Gaza doctor Izzeldin Abuelaish two years after Israeli attack that killed 3 daughters and niece

20 January 2011

“As Long as I am Breathing, They are with Me. I Will Never Forget”
 
Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish was a well-known Palestinian gynecologist who spent years working in one of Israeli’s main hospitals. On January 16, 2009, two days before the end of Israel’s brutal 22-day assault on Gaza, his home was shelled twice by Israeli tanks. His three daughters and his niece were killed. He has just written a book about his life called I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity. He joins us in our studio for an extended conversation.

Rush Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: Yesterday marked the second anniversary of the end of Israel’s assault on Gaza. Dubbed “Operation Cast Lead,” up to 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the 22-day assault between December 28th, 2008 and January 18th, 2009. More than half the Palestinians killed were civilians, over 300 of them children.

Today we spend the rest of the hour remembering the story of just one Palestinian family behind those numbers. It’s one of the better known tragedies of the attack, in part because it unfolded live on Israeli television.

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish is a well-known Palestinian gynecologist who has spent years working in one of Israeli’s main hospitals. He crossed into Israel daily through the Erez checkpoint from his home in Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza.

During the assault, Dr. Abuelaish was interviewed regularly on Israeli television and radio. Not even Israeli journalists were able to report independently from within Gaza, making Dr. Abuelaish one of the few Hebrew-speaking witnesses who told of the Palestinian suffering under fire.

On January 16, 2009, a day and a half before the official end of the war, Dr. Abuelaish’s home was shelled twice by Israeli tanks. His three daughters were killed—21-year-old Bessan, 15-year-old Mayar, and 13-year-old Aya—as well as his niece Noor. Another daughter, Shatha, and his brother were also badly injured.

Moments after Dr. Abuelaish discovered the bodies of his children, he called his friend Shlomi Eldar, a correspondent at Israel’s Channel 10 News, for help. Eldar happened to be in the studio at the time. Democracy Now! producer Anjali Kamat narrates the exchange that was broadcast live on Israeli television.

ANJALI KAMAT: On January 16th, when Dr. Abuelaish called Shlomi Eldar of Israel’s Channel 10 TV News, Israeli tank shells had just struck his home. They killed his family, he says. “I think I’m a bit overwhelmed, too.”

He explains that Dr. Abuelaish is a physician at Tel Hashomer Hospital. He always feared his family would be hurt. His daughters were injured. “I want to save them, but they died on the spot, Shlomi. They were hit in the head.”

A visibly emotional Eldar explains that the doctor had unsuccessfully tried to get out for many days and was afraid to even raise a white flag. “A shell hit his home,” Eldar says. “And I have to tell you, I do not know how to hang up this phone. I will not hang up this phone call.”

The anchor calls on the Israeli Defense Forces to allow ambulances to get to the doctor’s family. Shlomi Eldar then excused himself from the show, took off his earpiece and rushed off the set to get help to Dr. Abuelaish.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the live broadcast of Israel’s Channel 10 News on January 16, 2009. No ambulances ever reached Dr. Abuelaish’s home, which was surrounded by Israeli tanks. He and the surviving members of his family walked a quarter of a mile carrying the dead and wounded through the streets. They eventually found an ambulance to take them to the closest hospital. Standing outside, a grieving Dr. Abuelaish kissed the forehead and hands of his children as they were strapped into stretchers. He addressed a news camera at the scene in Hebrew.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: [translated] What happened? Everybody in Israel knows. They know that I was talking on television and on the radio, that we were at home, that there are innocent people, 25 people, here. Suddenly, today, when there was a hope for a ceasefire, in the last day that I was talking with my children, suddenly they bombed us. That’s how you treat a doctor who takes care of Israeli patients? Is this what’s done? Is this peace?

AMY GOODMAN: Israeli TV correspondent Shlomi Eldar arranged for the evacuation of Dr. Abuelaish and his only surviving daughter, 16-year-old Shatha, who was badly wounded. The next day, Dr. Abuelaish spoke at a news conference at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv. Angry Israelis present at the hospital heckled him while he spoke.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: I want them to know that I am from Jabalia camp. I am Palestinian. And we can live together. And no difference between Palestinian and Israelis. Within the borders of the hospital, all are equal. Why not to be outside equal? Why not? My children—my children were involved in peace. In peace, they participated in many peace camps everywhere. They were weaponed when they killed them. They were weaponed not by arms; they were weaponed by love.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish speaking two years ago. Of his six daughters, three were killed. One was critically injured, lost her eye. His tragic story has come to symbolize Palestinian suffering during Israel’s assault on Gaza. His story made headlines around the world, and he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. Abuelaish has just published a book. It’s called I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity.

He flew into New York for an interview in our studio from Toronto, Canada, where he has been practicing and teaching. I began by playing for him the tape of the day his voice was broadcast on the Israeli airwaves, and I asked him to remember that day for us.

AMY GOODMAN: It is two years later. As you listen to this, it brings us all back. It’s painful to even play it for you. Tell us about this day two years ago.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: It’s living with me. It’s not two years. It’s every moment. I see it every day. I feel it. I see my daughters speaking with me every day, to talk to me. They are part of me. And that’s what can I say, as long as I am living. As long as I am breathing, they are with me. I will never forget—the opposite. All of the time, I feel, I am determined, those girls, as other girls of the world, that I believe in their potential—they are asking me, “Do more. Bring us justice, and keep our holy souls holy, and fight with wisdom and good words.”

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Abuelaish, tell us what happened that day, on January 16th.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: January 16th, we were expecting the ceasefire, day before or after. And a human life doesn’t need negotiation. It’s an urgency when it comes to human life. To save, we need to act immediate. And I was supposed to be interviewed live by Oshrat Kotler about women’s health and the situation in Gaza. And we were planning our future. Where can I be with my children? As I was fed up, and it’s time to be with my children, not to travel. I want to see them every day. And that’s the message, what I want to tell everyone. Don’t say “tomorrow.” If you can do it today, do it today. Spend as much as you can of your time with your beloved ones. You don’t know if tomorrow is coming or not. We were planning to go to Toronto. And then, after I left their room, the first shell came.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Of leukemia. I didn’t imagine it. I thought the shelling from the surrounding, because we were surrounded by shelling everywhere. I didn’t think that it’s my house. But when I saw the smoke, the dusk, the chaos within the house, I went inside the room. Where is Bessan? To see them, I can’t recognize Bessan, Mayar, Aya, Noor. Just to see Shatha in front of me with her eye on her cheek and her fingers. Mayar, I want to see her. Where is her head? Bessan, decapitated, blood, parts. I started to think of saving Shatha, not to see her blind.

AMY GOODMAN: Shatha was how old?

AMY GOODMAN: What time was it?

AMY GOODMAN: She had died of leukemia?

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: She was 17. She was in her high school. And at that moment, I decided either to save her eye, or I am ready to accept her to be with her sisters, but not to be disabled. That’s why I called my friend Shlomi. And it was God’s bless that he was at the studio with Oshrat Kotler, and it was broadcasted live to show the craziness of humanity in the 21st century.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Four-thirty p.m. It’s the same time of the time when their mother passed away, afternoon. Just four months’ period, exactly.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play a clip of when my colleague, Anjali Kamat, and Jacquie Soohen came to Gaza, and you gave them a tour of your house. This is Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: We are standing in the scene of the tragedy, in the place where four lovely girls were sitting, building their dreams and their hopes, and in seconds, these dreams were killed. These flowers were dead. Three of my daughters and one niece were killed in one second on the 16th of January at a quarter to five p.m. Just a few seconds, I left them, and they stayed in the room—two daughters here, one daughter here, one daughter here, and my niece with them.

The first shell came from the tank space, which is there, came to shell two daughters who were sitting here on their chairs. And when I heard this shell, I came inside the room to find, to look. I can’t recognize my daughters. Their heads were cut off their bodies. They were separated from their bodies, and I can’t recognize whose body is this. They were drowning in a pool of blood. This is the pool of blood. Even look here. This is their brain. These are parts of their brain. Aya was lying on the ground. Shatha was injured, and her eye is coming out. Her fingers were torn, just attached by a tag of skin. I felt disloved, out of space, screaming, “What can I do?”

They were not satisfied by the first shell and to leave my eldest daughter. But the second shell soon came to kill Aya, to injure my niece, who came down from the third floor, and to kill my eldest daughter Bessan, who was in the kitchen and came at that moment, screaming and jumping, “Dad! Dad! Aya is injured!”

The second shell, it penetrated the wall between this room to enter the other room. Look. This is the room with the weapons, where this room was fully equipped with weapons. These are the weapons which were in this room. These are the weapons. These are the weapons: the books and their clothes. These were the science handouts. There, you see, these are her handouts for the courses that she studies, which is stained with her blood. It’s mixed with her blood. These are the books. These are the weapons that I equipped my daughters with: with education, with knowledge, with dreams, with hopes, with loves.

I am a gynecologist who practiced most of my time in Israel. I was trained in Israel. And I devoted my life and my work for the benefit of humanity and well-being, to serve patients, not as someone else that you are delivering or helping choose. I am dealing with patients and human beings. We treat patients equally, with respect, with dignity, with privacy. Politicians and leaders should learn from doctors these values and these norms and to adopt them.

This invasion, from the beginning, I said it’s useless. It’s futile. No one is winning. The innocent civilians, the Gazans, civilians, paid the price of this invasion, no one else.

Military ways proved its failure. We should look for other ways to give each other its rights. We don’t want to speak about peace. Peace is—you know, this word lost its meaning. We should find something else: respect, equality, justice and partnership. That’s what we should look for.

AMY GOODMAN: You have been watching Izzeldin Abuelaish or listening to Dr. Abuelaish, the Palestinian doctor who lost three daughters and a niece on January 16th, 2009: Bessam, 21; Mayar, 15; Aya, 14; Noor was 17, his niece. On this day, two years later, describe what was the Israeli government’s response to your children’s killing. You are well known throughout Israel, a Palestinian doctor who works in Israel. You were updating people on the siege almost every day on television.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: You know, it took one month to admit their responsibility and to say, “We shelled the house.”

AMY GOODMAN: As opposed to…?

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: As opposed to be done immediate, to recognize that and to admit, to take responsibility from the first moment, because they shelled it. It’s not after one month. It’s the first day.

AMY GOODMAN: Right. What did they say had happened?

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: They tried to justify. We don’t need to justify. It’s better—we are human being, and it’s a human to err. But a mistake is a mistake if we didn’t learn from it, not to repeat those mistakes. They started to justify, to say there were snipers, the first day. The second scenario, there were militants. The third day, there were firing. And the fourth scenario, that they took shrapnels from my niece’s wound, and it was coming from Qassam rockets. Why? Please.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s what they said.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: But it wasn’t true.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Of course. Of course. And it took one month to investigate it. Doesn’t need investigation for one month. It has been shelled, 16th, and it’s known who shelled it. Please. “We made a mistake. We did it. And we are ready for responsibility.” This is the easiest way, to have the moral courage to admit responsibility. It will help all to move forward, not to deny.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about your daughters. Bessam, 21?

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Bessam, I see her in front of me now, with her smile, with her potential, with her love, with her humanity. She was supposed to get her BA a few months later. She was the mother, the sister, the friend, the good person to everyone after I lost my wife. She’s the one who encouraged me to go and to resume my work. She took responsibility. Bessam, the wise person—she doesn’t speak much; she listens. But when she speaks, she says wisdoms. She said, “I learned the academic exams are nothing. It’s the life exams we face in life.” She said, “Everything starts small, then becomes big. Everything starts in one place, then goes in different directions.” When I sent her to Creativity for Peace camp in New Mexico—

AMY GOODMAN: In Santa Fe.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: In Santa Fe. She said, “There, I realized how similar are we.” Can we learn from our children?

AMY GOODMAN: You mean there, Israeli and Palestinian girls.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish, Christian, Druze. They learned that they are similar. And that’s what we need to learn from our children, and to work for them.

AMY GOODMAN: And tell me about Mayar, who was 15.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Mayar, the smartest, the brightest girl. After once when I visited the school, she was number one in math in the Gaza Strip. If they have a math problem in their class, the students look at each other. They can’t—they say, “If Mayar was here, she is the one who is for it.” She was open-minded. She was the chairman of the students’ parliament, to represent them, to defend those girls. Aya was 14, who had planned to be a journalist, to be the voice of the voiceless, to think of others, to defend others, and to work for them. They were fighters for humanity, for peace. They were connected with others to feel the suffering of other children. And that’s what we need.

AMY GOODMAN: And Noor, your niece?

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Noor, she was 17, 17 years old. She came for her fate. She was at the camp with her mother. But she said she can’t tolerate the life there—in a public space, 50, 60 people in one room, with shortage of everything. It’s intimidation, humiliation. She said, “I want to go there to be with my dad.” So she came and stayed with us. Just two days before, she came.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, your book, Dr. Abuelaish, is called I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity. You have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Your response has been remarkable. The response of Israelis to what happened to you? I mean, your cries for help were heard around the world in that conversation on Israel Channel 10—not conversation, your wailing for your family.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Those daughters, when I want to bring them justice, I must be healthy. And hate, as every one of us knows, it’s a poison. We don’t want to be injected with it. If you want to achieve a noble goal and cause, you must be healthy mentally, spiritually and physically, to defend your goals.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish’s three daughters and niece were killed in his home in Gaza when it was shelled by Israeli tanks on January 16, 2009, during the 22-day Israeli assault on Gaza. We’ll come back to our conversation with the Palestinian gynecologist in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We return to my interview with the Palestinian doctor, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish.

AMY GOODMAN: You have sued the Israeli government. Your statute of limitations is out on January 16th, so you have just sued. What are you demanding?

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Because they didn’t leave any alternative for me within two years. I was using and used every possible peaceful way, with Israeli ministers, Knesset members. Please, we need the truth and, to bring those daughters justice, apology, responsibility and the consequences of that. That’s what we want. It will be a new opportunity, a window of opportunity, for both nations, for the leadership to speak about the truth and to have the moral courage to move forward, not to deny. We need to take responsibility. So I asked for that, and I told, human life can’t be valued by money, and it’s time to give, not to take. Any compensation that comes, it will go for a foundation that I established, Daughters for Life, for health and education, for girls and women in the Middle East, including Israel. It’s time for women to take the lead and to practice their full potential and their role. That’s what I am determined. I want to see the plans of my daughters fulfilled by other girls.

AMY GOODMAN: More than 1,400 Palestinians died in the Israeli siege of Gaza. Talk about what happened during that time.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: During that time, it was a crazy moment. Three weeks, no one knows about what happened. And the world was closing the eyes about what is happening in Gaza. Even for me in Gaza, we don’t know what is happening outside my house. Just with a radio, I used to listen. And Gazans became numbers. Human beings are not numbers. They have faces. They have names. They have hopes. They have dreams. Can we get from there to consider a human being as a human being, not numbers? And that’s what we need. Tell what happened, 16th of January, to open the eyes of the Israeli public, the international community, the Palestinians, that we are killing innocent civilians.

AMY GOODMAN: How does it feel for you to come into the United States, Dr. Abuelaish, at this time? Then, it was the Israeli assault on Gaza. Your children were killed by a military that is armed and financed by the United States.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: It’s time to face each other and to speak. And it’s important to transmit the message. The Americans, the American Jews, Arabs, Muslims everywhere, we need to communicate and to speak. Words are stronger than bullets. And without communicating, without acting and meeting together, who’s going to solve? And I learned one thing: our enemy is our ignorance. We don’t know. We don’t know. And to know, we need to communicate and to explain face to face.

AMY GOODMAN: The story of your life is remarkable, and you tell it very graphically in your book I Shall Not Hate. If you could just share with us where you were born, tell us in a nutshell, which I think is very much the story of the Palestinian people.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: I was born, raised and lived as a Palestinian refugee in the Jabalia refugee camp, deprived of what is called a childhood. I never tasted the childhood as millions in this world, which is man-made suffering. And this is the hope. It’s man-made. So we, as a human being, we can challenge those man-made challenges and not to accept it and to change it. I succeeded.

AMY GOODMAN: Your father came from…?

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: From a village called Houg, where Sharon’s farm is established. It’s close to Sderot.

AMY GOODMAN: So, your land, your father, what he has a deed for, is actually known today as the Sharon farm, Ariel Sharon’s farm?

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: The prime minister.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: The Abuelaish land. And in a sudden, to be a refugee, own nothing. But our parents, especially the Palestinian mother—she is the hero. From nothing, they pushed, encouraged the children. We lost everything, but we didn’t lose hope in the Palestinian children to be focused and to be educated.

AMY GOODMAN: You say your family left Houg in 1948—

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN:—your father afraid there would be an attack.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: They were exiled to leave, and they were forced to leave. And they were thinking it may take just a few days, and they will go back—these days, months, years, and now six decades. And even in the place where are we now, we are not safe, or we are not free.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you grew up in the Jabalia refugee camp completely destitute.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Your only escape ultimately was your education, what your parents pushed you to do. And you became a doctor.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: The Jabalia refugee camp, it’s the place which is close to my heart. I feel the good and the bad times in the Jabalia refugee camp. It’s the memory, it’s the roots, but encouraged me of not accepting this life, this suffering, and that we can change it. I succeeded. From nothing. From nothing. And that’s the message I want others—please, stand up, have hope, have faith, and act.

AMY GOODMAN: How many of you lived in one room?

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: We were—I remember, in the early days, the room, three by three meters, to have six, seven—one by one to be covered. In winter, we are attached together. That’s the life in the camp. We have no life. But we were determined, just breathing.

AMY GOODMAN: Describe what it’s like to go through a checkpoint. I mean, for you as an adult, as a recognized doctor, renowned through Israel as a gynecologist working in Israeli hospitals, describe what it was like for you to go through checkpoints. And where were these checkpoints?

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: These checkpoints, someone, when he sees it from far, he doesn’t imagine it, especially when I leave from Gaza to Israel, to pass through how many checkpoints. It’s intimidation.

AMY GOODMAN: How many?

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Just from the first gate to the last gate, it’s about 20 gates you pass through.

AMY GOODMAN: Twenty checkpoints.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Twenty gates. From one to the other, within one checkpoint, this is what is called Erez, a checkpoint. And you need to pass through that, electronized, with computerized cameras. You don’t see just doors open, and someone is telling by voice to cross or not. It took me—sometimes, if you are lucky, it may take one hour, two hours. And sometimes ’til the permits and the coordination is ready, it may take me, from Gaza to Tel Aviv, which is 45 minutes, it may take between two hours to four or five hours.

AMY GOODMAN: And you’d even have the Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint asking you for medical advice about birth control and other issues.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: They know me.

AMY GOODMAN: They knew you, and you—still it could take hours.

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: And they know me, and I know them. I understand the security needs, but can we make human life easy, too? Not to intimidate, not to humiliate. That’s what we need. A checkpoint security, I understand it. But it is not in that way, not in that way. When I came from Jordan to my wife, who was gasping—she was dying. I went to see her before she dies.

AMY GOODMAN: She died of leukemia?

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: She died of leukemia. Took me more than 14 hours from Allenby Bridge to Sheba Medical Center.

AMY GOODMAN: And how far is it?

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: It’s one-hour drive. And to move from one checkpoint to the other, we need to put ourselves in the shoe of the other. What are we doing? And why are we doing that? And is it the right way? Or can we change course?

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Abuelaish, newly released classified U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks reveal that Israeli officials openly told U.S. diplomats the aim of the blockade of Gaza was to keep Gaza’s economy on the brink of collapse. According to a November 2008 cable, Israel wanted Gaza’s economy to be, quote, “functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.” Can you describe the conditions?

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Gaza is collapsing. There is no life in Gaza. And that’s—Gaza is stigmatized by everything you like for yourself, but for Gazans, say no—no life, no hope, no work, no employment. And some people—it’s shame to say, we open the borders for food. Human life is not dependent on food. They are hungry for food, for employment, for freedom, for education, to taste their life and to feel that they are free in their life. That’s what we need. What do you think of a person living in a palace, and you provide him with the best types of foods. He doesn’t need the food. He needs the freedom. The most holy thing in the universe is a human being under freedom, freedom of poverty and occupation.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what do you think has to happen right now?

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: What to happen, that—to admit the rights of the Palestinians and to take active steps, and that there will never be a just and good peace just for one. Must be good and just for all, for Palestinians and Israelis. And I think it’s time for the Israeli government and the Israeli people to stand up. We need to translate the resolutions into actions. There is a Palestinian nation and an Israeli nation, and they have to live sharing the land with respect, and that the dignity of the Palestinians equals the dignity of the Israelis. And the freedom of the Palestinians is linked to the freedom of the Israelis from their fears. The security of the Israelis and safety is linked to the safety and the security of the Palestinians, not dependent on the security and suffering of the Palestinians.

AMY GOODMAN: And here in the United States you are. Your message to the American people?

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: We need them to mediate and to take action, to say—

AMY GOODMAN: Your assessment of President Obama?

DR. IZZELDIN ABUELAISH: Yes, and that’s what do we need. If we care about each other, even about your friends, if they are making mistakes, tell them, “This is not good for your interest.” We need to open their eyes. We may be hard and harsh with our beloved ones, from good will. And that’s what I think. We need to open the eyes of the Israeli public, and even if the Palestinian leadership is not committed to say to them, “This is not for your interest.” But also, the road map is the humanity between us, not the territory. You can’t have everything and the other side have nothing. Peace has a price, to be by choice or from the heart. You can, by military ways, succeed for short term; you can force others to accept. But it is not sustainable, and we must look and to find the ways that are sustainable and to protect the future of our children and to put our children as a priority.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish. Three of his daughters and his niece were killed on January 16, 2009, when his home in Gaza was shelled by Israeli tanks. He has just written a book about his life; it’s called I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity. He is currently teaching and practicing in Toronto, Canada, with his surviving children.

 


RELATED Gaza doctor Izzeldin Abuelaish: ‘”We saved lives,” I told the children. “Your sisters’ blood wasn’t wasted”’

Gaza doctor Izzeldin Abuelaish two years after Israeli attack that killed 3 daughters and niece — Israeli Occupation Archive.

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Hamas government seeks to rebuild Gaza

Hamas government seeks to rebuild GazaEXCLUSIVE PICTURES

The Ministry of Public Works in Gaza has held an exhibition to promote the construction industry in the beleaguered territory. Held in conjunction with the Palestinian Contractors Union the event was part of the international forum for the reconstruction of Gaza.

The Prime Minister of the Palestinian government in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said the exhibition was an example of the skills and great achievements of the Palestinian people, despite the ongoing illegal siege imposed by Israel.

The exhibition opened on Sunday (16 January) and will last for two days. Local Palestinian companies taking part in the exhibition said that it gave them the chance to highlight Palestinian products and workmanship. The Contractors Union chose 22 companies out of a possible 500 local industrial plants and factories to take part. Those showcasing their products include companies which specialise in building materials, paints and tiles, cork and plastic, building plant, general trading and contracting, aluminium, insurance and investment.

The Hamas-led government will be supporting the rebuilding project and hopes that this will boost the quality of life and meet the needs of local Palestinians.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hamas government seeks to rebuild Gaza.

Violence Continues After Israeli Shelling at Gaza Border – International Middle East Media Center

Thursday January 06, 2011 10:57 by Alessandra Bajec – IMEMC & Agencies

The firing of three mortar shells was reported towards an Israeli military base along the Gaza border, on Thursday morning, a PFLP affilated armed group told Ma’an News. Violence resumed just after Israeli troops fired on a group of Palestinians when they were supposedly trying to cross the Gaza border, on Wednesday evening, AFP reported.

(photo from Press TV)
(photo from Press TV)

The mortars targeted the Kissufim military zone, based in the northeast al-Qararra, near Khan Younis, the Jihad Jibril Brigades claimed.

The brigades released a statement saying that they would carry on their resistance activities against Israeli forces in Gaza.

An Israeli military spokeswoman stated to have reports of a rocket landing around 7:30 a.m. in the Negev area, north of the Gaza Strip, but said she had no awareness of any attacks in the area of Kissufim.

Overnight, Israeli troops opened fire on a group of Palestinians they said were trying to breach the Gaza Strip border, hitting at least one of them, the military said.

The military said in a statement that the shooting came hours after militants fired what were claimed to be two mortar shells into southern Israel without causing any damage or casualties.

By morning, Gaza medical services spokesman confirmed that two were killed in the fire while Israeli forces said at the time that one was killed and a second injured.

According to Hamas sources, the two men were targeted by Israeli army tanks. Israel army claimed that they shot at the Palestinians who were apparently attempting to breach the border late on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Israeli military reported two projectiles were launched from Gaza into the Ashkelon region. No claim militant group claimed responsibility for the action. The projectile launches followed two Israeli airstrikes hitting targets in Gaza overnight, including one smuggling tunnel and a second site in the central Strip.

On Tuesday, Israel’s air force struck two targets in Gaza in retaliation to a rocket attack earlier in the day, which had caused damage to some greenhouses in southern Israel.

In the past months, Gaza militants have fired dozens of rockets and mortar rounds into southern Israel, resulting into damage and minor injuries on many occasions.
Israeli troops routinely respond to such firing with air raids targeting what the army claims are training sites, weapons facilities and smuggling tunnels.

Troops regularly open fire on Gazans entering the unilaterally-declared ‘no-go zone’, a three-hundred-meter wide buffer zone along the fence, where they are allegedly trying to place bombs or infiltrate Israel, the army says. Meanwhile, dozens of civilians, including many youth, have also been fired and killed in the past year while searching for highly prized gravel, used for rebuilding due to the limitations on construction materials entering the strip due the the Israeli siege.

Most Palestinians in the border area of the Gaza Strip are farmers who risk their lives to reach their farms across the no-go zone, and Israeli soldiers frequently open fire accusing them of attempting to approach the “security fence”.

Violence Continues After Israeli Shelling at Gaza Border – International Middle East Media Center.

Gaza Two Years Later: From beneath

by Rawan Yaghi on January 3, 2011

 

I didn’t even know if my eyes were open.

After a big mess everything seemed so calm I could sense the dust covering my face, the only part I could feel. I could feel my breath hitting one of the bricks of my room’s floor. Air found its way through everything surrounding my body. Silence was all I could hear.

My arms trapped somewhere under the wooden edges of my bed, my toes, my legs, my hair, they all were jailed and penalized not to move. I was afraid. I waited and waited trying to recall all the joyful events in my life, as my mother once advised me to do so when I’m afraid, though they were few: My elder brother’s big wedding, my grandmother coming from Hajj and bringing me a doll singing, the last Eid when I got my biggest Edeyya ever, my mother bringing us home a new baby after me. I wonder if that was a happy event for me, but I could certainly see the joy my parents had looking at that little thing.

My breath firmly came back to my face touching it as to comfort me and tell me that everything will be ok. A minute later I started crying, though. And only then I realized that my eyes were closed, for I could feel my wet eyelashes. It did not matter; opening them and closing them were thoroughly the same. I cried so much that my tears mixed with the dust on my face felt like mud at the edges of my face. I must have been bleeding, since a killing pain started growing in my chest with the growing of my weeping. I tried to move in order to stop the pain. Only one muscle, I found out that something very sharp, extremely strong, calmly was standing through my skin. I stopped crying. I waited. I bled.

Rawan Yaghi, 17, is a secondary school student in Gaza. She blogs at http://rawan-hp.blogspot.com. Gaza Two Years Later is a series of posts by Gazan bloggers and writers reflecting on the two-year anniversary of the Israeli attack on Gaza in the winter of 2008/09. You can read the entire series here.

Mondoweiss | Gaza Two Years Later: From beneath.

Two Years After Gaza War, Gaza Remains Sealed-Off, Suffering Continues – International Middle East Media Center

Wednesday December 29, 2010 23:09author by The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights – PCHR Report post

Two years after Operation Cast Lead: Gaza Remains Sealed-Off from outside World, Impunity for War Crimes Prevails

Ahmed Zourob receives dialysis treatment at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Because of the siege, his level of treatment is inadequate and he can no longer obtain the medication he needs (PCHR)
Ahmed Zourob receives dialysis treatment at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Because of the siege, his level of treatment is inadequate and he can no longer obtain the medication he needs (PCHR)

PCHR Report on Gaza War, Monday, 27 December 2010 11:30

December 27, 2010, marks the two-year anniversary of the beginning of Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s 23 day offensive on the Gaza Strip. This offensive – the single most brutal event in the history of the occupation – was characterised by systematic violations of international law. Its aftermath has been characterised by pervasive impunity.

In total, 1,419 Palestinians were killed. 83% of the dead – the overwhelming majority – were civilians, the so-called ‘protected persons’ of international humanitarian law. A further 5,300 were injured, and public and private property throughout the Gaza Strip was extensively targeted and destroyed.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) notes that in the two years since the offensive there have been no concrete steps taken towards the fulfilment of victims’ legitimate rights to the equal protection of the law and an effective judicial remedy. Customary international law and the treaty-based obligations which all States have entered into are unequivocal: if a war crime has been committed, those responsible must be investigated and prosecuted in accordance with international standards. They must be held to account.

Numerous reports of international and national human rights organisations – including those of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (the ‘Goldstone Report’), the Independent Fact-Finding Mission mandated by the Arab League, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch – concluded that war crimes were committed in the Gaza Strip, and noted that criminal accountability must be the legal consequence.

The Goldstone Report detailed explicit mechanisms to ensure such criminal accountability. As required by customary international law, genuine domestic investigations must be initiated. After six months, if these investigations failed to comply with international standards, the Security Council – acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter – must refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.

It is now two years since the offensive, and no effective domestic investigations or prosecutions have been initiated.

As PCHR has documented, Israel has systematically failed to ensure accountability. In the two years since Operation Cast Lead, the actions of the Israeli authorities have been characterised by a desire to shield those responsible from justice. Only three soldiers have been convicted of committing offensive-related crimes. One soldier was sentenced to seven-months in jail for the theft of a credit card. Two other soldiers were convicted of using a 9 year old boy as a human shield. They were given a 3 month suspended sentence.

This is an insult to victims and to the universal rule of law.

The international community’s response has been silence; through inaction they have implicitly endorsed Israel’s actions during Operation Cast Lead and the impunity that has followed. They have implicitly endorsed the systematic and widespread commission of international crimes.

The rule of law, and victims’ rights, have been sacrificed in the name of politics.

This situation must not be allowed to prevail.

The consequences of impunity are evident in the continuing and escalating violations of international law committed in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The consequences of impunity are evident in the fact that the entire Gaza Strip continues to be subject to an illegal closure. For over 3.5 years, 1.7 million people have been collectively punished and cut off from the outside world. Impunity, and the international community’s failure to prevent this ongoing crime, has resulted in the distinct possibility that the closure will become institutionalised, and effectively endorsed by the United Nations and the international community.

The consequences of impunity are evident in the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank; in the continued construction of the Wall; and in the house demolitions and evictions carried out in occupied East Jerusalem.

Equally, the consequences of sacrificing the rule of international law in the name of ‘political progress’ are evident in the abject failure of the Oslo process.

It is imperative that the international community fulfil its legal obligations, and ensure respect for international law. Those suspected of committing international crimes must be investigated and prosecuted. Israel must be held responsible for its internationally wrongful acts.

Impunity serves only to encourage continued violations of international law. Without accountability, how can the civilians of the Gaza Strip feel safe again?

Two Years After Gaza War, Gaza Remains Sealed-Off, Suffering Continues – International Middle East Media Center.

Rights group: two years after Gaza war, Israel not held accountable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dec 27, 2010, 15:33 GMT

Gaza City – Two years after its three-week offensive in Gaza, the deadliest in 43 years of occupation, Israel has still not been held accountable for alleged war crimes committed in the campaign, a Palestinian rights group charged Monday.

‘This offensive, the single most brutal event in the history of the occupation, was characterized by systematic violations of international law,’ said the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) on the second anniversary of the start of the war.

Israel launched the campaign of massive shelling from the air, ground and sea upon Hamas targets in the strip on December 27, 2008, in response to a period of near daily rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian militants at southern Israel.

The aerial bombardments and ground fighting in the densely populated coastal enclave caused massive destruction and, according to PCHR, 1,419 Palestinians were killed – the highest toll in Israeli-Palestinian violence since Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan and Gaza from Egypt in the 1967 Six-Day War.

The Palestinian group said that 83 per cent of the dead were civilians and non-combatant policemen. Another 5,300 were injured.

‘In the two years since the offensive, there have been no concrete steps taken towards the fulfilment of victims’ legitimate rights to’ justice and compensation, charged the group.

It pointed out that numerous reports, including that of a UN fact- finding mission headed by South African judge Richard Goldstone, had found strong evidence that Israeli soldiers committed war crimes during the offensive, including the use of white phosphorous smoke screens in densely populated urban areas, as well as the use of civilians as ‘human shields.’

Only three soldiers have been convicted since the Gaza war, said the group, one of whom was sentenced to seven months in jail for stealing a credit card, while two others received a three-month suspended sentence for using a nine-year-old boy as a human shield.

‘This is an insult to victims and to the universal rule of law,’ it said. It called on the international community to act to hold Israel accountable.

‘Impunity serves only to encourage continued violations of international law. Without accountability, how can the civilians of the Gaza Strip feel safe again?’ it said.

The Israeli military said it was formulating a reaction.

It has, in the past, defended its actions by saying it did all it could to avoid civilian casualties in the urban areas from where Palestinian militants were firing their rockets and mortar shells by, for example, giving advance warnings of airstrikes.

Israel has also insisted that it has been holding serious internal investigations of specific cases in which Israeli soldiers were accused of having committed crimes. So far, however, the Israeli government has rejected demands to set up an inquiry independent of the military.

Israeli war on Gaza continues after second lull

YouTube – Israeli war on Gaza continues after second lull – 08 Jan 09.

Gaza: Two Years after the Horror

14:56 12/24/2010


Gaza 2009, like the Sharpeville 1960 massacre, cannot be ignored.

By Haidar Eid

This week marks the second anniversary of the horror inflicted on the people of the Gaza Strip. Nothing has changed! Gaza has returned to its pre-invasion state of siege, confronted with the usual international indifference. Two years after the Israeli assault that lasted 22 long days and dark nights, during which its brave people were left alone to face one of the strongest armies in the world, Gaza no longer makes the news. Its people die slowly, its children are malnourished, its water contaminated, and yet it is deprived even of a word of sympathy from the President the United States and the leaders of Europe.

The dehumanization of the Palestinians of Gaza continues unabated. But now the urgent question is how to hold Israel accountable to international law and basic principles of human rights in order to forestall further escalation.

One way to begin holding Israel accountable is through direct witness and citizen solidarity. For example, on December 27, an Asian aid convoy comprising of politicians and activists from 18 countries will arrive in Gaza in an attempt to break Israel’s four year siege and to remind the world of the cruel consequences of the siege and the massacre.  It is one f the remarkable undertakings by international Civil Society organizations that have decided to take action into their own hand after the miserable failure of the “International Community.” Some of those activists experienced first hand what it means to show true solidarity with the Palestinians of Gaza when nine Turkish activist were brutally murdered in broad-day light on Mavi Marmara.

While in Gaza, the convoy’s activists will undoubtedly hear stories that will curdle the blood. During the massacre, one Israeli soldier commented, “That’s what is so nice, supposedly, about Gaza: You see a person on a road, walking along a path. He doesn’t have to be with a weapon, you don’t have to identify him with anything and you can just shoot him.”

Israel could not have carried out its brutal assault, preceded and followed by a punishing siege, without a green light from leading world powers. When Israel attacked Gaza in February/March 2008, Matan Vilnai, then-deputy minister of defense (a misnomer for an aggressive, occupying power), threatened a “greater Shoah” (Holocaust). Some 102 Palestinians, including 21 children, were killed.

The reaction of the international community? Absolutely nothing substantive. On the contrary, the EU decided to reward the aggressor by upgrading its trade agreements with Israel. This upgrade in early December 2008 gave the go-ahead for the larger Gaza massacre of 2009 in which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed: the majority of them civilians. But now, in spite of Israeli war crimes, both the US and the EU continue to strengthen ties with Israel.

The resemblance of Israel’s violent campaign of domination to that of the apartheid South African regime has recently been articulated by the anti-Apartheid freedom fighter and former South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils: “[It] is not difficult for anyone acquainted with colonial history to understand the way in which deliberately cultivated race hate inculcates a justification for the most atrocious and inhumane actions against even defenseless civilians – women, children, the elderly amongst them.”

The South African apartheid regime came under repeated pressure as the United Nations Security Council passed one resolution after another condemning its inhumane treatment of blacks. This gave much-needed succor to the oppressed, while we Palestinians, today, are bereft of even this tiny comfort because the United States continues to use its veto to ensure that Israel escapes censure.

Today, there is a growing grassroots struggle inside Palestine, much as there was inside apartheid South Africa. An intensified international solidarity movement with a common agenda can make the struggle for Palestine resonate in every country in the world. Our goal now, as civil society organizations, is to lift the siege against Gaza. To accomplish this, many activists, Palestinian and international, have launched a boycott campaign modeled on the global South African anti-apartheid campaign. This campaign is a democratic movement based on the struggle for human rights and the implementation of international law. Our struggle is not religious, ethnic, nor racial, but rather universalist; it is a struggle that guarantees the humanization of our people in the face of a dreadful Israeli war machine.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, a staunch supporter of Palestinian rights, has said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” While the Israeli armed forces were bombing my neighborhood, the UN, EU, Arab League and the international community remained silent in the face of atrocities. Hundreds of corpses of children and women failed to convince them to intervene.

Gaza 2009, like the Sharpeville 1960 massacre, cannot be ignored. It demands a response from all who believe in a common humanity. Nelson Mandela pointed the way to this shared humanity when years ago he stated, “But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

Now is the time to boycott the Apartheid Israeli state, to divest from its economy and to impose sanctions against it. This is the only way to ensure the creation of a secular, democratic state for all its inhabitants in historic Palestine regardless of race, creed, or ethnicity.

– Haidar Eid is Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University and a policy advisor with Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. (This article was first published in ZNet.)

Gaza: Two Years after the Horror.