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So... how do you resist the occupation?

Resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine comes in many forms: every Friday, Israeli, Palestinian and international activists gather in the village of Nil’in, near Ramallah, in the Palestinian West Bank, to protest peacefully at the construction of a new slab of Israel’s so-called ‘Barrier Wall’ that will slice through Nil’in and separate the villagers from their land. And every Friday the activists are teargassed by Israeli soldiers, and sprayed with a foul-smelling liquid: they are often shot with rubber-coated bullets too. The Barrier Wall, which when it is complete will stretch for 560 kilometres around the West Bank, is illegal under international law. But this doesn’t stop the Israeli troops shooting at the demonstrators.  

Here in Gaza, where I’ve lived for the last nine months, we also see demonstrations against the occupation and the siege of Gaza; but resistance also has a more creative side. Another small vessel is on its way from Cyprus to Gaza, with an international crew of doctors, Palestinian and international activists. No-one yet knows whether it will be allowed to dock in Gaza, but it is another courageous attempt to break the siege. The rest of the world seems to have forgotten about this ugly siege; people in Gaza don’t just feel forgotten: they are forgotten.

Amidst the misery of Gaza’s third year under intensive Israeli siege, some people here have literally taken matters into their own hands: like Jawdat Al-Khoudary, a portly Gazan construction worker-cum-entrepreneur with a passionate love for the history of his land. For years Al-Khoudary painstakingly collected fragments of Gaza’s history as he unearthed them: ancient stones, vessels, carvings, lamps, tombstones and other treasures, all finally housed in the newly opened ‘Mathaf’ in northern Gaza. The Mathaf could actually have been finished years ago, but the Israeli blockade on construction materials entering Gaza made building, and rebuilding, almost impossible. Israel has destroyed roads and houses across Gaza, but denied people the materials to rebuild their lives.

Nevertheless, Al-Khoudary slowly and defiantly started to build his dream. The Mathaf, a blend of ancient and modern materials, is a café, a restaurant, and a museum housing these treasures, many of them dating back to the Canaanite era. I asked Al-Khoudary where he found these ancient gems: ‘Don’t ask me where,’ he retorted. ‘Look around you - Gaza is history.’

We sat at the Mathaf last night, amidst the Ramadan lamps, and the sound of water trickling from the stream that flows through the grounds of the outdoor café. The Mathaf is perched above the beach, and is also near the northern border with Israel. It is a piece of bliss. When Al-Khoudary said he was going to build his venue in northern Gaza, people said he was mad. But now they flock to the Mathaf for the sheer pleasure of being there; and now they say he is a true resister.

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