Wednesday, February 25, 2009

International Human Rights Workers accompany Gaza Farmers, fired on by Israeli forces

This very day, human rights workers are in Gaza, accompanying Palestinian farmers who are trying to harvest their crops on their own land on Palestinian territory in Gaza, near the border with Israel. These human rights workers are pilgrims on a journey of self-discovery and accompaniment. This is their story (take two minutes to watch it on video):

Palestinian farmers, accompanied by international Human Rights Workers (HRWs), were fired upon by Israeli forces in the village of Khoza’a, near Khan Younis, this morning. The farmers and HRWs were attempting to work on land around 300m from the ‘Green Line’.

"We were accompanying farmers to gather peas from their lands. The farmers, for the most part, were elderly men and women with their sons. There were many farmers spread out over a large area. We were only in the fields for about five minutes before the Israeli forces began firing. I believe the firing was coming from four army jeeps and a hummer. The shots were coming very close, and were sniper-type of shots.

One old woman was so paralyzed by fear that she couldn’t move off of the ground before we were finally able to accompany her out of the fields. While the majority of the farmers left the area, some say they must return to work the land later on in the day. There is great concern that the Israeli army will continue their targeting of these farmers." - Eva Bartlett (Canada) - International Solidarity Movement

"I have two children. I must go back to my fields to work there today. This is our life, what can we do?" - Mohammad Abu Jela, Farmer from Khoza’a.

Four Palestinian farmers have been shot by Israeli forces while working within 700m of the ‘Green Line’ since the 27th January 2009. On the 18th February, farm worker Mohammad Il Ibrahim, 20, was shot in the right leg as farmers, together with the international Human Rights Workers, attempted to leave the area having worked on their land for 2 hours in full view of the Israeli forces.
Artwork is for the Free Gaza Art Festival, © Greer Valley

On the 18th January, Maher Abu-Rajileh (24) from Khoza’a village, was killed by Israeli soldiers while working on his land 400m from the Green Line. On the 20th January, Israeli soldiers shot Waleed al-Astal (42) of Al Qarara (near Khan Younis) in his right foot, while on the 27th January, Anwar al-Buraim was shot in the neck and killed. Read more....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The world has moved on, we can't!

These are the words of Sam Bahour, a Palestinian, born in Ohio, living in Ramallah since the early 1990s. He is in the telecommunications business and he maintains an email listserve. Today he writes:

"The Gaza borders remain closed. The Gaza sea remains blockaded. The airspace remains prohibited. No building materials allowed in. Electricity still shabby. Etc, etc, etc...the world has moved on...Gaza remains occupied 100%!

As we enter the 40 day mourning day of all those murdered...a special prayer for the children, the hundreds of children...

Humanity should be ashamed of itself--deeply ashamed..."

He also forwards an article from Ma'an News Agency, which is an integral part of Ma'an Network, a non-profit media organization founded in 2002 to strengthen professional independent media in Palestine:

Memories of Gaza dead continue to haunt the living
Date: 08 / 02 / 2009 Time: 14:09
Gaza – Ma’an – Layla Hussein Nassar “Umm Ibrahim” is 40-years old, though she seems much older.

Her home in Jabaliya was destroyed during the Israeli war on Gaza. Two relatives, her husband and five children were inside the home when it was hit by a missile. Umm Ibrahim collected as many of her injured children as she could and crawled out of the damaged building with her son Nahidh and sought safety in a house across the street.

Her husband Muhammad and four-year-old son Rakan were buried beneath the rubble. She did not know whether they were alive or dead.

Eventually Nahidh crawled out of the shelter to find help, leaving Umm Ibrahim alone with a dying daughter and seriously wounded daughter-in-law.

She is haunted by the girls’ screams and calls for help, and recalls staring intently at her destroyed home, willing there to be some sort of movement to let her know some of her other family members were alive.

Umm Ibrahim sat down with Ma’an reporter Khadra Hamdan on Saturday. Her thoughts are scattered and painful; now on the record as one of the victims of Israel’s war on Gaza.

"I have nothing in mind except what has happened to me. Everything is in my memory and I will never forget it all of my life. I am a mother who collected the fragments of her children, so how could I forget that?

…My son Rakan was torn to pieces. No hands, no legs and even no face were left. I could not bring him to the hospital; the house was falling down around him and my husband.
My daughter Fidaa was as beautiful as the moon. Oh God! How beautiful you were Fidaa! Her clothes were torn like her body. She died in my hands.

My elder son Ibrahim, I collected his body in a blanket and took him with me to the neighbors’ home. I went back for my daughter-in-law Eman; her face and legs were chopped and bloody and she kept asking me to call an ambulance.

The first day, I was not aware that my husband was killed. I was calling him to tell him that his sons and daughters were killed. I heard him asking for ambulance, and then his voice vanished.
Eman remained alive for approximately 18 hours. Umm Ibrahim remembers trying to sooth her:

- May God help you tolerate this.
- I also pray that God relieves you of this torture.
- Aunty, I am thirsty and hungry. My wounds are burning.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Friendship without Borders

January 13, 2009 - two women, one Israeli, one Palestinian, hold on to their friendship through the attack on Gaza. Listen to "Friendship without Borders," an interview Dick Gordon has with the two women on his show, "The Story," on American Public Media.

Maha Mehanna lives in Gaza, and her friend Deb Reich lives in Israel. Despite the conflict, the two friends have managed to stay in touch, and even support one another.

Like most Gazans, Maha is staying inside with her family, huddling around candles while the bombardment continues. Maha yearns to get out of Gaza, but not just to escape the fighting. Her 14-year-old nephew Mohammed is ill and can only receive the medical treatments he needs across the border in Israel.

Deb and Maha talk with Dick Gordon about how they met, and how both women worry about the fate of Mohammed. Deb says she calls Maha nearly every day, as much as she can, to check in on the family and distract Maha from her fears.

Friday, February 13, 2009

If We Were in Gaza

If we had been able to visit Gaza over the past two years - before the Israeli attacks of December-January - this is what we would have seen:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wondering What Yesterday's Elections in Israel Mean for Peace?

Today from Isaac Luria of JStreet ---

("an organization founded to promote meaningful American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Palestinian-Israel conflicts peacefully and diplomatically. We support a new direction for American policy in the Middle East and a broad public and policy debate about the U.S. role in the region." Read more:

Israelis went to the polls yesterday, and - if you're like me - you've got more questions than answers after reading coverage of the results.

Preliminary returns give Kadima and its leader Tzipi Livni more seats in Parliament than any other party, yet the right, led by Bibi Netanyahu and the Likud Party, has a larger bloc of seats.
But major questions remain.

Who will Israeli President Shimon Peres ask to form a government and what sort of a government will it be? What are the implications of the election for the peace process and for the U.S.-Israel relationship? What does the strong showing of Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu Party mean for Israel and the region?

I posed these and other questions to renowned Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar this morning - and recorded our conversation for you to listen to.
Click here to listen to the interview.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ex-Communicated: Enclosure Landscapes in Palestine

This excellent video by Prof. Gary Fields of the University of California, San Diego, gives a short, concise history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the way the wall is being used to fragment, immobilize and control Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza:

It describes the way Palestinians have historically used the land and how Israelis have appropriated land in Palestinian areas, especially since the war of 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza. It's 28 minutes long. Prof. Fields tells the stories of uprooted olive trees, chopped-up towns and farmlands - in many of the same places I visited last summer - including Jayyous, Bethlehem and Hebron.

Monday, February 2, 2009

"Americans Are the Ones Who are Occupied"

I thought my pilgrimage was over--back from my travels, I thought I had learned what I could about Palestine. I was wrong; the pilgrimage continues.....

"Americans are the ones who are occupied." That's what Wael Dokhan told us at a panel discussion on Gaza Sunday at Regis University, sponsored by Friends of Sabeel-Colorado.

Wael, a Ph.D. student at the Korbel School for International Studies, University of Denver, is from Gaza. His wife and four children are still there because they were denied permits to accompany Wael to the United States while he studies here. He can only talk to them on the phone, and in January, as they talked, he could hear the gunfire and the bombs--as his family could hear them every day for three weeks during the attack by the Israeli military. Wael's daughters, 8, 7, 5 and 8 months, are growing up in a terror-filled world where bombs can fall on your house any day, where bulldozers can come and demolish your home with only two hours' notice, where there is no fuel for cooking and where, for five hours every day, there is no electricity. Wael called Gaza "the world's biggest prison." The Israeli blockade, imposed after the Palestinians elected a majority Hamas government, ensures that there is no medicine, no medical equipment.

His mother needed radiation treatment for her cancer. She needed to go to Egypt for the treatments because Israel has closed the checkpoints into Gaza. They will not allow radiation equipment through the checkpoints, even when they are open for short periods of time. His wife has had no oil for cooking for three months.

The Israeli residents of Sderot live with the terrorism of kassam rockets fired from Gaza. Gazans live with the daily terrorism of having every aspect of their lives controlled by the Israeli governmentj--from where they will travel (nowhere), to where they will get your daily necessities like food and clothing, where they will go to school. Wael came to the U.S. to study for his PhD. in international relations, and because his family was not permitted to come with him, he went back for a visit at the end of the first year. When he wanted to return, the Israeli government made him wait six months for a travel permit. His friend has been waiting one and a half years to return and still does not have a permit and cannot leave Gaza. Wael has never seen his youngest daughter, but he does not want to go back to Gaza for fear he will not be able to return to finish his studies.

His wife is staying with her parents so that she and the children would be safer during the attack. The house was hit by a shell from an Israeli tank. No one was hurt, but Wael has many family members and friends who were killed in the attask. His cousin's son was killed--the third of her sons to be killed by the Israelis.

Wael says we Americans are the ones who are occupied--our minds, our news, is occupied. We do not hear the whole truth. We hear only what our news media choose to tell us. We hear a great deal about the suffering of the Israelis, but we hear nothing about the daily suffering of the Palestinians--the two-hour waits at the checkpoints for people just trying to get to work, the blockade of medicine for people who are sick in Gaza's hospitals, the travel permits held up for a year and a half by Israeli bureaicrats simply because they can get away with it.

When Wael talked to his five-year-old daughter recently, she told him, "Daddy, these airplanes and missles are from where you are--from America." The Apache helicopters and F-16 fighters are from America--made by American companies and given as military aid to Israel. This is the face of America for Gaza's children--for all the children of the Arab world. America badly needs freedom from our own occupation. We badly need a new image in the world.