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Palestinian Refugees & Gaza

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PROJECT

The issues erupting from Palestine-Israel have troubled me for decades, as they have the world community. Mainstream media coverage tends to justify Israel's positions. Currently and alarmingly the United States’ president and Israel's prime minister are particularly close, heading largely right-wing governments. This does not provide hopeful context to create justice, peace, and security for the region.

For 15 years I’ve visited the region to document conditions, making many friends and colleagues among both Palestinians and Israelis. And I’ve photographed Palestinian refugees in camps in Gaza and the West Bank, but their diaspora extends worldwide, including Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Western and Northern European countries, and the United States. Yousef Alghalban, my dear Gazan friend now living in Norway, works with Palestinian refugees and has agreed to help me widen my project. With his help, I will locate, interview, and photograph Palestinians living in this distant and for them very different part of the world.

The project will involve two separate trips—to Norway this summer (2018) to photograph Palestinian refugees and my friend Yousef, and to Gaza in the fall.

I plan to enter Gaza with the help of the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) which trains people to use nonviolent methods, such as dialog, to resolve conflicts. In Gaza I will photograph these trainings, as well as the general situation there, including refugee camps—some 70% of Gazans are refugees from villages now in Israel. I will investigate how conditions differ between Norway and refugee camps in Gaza.

Many times in the entire region, many photos, writing, and movies later, I now wish to concentrate on refugees in Northern Europe and visit the Palestinians remaining in Gaza. I will broaden the constricted picture many Americans have (thanks to Israel-centric media) of the overall Palestine-Israel situation. A major lacuna: how do people forced from their homelands live?  Central questions are: how accepted are Palestinians by Norwegians, what services exist for refugees, how do they deal with the trauma they’d experienced in Gaza, what are their legal rights, and what are their hopes for return either temporarily or permanently to Gaza. *

I hope to contribute my small effort to resolving the conflict, fostering justice, security, equality, and freedom for all human beings in that troubled region.

SKIP SCHIEL


I've been a photographer, filmmaker, and writer for most of my adult life. Struggles for justice and peace in different parts of the world have been my main concentration.

While in South Africa in 1990 and then again 8 years later during one of several of my international pilgrimages, I began to understand the parallels between conflicts in South Africa and Palestine-Israel. Apartheid, an Afrikaner word meaning separation—which I interpret it as Separation with Hate—operates in various forms in both regions. In Auschwitz in 1995 I learned more directly about the holocaust, which helped propel the creation of the Israeli state. I was raised Catholic and imagined Jesus walking thru the dusty Holy Land with his disciplines. Thus grew my curiosity, leading to my concern about that region. And then finally in 2003, during the end of the Second Intifada (Palestinian Uprising), the year an Israeli soldier driving a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer ran over and killed Rachel Corrie as she protected a Palestinian home, I was on my way East. This began one of the most meaningful journeys of my life.

I’ve photographed widely in Israel and Palestine, many different populations, many different activities: Israelis training as first responders, Palestinians living in tents, Israelis walking and shopping in Jerusalem and Haifa, Palestinians studying at various levels and ages, and Israeli high school students learning archeology. I’ve explored all the areas of Israel, West Bank, and Gaza (except for the Sinai which is currently too dangerous to enter). For this project I will hone my focus: refugees inside Palestine-Israel and outside.

PALESTINIANS

Palestinians are one of the longest colonized populations—most recently in 1948 by Israel, meaning the occupation of the West Bank and later the siege of Gaza—and still living in diaspora. I have shown the reality of the matrix of control, walls and fences, checkpoints, permits, home demolitions, restricted roads, inordinate fines, deportations, targeted assassinations, leveling of entire neighborhoods, violent repression of nonviolent demonstrations, etc. As well as survival mechanisms, the family, faith communities, organizations, etc. Now I have the opportunity, thanks to my good Palestinian friend from Gaza in Norway, Yousef Ghalban, to show more widely the consequences of colonization and emigration.

One in three refugees in the world are Palestinian. Nearly seven million Palestinian refugees live in some 14 countries, with approximately 4,000 in Norway, 7,000 in Sweden, and 9,000 in the Netherlands, countries I hope eventually to reach. (UN Refugee Works Administration and UN High Commission on Refugees)

28576934_15217320070_r.jpeg
Israeli mortar shell fired at Palestinian village in Gaza


After an attack by the Israeli military on a government building in Gaza


YOUSEF ALGHALBAN IN NORWAY


Yousef and I began our friendship in 2004 when we were both living in Gaza City. He was attending college, and I was photographing for the first time in the Gaza Strip. On some of my 5 subsequent trips to Gaza—and thru Skype and email—we deepened our friendship. Around 2006 he immigrated to Norway, but Norway repeatedly rejected his pleas for asylum. In Gaza during the 2008-2009 violence (Operation Cast Lead) he left for Norway shortly after. Because of his problems gaining asylum in Norway Yousef re-entered Gaza a few months before the 2014 conflict (Operation Protective Edge). Thus he was in Gaza for the two periods of greatest recent violence. Though heartbroken at what he and my Gazan friends were suffering, I was unable to stand with them during these periods of intense bombing and ground assaults by Israel.

He worked with the Norwegian Refugee Council in Gaza after the 2014 war when he provided humanitarian assistance to the postwar, internally displaced people (the majority of which are registered refugees) living in informal camps and underreported settings. He identified needs and coordinated services such as shelter, water, and sanitation, etc. After moving to Sweden in 2016 he worked to integrate unaccompanied minor refugees at the municipality level. Back in Norway, within non-governmental and community-based organizations, he is still engaged with the question of resettlement and integration of refugees.

Now finally able to make a new life for himself in Norway, Yousef holds masters degrees in international migration and ethnic relations (Malmø University-Sweden) and in social work (Nord University- Norway). Fluent in Norwegian and English, Arabic is his first language. He will be a vital translator. As he provides me crucial background and contacts, we will work together, locating, interviewing, photographing, and filming Palestinian refugees.

LOGISTICS

Because the visits to Norway and Gaza are separate but linked, I will begin this two part project on June 6, 2018 when I fly to Norway. In the fall, when I expect the violent Gaza fence conflict has lessened (until then Israel will probably not grant entry permits), I will enter Gaza, planning to complete the project by the middle of 2019.  Despite the recurring turmoil in that region, I've always managed entry to Israel, the West Bank and (with one exception) Gaza. I can't guarantee entry this time, only that I will try my best. Despite the political uncertainties I intend to maintain focus on Palestinian refugees in the diaspora and internally.

As in the past, I will create exhibits, slideshows, blogs, books, and movies. As with all my projects I will post photos and writings on my website and blog—dispatches from the field.

BUDGET

·      Airfare -$2000
·      Transport in country - $500
·      Payments (or equivalent compensation) to Yousef and other colleagues in Norway - $1000
·      Contributions to organizations working for resettlement in Norway and other countries I visit- $1000
·      Food and lodging - $1500
·      Photographic equipment and supplies - $500
·      Post production—developing, editing, printing, slideshow making, etc -  $2000

GOALS

By presenting powerful images of life in the Palestinian diaspora and Palestine itself, I hope to build awareness and inspire action. The end result: beyond coexistence to a breath-taking sharing of the region, its resources, histories, luminaries, and potential. A true Holy Land.

28576934_15217388460_r.jpeg
Refugee camp in Gaza


Demonstration for human rights in Gaza, a Die-In in Boston, April 2018

* The plea of refugees in Gaza to return to their ancestral villages now in Israel is the central focus of the Great March to Return . It began on April 2, 2018, and will end on May 15. These dates mark two important historical events, Land Day when 6 Palestinians were killed as they attempted to return to their villages in 1976, and Nakba Day marking the beginning of The Catastrophe, or the Grand Dispossession in 1948. The violence of this effort—as of May 5, 2018, more than 40 unarmed Palestinians killed by Israeli snipers, and nearly 8000 wounded (700 of them children), many with life-threatening injuries, overwhelming the already stressed medical system—makes the Gaza portion of my plan uncertain. We may need to postpone entering Gaza until the fall.

SAMPLES OF MY WORK

Book  (Eyewitness Gaza)


Photographs 

Blog

TESTIMONIALS

Skip Schiel has been documenting the Palestinian and Israeli reality through photographs and journal postings since 2003. They contribute a better feel for the detailed texture of life in Gaza and the West Bank than any appearing in US media.   Schiel spends time where most journalists dare not tread, amidst ordinary Palestinians, sharing in the dangers and frustrations of their lives.

His work has been invaluable for my own. As a writer for a Buddhist publication whose parents were victims of the Holocaust, I try to convey a view of the conflict that differs from the US media's, which obfuscates the injustices and sufferings inflicted on the Palestinians by Israel. Through his portraits of Palestinian men, women, and children striving to maintain ordinary routines despite harassment and attacks by Israel's military, Skip reveals to us the true face of Palestinians.


—Annette Herskovits, Consulting Editor, Turning Wheel, the Journal of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Holocaust survivor

Skip Schiel photographs not only with his eyes but with his heart.

—Fares Oda, former staff American Friends Service Committee, Ramallah, West Bank, Occupied Palestinian Territories

It saddens me to hear of the difficulties Skip is going through [finding an audience]. This is discouraging for us who are struggling in the situation. I never would have suspected that his pictures were not balanced. The first act of nonviolent resistance is to tell the truth. His pictures shared that. Let's pray our dear friend does not give up! 

—Jean Zaru, Palestinian Quaker and activist, Ramallah, Palestine

Skip's creative ministry has challenged, informed and inspired our [Quaker] Meeting for many years. His work is a visual reminder to us of the importance of remaining faithful to our peace and social justice testimonies. 

—Cathy Whitmire, Former presiding clerk, Friends Meeting at Cambridge (Quaker) 

You capture such powerful, symbolic moments in your work, that reach beyond the context they are in. I admire your brave tenacity and commitment to documentation of this struggle for justice.  

—Marjorie Wright, filmmaker (Jews Step Forward) and activist

Your sensitivity to light and emotion is dramatic, the brilliant daylight framing the sad courageous eyes and brave determined expressions of our Gaza neighbors, as they face such a cruel, demented, and terrifying adversary. 

I think you are very brave too, and I thank you deeply for shining a true light on [the situation]. 

—John Paulman

SELECTED PHOTOS FROM MY WORK IN GAZA


Relative of family member imprisoned by Israel


In a refugee camp trauma treatment program


A celebration at the Qattan Center for the Child


Limited free desalinated water


At the wall separating Gaza from Egypt, picking thru garbage

EXTRA INFORMATION


It is estimated that more than 6 million Palestinians live in a global diaspora.

(Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics)

The countries outside the Palestinian territories with significant Palestinian populations are:

Jordan 3,240,000
Israel 1,650,000
Syria 630,000
Chile 500,000 (largest Palestinian community outside the Middle East).
Lebanon 402,582
Saudi Arabia 280,245
Egypt 270,245
United States 255,000 (the largest concentrations in Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles (History of Palestinians in Los Angeles)-San Diego).
Honduras 250,000
Guatemala est. 200,000
Mexico 120,000
Qatar 100,000
Germany 80,000
Kuwait 80,000
El Salvador 70,000
Brazil 59,000
Iraq 57,000
Yemen 55,000
Canada 50,975
Australia 45,000
Libya 44,000
Puerto Rico est. 30,000
Greece est. 30,000
United Kingdom 20,000
Peru 19,000
Denmark 15,000
Colombia 12,000
Japan est. 10,000
Paraguay 10.000
Netherlands 9,000
Sweden 7,000
Algeria 4,030
Austria 4,010
Norway 3,825

(Wikipedia)
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Palestinian Refugees & Gaza has reached 59% of its goal. Thanks to David, Paul and Suzi. And many others thru the GoFundMe platform and outside it. A huge thank you to all. I begin this journey on June 6.
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