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


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?

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?


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!


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?

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.

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
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


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


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

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:

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
Awni Al Hepteni School, North Gaza.

International Movement to Open the Rafah Border

Hello Rod, hello all,
just received the following message from the International Movement to Open the Rafah border so have posted it straight here as may be of interest to readers. Regards, Frances Laing. Copy follows:

Peace Thank you for your support,

This is just to let you know that Global Help Initiative for Palestine HI Chairman Hamza El Tawil will be appearing on PressTVs Remember the children of Palestine, Tuesday March 31st at 7pm - 8pm ( UK TIME) GMT +1 Satellite Sky 515 or online

He will mention briefly about the call originating via Hashim and the movements aims.For those who do not know the show is presented by Lauren Booth and looks at :-* The Children’s humanitarian issues. Their Hope. Future and the Sadness the Palestinian Children suffer all year round* Activities people all round the world are doing to help the Palestinians & Children of Palestine i.e. Someone is making music, another person in France may be making cakes and selling them to raise money for medical supplies, etc * Bringing people together from all parts of the world interactively to highlight the plight of the Palestinians. * Interactive show with live cams, emails and txts as the viewers input is vital, both for the people in Gaza and for us to learn how to help each other improve the lives of those in Palestine.

Hamza also hopes to cover an update on some of the Children in the Cancer ward whom HI supported via their ''Smile of Hope'' Project which started prior to the war and hopes also to talk about one family in particular and the devastating effects of the war upon their family, their grief and hardships it has thrust upon them.

International Movement to Open Rafah Border now has a facebook group for those who facebook Join us.

Hope that you are all well.
Peace and solidarity

Copy Ends,

Post by Frances Laing

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Lets all campaign to get the Rafah crossing open

All of us can sign this petition to the EU
Viva Palestina have announced that they will have a campaign to get the borders of Gaza opened. Well good, but people should know that they are not the only game in town. From large and small groups and even individuals, people have been fighting this battle for a long, long time.
PSC is the daddy, or I should say Mummy, perhaps, since it's been so ably led by Betty Hunter for, well, one or two years.

War on Want, and most other aid organisations have been fighting...

All the Human Rights organisations, from Amnesty forward, not to mention the International Court at the Hague.

The international Red Cross and Red Crescent:

Not sure if this building is part of the Red Crescent Building next door, but you can see the remains of three destroyed ambulances if you look carefully: Can you see them yet?

Governments, too, claim that they are upholding Human Rights as enshrined in developing International law, but, often, they are simply lying, or in the case of the British Government, reading only the sections that they wish. So we need all these campaigners, and more and more.

Then there is the ISM - The International Solidarity Movement founded by a very Young Law Graduate who happened to be Palestinian in Israel when the second Intifada broke out. Non Violent Direct Action. Sitting with Palestinians as they are held up at checkpoints, occupying various Palestinian Buildings to act as Human Shields against the Israeli Occupying Forces in the West Bank, organising demonstrations at the cost, sometimes, of their lives, and now in Gaza going out with the Fishermen to try and shield them from being killed by Israeli patrol boats which I have photographed just off the end of the Pier, let alone 20 miles out, as agreed by the Oslo Accords. Two days ago two farmers were shot dead by the Israelis because they were harvesting their fields, and their fields are inside the 1 kilometre exclusion zone that Israel enforces - INSIDE Gaza. Now Gaza is only 6 kilometres wide at its narrowest point, and 10 at its widest. That's a lot of land that the Israelis are sterilising.

FreeGaza, another new organisation in which Huwaida, the ISM founder is involved. This organisation has been bringing in supplies by boat, breaking the siege by sea. Their last trip was halted by some Israeli patrol boats, and the trip before ended with the boat getting deliberately rammed, and almost sinking, but the first second and third trips drove down the price of petrol, so much psychological impact did it have on this starved economy, even though the boats carried no oil.

It's interesting how many of these organisations are run, in the majority, by Women. All of them, in fact, except Battling George Galloway's Viva Palestina. All of them working towards opening the border, when a bunch of macho guys in motors drives up and takes over. Or tries to. I was on the Convoy, and George is almost God in Gaza. I listened to a Palestinian telling me, even though he knew I had arrived on the convoy, how difficult the journey had been, and how so many people had died on the trip. "NO-one died on the journey, I said, except a Libyan Journalist who had not actually joined us yet, who was killed in a crash" "Are you sure?", he said. "George Galloway IS a moslem" said another, "why would he come otherwise?"

Well, that's a polarisation that Al Queada would like, but I don't. And its a sad fact of human nature that most Gazans think of Galloway, who arrived at Gaza by Plane, as taking enormous risks, but will not know the names of those who accompany the farmers and the Fishermen at the risk of their lives.

Congratulations on the convoy, George, but remember, most of the hard work is done elsewhere. These organisations could not be further from the punch drunk chaos that was the convoy, disorganised, and excessively hierarchical, with a remote and unapproachable leadership . Is it the influence of women that makes these hard, hard working organisations so very effective and respected at what they do? Huwaida once said to me that there is no difference between starting up the ISM and being a Prom Queen. (Well, she was brought up in Detroit, at that time easily the Murder Capital of the World) You win by powers of attraction, not force and fear. And that is the message that we need to convey, both to bullying nations, and to bullying organisations. So Israel cannot impose its will on the Palestinians, it must give up compulsion, and all the stolen land, too. Only when the Palestinians feel that they want to live with the deal on the table can there be peace, because only then will Israel get the opportunity to live without paranoia. In Gaza the people here generally support or accept Hamas, which has made the strip safe, and neutralised the Mafia families left over from the corrupt last years of Arafat, but political debate has been lively every where I've been, in formal meetings and on street corners, with most people not afraid to put their views on camera. The way you do things, the way that you run an organisation, is part of your politics. I commend the freedom (I know that it's compromised) inside Gaza, but the way that the Palestinians are treated like animals in a zoo - poked through the fence by the Israelis - is simply racist. It is beyond unacceptable.

Those in power who know nothing about the horrors of Palestinian life are the greatest supporters of Israel, so if we are to gain change for Gaza, we must tell them the truth, especially the politicians, but it is an uphill battle, to say the least. This is a Gordon Brown Quote from a Labour Friends of Israel Lunch in 2007: "I think it's a measure of the bonds of friendship between Israel and Britain and between the Labour Party and the Jewish community that we have here today with us fellow members of the Cabinet, Valerie Amos, Hazel Blears and Pat Hewitt; we have 20 Ministers, almost 70 Members of Parliament and I should add 40 members from the House of Lords as well." israel is supported by virtually the entire Tory Party as well.

If the Uk is not fertile ground then we must move to the EU, which alone could gather the strength to challenge the US, and I want to feature one organisation about to try to do that here:

The Peace Cycle, founded by Laura Abraham, and now run by a non hierarchical collective, which is nevertheless fixated on organisational excellence, as FreeGaza is, come to think of it, does what it says on the tin. They Peace Cycle has cycled from London to jerusalem three times, and tomorrow, sets out to Cycle to Brussels where it has an invitation to address the parliament on Tuesday. I shoiuld be in that delegation, but I am now myself also a victim of the siege of gaza, and cannot attend.

Part of their presentation was an exhibition of Children's paintings sent by me, but they cannot be sent, because there is no postal service to or from Gaza. Couriers such as DHL and Aramex operate, but they operate through Israel, by law. So my pictures have be taken by road to the Erez crossing into Israel, and there they are censored, and destroyed at the whim of the censor. If passed they go to the Israel office of the courier where they join the other non-censored Israel mail.

I asked Aramex to send the parcel, and they said that it could be done, but the pictures must not be 'Political'. Some of the pictures are on the blog: judge for yourself whether Israel would have allowed them. So I asked DHL, and I said that they had to be in Brussels for a speech in the EU parliament against Israel, on Monday. They didn't reply to my email, but said when I chased them a day later that they could send the pictures, but that they couldn't be sent before Sunday because the Erez crossing was not open until then. That would mean, after their trip to the censor's office, that they could not be guaranteed to be delivered on Monday, but a special arrangement could be done which would cost $700. The price was anyway $300, and if I wanted confirmed Monday morning delivery, it would be $3000. Now this conversation was on Thursday, and Erez was open on Friday, because an acquaintance passed through it. So its a scam, and probably the only way that a courier can make money in Palestine, I'd assume.

So that's my thought for the day: There is no justification in making people live in a dictatorship for a philosophy that espouses freedom.

This is the English Class of the Tomooh Foundation, an NGO that educates Gifted Children, after school, on a voluntary basis. They have just begun a socio-psychological group for disturbed children, but these girls clearly have the poise and dignity that I'm talking about. I'm going with the management to a UNRWA school that was completely destroyed, and now shares a building with another school, to take the Art Project forward, Hopefully.

That applies to organisations as well as states and philosophies; we must live, even under oppression, with the dignity that we require of freedom, and we should not give up that dignity on the pretext that we are somehow required to do it to protect the Nation, or make a convoy run quicker (You do that by having someone who can organise, George). I think that by and large the Gazans keep that dignity magnificently, and when they have freedom, many will look back to this time as a golden age of unity in society - yes, really. But they still deserve the chance to lose their dignity of their own free choice in a free society, like the rest of us. (And they still need therapy for the shock of the war)

But this adversity also mothers inventiveness, so if the borders are closed, dig tunnels under them. If there's no petrol, bring out the old Donkey Carts, they're here in numbers, and let's start trying to build with the local clay bricks and with lime mortar, because we can't get cement. Not yet, but it's coming.

And so for me, without any possibility of officially getting my pictures to Brussels, lets see if I can anyway, and lets all laugh at the impossibility, in the end, of Israel actually sealing the border permanently. Then all write to President Abbas' West Bank Palestine Authority pointing out how much tax they are losing on items smuggled through the tunnels, which are now large enough to take 50inch Plasma TVs, and Motorbikes, and so might soon be big enough for the my Van, the 'Pea". and Egypt, what value of exports are you losing by the restrictions on trade? So, why don't you just open the Rafah Crossing, and Mr Obama, tell Egypt that it's OK, they won't lose $2billion in US aid if they do.

And all of us can sign this petition to the EU to end Israel's preferential trade agreements, so they'll be the only losers, instead of the only winners - wouldn't that be great?