from siege to siege

dsc000211Thanks to the tireless efforts of rafiq super-Saed the candlelight vigil in Nablus tonight came off with out a hitch. (Okay, there was one hitch: I should not be allowed to hold a candle. I set my hair on fire twice before putting it up and my kuffiyeh on fire once before a friend took my candle away from me. Perhaps this is due to multitasking: holding a candle, taking pictures, and holding a sign at the same time.) Although it was small, we had representation from every organization and every group in Nablus from students to refugees. It lasted for a few hours because a number of people spoke and a number of children recited poetry. Many of the speeches were really powerful in keeping with our theme:

لأن الشعب واحد
ولأن الوطن واحد ولأن الجرح واحد
نابلس المحاصرة تتضامن مع غزة المحاصرة
Because the people are one
And because the homeland is one and because the wound is one
Besieged Nablus stands in solidarity with besieged Gaza

The best part of the evening was when Sameh Habib and Jamal El Khodary from the Popular Committee Against the Siege called us to speak to our vigil. Thanks to Caoimhe and Huwaida I had contacted them to coordinate so that we could have simultaneous vigils in Gaza and Nablus. It was amazing that they threw this together so quickly given that they had a vigil last night on International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (ours was scheduled for today instead so students could attend and because many of us were at the Muwatin conference in Ramallah).

jamal el khodary on the phone from gaza
jamal el khodary on the phone from gaza

I haven’t seen the news footage yet, but there were several local and Arab media outlets there so I hope it gets some play, especially in Gaza if there is electricity (it is sporadic and a few parts of Gaza have some electricity). My wish is that this vigil gave them hope. And even if they can’t see our vigil at least our cell phone transmission enabled us to connect as that is the only way we are allowed to connect given the colonial occupation of Palestine. It was good to connect this way and I think it inspired people here and there to work on future simultaneous events, to rethink this discourse of apartheid, of separateness, of difference that permeates far too much in Palestine as racist Zionist ideology has infiltrated into the minds of far too many people here. In fact, when I was handing out flyers for this event on campus last week I had a student and a couple of staff members at my university who threw them back in my face telling me that Gaza = Hamas and they wanted nothing to do with this event. This event that was all about Palestine as one: every square inch of it from Nablus straight to Gaza and everywhere in between.

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More hope is arriving in Gaza tomorrow, on another ship. Insha’allah the ship from Libya will be allowed to enter Gaza to bring the humanitarian aid that it is carrying:

Palestinian Legislator, head of the Popular committee Against the Siege, Jamal El Khodary, stated on Sunday that the Lybian ship “Al Marwa” will reach the Gaza port on Monday, and added that this ship is one of several Arab ship which will challenge the Israeli siege and deliver humanitarian supplies to the residents of the Gaza Strip.

And they need hope. In addition to the closure of Gaza Israeli Terrorist Forces (ITF) continue to offensively attack Palestinians in Gaza:

The Salaheldin brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, announced on Sunday that three of its fighters were shot and wounded by Israeli artillery fire to the east of Maghazi Refugee camp in central Gaza Strip.

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If there is any doubt as to the evil nature of the ITF and what it plans in Gaza just look at how openly they express their racism (and how silently the world responds):

Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners in Israel should be used as human shields to protect Israeli targets around Gaza, according to the suggestion of an Israeli Knesset member published in the Hebrew daily newspaper Maariv in Saturday.

Member of the Knesset (MK) with the center-right Likud party Gilad Arden was quoted in the paper responding to the reports of eight injured Israeli soldiers after several projectiles were launched from the Gaza Strip.

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But in spite of this constant siege, and the threat of more, the people living in Gaza continue to creatively survive, resist as in this latest return to basics, yes, necessity is still the mother of invention it would seem:

Piles of sand and mud began popping up in front of houses in Rafah last week. The traditional signs of home renovations or construction, the neighborhood wondered about the reasons behind these piles, since no construction materials have come into Gaza for months.

On closer inspection it becomes obvious that the piles cannot be construction materials, since the sand is not the same color of the sand from Gaza’s abandoned settlements, from where most material has been salvaged.

The sand, in fact, is the same color as the sand beneath the homes of the southern area of the Gaza Strip.

The sand excavated from the hundreds of tunnels snaking beneath the Gaza-Egypt border is being given a second life. The latest construction projects in Gaza are mud and sand stoves powered by firewood.

And still people in Gaza are clinging to hope as is evidenced in the ingenuity of survival strategies as well as in the mood of the people:

Accidentally, I met an old friend of mine, Um Mohamed Abu Ouf; a mother in her 20s. It was a good chance for me to explore her views about the siege as well. As a mother and a woman, her perspective is most important. We met at 6pm at Omar Al-Mokhtar Street which was in total darkness. I asked, “How badly are you affected by the siege?”

“Well, the siege has become a daily nightmare. Electricity cuts off and that frightens my 11-month-old infant. It makes conditions unsafe for him. Further, I’m trying to get some fortified food for him. I went to many stores and shops but in vain. I could not find any food for my son as there is a shortage in a lot of the basic products needed to care for infants such as milk, diapers and so forth.”

I spoke to Hatem Shurab, an International Relief Worker. Hatem is a siege victim who lost a scholarship in the US due to the siege. Despite that, he seemed to be optimistic in contrast to the majority here. Hatem is currently preparing a music concert along with his friends.

His view was quite interesting and brand new: “I’m trying to relieve people’s suffering through music. We try to end the siege through our voices to tell those who don’t like to watch news what’s going on. On 27 November they might know the suffering of Gazans through songs, as we are doing a concert. Regardless of pain, we will sing for Gaza,” Hatem said with a brave smile.

However, Hatem is somewhat worried about the current status of Gaza. He needs to have his concert on time and to give Gazans a glimpse of hope and some fun.

The Israeli Defence Ministry announced today that the Gaza crossings would remain closed until further notice. Gazans are to expect more mayhem as time advances. Meanwhile, Um Mohamed is still desperate to have food for her baby, while Hatem is determined to have his music concert on time. But they are helpless before the cruel siege.

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There is actually a website for Hatem’s Gaza concert where you can listen to some of the music from the concert last week. You can also listen to an interview with Sameh about the concert. The level of ingenuity, creativity, and modes of survival in Gaza are just awe inspiring. There are a number of other projects, such as Gaza Gardens, that have emerged over the last couple years of this siege, which I have links to on this blog and I encourage people to check them out. And all of this continues in spite of closure, in spite of daily incursions that murder Palestinians, and in the midst of a looming full-scale invasion by the ITF:

Israel said on Saturday a major incursion into the Gaza Strip was becoming more and more likely after militant mortar fire wounded seven soldiers at a nearby base on Friday, army radio reported.

“There’s no doubt we are approaching a huge military operation in the Gaza Strip,” Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai told the station in Beersheba.

This promise of a full-scale invasion is nothing new, unfortunately. Such callousness and disregard for international law, for human life is normal for the Zionist regime. To understand how this racist ideology inflicts a tremendous cost on Palestinian lives you must read this report in Ha’aretz, of which I will quote the first few paragraphs:

The announcement made by the Israel Defense Forces’ spokesman on June 20, 2007 was standard: “Two armed terrorists belonging to the Islamic Jihad terror organization were killed last night during the course of a joint activity of the IDF and a special force of the Border Police in Kafr Dan, northwest of Jenin. The two terrorists, Ziad Subahi Mahmad Malaisha and Ibrahim Ahmed Abd al-Latif Abed, opened fire at the force during its activity. In response the force fired at them, killing the terrorists. On their bodies two M-16 rifles, a pistol and ammunition were found. It was also discovered that the terrorists were involved in planning suicide attacks against the Israeli home front, including the attempt in Rishon Letzion last February.”

The laconic announcement ignores one important detail: Malaisha was a target for assassination. His fate had been decided several months earlier, in the office of then head of Central Command, Yair Naveh. As far as the public was concerned, on the other hand, the last declared assassination carried out by the IDF in the West Bank took place in August 2006; at the end of that year the High Court of Justice set strict criteria regarding the policy of assassinations in the territories.

A Haaretz Magazine investigation reveals for the first time operational discussions in which the fate of wanted men and innocent people was decided, in apparent disregard of the High Court decision. Thus it was revealed that the IDF approved assassination plans in the West Bank even when it would probably have been possible to arrest the wanted men – in contradiction to the State’s statement to the High Court – and that in cold military terminology the most senior IDF echelons approve, in advance and in writing, the harming of innocent Palestinians during the course of assassination operations. Moreover, it turns out that the assassination of a target the defense establishment called part of a “ticking infrastructure” was postponed, because it had been scheduled to take place during the visit of a senior U.S. official.

Leading legal experts who were asked to react to the documents say that the IDF is operating in contradiction to a High Court ruling. “Morality is a very difficult issue,” Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer of Hebrew Univeristy said. “The thought that there are people who sit behind a desk and determine that someone is fated to die is a frightening thought.”

Yes, morality is a difficult issue for Israelis. They have none. None. It is impossible for a regime that is racist at its core, at its roots, from its inception to be anything but immoral. This is why it is essential for people to get behind the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign and to support efforts to revisit this issue at the next United Nations World Conference on Racism:

Today, the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Palestinian civil society, represented by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign National Committee (BNC), launched its strategic position paper as a basis for anti-racist intervention at and beyond the UN Durban Review Conference. This Position Paper summarizes the findings of UN human rights mechanisms and independent experts, who have raised concerns that Israel’s regime may amount to institutionalized racial discrimination and/or apartheid, as well as their substantial recommendations. It argues that 60 years into the Nakba of 1948 and 41 years into Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including eastern Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, there is an urgent need to re-examine the nature of Israel’s particular regime over the Palestinian people. Such close examination will show that this is a regime of apartheid, colonization and occupation.

Of course, as I mentioned previously, the Zionist state, which refuses to admit its racism will not participate in this conference. And it looks likely that the United States will not participate either. Not with a President Obama and a Secretary of State Clinton. But what would one expect from two states that are dependent upon institutionalized racism for their very survival?

Here is a recent report from Gaza, in which Sameh is interviewed. In it you can see more about what the Zionist-racist regime is all about and why it is so threatened by people who call it out for its inherent racism:

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