Monday, December 28, 2009

The Egyptian Puppet State by Sam Husseini

Indeed, it was a powerful action. By the time we got there, the protest was lively, but almost all on the sidewalk in front of the embassy, it had been on the street. A while after we got there, a long line of at least 100 government forces with riot gear appeared across the street. They had helmets and shields and clubs.

They came towards us. But it was not to beat us.

It was I think to keep us confined. Not letting the passing drivers see a vibrant protest.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Arrests, Crack Down on Nonviolence Resistance

This from a friend..

Dear friends,

I've been emailing a lot about this with involved friends, but it's time again to write to those of you who are more removed. I would appreciate it if you took time to read this. This is about two topics that are related: the ongoing expulsion ("ethnic cleansing" according to Israeli historian Ilan Pappe) of Palestinians from occupied East Jerusalem, and the arrests of non-violent protestors. Here, both topics are increasingly intertwined.

I would be happy if you read all of this. But if you don't, perhaps just look at these three links to see what YOU can do:


It seems everywhere around me, people are getting arrested or might get arrested for peacefully protesting against human rights violations. In turn, as usual, they are being portrayed as radicals in justification for their arrest.

Three months ago, Mohammad Othman (34) got arrested when he returned from a trip to Norway where he had met with senior officials to promote the boycott and divestment campaign against Israel based on the legal argument that Israel is committing the crime of Apartheid (for Apartheid in the Israeli context). Mohammed is the youth coordinator for the Palestinian grassroots Stopthewall campaign, and his strongest weapons are his words and his research. He is still under administrative detention, with reports of abuses.

Last week, Jamal Juma’, outstanding human rights defender and much-respected coordinator of the Stopthewall campaign, was asked for a meeting by Israeli “security” and then, subsequently arrested.

Five months ago, Adeeb Abu Rahme from the Popular Cooordination Committee in the Palestinian village of Bil'in has been arrested and charged with the blanket charge of "incitement". It looks like he will spend over a year in prison. Adeeb is one of the coordinators of the weekly non-violent demonstrations against the separation wall that has been illegally build on the lands of his village, and he is one of those inspiring figures who has been bringing together hundreds of Palestinian, Israeli, and other activists in their struggle for justice.

Since June 2009, 31 of the activists in Bil'in have been arrested, the latest among them Abdallah Abu Rahme, who has received the Carl v. Ossietsky-Medal of the League for Human Rights in Berlin last year. Look here for an article on the arrest.

The above mentioned are those detained activists and human rights defenders here that I actually know, and they are some of those that most inspire me and give me hope (there are others arrested that I only read about). It is devastating and scary when they get arrested and I am only left to hope that you will join campaigns to demand their immediate release, such as

campaign and petition to free Mohammad Othman:

Jewish Voice for Peace’s campaign to demand the release of Abdalla Abu Rahme and other human rights defenders

Last Friday, I was threatened with detention for asking an Israeli friend who had just gotten detained how many more people were being held in the building:

Perhaps some of you know that Israel has been engaged for quite a while in "Judaizing" occupied East Jerusalem, that is, in slowly expelling Palestinians citizens from the territory which is, from the perspective of international law, illegally occupied by Israel. This also means that Israel does not have the right to settle part of its population into this occupied territory.

It is happening, of course, in various places. One place that has evolved into a hot-spot lately is the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, were 23 families (refugees from earlier displacement) now live. This article explains the situation better than I could, so please check it for further information.

What has been happening lately is that Palestinian families get evicted from their houses on dubious legal claims, and then, radical Israeli settlers are allowed to move into these houses while the claims are still being examined, protected by the Israeli police.

The situation is insane, as the case of the recently-evicted al-Kurd family shows:
Some years ago, as the al-Kurd family grew, they build an additional small building in their back yard, knowing that new housing is practically impossible to find for Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem. Again, like practically all Palestinian citizens of East Jerusalem, they did so without a permit from the Israeli occupier - because it would have been next to impossible for them to attan one (the idea being that as few Palestinians as possible should live in occupied East Jerusalem, Israel effectively refuses Palestinians residents their right to build new houses or to add or even repair their old ones).

Based on the argument that the family build this structure in their yard without a permit, the al-Kurds were evicted from this building in November of this year. In December (three weeks ago), a group of radical Israeli settlers moved into that building under the protection of the Israeli police, while the family is still legally challenging the eviction order. Now, these settlers are living in this building in the yard of the al-Kurd family who is prohibited from approaching the building. However, the family is still allowed to use the yard and continues to live in the back yard (other families are completely pushed from their houses). Here a video of settler's moving into the building of the al-Kurd Family in Sheikh Jarrah.

In protest, the al-Kurd family set up a tent in front of this building where they are holding a permanent vigil. International and Israeli activists often sleep in this tent both in solidarity and to be there when further injustice occurs.

In the meantime, radical settlers from the entire neighborhood come day and night to visit those who have occupied the building to show their kind of solidarity for the Judaization of East Jerusalem. At night, dozens of settlers will walk through the yard which the al-Kurd family is still allowed to use. Settler children will walk up to the Palestinian families and spit on the ground in an act of provocation. If the family reacts, the settlers go straight to the police who then threaten with arrest (or do arrest). However, when the settlers beat up members of the Palestinian family, including their children, no authority intervenes for protection.

This is why the presence of activists is important.

And this is why, for the past three weeks, groups of Israeli and other activists have organized a march from West Jerusalem to Sheikh Jarrah.

What is remarkable is this: Israel has noticed that these protestors are not only those Israelis and internationals who are against all Zionist policies of the Israeli policy makers, but also quite a few rather mainstream Israeli activists. They have also noticed that the demonstrations are met with sympathy by more mainstream Israelis. Therefore, it seems in an effort to radicalize the Sheikh Jarrah solidarity protests, Israel has intervened with massive arrests and violence during the past two demonstrations.

On Friday (11.12.), police sprayed pepper spray straight into the faces of protestors whom they had already handcuffed (with plastic strips) and detained 23 protestors for 32hours (watch). This past Friday, Israeli police tried stopping a bus that came from Tel Aviv, and arrested protestors as they were yet marching towards Sheikh Jarrah. They then sealed off the Palestinian neighborhood (as you can see in the video below, protestors therefore climbed over walls to reach the al-Kurd house) and continued to arrest people who were very clearly demonstrating peacefully. This week, 27 people were detained for over 24 hours, and three Palestinians were hurt by settlers. (Video of this past Friday's demo). All 50 detainees from the last two Sheikh Jarrah protests were eventually released on the condition that they do not join the protest for the upcoming 30 days, an effective measure to stifle the movement.

In the upcoming weeks, the situation in Sheikh Jarrah might deteriorate, and more Palestinian coordinators and human rights activists might get arrested in Bil’in and in the other villages that resist the ongoing theft of Palestinian lands - the difference being that while Israeli or international activists here are usually held for hours or days, Palestinian activists such as those from Bil’in are frequently held for months or years on dubious charges. Please, pay attention.

Here are also some ideas of what you could do to add your voice to the struggle:

Against the expropriation in Sheikh Jarrah:

Demand the release of Abdallah Abu Rahme and other Palestinian human rights activists

Demand the release of Mohammad Othman

Thursday, October 1, 2009

End Aid to Gaza

"The humanitarian situation here in Gaza continues to deteriorate at an alarming rate for the ordinary poor citizens," John Ging told the press a few days ago.

I used to live just a few minutes walk from where John Ging works. I saw his Toyota 4Runner riddled with bullets after an assassination attempt in March of 2007. I can understand his drive to speak out on behalf of Palestinians in Gaza, I can understand his passion to try and increase UNRWA's funding to feed more people across the Gaza Strip... but sometimes I wonder if he should just get out of Gaza. UNRWA should close their offices, stop the food distribution, stop rebuilding homes that the Israeli F16s bombed, stop running schools for thousands of children under siege, stop running summer camps for children with PTSD syndrome from ongoing incursions, aerial extra-judicial assassinations, sonic booms, bombings and an illegal
embargo on travel in and out of Gaza. Actually along with UNRWA, Care International, World Vision and Oxfam should leave, the ICRC and Dfid, USAID and the EU should stop funding projects and just get out. Just get out. Out of the prison in which their staff serve as wardons- maybe well-intentioned at times, philanthropic, empathetic- but wardons non-the-less. For Gaza is a prison and if you are not part of the Israeli administration running the siege on Gaza, but you are feeding those that go hungry day in and day out, that are psychological tormented by the rat-like conditions they live due to that siege, then you are serving their ends.

If we would all get out then it would not be so easy to turn down a report that calls on Israel to be tried for war crimes of which the military onslaught in January was no exception- for it goes on day after day after. In the Gaza Strip crimes against humanity are a daily occurance and by feeding workers and their families that are made jobless and dignity-less we are serving the occupation and its goals.

Ariel Sharon said it so succinctly in May 2003,
"Today there are 1.8 million Palestinians fed by international organizations," addressing his cabinet he asked, "[w]ould you like to take this upon yourselves? Where will we get the money?"

The Zionist project created the closed enclave that is called the Gaza Strip, through their violent attacks on villages across Palestine trippling the inhabitants of that area within a matter of weeks. Thus, according to international law they alone ought to take responsibility to provide for the people living in these occupied spaces. Instead, we not only stand by and sanction them as they incarcerate and torment the very ones they drove out of their homes just over 60 years ago... but we subsidize theie actions.

Meanwhile, the EU states and the usa are "searching for consensus."

I will miss you Per Bjorklund

On Tuesday I awoke to this disturbing text message,

“Swedish Journalist & Blogger Per Bjorklund is now being held aside in a room @ Cairo Airport. Officer says his 'name is on the computer.” Legal assistance and media coverage are requested.”

I first met Per in 2007 when we were both covering a Mahalla Al-Kobra workers strike in Egypt. But it was the barbaric Israeli military onslaught on the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and the following January that brought us into more consistent contact. Our protest brought us together in a march on Gaza- I was attending, he was covering the march as a journalist- that ended in my kidnapping by Egyptian state security. My release four days later revealed the Egyptian state network’s buckling under international pressure. Three weeks ago Travis Randall was deported from Egypt- who also attended the ToGaza march in February-, on Tuesday Per was deported. The Egyptian state has something to hide and these criminal acts disrupting the lives of those that stand up for the people who state agents oppress is a further crack in the deemed edifice of what is called the ‘state.’

I will miss you Per, thank you for giving of your time and strength for people around here.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Diaa Gad Released

49 days after state security members kidnapped Diaa Gad he returns home.

Diaa blogs at Angry Voice and is the last of a number of Egyptian bloggers to have been arrested for blogging for Gaza.

Press Conference at Human Rights Network, Cairo March 29, 10am.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Use of Maps

Maps are a tool of colonial control. Does this UN mapping excercise "make real" the military onslaught on Gaza? Or does it merely help us categorize a past incident. We see no leveled homes, we don't smell the blood or feel the pain of the aftermath. Israel still restricts the witness of such sensations.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


After state security had locked my blog for three weeks since my release google has been so kind as to return it to me.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

ahlan wa sahlan

the veil of normalization

Two weeks ago today i was still anticipating release. i feel i remember considering asking my interrogators if there was any hope for me to be out by my birthday a few days later. i am glad i never did. i never asked them for anything.

At the police station this past week a few uniformed men returned my things to me. They pretended they had caught the “thief” who had stolen my things, he was locked away now, they laughed. The frenzy of my release has finally passed, things are meant to return to normal at this stage. But in Gaza- the reality of which had driven me to the street that Friday- nothing has changed. A friend calls from Rafah, a tone of hopelessness in his voice, replacing the fear that was there during those weeks of terror of Israeli generals, pilots and soldiers, tanks, phosphorous gas and F16s the means to their ends. My friends in Jabalya have long since moved back into their home deemed unlivable by some housing authorities and yet there is no where else to go for this family of eleven; three generations under one asbestos roof and four cracked walls.

During those raids Raed lost his house for the second time. The Israeli soldiers ordered him and his family out of the house, blew it up with dynamite and then bulldozed his and his father’s taxis- their only source of income. Does this sink in. Their only source of income. Their home. They could be yours. Again Raed and his daughters and sons, wife and father are on the street, in a bitter cold in a strip of land demarcated by an occupying power that would not permit even glass into the prison to repair blown out windows much less steel and concrete to repair a home in ruin. And who would afford him such a luxury. His 15-year old daughter- the top of her class- refuses to return to school, and for what.

It is the mundane that reminds me of my abduction. Today on the bus i reset the settings of my ipod as they used to be after some employee of the Egyptian state security forces erased its content. I can’t express enough my gratitude to all those around me- far and near- who reached out, cooked a meal for my family, set up a site calling for my release, held a sign in the cold, brought me my class readings, uttered a prayer, welcomed me home. And these acts and voices somehow pulled me out of that cell and rescued me from beneath my shackles. But the voices for these others cry out into the void. Why are there not more, why can they not draw to freedom the bodies that deserve more than i do. Release them, release the bodies of those now in cells here calling out for their release, and release the ones so longing to breathe beyond the bounds of fear and death.

I realized today that i too had forgotten Gaza. In these past days in the elation of freedom i forgot why i had marched, i forgot why i am- to live for the other. That other is still as is, kept from life while the gatekeeper retains her position at the gate and the world looks on.

This cannot go on. No.

Release Press Conference

philip rizk Gaza Siege from philip rizk on Vimeo.

Release Press Conference

Philip Rizk 4 days Egypt imprisonment from philip rizk on Vimeo.


Today is the fourth day of freedom after my four day imprisonment. Every once in a while I am hit by the incomprehensible contrast between absolute freedom and absolute confinement. During those four long days I didn’t do much else but be interrogated, sleep or try to sleep.

Philip Rizk,release, February 12 2009

Philip Rizk,release, February 12 2009

Before I go into any other details I want to say shukran, thank you, really. I am overwhelmed by the response of family, friends and strangers all around the world during my imprisonment. As the stories started bombarding me after my release it was hard to take it all in. I have no words to express how grateful I am to so many. At one point one of my interrogators- they called him “Malek”- ended a session by saying, “the next time you will tell me about all these international relationships of yours,” I had no idea what he was referring to. I really believe that the pressure from so many places and people made a big difference in my quick release.

Diaa Gad is an Egyptian blogger who was taken the very same day I was. I had spoken to him for the first time a few days before Egyptian “state” security kidnapped both of us from difference places. Diaa had called to ask about details about our march to Gaza. As we knew our phones would be tapped I told him we could not gave any details over the phone and asked for us to meet the following day in person. He never called again but his name came up during interrogation- again with “Malek”- who asked me what I knew about Diaa and then proceeded to tell me word for word what I had said to him on the phone that day. Diaa does not have many of the luxuries that I have being bi-national and having lived abroad. At this point he is still in custody and his lawyer and family do not know his whereabouts. The campaign that was started for me needs to move to him and others. These sorts of actions are completely illegal and yet a common occurrence in Egypt. Currently there are thousands in Egyptian jails without trial. We need to stand up and reject these actions. This brings us back to the start of those four days…

I was held for four days- blindfolded, handcuffed almost at all times. The psychological pressure was intense though at no point was I physically harmed. At the time of my arrest I was protesting the siege on Gaza. This is a criticism aimed primarily at Israel but also at other countries that support this siege including Egypt which keeps its borders sealed except for rare exceptions. My four days of imprisonment are nothing compared to the months and years of siege on Gaza, which is nothing else than forced imprisonment. The Gaza Strip is a different form of concentration camp. No Palestinian- whether students, the sick, businessmen and women- can travel beyond its borders and Israel permits only a very very few internationals to enter. These- mainly journalists and NGO workers like I used to be- remind me of zoo visitors that take pictures and talk about the terrible conditions of the animals in their cages but then leave, in the meantime Gaza remains the same. According to the UN 85% of Gazans are reliant on food aid, again like animals in a zoo they are fed and kept alive, but barely. Leaked reports from the Red Cross recently reported high percentages of malnutrition of children especially in the refugee camps- 70% of Gazans are refugees from 1948. The purpose of our protest march was and continues to be to raise awareness of the ongoing siege on Gaza building on the momentum of protest during the Israeli military onslaught on Gaza at the start of this year.

Your outrage about my unjustified imprisonment mirrors my outrage about this ongoing injustice done to the Palestinian people. If our governments and representatives the world over will not change the status quo we- the multitude- must mobilize, on the streets, on the web, in government, in schools, anywhere to call for change. Such an outrage changed South Africa not that long ago and it can change the injustice carried out against Palestinians today.

Email us your ideas and actions here: info [at] togaza [dot] net

Follow up with us here:

Read on here: and here:

My film “This Palestinian Life” about non-violent resistance in Palestinian villages will be screening in various locations around the world. The site will be up in a weeks time at:

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Rafah to Close

Word on the street is that Egypt is closing Rafah crossing to all journalists and doctors entering or exiting Gaza on Friday.

Does this mean more bloodbaths to come?


In commemoration of the breaching of the Rafah border between Gaza and Egypt one year ago on January 23rd, 2008 the Egyptian Popular Committee in Solidarity with The Palestinian People is calling for a MARCH TO GAZA.

On December 27th, 2008 Israel started a horrific bloodbath in Gaza eventually killing almost 1500 Palestinians, including 410 children and injuring thousands. Israel’s ensuing military onslaught destroyed homes, schools, places of worship, and essential infrastructure leading to a humanitarian catastrophe. These attacks are exacerbated by Israel’s ongoing siege, which leaves the Palestinian people in Gaza prisoners within Israeli created borders and dependent on the trickle of supplies that its occupier allows in.

The Call:
End the Siege on Gaza.

The Vision:
We hope for the call to spread organically, to look different in different places around the world. Whether a defined distance is walked, a specific number of people participate or the march is carried out individually, whether calling for boycott or trying Israel for war crimes we are hoping that such efforts will pick up momentum and increase.

Though the immediate Israeli military onslaught on Gaza- for the time being- has come to a standstill this is not a solution. Let us seize this time of urgency to act and call for an end to siege on Gaza. Though our respective governments reject expressing our resistance to the status quo we- the multitude- must move to the streets, as a collective global expression in condemnation of Israel’s actions.

→ The Egypt group will march on Gaza from multiple locations starting February 6th

Follow all events at:

Monday, January 26, 2009

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions

Boys school in Jabalya Refugee Camp, Northern Gaza
Signs: "the martyr Eahid Qadas;" "the martyr Essam Teyeb"
(image AP)

The time has come to react:
Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions

Read Naomi Klein on BDS

Saturday, January 24, 2009

How is the World Still Silent?

Graffiti left by an Israeli soldiers in a house in Jabaliya

The streets leading from the seriously-damaged Wafa rehabilitation center in Shejaiyeh were filled with black filth smelling of sewage. The hospital -- attacked on 12 January with a chemical bomb that may well have been white phosphorus and which set fire to the roof, and whose four different buildings were shelled intensely on 15 January -- is trying to rebuild and reopen, as is the shelled, burned, seriously-damaged al-Quds hospital in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood in Gaza City.

Even today, after mentioning to the Canadian TV crew accompanying me that fire blobs had burned up 'til yesterday, we found still more blobs spread out, smoldering and willingly breaking into white smoking fires anew. I have seen this often enough now. They were impressed by it, by the fact that it's now eight days after the fire and the blobs are still simmering, smoldering, ready to flame up.

Read On

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Renewed Rafah Breach?

In Sheikh Zweyyid, a town 15km away from the Rafah border Mostafa Singer, teacher and journalist told me that the last two times the border was breached was in coordination between Hamas and the Egyptian authorities.

38 days prior to the incident in January 2008 the journalist received word from Fatah officers being housed in Egyptian military camps that the border would be toppled. Despite this prior information the governorate of Northern Sinai was far from prepared for the flow of people following the border opening.

“When the border was breached in 2007 Rafah, Sheikh Zweyyid and Arish ran out of water and prices tripled… many Palestinians were sleeping in the streets,” Singer said, “in [Egyptian] Rafah Hamas members were guiding traffic in the streets” in order to restore some order.

According to Singer four days before Israel’s latest military attacks the governor of Northern Sinai met with local leaders, heads of schools, youth organizations and hospitals to prepare for mobilization. At a monthly meeting on January 20th the governor furthermore coordinated efforts for emigration of Palestinian refugees to the region.

Near the hospital in Rafah the Egyptian army set up a camp of tents soon after the Israeli military onslaught began. I received reports that other such camps existed within closed off Egyptian military compounds. Egyptian authorities have given no official explanation as to why the tents are there.

Khalil Alniss, head of Justice for Gaza, an NGO that coordinates humanitarian assistance into Gaza, is based in the area. Alniss believes the tents may be used to house fleeing Palestinian refugees.
In the Egyptian town of Rafah Om Muhammed said, “if they open the border they are welcome, if they need to come then let them come.”

My Dear Friend Dr Ezzeldeen

Since an Israeli rocket killed his three daughters I have not been able to reach Dr Ezzeldeen by phone... here AP explains a bit.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Gaza doctor who recounted live on Israeli television how his three daughters and niece had just been killed by shelling demanded on Wednesday that Israel's defense minister explain their deaths.

Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, a 55-year-old gynecologist who speaks Hebrew after training in two Israeli hospitals, sobbed as he reported the deaths shortly after an Israeli shell struck his home in the northern town of Jebaliya on Friday. His account captivated viewers on Israel's Channel 10 TV.

The well-known peace activist who was involved in promoting joint Israeli-Palestinian projects returned Wednesday to inspect his destroyed Gaza home and to reunite with his five surviving children. His wife died recently of cancer.

"I was well known to the Israelis even more than the Palestinians. They know me. Why they kill my children?" he sobbed in an APTN interview Wednesday as he looked at pictures of his dead daughters amid the rubble in his home.

Read On

Israel targeted civilians throughout this military attack:

Ben White, "
Israel wanted a humanitarian crisis"

Alfred De Montesquiou, "
Gaza family returns home after phosphorus blast"

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Egypt’s Anti-Humanitarianism

On Sunday night Dr Attalah Tarazi sat on his balcony looking at a view he had grown accustomed to over the years. Yet, that night something was different. For 10 days his neighborhood in Gaza City had been out of water and electricity. The continued Israeli aerial bombings had wiped many buildings, including a local medical NGO, from the skyline.

The nearby government compound including a prison had been struck so many times- once with the inmates still inside it- that it was reduced to rubble; the Tarazi home shook with every strike. Dr Attalah’s two daughters aged 15 and 12, growing more and more fearful with every blast.

Dr Attalah was in Bethlehem with his relatives to celebrate Christmas on Saturday December 27th when Israel’s military onslaught on Gaza began. His Israeli-issued permit was due to run out the following day and so he rushed back to Gaza. That Gaza had turned into a slaughterhouse mattered little to the authorities that issued the permit.

Dr Attalah couldn’t have it any other way, when crises hit Gaza he has always needed to be in the surgical room of the Shifaa hospital, the Gaza Strip’s largest hospital. Under heavy Israeli fire at the border the Christian doctor and his family managed to make it back to their home. Despite over twenty years of working in Gaza’s hospitals nothing could prepare him for what he was to witness.

“What is taking place here is a massacre, more than a massacre,” the doctor told Me, “the Israeli military is attacking us from air, land and sea, we have no where to go” he went on. Almost all the patients he had seen that day had been civilians, mostly children and women. Some of the injuries he treated had a strange odor, a kind that he had never witnessed before.

“We don’t know what sort of weapons they are using,” he said, “sometimes they explode in the sky and scatter little bombs all around” Dr Attalah said obviously in reference to the use of cluster bombs that even the US criticized Israel’s use of during their attacks on Lebanon in the summer of 2006. This time authorities that could intervene have remained silent.

In the Shifaa hospital facilities are so overcrowded that the injured are being treated and dying on the hospital’s floors. “We are running out of all sorts of supplies,” the doctor added. On the Egyptian-Palestinian border Dr Sonia Robbins, a British plastic surgeon based in Jericho, waited for days to enter to operate in Khan Younis and Gaza City as she often does. During the last many months Israel has not been willing to issue her a permit to enter. After three days of waiting at the border with over fifty other doctors prepared to assist inside Gaza along with three Qatari donated ambulances she left to try and enter by boat from Cyprus.

Dr Robbins described the situation at the border as “an Israeli refusal obeyed by Egypt.”
The number of deaths have reached 900 inside the Gaza Strip, injuries are over 4000- numbers which Dr Attalah says are not reliable due to the continued widespread Israeli onslaught- yet doctors waste their days in the Egyptian resort town of Arish, while NGOs await permits on the Rafah border for medical aid to cross from the very entity- Israel- that is bringing death to Gaza.

Egypt’s hospitals are providing Palestinians with all their medical needs, while a constant flow of Egyptian visitors provide them with everyday needs like blankets, clothes, food and cell phone cards, and try to raise their spirits. There is a wide discrepancy between the Egyptian government and Egypt’s people. While the latter are going out of their way to welcome the injured, the Egyptian government is only allowing a trickle of the injuries into the countries hospitals.
Less than 300 Palestinian injured have crossed the Rafah border in the past two weeks Dr Said Shteen at the Arish hospital told Me. This is ashamedly little compared to the over 4000 injured in Gaza’s hospitals that are filled above capacity.

Meanwhile, only after 2 weeks of continued ongoing bombing on the strip a handful of medics were allowed to cross into Gaza the past Saturday and Sunday.
“I feel that life has no value here,” Dr Attalah said “things are going to get worse and we get the feeling no one is asking about us and that the world is not even noticing this is going on.” In Gaza City some fleeing families have taken shelter in a couple rooms below the Gazan doctors apartment, others have moved onto his roof. As Israeli troops inch further and further into the Gaza Strip, and bombings continue day and night, “no where is safe,” he says.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Can This Poison Heal?

Over the pat weeks the world has witnessed a scattered, complicit and futile reaction by a majority of Arab leaders to Israel’s ongoing slaughtering of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The Arab League continued in its history of inconsequential emergency meetings while leading Arab nations bickered about Turkey’s role in the Middle East while doing nothing themselves. The fragmentation so vividly embodied in the Palestinian experience- today primarily between Hamas and Fatah- are reflected elsewhere in the Arab world; it is the added trial of occupation that bloats ideological differences in the Palestinian case.

Thursday January 1st Israel bombed the house of Nizar Rayyan, along with his four wives and nine children. Rayyan, a prominent Hamas leader had earlier in the day made statements that he and his family would not desert their home despite Israel’s warning to bomb it. Hours later, the entire family of 14 was extra-judicially executed. When Israel began its ground incursions January 3rd it dropped leaflets in neighborhoods in Northern Gaza commanding the civilian population to flee their homes. The Mahmoud family decided if they were going to die, they preferred to die in their home, rather than while they were fleeing in the streets. Four days later on Wednesday January 7th Israel bombed a UN school, just meters away from the Mahmouds home that was being used for shelter by the very civilians that Israel had told to hide for shelter from the Israeli ground incursions. 42 died instantly, scores injured. Raed Mahmoud- father of the family and a harsh Hamas critics- had been walking near the school when Israel carried out the massacre. He stated, “Hamas fired nothing from the area, it is all lies.” Dr Attallah Tarazi, a Christian doctor in the Shifaa hospital in Gaza City disclosed January 6th that every single one of the cases he had tended to that day had been civilians, mostly women and children. Such blatant assault on human beings has brought about outrage across all spectrums of Palestinian society.

In light of Israel’s vast military capabilities, Rayyan’s death as the first and last Hamas leader killed five days into the start of Israel’s military onslaught, revealed Israel’s indiscriminate killing spree in the Gaza Strip. There are reports coming from Gaza of unified Palestinian humanitarian efforts, in this time of death political distinctions are fading away. In recent days pictures have revealed unified Hamas-Fatah funerals in Gaza. Moreover, during the last weeks the world has witnessed unprecedented joint political protests staged in the West Bank- a first in a long time including MPs of all political factions including Fatah and Hamas. The high death toll, injuries and destruction of an entire society is simultaneously a solidifying factor in the Palestinian national narrative that has potential to unify a deeply divided community. In recent days even the West Bank leadership- so deeply opposed to Hamas- has been forced to condemn Israel’s atrocities against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including those carried out against Hamas. Throughout history war and death have been necessary dimensions in the formation of national identities. As Israel attempts to solidify its national narrative, it is unintentionally- its underlying goal remains divide and conquer- uniting Palestinians under its undiscriminating military onslaught on Gaza.

In a recent press conference Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moalim declared that the situation needed to “return to normal” in Gaza. Yet, what is “normal” in Gaza? Was the situation “normal” prior to this latest vicious military invasion? Is 85% of Palestinians reliant on humanitarian aid to survive “normal”? Are sealed borders surrounding a population of 1.5 million “normal”? The world must call for Gaza to live again, to have its borders opened, its leaders recognized. Meanwhile Palestinians need to overcome their political divisions. Maybe the same poison that has so deeply divided Palestinians- Israel- will also inadvertently unite them again. One single source is often the poison that kills as well as the remedy that heals.

Popular Committee in Solidarity with the Palestinian People

Friday's Popular Committee in Solidarity with the Palestinian People's convoy to Rafah,

Two buses of 100 activists left Cairo Friday morning with the aim of reaching Rafah to call on the Egyptian government to open the Rafah border for doctors and aid waiting there to enter as well as to allow injured Palestinians needing medical attention out.

The group was able to push through four checkpoints by stopping traffic and protesting at each point. Approximately 50km before the Gaza border we were forced back by ~300 state security police who blocked the road and started to storm our buses.

More to come.

Attached images by Per Bjorklund

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Even CBS

Notes From Phone Conversation w/ Dr Attalah Tarazi Jan 6, 23:30

The numbers of death and injured reported in the media are far below reality as the media is not able to cover incidents as they unfold. I know of cases where homes were surrounded by the Israeli army and people inside gave themselves up and were shot anyway when they exited.

When bakeries open there are thousands lining up to get their share of bread

A clinic near my hospital was hit by an Israeli missile earlier today

What is taking place is a massacre, more than a massacre

Almost all the cases I saw today at the hospital were civilians, many women and children. This is not an attack on Hamas, it is on the most innocent of people in Gaza

6 ambulance staff members have been killed. Two ambulances were hit. Nothing is safe, nowhere is safe. No moving vehicle is safe. We are afraid for our lives. There is no differentiation between Hamas and Fatah or anyone else

We have witnessed weapons we have never seen before in our lives. Some explode in the sky and scatter bombs all over. Sporadically. I have smelt smells from some of the burns and wounds that I have never before witnessed

Thousands have fled their homes and gathered in UN schools for shelter. one such school was hit earlier today. 45 people were killed

People gathering in these schools fleeing their homes are without food, without blankets, without clothes

May god protect us, may god have mercy on us

The Israeli military is attacking us from air, land and sea. we have no where to go

The Israeli army often hits a building 2 or 3 times. when an F 16 hits a target all the buildings around it are targeted

We get the feeling no one is asking about us, the world is not even
noticing this is going on, no one cares

My last two messages from S. in Northern Gaza

"The Israelis are here till now, they have not reaches ys yet but they are killing people at random. Many people are lying dead in the street. Death is coming towards us."
- January 5, 12:30

"I am in the house, The army is very close. The situation is very bad. We are going to lose cell phone coverage now."
- January 5, 15:42

A Doctor at the Egyptian Side of Rafah Border

I am still in arrish. Day two waiting to enter into the humanitarian now disaster area of Gaza. As far as I understand the reason (if you can call it that) for 50+ doctors mostly Egyptian as well as three Quatari donated new ambulances (first refused as not medical equipment??) is basically an Israeli refusal obeyed by Egypt. This is from the Qatari charity chairman. And despite an obvious need and request from MOH Gaza. Many Palestinians often say ‘enshalla this is the worst it will get – during the intifadas, the shelling then in west bank, when losing land today with the wall etc etc’. Although like when an abused person says ‘where was God when I was being abused” it is difficult to see where ‘God’ is in here except in each and every person working to bind the wounds in whatever way they can any which way.

Just how bad can it get before the effete UN actually makes a statement or the silence of the west changes. There is no army in Palestine, there maybe more guns than there used be all over, but many civilians in US at least have guns for so-called protection and what do we expect if no-one else is giving protection of any kind here? Would you let your backyard and then your house be taken over with your children in it without a struggle. Those of us who try to live non-violently mostly do not know what we would do when faced with such reality. We hope we would be non-violent but…. Picturing Amritsar parallels, fireworks vs gunships, boys on burning decks which are still in my mind as parallels with many similarities I am emailing from a parallel universe so to speak as found internet at smart hotel, sitting outside looking at the beach. Knowing that this could have been a Gaza resort given different circumstances but in Gaza the death tolls has reached 600+, 4000 wounded is one figure and there is no way anyone involved is unscarred by this atrocity. Medics are trying to cope not just with horrific wounds but coping with very few supplies. I was asked on one interview-what do I expect to do when I get in…? with little to no anaesthetics, sutures, bandages, antiseptic solution …I do not know but at least we show that they are not alone. We can show our humanity in what is becoming a more and more inhumane act. Where you are sitting reading this is also far removed from the gazan reality but that does not mean that the actions taken here will not impact into your sitting room oneday. These actions by state terror machine will not produce anyone’s security in today’s global world. It is not the time to take the luxury of academic discussion around these matters. There must be a cessation of F16 followed by the fireworks with the border being opened for free access medical care and humanitarian workers and aid. Stop the war, stop the siege, stop the occupation. One way to stop the machine of war is economic –stop the fuel-stop the dollars everyone is sending to support this particularly massacre. Until we do we are all complicit in these events. We cannot claim we did not know. We may not fully understand but one dead is one too many. What is 600+?.

Let them not die in vain. Stop this massacre.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

SMS Message from Gaza Jan 3

At 7:49pm:

"I have decided not leave our house even if I die. All the people have decided this, we won't resettle again."

At 8:50pm:

"The ground incursion on us started now."

S. is a refugee from near Beer Sebea 80km from his current home on the border between two refugee camps in the Northern Gaza Strip.