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‘Why are you polite when you ask the soldiers not to shoot at the Gaza farmers?’

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Gaza, the Palestinian enclave on the Mediterranean coastline, continues to suffer from the ongoing siege by the Israelis. Farmers as well as fishermen are regularly shot by Israeli troops on land and sea, as they go about their daily lives. In this short video, some insight is given into the plight of these Palestinian farmers and fishermen who are aided and protected by foreign volunteers who brave the risk of Israeli violence by offering themselves as human shields to try and prevent these civilians from being shot.

I’ve met Manu Pineda in one of his visits to Gaza–as so many people I’ve first known through social media, and then it happens that we meet in person. He told me about his work here in Gaza, and it was impressive to know how they put their lives in danger to protect the farmers and the fishermen so that they can do their job without the continuous Israeli violations. I told him that I was interested in going with them to see what they’re doing, also because I’ve never been to the border strip where the farmers work. But it wasn’t easy for me to wake up at 5 am to do so! They also go with the fishermen in the sea beyond the limited area (6 miles) to protect the fishermen from the Israeli navy while fishing and stay there for a whole day, 24 hours! But obviously I can’t do that, I can’t run away in the sea if anything happened, and I can’t swim.

Recently Manu came back to Gaza from Spain with a group of international volunteers in a delegation from his association, Unadikum, based in Barcelona, Spain, to work with farmers and fishermen to protect them from getting shot by the Israeli soldiers.  One of these volunteers, Christopher Reeves, was an American journalist living in Egypt, and I found it an interesting opportunity to go with them and make a video for my at-home project for a university in the US, to make interviews and see what they’re doing.

I miraculously managed to wake up that early and leave with them to the border strip. There we found the farmers ready and waiting for us to start their work, preparing the land for planting. I had to wear a vest to protect myself from getting shot– because they would not shoot on an international wearing a vest! I went with the group and the farmers beyond the limited area, right in front of the fence, where we can see the Israeli jeeps coming to check us out. I put the camera on record and zoomed in, watched the soldiers coming out of the jeeps getting closer to us and pointing their guns on us.

I watched through the camera and I believe I’ve never felt or heard my heart beat that way; I’ve never seen a soldier before, I’ve seen them once on my way to Jerusalem, but they were not pointing their guns on me this way. Ironically, this terrifying feeling faded away when they shot in the air to warn us that they were here and ready to shoot on us at any moment. And that’s what they did, they kept shooting around us to force us to leave and then they kept throwing tear gas. The first one fell right in front of me, and it smell so awful that I couldn’t breathe.

Whenever they shoot around or throw tear gas, you’d find Manu or one of the group shouting via speakers, asking them to stop. Manu was shouting “Please stop shooting, we are civilian people, please let these people work in their land, don’t shoot”, and I sarcastically asked him why he’s so polite while talking to them. He replied that he used to curse them before but they would get pissed, and once they warned him by shooting between his feet, and he knew if he did it again, they won’t hurt him because he’s internationalist but they would shoot one of the farmers instead to provoke him.

I interviewed Reeves, the American journalist, on our way back and I spent some time with them before they left Gaza. Though initially they had some bad attempts at the border, they eventually managed to leave Gaza. Currently Unadikum is organizing a project that allows more volunteers from all over the world to continuously come to Gaza and work as human shields with farmers and fishermen, including journalists and those who are interested in documenting the stories of these people and the situation they face in Gaza under the suffocating siege.

As they say on their website, “Our most important commitment, which will always be our priority, is our presence ‘on the ground’ with those Palestinians directly confronted with occupation forces.”

Do we think we need more of these internationals in Gaza to protect our people and tell our stories? Are they braver than us to go that close to the Israeli soldiers without caring to get shot or not? And who would guarantee that the soldiers won’t come the next day and destroy what the farmers did under the protection of internationals? Well, it happens!

These international solidarity activists come from all over the world to “the largest open-air prison”, they work with its people, they write their stories, they protect them while working in the field, they document what they see in this place, and they suffer the travel obstacles, just like the people in Gaza, now stranded due to the continuous closure of the Palestinian-Egyptian border.

Walaa Ghussein

Walaa Al Ghussein is from Gaza, Palestine. She is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large and has worked as a reporter and fixer/translator for international news agencies including Al-Jazeera English, International Business Times, and others.

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24 Responses

  1. annie on October 13, 2013, 12:03 pm

    thank you walaa! i cannot recall ever seeing a video of this nature, combining such a cultural artistic opening and fayrouz along with the activist witnesses. so…very palestinian. and your accompanying text is beautiful, very gracious.

    and everyone, this is walaa’s second contribution to mondowiess, tho the first rather reluctantly and only after persuasion:
    Two friends meet for 5 minutes in Jerusalem

    we hope to be hearing more from you walaa. ;)

    • ziusudra on October 14, 2013, 12:19 pm

      Greetings Annie R.,
      How you be, Dear?
      I’m somewhat confused.
      This Young man interviewed sports an old Saxon Name stemming from
      the verb Rufen (To call) in the past tense Rief (called). Also later used
      in England Reeves ( rope making).
      He also has a ‘vowel colouring’ to his speech which certainly couldn’t be
      identified as US venacular. To boot, his physiognomy could be considered
      southern Euro or ME. At the best, he’s nationalized not US Born.
      What am i getting at? I don’t know, but he seems rather incongruous in this
      Picture & on this topic of which i appreciate MW having brought.
      No critique intened.
      PS May i end on a bit of trivia of the day?
      In England in the 8th C, Kings would send men into the ‘Shires’ for them
      to ‘Call Out’ ( Rufen)in the Name of the King. 8th C English is still Old AS.
      He would Call (Rief, p.tense) in the Shire; he was known as the Rief in the Shire,
      hence, – the Sheriff! –

      • annie on October 14, 2013, 3:04 pm

        ziu, i noticed his accent immediately and mentioned it to walaa when she first sent us the video. albeit this is not something walaa might notice, english not being her mother tongue. my assumption, since the young man doesn’t have the accent all the time, and since it is a pigeon spanish accent and slang, is he’s been hanging with Manu and other spanish volunteers and has adopted their slang and accent intermittently. this is not unusual at all. i had a friend who went to australia for 2 months and came back with an australian accent. also when traveling i have encountered americans who’ve adopted accents of the locals. that’s what i assumed was happening w/christopher.

  2. Linda J on October 13, 2013, 12:28 pm

    A petition I received to ask support from the European union for water rights for Gaza:
    “For this moment, I would like to inform you that we just launched another call for action – a petition advocating for Palestinian rights to safe drinking water in Gaza. We see this petition as an advocacy tool which will be used to lobby European governments to take action once we have a strong voice behind us – your signatures.

    Therefore I want to ask for your support again. Please stand with people in Gaza at this critical moment and advocate for their rights to safe drinking water by signing this petition. Each signature is of a great value! Please also do also share with your networks.”

    Here is the link to the petition:

  3. MahaneYehude1 on October 13, 2013, 12:55 pm

    I like very much the background song “Watani” (my homeland) by Fairouz, one of the best of this great singer. Here is the full version of the song with Arabic lyrics. Beautiful!!

    • Inanna on October 13, 2013, 8:58 pm

      The self-awareness of zionists is really at rock-bottom levels, isn’t it?

      • MahaneYehude1 on October 14, 2013, 12:48 am


        Doesn’t MW call us, the Arab countries Jews, Arab-Jews? Arabic culture and language is an important part of my life that I proud to share with my neighbors. Ana Arabi Zayak!!

        Watani of Fairouz has no borders. The song is about her homeland but everyone can recognize his homeland in the song.

        Here is an ancient song of Laila Murad, an Egyptian Jewish singer:

      • kayq on October 14, 2013, 8:09 am

        3arabe zaye lakan da3em la isra’eel…

        yeah right. As a Mizrahi Jew, you may have Arab culture, but you are not Arab. An Arab would not support the occupation of Palestinians by Israel.

        Go home, Zionist.

      • MahaneYehude1 on October 14, 2013, 10:34 am

        @kayq: Go home, Zionist? I am already at home. Shukran!!!

      • kayq on October 15, 2013, 5:06 am


  4. Donald on October 13, 2013, 1:05 pm

    “I sarcastically asked him why he’s so polite while talking to them”

    Sheesh, even a dumb white privileged American like myself knows the answer to this–always be polite to armed authority figures unless you’re prepared to be shot. Good advice in America–even better advice to a person speaking to Israeli soldiers engaged in ritualistic primate threat displays.

  5. Robby de Dub on October 13, 2013, 1:54 pm

    “‘Why are you polite when you ask the soldiers not to shoot at the Gaza farmers?’”
    Because unlike the soldiers we know how to stay human, would be an appropriate reply.

  6. asherpat on October 13, 2013, 8:32 pm

    “Gaza, the Palestinian enclave on the Mediterranean coastline, continues to suffer from the ongoing siege by the Israelis”

    If, as Mondoweiss claims, Gaza is “occupied” by Israel, what’s the point of laying an “ongoing siege” to it?

    • annie on October 13, 2013, 11:25 pm

      you tell me.

    • Talkback on October 14, 2013, 8:03 am

      asherpat says: “If, as Mondoweiss claims, Gaza is “occupied” by Israel, …”

      This is not what Mondoweiss claims. This is what Israel disputes.

      “… what’s the point of laying an “ongoing siege” to it?”

      Slow expulsion.

      • jon s on October 14, 2013, 9:56 am

        A place can’t be both “occupied ” and “besieged”. Make up your minds.

      • Shmuel on October 14, 2013, 10:17 am

        A place can’t be both “occupied ” and “besieged”. Make up your minds.

        Well, Israeli policy toward Gaza is full of contradictions. The Israelis, by the way, don’t call the situation in Gaza a “siege”, but a “closure” – certainly consistent with occupation (although Israel also claims Gaza is no longer occupied), as the term has often been used over the years in reference to areas thoroughly occupied by Israel.

        I think Gisha (Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement) is on the right track when it speaks of “a spectrum between occupation and the end of occupation”, demanding that Israel live up to its responsibilities as an occupier in those areas of life where it still acts as one and as a former occupier (with responsibility to facilitate the transition to post-occupation) where it has ended its occupation.

        Gisha has taken a similar position with regard to the “closure” imposed on Gaza, referring to a “spectrum between full freedom of movement and full closure”.

      • Woody Tanaka on October 14, 2013, 11:13 am

        “A place can’t be both “occupied ” and “besieged”. ”

        Yes they can. “Occupation” is a state of being. A “siege” is a tactic. They are not mutually exclusive.

      • amigo on October 14, 2013, 1:43 pm

        “A place can’t be both “occupied ” and “besieged”. Make up your minds.”jon s

        Don,t be a nitwit.

        1. To surround with hostile forces.
        2. To crowd around; hem in.

        In this case The Occupier is both Besieger and Occupier.

  7. on October 14, 2013, 7:55 am

    Thus is because 1. Israel is not occupying Gaza anymore and 2. Hamas and Iran and others pay those villagers close to Israeli border to dig “terror tunnels” which is much more lucrative than working the fields. So the army is afraid that working the fields is a cover up for digging tunnels under this field. That is why. And this last terror tunnel just uncovered is something monstrous, incredible by its size

    • talknic on October 14, 2013, 8:57 am

      fnlevit “Thus is because 1. Israel is not occupying Gaza anymore “

      Says who?

      ” Hamas and Iran and others pay those villagers close to Israeli border to dig “terror tunnels” “

      Says who?

      “this last terror tunnel just uncovered is something monstrous, incredible by its size”

      Makes absolutely no sense for Hamas to have spent that much money and gone to that much trouble the efforts of which were very likely to have been detected because of its scale. It was more likely built by illegal Jewish settlers in Merkaz Avshalom pre disengagement as an escape route

    • Sumud on October 14, 2013, 10:14 am

      If you believe Gaza isn’t occupied then you’ll agree the Warsaw Ghetto wasn’t either.

  8. Talkback on October 14, 2013, 8:07 am

    fnlevit says: “Israel is not occupying Gaza anymore …”

    Gaza is an integral of occupied Palestine. Stationing occupation soldiers outside of this 360m² zone doesn’t change a bit. You wouldn’t claim that Tel Aviv is not occupied if Israel was occupied and occupiers camped outside of Tel Aviv. Especiall nowadays when occupation control can be exercised from air and doesn’t need permanent ground control.

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