Category Archives: People

Relay Run for Refugees

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The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is the U.N. agency created shortly after Palestine was divided in 1948. UNRWA’s mandate was to specifically address the needs of the Palestinians uprooted from their homes, businesses and communities. Some were forcibly removed by the Jewish Zionists, some were threatened and fled, and some were butchered when they didn’t flee soon enough (Deir Yassin massacre).

When UNRWA began operations in 1950, it was responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees. Today, some 5 – 7 million Palestine refugees are eligible for UNRWA services.  The common denominator among all of the refugees is that they are waiting to return to their communities. To this day, many Palestinian refugees still have the keys to their homes located in present-day Israel.

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It’s often claimed that the refugees left voluntarily but the factual record doesn’t support that contention. The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) provides a very good summary of what happened in 1948 and the rights of the refugees today.

Palestinian refugees’ right to return to the homes from which they were displaced is well established in international law. The first source of support for Palestinian refugees’ claims to a right of return is U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 (III) Of December 1948, paragraph 11, in which the U.N. General Assembly,

“Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the governments or authorities responsible;

Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation…”

Since 1949, this resolution together with UNSC Res. 242 and 338 have been regularly reaffirmed by the U.N. General Assembly.

Loss of LandUNRWA provides education, healthcare, and employment opportunities for millions of Palestinian refugees, but Trump claims the agency is a failure and unsustainable, citing the growing number of refugees. Human rights lawyer, Francesca P. Albanese, wrote a very good monograph about the challenges confronting UNRWA, but we know Trump won’t be bothered with the facts. I hope members of Congress will take time to read it. (Available here.)

September 20-25, 2019, UNRWA-USA is hosting a relay-run that urges the U.S. government to put humanitarian assistance ahead of politics and back in line with American values. Partnering with Right to Movement, UNRWA-USA will bring a group of runners and refugees from Palestine to relay run down the East Coast to deliver a message that UNRWA needs America’s investment. The relay will begin on Friday, September 20 in New York City at the start of the UN General Assembly and the runners will make stops along the East Coast to share stories at community events hosted by like-minded partners and collect support for UNRWA’s humanitarian programs and services for Palestine refugees in the Middle East.

Relay itinerary:

-9/20: relay kicks off in New York City
-9/21: run from New York to Clifton, New Jersey
-9/22: run from New Jersey to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
-9/23: run from Pennsylvania to Wilmington, Delaware
-9/24: run from Delaware to Baltimore, Maryland
-9/25: run from Maryland to Washington DC

Please consider supporting these runners and UNRWA with a donation that represents your values and concern for Palestinian refugees.  Check out the link for online donations and more information.

 

 

 

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Filed under Nakba, People, Uncategorized, United Nations, US Policy

“What are Trump and Netanyahu afraid of?” — New York Times editorial board asks

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America and Israel flags

The New York Times Editorial Board, so often an apologist for Israel’s brutal occupation of the Palestinians, opined (August 15, 2019) that Trump’s and Netanyahu’s actions denying two U.S.  Congresswomen the opportunity to visit Israel-Palestine was a sign of weakness.

There are not many traditions of decorum that President Trump has not trampled on since entering the White House. But to put at risk, so cynically, America’s special relationship with Israel solely to titillate the bigots in his base, to lean so crassly on a foreign leader to punish his own political adversaries, to demonstrate so foul a lack of respect for the most elemental democratic principles, is new territory even for him.

America’s special relationship with Israel” translates to $3+ Billion every year from US taxpayers to Israel; an unquestioning veto at the UN Security Council to prevent any measure critical of Israel’s occupation; a willful blindness to the undemocratic, apartheid state that flaunts its “successes” while shielding from public view its grotesque human rights violations; a mindless deference to Israel’s hasbara and security mantra; and a chilling indifference to the suffering, killing and dehumanization of the Palestinians barely surviving under Israel’s military occupation. The N.Y. Times Editorial Board asks: “What are Trump and Netanyahu afraid of?” My answer is simple.

The Truth

Anyone who has lived, worked, volunteered or spent any bit of time with the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, occupied East Jerusalem, or the occupied Gaza Strip knows that the State of Israel has been wildly successful at spinning a righteous tale of its victimhood, its struggle for survival and security in a “dangerous neighborhood,” and its “peace-loving” liberal values.

The State of Israel has succeeded in creating this mirage by carefully pushing its hasbara  (promoting its version of the facts) to the exclusion of contrary facts which undermine Israel’s preferred reality.  And the New York Times, as well as some other western media, have been complicit in this charade.

Israel has also succeeded in keeping the U.S. Congress duped by indoctrinating them into Israel’s version of the facts with carefully orchestrated junkets to Israel that highlight the “special relationship” between our two countries; by keeping AIPAC (Israel’s Washington lobbyist) in the offices of freshman members of Congress so they are honed to the “correct path” from the beginning; and by unseating those members of Congress who won’t follow AIPAC’s direction. (Read about former Congressman Paul Finley who died August 9, 2019).

There are so many examples, books could and have been written about it.  My first education about the myths and propaganda came from one of the new Israeli historians, Professor Ilan Pappe, which I wrote about here.

My correspondence with the editors of the New York Times in 2016 is one small example of trying to break through Israel’s alternative reality. When the editors refused to label the Gaza Strip as “occupied” territory, I challenged them.  I wrote about it here. After several communications back and forth, my query finally ended up in the deep, dark hole within the bowels of the New York Times. Even the Democratic National Committee has apoplexy with the term “occupation”, as I wrote about here.

The four congresswomen — Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts — the “Squad” as they’re known on Capitol Hill — are a threat to anyone who fears the truth. They’re challenging the powerful lobbyists, the accepted orthodoxy of the Democratic Party, and even the State of Israel’s hasbara.

I can only imagine that the New York Times Editorial Board must be sniffing the same scent that the Emperor who wore no clothes sniffed when it began to dawn on him that his reality didn’t match what everyone around him knew.

The truth — that’s what Trump and Netanyahu fear.

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Filed under Israel, Media, Occupation, People, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy

UN Special Rapporteur urges Israel be held accountable

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Special Rapporteur S. Michael Lynk

The community of nations should start using some of the legal sticks available in its basket to push the State of Israel into ending the occupation of Palestine.  That’s the bottom line according to the U.N. Special Rapporteur who is calling for global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the State of Israel.

Professor S. Michael Lynk, a Canadian law professor, is no newbie to Israel’s occupation. As the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in the occupied territories, he asked  — When is enough, enough under international law?  He answered it in his report to the U.N. General Assembly in October 2017. I summarized his report here.

In the 22 page report, which should be required reading for everyone interested in the future of Israel and Palestine, Professor Lynk opened a new (legal) chapter in Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. He made the case for recognizing Israel as an illegal occupier, and called on the international community to use all of the tools in its toolbox to end this illegal occupation.

The next year, EJIL: Talk! …. the Blog of the European Journal of International Law published Professor Lynk’s commentary where he urged the international legal community to consider whether or not Israel’s prolonged occupation of Palestine has crossed some legal red line, resulting in an illegal occupation. Professor Lynk posited a 4-part test to determine the answer. His commentary was reprinted on my blog here.

The Great MarchIn the Spring of 2018, when Palestinians in Gaza launched the Great Return March and protested at the fence line between Israel and Gaza, Israel responded with lethal force. Lynk said the killings reflected a “blatant excessive use of force by Israel” and likened them to “an eye for an eyelash.” The protesters appeared to pose no credible threat to Israeli military forces on the Israeli side. Under humanitarian law, he said, the killing of unarmed demonstrators could amount to a war crime, and he added that “impunity for these actions is not an option.” (I wrote about that here.)

Although Professor Ilan Pappe wants the world to jettison the term “occupation” in favor of “colonization” in the context of Israel – Palestine, Professor Lynk has taken a different tack. He recommends that the U.N. declare the occupation illegal. See more about that here.

In March 2019, the UN Commission of Inquiry issued its findings and recommendations on the deadly protests in Gaza. Professor Lynk agreed and warned that —

As the one-year anniversary of the “Great March of Return” on 30 March 2019 draws closer, and in view of the ever-deteriorating economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza, the Special Rapporteur expressed concern over possible rising levels of violence if no firm action was taken to pursue accountability and justice. “Continuing to suffocate Gaza is a blot on the world’s conscience and a recipe for more bloodshed,” Lynk said. “Restoring Gaza and ensuring justice and accountability would give the region hope that a better Middle East is possible.”

ACCOUNTABILITY

For many years, Palestinians and human rights activists have been beating the accountability drum urging the world to hold Israel accountable for its responsibilities as an occupier and its flagrant violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Beyond the many non-binding resolutions at the U.N. over the years, there has been no credible and sustained effort to hold Israel accountable. (The U.S. is a very big reason why the U.N. has failed — but that’s for another blog post.)

2013-05-05-21-01-541On his most recent tour to the Middle East, Professor Lynk held meetings in Jordan because Israel refuses to allow him to visit Palestine. He believes that unless Israel is pressured to do the right thing, it will continue to deepen and further entrench the occupation.

Professor Lynk recommends that the UN members should consider everything from cutting cultural ties with Israel to suspending its membership in the world body.

He emphasized the role of the EU, which accounts for some 40 percent of Israel’s external trade and could make the flow of Israeli goods and services to the 28-nation bloc contingent on policy shifts that help Palestinians.

Furthermore, Lynk urges the speedy publication of a long-awaited blacklist of Israeli and international companies that profit from operations in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. He also wants prosecutors at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to hasten its preliminary investigation of allegations of rights abuses by Israel and Hamas on Palestinian territory, which began in 2015.

Although Professor Lynk’s role as UN Special Rapporteur carries no enforcement power or authority, he’s certainly using his responsibility to examine and report on the occupation to the fullest extent possible. Now civil society and solidarity activists must amplify his call for accountability. 

 

Mr. Michael Lynk was designated by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016 as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967. The mandate was originally established in 1993 by the then UN Commission on Human Rights. Professor Lynk is Associate Professor of Law at Western University in London, Ontario, where he teaches labour law, constitutional law and human rights law. Before becoming an academic, he practiced labour law and refugee law for a decade in Ottawa and Toronto. He also worked for the United Nations on human rights and refugee issues in Jerusalem.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

 

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Filed under Occupation, People, Politics, Uncategorized, United Nations

Fasting to end sanctions that kill children

My friend, Sally-Alice Thompson, is a long-time peace activist. She’s a retired WWII Navy veteran approaching 96 years old. So she’s seen a lot in her day, and she’s always been action-oriented.

She has belted out protest tunes with the Raging Grannies; picked up her walking stick in 2014 and walked 13 days from Albuquerque to Santa Fe to spur action to get money out of politics; traveled 450 miles by foot and by bus with a group of Americans and Soviet citizens in 1987 from what was then Leningrad to Moscow to promote peace and nuclear disarmament; walked nine months from LA to DC in the Great Peace March against nuclear weapons; started the Albuquerque chapter of Veterans for Peace along with her husband, a former state legislator and also a veteran; was instrumental in founding and supporting the Albuquerque Peace and Justice Center; and has taught school, written books, and sheltered refugees in her home. And this only skims the surface of what makes Sally-Alice tick.

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Sally-Alice walking to Santa Fe in 2014 (photo credit Santa Fe Reporter)

So when it became clear that US sanctions against Yemen, Iran, Haiti, Venezuela, Gaza and elsewhere were killing hundreds of thousands — perhaps millions — of children, Sally-Alice thought “someone should really do something to end this horrific foreign policy of sanctions against the most vulnerable.” Then she thought “I’m someone, and I can do something!”  

Sally-Alice launched her hunger strike to raise the public’s awareness. She started her Fasting Against Sanctions and Sieges (FASS) on June 16 in Albuquerque, NM. She’s asking people who support her to sign her petition, here.

“I am fasting because I empathize with the many hungry children of the world, so I am joining them in their suffering. I am outraged that our country is engaging in sanctions and sieges that result in starvation of babies and children. I am profoundly saddened that my government interferes in the affairs of other countries, refusing to acknowledge their sovereignty and to respect their dignity.

I especially grieve for the children. I grieve for the children of Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, and Iran, who are suffering because of the illegal sanctions imposed on those sovereign nations. I grieve for the hungry children of Gaza and Yemen, children who are hungry because of my country’s support for immoral sieges that deliberately prevent food from entering the places where they live.

I am almost 96 years old. The short remainder of my life is inconsequential. The remainder of the lives of those children may be very important. If allowed to develop normally, who knows what they may become? Are we depriving the world of a future great composer? Or maybe a talented playwright? One can only speculate, because they’re dying of starvation.

Those children have a right to live!

Permitting our country to continue down this road of genocide is completely unacceptable. So I have decide that instead of asking, ”Why doesn’t somebody do something about it?” I looked in the mirror and said, “You’re somebody, do something.”

I invite anyone who shares these feelings to join me in my fast, by skipping a meal or fasting for a day or longer. I would like to know and thank anyone who joins me.  PLEASE SIGN AND SHARE MY PETITION here.

Please contact me at sally-aliceanddon@juno.com. I hope this can start a movement to eliminate sanctions and sieges.

Sally-Alice explains her reason for fasting on this 20-minute Latitude Adjustment podcast, here.  She’s my hero.

Center for Peace and Justice celebrates 35th anniversary

Sally-Alice Thompson 2019 – photo credit Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal

 

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Filed under Hunger Strike, People, Uncategorized, US Policy, Video

My Coddiwomple

Coddiwomple – to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination.

Kabir (a 15th-century Indian mystic poet and saint, whose writings, according to some scholars, influenced Hinduism’s Bhakti movement) — “I felt in need of a great pilgrimage so I sat still for three days.”

My journey began in Malaysia and ended in Dubai, with visits to London, Langholm, Edinburgh, Stirling, Cambridge, Brussels, Leuven, Tilburg, Paris, Lyon, Geneva, Milan, Como, Venice, Cairo and finally to the United Arab Emirates. Despite all the miles, I failed to reach my destination: Gaza, Palestine. [That’s another story.]

My itinerary was clearly not of my own making. My path appeared as the opportunities opened up. I simply kept my eyes and heart open to the possibilities.

Living out of my suitcase for nearly nine months was easy; traveling light is my forte. Staying connected with family and friends was easy too, thanks to WhatsApp and social media. My online SCRABBLE friends will never know how much they kept this traveler tethered to home.

SNAPSHOTS OF MY JOURNEY

MALAYSIA: The invitation to attend the Freedom Film Festival in Kuala Lumpur jump-started my adventure.  (I wrote about it here.)  A month in Malaysia included a radio interview about Gaza, a wedding attended by the new (old) Prime Minister and his wife, a press conference in Penang about an ill-advised and poorly planned highway project, and ended with a visit to a remote village in the Kelabit Highlands where I spoke with a classroom of middle school students, and received a simple request through a translator from an old woman sitting next to me in the village church. “Pray for me. My husband just died and I’m lonely.”

The Kelabit Highlands in Sarawak, Malaysia

I learned an important lesson in Malaysia. I’m never traveling alone despite the fact that I’m a solo traveler, an elderly American woman who can’t speak any language but my mother tongue, and without resources to squander on hotels.  My new Malaysian friends opened their homes to me in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, guided me through their country, shared their time and experience with me, and opened up new possibilities (from tasting the durian fruit in Penang to learning about stingless bees and honey at the agricultural expo in Kuching). When I left Malaysia, I had a new appreciation and confidence about traveling. It’s important to be cautious and smart about my surroundings, but I don’t need to fear the unknown.

EGYPT:  In November, I flew to Cairo and returned to my Egyptian family at Pension Roma. My goal was to finish a writing project (which I did) and get permission from the Egyptian authorities to travel to Gaza (which I didn’t).  Pension Roma has been my home away from home since my first visit in 2011, where I’ve met the most interesting people. This time, Elizabeth from the UK, Mona from Paris, Andre from Canada, and Belal from Gaza were my new friends. We traveled to new and old places in Cairo; Mona and Andre and I took the train one day to Alexandria; and Mona and I traveled to an Ecolodge in the Fayoum Oasis where we met Evelyne Porret, a potter from Switzerland, who transported the art and commerce of pottery to the village of Tunis in the 1980s.

Mona and I rode on a Felucca on Qarun Lake, visited the Wadi el Rayan protected area, explored the Meidum Pyramid that hasn’t been open to tourists for years, and dodged the Egyptian security detail following us. On my 65th birthday, my friends surprised me with a cake and a serenade at Filfila, one of my favorite restaurants in Cairo Jimmy Carter visited many years ago. I made a birthday resolution to walk 10,000 steps each day, a reasonable goal since I love to walk so much.

A casual remark from an employee at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo confirmed that the U.S. and Egyptian governments are working together to keep Americans out of Gaza. I was very disheartened and not sure about my next step until an American friend in London invited me to spend the Christmas holidays with him. With my writing project completed and no plans on my horizon, I jumped on a plane to London.

LONDON AND NORTH TO SCOTLAND:

I’ve never been to London, and seeing the city for the first time with Maurice was a wonderful reintroduction to the West following my adventures in Malaysia and Egypt.  In addition to the famous tourist spots, we walked and walked and walked . . . 3 dogs to be exact. Maurice and I decided to accept a house-sitting, dog-sitting assignment in the East End for nearly 3 weeks which allowed me to experience London at the granular level (sidewalk by sidewalk).

One day I met the author of Shy Radicals, another day I met a Facebook friend who shares my passionate advocacy on Gaza and also loves live theater. I joined a protest against the maltreatment of refugees. Amid everything new and exciting, I learned something important about myself. I’m stubborn, judgmental and have little patience when things aren’t going MY WAY.

Maurice and I decided to accept another dog-sitting assignment —- but he headed south and I took the bus north to Langholm where I was suppose to meet up with a retired Buddhist nun. Maurice and I had talked with her on the phone a couple of times from London; Maurice thought she might have a screw loose but I thought she sounded OK. Maurice’s instincts turned out to be accurate. She lived alone in squalid conditions with a little dog. It looked like the kitchen sink held dirty dishes that had piled up for several weeks, and she was a hoarder. I spent the night on her couch and extracted myself at dawn with a quiet “goodbye”.  I would have sought out protective services to assist her but she told me her adult son was visiting later that day, and I told her neighbor that I was leaving.

Without any alternative plans, where should I go? What should I do? I decided to check out the Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist Monastery up the road from Langholm, the nun’s spiritual home. I found a quiet retreat center at the monastery and was assigned a bunk bed in a room for six people but I was alone. January is a quiet time in northern England.

Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist Monastery

The monastery’s quiet serenity included peaceful walks around the large estate, simple but delicious meals, nightly prayers in the temple, reading a very good book set in Scotland (Outlander) and lots of sleep. I arrived with a persistent cough that wasn’t getting better. The monk leading the prayers each night read off a list of names — people we were praying for — and I added my family to the list. Someone added my name to the list as well. One evening I was so tired, I skipped dinner and slept. When I awoke, I found a note next to my bed with a piece of bread and jam. “In case you’re hungry when you wake up.” Another evening the night watchman brought me a special medicinal tea bag that he said might help.

A monk recommended I visit with a doctor in town, and so I caught the bus for the 30 minute ride back into Langholm and the small clinic. A nurse practitioner saw me without an appointment. After many questions, taking my vitals and listening to my chest, she prescribed Amoxicillin and told me to return in a week if I didn’t feel better. Neither the clinic nor the pharmacy wanted a penny from me!

Within a week I was feeling much better and able to sit through the evening prayer in the temple without coughing. I may never know whether the prayers, the Amoxicillin, the medicinal tea, or simply the extended bed rest were responsible for my healing, but I learned an important lesson at Samye Ling. 

There are angels all around us, some we see and many we don’t. Speaking to them through prayer is a powerful way to connect with each other and the universe.  I learned how to pray at Samye Ling.

EDINBURGH: 

Scotland in January is cold, damp and gray but I didn’t know if I’d ever return and so at the end of the month I caught a bus to Edinburgh. I was hooked on getting to know Diana Gabaldon’s Scotland in her Outlander series better.

I walked and walked and walked, but noticed I was walking with more difficulty. Old Edinburgh is a three-dimensional city with steps everywhere. I spent part of every day in the Central Library Reading Room working on another writing assignment. Then I went exploring the city when it wasn’t raining, and sitting in Starbucks reading when it was.

Friends suggested I taste the Scotch. One evening I went up to the bar to ask for a recommendation. The bartender served me and the young man next to me paid for it. He could have been my grandson. I thanked him and asked him why? He said he was paying it forward, and suggested I do the same. The next day I discovered Social Bite where I bought lunch and paid it forward.

In Edinburgh I observed a heated debate about homelessness in Parliament, and watched the Advocates make their oral arguments in court wearing their robes and white wigs. I walked past protesters demanding a vote on whether or not to leave the UK following the ill-conceived Brexit move which a majority in Scotland didn’t support. I found myself caught in the middle of the Irish rugby fans waiting in front of Balmoral Hotel for their team to depart, walked through the Palace of HolyRoodhouse, and felt immersed in history everywhere.  The high points of my visit were the people I connected with — including a friend from Samye Ling, a friend from Gaza, and new friends from South Korea and Italy.  I finished my writing project and reserved a train to London.

I learned an important lesson in Edinburgh.  As much as I love to explore places and cities (I’m a city planner after all), it’s meeting people (old and new) that give my life meaning. The places and cities shape our understanding of the world and each other, but people provide the glue that makes the world turn.

LONDON REDUX:

In February, Maurice and I reconnected in London. This visit involved less tourism and more activism as I stood with the Women in Black at the Edith Cavell memorial, observed a discussion about Palestine in the House of Commons, attended Emma Sky‘s book reading at the Frontline Club, listened to Professor Ilan Pappe speak about colonization versus occupation in Palestine, and joined thousands of students protesting our inaction on the climate crisis.  I was keeping my pace at 10,000 steps or more each day but with difficulty. The pain in my left leg wasn’t going away. Maybe I should visit the doctor when I return to the US.

BRUSSELS, LEUVEN, and TILBURG:

I boarded a train on February 28 to Brussels and must have looked bedraggled when I arrived at the hostel. The receptionist asked me if I knew it was a hostel? Yes. “A youth hostel.” Yes. “We have an age limit of 35.” I didn’t notice any age limits on the website when I booked the reservation. She made an exception for me. Although I was clearly the oldest guest, young people from many countries struck up conversations with me and I felt right at home.

Brussels YOUTH hostel

Lora at a YOUTH hostel in Brussels

The museums, churches and the European Parliament filled my days, as well as a massive march opposing the Death Penalty.  One day I caught the train to Tilburg to visit an Egyptian friend pursuing his graduate studies there. Another day I took the train to Leuven to attend the Women in Black international conference. We stood outside city hall holding our signs in our vigil for peace and the end of war. When the organist in the church across the plaza played John Lennon’s IMAGINE, many of us had tears. It was the most meaningful vigil I’ve ever participated in.

PARIS, LYON and GENEVA:

A train to Paris (3 days), on to Lyon (7 days), and then a bus to Geneva (7 days) connected me to Mona, Naki, Eva and a new friend – Claire Elise. This was my second visit to Paris. I wasn’t interested in seeing the typical tourist sites. Instead, I spent one day walking around the Marais neighborhood only a few steps from my hostel. This is the Jewish quarter with very different architecture and history than most other districts in Paris. The Shoah Memorial and the Museum of Jewish Art and History captured my attention; a beautiful piano recital at the oldest church in Paris where Herbert du Plessis performed Chopin and Liszt soothed my restless soul; and a tour inside Notre Dame Cathedral and the Crypt under the plaza in front turned out to be prescient. Five weeks later, Notre Dame was engulfed in flames.

On March 10, I headed to Lyon on the train (the European Union has wonderful trains) and again I spent the days walking, walking, walking. The stairs up Fourvière Hill, the historical site of Lyon, almost did me in. The effort was worth it to see the whole city of Lyon below and the Basilique de Fourvière.

I joined students protesting climate inaction on Friday, and thousands of people marching and demanding climate action on Saturday. But I was questioning my next steps. Should I return to the US? Then I received a WhatsApp message — my name had been included in a medical convoy traveling to Gaza in a month!

Suddenly, my focus shifted to fundraising for the medical convoy. I consulted with a seasoned fundraiser and decided to record short videos about my campaign. Before returning to Cairo to join the convoy, I decided to meet a friend in Geneva.

Lora and NakiThere are people who touch your heart unlike any other. I hadn’t seen Naki since our days together in Cairo at Pension Roma seven years ago. When we reconnected in Geneva, and I met her husband, I felt the time melting away. We’re bonded together whether we share any physical space or not. I can’t explain it. 

We visited the International Committee of the Red Cross and I dreamed of a career my alter ego could have/should have had. My own career trajectory seemed so pitiful in comparison. Regrets and more regrets.

One day I walked past a well-organized Zionist demonstration in front of the United Nations Building. They were condemning the UN Human Rights Council meeting which had just wrapped up a discussion about Israel, Gaza and the Palestinian Territories. Back at the hostel, a young man overheard me talking with someone about the demonstration. He was from Brussels and had traveled to Geneva to be part of it but had questions after Googling information about some of the people who had spoken. He supported Israel and its right to defend itself against terrorism, but the information he found indicated the speakers at the demonstration were Far Right reactionaries. He was questioning what the “other side of the story” might be. We had a good engaging conversation, listening to each other, and both agreeing to disagree respectfully. We agreed on the most important thing —- that it’s important to build bridges across the great divides in our society.

I learned something important in Geneva. It takes courage to walk across the divide and speak with the opposition (whether Israel-Palestine, pro-choice and pro-life, etc). That young man showed me how to do it, with respect and an open mind and heart. I hope I can emulate him in future conversations I have, and take the initiative to reach out across the divide.

MILAN, COMO and VENICE:

My three weeks in Italy (March 23 – April 11) was an adventure of pure convenience. I didn’t know anyone there, but it was so close. I didn’t want to pass up a chance to see a part of Italy I’d never visited. I also didn’t want to pass up the chance to take a bus through the Swiss Alps!

I was still managing 10,000 steps in Milan but not every day, and my gait was much slower. My posture must have given me away. Clerks were routinely asking me if I needed assistance and offering me special consideration to get to the front of the line. My head felt young and inquisitive, but my body was feeling its age. I thought about attending a performance at the Teatro alla Scala but I was too tired to stay out late.

Throughout my journey, I’d been reading history books about the places I visited. For the very first time, my high school history lessons were beginning to make sense. This was especially true in Milan and Venice.

Milan will always stick in my mind as a high-fashion center of clothes and design with very good public transportation, and some of the most magnificent buildings I’ve ever seen. I felt like a country bumpkin wearing the same things I’d been wearing for the past 6 months, but there was no one to complain, and I took a shower every other day. Ha!

A guest at the hostel raved about his visit to Lake Como, so I decided to take the train there the next day. The natural beauty + the town’s charm = a very special spot to return and settle down for a spell to write. I rode the funicular up the mountain. Just imagine — it’s been in operation since 1894.

Then I boarded a train to Venice (March 27 – April 11). Train travel everywhere was easy, inexpensive, and a joy. When will the U.S. emulate Europe’s leadership in public transportation?

Arriving at the Santa Lucia Train Station, I had directions to my hostel on Giudecca and knew I had to get a vaporetto (water taxi).  I knew exactly which one too.

I asked the first man who approached me for directions. He was slick and firm with his response. He could take me to my hostel on his private water taxi for a princely sum. I insisted I was looking for the public taxi, and he finally caved and pointed me in the right direction. As I walked off pulling my suitcase behind me, a young man said “Good job!” I asked “What?” And he told me I handled the pesky taxi sales person very well. On a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 being the highest level of confidence, I think my confidence traveling alone has shot up to 8 or 9 since I started this journey in Malaysia six months ago.

venice-sestieri

I loved Venice so much, and the people were so welcoming, I decided to stay two weeks and really explore. Venice is definitely the city to walk. I walked everywhere, every day, but now slightly limping on my left leg. I explored nooks and crannies that I suspect the first time tourist never sees, but I also visited all of the tourist sites. I purchased Jan Morris’ book “Venice” at the most beautiful bookstore in the world, and took it everywhere I went. The weekly transit pass for the vaporetto was 60 Euros and well worth it. I jumped on and off several times each day, along with Venetians and their pet dogs. Venetians love their dogs.

The Vivaldi concert at Chiesa San Vidal was excellent. The food everywhere was delicious but expensive. Along with the calories, I was counting my Euros carefully.

Naila and the Uprising 3Every day I was fundraising for the medical convoy to Gaza, and slowly making progress. Asking people for money is difficult but I have overcome my reticence because I know the need is so great. One evening I decided to go to the mainland to see “Naila and the Uprising” — the same film that I’d seen at the film festival in Malaysia. I was curious to see how many people might show up. Are the Italians good solidarity activists for Palestine? I was pleased to see a roomful of people (probably 75-100) of all ages. My biggest surprise was seeing Naila herself, the central protagonist of the film, at the event with her husband. They answered questions after the film through an interpreter.

Throughout my travels, I found tremendous support for Palestine, much more so than I’ve seen in the U.S.  Maybe my solidarity work should focus on Americans in my own back yard.

Before I left Venice, I had to know whether there were any plans or actions addressing the inevitable sea rise and impacts of climate change. One evening Piazza San Marco was flooded when there was a convergence of high tides, full moon and lots of rain. It seemed to me the entire city would be under water with rising sea levels.

I asked to meet with the city’s planning director and was pleased that an appointment could be arranged before I traveled. I sat with Vincenzo de Nitto and his colleague, Marco Bordin, and our conversation ranged from the impact of tourism on the historic center of Venice to the inevitable rising sea level. They showed me the MOSE project which should be completed very soon, a series of steel gates at the inlets which will be raised whenever the sea level is expected to rise, and lowered when the water recedes. A technological fix to a new reality, but I wonder if it will work. Many planners and scientists laud Venice as a leader in addressing climate change.

On April 11, I boarded my flight to Cairo to connect up with the medical convoy going to Gaza.  That’s for another story.Coddiwomple

Mary Oliver (1935 – 2019) — “Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last and too soon? Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

 

 

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Correction requested

220px-Associated_Press_logo_2012.svgThere’s fake news, sloppy misreporting, and then there’s hasbara. I consider the mistake made by the AP News this week an example of hasbara that requires a correction. My letter was sent to the AP News Online Contact form. I hope it’s received and taken seriously.

 

May 8, 2019

AP News Headquarters

200 Liberty Street

New York, NY 10281

 
RE: Correction requested

Dear Managing Editor:

The story published May 6, 2019 titled “Israel’s Gaza blockade under scrutiny after latest violence” by Josef Federman, has a serious error which should be corrected in your print and electronic editions.

Federman writes: “Israel considers Hamas, which seeks Israel’s destruction, a terrorist group, while Hamas sees Israel as an illegal occupier.”

While he’s correct to assert that Israel considers Hamas a terrorist group, and also correct that Hamas considers Israel an illegal occupier, he misstates the facts when he claims that Hamas seeks Israel’s destruction.

Two years ago Hamas presented a new charter that clearly does not call for the destruction of Israel but considers the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent State of Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital along the 1967 lines, with the right of return for the refugees to homes from which they were expelled.

By implication, the document accepts that there will be another state entity outside these borders, even if it does not mention Israel. This news was reported in The Guardian on May 1, 2017. Available at https://tinyurl.com/y3b6tprc

In this world of supposedly “fake news” and public skepticism about the quality of news reporting, the AP International Bureau would do a great public service if it would provide a correction to Federman’s story and then go further and report on this new Hamas charter.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Lora Lucero

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Pull the Curtain Back

Samra boutique

The Samra boutique, before and after the strike. Photos by Samra Fashion – Gaza.

The politically correct message for the Israeli leaders to send to the world after any military operation in Gaza is:

“we’re defending ourselves” and

“the militants in Gaza started it” and

“we hit this and that military target.”

Decipher any news reports in the western media about the latest assault on Gaza and you’ll find versions of all three in every article.

But pull the curtain back and you’ll quickly find a very different story.

The goal of self-defense is a shallow proxy for the goal of systematically destroying the Gaza Strip and making it unlivable for the 2+ million Palestinians imprisoned there. “De-development” is the term coined by economist Sara Roy in her book about the political economy of de-development in the Gaza Strip. This real goal requires destruction of hospitals, utilities, infrastructure, libraries, universities and even retail businesses.  All of which Israel has been successfully accomplishing over the past 12 years or more.

The message of self-defense naturally requires Israel to convince the world that the Palestinians in Gaza are responsible for starting the hostilities. They accomplish this stealth maneuver by simply choosing the date and event which best suits their story. Don’t look too far back at the months of Israeli snipers shooting and killing peaceful protesters at the fence separating Israel and Gaza. Don’t look at Israel’s more recent targeted assassinations in Gaza. Begin the chronology of events when the Palestinian militants shoot rockets towards Israel — perfect for the self-defense narrative.

And finally, Israel is the most moral army of the world, or so it wants the world to believe. That explains the non-stop messaging about military targets. But pull the curtain back and we see a much different picture.

Gisha, the legal center for freedom of movement, reported today about Israel’s destruction of a successful retail business in the center of Gaza. This is the true target of Israel’s military operation — the de-development of Gaza.

“Years of work disappeared in one minute”
Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The latest round of hostilities between Israel and Gaza that erupted earlier this week took its toll on the lives, homes and dreams of individuals in Gaza and southern Israel. Media reports tend to focus on the stories of those killed or injured. This is the story of one Palestinian resident of Gaza who was “fortunate” enough not to suffer direct physical harm, but is one of countless people paying a different kind of price. Mahmoud Said Al Nakhaleh, 29-years-old from Gaza City, lost his life’s work in the blink of an eye when Israel bombed the six-story building that housed his women’s clothing boutique in central Gaza City.

Four years ago, Al Nakhaleh opened his boutique, Samra, on the city’s main street, and it became a successful retail business. On Saturday night, just ahead of the start of Ramadan and the holiday that marks its end, Eid Al-Fitr, when people tend to shop for new clothes, Al Nakhaleh lost his property, his investment, and his livelihood in one fell swoop.

“We were working in the store, getting ready for the holiday. I never once thought Mahmoud Said Al Nakhalehanything like this could happen,” Al Nakhaleh told Gisha’s field coordinator, Mohammad Azaiza. “No one contacted us to tell us to leave the store. We ran away when we heard the warning missile hit the building. We didn’t take anything with us. Within minutes the building turned into rubble. Years of work disappeared in a minute.”

Personal documents and cash that were in the store at the time were also destroyed. Al Nakhaleh estimates that merchandise worth tens of thousands of dollars, which was on the shop floor at the time of the bombing, was lost, along with $40,000 worth of brand new stock purchased for Eid Al-Fitr that was still in storage.

The boutique had been the sole source of income for both Al Nakhaleh and his two employees, all of whom are now unemployed. Other offices located in the same building were also demolished. “There are organizations that provide care for orphans, educational centers, media agencies. Why bomb them? Even the Red Cross told us no one had warned them that the building was going to be bombed,” said Al Nakhaleh.

Now Al Nakhaleh is trying to decide what to do next. “I was married recently and I live in a rental. Everything I had is gone and I can’t get it back. I don’t know what to do,” he admits. “I call on the world to take action to stop the firing on civilians in the Gaza Strip.”

There is no military solution that can usher in long-term quiet. Regional stability will only be made possible once Israel takes substantial, forthright steps to protect the human rights of Gaza’s two million residents and allow the Strip’s shattered economy to recover and develop. Ceasefire agreements, the “gestures” by Israel that come with them to “ease” the closure on Gaza, or more humanitarian aid from the international community cannot substitute the only long-term solution, which is an end to the occupation and resolution of the conflict.

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“עבודה של שנים הלכה בדקה”
יום ג’ 7 במאי, 2019
סבב האלימות האחרון גבה קורבנות. חייהם, רכושם ותקוותיהם של תושבים, בעזה ובדרום ישראל, נלקחו מהם באלימות בלתי נסבלת. מתפרסמים סיפוריהם של מי שחייהם קופחו, של מי שנפצעו. הסיפור הבא הוא של אדם שלמזלו לא נפגע בגופו, אך הוא נמנה עם הרבים שמשלמים מחיר אחר. פרנסתו ומפעלו המקצועי של מחמוד סעיד אל-נח’אלה, תושב העיר עזה בן 29, נלקחו ממנו אתמול ברגע כשבוטיק בגדי הנשים שבבעלותו נהרס כליל אתמול בהפצצה של ישראל על הבניין בן שש הקומות שבו נמצא העסק, במרכז עזה.

מאז פתח אל-נח’אלה את הבוטיק לפני ארבע שנים, ברחובה הראשי של העיר עזה, הפך “סמרא” לחנות מצליחה לייבוא ולממכר בגדי נשים. כעת, בשיא עונת הקניות, לקראת הרמדאן והחד שבסופו, איבד ברגע את כל רכושו והונו.

“עבדנו בחנות והתכוננו לחג, ולא עלה בדעתי לרגע שדבר כזה יקרה,” סיפר היום למוחמד עזאיזה, תחקירן “גישה”. “אף אחד לא יצר קשר לבקש שנצא מהחנות. ברחנו כששמענו את פגיעת טיל האזהרה. לא לקחנו איתנו דבר. בתוך דקות הבניין הפך לעיי חורבות. עבודה של שנים הלכה בדקה”.

כסף מזומן ומסמכים אישיים שנשארו בחנות, הושמדו. אל-נח’אלה מעריך כי בהפצצה נפגעו סחורות בשווי עשרת אלפים דולר שהיו בחנות, וסחורה חדשה בשווי 40 אלף דולר שנשמרה במחסן והיתה מיועדת לרמדאן ולקראת עיד אל-פיטר.

בחנות הועסקו גם שני עובדים, שהיא מקור פרנסתם היחיד, וכעת מחוסרי עבודה. בנוסף לבוטיק של מוחמד, נפגעו משרדים נוספים השוכנים בבניין שהופצץ. “יש כאן ארגונים לטיפול ביתומים, מרכזים חינוכיים, סוכנויות תקשורת. למה להפציץ? אפילו הצלב האדום מסרו לנו שאיש לא עדכן אותם בכוונה להפגיז את הבניין,” אמר אל-נח’אלה.

הוא מנסה כעת לחשב את צעדיו. “התחתנתי לאחרונה ואני גר בשכירות. כל מה שיש לי הלך ללא חזור. אני לא יודע מה לעשות,” הוא מודה. “אני קורא לעולם לפעול למען הפסקת הירי לעבר אזרחים ברצועה”.

כל עוד לא ייעשו צעדים כנים לקידום זכויות האדם של תושבי הרצועה, נדונו לחזרה מעגלית איומה של פרצי אלימות, לעוד ועוד סיפורים כשל מחמוד אל-נח’אלה. הסכמים קצרי טווח ו”מחוות” ישראליות שמבטיחות “להקל” על הסגר, כמו גם עוד סיוע הומניטרי מידי הקהילה הבינלאומית, אינם תחליף למהלכים ארוכי-טווח שיובילו לסיום הכיבוש ולפתרון לסכסוך.
העבירו לחברים | תרמו לגישה
“تعب السنين ضاع بلحظة”
‫الثلاثاء‬ 7 أيار، 2019

حصدت جولة التصعيد الحالية الكثير من الضحايا. السكان، الذين يعانون أصلاً وزر الحياة اليومية القاسية، يخسرون أرواحهم، ممتلكاتهم وأحلامهم بعنف لا يطاق. نسمع قصص الضحايا والجرحى، لكن السطور التالية مخصصة لشخص حالفه الحظ ولم يخسر حياته ولم يصب بجسده، لكنه ككثيرين آخرين، دفع ثمنًا من نوع آخر. محمود النخالة، من سكان غزة ويبلغ من العمر 29 عامًا، خسر مصدر رزقه ومشروعه التجاري، بعد ان تم هدم بوتيك الملابس النسائية التابع له جراء قصف إسرائيلي لعمارة في مركز مدينة غزة.

منذ ان افتتح النخالة هذا البوتيك قبل أربع سنوات، في شارع أحمد عبد العزيز في مدينة غزة، أصبح بوتيك سمرا، متجرًا ناجحًا ومتميزًا لاستيراد وتسويق الملابس النسائية. الآن، وفي ذروة موسم المبيعات، عشية شهر رمضان وعيد الفطر، خسر بلحظة كل ما يملك.

“عملنا في البوتيك وتحضرنا للعيد، ولم يخطر ببالي للحظة أن يحدث شيء من هذا القبيل،” قال النخالة للباحث الميداني في “ﭼيشاه – مسلك” محمد العزايزة. “لم يتصل بنا أحد ليخبرنا بأن نخرج من الدكان. هربنا عندما سمعنا انفجار صاروخ التحذير. لم نأخذ معنا أي شيء. خلال دقائق تحولت البناية لخرابة. تعب السنين ضاع بلحظة.”

الأموال والمستندات الشخصية التي ظلت في الدكان، أبيدت. ويقدر النخالة أن قيمة البضائع التي كانت في الدكان تبلغ نحو 10 آلاف دولار، بالإضافة إلى بضائع جديدة بقيمة 40 ألف دولار وصلت مؤخرًا وحفظت في المخزن لعرضها في رمضان وعيد الفطر.

كما عمل في البوتيك شخصان آخران، كان ذلك هو مصدر رزقهما الوحيد، والآن بقيا بلا عمل. بالإضافة إلى بوتيك محمد، ضمت العمارة مكاتب أخرى دمرها القصف. “يوجد هنا جمعيات لرعاية الأيتام، مراكز تربوية، مكاتب إعلامية. لماذا تم قصف المبنى؟ حتى الصليب الأحمر أخبرنا أن أحدًا لم يبلغهم عن النية بقصف المبنى” يقول النخالة.

يحاول محمد الآن دراسة خطواته. “تزوجت منذ فترة قصيرة وأسكن بشقة مستأجرة. كل ما أملكه ذهب بلا عودة. لا أعرف ما يمكنني فعله” يقول محمد ويضيف “أناشد كل العالم بالعمل من اجل وقف قصف المدنيين في غزة”.

طالما لم يتم اتخاذ اجراءات حقيقية وصادقة لتعزيز حقوق الإنسان لسكان قطاع غزة، سنبقى جميعنا نعاني من هذا الواقع المرير، الذي تحكمه جولات التصعيد المتكررة، ونشاهد المزيد من الحالات الشبيهة بحالة محمود النخالة. اتفاقيات قصيرة الأمد و”بوادر حسن نية” من قبل إسرائيل، التي بموجبها يتم “تخفيف” وطأة الإغلاق المفروض على القطاع، وحتى ضخ المزيد من المساعدات الإنسانية، جميعها ليست بديلات عن حلول جذرية تؤدي إلى إنهاء الاحتلال وحل الصراع.

ارسلوا للاصدقاء | تبرعوا لـمسلك

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Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement
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Tel Aviv-Jaffa 67770
Israel

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