I’VE POSTPONED THE FIRST PHASE OF THIS PROJECT.
For medical and political reasons I’ve decided to postpone the first part of this project—refugees in Northern Europe— and conduct the second part—internally displaced refugees in Gaza and the West Bank—beginning in early September.
Urological problems constitute the medical reason. The political reason is learning two days before I was to leave home that my Gazan friend in Norway abruptly declined to participate. I was shocked and bewildered by this development; it caused me great, nearly unbearable stress. I had built the project around him thru many long Skype conversations. He was to have provided background and context, lead me to Palestinian refugees in Norway, help me interview them, and generally be the expert and link crucially required for such a project. Precisely what motivated his decision is unclear to me but could involve dangers to himself and his family in Gaza if he is publicly identified with my work. I sought other colleagues in the countries I had planned to visit (Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, and Belgium) but was unable to find any with such short notice.
Embarking on this project could potentially leave me in a grave medical condition, in a foreign land, without support, distant from my home medical facilities, with no good way to locate refugees to interview and photograph, and without affordable housing.
To be clear: I postpone rather than cancel the first part of this project. For all the reasons I’ve stated, the timing is not right. I need to do more research and find networks that can facilitate my work. This could be summer next year. Meanwhile I do plan to conduct the second part of this project in the fall—photograph internally displaced refugees in camps in Gaza and the West Bank. And begin this as a photographer with the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), remaining in Gaza and the West Bank for my project. I do not yet precisely know how this project will evolve; I am confident it will be eye and mind opening.
As disappointed as I am for this unexpected development, I am deeply grateful for your support of my work generally and this particular project—financial and otherwise. I feel confident that in some revised form I’ll be able to conduct the entire project.
To those who’ve financially supported my project, I’ve written separately.
This is my new project, an extension of the work I’ve been doing in Palestine since 2003.
But first words from my good friend in Gaza, Dr. Mustafa Al-Hawi (April 26, 2018). The context is my plan to enter Gaza in autumn 2018 (and Norway in summer 2018, two separate trips, as detailed in my funding appeal and project proposal) with a group teaching nonviolent methods to resolve conflict. Mustafa was to be one of the facilitators.
Yesterday, I had the chance with Murad to meet with the senior officials of Hamas government in order to discuss your trip and permits to Gaza. As you are aware, the United States Government has decided to shift the U.S embassy to Jerusalem on May 15th and all Palestinian factions and local community are expecting a real deterioration of the political situation. Any how, I would like to let you know the following important notes:
- On May 15th, Hamas government, UN agencies and international organizations expect a serious armed confrontation along the border and properly develop to a real war. Since last week, UNRWA has been evacuation their international staff and the gave a deadline in May 15th as the last date to evacuate every body. This of course has an indicator that the situation does not look nice and may deteriorate seriously. For these reasons, our recommendation for the AVP [Alternative to Violence] team to postpone the trip minimum 4-5 months until the political situation become clearer.
- The workshops along the border [related to the Great March of Return] has been set up to be facilitated early next week as we already got the approval from the March Committee on the border.
- Also, this warning ( For the team to postpone the trip for 4-5 months) extends to the West Bank giving the demonstrations, strike and possible confrontations in Jerusalem and West Bank which may lead to killings and injuries of many people.
- We do believe that the situation is not clear enough for the AVP team to facilitate workshops during such horrible situation.
- For us the AVP Palestine, we will be committed to facilitate some workshops locally for the university students, NGOs and community groups.
- Skip: I go to the border quite often and watch whats going on, the majority of the people at the march of return are normal/civil society people and politicians, the majority are youth and teenagers. Also some old people go there and participate in different events. Youth conduct football activities, music, compositions, fly paper planes, toys and others burn tires. I have many of my relatives got injured and a Friend died last Friday.
- We are looking forward to the date that your people wake up and picture our cause as a real human rights and we deserve to live in peace, dignity and justice.
- Sorry friends for this news but this part of our commitment to put you on the exact situation and latest development.
So because of the ongoing Gaza border violence; the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the 70th anniversaries of both the Nakba (Palestinian Catastrophe) and the independence of Israel, all three in mid May; plus the age-old conflicts between Iran and Israel, my plans to enter Gaza are uncertain. I hope to enter Gaza in the fall of 2018. However, I can easily get to Norway to locate and photograph Palestinian refugees there, with the help of my good friend, Ibrahem, himself a Gaza refugee, now living in Norway. I plan that trip for early summer 2018.
The issues erupting from Palestine-Israel have troubled me for decades, as they have the world community. Mainstream media coverage tends to justify Israel’s positions. Currently and alarmingly the United States’ president and Israel’s prime minister are particularly close, heading largely right-wing governments. This does not provide hopeful context to create justice, peace, and security for the region.
For 15 years I’ve visited the region to document conditions, making many friends and colleagues among both Palestinians and Israelis. And I’ve photographed Palestinian refugees in camps in Gaza and the West Bank, but their diaspora extends worldwide, including Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Western and Northern European countries, and the United States. Ibrahem, my dear Gazan friend now living in Norway, works with Palestinian refugees and has agreed to help me widen my project. With his help, I will locate, interview, and photograph Palestinians living in this distant and for them very different part of the world.
The project will involve two separate trips—to Norway early this summer (2018) to photograph Palestinian refugees and my friend Ibrahem, and to Gaza in the early fall.
I plan to enter Gaza with the help of the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) which trains people to use nonviolent methods, such as dialog, to resolve conflicts. In Gaza I will photograph these trainings, as well as the general situation there, including refugee camps—some 70% of Gazans are refugees from villages now in Israel. I will investigate how conditions differ between Norway and refugee camps in Gaza.
Many times in the entire region, many photos, writing, and movies later, I now wish to concentrate on refugees in Northern Europe and visit the Palestinians remaining in Gaza. I will broaden the constricted picture many Americans have (thanks to Israel-centric media) of the overall Palestine-Israel situation. A major lacuna: how do people forced from their homelands live? Central questions are: how accepted are Palestinians by Norwegians, what services exist for refugees, how do they deal with the trauma they’d experienced in Gaza, what are their legal rights, and what are their hopes for return either temporarily or permanently to Gaza. *
I hope to contribute my small effort to resolving the conflict, fostering justice, security, equality, and freedom for all human beings in that troubled region.
I’ve been a photographer, filmmaker, and writer for most of my adult life. Struggles for justice and peace in different parts of the world have been my main concentration.
While in South Africa in 1990 and then again 8 years later during one of several of my international pilgrimages, I began to understand the parallels between conflicts in South Africa and Palestine-Israel. Apartheid, an Afrikaner word meaning separation—which I interpret it as Separation with Hate—operates in various forms in both regions. In Auschwitz in 1995 I learned more directly about the holocaust, which helped propel the creation of the Israeli state. I was raised Catholic and imagined Jesus walking thru the dusty Holy Land with his disciplines. Thus grew my curiosity, leading to my concern about that region. And then finally in 2003, during the end of the Second Intifada (Palestinian Uprising), the year an Israeli soldier driving a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer ran over and killed Rachel Corrie as she protected a Palestinian home, I was on my way East. This began one of the most meaningful journeys of my life.
I’ve photographed widely in Israel and Palestine, many different populations, many different activities: Israelis training as first responders, Palestinians living in tents, Israelis walking and shopping in Jerusalem and Haifa, Palestinians studying at various levels and ages, and Israeli high school students learning archeology. I’ve explored all the areas of Israel, West Bank, and Gaza (except for the Sinai which is currently too dangerous to enter). For this project I will hone my focus: refugees inside Palestine-Israel and outside.
Palestinians are one of the longest colonized populations—most recently in 1948 by Israel, meaning the occupation of the West Bank and later the siege of Gaza—and still living in diaspora. I have shown the reality of the matrix of control, walls and fences, checkpoints, permits, home demolitions, restricted roads, inordinate fines, deportations, targeted assassinations, leveling of entire neighborhoods, violent repression of nonviolent demonstrations, etc. As well as survival mechanisms, the family, faith communities, organizations, etc. Now I have the opportunity, thanks to my good Palestinian friend from Gaza in Norway, Ibrahem, to show more widely the consequences of colonization and emigration.
One in three refugees in the world are Palestinian. Nearly seven million Palestinian refugees live in some 14 countries, with approximately 4,000 in Norway, 7,000 in Sweden, and 9,000 in the Netherlands, countries I hope eventually to reach. (UN Refugee Works Administration and UN High Commission on Refugees)
Israeli mortar shell fired at Palestinian village in Gaza
After an attack by the Israeli military on a government building in Gaza
IBRAHEM IN NORWAY
Ibrahem and I began our friendship in 2004 when we were both living in Gaza City. He was attending college, and I was photographing for the first time in the Gaza Strip. On some of my 5 subsequent trips to Gaza—and thru Skype and email—we deepened our friendship. Around 2006 he immigrated to Norway, but Norway repeatedly rejected his pleas for asylum. In Gaza during the 2008-2009 violence (Operation Cast Lead) he left for Norway shortly after. Because of his problems gaining asylum in Norway Ibrahem re-entered Gaza a few months before the 2014 conflict (Operation Protective Edge). Thus he was in Gaza for the two periods of greatest recent violence. Though heartbroken at what he and my Gazan friends were suffering, I was unable to stand with them during these periods of intense bombing and ground assaults by Israel.
He worked with an agency in Gaza after the 2014 war when he provided humanitarian assistance to the postwar, internally displaced people (the majority of which are registered refugees) living in informal camps and underreported settings. He identified needs and coordinated services such as shelter, water, and sanitation, etc. After moving to Sweden in 2016 he worked to integrate unaccompanied minor refugees at the municipality level. Back in Norway, within non-governmental and community-based organizations, he remains engaged with the question of resettlement and integration of refugees.
Now finally able to make a new life for himself in Norway, Ibrahem holds masters degrees in international migration and ethnic relations and in social work. Fluent in Norwegian and English, Arabic is his first language. He will be a vital translator. As he provides me crucial background and contacts, we will work together, locating, interviewing, photographing, and filming Palestinian refugees.
Because the visits to Norway and Gaza are linked, I will begin this project as soon as the volatile political situation in Gaza subsides (until then Israel will probably not grant entry permits), planning to complete my work by the middle of 2019. As in the past, I will create exhibits, slideshows, blogs, books, and movies. As with all my projects I will post photos and writings on my website and blog—dispatches from the field.
· Airfare – $2000
· Transport in country – $500
· Compensation to colleagues in Norway – $1000
· Contributions to organizations working for resettlement in Norway and other countries I visit- $1000
· Food and lodging – $1500
· Photographic equipment and supplies – $500
· Post production—developing, editing, printing, slideshow making, etc – $2000
By presenting powerful images of life in the Palestinian diaspora and Palestine itself, I hope to build awareness and inspire action. The end result: beyond coexistence to a breath-taking sharing of the region, its resources, histories, luminaries, and potential. A true Holy Land.
Refugee camp in Gaza
Demonstration for human rights in Gaza, a Die-In in Boston, April 2018
* The plea of refugees in Gaza to return to their ancestral villages now in Israel is the central focus of the Great March to Return . It began on April 2, 2018, was planned to end on May 15, but for now (July 25, 2018) is ongoing. These dates mark two important historical events, Land Day when 6 Palestinians were killed as they attempted to return to their villages in 1976, and Nakba Day marking the beginning of The Catastrophe, or the Grand Dispossession in 1948. The violence of this effort—as of May 5, 2018, more than 40 unarmed Palestinians killed by Israeli snipers, and nearly 8000 wounded (700 of them children), many with life-threatening injuries, overwhelming the already stressed medical system—makes the Gaza portion of my plan uncertain. We may need to postpone entering Gaza until the fall.
SAMPLES OF MY WORK
Book (Eyewitness Gaza)
Movie (also titled Eyewitness Gaza)
Skip Schiel has been documenting the Palestinian and Israeli reality through photographs and journal postings since 2003. They contribute a better feel for the detailed texture of life in Gaza and the West Bank than any appearing in US media. Schiel spends time where most journalists dare not tread, amidst ordinary Palestinians, sharing in the dangers and frustrations of their lives.
His work has been invaluable for my own. As a writer for a Buddhist publication whose parents were victims of the Holocaust, I try to convey a view of the conflict that differs from the US media’s, which obfuscates the injustices and sufferings inflicted on the Palestinians by Israel. Through his portraits of Palestinian men, women, and children striving to maintain ordinary routines despite harassment and attacks by Israel’s military, Skip reveals to us the true face of Palestinians.
—Annette Herskovits, Consulting Editor, Turning Wheel, the Journal of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Holocaust survivor
Skip Schiel photographs not only with his eyes but with his heart.
—Fares Oda, former staff American Friends Service Committee, Ramallah, West Bank, Occupied Palestinian Territories
It saddens me to hear of the difficulties Skip is going through [finding an audience]. This is discouraging for us who are struggling in the situation. I never would have suspected that his pictures were not balanced. The first act of nonviolent resistance is to tell the truth. His pictures shared that. Let’s pray our dear friend does not give up!
—Jean Zaru, Palestinian Quaker and activist, Ramallah, Palestine
Skip’s creative ministry has challenged, informed and inspired our [Quaker] Meeting for many years. His work is a visual reminder to us of the importance of remaining faithful to our peace and social justice testimonies.
—Cathy Whitmire, Former presiding clerk, Friends Meeting at Cambridge (Quaker)
You capture such powerful, symbolic moments in your work, that reach beyond the context they are in. I admire your brave tenacity and commitment to documentation of this struggle for justice.
—Marjorie Wright, filmmaker (Jews Step Forward) and activist
Your sensitivity to light and emotion is dramatic, the brilliant daylight framing the sad courageous eyes and brave determined expressions of our Gaza neighbors, as they face such a cruel, demented, and terrifying adversary.
I think you are very brave too, and I thank you deeply for shining a true light on [the situation].
SELECTED PHOTOS FROM MY WORK IN GAZA
Relative of family member imprisoned by Israel
In a refugee camp trauma treatment program
A celebration at the Qattan Center for the Child
Limited free desalinated water
At the wall separating Gaza from Egypt, picking thru garbage
It is estimated that more than 6 million Palestinians live in a global diaspora.
(Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics)
The countries outside the Palestinian territories with significant Palestinian populations are:
Chile 500,000 (largest Palestinian community outside the Middle East).
Saudi Arabia 280,245
United States 255,000 (the largest concentrations in Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles (History of Palestinians in Los Angeles)-San Diego).
Guatemala est. 200,000
El Salvador 70,000
Puerto Rico est. 30,000
Greece est. 30,000
United Kingdom 20,000
Japan est. 10,000
4 thoughts on “Palestinian Refugees & Gaza (or Palestine World Wide)—fundraising for my new project”
This is a most impressive and inspiring project. I will be sharing this message in hopes of raising funds and support for you, Skip. I will keep you in my prayers for every step of your journey in preparations and travels, for meeting with many to bring the stories back to us. May we all contribute to this peacemaking for Israelis and Palestinians.
thanks for your support suzanne. please note that the first phase of this project—europe—is postponed but i intend to implement the second phase-gaza.