Hanukkah in March: Light a Candle for Gaza | Shalom Rav

 

Last December, on the third anniversary of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, Rabbi Alissa Wise and I submitted an article to the Washington Post in which we asked the public to mark this occasion by lighting a Hanukkah candle for Gaza. The piece was edited further and we were told that it would run in WaPo’s online “On Faith” section.

At the eleventh hour, one day before our piece was to run, we were asked to make some more substantive edits in ways that would have significantly altered the message of the article. Unlike the earlier changes, these weren’t editorial tweaks – they contained several all too familiar pro-Cast Lead talking points.

Alissa and I rejected the last minute demands, and offered even more links to substantiate our claims. In the meantime, Hanukkah came and went and ultimately the piece never ran.

Fast forward to last week: blogger Phil Weiss had learned about the whole sad story and wrote a short post about it on Mondoweiss. After reading it, I got in touch with him and gave him the full background. M’weiss posted the complete story today, complete with the text of WaPo’s censored version.

So click below to read the article that never saw the light of day. Not seasonally appropriate any more, but still sadly relevant.

Light a Candle for Gaza
By Rabbi Brant Rosen and Rabbi Alissa Wise

On the morning of December 27, 2008, the sixth day of Hanukkah, Israel initiated a massive military assault against Gaza with “Operation Cast Lead.” The name of the operation was a reference to a popular Hanukkah song written by the venerated Israeli poet Chaim Nachman Bialik: “My teacher gave a dreidel to me/A dreidel of cast lead.”

When Israel’s military actions ended on January 18, some 1,400 Palestinians had been killed. Among the dead were hundreds of unarmed civilians, including over 300 children.

Personal testimonies from the Palestinians who lived through Cast Lead in Gaza indicate the profoundly tragic consequences of Israel’s military assault. Here is one such account – excerpted from Amnesty International’s 2009 Report, “Operation Cast Lead: 22 Days of Death and Destruction”:

After Sabah’s house was shelled I ran over there. She was on fire and was holding her baby girl Shahed, who was completely burned. Her husband and some of the children were dead and others were burning. Ambulances could not come because the area was surrounded by the Israeli army.

We put some of the injured in a wagon tied to the tractor to take them to hospital. My nephew Muhammad (Sabah’s son) picked up his wife, Ghada, who was burning all over her body, and I took her little girl, Farah, who was also on fire. My nephew Muhammad-Hikmat drove the tractor and my son Matar and my nephews ‘Omar and ‘Ali also came with us and took the body of baby Shahed and two other bodies. Sabah and the other wounded were put into a car; other relatives were also leaving. We drove toward the nearest hospital, Kamal
‘Adwan hospital.

As we got near the school, on the way to al-‘Atatrah Square we saw Israeli soldiers and stopped, and suddenly, the soldiers shot at us. My son Matar and Muhammad- Hikmat were killed. The soldiers made us get out of the wagon. I ran away with ‘Ali and ‘Omar, who had also been shot and were injured. Muhammad, Ghada and Farah were allowed to go on but only on foot and the soldiers did not allow them to take the dead.

This Hanukkah, how will we Jews choose to commemorate a legacy such as this? Many of us will invariably retreat behind a veil of defensiveness, claiming Israel’s action was an appropriate, commensurate response to the threat posed by Hamas. Some of us might be troubled, but choose to look away from the hard and painful reality of this bloodshed. Still others may simply allow Gaza to become subsumed by the sheer volume of world crises that seem to call out for our attention.

This Hanukkah, however, we are asking the Jewish community to light a candle for Gaza.

After all, this is the season in which we rededicate our determination to create light amidst the darkness. And quite frankly, the time is long overdue for the American Jewish community to shine a light on the dark truth of “Operation Cast Lead.”

Indeed, we have been deeply complicit in keeping this truth away from the light of day. Two years later, Israel still refuses to conduct a credible, transparent and independent investigation of its actions in Gaza. The sole attempt at such a proper investigation, the Goldstone Report, was successfully blackballed and eventually quashed under a campaign spearheaded by the Israeli and the US governments – and largely supported by the American Jewish establishment.

This Hanukkah, we would also do well to shine a light on the larger context of the reality in Gaza. We cannot forget that Israel’s military assault occurred in the midst of a crushing blockade that Israel has imposed upon Gaza since January 2006.

As a result of this collective punishment:

– 80% of the Gazan population is dependent on international aid.

– 61% of the population is food insecure.

– The unemployment rate is approximately 39%, one of the highest in the world.

– Power outages usually last 4-6 hours a day and often longer.

– 60% of the population receives running water only once every 4 or 5 days, for 6-8 hours.

– 50 to 80 million liters of untreated or partially treated sewage are released into the sea every day.

– Approximately 90% of water supplied to Gaza residents is not suitable for drinking and is contaminated with salt and nitrates.

– 78% of homes with major damages from Operation Cast Lead have not been rebuilt.

Despite Israel’s claims to the contrary, its blockade remains very much in force. According to highly detailed research conducted by the Israeli NGO Gisha, Israel consistently lets through less than half of the required truckloads of essential goods mandated by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Just weeks ago, European Union foreign policy chief Lady Catherine Ashton, speaking on behalf of all EU foreign ministers commented, “At the present time, we think that what’s happened with Gaza is unsatisfactory, the volume of goods is not increasing as significantly as it needs to.”

The most tangible way we can light a candle for Gaza is to support those who refuse to allow this crisis to remain the darkness. The most courageous example: the movement of civilian flotillas that seek to break the blockade with symbolic humanitarian cargo. The most recent flotilla tragically gained international attention last May when the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara was seized by Israeli commandos in a raid that left eight unarmed Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American citizen dead. (A recent report on the assault by a UN fact-finding mission said Israeli soldiers used “lethal force” in a “widespread and arbitrary manner, which caused an unnecessarily large number of persons to be killed or seriously injured,” and “carried out extralegal, arbitrary and summary executions prohibited by international human rights law.”)

Despite this tragedy (or perhaps because of it), the flotilla movement is growing steadily. Here in the US, a group of peace activists is seeking to add the first American boat, “The Audacity of Hope,” which they intend to launch next spring as part of an international flotilla from over a dozen European, Asian and North American countries.

The US Boat to Gaza organizing statement asserts:

“The Audacity of Hope” will be a passenger ship with approximately 40-60 Americans on board including a 4-5 member crew and a small number of press and media professionals. We will not carry more than symbolic cargo: just as the students who sat in at Woolworth counters in the 1960s were not doing so because they wanted lunch, our voyage will be an act of civil disobedience and non-violent challenge to an illegal blockade rather than a mission to import humanitarian cargo. By the same token, one of our objectives will be to transport two Gazan graduate students who have been invited to visit and speak at a US university, but who have been prevented from leaving Gaza by the Israeli and Egyptian governments. Additionally, we plan to bring out Gazan products, which “Stand for Justice” is purchasing from a Gazan company.

For those who seek justice in Gaza, the courageous activists who are willing to put their own bodies on the line are immensely deserving of our support.

On Hanukkah, the festival that enshrines the ongoing human struggle for freedom, the season that seeks to shed light on the dark places of our world, it is time for us to stand in solidarity with all who are oppressed.

It is time for us to light a candle for Gaza.

Hanukkah in March: Light a Candle for Gaza | Shalom Rav.

What Really Happened In Gaza? Book Review

17:13 02/26/2011
What Really Happened In Gaza? – Book Review

The book does little to legitimize an Israeli perspective.By Ira Glunts

(The Goldstone Report: The Legacy Of The Landmark Investigation Of The Gaza Conflict edited by Adam Horowitz, Lizzy Ratner, and Philip Weiss; foreword by Desmond Tutu, introduction by Naomi Klein, Nation Books, 2011.  449 pp., $18.95. paperback.)

The Israeli attack on Gaza in December 2008/January 2009 and the subsequent investigation and unequivocal condemnation by a United Nations team led by Judge Richard Goldstone of Israeli conduct before and during what the Jewish State calls “Operation Cast Lead,” have radically altered the way many view Israel’s brutal occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.  Gaza and Goldstone have also caused many to question the 18 year-old US-sponsored Israeli/Palestinian “peace-process” which never produces any positive results.

Here in Central New York, some local activists in the Syracuse Peace Council started the group Central New York Working For A Just Peace In Palestine & Israel as a direct result of the invasion of Gaza. In February, the Judaic Studies Program at Syracuse University hosted journalist Peter Beinart, a self-identified liberal Zionist, who has recently signed a public letter urging President Obama to support a United Nations resolution condemning the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. (The US vetoed the resolution.) Neither Beinart’s willingness to sign this letter, nor an invitation extended by the Judaic Studies Program to someone expressing these views, would have been conceivable before the Gaza invasion.

The Goldstone Report: The Legacy Of The Landmark Investigation Of The Gaza Conflict is invaluable in assessing what really happened in Gaza. It presents an abridged version (327 pp.) of the “Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission On the Gaza Conflict (September, 2009),” with 11 insightful essays which explore the Goldstone document from progressive legal, historical, and political, as well as personal perspectives. This version also intersperses witness testimonies which were published by the Mission, but not included in the original report. (Full disclosure: I am a contributor to Mondoweiss.net which is edited by Weiss and Horowitz.)

The stark fact is that the Israeli army killed over 1,400 people during the Gaza invasion. This is as opposed to 13 Israeli fatalities, some of which were Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers killed by “friendly fire.” Of the 1,400 fatalities, over 80% were civilians. Approximately 5,300 Gazans were injured, including 2,400 women and children; 2,114 houses were destroyed, with an additional 3,400 houses rendered uninhabitable. The three-week Israeli assault resulted in over 51,000 displaced persons. Among the IDF’s targets were mosques, hospitals, private residences, a chicken farm, a sewage treatment plant, and a United Nations Relief and Welfare Agency (UNRWA) field office compound, which was sheltering 600 to 700 civilians. According to Goldstone, there was no military advantage gained by any of these attacks.

The Mission employed testimonies of Gazans, as well as on-site inspections in order to document its findings. Although the Israeli government refused to cooperate, and vehemently tried to prevent their citizens and soldiers from doing so, the Mission did interview Israelis outside of Israel and employed public testimony from the so-called “Soldiers’ Forum” at Israel’s Oranim military academy, as well as reports from the dissident soldiers’ group “Breaking the Silence.” The report contains statements made by Israeli officials, which were widely quoted in the Israeli and foreign press, that Israel’s declared aim was to punish the civilian population. The document also includes justifications made by Israeli officials, reported in the press for specific Israeli military actions.  Most of these were shown to be inaccurate, many purposefully so.

A Tzipi Livni quote illustrates the IDF intent to violate international norms of military conduct. Livni, who was the Israeli Foreign Minister during Operation Cast Lead, said, “Israel is not a country upon which you fire missiles and it does not respond. It is a country that when you fire on its citizens it responds by going wild – and this is a good thing.” The Israeli “wildness” violated the laws of war, including: use of human shields, capricious home invasions, illegal detention of civilians including elected officials, massive wanton destruction of personal property and of infrastructure, and killing of unarmed and non-threatening civilians.

The Goldstone Mission concluded that Operation Cast Lead “was a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself, and to force upon it an ever increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.” Targeting a civilian population clearly violates international humanitarian law. The Mission also concluded, as did many who read the Israeli press before and during the three-week Israeli assault, that one purpose of the attack was to punish Gazans for voting for Hamas in the free democratic election of 2006.

The Goldstone Report not only addresses the Gaza invasion, but seeks to place it in the context of the ongoing struggle between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as between Israel and its Arab neighbors. In describing this history, the report harshly criticizes the Israelis for, among other things, the 8,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israel from the occupied territories (a violation of international human rights law), the restriction of movement (between Gaza and the West Bank and within each territory), the suppression of legitimate dissent in the occupied territories, and the blockade of Gaza. It also condemns Israel for its settlements on conquered land, a violation of the Geneva Conventions, the Judaization of East Jerusalem, and construction and maintenance of the separation wall, which has been ruled illegal by the World Court. And all that is not even to mention the illegitimate and disproportionate use of force during the 2006 Lebanon War. This is hardly the portrayal of an enlightened Western democracy. And it is a characterization of Israel which is all the more shocking for many because it came from Richard Goldstone.

Judge Richard Goldstone is a nightmare for the Israeli and US pro-Israel spin doctors. He is an internationally-recognized jurist with extensive experience in redressing the injustices of apartheid in his native South Africa. He is not only Jewish, but is a self-identified Zionist, and was an honorary member of the Board of Governors of Hebrew University for ten years. His daughter immigrated to Israel where she now lives. This made it difficult to dismiss Goldstone as an anti-Semite from a United Nations whose moral and legal authority Israel has always ignored, with the aid of the United States veto. However, this did not stop the Israelis and their US supporters from smearing the judge.

Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School called Goldstone “an evil man” and “a traitor to the Jews.” The usual charges of “self-hating Jew” echoed loudly in the Israeli and US media. On November 3, 2009 the US House of Representatives voted 344 to 36 for House Resolution 867, which called the Goldstone Report, “irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy.” The Obama administration, not known for great courage in its foreign policy decisions, has danced to the tune of what some euphemistically call “certain political interests.” In so doing, the US has followed the advice of the House resolution and blocked any further consideration of the Goldstone Report at the United Nations.

Judge Goldstone has invited “fair minded people” to read the report and “point out where it failed to be objective or even-handed.” Neither the Congress nor the Obama Administration has done so. The US mainstream media has all but shut the door on criticism of Israeli conduct during the Gaza invasion. But despite the dismissive response to the Goldstone Report and to the critics of the Gaza invasion, both the report and the invasion have resulted in increased public opposition to US policy regarding Israel. The US pro-Israel camp, alarmed by this new reality, has inaccurately labeled it “a campaign of delegitimization of Israel.”

The essays contained in the Goldstone Report do little to legitimize an Israeli perspective. Jerome Slater criticizes Goldstone’s position that Israel’s war in Gaza could be justified by the claim of self-defense. He writes that “when illegitimate and violent repression engenders resistance” then the claim of self-defense is invalid. Brian Baird, an ex-Congressman, details the degree to which his House colleagues passionately spoke in defense of Israel while demonstrating their almost complete lack of knowledge of the facts.  All his attempts to educate them met with indifference — caused by the giant shadow of the pro-Israel lobby.

The final word is given to Laila El-Haddad, a Palestinian journalist and blogger. She spent Operation Cast Lead in North Carolina connected via Skype and email to her father, who was under siege in his home in Gaza City. She details his messages of fright, courage, and despair, followed by relief and muted hope. These thoughts given from father to daughter provide the reader with a visceral understanding of the terror and horror visited on Gazans during the invasion, a horror which is impossible to transmit through a United Nations document. Sadly and soberingly, El-Haddad tells us that for now, for the people of Gaza, the Goldstone Report is just “ink on paper,” since it has not led to any improvement in their lives.

The presentation of the Goldstone Report and the accompanying materials contained in the volume are valuable because they make this extraordinary document accessible to those who might normally be reluctant to read it in its entirety on the United Nations web site. The book is especially recommended to those liberals who still check their progressivism at the gate before entering the portal of Palestine. What they read here just may shake some of their deeply-held beliefs.

(An earlier version of this book review appeared in the Syracuse Peace Council’s Peace Newsletter; March, 2011, PNL #802.)

– Ira Glunts is a Jewish-American who as an English teacher living in southern Israel boarded an Israeli intercity bus and traveled to Gaza City in 1972. He spent the summer of 1992 as a volunteer in the Israeli Defense Forces. Currently, Mr. Glunts is a critic of Israeli policy and the Jewish-American establishment which supports it, and a member of Central New York Working For A Just Peace in Palestine & Israel. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.
What Really Happened In Gaza? – Book Review.

Children and a world of fantasy in Palestine ..أطفال من الخيال فى فلسطين

YouTube – Children and a world of fantasy in Palestine ..أطفال من الخيال فى فلسطين.

Ministry of Justice briefs UN on latest in Goldstone recommendations

[ 06/02/2011 – 07:26 PM ]

 

GAZA, (PIC)– Gaza Minister of Justice Mohammed Faraj al-Ghoul has written to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the President of the UN Human Rights Council and the President of the Rights Council’s High Commission in the Palestinian regions revealing the latest developments on the Goldstone report.

“Despite the Palestinian government’s commitment to follow the report’s recommendations and although an independent board to execute those recommendations submitted reports and fulfilled its obligations according to recommendations by the Human Rights Council, authorities in Gaza have not recieved any response or comments,” he said.

A UN fact-finding mission headed by South African judge Richard Goldstone issued a report following the 2008-2009 Gaza war recommeding that both Israel and the Palestinians open investigations into international violations committed during the war.

Separately, Ghoul welcomed UN Human Rights Council Commissioner Nawitham Pillay to the Palestinian territories.

He said in statements Sunday that Pillay has deep knowledge of Palesinian affairs and has issued many reports of Israeli violations committed during the war and even to date.

An assembly of 13 Palestinian rights groups and others in Israel have collectively asked Pillay for an update on the Goldstone report.

They accused the international community of failing to bring about justice and urged Pillay to publically reveal the recommendations of the Goldstone report.

Ministry of Justice briefs UN on latest in Goldstone recommendations.

Ministry of Justice briefs UN on latest in Goldstone recommendations.

Palestinians wait for answers on Israeli war in Gaza

Human rights groups demand progress in inquiries over Israel’s conduct in Operation Cast Lead, reports Donald Macintyre

 

Monday, 24 January 2011– Middle East, World – The Independent

The funeral of Issa, Ahmed, and Mohamed Samouni  

AP

The funeral of Issa, Ahmed, and Mohamed Samouni, killed with 18 other members of the same family while sheltering from an Israeli strike

After two years, a UN-commissioned report accusing Israel of widespread violations of international law and possible war crimes, and the opening of 52 separate military police investigations, the only soldier jailed so far for his conduct in the 2008-09 Gaza war was convicted of stealing and using a Palestinian’s credit card. In this special report, The Independenthas examined progress in the investigations arising from the warin the Hamas-controlled territory, and returned to some of the cases that it reported at the time.

Operation Cast Lead caused widespread destruction, and, according to the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem, resulted in 759 deaths of Palestinians “not taking part in hostilities”. Only three indictments, against four defendants, have arisen from the operation until now.

Two soldiers were given a suspended prison terms for using a 12-year-old boy as a human shield to open bags in case they contained explosives. Another, after being charged with shooting dead a Palestinian civilian, is awaiting a military court trial in a case in which no specific victim has been named in the charges. A further five officers have been disciplined internally, with measures ranging from official reprimands to being prohibited from holding a similar command in the future in the case of an army captain who authorised an attack on a militant outside a mosque in northern Gaza which killed 13 civilians.

Several military police investigations are still in progress, including in to one of the worst single incidents of the war – the lethal air strike on a house in which 100 members of the same extended family were sheltering – but the Israel Defence Force (IDF) told The Independent last week that “a majority” of the 52 investigations have now been closed, without further action.

Israeli human rights organisations and lawyers representing Palestinian complainants have two principal concerns. In July 2009 the Israeli veterans’ and human rights group Breaking the Silence published testimonies from some 30 soldiers who served in the operation, charging that rules of engagement were loosened and that the military used massive firepower in a consistent effort to prioritise the safety of troops over that of Palestinian civilians. One soldier quoted a battalion officer as saying: “Not a hair will fall of a soldier of mine. I am not willing to allow a soldier of mine to risk himself by hesitating. If you are not sure, shoot.” During the offensive nine Israeli soldiers were killed inside Gaza, four of them by friendly fire.

Reflecting concerns over the rules of engagement operated during the war, B’Tselem called for a much wider-ranging Israeli inquiry. While also condemning Hamas for not properly investigating its own violations during the war, it complained that the IDF investigations did not “deal with the policy that guided the army during the operation, nor with the legality of the instructions given to soldiers. Instead, the investigations have focused on the actions of the lone soldier in the field.”

A second issue is the transparency of the individual investigations. Palestinian witnesses interviewed by military police have told The Independent they were treated with courtesy and professionalism, but in the many cases in which the military’s Advocate General, Avichai Mandelblit, has decided, after reading police reports, that no further action should be taken, it has been impossible for lawyers representing bereaved or injured Palestinians to establish behind the decision.

Military court decisions are subject to appeal to the civilian High Court, but to bring such an appeal the lawyers need to have some access to the investigative material, which has not been forthcoming. A striking example is the case of Majdi Abed Rabbo whose account of being used as a human shield was independently corroborated in one of the Breaking Silence testimonies from an experienced reservist who served in Gaza with a special forces unit and was briefed by his officers on what was broadly the same story as that of Mr Abed Rabbo. He also spoke of the use of other “johnnies” or human shields in a practice that violates international law, the IDF’s own regulations and a decision of the Israeli Supreme Court. But until Mr Abed Rabbo’s lawyers can secure the release of the relevant documents – which Adalah, the legal rights organisation, is likely to make a legal attempt to do – they have little chance of an appeal.

With one exception, the handful of cases summarised here are those for which a military police investigation was carried out. They do not include the many cases where such an investigation was not even opened. For example, of 21 suspected violations all involving civilian deaths o r the use of human shields, raised by B’Tselem, only 11 were referred to the military police by the military Advocate General, Avichai Mandelblit, and of these at least two have already been closed without further action.

The sensitivity of the issue in Israel is not in doubt. After two soldiers were given what Army Radio described as a “light” sentence last year for using a boy as a human shield, right-wing vandals daubed graffiti outside Mr Mandelblit’s home branding him a “traitor.” B’Tselem says the wider issues it wants investigated “must remain on the public agenda” given the “severity of the suspicions” over the army’s conduct.

Attacked in shelter

Military police are still investigating one of the most lethal single incidents during Operation Cast Lead, the air strike on a house in the Zeitoun district of Gaza City owned by Wael Samouni in which 21 of the 100 members of his extended family sheltering there were killed early on 5 January. In October, Amos Harel, Haaretz’s respected military correspondent, reported that air force officers had testified that they had warned former Givati Brigade commander Colonel Ilan Malka that there were civilians in the area. A reconstruction by Haaretz journalist Amira Hass based partly on accounts from soldiers through Breaking the Silence, found that a surveillance drone had wrongly identified a group of men who had left the building to collect firewood as an armed group. The investigation may have to decide how senior officers did not know of civilians even if Col Malka was not warned in advance, since many in the building had been directed to shelter there by troops the previous day. One of those, Mousa Samouni, 21, said he was asked if he had been aware of “resistance” or armed militants in the vicinity, which he said he had not. After he left the building Mousa was detained, handcuffed and blindfolded, for 48 hours by troops occupying another Samouni house. The Israelis interviewed another man, Imad Samouni, 40, who had not been in the building hit by the air strike, which killed his brother, sister and two nephews. He said: “They asked me to write down what happened when I was held but I thought they were most interested in whether there had been any resistance. I said there was no resistance at all. How could there have been with the Army everywhere?”

Killed under white flags

Military police investigated the case of Khaled Abed Rabbo, who had described how his family was ordered by the Israeli military out of their home on 7 January. After they left, carrying white flags, a soldier climbed out of the tank and fired a machine gun at them, killing his daughters Suad, 9, and Amal, 3, severely wounding the third, Samar, 5, and injuring the girls’ grandmother Suad, 54. The Military Advocate General judged there was “insufficient” evidence for criminal proceedings. The legal rights agency Adalah, which handled the case, points out that the claim that the girls were shot by Israeli fire was not refuted and that the authorities had not offered an alternative version of what happened. Mr Abed Rabbo told The Independent on 20 January, 2009: “We are not Hamas. My children were not Hamas… I want the international community and the International Red Cross to ask Israel why it has done this to us.”

A disputed death

The story of the Hajaj family, tenant farmers from Juhr al Dik, is that just after 6am on 4 January the house of Yusef Hajaj was shelled. A family group of 15 fled 250 metres to the east and took shelter with their neighbour and landlord, Mohammed al-Safadi and his family. During the morning the Israeli military broke into radio broadcasts to announce that those in border areas should leave their homes, holding white flags. Ahmed al-Safadi, 23, carrying his two-year-old son, and Majda Hajaj, 35, tied makeshift white flags to sticks and led the group of at least 26 out towards the west. As they walked they were fired on, fatally in the case of Majda Abu Hajaj and her mother Raya, 65. The group again sheltered in the al-Safadi house and the next day, 5 January, as shelling continued, it started out east on a circuitous route to the safety of the Bureij refugee camp without mishap. The women’s bodies were not recovered until 18 January. The IDF announced last July that military police found “gaps” between the testimonies. Soldiers said it was a man who had been shot, and on 5 January, not the day before, although in the location described by the Palestinian witnesses. A staff sergeant has now been indicted for killing an unknown person walking with a group carrying a white flag. But the IDF added: “Despite the fact that the two events are apparently one and the same … sufficient connections could not be made between the evidence gathered in the case of the indicted soldier and the event described by Palestinian testimonies.” The military said last week it could not comment on the case of the soldier “accused of the wrongful killing of a woman” because it was still being investigated. Lawyers and Israeli human rights groups are doubtful about a military court conviction when no victim has been identified.

An unwilling go-between

Majdi Abed Rabbo says that on January 6 and 7, 2009, in the heat of battle, he was forced to go four times into his next-door neighbour’s house to check on three armed Hamas militants holed up inside fighting to the death. Mr Abed Rabbo, who was throughout in military custody and did not know whether his wife and children were alive or dead, told military police investigators he was kicked, beaten and threatened with shooting by Israeli soldiers unless he obeyed their orders. When, on the morning of January 7, the one militant still alive in the house refused to respond to calls to leave, Mr Abed Rabbo watched as the building was flattened by a military bulldozer. After a police investigation a lieutenant colonel, who was not at the scene but in constant contact with his troops, was disciplined for permitting him to enter. But the military advocate general ruled against further action because, he said, Mr Abed Rabbo “asked to enter the structure and to communicate with the men, apparently in an attempt to resolve the situation and avoid potential damage to his own house”. Mr Abed Rabbo, who has no love for Hamas and was a Fatah member of the intelligence service, vehemently denied this. “I never asked that at all,” he said. “They really made me go four times.”

An ‘unfortunate incident’

Mohammed Daya returned from the local mosque on 6 January to find his five-storey apartment building destroyed by an air strike. At least 22 members of his family were killed, including his pregnant wife Tezal, his daughters Amani, 7, Qamer, 6 and Areej, 4, and his son Yusef, 3. There was no military police investigation because, as the Israeli foreign ministry explained in a statement in July 2009, the “extremely unfortunate incident” was the result of an “operational error”. The IDF had intended to bomb a “weapons storage facility” next door to the residential building and was investigating why the error had occurred. The IDF has not so far explained what that investigation had uncovered.

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Palestinians wait for answers on Israeli war in Gaza – Middle East, World – The Independent.

Kai Wiedenhöfer’s The Book of Destruction: Gaza – One year After the 2009 War | Art and design | The Observer

Mosaic Rooms, London

  • Peter Beaumont
  • The Observer, Sunday 23 January 2011
  • gaza Jamila al-Habash, a 16-year-old student from the Tufah neighborhood in Gaza city was hit by a missile while playing on the roof of her house on 4 January 2009. One of her sisters and a cousin were killed in the same attack. The photograph is from the exhibition and book (published by Steidl) ‘The Book of Destruction’ by Kai Wiedenhofer. When The Book of Destruction, Kai Wiedenhöfer’s exhibition of photographs documenting the consequences of Israel’s war against Gaza, opened at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris late last year, two men wearing ski masks and motorcycle helmets tried to storm the building to damage the exhibits. An umbrella group of Jewish organisations in France accused him of “virulently anti-Israel views”. Others on the internet charged him with “fanning the flames of antisemitism”.

    Kai Wiedenhöfer: Book of Destruction: Gaza – One Year After the 2009 War
    by Kai Wiedenhöfer

    The award-winning Wiedenhöfer, whose exhibition moves to London this week, is not unaccustomed to such charges and finds them ridiculous. They first emerged in 2005 during discussions with Berlin’s municipal authorities for a project – which never saw the light of day – involving affixing giant prints of Israel’s West Bank separation wall on to what remains of the Berlin Wall. During talks, a local politician informed him that the panoramic images in his book, Wall, which were to be used for the project, were “antisemitic photography“.

    “I asked him to define antisemitic photography,” says Wiedenhöfer. “He replied that I had pictures in the book that showed Israeli soldiers being violent against Palestinians.”

    Sitting in his bare Berlin apartment, Wiedenhöfer is suddenly animated and goes to fetch a copy from his bookshelf. “I know every picture in this book. There is not a single image of an Israeli laying a thumb on a Palestinian. So I said, ‘Show me!'” Wiedenhöfer flicks through the pages. “This is the only image of violence in the whole book – it’s an Israeli soldier removing Israeli peace protesters.”

    Wiedenhöfer’s pictures are controversial because his three books – Perfect Peace, detailing Palestinian life between the two intifadas, Wall and now The Book of Destruction – focus almost exclusively on the Palestinian experience. Self-employed and funded often by grants, he is free from the requirement of television and print media to tell both sides of the story with equal weight, instead photographing what interests him, which has rankled deeply with some of Israel’s supporters.

    Here, I believe, a disclosure is in order. I have known Wiedenhöfer, who was born in 1966 in a village near Stuttgart, for almost a decade. We first met and travelled together when covering Israel’s 2002 Operation Defensive Shield, dodging tanks in Bethlehem. Wiedenhöfer borrowed the title for his current exhibition from an article written by myself and my Observer colleague, photographer Antonio Olmos, about a list we came across of all of Gaza’s damaged buildings, a document we called “the book of destruction”.

    Wiedenhöfer’s dedication, even in a profession that requires such discipline, is extraordinary. I recall running into him in Jerusalem almost five years ago when he was working on Wall. He was staying in a filthy, cell-like single-room dwelling owned by a monk, scattered with crucifixes and empty whisky bottles (the monk’s, not the teetotal Wiedenhöfer’s) because it meant he could come and go as he pleased and he wanted to capture the morning light. He took me on one of his early-morning outings, wandering beneath watchtowers full of armed soldiers to study how the light fell on concrete at different times, scrambling up ridges to find new viewpoints of the concrete barrier snaking among the hills and observe the pattern of daily life flowing around it.

    If Wall was about separation, Wiedenhöfer’s new book and exhibition, funded by the Fondation Carmignac Gestion, is unquestionably about violence, documenting in almost unbearable detail the damage left after Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2009. Unpeopled images of ruined buildings, photographed with an architectural precision, are contrasted with portraits of equally ruined people with truncated limbs and scarred bodies. His human subjects look into the camera, seated in their own homes: women and children; the family of fighters and civilians – all displaying bewildering variations of traumatic amputation and burns.

    The photographs of the ruined buildings supply their own taxonomy of the consequences of different explosive forces: houses brought down by mines rendered into bristling igloos of concrete; buildings pierced and burned by shells; walls perforated by gunfire. The result is a body of work that is anti-sensational but shocking in the directness with which it engages with violence.

    “I wanted to make a record,” Wiedenhöfer says. “That’s all. I do not accuse Israel. If there is an accusation, it is in the record itself.” Therein lies the problem. He has come up against the increasingly prevalent desire of many within Israel and without to rule inadmissible any “record” that depicts what Israel or its defence forces do in a negative light, deploying an intellectual sleight of hand to suggest that all such criticism is designed to “delegitimise” the existence of Israel. That it is “antisemitism” of a new and sneaky kind.

    The irony is that Wiedenhöfer had not intended to return to the subject of Israel and Palestine again after his books Perfect Peace and Wall. Indeed, his main interest these days is examining the nature of boundaries, particularly in areas of conflict or that have been affected by conflicts, something he is pursuing with the same single-mindedness he dedicated to documenting Palestinian life for almost two decades.

    Wiedenhöfer insists that he could have done a similar study to The Book of Destruction in Afghanistan or in Iraq and that the real meaning of the book is the horrible “creativity” people use to hurt others. What really concerns him is the unwillingness of many photographers, and the media, to document the human consequences.

    In part, he blames the constrained economics of the media today, which, he believes, has made many photographers take fewer risks, instead focusing on images they know will sell. “We see the same pictures all the time. A Palestinian child throwing a stone. A soldier surrounded by dust in Afghanistan. An IED exploding. But what does it show us of the true meaning of war?”

    Peter Beaumont is the Observer’s foreign affairs editor. Kai Wiedenhöfer’s The Book of Destruction: Gaza – One Year After the 2009 War is at the Mosaic Rooms, London SW5, from Friday to 12 Feb; mosaicrooms.org. Funds raised through the exhibition will be used to support the individuals featured in his photographs. The book is published by Steidl/Fondation Carmignac Gestion on 6 June, £30

Kai Wiedenhöfer’s The Book of Destruction: Gaza – One year After the 2009 War | Art and design | The Observer.

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.

Justice for victims of the conflict in Gaza and southern Israel | Amnesty International

17 January 2011
Justice for victims of the conflict in Gaza and southern Israel

“Until now we don’t understand why. We want… an investigation; we want to know why me and my sisters have been orphaned. Why did they kill our parents, our family?” (Fathiya Mousa, whose parents and siblings, aged between 14 and 28 years, were killed on 14 January 2009 in an Israeli air strike, while in their yard in the Sabra district of Gaza City.)
Between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, Israel’s major military offensive on the Gaza Strip, codenamed Operation “Cast Lead”, caused massive destruction and suffering.

Read more and  sign  the Petition from Amnesty Int’l:

Justice for victims of the conflict in Gaza and southern Israel | Amnesty International.

A Mother’s Loss – Operation Cast Lead Mass – murder

Jan 18, 2011

If this does not break your heart you could hardly be considered a sane human being. I will forever be deeply affected by my time with the Samouni family, anybody with a heart would be.


YouTube – A Mother’s Loss – Operation Cast Lead Mass-murder.

Flotilla planned to mark anniversary of deaths in Gaza waters

 

 

By The Daily Star Wednesday, January 19, 2011


BEIRUT: The exiled former Patriarch of occupied Jerusalem Hilarion Kabouji called upon all Arabs Tuesday to support an aid flotilla that could sail to besieged Gaza on May 31, 2011, to mark the first anniversary of deadly Israeli aggression against a similar convoy.

“We all know that Jerusalem is being Judaized, and its history and landmarks are being distorted, they are paying billions of dollars to Judaize  Jerusalem. We Arabs, what are we doing to spare Jerusalem these dangers?” he asked, adding that admiration for Jerusalem should materialize into action, “or else, it will be considered deception.”

“We have to work and make sacrifices,” he added.

Kabouji called upon Arabs to support “Freedom Flotilla II” which would sail to Gaza in a bid to break the maritime blockade on the enclave. Israeli commando units stormed a Gaza-bound aid flotilla on May 31, 2010 and killed nine Turkish activists.

Kabouji made his remarks in the Press Federation headquarters where a news conference was convened by the association “Viva Palestina – The Artery of Life,” which is headed by former British M.P. George Galloway.

The association announced that it would carry out a number of activities in support of Gaza, occupied Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Palestinian cause.

Galloway and a number of individuals who were aboard the first Freedom Flotilla also participated in the news conference.

Kabouji said that when he was appointed a patriarch for Jerusalem in 1964, the Christians in the city constituted 25 percent of the population. “Today, they became one percent.”

Meanwhile, Galloway said the Viva Palestina association would participate in Freedom Flotilla II.

He called upon Arab states to secure ships for the flotilla. “Arabs own many ships … Is there a more noble cause to use these ships than granting them to the flotilla that will sail to Gaza?”

Galloway said the Israeli attack against the Freedom Flotilla did not scare any activist in the world.

“We are not afraid of you. We will return through land … and through sea, and we will prove this to you on May 31,” he said. – The Daily Star

 

The Daily Star – Lebanon News – Flotilla planned to mark anniversary of deaths in Gaza waters.