mothers & others for gaza

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first a disclaimer: i am do not personally favor political actions that suggest that the lives of women and children are somehow more important that the lives of men. but when muna and ramla asked me to help them organize a vigil for “mothers across the world for gaza / أمهات حول العالم يعزّين أمهات غزة” i could not say no because it is difficult for me to say no to people i love. and i should add another disclaimer: neither muna or ramla buy into the idea that somehow women and children are more valuable human beings. they had a vigil like this one a couple of weeks ago in beirut honoring the child martyrs and it was successful so they wanted to do a new one and make it global. so i agreed to get one off the ground here in nablus with the help of saed, alia, and beesan–who make an amazing team i must say.

helsinki, finland
helsinki, finland

we had an interesting array of cities participating today: nablus, palestine; beirut, lebanon; amman, jordan; helsinki, finland; manchester, england; cape town south africa; edmonton, canada; san jose, california, u.s.; palo alto, california, u.s.; east lansing, michigan, u.s.; boise, idaho, u.s.; free derry, ireland; ballybofey, ireland; dubai, united arab emirates.

free derry, ireland
free derry, ireland

here in nablus we had most of the women’s committees from the various political parties represented and we had a large contingent from askar refugee camp. the kids from the camp were very cute. most of the kids i spoke with were from yaffa and beer seba’. it is interesting what having this large group of kids did to my expectation of the event. i had imagined it as something that would be somber. where we would quietly, respectfully read the names of the 300+ we had printed out (there are over 400 children murdered by israeli terrorists). but having over 100 children changes all that, in a good way. they had so much energy–each one racing to the microphone to read out the name of a martyred child in gaza. it was an important reminder of those children who we have lost–those palestinian children in gaza, many of whom are also refugees from 1948 palestine–children unknown to all of us here because of israel’s colonial terror project. it was important reminder of what playful energy of the murdered children would have still had if they had not been massacred by israeli terrorists.

amman, jordan
amman, jordan

one of my friends here asked if we could have a mother of a martyred child in gaza on the phone with us during the vigil so a friend sent me the names of a few women and we got a hold of one and spoke with her in the afternoon. when we called her during the vigil, however, rather than speaking about her loss she praised abu mazen. it was very disappointing not only because how anyone can support that collaborator is beyond me, but also because we tried very hard to keep this non-sectarian. we asked people to not give speeches, to not come with political party flags. in fact, i asked for no flags thinking this was to have the mood of an ‘aza. and there were no flags, but i think after the phone call one of the women from pflp was a bit agitated so she closed with a speech. but it was a good speech that basically said that we have to knock off this political factionalizing and in fighting. at the same time, the reason why i did not want to have speeches is that all of these protests about gaza in nablus wind up with the same effect: it always feels to me like the person is just going off with his/her point of view and the focus shifts from gaza to the person speaking. i feel like i haven’t heard one speech that keeps the focus where it should be. and that is unfortunate.

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beirut, lebanon
beirut, lebanon

in any case, the event was great and it seems that other folks who already held theirs had great events too. one thing i kept thinking about this week as we were planning the event was about the effect of political events, albeit this one was not a march or demonstration. but i had seen a video of naomi wolf (who normally grates on my nerves), but she has a good point and i think it is worth listening to.

i thought of this wolf piece, which i had seen earlier on elisa’s blog, because she talks about what happens when people get permission to have a protest and how this defeats the purpose of having a protest in the first place. i was reminded of this earlier in the week when beesan asked if we should get permission. i said no. i said no partially because i was reminded of wolf’s point and partially because i knew what happened last time people here tried to get permission for the tent solidarity sit in on martyr’s square in nablus. they were told no (until the ajaneb showed up and requested permission: apparently they don’t say no to white folks). when we arrived tonight the palestinian authority–or as joseph massad calls them, the palestinian collaborationist authority–was waiting for us. saed spoke to them and they let us proceed. but i think if it had been different–if there were not 100 children marching behind us towards martyr’s square–then perhaps we would not have been allowed to have our vigil. but it is one of the many ways in which political life here is made difficult with respect to voicing one’s point of view in the streets. the same is true in egypt, of course, for similar reasons in terms of the zionist-american control wielded there, too. kabobfest reported today about the detention of blogger philip rizk:

A group of activists were recently detained in Sariaqos, north of Cairo. They had been holding a march in the rural area to raise awareness about the situation in Gaza. For several hours, they walked around, talking to bystanders and asking them to join the protest. They did what they had to do. As they were heading back to Cairo, they were stopped and arrested. All of them were released… except for Philip Rizk.

Human rights lawyers arrived to help the activists but Rizk was snuck out of the prison’s backdoor of and taken away. According to a Reuters report, he was put in an unmarked car with no license plates; police also blocked his companions’ vehicle to prevent them from following.

A Facebook group set up by his friends and family explains further:

Phil’s parents went to the police headquarters to file a missing persons complaint. There they were told it might take 2 or 3 days to process the paperwork and get Philip out… he is being held by National Security at their headquarters in downtown Cairo. But of course there are no official charges.

Philip is of Egyptian-German descent and he has worked tirelessly for the Palestinians cause. Among other things, he has produced a number of documentaries on the subject. He also blogs at tabluagaza (surely the Egyptian authorities did not like his last post). No stranger to the effects of Israeli cruelty, he worked for over two years in Gaza and it has a very special place in his heart. In a recent interview he gave, you can hear the sorrow in his voice as he expresses the pain of not knowing the fate of his friends in the Strip. Let’s hope he is released soon… and unharmed (the German side should help with that).

yes there is more pressure, continued pressure and silence around gaza. and the aggression and the attacks continue, albeit in various forms, like the israeli terrorist tactic of slow starvation. or the israeli terrorist tactic of forbidding necessary medicine. and books…we know books are ketir dangerous! we can’t have palestinians educated. then they would have more tools with which to resist colonial occupation:

Aid agencies are becoming increasingly frustrated with the difficulties of getting humanitarian supplies into the Gaza Strip.

“For us to move ahead with rehabilitation and repairs, we must get building materials into Gaza,” Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), told IRIN by telephone. “Two hundred and twenty-one schools for 200,000 children only have 40 percent of their books because we can’t get paper and glue into Gaza.”

meanwhile palestinians are suffer severe shortages of everything in gaza and the death toll continues to rise, though the martyrs are not being counted as they were before. israeli terrorists are content to let palestinian people suffer. but not palestinian animals. it seems that israeli terrorists have animal rights organizations that are working hard to ensure that the animals in gaza do not suffer:

An Israeli animal rights group is behind a relief effort to assist animals in the Gaza Zoo.

The zoo came under attack during the offensive of December and January. A number of animals died while others were visibly distressed from the violence that unfolded.

The Israeli group ‘Let the Animals Live’ persuaded Ehud Barak, Israel’s defense minister, to arrange entry for trucks carrying aid to the stricken zoo.

The Israeli agency said it was a joint-effort with a Palestinian animals welfare group, and other international organizations.

Thirty trucks loaded with oats and hay and medical supplies for the animals have been organized.

palestinian farmers, however, are fair game. they can be attacked–it seems, though, that their animals cannot.

these are some of the many reasons that south africans continue to say that the apartheid created by the zionist entity is worse than the apartheid in south africa:

President Kgalema Motlanthe says some of Israel’s actions are worse than what happened during apartheid. He says the creation of new settlements within the West Bank which exclude Palestinians is one such example. Motlanthe was speaking in Cape Town at the fourth conference of the Coalition for the Good and Charity.

The president, who visited Gaza in May last year, says the construction of walls that divide Palestinians has resulted in some Palestinians travelling three hours to get to their businesses as opposed to the two minutes they took before. Motlanthe says Israel continues to change the physical facts in Palestine by constructing new settlements. As a result of these he says the land surface which used to be the West Bank has been dramatically reduced.

and this is also why even those who may have opposed boycott in the past are continuing to come around to see boycott, divestment, and sanctions as one of the important modes of resistance to enact, including one of my favorite poets, adrienne rich:

Dear All,

Last week, with initial hesitation but finally strong conviction, I endorsed the Call for a U.S. Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel. I’d like to offer my reasons to friends, family and comrades. I have tried in fullest conscience to think this through.

My hesitation: I profoundly believe in the visible/invisible liberatory social power of creative and intellectual boundary-crossings. I’ve been educated by these all my life, and by centuries-long cross-conversations about human freedom, justice and power — also, the forces that try to silence them.

As an American Jew, over almost 30 years, I’ve joined with other concerned Jews in various kinds of coalition-building and anti-Occupation work. I’ve seen the kinds of organized efforts to stifle — in the US and elsewhere — critiques of Israel’s policies — the Occupation’s denial of Palestinian humanity, destruction of Palestinian lives and livelihoods, the “settlements,” the state’s physical and psychological walls against dialogue — and the efforts to condemn any critiques as anti-Semitism. Along with other activists and writers I’ve been named on right-wing “s*&^-lists” as “Israel-hating” or “Jew-hating.” I have also seen attacks within American academia and media on Arab American, Muslim, Jewish scholars and teachers whose work critically explores the foundations and practices of Israeli state and society.

Until now, as a believer in boundary-crossings, I would not have endorsed a cultural and academic boycott. But Israel’s continuing, annihilative assaults in Gaza and the one-sided rationalizations for them have driven me to re-examine my thoughts about cultural exchanges. Israel’s blockading of information, compassionate aid, international witness and free cultural and scholarly expression has become extreme and morally stone-blind. Israeli Arab parties have been banned from the elections, Israeli Jewish dissidents arrested, Israeli youth imprisoned for conscientious refusal of military service. Academic institutions are surely only relative sites of power. But they are, in their funding and governance, implicated with state economic and military power. And US media, institutions and official policy have gone along with all this.

To boycott a repressive military state should not mean backing away from individuals struggling against the policies of that state. So, in continued solidarity with the Palestinian people’s long resistance, and also with those Israeli activists, teachers, students, artists, writers, intellectuals, journalists, refuseniks, feminists and others who oppose the means and ends of the Occupation, I have signed my name to this call.

Adrienne Rich

for those who live in the europe here is a brief bit on the economic boycott and what one must look for when one goes shopping:

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