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Young Palestinian photographer in Gaza shines a light on fishermen’s struggle

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A young Palestinian photographer in Gaza exhibited his work last week in a location that highlights both the ancestral food cultures of the Strip as well as the daily threat posed by Israeli siege and occupation–a Palestinian fishing boat in Gaza City’s harbor. Khalid Hashem Abu al-Jedian’s photographs were taken as he accompanied the fishermen of Gaza on their hazardous daily journeys into the sea, where Gaza’s traditional fishery is boxed in on all sides by Israeli siege, enforced by gunships.

When Palestinian fishermen go out in the morning to cast their nets, they face arrest, confiscation of their boats or even severe injury or death. While the Israeli occupation navy rotates the boundaries of the Palestinian fishing zone under siege at 3, 6 or 9 nautical miles (all well below the 20 nautical miles set in the 1993 Oslo Accords as the fishing zone for Palestinian fishers from Gaza), even fishing boats within that zone have regularly come under live fire, as documented by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

In 2016 alone, Palestinian fishermen were fired on 126 times by Israeli naval ships. In 2000, Gaza had about 10,000 fishermen. Today, the number has been reduced to approximately 4,000 registered fishermen, who are breadwinners for 50,000 people. In a report, B’Tselem says even this figure is misleading since half of the registered fishermen are unemployed due to an inability to repair damaged boats. The raw materials are unavailable due to the siege.

(Photo: Courtesy of Khalid Hashem Abu al-Jedian)

(Photo: Courtesy of Khalid Hashem Abu al-Jedian)

The richest fishing stocks are in the areas of the sea to which Palestinians are denied access. Combined with the effects of water pollution and overfishing as a result of confinement, Palestinian fishermen’s take from the sea is highly limited, rendering their profession far less sustainable than in years past. Tens of millions of dollars in income have been lost due to siege, with resonating effects for fishers’ families as well as for Palestinians in Gaza generally, who face increased food insecurity due to occupation attacks on farmers and fishers that have significantly cut access to fresh fish in Palestinians’ diets. 95 percent of Palestinian fishers in Gaza live below the poverty line.  

Abu al-Jedian’s exhibition, entitled “Sounarah,” or “Net,” displayed scenes from Palestinian fishery hung on nets surrounding a traditional fishing boat in the Gaza harbor. Visited not only by students and artists but also by fishermen themselves, the exhibition highlights the daily dignity of work on the fishing boats, a practice handed down through generations but endangered due to the severe attacks on the fishing industry. The fishers featured in the exhibition included elders over 60 as well as children under 10, struggling to survive in an industry decimated by siege.

“I chose the situation of the fishermen as the subject of my first exhibition because the Palestinian fishermen are in a constant clash with the occupation authorities, who impose maritime borders that prevent the fishermen from crossing them to do their work. And then, the Israeli occupation continues to violate the rights of the fishermen even within the so-called permitted and designated area,” says Abu al-Jedian.

The photographer’s stunning work captures protests, street scenes, markets and daily life on the streets of Gaza, yet he specifically selected the struggle of the fishermen for his first public exhibition. All of his work is saturated with brilliant colors, and this is no exception in the case of his photography highlighting the fishers of Gaza. From the labor of fishing boat workers in the dark pre-dawn hours to the brilliant sunlight on blue fishing boats in the sea, Abu al-Jedian’s work shines with artistic inspiration as well as commitment to reflect the experience of Palestinians today.

(Photo: Courtesy of Khalid Hashem Abu al-Jedian)

(Photo: Courtesy of Khalid Hashem Abu al-Jedian)

(Photo: Courtesy of Khalid Hashem Abu al-Jedian)

(Photo: Courtesy of Khalid Hashem Abu al-Jedian)

Abu al-Jedian emphasized that the issue is not limited to fishers, but highlighted the particular plight and struggles of working-class and poor Palestinians, especially Palestinian refugees, living under siege in Gaza. “My first exhibition is about the fishermen, but it comes as one of a series that I plan for the near future, to focus on the workers and the peasants who struggle daily to live and give their energy each day for the survival of their children. Fishers, farmers, street vendors, child workers, refugees in the camps, and so on. And they continue to work, and to love, despite all of the oppression.”

The economic cycle of siege has a further impact on Gaza’s fishery. Fuel to run the fishing boats can be extremely expensive, taking money from the nonexistent poverty-level budgets of Gaza’s fishing families. The generally high levels of unemployment and denied payments throughout the strip mean that families have little income from which to purchase Gaza’s fish, even when fishers are able to return with a small catch from the 6-mile fishing zone.

Abu al-Jedian notes that his photography is not mere documentation but also an appeal against injustice. “My goal as a Palestinian journalist is to convey the suffering of my people. Palestinian fishermen are being subject to continuous violations. While the world thinks of fishing as a profession practiced on the waters of the sea, in Gaza this journey is covered with blood and threatened with death. The fishermen’s livelihood is stolen by the occupation navy and no one guarantees or protects their lives. Where is our right to work? Where is our right to live?” he asks.

Organizations like the Union of Agricultural Work Committees work to organize the fishermen of Gaza to demand access to the sea and to support each other. UAWC helps fishers to represent themselves and to provide repair equipment and replacement boats and engines when fishermen are attacked by the Israeli navy. The loss of a boat or an engine can be an insurmountable financial catastrophe for one of Gaza’s fishing families. For its work to defend Palestinian fishers and farmers throughout occupied Palestine, the UAWC – like other Palestinian and international NGOs and workers operating in Gaza – has been subjected to a campaign of harassment around the world by far-right Zionist organizations like Shurat Ha-Din and NGO Monitor, in an attempt to stop international support for the UN-honored organization that helps to keep Palestinian fishers afloat and farmers on their land.

Abu al-Jedian emphasizes the importance of international support, not only for the Palestinian fishers of Gaza, but for the Palestinian people overall. “My message to all the people of the world is to see our people’s hopes and dreams to live a decent life like any other human being in the world – without continuous humiliation, occupation, killing or siege restricting our movement, worship, trade and all means of life.” The Freedom Flotilla Coalition, the international coalition that has organized multiple siege-breaking boat journeys to the Gaza Strip, has launched a project called the Solidarity with Gaza Fishers campaign, hoping to highlight these frontline workers facing siege on a daily basis.

(Photo: Courtesy of Khalid Hashem Abu al-Jedian)

(Photo: Courtesy of Khalid Hashem Abu al-Jedian)

(Photo: Courtesy of Khalid Hashem Abu al-Jedian)

The losses facing Gaza’s fishers are far from restricted to the economic realm. In 2016 and 2017 alone, dozens of Palestinians have been arrested while many more have been injured by Israeli occupation naval forces off the coast of Gaza. These fishers are often injured when they are forced off their boats and into the water, injuries that can include knee and leg wounds that make it difficult to resume their profession. Some are interrogated and released from Ashdod, while others can be brought before Israel’s infamous military courts – with a 99.74% conviction rate for Palestinians – and face charges of “support for” or “membership in” one of Palestine’s major political parties.

May 15 of this year marked Nakba Day, when Palestinians around the world remember the expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and lands by Zionist militias to create the Israeli state. Seven million Palestinian refugees continue to be denied their right to return to their homes and lands – including the 70 percent of Gaza’s population who are Palestinian refugees. It also marked the killing of Palestinian fisherman and refugee Mohammed Bakr, 28, by Israeli occupation forces. From Gaza’s Shati refugee camp, the Bakr family is one of Gaza’s large fishing families. That day, the Nakba was marked by the seizure of several Palestinian refugees and the confiscation of the fishing boats that keep their families alive at the hands of today’s Israeli military.

The Israeli occupation navy that presents this threat to Palestinian fishery–and to the entire Palestinian population–is provided with IT infrastructure and support through a contract with Hewlett Packard Enterprise or its successor corporation, DXC Technologies. While these corporations have split from HP Inc, the well-known vendor of personal computers, laptops, printers and ink, they continue to share resources and the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee has urged a global boycott of HP.  In fact, the Israeli Navy stepped up its intensified siege on Gaza in 2007, only one year after HP began its contract to “virtualize” the Israeli Navy. A growing number of churches and labor unions have begun to declare themselves “HP-free zones” in response to the company’s contracts with the Israeli occupation military, prison system, and repressive apartheid ID card infrastructure.

Abu al-Jedian’s work appeals to an international audience, as well as other Palestinian photographers, journalists and artists. “I want the world to see the suffering and the experiences of the Palestinian people through my photos and my art. This is a personal initiative. I am Khalid, and my love for Palestine is not dependent on institutional funding to expose the occupation policies or our human suffering. I hope that all the countries of the world will see these images, and that I can mount these exhibitions internationally to make clear the reality of the Palestinian people today.”

Khalid Hashem Abu al-Jedian’s work can be followed on Instagram at @khalidhashem70.


Charlotte Kates

Charlotte Kates is the international coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network and the coordinator of the International Committee of the National Lawyers Guild. She is also a member of the Organizing Collective of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition.

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6 Responses

  1. just on September 4, 2017, 5:41 pm

    A devastating read. Thanks so much for bringing it here to MW, Charlotte, Khalid Hashem Abu al-Jedian’s words and his art speak volumes.

    Kate on MW regularly posts about the fishermen of Gaza and the awful and regular violent attacks by the IOF/ION. Thank you for your work toward justice, Ms. Kates.

    Gaza’s blue is so much more beautiful than the blue of Israel… Thanks for the link to Khalid’s amazing work!

  2. JosephA on September 4, 2017, 11:35 pm

    Charlotte, thanks for bringing this sad reality to light. May the world read, learn, and eventually act.

  3. mcohen.. on September 5, 2017, 7:14 am

    blessed are you o God king of the universe
    who dwells in the seven realms
    in the west
    in the east
    in the north
    in the south
    in the earth below
    in the heavens above
    in our souls eternally

    guide us with a righteous hand and protect the people of florida from the storm to come.
    may the crow circle and turn away

  4. TonyRiley on September 5, 2017, 9:32 am

    Cause and effect: they are limited because so many have been caught smuggling weapons for Hamas and other terrorist groups.

    You write of poverty, but the Hamas organisation has been named as the richeste terrorist group in the world, after Daesh.

    • Talkback on September 5, 2017, 10:09 am

      Arafatbastard; “Cause and effect: they are limited because so many have been caught smuggling weapons for Hamas and other terrorist groups.”

      You are absolutely correct, Arafatbastard, that’s collective punishment and considered a war crime since the Nuremberg trials against the Nazis.

      Arafatbastard: “You write of poverty, but the Hamas organisation has been named as the richeste terrorist group in the world, after Daesh.”

      Brilliant logic! Because “Forbes Israel” (go figure) claims that Hamas is second in place there’s no poverty in the Gaza at all,. Given the budget and US Support of the nationalized terrorist group IDF Israelis must be super rich.

    • Misterioso on September 5, 2017, 10:19 am


      Hostilities between Hamas and Israel are a consequence of Israel’s illegal occupation of the Gaza Strip and its oppression of the native inhabitants.

      To wit:
      Human Rights Watch, 2005: “…Israel will continue to be an Occupying Power [of the Gaza Strip] under international law and bound by the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention because it will retain effective control over the territory and over crucial aspects of civilian life. Israel will not be withdrawing and handing power over to a sovereign authority – indeed, the word ‘withdrawal’ does not appear in the [2005 disengagement] document at all… The IDF will retain control over Gaza’s borders, coastline, and airspace, and will reserve the right to enter Gaza at will. According to the Hague Regulations, ‘A territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised’. International jurisprudence has clarified that the mere repositioning of troops is not sufficient to relieve an occupier of its responsibilities if it retains its overall authority and the ability to reassert direct control at will.”

      The International Committee of the Red Cross: “The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law. The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, ratified by Israel, bans collective punishment of a civilian population.”

      “In practice, Gaza has become a huge, let me be blunt, concentration camp for right now 1,800,000 people” – Amira Hass, 2015, correspondent for Haaretz, speaking at the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke University.

      “‘The significance of the [then proposed] disengagement plan [implemented in 2005] is the freezing of the peace process,’ Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s senior adviser Dov Weisglass has told Ha’aretz. ‘And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda….’ Weisglass, who was one of the initiators of the disengagement plan, was speaking in an interview with Ha’aretz for the Friday Magazine. ‘The disengagement is actually formaldehyde,’ he said. ‘It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.’” (Top PM Aide: Gaza Plan Aims to Freeze the Peace Process, Ha’aretz, October 6, 2004)
      “Israel’s formula for a starvation diet”
      24 October 2012
      “Six and a half years go [2006], shortly after Hamas won the Palestinian elections and took charge of Gaza, a senior Israeli official [Dov Weisglass, then a advisor to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert] described Israel’s planned response. ‘The idea,’ he said, ‘is to put Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.’ … few observers treated his comment as more than hyperbole..”

      “[Last week, ] after a three-year legal battle by an Israeli human rights group, Israel was forced to disclose its ‘Red Lines’ document. Drafted in early 2008, as the blockade was tightened…, the defence ministry paper set forth proposals on how to treat Hamas-ruled Gaza.

      “Health officials provided calculations of the minimum number of calories needed by Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants to avoid malnutrition. Those figures were then translated into truckloads of food Israel was supposed to allow in each day.”

      “…While the health ministry determined that Gazans needed daily an average of 2,279 calories each to avoid malnutrition – requiring 170 trucks a day – military officials then found a host of pretexts to whittle down the trucks to [just 67.]”

      “There can be no doubt that the diet devised for Gaza… was directed at every man, woman and child….”


      In its revised Charter, April, 2017, Hamas agreed to a Palestinian state based on the 4 June 1967 borders. Not surprisingly, Israel promptly rejected the Hamas overture instead of using it to open a dialogue.

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