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.