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Refugee in Gaza thought life was terrific until Facebook incited him

Israel/Palestine
on 26 Comments

A Palestinian resident of a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip has become suddenly aware of the substandard conditions in which he lives after logging on to Facebook. Now he has been radicalized, just as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned, going so far as to express support for a boycott intended to isolate the Jewish state nonviolently.

Samih al-Masri of al-Shati Camp said in an interview on April 1st that several trips to the local internet cafe had turned his world upside down, offering a window into life outside the 360-square-kilometer enclave. “My family has loved Gaza ever since my grandparents were driven here from Jaffa by Zionist forces in 1948,” said Masri, 36. “It’s the only home we know. But now that I realize not every place is enclosed by a fence, with only three highly restricted points of access, I’m pretty pissed off.”

On Facebook, he explained, “you can click through someone’s photos and see them in all sorts of different locales. I’ve never been outside of Gaza, which isn’t allowed to have a seaport or an airport. That doesn’t seem fair to me, anymore.”

Masri, who has always loved the sea, was particularly piqued by photographs showing a friend of a friend on a deep-water fishing trip off the coast of California. “This guy caught the biggest fish I’ve ever seen, I mean it was monstrous. He must have been way further offshore than six nautical miles for a catch like that, and there wasn’t a gunboat in sight! He probably didn’t get shot at even once.”

Masri worked on a fishing boat for several months, before the Israeli navy sunk it. “It sucked,” he recalled, “but I figured, them’s the breaks. How was I supposed to know people elsewhere get to fish wherever they want, just for fucking fun?”

Masri always knew life in the Strip wasn’t exactly perfect. In 1971, his family became refugees twice over when Israeli authorities demolished thousands of homes in Gaza in order to tighten their grip on the territory. During the first intifada, when he was nine years-old, Masri was severely beaten by an Israeli soldier at a demonstration. “I always figured he was just following orders—‘Break their bones,’ Rabin said—so I gave him a pass.” Now, Masri said, on account of the memes, he was reevaluating everything.

Like the time in 2002 when his close friend Fatima was paralyzed as an Israeli missile struck the nearby car of a wanted militant. “Bad luck, I told her.” Masri shook his head. “Maybe the bad luck was being born here.”

Before visiting Facebook, Masri said, “I was pretty content with life. I love my wife, our kids are great, I’m unemployed due to decades of economic strangulation. But then I saw pics from an American Thanksgiving dinner, and it looks like not everyone has to rely on UN aid just to put food on the table.”

“It got me wondering,” he went on, “what else is different? Do other people not hear a near-constant buzzing of drones overhead, or sometimes sonic booms in the middle of the night?” A certain sarcastic bitterness crept into Masri’s tone. “That must be fairly fantastic!”

Samih al-Masri, without a fish, after Facebook. (Photo: Reuters)

Samih al-Masri, without a fish, after logging onto Facebook. (Photo: Reuters)

With respect to Israel, Masri had always assumed the country’s democratically-elected leaders were mostly unaware of the more unpleasant aspects of life in Gaza. “They’re not allowed to come here, right? That’s the law. So I thought, there’s no way they know.” But several memes on Facebook, combining photographs of officials with inflammatory quotations, had changed his mind. “I guess it isn’t a coincidence we’re penned up in here like animals,” Masri suggested. “They say we’re ‘beasts of prey,’ and our children are ‘little snakes.’” He paused, a shade of doubt passing over his face. “Maybe it’s not really an accident that their army kills us by the score every two years or so?”

Despite the phenomenon of exhortations to violence on Palestinian social media, Masri denied any desire to stab anyone, as others have done. “Anyway, I’d be shot on sight if I approached the border with Israel. Buffer zones, right? How big’s the one where you live?”

This correspondent was silent for a moment.

“Oh, really!” Masri exclaimed. “Are you shitting me?!”

This seemed to be the last straw. “You know what, I never understood it before, but now I get the whole boycott thing.” Masri was referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS. “Maybe it’s not about anti-Semitism, as I’ve always previously believed.”

Masri paused, looking through the glassless window of his half-ruined home, damaged by an Israeli missile during the Gaza War of 2014. He still comes here sometimes, when the tent in which his family has lived for nearly two years becomes too stifling. “I’m starting to think the world doesn’t care so much about Palestinians,” he sighed, “as though somehow we’re less important than other people. But why would that be?”

Eamon Murphy
About Eamon Murphy

Eamon Murphy is a journalist in New York City. Follow him on Twitter @epmurph.

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26 Responses

  1. Donald
    Donald
    April 1, 2016, 9:23 am

    My first reaction when I clicked here and saw the Onion- esque April Fools stories was to groan. But I read a couple and changed my mind. This one especially was brilliant. Makes the point perfectly. Maybe the others are even better– gotta read them.

  2. hippocrasy
    hippocrasy
    April 1, 2016, 9:25 am

    outstanding. Awesome interview combined with this song, maybe someone will be moved.

  3. eljay
    eljay
    April 1, 2016, 9:31 am

    Bang on!

  4. Shmuel
    Shmuel
    April 1, 2016, 9:37 am

    Well done, Eamon and Samih.

    I have a question for Samih, though. Where’s the Islamic element in your radicalisation? Is it really all about fish and fences and bombs and stuff? Are you sure someone in a hennaed beard didn’t tell you al-Aqsa was in danger or something? I hear that’s the real reason Palestinians have been getting all incited lately. Thanks in advance.

  5. ritzl
    ritzl
    April 1, 2016, 9:46 am

    Brilliant!!

  6. Marnie
    Marnie
    April 1, 2016, 9:55 am

    “He still comes here sometimes, when the tent in which his family has lived for nearly two years becomes too stifling. “I’m starting to think the world doesn’t care so much about Palestinians,” he sighed, “as though somehow we’re less important than other people. But why would that be?”

    The same exact thing was said by Native Americans and African Americans and every other ethnic or religious group that has been marginalized by the society they are ghettoized by because of hatred. And they are of no account to anyone, except when a scapegoat is needed and at times of riots and slaughter. Samih al-Masri was able to find some happiness in his life with the love of his wife and children, then all was turned upside down at an internet cafe when he realized his reality wasn’t the reality of others. I can’t comprehend the strength and the courage of people like Samih to carry on and I can’t forgive the rest of us who’ve never had razor wire around us and blithely move about without restriction or question, except to ask ourselves where we’d like to go to dinner, or where we’d like to move, go on vacation, send our children to school, etc. People like Samih al-Masri have razor wire around their homes; the rest of us (not all, don’t trip on me) have razor wire around our hearts.

    • Jon66
      Jon66
      April 1, 2016, 2:54 pm

      Marnie,
      You know it’s an April Fools joke right?

      • a blah chick
        a blah chick
        April 1, 2016, 4:53 pm

        In Israel it’s April Fools Day all year long.

      • Marnie
        Marnie
        April 2, 2016, 1:01 am

        I haven’t thought about the first of April being anything other than the first of April for so long I can’t remember. When I made my comment, I hadn’t looked at any other articles either. It was only after that it occurred to be this may not be what it had seemed to be. It must have given you quite a laugh Jon66. I think it’s telling that you chose to point out April Fools.

      • talknic
        talknic
        April 2, 2016, 6:30 am

        Care to explain how it’s an April Fools joke Jon66. A joke is usually played on someone and is usually non-factual

      • Jon66
        Jon66
        April 2, 2016, 9:42 am

        Talknic,
        So you think this guy and this story about Facebook opening his eyes are ‘factual’?

        The joke is on the readers who believe it.

      • talknic
        talknic
        April 2, 2016, 11:15 am

        @ Jon66 April 2, 2016, 9:42 am = typical non-answer from a typical Ziotroll

        thanks again for displaying why supporters of illegal Israeli expansionism cannot be trusted. You guys never miss an opportunity to screw up

      • Jon66
        Jon66
        April 2, 2016, 12:20 pm

        Talknic,

        “Care to explain how it’s an April Fools joke”
        It was posted April 1 which is April Fools Day

        “A joke is usually played on someone”
        The joke is being played on the readers who thought it was real.

        “and is usually non-factual ”
        The subject of the story is not real, that is non-factual. So any experiences he supposedly had were also non-factual.

        Boy you sure do know how to kill a joke.

      • talknic
        talknic
        April 2, 2016, 7:38 pm

        Jon66 April 2, 2016, 12:20 pm = another failure to explain how the subject of the story is not real, that is non-factual. All you have is an accusation. An accusation is not evidence.

        “It was posted April 1 which is April Fools Day”

        Of course. Anything posted on April 1st is an April Fools joke. Best tell the stock exchange, treasury, et al

      • Jon66
        Jon66
        April 3, 2016, 12:34 am

        Marnie,
        Don’t get mad at me. I’m not the one yanking your chain.

      • Jon66
        Jon66
        April 3, 2016, 12:40 am

        Eamon, Phil, Adam,Annie,

        Someone please clue in Talknic before he starts linking to this post or Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal’ as evidence of colonial atrocities.

        I mean you can’t beat the photo caption,”Samih al-Masri, without a fish, after logging onto Facebook. (Photo: Reuters) – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2016/04/refugee-in-gaza-thought-life-was-terrific-until-facebook-incited-him/#sthash.7YTGePcE.

        Talknic, maybe change your tag to ‘humorless”. This post was funny.

      • Marnie
        Marnie
        April 3, 2016, 12:13 pm

        Jon66 April 3, 2016, 12:34 am

        Marnie, Don’t get mad at me. I’m not the one yanking your chain.

        Don’t even try. Do I need to point out it’s now April 3rd? What are you whining to the moderator’s for FFS?

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        April 3, 2016, 3:12 pm

        “Don’t get mad at me. I’m not the one yanking your chain.”

        Okay, you’re not a chain-yanker, “Jon 66”.
        So clue me in, what are you trying to accomplish here?
        Are you trying to put a smiley-face on Zionism?

      • talknic
        talknic
        April 3, 2016, 11:57 pm

        @ Jon66 April 3, 2016, 12:40 am

        “… before he starts linking to this post or Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal’ as evidence of colonial atrocities”

        Typical irrelevant and completely baseless Zioblabber

        There’s something quite sick in the mind of anyone who sees a satirical description of Israel’s occupation and complete control of Palestinian territorial waters and how one might be awakened to that abnormality thru becoming aware of how other folk live in freedom, as an April Fool’s day ‘joke’.

        Satire is not a laughing matter.

        ” This post was funny”

        I’m sure it was to any brainwashed idiot who supports Israel’s ongoing ILLEGAL colonization of Palestine and the suppression of the Palestinian population. However, it contains truths you’re un-able to address let alone refute

      • oldgeezer
        oldgeezer
        April 4, 2016, 12:08 am

        @jon

        Yeah it’s a laugh a minute.

        Check your privilege. I doubt many Palestinians, whise necks you stand upon in your comfort, would find it as funny as you do.

      • Jon66
        Jon66
        April 4, 2016, 8:32 am

        Talknic,

        You swallowed this story hook,line, and sinker, but I’m the “brainwashed idiot”. I see.

        The piece is fiction. It’s not real. Why would anyone need to refute The Wizard of Oz?

        If you are looking for more “truths” you should try The Onion. I believe it’s filled will them.

      • Jon66
        Jon66
        April 4, 2016, 8:40 am

        OG,
        “Check your privilege. I doubt many Palestinians, whise necks you stand upon in your comfort, would find it as funny as you do. – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/recent-comments/#sthash.nmtTRJs0.dpuf

        If they stop writing funny things here I will stop laughing. Please address your disgust to the author. Did you see the caption of the guy without the fish?

      • echinococcus
        echinococcus
        April 4, 2016, 10:54 am

        Sorry, Jon66, you are much worse than a “brainwashed idiot”, your words*.

        A murderer (or proxy thereof) who shamelessly insists and whines and whimpers to sell the idea that the worldwide known facts aren’t factual is something that we see time and again.

        One that uses every single time he speaks to make fun of his victims, well, that’s typically Zionist.

        —-
        “moderators”: his own words.

      • talknic
        talknic
        April 4, 2016, 11:32 am

        @ Jon66 April 4, 2016, 8:32 am

        “The piece is fiction. It’s not real”

        Its truths are very real and you’re unable to refute them. In fact, you haven’t even tried

        “If you are looking for more “truths” you should try The Onion. I believe it’s filled will them”

        = more Ziodrivel

  7. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson
    April 2, 2016, 2:43 am

    RE: Despite the phenomenon of exhortations to violence on Palestinian social media, Masri denied any desire to stab anyone, as others have done. “Anyway, I’d be shot on sight if I approached the border with Israel.” ~ Eamon Murphy

    MY COMMENT: This affords me the opportunity/excuse to finally bring up something that occurred to me quite some time ago and seemed worth mentioning in a comment when it was relevant (and ever since then I have never seemed to “miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”* to do so).
    The something that occurred to me is the notion that some of the alleged (since never proven in court) knife attacks (especially the attacks on soldiers/police) that have occurred during this period of violence seem somewhat akin to instances of what is commonly referred to in the U.S. as “suicide by cop” (where someone wants to die but they do not want to kill themselves, so they engage in some behavior likely to result in their being killed by the police – sometimes as a consequence of the suicidal person’s having repeatedly escalated an initial confrontation with police).
    Suicide by cop – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_by_cop

    * “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” ~ Abba Eban, quoted in The Jerusalem Post (18 November 2002); often misquoted as “Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” The quote is attributed to Abba Eban after the Geneva Peace Conference with Arab countries (21 December 1973).
    SOURCE – https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Abba_Eban
    P.S. “Israel’s Missed Opportunities” | Haaretz Opinion | Oct 22, 2012
    Israelis have long accused Arabs of squandering every chance for peace, but has Israel itself squandered so many opportunities that its very identity as a Jewish state is now in jeopardy?
    LIN K – http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/israel-s-missed-opportunities.premium-1.471479

  8. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson
    April 2, 2016, 3:23 am

    RE: “I guess it isn’t a coincidence we’re penned up in here like animals,” Masri suggested. “They say we’re ‘beasts of prey,’ and our children are ‘little snakes.’”

    IDF CHIEF OF STAFF, RAFAEL EITAN, IN 1983:

    The Arabs will never win over us by throwing stones. Our response must be a nationalist Zionist response. For every stone that’s thrown–we will build ten settlements. If 100 settlements will exist–and they will–between Nablus and Jerusalem, stones will not be thrown. If this will be the situation, then the Arabs will only be able to scurry around like drugged roaches in a bottle. ~ Rafael Eitan, Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces

    SOURCE – http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=7&x_issue=21&x_article=775

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