December 31, 2009 at 19:39 (Holidays)
A year ago, in the midst of the savage attack on Gaza, we in the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People in Beit Sahour issued a call for action composed of 25 things that ordinary people can do (list below). Today we are gathering in Bethlehem (Nativity Square 4-6 PM) in the last day of the year. Bethlehemite Children will read the names of close to 400 children murdered in Gaza a year ago and to pledge that in 2010 we will intensify our efforts including with boycotts, divestments and sanctions. The event in the square of the church of nativity.
It is fitting that attendance at this event will be higher than expected before because many of the people who were supposed to go to Gaza and were prevented by the puppet government in Egypt (acting on behalf of Israel) have instead come to join us here. For news and details about the travails of the Gaza Freedom March, see http://www.gazafreedommarch.org/ Seven of them who are staying in my house (plus an eighth who also was supposed to go to Gaza but decided it is not going to work out) attended our planning meeting and stayed up last night with me and my wife making hangings for the tree. Each hanging/”decoration” has the name and age of one of the children from Gaza on one side and on the other side is the sticker carrying the words Freedom, Equality, Return and a call to boycott Israel. Each will be appropriately hung by a child from Bethlehem remembering a child from Gaza.
On this last day of the year as we reflect on the last year in Palestine where it was filled with hope, began with Children and ending with children (and youth and young at heart from around the world). We reflect on the hundreds of new people we met, on the excellent and productive year of activism, on finishing my book, and most of all on the blessings of activism, the best and most sure recipe for happiness. With your help, may the new year bring us all peace with justice.
Action call from the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People:
So far hundreds of civilians have been killed in Gaza. Five sisters in one family, four other children in another home, two children on a cart drawn by a donkey. Universities, colleges, police stations, roads, apartment buildings were all targeted. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian areas issued a statement that “The Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip represent severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Conventions, both in regard to the obligations of an Occupying Power and in the requirements of the laws of war.”
Twenty-five things to do to bring peace with justice (slightly updated from last year):
1) First get the facts and then disseminate them. ….
2) Contact local media. Write letters to editors (usually 100-150 words) and longer op-eds (usually 600-800 words) for local newspapers. But also write to news departments in both print, audio, and visual media about their coverage. In the US http://www.congress.org/congressorg/dbq/media/ You can find media listings in your country using search engines like google
3) Contact elected and other political leaders in your country to urge them to apply pressure to end the attacks. In the US, Contact the State Department at 202.647.5291, the White House 202-456-1111 the Egyptian Embassy 202.895.5400, Email (email@example.com) and the Obama Transition Team 202-540-3000 (then press 2 to speak with a staff member).
4) Organize and join demonstrations in front of Israeli and Egyptian embassies or when not doable in front of your parliament, office of elected officials, and any other visible place (and do media work for it).
5) Hold a teach-in, seminar, public dialogue, documentary film viewing etc. this is straightforward: you need to decide venue, nature, if any speakers, and do some publicity (the internet helps).
6) Pass out fliers with facts and figures about Palestine and Gaza in your community (make sure also to mention its relevance to the audience: e.g, US tax payers funding war crimes and increase in world instability and economic uncertainty)
7) Put a Palestinian flag at your window.
Wear a Palestinian head scarf (Kufiya)
9) Wear Black arm bands (this helps start conversations with people)
10) Send direct aid to Gaza through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). http://www.un.org/unrwa/
11) Initiate boycotts, divestments and sanctions at all levels and including asking leaders to expel the Israeli ambassadors (an ambassador of an apartheid and rogue state). See Palestinian call http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10056.shtml and look at the site of the BDS Movement. http://www.BDSmovement.net
12) Work towards bringing Israeli leaders before war crime courts (actions along those lines in courts have stopped Israeli leaders from traveling abroad to some countries like Britain where they may face charges).
13) Calling upon all Israelis to demonstrate in front of their war ministry and to more directly challenge their government
14) Do outreach to neighbors, friends, and cowarkers (and others) directly. You can reach many others by the internet to (e.g. join and post information to various listservs/groups, write directly to all people in positions of influence).
15) Start your own activist group or join other local groups (simple search in your city with the word Palestine could identify candidate groups that have previously worked on issues of Palestine). Many have also been successful in at bringing coalitions from different constituencies in their local areas to work together (human rights group, social and civil activists, religious activists, etc).
16) Develop a campaign of sit-ins at government offices or other places where decision makers aggregate
17) Do a group fast for peace one day and hold it in a public place.
18) Visit Palestine
19) Support human rights and other groups working on the ground in Palestine
20) Make large signs and display them at street corners and whereever people congregate.
21) Contact local churches, mosques, synagogues, and other houses of worship and ask them to take a moral stand and act. Call on your mosque to dedicate this Friday for Gaza actions.
22) Sign petitions for Gaza, e.g.
23) Write and call people in Gaza
24) Work with other groups that do not share your political views (factionalism and excessive divisions within activist communities allowed those who advocate war to succeed).
25) Dedicate a certain time for activism for peace every day (1 hour) and think of more actions than what is listed above.
For support and contacts of people in Gaza or to volunteer, please contact the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People, via firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 989-607-9480 (from the US and Canada) or 972 2277 2018 (from other places).
Protesters Gather in Cairo for March to Gaza
Hedy Epstein, a Holocaust survivor, center, was among hunger strikers in Cairo on Tuesday showing solidarity with Gazans.
CAIRO — More than 1,000 people from around the world were gathered here on Tuesday for a solidarity march into Gaza despite Egypt’s insistence that the Gaza border crossing that it controls would remain closed to the vast majority of them.
The protest, the Gaza Freedom March, was planned for Thursday and intended to mark a year since Israel’s three-week military assault on the territory. On Tuesday, hundreds of the frustrated activists gathered to press their case on the front steps of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate here, holding “Free Gaza” signs and chanting, “Let us go.” Some declared a hunger strike.
About 100 French citizens staged a sit-in in front of the French Embassy, and some Americans pleaded for help at the United States Consulate.
The Egyptian government agreed to let 100 activists into Gaza on Wednesday, according to one of the organizers of the march.
The crossing, at Rafah, Egypt, has been closed for most purposes since the summer of 2007, when the militant group Hamas seized control of Gaza from the rival Western-backed forces of Fatah. Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza, and the Egyptian government, citing its own security needs, closed the crossing, drawing criticism from within Egypt and across the Arab world.
International criticism of Israel spiked after the Gaza assault, which left as many as 1,400 Palestinians dead, including hundreds of civilians. Thirteen Israelis were killed. While both sides were accused of war crimes, most of the outrage was focused on Israel because of its overwhelming military strength and the enormous differences in the death tolls.
International activists have been challenging Israel’s control of Gaza’s waters, sending in boats to bring in supplies and convey support; Israel has blocked many.
Egypt repeatedly refused to open its border ahead of the planned march, citing what its officials said were “security reasons,” but participants in the march flew to Cairo anyway, hoping the government would relent.
“We have not come to Egypt to create trouble or cause conflict,” organizers of the march wrote in an open letter to Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak. “We have come because we believe that all people — including the Palestinians of Gaza — should have access to the resources they need to live in dignity.”
The letter said the group, which is urging Israel to lift its blockade, raised tens of thousands of dollars for medical aid, school supplies and clothing to take to Gaza.
The Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, expressed frustration at the activists who came to Cairo despite the warning that the border was closed.
“Those who tried to conspire against us, and they are more than a thousand, we will leave them in the street,” he said.
One protester, Hedy Epstein, 85, a Holocaust survivor, arrived in Egypt from the United States on Saturday. She said she started a hunger strike on Monday.
“My message is for the world governments to wake up and treat Israel like they treat any other country and not to be afraid to reprimand and criticize Israel for its violent policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians,” Ms. Epstein said. “I brought a suitcase full of things, pencils, pens, crayons, writing paper to take to children in Gaza — I can’t take that back home.”
The opinion of Haidar Eid and Omar Barghouti on the Gaza Freedom March
The following statement was released today by two leading Palestinian intellectuals and activists:
Dear Gaza Freedom March organizers and participants,
After a lot of hesitation and deliberation, we are writing to call on you to reject the “deal” reached with the Egyptian leadership (through Mrs. Mubarak). This deal is bad for us and, we deeply feel, terrible for the solidarity movement.
We initially felt that if representatives of all forty some countries can go to Gaza and lead a symbolic march along Palestinians it would convey the message to the world public opinion, our main target. However, after listening to the Egyptian Foreign Minister’s press conference last night on Aljazeera and the way he described the deal in details, we are unambiguous in perceiving this compromise as too heavy, too divisive and too destructive to our future work and networking with various solidarity movements around the world.
Mr. Abu Al-Gheit described the 100 that they graciously accepted to allow to enter Gaza as those from organizations which Egypt considers “good and sincere in standing in solidarity with Gaza the same way as we [the ergime] do.” He described the rest as “from organizations that are only interested in subversion and acting against Egyptian interests, to sow havoc on the streets of Egypt, not to stand in solidarity with the Palestinians.” He also said that the Egyptian public was wise enough to see that those were hooligans and stayed away from them. Other than the obvious divisiveness that agreeing to this deal would cause, what’s wrong with this picture:
1) The Egyptian regime in this press conference painted a picture of the great majority of the internationals participating in the GFM as hooligans and agents provocateurs, not real solidarity groups. This is a grave insult to all of us, to all our partners and to the entire GFM, as it depicts us all as partnering with “fanatic,” “destructive” forces, not forces for ending the siege and for the rule of law;
2) The Egyptian leadership will use our agreement on this to say that their position and “way of solidarity with Gaza” was right all along, and those that saw the light and agreed with this wise way were allowed in.
3) Arab and international public pressure on the Egyptian government are rising dramatically due to the actions that you all have engages in and the excellent media messages that you have sent. The Egyptian government wants to use this deal to release pressure and re-paint itself as concerned about Palestinians in Gaza. This is all to deflect attention from the Steel Wall they are building and the fresh calls for taking the government to task over its complicity in the Israeli criminal siege.
Our longer term interests as Palestinians is not to allow the regime to get off the hook this easily. Either they allow all 1400 participants into Gaza (if they are “hooligans” best to get rid of them in Egypt and “ship” them to Gaza, right?) or we strongly urge you to reject the deal out of hand as too little, too late and too ill-conceived.
We cannot possibly decide on this matter, as ultimately this is up to ALL of you. If a CLEAR majority among you feel that you want to go through with the deal, we shall always welcome you in Gaza and deeply appreciate your solidarity. But we feel your solidarity without coming to Gaza, exposing the Egyptian siege against you and us, may bear more fruit for us and towards ending the siege, at least from the Egyptian side.
We salute you all and thank you from our hearts for the indescribable work you have all done for Gaza!
Haidar Eid, Gaza
Omar Barghouti, Jerusalem
Here’s a comment released by Mohammed Omer who won the Martha Gellhorn Prize last year for his reporting from Gaza. It was sent to a journalist colleague of mine:
For us a population of 1.6 million being imprisoned and starved the gratitude we express to you, the Gaza freedom marchers, is immense. You who have come to Egypt have shown the world that what we are living through is a inhumane injustice and those who stop your progress join with the tyrants of this world who are prepared to starve a population of women, children and elderly people because of a political difference of opinion..
Thank you all from the depth of our hearts!
In my people’s name,
Mohammed Omer – Gaza
“The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm but because of those who look at it without doing anything.” Albert Einstein
Image by Bendib
His lawyer said he was detained over a romance with a Norwegian woman rather than for revealing nuclear secrets.
“Vanunu was arrested (for) a relationship between a man and a woman, with a Norwegian citizen,” attorney Avigdor Feldman told reporters.
“He is not being accused of giving any secrets. She is not interested in nuclear business — she’s interested in Mordechai Vanunu (and he) is probably interested in her,” Feldman said.
A Jerusalem court ordered Vanunu, who was taken into police custody on Monday, put under house arrest for three days pending an indictment, police said.
On the news last night, Vanunu had the following to say…
“BULL SHIT CHARGE…. BULL SHIT STATE!”
That just about sums up the ridiculousness of the whole situation.
A Reuters report can be read HERE.
|Activist and Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein is amongst those prevented from traveling to Gaza by the Egyptian authorities. (Ali Abunimah)|
The protesters hope to bring aid to the 1.5 million residents of Gaza a year after Israel’s 23-day offensive ended on 18 January 2009.
“It’s a shame on Egypt to prevent these people from entering Gaza, which has been suffering this Israeli blockade for a long time now,” Diaaeddin Gad, a spokesman for the activists, told IRIN.
On 27 December, the marchers were prevented by police from floating 1,400 candles on the River Nile to commemorate the deaths of 1,400 Palestinian victims of the offensive.
Margaret Hawthorn, 62, who flew in from Massachusetts in the US to take part in the event, said she was stunned to discover she would not be allowed to show solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza. “It’s important that we come here to express support for the people of Gaza,” she told IRIN.
She was one of some 1,360 persons — including doctors, lawyers, diplomats, rabbis, imams, a women’s delegation, a Jewish contingent, a veterans group and Palestinians born overseas — due to take part in the event on 31 December organized by Gaza Freedom March, a coalition of activists of all faiths focusing on human rights.
Police also prevented the activists from staging a protest outside Egypt’s Bar Association in central Cairo.
“This is so contradictory,” said Nikos Progonlis, a Greek man who came to Cairo with his wife for the march. “Egypt declares its support to the people of Gaza on the one hand, but asks us not to march for Gaza on the other. I really can’t understand that.” He said friends of his who wanted to come to Cairo via the Egyptian city of al-Arish had been arrested earlier in the day.
Other activists said many people had been denied Egyptian visas.
Tensions between Gaza activists and the Egyptian authorities are already high because of a recent Egyptian decision to build an underground steel barrier along its part of the border with the Strip — designed to prevent the smuggling of arms and goods through underground tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit defended the barrier, calling it a “national security issue,” and others have publicly condemned the Gaza activists.
“Some of these convoys contain radical people from several countries who can cause trouble if they are let in,” Sherif Hafez, an Egyptian political analyst and specialist on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, told IRIN. “These people want to spoil Egypt-Israeli relations.”
“Egypt is just taking its orders from Israel,” activists’ spokesman Gad said. “It would never have prevented us from entering Gaza and would never have built this barrier if Israel had not wanted that.”
A report in August 2009 by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) detailed the humanitarian effects of the blockade, which has been in place since 2007.
Gaza Freedom March Update
Contributed by: Greta Berlin
The Gaza Freedom March was thrown into disarray today after a surprise announcement by the Egyptian government that it would allow 100 march participants to travel to the Gaza Strip early on Wednesday morning. The decision was reportedly as a result of a direct request from Egyptian first lady Suzanne Mubarak to the Egyptian foreign ministry following intense lobbying by marchers and organizers over the last three days.
Organisers had two hours within which to accept or decline the offer, and the impossible task of deciding which 100 delegates to send. The quota amounts to a mere 7% of the more than 1,300 people who are registered for the march. After consultation with local organizers in the besieged Gaza Strip, the international steering committee decided that sending 100 delegates as a symbolic show of support was better than having nobody arrive in Gaza.
Due to time constraints, march organizers compiled a list of proposed delegates with each country being alotted roughly two places. Because marchers are dispersed across Cairo at various ongoing protest actions, these developments were only communicated to the representatives of each country’s delegation at an emergency meeting called on Tuesday night.
This meeting soon descended into a heated debate. Several marchers were enraged that a decision of this magnitude had been taken unilaterally by organisers. Many felt that this move compromised the unity of the international delegation by excluding more than 1,200 registered participants. Adding to the tension was the near-impossible task of deciding who would go and who would remain behind.
The intensive and at times emotionally charged discussion, which lasted several hours, saw the attendees split into two main opposing camps. Some were of the opinion that a small representative delegation of this nature was an important “victory” against Egyptian government policy vis-á-vis the Rafah crossing. They also argued that it was vitally important to have an international presence inside the Gaza Strip during the planned march on 31 December as a show of support to Palestinians, despite this delegation being a fraction of the originally planned size.
The opposing view, which seemed to be the dominant feeling amongst most countries represented at the meeting, was that the decision to compromise was a grave mistake. Proponents of this view argued that they had come “not to send another symbolic aid delegation to Gaza, but rather to break the siege en mass and challenge the policy in the region with respect to Gaza’s isolation.”
This group feared that by endorsing the 100-person quota, they would play directly into the Egyptian government’s hands, affording them much needed positive publicity in the international media, whilst a longterm change in policy regarding the closure of Rafah would be left unchallenged. “This just gives the Egyptian government a photo-op and the chance to say we allowed people through,” said Bassem Omar, a Canadian delegate.
Many here see this as merely an attempt by the Egyptian government to save face in the international community while the country is in the media spotlight and under global political pressure to allow the march to proceed.
After a chaotic few hours of wrangling with these issues, the group split up into their various national delegations and affinity groups to decide amongst themselves whether they would accept the offer and participate in the 100-person convoy. At the time of writing, the Canadian, South African and Swedish national delegations had decided not to participate as they felt that this approach undermined the very purpose of the march, which was to break the siege, not send an aid convoy.
A spokesperson from the French delegation also slammed the idea as “divisive” and said that the sit-in at the French embassy would continue instead. Activists who remain in Cairo are planning to continue their protest action at several venues across the city, culminating in a single mass mobilisation planned for 31 December in direct contravention of a ban on large gatherings imposed by Egyptian police.
Afterwards they prevent the “local population” from using the road, and finally they build a wall with drawings of creeks and meadows so we don’t see and don’t know that we are driving on an apartheid road, that we are traveling on the axis of evil.
Apartheid? What are you talking about? It’s just a freeway to the capital, because that’s how we like it best. Going (quickly) along with the occupation and feeling like there is none. That way the highway has fulfilled another secret national wish – that they get out of our faces.
How many have observed the inhabitants trudging over the rocky ground to get to the neighboring village? It’s 28 kilometers of distilled apartheid: the Jews on top on the freeway becoming of the lords of the land. Palestinians down below, going on foot to the Al-Tira village girls’ school, for example, through a dark, moldy tunnel.
I, too, have deliberated more than once whether to take Highway 1 with all of its traffic jams or 443 with all of its injustices. In my transgressions, sometimes I have opted for the injustices. It’s like shooting and crying. First you kill and then you are struck with grief over what you have done. I have driven and cried.
The High Court of Justice has again proven how essential it is. Too late and too little, and strangely imposing a delay of five months in the implementation of its ruling. It is not a beacon of justice with regard to everything related to the occupation, but it is at least a small flashlight shining a faint beam: beware, apartheid.
Justices Dorit Beinisch and Uzi Vogelman should be commended. They have reminded us what had been forgotten. There are judges in Jerusalem, and periodically they even come out against the injustice of the occupation. See you in another five months. By then maybe the state will find a range of rationales and excuses not to enforce the ruling. Palestinian cars on Highway 443? You’re making me (and the army) laugh.
Zaki told Egypt’s Channel Two that activists had finally listened to government orders, saying they would re-route the convoy to travel via Al-Arish, the Mediterranean port, rather than Nuweiba, the Red Sea port.
Viva Palestina organizers lamented in a statement that the demand would “add days and costs to the journey, as it [would] entail hiring ships and sailing around the Sinai Peninsula through the Suez canal.” The first two convoys also traveled to Gaza via Al-Arish, and organizers did not explain why they had changed course for this trip.
The first Viva Palestina convoy, backed by British MP George Galloway, started in the UK, went south to Spain, then across North Africa to Egypt. For second convoy, in June, delegates flew into Cairo and drove equipment to the Rafah crossing.
The latest convoy travelled through Europe to Turkey and down to Jordan via Syria. Egyptian spokesman Zaki said he understood why the group chose to travel through Turkey.
“We realized the political goals behind passage through Turkey, most of the participants and the aid were from Turkey,” Zaki said. He said Egypt had no problem with Turkish aid and Viva Palestina delegates coming into the country, but asked that participants respect the government decision.
He explained that a route for the convoy via Al-Arish had been approved by Egypt’s security services, adding that all aid destined for Gaza was required to clear at the port in Al-Arish only.
Zaki said the convoy organizers were informed of the rules, but said the “did not even bother to reply” to the Egyptian communiqué.
Organizers told Ma’an they notified Egyptian officials of both the route of the third convoy and details of all the participants “well in advance” of the travel date, and added that they were only told of the rules preventing them from using the Nuwbia port on 21 December.
Zaki said the route for the convoy via Al-Arish had been approved by Egypt’s security services, adding that all aid destined for Gaza was required to clear at the port in Al-Arish only.
Zaki said the convoy organizers were informed of the rules, but said the “did not even bother to reply” to the Egyptian communiqué. A spokeswoman from the Viva Palestina office in London said the accusation was false.
Former atom spy detained for breaching parole stipulation prohibiting him from meeting foreign nationals
Read the short report HERE
One year has passed since the savage Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, but for the people there time might as well have stood still.
Since Palestinians in Gaza buried their loved ones — more than 1,400 persons, almost 400 of them children — there has been little healing and virtually no reconstruction.
According to international aid agencies, only 41 trucks of building supplies have been allowed into Gaza during the year.
Promises of billions made at a donors’ conference in Egypt last March attended by luminaries of the so-called “international community” and the Middle East peace process industry are unfulfilled, and the Israeli siege, supported by the US, the European Union, Arab states, and tacitly by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah, continues.
Amid the endless, horrifying statistics a few stand out: of Gaza’s 640 schools, 18 were completely destroyed and 280 damaged in Israeli attacks. Two-hundred-and-fifty students and 15 teachers were killed.
Of 122 health facilities assessed by the World Health Organization, 48 percent were damaged or destroyed.
Ninety percent of households in Gaza still experience power cuts for four to eight hours per day due to Israeli attacks on the power grid and degradation caused by the blockade.
Forty-six percent of Gaza’s once productive agricultural land is out of use due to Israeli damage to farms and Israeli-declared free fire zones. Gaza’s exports of more than 130,000 tons per year of tomatoes, flowers, strawberries and other fruit have fallen to zero.
That “much of Gaza still lies in ruins,” a coalition of international aid agencies stated recently, “is not an accident; it is a matter of policy.”
This policy has been clear all along and it has nothing to do with Israeli “security.”
From 19 June 2008, to 4 November 2008, calm prevailed between Israel and Gaza, as Hamas adhered strictly — as even Israel has acknowledged — to a negotiated ceasefire.
That ceasefire collapsed when Israel launched a surprise attack on Gaza killing six persons, after which Hamas and other resistance factions retaliated.
Even so, Palestinian factions were still willing to renew the ceasefire, but it was Israel that refused, choosing instead to launch a premeditated, systematic attack on the foundations of civilized life in the Gaza Strip.
Operation Cast Lead, as Israel dubbed it, was an attempt to destroy once and for all Palestinian resistance in general, and Hamas in particular, which had won the 2006 election and survived the blockade and numerous US-sponsored attempts to undermine and overthrow it in cooperation with US-backed Palestinian militias.
Like the murderous sanctions on Iraq throughout the 1990s, the blockade of Gaza was calculated to deprive civilians of basic necessities, rights and dignity in the hope that their suffering might force their leadership to surrender or collapse.
In many respects things may seem more dire than a year ago.
Barack Obama, the US president, whom many hoped would change the vicious anti-Palestinian policies of his predecessor, George W. Bush, has instead entrenched them as even the pretense of a serious peace effort has vanished.
According to media reports, the US Army Corps of Engineers is assisting Egypt in building an underground wall on its border with Gaza to block the tunnels which act as a lifeline for the besieged territory (resources and efforts that ought to go into rebuilding still hurricane-devastated New Orleans), and American weapons continue to flow to West Bank militias engaged in a US- and Israeli-sponsored civil war against Hamas and anyone else who might resist Israeli occupation and colonization.
These facts are inescapable and bleak.
However, to focus on them alone would be to miss a much more dynamic situation that suggests Israel’s power and impunity are not as invulnerable as they appear from this snapshot.
A year after Israel’s attack and after more than two-and-a-half years of blockade, the Palestinian people in Gaza have not surrendered. Instead they have offered the world lessons in steadfastness and dignity, even at an appalling, unimaginable cost.
It is true that the European Union leaders who came to occupied Jerusalem last January to publicly embrace Ehud Olmert, the then Israeli prime minister — while white phosphorus seared the flesh of Gazan children and bodies lay under the rubble — still cower before their respective Israel lobbies, as do American and Canadian politicians.
But the shift in public opinion is palpable as Israel’s own actions transform it into a pariah whose driving forces are not the liberal democratic values with which it claims to identify, but ultra-nationalism, racism, religious fanaticism, settler-colonialism and a Jewish supremacist order maintained by frequent massacres.
The universalist cause of justice and liberation for Palestinians is gaining adherents and momentum especially among the young. I witnessed it, for example, among Malaysian students I met at a Palestine solidarity conference held by the Union of NGOs of The Islamic World in Istanbul last May, and again in November as hundreds of student organizers from across the US and Canada converged to plan their participation in the global Palestinian-led campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions modeled on the successful struggle against South African apartheid in the 1980s.
This week, thousands of people from dozens of countries are attempting to reach Gaza to break the siege and march alongside Palestinians who have been organizing inside the territory.
Each of the individuals traveling with the Gaza Freedom March, Viva Palestina, or other delegations represents perhaps hundreds of others who could not make the journey in person, and who are marking the event with demonstrations and commemorations, visits to their elected officials and media campaigns.
Against this flowering of activism, Zionism is struggling to rejuvenate its dwindling base of support. Multi-million dollar programs aimed at recruiting and Zionizing young American Jews are struggling to compete against organizations like the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, which run not on money but principled commitment to human equality.
Increasingly, we see that Israel’s hasbara (propaganda) efforts have no positive message, offer no plausible case for maintaining a status quo of unspeakable repression and violence, and rely instead on racist demonization and dehumanization of Arabs and Muslims to justify Israel’s actions and even its very existence.
Faced with growing global recognition and support for the courageous nonviolent struggle against continued land theft in the West Bank, Israel is escalating its violence and kidnapping of leaders of the movement in Bilin and other villages (Mohammad Othman, Jamal Juma’ and Abdallah Abu Rahmeh are among the leaders of this movement recently arrested).
In acting this way, Israel increasingly resembles a bankrupt failed state, not a regime confident about its legitimacy and longevity.
And despite the failed peace process industry’s efforts to ridicule, suppress and marginalize it, there is a growing debate among Palestinians and even among Israelis about a shared future in Palestine/Israel based on equality and decolonization, rather than ethno-national segregation and forced repartition.
Last, but certainly not least, in the shadow of the Goldstone report, Israeli leaders travel around the world fearing arrest for their crimes.
For now, they can rely on the impunity that high-level international complicity and their inertial power and influence still afford them. But the question for the real international community — made up of people and movements — is whether we want to continue to see the still very incomplete system of international law and justice painstakingly built since the horrors of the Second World War and the Nazi holocaust dismantled and corrupted all for the sake of one rogue state.
What we have done in solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza and the rest of Palestine is not yet enough. But our movement is growing, it cannot be stopped, and we will reach our destination.
Commentary by Chippy Dee, Photos © by Bud Korotzer
Palestinians consider Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem to be settlements and say such construction impedes peacemaking.
Israel claims all of the city its capital and does not consider those
neighborhoods to be settlements. Israel captured East Jerusalem, home to
sensitive Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites, in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Finding a way to make a living is not much easier, families say, and there is little support from the government, which says it can do nothing until Israel lifts its blockade.
The Gaza government’s Ministry of Public Works Undersecretary Ibrahim Radwan said all reconstruction efforts came to naught because of the ongoing siege.
Struggling with both issues, the Al-Athamneh family recently moved into one of the mud-brick homes constructed by the UN Relief and Works Agency, when lobbying efforts to bring in cement failed. The family is grateful for the home, but the location of the building kilometers from their demolished community meant uprooting social ties.
The family, owners of a taxi company, are also out of work, since the cars were destroyed in the war, and no replacements have been allowed in.
Eighteen members of the family were also killed during the war, when Israeli fighter jets slammed their Beit Hanoun neighborhood with 13 missiles. Israel later declared the bombing a mistake.
Five of the family homes were destroyed along with three taxi cars, leaving 52 without an income.
The Ubeid family decided not to opt for one of the new UNRWA homes, preferring to try and rehabilitate the family farm – the only source of income before the war – and remain where they are in northern Gaza.
The family list two members during the attack, as well as six apartments. The farm was decimated, bulldozed and neglected because of its proximity to Israeli troop activity in the winter months last year. The men and women of the family have been collecting the remains of the buildings and trying to start over.
“We are used to aid organizations coming in and counting up our losses,” Sabha Ubeid said, “but we have lost hope that help will come from any of them.” He said they got used to seeing organizations coming to count the losses but lost hope of receiving any help.
Others were lucky, and received aid that helped them repair enough of the damage from the war that they can begin to recover their lives.
Fifty-eight-year-old Hamdan As-Sawafiri stands over the remains of his farm in the Zaytoun area east of Gaza City. He has been unable to farm most of the land, but recently received funds to rebuild the fences around the fields, which he says is a first step to rehabilitating the area for crop planting in the years to come.
Hani Abu Zour had a blacksmith workshop that was damaged in the war, he lost most of the equipment. What was not destroyed stands in disrepair as he waits for parts to be shipped in, but they were barred along with the cement.
His home was also damaged, and he hired workers to hep him rebuild out of salvaged materials. The construction costs ran over the amount given to him by the de facto government after the war, and he says he is now in dept to the workers, though he does have a roof over his family’s head.
In the Jabal Al-Rais area of Gaza City, totally destroyed during the war, Sharif Khader and his family still live in the rubble of their home.
Khader has also had a dozen international organizations through his property, but has not received aid from any of them. Before the war he lived off the income generated by the olive grove next to his home. The trees were uprooted and cut during the war, they too are near the border area, and now he relies on his son, a taxi driver, for sustenance.
Gaza Aid Convoy Members Prepare For Hunger Strike