Three Women from Haifa

–>To download or listen to these interviews, visit:
http://www.radio4all.net/proginfo.php?id=27485

–>These interviews will also be airing as part ‘Radio Free Palestine’, an
international radio broadcast to be held on May 15, 2008, to commemorate
60 years of the Palestinian Nakba. For more information:
http://www.imemc.org/index.php?obj_id=2196Sitting in the north of what is now called Israel, on the Mediterranean
Sea, Haifa is a tragically beautiful city. Cascading hills and a
picture-perfect coast are juxtaposed with its history of violence and
dispossession.

Haifa was once a thriving Palestinian city. In 1945, the Palestinian
population of Haifa was over 85 thousand. On April 21, 1948, the Carmeli
brigade of the Haganah (the Zionist armed forces) began their attack on
Haifa, under what they called the Misbarayim, or scissors, plan. The
strategy was to attack the Palestinian residents of Haifa from three
sides, leaving only one side open for people to flee. Today, there are
only 25 500 Palestinian residents of Haifa, MAKING UP JUST 10% of the
city’s population.

Israel often tries to promote an image of Haifa as a city of coexistence –
a place where Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Israelis live tolerantly
side by side. However, many Palestinian residents of the city, those who
survived the 1948 war and managed to stay, tell a different story than the
Israeli narrative.

These are the voices of three Palestinian women living in Haifa today.
Each leads different lives, and is involved in different projects, yet
they are united by historical bonds of displacement, suffering, and
resistance.

Makbula Nassar is a social worker and a photographer for the website
www.palestineremembered.com. She began taking photos of the historic
Palestinian areas of Haifa after meeting other Palestinian women refugees
in Cyprus, some of them who were expelled from Haifa themselves. They had
a yearning to see photos of their hometown, one they can only dream about
now, and so Makbula began taking photos almost as a service to these
women. She is now in contact with Palestinian refugees throughout the
world. In Makbula’s words, ‘We need to exist before we can co-exist… and
people from Haifa have been struggling all the time to stay and keep
living here’.

Rauda Morcos is the general coordinator of Aswat, a Palestinian lesbian
organization based in Haifa. Here Rauda speaks about the work of Aswat,
meaning ‘voices’ in Arabic, and about the resistance of Palestinian
lesbians through trying to forge a new language around queer identities.
She also discusses the multi-level oppression and discrimination that
Palestinian lesbians face within Israeli society. ‘The loss of land for me
means the loss of who I am as a lesbian,’ Rauda says. ‘I am not allowed to
have my own country, and I’m not allowed to have my own identity.’

Hilani Shahadi is a school teacher who is completing a Masters degree at
the Tel Aviv University. As a Palestinian working within the Israeli
education system, she discusses the complexities and the difficulties of
trying to introduce a Palestinian side of history into the curriculum. All
Palestinian students in Israeli schools must write an essay about the
legacy of the Nazi Holocaust, yet Hilani has faced resistance from within
her school for trying to also teach about the Sabra and Chatila massacre
in Lebanon, or the Palestinian Nakba (‘catastrophe’ in Arabic). Talking
about the thousands of Israeli flags now hung around Haifa for the 60-year
anniversary of Israel, she says, ‘What that flag stands for doesn’t
include me.’

All three of them reflect on the hardships that Palestinians still face in
Haifa, and also on the 60-year anniversary of the Nakba.

–>http://www.radio4all.net/proginfo.php?id=27485

[Words, photos, and audio by Aaron Lakoff. Aaron Lakoff is an independent
journalist from Montreal, Canada. He is currently volunteering with the
International Middle East Media Center (www.imemc.org) in Beit Sahour,
Palestine.]

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