Monday, 20 July 2009

Etiquette at the Rafah Border

It looks like Viva Palestina has become a travel agency for adventurers who want to say that they have been to Gaza! It seems that they were let in without most of their aid (again). When will their leadership start doing something that helps Palestinians rather than helping the Israeli/Egyptian Axis to defuse the Anger in the West. People think the Convoy helps to break the siege, but, it is just collaborating with it!!
If you go to the West Bank, the 'rule' is not to take advantage of the invitation usually extended by the Israelis to foreigners to go to the front of the queue at checkpoints (AKA behaving like an Israeli), and to stay in line and wait with the Palestinians. It's called Solidarity, whereas queue jumping is called Arrogance.
What should the procedure be at the entry to Gaza? Make up your own mind: here's an extract from a posting by the FaceBook Group International Campaign to open the Rafah Border, who are camped at Rafah sometimes on hunger strike, trying to force open the gates:

" Elated at news of the arrival of the Viva Palestina convoy, many of these (Palestinian) families, exhausted and in debt, came today to try their luck at Rafah, hoping that the Egyptian police would be more lenient and that they might be able to get some help from members of the convoy.


But that was, unfortunately, not the case: for these families the day turned into a nightmare. They had arrived early in order not to miss the convoy, so they waited all day in the scorching sun. The first members of the convoy began to arrive around 2 pm in buses under heavy security.


Then the horror began: at this very moment, the Egyptian riot police set upon the Palestinian families them and began forcibly evacuating them. People were shouting, screaming, weeping—and the cops kept on beating them savagely.


We tried to slip into Rafah Gate in the midst of the confusion. We even succeeded, but were then dragged back out.


The scene we were witnessing was once again so shocking that Iman, furious, was shouting insults at Mubarak and his minions.


Laila got into one of the buses and called for the help of the members of the convoy, but they replied that there was nothing they could do. “We want to get into Gaza and we don’t want any trouble.”


A man in the bus called out, “I’m a Palestinian.” And one Palestinian woman, stuck in Egypt for many days couldn’t help saying to him, “Oh, fine, you’re a Palestinian from America and I’m a Palestinian from Gaza. You can get in and I am not even allowed to return to my home in Gaza.” By then the Egyptian police had arrived and they pulled Leila and this woman out of the bus.


No contact between Palestinians and foreigners. That has been the order of the day every day since we pitched our tents here at Rafah.



We can understand the attitude of the members of this impressive convoy, with its buses, refrigerator trucks and vans. It has been so difficult for them to get this far with half of their humanitarian aid(the other half was confiscated in Alexandria) that it was hard for them to jeopardize delivery of the remaining supplies by attempting to help the people they were watching being beaten up before their very eyes. They would have been heavily penalized—they would have been refused entry into Gaza.



How can one comprehend Egyptian policy? How can one understand these Egyptian policemen who viciously beat the Palestinians and treat them like sub-humans, like enemies? Why prevent the Palestinians from returning to their own homes? Who gives the orders? Why not tell them what procedures they need to follow? And, by the way, is there one? We have asked these questions countless times, and each time we got a different answer.
"

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

After a Slow Start, The Pictures That I brought Back From Gaza Finally Become an Exhibition

It is such a relief to have finally got something organised - and pretty damn good it is too. Thanks to Sally for some artistic input so we have an aesthetically appealing show, and thanks to Dr Joseph O'Neill for arranging some places for the Exhibition to be seen. More on this soon, but what do you think?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=575N0JRzaIs

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Hunger Strike at Rafah Border

There is a hunger strike at the border by Doctors who have been refused entry to Gaza. Let us hear those Politicians who are capable of making noise, make a noise right now. There is no web-site that I can give you where you can get updates for yourself, but PSC UK (palestinecampaign.org) may carry information from time to time. The hunger strike began on May 19th. The doctors concerned were refused entry on May 16/17.
Those striking include five Britons, 3 Belgians, and a Greek. Further info from their colleague who has returned: david.shove@googlemail.com

If you wish to also write directly to the FCO, you could address your letter to Bill Rammell [Minister Foreign and Commonwealth Office <psrammellinfo@fco.gov.uk>] and/or David Miliband [Secretary of State- Foreign and Commonwealth Office private.office@fco.gov.uk], otherwise write to your MP or other power-broker.

This kind of action deserves and requires great publicity, so I suggest that everyone write letters to their newspapers, at least. This is mine:

Dear Sirs
                                    As a regular reader of the Independent I am disappointed that I only found out about the hunger strike at Rafah by personal contacts, and not through your paper. As the idea of a newspaper does carry a notion that people might read it to find out news, could I ask you to cover, daily, the brave action, begun on May 19th, of these five British, 3 Belgian and I Greek persons? I think that reporting their progress is the least we can expect for people prepared to die for an ideal gaining nothing for their personal or national benefit. Even Gandhi did not do as much.
The Hunger strike is designed to force open the gates of Rafah at the border between Egypt and Gaza. The closure of the borders of Gaza by Israel, who also are the puppet-masters behind the Egyptian closure at Rafah, is illegal, and were the UN's forceful attitude to Israel about food delivery through the borders not keeping the Palestinians alive, it would be no less than mass murder. As it is, it is random murder of individuals unlucky enough to require the advanced services of these 8 doctors and 1 specialist nurse.
 
       Rod Cox

Monday, 27 April 2009

Depression, Libel threats, home sweet home.

It's now a week since I got off the plane from Egypt. I managed to avoid depression for only a couple of days, and now I'm fighting to stay positive. Even in Gaza, I was obviously aware of the impact the recession is having on our business, but I feel guilty about leaving my partner alone for so long. We foresaw this recession and thoroughly reorganised our business and our borrowing, adjusting the payment profile to give us a three year breathing space, but it's still a struggle, and we have had to sell assets just to pay the bank. Lucky that we have an asset to sell, but it is galling that my taxes are keeping alive the monster bank that we are also feeding with our interest payments that are way above base rate, and if we fail to feed it, it will have no hesitation in devouring us.

But, on top of that, as soon as I got off the plane, I got a distressing phone call from Frances who, entirely of her own volition, publicises this blog. She was extremely distressed and almost incoherent. My first re-action was to publicise the threat she had received, but I felt that I needed a statement from her, and she was far too upset to give one. I'm afraid that, together with other bad news, and the enormous task of organising the exhibitions of Art, which I have hardly got moving at all - really I need some volunteer assistance - the problem sent me into a paroxysm of doubt and inaction.

I really want to thank the small number of people who, knowing none of this, contacted me in support and asked me to keep writing now I'm back. Are you sure that you mean it?

A week later and Frances has finally felt confident enough to make a statement: she had been rung up by Kevin Ovenden (Galloway's 'Fixer'), and threatened with Libel. Not me: her. As a journalist, Frances is not used to being threatened, and is paralysed by the fear that Newspaper editors will shun her. But today, at last, she has made a brief statement about it, and, of course, we have Kevin's Answerphone message. So now I can write about it.

If there is a libel in my Blog, Kevin, then the correct addressee for your threats is me, no-one else. However, there is no libel, so I am expecting you to withdraw your threat to Frances, with good grace, immediately.

This is what happened on the convoy:

It was so badly organised that drivers were asked to drive dangerously long sections, little support was offered to them by the convoy leadership, with Mr Galloway declaring, on video, that he had no responsibility for the members, who should drop out if they couldn't keep up. Attempts to inform the leadership of gross errors in planning, such as the labelling of the journey from Bordeaux to Madrid as 200kms instead of 550kms, simply exposed the informant to abuse.

The convoy continued in a state of fear and abuse. Persons who disagreed with the leadership were threatened with removal whilst racist and violent incidents went unremarked. There was a campaign against reporting which was certainly not hindered by any action by the leadership. Information from the leadership to the drivers was sparse and uninformative. The political situation was never spelt out, or discussed, leading to a considerable degree of paranoia; and frequent route changes forced on host countries by the leadership in countries both friendly and hostile meant that no-one was ever aware of our true status or realistically could grasp our situation. For many convoy drivers the trip was a surreal blur of adulation by the public and tight police control which was never explained or even discussed.


All, of this, though is small beer compared to what was achieved in the end, and everyone must make up their own mind on this. George - not Kevin Ovenden - is a hero in Palestine, of that there is no doubt, and he has brought some attention to the issue of the border at Rafah. However the opportunity missed is greater than the gain, in my opinion.

The Egyptian political rallies which we were almost compelled to attend, assured us that we would be ushered through the Rafah border at 12 noon on the Sunday. There was no talk of any conditions, and no argument from George, and so the convoy drove on believing that we had negotiated the ending of the siege.


Convoy members pay great attention to a speech given by the Egyptian Ruling Party

In El Arish, however, the Libyans, who plainly did have an idea of what was going on, started a riot, which the convoy buckaroos, fed up of being treated like aliens, were only too happy to re-inforce. The violence was not considerable, but the Egyptian Police did not hesitate to get revenge by 'allowing' youths to attack the convoy with bricks. Most people in the convoy thought that they were fighting simply for the right to travel as a whole, rather than in groups, but the Libyans were fighting for the basic right to take aid through Rafah, which most UK drivers thought George had achieved.

George at this time was at the Rafah border, unaware of the explosion that had happened behind him. He came back and found the convoy in belligerent mood, surrounded by Egyptian riot police, in a large scale stand-off. He had almost 250 vehicles, including 3000 tonnes of Libyan aid, and possibly 500 people, if we include those who arrived from the UK by plane, and at least 150 Libyans, as well as the convoy's core 250 souls. These were his negotiating tools. The convoy would have sat there for ever, I believe, if that is what it took to get the gates open. But perhaps others had a schedule to keep to, so it was only a matter of an hour or so before George was back telling us that we must unload the aid, agree to donate the vehicles or not cross through Rafah with them, and agree to leave Egypt directly after leaving Gaza. This, he told us, was an improvement on the previous arrangement, and the best that he could achieve. He had been assured that the aid would be delivered by the Red Crescent through the Israeli Controlled crossing immediately. But of course, it wasn't, and isn't.

In other words, he negotiated that there be no change to the conditions applying at Rafah, except that our vehicles be allowed in one way. Great publicity for us, but no long term use at all. Crucially, All our non-medical aid was still under the control of Israel, the deal was done without threatening agreements with Israel, and still no exports of any kind are to be allowed.

What exactly did we achieve, Kevin? We threw away a large and belligerent opposition to the closure, sacrificing it to political expediency and a quick headline. The world's press were waiting for us in Gaza, and hurriedly made their way to El Arish as well. This would have been the perfect moment to spell out that our demand was for an unconditional opening of the border.


My Friend Syfian points to the tent on the house where Sheikh Nizar Rayan, and 11 innocents including 7 children were killed by a one tonne bomb. Hamas 'hardliner' Rayan had for three years previously led the campaign to non violently resist Israeli house bombings by sitting on roof tops of threatened homes.

But we blew it, and meekly accepted the status quo, with a special dispensation for us to go through, and then to meekly leave the country. So what were the conditions that were in force BEFORE you negotiated such improved terms with the Governor as a result of the demonstration, George?

A minor inconvenience of your agreement, was that when I left I was compelled to travel with the transitting Palestinians. This was as a direct result of your agreement, and if you wish to sue me for Libel, i will welcome the opportunity to spell it out in Court. I didn't mind travelling with Palestinians, and their conditions were an eye-opener, but i would not have been under escort if it were not for your agreement. And my van! Of course, cars are not allowed out of Gaza under any circumstances, but I went there to fight such rules. However, I could not fight the Galloway Rule. I was not being detained by the evil will of Israel, nor of Egypt, but by an agreement made by Galloway. When i asked why only the part of the Galloway agreement that prevented me from doing things was being implemented, and why the aid was not being delivered that had also been agreed, they simply said that the agreement made was subject to Israeli control, and that was always part of the agreement.

There are other groups massing to fight this closure. I hope that they sit on the border until the gates are open without conditions. And when you come along in July, George, just make sure that you don't undermine them by negotiating an end to their actions for your own benefit.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Home

 I arrived at the Gaza exit point at Rafah on sunday am with Van. Calls through the British Embassy and to Egypt made it plain that the Van would not be allowed to leave because of the 'Galloway Agreement', so in the pm made the decision to store the van, travel to UK, where I need to get this exhibition thing moving, and 'wipe out' this Galloway Agreement that's been hanging over my exit, and which the Egyptians are so keen to enforce. 
It's good to see that they can keep agreements, and set such store by them, but I hope that future convoys do not sell out the principle of getting the gates open IN PRINCIPLE, for the quick political gain of the media coverage of getting in now. FreeGaza boats, for instance, haven't said that in return for being allowed access to Gaza they will agree to sell out the rights of others to cross the border and travel by sea. They demand unreservedly open sea access, and I urge everyone who travels to Rafah, to also settle for nothing less. 
I remember discussing with my convoy group in Libya, whether or not , and for how long, we would camp on the border. The answer was not universal, but generally we were committed to a long stay. My perception is that most people feel that, after a long build up on the journey, they were rushed in and out of Gaza, achieving little personally, and certainly the situation on the border hasn't changed in the slightest: for aid, all of which, despite assurances to the contrary, is still rotting in El Arish; for Palestinians, most of whom cannot pass, or can pass with difficulty - see below; and for exports, which are simply not allowed. Pity that the Egyptians only want to keep the parts of agreements that don't involve doing nice things to Palestinians.
Worse, the British Public believe that George Galloway HAS achieved something, so there is less need to think about Palestine. But this is a long long struggle, full of sellouts and political opportunism, and we must be ready to recognise it. We all want a saviour, a hero, but really they don't exist; there are plenty willing to wear the robes, though, for the celebrity. Lets make sure that when we have a smidgeon of power we don't cash it in by signing away everyone else's rights. The struggle is to Free Palestine, not enslave it.
So, I arrived again on foot on Monday Morning, was processed with a friendly cup of coffee, and put on the bus to Egypt. This bus only travels about 500 metres, but you must be on it, you cannot walk. The bus took 12 hours to cover this 500 metres the day before, during which time everyone got on and off several times, scrambling to get back on when it moved forward 100 meters, then getting off again to sit in exactly the same place as before, or walk back to the departure lounge to use the toilet.

On the Monday we got through to Egypt at an early 3pm, only 5 hours after arrival. The delay is caused by the Egyptians, who call through the buses when they want them. 
On arrival we fill out visa applications, and our passports are taken away for processing. I am, as expected, interviewed by the police who explain that the Galloway agreement is that Convoy members will only be allowed to enter Egypt under police supervision, leave Egypt directly on departure, either through Libya if taking back their car, or through Cairo Airport. No other routes will be permitted. However, if I leave Egypt, having complied with this rule, that ends, and if I come again, it will be under the same rules as any ordinary person.
So I meet someone who entered Gaza by boat, and the Egyptians have no Galloway rule for them, so they are given their passport and told they are free to travel under their own steam, but I am sent to the transit point, which is the Departures lounge, now closed for the day, where my passport is retained and I am made to wait with an increasing number of Palestinians, more than 150 in the end. Departing members of the convoy will have had similar treatment on departure, except that, because of the larger numbers, I feel sure they will have had a pleasant ride in a reasonable time to a comfortable transit lounge in the airport. Because I am the last of the convoy, travelling alone, I will be transitted with the Palestinians. 
They, many having been down this route before, tell me that we will be put on buses, taken under police escort to Cairo airport and deported - sorry, transitted to our country of destination. All, or nearly all, Palestinians seem to be treated this way. Most of my group are travelling to Saudi where they used to work, until the border was sealed. now after several attempts by most of them, they are being allowed to go back there, but the Egyptians have not, and seemingly will not, grant them visas for Egypt, so they have to travel by escorted transit, which is, to be fair, a not uncommon procedure, and is one that I have certainly experienced widely. 
If you are carrying goods, or are just a citizen who the authorities are worried about, then you are escorted by police through to the next border. It happened to me in Cyprus when I was young, where I was released into the country, but had to report to the Authorities every day. In Syria, where  lorry convoys are escorted from campsite to campsite by police to stop contraband, and elsewhere, including Europe, and of course, the extremely luxurious transit arrangements made for the convoy as it travelled without any customs papers through the countries of North Africa. The convoy paid little, but it is normal to charge the costs of the service, and reasonable to do so. Any passenger travelling through the UK, changing planes at say Heathrow, is held in a secure transit area from which they cannot access the UK, but can get to their flight gate. While waiting, they have a choice of coffee shops and other services, including airline desks and the internet, telephone and toilets that they can use. 
I want to make it clear that Cairo does have a secure transit Lounge that is up to International Standards, and when I eventually saw it, had a wide range of internationals in it. 
So I was not unduly concerned about being in the transit buses, although the enormous waits and makeshift conditions were less than perfect - but hey! we were moving. So my free friend went off in her Taxi to a destination that she had not yet decided, despite her 'illegal' entry to Gaza, whilst I moved to the transit lounge at about 7pm, after only three hours waiting! A further 5 hours or so lolling about there saw us being loaded up in to the buses which were not totally uncomfortable, and a further 4 hours on the parked bus, about 3 or 4 am found us begin slowly moving towards Cairo. Daylight found us stopping for half an hour at a cafe, the first opportunity to buy food other than sweets since entering the whole system, and the first opportunity to use the toilet in about 8 hours, and then onward to Cairo Airport where we arrived at 10 am or so. We were then processed through passport control twice, making a total of perhaps six times on the journey, and were led outside the terminal building to our Transit Lounge. 
I think the Palestinians were not expecting me to be taken there with them, and when I arrived, I was warmly welcomed and given scraps of bread and cheese which people had saved from their journeys. People told me, partly with satisfaction that a Westerner was experiencing their plight, at last, and partly with a sense of concern for my delicate constitution, that NOW, I could understand the Palestinian condition!
The collection of rooms was a maximum of 13 metres by 27 metres, but this was divided into rooms in haphazard fashion, some of which were locked and a large one of which was a toilet and shower room, the only one. The only windows were the double entrance doors, at the end of a corridor leading into the complex. The ceiling was low, about 8 feet, although there did at least seem to be some ventilation. There was no facility for rubbish disposal, and internally, the rooms were entirely unsupervised, so that any intimidation or racketeering could not have been controlled.
Our buses deposited about 150 people into this space, but it was not empty when we arrived, there were people there who had spent days, and one man claimed a month, though I could not verify it. These long termers had staked out scraps of prayer mats as beds on the dirty stone flagged floor, and sat there guarding their spaces. I took a couple of photos, but was warned against it. But here they are.
The problem for the Saudi workers was that they had expired visas, and no-one has political representation in Gaza (except the UK!), so to get a new visa, Palestinians must travel to the embassy in Cairo!!!! They cannot get into Egypt to do this however, without convincing the Egyptian authorities that they will, indeed get one, so they have to get a pre-visa pass authorised by the Palestinian representation in Cairo and passed to the Egyptians, and then keep turning up at the Rafah crossing until, magically, one day their name is on a list. When they get to Cairo, they are kept in this dungeon until the Palestinian representative meets them gets some paperwork, takes it the Saudi Embassy, and then returns it to them, usually two days later. But even when you get the visa, or work permit, or if you already have it, you must still stay in the hole until it is time for your flight.
In my group there was one American citizen, and apart from me, two British subjects, but no-one took any notice of them! Why?, because they were joint Palestine nationals, and thus 'Palestinians' as far as the Egyptians are concerned. The Brits contacted the Embassy, and were actually allowed to sit outside the dungeon in the sun 'because they had a small child', although I noticed that other mothers with small children did not manage to achieve this, so maybe being British does have its use. They had already booked a flight - for Sunday, five days time, and they were to be detained until then. I asked why they booked so far ahead, and they answered that they had no idea how long their processing would be, and indeed, it had taken three days already, so taking a gamble on an earlier flight would have been foolhardy. They had rung the Embassy to try and get the flight re-arranged, but were not being allowed to go to the real transit lounge to do it by themselves. This means that they were under arrest, as far as I can see, by any meaningful definition. 

I do not know by what rules a married couple with a child of 2 can be detained in a mixed sex prison for five days without beds, separate bathing, child facilities, rubbish disposal, daylight, privacy, or even food, unless they can afford the inflated prices charged by the runner who goes to the local cafe and brings food back. They are under arrest, not in any sense in transit, and their only crime, as usual, is that they are Palestinian -(even if they are British as well)
One of the things that you can do in Transit is buy a ticket. But you cannot do this in The Palestine Palace. There the guards say simply - when your flight is due we will tell you. Persistence identified that for London flights departed at 8am (and they simply would not entertain any other destination, not Manchester, not anywhere in Europe, although this, I think was due to the intellectual limitations of my Captor) . So I was detained until tomorrow, then!
I have a small support network outwith Egypt, and I decided to phone and check for flights. First, I needed to charge my phone, which had not seen a mains socket for about 30 hours, and had been roundly abused in that time. I identified three working electric sockets in the dungeon, and they were all occupied. It was clear that this was the sort of situation where gangsterism can grow, but I managed to get into a queue and get about 15 minutes before being levered away, and so I was able to discover that there was a flight at 1630.
This timing was similar to the Damascus flight for which there was a small band of takers, so we were all taken under the supervision of a single policeman, to the real transit lounge. Getting my ticket was an interesting experience, but the main point was that I had no freedom of action. Sit here, stand there, bags here, go there, that's the flight and price, take it or leave it and go back to prison.
I was very sorry to leave my acquaintances there:
Ali, the American citizen with an open ticket to Dallas, who had had to wait months for permission from the Egyptians to leave Gaza. The American Emabassy had efused to co-ordinate his exit throough Rafah, insisting that he go through Israel. He agreed and duly filled out an application for a crossing through Erez, he received an acknowledgement from the embassy that they were processing it, but in five months he had heard nothing else, so had made his own way to Rafah; Sahal, who had been working in Saudi for 30 years and who had not been able to make his annual visit to his parents and family in Gaza for two years before he gave up everything to go back nine months ago, for his daughter's wedding and because his father was 90. He realised that he risked never going back, and indeed his return was after a gap of nine months, and three attempts at the border; and Mahmoud, also a Saudi worker, also waiting for his renewed visa from the Saudia embassy, and the man in charge of the battered fragments of Bread and cheese that I was regaled with on arrival. 

These men, sat disconsolately in a shallow side corridor, on their scraps of carpet, because they had staked out these quieter spots the day before. Along the end of the wall was a row of 'lifers', the long term residents who had been there for up to a month. One of these men had a family, the woman staying in a side room that had become women only, and joining him only when someone got some food. They had a girl of about 10 who carried things between them with a skip in her step.
These long termers had the deep recesses and the new arrivals congregated around the entrance, where there was light, and also police. It was there I met the man in the camel hair coat, going to Dubai, who said 'Fuck hamas, if it wasn't for them we wouldn't have to go through all this shit' which is both true and false at the same time, and for the people there a popular complaint. 'Abu Mazen pays our salaries and there was no problem when he was in charge' is simply false, of course, but those few interested in the English language debate seemed supportive. I tried to suggest to the man that the streets were safe in Gaza now, but then I realised that he didn't want to debate with me, he wanted to paint me as a Hamas apologist, and he was doing this in a loud voice. Why?
People saw me taking photographs and measuring the size of the room, and some at least rallied round and helped. All asked that I 'Tell the World About this", while many more were resigned and weary, but at least looked with a flutter of interest. He was trying to discredit me in front of these people.
Actually, it wasn't the first time that I had met him. He was at Rafah too, but each time near the soldiers, as he was here. Perhaps he was trying to ingratiate himself with the soldiers to get a cushy ride, perhaps he was an agent provocateur, but I told him that I couldn't talk to him anymore when he said 'Fuck Gaza, it's finished, I'm going to Dubai". Dangerous pressure cookers, prisons, especially if you have to live there for a month.
TELL THE WORLD ABOUT THIS. You know, I don't believe that at the time of the worst persecutions of Jews in Russia they were treated any worse than Palestinians are today. Perhaps we should have a declaration that to end the suffering of the Palestinians, we will give them a homeland in Palestine.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Wider implications

Received a message from the International movement to open the Rafah border. They commented:

'What is shocking, it is the way Egyptian authorities are dealing with Palestinians.Maybe Rod has been only a witness of this racist attitude towards Palestinians by the egyptian collaborators'.

Posted in Rod's absence by Frances Laing.

Rod believed to be on the way to London

Latest word. 19.10 p.m GMT. Rod believed to be on his way to London. I feel it is important to keep an eye on this, even as he crosses the border to Britain.
Many thanks to all those in support.
Posted by Frances Laing (in Rod's absence).

DETAINED IN EGYPT

Here is a transcript of a text received from Rod in Cairo. Please protest strongly to the Egyptian embassy & your MP .

4 buses of Palestinians left Rafah last night at 4am including 3 British citizens. We have been closely escorted by police to Cairo airport & our passports retained. We have not been allowed to buy airline tickets and have been taken to an underground storeroom where more than 150 people, including women & children are held in rooms about 300sq m. There is only one set of toilets between sexes and there are no windows. I havebeen told not to take photos. The reason that I am here is because of George Galloway's agreement with Egypt. There is no doubt that this room is below Red Cross standards for detention, but no-one here is a prisoner, they are simply transit passengers.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Leaving Tomorrow (Inshallah)

Just a quick post before I go to bed, completely ignoring the packing that I haven't done despite plans over three days. Must leave in the am at 10, film half finished, my voice over star won't be in the UK of course, so !/1/?
Had 'final' meetings with senior Education Ministry Staff, anxious to make sure that I don't forget that they need 5000 computers (can be done for £250,000,peanuts, really), and wish to see me again with Portakabins for overflow schools which can be wedged into small spaces. You'll already know that most schools here, in the state sector, operate in two shifts, each one rammed full, class ratios being anything over forty:one, but most normally nearer to fifty. Well, we'll set up an appeal, and we'll think about transport. Anybody on the convoy want to share some of this workload? You can't take computers in through Rafah in the current rules, but......
As regards my first priority, the Art Van Exhibition Tour, I have posted a video of the first school that I worked with, including a rather pompous speech by me, but with a few nice pictures, mostly by girls not personally affected by deaths from the Israeli Attack. You'll find it in the right hand side bar, scroll down to it. It's the film at the top, at the date of posting. Or go to my channel THETRUTHOFPALESTINE on Youtube, and watch 'Art'.
See you all in Blighty, and I actually might have more time to write this blog, catching up on all the things that I meant to say about Gaza, but never got round too.
On the other hand, I could be back in my hotel with a sakhlab, (or some similar name) a nourishing milk and nuts drink that I can't begin to describe, but could devote a lot a waiting time to trying.

This is the Young Press Club. These beautifully turned out young girls interview edit and publish video, radio and press pieces, under the supervision of Ghassan, the man on the right. The back row from the left is The man in charge of the British Council, Me, The  British Consul. The club operate out of premises near Tal Al Howa, where there was a major incursion of tanks, and cold blooded murder, and many of them come from there. In fact the four girls on the left of the front row are all the victims of multiple murder, of which they are the sole survivors (well two are sisters). Although I suspect that they are like swans, serene on top but paddling madly underneath, their composure is remarkable just three months after such a huge trauma.
We'll be hearing more about them, and about the others that I haven't had time or organisation to write about, I promise.
There was a suggestion that the British Government actually supported this project, but they don't. I asked Ghassan whether he thought that his project was the best way they could spend their money to improve the psychological health of the kids. He said that the best way to improve the health of kids in Gaza was to disarm Israel. Everything else is just shuffling chairs on the Titanic.


Saturday, 18 April 2009

Time to come Home, if permitted


Time for me to start trying hard to come home. Blog site improving, new website creaking into action, now I need to get home and fulfill the promises that I made to get an Art Exhibition together. I'm aiming to leave on the 19th, Sunday, so if you an write to the Egyptian Embassy, which will be open on Sunday, I should be very Grateful. More details of the Art Project Below:

Egyptian Embassy Address in London:  emb_london@mfa.gov.eg


So much still to do here, although mixed with feelings that I have already stayed too long. Couple of good friends, a couple of rather more dodgy people working their passage in the living off the fund-raising game. So much needed, but so much wasted, Some interesting statistics about international aid, 'shortly' to be administered in an integrated database of UNRWA, World Bank, EU and government aid, as a preparation for taking it out of the Donors hands and putting into a unified government, were there such a thing. Another Tony Blair project already 2 years late, because the underlying agenda of this perfectly sensible move, is to further isolate Hamas.

About 77% of aid recipients are in Gaza, 23% in The West Bank, and in Gaza the estimate is that 80% live below the NIS2000 (Shekels) a month line. That's about £400, and rent for an apartment might be £200pm for one or two bedrooms. The poverty line is for a family of six, and the statistic for births seem to be 6.85 children per family. 

Asked why the birthrate is so high, some Palestinians say what I said in my last Blog, that it is their weapon to defeat the Israelis demographically, but others talk more resignedly about the need to replace those killed in the wars and attacks. 


In a tough school where I was working the other day a boy said, when I asked him how he felt at the death of his three brothers in separate attacks by the Israelis, he said that he felt proud. Pressed further, he said that he felt sad for less than a week, then proud that he came from a family with three Martyrs. Remember that these boys weren't fighters, just children killed at random. But I would be surprised if the boy and his like minded friends weren't prepared to give themselves up for the glory of the cause. To Paraphrase Golda Meir, I don't hate the Israelis for making them kill their sons, but for making the Palestinians kill themselves.


So back to the exhibition. I need a set of display boards to put in the van, a couple of those small in car DVD players to interpret the paintings, a large Screen or projector to show a film or two, a computer, diesel, volunteers, and offers to arrange town centre sites starting in June. Schools as well, even earlier than that.

Oh and who has time to give to help with these arrangements?

That's why I'm coming back to the UK if humanly possible, if the Egyptians will allow the Van through. I can't rely on others to help gratis, and I already over stretch my support group. But if there are kindly, organised souls, or people who can drive half the night and still be nice to people and talk intelligently about pictures to people, (after going through it first), then I would love to hear from you.


The Painted Pea is a sensation at the Islamic University. The students stuck on a picture of West Bank President Mahmoud Abbas with a beard and spectacles added. 



We have a donate button coming on the site too, at the side and my email, linked to our half built website is rod@cape.uk.net. 

The plan is to drive around the UK setting up (with permission) in the town square, using the graffitied van as the eyecatcher, and then drawing people into a tent (Wet) or encirclement of display where they can look, watch those explanatory videos, and the films like Awni Al Heteni, and ask questions above all. We will try to cash in the interest by getting an email and asking them to sign a petition, or just a visitor's book for support, which we can show to subsequent funders.

We can start anywhere, so if you would like us to come, just tell us. If you want me to speak at a meeting, I'm happy to do that, but would ask you to try and go the extra mile and organise permission for us in the town square or a schools talk or both, on the same day. (Which means schools in the AM.

 Just to remind everyone of the trauma that we are trying to bring out  from the kids, here is a picture of the evacuation of Al Quds Hospital, shelled by phosphorus tank shells, according to the eyewitnesses I talked to; followed by a picture of a school being shelled.




Monday, 13 April 2009

Fight or Flight, You'll still end in Jail: Breeding Resistance

Yesterday - because it's now 3.30 am - I interviewed an old friend of mine for the third or fourth time. He was a commander in Fatah in the resistance before Oslo, from around 1972 to 4. He was 20 when appointed, and a student at University. He was tasked with setting up a new resistance group in Gaza, which at its peak was almost 100 men. Until his arrest, he says that he never lost a single man. Their tactics were to go to a scene, throw a grenade at the soldiers and leave. He says their success rate was high and contributed to the feeling that Gaza was ungovernable that still pervades Israeli thinking today. Secrecy was paramount, and the Soldiers operated in closed cells of 3, communicating by dead letter drops and the like. None of them had ever seen the commander, knowingly, although he had seen them. 


A child's portrait of a modern - Hamas - resistance fighter.


All went well until one cell, without permission, shot someone in the legs as an informer. Cutting a long story short, they made a mistake, and he went to visit the man to ascertain the facts, and subsequently Fatah distributed a leaflet locally exonerating the man and proclaiming their great regret.

The Israelis immediately arrested the innocent man, since there was now evidence that he had communicated with a known Fatah operative, and he was sentenced to two years. 

The leadership in Beirut then sent a man to investigate, he was arrested, and he had a list of names which my contact says he was too cowardly not to give out under torture. My friend got 12 years, serving six and a half, and when he met the wronged man in Jail, he was told by that man that he had an ugly face, and that seeing it was not worth the 2 years that he got, and he was never to show it to him again.

After release he became close to Arafat, but fell out with him over Arafat's acceptance of growing corruption in Gaza. Nevertheless, it is instructive to know that as a senior figure in Fatah, he made high level diplomatic contacts around the world. His violent background was no bar to life at the highest level.  I asked him how he dealt with the Russian Mafia whilst doing business there. He said that all his life Palestinians were unfairly labelled as violent terrorists, but when dealing with the Mafia, it was a positive asset. Letting people know that he actually was a commander in the PLO made people anxious to befriend him, rather than fight him. Perhaps the only recorded useful use of a notorious reputation.

My contact then went on to tell me about all the Israeli leaders he had contacts with, and their shortcomings. He has met almost all of them.

"If they were not all on trial for corruption, I could have given the court the evidence myself. They are greedy and trust no-one. They will never succeed", he said, "because they do not even like themselves, they can never make relationships with anyone else. They will never make peace, and they will be abandoned by America, and they will become irrelevant to the world. "Before this last war I thought that it was possible to do business with them, but not now. They are very weak and small men, without any sense of duty.

"Many think that they control America, but they do not. America thinks that they will police the Middle East, but America has had to come and do the job itself. Why employ a dog and bark yourself? If America has to take control of the region, then why does it need Israel? And look at the cost. 30 more years, they will be finished.

"During the war, they did not make war on Hamas. Hamas lost less than 100 fighters, it is nothing. Israel made war on everyone, on farmers who have nothing, on people who have no fault except to be Palestinian. They wanted the people to be afraid and turn against Hamas, but they have shown everyone that Israel does not care for Palestine, and that resistance is the only way, and also that Israel cannot win. They have strengthened Hamas", said this Fatah Warlord. Don't bet that he won't come out of retirement either.

  After he left, I went to get some Chicken Kebabs -mmm. There was, as there always is, someone who wanted to practice his English, but this man was different, he had lived for many years in the USA and spoke good English. He told me that he supported no political party, a common view, and that he would leave Gaza as soon as he could, if it were possible. 

In America, where he had gone to study, but dropped out and opened a supermarket  instead, he was very successful, and obviously enjoyed his life, though not smoking, drinking or chasing girls meant that he had lots of time for work. His rationale was that he wanted to leave his unborn Children better placed than he, and he was happy to work not for himself, but for the future. As an illegal immigrant, he was always vulnerable, but it was the aftermath of 9/11 that prompted a neighbour, jealous of his success, says my waiter, to report him to the authorities, where he was held for almost 4 years, no trial, of course, before deportation could be arranged to Jordan. The Americans couldn't deport him to Gaza, because, of course, they regard it as a terrorist place from which people can legitimately claim asylum. My acquaintance with this man was brief, but he was no fighter, no Al Qaida mastermind, just a dogged, persistent working man trying to make a way in the world, a piece of flotsam on life's political currents, and now earning 40 shekels a day, instead of hundreds of dollars a week. No hope, no future, ambition crushed into a container, a man whose life was wrecked by the Neo-Con wind of change in the USA. They wouldn't give him Asylum, and now he is one more festering hater of all that is US/Israel domination.

One of these men has let life toss him around like a leaf, while the other, used his time even in jail to learn English, Hebrew, and Philosophy, and has bent life to his will. Both find themselves trapped inside a Zoo, with no end in sight to their humiliation. Both have served prison terms just for being Gazan. One proud man for resisting the humiliation heaped on him. The other, for running away from the humiliation that he couldn't live with.

What do you expect of them, O Mighty Israel, O mighty America? You have locked them in a Zoo and given them no hope of ever opening the gate? They cannot live here and they cannot leave. They can only die, and when they don't die fast enough you try to speed it up with a war. 


You know without asking that if I'm speaking to a young girl it's because her leg was broken by an F16's rocket: the same rocket that killed all the rest of her family. What you don't know is how I despise myself for accepting that it's normal, or that the girl asked me to sit with her because one of her friends had been interviewed by me previously, and she is so desperate to give a meaning to her life by letting people know about it. The other girls are the young press, schoolkid reporters (all Girls - boys are so much harder to involve), and they interviewed her instead.


But this is why the average Family size in Palestine is about 8 children, because the wastage is so high. And this is why it is illegal for an Israeli Palestinian to marry outside Israel, because it would create more little Israeli Palestinians, and speed up the already growing disproportion in the Arab birthrate, compared to the Jewish. A large Arab population ends all hope of israel being both exclusively Jewish, and also Democratic. Arabs aren't going to vote to be second class citizens.

i have often said that the Palestinian's best weapon is their tears, certainly in winning over the west, but Palestinians know that they can never rely on others to win their fight, and for themselves, and in this war of attrition against the Israelis, the Palestinians best weapon is breeding - not just children, but dignity. Even though the Israelis have given them no choice but death, they have still chosen life:

Have a look at this video, and go to bed with a smile: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywDUjsysE-g

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Red Crescent, Aid Delivery, Lions in Zoos

Sometimes there is so much to talk about that I am daunted to even begin. Since last putting anything on the web, I have visited four more schools and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and the Red Crescent and met so many people that I can't juggle them all. Staying in the hotel with us for the last few days has been a delegation from France, on a private visit, they stress, to investigate war crimes. The specialist in weaponry I interviewed, but I'm not allowed to talk about it for a few days until I'm given clearance. I shared my breakfast table with several tough looking guys from the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the interior having secretive conferences with them.

However, regular readers may remember that I have shown children's pictures of bodies lying with dismembered limbs. Well, it turns out that Israel are using weapons - they are called anti-personnel weapons - that deliberately target people and not buildings. They are quite capable of blowing limbs apart, even if you are not at the epi-centre of the blast. They are specifically designed to kill people and leave buildings untouched, they are relatively experimental and they are being tested in Gaza. Some folk here think that the reason the Western powers allow Israel to continue to keep Palestinians in a Zoo and shoot them through the bars will-nilly is because of the research value of these tests. I don't know about this, but I know that the Israeli generals are sick fuckers.

I moved on to interview the Palestine Red Crescent. Earlier in my blog I uploaded a picture of a building saying that I was not sure if it was associated with the Red Crescent Building next door. Well it was the Hospital. the Israelis shelled it for three days, without warning and without allowing evacuation, which, each night, had to take place under fire. The spokesman pointed out that there had been a picture on National TV Stations of a sniper firing at the evacuees. Some of the British Fee Gaza Workers here were working in the Hospital at the time, and helped with this. More about this later, too.

Here's the second part of an interview I did with the red crescent, talking about where the aid from the convoy is, and making some more general points. :

Play

The first part will be a challenge to edit to 10 minutes, dealing with the fundamental right in law of Red Cross/Crescent organisations to immunity from fire, and also dealing with the three days of shelling that they got from the Israelis despite that, and the evacuations under fire, and the fact that some UK nationals were here all through the assault working in the hospital and such. This blog is being altered to make links to them more prominent, but here they are for now: http://talestotell.wordpress.com This Blogger is currently upstaging me by being the first to report on an exhibition of Art in the Red Crescent Hospital. WWW.Fishingunderfire.com, and www.farmingunderfire.com deal with the continuing firing of rockets from land and from sea by the Israeli navy and army. Do not listen to anyone who tries to tell you that the Israelis don't fire rockets at civilians. However, it is nice to be free of the supersonic bangs made at just a few feet in height, that the locals say are just designed to frighten and intimidate, that flyovers from Israeli Jets used to make.

Before the Red Crescent I went  to the Palestine Human Rights Centre, and reported to the Administrator. He had asked me to review a couple of things on the web-site and I realised that there is not a single mention of Bulldozers in the entire site, as far as I could judge. 

Yet the use of Bulldozers is widespread and lethal. These machines are not like those you see on construction sites in the UK, they are taller than many houses, fully armoured and have machine guns fitted to them. They are almost all made by Caterpillar, the PCHR confirmed, and these are finished in the UK and other European Countries, notably France. The Armour is attached by Israel, and that allows Caterpillar to say that it is not exporting war machinery. However, the offence is the same whether you do it or knowingly - and they can't say they don't know - allow others to do it. Their use in the front line is forbidden by EU regulations. Yet still the EU is considering upgrading the EU-Israel trade agreement! Yesterday I read that NATO countries have agreed to send ships to police the Mediterranean coast to prevent arms reaching Hamas. For the love of Humanity, are these people blind, deaf and Heartless? I really hope that the use of a NATO force will allow the Gazans to trade, keeping the Israeli navy away, and imposing a considered programme of policing. But the talk is just about destroying Hamas, not feeding people.


The lions' enclosure in Gaza Zoo, after 7 F16 strikes. The 2 lions cannot now leave their 7X8m cage, because the paddock can't be repaired; tubing is banned in the siege.


In a zoo, Children who poke sticks through the cage are told off, but not killed. But if the animals were to be able to, say reach through and attack a passer by through the bars, and they did this to the child who was poking them, then the animal would be killed. If the animal missed, then the public would demand that a stronger fence be put up to protect them from these dangerous animals. Anyone who said that they were friends with the, say, Lions in the cage, and could get into the cage and have a roll about in the straw with them as we have all seen on TV, would be regarded as special, admired for living with danger, but it would never change our vew that the animals were dangerous, and that they must be prevented at all costs from reaching humans and killing them. The point is that no matter what the humans do, they will only be told off, but it does not seem disproportionate to us that the animals be killed for even the slightest misdemeanor. And that is because they are not humans, and are not given Human Rights.

This is the narrative that dominates for the Palestinians, for most Israelis, and probably for most people. Just like in a Zoo, it is alright for the Zoo Keepers to have more and more sophisticated ways of keeping control while some old fashioned folk say that you can do it better with kindness, but no one will let the animals out of their cage, it is never discussed. That is what life, and the future holds for Palestinians. What is the best way to keep them in their cages. Netanyahu says that constantly punishing them, killing them, and better still, transferring them to a zoo elsewhere is the answer. Tzipi Livni says that they should have autonomy in a state of the leftovers from Israel, but will not allow them, ever, to control their own foreign affairs, for instance. Actually, it is not clear that she would ever actually allow them a state, either, but it is the Israeli way to have a good cop and a bad cop so that the West have someone they can like, and someone they can 'rein in' 

This all misses the point. Palestinians must be entirely free. Free to bear arms if they like, free to have a state with an army, free to like and to dislike who they like. They must have the same rights as you and me, and that means the right to defend themselves. There will never be peace until they get it.

Israel, on the other hand, must learn that just because it is a state does not mean that it is immune from international law. And if ever there was a case for an armed invasion, it is into Israel, although the same result could be achieved by simple international will. To be a state, and have the right to bear arms and defend yourself, which Israel has, and constantly bleats about, entails responsibilities, too. Palestine would also have these responsibilities, if it were free. These responsibilities involve international norms of Justice, so signing up to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, getting rid of nuclear weapons and signing the nuclear non proliferation treaty, signing other facets of international law to do with extradition and equal treatment of citizens. If they did all this, after we had tried the war criminals, and after Israel had paid massive compensation to the Palestinians for all the destroyed infrastructure of their current lands, and also compensation for the original stolen lands, or allow some return of refugees: after all this, there is only one reason why the two nations could not live in peace together, and that is Zionism, the urge, the itch - Sigmund Freud described it as a compulsion, a neurotic compulsion - to expand again. Or in fact never to agree a peace treaty because they will never agree to roll back their existing expansion.

Really, the world has to stop selling them arms, the UK must stop selling them Bulldozers in particular, must boycott their goods, must siege and blockade them indeed, until they stop treating Palestinians like animals, and set them Free. (Capital F, just like when George Bush says it)


Action to open the Rafah border - International Movement to open the Rafah border

Dear friends,

Since we have launched our call “International Movement to Open the Rafah Border”, we have been contacted by many organisations and citizens from all over the world who gave us information about their planned actions for Gaza.

We need you at the Rafah crossing in order to help them to bring their humanitarian aid into Gaza and ask the “PERMANENT OPENING OF THE RAFAH CROSSING!”

Since 4 years, people in Gaza are living under horrific conditions: there is no work, no money, no food, no enough medicine, no construction material, and so on.

At the Rafah Crossing, the situation is really bad! Many humanitarian aid convoys are actually stuck at the Rafah crossing and tons of foodstuffs and help are rotting in Al Arish because Egyptian authorities are refusing to let them get into Gaza. GAZANS NEED URGENTLY YOUR HELP!
(see video about an italian group stuck at the Rafah crossing/Al Arish :
http://tv.repubblica.it/copertina/gaza-gli-aiuti-bloccati/31366?video)

Below, a list of the planned actions:

1) May 3rd: A Convoy for Gaza

The European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza intends to send a big convoy of more than 100 trucks. They will deliver wheelchairs, medicine, medical instruments and toys for the people of Gaza. The trucks will come from Great Britain, France, Ireland, Scotland, Denmark, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Germany, Italy, Austria and Norway. They will leave Milano, Italy, on May 3rd and will sail from Genoa towards Alexandria in Egypt. Then the convoy which will reach Alexandria on May 6th, will go directly to the Rafah border and then into Gaza.
http://www.savegaza.eu/index.php/Our-News/Hope-for-Gaza-Convoy.html

2) 22 Days to Lift the Siege of Gaza: May 22-June 14, 2009

From May 22-June 14, many organizations like CODE PINK & Free Gaza Movement, will amass delegations at the Rafah border in Egypt and the Erez crossing in Israel. Gaza will be enveloped with solidarity in order to LIFT THE SIEGE. 35 Palestinian and Lebanese organizations will send also boats to Gaza.
http://palsolidarity.org/2009/03/5619

3) July 4th: Convoy Viva Palestina US

George Galloway MP and the Vietnam veteran and peace campaigner Ron Kovic will launch a convoy from the United States and will bring $10 million in aid and 500 vehicles to Gaza.
The activists will land in Cairo where they will buy the humanitarian aid. The convoy will be formed there and will make its way to the Rafah crossing and into Gaza
http://www.vivapalestina.org/

All these organizations will need our help and, we, citizens of the world must be at the Rafah crossing, to show to our governments that we condemns this harsh and illegal siege and we will not stay silent in front of the desperate urgency and unacceptable conditions the civilian population of Gaza is facing.

COME ON AND LET SEND TOGETHER THE MESSAGE TO THE WORLD LEADERS: LIFT THE GAZA SIEGE, OPEN THE RAFAH BORDER!

For a better coordination, thanks to send your answers to the questions below at : intmorb@googlemail.com

. Do you intend to come and participate in our sit-in at the Rafah crossing? Alone or with a group? When and how long do you plan to stay? We will give all the information you need ((internal transport, hotel, visas, expenses, ect..)

. Do you intend to organize a convoy or an action for Gaza? Let us know! We will try to help you!

. Do you want to help in coordinating this action in your country or your area?

YOUR HELP IS REALLY NEEDED !
____________________________________________________________

Posted by Frances Laing.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Massive Abduction of Fishermen by the Israeli navy

Rod has mentioned this should be the most important link on the blog, but due to communication difficulties, it has gone under so far. Please read it.

Here's the link. It's an international campaign to support fishermen in and around Gaza who have been attacked or abducted by Israeli military forces. Their livelihood is being undermined and their boats stolen.

Post by Frances Laing

Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign Factsheet. The EU and the Rafah Crossing

Readers may find this background information important right now.
Posted by Frances Laing. Information from the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Open the Rafah crossing

In November 2005, with the signing of the Agreement on Movement and Access by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Palestinians in Gaza were promised access to the outside world free from Israeli control through a border crossing to Egypt at Rafah. Commenting on this when the Agreement was announced, Condoleezza Rice said:

“… for the first time since 1967, Palestinians will gain control over entry and exit from their territory. This will be through an international crossing at Rafah … .”

And Javier Solana reinforced this promise on behalf of the EU:

“This is the first time that a border is opened and not controlled by the Israelis. … So as you can imagine, this is a very important step ….”

This promise to the Palestinians has not been fulfilled. In practice, Israel has had a veto on the opening of the Rafah crossing. The EU, which has provided a small force (EU BAM Rafah) to monitor the operation of the crossing, has consistently refused to send its personnel to open the crossing when Israel doesn’t want it open.

The EU BAM website states that the crossing “can only be opened by agreement between the Parties”, in other words, the EU accords Israel a veto over its opening. This is in flat contradiction to the promise made by Javier Solana that the crossing is “not controlled by the Israelis”.

The IPSC believes that this promise made to Palestinians by Javier Solana on behalf of the EU should be honoured. And so should the other promises made in the Agreement on Movement and Access:-

other crossings for people and cargo between Israel, Gaza and the West Bank will be expanded

regular bus and truck convoys between the West Bank and Gaza

the reduction of obstacles to movement on the West Bank

a seaport and airport at Gaza

None of these promises has been fulfilled. We believe they should be fulfilled.

28 March 2008

Friday, 3 April 2009

Awni Al Heteni School, North Gaza, Majed and Mohaned

I have managed to upload a better quality version of the Al Heteni School Video. I met Majeed, the English Teacher featured as a link to the school. He tried to watch the video, but only saw the first few minutes, because the download times were so slow and then the electricity failed. He was on the way to a friend's house to check his emails and watch the rest.

He reminded me that the name of the boy who had lived in the tower was Ibrahim Parude, and the boy whose whole family was killed by a British bulldozer demolishing the house on them, his name was Mohaned Khalef.

I will shortly be launching an appeal for the Art to Europe, and Access to Gaza projects and I think it should be called the Mohaned Khalef Appeal.

Part of the money will also be used to set up a trust fund for him to go to University, or use however else, when he is 18. Until then the professionals will do a better job than I can. The rest of the money for the two projects - the first to get to Gaza Children's voices heard in Europe, the second to take computers to Gaza so even more children can get their voices heard on the Internet - will also benefit him as well as all the others. I would really like blog readers to give me their views on this before we launch it more widely. What do you think? Does it help Mohaned to use this film as a fund raiser?

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Je suis un Arabe

Here is a performance by four girls from Ahmed Showki School:
'Je suis un Arabe' par Mahoud Darwis.
Mahmoud Darwish is the very much revered national poet of Palestine, recently dead and heading for a special place in Palestinian consciousness.
Translation below.




Je suis un Arabe - I am an Arab (poem by Mahmood Darwish)


Identity Card

Record!

I am an Arab
And my identity card is number fifty thousand
I have eight children
And the ninth is coming after a summer
Will you be angry?

Record!
I am an Arab
Employed with fellow workers at a quarry
I have eight children
I get them bread
Garments and books
from the rocks...
I do not supplicate charity at your doors
Nor do I belittle myself
at the footsteps of your chamber
So will you be angry?

Record!

I am an Arab.

I have a name without a title
Patient in a country
Where people are engaged
My roots
Were entrenched before the birth of time
And before the opening of the eras
Before the pines, and the olive trees
And before the grass grew.

My father...
descends from the family of the plough
Not from a privileged class
And my grandfather...was a farmer
Neither well-bred, nor well-born!
Teaches me the pride of the sun
Before teaching me how to read
And my house
is like a watchman's hut
Made of branches and cane
Are you satisfied with my status?
I have a name without a title!

Record!

I am an Arab.

You have stolen the orchards of my ancestors
And the land which I cultivated
Along with my children
And you left nothing for us
Except for these rocks.
So will the State take them
As it has been said?

Therefore!
Record on the top of the first page:

I do not hate people.
Nor do I encroach.
But if I become hungry
The ursurper's flesh will be my food.

Beware...
Beware
Of my hunger

And my anger!

International Movement to Open the Rafah Border (in three languages)

The following statement received from the Facebook group of the International Movement to Open the Rafah border. In three languages. Sign up to the Facebook petition here.

International Movement to Open Rafah Border.
Global Help Initiative for Palestine ''HI'' Gaza StripPalestine
http://www.help-initiative.org/
info@help-initiative.org
بيان صحفى

تعلن الحركة الشعبية الدولية لفتح معبر رفح، مقاطعة كافة أشكال التطبيع مع (اسرائيل)، وتدعو الجميع ليحذوا حذوها، خاصة الحكومات العربية.
مجزرة تلو أخرى على مدى ستون عام و(اسرائيل) ومازالت تمارس الاحتلال العنصرى الاستيطانى وعدوانها ضد السكان الاصليين الفلسطينيين وجيرانهم العرب، تحت سمع وبصر العالم أجمع دون ان يحرك العالم ساكنا لايقافها، بل كثير من الدول والحكومات تدعمها!
الان على كافة الشعوب الارض مقاطعتها اقتصاديا وسياسيا وثقافيا، اعلانا لرفضهم الاحتلال والظلم والعدوان والعنصرية.
فمحرقة غزة ليست الاولى، ولن تكون الاخيرة اذا لم نتحرك الان..كم من محرقة قد يتحملها ضمير البشرية!

الحركة الشعبية الدولية لفتح معبر رفح


COMMUNIQUÉ DE PRESSE

Le Mouvement international pour l’ouverture du passage de Rafah, proclame la rupture de toutes formes de normalisation avec Israël et appelle le monde entier à suivre son exemple, notamment les États arabes.

Les massacres perpétrés par Israël contre les habitants autochtones palestiniens et leurs voisins arabes, n’ont connu de cesse au cours des derniers soixante ans, et l’occupation d’implantation raciste se poursuit, au vu et au su du monde entier, sans que nul ne remue un petit doigt, et qui plus est avec le soutien de nombre d’États et de gouvernements.

Maintenant, l’ensemble des peuples de cette terre se doivent de boycotter Israël, à tous les niveaux, économique, politique et culturel, afin de crier leur rejet catégorique de l’occupation, de l’injustice, de l’agression et du racisme.

L’holocauste de Gaza n’est pas le premier de la série et n’en sera pas le dernier si nous ne réagissons pas maintenant… Combien d’holocaustes la conscience humaine devra-t-elle donc supporter?


Le Mouvement international pour

L’ouverture du passage de Rafah



PRESS STATEMENT

International Movement to Open Rafah Gate states the severance of all forms of normalization with Israel and calls the world to follow his example, particularly the Arab states. The massacres perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian natives and their Arab neighbours never stopped over the past sixty years, and the racist occupation and colonization is continuing in the light at the knowledge of the world, with nobody moving a finger, and most importantly with the support of many states and governments.

Now, all the peoples of the world need to boycott Israel, at all levels, economic, political and cultural, to shout their rejection of the occupation, injustice, aggression and racism. The Gaza holocaust Gaza is not the first of the series and will not be the last one if we do not act now ... How many holocausts the human consciousness should be accept?

The International Movement to Open Rafah Gate

-- In Solidarity from all International Movement to Open Rafah Border
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=9986479902

Press release posted by Frances Laing

Monday, 30 March 2009

Awni Al Hepteni School, North Gaza.


I have been awake for almost 36 hours to make this short film (click on the link). I think you should look at it, and I think that the EU when it considers the EU-Israel Preferential Trade agreement tomorrow, it should look at it, too. Here's the link in full: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SPKHlW9aFI



Front Row: Assistant Head Maajed, Head teacher Mr Hosein Al Eyaa.
Second Row: The School's Socio-Psychological Support Team
Back Row: Rod Cox
This school would like a link with a British School, and identifies its weakness as in Extra Curricular activities such as Drama, Sport, Dancing. Their goalposts were hit by a rocket because they are made of steel tubing and look like rocket launchers to the Israelis. They have a pupil:Teacher Ratio of about 50:1, and operate in two shifts. The Girls in the Morning and the Boys in the Afternoon about 7-1100, 1100-1500. Every Pupil receives one hour of Socio-Psychological input every day. There is no budget for that, or for water, or to repair the damaged drainage system.
Maajed speaks good English and can be contacted on maajed101@hotmail.com
Awni Al Hepteni School, North Gaza.