Tuesday, July 29, 2014

From Gaza: I Would Rather Die in Dignity Than Agree to Living in an Open-Air Prison

Dear friends,
I am reprinting this very moving and eloquent account, published in the Huffington Post, written by Mohammed Suliman about Palestinian sumoud (steadfastness) and defiance in Gaza and the demand for human dignity. 

In the article Mohammed eloquently explains: "The reality is that if Palestinians stop resisting, Israel won't stop occupying, as its leaders repeatedly affirm. The besieged Jews of the Warsaw ghetto had a motto "to live and die in dignity." As I sit in my own besieged ghetto, I think how Palestinians have honored this universal value. We live in dignity and we die in dignity, refusing to accept subjugation".


You can follow Mohammed on twitter: @imPalestine

in solidarity, Kim 

**

From Gaza: I Would Rather Die in Dignity Than Agree to Living in an Open-Air Prison


 

Gaza is a tough place; it's tiny, overcrowded and besieged. But the people are kind. The food is delicious, and the beach, though filthy, allows us to pretend that we're free. The sunset at sea is a spectacular scene, despite the Israeli warships dotting the landscape. Take a stroll down the street, and you'll meet vendors, mostly young children hawking their wares. Take a taxi, and by the time you get off, you'll be exchanging phone numbers with your newest friend, the taxi driver. 

Our markets are complete chaos, an experience for all five senses. Rush hour is when school children, dressed in UNRWA uniforms or Barcelona and Real Madrid t-shirts, finish classes and flood the streets on their way back home. It is when I realize how young Gaza's population is. Night is as lively a time as daytime. Smoke shisha at a beach or downtown café or chill with the family. The people in Gaza, too, are humans.

But this isn't the scene in Gaza anymore. The streets are deserted, and so is the beach. Schools have become makeshift shelters crammed with displaced people fleeing death to a supposedly safer place. The beautiful noise of life has been replaced by a horrid one of death. Drones are humming overhead, and jet fighters are roaring. 

There is always shelling at a distance. Distance, however, is relative. It could be so close that your windows will be blown out as you scream your heart out. Only then will you realize you have just escaped a narrow death. But someone else must have inevitably died. This could happen numerous times a day before you force yourself to sleep in the dark in a safe corner of your house to the sound of falling bombs and missiles, in the hope that none of these missiles will know its way to you. 

The people in Gaza are living through yet another Israeli assault, the third such assault in six years, with nowhere to flee. As missiles hit civilian houses, entire families are obliterated. How else could one possibly characterize the killing of twenty-five members from one family in one strike, or the killing of another eighteen members from another family in just another strike? How can one describe the arbitrary and indiscriminate shelling of one of the most crowded and impoverished areas in Gaza City with endless barrages of missiles and mortar shells all night long while preventing ambulances and civil defense forces from entering the area to rescue and evacuate the victims?

"We don't target civilians," Israel tells us. "You're simply lying" should be a sane person's response to these, at best, baseless claims. Israel does target civilians with its sophisticated high-precision weapons, hence the over 1,000 deaths in Gaza so far, 80 percent of whom are civilians, according to human rights groups. Over 200 children have been killed, some charred, others decapitated and many disemboweled. Israeli warships have killed four young children from Bakr family playing on the beach in broad daylight, an incident witnessed by NBC's reporter in Gaza Ayman Mohyedin. A sniper killed a distressed young man looking for his lost cousin amongst the debris in the wake of its unspeakable massacre in Al Shujayeh.

Its unmanned drones killed two young brothers from Areef family with a missile while they were on their way to buy yogurt for their breakfast. In another incident, it fired missiles at and killed three children feeding their pigeons and chickens on the roof of their building. Israel has dropped thousands of tons of explosives on one of the world's most densely populated areas, killing 26 members from Abu Jame' family in one airstrike, 20 members from Al Najjar family, 18 from Al Batsh family, nine from Al Qassas family, 7 from Al Keilani family, 8 from Kaware' family, five from Hamad family and on and on. These are the stories we hear as we wait death in the comfort of our home. 

A ceasefire might be negotiated and agreed upon. Hamas might soon stop firing rockets, but then will Israel cease to exercise its violence against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank on a daily basis? The reality is that if Palestinians stop resisting, Israel won't stop occupying, as its leaders repeatedly affirm. The besieged Jews of the Warsaw ghetto had a motto "to live and die in dignity." As I sit in my own besieged ghetto, I think how Palestinians have honored this universal value. We live in dignity and we die in dignity, refusing to accept subjugation. 

We're tired of war. I, for one, have had enough of bloodshed, death and destruction. But I also can no longer tolerate the return to a deeply unjust status quo. I can no longer agree to live in this open-air prison. We can no longer tolerate to be treated as sub-humans, deprived of our most basic human rights. We are trapped here, trapped between two deaths: death by Israeli bombs and missiles, and death by Israel's blockade of Gaza. 

We want to be able to get in and out of Gaza freely, whenever we choose. Why should our students not be granted their right to study at universities of their own choice? Why should our patients be left for their own death as Israel deprives them of receiving medical treatment in hospitals outside of Gaza? Our fishermen want to fish in our sea waters without the prospect of being shot at and killed. We deserve the right to access clean water, electricity and our most basic needs. And yet we can't because Israel occupies. It occupies not only our land but our bodies and our destinies. No people can tolerate this injustice. We, too, are humans.

Reporting for Gaza: More than 250 Palestinian children killed by Israel in assault on Gaza

Dear friends,
once again more children have been killed by Israel as it bombs Gaza.  We are now entering the third week of Israel's murderous assault on Gaza and the death toll is now in excess of  1180, most of whom are civilians, including more than 250 children.  At least 6,800 Palestinians have been injured.

On the very first day of Eid, 8 Palestinian children playing in park and on the street lost their lives, along with two adults, when Israeli military drones carried out a strike. At the time eyewitness reported of two separate strike assaults - one on Shifa Hospital and one on Al Shati Refugee camp where the childen where. Palestinians and Western reporters on the scene gave eyewitness reports that the strike was carried out by Israeli drones.  Israeli Occupation Forces quickly attempted to shift the blame, saying both strikes were caused by a failed rockets launched by Hamas. However, as Australian reporter Ruth Pollard later noted in a tweet, there was no evidence of Hamas rocket fragments to be found in the debris. Hamas also denied that they had fired a rocket which misfired.


Al Jazeera, also published eyewitness accounts of the strike:  According to Munzer al-Derby,  "The kids were playing on the wheel... A rocket fell and cut them apart.""I know some of them. They were from Al-Helou family who left their homes in Shujayea (east Gaza city, where massive artillery fire destroyed neighbourhoods). They came here and rented an apartment last week".  


The tweets included in this post are from the following journalists, photographers and bloggers (click on their names to go to their accounts) documenting the situation on the ground in Gaza.

Ruth Pollard - Australian journalist with the Fairfax Media  
Dr Bassel Abuwarda - Palestinian doctor working in Gaza
Maram Humaid - Gazan blogger/tweeter
Ayman Mohyeldin - Egyptian reporter, reporting for NBC
Sharif Kouddous - Independent reporter, reporting for Democracy Now
Tamer El-Ghobashy - Wall St Journal Middle East Correspondent
 
You can read the earlier posts in this "Reporting from Gaza" by clicking on the titles blow:

In solidarity,
Kim

 

 


 

 



 
 


  

 

 


Monday, July 28, 2014

Mass Definiance in Palestine

Dear friends,
please find below my latest article on the Palestinian mass protests in the Occupied West Bank and Israel against the assault on Gaza and Israel's ongoing occupation.

in solidarity, Kim
**

For Muslims, Laylat al-Qadr is the holiest night of Ramadan, which is the holiest month in the calendar. This year, the night witnesses more violent Palestinian deaths.

Mohammed al-Araj (19) and Majd Sufyan (27) were killed on 24 July when Israeli forces opened fire on more than 20,000 protesters in the Occupied West Bank. One participant told Red Flag that more than 1,000 Palestinian youth – both men and women – subsequently clashed with Israeli soldiers. More than 280 Palestinians were injured as a result of further Israeli military fire.

The demonstration, the largest in almost a decade, called for Palestinians to “deliver a message to Gaza people that you don’t stand alone against this brutal offensive”. Anger also was fuelled by Israel’s refusal to issue permits enabling West Bank Palestinians to pray at al-Aqsa mosque.

Beginning at al-Amari refugee camp two kilometres south of Ramallah, the protesters had marched towards Qalandia, the main Israeli checkpoint between Ramallah and Occupied East Jerusalem.

Since the kidnapping, torture and murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir on 4 July, there have been daily confrontations and protests in both Occupied East Jerusalem and throughout the Occupied West Bank in cities such as Bethlehem.

Palestinians in the West Bank staged a general strike on 21 July in the wake of the Shejaiya massacre, during which Israel all but levelled the eastern district of Gaza City, killing almost 100 people. Palestinian shops, businesses and institutions closed their doors for the day. According to the Palestine News Network more than 1,500 Palestinians took part in the demonstrations in Bethlehem. Demonstrations also took place in Ramallah, Hebron, Nablus, Tulkarem and Occupied East Jerusalem.

Palestinian citizens of Israel also joined the general strike. In Nazareth, the main commercial street was closed and up to 10,000 protested. Israeli police arrested at least a dozen demonstrators. Since early July, the Israeli state has arrested more than 930 Palestinians in both East Jerusalem and from Palestinian towns and districts inside Israel.

As news spread of the use of live ammunition and the deaths at the Qalandia march, spontaneous protests broke out in Hebron, Bethlehem, Tulkarem and Nablus. Protests also took place in Occupied East Jerusalem, where Palestinians attacked and burned an Israeli military post.

For weeks the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA) and its police force have suppressed demonstrations in support of Gaza. Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas has refused to end “security coordination” with Israel, describing it in May as “sacred”.

In July, an increasing level of violence was used by the PA against Palestinian demonstrators, including the use of weapons of the occupation army – tear gas, sound grenades and live ammunition. Abbas and the PA are viewed by many Palestinians, particularly the youth, as little more than a “subcontractor for Israel”. In fact, amid the anti-Israel demonstrations, there have also been demonstrations against the PA police.

Yet the growing outrage at PA collaboration resulted in a shift at the end of July. Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade – which has not engaged in armed struggle in the Occupied West Bank for the past seven years – claimed it had engaged in a fire fight with Israeli troops. According to Palestinian media outlet Ma’an News, the gun battle took place concurrently with the Qalandia march.

The PA subsequently called for a “day of rage” on 25 July. Tens of thousands of Palestinians joined demonstrations across the West Bank. The biggest protests taking place in Jenin, Bethlehem and Nablus. Israeli occupation forces killed seven and wounded hundreds more.

In Abu Dis, on the outskirts of East Jerusalem, dozens of protesters attempted to break holes in the apartheid wall. In Tulkarem, thousands marched on Netanyah Checkpoint. In Bethlehem at least 3,000 people took part in a rally that marched from Manger Square to the apartheid wall at Rachel’s Tomb.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Reporting from Gaza: Ceasefire in Beit Hanoun & Shejaiya

Dear friends,
a brief ceasefire has taken place. During this time, Palestinian families attempted to return to their homes, only to discover their homes no longer existed. 

Many Gazan families spent the ceasefire trying to retrieve what belongings they could and sadly digging the bodies of their family members out of the rubble. So far more than 150  bodies have removed from the rubble of the cities that Israel destroyed.  The number is expected to continue to grow.

Israel has now massacred more than 1050 people in its bloody and brutal assault on Gaza.  Please join the rallies and actions in your cities to add your voice in protest against their actions. Please get involved in the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign and discuss with your church, place of worship, community group and union about joining the BDS campaign and passing motions condemning Israel's war crimes in Gaza. 

The tweets included in this post are from the following journalists, photographers and bloggers: (click on their names to go directly to their twitter account):

Hazem Balousha - Palestinian journalist working in Gaza
Belal- Gaza - Palestinian doctor working in Gaza. 
Noah Browning - Reuters journalist
Daniel Rivers - ITV News
Kate Benyon-Tinker - BBC 
Jesse Rosenfeld - Independent Journalist in Gaza
ISM Palestine - International solidarity activists in Gaza & West Bank
Kelvin Brown - BBC journalist and photographer 
Tamer El-Ghobashy - Wall St Journal Middle East Correspondent
International Red Cross
Agence France-Presse

You can read the earlier posts in this "Reporting from Gaza" by clicking on the titles blow:

In solidarity, 
Kim

****

 BEIT HANOUN & SHEJAIYA













BEIT HANOUN
 



 

  



\




 

 



Shejaiya



 




Compare & contrast: What the "ceasefire" means in Israel and what it means in Gaza.

Dear friends,
Israel's Haaretz newspaper ran two stories today, which starkly contrasts what the "ceasefire" means in Israel and what it means in Gaza. I think the stories and images speak for themselves.

In solidarity, Kim


Screencaps of Haaretz photos/headlines.  Haaretz included several images for their story on Israelis during the ceasefire -.the image on the right comes up when you post the url for the story to social media. No date is given on this image, but other photos of the beach included in article are dated (see below)

Some 150 bodies recovered in Gaza as death toll exceeds 1,000


Palestinian sources say seven members of medical teams have been killed by IDF in past two weeks.


By | Jul. 27, 2014 | 10:13 AM




A Palestinian woman pauses amid destroyed buildings in the northern district of Beit Hanun.
A Palestinian woman pauses amid destroyed buildings in the northern district of Beit Hanun, July 26, 2014. Photo by AFP

Accompanied by the stench of raw sewage, rotting garbage, animal carcasses and human bodies buried under rubble, hundreds of thousands of Gazans yesterday left their homes and temporary refuges and returned to what two weeks ago were bustling neighborhoods and towns. 

The humanitarian cease-fire was meant, above all, to allow for the removal of bodies trapped under bombed homes in residential areas adjacent to the border with Israel. Around 150 bodies were extricated yesterday, bringing the number of Palestinians killed in the past two-plus weeks of fighting past the thousand mark. According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, of the 928 fatalities who had been identified by name as of 10 A.M. yesterday, 764 were civilians, and they included 215 children and 118 women. 

For two weeks, the Israel Defense Forces barred Palestinian rescue teams from reaching wounded Palestinians or searching the ruins of destroyed homes for possible survivors if Israeli infantry units were operating nearby. Seven members of emergency medical teams were killed by the IDF in the past two weeks while trying to reach the wounded. Two were killed on Friday, in Beit Hanun and in eastern Khan Yunis. In an unknown number of incidents, EMT teams turned back after being shot at by Israeli soldiers. The Palestinian Health Ministry said that even yesterday, during the cease-fire, EMT crews were stopped from entering Kaft Huza’a, east of Khan Yunis, where dozens of civilians were killed by the IDF late Tuesday night or early Wednesday. It’s not known how many people are still buried under the rubble, whether dead or injured. 

In the day preceding the humanitarian cease-fire, 75 Palestinians were killed by Israeli gunfire or air attacks in the Gaza Strip, 52 of them civilians. According to the Palestinian human rights center, 18 of these were children and eight were women. 

In a single air strike, about five hours before the cease-fire went into effect, 20 members of Samir Hussein Muhammed al-Najar’s family died when a bomber fired a missile at the two-story building, including 11 children and five women, including Samir, 58, Ra’aliya, 56, and their children Majd, 19, Kifah, 24 and Samr, 26; relatives Amir, 2, Islam 3, and Amira, eight months; and Riham, 25 and pregnant. 

In one of the bombing runs on the night between Thursday and Friday, Husam Yassin, 15, a grandson of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas, was killed. 

At 7 P.M. Friday, an IDF shell hit a hospital in Beit Hanun. Hospital staff, civilians and two volunteers from the International Solidarity Movement were in the building. 

They reported that Israeli soldiers had been seen outside the building and that exchanges of gunfire had been heard in the area. As a result of gunfire in the vicinity of the hospital, most of the patients had been evacuated previously. The firing on the hospital continued until Friday night. 

“It was absolute chaos, the army shelled the hospital. There are two patients on the second floor and we think they’re all right but we can’t move them easily because they’re bedridden. I’m bleeding from my head because of an injury, and another person was also wounded. People are scared,” a Swedish volunteer at the hospital said. The hospital was not evacuated until yesterday morning, when the humanitarian cease-fire went into effect. 

During the night between Thursday and Friday, IDF fire hit the a-Dura children’s hospital in Gaza City. A 1-year-old infant in the pediatric intensive care unit was killed and 30 other patients were injured. They were evacuated to Shifa Hospital. 

A Beit Hanun man who was among the thousands who fled their homes in the middle of last week returned home yesterday morning, like thousands of others, hoping to at least take a few changes of clothing for himself, his wife and his family, who was staying with friends in Jabalya. 

“It was as if a tsunami had hit,” he said. “I couldn’t even tell what was our home and what was the neighbors’. And when I did figure it out, I discovered that there was nothing to take. All the furniture and the clothing was burned or still burning. The house was half-destroyed. All our savings, for decades, gone.” 

Shujaiyeh, which had about 100,00 Palestinian inhabitants, not refugees, had turned into “a ghost town,” said a woman who went to see the destruction. “Residential buildings had not only been destroyed in bombing raids but also ground into gravel, sand, piles of dirt. I’ve seen destroyed homes in my life. Usually you can tell where the buildings were, even where the walls had been. This was different. You can’t tell where a building used to be, how many buildings were there before the bombardments. A few buildings are still standing, others totally disappeared.” 

 **

During cease-fire, Israelis head out to malls, restaurants, and beaches


After nearly three weeks of rocket fire, Israelis venture out in large numbers.

By | Jul. 27, 2014 | 10:39 AM
 
Tel Aviv beach, July 26, 2014
Tel Aviv beach, July 26, 2014. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum

After nearly three weeks of rocket fire directed at the south and center of the country and even to points further north, Saturday’s 12-hour cease-fire prompted Israelis to venture out in larger numbers. 

Although life in the center and north of the country has proceeded relatively normally over the past three weeks of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, consumers have curbed their spending to some extent, and appear to have been staying closer to home in many cases. 

With the declaration of a humanitarian cease-fire between Israel and Hamas from 8 A.M. to 8 P.M. Saturday, Israelis ventured out in large numbers during the course of the day, although rocket fire resumed in the evening. 

Beaches, cafés, restaurants and movie theaters were busier during the day, as were those shopping centers that are open on the Sabbath. Residents of the south, who are closer to the Gaza Strip, came out in smaller numbers, however. 

The Tel Aviv Port retail complex on the city’s waterfront, which has seen business dip substantially during the past three weeks of hostilities, was again bustling, although numbers were still lower than on a typical Saturday. 

Business at other entertainment areas in the center of the country also experienced a drop in business compared to a normal Saturday, but traffic was higher than last Saturday. 

“At most branches in the center of the country, traffic still didn’t return to routine [levels],” said the CEO of the Aroma Israel café chain, Danny Mishel. 

“At our branches on the seafront promenade in Bat Yam and at the Seven Stars Mall in Herzliya, sales are down by about 10% compared to regular vacation days. Nonetheless, though, there was an improvement compared to the previous days,” Mishel said, in reference to suburban locations just north and south of Tel Aviv. 

Many movie theaters attracted larger numbers than usual yesterday. Cinema City in Rishon Letzion, just south of Tel Aviv, reported 30% higher traffic than a regular Saturday, with parking in high demand and long lines at restaurants at the complex. 

Similar scenes were reported at Azrieli Group malls in Ramat Gan, Givatayim and Modi’in in the center of the country.
Cinema City in Rishon Letzion, July 26, 2014. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Melbourne stands with Gaza: Thousands stand in solidarity with Palestine, call for the Australian govt to break ties with Apartheid Israel


Dear friends,

for a third week in a row, thousands of people took to the streets in Melbourne to oppose Israel's war crimes and massacres in Gaza.  Between 3500 and 4000 people stood in solidarity with the people of Gaza and Palestine and demanded an end to Israel's war crimes and for the Australian Abbott government to break ties with Apartheid Israel. 

As we took to the streets today, the death toll in Gaza has continued to climb with more than 850 Palestinians now killed by the Israeli state, the vast majority of those killed are civilians, mainly women and children.  More than 5000 people have been injured, whole neighbourhoods have been levelled. The Australian government has refused to condemn Israel and has instead backed Israel's war crimes in Gaza.  The protest today called for the Abbott government to break all military, economic and political ties with Israel and end its complicity with Israel's war crimes.

A fourth rally has been called for Melbourne, for next week on Friday, 1 August at 6pm at the State Library.

In solidarity, Kim

+++

All photos by Kim Bullimore





Jo from Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid chairing the rally.

Aboriginal activist and First Nations Student Officer at La Trobe University, Jay Wymarra speaking in solidarity with Palestine, highlighting the similarities between the Indigenous Australian struggle and the Palestinian struggle

Palestinian-Australian playwriter and poet, Samah Sabawi, whose family is from Gaza chairing the rally. 

Palestinian activist, Shamikh Badra from Gaza, speaks on the situation faced by his family and friends

Greens Senator Janet Rice 

 Trade Unionist Mick Bull from the CFMEU speaking about union solidarity with Palestine

 Nazeem Hussain, social justice activist & comedian with Fear of a Brown Planet

Protesters carried the names of the Palestinians killed by Israel in Gaza 
over the last 18 days. 

Daniel Taylor from Jews Against Israeli Apartheid speaks in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza