Category Archives: Gaza

The Path of Peace – the End of Israel

There is no way to peace.

Peace is the way.

A.J. Muste

I need to reconcile the hot, burning anger inside with this statement that a friend sent to me this morning.

I don’t know anything about A.J. Muste, but his words resonate with me. Put another way, peace is not the destination with easy way markers to lead us there, but a journey we are living which requires intentional thought and hard work.

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My hiking companions on the Camino de Santiago in April 2016

However, I feel anything but peaceful. My anger is visceral. My heart muscles are twitching. I’m laser-focused on the source of my anger (COGAT) and the injustices perpetrated daily, but now that injustice is screwing my good friend in Gaza.

Today Mohammed Awad (age 28) is sitting on a precipice. The State of Israel appears determined to throw him over the edge.

Three smiling men

Mohammed Awad on the left

Mohammed is the first Palestinian I met in Gaza; actually we met via Facebook many months before I traveled to Gaza. His intellectual curiosity about the world beyond his borders struck me as unusual. I’d never met any young Americans with that same fervor for exploring ideas and challenging their own ideas and perceptions.

Even though Mohammed has never traveled outside of Gaza, his mind has touched many new horizons thanks to his university studies, his reading, his questioning and his desire to learn.

Goldsmiths 2

Goldsmiths

Recognizing Mohammed’s special gift for learning, the Goldsmiths program at the University of London awarded him a fully-funded scholarship to pursue his Masters Degree in Multilingualism, Linguistics, & Education beginning October 1, 2017.

Mohammed followed all the required steps — getting a UK visa, notifying the Palestinian authorities, requesting permission to exit Gaza from Israel’s COGAT, asking the Israeli human rights organization (Gisha) for assistance — and yet he’s caught in Israel’s red tape and there’s a serious risk he may lose his scholarship as a result.  The State of Israel is pushing him over the cliff.  Read the Independent’s story here.

 

Thus, my red hot anger. My voice inside my head wishing bodily harm to the Israeli officials sitting at their COGAT desks. My frustration at my personal impotence — unable to kick down the walls that separate Mohammed from his future studies in the UK.

How do I reconcile my feelings this morning with the journey I feel committed to follow?  The answer came when I found another quote by A.J. Muste.

A J Muste

Substitute “Occupation” for “war” and I think I’ve found the answer.

The State of Israel has existed for 70 years (1948-2018), and has occupied the Palestinian territories and Gaza for 50 years (1968-2018). Throughout its existence, the State has acted and reacted from a place of profound fear, viewing the world and its neighbors as hostile forces requiring a strong defense.

When the Zionists decided to create their new state on top of the lands, towns and villages of the Palestinians, the Arab world was certainly hostile. But time has proven two things: (1) the State of Israel is not a good neighbor and doesn’t know how to treat “others” with dignity or respect, and (2) the State of Israel has no regard for the international rule of law when it views the law as an impediment to its objectives.  In both cases, the Palestinians be damned!

Therefore, I’ve found the answer to my conundrum.  How can I maintain my personal journey or path focused on peace, while feeling this profound anger?  Does peace require the absence of anger?  Does peace require passivity in the face of injustice?  — NO! —

The State of Israel has lost its legitimacy to exist as the State of Israel, it has proven it’s incapable of reform or changing its way.  By its own calculation and design, the State of Israel is the embodiment of war. It must fail.

I want to use whatever power and influence I may have to end the State of Israel. It’s no longer an issue of two states, side-by-side. It’s no longer an issue of remaining neutral or on the fence between the two. The State of Israel must end, and a new state must rise in its place where everyone (Jew, Christian, Muslim) share equal rights.

You may call me foolish, naive, a warmonger and an anti-Semite. I’m none of those. I want Jews to live in peace and security with their neighbors. I want Palestinians to enjoy the same. Based on the many, many Palestinians that I’ve met in Gaza, the West Bank, and Jordan … I know they want peace, security and dignity too, side-by-side with all religions.

I have not met many Jews who will make the same declaration. Perhaps their fear is too great. Or perhaps their sense of entitlement to a piece of land prevents them from securing long-term peace for themselves and their neighbors.

However, I will no longer be an enabler for their dysfunctional State.

Mohammed Awad is exactly the kind of person that Israelis and Jews worldwide need as a good neighbor. They should be bending over backwards to ensure his success. It’s in their best interest to make sure Mohammed and every Palestinian fulfills his or her dreams.

Now I understand, my journey for peace is consistent with ending the State of Israel for everyone’s sake.

 

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, Occupation, Peaceful, People, Uncategorized

Israeli/Palestinian Conflict 2005 – 2017

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A well-informed friend (neither Palestinian nor Israeli) recently prepared this timeline of key events during the past 12 years with a particular focus on Gaza. He wishes to remain anonymous at this time, but I am very grateful for his time and effort in pulling this timeline together.  Its value is not only the timeline’s comprehensive treatment but also its impartiality.

2005

 

Government of Israel (GOI) starts implementation of the so-called “Disengagement Plan”, which consists of the voluntary and unilateral withdrawal from all military bases and soldiers from the Gaza Strip, as well as the dismantling of the 21 Jewish settlements located within the Strip, being Gush Katif the largest of all. The “Disengagement Plan” had been designed by the Prime Minister at the time, Ariel Sharon.

 

GOI finishes the implementation of the “Disengagement Plan” successfully. Although facing some resistance from the young and more radical Jewish settlers there was no armed violence at all (unlike when Israel dismantled the settlement of Yamit in the Sinai Peninsula in compliance with the Camp David Accords from 1978). From there on, there has been no permanent Israeli presence or jurisdiction in Gaza. However, Israel retained control of certain elements, such as airspace, sea and borders, leading to an ongoing dispute as to whether Gaza is still “occupied territory” or not.

 

US Secretary of State Condolezza Rice visits Israel for the celebrations of the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Itzaak Rabin and mediates the “Agreement on Movement and Access” to facilitate the reopening of the Rafah Crossing (that connects the Strip to Egypt, and from there to the rest of the world) under the management of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and the supervision of European border monitors. Rafah Crossing is reopened and becomes the first border crossing ever managed by the Palestinians (before they were in the hands of the Ottoman Empire, British Mandate, Egypt and Israel).

 

2006

 

The Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas (which is registered in the list of terrorist organizations of both the United States and the EU) unexpectedly wins a clear majority in the elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council (Parliament), after Fatah can’t politically sell the “Disengagement” as its own achievement through negotiations due to its unilateral character. The PNA´s bilateral relations with Israel deteriorate a lot, even though its President Mahmoud Abbas, remains a member of the secular party Fatah.

 

Following a Gaza beach blast, in which seven members of the same family were killed, the armed wing of Hamas called off its 16-month-old truce. Although GOI claimed its Army was shelling 250 mts away from the family’s location; Palestinians claimed that the explosion was Israeli responsibility. An Israeli internal investigation report claimed the blast was most likely caused by an unexploded munition buried in the sand and not by shelling. This investigation was criticized by human rights organizations.

 

After crossing the border the Gaza Strip into Israel in the South, the Palestinian “popular Resistance Committees” attacked an Israeli Army post, killing 2 soldiers, injuring 4 and capturing Corporal Gilad Shalit. GOI orders the Army to launch military operation “Summer Rains”. The kidnapping of Shalit leads to several collective punishment measures against the Strip, among them the reduction of the fishing space and the regular closure of the Rafah Crossing. This is considered to be the first stage of the blockade of the Strip.

 

Second Lebanon War starts after Shiite militia Hezbollah members infiltrated Israel in a cross-border raid, captured two soldiers and killed three others. Israel attempted to rescue the captured, and five more soldiers were killed. Israeli Army responded, attacking Lebanon from earth, air and sea. The conflict resulted in the deaths of 1,191 Lebanese people and 165 Israelis. Simultaneously, the Army launched a counter-offensive to deprive cover to militants firing rockets into from Gaza, killing 23 Palestinians.

 

A UN study declared the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip “intolerable”, with 75% of the population dependent on food aid, and an estimated 80% of the population living below the poverty line. The Palestinian economy had largely relied on Western aid and revenues, which had been frozen since Hamas’s victory in the legislative elections.

 

Brokered by Egyptian mediators, Fatah reached a deal to end fighting between the Hamas and Fatah factions, both groups agreeing to refrain from acts that raise tensions and committing themselves to dialogue to resolve differences. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas brushed off comments by President Mahmoud Abbas, head of Fatah, who indicated he could dismiss the Hamas-led cabinet. Abbas unsuccessfully urged Hamas to accept international calls to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

 

2007

 

Fatah-Hamas negotiations in Mecca (Saudi Arabia) produced an agreement on a Palestinian national unity government.

 

After the increasing of intra-governmental tensions within the PNA Hamas launches an strike against Fatah loyalists in Gaza, taking control of all the Strip within a few days of intense fighting. Since then the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have remained fragmented, both geographically and politically.

 

US Administration under George W. Bush promoted the Annapolis Conference, a peace conference marked the first time a two-State solution was articulated as the mutually agreed-upon outline for addressing the conflict. The conference ended with the issuing of a joint statement from all parties.

 

2008

 

Israeli Army launches Operation “Hot Winter” in response to rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. The operation resulted in 112 Palestinians and three Israelis being killed.

 

Israeli Army raids the Gaza Strip without a clear and direct reason for it, killing six members of Hamas. Hamas cancels the truce agreement that it had respected most of time. The armed wing of Hamas responds with rocket attacks on southern Israel.

 

Israeli Army launches Operation “Cast Lead”, a full-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip.

 

2009

 

Operation “Cast Lead” continues until January 18. After 22 days of fighting, Israel and Hamas each declared separate unilateral ceasefires. Casualties of the so-called “first Gaza War” are disputed. According to Hamas, they included as many as 1,417 Palestinians including as many as 926 civilians. According to Israeli Army, 1,166 Palestinians were killed, and 295 were non-combatants. “Cast Lead” is criticized by the Goldstone Report under the auspices of the UN.

 

Although Kadima wins the legislative elections its candidate for Prime Minister, Tzipi Livni, doesn´t get enough support in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) and the candidate of the Likud party Benjamion Netanyahu is appointed as new Prime Minister.

 

2010

 

Turkish and international activists of the “Freedom Flotilla” try to break Israel’s naval blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza, but were intercepted by the Israeli Army. When the Israeli naval commandos boarded the main ship (Mavi Marmara) the activists attacked them with knives and metal rods. 9 Turkish activists are shot dead after a quite negligent crisis management by GOI.

 

U.S. launches direct negotiations between GOI and PNA in Washington D.C.

 

GOI decides not to extend the construction moratorium in the settlements of the West Bank that had been agreed by the Obama Administration as a confidence-building measure with the PNA. A second round of Middle East peace talks between GPI and PNA takes place in Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt).

 

2011

 

Two young Palestinians with no previous security offenses infiltrate the settlement of Itamar and murder five members of the same family in their beds. This incident creates a lot of mistrust on the Israeli public opinion about re-launching the Peace Process.

 

Egyptian and Palestinian militants perpetrate a cross-border attack in southern Israel and killed 8 Israelis, 2 soldiers and 6 civilians. 40 injured. 5 Egyptian soldiers are also killed. This incident becomes an example of the militarization process and chaos in the Sinai Peninsula during the “Arab spring” taking place in Egypt.

 

Palestine applies to the UN General Assembly for recognition of Palestine statehood, calling it a “Palestine Spring”.

 

Hamas liberates soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for the liberation of 1.000 Palestinian prisoners (with very diverse backgrounds) by Israel.

 

Palestine wins membership in UNESCO while UN vote on statehood is put on hold. In the Security Council, Palestine gets no support from France and UK while US threatens to veto it.

 

2012

 

Gaza militants launch over 300 rockets and mortar shells into southern Israel, wounding 23 civilians. Israeli Army retaliates with air strikes on Gaza targets, killing 22 militants and 4 civilians.

 

Israeli Army lunches Operation “Pillar of Defense” after perpetrating a “targeted killing” against Hamas´ armed wing head, Ahmed Jabari. Gaza officials said 133 Palestinians had been killed in the conflict of whom 79 were militants, 53 civilians and 1 policeman. Around 840 Palestinians are wounded. Hamas fires over 1,000 rockets at southern Israel, killing 6.

 

UN General Assembly upgrades Palestine to “non-member observer State” status in the United Nations, was adopted by the 67th session of the UNGA, coinciding with the celebration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinians People. Vote: For: 138; Abs.: 41 Against: 9.

 

In response to the UN approving the Palestinian UN bid for non-member observer state status, GOI announces the approval of building of housing units in the E1 Area that connects Jerusalem and Israel settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, while effectively cutting the West Bank in two pieces.

 

2013

 

Likud party wins the legislative elections in coalition with Israel Beitenu and Benjamin Netanyahu is re-elected as Prime Minister.

 

2014

 

Three Israeli youngsters are kidnapped and assassinated while hitchhiking home from their religious schools in settlements on the West Bank. GOI blames the assassination on Hamas, and claims it was ordered by one of its leaders in exile, Salah Al Arouri, who lives in Turkey.

 

Israeli Army rounds up more than 150 Palestinians, including Parliament speaker Abdel Aziz Dweik and several members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (who are supposed to enjoy Parliamentary immunity).

 

Israel Air Force launches dozens of air strikes across the Gaza Strip overnight, just hours after the bodies of three abducted Israeli teenagers were found in a shallow grave near the southern West Bank city of Hebron. Following the discovery of the bodies, Netanyahu issues a statement once again blaming Hamas. Hamas denies involvement.

 

In retaliation to the abduction of the 3 Israeli teenagers, 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir is grabbed off the street after leaving his home in Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhood of Shuafat, is beaten up and burnt alive, provoking a wave of riots in East Jerusalem.

 

Israeli Army launches Operation “Protective Edge” against the Gaza Strip. More than 2,200 Gazans are killed and 10,000 injured –from them around 70% civilians according to the UN– after almost two months of shelling from earth, air and sea. 73 Israelis get killed, from them 66 soldiers and 7 civilians. This “third Gaza war” becomes the most lethal and destructive of all military operations launched by the Israeli Army against the Gaza Strip.

 

The international community, under the auspices of Egypt and Norway, celebrates a donor Conference for Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. The PNA presents its National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan, for which so far has not even 50% of the funding that was pledged by the donors at the Cairo Conference from 12 October 2014.

 

2015

 

Likud Party wins the early elections and Benjamin Netanyahu gets reelected as Prime Minister for his third term in a row and fourth term altogether (at the end of his current mandate he will become Israel´s longest serving head of Government). The ruling coalition becomes Israel´s most right-wing Government ever.

 

All UN agencies release a joint report under the name of “Gaza 2020” stating that if current trends remain (population growth, lack of drinking water, lack of natural resources, energy restrictions, etc.) the Gaza Strip will be uninhabitable by 2020.

 

The recurrent provocations by right-wing Members of the Knesset visiting the Haram Al Sharif in the old city of Jerusalem (third most important religious site for Islam, but also the most important for Judaism, as it is believed to be the site of the Temple Mount, where both Jewish Temples were erected before their destruction leads to the so-called “Knife Intifada” (sequence of attacks with knives against Israeli policemen and civilians).

 

2016

 

After several months of quiet the Jewish High Holiday season (New Year, Yom Kippur, Sukkot) leads to more visits to the Temple Mount by right-wing members of Knesset and even a couple Government ministers, provoking more riots and turmoil in Jerusalem.

 

2017

 

Yahya Sinwar replaces Ismael Haniye as head of Hamas for the Gaza Strip. Haniye replaces Khaled Meshal as head of the Political Office of Hamas in exile.

 

Three young Israeli Arabs manage to smuggle fire arms into the Haram Al Sharif and kill two Israeli Policemen at one of the entrances. GOI installs metal detectors and CCTV cameras at different entrances to the Holy Explanade, detonating a new wave of riots. After the killing of two Jordanian citizens by an Israeli security guard in Amman (Jordan) GOI finds the way out of the crisis, removing the detectors and the cameras after two weeks of violence.

 

Hamas announces it will allow the PNA to retake over some ministries, executing effective control over them and cancelling the “administrative committee” it had created last April after the PNA cancelled the payments for fuel (stopping the power station in Nuseirat) and reducing the payments for electricity (that it buys from Israel). It also announces that the Ramallah Government lead by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah can call for both legislative and presidential elections (the Legislative Council doesn´t work since 2007 and President Abbas rules by decree since 2010 as his mandate expired) creating new expectations for national reconciliation.

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Filed under Elections, Gaza, Hamas, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Politics, Settlers

#Gaza5K — a Success!

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I didn’t have any doubts that I would finish the #Gaza5K in DC this morning, but I had expectations I didn’t know for sure that I could fulfill.

#1 — Could I meet my fundraising goal of $1,000?

#2 — Could I get to the park in DC by 7 AM?

#3 — Could I cross the finish line without any aches and pains?

This was my third year participating in UNRWA-USA’s #Gaza5K.  These races are scheduled in several cities around the USA to raise funds to provide mental health services for the refugees in Gaza.  The next #Gaza5K is in San Francisco on October 14.

Tshirts

Picking up our t-shirts prior to the race

Thanks to my friends in Albuquerque, Seattle, Chicago and elsewhere, I met my fundraising goal just a day before the race. I carried the names of each of my 16 contributors on a 3×5 card with me during the race to honor their generosity in fulfilling expectation #1.

Morning snacks

Nourishment before the race

Since I don’t drive and I’m about 40 miles from DC, I wasn’t sure how I could make it to the race by the 7 AM check-in time. Good friends had my back. One offered me a place to sleep in DC if I wanted to travel the night before the race; and another offered to pick me up at my doorstep in Baltimore at 6 AM so we could drive together. Alhamdulillah! Expectation #2 was met.

 

 

When the crowd lined up — I’m guessing 125-150 people — we learned that we had collectively raised over $115,000 and everyone cheered.

Whether we ran or walked or strolled along this #Gaza5K course, we were all there for the same purpose — to support the Palestinian refugees in Gaza who are trapped inside Israel’s suffocating blockade and military bombardments.

The unemployment rate is over 40%; the restriction on travel has created the largest open air prison in the world; suicide rates are increasing; and in 2012, the United Nations predicted that Gaza would be unlivable by 2020 (now the UN says Gaza is de-developing faster than it earlier predicted).

start race

Off we go …. at 8 AM

I had no intention of running this 5K and, fortunately, many others didn’t either. I felt quite at ease walking along, first at a good clip, but then slower and slower as we ticked off the kilometers.

 

The runners seemed to be having a good time. It was the perfect weather, and the perfect course (FLAT) for this #Gaza5K.

Jeff and Sammy

Jeff and Sammy from Baltimore

I’m pleased to report that my final expectation, making it across the finish line without any aches or pains, was fulfilled, and my friend Jeff won a medal for the fastest runner in his age bracket!  Alhamdulillah!

 

“Thank you” to each of my friends who contributed to this campaign. Together we made a world of difference in the lives of many Palestinian refugees who will benefit from UNRWA’s mental health services.

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay area, consider signing up and joining the fun on October 14 at Lake Merced Park.  If you can’t join, but want to contribute, check this link here. Shukran!

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Filed under Gaza, Peaceful

We All Live in Gaza

A couple of years ago, Maurice Jacobsen contacted me out of the blue.  I remember it well because I was sitting in Cairo trying to return to Gaza, and Maurice was an American who wanted to travel to Gaza also. He’s a filmmaker, and producer-director at Inshallah Media Project.

I couldn’t give him much encouragement because I hadn’t found any cracks in Israel’s tight siege of the Gaza Strip.  But Maurice didn’t give up.

The fruit of his labors can be seen in this wonderful short film.  Congratulations Maurice! Thank you for bringing all of these Palestinian artists to our attention.

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Filed under Gaza, Peaceful, People, Uncategorized, Video

Accountability for war crimes? ICC

When and how will Israel be held accountable for war crimes committed during its 51-day Operation Protective Edge in 2014?  The operation killed 2,251 Palestinians, the vast majority of whom were civilians, including 299 women and 551 children. The operation also caused massive destruction to 18,000 homes and other civilian property, including hospitals and vital infrastructure.

Most of the destruction and damage has not been repaired in the past three years. Neither has any serious investigation been conducted.

Two legal NGOs in Israel — Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and Adalah — have been absolute bull dogs, pushing the Israeli authorities to comply with their responsibilities under International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL). For the past three years, they have submitted petitions, complaints, claims and every manner of documentation to press for justice for the victims of Operation Protective Edge. To no avail.

IHL and IHRL require Israel to investigate allegations of suspected violations committed during Operation Protective Edge, with independence, impartiality, effectiveness, promptness and transparency and to prosecute those allegedly responsible.

But as with its inquiries into past military operations, Israel has delayed, denied, deflected and dismissed every attempt by the United Nations and others to come clean with its actions in Operation Protective Edge.

That hasn’t stopped Israeli soldiers from talking about their experience in Operation Protective Edge.

On August 28, 2017, Al-Mezan and Adalah published their 9-page report documenting their attempts to hold Israel accountable — Gaza 3 Years On: Impunity over accountability Israel’s unwillingness to investigate violations of international law
in the Gaza Strip. No surprises here.

The cases concerned severe events that resulted in the killing and serious injury of Palestinian civilians, including women and children, and the massive destruction of civilian objects. The evidence in these cases suggested that the attacks were carried out in violation of the principles of distinction and proportionality, which could amount to grave breaches of IHL. These cases mostly concerned incidents of:
 Direct attacks on homes causing many civilian deaths and injuries;
 Direct attacks on children (e.g. the four Bakr children playing on the beach and the Shuheibar children feeding pigeons on a house rooftop);
 Direct attacks on five UNRWA schools that were sheltering civilians;
 The bombing of mosques, hospitals and a shelter for people with severe disabilities;
 Attacks on civilian infrastructure and the municipality workers fixing them.

After Operation Protective Edge, Israel cynically created the Fact-Finding Assessment Mechanism (FFAM) to improve its investigative abilities but after three years, 46.4% of the complaints filed by Adalah and Al Mezan were referred to the FFAM for examination and then closed, without opening a criminal investigation or ordering further action against those involved. 43% of the complaints remain under examination by the FFAM or received no response.

The Military Advocate General’s responses to such cases:
 Secret evidence: The materials collected by the FFAM and other intelligence materials cannot be revealed because they are classified;
 Military necessity: Certain incidents in question were undertaken based on military necessity (these arguments were written vaguely and did not include any supporting evidence);
 No non-military witnesses: The FFAM did not find any need or use in taking testimonies from non-military witnesses.

This whole exercise may seem pointless because when has Israel ever been held accountable for its violations of international law?

This time things might be different.

Ms Fatou Bensouda

Ms Fatou Bensouda – Prosecutor

The Office of the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC) has launched a preliminary investigation. (pp. 25-32) But the ICC can’t assume jurisdiction in this case if the State of Israel has an effective mechanism for investigating and prosecuting these claims. In November 2016, the Prosecutor said she would “assess information on potentially relevant national proceedings, as necessary and appropriate.”

That’s why this report from Al-Mezan and Adalah is so very important. It clearly shows that Israel is incapable and unwilling to investigate and hold itself accountable. If the Prosecutor agrees, she can recommend that the ICC take the case.

Israel needs to be held accountable, sooner rather than later. This report provides the ammunition to open the courthouse doors. Bravo Al-Mezan and Adalah!

The case of the Abu Dahrouj family provides another illustration of Israel’s unwillingness to investigate. On the night of 22 August 2014, an Israeli warplane fired two missiles at a home belonging to the Abu Dahrouj family in central Gaza. The Israeli missile strike killed five members of the Abu Dahrouj family, including two children, and wounded multiple civilians and caused extensive damage to neighboring homes. Although [Israel] acknowledged that the missile attack was carried out directly on a civilian home and did not target any combatant or military object, no investigation was opened and the case was closed without any action against those involved.

 

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Filed under Gaza, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, United Nations

#Gaza5K – where every step and $$ counts

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In a couple of weeks I’ll be walking, not running, in the #Gaza5K to raise funds for UNRWA-USA to support the Gaza mental health progran for Palestinian refugees.  This will be my 3rd year and I’m really looking forward to it.

My goal is $1000 this year.  As of August 21, I’m 1/4 of the way there so I really need to focus on my fundraising and would appreciate any donation of any size. Donations are tax deductible, and I’m confident that the funds are spent wisely.  Please check out my story here.   And here’s my story and photos from the #Gaza5K last year when I exceeded my goal of $2,000. To make a safe and secure donation, please click here.  Thank you!

 

 

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Filed under Gaza, Peaceful, People, United Nations, Video

#GazaChat connects the world to Gaza

Gaza chat

A little known secret must be shared.

I never would have had the opportunity I had living and teaching in Gaza (Sept. 2012 – May 2013) if it hadn’t been for the Palestinian friends I made on Facebook during the heady days of the Arab Spring in 2011.

My nephew was responsible for setting up my Facebook account in 2007 or 2008 over my initial resistance. I just couldn’t imagine how Facebook might improve the online messaging experience I already had with email.

I know some friends in my cohort (50s, 60s and 70s) who refuse to take the leap into Facebook or, if they do, they carefully circumscribe their “friends list” and the online experience. They hope to maintain a semblance of privacy on a very public social media tool.

I did just the opposite. I want everything to be public. In the early days, I searched out interesting people (like authors and leaders in different fields) to request their “friendship” on Facebook. One led to another, and to another, until I had a critical mass of “friends”, many of whom I didn’t know personally but I liked their minds. I appreciated what they wrote or posted on Facebook.

Facebook all Over the World

I knew the downsides of Facebook — the silo effect which might trap me in an echo-chamber of like-minded “friends”; the craziness from the trolls on social media; and the ugliness from obnoxious idiots. Thankfully, I’ve been able to tiptoe around the minefield and avoid most of the traps I’ve been warned about.

During the Arab Spring uprising in Cairo in early 2011, a young Palestinian from Gaza reached out to me on Facebook. I don’t know how he found me, but our only connection seemed to be English and a mutual interest in the Arab Spring revolution. When he told me he was from Gaza, my typing fingers started whizzing along on the keyboard, recalling my first visit to Gaza in 2004. I wanted to hear more about his life in Gaza.

One thing led to another — as so much with life on Facebook does — and I met more Palestinians in Gaza, and a university professor from Gaza, and then secured an invitation to visit Gaza. Al-hamdulillah!

Israel has had a stranglehold on Gaza for the past 10+ years, preventing Palestinians from leaving and, more recently, preventing foreigners from entering the Gaza Strip. Social media provides the critical connection to the outside world from the “largest open air prison in the world.

According to a 2016 report published by the Palestinian company Concepts, approximately 1.7 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip use Facebook, while more than one million use WhatsApp and more than 300,000 use each of Twitter and Instagram.

Now I have a Twitter account (although I’ve decided to avoid Twitter since the Tweeter-in-Chief began polluting the airwaves).

I’m stepping into the world of Twitterstorms and Twitterchats because I see a glimmer of what the future holds. The benefit of tweeting in 160 characters still seems a bit elusive to me but I’m willing to learn. What new path might this reveal?

Gaza chat

The Twitterchat tomorrow (August 8, 2017) is organized by Just World Books and Just World Educational which provide the following explanation:

How does a Tweetchat work?

A tweetchat is a semi-structured, Twitter-based conversation that’s held at a designated time and built around participants’ use of a single hashtag– in our case, #GazaChat. Our two planned #GazaChats will run:

  • On Tuesday, August 8, 10-11 am ET (5-6 pm Palestine Time) and
  • On Tuesday, August 22, 10-11 am ET (5-6 pm Palestine Time)

If you are on Twitter, we hope you’ll join them both! Simply log on to Twitter at (or slightly before) the designated start-time, and search for the hashtag

#GazaChat, which we will all be using.

Once you’ve done that search and arrived at the #GazaChat screen, be sure to:

  • from the options near the top, choose the “Latest” view (circled in the screengrab above);
  • refresh the page frequently (the “Refresh” button is also circled); and
  • remember that you can post your own tweets directly from the search page– and when you do so, Twitter automatically adds the hashtag to your tweet!

It is actually easier to refresh the search if you use a mobile device, where you do it simply by swiping down on the screen. Whatever device you use, though, you’ll likely find there’s a time-lag of around 20 seconds between when someone posts a tweet with the hashtag and when it shows up in the search.

For the hour of the tweetchat, our hashtag will function as our (globe-circling) chat room! By the way, for most participants, joining the conversation is a text-only experience, so you’ve no need for any fancy internet connections.

To help structure each chat, we (@JustWorldEd) will throw into it a series of questions, that we’ve previously prepared on static image-slides for your easy visibility. We’ll post a new question every few minutes, and we’ll number them, Q1, Q2, Q3… They will look like the sample one shown here.

We ask chat participants to try to respect the numbering system, which helps to give some structure to what could otherwise be an unruly Twitter free-for-all. When you see a question– or a series of answers to any question– that you want to comment on, discuss, or give an answer to, please preface your answer or other contribution with A1, A2, or whatever the number is of the discussion-portion it’s related to. Twitter will then automatically include the #GazaChat hashtag on your answer, if you’re connected via the hashtag search.

You’ll need to keep your answers short, of course. But you can certainly contribute more than once to each question.

We also ask you to keep your contributions respectful to everyone– and not to hog the discourse completely.

Once the discussion on Q1 seems to have run its course, we’ll tweet out Q2… then Q3, Q4, and so on… Stay tuned to the #GazaChat hashtag so you can see and respond to each of the questions as we send them out!

 

 

 

 

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