli special forces troops got into a deadly firefight with Hamas commandos deep inside the Gaza Strip Sunday night, Israel has dropped dozens of bombs and missiles into Gaza and Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel.

The New York Times described the special forces raid as “the first known Israeli ground incursion into Gaza since Operation Protective Edge, in July 2014.”

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Since the start of 2015 through the end of October 2018, the Israeli army made 262 known ground incursions and operations to level land inside the Gaza Strip, including over 70 this year alone. This does not include the unknown number of covert operations like the one that went awry on Sunday.

As one retired Israeli general explained on national television, such covert raids across enemy lines are actually rather routine. “Activities that most civilians aren’t aware of happen all the time, every night and in every region,” Tal Russo told Israel’s Channel 10 while discussing the events in Gaza.

According to data obtained by +972 Magazine from the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel carried out 21 incursions into Gaza in 2014 (excluding the seven-week war). The next year, in 2015, that number more than doubled, to 56 incidents. In 2016 and 2017, 68 and 65 incursions took place, respectively. By end of October 2018, 73 such incidents had been recorded, according to the UN data.

What is exceptional about Sunday’s action is not that Israeli soldiers crossed into Gaza, but that the military operation was exposed. Most of the time when Israeli forces infiltrate the coastal enclave, they remain within 200 to 300 meters of the border fence, Ibtisam Zaqout, head of field work at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights explained to +972.

Soldiers routinely cross in military bulldozers, not by foot, mostly to raze and level land in order to maintain line of sight in the Israeli-maintained “buffer zone” along the border, she added.

Israel hasn’t consistently determined the perimeter of this access-restricted area along the fence with Gaza, and it has often employed deadly violence to ward off Gaza residents. Between 2010 and 2017, Israeli security forces killed at least 161 Palestinians and injured more than 3,000 near the Gaza-Israel fence, according to a Gisha report published in August.

These regular restrictions of movement near the fence, which the report describes as “arbitrary” and “inconsistent,” are not only life-threatening, but they also severely harm the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Gazan farmers and herders, and stifle the strip’s economic development.

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My grandfather Nelson Mandela fought apartheid

I see the parallels with Israel

It took an international effort to end institutionalised racism in my country – now it must happen again, for the Palestinian people


Relatives of 12-year-old Faris Hafez al-Sarasawi at his funeral. He was killed after Israeli soldiers’ intervention in the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations in Gaza, October 2018. (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Nkosi Zwelivelile, The Guardian, 11 Oct 2018

My grandfather, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, would have turned 100 this year. The world is marking the centenary of his birth and celebrating his leadership in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa. But while my country has long been free from racist minority rule, the world is not yet free of the crime of apartheid.

Like Madiba and Desmond Tutu before me, I see the eerie similarities between Israel’s racial laws and policies towards Palestinians, and the architecture of apartheid in South Africa. We South Africans know apartheid when we see it. In fact, many recognise that, in some respects, Israel’s regime of oppression is even worse.

Apartheid is defined in international law as an “institutionalised regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other”. It is about unequal racial power relations upheld by unjust laws that are intended to deny oppressed groups their rights.

History will judge the governments that fail to stand by human rights and international law

Even before Israel passed its “nation state law” (stipulating that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country) it was easy to see, for anyone willing to look, that the country’s government was committing the crime of apartheid. Its segregation wall, discriminatory admissions committees, ID-card systems, roads built for settlers which are not accessible to Palestinians, and the bantustan-like fragmentation of the West Bank gave the game away.

The nation state law made that reality undeniable. Apartheid is the context for a litany of state crimes. Take most recently, for example, Israel’s decision to demolish the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar and evict its residents. The aim of this ethnic cleansing is to make way for illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

Yet despite seven decades of apartheid, ongoing theft of Palestinian land, military occupation and massacres of unarmed protesters in Gaza – rightly called the “Palestinian Sharpeville”, after the mass killing in Transvaal in 1960 – each new generation of Palestinians continues the liberation struggle.

Young Ahed Tamimi turned 17 in prison this year, illegally incarcerated for confronting occupying soldiers in her backyard. But just as my grandfather spent 27 years in prison only to become a global icon of freedom, Ahed has become a powerful symbol of Palestinians’ resolute determination to resist. She and her family represent the courageous spirit of Palestinians everywhere who stand defiant in the face of immense brutality. I salute their bravery.

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Gaza’s economy is not ‘falling.’ It was pushed.


Palestinian laborers protest against the continued Israeli siege and the spread of unemployment in Gaza City on May 1, 2018. (Photo: Ashram Amra/APA Images)

Marilyn Garson, Mondoweiss, September 27, 2018

The economic and social situation in Gaza that has been declining for over a decade, has deteriorated exponentially in recent months. . . The situation has reached a critical point.
— Economic Monitoring Report to the World Bank Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, Sept 27, 2018 (PDF)

The latest Economic Monitoring Report to the World Bank Ad Hoc Liaison Committee [AHLC] quantifies the collective punishment and mounting hardship of the Gaza Strip:

  • – 6% growth in the first quarter of 2018, compared to the same months of 2017.
  • 53.7% unemployment, over 70% for youth and 78% for women in Q1, 2018. The first figures from Q2 suggest that unemployment has risen a further 5%.
  • 53% of Gazans – every second person – lives below the poverty line.
  • 2% of Gazans receive an uninterrupted supply of water. 98% do not.

The cause is not in doubt: the government of Israel imposes “restrictions that are the main impediment” to normal economic activity. “The blockade has caused Gaza’s economy to deindustrialize”. As proportions of GDP, manufacturing and agriculture have declined by more than half since 1994. The blockade and repeated wars have caused Gaza’s economy to grow more slowly than all of its comparator economies (including the West Bank).

And try doing business in an economy this volatile:

(Source: Economic Monitoring Report to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, September 27, 2018)

The structure of the problem explains Gazans’ vulnerability to the cuts made by Israel and Donald Trump this year. The blockade has strangled normal economic activity, such that the public sector is nearly all that remains. Rather than being an economic actor, entrepreneurial Gaza has been reduced to being a recipient. Gaza has been “kept afloat by… transfers”, rather than trade. In 2014 (the most recent figures), the expenditures of UNRWA, the PA and Hamas roughly equalled Gaza’s GDP. Their activity was the only significant spending. This phenomenon will have become even more pronounced since the war.

As they were prevented from earning a living, Gazans increasingly needed assistance. Now 79% of Gazan Palestinians receive some form of assistance, compared with 15% of West Bankers. Aid represents up to 45% of poor Gazans’ income. The poorest, and those living in refugee camps, show the greatest drop in their household expenditures – and these indicators of escalating financial distress were compiled before the most recent cuts took effect.

Hardship is, at last, evident in the declining secondary school enrolments. Education has always been Gaza’s signature, and among wealthier Gazans, it remains so. Among the poorest, it is becoming impossible, or futile, to keep their children in school after they have reached working age – especially their boys. Last year, 13% fewer Gazan boys completed Grade 9 than girls.

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May 2, 2018
Memorializing 70 Years of Occupation

UW-Madison Students for Justice in Palestine

Rescheduled from April 27. Stop by to see UW SJP’s display memorializing 70 years of occupation and devastation that stills continues today in Palestine. We will be handing out literature and you can find out how you can get involved in the cause. Hope to see you all there!