Tag Archives: Refaat Alareer

#GoingtoGaza – Oct. 1 – Oct. 28, 2014

I actively started on my journey to return to Gaza in the summer of 2014 and kept a daily journal of my efforts.  The first month is posted here.

In December 2015, I find myself stuck in Cairo and feeling discouraged about my efforts to return to Gaza, but it helps to review my “progress” over the past year.

Day #33 – Lessoned Learned – I need to stay focused on my goal. #GoingtoGaza. I have a bad habit of over-committing myself and trying to be in too many places at the same time, maybe because I have so many interests. This morning I awoke and realized sadly … I can’t do it all. 😦


Day #34 – Meetings today to get my business affairs in order so that everything will run smoothly in my absence. One thing on my TO DO list is to get rid of (or minimize) all the junk mail. I feel very “accomplished” after spending a couple of hours on the phone to stop different solicitations. Junk mail clutters the mind as well as the mailbox.


Day #35 – Nothing went right today! I showed up at the United Blood Services office an hour late, and after they tested my blood, they decided I didn’t have enough iron and refused to accept a donation. I then tried to take the bus to a meeting but I got lost, and walked and walked — forgot the address of the meeting — and a good friend came to pick me up. She drove me to the meeting but no one was there. A sign on the door said it began at 6:30, not 5:30 as I thought, so she took me out to dinner. While we were sitting together and eating, I began to choke on a piece of meat. I threw it up eventually but my esophagus hurt. 😦  So my friend drove me home. Thank goodness for wonderful friends.  But I’m especially sad I missed the meeting because I was asked to share about my experience in Gaza.  Darn!

#GoingtoGaza (if I don’t choke on my meat first)

Day #36 – A coincidence? Or synchronicity? Today is Eid for the Muslims and Yom Kippur for the Jews — holy days that have special significance to the faithful. Since I’m neither Jewish nor Muslim, I don’t pretend to understand the deeper meaning in each. A friend from Gaza posted a photo of his friend who was killed by Israel this summer; they will never share another Eid together. I spent the evening with an elderly Jewish friend who is recuperating from serious health issues. She told me that Yom Kippur is the day when Jews are supposed to atone for the sins and mistakes of all Jews everywhere. That’s a pretty tall order, and my friend said it was “too much” for her to try to atone for Israel’s massacres in Gaza this summer. I wonder how Jews worldwide atone for Israel’s actions. Do they really have to “take on” the guilt and responsibility of the actions of the State of Israel? Or do they use this time to explain & defend Israel’s actions, and assuage their guilt?


Day #37 – #GoingtoGaza means I’m leaving ABQ.  I’m imagining that I will be in Gaza 2-5 years (that’s my dream but who knows?) This morning I started updating my address book with the names and contact information of friends in ABQ with whom I hope to stay in touch when I get to Gaza.


Day #38 – Storage unit – signed up for a storage unit today to put my things in while I’m in Gaza.  Now I need to finish packing up, giving away, and selling stuff. Couldn’t do all of this without Marianne’s help. Her counsel is priceless. I’m going to miss her.


Day #39 — I met with Rodrigo from SWOP to talk about food justice issues in Gaza.  At the end I said “I stand in solidarity with Palestinians because they are people just like you and me.” Now I wonder if that sounds a little lame, but it’s absolutely how I feel. Netanyahu and the Israeli government and the extremist-Israeli settlers do their best to dehumanize the Palestinians so that Americans won’t feel guilty about the inhumane military, economic and psychological actions Israel takes against Palestinians.


Day #40 – Cleaning out storage shed. I’m opening old boxes with papers, files, and articles that I thought were so important at one time in my professional life. Now I feel like I’m in the pupa stage of my personal growth and development. Shedding those files is liberating.  (Don’t worry — I’m recycling the paper!) http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pupa


Day #41 – Warnings & concern – Nearly everyone to whom I’ve told my plans about #GoingtoGaza have expressed concern and warned me about the danger. Family and friends are well-meaning and I respect their concerns. They remind me that I’m no longer a spring chicken and I should be thinking about my health. They note that the conditions in Gaza today (after Israel’s 51-day assault this summer) are much more difficult than they were in 2012-2013 when I was in Gaza. They mention bombs and kidnappings. I take their concerns seriously. I love each and every one. The thought in my head — if the danger and conditions in Gaza are so serious, then there are 1.8 million people exposed to those dangers and conditions. How can we turn our backs on them?!  What can we do to relieve the suffering and danger for everyone in Gaza today?


Day #42 – Max Blumenthal (author of Goliath) and Amy Goodman (Democracy Now) were at the Lensic Theatre in Santa Fe tonight speaking to a sold out audience. Although I have his book on my Kindle, I decided to buy a hard copy tonight and asked him to autograph it to Refaat Alareer in Gaza.  Max mentioned Refaat by name during his talk, and I told him I would take this copy of the book to Refaat in Gaza. The take-away message for me: Israel will not end the military occupation or its descent into hell by itself. Change will only come from the outside.


Day #43 – So many friends I want to say goodbye to before leaving Albuquerque. Can’t sleep — making lists in my head.


Day #44 – Reading two books (side-by-side) — Max Blumenthal’s “Goliath” and a novel by Claire Hajaj “Ishmael’s Oranges”. Blumenthal recounts the historical impacts of Israel’s Absentee Property Law – placing all of the property belonging to Arabs who had fled Israel (1947-1948) into the hands of the Custodian of Absentee Property, who then redistributed the property to Jews based on the Land Acquisition Law.  He also shares the horrific facts and figures of the attack on Jaffa on May 13, 1948 by Zionist militias. Hajaj’s novel begins with that attack on Jaffa and how it impacted a 7-year old boy Salim, whose family home and orchard were taken from them because of these two laws. Hajaj’s description of the hopelessness that Salim’s family feels in 1948 gives life to the history that Blumenthal shares.


Day #45 – With help from a friend who has a truck, I’m moving boxes into storage today. I think it will feel good to get them out of the house. It will certainly be easier to move around in my house with these boxes out-of-the-way. Learned today that the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) insists that I provide a letter from the American Embassy in Cairo asking for cooperation to allow me to cross the border between Egypt and Gaza. In January 2013, the American Embassy in Cairo told me it would no longer issue such letters.


Day #46 – I’m feeling very hopeful after spending the evening with the family of a good friend.

They invited me over to the house to talk about Gaza. The extended family was there — about 8 adults — who were very interested to hear about my time in Gaza. They were already extremely knowledgeable about the history and current events in the Middle East — and asked very thoughtful questions. Up until now, I thought the people who really cared about the Palestinians were the “peace activists” and we spent our days talking to the choir. This family gives me a renewed feeling of hope because they’re Americans who aren’t “activists” and not in the same circle as the choir, but very well-informed and want to make a difference. They’re committed to social justice. I bet there are many more Americans like them. Yeah!


Day #47 – I’m getting my “dog fix” before I leave. Dog-sitting a cute husky … her name is Luna but I keep calling her AnnaBelle after another dog I know well in California.  Luna turns around and looks at me like “You’re nuts lady! Can’t you remember MY name?” I’m really thinking about Cocoa who has been gone 4 years but I still miss him.


Day #48 — Ten years ago this month I visited Gaza for the first time. It was a very short visit but it left a very big impression on me. My friend and I took an award to a well-known psychologist in Gaza (Dr. El-Sarraj) because Israel would not allow this man to leave Gaza to accept his award at an international conference in Australia. He was being recognized for his groundbreaking work with children who suffer PTSD.  He died last year. http://m.aljazeera.com/story/20131218102323309644


Day #49 – My family thinks I’m nuts (at least one family member does). My plans to return to Gaza indicate I’m depressed, even suicidal — and a family intervention might be necessary! I know such concerns come from a place of love, but it angers me nevertheless.


Day #50 – Wow! Fifty days since I started this journey of packing up my house to leave the USA and travel to Gaza. Yesterday I signed up with a property manager who will look after my house in my absence. I feel good about her – not like one of those large, impersonal property management companies.


Day #51 – A word to the wise. Don’t collect 1000s of photos over 30-40 years and store them haphazardly in boxes, and expect to organize them in one afternoon. It just ain’t gonna happen. I need to finish packing up this weekend so the mover can put this stuff into storage. I never thought a large walk-in closet could be a curse. I imagine I will put all of these wonderful photos into albums someday when I’m sitting in a rocking chair.


Day #52 – Amazing how much you can accomplish when you have a team working together. My team includes a property manager, a painter, a mastermind/ coordinator, a gardener, a cook, a carpenter/ repairman, a mover, and a plumber. This is a well-oiled machine with everyone working together.  Lolololol


Day #53 – Feeling seriously overwhelmed today. I’ll never be ready for the “Estate Sale” this weekend. So much to do —- it seems impossible today. But check in with me on Saturday!  Ha!


Days #54 and #55 – getting ready for my Estate Sale tomorrow (Friday and Saturday). I’ve been so slammed with everything, I haven’t had time to check email, Facebook or Twitter. OMG! Keeping my fingers crossed that my junk is someone else’s treasure!


Day #56 – Feeling very grateful for all the good friends who made my sales day so successful!  Thank you! Looking forward to tomorrow’s sale from 8 am – 2 pm.


Day #57 – Saturday night was my farewell party to say goodbye to friends before I leave Albuquerque. I feel very blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life. All I could think of as I talked with one and then another was “I’m not saying goodbye! I’m going to stay connected to each and every one via email, Facebook, Skype.” This is such a small world.  Imagine if I was my Dutch ancestor sailing away from family and friends in the 1600s! THAT would be a very sad farewell. But mine is a very joyous one!


Day #58 – Egypt has announced it is closing the Rafah border between Gaza and Egypt for 3 months after 32 Egyptian policemen were killed by a suicide bomber near the Rafah border on Friday. Egypt is also suspending talks between Israel and Hamas re. ceasefire truce. Predictably, blame is being placed on Palestinian militants from Gaza, and Egypt says the “only solution” is to create a “safe zone” presumably near Rafah to protect Egyptians. I find this very offensive and I’m going to write a blog post to explain why.


Day #59 – Less than two weeks until I leave ABQ. Now that the “Estate Sale” is finished, I’m tying up a zillion other pieces to make this transition a success.



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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.


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


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


  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



About the Contributors


About the Editors





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Day #14 – July 20, 2014 – The Massacre in Shuja’iya

I have a friend from Shuja’iya.*  Not a Facebook acquaintance.  Not an anonymous Tweeter on my Twitter feed.  An honest to goodness flesh and bones friend who I consider as close as my own family. His mother is about my age. His wife could be my daughter. His younger brother lost an eye when he was shot by an Israeli sniper. Together we visited the Pyramids outside of Cairo in September 2012, where he was seeking medical attention for his eye.

When I visited the family at their home in Shuja’iya in the Fall of 2012, I was struck by the neighborhood’s very high density. Tall concrete buildings (4-5 floors) sitting side-by-side, along very narrow sandy roads. No trees, lawns, parks or open space. Even by Gaza-standards, Shuja’iya was very densely populated.

I never would have found my friend’s home without the aid of a young friend who knew where he was going.  To my untrained eyes, all of the buildings looked the same, all of the roads looked the same. No signs or house numbers.

Shuja’iya sits on the eastern border of the Gaza Strip, near the no-man’s zone which Israel has arbitrarily designated as a “shoot-to-kill” perimeter around the Gaza Strip. Farmers’ lives are at risk if they go into their fields in this no-man’s zone. The Israeli military keeps guard from watchtowers along the perimeter fence.


I walked up several flights of stairs to my friend’s home. As is typical in Gaza, extended families live on different floors in the same building. (I would love to have my granddaughter living upstairs from me!)

They greeted me with open arms, the younger children looking at me with great fascination. They served me tea and sweets, and we chatted. I don’t recall what we talked about in that first meeting but I remember it was easy because my friend’s wife spoke English.  (I don’t speak Arabic.)

One thing in the room caught my eye. A piece of rock sitting on the table next to me. The wife told me it was from the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, of special significance to Muslims.


SUNDAY – JULY 20, 2014

I suppose Israeli military commanders didn’t think their buffer zone was large enough. On the 14th day of Israel’s so-called Operation Protective Edge, the IDF decided to flatten Shuja’iya. No precision bombing. No strategic targets. Just flatten the entire neighborhood.

The U.N. committee charged with investigating the war in Gaza concluded that the “IDF followed a pre-calculated pattern of widespread razing of neighborhoods” and the “vast scale of destruction [in Shuja’iya] may have been adopted as tactics of war.”  The Guardian — ‘Death and horror’ in Gaza as thousands flee Israeli bombardment.


419.        Article 23 of the 1907 Hague Regulations[1] prohibits the destruction of property unless such destruction is required by imperative military necessity. A similar provision in Geneva Convention IV prohibits an occupying power from destroying private or public property.[2] The extensive destruction carried out by the IDF in Shuja’iya, Khuza’a and other localities situated in proximity to the Green Line, in particular the razing of entire areas of these localities by artillery fire, air strikes and bulldozers indicates that the IDF carried out destructions that may not have been strictly required by military necessity. Article 147 of the Geneva Convention IV qualifies the extensive destruction of property “not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly” as a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions. The wholesale levelling of certain areas of Gaza by the IDF, should it qualify as “unlawful” and ”wanton”, may amount to a war crime.

My friend’s brother lost his life that day, killed in his home. The story of his life and death still bring me to tears. The family fled with thousands of others, their home was flattened. Among their possessions destroyed that day was my friend’s personal library. Books and books and books collected over many years. He will replace his books, but his brother will always be a hole in his heart.

Hamada Alareer

Hamada Alareer holding his daughter.

I’m meeting with my Congresswoman later this week in her DC Office. I’m going to remind her of the massacre in Shuja’iya, and my friend and my friend’s brother.

Meeting with CongresswomanMichelle Lujan-Grisham

Meeting with Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham

* Many different spellings for Shuja’iya.  Shijaia, Shujaya, Shojaya, Shujaeya, Shejaiya etc.  I’m using Shuja’iya because that’s how the U.N. Independent Commission of Inquiry spells it in its report investigating the war last summer.

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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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Letter to Congress from an American in Gaza

This morning I had the opportunity to join a group who met with Representative Michelle Lujan-Grisham (D-NM) in Albuquerque.  She’s a first-term member of Congress who admits her strength is social services and health policies, not foreign policy.

She acknowledges having a high learning curve when it comes to the Middle East, but says she tries to attend every Congressional briefing on foreign policy. She has noticed over the past 6 months that there’s a shift among her colleagues in Congress, they have “a new level of concern” and “want more balanced and clear recommendations.” She leaves these classified meetings now “feeling unsettled.”

When I learned that this meeting in Albuquerque had been organized, I turned to my American friend in Gaza for permission to share some of his photos of the horrific destruction in Gaza.  I gave 22 photos to Rep. Lujan-Grisham, along with a copy of the letter my friend wrote. I hope she reads it and takes it to heart. (The letter is reprinted below.)

Refaat Alareer and Rawan Yaghi meet with Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham (D-NM)

Refaat Alareer and Rawan Yaghi meet with Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham (D-NM)

I also shared a photo of a meeting in her DC office this past April with Refaat Alareer and Rawan Yaghi. Refaat is a Professor of English Literature at the Islamic University of Gaza and the Editor of Gaza Writes Back. Rawan is one of his students and contributed a short story to the book.


None of us knew when we met in her DC office in April that Israel would launch Operation Protective Edge a few weeks later, killing over 2000 Palestinians in Gaza. When she saw the photo this morning, Rep. Lujan-Grisham asked if Refaat was OK. I told her that Refaat’s brother was killed this summer and his home was destroyed. She was speechless.

Meeting with Representative Michelle Lujan-Grisham (center front)

Meeting with Representative Michelle Lujan-Grisham

Even for a strong, articulate politician, there are no words. I hope the news gave her pause to think more deeply about U.S. policy in the Middle East.  I hope she takes the time to read Denny Cormier’s letter.

September 22, 2014

Dear Representative Grisham:

We need your support in Gaza.

My name is Denny Cormier.  I am 68 and am currently retired.

I have lived in Santa Fe for the last 15 years but I am currently volunteering in Gaza as a human rights activist and a citizen journalist reporting on what I am discovering here.

I have been living here in Gaza City for six months now (since March 2014), and I also traveled here in June of 2013 as a citizen journalist.

What I knew about Gaza and the Palestinian issue before coming here was limited to reports that I received from the Western media, and the distance between Santa Fe and Gaza might as well have been a million miles.

But based on many conversations with young Palestinians and university students in Gaza over 2 years, I decided to travel to Gaza myself in 2013 and to investigate personally the differences between my own discoveries and what I read (or saw) in the media.  My personal discoveries and the media narrative were so totally different – in fact, they were totally at odds.  And I had to know.

Frankly, my first visit to Gaza was an eye-opener.  In fact, it was a life changing experience to put it mildly.

I was immediately welcomed as a United States citizen… the people in Gaza love Americans… they welcome me warmly wherever I have traveled in Gaza.   People greet you in the streets with the warmest of welcomes – when they discover I am an American, it immediately brings smiles to the faces of adults and children alike.  The immediate reaction is – We Love You.   I have made many lasting and strong friendships in Gaza.   And I fell in love with the Palestinians and with Gaza.   I received a similar welcome from university students and business owners and from people who welcomed me on behalf of the government.

This was not a place of terrorists.  This was a place of a warm, friendly people – people of great faith – people of generosity that is unparalleled in my experience.

I could not wait to return to Gaza, and did so earlier this year in March.

And I am glad that I did.

This recent 6 month visit has increased my understanding of the issues here, and I have seen how the issues of siege and of economic devastation have brought great suffering to these people, many of whom I know personally.

Although I had the opportunity to leave Gaza before Operation Protective Edge with the assistance of the U.S. State Department and the government here in Gaza, I chose to stay on during the 51 day attack and to be a witness.

What I saw and experienced can only be characterized as horrific.  The attacks on the border cities of Gaza were particularly barbaric.   I reported to representatives of the U.S. State Department that I was a witness to war crimes, and the effects of the war crimes continue even if the attacks have stopped.

Although I live in an area of Gaza where other internationals live and in a place that is normally considered a safe haven for them, I began to feel strongly that my life was in serious danger – that there was no safe place in Gaza during those 51 days.

Gratefully I survived the bombings in my own neighborhood, but not so others in Gaza City and in cities throughout the Gaza Strip.  Many hundreds died in these attacks… many thousands more were seriously injured… thousands of homes have been flattened by the weaponry that Israel used during the attacks and are now sitting in piles of rubble.

I have visited and documented the destruction in three Gaza cities – Khuzaa, in Shujaya and in Beit Hanoun (and of course, in Gaza City).   If you had been able to accompany me on these visits after the war, you would have wept… I did.

What I saw was nothing short of total devastation of civilian homes.  I would be happy to send you photographic documentation if you wish…. But what I saw and witnessed would make you shudder…

I have heard hundreds of stories of people of all ages who ran from  their homes in the middle of the night as shells fell on their homes without warning….others were given just a few minutes to evacuate their homes before rockets or bombs wiped them out…. My dearest friends ran from their homes in bare feet and lost everything they owned and treasured.

Some homes were bombed while the families were sleeping.  They received no warning from Israel.  Entire families were wiped out

Children shuddered in their homes and it has been reported that 90% of the children in Gaza now suffer from PTSD.

Children were particularly targeted in these attacks.

Four young boys from the Bakr family were killed by shells from Israeli gunboats just off shore…. They were killed on the beach when they were playing football very close to my home…  I met the only survivor of the attack on the same Bakr family home just days later.

I spent most of two months during the war acting as a human shield at Al Shifa Hospital, the major health facility in Gaza.  There I met hundreds of refugees and interviewed the injured.  I saw the dead being brought to the hospital, many of them children… what I saw is the stuff of nightmares.   On one of the days there, hundreds of ambulances arrived over several hours delivering the dead and the injured….. The doctors I spoke to have told me that the injuries to their patients were worse than any war injuries that they have witnessed here and in other war zones.

I have seen many destroyed or severely damaged civilian facilities, including schools, mosques, hospitals, police stations – in some cases entire cities.

Before the war I was also witness to the devastation to the economy and to the infrastructure of Gaza – and the destruction of the human spirit during this too long siege.  I learned to live with 8 hours of electricity a day (now 6 hours a day)… I learned to live with the water that comes from the taps that cannot be used for anything safely… I learned to live with miles of beaches that have been destroyed because of the need to dump raw sewage into the sea.  I learned to live with stories of suffering that are caused by a huge unemployment situation in Gaza…

I cannot tell you all that I have discovered first hand during this current visit to Gaza, but it could fill books, and one day it probably will.

I can tell you that what I witnessed are gross breaches of international law and gross breaches of agreements relating to collective punishment of a civilian population.

I can tell you that I will encourage the Palestinians to bring charges against Israel to the International Criminal Court.

I can tell you that it is my honest opinion that the suffering of the people of Gaza are a direct result of an illegal siege and blockade and a de facto Occupation…. The Israelis left Gaza some years ago but they have an immense and negative impact on the lives of ordinary citizens in Gaza long after they left this area and surrounded it with fencing and military outposts.

I can tell you that I was personally shot at when visiting the city of Shujaya.  As I explored the damage and was hundreds of meters from the Israeli border and the buffer zone that they have set up, bullets were fired above me and on both sides of me by the Israelis….. Warning shots perhaps…. But I was nowhere near the area where people are regularly killed and injured along the Israeli border…. My only weapon was a digital camera.   I had to back up several hundred more feet before the shooting stopped.   Children who were in the same area were also fired at as was my guide.

I can tell you many things based on first hand witness and observation,  but I must  please ask you to reconsider anything you ever learned from the media or from the  State Department  or White House regarding  Gaza – in fact, question everything you have been told.

What you have been told… what we Americans have been told…. Is a lie.

I would be happy to meet with you when I return to the United States, but I must warn you now that the ongoing support of the State of Israel in its attacks on the Palestinians, especially on those living in Gaza is a great shame on the American people. The financial support offered to Israel without proper concern and restrictions based on human rights is a great shame for the American people.

As a representative of the good people of the United States, I urge you to look very closely at the good people of Gaza and to reconsider what we have done to them in the name of Israeli security.

In fact, I would be pleased to personally be your guide should you elect to visit the Gaza Strip and should the Israeli government allow you entry for a firsthand experience of what I have witnessed and experienced.

The people of Gaza need your support.


Dennis Cormier

Santa Fe, New Mexico

(currently Gaza City in the Gaza Strip)

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Busboys and Poets and Palestinian writers

Troy Davis executed by the US government in September 2011

I knew Busboys & Poets in Washington DC must be a special place when I saw the Troy Davis drawing on the wall.  Justice and human rights were in the air and the vibes felt really cool.

Busboys & Poets in DC

Busboys & Poets in Washington, DC

This proved to be an excellent venue for the last DC stop on the Gaza Writes Back USA book tour.  The 30-40 people were a friendly crowd and, based on the questions they asked, they were obviously well-informed about Palestine.

Refaat Alareer, the book’s editor, shared how he tried to distract his young children during the 23 days of Operation Cast Lead (Dec. ’08 – Jan. ’09) when “there was no right place, no right time; anyone, anytime, anywhere could be killed in Gaza.”

He would tell them stories, and then he realized the power of stories for connecting the past, present and future. During the bombing, his 5-year-old daughter asked him, “Who created the Israelis?” He was stunned, and couldn’t find an answer to her profound question.

2014-04-08 04.59.32

2014-04-08 06.15.07

After the death and destruction ended, Refaat returned to his university. The Israeli Occupation Forces had destroyed the large laboratory building on campus, in addition to schools, medical facilities, banks and Mosques throughout the Gaza Strip. He saw the pain and horror in the eyes of his students. No one escaped the trauma of Operation Cast Lead. Everyone had lost a family member, a friend, a neighbor or knew someone who had been seriously injured.

2014-04-08 06.15.26

Refaat, the teacher, wanted to help his students find a way to resist. Many of them had been writing on blogs, websites, and Facebook whenever the electricity was working, usually only a few hours each day. He challenged his students to write fiction as a way to release their anger and frustration in a creative way.

Some of their short stories, all written in English, are included in Gaza Writes Back responding to Israel’s attempts to erase Palestinian voices. The book is for his daughter, for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, for the Palestinians in the diaspora, and most importantly, for non-Palestinian audiences.

2014-04-08 05.42.38

Then Refaat diverted from previous presentations and read a poem he wrote in 2012,  “I Am You”.  When he finished reading, the woman sitting next to me whispered “Wow!” under her breath.

Two steps: one, two.
‏Look in the mirror:
‏The horror, the horror!
‏The butt of your M-16 on my cheekbone
‏The yellow patch it left
‏The bullet-shaped scar expanding
‏Like a swastika,
‏Snaking across my face,
‏The heartache flowing
‏Out of my eyes dripping
‏Out of my nostrils piercing
‏My ears flooding
‏The place.
‏Like it did to you
‏70 years ago
‏Or so.

‏I am just you.
‏I am your past haunting
‏Your present and your future.
‏I strive like you did.
‏I fight like you did.
‏I resist like you resisted
‏And for a moment,
‏I’d take your tenacity
‏As a model,
‏Were you not holding
‏The barrel of the gun
‏Between my bleeding

One. Two.
‏The very same gun
‏The very same bullet
‏That had killed your Mom
‏ And killed your Dad
‏Is being used,
‏Against me,
‏By you.

‏Mark this bullet and mark in your gun.
‏If you sniff it, it has your and my blood.
‏It has my present and your past.
‏It has my present.
‏It has your future.
‏That’s why we are twins,
‏Same life track
‏Same weapon
‏Same suffering
‏Same facial expressions drawn
‏On the face of the killer,
‏Same everything
‏Except that in your case
‏The victim has evolved, backward,
‏Into a victimizer.
‏I tell you.
‏I am you.
‏Except that I am not the you of now.

‏I do not hate you.
‏I want to help you stop hating
‏And killing me.
‏I tell you:
‏The noise of your machine gun
‏Renders you deaf
‏The smell of the powder
‏Beats that of my blood.
‏The sparks disfigure
‏My facial expressions.
‏Would you stop shooting?
‏For a moment?
‏Would you?

‏All you have to do
‏Is close your eyes
‏(Seeing these days
‏Blinds our hearts.)
‏Close your eyes, tightly
‏So that you can see
‏In your mind’s eye.
‏Then look into the mirror.
‏One. Two.
‏I am you.
‏I am your past.
‏And killing me,
‏You kill you.

Questions from the audience followed — “What is the ideal desired outcome of this conflict?”

Yousef responded — “The solution must include the land between the river and the sea. Equal rights for everyone, and the right of return for the refugees to present day Israel. Any other agreement would be a waste of time.”

2014-04-08 06.21.59


Refaat added — “We’ve given the so-called peace talks enough time. Israel’s working against any possibility of Palestinians having their own state. Israel is pushing Palestinians into a corner — towards violence. Since Israel’s founding, their leaders have used the same strategy of violence, dehumanization and destruction. Palestinians have been responding creatively, using different methods of resistance. Writing, in addition to acting and drama, is another way for Palestinians to express their pain creatively.”

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In response to a question about Palestinian stereotypes, Rawan noted — “Fiction erases boundaries and draws us back to our humanity. Our job is to go global, and show the world that we are normal, just like anyone else. The international community needs to be open and willing to learn and hear the Palestinian narrative.”

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Writing is resistance

The Gaza Writes Back book tour began in Philadelphia but I caught up with them in New York City on Friday night, many miles ago. At each stop, the writers have shared their stories and answered good questions.

Rawan Yaghi and Refaat Alareer in Manhattan

Rawan Yaghi and Refaat Alareer in Manhattan

The book includes 23 short stories from young Palestinian writers responding to the 23 days of Israel’s bombardment on the civilians in the Gaza Strip in Dec.’08-Jan. ’09, called Operation Cast Lead. Israel killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, including many women and children. The most shocking and disturbing book I’ve ever read is the Goldstone Report from the U.N. fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict* and Operation Cast Lead.


Gaza Writes Back should come with a warning message on the cover because it may be difficult for some to read as well.

Refaat Alareer, the Editor of the book, said he decided to ask his university students to try their hand at writing fiction because he knew the therapeutic value of writing. “Writing fiction transcends everything” and “brings us back to our humanity.” He also believes fiction is timeless — connecting the past, present and future.


Rawan, Yousef, Helena, Refaat, Sarah

Refaat knew that his students could speak for themselves. So often the narratives we hear about Israel & Palestine in the mainstream media come from the colonizer’s perspective. It seems Americans can more easily identify with that perspective. Publishing his students’ stories would be a way for Palestinians to go global with their narrative about the horrific events of Operation Cast Lead.


Rawan Yaghi, contributor “Gaza Writes Back”

Interestingly, 12 of the 15 contributors to the book are female, which demonstrates the importance of women and their voices in the culture. They wrote their short stories in English, not Arabic, to reach a larger audience and to educate people outside of Gaza.


Refaat Alareer, Editor “Gaza Writes Back”

Ironically, or perhaps tragically, Gaza Writes Back is available all over the world, but not in Gaza. Refaat has received tweets from people who have read the book in Europe, South Africa, Uganda, Malaysia, Argentina, New Zealand, Jerusalem and the West Bank. Last month, Medea Benjamin (CodePink) was carrying 30 copies of Gaza Writes Back when she tried to reach Gaza, but Egyptian security officials detained her at the Cairo airport, broke her arm, and deported her the following day.


Yousef Aljamal, contributor “Gaza Writes Back”

Despite what the foreign desk of the New York Times believes, the Gaza Strip is occupied 100% — by land, sea and air. Every Palestinian in Gaza has a family member, friend or colleague who was killed or injured during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead.

Refaat notes that the Israelis have been doing the same thing day-after-day, year-after-year, decade-after-decade …. killing, destroying and acts of humiliation targeting Palestinians, the young and old alike.

But Palestinians are very creative in ways of resistance. Writing is resistance. Sharing their narrative with audiences in the USA on this book tour is fighting back.


Helena and Refaat on the road again

* How anyone can call the Israel-Palestine occupation, massacres and oppression — a “conflict” — is beyond me.  An employer & employee can have a conflict. A shopkeeper & customer can have a conflict. A parent & teenager can have a conflict. An oppressor & the oppressed do NOT have a conflict. They have a life of struggle and injustices.


Filed under Gaza, Israel, Occupation, Peaceful, People