Tag Archives: Laila El-Haddad

#GazaUnlocked #HeartlandtoGaza

The American Friends Service Committee organized an expert panel of witnesses to provide testimony about the current situation in Gaza as part of its Gaza Unlocked campaign. Check out the campaign here.

The expert testimony was held in Indianapolis, Indiana on Saturday, April 21, 2018 in the format similar to a formal hearing in Congress. The delegation from Indiana was invited to attend, including Vice President Pence, but they didn’t show up. Representative Andre Carson was unable to attend, but one of his staff members was able to attend in his place and he sent his regrets.

I showed up and watched the livestream testimony and Q &A that followed from my perch in the library at Utah State University in Logan, Utah.

Gaza Unlocked

Jehad Abu Salim

The three experts were certainly very well qualified to speak about Gaza. Jehad Abu Salim is from Gaza and currently studying for his PhD at NYU.  Laila El-Haddad has lived in Gaza and written extensively about Gaza. She’s the author of Gaza Kitchen. Dr. Sara Roy is a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies specializing in the Palestinian economy, Palestinian Islamism, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

They each spoke about the current conditions in Gaza as well as the political dynamics of Israel’s siege and long-term blockade on the Gaza Strip. The take-away message for me was that we must educate ourselves, our family, friends and communities, and especially our members of Congress.

Social media armchair activists are not making a difference if they stay within their bubbles and comfort zones behind the computer screens. We must get out into our communities and wake Americans up to the realities of the Israeli occupation. I hope a condensed and edited version of this testimony will be made available to help us educate others.

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شكرا اصحابي Thank you my friends

I’m spending Thanksgiving in Cairo this year, waiting for permission to enter Gaza through the Rafah border. It’s been a very long wait with no end in sight. I actively started my preparations for returning to Gaza 450 days ago.

The Egyptian government tells me “لا  لا” and the U.S. Embassy tells me “no no”. The Israelis are telling my friends who are trying to enter Gaza from the north through the Erez crossing “לא לא”. Why am I still trying?  Some tell me I should have given up a long time ago.

Along this journey to Gaza I’ve met many people and learned many things. One Egyptian friend gave me reading material about Islam, which I’ve been slowly making my way through. One thing I’ve learned, but not sure I really understand, is that Muslims have a belief in destiny — each person’s destiny is written by Allah — and this belief in their destiny (good and bad) helps them persevere through difficult times and crises. “Whatever will be, will be.”

I have to have faith that my return to Gaza is in Allah’s hands, even though the governments of Egypt, Israel and the U.S. might think they control my journey.  And I don’t control it either.

(OK, I just wrote that but I’m not sure what it means.)

Many friends around the world (America, Canada, France, Switzerland, Turkey, Israel, Palestine and Egypt) have helped me on this journey.  A big “thank you” to each of you!

As the Christmas – Hanukkah holidays approach, many will be thinking about how to help others in need. Our common humanity has been sorely tested in 2015 and we want to reach out. I urge you to consider Palestinians in your gift-giving plans, and I’m sharing some suggestions and links to help.

#1 – Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American living in Ramallah. This year he started Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy, [a 501(c)(3)].  Instead of focusing on political activism, Sam wants to branch out and engage in more economic activism, something that tends to get sidelined in the Palestine solidarity community. Sam frequently provides independent commentary on Palestine and serves as a policy adviser of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. He blogs at www.epalestine.com

#2 – We Are Not Numbers is the brainchild of an American writer and solidarity activist, Pam Bailey, to connect aspiring Palestinian writers with experienced writers and editors to mentor them on an individual basis. Read about the genesis of this new project here. In a very short time, WANN has connected many mentors and mentees, and the project is giving a voice to the voiceless.

#3 – UNRWA-USA [a 501(c)(3)] is the American arm of the UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

Lora finishes the #Gaza5K in 2015.

Lora finishes the #Gaza5K in 2015.

Needless to say, the challenges that UNRWA faces on the ground in Gaza are enormous, even more daunting following Israel’s 51-day assault in 2014. Each year, UNRWA-USA organizes #Gaza5K walk/runs in the US to raise $$. They also take donations year-round.

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Children are the primary beneficiaries of MECA’s work.

#4 – Middle East Children’s Alliance – has been doing good work on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza for 25 years.  Read about some of their great projects here. MECA has a proven track record of success.  I saw some of their good work at the Afaq Jadeeda Association in the in the Nuseirat Refugee Camp, in Gaza in 2012

#5 – Just World Books – Give yourself, family and friends a gift from Just World Books. The publisher, Helena Cobban, has released some important new titles about Palestine, and many are written by Palestinians.  On the top of my list is Gaza UnSilenced edited by Refaat Alareer and Laila El-Haddad.

Gaza Unsilenced

شكرا اصحابي Thank you my friends!

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Day #39 – August 14, 2014 – Bombing IUG “a merry sport”?

"Nation Building for Palestine - A Way Forward"  Keynote Address at the 7th Technological Engineering Days Conference "Inspired Engineering for a Sustainable Environment." Islamic University of Gaza -- March 10, 2013 — ‎at ‎غزة

“Nation Building for Palestine – A Way Forward”
Keynote Address at the 7th Technological Engineering Days Conference “Inspired Engineering for a Sustainable Environment.”
Islamic University of Gaza — March 10, 2013 — ‎at ‎غزة

Some of my fondest memories of Gaza are at the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG). The pride and joy among the students and faculty was palpable. Walking across campus, whether on the men’s side or the women’s side, I observed their intensity to excel and achieve their goals.  A university degree might be their ticket . . . to a good job, to graduate studies abroad . . . to having some measure of control over their future.

A student at IUG successfully defends his thesis about the impacts of climate change on the aquifer and is awarded his Masters Degree. — ‎at ‎غزة‎.‎

A student at IUG successfully defends his thesis about the impacts of climate change on the aquifer and is awarded his Masters Degree. — ‎at ‎غزة‎.‎

Why did Israel target IUG and other schools in the Gaza Strip?

Brookings reported in early August 2014 about “Israeli forces bombing the Jabalia Elementary Girls School in northern Gaza while it served as an U.N.-designated shelter. At least 15 people—including four children—were killed, and many more wounded. An Israeli strike in the immediate vicinity of an U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school in Rafah killed at least nine and injured over 25 people, while on July 23rd, a similar attack on another UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun left 15—including six children—dead and over 100 injured.” Israel destroyed 141 schools during its 51-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Soccer players at IUG

Soccer players at IUG

Refaat Alareer teaches world literature and creative writing in the English Department at IUG. He’s also Co-Editor of Gaza Unsilenced, along with Laila El-Haddad, and describes the level of destruction at IUG during Israel’s bombardment last summer, including the administration building, and the personnel department and English department offices.

Why would Israel bomb a university? Some say Israel attacked IUG just to punish its 20,000 students or to push Palestinians to despair. That is true, but to me IUG’s only danger to the Israeli occupation and its apartheid regime is that it is the most important place in Gaza to develop students’ minds as indestructible weapons. Knowledge is Israel’s worst enemy. Awareness is Israel’s most hated and feared foe. That’s why Israel bombs a university; it wants to kill openness and determination to refuse living under injustice and racism. But again, why does Israel bomb a school? Or a hospital? Or a mosque? Or a 20-story building? It could be, as [Shakespeare’s] Shylock put it, “a merry sport”?

Islamic University of Gaza Summer 2014

Islamic University of Gaza – Summer 2014

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Day #38 – August 13, 2014 – Leading horses to water

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On my ride to DC this morning, I took my new book about the Israeli assault on Gaza last summer — “Gaza Unsilenced.”  Check out the Table of Contents here.

Laila El-Haddad

Laila El-Haddad, Editor

Refaat Alareer, Editor (2012)

Lora with Refaat Alareer, Editor (2012)

The Editors write: “How do you provide an accurate and humanistic — a real narration — of the Palestinian story that is Gaza?”

In Gaza Unsilenced, we attempt to do this. We set out to compile a compelling collection of some of the best writing, photography, tweets, art, and poems from that harrowing time and the year that followed, to depict as truthfully and inclusively as possible what was done to Gaza, what the impact has been on both the people and the land, and how they are coping under a still existent siege.

 

As Palestinians from Gaza who were watching the horror unfold from abroad, we were driven by a sense of urgency, despair, and obligation to curate ad edit this book, to be a conduit for voices writing from and about Gaza, as a means for changing the narrative and thereby changing public opinions, which we hope can help push the long-standing U.S. policy of blind alliance with Israel in a different direction, and ultimately let Gaza live.

I’ve met both editors — Laila and Refaat — personally, and you will too when you pick up their book. They introduce themselves in a very personal way. I won’t share the details, you will find them in the book’s Introduction, but my heart goes out to both Laila and Refaat, and to the thousands of Palestinians impacted by Israel’s brutal occupation, seige and war crimes.

By some estimates, Israel’s use of firepower on Gaza by land, sea, and air during Operation “Protective Edge” was equivalent to the atomic bomb used in Hiroshima. Concretely, some 23,400 tank shells, 20,4000 artillery shells, and 2.9 million bullets, or “almost two bullets for ever man, woman, and child in Gaza.”

I’ve decided this is a book my members of Congress must read. I’m ordering copies for Representative Michelle Lujan-Grisham, Senator Tom Udall and Senator Martin Heinrich.  I’m also going to send copies to President Obama, former President Carter, and candidate Bernie Sanders.  I can lead these horses to water, but can’t force them to drink.  Their time will be well-spent reading Gaza Unsilenced.  You can order your copy here.

 By now, it should be clear that this story is not simply the story of a 51-day attack. Nor is it one about 2,200 people killed during the attack. It is not even a story of an Orwellian world where war is peace and victims are villains. It’s a story of what happens when, despite the ability to do so, powerful nations choose to remain silent or, worse, are complicit through financing the crimes being committed in the name of their taxpayers.

 

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Day #35 – August 10, 2014 – Gaza Unsilenced!

Last summer we heard ad nauseam from Mark Regev, the Israeli spokesperson, on every mainstream television channel telling us the Israeli spiel about Operation Protective Edge.   Over and over and over again.

I wanted to hear from my friends in Gaza.

When electricity was restored (typically only a few hours each day) they would “appear” on Facebook and Twitter (al-hamdulillah). A few were even interviewed by international media via Skype.

Now their voices have been unleashed, thanks to Helena Cobban at Just World Books and the co-editors of a new book, Gaza Unsilenced. Refaat Alareer and Laila El-Haddad have collected many strong writers from Gaza and beyond to share the reality of what happened last summer from the perspective of those living (surviving) there.

I found the book in Baltimore at Red Emma’s yesterday.  In future blog posts, I’ll be sharing thoughts about the stories I read in Gaza UnSilenced. You can buy your copy online for $21 here.  Spread the word . . . please spread their voices.  Israel wants to control the narrative, diminish the Palestinians’ right to fight back with their words, and we must not let that happen. Check out the Table of Contents below.

Gaza Unsilenced - Just World Books

Gaza Unsilenced – Just World Books

Introduction

  1.  Everyone Is a Target: The Human Toll

The Story of My Brother, Martyr Mohammed Alareer (Refaat Alareer)

The Boy Who Clung to the Paramedic: The Story Behind the Photo (Belal Dabour)

My Son Asks if We Are Going to Die Today (Ghadeer al Omari)

“Wake Up, My Son!” None of Gaza’s Murdered Children Are Just Numbers (Ali Abunimah)

Devastated Family Remembers Cheerful Boy Cut Down by Israeli Fire on Gaza Beach (Rami Almeghari)

Gaza: Israel Puts Paramedics in Its Crosshairs (Mohammed Suliman)

Losing a Good Friend (Mu’taz Hilal Muhammad al-‘Azayzeh)

In Gaza’s al-Shuja’iya: “I Just Survived a Massacre” (Mohammed Suliman)

An Eyewitness to Genocide: A Night in Khuza’a (Sarah Algherbawi)

Israeli Army Uses Gaza Children as Human Shields (Rania Khalek)

Psychological Damage of Gazan Children Will Have Long-term Consequences (Lynda Franken)

A Gaza Mother amid the Airstrikes (Eman Mohammed)

Gaza: A Human Tragedy (Sarah Ali)

2.   Destitute by Design: Making Gaza Unlivable

“The Tank Shells Fell Like Rain”: Survivors of the Attack on UNRWA School Report Scenes of Carnage and Destruction (Sharif Abdel Kouddous)

Poems of Mass Destruction at Gaza University (Refaat Alareer)

Israel Destroys al-Wafa Hospital as Staff Evacuates All Patients (Allison Deger)

Water Disaster Hits Every Single Person in Gaza (Ali Abunimah)

Farming in Gaza near the Buffer Zone (Rina Andolini)

Farming under Siege: Working the Land in Gaza (Tom Anderson and Therezia Cooper)

Gaza Olive Harvest Hit Hard by War (Rami Almeghari)

Farmers Forced to Stop Growing Strawberries in Gaza (Rami Almeghari)

Destroyed Factories in Gaza: An Attempt to Rise Again (Palestine Information Center)

Gaza Fishermen “in God’s Hands” (Patrick O. Strickland and Ezz Al Zanoon)

Gaza’s Economy Shattered by Israeli Siege (Rosa Schiano)

The Great Game in the Holy Land: How Gazan Natural Gas Became the Epicenter of an International Power Struggle (Michael Schwartz)

The Ancient Mosques of Gaza in Ruins: How Israel’s War Endangered  Palestine’s Cultural Heritage (Ahmad Nafi)

3.   Elsewhere in Palestine . . . 

Administrative Detainees on Hunger Strike Issue Their Will as They Stand “at the Edge of Death” (Shahd Abusalama)

Merciless Israeli Mobs Are Hunting Palestinians (Rania Khalek)

As Israel Bombs Gaza, It Kills Palestinians in the West Bank Too (Maureen Clare Murphy)

The Constant Presence of Death in the Lives of Palestinian Children (Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian)

Palestinian Civil Society in Israel Demands Urgent Action on Gaza (The Arab Association for Human Rights)

Israel Arrests Activist for Hosting Skype Chat with Resistance Icon Leila Khaled (Patrick O. Strickland)

Arrabeh’s Eid in Gaza’s Shadow (Hatim Kanaaneh)

Why Palestinian Citizens of Israel Are No Longer Safe (Ron Gerlitz)

4.  Gaza Burns, the World Responds: Analysis and Commentary

Something Rotten in the Operations Manual (Sharif S. Elmusa)

Institutionalised Disregard for Palestinian Life (Mouin Rabbani)

International Solidarity with Palestine Grows with Israeli Assault (Beth Staton)

Gaza Traces (Kim Jensen)

Controversial, Illegal, and Documented: Israeli Military Strategies in Gaza (Sami Kishawi)

Why Gaza Fought Back (Ramzy Baroud)

Blaming the Victims (Diana Buttu)

The Palestinians’ Right to Self-Defense (Chris Hedges)

No Exit from Gaza: A New War Crime? (Richard Falk)

Egypt’s Propagandists and the Gaza Massacre (Joseph Massad)

Collective Punishment in Gaza (Rashid Khalidi)

5.  The Pen, the Keyboard, and the F-16: Creative Resistance in the Digital Age

War on Gaza, Social Media and the Efficacy of Protest (Hatem Bazian)

Social Media: The Weapon of Choice in the Gaza-Israel Conflict (Yousef al-Helou)

In Asymmetric Twitter War over Gaza: Palestinians Are Winning (Belal Dabour)

Selection of Tweets, July 5 – August 26 (Farah Baker)

Tweets from a Doctor in Gaza, July 26 (Belal Dabour)

Palestine Unbound (Excerpt) (Steven Salaita)

Palestinian Artists Illustrate the Deadly Realities in Gaza (Mariam Elba)

Three Poems for Gaza (Nathalie Handal)

Palestine, Summer 2014 (Kim Jensen)

The UN Counted the Number of Our Dead (Samah Sabawi)

Ferguson and Gaza (Zeina Azzam)

From Dawn to Dusk (Lina H. Al-Sharif)

An Unjust World (Nour ElBorno)

Seafaring Nocturne (Lena Khalaf Tuffaha)

This Miraculous Terrorism (Omar J. Sakr)

6.   51 Days Later, and Counting: The Untenable Status Quo

How Israel Is Turning Gaza into a Super-Max Prison (Jonathan Cook)

Under Siege: Remembering Leningrad, Surviving Gaza (Ayah Bashir and Esther Rappaport)

Investigators: Israel Fired on Civilians Carrying White Flags (Charlotte Silver)

Revealed: Gaza Orphans Israel Trip Was Government-Backed PR Stunt (Ali Abunimah)

Uncovering the Truth in Khuza’a (Ruairi Henchy)

A Call From Gaza: Make Israel Accountable for Its Crimes in Gaza — Intensify BDS! (Gaza Civil Society Organizations)

One Thing They Can’t Bomb (Ned Rosch)

We Shall Live to Tell the Stories of War Crimes in Gaza (Hana Baalousha)

Who Benefits from Billions Pledged for Gaza Reconstruction? (Maureen Clare Murphy)

Editors’ Afterwords

Re-humanizing Gaza (Laila El-Haddad)

When Will We Go Back Home? (Refaat Alareer)

Names of the Dead

Notes

Bibliography

About the Contributors

Acknowledgments

About the Editors

 

 

 

 

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Day #12 – July 18, 2014 – ‘We will not turn on Hamas’

Israel’s narrative about its so-called “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza is cracking. The truth is breaking through.

Refaat Alareer and Laila El-Haddad “truth-speak” about the IDF’s horrific actions in Gaza last summer.

 

Refaat and Laila are co-editors of a new book “Gaza UnSilenced” published by Just World Books. The book can be ordered online here.

Gaza Unsilenced, a compilations of essays, articles, photographs, and poetry reflecting on the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza edited by Refaat Alareer and Laila El-Haddad, has received advance praise from the notable figures below:

From PHYLLIS BENNIS, Institute for Policy Studies:

The editors of this remarkable collection ask, “after the smoke clears, who will remember the dead?” Their answer, and that of their dozens of writers, poets, journalists and analysts, is “we will.” We, they said, Palestinians of Gaza who survived the slaughter, we Palestinians from elsewhere in Palestine and refugees in far-flung exile, we allies and friends from around the world, we will not let the world forget. During the 50 days of Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, Tel Aviv’s best efforts to keep the world in the dark and to keep the West believing the lie of self-defense, all failed. They failed because Palestinians did not all die, and those who lived were determined to tell their story in their own voices: their poetry, their memories, and their children. This extraordinary book joins the narrative of Palestine’s witness—of oppression, brutality, and death, but also of life reaffirmed and resistance reclaimed.

From NADIA HIJAB, Executive Director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network:

Readers will find this rich anthology highly informative, evocative, and inspirational. They will find in it culture, creativity, and commitment. And they will also find it painful, emotional, and overpowering, such is the unremitting cruelty with which Palestinians are treated. But read it they must. It equips us all, even the best-informed, with the facts, figures and human stories of steadfastness not just in Gaza but also in the West Bank and amongst the Palestinian citizens of Israel. It enables us to communicate, even more powerfully, why justice is needed, and needed now –and why Israel must be brought to justice. If any book is a must read by the Prosecutor and judges at the International Criminal Court, this book is it.

From JOHN J. MEARSHEIMER, R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago:

Gaza Unsilenced is an outstanding collection of short essays that discuss different aspects of Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014. Given the ability of Israel and its American defenders to propagandize and distort the historical record, it is imperative that books like this be published and widely read. Israel cannot be allowed to create a false history about the horrors it has inflicted on the people of Gaza and the Palestinians more generally.

From VIJAY PRASHAD, Editor, Letters to Palestine: Writers Respond to War and Occupation:

Israel takes the hammer to Gaza, but it cannot snuff out Palestinian voices. These continue to testify to the inhumanity of the Israeli occupation. There are also silences—the book ends with a list of the names of those killed in Israel’s 2014 bombing of Gaza, human beings who cannot tell us their stories. This book tries to fill that gap.

– See more at: http://justworldbooks.com/praise-for-gaza-unsilenced/#sthash.ghCQWVKw.dpuf

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Capitol Hill Briefing 8/1

The Israeli bombardment in Gaza has intensified over the past couple of days, and the deaths are mounting. Friends in the United States are asking “What can we do?”

Just asking the question is important. My friends are paying attention and care. We can each make a difference!

Here’s one tangible action every American should take now:

CALL YOUR MEMBER OF CONGRESS and urge him/her to attend the Congressional Hill Briefing on this question: Is Israel complying with U.S. and International laws?

Friday, August 1st, 2014

2:00 – 3:30 pm ET

2103 Rayburn House Office Building

Panelists will address the question through personal experience and professional expertise.

Tariq Abu Khdeir – Palestinian-American teenager from Tampa, FL who was brutally beaten by Israeli security forces while restrained and unconscious.

Suha Aby Khdeir – Palestinian-American, mother of Tariq.

Hassan Shibly, Esq. – Council of American-Islamic Relations – Florida

Sunjeev Bery – Amnesty International

Brad ParkerDefence for Children International – Palestine

Laila El-Haddad – Author of Gaza Mom and former journalist with Al Jazeera.

Laila El-Haddad

Laila El-Haddad

Moderator: Josh RuebnerUS Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

There’s even a sample conversation here to help you make the call. PLEASE! It’s important that Congress hear from these voices. If our Representatives and Senators can’t make it, ask their foreign affairs staff to attend.

Briefing sponsors:

American Muslims for Palestine

Council on American-Islamic Relations

Defence for Children International – Palestine

Jewish Voice for Peace

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

P.S.   I’d like to hear what response you receive from your member of Congress.

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