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Sderot in Israel (built over a former Arab village) and the Gaza Strip in the Occupied Palestinian Territories lie less than one kilometer from each other. Yet they differ. Here’s one look at how they differ, December 2010.

A movie by Skip Schiel and Teeksa Photography

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Excerpts from my journal during a recent 6 week journey to Gaza—now back home in the United States.

Today we say: ENOUGH! It is our turn to take our destiny into our own hands and to ACT to stop the cycle of bloodshed.

Other Voice is a grassroots group that has no political aspirations. We are citizens of the Sderot region and the Gaza region. We are interested in finding creative ways of hearing a new voice from the region and for promoting hope and non-violent actions for the benefit of the locals who live here in Sderot and in the Gaza Strip.

Other Voice includes diverse men and women from all political backgrounds, professions, and beliefs. We all agree that joint civil action is needed in order to create a new sustainable option for our lives in this region

—Other Voice

לחצו כאן לקריאת מכתב מקול אחר לראש ממשלת ישראל הקורא לסיום המצור על עזה

שמונה שנות קאסמים ועשרות ביקורים מתוקשרים של פוליטיקאים מכל המפלגות, קציני צה”ל בכירים מהעבר ומההווה ומציאות של חיים בצל האימה, ללא מיגון, ללא תוכנית ללא כיוון המלווים בהבטחות שווא, עוררו בתושבים רבים באזור הזה ספקות ותחושה שפשוט אין להם פתרון.

עד עכשיו ביקשנו, זעקנו, הפגנו, על מנת שיעשה משהו להפסיק את המציאות הלא נורמאלית בה אנו מנסים בכל כוחנו לקיים את השגרה.
כל רעיון צבאי, קטן כגדול נוסה במהלך השנים האלו. ללא הועיל. אנחנו יורים. הם יורים. אנחנו מגיבים הם מגיבים וחוזר חלילה במעגל אינסופי.

היום אנחנו אומרים די! תורנו לקחת את גורלנו בידינו ולפעול להפסקת מעגל האימים.

קול אחר הנה התארגנות אזרחית, לא פוליטית, של תושבים משדרות ועוטף עזה ושל תושבים מרצועת עזה המעוניינים לחשוב באופן יצירתי ולהשמיע קול חדש של תקווה תוך פעולה בלתי אלימה למען תושבי האזור כולו.

קול אחר כוללת אנשים מכל קשת הדעות. מגילאים, תחומי עיסוק, אמונות ורקעים שונים, כאשר הבסיס המשותף הוא ההבנה כי הפעולה האזרחית המשותפת נחוצה כעת על -מנת להוביל לשינוי אמיתי וארוך טווח.

אנו מזמינים את כל תושבי שדרות והאזור להצטרף אלינו ולהיות שותפים בהשמעת הקול האישי ושמיעת הקול האחר.

PHOTOS

Sderot in Israel (built over a former Arab village) and the Gaza Strip in the Occupied Palestinian Territories lie less than one kilometer from each other. Yet they differ. Here’s one look at how they differ, December 2010.

January 1, 2011, Saturday, in an Air France Airbus, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean

Working on my computer as long as the battery power lasts—current estimate is 2 hours, 31 minutes, which is almost the time remaining before landing in Boston after a very long flight—5 + hours Tel Aviv to Paris, short layover there, and another 7 or so home. It’s been a long day.

Not only the flight time but the prelude: Eric Yellin so generously drove me from Sderot to Ben Gurion airport, a 60 minute ride at 6:30 pm yesterday [December 31, 2010], then the evening and night at the airport, working on my next blog (about the buffer zone), sleeping or sort of sleeping on an unpadded single bench (nothing like the Paris airport with its cushy chairs) from about 11 pm to 3:30 am, morning chores, eat something, one hour for security, board the plane at 8 in the morning.

Ben Gurion airport, Tel Aviv

Near Tel Aviv

At the airport in the morning, after passing security, I relaxed and wrote friends who’d written me—Sue MC offering me an airport pickup, Rick, Elaine, Y earlier with news about her impending trip to Japan, notes about gigs, and the like—but didn’t take the time to complete the buffer zone blog I’d begun during the evening. Too bad—a fast wireless connection and the joy of writing about Israel-Palestine from Israel. I discovered the airport wifi system had blocked Ken O’Keefe sites (reporting from Gaza), also the International Solidarity Movement and others of that nature (but nothing of mine, suggesting how little impact I’m having).

So much for the minutia of my travels, a matter of grave concern to me and of little concern to the wider world.

On the way to France

About Sderot: Nomika Zion was too busy for the interview I’d requested. She was caught in a whirlwind of last minute, last of the year work—proposals and reports due, she claimed, at midnight last night, Dec 31, 2010. She also planned to attend the party at Eric’s.

Near Sderot

During the airport ride Eric asked me about my understanding of the situation and what might help. I began with the topic of providing security for all endangered people by building international institutions, including and most especially the international court system. We differ about BDS, Boycott, Divest, Sanction—he favors a selective approach, I the more general. Perhaps his mind is more nuanced than mine. I admire that, I think I tend to favor more extreme and conclusive views. Of course, being Israeli, living in Israel, he wishes for more understanding of the existential fear of annihilation many Israelis talk about. But he is also aware of how this fear is wrongly used to justify violence and oppression.

Sky over Sderot (from the ground)

We agree that one key to the solution is partnership, reconciliation, pairing, intimately knowing others from different sides and with divergent perspectives. By now I consider Eric and Nomika extraordinary friends of mine, unusual friends of mine, rare friends of mine. I think we respect each other deeply, I them for sure.

My interview of Eric on camera went very well. He is smart and articulate. I found a good site for the interview, his home with the street as background. I rested the camera on a food carton, moved it periodically. I asked him about Other Voice, the organization he cofounded to help people speak out with other views of what is happening in Israel and Palestine and about how he became who he is. Also the effects on local people of Operation Cast Lead, the devastating Israeli assault on Gaza from December 27, 2008 to January 21, 2009. He concurred with what I’d learned on my previous trip that the trauma in Sderot is widespread. On a long walk I made earlier into the town center, I’d photographed numerous protected rooms under construction in apartment buildings. Each floor gets one small room with thick walls and steel plate window shutters. Eric had told me about this, costing the Israeli government millions of shekels, perhaps much of that part of US aid to Israel, and anticipated my question about whether they were actually needed by telling me about the gas masks. When the government required these, people were skeptical, and then Iraq fired missiles in 1990. The construction of bomb/rocket shelters also, I believe, anticipated the later rocket attacks.

My walk was generated in part to see and photograph the safe rooms, in part to feel better the life of Sderotians, and in large part to find the ultimate falafel. Nomika had told me some of the best are found in Sderot. I’m not sure I ate what she meant, but what I ate—along with a much needed and appreciated beer (no beer for Skip in 6 weeks living in Gaza)—was excellent, muntaz.

On the airport ride he also told me about helping some Gazan families stuck at Erez as they entered with much luggage. The passport woman treated them poorly, yelling and demanding they limit what they brought in to 2 parcels. When Eric tried to intervene she called 2 men with big guns. Later he set up an interview with the commander and explained the situation. The commander apologized and agreed to try to humanize procedures.

Gaza to Sderot is night into day, day into night. Radically different, and yet both are aspects of the human. Few stare at me in Sderot, I’m not worried much about attacks from external or internal forces, I can drink the tap water, flush toilet paper, appreciate the greenery, ride the regularly scheduled public transport. But I can’t speak the language, can’t find a city map in English, can’t feel bonded with the people as I do in Gaza. Night and day, day into night.

Boston

JOURNAL ENTRIES TO BE CONTINUED

LINKS

Israel’s Lonesome Doves by Tim McGirk / Sderot, Jan. 21, 2009

Other Voice

Gaza and Sderot, Moving from Crisis to Sustainability

“Sderot conference hosts Gaza residents” by Hanan Greenberg

“War Diary from Sderot,” by Nomika Zion

Blog and photos from 2009

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Gaza

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Sderot

Excerpts from my journal during a three month journey of photographic discovery in the Land of Troubles

Photos

August 27 & 28, 2009, Thursday & Friday, Sderot, Israel, in the home of Nomika Zion & Jaffa, Israel, on the roof of the Old Jaffa Hostel:

Yes, arrived in Israel. With much to show and tell. But first a dream, particularly powerful last night:

In one I was watching a movie in which a young man had tragically died, his family in grief. They either extracted him from the grave or were bringing him home for burial. I knew it was a film and I became very critical of the veracity of it when I saw the dead man, naked, scratch himself. What a cheap shot, I thought. And then he moved again so it became clear the intent was to show he was not dead at all. The family was amazed. Either a resurrection or a case of mistaken death.

The course of yesterday’s events unfolded in mysterious and heavenly ways. First the leave taking at the Quaker Palestine Youth Program office, a gift of my girl in hospital photo to the staff, clearing up the pay question at Al Aqsa (if I send them my bank info they promise a bank transfer of $300, this after I thought Mohammed had said no money available), waiting for Islam to finish the DVD writing of the Popular Achievement movie and my backed up photos, waiting for the taxi which I thought would be driven by the crazy and irrepressible Awni (it wasn’t, damn, someone new, without the chutzpah of Awni), final packing, bye to Hassen the building owner, then ride with Mosab, a quiet Mosab, to Erez. Rolling my black hard plastic luggage over all the gravel, rejecting an offer from one of the porters, this time unwisely, I ruined one wheel. I’ll probably have to replace the luggage or find a way to repair it or live with it till home.

Erez was fairly easy this time, the staff more polite than I recall from before. The same body X-ray device with the whirling doors, the same thorough scanning of all luggage, the same opening of most of my luggage to hand inspect—I watched them, they seemed nonchalant, didn’t look thru everything, didn’t seem to care, no one asked any questions, I probably could have brought the video tapes Raghda had asked me to bring to her brother in Ramallah—, the same series of gates and pens, and the same final stamp in my passport, “Erez.” And I’m in another world.

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Gaza—on the way to Erez crossing point to Israel

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Sderot, Israel

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Eric Yellin, the founder of Other Voice, from Sderot, met me; we drove the 3 km or so to Sderot and there the fantastical experience began. The distance is so small, the situation so different that I gasped. Luckily I could process this with Eric who delighted in showing me around the town. He took me to several hills overlooking Gaza where we could see Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahiya, Jabalia, and Gaza City itself, places I’ve visited and photographed and heard stories about, places where I’ve met people affected by policies of Israel and supported by many in Sderot. Not supported by Eric however, or his colleague in Other Voice, Nomika Zion, in whose home I slept last night, where I’m writing now.

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On the 2nd of two hill visits the sun was setting. As I photographed, using my long lens, we heard the muezzin call everyone to prayer; everyone in Gaza was at this moment sitting down to break the fast, the Iftar, just as I’d done with the Popeye crew on the previous 2 evenings, and with Mohammed and family in Jabalia camp on the first night of Ramadan. Behind us was a reservoir of about 100 meters across, round and lined, with the water level down by about 10 meters. Eric explained that this had an illustrious history, attacked by Arabs during the early days of Israel, another case of historic hydropolitics.

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Gaza from Sderot

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Jabalia from Sderot

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Jabalia, The Gaza Strip, in the distance, water reservoir in the foreground

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Comparing Gaza with Sderot (some features are a result of the occupation, some are cultural and religious differences): Sderot residents are free to go anywhere in the world, if they have the necessary means (many are impoverished, recent immigrants themselves, and those holding Israeli passports, including Israeli Palestinians, cannot enter many Arab countries). Building materials are plentiful (if they can be afforded) so the damage from rocket attacks can be swiftly repaired (I saw no damage, did see ongoing construction of safe rooms.) The Internet is faster than anywhere else in this trip’s experience, and twice I’ve found free neighborhood networks to use. I can wear shorts outside during the day and drink beer and other alcoholic beverages. Malls. Larger cars. Elegant homes. Grassy expanses, trees, well tended palms. Fairly equal women’s rights. Good educational system. Drinkable water out of the tap. On and on. But, I wonder, how do people deal with cognitive dissonance, if any—the gap between the fiction of much of the conventional Israeli narrative and the truth of the suffering of the Palestinians, largely at the design of the Israeli government, voted into power by its citizens, in the “only true democracy in the Middle East.”

Fear is similar (and could unite the two populations). Gazans obviously live in constant dread of more attacks, and suffer from their loss of freedom and the continuation of the siege—these are defining elements in Gazan experience. For Sderotians they also fear: the renewal of rocket attacks, bigger and more accurate rockets. Altho the city of 22,000 has provided much shelter—this could be an entire story in itself: safe rooms added on to older houses, the requirement of a safe room beginning in 1990 during the first Iraq war, sealable against gas attacks, concrete walls some 1 meter thick in all new construction, the varieties of street shelters, protective roofs over existing buildings like schools, complete rebuilding of some structures like some schools to be rocket proof, for some instances—and at large cost (many donations came in from people around the world), no one can predict whether attacks will resume and if they do what will be fired next.

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One style of rocket shelter

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Protected high school

This might be compared to a more universal fear of nuclear holocaust—or catastrophic climate change, or a total and uncorrectable economic collapse—but it is more immediate. The rockets have affected everyone. Eric was at an intersection about 50 meters from a rocket that struck a car instantaneously killing its female passenger. Nomika told me about a rocket hitting a home near her, demolishing a major portion of it. I forget the exact figures but something like 8 people have died in the last 8 or so years, with many injuries. Wikipedia claims: [Rockets] have killed 13 residents, wounded hundreds, caused millions of dollars in damage, and disrupted daily life as well as the local economy. No rockets since May 19, 2009. But the degree and type of fear these attacks induce can’t be quantified. It is significant.

Nomika described for me two cases of women, both with children, whose fear piled up so high that suddenly both decided, separately, to flee. Eric estimates about 5,000 residents left during the recent assault, some now returning. That’s 20% of the population. Furthermore, those leaving, Nomika told me, were the “stronger” elements of the population, meaning those with stronger economic means. So poor people tended to be trapped here, they and the elderly. Had I been a resident, I too might have been unable to leave, suffering greatly from not only the entrapment but my feebleness. If I lived in an older building without safe areas, without nearby large shelters, I’d have only the basement for refuge. If I lived more than a few floors up, the warning (if it occurred at all, the rocket that killed the woman in the car arrived with no alert, alerts provide about 15 seconds warning) probably would not give me enough time in my weakened aged condition to reach the basement. What would I do? Tremble and pray.

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Home of Nomika Zion

As might be expected during war conditions, many supported powerful retaliation. And some, Nomika told me, tended to become more extreme. She outlined the case of a man in the neighborhood, the kibbutz—more about this tantalizing aspect of life in Sderot later—who when in his 20s, in the army, refused deployment to the territories. And was imprisoned, if I remember the story correctly. And now: wipe them out, yes all of them, including the children, if they fire one more rocket at us.

And he’s not alone. Which makes Other Voice, the organization that Eric founded and Nomika participates in even more impressive. They speak as Sderotians who deplore the use of violence to bring peace, who attempt to bridge the differences between themselves as Israelis and their Gazan neighbors across the road, the fence, the wall, the gulf created by more than 20 years of violence. Eric believes the consistent Israeli policy of violent retaliation lacks an end game, a purpose. It is based primarily on fear, not so much hatred. A fear that he says, is in the DNA of Jews everywhere, having experienced 2 millennia of persecution, climaxed by the holocaust. His wife lost many in her family. He did not.

Nomika is well known internationally, having written an article during the assault that was widely circulated (linked below). Hundreds of journalists interviewed her, she won a prize, visited NYC and DC when she received it recently (her first trip to the USA), and now is scorned by many in her town. What motivates her? I might ask her again to try to explain that most vexing of all questions to anyone daring to speak out.

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Nomika Zion

Eric recently took a group of Gazan children to the West Bank, with permission of the Israeli government. He seemed thrilled when I put him on the phone yesterday to Belal in Gaza. I’d called Belal to say goodbye more personally than by chat. I know Belal loves and misses me. Since Eric was standing nearby, on an impulse hard to explain, I told Belal where I was, who I was with, and then suddenly burst out with, and would you like to talk with this guy? Of course, he said. And Belal is one of the best of my friends to do this: articulate, impassioned, obviously and publicly suffering.

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Eric Yellin on the phone with Belal Badwan in Gaza

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Belal Badwan, 2006

I was impressed with Eric’s response, listening respectfully, apologizing for what Israelis had done to Belal and his people, and promising to stay in touch. This might be a connection, because of Belal’s position as teacher, that could flourish in bridge building. Yet to be seen.

Eric was born in Israel, lived here to the age of 5, raised by his father I think he said, parents divorced, mother living in Green Gulch Buddhist community near San Francisco (maybe Y knows her) for decades, father in Vermont (he formerly a photographer, helping make a book about Johns sea coast island in South Carolina, a book Eric proudly showed me, also founded a blue grass band), then back to the States till he was 17 when he chose to return to Israel, serve in the Israeli army (after first being posted as a prison guard, his elder son told me, himself imprisoned for refusal to continue that assignment, and then requesting a position as military investigator in Gaza, just as the first intifada began, many stories here), marry a 2nd generation Israeli, raise boys (twins 13, another 15 who wishes to become a combat soldier despite saying he shares his father’s politics), and enter his life as activist.

He said, I’ve considered leaving the country, I might someday, but I love the intensity of living here. I couldn’t remain here without the work I’m doing as an activist. On this we seem to agree (on much we agree, I found him very compatible with my views. I also would not wish to continue living in the States, or perhaps living anywhere, if I weren’t doing the work I do thru photography and writing. That is, we are both courting despair by examining so closely the suffering of others, by living in lands of cognitive dissonance. And we might succumb if we didn’t have an action channel.)

Eric agrees that Israel is self-corrosive, and might be doomed. Yet he is hopeful. He has recently taken a part time position with an organization that does peace activism. I should get the name again, and I assume he’s active with Other Voice. Also he is part of a start up software or computer company based in the kibbutz. He is responsible for the network at the kibbutz.

Eric told me he hates the word normalization, because it is inaccurate, almost a slur on the idea of pairing. Opposing normalization, a view taken by most Palestinians I know, means that there should be no partnerships between Palestinians and Israelis, unless the Israelis agree with the call to end the occupation and act on it. He believes strongly, as I think Nomika does and I certainly do, in the value of personal exchanges, interactions, human to human. How else develop trust? This is part of a long-range strategy and I believe has been part of all justice movements. Gandhi for instance, as far as I know, never hesitated to meet with adversaries. I wonder what he’d say about normalization. Or Martin Luther King Jr? In South Africa the kononia (kononia means communion by intimate participation) movement played a role in ending apartheid—families dining together from across the political and social divisions. Also in the United States the Kononia Farm brought European and African Americans together in shared living, demonstrating (at some cost to the residents) that coexistence was possible.

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Migvan kibbutz

To embody this principle of sharing experiences, both Nomika and Eric live in a kibbutz, and work to foster relations between widely divided adversaries, namely Gazans and Israelis. They suffer for this, ostracized from some neighbors who might not share their values. All buildings are duplexes, and, judging from the homes of Nomika and Eric, vary in size and quality, also how they’re furnished. Nomika’s is elegant and appealing, filled with art, plants, fine kitchenware, kept clean, a model of simple yet luxurious living. I found Eric’s to be messy, perhaps more from the presence of their 3 boys than anything native to the adults. How would my home look if I lived there, I pondered?

And so, the kibbutz: the Hebrew word means come together. This one, Migvan, is unusual in its being relatively young and in an urban environment. Founded by Nomika, Migvan moved from an apartment complex with tiny units to its present, spacious, tree lined site in 2000. (She’s lived in Sderot since 1988.)

And I’m afraid I now don’t have time to write about Nomika, maybe another time. She can speak for herself thru her powerful article “War Diary from Sderot.”

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Inside Eric Yellin’s home

I just learned that Ted Kennedy, my senator from Massachusetts, died at age 77, from his brain cancer—and accolades are pouring in, rightly. Like his 2 brothers he is a great man. Too bad he wasn’t more astute and courageous about Israel-Palestine. In fact, a friend just emailed a quote from the website of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Action Committee:

Senator Edward Kennedy, A Great Friend of Israel


Sen. Kennedy was a longstanding supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship.


AIPAC joins all Americans in mourning the loss of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a staunch supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship and a true and longstanding friend of America’s pro-Israel community.


During his more than four decades in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Kennedy consistently supported American assistance to Israel, particularly during the Jewish state’s most trying times, in the wake of the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War. He led the fight against U.S. arms sales to Israel’s enemies, spoke out forcefully against the Arab League boycott of Israel and was a fierce critic of the United Nations’ isolation of the Jewish state; he urged his colleagues to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital, and warned of the dangers of global terrorism.


Sen. Kennedy became the leading champion for persecuted Soviet Jewry, advocating on behalf of refuseniks and those Jews wishing to leave the Soviet Union, personally raising their issues with Soviet leaders at every possible opportunity, and demanding that the United States provide loan guarantees to Israel to absorb Jewish refugees.

Senator Kennedy’s legacy of leadership on these issues and his lifelong support for one of America’s closest allies are hallmarks of his historic career devoted to serving the best interests of the American people and our values. He will be sorely missed.

LINKS:

Israel’s ‘other voices’ go unheard
By Rachel Shabi in Israel

Kibbut Nir Am and Sderot – the human side of towns under fire
By Donna Zeff

Other Voice

Sderot

Photos by Jessica Griffin
Generally good photography, might be working in Gaza

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Amani Alfarra is from Gaza, currently studying for her PhD in hydrology in Germany. We met in May 2006, in Gaza, while she was writing a report for the United Nations about the water situation in Gaza. She needed photos so I toured the entire region with her. I’ve slightly edited her writing.

Jan 16, 2009 at 3:16 PM

We hope at the end our voices will be heard and someone will feel the people’s pain in Gaza and help them. For 2 days now I can’t speak with my boys.

Even waiting for things to be improved is quite hard, my friend.

—Amani

Jan 16 at 9:22 PM (Gaza is 7 hours ahead in time)

Oh Amani, I’m so sorry to learn that you have boys still in Gaza. I shall pray.

Love,

—Skip

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By Joe Devoir

Jan 16, 2009 at 3:32 PM, Amani Alfarra <amani.alfarra@gmail.com> wrote:

I thought you knew. Don’t worry. I am just praying to God to keep them safe until things cool down and I find a way to take them out. I am sooooooooooo unhappy, my friend.

When I called them, trust me, I hold my self hard. They have no electricity, no bread. When their father could find some wheat for bread, that was good for them. Every day they make a fire to keep warm.

I try and try to call them to find out if they are still alive. For the third day now I can’t contact them. So can you imagine how hard waiting is?

What did all these children do to deserve this life besides being born as Palestinian-Gazan?

Life is hard my friend

—Amani

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An Israeli soldier prays next to ammunition on the Israel-Gaza border, Monday Jan. 19, 2009. Israeli officials say troops will leave the Gaza Strip before Tuesday’s inauguration of Barack Obama as the new U.S. president. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Jan 16 at 3:51 PM

At the beginning my ex-husband took them from me. But I had hopes that one day we might meet again. Now I am afraid the war will take them and I can’t see them at all.

Jan 19 at 12:29 PM

My Kids! I just spoke to them, el-Humdila (thanks be to god). Two days ago the Israelis pumped something into the area. During the night while my oldest son was sleeping the window broke and collapsed on his head. El-Humdila, he is ok. Some wounds but no problem, he is ok, still alive. This was God’s mercy that he doesn’t want me suffer.

Thanks for asking, my friend.

Warm Regards

—Amani

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Amani Alfarra, Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip, May 2006

My photos while traveling with Amani Alfarra, Gaza, May 2006

Set one

Set two

Amnesty International has accused Israel of using white phosphorus in civilian areas of the Gaza Strip.

CEASE FIRE NOW!

Large Gush Shalom ad – published in Haaretz, December 30, 2008

This war is inhuman, superfluous and harmful. Nothing good for Israel will come out of it!

The killing of hundreds of Palestinians and the destruction of the infrastructure of life in the Gaza Strip are abominable acts. Those who hope to reap electoral profits from them are greatly mistaken.

A ground invasion will cause even greater harm, destroy what is left in Gaza and cause many casualties – Israelis and Palestinians, soldiers and civilians.

If, after hard battles, the Israeli army will succeed in conquering the ruins of Gaza, the result will be, at most, to drive Hamas underground and to increase their influence both in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank.

The attack, which has already deepened the hatred, will

AROUSE the whole civilized world against us,

RAISE all over the region a new generation that will hate the State of Israel even more,

INCREASE the impact of Hamas,

UNDERMINE even more the status of peace-seeking Palestinians,

PREVENT Palestinian unity, without which there can be no peace.

On behalf of thousands of Israelis who have demonstrated in the streets of Tel-Aviv within hours after the start of the war, we demand:

– To stop at once the attack on Gaza!

– To propose – and to maintain – a cease-fire that will include the end off all violent actions by both sides, a real opening of the border crossings and the termination of the blockade against the population of the Gaza Strip.

– To start a dialogue with Hamas. Hamas is an integral part of Palestinian society and the Palestinian political system. Without their participation, all negotiations and agreements are meaningless.

Gush Shalom

P.O.Box 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033 — info@gush-shalom.orghttp://www.gush-shalom.org

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Boston, January 10, 2009

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Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.

—Arundhati Roy

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Lakota Sioux along the Brule River

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Wounded Knee, December 29, 1990

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The medicine man

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Ibrahem Shatali

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Palestinian men bury the body of 4-year-old Lama Hamdan at Beit Hanoun cemetery in the northern Gaza Strip December 30, 2008. Lama and her sister were reportedly riding a donkey cart Tuesday near a rocket-launching site that was targeted by Israel. (MOHAMMED SALEM/Reuters)

INTRODUCTION

The Lakota Sioux Indian people, those massacred at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890 (that anniversary came just two days after the beginning of the massacre, December 27, 2008] had lived on the Plains for more than 100 years, long before white people settled there. And their roots on the North American continent continue back for perhaps 15,000 years. They were long-term residents. Whites entered the region in the early 1800s, mainly in wagon trains heading further west—to settle, they were settlers, they built settlements. Many of these whites believed god was on their side, that they had rights to the land because of their superior culture and because of their affinity with god.

Are there significant parallels between the massacre at Wounded Knee and the current massacre in Gaza?

OUTLINE

Lakota Sioux, 1890 Palestinians, 2008-2009
Some 300 killed As of January 9, 2009, more than 780 killed, 3300 injured and increasing
A few rifles, knives, perhaps bows and arrows Rudimentary rockets and mortars, some rifles
Against rapid firing Hotchkiss cannon
and other heavy weapons
Against Apache helicopters, F16 fighters, artillery, gun boats
Few noticed but some outcry existed Few noticed or spoke out, even among Arab-Muslim states, limited UN role
Massive firepower did not discriminate between Indian and civilian Massive firepower did not discriminate between Hamas militant and civilian
Forced onto reservations Forced into a concentration camp
White fear, in part a misreading of the Ghost Dance Jewish fear, in part a misreading of the Hamas Covenant
Memory of Indian raids, and especially Custer’s loss 14 years earlier Memory of the holocaust and two millennia of persecution of Jews
US belief in armed force, the
government resisted negotiations
Israeli belief in armed force, the government resists negotiations
Faulty treaties Faulty agreements, such as Oslo
Awarding Congressional Medals of Honor to 27 officers and soldiers Possible lauding of the officers and soldiers
Widespread white support Widespread Israeli and international Jewish support
Last major armed confrontation between Indians and rulers Last major armed confrontation between Palestinians and rulers?
Cemented white supremacy in the
United States
Cemented Israeli supremacy?
Accountability: virtually none altho some called for a truth and reconciliation process Accountability: virtually none altho some might call for a truth and reconciliation process, tribunal, or other forms of international adjudication
No rebuilding of the nation How will rebuilding of Gaza occur?

SET THE STAGE

For most of the 19th century the US army had forced American Indians from their ancestral areas into confined zones, mostly reservations with few natural resources. The Lakota Sioux people, a vigorous and hearty group of Plains Indians with roots on the east coast, were first “transferred” onto the Great Sioux Reservation (GSR), a large area in what is now South and North Dakota and Wyoming. This region shrank dramatically when gold was discovered in the Black Hills, originally a part of the GSR and for at least 2 centuries a sacred site for Lakota. By 1890 the remaining lands were minuscule compared with what Lakota roamed over in the late 18th century.

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General Sherman and other government officials with Lakota Sioux meeting about the treaty forming the Great Sioux Reservation in 1867

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For good reason many Lakota resisted this imprisonment, notably Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull. Whites orchestrated the murder of Crazy Horse by his own people, and then in December 22, 1890, Sitting Bull, also by his own Lakota. A band led by the peace chief, Big Foot, fled south. They were trapped along the Wounded Knee creek in the Pine Ridge Reservation. Next morning, surrounded by elements of Custer’s old unit, the 7th Calvary, they were massacred. Some 300 died, most of them women and children and elderly. Warriors offered little resistance, since they lacked effective weapons. (Incidentally, early road signs erected by the state of South Dakota called the massacre a “battle” until many opposed this misnaming and the state agreed to change the wording to “massacre” at Wounded Knee.)

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Chief Big Foot propped up in death for a photograph

Prior to the massacre, whites had been settling in the area. Observing the Ghost Dance of the Lakota people, a failed attempt to non-violently resist white incursion, local whites mistook this for a war dance. They feared; they demanded army protection. Using newly developed weaponry which had not been fully field tested, mostly the Hotchkiss rapid firing cannon, the soldiers, some of them reportedly drunk, many of them recalling the debacle of their once heralded leader, General George Custer at the Battle of Greasy Grass or Little Big Horn, fired on everyone in the camp. Chief Big Foot, already sick from pneumonia, was one of the first killed.

People in the East noticed; there was an outcry against the massacre, leading to a hearing that questioned the officers. They were cleared, and many officers and soldiers awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

POSSIBLE PARALLELS

Now, what might be parallels with the current killings in Gaza? Is it fair to call the Israeli attack on Gaza a massacre? Is it a battle? Is it the proper and legal exercise of Israel to defend itself? Is it justified killing?

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A wounded Palestinian girl is carried into the Al-Shifa hospital on December 28, 2008 in Gaza City, Gaza. (Abid Katib/Getty Images)

As of this writing, January 9, 2009, at least 795 Palestinians are now dead (martyred in in the language of many Palestinians—a word I concur with), upwards of 3300 are injured (400 of them dangerously), at least 10 Israeli soldiers and 5 Israeli civilians are dead, some soldiers by friendly fire, some by militants shooting rockets and perhaps using other weapons. An unknown number of casualties lie beneath rubble. Among the dead—230 are children, 92 women, 60 elderly men, 6 medical assistants, 2 journalists, and 3 foreigners. (statistics based on UN and Red Cross figures) Estimates of the  proportion of civilian causalities ranges from 20% to more than 60%, that percentage rising with the ground campaign now underway. The carnage continues as I write this.

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Many bodies lie outside the Hamas police headquarters following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on December 27, 2008. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

Most media and most governments in the western world state, “Israel has a right to defend itself. The attacks will stop when Hamas stops firing rockets. Hamas broke the truce with their rockets.” However, numerous observers counter this and declare, “Back up a few steps. Israel has kept the Gazans under siege for nearly 2 years, ever since Hamas was elected in an open, fair, democratic election. Gazans have been suffering food, water, medical, and educational deprivations during this period, on top of the occupation that dates back to at least 1967. During the recent 6-month truce, ending on December 19th, Israel did nothing to end the siege. Palestinian rocket fire decreased dramatically.

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Samera Baalusha (34) (right) sits with her daughter Eman (15) and surviving son Mohamad (15 months) while waiting to see the body of her 4-year-old daughter Jawaher Baalusha during the funeral held for Jawher and her four other sisters who were all killed in an Israeli missile strike, on December 29, 2008 in the Jebaliya refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip. Jawher Baalusha and her sisters were killed during an Israeli air raid while they were sleeping together in their bedroom. Medics stated that the raid had targeted a mosque near their home in Jabalia. (Abid Katib/Getty Images)

Until recently the US either blocked the UN Security Council from issuing a cease-fire demand or abstained from voting. In addition, the US Senate voted unanimously for an unqualified declaration of support for Israel. Should Israel be found to be committing war crimes, the US Senate is complicit. Not only that but the US supplies most of the weapons used by Israel, including helicopters, fighter jets, heavy artillery and communication equipment.

In early November Israel broke the truce by attacking tunnels and homes at the ends of those tunnels that they claimed were used by militants to bring in weapons. They killed some 5 Palestinians. Only then did Hamas and other armed groups significantly increase launching their home made, poorly targeted rockets and mortars on Israeli civilians. They also deployed for the first time longer-range rockets. Indeed, Israel’s attack did nothing to stop the rocket fire, it exacerbated it. These rocket attacks on civilians are deplorable and constitute war crimes. I and many others oppose them. Do they justify the disproportionate Israeli attacks?

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A medic crouches over the body of an Israeli man after he was killed in a rocket attack launched from the Gaza Strip and hit the southern Israeli town of Netivot on December 27, 2008 following Israeli bombardment on the Palestinian costal strip. The rocket attack killed one man and wounded four others, according to the Magen David Adom, Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross. (HAIM HORENSTEIN/AFP/Getty Images)

During the late 1800s, whites claimed Indians had few rights to the lands they’d inhabited for centuries, and that Indian attacks on setters were grounds for retaliation. North American rulers left out the prior history—American Indian domination of the entire continent. And the fact that Indians never invited whites into their lands. Whites invaded and called it the equivalent of “Manifest Destiny,” or god’s will. They did not recognize the Indians rights to defend themselves, violently if necessary. Instead Indians were termed bloodthirsty savages, the 19th century equivalent of “terrorists.”

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Rosemary Jumping Eagle, town of Wounded Knee, 1982

Moreover: overwhelming white firepower against the Lakota matches Israel’s overwhelming force. World opinion, at least the western world, then and now, match. Resisting honest negotiation matches. Source of weapons matches for the most part: cannon, rifles, revolvers and ammunition used at Wounded Knee, and Apache helicopters, F-16 fighter jets, 155 mm artillery rounds, artillery firing those rounds, missiles, rockets, bombs, all or mostly all USA made, and communication equipment made at least in part by Motorola, bulldozers if used manufactured by Caterpillar. Motives match: wipe out the Indians, wipe out the Palestinians, whether with the velvet glove, making conditions of survival so dismal that most, if allowed, would flee (as is happening in the west bank), or under cover of the “right to defend itself” commit outright murder—the Hanukah Massacres.

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An Israeli F15 fighter made in the United States flies over the northern Israeli-Gaza Strip border on December 28, 2008. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

OUTCOMES

Will results match? American Indians, altho surviving, are much diminished. What will become of the Palestinians? How will the Gazan nation—and the equivalent of a small nation it is—rebuild itself? Till now Israel prevents all building materials and most chemicals, experts, and money from entering. Unless the world community, thru the United Nations and the international court system, applies significant pressure, I’m afraid Israel will maintain its course of impunity. One possibility, as might be happening now in the US: self-destruction. A suicidal course. The minor empire in the Middle East, the “only democracy in the Middle East with its “army of pure means,” might founder. Israel, like the US, struggles with a hopelessly contradictory set of founding principles, more dishonored than honored. Can a nation hope to survive with such cognitive dissonance? Perhaps Marx will be right after all, not about the imminent implosion of capitalism, but of certain western nations whose war making boomerangs on them.

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PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT

I am personally involved in both themes, American Indians and Palestinians. I’ve visited Wounded Knee several times, most recently for the Big Foot Memorial Ride to Wounded Knee in 1990, commemorating the centennial of the massacre. Inspired by Black Elk who prophesied that the seventh generation of Lakota would be the last generation able to “Wipe Away the Tears” and  “Mend the Sacred Hoop,” i.e., end the mourning period and rebuild the nation, for two weeks the ride traversed the same path at the same time of the year used by Big Foot and his people. I’ve camped near Wounded Knee, summer and winter, and have felt the powerful negative—and positive—force fields emanating from the earth. I grieve for the Lakota people and all native peoples who have been dispossessed. However, I do not feel their cause is hopeless.

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Big Foot Memorial Ride to Wounded Knee, December 1990

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Big Foot Memorial Ride to Wounded Knee, December 1990

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Big Foot Memorial Ride to Wounded Knee, December 1990

Similarly I’ve been 3 times to Gaza since 2004, most recently just one year ago, January 2008. I’ve lived under the siege, suffering the loss of electrical power, the sealed borders, the lack of food, the buzz of the drone that might target me at any moment, the nearness of death—and the presence of resilience, sumud, in Arabic, steadfastness. I’ve met young men volunteering in their communities to serve the poor, I’ve met members of the Palestinian Initiative, a group dedicated to nonviolently ending the fighting between rival political parties, I’ve worked with the Gaza Community Mental Health Program watching as psychologists assessed the psychic damages of the siege on children (their offices suffered indirect attacks recently and are closed), and the American Friends Service Committee’s youth programs training in community building and leadership skills. And I’m in close daily contact—if electricity and Internet work—with friends in Gaza. I also hope to return in summer 2009. What and who will greet me then?

I was not able to be present during the Wounded Knee of 1890. I’m unsure what I’d have done if knowing about the impending massacre, or what I’d call for once I’d learned its results. I am sure about Gaza: the occupation of Palestine is apartheid, the attack on Gaza is a massacre, several parties are committing war crimes, and all must be held accountable, as is true for all those governments supporting Israel’s occupation, siege, and ruination of Gaza. Which includes me, as a citizen of the United States. Especially if I pay income tax. I can act, you can act. Now.

Some are guilty but all are responsible.

—Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

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The body of a Palestinian security force officer lays in the rubble after an Israeli missile strike on a building in Gaza City, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008. (AP Photo/Fadi Adwan)

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Eli Azran father of Irit Shitrit (39), a mother of four, leans over her dead body as he mourns during her funeral on December 30, 2008 in Ashdod, Israel. Shitrit was killed yesterday by a Hamas rocket in Ashdod, Israel, after hearing a warning siren and taking shelter in a roadside bus stop. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

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Holocaust Remembrance Day, 2009

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Links:

Truly horrible photos from inside Gaza

“Too much to mourn in Gaza”
By Eva Bartlett, Live from Palestine, 8 January 2009

“US weaponry facilitates killings in Gaza”

Read Full Post »

amalsabawi8865

Ibrahim a friend sent me a message on my mobile said : look outside .. F16 warplanes are smiling for you, missiles are dancing for you, “Zanannaa” the discovery planes are singing for you, because I have requested them all wishing you “Happy New Year”

—Adham Khalil from Jabaliya Camp in Gaza, who blogs at Free Free Palestine

Amal Sabawi is at afscg@palnet.com, and directs the American Friends Service Committee’s Popular Achievement program in Gaza. Amal in Arabic means hope. All writing as is, unedited by me. Because of Israeli destruction of internet and phone infrastructure, further communications are in doubt.

12/30/08:

Dear Skip

How are you doing , i hope all is fine with you and you have plan to enjoy
the new year , i do think of you and know how you concern on people here ,
unfortunately things going badly , after the long suffer of people with
the tighten closure and prohibiting people of most important basic needs
and commodity , it was so horrible to have this bloodshed against
civilians ,
i try to write about the situation and update our friends outside on
what’s going on , hope this would be useful , will continue writing ,
hope you can come to come to Gaza next summer  as you already have plan to
do so ,
we pray to end this massacre and stop killing of civilians

My best wishes and wish you happy new year

Amal

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1/2/09:

After asking if I could put her writing on my blog:

Hi Skip

I hope you are doing very well and have blessed new year
for sure you can use it i hope it been useful , i try to write and update
my friends in US on the situation but the electricity most of the time is
cut off , will continue send you what i have
wish you and all people all over the world have peaceful time and the
joyous of the holidays

be well

amal

Later on 1/2/09:

Dear Skip

We used to live this tragedy long time , i dont have positive memory to
have safe time here , under occupation we grown up , we were very young
and the only thing we have around was the solders and their tanks ,
the first Intifada was also difficult continued for seven years to face
the shooting and prisons  , when the Palestinian authority established we
didnt belive that we have some peaceful time cross the pain and suffer ,
only few years when the second and current Intifada started as life turned
to violence , and the peak was with the fight and division among
Palestinian , Caza suffered a lot and every time you have new tragedy ,
this one is the most dreadful one , Gaza is comletely destructed under the
missiles and tons of bombs ,

despite that we shouldnt give up and well hold our dream and hope  to live
in peace and freedom , Gaza its not stones or cements Gaza is people the
people will rebuild it again and they will pass this , the sun will shine
one day

best wishes

amal

hope you the best

It’s a War

by Amal Sabawi
written a few days after the massacre began on the last day of Hanukah

The military operation against Gaza Strip began on Saturday noon of the 27th December 2008 by intensive air raids pounding all  security centers attached to the dismissed Hamas government. About 60 war planes took part in the air raid which has left some 150 killed and 200 wounded just on the first day of the assault. The timing of the air raid started as students were leaving schools and universities, and women rushed into the streets frantically looking for their children.

Gaza is known to have the highest population density of the world, where one million and a half people live in an area of not more than 360 square kilometers.  Above all, it is worth mentioning that there are no air raid shelters or secure places are built. Thus civilians are more likely to be an easy target and more casualties are inflicted on them.

On the other hand, Israel has declared that this operation will continue as long as necessary until the capabilities of Hamas and other Palestinian associates are paralysed.  This is aiming at stopping rocket and mortar attacks that have so called ‘traumatized’ southern Israel.

These new waves of air raids have expanded to include homes and civilian possessions. These air strikes and mortar shelling have left 300 killed and 800 wounded according to hospitals statistics for the second day of the military action.

The Israeli aggression on Gaza began after 17 months of absolutely complete blockade, and closure of borders for goods, commodities as well as the mobility of people. This blockade includes the embargo of drugs and essential medical equipment.  According to the Ministry of Health estimates, more than 100 kinds of medicines are not available. Gaza hospitals are not well equipped and unable to receive a large number of casualties. When these hospitals are not able to give primary care to patients including simple surgical operations as well as shortage of medical manpower, they are completely unable  to cope with serious cases. To transfer such patients to neighboring countries hospitals Is hindered due to the conflict between the Egyptian government and Hamas. It seems that Hamas resents the role of the Egyptian government and accuses it having colluded with Israel. Thus, it refuses to transfer the wounded to the Egyptian hospitals. However,  this conflict will put the lives of hundreds of wounded at a great risk.

Subsequently,  Israel began a psychological warfare by striking civilian houses after their being notified of evacuating them. Several houses have been demolished, which resulted in a multiple number of casualties among inhabitants of adjacent houses; and if starvation, shortage of foodstuff is added, which necessitates immediate intervention to stop Israeli assaults, and lifting embargo and blockade for the dignity and humanity of people.

Links:

American Friends Service Committee in Gaza

Popular Achievement Program in Gaza

Photos of AFSC work in Gaza

AFSC Relief Work in Gaza, 1949

Photos of rally and march in Boston supporting Gaza, January 3, 2008

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I tend to see it as a flaw in my cognitive abilities that deaths of people who live across the ocean or [die from] poison in the water in Woburn, Massachusetts seem distant to me. I don’t think I am alone in this at all. Actually, I am probably different from some people in that I actively seek to personalize suffering that is distant from me. And if I am not using that to make brave, radical steps toward environmental and social change every day, what are the people who actively try to distance themselves from other people’s suffering doing? What is going to act as a catalyst for them?

—Rachel Corrie

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Injured by Israeli sniper, hospital, Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip, 2004

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Injured by Israeli sniper, hospital, Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip, 2004

The writing below is from Mahmoud Abu Aisha who I met on my last trip to Gaza, in January 2008. We met briefly at the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. When he contacted me recently I recalled an earlier meeting at the GCMHP: Mohamed Mukhaimar, a man dedicated to healing the traumas of children in Gaza.

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In 2004 with Mohamed I photographed in several hospitals as he assessed psychic damages to children hit by deliberate Israeli sniper fire. As I photographed I felt water surging behind my eyes, about to burst thru my eyeballs. Later in the taxi, I stifled my need to weep, waiting until I was private. Now at times I weep uncontrollably at the slightest stimulus, whether related to Gaza or not.

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Mohamed Mukhaimar, 2004

That’s me. Imagine Mohamed or Mahmoud, or Amal Sabawi (her name means hope in Arabic), the director of the American Friends Service Committee Popular Achievement program, who I’ll write about in another blog, or Rawand who translates for me or Ibrahem who helps train college age youth or Mosab at the AFSC in Gaza or Mustafa a professor in one of the Gazan universities, perhaps the one destroyed by Israel. They live there, they can’t leave. Imagine the children living there. Imagine the soldiers and fighter-bomber pilots delivering their Hanukah massacre, a macabre form of New Year’s blessing from Israel. Imagine the Israeli leaders who issued the orders. Imagine the Israeli citizens who at this point overwhelmingly support their government’s actions in Gaza. Imagine the governments who support this carnage. Imagine the taxpayers who pay for this havoc. Do they weep—from sorrow, or from joy?

I wonder also how Gaza can ever be rebuilt. If the siege continues, Israel will ban all building materials, most money, most experts, most equipment. Unless they relent—and they may not without massive international pressure—the Gazans are fated to slowly perish. Is this behind the Israeli strategy? Not only to stop the rockets, not only to demolish Hamas, but to punish and eventually annihilate the Gazans who purportedly support Hamas? And then the entire region, ethnically cleansed. Seem far-fetched? Read The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by the renowned Israeli academic (now in exile because of threats), Ilan Pappe.

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Jabaliya, Gaza Strip, 2004

In recent memory I cannot recall another instance of such savagery, and not only savagery but international compliance. Ah, yes, one, the “shock and awe” campaign of President GW Bush against Iraq. How could I have forgotten? Whose tax money bought the bombs dropped on Baghdad, on Gaza? And then the Nazi driven holocaust. Are there parallels?

Let’s imagine a slightly different scenario. Hamas is labeled a terrorist organization, and there is truth to this. It is certainly extreme and does state in its covenant its goal to erase Israel, a position I oppose. Let’s identify a similar organization in Israel, say, led by Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud party who is now a candidate for prime minister. Let’s imagine the Palestinians have the 4th most powerful army in the world, Netanyahu wins, and Palestine declares his party to be terrorist, a charge I’d support. And then, as night follows day, Hamas sends in its war machinery to eliminate the Likud party and Netanyahu himself. Might as well rub out all the government offices, the entire infrastructure and while we’re at it, wink when anyone says they’re intentionally killing civilians. They could claim, we have a right to defend ourselves, and civilian deaths are regrettably but unavoidable. Would the international community acquiesce, merely mouthing platitudes, like end the violence, sit down and talk?

One bright possibility (“To the stars over rough roads, oh valiant friends!”): finally, finally the international community, you and me, rise up and declare: Enough! Yesh Gvul! There is a limit! No more! End the carnage! Pull back! Resolve this justly! End the occupation! Two peoples living securely and freely in one land! Soon!

—Skip Schiel

My next blog will feature the words of Amal Sabawi.

Late breaking: the bombing of a police station near the Gaza Community Mental Health Program offices destroyed part of the center—closed until further notice <http://www.gcmhp.net/&gt;

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Hospital, Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip, 2004

From Mahmoud Abu Aisha – GCMHP <mahmoud@gcmhp.net> (unedited)

January 1st, 2008

Gaza Bleeding under the Israeli War

Dear Friends and Supporters…

I’m writing to you in this very critical situation in Gaza. Now at 3:30 am I still hear the shelling all over Gaza…We are in unbearable conditions where we are subject to the Israeli undiscriminating missiles; we live moments of fear, panic and terror under the Israeli war. Israel practices its brutal crimes against innocent civilians in an attempt to attack Hamas movement or to put and end to the rocket shelling at its settlements. Under this pretext, Israel has entirely destroyed the Gaza Strip Infrastructure and the civil society completely.

Under these dreadful conditions, our children are terrified and I tried to avoid them viewing any scenes of the war at TV when electricity comes. In my home, whenever a bomb happen my young brother and nephews scream, terrified from these extremely loud explosions. I tried to calm them down and said these are sounds of a party outside, but these lies can no longer deceive them as they hear the roaring of the helicopter and the terrible shattering of buildings due to airplanes’ strikes… Many symptoms immediately appeared among our children as I noticed, they have suffered from urinating in the day, bed wetting in the nigh, clinging to the elderly, wanting to die with elderly and not to be left alone, panic, fear and hyperactivity…

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Jabaliya, Gaza Strip, 2004

In these moments, the Palestinian populations live in very hard conditions with very short provision supplies of basic food and lack of electricity in most of day hours. No more 6 hours a day the electricity comes and cuts off the rest of the day… we can hardly receive our bread through waiting 3-4 hours to take a sack of bread that is very rare in the Gaza strip as most of the bakeries have shut down their doors due to lack of flour in the Gaza Strip. They used to grind the wheels used for cattle. Though, we have to eat it willingly or unwillingly… December and January are the coldest months in the area, yet we have no electricity for heating or cocking…

Israel has destroyed the whole community in Gaza; infrastructure and civil society have also been devastated by the Israeli war planes… Neither mosques, nor universities, nor charities, nor sport clubs, nor ministries, nor civil homes were exempted from the Israeli bombardment. My heart is bleeding about what happened to my university, the Islamic University of Gaza that I graduated from in the last July, 2008. I feel honored to have two certificates, the Bechelor Degree in English Literature and a General Diploma in Education from this university in the Gaza. Israel warplanes shelled many buildings of by home university and demolished many buildings entirely…

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With brother, hospital, Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip, 2004

Moreover, Israel has practices the psychological warfare in hideous way. Israeli authorizes sent phone threats to many houses calling them to evacuate their homes within 5 minutes or less to shell their homes. If they were late for few moments, they collapse happen on their heads as what happened yesterday in the north of Gaza Strip when the Israelis gave Ba’lousha Family two minutes only to evacuate the home that included seven daughter… the parents couldn’t evacuate in this limited time especially the children were sleeping, and the air strike was faster… FIVE Daughters were killed under the rubble of the demolished home… Israel used missiles weighed over 1000 tons against simple homes or charities in intensively crowded areas… Israel has been sending phone threats to thousands of homes and civil society associations calling them to evacuate, but they find no other places to live in!!! Israel intended to start the war in the time of children’s departure of their schools at 11:25 am where they used over SIXTY F16 warplanes. This resulted in big numbers of injuries among school children. It is a real war against the Gaza Strip that is only 360 Km2 with over 1.5 million people, over 50% under 18 years old. About 60 children  were killed in Gaza since the beginning of this war against Gaza in addition to 400 killed and about 1800 injuries, aren’t these war crimes?

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With mother and brother, hospital, Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip, 2004

Israel acts the desperate choice to end the home made rockets against its towns around the Gaza Stip. Israel has imposed this cruel severe siege since 15 June, 2007, denying the access of all life supplies just with very limited amounts… the Gazans have had no choice to obtain their food rather than digging tunnels under the Palestinian-Egyptian boarders, and smuggle food and fuel and other possible needs from Egypt. This has accumulated the life under siege as prices have become doubled and they couldn’t afford their needs under the difficult economic hardship with 80% poverty and 85% unemployment rate…Nevertheless, Egypt denies entry of humanitarian aids into the Gaza Strips…Egypt controls the Gate of Gaza, though mobilize forces at the Boarders with the Gaza Strip, and Israel destroy the tunnels at the Gaza Side… Egypt is exposed to pressures, yet we say that agreements on papers are not equal to national, Arab, historic ties between the two nations… I’m writing now and following up what the Security Council will conclude regarding its urgent session to discuss the situation in Gaza???

Finally, we have nothing to do just to ask Allah to rescue us from this terrible War…

Please mention us in your prayers…

Blessings,

Mahmoud Abu Aisha – GCMHP <mahmoud@gcmhp.net>

Links:

My photos from Gazan hospitals, 2008

From Gaza with Love, blog by Dr. Mona El-Farra

Free Free Palestine, blog by Adham Khalel

Palestinian International Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza

In Gaza, blog by Eva Bartlett

US Campaign to End the Occupation

B’Tselem, The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

Free Gaza

Extraordinary photographs of the current attacks: Israel and Gaza – The Big Picture – Boston.com

More photos from Gaza

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