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.

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Gaza on the brink of food crisis

 

The closure of Gaza’s largest commercial crossing is leading to panic and a looming humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip as wheat stocks run out
Saleh Naami , Thursday 20 Jan 2011

The Gaza Strip is facing a humanitarian crisis following the complete depletion of wheat stocks after Israel closed the Mantar commercial crossing, which had been the entry point for grain into the territory.

Abdel Nasser Al-Ajrami, head of the union of bakery owners in Gaza, announced Thursday morning that the flour mills have stopped meaning that most bakeries aren’t working.

Significantly, the decision to close the crossing was agreed upon by the Ramallah government, lead by Salam Fayyad, and the Israeli army. The agreement also covered the running of the Karam Abu Salem crossing, located on the Egyptian-Palestinian-Israeli border.

Hamas decried the agreement by Fayyad’s government as “a crime and collusion” with Israel over the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Some streets in the Gaza strip witnessed traffic jams as people rushed to the bakeries that still had stocks of flour.

Economic experts view the dependence on the Karam Abu Salem crossing will lead to a dramatic shortage of food products that were allowed to enter in the wake of the “Freedom Flotilla” last summer.

Gaza on the brink of food crisis – Region – World – Ahram Online.

Israeli tanks take part in fatal Gaza Strip raid

Map

Israeli tanks have entered the northern Gaza Strip, sparking fighting that killed one Palestinian and injured two.

AFP news agency reported that seven tanks had made a limited incursion 200m into Palestinian territory on Tuesday, sparking a shootout with militants.

Other reports suggested armoured vehicles and bulldozers were involved.

Hamas emergency services spokesman Adham Abu Salmiya said Amjad al-Zaanein, 23, had been killed by Israeli tank fire east of Beit Hanoun.

Local Palestinians said the casualties had been collecting stones to recycle into bricks when they came under fire.

Israel’s military has not commented on the reportsd of tank fire, but said Gaza militants had fired four mortar shells at Israel earlier on Tuesday.

Cross-border violence has escalated in recent weeks. Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules the enclave, has appealed for calm, urging other militant factions to stop their attacks on Israel.

It is two years since a war in Gaza which left 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.

BBC News – Israeli tanks take part in fatal Gaza Strip raid.

PFLP: The calm with Israel is a resistance tactic

[ 16/01/2011 – 10:45 AM ]

 

GAZA, (PIC)– Senior official of the popular front for the liberation of Palestine (PFLP) Kayed Al-Ghoul stated that the truce with the Israeli occupation is a tactical decision in the context of resistance, but it should be addressed by a unified resistance front able to develop tactics to confront the occupation.

Kayed in a press release on Saturday said that the mission of this front is to decide when and where the resistance can confront or declare a truce with the Israeli occupation.

He also called for not approving or dealing with the remarks that portray rocket attacks or any kind of resistance as the cause of the Palestinian people’s suffering and the reasons that justify Israel’s aggression against them, stressing that Israel’s crimes against them did not stop for a moment whether there were resistance activities or not.

In this regard, Palestinian interior minister Fathi Hammad said that the Palestinian security forces in Gaza fear no psychological warfare or threats from the Israeli occupation.

“We declare to the world that we will remain loyal to the blood of all martyrs and we will continue to protect and support the resistance,” Hammad stated on Saturday during the opening of a new police station in Azeitoun neighborhood east of Gaza.

For his part, Hamas’s representative in Lebanon Ali Baraka said that any Israeli incursion into Gaza would be no picnic for the Israeli occupation and its troops, highlighting that the Gazans are able more than before to defend themselves against any new aggression.

Baraka stated in televised remarks on Saturday that Israel is trying to amplify the capabilities of the Palestinian resistance in Gaza in order to justify its war tendencies against Gaza, but despite that Gaza today is stronger than before and cannot be intimidated by the blockade or war threats.

PFLP: The calm with Israel is a resistance tactic.

Surviving off one’s flattened house in Gaza

Kader sells material sifted from rubble

  • By Nasser Najjar, Correspondent
  • Published: 00:00 January 15, 2011
  • Gulf News
Abu Ali Kader

  • Abu Ali Kader sifts through the rubble of his house that was destroyed in Israeli invasion to find materials to sell.
  • Image Credit: Nasser Najjar/Gulf News
Image 1 of 2
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Gaza: Hauling a shovel and a hammer Abu Ali Kader makes his daily trip not to work but the rubble of the house he once owned to complete its demolition.

“For over 20 tough years, I’ve saved up every single penny working as a construction worker within the Israeli region with the intention of building this house. Yet all the money, time and effort spent on this house vanished in less than a minute,” Abu Ali in agony said.

The hands which built the house are now digging through the remains to find anything worthwhile to sell.

“It took me over 20 years to build this house block by block with my own two hands; it all holds so many memories.

“I lost my way back to my own home after the withdrawal of the Israeli armies as soon as the war was over and staggered at the devastating sight of the whole neighbourhood being turned upside down. In fact, I felt as if I had lost one of my own children at the sight of my own home left in smithereens.” he said.

Unemployed father

Kader, a father of 12, has been unemployed since 2000 and living on aid. He currently lives in a 100 square metre room that he built on his own on a small piece of land belonging to his nephew in northern Gaza strip in Ezbet Abd Rabo, not far from the Israeli border.

Ezbet Abd Rabo is one the villages that bore the brunt of the 23-day 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza.

According to official medical reports, the biggest number of deaths in the war on Gaza were of residents in that area and the destruction is visible even two years after the war. Piles of rubble strewn around the area, people living in tents, and structures still standing riddled with bullet holes.

“We heard a lot about the renovation of houses destroyed but nothing changed with me so I decided to sell the remainder of my house in an attempt to build a smaller one that can shelter my family”.

The attack on Gaza strip destroyed a lot of houses and altered some people’s lives beyond recognition.

According to the ministry of public works and housing, over 14,000 homes had been damaged during the war on Gaza strip, 3,500 totally destroyed and 1,500 left unsuitable to live in.

The estimated cost of rebuilding and repairing the damage of civilian houses in Gaza strip is around half $1 billion (Dh3.67 billion).

From the left over pebbles to the steel from his destroyed house — Kader desperately tries to sell anything for which he can find a buyer. In fact, with the Israeli ban on construction materials, it is easy to find a buyer.

“Just like these days two years ago our house was demolished and although we tried to rent out a house for a while, we just couldn’t afford it; it cost so much and we don’t have enough money to” he added.

Rents range between $200 and $300 a month which exceeds an ordinary employee’s salary in Gaza strip.

“I’m doing well in this small house and even if the Israeli army … destroyed my new house once again, I would simply build another one, this is my land and I’m not going anywhere!”

gulfnews : Surviving off one’s flattened house in Gaza.

Relief society: Israel’s violations worsen health services for Gaza children

[ 13/01/2011 – 08:37 AM ]

 

GAZA, (PIC)– The Palestinian medical relief society warned that the health services provided for children, especially the cancer patients, in the Gaza Strip are insufficient and getting worse as a result of Israel’s ongoing blockade and military attacks on the Strip.

In its annual report, the society said that in 2010 it provided a range of services for children who developed diseases or were injured during the last war on Gaza.

“We are working on providing integrated quality services aimed at improving the medical, social, economic and psychological conditions of the wounded children and their families,” director of the society Ayyd Yagi stated.

Yagi affirmed that the medical relief crews follow up 276 children injured during the war and help them financially, adding that the relief society last year assisted financially those children on a regular basis in cooperation with the Italian charity Ghazala.

He also said that the society also help in other 100 children, including orphans and patients who suffer from chronic diseases such as cancer, heart, kidney diseases.

In another incident, a committee of NGOs, human rights organizations and the representative of the world health organization was formed in Gaza on Wednesday.

The committee will be embarking on resolving the crisis of inadequate medicines and medical supplies which was created by the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority in Ramallah city.

This came during an urgent meeting held at the NGOs headquarters in Gaza to address the acute shortage of medicines and medical supplies in Gaza.

The Palestinian ministry of health had accused the illegitimate government in Ramallah of not providing Gaza fully with its share of medical supplies and deliberately causing a crisis in the health sector.

Rrelief society: Israel’s violations worsen health services for Gaza children.

“United movement needed to end the siege of Gaza”

 

 

S. Arun Mohan

Endless talks with Israel will only prolong Palestinians’ sufferings: caravan members

Ceaseless negotiations with Israel will only prolong the suffering of Palestinians, and a united movement is required to end the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip, according to members of the first Asian caravan to Gaza, which recently concluded its visit to the region.

In an interaction with journalists at the Press Club here, the coordinators of the initiative spoke of the need to galvanise public opinion in India to influence the government’s policy towards Israel vis-à-vis Gaza.

Expressing solidarity

The group recalled its experience from the journey, which started in early December from Rajghat, and the hurdles created by the Israeli authorities. The caravan plan was conceived in June last to express solidarity with the Palestinian people and extend support to them in the form of humanitarian aid.

Organised by the Asian People’s Solidarity for Palestine, an alliance of civil society institutions, social movements and trade unions, the caravan comprised nearly 500 individuals from 17 countries. The group, which initially ran into problems with the Indian authorities at the Wagah border, travelled by land, sea and air through cities in Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, before entering Gaza.

“Life-altering”

Describing their journey as “life-altering,” the caravan members narrated their meetings with high-level political functionaries, including Hamas leaders such as Ismail Haniyeh and Khalid Mash’al, and praised the indomitable spirit of the Gazans in standing up to “Israeli aggression.”

Firoze Mithiborwala, one of the chief coordinators, said the Palestinian question had progressed from being a pet cause of the Arab community to a point where it rallied global momentum against the Israeli occupation. The people of Palestine, he said, were entitled to their long-cherished dream of a nation state, with Jerusalem as its capital.

The story of Gazans who refuse to succumb to Israeli aggression was a lesson for the world, and the caravan was intended not just to transport relief material but to convey a firm political message against imperialist tendencies.

The group said the caravan was greeted with enthusiasm and warmth along its route, despite difficulties encountered in Egypt and the Gaza port by the authorities suspicious of its motives.

The coordinators intend to organise similar initiatives in future, beginning with an international conference on Palestine in the first quarter of this year. More ‘Free Gaza’ flotillas are planned, and a second Asian caravan is in the pipeline.

The group pointed out that the regional balance of power was shifting with the rise of Iran and Turkey as central figures in the Middle East. It thanked officials and NGOs in both countries who offered it invaluable support in planning the journey.

Rooted in Gandhism

Mr. Mithiborwala, who emphasised that the movement was rooted in the Gandhian principle of non-violence, condemned Israel’s targeted strikes on the Islamic University in Gaza and hospitals in the area.

Acknowledging that the Gaza Strip grappled with poverty and underdevelopment, the caravan members stressed that the legitimacy of the Hamas-led government in Palestine could not be challenged, as it came to power through free and fair elections.

The Hindu : News / National : “United movement needed to end the siege of Gaza”.

‘Iran fully ready to break Gaza siege’

PressTV – Tue Jan 11, 2011 7:51AM

Iran’s Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi
Following the delivery of Iran’s humanitarian aid and relief to Gaza, Tehran declares its preparation to help bring an end to the siege of the impoverished coastal sliver.

“The Iranian nation and government are fully prepared to break [the Israeli] blockade on the Gaza Strip as they demonstrated a good presence in the humanitarian aid convoy recently dispatched to Gaza,” said Iran’s Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Roknabadi in a meeting with the political leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine in Gaza, Saleh Zeidan, on Monday.

During the meeting, Roknabadi reiterated Iran’s principal position in defending the people of Palestine, stressing on national unity among Palestinians and the continuation of resistance against the Israeli occupation.

A number of Iranian activists accompanied Asia’s first humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza in December through the Rafah border crossing, carrying medical supplies and foodstuff for the Gazans.

Now that the enemies of Islam are in a weak position, Palestinian nation and the Muslim world must become more united to achieve their holy goals, Roknabadi added.

Zeidan, for his part, expressed his appreciation for the Islamic Republic’s all-out support for the Palestinians, saying that Gaza remains under an Israeli siege and in spite of claims regarding easing of the siege, pressure on Palestinians continue to mount day by day as the international community maintains its silence toward persisting Israeli crimes.

“The Israeli regime is preparing the grounds to stage an attack on this region [Gaza] through magnifying the Gaza threat. But the people continue to confront them and remain committed to Palestinian ideals and resistance against occupiers,” Zeidan further explained.

Some 40 percent of the 1.5 million impoverished population of Gaza remain jobless after the Israeli regime imposed the siege on the sliver in June 2007.

The embargo persists while Gaza is still recovering from the December 2008-January 2009 Israeli offensive on the territory which claimed the lives of over 1,400 Palestinians and inflicted an estimated damage of over $1.6 billion on the enclave’s economy.

The United Nations recently expressed concern that more than 80 percent of Gazans depend on relief supplies for survival.

AO/MB/HRF

Related Stories:

ressTV – ‘Iran fully ready to break Gaza siege’.

Zahhar calls for more siege-busting convoys

[ 06/01/2011 – 09:24 AM ]

 

GAZA, (PIC)– Political bureau member of Hamas Dr. Mahmuod Al-Zahhar has called for more solidarity and aid convoys to the Gaza Strip in a bid to completely end the Israeli siege on the coastal enclave.

Zahhar told members of the Asia 1 convoy in a meeting on Wednesday to keep up the good work and to activate their peoples into more solidarity acts with Gaza. “Continue to send convoys until the oppressive siege is lifted,” he added.

The Hamas leader appreciated the solidarity activists for insisting on crossing this long distance to stand alongside the besieged Palestinians. He briefed the activists on the Israeli crimes and murders against the Palestinians.

He said that the Palestinian people would remain strong and resolute thanks to “Almighty Allah, their steadfastness then to the backing of free people like you”.

Zahhar calls for more siege-busting convoys.

Asia Convoy 1: Shame on US, Israel for Gaza blockade

[ 04/01/2011 – 07:41 PM ]

 

GAZA, (PIC)– Asia Convoy 1 head Feroz Mesberola said the convoy’s naval vessel carrying 20 tons of humanitarian aid valued at one million dollars docked at Port El Arish, Egypt Tuesday morning in its final stop for the aid to be unloaded onto trucks that will carry it to the Gaza Strip through Rafah.

The convoy’s activists earlier flew from Syria to Egypt before crossing over to the Gaza Strip through Rafah. The multi-national mission set out Monday morning on a tour of Gaza to assess the region’s situation.

Reaching the Shifa hospital in Gaza in the course of the tour, Mesberola said the facility’s medical staff are an elemental part of the Palestinian resistance of the Israeli occupation. Israel wants to kill Palestinians with illnesses, he said.

“You provide aid and well-being to the Palestinians despite the difficulties you suffer. We found the hospital to be very clean and advanced in its services,” he went on to say.

“Shame on America and Israel for not allowing the hospital to finish some of its buildings until now. Israel fears the cement that the Palestinians build with.”

“We feel it is our duty to offer aid and needed medicines to the hospital, so we are preparing Convoy Asia 2, which we hope will arrive June this year.”

Ebraman Abdurrahman, heading the convoy’s Indonesian delegation, announced that the Indonesian government will erect a hospital in the Beit Lahia district, a project that was kicked off in 2008 in northern Gaza in cooperation with the health ministry.

Gaza hospital authority director Madhat Moheisan expressed his gratitude to the convoy for coordinating with hospital regarding the required medical supplies. The convoy equipped the health facility with 30 solar-powered back-up generators

Asia Convoy 1: Shame on US, Israel for Gaza blockade.