Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Arab Complicity, Israel's Duplicity

At 11:30am on December 27th the Israeli air force bombed Palestinian government headquarters and civilian buildings all across the Gaza Strip. Four consecutive days of attacks resulted in over 350 dead and thousands injured. In the densely populated Gaza Strip the attacks caused the death of scores of civilians.1 The UN reported seven school children attending UN schools dead when Israeli rockets hit a school,2 over a dozen traffic police officers in training were killed while Israel’s onslaught hit a prison burying inmates beneath the rubble.3 The hospitals are overcrowded with the dead and injured. Behind the images filling media outlets is a deeper story that needs to be realized.

Since early November Israel has made it increasingly difficult for journalists, NGO workers, a UN rapporteur,4 and diplomats5 to enter the Gaza Strip. On November 18th the New York Times reported that Foreign Ministry spokesman Schlomo Dror justified Israel's closure by considering "much of their [journalists in sum] previous coverage from Gaza unfair," and therefore would not be "shedding tears" about preventing their access.6 Since that time the Erez crossing- the only entry and exit for foreigners to Gaza- has opened only for very brief periods and has continued to be extremely restrictive as to who gets in and out. This has severely decreased travel to the Gaza Strip where even journalists who do make it in are not guaranteed exit- at times for weeks. As much of the world relies on English coverage of the news in places like Gaza the images and stories have severely declined due to Israeli limitations of access to journalists. This has resulted in a veiling of the day-to-day catastrophe taking place in Gaza for so many months.

In Gaza the recent deaths and injuries are an added tragedy to the ongoing hardship. The Gaza Strip has not been under siege since June 2007, when Hamas took control of the small strip of land... it has been under siege for years. 18 months ago that siege was only increased to unprecedented levels. Former Israeli Prime Minister's aide Dov Weisglass claimed Palestinians would not be starved subsequent to Hamas' election victory but put "on a diet."7 Israel determined to only permit items into Gaza that they deemed "essential," hundreds have since died due to a shortage of medical supplies, and not being provided with permits to reach other destinations with better medical provision.

Israel's aerial bombardment has brought to a head the urgent humanitarian needs in Gaza. As has been the case for months Gazans are short on blankets, cooking gas and candles, among other essential items. For the past months food is increasingly being cooked over open fires- when wood can be found- because cooking gas is now a commodity of the rich who can afford exorbitant black market prices.8 Many areas experience consistent electricity outages most of the day. Gaza has also run out of glass so that windows blown out by the ongoing air strikes cannot be replaced. While babies are going without diapers and children are going to sleep cold without blankets, bakeries are running out of flour to provide bread to the queuing masses. Gaza has long since run out of concrete and graves remain unmarked because wood, a viable alternative is also scarce. The reality of the so-called truce between Hamas and Israel that ran out weeks ago is that it never really existed: Israel has been increasingly turning Gaza into a concentration camp- not for Hamas- but for all Palestinians residing there, Muslims and Christians, Fatah, Hamas and politically nonaligned citizens alike. In the midst of all the political jargon many forget that Palestinians too are people, not just a collective entity called "Hamas." When Israel began bombing tunnels along the strip's Southern border Sunday, it closed a dire alternative channel- due to closed borders during the siege- for food, clothing and petrol.9

The complicity of select neighboring Arab governments in the latest US-applauded Israeli attacks is a further factor that merits reflection. In the week preceding the Israeli onslaught Israel's Foreign Minister traveled the region to garner support for the planned attack on Gaza. On December 26th, the day before the Israeli offensive, Egyptian newspapers carried front page images of Foreign
Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit clasping the hand of his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni as if in agreement of what was to come.10 On December 28th Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas warmed the very seat that Livni had occupied just days earlier when she had met with Egyptian president Husni Mubarak at which time Israeli plans had already been solidified to attack Gaza.11 The complicity of neighboring Arab governments has never been so obvious. London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported Tuesday that Livni had shared plans regarding the attack with Egypt's security chief Omar Soleiman prior to the attacks.12 For the past few days Egyptian state security has listened to the chants of protesters yelling, "all of us are Hamas" – given the Palestinian Islamic movement's roots within Egypt's own Muslim Brotherhood which opposes the Egyptian regime in power- tacit Egyptian support for a deadly blow in Gaza comes as no surprise.

On a legal dimension there are some considerations to keep in mind. On Monday Israel declared it was carrying out an "all-out war" on Hamas.13 In a state of war between two states retaliation is a justified act and yet in this "war" Hamas is endlessly labeled a "terrorist" organization thus without any justification for the use of violence over and against Israel's justified use thereof. Israel's logic only mirrors that of the USA's stated "war on terror," which is a war on an unidentifiable, unseen enemy. Rules of international law regarding war have historically applied to nation-states at war with each other. The USA has utilized the ambiguity in the law to legitimize its unlimited use of force, detention and torture against stateless "enemies" in their campaign on the "war on terror."

The complication in Israel's case is the fact that Hamas very legitimately won Palestinian parliamentary elections in January 2006- with Jimmy Carter's seal of approval- and by Palestinian and international law is a legitimate and representative governing body for Palestinians. Yet two conditions follow: first, Palestinians have not been granted statehood and thus Israel can continue to treat the Palestinian pseudo-government as a "non-state" actor and still be in line with international law. This means any act of violence by Israel- an internationally recognized state- on "Hamas" is legitimized in the eyes of the West's public as Hamas is continually confirmed as a non-state, "terrorist" entity. The second matter at stake is that Hamas' election victory was not recognized by Israel, the so-called international community nor by the losing party in the elections, Fatah, who have in turn been pampered by Hamas' opponents as a legitimate representative of Palestinians despite their defeat. Following Hamas' election win Fatah neglected to hand over control of all security apparatus while preparing for a US-sponsored coup against Hamas.14 After Hamas took its legitimately gained power by force the Fatah president Mahmoud Abbas- illegally according to Palestinian law-15 deposed the Hamas government bringing about an unprecedented state of division within Palestinian society.

Internal division is the ultimate aim of Israel and its international supporters; the weakening of Islamist factions the aim of complicit Arab governments like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon. All this has left Israel with legitimacy in the eyes of the so-called "international community" to carry out not an attack on Hamas but a full-fledged aggression on the population of the Gaza Strip, with the aim of deepening the divide among Palestinians. This illegal act is another successful step towards destroying the Palestinian cause and entrenching Israel's aspirations of expanding their control over Palestinian land and deepening their legitimacy in doing so in the eyes of a global community drunk on an Israeli-concocted legal ploy, backed by a tremendous media machine.


1- http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050688.html
2- http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2008/12/2008122821341625964.html
3- http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1050688.html
4- http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10055.shtml
5- http://www.democracynow.org/2008/12/17/days_after_calling_israeli_blockade_of
6- http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/19/world/middleeast/19gaza.html
7- http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/apr/16/israel
8- http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=6352135
9- http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gvz_gdJXlxgB-vle7CnoV2L0YHdgD95C26D01; http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/2008/09/2008999272950161.html
10- http://www.elbadeel.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=40485&Itemid=120
11- http://www.ahram.org.eg/Index.asp?CurFN=fron1.htm&DID=9811; http://www.ahram.org.eg/archive/Index.asp?CurFN=fron1.htm&DID=9808
12 - http://www.alquds.co.uk/index.asp?fname=latest%5Cdata%5C2008-12-27-14-29-47.htm&storytitle=%E3%D5%C7%CF%D1:%20%E1%ED%DD%E4%ED%20%C7%C8%E1%DB%CA%20%DA%E3%D1%E6%20%D3%E1%ED%E3%C7%E4%20%C8%DA%E3%E1%ED%C9%20%E3%CD%CF%E6%CF%C9%20%C8%C7%E1%DE%D8%C7%DA&storytitleb=%CA%E4%CF%ED%CF%20%C8%C7%E1%D5%E3%CA%20%C7%E1%DA%D1%C8%ED%20%E6%C7%CA%E5%C7%E3%20%E1%E3%D5%D1%20%C8%C7%E1%CA%DB%D1%ED%D1%20%C8%CD%D1%DF%C9%20%CD%E3%C7%D3&storytitlec=
13- http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2008/12/2008122994140674153.html
14- http://tonykaron.com/2007/05/15/palestinian-pinochet-making-his-move/
15- www.carnegieendowment.org/files/abumazinupdatejune1507.pdf

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"All Around Us is Death": Type-up of a Skype call to Gaza

All around us is death, death, no one is driving, in my life I have never seen anything lie this. I could not have imagined anything like this

The media can only cover 10 or 15 locations, but its everywhere, while you are sleeping the ground is shaking like in an earthquake.

everything has finished in the country..we have enough flour for 4 or 5 days.. others don't have any

you can wait 8 or 9 hours to get one bag of bread at the bakery.. when they do open

Gaza doesnt have anything in it, only death, that is the only thing that is left, any moment you await death, they started calling people , if they target your neighbors, a car passes by you, you are gone, its a war.

last time I left the house was last wednesday

sleep? no, sleep is impossible, my siblings stay awake to ask what happened. at times
some houses nearby have been hit, but none in our neighborhood yet.

the youngest brother (5) says he is not afraid... his sister says this is just a show.. he hasn't been sleeping at night or during day.

i hear attacks in the background

half of our neighborhood is funerals

we have forgotten what cooking gas is in ghaza, now we use kerosene to make tea and for lighting.

a bag of flour is 220NIS ($50), my brother waited 3-4 hours to get one bag of bread from the bakery; shops are closed

we had flour for 10 days when attacks happened, so we don't starve, can buy a few kilos of rice,

on radio Israeli army chief Ashkenazi said what happened the past days was nothing, what is coming is much harder

Israelis said Barak should enter gaza and not leave a stone on top of another.

death will reach everyone, you won't find a house where death has not entered in gaza

till now they have not killed hamas leaders, or military,

maybe this is the last time we talk, you may find us dead next time, it is likely in 5 minutes the electricity will cut.

A Text Message from Gaza

"All of us are ok, but the situation is very very bad. May god have mercy. All around us it is terror, fear, death and destruction."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

UN rep Expelled for saying: Israel in Gaza=criminal

Decmocracy Now- The United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay has accused Israel of “unprecedented and deeply regrettable” treatment of UN human rights investigator Richard Falk. Falk was deported from Israel Monday after being detained at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport for twenty hours. Falk’s detention and expulsion came days after he condemned Israel’s blockade of Gaza as a “flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law” and “Crime Against Humanity.”

Read On

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Egyptian Shame

AP- Egyptian police have confiscated whole herds of sheep and cattle set to be smuggled into the Gaza Strip ahead of a major Islamic holiday through the tunnels running underneath border, a security official said Saturday.

The official said that 17 sheep were confiscated on Saturday just as smugglers began to introduce them into the tunnel in an area just north of the divided border city of Rafah.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

For Gazans, one abundant resource: ingenuity

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Coping with lengthy power cuts has become one of the biggest challenges for 1.4 million Gaza residents as Israel's tight blockade of the territory enters its fourth week.

The closure, imposed Nov. 5 to force Gaza's Hamas rulers to halt rocket fire on Israeli border communities, comes after 19 months of sharply restricted access to the territory. The isolation has taken its toll, causing rolling blackouts and shortages of fuel and cooking gas.

READ ON

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Israel sensors the Press

Israel has continued to bar international journalists from the besieged Gaza Strip for at least a week in what media condemned on Monday as an unprecedented violation of press freedom.

Steve Gutkin, the AP bureau chief in Jerusalem and the head of the Foreign Press Association told Ma'an that he knows of no foreign journalist that has been allowed into Gaza in the last week.

Read On

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Leaked Red Cross Report: Chronic malnutrition in Gaza

"People are selling assets, slashing the quality and quantity of meals, cutting back on clothing and children's education, scavenging for discarded materials – and even grass for animal fodder – that they can sell and are depending on dwindling loans and handouts from slightly better-off relatives."

Read on

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Words of Fiction?


A young Palestinian fisherman, Mohammed Ayyash, and Sheikh Kifah, a man highly esteemed in his community- a mediator of conflicts- first met in the Friday fish market near the makeshift port of Gaza City in March of 2007. The atmosphere had been tense as the two opposing political factions Fateh and Hamas had been in conflict challenging each other’s authority to govern a small strip of land that since 1948 was labeled the “Gaza Strip.” Sheikh Kifah had been wandering among the various stalls of the market when fighting broke out and the two men- Mohammed daily sold his catch in the market- found themselves fleeing in the same direction. They took cover in a small alley, hiding behind the shell of an old bullet hole riddled home, as sounds of gunfire filled the air, the two men had exchanged some words. They met again three and a half months later when the young fisherman sought out the sheikh in Zuwaida, a village bordering Mohammed’s hometown Deer Al-Balach.

Sheikh Kifah: Ahlan wa sahlan Mohammed, please come in.

[The two men proceed by inquiring about the wellbeing of each other’s families- since their last encounter heavy internal fighting in Gaza had lead to Hamas’ complete control of the Gaza Strip and the exile of most Fateh leadership. Mohammed then takes the lead in the conversation.]

Mohammed: Sheikh Kifah I should have listened to you when we first met… between you and me I am starting to have my doubts if Hamas is really the answer in Gaza.

Sheikh Kifah: These days are difficult for us all…

Read On

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gaza's Tunnel Industry: Creating New Divisions

Forgive me, I have been away busy working on a film. I hope this is the first of many entries to come and that you have not given up on me just yet. Here an article of mine I forgot to post from Aljazeera.net:


Fayez Shweikh, one of Gaza's up-and-coming businessmen, shakes his head as he considers his mixed fortunes.

In the past year, he had significantly increased his household income by investing in a black-market, "tunnel" economy, which relied on smuggled goods siphoned through underground passages between Egypt and Gaza.

Israel has always maintained that the tunnels were used to smuggle arms and explosives, but Shweikh says food, gasoline, and household treats – chocolate, in particular - formed the basis of his trade.

"I purchase goods from the chocolate company directly in Egypt; from such companies as Galaxy, from Ferrero or the Kinder Company. I buy, I transfer money and they send me the goods, by way of normal businessmen … tunnel businessmen."

Read On

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Unknown Attacks on Hamas in Gaza City

An attack on a popular Hamas hangout in Gaza City was the first of its kind since Hamas' takeover of the Gaza Strip in June of 2007. Generally Hamas has provided very effective security for Gazan citizens since rather violently taking over Fatah security headquarters just over one year ago. Retalliation was expected and yet no confirmation yet exists who actually was behind the attacks, Fatah?, Israel, a disgruntled Gazan clan? We cannot yet jump to conclusions. Hamas responded by closing dozens of Fatah affiliated organizations.

This report from Palestinian Center for Human Rights:

PCHR strongly condemns the heinous crime perpetrated by unknown elements yesterday in Gaza that resulted in killing 6 people, including a 4-year old girl, and injuring 27 others. The crime was perpetrated by a directed explosive device in a beach-front café crowded with Hamas members and supporters. At the same time, PCHR strongly condemns the immediate reaction of the Government in Gaza and its security forces against supporters and institutions of the rival Fatah party, as if Fatah was behind the crime. This reaction included arresting dozens of Fatah activists as well as raiding and closing tens of civil society organizations, benevolent societies, and sports clubs affiliated with Fatah.

The Center’s preliminary investigation indicates that at approximately 20:25 on Friday, 25 July, an explosive device went off in El-Hilal Café on the Gaza City beach. It is a café usually frequented by Hamas activists and supporters. The explosion killed 6 people vacationing on the beach; all of them from Gaza City. One of the killed was a 4-year old child; and the other 5 were Hamas members. In addition, 27 people sustained injuries. Police sources informed PCHR that the explosive device was directed and was placed inside the café; and that it contained metallic shrapnel 10 – 12 millimeters in length.

Read on

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What is Cease-Fire?

At the end of my visit they started asking me to take pictures for their brothers, uncles, sons and fathers in Israeli prisons for over four months… a picture of a new born not yet seen by the imprisoned father, one father’s favorite girl and a picture of the detainees' pictures hanging on the wall to let the prisoners know they are missed, they are celebrated.

On March 19th Israel rounded up Assad Salach and his sons Fahmi and Salach and Assad’s brother Sa’id and his son Ghassan along with over 300 men ages 16 and above along its northern border with the Gaza Strip. It is not the first time that Israel arrests the male members of the Salach family.

These days when homemade Qassam rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip they are usually launched from within the cities, not these border areas. Thus, it makes little sense for these men to be arrested solely for security purposes. Rather, it seems to be a method of pushing the families inhabiting the border areas into the cities and deserting their only source of income, their land. Israel is successfully destroying the potential of the fruit basket of the densely populated Strip. The once luscious green land is now reduced to an arid no-man’s-land, easily overseeable by Israel’s security towers and drones overlooking it all. But more importantly the economic crisis caused by this ongoing intentional de-development of Gaza’s economy is destroying the society’s makeup.

The Salach’s main family home was destroyed in 2001. On March 25th eight Israeli bulldozers crossed the nearby border and flattened the fields. Shortly thereafter they came back and flattened the home with some family members still inside. That day the Abu Assad, the Salach family grandfather had a stroke, he and his wife, Om Assad were taken to the hospital. By the end of the day Om Assad had lost her husband, her home and the trees that had adorned the family’s fields. She moved half a kilometer down the road to her other son’s home. Today, Israel has taken him as well.

Assad and Sa’id used to collect the tank shells, things of ugliness, which Israel fired on them as they tended to their goats and fields. They would paint them and fill them with flowers and turned them into vases, things of beauty. “The day they started doing that the Israelis almost completely stopped firing at us,” Assad’s wife told me. As soon as the media spread pictures of their act- turning death into life, ugliness into beauty- the shells stopped falling. When the men were detained so were the vases, Israel did not want such a story to continue getting out.

Despite a cease-fire five of the Salach family members remain imprisoned without even a court case, their fields still lie in ruin as the Israeli army fires at them when they try and approach it, their old home remains demolished while the memories of the past continue to haunt them daily. But today, the case-fire allows them to host a guest.

New Blog: Gaza in Egypt

Read about Gaza in Egypt, a side of the news not caught anywhere.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Critical Lawsuit Against Israel's Military

A groundbreaking lawsuit is being filed in Spanish Courts accusing seven former senior Israeli military officials of war crimes. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights filed the lawsuit on behalf of six Palestinians who survived an Israeli extra judicial execution operation in the Gaza Strip in July 2002. This is the first time survivors of an Israeli military attack have filed a lawsuit against members of the Israeli military in Spain.

Read On

Friday, July 4, 2008

Marx in Gaza

At the border crossing into Gaza a middle aged woman sat next to me looking rather pale. She was accompanied by what looked like her mother, even frailer than her. Between her hands the sick woman grasped a pack of six tea glasses. It seemed a bit strange of an item to be bringing back into Gaza with so few permitted to make this rare excursion beyond Gaza’s borders. Later that day, after a large welcoming lunch and over tea in plastic throw away cups I found out that tea glasses like so many other things had run out in Gaza. A single glass had nearly reached the cost of the price of a whole set and for my hosting family this was simply not affordable.

Much of my second day I spent at the beach. The one outlet for a majority of Gaza’s population is still very much a reality and on summer days like this one, hundreds of people flock to the beach to forget the daily routine.

Every occupation has its winners and losers, those that profit and those that lose almost everything. Recently I have been reading Marx who considered the making and the writing of “history” to be based on class divisions. According to Marx, the world was not so much explainable by the acts of God on passively receiving humankind, as a world that was driven and lead by the acts of people. For Marx, these acts of history were determined and received their meaning by the division of classes.

By the evening I had been invited to a gathering of some of Gaza’s elite society. For some of them, the recent re-opening of the borders was a monkey wrench for their monopolies in the market. A ton of cement was now back down to 520 shekels, a week ago one 10kg bag had cost 270 shekel. As soon as cement was allowed back into Gaza, the Hamas government- showing some rather socialist colors- set prices in order to undermine such monopolies and make prices accessible to the common population. That night we had duck, chicken and chicken wings, large plates of dessert and watermelon. Throughout the course of that day Marx started making a lot of sense.

Between the beach and the evening BBQ I had my first taste of Gaza’s streets under the gas shortages. Due to Israel limiting the amounts of gas into Gaza only one third of required supplies makes it in. This limited amount is not provided in the regular market, which would drive it up to extremely high prices and create a further monopoly. Rather, Hamas divides it rather wisely. Of course a majority of Hamas members and all government offices are supplied with their needs. Furthermore, Hamas provides a weekly stipend of gas at regular market prices to all drivers that register their cars with them. Some of that supply and likely a percentage of Hamas’ main share leaks into the black market at extravagant prices that most cannot afford; a liter of petrol costs $15. Many drivers cannot afford to register as they didn’t for so long under the previous Fateh government and the accumulated cost is simply too high. Instead many have begun to use cooking oil to fill their tanks. The streets smell accordingly. The stench of falafil oil filling the air makes walking down main roads hardly bearable.

On the Palestinian side of the border crossing into Gaza, carrying my bags for a small tip, Ridwan told me he was so tired of it all. Every night shelling back and forth, back and forth, the shaky cease-fire- although violated by both sides by now- has given him some rest. Later that evening, over cigarettes and cards the high society of Gaza spoke of their dread of the effects of cease-fire. A few days earlier a home-made rocket was fired into the desert of Israel ordered by a group of businessmen who had too much to lose by the end of the fighting and open borders. The streets on the way into Gaza were lined with trucks of Israeli fruit, rarely does that flow cede, Israeli farms have a captive market in Gaza where farmers grow largely vegetables and rely on Israel for their B-grade fruit.

It may not be all-encompassing but in these two days I have seen “history” written by the division of classes beyond even the boundaries of occupation. But occupation remains the color these stark divisions are painted in; in Gaza occupation is the framework that makes it all possible.

Monday, May 19, 2008

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Another letter from Gaza..

Philip,

Every time I think life in here can't get any worse, but surprisingly it does! At work we reached a level where we have money but can't spend it to do any kind of relief work, there is nothing in the local market, no food, no hygiene items, no school bags, no medicine, nothing at all!!!!! We ended up distributing toy kits in times when people can't find anything to eat!!
I am ok Philip but has so much heart aches, it is the feeling of helplessness that kills you and feeling of neglect and disappointment. Today I was in the field to monitor some of our protection activities in Jabalia and I was struck by the scenes of donkey carts standing on the road sides to pick people and to make room for more people on the cart, the cart driver asked the people to ride standing to make space for as many people as possible. While an old lady holding a baby was left there alone cause she was unable to ride standing... Where in the world would you see such humiliating scenes?
In the session children were asked to draw on a white paper a place where they feel more safe and protected, children drew different things and started presenting them, and one child "Mahmoud" started presenting to the rest of the children what he drew "a grave with his name on it" but he further explained that he would feel more protected among those people that he loved and cherished and left all at once. Mahmoud didn't cry, he told me he is a real man and shouldn't cry and because those entombed people are resting in peace away from the sound of shooting and tanks.
Streets are completely empty, taxi's have all kinds of smells and flavors now that driver use cooking oil and gas. At first I had big concerns about taking those bomber taxi's, now I only have concerns about not being able to reach my office! I don't go out anymore, last time I saw Wisam and my friends was on my birthday April 24th, transportation cost it too expensive and I no longer can afford the expenses of my daily movement!
I want to cry Philip, but I am unable, I even feel worse that I might be able to travel, I don't feel good staying, I don't feel good leaving either. I think this is Gaza, you can't afford living inside it and you can't afford leaving it!
Keep us in your prayers, you are so much missed in here my dear friend!
Maha

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Absolute Devastation

tonight i talked to jamal in gaza. he has not worked in a month because there is no gas in gaza for his taxi. i asked him how he is surviving, he was embarrassed to talk, he said there is always one of the family fasting, they have nothing to live on. we cried together on the phone, he spends his days on the internet and watching tv. that there is, but food there isn't.

this is UNRWA's statement to the press about gaza from april 23rd, but no one seems to notice. gaza has become old news.

world WAKE UP!
This is a deepening scar on the moral record of this generation, it will not go unanswered for.




Sunday, April 20, 2008

Letter from Rafah

I received this message from my dear friend in Rafah today..

hey every body

The situation is very bad at the moment here in Rafah/ Gaza Strip , today in the morning Hamas Forces Attacked Karm Abusalem's Crossing and they hurt 6 Israeli Soldiers and 3 Palestinian were killed during this Confrontation , 7 hours later , the Israeli forces attacked a palestinian car in Rafah , they killed one Palestinian and 4 were injuries by the attack ,

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the google add at the bottom of my page read this:


Going green? See the top 12 foods to eat organic.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Photo Exhibit: Between the Walls



Israeli urban planning: Over the course of 2001- 2004 Israeli bulldozers razed 1600 inhabited homes in the city of Rafah.

Over the rubble of the homes Israel built a wall of concrete and metal.

Egyptian urban planning: In 2005 Egypt took over the role of border guard and keeps the wall sealed.

تخطيط المدن الإسرائيلي: بين سنتي 2001- 2004 أزالت الجرافات الإسرائيلية – على مراحل – 1600 منزل في مدينة رفح مشردة ساكنيها.

بنت إسرائيل فوق أنقاض هذه المنازل جداراً خرسانياً ومعدنياً.

تخطيط المدن المصري: تولت مصر في عام 2005 دور حراسة الحدود (بدلاً من القوات الإسرائيلية) مبقية على الجدار الحدودي مغلقاً.

Although Israel claims it no longer controls the Gaza Strip after its “Disengagement” in September 2005, borders and airspace remain under Israel’s control. The Israeli navy also announces the limits of access that Palestinian fishermen are to have to their own coast. The restrictions leave the trade crippled.

On that summer day an Israeli naval ship approached Yousef Al-Najjar’s boat south of Gaza City, firing on the fishermen. As the crew sought shelter, Yousef stood up on deck. He knew that the first target on the ship would be the priceless engine, and since the increased closure, restricted from entering Gaza. Yousef called out for the soldiers to fire on him rather than the engine. He, after all, was expendable, the engine, providing for his and each of his crew’s families could not be replaced.

The soldiers shot and killed Yousef. The engine was spared.

رغم زعم إسرائيل أنها لم تعد تهيمن على قطاع غزة بعد الانسحاب في سبتمبر 2005، ومازالت الحدود والأجواء تحت سيطرة إسرائيل. ويعلن الجيش الإسرائيلي باستمرار عن المسافة المسموح بها للصيادين ليتحركوا فيها بعيداً عن الشواطئ الإسرائيلية. وتعوق القيود أعمال الصيد.

اقترب أحد الطرادات الإسرائيلية في أحد أيام الصيف من قارب يوسف النجار جنوب مدينة غزة وصوبت النيران على الصيادين في القارب. وبينما بحث الصيادون عن مكان للاحتماء فيه وقف يوسف على سطح القارب. كان يعلم أن النيران تهدف لإصابة المحرك الذي لا يقدر بثمن (ولا يقدر الكثير من الصيادين على تعويضه)، حيث أن المعابر من وإلى غزة تكون مغلقة. وقد صاح يوسف للعسكر أن يطلقوا عليه النيران
بدلاً من المحرك. كان يرى أنه من الممكن أن يضحي بنفسه ليبقى المحرك، فهو مصدر الرزق لعائلات أفراد طاقم القارب.
وقد أطلق العسكر النار على يوسف وقتلوه وبقي المحرك.

Hussam Al-Habash is one of thousands of fishermen in the Gaza Strip. Over the past years Hussam’s income has dwindled to almost nothing.

He spends his mornings with the other fishermen in the harbor, waiting for better days, reminiscing on the past or playing games in the sand, talking to anyone who will come and listen.

حسام الهباش،واحد من آلاف الصيادين في قطاع غزة. وعلى مدى السنوات الماضية قل دخله إلى لاشيء تقريباً.
إنه يقضي أيامه مع غيره من الصيادين في الميناء منتظراً الفرج، وهو يتذكر أيامه الماضية أثناء لعبه بعض الألعاب على الرمال متحدثاً مع من يأتي ليسمعه.



Since June 14th 2007 Israel has allowed only items defined as “essential” into the Gaza Strip. On January 24th 2008, one day after the border between Egypt and Gaza was breeched, there was a mad rush to this natural gas station. While other such stations had run dry days ago, news had spread that here they still had supplies left, but not many. That afternoon, Hussein, one of hundreds, was waiting his turn.

Without natural gas, families would revert to cooking over a fire.

Only, Gaza is also running out of wood.

منذ الرابع عشر من يونيو 2007 لم تسمح إسرائيل إلا للبضائع "الضرورية" (من وجهة نظرها) للعبور إلى قطاع غزة. وفي الرابع والعشرين من يناير 2008، بعد أن اقتحمت الحدود بين مصر وغزة بيوم واحد، حدث تدافع غير واع نحو هذه المحطة للغاز الطبيعي، بينما فرغت محطات أخرى من الغاز قبل ذلك بأيام، وذاع خبر وجود فائض في تلك المحطة، لكن لم يكن كثيراً. في ذلك اليوم كان حسين، وهو واحد من مئات الناس، ينتظر دوره للحصول على الغاز، حيث أن بدونه قد تلجأ العائلات لاستخدام الحطب والأخشاب كوقود لعملية إعداد الطعام. وقد أوشكت الأخشاب على النفاد من غزة.


Dr Attalah Tarazi was the first Palestinian to plant tulips for Dutch markets in Gaza, thereby creating dozens of jobs. In November 2001 the Israeli army bulldozed his flowers because they were in the way. In the way of Israeli tanks. For five years the tanks prevented Attalah from reaching his land.

كان د. عطا الله طرزي أول من زرع زهور التيوليب في غزة للسوق الهولندي، وقد وفر هذا العمل الكثير من الوظائف للفلسطينيين. وفي نوفمبر من عام 2001 قام الجيش الإسرائيلي بتجريف زهوره لكونها تعوق طريق الدبابات الإسرائيلية. ولمدة خمسة أعوام منعت الدبابات د. عطا الله من الوصول إلى أرضه.


For many Palestinians kites are a symbol of hope. Hope for a better state, hope for justice, hope for a better tomorrow.

يرى الكثير من الفلسطينيين الطيارات الورقية رمزاً للأمل؛ الأمل في وطن أفضل؛ الأمل في العدالة؛ بل الأمل في غد أفضل.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Reuters cameraman films his own death

"A news cameraman in Gaza filmed the tank shot that killed him, it is feared.
Fadel Shana, a 23-year-old Palestinian, was covering Israeli tank movements in the territory yesterday for Reuters, the international news agency.

He had stepped from his car to focus on a tank dug in several hundred yards away.

Final footage recovered from Mr Shana's camera shows the muzzle flash of the tank opening fire. Dust rises around the tank then a moment later the tape goes blank-"

read on by Rhiannon Edward

Monday, March 24, 2008

Short Prose By the Sea


Alexandria is a museum of history. The city sprawls along the magnificent Mediterranean coast, the pace of its inhabitants coalesces with the slow ebb and flow of the sea’s waves. Alexandria is slow, but never dull. The traffic moves and here a car, even a taxi may stop allowing for a pedestrian to cross the street in safety. Unlike the rush of Cairo, the big city that never sleeps, Alexandria has a dawn and dusk when shops close and open again.

Alexandria is much like the city of Gaza, only it is not. Gaza City also lies on the Mediterranean, not far from Alexandria. But there. another rhythm reigns. Maybe it is due to Alexandria’s bay that the waves don’t come crashing in, but in Gaza they do and so does life. A phone call from my friend Hanna Sunday morning reminded me of the weight that reigns there. Life is heavy, another popular restaurant was bombed recently, electricity shortages prevail in the city, the tightening of supplies is felt in every dimension of life. A couple weeks ago Maha told me that gas shortages was causing their NGO employees to take taxis because they didn’t have petrol to run the NGO vehicles. She told me that 41 children had died in recent days. The tension is increasing and the social capacity to cope in Gaza is at a breaking point, like the waves that crash in ever harder in the summer months. After a field assessment the NGO was not able to find the required items in the market to purchase for families in need, like blankets. This is a hell they are living. Alexandria echoes paradise.

At night happy couples line the boardwalk of the cornishe. Vendors sell ice cream, candy cane, popcorn and a variety of seeds. The Greek Club is lively with upbeat Greek tunes, they have run out of ouzo, as the imported Greek drink goes quickly once it is imported from the nearby island. Coffee shops line the beach front, often crowded with customers playing backgammon, chess, sipping tea and coffee or just looking on, reading the newspaper to catch up on the days global news.

Newspapers often don’t make it in, due to the closure. If they do, it’s the very few who can afford them, and even if they can, why waste your money reading all that surrounds you daily? Here, it is hard to even find a coffee shop to read in. The beautiful sunset, the waves are only a temporary distraction before being whirled back into reality of the news that makes up the papers you never read.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gaza's "Holocaust"

Jonathan Cook- Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai’s much publicised remark last week about Gaza facing a “shoah” — the Hebrew word for the Holocaust — was widely assumed to be unpleasant hyperbole about the army’s plans for an imminent full-scale invasion of the Strip.

More significantly, however, his comment offers a disturbing indication of the Israeli army’s longer-term strategy towards the Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Vilnai, a former general, was interviewed by Army Radio as Israel was in the midst of unleashing a series of air and ground strikes on populated areas of Gaza that killed more than 100 Palestinians, at least half of whom were civilians and 25 of whom were children, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Read on

Saturday, March 8, 2008

International Women's Day: The Women of Palestine


The Worker Federation of Trade Unions dedicates this year’s Women’s Day to the women of Palestine, to the mothers of Gaza, to the girls in Ramalha who are facing today new barbarian attacks from the Israeli army.

Let’s express all together our Internationalist solidarity to the women of Palestine and to their heroic struggles.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Human Rights Groups: Gaza Crisis "Completely Avoidable"

Eight Human Rights groups released a report Thursday. They introduced their findings saying,

The situation for 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is worse now than it has ever been since the start of the Israeli military occupation in 1967. The current situation in Gaza is man-made, completely avoidable and, with the necessary political will, can also be reversed.

The Report points out Israel's responsibility by international law to Gaza.

Israel retains effective control of the Gaza Strip, by virtue of the full control it exercises over the Gaza Strip's land border, its air space and territorial waters, and the movement of people and goods. Hence, the Israeli authorities are bound by their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law to ensure the welfare of the Palestinian population in the OPT. The blockade, in response to indiscriminate rocket attacks into Israel, constitutes a reprisal against a civilian population and is forbidden by international humanitarian law.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The U.S.'s Dirty War in Gaza: Confirming the Past


The video reveals a bare room with white walls and a black-and-white tiled floor, where abu Dan’s father is forced to sit and listen to his son’s shrieks of pain. Afterward, abu Dan says, he and two of the others were driven to a market square. “They told us they were going to kill us. They made us sit on the ground.” He rolls up the legs of his trousers to display the circular scars that are evidence of what happened next: “They shot our knees and feet—five bullets each. I spent four months in a wheelchair.”


...
Wurmser [Dick Cheney’s resigned chief Middle East adviser] accuses the Bush administration of “engaging in a dirty war in an effort to provide a corrupt dictatorship [led by Abbas] with victory.” He believes that Hamas had no intention of taking Gaza until Fatah forced its hand. “It looks to me that what happened wasn’t so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen,” Wurmser says.

...

“We need to reform the Palestinian security apparatus,” Dayton said, according to the notes. “But we also need to build up your forces in order to take on Hamas.”
...

On June 7, there was another damaging leak, when the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Abbas and Dayton had asked Israel to authorize the biggest Egyptian arms shipment yet—to include dozens of armored cars, hundreds of armor-piercing rockets, thousands of hand grenades, and millions of rounds of ammunition. A few days later, just before the next batch of Fatah recruits was due to leave for training in Egypt, the coup began in earnest.


a leaked memo

Read On At Vanity Fair

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Disengagement and the Frontiers of Zionism by Darryl Li

More than an act of enlightened self-interest -- or, more bluntly, a recognition that “the virus doesn’t stop at the checkpoint”[2] -- the reported animal vaccine shipment is a clue to how Israel is reconfiguring its control over the Gaza Strip. The story of the recent restrictions, when told at all to the outside world, has been conveyed largely through statistics: 90 percent of private industries in Gaza have shut down, 80 percent of the population receives food aid, all construction sites are idle and unemployment has broken all previous records.[3] Journalists and NGOs have rendered individual portraits of ruined farmers, bankrupted merchants and trapped medical patients. But the stranglehold on Gaza is not simply a stricter version of the policies of the past five years; it also reflects a qualitative shift in Israel’s technique for management of the territory. The contrast between Israel’s expedited transfer of animal vaccines to Gaza and its denial of medicine for the human population is emblematic of this emergent form of control, that, for lack of a better term, we may call “disengagement.”

...

Since its beginnings over a century ago, the Zionist project of creating a state for the Jewish people in the eastern Mediterranean has faced an intractable challenge: how to deal with indigenous non-Jews -- who today comprise half of the population living under Israeli rule -- when practical realities dictate that they cannot be removed and ideology demands that they must not be granted political equality. From these starting points, the general contours of Israeli policy from left to right over the generations have been clear: First, maximize the number of Arabs on the minimal amount of land, and second, maximize control over the Arabs while minimizing any apparent responsibility for them.

Read on

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

MET: Siege of Gaza bites into Israeli economy

The Middle East Times's Mel Frykberg,

Gaza's shattered economy is not the only casualty of Israel's embargo and siege on the Palestinian territory, now under the control of Hamas. The sanctions are coming back to bite Israel too, with tens of thousands of Israeli jobs on the line as businesses face losses or closure after losing their major market.

The West Bank and Gaza Strip constitute Israel's second biggest market after the United States. In 2006, the combined 3.5 million residents of the Palestinian territories imported over $2 billion worth of Israeli products, or more than 6 percent of all Israeli exports excluding diamonds. This is the same amount that Italy and France combined, two of the eight richest countries in the world, imported from Israel.

Israel's business community has voiced its alarm. Ronen Leshem, head of the business department at Israel's Peres Center for Peace, wrote recently in an op-ed in The Marker, an Israeli business publication: "In a few weeks, the business sector in Gaza is going to collapse, and one of the big losers is going to be Israel."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Thoughts at Night.

The world is increasingly one of conflict. And we, those people longing for peace, seek means by which to find paths to resolution within it. For this, we must create, we must express, we must give into the world along with and while, we take, learn and breathe it in. But this process is often a painstaking one. At times we are overwhelmed by the complexity, by the depth of chasm that exists between the poor and the rich, between the unprivileged and the privileged, the voiceless and the powerful. And we, a very few, that find ourselves in the latter position but loathe the divide that exists, struggle and moan for a way that will unite us.
It is easy for things to remain as they are, transition only occurs with difficulty. And this inability to introduce change, this shortcoming, is the disease from which we suffer. The incompatibility of desire and capability, it is enough to drive us mad. We fight to undo the wrongs, to oppose the man and yet his looming shadow is so daunting, its absence is unimaginable and quite possibly impossible as its disappearance may very well imply its replacement with another such, maybe darker vision. After all we, the seekers of change bring out our own weaknesses, our own downfalls, our own darkness to the world’s table that is overturned. When is it ever standing upright, and when so, is it only in our own mind’s eye? We are tainted by our own experience, we are tainted by our own partialities and all of us simply fall short.

But we must struggle on, each in our own way to find a way to turn upright was is laid waste. Let us question our biases, our neighbor’s, family’s and friend’s givens, always open to our own possible miscalculations and despite these and in light of these expand the conception of our self to include the other who is weaker, more invisible and voiceless.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Much More like a Zoo

On the radio from Boston they asked me what effect the electricity cuts were having on life in Gaza. Electricity outages were finally making headlines across the world, but in many parts of Gaza they are part of everyday life. The refugee camp I was staying in that night was having a power outage like it had many nights of the week, just this time the world took the slightest notice because Israel, which controls every thing and person entering and exiting this little strip of land, 365km2 of it, had decided to intensify the siege to include gas that the so called Gaza Strip relied on to function. This gas was not only for cars to keep moving, but incidentally also fueled Gaza City’s power plant, which kept the Strip’s capital functioning. Many other areas outside of Gaza City continue to receive their electricity directly from Israel’s power grid, the cost of which is extracted from the Palestinian Authority’s budget. Siege or no siege, this electricity is turned on and off at random.

Gaza is much less like a prison as it is so often referred to, but much more like a zoo. Humans very much live there, like animals in a cage, they are fed and given water, the lights come on when the zoo-keepers determine it is time to have them on and at other times they come out. When I was asked how electricity outages were affecting life in Gaza, I was caught off guard, because here lights always come on and off without rhyme or reason.
Foreigners, the few visitors of the zoo, mainly journalists, keep coming in a very hesitant stream to take photographs, to see a little bit of the life inside this zoo. The animals are all alive still, tucked away in the hospitals are the sick, where they are out of sight with medical supplies never quite running out, but always just almost. No hospital on earth would want to be run this way. The doctor in charge of a kidney dialysis department told me he was constantly depressed, his job was to tend to the needs of the sick, but he knows what is left in the storerooms and when the medicine that is required has just expired and there is none to replace it.

A man who works as a medicine supplier for a West Bank company told me they used to important 40 crates every week, now they get 5 crates every 5 weeks, if they are lucky. The shipment arrives at the unmanned Israeli-Gaza border, is dumped on the Gaza side where it sits in the sun until permission is signaled for Palestinians to approach it and pick it up.

I recall a zoo I visited in Chicago one time. It was the middle of the summer and although summers there are nothing like they are here, it was hot for the polar bear on a piece of melting ice under the sun. Most disturbing was that the bear walked in a constant rhythm, in the same exact path, back and forth in an oddly shaped circle around the ever-shrinking ice block. It was as if the bear was trying to speak to the passing by onlookers in something much more powerful than words. Zoo-keepers never let allow animals to starve, it would make for negative press. In Gaza no one is starving. Of its 1.5 million citizens, 1.2 million receive food aid. I wonder at times if it would be better for the humanitarian aid to be shut down for a few days, let us see the consequences because this is much closer to reality. People without jobs, without an income to afford the vital necessities of life. If this aid status quo remains as it does no solutions will ever be found, the zoo remains a zoo. If the aid is cut, Gaza will be revealed for what it is, a humanitarian catastrophe, inhabited, by a people that are already dead, like the bear, walking in circles, awaiting the ice to melt beneath their feet.

The siege allows into the zoo only what the zoo-keepers consider the most “necessary” of items. So since June among many other things no cement, no soda, no locks, no car spare parts, no generators, no computers, no mobile phones, no chocolate have been allowed in, and nothing allowed out. Israeli fruit is readily available; one would not want to upset the suppliers. One man walked up to me as I, a zoo visitor, was taking pictures, here we have no water, no electricity, we can’t travel. He asked me “what do you like about this place,” after I informed him I did. “I loved the people,” I said, concerning the situation, I had no words.

The friend I was visiting after I was asked about electricity outages on the radio lives north of Gaza City. We met at 8pm, he picked me up in town in his taxi. But we did not go to his place, where I knew his nine kids were waiting for me. We drove around for some time, it was night and many areas were dark and when dropping off a friend who was in the backseat we ended up staying there, for coffee, for tea and for some nuts and snacks. After pushing for some time he was finally convinced to head home. We arrived at 10:30, just as the lights came back on. The family, those who were still awake when we arrived, were sitting around a makeshift fire in the courtyard. The oldest daughter told me, they had been there since 5. After a late dinner was prepared we all huddled around an electric pot in which they make bread, which was turned upside down and used as a heater, although a small one.

I had been to Rafah a couple weeks before the wall came down. It was a daunting menace over what remained of a community that lived near its shadow. All those that once fell within range of its shadow had had their homes demolished and only a few of the ruins were still to be seen. I heard once that a “peace park” was to built on this razed land. But it never materialized; only some sandy football fields can be seen amidst the rubble. I remember a number of kids with kites. Three kids had their kite so high up I could barely see it. Somehow it spoke of a longing to see the world from out there, beyond the walls of this zoo.

A few weeks later they did. That wall came down and it was with joy that not only those boys I am certain, but people I met all across the Gaza Strip traveled south and out of the gates. Although there was a gas shortage every taxi, bus and truck-driver mustered up the gas they had left to transport people south. The day before a seat in a taxi had cost 7 shekels to Rafah, that day it jumped to 30 in a taxi, 20 on a crowded bus and 10 shekels for a standing spot on the back of a packed truck. I received calls from friends who were across the border, in my country, just enjoying the change. That was it, many bought cigarettes at a much cheaper price and a few supplies that they could manage to carry across the toppled metal wall, but more than anything they were there for just something different, something new. Many Gazans knew they would get to the Egyptian town of El-Arish only to find the city out of food and water, which is what happened in 2005, the last time the border was stormed, they knew they were likely to walk for kilometers past the traffic jams that always formed when there were too many people and cars aimed for the same destination. They went anyway to experience the rush past a zoo with an open gate. For those few days the cages were open and Gazans all came and went, the young and the old, girls and boys, families packed bags and headed to the beach in El-Arish. The drivers filled up not on over-priced Israeli taxed gas, the children bought chocolate, one of my friends bought 20 bags of cement to finish building his house, he had recently gotten married.

Despite the chaos, the coming down of the wall brought a spark of life to this place, this no-man’s-land, this unrecognized strip, without a recognized government, with closed borders, sealed off from the world, breathed a breath of fresh air. A short breath.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Words from a Friend.

The next morning, having stayed in a semi-abandoned house with a stream of Palestinians coming in and out, we grabbed a cup of tea in town and then made over to Rafah, catching a ride at the back of a pick up truck with a bunch of boys from Gaza. The winter wind in our hair we wobbled out of sleep and into conversation. When I asked them what they came to buy in Al Arish, they answered, almost unanimously, that they had come "to enjoy". Again, it didn't add up. On the morning news we had just heard of four Palestinians being killed in Israeli air strikes. Gazans had been living with no electricity for days due to Israeli-imposed blockade. Their shops and refrigerators had long gone empty; cigarettes and soda were a luxury no longer available. Their babies were struggling to survive in hospital. So what of death, despair, and darkness?

As I spoke to a left-leaning starry-eyed youth who told me of his love for football, his disdain for Hamas, and his respect for Che Guevara, it started to make sense. For a day, (now five), the Palestinians had left the occupation behind and claimed what ought to be ordinary, everyday, life: to trade with their Arab neighbours across the border, to step in to Al Arish, for a night out with family and friends.

Lines of Palestinians going back with their goods dominated the scene in Rafah. They stood holding their boxes, their bags and even their bulls (by the horns); they sat on donkey carts and in their cars. The overpowering smell of fuel, carried across in cans, leaking and leaving a trail that could have so easily go up into flames, stood in as an indicator of the tenuousness of the situation at hand. People were trudging their suitcases, herding their cows, as the huge Egyptian military vans stood by.

We made our way through the maze to one of the smaller openings in the border through which Gazans were coming and going. The passage was not as free flowing as we had heard it had been the day before. Riot police were switching modes, at times letting people pass, and at others barricading the border and pushing Palestinians back. We watched a herdsman on a mission trying to control his bulls and get them across the chaos. The bulls were all on heat and jumping on each other and having sex amidst the madness. People were hitting them to calm them down as they charged about.



After watching the mayhem at the first opening, we found our way to the main Philadelphia gate. As we neared the border crossing, an Egyptian guard drunk on power, parading the field, electric baton in hand, insisted that as foreigners we couldn't all go in. At this point, I left my professor and university friends behind and tried again. Armed with my press card and shielded by my shades, I stepped forth. Wesam would use his Palestinian ID card to get into Gaza, and his Egyptian student residence permit to get out. We had covered our basis. Or so we hoped. We approached one of the military police and inquired permission for safe passage. "Israeli or Egyptian press", he seemed to ask. "Indian," we answered. Baffled maybe, he let us through.

We entered the human chain formed by the black uniformed Egyptian riot police, amidst boys and bulls, cement and cigarettes, all making their way to Gaza. We came into the clearing and I felt a sense of disbelief. There I was in Palestine. We jumped up to join a bunch of press reporters and photographers on top of a huge lorry and watch the scene below.

And from that height I stared at the terrific gaping holes in the massive Israeli manufactured obstruction. One part of the wall was just missing; another was split in half; a third swerved to the ground and boys sat along it watching the people pass by. While the wall was testimony to the violence of our time, its collapse stood in as a sculpture of the tenacity of Palestinian lives.

And then the standoff between the riot police and the stone-throwing mob began. As the huge stones came falling down the guards began to exert their authority and the crowd moved back, created a opening between the Palestinians and the police where two minutes earlier there was none. The Associated Press reporter was on her phone, making news while it happened—dramatising the fact that perhaps the Egyptian riot police had encroached, having taken two or five steps forward, onto Gaza territory.

About an hour later, we decided to head back, before which we walked around and took pictures of the bullet ridden apartment blocks. As we tried to make our way from a section at the side, the guards wouldn't let us through. And then we heard bullets being fired into the sky. I tensed up as we walked along the barbed wired wall and found a spot to jump across. We were in no man's land with Egyptian tanks on either side and at the mercy of their arbitrariness of Egyptian orders. Fortunately, this time around, they let us through.

Coming back from Rafah to al-Arish we sat at the back of a mini van, exhausted by the intensity of our adventure. Wesam noticed some Palestinian graffiti: "Al Kassam militants passed through here", written in a barely visible fluorescent orange felt tip on the back of the grey seat. When I asked the boy next to me why he was going to Al Arish now when there was talk of the border being closed, he didn't seem phased at all, and answered, "If Egypt closes the wall, Hamas will bring it down."

Friday, January 25, 2008

Gaza in a Cage.

Yasir lives in a prison.

In March 2007 Yasir and his father were caught in crossfire between Palestinian factions as they were walking home. A bullet hit Yasir’s spine leaving him crippled from the neck down.

Yasir’s prison is his body.

Since that day Yasir has lived in various ICUs in Gaza City. Daily, the injured enter and leave the hospital around him; many of them leave dead. Yasir is ten years old and very aware of what goes on around him. During his one-month rehabilitation stay in Israel he learned to speak despite his new condition. His sentences are short and barely audible, but he speaks.

Yasir is limited to the inside of a hospital intensive care unit, not unlike the community beyond the walls of his room.

Gaza exists in a cage.

With the very rare exception Gazans are unable to travel beyond the borders designated to the “Gaza Strip” by the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. People are transported in and out of the Gaza Strip to better medical facilaties, often due to deadly attacks by a neighboring state and its strangling siege that, not unlike Yasir, is causing Gazans to experience a slow death. They too raise their voice, but it is only barely heard, their cry for help rarely reaching beyond the walls that encage them.

Gaza’s cage is the double-standard of a silent world.

The gates to those walls have grown increasingly sealed shut over the past two years. The source of this act is a people voicing their opinion in a democratic election that the world’s sole superpower, the USA strongly supported and heralded. Subsequently the election outcome was renounced and Gaza’s inhabitants collectively punished for an opinion the world did not approve of. One may criticize the views of a political party, but to punish a whole people for the vote of the majority is untenable by the international law standards of our time.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said,

Israel must immediately either withdraw from the Gaza Strip completely, thus handing over control of the Rafah border to Palestinian and Egyptian officials: or else Israel must acknowledge its continuing occupation of the Gaza Strip, and, as an Occupying Power, act upon its legal obligation to establish an orderly and transparent mechanism, mediated by an independent third party, that will guarantee freedom of movement for the people of the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday one of those walls came down, whether legally or illegally, it came down and raised the voice of a people strangled by the injustice of a world community that turns a blind eye to injustice. Although it is chaos that has followed, slightly enlarging the size of this cage, the crumbled walls sound out the hypocrisy of a world that remains silent in the light of its two-faced disposition.

Yasir is waiting for a donation for his family to purchase the medical equipment that will allow him to move out of the ICU and back into his home.

Gaza is waiting to one day be given the chance to be free, to create a home to live like people do all across the world; not within closed walls.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Zoo Break

The metal wall that stood between Gaza and Egypt is folded over like a piece of paper.

Yesterday a group of women massed at the Rafah terminal crossing that has been sealed shut with only two exceptions of a few hours since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

At 2am the border was stormed and from that time on the population across the entire Gaza Strip has been thinning out as people young and old head to the border.

Why?

To get a breath of fresh air, to see something different, to take their sick to the hospital and buy food and household goods.

Two nights ago Nusseirat camp where I was visiting was out of candles and electricity had been out since the night before.

It is hard to find public transportation as taxis and buses are all heading South, just to get out.

For now electricity is back for hours at a time. Israel allowed in enough gas to restart Gaza City’s main power plant and hospitals but none for gas stations. They remain closed.

Despite the shortage, vehicles are running. Today prices to Rafah are double for a space on the back of a truck what they were for a seat in a taxi yesterday.

Escaping from this cage of boredom is being done at any price.

The increased siege over the past week finally caused an explosion.

Cigarettes are down from 20 shekels to 7.

The bakeries have flour to make bread.



image 1: AP

Sunday, January 20, 2008

1:57

1:57 minutes we have left before the power is shut off in all of Gaza. Most of the power lines from Gaza’s main electricity station have already run dry, two lines remain.

Dr Attallah pointed out that the siege on Iraq lasted two years and then they attacked it. Maybe tonight its Gaza’s turn?

People are panicking and buying up what is left to buy. In less than two hours we wait in the dark to see what is to come.

Two nights ago I spent at Jamal’s place in Beit Lahya refugee camp. It was freezing. Jamal and I got there at 10:30pm knowing that electricity had been out all evening and that it would return some time then. We found his wife Salwa and Maysa, Haitham, Majid and 2 year old Abdullah huddled around a fire. Maysa said they had been there since 5pm. We joined them until Salwa prepared us dinner at which point we moved in doors and used their electric pot, which they use to bake bread turned upside down as a makeshift heater.

Tonight they won’t have the heater and Gaza is out of wood for their fire.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Good night Gaza

My driver tonight informed me all gas stations in Gaza are out of gas. All gas in Gaza enters via Israel, which directly or indirectly controls all of Gaza’s borders. Two days ago Israel allowed the last shipment in.

Yesterday, an empty government building was bombed by an F-16. Over forty civilians were wounded, mainly children. One woman was killed. Most of them were near the building attending a wedding. This incident was a no-no for Israel, but in the overall equation it has already been forgotten, today the world of breaking news is on to bigger and better events. The children with charred faces, one family with a mother less, mourn on. But even they, are already getting used to the matter. They have no other choice.

In Gaza weddings often turn into funerals.

The UN’s food aid trucks are being prevented from entering Gaza as well. This zoo is closed for a few days and its inhabitants will have to wait until its keepers consider letting in the bare necessities.

Bakeries have closed, they are out of flour.

The absurdity of the matter is that Gaza’s keepers will eventually let food and gas in because a humanitarian disaster that draws too much attention is of no benefit to any entertainment park’s administration. So it is only a matter of days till the bakeries are happily selling bread again. Until then, everyone will make due because they too know that a zoo with no feed may actually make a headline or two.

With a much increased siege since June of 2007 there is no cement in Gaza. These days graves, which here are usually covered with cement, are laid over with asbestos or scrap metal.

Electricity comes and goes but tonight I have the honor of turning off my own lights as I go to sleep.

Good night.


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