Saturday, June 15, 2024

Gaza War 2023 : This is what the graffiti of Gaza says ( Vol.1)

As a loyal 25 January supporter, I feel weak whenever I see political graffiti. Political graffiti has always played a role in Egypt and the Arab world.

From its rise in 2011 to its decline in 2015, the graffiti of the Egyptian Revolution provided a platform for the public to express their opinions to the world.

That’s why when I see pictures of graffiti in Gaza from the past 8 months on social media, I feel deeply touched.

Here is some graffiti from Gaza.

Unlike other graffiti, most of it is drawn and written on the rubble and crumbling walls of houses.

According to data collected by the United Nations Satellite Centre (UNOSAT) on May 3 and published on May 31, more than half of all buildings in Gaza have been destroyed.

At least 137,297 buildings have been damaged, according to satellite imagery-based assessments by the UNOSAT.

In the past 8 months, the most common type of graffiti seen in Gaza, at least from photos, consists of notifications written on walls indicating that someone was killed under the rubble.

Usually, family members who survived but lost their homes in the Israeli shelling leave these messages for others as they embark on an unknown journey of displacement.

On the occasion of Eid Adha, photographer Haneen Salem found a young man in Gaza City who had written "Eid Mubarak to all of you" on the walls of his destroyed house.

Graffiti from Gaza
"Happy Eid to all of you" from Gaza to the World 

He told Salem that his family was still under the rubble of the house, and this was the first Eid without them.

"I wanted to write next to their spirits and tell them that their Eid in paradise is more beautiful," he told her.

These pieces of graffiti have become like tombstones.

“Toto is under the rubble.” said the graffiti in the photo shared by Palestinian activist and Professor Ramy Abdu, the Chairman of Euro-Med Monitor.

You should follow Euro-Med Monitor and Ramy Abdu on Twitter to get the latest updates on Gaza.

A tombstone graffiti features the names of some members of the Shtiwi family who were killed on 6/12/2023 in an Israeli shelling in North Gaza.

One hundred twenty or 120 people, including members of the Shtiwi family, were killed when Israeli forces bombed their eight-story building that night, with no media coverage whatsoever.

The graffiti artist, whose alias I assume is "TT," wrote at the top of the tombstone graffiti list, "Oh house, we left with you some of our delights."

"Ahmed El-Safadi lies here along with his mother, his wife, and his children," says the graffiti from North Gaza below.

From his family's last name, you will know that the late Mr. Ahmed’s family originally came from Safed, North Palestine, and were displaced to Gaza during the Nakba.

The photographer and video content creator who took this photo is Shurki Filfil, who documents the graffiti and wall writings in Gaza during the current war.

In January, when the Israeli army began to tighten its siege on northern Gaza, that was written on the walls of buildings there.

  1. “We are staying and won’t leave”
  2. “We won’t leave x 4”, “We will die standing”, “We will remain here”, “Your planes do not scare us”

The Israeli tanks were three streets away from that graffiti.

It read “We will remain”.

From early March, the graffiti read “Mother of Martyrs and Fortress of the Faithful” which I believe refers to Gaza itself.

Shukri also took this collection of shots of graffiti and wall writings in early March.

  1. “There is no place for you on our land”
  2. “Life”
  3. “We are the landowner”, “We won’t leave”, “We won’t leave”, “7/10 will remain to scare you”
  4. “The most beautiful martyr is you, my mother”, “My beloved mother, how the pain sleep”, and “Our reunion will be in heavens” by graffiti artist “Abd-something” (Unfortunately, I can’t read the second part of his name and it makes me feel sad)
  5. "Say, 'Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the worlds.” Surah Al-An'am, Chapter 6, Verse 162 in the Quran.

“We will return to our neighbourhood one day." Read this graffiti which was written by “SH” in March.

Graffiti artists celebrated the Holy Month of Ramadan against all odds.

What is written in this graffiti can be most importantly interpreted as a direct criticism of some local merchants in Gaza who raised the prices of commodities, particularly food supplies.

It is another issue facing society in Gaza. Gaza’s police force, which technically follows Hamas, used to monitor the market to control prices.

However, as the Israeli army has been targeting and killing members of that police force, there is no longer any control over prices, leaving it to certain war profiteers.

As the Israeli army insists on occupying the Egyptian-Palestinian Rafah crossing and closing all Israeli-Palestinian crossings except Karm Abu Salem, hindering humanitarian aid, UN officials complain about extreme delays.

Consequently, some war profiteers in Gaza have raised the prices of food supplies to outrageous levels.

In early June, he posted this photo that was specially taken for his Instagram account.

The graffiti reads, 'Jabaliya camp will not fail,' while the smaller graffiti in English on the left reads, 'All Eyes on South,' referencing the 'All Eyes on Rafah' social media campaign.

Here is the same graffiti standing high from a week ago by Journalist Malak Abu Hussein.

Another piece of graffiti from the Jabaliya refugee camp demonstrates that it remains a significant challenge for the Israeli army despite the massacres it committed against the camp's residents.

This time it is a graffiti from the famous Mahmoud Darwish’s poem “On This Earth”

“We have on this earth what makes life worth living”

Indeed, we have on this earth what makes life worth living.

Here is the complete poem translated into English along with its original Arabic text from Arab Lit.

From Jabaliya camp’s own Tel al-Zaatar, two graffiti documented by video content creator Mohammad Balousha.

  1. Remember the generations that lived throughout the holocaust in 2024.
  2. “Peace be upon Tel al-Zaatar until its fire cools” and in front of it “It will get better”.

Tel al-Zaatar in the Jabaliya camp is different from the Tel al-Zaatar Palestinian Refugee Camp in Beirut, despite both having witnessed horrifying massacres against Palestinian refugees at the hands of different war criminals. “The Lebanese Front was actually an alley to Israel”.

Balousha also documented the graffiti in Jabaliya.

  1. “I want to sell my house and arm the resistance.”
  2. “Khalil Shaath, a nuclear scientist”

Unlike other regions in Gaza, Jabaliya takes pride in hosting almost all Palestinian factions of militant resistance, including the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the military arm of Fatah that does not follow Ramallah, as well as the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the military arm of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

In another shot, the word "We will remain" is written as graffiti on a tent in a makeshift displacement camp in Jabaliya.

We are still in northern Gaza, where a piece of graffiti was documented by Al-Jazeera reporter Hossam Shabat.

“The only survivor is the martyr”

This phrase reflects how many in Gaza feel.

According to the latest figures, more than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed and over 45,000 others injured in this war so far, not to mention those who are missing. North Gaza isn't just on the verge of famine; it's already on one, with the Israeli army continuing to block aid entry to the North, aiming to force people to leave and to discourage support for the resistance. Since May 11th, there have been no aid airdrops either.

There are only two barely functional hospitals in the North, meeting basic needs at best.

Nevertheless, there is always hope, there is always promise.

One of the reasons I wrote this lengthy blog post is because I discovered a graffiti artist in Gaza who made a promise. That promise is to rebuild Gaza.

"A Promise Gaza we will rebuild it" was written on a UNRWA school wall.

In Arabic, besides the promise in English, the depiction of the snake "symbolizing Israel suffocating Palestine" being killed, and verses from the Holy Quran "Say to those who disbelieve (You will be overcome and gathered together to Hell, and wretched is the resting place)." {Surat 'Ali `Imran [3:12-30]}

Whoever wrote the promise, wrote in other destroyed places in North Gaza too.

That time he left his signature as Tamer. 

“Promise, we will rebuild Gaza.”

There are other names but the name “Tamer” would appear again like Ahmed.

The promise appears at the destroyed gate of Al-Shifa Medical Complex where mass graves have been discovered following the withdrawal of the Israeli army from the complex.

According to Palestinians in Gaza, the “Promise, we will rebuild it” graffiti appears whenever the Israeli army withdraws from a place.

Here is the promise appearing in the city of Gaza on some destroyed mosques.

The map of Palestine from the river to the sea was drawn too. Haneen Salem did not draw it as there is a mistranslation in her caption.

By the way, did you know that Gaza's renowned photographer Belal Khaled was a graffiti artist before becoming a full-time war photographer covering an ongoing genocide against his own people?

After 139 days of the war, he painted the word “Dreams” or “Ahlam” in Arabic on the walls of a destroyed building where 13 children are believed to be under the rubble in Rafah.

Scroll through the photos to see how the children were actually happy with that brief respite from the war.

This is not the end because the walls of Gaza's destroyed buildings have more to say than can be shared in one post.

FYI one day, Meta will speak proudly of how Instagram played a role in documenting the Gaza War against all odds, inshallah.

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