Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rest In Power, Zahid

I recently learned that a dear friend passed away, Zahid Shariff. He was a longtime professor at The Evergreen State College and my teacher for much of my time there. Despite graduating many years ago, we remained close. He was the best teacher, mentor and friend anyone could ask for.

As a college professor, Zahid set minds free. That is what he did best. Zahid was the consummate mixture of fierce intellectualism, moral consistency, tenderness, warmth and absolute devotion to his students. The generosity of spirit in which he taught and nurtured his students made them feel deeply cared for and valued.

Most remarkably, his classroom always held the promise of building a better self, of connecting heart, mind, and experience and situating them in lived reality and the broader struggle for global social justice and equality. Zahid's courses on colonization and imperialism were instrumental in my own political awakening. He taught me about the colonizer and colonized, the oppressor and oppressed, and the possibility of something more, of exceeding this fraught binary, of reaching a place of collective flourishing, the rendezvous of victory, in the words of Aimé Césaire, the first of many freedom fighters I encountered in his classes.

Words fail to do justice to the profound affect Zahid had on all those lucky enough to have known him. Ten years ago I was wholly unprepared to meet a person like Zahid and today I am just as unprepared to let him go.

I will miss his voice most, his pleasant British lilt, the slow rise of a gentle voice that carried great moral force. There was gravity and grace in every word he shared.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

War Crimes Radio

War crimes radio. That's what NPR sounds like these days as I drive to and from work. Israeli is doing everything within its power to ensure that the median life expectancy of the average Palestinian doesn't exceed the mayfly.

I turn on the radio in the morning and learn about Israel bombing its 6th UN school, killing scores and wounding countless others. I turn off the radio and head into the office.

The day is done, I head home. I turn on the radio - scores more dead. This time in a market temporally opened during a 4 hour humanitarian ceasefire. The market sits adjacent to what used to be a neighborhood - called Shuja'iyah - before it was reduced to rubble by Israel's overwhelming firepower. Bodies remain entombed in the remains of the bombed-out neighborhood as there has not been a sufficient lull in the violence to enable their retrieval.  

Everywhere they go, everywhere they seek shelter, the people of historic Palestine in Gaza are subjected to the extreme violence of a colonial regime whose main objective remains constant: "Jewish supremacy in Palestine — as much land as possible, as few Palestinians as possible," as Bashir Abu-Manneh reminds us.

"Israeli violence isn’t senseless — it follows a colonial logic," elaborates in his recent piece for the Jacobin. (Go read it.)

Yesterday Gaza's sole power plant was bombed . . . a deliberate attempt to engineer a humanitarian crisis and shore up Israel's long-term efforts to de-developed Gaza's economy, making it a ward of international aid.  

Israel destroys infrastructure and bombs trapped civilians all under the obnoxious pretext of punishing terrorists. In reality, Israel's objective is to root out any resistance to the military occupation and siege that it has imposed on Gaza, and to transform the tiny enclave into a compliant vassal state unwilling or unable to challenge Israeli dominance.

The death toll in Gaza surpassed 1,300 today. Of that number, nearly 300 are children. An orgy of destruction. That's all it is.

Meanwhile in Israel, life remains minimally disrupted. The hugely disproportionate effect of the rockets vs Israel's massive technological advantage and firepower speaks to the incongruent nature of the conflict - what is tantamount to one-sided barbarism carried out by a democratically elected government that believes it has a free pass to kill, vaporize, explode, decapitate with bombs whoever it wants in order to feel "safe" and protect its illegal, expansionist borders.

Worse yet, Israeli leaders blame the incomprehensible destruction wrought by its own invading army on the people it has penned in like animals and massacred in the full light of foreign media. Under international law, the Israeli army cannot claim self-defense against a people it is blockading, occupying, invading, and indiscriminately shelling.

Terrorism is the act of killing civilians to further political ends, terrorism is creating enemies to cynically use them as a pretext for further war, terrorism is occupation, terrorism is theft of indigenous land and the systematic destruction of a people's ability to survive.

Terrorism is more often state-based than not. Terrorism is absolving oneself of moral responsibility, terrorism is claiming that Palestinians wanted to die, terrorism is blaming the dead for their own deaths.

As Susan Abulhawa, a Palestinian-American writer and human rights activist, states clearly, to blame Palestinians in Gaza for the colossal loss of life and destruction they are currently experiencing is morally repugnant and inexcusable:

It’s the equivalent of saying a woman in a tight dress is forcing men to rape her. No one is forcing Israel to kill unarmed civilians in their homes. No one is forcing them to bomb hospitals, rehabilitation centers, water treatment plants, bakeries, or children playing soccer on the beach.  They’re doing it all on their own. Willfully and deliberately. They are using guns and bombs and planes and warships and drones and snipers of their own volition against a defenseless civilian population in one of the most densely populated places on earth. Together with Egypt, they have besieged all borders, so there is no place for people to run or take cover. There is just no refuting this simple fact. 

I have amassed a painfully large collection of links - but to spare you I will post the six most important articles I have come across this week, aside from three very powerful pieces by Palestinian writers I am saving for a later post:

The Guardian front page today (31st)

The four boys recently torn to bits by an Israeli bomb on a beach in Gaza belong to the Bakr family, who happen to be interviewed in this short (beautiful) film made in 2013. Fisherman in Gaza are prevented by Israel's naval blockade (and their gunboats) from going farther than 3 nautical miles out to sea. Which means their nets mostly catch seaweed.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Take Action Now: Stop Arming Israel

Demand an arms embargo, demand that Israel be held to account for striking civilian targets. Email this letter to your local, state, and national elected officials. Urge them to take action.

Click for contact info:
US Representatives 
US Senators
US President
Israeli Embassy 

Dear __________________,  
I am deeply troubled by recent events in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. I urge the US government to immediately stop the transfer of all arms to Israel. An arms embargo is the only long-term solution to Israel’s 47 yearlong military occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem.
F-16s, Hellfire missiles, U.S. government-issued Caterpillar bulldozers, Apache helicopters and other weapons, munitions and equipment have been directly linked to violations of international humanitarian and human rights law by Israeli forces. Knowing this, the U.S. government is not only violating its own law and policy, but is complicit in the commission of these human rights violations. 
Many human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, are calling for an UN-imposed comprehensive arms embargo on Israel and Palestinian armed groups. From 2008-19, the US is projected to provide military aid to Israel worth $30 billion.  
The U.S. government must stop arming a military power that launches devastating attacks with impunity against civilian populations, and regular engages in the use of excessive force, including the recent collective punishment of the Palestinians in the West Bank that proceeded the murder of both Palestinian and Israeli teenagers (which Israel has admitted was not the work of Hamas), as well as the escalation of violence in Gaza - the third such assault on a blockaded and displaced people since 2009. 
Since Israel began military operations targeting the Gaza Strip, over 1,700 Palestinians and 54 Israelis (all military personal except for 3) have been killed. The United Nations has estimated that 77% of the deaths in Gaza are civilians. Of those, over 24% are children.   
Israel is an occupying power whose military tactics routinely violate international humanitarian and human rights law. To help stop these human rights violations, the U.S. must stop supporting Israel unconditionally and do its part to protect the lives of non-combatants. U.S. policy prohibits the provision of weapons where there is a credible expectation that they may be used in grave human rights violations. Israel must put in place effective mechanisms to ensure that they are not using American made weapons to violate the fundamental human rights of the Palestinian people. 
The U.S. must act in accordance with its own laws and policies concerning weapons transfers. It must stop arming Israel. This is the surest way to end the ritual of violence, to protect Israel’s security, and achieve Palestinian freedom.  

Israeli actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories constitute war crimes and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions, including the most basic principles and laws of armed conflict (as detailed here by legal experts and in this vital piece: "Five Israeli Talking Points on Gaza—Debunked").

Call the White House and protest American complicity in Israeli war crimes: switchboard 202-456-1414, ask for President Obama’s office.

Sign the BDS Movement's petition and check out their fact sheet: The Case for a Military Embargo on Israel

Learn more ways to take action at StopIsrael.net

[The language used in this letter draws heavily from various human rights organizations including Amnesty International.]

Friday, July 25, 2014

Massive Link Dump: War Postcards

French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre said "Hell is other people." He was halfway there. Hell is other people who steal your land.

Hell is being colonized, hell is occupation, hell is asymmetries of power - things Sartre failed to recognize in regard to Palestine.

Today the suffering in Gaza deepens - death toll now exceeds 800, 4,000 injured, 80% of those civilians, 1/3 children - while Israelis carry on in a rather uninterrupted fashion with their lives and leisure.

Postcards from hell, war on Gaza, July 15th - 25th:

Postcards from paradise, fashion shows and beach bumming in Israel, July 15th - 25th:

Media: (* = a must read)
Israel's propaganda machine, however, insists that these Palestinians wanted to die ("culture of martyrdom"), staged their own death ("telegenically dead") or were the tragic victims of Hamas's use of civilian infrastructure for military purposes ("human shielding"). In all instances, the military power is blaming the victims for their own deaths, accusing them of devaluing life and attributing this disregard to cultural bankruptcy. In effect, Israel—along with uncritical mainstream media that unquestionably accept this discourse—dehumanizes Palestinians, deprives them even of their victimhood and legitimizes egregious human rights and legal violations.

I feel guilty in leaving, and for the first time in my reporting life, scarred, deeply scarred by what I have seen, some of it too terrible to put on the screen.
But it is wrong to suggest that Israeli civilians near Gaza suffer as much as Palestinians. It is much, much worse in Gaza. I defy anyone with an ounce of human feeling not to feel the same after ten minutes in Gaza’s Shifa Hospital with wounded and dying civilians. In the mortuary, it’s so overcrowded that the bodies of two children are crammed on to a single shelf. One day, they had only found enough of the remains of six women and children to fill a single stretcher.
The IBA said the ad's content was "politically controversial". The broadcast refers to child deaths in Gaza and reads out some of the victims' names.

In its appeal, B'Tselem demanded to know what was controversial about the item. "Is it controversial that the children [aren't] alive? That they're children? That those are their names? These are facts that we wish to bring to the public's knowledge."

West Bank:
The shelling of the UNRWA school, which killed 15 and injured 200, was a war crime. The UN had given the school’s coordinates to the Israelis, so they knew it was a school and was holding displaced persons. The UN, when informed it would be shelled, asked for more time to evacuate people but were denied it.

Behind all these maneuvers looms Israel's occupation of Palestine, now in its fifth decade. Not content with having ethnically cleansed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948 and 1967 and not satisfied with owning eighty-two percent of Mandatory Palestine, every Israeli government since 1967 has built or expanded settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem while providing generous subsidies to the 600,000-plus Jews who have moved there in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Two weeks ago, Netanyahu confirmed what many have long suspected: he is dead set against a two-state solution and will never--repeat never--allow it to happen while he is in office. Given that Netanyahu is probably the most moderate member of his own Cabinet and that Israel's political system is marching steadily rightward, the two-state solution is a gone goose.
After spending one week in Jerusalem from July 14-19, one day in the West Bank, and one afternoon being harassed by Israeli security in Ben Gurion airport, I must say that the ubiquity of the Israeli security complex has left a lasting impression on me.
Unlike conventional wars, the longest and most legitimate wars of all have been the people's fight for independence from colonialism. 

Israel is in the midst of such a fight against a people's struggle for freedom and independence and it makes similar, if not identical claims, to those made by other colonial powers of the past.

But not one foreign power big or small was able to win a single asymmetrical war against a people resisting colonialism throughout the entire 20th century.

This definite and paradoxical conclusion - the most instructive, and yet ignored of all lessons of war is categorical: Not one great power possessing superior firepower has won against a weaker, less organised and less professional resistance against occupation. 

Not the French, not the English, not the Belgians, the Dutch, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Italians, the Soviets, the Chinese, the Afrikaners, etc. Not one!  In the end, they all lose. And if they don't, then it's not the end.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Massive Link Dump: "The Evidence Is In The Morgue Refrigerators"

 Ayman Mohyeldin, NBC News: A child has been killed in Gaza every hour for the past two days according to the UN.

Media:  (* = a must read)
From most American media you would assume that the Israelis were minding their own business and the Palestinians of Gaza just irrationally started firing rockets at them. With rare exceptions, we aren’t told that most truces have been broken by Israel, not Hamas. We aren’t told that over 70% of Gaza’s population used to live in Israel and was ethnically cleansed and left penniless. We aren’t told that Israel has a blockade on Gaza that does not allow it to export most of what it produces, that this blockade has thrown 40% of the working population into unemployment and left 56% of families food insecurity (just on the verge of going to bed hungry). We aren’t told that Israeli occupation has left 90% of [the strip's aquifer non-potable] people in Gaza without potable water. * We aren’t told that Gaza’s Palestinians demand an end to being kept in a big concentration camp. If Israelis were being treated as the Palestinians are, what do you think they would do about it?

The Human Toll: 
Israeli soldiers sniping a youth in the street in front of distraught mother, bombing hospitals filled with the sick and elderly, firing on buildings adjacent to UN water tankers --- and little kids practicing their English with reporters - UK Channel 4 captures it all here, powerful reporting.
Gaza City - Two small bodies lie on the metal table inside the morgue at Gaza’s Shifa hospital. Omama is 9 years old. Her right forearm is mangled and charred and the top half of her skull has been smashed in. Beside her lies her 7-year-old brother. His name is not certain. It might be Hamza or it might be Khalil. Relatives are having trouble identifying him because his head has been shorn off. Their parents will not mourn them—because they are dead too.
 My conclusion after numerous interviews with ordinary youth, from one end of Gaza to the other? Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his spokesmen are wrong when they accuse Hamas of ordering a sheep-like people to act as human shields or to remain in their homes in the face of warnings to evacuate. The decisions of tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza to stay in their homes until they were literally forced to leave were for some an act of desperation, saying they had nowhere else to go
A cease-fire agreement is possible, but all parties need to be at the table; Hamas was not consulted over the one proposed by Egypt last week. Even peace might be possible — if the international community has the courage to engage in dialogue with Hamas. The terms outlined by Hamas for a cease-fire are the same as those the United Nations has called for repeatedly: open the border crossings; let people work, study and build the economy. A population capable of taking care of its own would enhance Israel’s security. One that cannot leads to desperation.
In January 2008, barriers along the Gaza-Egypt border were knocked down. Thousands of Gazans poured into Egypt to acquire much needed supplies. I remember the relief within the Palestinian community. This transient glimpse of freedom was a treat.

A neighbor of mine was simply delighted to drink a Coca-Cola. The freedom to move, fresh food and clean water, and the simple pleasure of sipping a soda, this is what Gazans need: the normal life everyone else takes for granted. During the first days the border was open, Hamas suspended rocket attacks from Gaza. Israeli politicians should take note.
One day children have a large family and the next day they are orphans. The practical implications of this will affect them forever. Children grow up in a environment where they realize they have no security in their own homes. Even their bedrooms are not safe anymore.

I know of many Palestinians who do not like Hamas. Yet for them, the Gaza war is about the siege – part of their own war of independence. Israelis refuse to get that.

Outside Gaza: 

Solidarity and Action: 

1. Contact President Obama at (202) 456-1111 and the State Department at (202) 647-4000. Demand that they immediately withdraw U.S. military aid from Israel and call on Israel to immediately end its attacks. Tell them to stop supporting Israel’s crimes with our tax dollars.

2. Call the Egyptian Embassy at (202) 895-5400 and demand they open the Rafah border for injured Palestinians in need of urgent medical care. Alternate number: (
202) 966-6342.

3. Call Boeing. Boeing provides Israel with F-15A fighter jets, Apache AH 64 helicopters, tungsten or DIMEbombs to attack Gaza. Boeing’s headquarters are located in Chicago. Contact Boeing at (312) 544-2140 and demand they stop giving Israel weapons to use against civilians in Gaza.

More than half of all US international aid goes to trigger-happy Israel:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Terrorism Of The Telephone

Three summers ago I read the short memoir "I Saw Ramallah" by Palestinian writer Mourid Barghouti.

It became an instant favorite of mine.

It's a book about loss, about the exile's fraught relationship with return. It's evocative. It's unforgettable. It's written by a true poet and beautifully translated by Ahdaf Soueif.

Edward Said called it “one of the finest existential accounts of Palestinian displacement we have.”

But after three years I have yet to finish it, refusing to read the last chapter, which is only three pages long. I am saving it, but for what or why, I don't know exactly.

At my bedside it remains despite countless moves that keep my books boxed up and in storage for months or years on end. This one though, always remains within arm's reach. 

Tonight I picked it up, leafing through the pages without real purpose . . perhaps looking for some sort of comfort or poetic insight to cope with the terrible news streaming out of Gaza. But instead of finding solace my heart sank deeper and my stomach clenched as my eye caught one paragraph in particular. It's a passage that describes the special place the telephone has in the lives of Palestinians, a people displaced by war and occupation:

The details of the lives of all whom we love, the fluctuations of their fortunes in this world, all began with the ringing of the phone. A ring for joy, a ring for sorrow, a ring for yearning. Quarrels, reproach, blame, and apology between Palestinians are introduced by the ringing of the phone. We have never loved a sound so much, and we have never been terrified by one – I mean, at the same time. Bodyguards – or your luck, or your intelligence – can protect you from terrorism, but the displaced person can never be protected from the terrorism of the telephone. (Page 127)

The terrorism of the telephone. Today the phrase takes on new meaning as Israel's indiscriminate onslaught drags on and the most moral army in the world continues to make its "courtesy calls" - a warning call to Palestinian families to flee their homes before they are bombarded

But in the midst of such incalculable human suffering, countless massacres and the lack of safe places to evacuate to, these calls amount to little more than cruelty disguised as mercy. The pained language of an unnamed writer describes how they induce a different kind of death: 

I'll tell you what is harder than dying in Gaza by an Israeli missile deluxe. What is harder is that you get a phone call from the Israeli army telling you to evacuate your home because it will be bombed in ten minutes. Imagine; ten minutes; and your whole short history on the surface of Earth will be erased.

Gifts you received, photos of your siblings and your children (dead or alive), things t
hat you love, your favorite chair, your books, that last poetry collection your read, a letter from your expatriate sister, reminders of the ones you loved, the smell of your bed, the jasmine tree that hangs off your western window, your daughter’s hair clip, your old clothes, your prayer rug, your wife’s gold, your savings; imagine; all this passes in front of your eyes in ten minutes, all that pain passes while you are struck by surprise.

Then you take your identification papers (passport, birth certificate, etc.) which you have ready in an old metallic candy box, and you leave your home to die a thousand times, or refuse to leave and die once

"I Saw Ramallah" is a book that gives life-affirming substance to a tragedy whose dimensions only seem to grow.

Tonight I won't finish it.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

Just When We Needed Him Most, We Lost Him

Yesterday, as Israel launched its ground invasion into Gaza, NBC News executives pulled a similarly moronic move, ordering foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin out of the Gaza Strip, citing security concerns (which is quite a riot considering Mohyeldin is a battle-hardened journalist who rose to fame after being one of only two foreign journalists to bear witness to Israel's horrific 22 day-long assault on Gaza in 2008-9). The New York Times writes:

Ayman Mohyeldin, the NBC correspondent who was playing with a group of Palestinian kids moments before an Israeli attack killed four of them on a Gaza beach yesterday, has been pulled from the region. According to a report by Glenn Greenwald at the Intercept, the network demanded Mohyeldin leave immediately, citing "security concerns," although it also sent a different correspondent, Richard Engel, to Gaza.

Mohyeldin's sophisticated understanding of a complex region, his extensive experience in war zones, and most importantly, his moving, humanizing reports from Gaza were too much for a big profit-driven news network to bear. NBC rather cave to the Israel Lobby-backed status quo than capitalize on the best opportunity it had to cover this catastrophe in an open and honest manner.

Mohyeldin is undoubtedly one of the most experienced reporters and trusted voices on Gaza out there (his harrowing reporting landed him on Time's annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world).

Recently in Gaza, he didn't waste his time regurgitating Israeli talking points, but instead reported from the ground and gave us a real understanding of the terrible human toll being inflicted on the Palestinian people.

He conveyed to viewers the reality of what it means to bomb a captive civilian population.

Naturally, this was a problem because it exposed the Israeli army's appalling conduct, human rights violations, and killing of innocents - behavior that Israel's own top officials struggle to justify before world audiences (example: Spokesman Mark Regev on England's Channel 4 News).

Mohyeldin's truth-telling, his genuine concern for life, his moral bravery are what got him pulled from a beat that desperately needed his clear-eyed, powerful reporting.

The following links explore the NBC/Mohyeldin scandal and the mainstream media's longstanding lack of fairness when reporting on the issue of Palestine:

    Ayman Mohyeldin at il-Shifa hospital in Gaza before being pulled.


    Update 7/18/2014: Due to public outcry, NBC is returning Moyheldin to his post in Gaza. A statement from NBC reads:
    Ayman Mohyeldin has done extraordinary reporting throughout the escalation of the conflict in Gaza, filing 25+ reports over the past 17 days, including his invaluable and well-documented contribution to the story on the deaths of the four Palestinian children on Wednesday. As with any news team in conflict zones, deployments are constantly reassessed. We've carefully considered our deployment decisions and we will be sending Ayman back to Gaza over the weekend. We look forward to his contributions in the coming days.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2014

    The Pornography Of Suffering

    It is not because I believe in the power of empathy that I share graphic images of Palestinian casualties in Gaza.

    I don't wish to rouse feelings of sympathy in the viewer, or worse, to brutalize their sensibilities.

    The pornography of suffering is a slippery slope and I know how easy it is to turn fully fledged human beings into crude caricatures, into "objects of comfortable concern" for privileged outsiders to gawk at, as Edward Said put it.

    But these painful images testify to the unevenness of the "conflict." You will not find images reflecting this level of savagery coming out of Israel since the assault began a week ago. They do not exist. Israeli causality counts have never been comparable to Palestinian figures.

    It is not a contest, though the winners and losers know who they are.

    NBC correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin: July 15, 2014 | Shifa Hospital, Gaza. Shayma Al Masry lost her mother, her sister and her brother in an Israeli airstrike. Today, her father and her doll are all that are by her side. We spent the day at Gaza's Shifa Hospital and spoke to people behind the numbers. #theyhavenames #gaza #israel #palestine Watch our report from inside Shifa hospital tonight @nbcnightlynews @nbcnews

    This war is not being fought by evenly matched rivals. It's being waged by a powerful settler-colonial state founded on ethnic cleansing against a stateless, indigenous refugee population. It is a grossly mismatched struggle between the occupier and occupied.

    I am a broken record, I know. I keep blathering on about occupations and apartheid and the mismatched military might that leads to the use of excessive force and Israel's contravention of numerous international conventions and laws, like the principle of proportionality, and how Palestinians have a right to resist being penned up like animals and abused and collectively punished for resisting their oppressors. 

    Broken f**king record. Ad nauseam, right?

    But the fact is we live in an era no different from all the others, where atrocity is still normalized as political theater. So folks need to keep calling things by their proper names until they stick, until, ultimately, Israel's narrative of victimology is deconstructed and replaced with a human rights framework powerful enough to address the Palestinian people's struggle for self-determination.

    Plucky little Israel is not under attack. Israel has long possessed a superior military and states do not have the right to self-defense in international law against the territories they occupy. Israel's dominant hand is what has allowed it to suspend the rights of the Palestinian people and systematically dispossess them of their land. Since its creation in 1948, Israel has been engaged in a massive land-theft scheme similar to the violent expropriation of Indigenous land in the United States.

    My main objective in sharing these images is not to move people to moral action (though I hope you will be). "Empathy fatigue" is too high of a risk, with much of the public already numb, self-protectively disassociating themselves from the pain of others. Some folks just lack the imaginative freewill and feeling to relate to strangers, especially those living in distant lands.  

    These images are important and should be shared because they expose and catalog Israeli crimes, they bear witness. They form a part of the historical record that is in need of correction, due to the exclusion of Palestinian experiences.

    I don't want the viewer to fall into the trap of "feeling sorry" for the Palestinians. As Helene Cixous referred to it, pity is a "badly-thought-out-love." It is patronizing. It turns pain into a spectacle. But don't turn away, either. Let these pictures educate you on the waves of destruction immobilizing life in Gaza. Let them tell their own story.

    In the context of America's blind support for Israel, to hold these images in the mind is to commit a thoughtcrime, a challenge to the status quo that places an outsized spotlight on Israeli figures, which expands the definition of 'casualty' whenever possible, as Phan Nguyen explains in Mondoweiss:

    As I also reported, injuries resulting from rocket and mortar strikes are exaggerated. Israel’s casualty counts always incorporate numbers of people who have been treated for “shock and anxiety,” as well as “light injuries” resulting from the rush to safety, such as “falling down the stairs.”

    2,332 funerals have been held in Gaza since 2005; 61 in Israel.

    Neither side is in an enviable position, but it is clear that the suffering of both sides is as poorly matched as their military capacities. Palestinians are outgunned and facing far greater loses.

    As the hashtag indicates, #TheyHaveNames and hers is Shayma. Here is a quick glimpse into her life and the reality of being the "lesser victim":


    Update 7/16/2014: I awoke to the news of a fresh massacre today. Four Palestinian children were slaughtered by an Israeli airstrike while playing on the beach. Their names are "Ahed Atef Bakr, 10, Zakaria Ahed Bakr, 10, Mohamed Ramez Bakr, 11, and Ismael Mohamed Bakr, 9."

    One of the four children killed. 

    A devastated mother.

    Mohyeldin: July 16, 2014 | Shifa Hospital, Gaza. A Palestinian mother reacts to the news that her son was one of those killed by an Israeli shelling on the Gaza Sea Port where they were playing #gaza #israel #palestine

    This video, from NBC's award winning correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin, shows the moment the mother above learns that her son has been killed. Words cannot begin to describe the crippling anguish captured here: Video Post by Ayman Mohyeldin.

    And here is footage of the immediate aftermath of the bombing - four little bodies covered in blood lie crumpled in the sand like tattered rag-dolls: Video Post by Watania Media Agency.

    Learn more:

    Saturday, July 12, 2014

    How Can YOU Help Gaza?

    Make your voice heard and stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people by taking some of the following steps:

    --> Learn about the international BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement and boycott Israeli products.

    --> Attend a protest. They are likely happening in a city near you.

    San Fransisco, CA (Photo credit: Hanif Avarsaji‎)

    --> Write a letter of protest to the editor of your local newspaper.

    --> Write your representatives, senators and other government figures, both American and Israeli. Urge them to take action. Feel free to use the following letter I wrote as a template. It is longer than usually recommended, but please copy&paste liberally (be sure to update causality counts and adjust the wording as the nature of the conflict changes):

    Dear President Obama,

    This again? It's hard to believe that once again Israel has launched a full-scale military assault on the besieged population of Gaza, marking the third such attack during your presidency. 

    Instead of celebrating the holy month of Ramadan, Palestinians are being murdered in their own homes, beach-front cafes, hospitals, schools, even centers for the disabled. Over 150 Palestinians—including at least 25 children—have been killed so far. Another 1,000 have been wounded.
    Despite zero loss of life on the Israeli side, Israel has refused to respond to Hamas's rudimentary rocket fire with anything short of excessive force, pounding Gaza with some of the most sophisticated weaponry on earth, including warplanes, tanks, armed drones and warships.
    The lack of equivalence in the death toll speaks to the extreme asymmetry of the conflict, which is no ordinary war, but a violent struggle between the occupier and the occupied. Gaza is a small densely populated and impoverished enclave, home to 1.8 million people. Israel is using American made weapons in violation of the U.S. Arms Export Control Act to massacre a refugee population living in a perpetual state of humanitarian crisis due a crippling Israeli-imposed economic blockade.

    Israel, despite claims to the contrary, does not have the right to self-defense in international law against the territories it is occupying. A heavily armed occupying power cannot claim to be defending itself against the people it has suppressed and kept stateless for 66 years. 

    Bereft of a state, a standing army, an air force, Palestinians live and die under the oppressor's boots. "Operation Protective Edge," as the Israeli Occupation Forces like to call it, is not an "exchange of hostilities," but a one-sided slaughter and a threat to global peace. 

    Therefore, I urge you to exert vital diplomatic pressure on Israel to end its brutal bombardment of the Gaza Strip and to bring about an immediate cease-fire.

    I also urge you to initiate an arms embargo on Israel and an investigation into the weapons manufactured in the US that are misused by Israel against the Palestinian people in this and prior attacks, such as Operation Pillar of Defense or Operation Cast Lead, which killed over 1,400 Palestinians, hundreds of which were children. Israel lost 13 people in that conflict, mostly military personnel, 4 from friendly fire.   

    I refuse to accept the permanent condition of statelessness and endless degradation a US-backed colonial regime has imposed on the Palestinian people. I hope you refuse too.

    --> Sign a petition.

    --> Donate to a reputable organization. Hospitals in Gaza are in desperate need of supplies. 

    --> Last, but not least, continue to learn about the occupation of Palestine. Get involved in the anti-Apartheid movement. Amplify Palestinian voices whenever you can by reading and sharing their words and experiences. Spread your new-found knowledge far and wide, educating others. 

    "The only nobility we should aspire to is 
    to fight each other's oppression." 
    ~ Leslie Feinberg

    Thursday, July 10, 2014

    During The Descent Into Butchery It's Easy To Forget:

    How simple the conflict is . . .
    Rochelle Gause: If you occupy a people, steal their land, force them into refugee camps, remove all their freedoms, destroy their economy, prevent them from being able to keep their children safe, steal their water, ration their food, their cooking fuel, their electricity. They will resist. This is not rocket science. And when they resist you can not blame them for your decision to massacre them. In their homes, with no where to go. Israel, this will end, Palestine will be free, and if we as Americans are not actively struggling in solidarity, our dollars are speaking for us and we are on the wrong side of history.

    How unfair the conflict is . . .
    Professor Juan Cole: The supposedly deadly little rockets fired from the Gaza Strip have killed no Israelis, though they have done some property damage. In fact, those rockets have no guidance systems and very seldom hit anything, mostly landing in the desert. 

    Nevertheless, Reuters and other agencies (or their headline writers) routinely equate deadly Israeli airstrikes with sophisticated American fighter jets with small dumb rockets, some of them the sort of thing that could be made with an 8th grade chemistry set. And, of course, Palestinian lives are cheap and their 53 dead and (150) wounded don’t count. That no Israelis have been killed is not mentioned because it would interfere with the narrative of violent Palestinians and victimized Israelis (it is mostly the other way around).

    How misunderstood the conflict is . . . 
    Continued from above: It is therefore no surprise that American media are confused by the actual situation on the ground. There have been over 400 powerful Israeli airstrikes on one of the more densely populated areas on earth, inevitably hitting little children and their mothers, while Hamas’s and Islamic Jihads’ mostly pitiful little rockets (there are a handful of bigger long-range ones) have done relatively little damage.
    So here is Diane Sawyer showing footage of the aftermath of an Israeli airstrike on non-combatants, with a devastated Palestinian family, which she misidentifies as an Israeli family. This is not a bug. It is a feature.

    Diane Sawyer (ABC) mistakes Gazans for Israelis

    How misunderstood the Palestinians are . . .

    One of those Palestinians teaching life, Omar, of the Gaza: In The Eyes Of The Beholder blog, writes with great sadness from his home in the besieged strip: 
    It also bewilders me how people assume that all Palestinians who live in Gaza are militants, when most of us are actually civilians. Its depressing to try to prove to the world that your life matters and that you are a civilian even though they already cast their judgment on you.

    I am holding onto my last threads of humor, which shows in my tweets, but its more like dark humor. Like smiling when you are sad.
    After all, we are all trying to survive.

    Over 20 children have already lost their lives in the latest round of slaughter:

    Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, Palestine. 

    In contrast, on the other side of the aisle under wailing sirens, Israeli parents ponder how to keep their kids entertained and one Israeli wonders if she should lock up her bike before "taking cover." 

    Some sit back and enjoy the show, watching the bombardment of Gaza from the southern Israeli town Sderot in what's been dubbed the "Sderot cinema." The British paper, The Independent, writes

    Sørensen’s newspaper, the Kristeligt Dagblad, reported that the gathering involved more than 50 people who had transformed the hill into something “most closely resembling the front row of a reality war theatre”.  It said that people were seen taking popcorn up onto the hill with their chairs, and that they sat cheerfully smoking hookahs.

    Somewhere else in Israel, one Zionist had the guts to admit he is "cocooned," unlike Gazans who are militarily incapacitated and unable to protect themselves from the torrent of bombs: 

    At one point, he interrupted his stream of wisecracks with an acknowledgement that “people in Gaza are dying, some of whom have done nothing wrong. I wanted to take a minute and at least try to be conscious myself of what’s happening: that this is a w-a-r and that there is real suffering, even if I don’t feel it from my little cocoon.

    News & Views:

    Wednesday, July 9, 2014

    Palestine The Pocket Knife

    Israel continues to pound Gaza, killing more than 50.

    They're practically gloating. Israel, never lacking in the acting-out-of-the-most-savage-instincts department, has dropped 400 tonnes of bombs and missiles on the Gaza Strip since yesterday.

    Here's one of those missiles screeching through a narrow Gazan street before it hits its target with a deafening thud in a terrifying video shared on Facebook by a friend in Gaza: Video Post by Anees Mansour.

    While no supporter of Hamas, I do believe wholeheartedly in the Palestinian people's right to resist their subjugation and defend themselves against a country attempting to maintain indefinite military control over them. Occupied peoples past and present have a legal right to self-defense in international law. Whether it be European Jews in the Warsaw ghetto or ghettoized Palestinians in Gaza, they have the right to fight back. 

    However, like all colonial regimes, the government of Israel and a great many of its citizens confuse Zionist aggression with defensive action. It's a delusional desire to say the least - to believe that you are defending yourself against the very people you are vanquishing, the people you have kept stateless and under thumb for 66 years, the people you have the power to kill arbitrarily and with absolute impunity.

    Thankfully, international law and dispassionate logic tell a different story: occupiers are aggressors and aggressors attack, not defend. And the men, women and children who have absolutely no legal recourse for addressing the dire situation they've been placed in by the land-usurping occupier are victims, not perpetrators.

    Palestinians in Gaza are locked up. The majority of them have been refugees all their lives. Israel controls their borders and restricts their movement. 

    With nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, is it any wonder they fight back? Most often Palestinians resist peacefully and nonviolently (don't watch this because it's too sad), but sometimes certain factions choose to fight fire with fire and make rockets from scavenged parts and fire them haphazardly into Israel. These makeshift rockets, Israeli officials have admitted, pose more of a psychological than physical threat.

    They certainly don't warrant 400 tonnes of munitions being dropped in a matter of days on a civilian population. 

    I suppose the day we start pumping billions of dollars of military aid into an imaginary Palestinian army, maybe it will begin to look like a fair fight.

    For now, I can't help but think of Palestine as the pocket knife in the window that no one wants to buy, to quote Jean Genet's brilliant metaphor in A Prisoner of Love

    There's a small shop in Chatellerault where I once saw a knife as small as a penknife with blades that opened slowly one after the other and then gently shut again, after having threatened the town in all directions ... open, this small provincial masterpiece swelled up until its forty-seven blades resembled a porcupine at bay or the Palestinian revolution. That too was a miniature threatening in all directions: Israel, America and the Arab kingdoms. Like the penknife in the window it turned on its own axis and no-one wanted to buy it.

    Little, compact, but fierce, this revolution makes everyone uneasy - perhaps because the dispossession of the Palestinian people and their struggle for freedom and self-rule is the true litmus test of an individual's commitment to justice on earth.

    It can't be ignored.

    * * * 

    News & Views:

    The Israeli Air Force has dropped approximately 400 tonnes of bombs and missiles on the Gaza Strip over the past two days, a senior official said today. - See more at: http://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12646-israeli-official-weve-dropped-400-tonnes-of-bombs-on-gaza#sthash.DW3btYmT.dpuf