Friday, 28 August 2009

Non-violent action in Gaza

Non-violent action in Gaza

Sameh Habeeb and Ayman Quader, 26 - 08 - 2009

If you are a young Gazan, how do you react to siege, blockade and war? It's time to hear about the struggle to be constructive in the midst of so much hatred and destruction, and to ask how long it can survive.

26 - 08 - 2009

he Gaza Strip has lost 1,400 lives and a further 5,000, mostly civilians, have been maimed and wounded in the latest attack waged by the Israeli government. This came on top of an illegal, yet relentless siege that has dragged on and on for over two years, preventing 1.5 million Gazans from having access to the basic necessities of life, and to the wider world. You might well ask how young people respond to this blockade. Some of course resort to violence. But others have chosen a different tack.

The right to resist derives from the basic values of justice and freedom. It is not confined to the use of force. Millions of people in this world believe in solving conflicts through peaceful means, without shedding blood and causing more hatred. One day this noble struggle could even replace the violence used by humanity against their fellow human beings. Rockets, guns, tanks - as decisive as they are today - have little to say to the wider cultural struggle for a civilised existence.

The first ‘Intifada' uprising was a Palestinian show-case for a unique kind of resistance in which heavily armed Israeli soldiers were confronted by children with stones. That intifada mutated through several phases before it helped us to secure the Oslo agreement in 1993. More and more Palestinians nowadays are revisiting a non-violent resistance that has emerged from their history if only because it has been so dogged by violent conflict and by war.

In the West Bank, the International Solidarity Movement inspired a non-violent movement of resistance in which locals only became involved when Israel started to build the annexation wall. The people of the Gaza Strip started their movement with a different sort of retaliation, this time against the blanket of silence which was the first stage of Israel's siege. Our response was ‘voices instead of bullets'. In the Gaza Strip, by mid-2007 we were engaged in numerous actions which drew international activist attention in our direction for the first time.

Sameh Habeeb, who was coordinator for the Popular Committee Against the Siege (PCAS) when Israel closed down all the border points, cut the electricity dead and with-held all fuel supply, remembers that moment as a turning-point:

"At first, there was just a stunned reaction of helplessness. We all rushed around wringing our hands about what could be done. We were entering an extremely challenging phase in which the question was: how to involve a wider public in our activities? Gazans are notorious for their loyalties and their endless capacity for confrontation. We thought we were in for a very difficult time indeed. But it turned out to be easy.

We realized that it was precisely at that moment, so in need of a clear way forward, that we must bring people onto the streets. We issued a call throughout Gaza to everyone who would listen. It took almost 5 days before any media outlets paid any attention to what we were saying. Then it started. Even the Israeli media were calling us to ask what was going to happen next. The Israeli government called on thousands of reserve soldiers who were promptly deployed along the borders with Gaza. We had promised some kind of action on a specific day - and as the day loomed, the Israeli media carried reports speculating on what might occur. Some predicted that tens of thousands of us would break through the borders with Israel."

The action day arrived and began early with massive media coverage from our side: ‘Human chain to challenge the siege.' Literally tens of thousands of people of all ages did indeed respond: schoolchildren, university students, labourers, women and children and many ordinary people hurried to the Salah El Din. The chain stretched from Rafah to Beit Hanoun and was around 36 kilometers long. The people went to the borders without guns in the manner of Ghandi to make a united protest. However, accorind to Al Jazeera, clashes erupted between youths and the soldiers who fired at them.

Since that memorable day, Jamal El Khoudary, chair of PCAS has launched numerous symbolic activities to end the siege. "Our approach to struggle has many means at its disposal. This is why Palestinian factions, political parties and individuals across the board participate in our actions. Through non-violent actions, we have been able to move the mainstream. However, you have to face the fact that you are always, at any minute, liable to be fired on." This is the price we have to pay to call attention to what is happening to us.

On January 26, 2008 the Palestinian International Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, led byDr Eyad Sarraj, proclaimed an international day of action against the siege imposed on the Strip. It is important that there is an international response to this call, but at the core of this activity was the coming together of organizations working for peace and solidarity in Palestine, civil society bodies, and human rights advocates and Gazan academics, with Israeli peace activists also wanting to extend solidarity to the people of Gaza in numerous joint actions and events. On that day thousands of activists demonstrated on both sides of the borders between Israel and Gaza. More activists came to Egypt and tried to cross over to Gaza.

The campaign launched a call to gather a million signatures to end the siege of Gaza. Teams of volunteers grouped in villages, towns and neighborhoods of Gaza to collect these names. The aim was to present them to the United Nations, and two hundred thousand signatures had been secured when all this was brought to a rude halt by the Israeli war.

Dr Eyad Sarraj, who is amongst various callings, an international peace campaigner said on that day, "The principal goal of this demonstration is to join the hands of both Israeli and Palestinian peace activists who want to end the siege and all kinds of violence. The most decisive factor in breaking the siege will be through a change in Israeli public opinion." The slogans were: ‘No Movement, No Life' and ‘Humanity, Not Humiliation: Peace, Not Punishment'.

By late 2008 this movement of civic protest was growing new dimensions. Seeing the Palestinians so committed to such actions, international support of various kinds began to build. The Free Gaza movement managed to send three boats into Gaza surrounded by such a media fanfare that the Israelis were not able to touch them. The sea of Gaza has been under a blockade for many years: the last boat to arrive was 41 years ago. They made their fourth attempt during the attack on Gaza, and this time, the boat was destroyed. The crew and cargo of the fifth, Spirit of Humanity, have just been seized by the Israeli government who have imprisoned those on board, including the Nobel Peace prize winner, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, and sequestered or destroyed the toys, medicines and tree seedlings. But our message continues to spread.

Then there is the music. In the beginning of November 2008, the Popular Committee Against the Siege organized a candle-lit protest carried out by young children in Gaza City to protest at the closure of the power station providing electricity to the northern Gaza Strip. The protest started only minutes after the main Gaza power station shut down and the entire city was plunged into total darkness. Gaza's residents started marching alongside the children in the city's streets while the children held candles, singing in both, English and Arabic. Indeed, kids are the light of hope of Gaza, when they call for the freedom that comes through peaceful means. The people of Gaza are finding their own ways of struggling against this inhumane collective punishment.

Many people who don't know Gaza reckon that we live under some kind of Hamas-Taliban Puritanical rule. It is't true, and we are proud to have been involved in what we called the first ‘opera show' ever in Gaza, starring an Italian artist who was willing to come over on one of these boats. On November 27 2008, this concert, ‘Sing for Freedom', organized by a group of young people in the Gaza Strip, was a great success. The aim was to find a new way of breaking the siege, through a resilience that young people can discover together through song, dance, poetry, and hip-hop, announcing to their audience and to the world that their spirit is strong, and that they will never give up their demand to live in freedom, justice and peace in Palestine.

The First Opera Show

These are just a few examples of the kind of actions that show Palestinian aspirations for a dignified, thriving and humane life that we all hope to see one day. Many unanswered questions still fill our heads. Is this movement effective in challenging Israeli occupation? Should Gazans give up armed resistance? Will non-violent resistance bring back our rights? When if ever will Israel stop killing peace activists in Gaza and the West Bank? (The last victim was Basam abu Rahma, Basam who believed in non-violence, but who was met by death for his beliefs....)

Things are looking bad in the West Bank, where Israel has dealt a particularly bleak hand to President Abbas, who, after returning to the road map in the agreement in Annapolis, clamped down on all sorts of armed resistance with the help of Premier Fayyad. In the end, how was this received? His efforts were greeted by more settlement-building, more invasions and more arrests throughout the West Bank. And in Gaza? More and more people were beginning to look to non-violent resistance under their siege conditions: then came the last war. People are bound to argue for a return to armed resistance. What should one say in return?

We asked three of our acquaintances in Gaza to comment:

* Nadine Rajab, a 25-year-old human rights advocate, says, "As a Palestinian citizen living under siege and under occupation in Gaza, I think resistance has a few legitimate aspects: the general humanitarian dimension, the religious dimension and the national dimension. There are many legitimate means of non-violent resistance such as demonstrations, boycotting products and civil disobedience. But we should engage in both non-violent and violent resistance, because we are part of the society and it is our duty to do so."

* Muhammad Ghates, a 25-year-old young man working in the Gaza Strip has a different view. His brother was killed by the Israeli army in 2007: "Israel is a state that only survives on instability in the region. It has launched several wars against its neighbours since its establishment. Israel only agreed on peace after it was defeated by the Egyptians in 1973. Israel can be made submissive again through resistance and fighting. Maybe non-violent resistance can pave the way, but it can never be the decisive factor." Ghates believes that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 due to the heavy resistance of the Gazan people. He contrasts this with over four years of non-violent resistance in the West Bank that has come to nothing. It may have drawn worldwide attention to the wall issue, but this in turn has resulted in no identifiable pressure on the Israeli state, "My family is pro-resistance and my brother was killed while defending Gaza. We aspire to liberate our country through resistance and fighting as we are under occupation. When the Nazis were invading Europe, nations and populations had the right to resist. But our case is different: we are not granted that right. Our resistance is described as terrorism, regardless of the fact that we are under occupation. It seems Israel as a country only understands the language of power and blood not peaceful means. This was quite clear in their last bloody war on Gaza: everybody was under attack. My house too was damaged. It was a target though I'm a normal citizen and I have never lifted a finger against Israel."

* Another young 21 year-old student living in Al Nuserat camp in the middle of the Gaza Strip says, "Our peaceloving children insist on facing up to Israel, but in a different way. They have escaped into patriotic songs to sympathize with each other. Furthermore, they light candles to express simplicity and innocence. They also draw pictures and write words on walls to show the suffering e.g. even before this gruelling war I saw a picture of a Palestinian child who had written on his chest in Arabic letters, "I'm hungry". I do believe that the non-violent path of activism could be more fruitful than militant resistance."


Ayman T. Quader

Blogger based on the Gaza Strip

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Kidney-Patients Again in Suffering

Gaza, August 26, 2009 (Pal Telegraph)- The siege on the Gaza strip is severely suffocating the people of Gaza in all walks of life. Now, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, there is a dire shortage of 80 essential drugs & 125 types of medical equipment. As the Gaza crossing borders are still routinely closed, medicine and equipment are prohibited entry to the Gaza Strip.

Officials in the ministry of health warn that 400 kidney patients are really suffering due to the lack of needed essential medicines. Additionally, regularly cutting electricity has been having a disastrous influence on the condition of these kidney-patients, as the power supply is too impotent to run the dialysis machines.

Ayman Quader

Monday, 24 August 2009

Ramadan in Fadel's Eyes by Ayman T. Quader

Gaza, August 24, 2009 (Pal Telegraph)- The holy month of Ramadan has come again, yet there is no progress in living conditions and the people of Gaza are being suffocated. Entering a taxi to catch a ride home after meeting a friend, a discussion between the driver and passengers caught my attention. Specifically, it was the following sentence: "The situation in the Gaza Strip needs a miracle."

It was just around a half-hour distance between Gaza and where I live, but the discussion taking place was serious. "I cannot bear the conditions in Gaza; I work from 8-to-8, but receive little money to feed my family. I try to do to my best to give them a decent life, but everything is in vain. I can see no progress in the horizon," said the taxi driver.

Wanting to know more, I entered the conversation by saying, "indeed, I was earning a living by working in Israel before the outbreak of the Intifada. Now everything is finished!!!" The driver added, "The siege suffocates us, in our home, in our everything. Additionally, we have been turned into an independent but unproductive people. We are mainly dependent on the aid and food parcels that come from UNRWA and other associations from time-to-time."

Fadel Mosa, a taxi driver living in Al Maghzi refugee camp in the middle of the Gaza Strip, is the father of a family of six. Early in the morning every day, he gets in his rental car to gain a livelihood to feed his family. "I am 50 years old. Ten years of my life now went in vain." Fadel now gains just around 40 NIS ($14 USD) that could hardly meet the increasing daily demands of his family.

As we approached Al Nuseirat refugee camp, the discussion became more animated. The electricity of the camp had been turned off and the generators could be heard singing like that of a loud radio playing from a distant celebration. The sounds of generators, however, are no celebration. They are heard running because of the scheduled power outages due to a lack of fuel for the main power plant in Gaza. Fuel deliveries are limited and often prohibited by the Israelis.

Somberly, Fadel recollects that it is his camps turn for the power to be cut. "I don't want to go back home. The electricity is down and the weather is really hot in the summer season. The situation in Gaza does not exist in any other country in the world."

As we arrived in the main square of Al Nuseirat camp, the other passengers departed. In Al Nuseirat, people can buy and sell all sorts of things. Looking around, Fadel's eyes stopped on a vegetable cart. He queried, "How can I buy vegetables, but no oil to cook them?" Similar to that of fuel to run the power plant in Gaza, deliveries of cooking oil are often limited or prohibited by the Israelis.

Alas, it was my stop and the time spent with Fadel came to an end. With one last imparting thought Fadel said, "People are becoming more and more afraid of the unknown, of the future. Everyone outside Gaza should know what is going on here. The whole world should see!! All we need is our freedom; we need a better future for me and my children. We want a decent life. We want to live like other people".

The suffocation of the people in Gaza is not from the sweltering, summer heat. Rather, their suffocation is due to the illegal siege on Gaza, imposed by Israel and supported by the International Community. The unlawful siege effects the people in their daily life, causing dramatic pressures on every household that are exacerbated by an ever-increasing unemployment rate.

There is one shared dream among all living in Gaza-the opening of the four main border crossings linking Gaza with the rest of the world. Gazans during this Ramadan will be following the news moment-by-moment in hopes that their collective dream will come true.

Ayman T. Quader
Blogger Based on the Gaza Strip
Gaza Strip, Palestine
Mob: 00972599448628
Skype: peaceforgaza
Facebook: Ayman Quader

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Severe shortage in the school supplies due to the ongoing siege on the Gaza Strip.

taken by: Sameh Habeeb

The Gaza Strip, 23 August 2009, (pal telegraph)- Severe shortage in the school supplies due to the ongoing siege on the Gaza Strip.

Since the Israeli government has been declaring its discussion to impose the siege on the Gaza, all basic daily needs are being prevented entry in the Strip. All life sectors have been dramatically paralyzed. The education sector is strongly affected due to the drastic siege as there is severe shortage Necessities on the school supplies needed for students such as paper, notebooks, textbook and other facilities.

It is worthily mentioning that, 300 schools around the Gaza Strip were greatly getting damaged resulting from the recent Israeli's assaults ( 27 Dec. 2008) on the Strip. These schools are in strong need to be rebuilt again. These schools are in strong need of tens of thousands of cement and iron to get them rebuilt again.

Ayman Quader
blogger based on the Gaza strip

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

I live in a tent, with no privacy

I live in a tent, with no privacy

And every time, she tries to understand what happened to her, she asks herself : what was my fault?, what’s going to happen to me in my tent?

Ilham, 30 years old, a mother of 6 , she lives in Al-atatra district , in the northern part of the Gaza strip. The Israeli war had a huge impact on her, it actually destroyed her house, her parent’s house and killed her brother.

Ilham and her family spent 25 days in one of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s schools (UNRWA), to take shelter from phosphorous missiles of death that was chasing all the population of the strip. She was saying: "Israeli armed forces bombarded our house with many missiles, destroyed its walls, set fire in its rooms, and spread darkness all around us (she meant the missiles fumes), to a point that we couldn’t breathe anymore… and after hours, during which we were facing death, the ambulance transported us to the hospital.

We moved to ASMA’A GAZA AL JADIDA school, looking for some security, since

We were fifty persons from different families, sleeping in the same room : men, women and children, I haven’t felt safe at all. I couldn’t close my eyes during the war and during all the period that we spent in the school, not mentioning the horrific sounds of the missiles and the rockets surrounding us from everywhere.

I’ve worn the niqab for several years, but when I found myself in the school with fifty other persons, most of them were men, in a room that didn’t exceed sixteen meters of surface, it forced me to abandon it. I lost my freedom during the war and even after it.

Now I live in a tent that doesn’t exceed eight meters, with no privacy. After being in that school, where I couldn’t even get the basic human needs, there was no water, the women had to go to the hospital of “dar Shefa” to take a shower.

we used to walk many miles each week or every other week, as a group of women, just for bathing, I had a feeling of humiliation and despair, especially when we were forced to leave the hospital, because of the high numbers of martyrs and victims, their bodies took over the whole place, moreover, the hospital is not a place for taking baths…In the war, my house was destroyed, all I own now is a tent that does not exceed few meters, my children and I sleep on the sand. My nights became like my days, everything has changed in my life after the 27th of December 2008. All I kept now is memories on which I live me and my children, till this day, I feel deeply oppressed . What was my fault? And why do I live in this humiliation? Who could bear what we are all facing?

In another scene, Ilham was smiling, she remembered that her husband came back to her today, and brought a present, from the ruins of their house, after his daily trip there, wishing to salvage some kitchen utensils among the rubles. Today he came back with the food-processor, it was a gift from her brother, the one that just killed in the war. Despite all her sadness for his death, she was so happy to have it back, and she was also glad to prepare with it some food and cookies for her children… but cooking for her kids was just a dream, a dream that was never fulfilled, in Gaza there were no food and no electricity…

Ilham taps on her son’s (Samed) shoulder, one year and a half, while holding him with her other hand, as if she were apologizing for what is happening to him, and for being unable to ease his suffering and agony after he breathed white phosphor, which exhausted his little body, in front of her six years old sister Ryman, who got into the conversation, saying : “I miss our home, I want to play with the swing that my dad made for me, so I don’t have to play in the street…”

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Memory Chasing Us


Commentary and Photo by Ayman Quader

Memory Chasing Us

Gaza, August 9, 2009, (Pal Telegraph)This reminds me of the Palestinian catastrophe 1948 (Nakba 1948) but much more intensive; more cruelty and suffering. It has been 8 months since the 23 days of the Israeli assault over the Palestinian civilian people. Our writings reflect the pain reflected on the faces of the children, men and women The scenes of the massive destruction that resulted from the Israeli attacks hasn't gone away leaving people in a great ordeal.

Today while walking past my home, I met a woman called Rawia Hamda sitting on a piece of stone and looking sadly at her practically destroyed house. I took her aside and starting looking at her while she was in deep thought with her sons around her. Then I realized what was circling in her mind. I then decided to get this chance of writing about this women's suffering during the war as they usually shared these feelings only with their husbands.

"It is not that we are scared of poverty, but the destruction of our home. Our lives have been turned up side down after the Israeli war that took place in the Gaza Strip" Those were Rawai's words when I simply asked her WHY????...

This is the story of Rawia Hamda from Al Nuserat Refugee camp, in the middle of the Gaza Strip, where she lives with her family which includes her jobless husband, six sons and a disabled daughter.

As a Palestinian living on this narrow piece of land called the Gaza Strip, Rawia has her own experiences about the war as a woman. Rawia and her family dwell in a house that is no longer a home. The 'ceiling' is the sky. The roof is slowly being replaced with asbesto sheets except for the bathroom that is cover with a concrete roof.

"During the war there were daily bombings and attacks in our area. We never felt safe anywhere in our home except the bathroom because of the concrete ceiling".

"One of the most terrifying times occurred on the 14th day of the war. We were trying to eat a fast lunch. I was surrounded by my family when there was the sound of a big explosion taking place just beside our home. We ran to take shelter in the bathroom as usual. After a while another explosion sounded. In terror, I took my young sons find another safe place. I later discovered that the house next to ours was hit by two F16 rockets and totally destroyed"

Rawia received a leg injury due to the flying shrapnel. Her house was partially damaged and it is now covered with shrapnel inside. Additionally, the nearby chicken farm that Rawia's family used to depend on was also damaged leaving the family without any source of income.

"The ferocity of the attacks and the scene of my evacuation reminded me of my grandmother's story of their evacuation in the year of 1948 but this seemed much worse."

Now Rawia is waiting to get her house rebuilt and to attempt to live a decent life with her family.

This is the story of Rawia, just one of the many stories our women have from the period of the war on Gaza.

French language

Ayman T. Quader
Blogger Based in the Gaza Strip
Gaza Strip, Palestine
Mob: 00972599448628
Skype: peaceforgaza
Facebook: Ayman Quader