The Gaza war was not a particularly representative period in terms of
blogging; in a situation of fear and uncertainty, writing about your
experience online, assuming you have the physical means to, may not be your first instinct. Many of those blogging from Gaza during the war
were foreigners – or “internationals” as activists in Palestine call
themselves – who had arrived with the Free Gaza Movement's boats before the war, activists with the International Solidarity Movement.
A group blog called Moments in Gaza (written in English) had input by foreign activists – chiefly Lebanese activist Natalie Abou Shakra – as well as Palestinians such as Said Abdulwahed, a professor of English literature. The blog was actually managed by a colleague of Natalie's in Lebanon (and has since become Natalie's personal blog, Ghazzawiyya).
There were blog updates, but fewer, from regular Gaza bloggers such as Mutasharrid (“homeless person” or “vagrant”) and Abu El Sharif's Shajar El Ba6a6a (both writing in Arabic). Young freelance journalist Sameh Habeeb wrote frequent updates on his blog, Gaza Strip: The Untold Story, in English.
A number of bloggers talked about the practical difficulties they
faced. Sameh Habeeb wrote:
Dear Editors, Journalists and Friends,
Some of you do wonder how I send news in such conditions. I really suffer a lot to send you this update due to lack of power. I go around 4 kilometers a day in this cruel war where I charge my laptop battery to be able to send this work! This is very risky since shells rain down and drones hover over me! I will keep this up.
At Moments in Gaza, Professor Said Abdulwahed wrote:
At first I remained for 15 days without electricity and with little drinking water. Mobile phones were broken except and hardly for sending SMS. Telephone lines remained okay for the whole time but there were static lines at times. During those days I used a small generator to operate my laptop. Three days back, the electricity company maintained some transformers and wires so that we had electricity again. […] However, it is still that the electric powershuts off between now and then; some other times we receive electricity for 2-3 hours, and other times the electric current continues for 10 hours or more. […] Though it's all unusual, my priority is to catch any opportunity to contact the world.
The war prompted one blogger to start blogging again; just after it
ended, Lina Al Sharif wrote:
I’ve not written anything new since almost a year and a half. Yet I don’t have reasons why I have stopped. The war which is waged on Gaza changed me. Now I know how much I love Gaza, though, I did say things I didn’t mean. But can you blame me?! After the war finished, I found myself active ; I mean I record videos try to publish them. A bunch of real good friends in UK encouraged me to speak out.
Since then Lina has blogged regularly at Live From Gaza: 360 km2 of Chaos, and posts videos that she makes about life in Gaza. She told me recently, in answer to a question about the challenges she faces when blogging,“There are many stories I hear about and I want to be writing about but I can't reach it, because it's far away from where I live and I can't go there by myself.”
She explained, “My family is cool with what I do, and they would give
me more freedom to come and go…but society is still not accepting
the idea of a girl being an active blogger. The word ‘blogger’ is
still not familiar and as a result not taken seriously.”
Lina continued, “I want ‘us’, the Palestinians here in Gaza, to be the
ones who are reporting our story. I think after training young people
we can represent Gaza. I would love to be part of this…and I am
working on it… There are many talented people here in Gaza. We just
need some training to get our voices heard.”
As a group of young Palestinians, we, “Beyond Our Borders” team members, feel obliged to represent the Palestinian reality politically, historically, and culturally speaking with its tragedies on one hand and its glow on the other. And in light of the mounting instability of the situation on the Palestinian ground, it has become a compulsory responsibility to put into words and reflect through multi-media outputs and online communication with the world the reality of our day-to-day lives as well as the complex and true history of the conflict, given the failure of the Western media in doing so. Our belonging and attachment to Palestine, our passion to preserve our Palestinian identity, and our engagement with the outside world pose as the ultimate motivation for us to create this online blog.
Ayesha Saldanha is a member of Global Voices’ Middle East and North Africa team. She is a translator and writer based in Bahrain, and has previously spent time in Egypt, Lebanon and Palestine (both Gaza and the West Bank). She blogs at bint battuta in bahrain.