“I have a place where I can express myself without being controlled.”

We have interviewed comics, writers, political activists, in our quest for creativity, imagination, and pro-active search of the self in a world that overvalues the immediate art of information. Amidst the desperation illustrated by the Occupy movement, and the necessity to make themselves a place in the sun, college graduates are amongst the poorest in all demographics. Rising unemployment rates and abandon of one’s aspiration and motivation is how we picture the youth of today. It only just occurred to us that the most imaginative and resourceful people we knew could be one of us, could be so close to what we want to achieve through this blog and through this organisation. We have therefore chosen to interview, depict and portray those who inspire us and could just as well see you through one of those days. Ziad Abu Zayyad is one of those young yet mature minds who are active proponents of change, pushing through the barriers of their environment to redefine the hand dealt by diplomacy and politics. Prisoner of the “palestinian question” in Israel, Ziad took it upon himself to write, describe, read and educate those who felt they had no voice; speak to those who would not listen; and prepare the not so proverbial battleground for a future, any future, as long as it is peaceful.

Can you introduce yourself and let us know what your academic background is?
My name is Ziad Khalil Abu Zayyad. I am a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem. I am twenty six years old. I studied International Relations and English Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I am politically active in the Palestinian community and lead a youth movement that works for serving the Palestinian youth. I am also a blogger since 2007 and represent Palestinian youth in Social Media activities and International Conferences.

“It was hard to decide whether to be an analyst that sticks to objectivity or be an ambassador that writes in order to explain the Palestinian case and serve it.”

When did you start the Middle East Post and what prompted you to do so?
I started the Middle East Post in 2007. One of the main reasons that pushed me to establish the website was my interest in finding a place to express myself away from the main media outlets in the Palestinian territories that are usually controlled by main political parties. I also wanted to reach a wider international audience and send a message about my life, the effect of the occupation on it and express my interest in finding a solution that brings civil rights to my people. Later, many others joined me and today write at the Middle East Post, hereby becoming one of the main English writing websites that publishes about the Arab World and the Israeli Arab conflict.

What were the biggest obstacles you had to face when starting the publication?
One of the biggest obstacles was learning how to publish, knowing how to write and setting a goal that I want to reach through my writing. It was hard to decide whether to be an analyst that sticks to objectivity or be an ambassador that writes in order to explain the Palestinian case and serve it.

Do you have any staffers on board and if yes, how did you recruit them?
My staff approached me to become part of the Middle East Post. They showed interest in publishing on the website. Others wanted to help by editing and giving advice about what would be good to develop the website and make it reach a wider audience.

“As Palestinians in Jerusalem, we have to go through checkpoints on a daily basis and we have to fight in order to survive”

How important is the Middle East Post to you and what are your goals for the publication?
Today the Middle East Post is a part of me. It represents me and became a tool that I use to build new relations locally and internationally. It makes me feel that I have a place where I can express myself without being controlled. Not only that but the website has invested in making me reach places that I always wanted to reach and know people who are similar to me and work in the same field: Social Media. One of the recent outcomes was my participating in an International Conference that brought eighteen bloggers from eighteen different countries. Following the relation we built with each other, we decided to establish a network called Global Bloggers for Change. Our local media gave great importance for such an achievement and now we are working through this network to serve bloggers who are working for a positive change within their societies.

Tell us about your life living in East Jerusalem and the issues you face on a daily basis.
Living in East Jerusalem is neither simple nor easy. Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem do not have a nationality and are given a permanent resident identity card only to identify them. While travelling we use a travelling document. We have no representation neither in the municipality nor in any other Israeli authority. We refuse to be a part of Israel yet we are not allowed to express ourselves nor have freedom of speech whenever it is about politics or even forming a community leadership. The economic situation of the Palestinians is bad in the city. Building the separation wall disconnected East Jerusalem from the surrounding Palestinian villages that used to cause a movement related to the economic situation in the city. Settlements are built all the time in order to make the city Israeli in every possible way. We have to go through checkpoints on a daily basis and we have to fight in order to survive when talking about monthly income and facing serious social problems. The services that are given to the residents are much less than what is needed and most of the time the city resembles a ghost city because of separation wall. If any of the residents leave the borders of the separation wall to live, for example,  in the West Bank or abroad, he or she immediately lose their identity card and are not allowed to enter the city again. Such circumstances cause serious social problems including substance abuse, family problems and other.  The Palestinian Authority is not allowed to give us any kind of service and if any of the residents of the city cooperate with them , they are charged of cooperation with the enemy.

“I also see myself as a man who continues to lead for the sake of bringing liberty and justice for my Palestinian people”

What do you think of the petition submitted to the UN in September to recognize Palestine as an independent state? What were your reaction to Obama’s response?
I believe that the petition was legitimate and the minimum that the Palestinians would do especially that the majority expressed their commitment to diplomatic efforts and peaceful resistance in order to succeed in earning our rights back. Most of the international community supported the Palestinian bid because it is clear that it works with international law and its norms. Unfortunately the U.S leadership did not support the move that qualifies with president Obama’s vision of a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel. However, I was thrilled to see thousands of Palestinians going into the street calling for a Palestinian state by the 1967 borders. Such an achievement came after a lot of efforts. I also believe that it is important to continue the efforts on the international level in order to bring real results for the bid and move forward towards a Palestinian state. Here is a link to an article that I wrote about the petition.

In the two to five years to come, where do you see yourself and the Middle East Post?
I hope to succeed in taking the Middle East Post to become a Media outlet that brings objective news and reports about the conflict. I also see myself as a man who continues to lead for the sake of bringing liberty and justice for my Palestinian people while assuring that democracy and freedom of expression is protected.

A Palestinian-Arab living in East Jerusalem, Ziad graduated from College Des Freres in Jerusalem in 2003. Ziad finished his major in International Relations and English Literature from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ziad is a former President of the Watan student movement at the university. He is interested in Middle Eastern political issues and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Founder of the Middle East Post and Co-Founder of “Global Bloggers for Change” Foundation, he represents Palestinian youth at several international conferences.