is unity only something you see on tv?

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things look so different on television. i should know better, of course, having grown up in los angeles. having had parents involved in the film industry. having lived outside the u.s. long enough to endure questions about what it is like in the u.s., people always thinking that life is just like what they watch on mbc or one tv. i’ve seen so many protests on television now of people around the world supporting gaza, supporting palestine. i’ve been hearing stories from baha’a about their continual tent in front of esqwa in beirut protesting. about hiba’s beautiful, creative idea to stage a unique sort of protest in bourj al barajneh refugee camp in beirut:

Beginning on Friday, 2 January, 2008, a solidarity tent for Gaza will be set up near Airport Road at the entrance of Bourj Barajneh camp. A number of activities will take place, including:

• Open phone lines to Gaza for those who wish to send their words of encouragement and solidarity to those in Gaza

• card making activities for children who wish to draw cards for children in Gaza

• a mock funeral for the consciences of the Arab regimes who have failed to respond to the calls of their own people in condemning the Israeli government’s recent acts of aggression, along with a reception area for those who wish to offer their condolences for the families of those who have lost loved ones

• a donation box for those in Gaza, whose proceeds will be delivered via an NGO who has access to Gaza.

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around the world, especially today in muslim countries, following friday prayer, there were numerous protests that thankfully directed some of the anger at the u.s. al jazeera highlighted some of the protests and here is what they said about those in palestine:

Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Friday, after calls by Hamas for a “day of wrath”.

“We will sacrifice our soul and our blood for Gaza,” chanted the demonstrators, shouting pro-Hamas slogans and calling on fighters to “hit Tel-Aviv”.

In Jerusalem, protesters clashed with police after Friday prayers.

With a view to curb protests, Israel sealed off the West Bank for the day as well as key parts of Jerusalem. Men aged under 50 years were prohibited from entering the Al-Aqsa mosque.

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my understanding was that in nablus we were going to make sure that our protest was not about one particular political party, but rather about unity. that we agreed only one flag–the palestinian flag–would be welcomed. i even put away my pflp kuffiya and wore a palestinian embroidered scarf instead so as to wear something that is clearly palestinian and clearly not from a political party.

i decided to walk downtown while everyone was in the mosque. the sky was very blue today with lots of big billowy white clouds. it’s really cold, but it felt good to take a long walk, especially given how quiet everything was. it gave me some time to clear my head. by the time i got to martyr’s square the protest had already started and it was definitely the biggest one yet. i walked into the main area and looked around for alia who had just called me to say she was on her way downtown, too. i was disappointed immediately, however. it was the same old thing. lots of men give lots of speeches. it doesn’t feel real. it feels like they care more about themselves than the people of gaza. it feels like they just want to be on a platform speaking in front of the public. and, of course, they had a fatah flag over where they were speaking.

both alia and i decided–at that moment–that women should stick to organizing protests as they are far better, more unified. it was just chanting last time and all chanting that was inclusive. (note: that does not mean i think that women are better at everything: i think some of the most hateful political leaders who should all be locked up are people like tzipi livini, condoleeza rice, hillary clinton). but here it seemed, at least on wednesday, that the women’s union did an amazing job of unifying people. (and, yes, that was a very exhausted me on al jazeera at that protest the other day.)

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i turned around and saw alia behind me with her mom and walked over to them. shortly thereafter we started hearing competing voices. there were other people trying to initiate chants–the same as the other day. so we walked towards them. we started to see lots of palestinian authority security forces everywhere around the square. we started to see other groups below a bit who were doing their own chants. there were at least three groups of different chanters shouting over each other. this did not bode well. but i followed alia and her mom down to where the women were chanting. it was clear that this was a group of primarily hamas women from the color/style of their hijab as well as the hamas flags and baseball hats everywhere. we both thought this was good because no hamas people have come to the other protests as far as we know. but i spoke too soon.

now let me be very clear: i totally support hamas’ right to govern as they were democratically elected. i also support their right to resist israeli terrorist colonialism by any means necessary as is their right under international law. but i do not support hamas–or pflp or dflp or fatah or mubadara–when they are fostering infighting among themselves. as one of my friends said today, “we’re giving them what they want on a golden platter.”

we kept walking over towards the other women and now we noticed that the battle of the chanting became even stronger. our group–which is a mix of students and faculty none of whom want anything to do with this factionalism–wanted to chant things like “wahde, wahde watania” (see my post from wednesday with the other chants on the mp3s that i posted), which means “one nation.” there was this interesting gesturing between the two groups as we grew closer where our group, as well as other people around us who i didn’t know, kept trying to do a sort of call-and-response with the hamas group by getting them to join in. but they were busy trying to drown us out with their chants. at moments it seemed like they joined in and like there was a positive gesturing back and forth. and when they offered religious chants that were not hamas-specific we also joined in. but then it would spiral back into hamas chants.

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shortly thereafter we began to march around the square and towards rafidiya. we just barely made it around the bend when we caught up with saed who had made an enormous and beautiful palestinian flag which a bunch of boys were running down the street with. but as we were marching in a tightly-packed crowd there were arguments that were boiling beneath the surface. we could hear various fights and arguments, and one seemed to be quite heated, but my friends and i walked passed it. but shortly after we did we heard gunfire. it seems that no one was hurt, but then we saw palestinian authority security forces dragging various men away into their paddy wagons to take them to jail. one of the men we saw was a friend of my friend bisan who was with us. her friend is a local tv camera man, a journalist. he was later released, but we watched him from across the street after his release and it seems that they were deleting his film footage.

[incidentally ma’an news neglected to report on this aspect of today’s protest.]

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needless to say the day left us all demoralized. demoralized on top of deep rage and depression about what is going on in gaza. i had asked saed and alia the other day if we could do something other than speeches–something like just simply read the names of the martyr’s from gaza. or make a graveyard full of tombs on martyr’s square with every martyr’s name on it. these martyrs, when you read their names (see below i posted the first 187 known) never say what political party they were in, if any. it says their name and age and maybe where they are from. and all of them–whether refugees or from gaza city are palestinian. just like people here. god, there needs to be unity: but how does one get unity? how do you achieve this when you are asking those around you to simply chant a unifying chant and people refuse? certainly, the violence that erupted out of this is unwarranted on both sides. at the same time, why can’t the utter despair and tragedy bring people together? why can’t this massacre unify the people? israeli terrorism doesn’t hit hamas “targets” all claims to the contrary. it hits all people all parties. they don’t care whether someone is hamas or not. they just want to bomb gaza back to the stone age with the help of american-made planes and weapons.

[note: al jazeera just announced that palestinian authority police said protests in the west bank can only take place if factional flags are not present; only the palestinian flag may be used.]

meanwhile there are 428 martyrs and 2,200 wounded. no ground invasion yet, though there was intense bombardment today. a mosque, a chicken farm, ambulances were all hit today. israeli terrorists are dropping leaflets again, as they usually do, warning the people in gaza, seeking collaborators in gaza:

Israeli airplanes dropped leaflets calling for Gazans to inform the Israeli military of the whereabouts of projectile launchers in return for aid and assistance.

The papers were found by the thousands all over Gaza Friday morning, and bear the signature of the Israeli military forces.

The leaflet reads:

Dear people of the Gaza Strip,

Bear the responsibility for your fate!

The Projectile launchers and the terrorist elements pose a threat on you and your families.

If you wish to provide help and assistance to your people in the sector, call the number below to provide us with the needed information.

The future of the massacre is in your hands
Don’t hesitate!

We will be glad to receive any information you have and it is not necessary to give us your personal information.

We will keep it as a secret.
Call us at the following number: 02-5839749
Or e-mail us at: Helpgaza2008@gmail.com

To provide us with any information on the terrorist factions.

Note: To protect your safety we ask you to be secretive when you call us.

Head of the Israeli defense forces.

Israel has used similar tactics on several occasions, most recently during their 2006 war in Lebanon and earlier in 2003 during an attack on the West Bank. The fliers are meant to shake the civilian population and crush the spirit of the ‘home front.’

Israeli military personnel have also cut into broadcasts on the Voice of Al-Quds radio station in Gaza and broadcast announcements to Gazans on air that convey the same message as the leaflets.

At the same time the Al-Qassam Brigades, affiliated with Hamas, were able to cut into Israeli military radio channels and broadcast statements in Hebrew warning soldiers from entering the Gaza Strip.

the flyer, like those i’ve seen fails to understand that palestinians don’t see themselves or their neighbors as “terrorists”: they know that the terrorist is the israeli in the american-made airplane dropping bombs on their heads. and let’s take a look at who the martyrs are: they are predominantly children!

Sixteen out of the 28 killed in Israeli airstrikes since New Year’s Eve were children; nine were from the same family, five of the adults killed were women.

The percentage of Israeli casualties that are children in 2009 is 57%.

On Friday the bodies of the Rayan family children were buried, and Palestinian medical sources confirmed the deaths of three more Palestinians under 17.

Seven Palestinians have been killed since midnight Thursday bringing the death toll to 428 and the injured to 2,220 on day seven of the Israeli operation.

finally, there is a bit of good news coming out of europe today:

The European Union should use today’s emergency meeting of foreign ministers to suspend a new co-operation agreement between the EU and Israel, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg has said.

The proposed agreement, due to be voted on in the European Parliament next month, would give Israel access to EU funding programmes which in some areas are only enjoyed by full members of the EU.

Commenting, Nick Clegg said:

“The continuing bombardment of Gaza is intolerable and self-defeating. It goes far beyond Israel’s right to defend itself.

“There is not a terrorist organisation in the world that has been bombed into submission. Innocent people are being killed and injured by a military operation that will only serve to further inflame extremism, and weaken the moderate Palestinian and Arab opinion which Israel’s long term security depends on.

“Who will Israel negotiate with in future when its own actions are pushing more and more Palestinians into the arms of extremists?

“With the US Administration hobbled by the transition between Presidents, it is time for the EU to act. The EU has enormous potential leverage in the Middle East as the major donor of aid to the Palestinian community and the main market for Israeli exports.

“Yet for too long the EU has been an economic giant which acts as a political pygmy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. EU Foreign Ministers have the chance this evening for once to take action and not just issue words.

“EU Foreign Ministers must immediately suspend the proposed new agreement with Israel. The deal cannot proceed until there is a transformation of the conditions on the ground in Gaza.

“EU Foreign Ministers must also reiterate to Hamas that their rocket attacks are equally self defeating and unacceptable. They should make clear that they would be prepared to talk to Hamas but only if it permanently renounces terrorist violence. Only then would the EU be in a position to support a unified Palestinian leadership covering both Gaza and the West Bank, an essential ingredient for any lasting peace.”

but unless it completely suspends the agreement in keeping with the demands of the boycott campaign this may only be a bit of temporary good news.

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