Sunday, 21 November 2010



by: Ayman T. Quader

What is a hero? From my perspective several thoughts emerge in my mind when I think of a hero, specifically in a very broad sense. The word hero applies dynamically to individuals in different contexts of culture, history, gender, etc. The term hero might generally be associated with that man who is brave, generous and courageous. Considering yourself a hero, you would intimately reflect your own identity, culture, conflict and history.

For me, it had been actually wonderful when I discovered that my personality is motivated toward many interests particularly in my career. I finished my studies from the Islamic University of Gaza and I was well-prepared to be a teacher of English language. Through my early life, people around me never stop telling me that I have got a smile face and always you enjoy being close with children. There is one prime characteristic I really admire about the life of the refugee camp that its small roads always crowed with young children where they have fun and enjoy their time in such dire environment. Accordingly, my attitudes had been changed from being teacher of English language for children into being very close to them through another dimension of work which the humanitarian aid and relief work.

Personally, it would be simple to identify the concept of hero according to my perception and my experience in Palestine. Having this course of childhood inside me, the hero is the Palestinian child who grows up and builds his life in the light of such dire conflict. This perspective is due to the fact that I lived in this situation of conflict my entire life as well as being close to children though my previous work. In this regard, I shift my thoughts dramatically to recognize the child’s Smile as heroic figure. This smile would cry lots of qualities and values specifically in the context of the Gaza Strip. My hero is a young Palestinian child who keeps a smile on his face and keeps aspiring of a better future despite living a life in struggle and conflict.

During the fifth model period, we took an exercise called Butoh Dance. In this exercise, my imagination and memory had been perfectly working and I went behind the dancing world. It enhances my bodily awareness not only for individuals but rather for social groups this happened through greatly activating my inner imagination. This took place when we were asked to play the role of being a tree then later on to consider myself, old woman, old man, and child. My flash memory easily helped me in order to recall those people where I lived part of my life with. The only image that recalled in my mind was a young child who is of 12 years. It was very much expressive for me as I spent fifteen minutes with in his world before I imagine myself a child. In this moment I had the feeling that I wanted to stay as long as I can with this child since this child is close to my heart. Subsequently, I realized that dancing and getting my body part moving negatively impacted the recalled image, and then I decided to still recalling the image while lying in the ground.

It’s hard to count the characteristics that constitute the child’s smile. Ambitious, amusing, patient, bearable, conscious, knowledgeable, would ensure the strength of this young child as a hero in the time of conflict and insecurity.

The Rights of Children in Gaza

The Palestinian child is directly affected by the scenes of incursion, blood and war. The child is not given the basic childhood rights. It is even hard for her/him to find a space for fun, and also to get her/him physiological needs satisfied. The child retains memories of all means of death that his/her family passed through during the time of instability and warfare caused by the Israeli regular militant activities in his/her area.

Children around the world all share something in common in terms of love needed, compassion and smile. The Palestinian Gazan child has experienced an ongoing siege of unprecedented severity, including various blockages of fuel and electricity provisions, as well as all other energy resources. Israel has also imposed a strict closure on all the Gaza Strip border crossings, preventing movement of civilians, including patients seeking medical care.

Young heroes

In my following examples I would like to illustrate my definition of hero in clearer manner. There are many examples of children that inspired me while I was in my home. In this example, I will prove how the smile and the joy of children in Gaza are really heroic figures.

To start with, I remember my seven-year old sister’s smile Raghed enjoying her romantic candle light while studying her science lesson. The candle lighting at her table was not due to a special occasion. In fact, candles have become a necessity for Raghed and all children in Gaza due to the regular cut of electricity. Her smile still waves within my imaginary how she created sort of fund out of this exceptional hard situation she passed.

To move from Raghed to another aspiring childhood example named Loa’I Suboh. After the recent 23-day of war (Dec 2008 – Jan 2009) on the Gaza Strip, I started reporting some of the tragic stories directly from the mouths of children. One month after the attack, I met Loa’i Suboh, a ten-year old child who has lost his eyes in the attacks. He was injured by an Israeli air raid targeting his family in north of the Gaza Strip. Loa’i was wounded when he left the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) School with his family, as they were taking shelter on the premises. They wanted to get back to their home to fetch some personal belonging things like food and blankets. Loa’i was left bleeding for an hour and half and no one was able to have access to him and save him because of the heavy of the Israeli shelling at that time. One year after these sad events, Loa’i assured me that his blindness will never obstruct his future to be a good business man. Loa’i is an active and intelligent boy. His steadfastness and determination to complete his studies and accomplish his goals are in my opinion truly heroic, even if, sadly, his case is far from being unique.

According to data from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), 313 children under the age of 18 were killed in 23 days of war on the Strip (Palestinian Center for Human Rights, 2009:13). A great number of children has been killed or injured as a result of the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip. The majority were killed as a result of Israeli violations of International Humanitarian Law[1] (IHL), such as willful killing, violations of the principle of distinction, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks. After years of occupation and conflict children already stressed were profoundly traumatized. The significant number of killing of children or leaving them with a more or less severe handicap, has increased the cases of children suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) while there is no child who didn’t suffer a major trauma: from destruction of his home to loss of a parent, a sibling, from destruction of his school, playground, to the loss of a friend, a neighbor. They still dream and hope for peace and having space for entertaining.

I remember a Day of Action for children organized in one of the Refugee camps in the centre of the Gaza strip named (Al-Maghazi refugee camp). The event was called “Quest for Smile”. Through this after-school event, I saw the steadfastness of the children’s smiles, their smiles full of innocence. They eagerly assembled during this event and shared moments of joy and friendship. The event was organized in a local park fifty meters away from a demolished building. During the recent Israeli assault over the Gaza Strip, three children living in Al-Maghazi refugees camp were killed, and over 30 were critically wounded. Those children had been suffering from the ongoing insecurity of war and blockade over them. They were extremely cheerful during this event. “No words can express the joy experienced by these children during the event”, said one audience member, noting how the children couldn’t stop clapping and dancing with the costumed performers. The young children enjoyed several activities and performances, including dancing, group games, a trivia contest, and others, as well as spending some leisurely time outside with friends. It is really inspiring to see the bad psychological state of these children, and see how they bear such difficult circumstances and still have fun.

Through my experience as a humanitarian aid worker in Gaza, I realized how the children are affected by the consequences of the conflict and the conditions on the ground. I witnessed their struggle and how they fight to keep a smile on their faces. They play on the rubble of their homes and keep smiling. This is my hero personal perspective that embodied with children smile. Now I will explore etymological meaning of hero in Arabic since the Arabic language is a bit difficult in exploring the etymological words.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict: A new perspective

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict: A new perspective
by Omar Shaban
19 March 2009

GAZA CITY – Israelis and Palestinians have been prevented from looking deeper into hidden and untapped opportunities, stuck in the limiting perspective afforded by the prolonged conflict, continued Israeli occupation, and failed peace talks. Both sides burn their energy managing and sometimes escalating the conflict rather than solving it. Very few Palestinians and even fewer Israelis know or can imagine that this small place called “the Gaza Strip” can provide endless opportunities.

The Gaza Strip is seen by many people as a poor place, full of violence. However, there are many good examples of productive relationships between Israelis and Palestinians, which indicate, without any doubt, the high potential of this area. Unfortunately, the media covers mostly the news of conflict and hatred rather than the good news. Following is but one example of what a just and fair peace could bring to both sides.

For 20 years, the Gaza Strip has become famous for planting and exporting flowers, strawberries and vegetables, like cherry tomatoes. Some years ago, there were more than 1,000 dunams (250 acres) of planted flowers, and 3,000 dunams (750 acres) of strawberries. These cash crops were generating thousands of sustainable, high-quality jobs for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, and revenues of more than 12 million Euros per year. In 2006, when Israel imposed total closure on the Gaza Strip and restricted the movement of goods and people from entering or leaving Gaza, these two crops and many others were negatively affected; while Gaza exported 60 million carnations and 2,000 tons of strawberries in 2005, only 12 million carnations and 103 tons of strawberries were allowed through the border in 2007. Even worse, in 2007-2008, only 55,000 carnations were exported. This caused huge loses to these sectors and pushed farmers to leave their land and look for other jobs.

Surprisingly, in November 2007 Palestinian farmers and their Israeli counterparts appealed together to the Israeli Supreme Court against the Israeli government, urging it to open the crossings. The Supreme Court ordered the Israeli government to do so, which allowed for the export of flowers and strawberries from Gaza into Israel during that month. This was the only export that occurred since the closure imposed on Gaza in June 2007 after Hamas took over the Strip.

Many Israelis would have had great difficulty imagining or even believing that these lovely flowers and sweet strawberries they gave to friends were products of Gaza. Palestinian and Israeli farmers were clever enough to find common ground where both made profits while creating real partnerships.

While the Israeli and Palestinian political leaderships often invest their energy in sustaining the conflict, there are other people who search for opportunities and attempt to pave the road to a better life. There are fewer profits to be made from the occupation and the conflict than could be created from peace and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. There are many Palestinian doctors, engineers, singers, artists, educators and skilled workers who have been given the chance to work in Israeli institutions and therefore have been in direct contact with Israeli society. Those Palestinians have learned much, and have become great assets to the Palestinian community.

Those Palestinians were trusted by their Israeli customers or clients. Is it that unrealistic to imagine hundreds or even thousands of professional Palestinians working or being trained in Israeli institutions in the future? It's time for both sides to see and be seen from a new perspective. Israel would do well to understand that having a fair and just peace with a Palestinian state is much safer and more profitable than sustaining the occupation. Conversely, the Palestinians would do well to see that living in peace with Israel is the only and very best path to prosperity.


* Omar Shaban is a senior economic advisor, with over 15 years’ experience in management consultancy and private sector development. He established Pal Think for Strategic Studies and serves as board member in various community organisations and initiatives. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Source: Common Ground News Service, 19 March 2009,
Copyright permission is granted for publication.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

23 August 2010: Water supplied in Gaza unfit for drinking; Israel prevents entry of materials needed to repair system

23 August 2010: Water supplied in Gaza unfit for drinking; Israel prevents entry of materials needed to repair system

Almost 95 percent of the water pumped in the Gaza Strip is polluted and unfit for drinking. This warning was recently issued by the UN Environment Programme, the Palestinian Water Authority, the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, and international aid organizations. They estimate it will take at least 20 years to rehabilitate Gaza’s underground water system, and any delay in dealing with the problem will lead to additional deterioration in the situation and thus might extend the rehabilitation process for hundreds of years. Since it began its siege on the Gaza Strip, in June 2007, Israel has forbidden the entry of equipment and materials needed to rehabilitate the water and wastewater-treatment systems there. The prohibition has remained despite the recent easing of the siege.

Child filling water from a container provided by OXFAM, at Jabalya refugee camp. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, B’Tselem, 18 Aug. ’10.
Child filling water from a container provided by OXFAM, at Jabalya refugee camp. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, B’Tselem, 18 Aug. ’10.

Reasons for the water pollution in Gaza

The water crisis in the Gaza Strip arose following over-pumping of the underground water of the Coast Aquifer. It is estimated that the amount of water annually pumped from the aquifer is roughly twice the amount of water that replenishes it. As a result of the over-pumping, which has been going on for several decades, salt water has penetrated the aquifer. In addition, the poor maintenance of the wastewater-treatment facilities in Gaza, which increased following the siege, and the damage done to the wastewater-treatment facility in Gaza City during Operation Cast Lead, led to further pollution of the underground water by wastewater, and to greater salinity. Another factor for the pollution is the waste-disposal sites in Gaza, which are not properly handled. Following Operation Cast Lead, these sites received enormous amounts of waste – more than 600,000 tons – including asbestos, medial waste, oils, and fuels.

Wastewater flowing through the Rafah regional waste dump. Photo: Courtesy of EWASH.
Wastewater flowing through the Rafah regional waste dump. Photo: Courtesy of EWASH.

Water consumption in Gaza

The daily per capita water consumption in the Gaza Strip is 91 liters, slightly higher than in the West Bank, where the figure is 73 liters, yet lower than the minimum of 100 liters recommended by the World Heath Organization. By comparison, daily per capita consumption in Israel is 242 liters in urban areas and 211 liters in rural areas.

Resident of ‘Izbet ‘Abd Rabo in Jabalya refugee camp carrying home water from a container provided by OXFAM. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, B’Tselem, 18 Aug. ’10
Resident of ‘Izbet ‘Abd Rabo in Jabalya refugee camp carrying home water from a container provided by OXFAM. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, B’Tselem, 18 Aug. ’10

Magnitude of the pollution

The director of quality control in the Gazan Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, Eng. Majed Ghanem, told B'Tselem that an examination conducted in late 2009 in 180 wells revealed that, in 93 percent of them, the chloride level (which indicates the water’s salinity) was 1,000 to 2,000 mg/liter, four to eight times higher than the 250 mg/liter amount recommended by the WHO. Water with a chloride level this high is unfit for drinking. According to Ghanem, the pollution also affects the water’s color and causes its repellent odor.

In addition, an examination carried out by the UN Environment Programme on a number of wells in Gaza found that the concentration of nitrates was six times higher than the 50 mg level recommended by the WHO. This high level of nitrates is liable to cause anemia among children and methemoglobinemia (“blue infants” syndrome) among infants, which is liable to lead to choking and death. A study published in 2007, in which a sample of 340 infants from Gaza were examined, found that almost half of them suffered from troubling symptoms of the syndrome.

The Palestinian Water Authority estimates that almost 40 percent of the incidence of disease in Gaza is related to polluted drinking water. According to international aid organizations, 20 percent of Gazan families have at least one child under age five who suffers from diarrhea as a result of polluted water. A UN study published in 2009 estimates that diarrhea is the cause of 12 percent of children’s deaths in Gaza. The lack of potable drinking water is liable to cause malnutrition in children and affect their physical and cognitive development.

In the absence of other materials due to the siege, parts of the old barrier wall at Rafah are used to line a wastewater treatment pond there. Photo: Courtesy of EWASH.
In the absence of other materials due to the siege, parts of the old barrier wall at Rafah are used to line a wastewater treatment pond there. Photo: Courtesy of EWASH.

The water pollution also harms the area’s agricultural produce. According to Ghanem, the milk given by cows in Gaza is polluted, and farm crops that once characterized the area, such as oranges, have declined in quantity and quality.

Effects of the siege and Operation Cast Lead

Since the beginning of the siege, Israel has prohibited the entry of equipment and materials that can be used to improve water quality and taste, and to develop and rehabilitate the water infrastructure and the wastewater-treatment facilities in Gaza. The prohibition has remained in force even after the recent easing of restrictions, and despite the Cabinet’s decision to allow the entry of building materials for projects that have been approved by the Palestinian Authority and are supervised by international organizations. The equipment needed includes water pumps, pipes, generators, computers, building cement, and chloride. Israel classifies these materials as dual-use items that are liable to be used for military purposes, and therefore prohibits their entry.

The Gazan Coastal Municipalities Water Utility currently requires 1,250 tons of cement just to rebuild water reservoirs. The Sufa Crossing between Gaza and Israel, which is intended, among other things, for the transfer of building materials, has been closed since March 2009. The by-laws of the international organizations prohibit them from purchasing cement smuggled into Gaza through tunnels, for the rehabilitation projects.

The lack of construction materials and replacement parts has also led to greater loss of water from the supply network in Gaza. Prior to the siege, the loss had been 30 percent of the amount of water supplied to consumers, generally resulting from leaks in the pipes. In 2009, the loss reached 47 percent, according to figures of the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility.

The Gaza Strip’s power station has been working at partial output since Israel bombed it in June 2006. There is also a shortage of industrial fuel needed to operate the station, following the disputes that arose between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas regarding its funding, which has led to frequent power outages. The outages prevent the wastewater-treatment facilities from completing the 14-day treatment cycle and also impair the frequency of water supply to houses. According to UN figures, water is supplied to houses in Gaza City for four to six hours once every five days, and in the rest of the Gaza Strip for four to six hours once every three days. Due to the low pressure, the water does not reach the top floors in tall buildings.

In Operation Cast Lead, Israel damaged Gaza City’s wastewater-treatment facility, leading to untreated wastewater flooding extensive farm areas. According to the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, 30 kilometers of water networks, 11 wells, and 6,000 home water tanks were damaged during the operation, and the overall damage to the water and wastewater-treatment facilities amounted to six million dollars.

Untreated wastewater flowing daily into the sea in a-Nuseirat Camp in central Gaza Strip. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, B’Tselem, 18 Aug. ’10.
Untreated wastewater flowing daily into the sea in a-Nuseirat Camp in central Gaza Strip. Photo: Muhammad Sabah, B’Tselem, 18 Aug. ’10.

Most of Gaza’s wastewater now flows to the Mediterranean Sea, some as raw wastewater, and some following partial treatment. International organizations have found that the shoreline near which the wastewater flows is polluted and unfit for bathing. Proper wastewater treatment would have enabled use of the treated wastewater for agricultural purposes and reduced pumping of the underground water.

Effect of the economic situation on water consumption

Due to the poor water quality, many Gazans are forced to buy water treated in facilities operated by local entrepreneurs or to use home desalination devices. The quality of the water provided in this way is unsupervised, and the lack of replacement parts and regular power supply has harmed them, too.

Since treatment of water from pollutants such as nitrates and chlorides is very expensive, the cost of a cubic meter of treated water is a high as 50 shekels (some 13 US dollars in August 2010), 10 times higher than the price paid by households in Israel. Many Gazans cannot afford this luxury: the unemployment rate in Gaza reached 39 percent in 2009, and poverty in 2007 was 43 percent. In 2007, average family expenditures in Gaza stood at slightly more than 2,000 shekels a month.

Recommendations of the UN Environment Programme

To prevent the collapse of the Gazan water economy, the UN Environment Programme recommended, a year ago, that pumping of water from the Coast Aquifer in Gaza cease. The Programme also suggested that Israel and Egypt, countries which share the water of the aquifer, formulate a joint action plan – including alternative water-supply sources, among them desalination facilities – to deal with the water crisis in Gaza. The Programme also recommended that an epidemiological survey be made to study the effects of polluted-water consumption on the Gazan population, especially on the children.

To cope with the grave water crisis in Gaza, Israel must immediately allow the entry of materials and equipment needed to rehabilitate and develop the water and wastewater-treatment systems there. Also, all the sides – Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the Hamas government, and Egypt – must take action to stop the rapid deterioration in the condition of the underground water system of the Coast Aquifer, which serves residents of the Gaza Strip, and find additional sources of drinking water for the residents.


Friday, 6 August 2010

Voice From Gaza: Israel has turned Gaza into the largest concentrat...

Voice From Gaza: Israel has turned Gaza into the largest concentrat...: "Written by Editors Sunday, 25 July 2010 01:52Interview with Haidar EidFounding member of the PCACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic..."

Israel has turned Gaza into the largest concentration camp in history

Written by Editors
Sunday, 25 July 2010 01:52

Interview with Haidar Eid

Founding member of the PCACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel).


The world was appalled by the Israeli massacre at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009. But then Gaza disappeared from Western news media. What is the situation today in Gaza, a year and a half after that genocidal attack?

To best describe the situation in Gaza today would be to refer to what Richard Falk, the UN rapporteur to the Occupied Territories, called "prelude to genocide" and what the Israeli anti-Zionist activist Ilan Pappe called a "slow-motion genocide." Despite the fact that bombs are not falling over us every few minutes as they did during the 22 day genocidal war, when the Israelis bomb or attack, they do so to kill as many Palestinians as possible.

After the occupation redeployed its troops around Gaza in 2006, what was a Bantustan turned into the largest concentration camp since Auschwitz and Warsaw during WW II as a direct result of the brutal blockade. We have over 90 medicines unavailable. Prenatal births, kidney dialysis and cancer patients are doomed to fatality as soon as they are diagnosed. Unavailable medical equipments and appropriate medical care are extinct and the slightest flue could have serious repercussions. A four year old child would not know what spaghetti or chocolate taste like because Israel has a list of 40 basic items that it allows in. We are treated as prisoners, rather much worse. Jimmy Carter said "Palestinians of Gaza are treated worse than animals!"

We wish we were prisoners in a so-called First World country for at least they have visitation rights which we don’t. Some of us have not seen their families and relatives for years now, and they could be only 40 minutes away in Jerusalem or in the other Bantustans of the West Bank. As a university professor, I have no resources to undergo research in my domain. The material I assign to my students is what I could find available on the internet—and only when electricity allows. Basic material like stationary and paper are unavailable. Books are also unavailable. Fuel is unavailable and I have lost my best students as a result of the deterioration of their conditions.

Many of their parents were factory workers but after Israel bombed factories and due to its hermetic siege, over forty thousand workers have lost their income. The occupation shoots, injures and often kills farmers as they harvest or water their crops. The fishermen are not allowed to exceed three miles at sea and are attacked, imprisoned and often killed at a distance of one mile depending on the soldiers’ whims. You can’t sleep, you can’t write, you can’t love, you can’t express yourself, or your pain under these conditions and the trauma is only growing as injustice continues.

How was the Zionist attack on May 31st against the humanitarian flotilla seen in Gaza?

It was a surprise and not a surprise. Yes, Israel is a terrorist state. One built on the blood and dead bodies of the Palestinians it has been ethnically cleansing since 1948. So, it’s killing of peace activists was not a surprise. What was a surprise was that it did it as the whole world was watching. We did not expect Israel to be stupid, but then again, isn’t that what fascist states mean to do? Ploy their own destruction? Zionism is a colonial movement and hence it is self-defeating.

Can we say it was a political victory for the Palestinian people, since the true nature of Zionism was revealed and Israel is isolated? Did that have a role in the temporary suspension of the blockade by Egypt? What is the situation on the Egypt/Gaza border?

How many more people should be killed for Israel to be held accountable in front of the international community and punished for its crimes? Weren’t the 413 children killed during the 22 day attacks enough? Weren’t the thousands of Palestinian killed since 1967 enough for the international community to put Israel in its place? The international community is complicit in the siege and in the killing as it stands silent and in denial. Richard Goldstone very clearly called Israel's attacks "war crimes and possible crimes against humanity!"

You are wrong to believe that the Rafah Crossing is open as the movement of people freely through is not allowed. Out of thousands a few hundreds are allowed, and their conditions are usually severe, and they have tried numerous times before that. If all the crossing surrounding Gaza were opened and Rafeh remained closed, then the siege remains. Rafeh is the only crossing that guarantees the freedom of movement of Gazans; it is our only exit to the external world.

The Israeli attack against the activists of the flotilla of the Free Gaza movement shocked everyone who feels respect for human beings. Why does Israel still blockade Gaza?

With the support of the international community and in particular the support of the US, Israel will not back down, it will continue the blockade, the settlement expansion, and the home demolitions in the West Bank. Its arrogance and power are to no limits and it won’t stop at anything until it is put in its place. As I mentioned earlier, the blockade is a continuation of Israel’s policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide that it has been practicing since 1948. We are a "surplus population", like Native Americans, that should not have existed in the first place!

But the direct reason as to why it still blockades Gaza is that Palestinians, "naively" taking George Bush for his words about "spreading democracy in the Middle East", went to the polling stations in January 2006 and voted a party that neither Israel nor the Us and Official Arab regimes want, a party that is against the Oslo Accords. That was a huge blow to the Bush doctrine and the peace industry. Hence the collective punishment by Israel, with the direct support and participation of the West.

Do you see any possibilities of gains for Palestinians through the so called peace process led by the Quartet (USA, ONU, EU, and Russia)?

Haven’t we learnt from Oslo and Camp David that Israel translates its military power onto the negotiation table? There will be and should be no peace without justice. That means for Israel to be punished for its war crimes and crimes against humanity and for the UN resolution 194 to be implemented and the return of all refugees who were expelled in the Nakba of 1948. No negotiation is possible between the executioner and the victim. After Gaza 2009, we no longer have faith in the international community, but in civil society. Due to the huge imbalance of power, Israel being the largest nuclear power in the region and owning the fourth largest army in the world on one hand, and Palestinians with stones and sometimes firecrackers called "rockets" on the other, the only way this imbalance could be overcome is to build on an international solidarity movement. There have been turning points in the Palestinian issue, with the First and Second Intifada, with Gaza 2009, and now the massacre against peace activists.

Similar to the growing international solidarity movement that lead to, amongst other pillars of struggle, the liberation of South Africa and the collapse of the racist apartheid regime, the liberation of Palestine is through this path. And what could be more powerful than the global BDS movement against Israel that has resulted in the South African dock workers boycotting apartheid Israel, the British UCU union of colleges and universities boycott, the Scottish and Irish trade unions, and also the achievements of brave student bodies in the US-- such as the Hampshire college, UC, Berkeley, and the University of Michigan at Dearborne-- that resulted in divestment from some companies that support Israel.

How is the Obama administration seen in Gaza?

The Obama administration is not different from Bush's. When Obama gave his much talked about speech at Cairo University, very few people took him seriously. They were proven right only last week when he held the white flag before Netanyahu upon the latter's visit to the White House. Israel is still expanding its settlements, ethnically cleansing Jerusalem, besieging Gaza, killing Palestinians and Internationals with the full support of the Obama administration. Obama never had a single word of sympathy with the murdered children and starving women of Gaza. The only difference between Obama and Bush, when it comes to Palestine, is only in style, not substance.

Do you believe the Arab and Muslim governments supported the Palestinian people against Israel all they should?

A defeatist attitude governs the official Arab regimes. The idea of an invincible Israel and the constant fear and need to satisfy the US are prevalent. The organization of Islamic conferences along with the Arab league have failed the Palestinian people and failed to put an end to this deadly siege. The mainstream and dominant political discourse in the Arab world is to make peace with Israel, no matter what this entails.

What is the importance of the BDS campaign (Boycott, De-invest, and Sanctions) to isolate Israel? Why is it important to establish a link between Israel and South African apartheid?

Our BDS campaign is modeled on the South African boycott campaign. Its importance emanates from the fact that there is a huge power imbalance between Israel and the Palestinians, similar to the imbalance between the apartheid regime and anti-apartheids campaign. The international community was called on to intervene and live up to its responsibilityagainst the racist regime. We expect the same. In the mid-70's an UN resolution considered apartheid a crime against humanity. Israel is an apartheid state that discriminates against the 1.2 million Israelis of Palestinian descent. But the 2005 Palestinian call for BDS called also for the end of the military occupation and colonization of the 1967 areas and the return of refugees in accordance with UN resolution 194. In other words, the importance of the BDS emanates from the fact that it is a rights-based campaign and the fact that it addresses ordinary people all over the world, represented by civil society, to live up to their moral responsibility. The campaign is democratic, secular, inclusive and universal. It worked against the apartheid regime, and it is working now against apartheid Israel.

What is your view of the PNA? And of the political forces on the left such as PFLP and DFLP?

The PNA is the product of the Oslo Accords, which were signed in 1993 in betrayal of the aspirations of the Palestinian people. The PLO recognized Israel, whereas the latter refused to recognize the Palestinian people's right to an independent state. Oslo gave the wrong impression that there are two equal parties fighting for border adjustments. Israel managed to get rid of the responsibility of administering heavily populated areas in the West Bank and Gaza, and has kept total control over the land, air and sea. Israeli occupation forces were redeployed and never withdrew.

The Oslo accords led to the creation of a neo-colonial administration at the expense of the PLO; an administration that does not have real power in spite of the flag, the national anthem, the presidencies, premierships and ministries: all mean absolutely nothing except a perpetuation of the occupation, but in a different gown. After 17 years of the "peace industry", Gaza has been transformed into a large open-air prison, a concentration camp a la Auschwitz and Warsaw, and the West Bank has been sliced into three major Bantustans—but with no sovereignty whatsoever.

The most dangerous outcome of Oslo is that it has managed to pacify the Palestinian Left. Nothing is left of Palestinian Left! Most left-wing activist, and I mean the hard-core here, have been NGOized. This process of NGOization, interrelated with Osloization, aims at washing out any revolutionary consciousness that the left is supposed to safeguard and replace it with false consciousness characterized by a new discourse about "empowerment of the disfranchised, projects, proposals, culture of peace, negotiations…etc".

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Austrian Armed Forces Advance Training - Day Two

Modular Period Three - Native Challenge

Austrian Armed Forces Advance Training - Day Two

Students in self-defense training

Just imagine for a moment, you are on a peacekeeping operation and you are confronted with one of these scenarios or situations: a planned or spontaneous negotiation with armed forces or militant groups, positioned in a dangerous mine location, entering into a building with explosive booby traps or stopped at a checkpoint. After that, you are held at gunpoint by a child soldier or member from a dangerous group and then kidnapped. What would you do? In reality, depending on the situation, one wrong decision may cause you to lose your life or a bodily limb; one wrong choice may put your life in jeopardy.

Students of this semester embarked on a journey, which went beyond creating these mental images. Rather, they were introduced to relevant theoretical knowledge by the military force on how to approach such situations. Simulations were also staged by the facilitators to allow students to use the knowledge gained in these and other situations.

Topics covered included: basic introduction to negotiations, mine awareness, self defense and security awareness. The aim of the presentation on negotiation was to familiarize students with the principles and aspects relating to preparation and conduct of negotiations in a typical peace keeping operation. A situational plot was carried out which involved negotiations with the different teams and a representative from an armed force in a staged conflict setting. Students acquired firsthand experience on the do’s and don’ts of negotiations and learned both from their successful attempts as well as their mistakes.

Students also viewed a film on mine awareness. It provided basic information on the general threat of mines and more importantly, what should be done if you are in a location which is suspected to have mines or other explosive traps. The facilitators even went a step further and created a situation of an empty house with staged booby traps and explosives. This demonstrated to students how simple it is to design and detonate such life threatening devices.

On a more physical note, through self-defense training, students became more aware of their strength and how it could be used when attacked under different circumstances and from different positions. It was emphasized by the facilitator that the purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate how to defend yourself and not to attack the perpetrator.

Day two of the training ended with a theoretical session on security awareness. The idea was that students would become more exposed to the importance of being cognizant of their environment and the security risk surrounding them. They were introduced to contingency planning, emergency procedures relating to passing check points, hostage taking or detention, armed robbery, shelling and communication with the radio.

While the four teams concluded an interesting day of training, the headquarters spent the day and most of the night planning the mission for the simulations which would commence on day three. Lights went out and they rested in preparation for the toughest days of the training; limits would be tested and memories of challenges created.[tt_news]=12&cHash=97326868d65d3d0214ee05b7bb61e3f1

Austrian Armed Forces Advance Training - Day One

Peace Students 2010 Modular Period Three - Native Challenge

Austrian Armed Forces Advance Training - Day One

Is this the toughest peace program in the world? Some individuals may answer yes to this question while others may disagree; nevertheless, the program definitely offers a unique learning approach encompassing new challenges and unforgettable experiences for peace students.

36 summer term students, coming from approximately 22 different countries, completed the first day of a five-day military training program. The training was facilitated by the Austrian Armed Forces at a military secured location in Tirol over 2000 meters high in the Austrian Alps.

As peace students, we often need the extra guidance and insight in choosing our main career focus as future peace workers. In this regard, students were given the opportunity to be exposed to situations through practical simulations and role-plays to help them make the decision or reflect on whether fieldwork in conflict and post conflict zones is an appropriate choice for their future.

Lessons were conducted by military personnel with an extensive accumulation of experience and expertise from missions abroad in locations such as Kosovo, Afghanistan, Chad etc. The Major in command noted to the students in the introduction session that the aim of this intense training is not only to provide them with basic deployment knowledge on peacekeeping operations abroad, but also to create an environment for developing the relevant practical skills and abilities which may save a person´s life on a field mission.

As the schedule of the day unfolded, students became familiar with the main objectives governing the activities for the training period. The facilitator in the introduction re-emphasized that a key feature of the training is learning by doing. As such, theoretical lessons are accompanied by practical training. It was further explained that there would be the planning of tasks by students to connect imparted fields of knowledge and situational training. Two days were designed mainly for theoretical and practical training and the remaining three days allowed for practical and suituational exercises.

“How can these objectives be achieved or realized?” To start with, the students were divided into five groups; a team which played the role of a headquarters in a typical peace keeping operation abroad (3rd term students) and four other teams or squads, which focused more on the implementation of plans designed by the headquarters (1st and 2nd term students).

The platform for the development of leadership skills, team building and interpersonal communication approaches was intricately presented to students since each group was assigned with a leader and second-in-command and working team members. This also applied for the headquarters team who had the responsibility for planning and assessing all the details regarding the logistical, financial and communication aspects of the simulation as well as adapting to the events and changes which unfolded from the student’s perspective.

With the teams divided and the main designated roles established, the headquarters was given the task to commence planning the simulated mission, while the other students continued with the theoretical and practical training. A basic overview of the United Nations in peacekeeping operations was presented; this included its role, functions, scope of operation under different UN articles and challenges encountered. The second presentation focused on the basics of peace support operation and the different staff structures.

On a more practical note, the final lecture of the day concluded with training on radio communication. Since the radio is considered one of the main mediums to communicate necessary updates on the location of team members and the status of assignments in the field, students became familiar with the guidelines and procedures and codes for sending and receiving messages.

Essentially, the first day of training served as a critical introduction for the days to follow and more over for students who decide to follow the path of working for peacekeeping operations in the field.[tt_news]=11&cHash=fb374467c847fa5f52f2a01761e3b60b