Tag Archives: Israel occupation

“Why can’t the Palestinian leaders build a state like the Zionists did after the Holocaust?”

“Why aren’t the Palestinian leaders building a country like my parents, survivors of the Holocaust and millions like them, did with Israel, instead of building tunnels, shooting missiles and subjecting their people to untold horrors?”

I gasped when I read this question sent to me by a well-educated, university professor in Israel. It was a serious question, deserving a serious response.

Where to begin?

To dissuade my friend of any notion that Palestinians might be incapable of building a country, I’ll remind him of the cities, industry, agriculture, schools and civic life that flourished in Palestine before my friend’s parents and other Zionists arrived. Please watch this 10 minute video.

When I returned from Gaza two years ago, I wrote my layman’s version of the history of Palestine here and here. Israel’s 67 years of dispossession, ethnic cleansing, and occupation of Palestine — as well as current events, including the Palestinian resistance and Israel’s successive military operations in the West Bank and Gaza — can only be understood in the context of the Nakba. I believe my Israeli friend’s question is sincere because either he doesn’t know about the Nakba (past and present) نكبة or he has decided to ignore and minimize the ongoing impacts of the Nakba.

I credit Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky for opening my eyes about the Nakba.

In the late 1980s, a group of Israeli historians, including Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris, began to challenge the commonly accepted version of Israeli history based on newly declassified Israeli government documents. Morris called them the New Historians. They went head-to-head with the traditional historians who cast Israel as the peace-seeking victim in a hostile Arab world, the David-and-Goliath narrative. The New Historians shared a more nuanced history of the exodus of the Palestinians and the reasons for the persistent political deadlock with the Arab states in the region.

Professor Ilan Pappe’s book “Ethnic Cleansing” was my education about the Nakba. I hope my friend will read it. In this video, Pappe describes in great detail about the Zionists who committed the Nakba crimes. He urges us to know the names of the perpetrators, the victims, the places and events of the Nakba. Pappe also speaks about the “conspiracy of silence” by the international community in 1948. Please watch.

So . . . . . why can’t the Palestinian leaders do what the Zionists have done (are still doing) in creating the State of Israel?

  • If my friend’s parents and other Zionists had decided to live peacefully side-by-side with the indigenous population when they arrived in Palestine, as Jews, Christians and Muslims had lived for many years, we would certainly be watching very different events unfold in the Middle East today.  The footage in this short clip shows a time when Palestinians of all faiths lived and worked side by side in harmony.
  • If the Zionists believed in a democracy that values plurality rather than an apartheid regime that values Jews over non-Jews, we would certainly be watching very different events unfold in the Middle East today. Saree Makdisi explains apartheid very well here and in his book “Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation.”

“Apartheid” isn’t just a term of insult; it’s a word with a very specific legal meaning, as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1973 and ratified by most United Nations member states (Israel and the United States are exceptions, to their shame).

apartheid wall

  • If Israel had not waged three military campaigns in Gaza over the past six years, Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009), Operation Pillar of Defense (2012) which I witnessed first hand from the ground in Gaza, and the most recent Operation Protective Edge (2014), and if Israel lifted the multi-year siege and blockade of Gaza, and if Israel allowed Palestinians in Gaza to travel freely to pursue educational opportunities, visit family, accept jobs, seek medical attention, etc., — if none of these inhumane actions had occurred and were still occurring — we certainly would be witnessing a vibrant economy in Gaza with the next generation of Palestinians living in hope, not despair. Instead, the U.N. is predicting that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020. Some of my blog posts from Operation Pillar of Defense are here, here and here.

I can hear your retort now, my friend.  It sounds something like this.  (I hope you are not offended, but I’ve heard the same words spoken seriously by many, many Jews.)

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So long as the Zionists maintain the brutal occupation and dehumanization of the Palestinians, as they have for decades, resistance will continue.  Resistance in the form of political resistance at the United Nations, resistance at the International Criminal Court, cultural resistance such as teaching the next generation the Palestinian traditions, economic resistance, non-violent resistance in Budrus, resistance with the pen, and violent resistance.

I’ll conclude with Noura Erakat’s well-reasoned explanation of why Israel’s occupation is illegal. As an attorney yourself, I hope you will give Ms. Erakat the time and respect she deserves by reading her paper.

I appreciate your question which initiated this blog post, and I hope we will continue this discussion. Even more, I hope the occupation and dispossession of Palestinians from their land, which your parents and other Zionists started so many years ago, will come to an end very soon.

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Nakba, nonviolent resistance, Occupation, Peaceful, People, Politics, Settlers, United Nations, US Policy, Video

Things I learned about Israel recently

Recently, a friend of a friend of a friend shared an essay that someone had written about Israel.  Although the essay was factually accurate, it was a very long read and some of the language might be construed as inflammatory.  I knew it would be a difficult piece for anyone who loves Israel.  So I’ve taken the liberty to shorten the essay, “soften” the tone, but hopefully retain the facts and intent of the original author.

Only strong people who are critical thinkers and want to find justice in the Middle East should read this. I’m honestly looking for intelligent feedback to disprove any of these points.

(From Ash Madi: “Things I learned about Israel recently”)

#1     Zionism is a political ideology that has betrayed the teachings and values of Judaism to justify a colonial project based on the systematic ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people of Palestine.  Political Zionism is to Judaism what ISIS is to Islam: a grotesque distortion of the values and spirit of religion.

#2     Zionist nationalism is based on a form of nationalism found in Eastern European nations such as Russia and Poland, which is based on ethnic ownership of the land. Poland is for ethnic Poles and Russia is for ethnic Russians. This contrasts with Western European nationalism found in places like France and the US where the land belongs to anyone who is a citizen of the state.

Figure 1: Gaza Strip blockade. Source: UN OCHA

Figure 1: Gaza Strip blockade. Source: UN OCHA

#3     Zionism draws much of its arguments for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine from the 5 books of Moses and the book of Joshua. The latter is the story of how the ancient Israelites conquered the promised land of Canaan (present day Levant) under the leadership of Joshua and the full blessing of God by repeatedly perpetrating massacres of unfathomable barbarity against the Canaanites where no man, woman or child was left standing. The latest massacre of the people of Gaza through indiscriminate bombing of civilians, women, children, residential buildings, hospitals, schools and even shelters follows the spirit of the book of Joshua. Conversely, Jews in the West have a more universalist approach based on the tradition of the prophets.

#4     Before declaring the independence of Israel, Zionists had already committed 16 massacres against the Palestinians and ethnically cleansed 200,000 of them. All of this happened before neighboring Arab armies decided to intervene. The Zionist narrative claiming Israel was gratuitously attacked by the Arab armies is a lie.

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#5     The highest court in Israel has determined that “Israeli” is not an identity.   Jewishness is the foundation of identity in Israel, not citizenship. Palestinians in Israel are considered simply “Arabs”, since Palestinian identity is not recognized. However, this abstract pure Arab identity exists only in Israel. Everywhere else Arab people are Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian, Iraqi and Palestinian.

#6    Israel fully meets the internationally recognized legal criteria of apartheid as defined in the International Covenant on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid which includes the following 6 categories of crimes:
– Massive violation of human rights and civil rights
– Imposition of inhumane living conditions, such as poverty
– Society-wide legalized discrimination in areas such as finance, housing, employment, education, and access to cultural events
– Isolating the victim group geographically, such as in ghettos
– Exploitation of labor, such as slavery or forced labor or discrimination in wages
– Inhumane suppression of rebellion against apartheid

#7    Israel controls all of the land from the river to the sea. On this land Jews are a minority with all the rights and privileges while Palestinians are a majority deprived of their most basic human rights. There are 4.55 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and 1.68 million Palestinians who are “citizens” of Israel, for a total of 6.23 million Palestinians. On the other hand there are 6.12 million Jews including the 0.5 million Jewish settlers living illegally in the West Bank. In order to arrive at a fictitious Jewish majority, the state of Israel doesn’t statistically count the West Bank and Gaza as part of Israel’s territory while simultaneously counting the Jewish settlers of those territories as citizens of Israel. The effect of this gerrymandering is to make the 4.55 million Palestinians who live under Israeli occupation disappear magically.

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#8    In the West Bank, Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law, while Jewish settlers who live just next door are subject to Israeli civil law. Israeli soldiers in the West Bank can arrest, shoot and kill Palestinians, but they have no authority whatsoever over Jewish settlers. All over the West Bank there are roads and highways that are for Jews only and Palestinians are forbidden from using them.

#9  Palestinians are subject to relentless persecution to the extent that they are not just punished for resisting, but also prevented from surrendering. Surrender entails that one is left in peace after surrendering. However Palestinians are not given that choice. They are humiliated, dispossessed and killed no matter what they do.

#10   Palestinians in the West Bank are denied freedom of movement by being required to go through a multitude of Israeli checkpoints intended to humiliate and control them. Palestinians in need of medical assistance are required to have a permit to pass through checkpoints.

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#11   During WWII the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto smuggled food and weapons into the ghetto through tunnels. The Nazis called them terrorists.  Palestinians in Gaza have built tunnels for the very same purposes and Israel calls them terrorists.

#12   The letter bomb, parcel bomb, barrel bomb, market bomb, and car bomb were all introduced into the Middle East by Zionist paramilitary groups such as the Irgun, Lehi and Haganah. One of the most famous Zionist massacres in Palestine is the massacre of Deir Yassin. The village, which had declared neutrality during the 1948 hostilities, was depopulated following the massacre of over 250 villagers, half of them women and children, at the hands of Irgun and Lehi commandos. This event helped trigger the 1948 exodus of more than 700,000 Palestinians who were expelled from their homes or fled fearing other massacres. The culture of terrorism and ethnic cleansing, inaugurated and pioneered by Zionist paramilitary groups and upon which Israel was founded, continues to the present.

#13   Israel is among the top 10 exporters of weapons in the world. This is all the more remarkable considering it is a very small country that competes with much larger countries like the UK and China in terms weapons sales. One of the main selling points of Israeli weapons is that they are marketed as being “combat proven” because the weapons have been successfully tested on Palestinians. Israel is involved in the sales of weapons to 190 countries (there are only 193 countries in the world!). This means that many countries that appear to be Israel’s enemies are actually customers of its weapons industry.

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#14   Israel sold weapons to Rwanda and Serbia while these countries were in the midst of horrific genocidal campaigns.

#15   The West Bank and Gaza are laboratories for the testing of weapons and population control techniques. Palestinians are the guinea pigs. The end users are people around the world whose police forces are trained by Israel and whose prisons are supplied by Israeli technology. This includes many western countries, including Canada, by virtue of the Canada-Israel “Public Security” Agreement signed in 2008. The state of Israel is effectively becoming a template for state control and domination around the world.

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#16   Many military and police officials from various countries including the U.S. and China visit Israel to learn Israeli crowd control techniques, propaganda and warfare strategies. A Chinese general recently visited Israel to learn how the IDF framed and executed the massacre in Gaza. The Maryland police department among many others is trained by the Israeli police and military. Israel is also responsible for supplying weapons to various police departments around the world.

#17   Since Israel’s founding, Israeli military experts have provided support to the following regimes:
– Dictatorship of Manuel Noriega in Panama
– Dictatorship of Sani Abacha in Nigeria
– Dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile
– Dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania
– Dictatorship of Mengistu Mariam in Ethiopia
– Dictatorship of Jorge Videla in Argentina
– Dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire
– Dictatorship of Ne Win in Burma
– Apartheid regime in South Africa
– Paramilitary death squads in Colombia
– The current government of China

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#18   Israel has nuclear and ballistic missiles capable of reaching as far as Europe in addition to German-made Dolphin-class submarines capable of delivering cruise missiles with nuclear warheads. It also has 10 satellites in orbit spying on various parts of the world and the Middle East in particular.

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#19   The “peace process” involving a “two state solution” has been a sham from the very beginning and was always intended as a decoy to buy time for Israel to steal more land, build more settlements and create more facts on the ground under the cover of a vague interminable peace process that never went anywhere.

#20   The two state solution is officially dead and buried after the failure of the Kerry initiative. Israel has fully assimilated the West Bank to the extent that trying to get it back in one piece for the establishment of a Palestinian state is the equivalent of trying to get your sandwich back after someone has swallowed it. The electricity, water and road infrastructures are unified across Israel and the occupied territories.

Gaza 2014 - credit D. Cormier

Gaza 2014 – credit D. Cormier

#21   Talk  about the “two state solution” is naive by reinforcing the erroneous idea that peace will come from further segregating the Jews and the Palestinians, when in fact segregation is the root of the problem rather than its solution. Before the arrival of the Zionists, Jews, Christians and Muslims in Palestine lived together harmoniously in a land that has always been a mixing place at the crossroads of continents and civilizations.

What It Means to be Palestinian

#22   The only viable alternative to the current Israeli regime of occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing is a Bi-national democratic state similar to Switzerland and Belgium. Such a state would guarantee equality for all and the right of Palestinians to return to their rightful homes anywhere in Palestine. A two state solution would not guarantee this fundamental right. If people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds can get along in countries like Canada and the U.S. there is no reason why Jews and Palestinians can’t get along in a Bi-national democratic state in Palestine. What stands in the way of peace is not Iran, ISIS, or Islam. The real and only obstacle is Zionist Jewish supremacy. Slavery ended, segregation ended, Nazism ended, South African apartheid ended and Zionist apartheid and occupation must inevitably end too. Israel is on the wrong side of history, fighting a battle it can never win.

#23   The condition for putting hatred behind and turning a new page is the acknowledgement by Israel of the historic injustice it committed against the Palestinians and reparations for the crimes perpetrated. This will be the beginning of a healing process that will allow Palestinians and Jews to live together peacefully as equals.

Palestine Inside Out

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Occupation

Message from Gaza: Israeli Policies & Climate Change, Pushing Gaza into the Grave

By: Ahmad Abu Safieh, Gaza, Palestine. 18th September 2014.

This message is from the city of Gaza where the annual population growth rate is 2.91% (2014 est.), the 13th highest in the world. Due to the severe damage from the recent 50 day conflict, there is a limited capability to construct new homes and facilities for this growth. The territory is 41 kilometers (25 mi) long, and from 6 to 12 kilometers (3.7 to 7.5 mi) wide, with a total area of 365 square kilometers (141 sq mi). As of 2014, Palestinians of the Gaza Strip numbered around 1.8 million people. The large Palestinian refugee population makes it among the most densely populated parts of the world with 4822 (individual/Km2). [1]

Gaza has limited available natural resources to restore and sustain infrastructure and facilities, and as a result, Gaza will be increasingly unable to meet the growing demands of the people who live there. The Gaza Strip relies on a water supply from an underlying aquifer that has been over pumped for decades. By 2020 at the latest, Gaza will effectively be without water. Already most of Gaza’s households have little or no water supply, and the water that is available is seriously contaminated and unfit for human consumption. [2]

Photo 1: Water crisis in Gaza Strip, Palestinian Childs packaged drinking water from a UNRWA school due to the interruption of water from their homes during the recent war in July-August 2014.

Photo 1: Water crisis in Gaza Strip, Palestinian Childs packaged drinking water from a UNRWA school due to the interruption of water from their homes during the recent war in July-August 2014.

The economic situation in the Gaza Strip is problematic to say the least. There is a lot of poverty and unemployment figures are very high. Because of restrictions fishing vessels are not allowed to operate beyond a certain fishing zone and farming grounds cannot be reached because of military actions by Israel. Free transportation of people and goods is prohibited, and the airport was destroyed years ago by bombardments.

The Occupation of the Gaza Strip refers to a land, air, and sea blockade on the Gaza Strip by Israel from 2007 to present. Gaza is facing a power crisis as a result of a shortage of fuel, with blackouts lasting 12-16 hours and sometimes reaches to 20 hours a day. The electricity problem in Gaza is severe, and pump stations have become inoperative, factories have been forced to cut production, leading to layoffs, and hospitals are running on emergency reserves.

“Once more, Gaza is quickly becoming uninhabitable,” said Filippo Grandi, the UNRWA’s commissioner-general. “Perhaps strengthening the human security of the people of Gaza is a better avenue to ensuring regional stability than physical closures, political isolation and military action.”

Figure 1: Gaza Strip blockade. Source: UN OCHA

Figure 1: Gaza Strip blockade. Source: UN OCHA

The Gaza Strip has been one of the successive conflict areas in the world for decades and over time a significant environmental problem has developed in the region. Israel has contributed extensively to the worsening climate crisis through war crimes against humanity in Gaza. During the most recent fighting – from 8 July to 26 August 2014 – Israeli Forces conducted a military operation that specifically targeted Gaza. This devastating operation included bombardment by land, sea and air, with numerous incursions into the Gaza Strip by Israeli forces. The environmental situation in this area was already quite serious prior to these recent events, exacerbated by a lack of ability to invest in recovery systems, and a lack of prioritization towards environmental projects.

Figure 2: United Nations OCHA occupied Palestinian territory, Gaza Humanitarian Dashboard September 2014

Figure 2: United Nations OCHA occupied Palestinian territory, Gaza Humanitarian Dashboard September 2014

The most recent conflict has caused extensive damage and increased pressure on already deeply stressed environmental facilities and institutions. The most prominent examples are immediately apparent – the large volume of rubble and the significant damage to sewage and wastewater systems. Water supplies have also been critically affected by the destruction of water wells and drinking water pipes. Other adverse environmental effects include the widespread destruction of agricultural areas, severe damage to smaller industrial enterprises, and an alarming increase in toxic pollutants being discharged into the Mediterranean and the local groundwater.

Photo 3: Palestinian man, standing in front of the flames rising from the only electricity station in the Gaza Strip, after an Israeli raid, July 29, 2014 (Mahmoud Hommos / AFP)

Photo 3: Palestinian man, standing in front of the flames rising from the only electricity station in the Gaza Strip, after an Israeli raid, July 29, 2014 (Mahmoud Hommos / AFP)

The direct damage resulting from these military raids and explosions is immediately evident in the visible destruction of buildings and infrastructure. But there is a much more harmful and debilitating indirect damage that is difficult to calculate since it is long term, and appears gradually over time. An immediate example would be the fires resulting from the bombing, and the remnants of explosive materials and gases which spread and remain stuck in the air, and thus constitute a major threat to life and the environment, and greatly increase the chances of contamination of water, air and soil.

The air pollutant of greatest concern to human health is particulate matter in the form of aerosols, which include haze, dust, particulate air pollutants and smoke. The off-gassing and contaminants from this lead to health damage such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Children, older adults, and those with heart or lung disease are most likely to be affected by this type of air pollution, but for those with heart or lung diseases, premature death can occur as well.

As winter approaches, the air contaminated with these pollutants will turn into rain that will fall on the ground causing more pollution and the destruction of agricultural lands and crops and the spread of diseases. As these toxic substances deposited in the soil reach groundwater and seep into the sea, they will also create an environmental crisis for the wealth of fish that constitute an essential source of food in Gaza. Such damage would not be limited to the inhabitants of Gaza but could also reach to other parts of the world. As a result of ocean currents and weather patterns these contaminants could easily travel to other countries, causing a host of international health and environmental problems.

In addition, on April 2014, the third Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in the fifth installment of their Assessment Report (AR5), determined that climate change, and the resultant increases in temperature, sea levels, and precipitation, has now become the greatest threat to human life on the planet. The eastern side of the Mediterranean, where Gaza is located, faces serious climate related challenges that will require entirely new policies and environmental strategies in order to successfully cope.

Forecasted climate changes for the eastern Mediterranean mainly affect the start and duration of the different seasons, and the quantity of rainfall. This has two anticipated effects: first, periods of heavier rainfall will be concentrated in a shorter time, with consequent increased run-off and erosion and decreased absorption capacities of the soil. Less retained water will result in lower pasture production, forcing herders to purchase (more) fodder. Second, however, reduced rainfall will result in a lower quantity of water harvested and stored in cisterns, forcing herders to purchase (more) tankered water. [3]

The IPCC predicts that, for the southern and eastern Mediterranean, warming over the 21st century will be larger than global annual mean warming – between 2.2-5.1C◦ according to a realistic emissions scenario (Scenario A1B). Annual precipitation rates are deemed likely to fall – decreasing 10% by 2020 and 20% by 2050 – with an increased risk of summer drought. [4]

Photo 4: The destructive impacts of Storm "Alexa"in the Gaza Strip, following 36-hours of heavy precipitation on 10-14 December 2013.

Photo 4: The destructive impacts of Storm “Alexa”in the Gaza Strip, following 36-hours of heavy precipitation on 10-14 December 2013.

Through the crucial issue of increasing the atmospheric temperature due to  greenhouse gas emissions, their impacts are fraught with consequences in the 21st century for health and human activities, in particular agriculture, fishery, tourism, infrastructures, urbanised coastal areas, water resources and natural areas. In order to minimize as much as possible the economic losses and damages, several adaptation options must be thought out and implemented.

Finally, it is not a game; it’s an open invitation to all; UN, world leaders, international institutions, activists, experts and youth all over the world to act and show their interest through joint action and supportive decision-making positions to save Gaza from the grave. As a citizens of Gaza, there is an urgent need for hard-working, effective techniques and global support to help in these efforts to not only rebuild Gaza decimated infrastructure, but also to prepare it to withstand the increasing environmental challenges that will be faced by many countries all over the world.

Together we should try to build Gaza future in which humans live in harmony with nature. We don’t want only to protect the Gaza environment; we want to create a place where the environment doesn’t need protecting.

———–

Ahmad Abu Safieh is a 24-year-old Palestinian living in Gaza. He holds a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the College of Engineering at the Islamic University of Gaza (January 2013) and volunteers with the Arab Youth Climate Movement (AYCM). He may be reached at civil.abusafieh@gmail.com.

References:

  • Mid 2014, Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS).
  • August 2012, “Gaza in 2020 A liveable place?” A report by the United Nations Country Team in the occupied Palestinian territory.
  • April 2013, Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and Programme of Action for the Palestinian Authority.
  • April 2014, the third Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in the fifth instalment of their Assessment Report (AR5).

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Filed under Environment, Gaza, Israel, Occupation, People, Uncategorized, United Nations

الله يصبركم

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نمر عوض Nemr Awad

Today Mohammed Awad (pictured here with his grandfather in 2012) buried his grandfather in a cemetery in Gaza beneath a sky full of terror and bomb blasts.

Nemr Awad was 87 years old, born before the Catastrophe or Nakba in 1948 when his family was forcibly expelled from Burayr برير  and made their way to Gaza.

I didn’t know him well, met him on only one occasion at his home in the Jabalia Refugee Camp in northern Gaza where he lived with his family. He didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Arabic. But when I asked to take his photo, I sensed he was a very proud man with great strength of character.

Nemr نمر means Tiger in Arabic. He must have lived up to his name.

Today his family mourns his passing. He’s been ill for 8 years and so his death doesn’t come as a surprise, but their loss is deep nevertheless.

I suspect Nemr نمر kept hope alive that the family might be able to return to their homeland one day, that the brutal occupation would end, that their status as refugees just miles from Burayr برير would be acknowledged, an apology and reparations would be made by Israel.

Instead, he suffered and died under Israel’s occupation.

Nemr نمر  had five children (3 sons and 2 daughters). His wife and two children preceded him in death. One son now lives in Belgium where he emigrated after being wounded in Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009). One daughter and son remain in Jabalia.

Jabalia Refugee Camp  (September 2012)

Jabalia Refugee Camp
(September 2012)

Speaking as a grandmother, I think Nemr’s hope for the future probably came from watching his grandchildren. I don’t know how many he had, but I know  Mohammed well and Nemr نمر must have been very proud of him.

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Mohammed has a degree in English Literature from the Islamic University of Gaza. He teaches and tutors students of all ages, and I’ve witnessed his love for teaching. And his love for learning.

I wonder if Mohammed got that love for learning from his grandfather.

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Even growing up in very difficult circumstances, never setting foot out of the Gaza Strip, witnessing death and destruction up close and personal, Mohammed doesn’t hate. He doesn’t speak of revenge.

Mohammed has a curiosity about philosophy and religion and people and what makes the world tick. We sat and talked for many hours (at first Skyping online and then in person when I arrived in Gaza). Mohammed introduced me to new ideas and ways of looking at the world which makes me think he is probably a very old soul.

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Occupation + Climate Change = Double Trouble in Gaza

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Mohammed is the neighbor any loving family would want to have next door.

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Nemr نمر —— you raised your family well, with honor and dignity, with courage and intelligence. May you rest in peace knowing that you succeeded as a father and grandfather. Your children and grandchildren will carry on your memory.    عظم الله أجركم الله يرحمه

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A short introduction about occupied Palestine

If you’re wondering what’s the basis for the long-running conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, here’s one of those short animated videos that provides a good explanation.

I know some will argue the conflict is not so simple, but the long-term military occupation is (without a doubt) the root cause of the conflict.

A second short video features Chris Hedges speaking in January 2009 during Operation Cast Lead. His words are shockingly true for today’s assault.

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An honest narrative

I recently wrote about the dominant narrative that the state of Israel has successfully pandered to western audiences in the form of Hasbara (propaganda). I wrote

There is another narrative, a more honest narrative, that doesn’t paint one side right, the other wrong —- one side virtuous and the other side terrorist.

Israelis and Palestinians need the world to understand this honest narrative, for both their sakes.

People have asked “what is the honest narrative?” “How do we find it?”

For sure —– “honest narrative” doesn’t mean the story has to give both sides equal time —– 300 words for Palestine & 300 words for Israel.

“Honest narrative” doesn’t mean the story has to give both positive and negative messages about each side.

An “honest narrative” informs with facts, not innuendo. It doesn’t demonize the other or use hyperbole to try to sway opinion.

Eva Bartlett from Canada has lived in Gaza since 2008. She writes a blog http://ingaza.wordpress.com and has given an “honest narrative” about the situation in Gaza. I urge you to watch/listen to her 30 minute interview posted in December 2013.

 

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Pawns on the chessboard

The bodies of three Israeli teenagers were discovered Monday.  My heart weeps for them.

Talking about Palestine and current events in the Middle East with a friend recently, she asked me “how do you keep your spirits up and your attitude positive when there’s so much depressing news over there?”

We had just been reciting a litany of human rights abuses, settlement expansions in the West Bank, home demolitions in East Jerusalem, Netanyahu’s intransigence and much more.

Without skipping a heartbeat, I told her it was the children I met in Gaza who give me hope. I can see them —- all of them —- in my mind’s eye every time I write or talk about Gaza, and my spirits are lifted.

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Truth be told, I lay awake some nights worried about these children.

They’re very vulnerable, living under occupation, in a war zone, pawns in a geopolitical battle not of their own making! And the numbers don’t lie, they prove that too many Palestinian children are paying the ultimate price. (Child fatalities by month recorded here.)

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Now we’ve learned that three Israeli teenagers  paid the ultimate price too. Their bodies were found in the West Bank under a pile of rocks about 15 miles from where they disappeared 18 days ago. (New York Times piece.) Despite Netanyahu’s assertion that Hamas is responsible for their abduction and killing, no evidence has been shared linking Hamas or anyone else to this horrific crime, and Hamas has denied responsibility.

“The story of the disappearance and killing of the three settlers is based on the Israeli narrative only,” Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP. “The Israeli occupation is trying to refer to this narrative in order to justify its wide-scale war against our people, against the resistance and against Hamas.”

We don’t know the perpetrators but we do know the names of the three teenagers, where they were studying, that one teenager had ordered a new pair of glasses shortly before his disappearance and, sadly, what his mother was wearing when she was informed of his death. (See details here.)

Many in the West have been following the daily news reports of the disappearance of these teenagers, the IDF’s Operation Brother’s Keeper to search for them, and their tragic fate.

Do we know the names of the Palestinian children killed? The circumstances of their deaths? What their mothers and fathers were doing when they learned the news?

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By one account as many as one Palestinian child has been killed every 3 days for the past 13 years!  But the Western media and Western politicians fail to acknowledge this tragedy! Do we have a blind spot, or worse, a double standard when Palestinian children are killed at the hands of the Israeli military? Do we sanitize their deaths by labeling them collateral damage?

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Rarely do we know how the parents in Gaza feel when their children are murdered but in January 2009, Israeli citizens heard the anguished cries of a Palestinian doctor live on TV as he shared the traumatic killing of his young daughters and their cousin moments after Israel shelled his house in Gaza.

Journalist Harry Fear reminded anyone who would watch and listen of the names of all of the victims of Operation Pillar of Death in Gaza in November 2012.

These children (Palestinian and Israeli) should not be pawns on our chessboard in the Middle East but, sadly, that’s what it feels like. And it feels like we’ve chosen sides, thinking some pieces are more valuable than others. “As a father”, President Obama mourns the death of the 3 Israeli teenagers, but I’ve never heard him express any concern (much less sorrow) for the deaths of Palestinian children. Why? Can’t his paternal feelings identify with the Palestinian parents in Gaza?

There’s something very wrong with how we compartmentalized our grief and sympathy.  The human spirit needs to evolve. That would be the best way to honor those 3 Israeli teenagers and all children around the world murdered so callously on our chessboard.

chess cake

P.S. My daughter made this cake chessboard. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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