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We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that, among these, are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; and, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it. -July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence

 

Home arrow Blog arrow February 2008 arrow February 5, 2008

February 5, 2008
WAWA Blog February 5, 2008: This American Girl spoke with Gus in Gaza on Super Bowl Sunday

Gus, a civil engineer in Gaza spoke to me in Florida from his cell phone in Gaza by candlelight last Saturday night.

 
"The Israelis tell the media they are letting electricity in, but it's not true. Although, today was a big day, we had electricity for six hours; it's been only two or three hours a day that we have been having electric. It's hardest on the children, and they are all afraid in the dark. All they have is candle lights and they all worry if the Israelis are going to start the bombing again."
 
Gus has worked as a Civil Engineer in Gaza for the last ten years, but since Hamas was democratically elected in 2006, he has been forced to not report to his job if he wants to feed his family.
 
"The Abbas government in Ramallah pays us to stay home. If we go into work, they will cut our salary and prices keep going up, the black market is taking over. Flour, sugar and beans have gone up 35% and there is never enough petrol. It's been freezing last five days and all we have is charcoal and we burn old shoes for warmth.
 
"The only ones who are going into work are in the Ministries of Health and education. Hamas pays them with assistance from charities and individual support. Doctors make less than $1,000.00 a month and teachers around $300.00. Minimum wage is $200.00 and there is not much work anyway; just clerks and low level positions. Our infrastructure is hell and everyone is upset and angry, but not at Hamas.
 
"We have been living under siege for two years now. We live like primitives in third world conditions, like in Africa. The International world needs to understand we are human beings under siege and all we want is what every human being wants; we want to have dreams, but Gaza is a nightmare."


I phoned Gus back Super Bowl Sunday afternoon in Florida and he told me, "Today was our lucky day; we had electric for twelve hours! But a five minute walk away and they only had it for four hours today.

"The Ministry of Power is paid by Hamas, but Israel never allows enough gas and supplies in to keep up the maintenance. Our infrastructures are bankrupt and Israel allows barely a trickle of gas into Gaza a day."

This American girl will be phoning Gus daily until the siege ends.


People’s Power in Gaza


Palestinian people have succeeded where politics and thousands of international appeals have failed. They took matters into their own hands and they prevailed.


By Ramzy Baroud
Special to PalestineChronicle.com

In a radio interview prior to the US invasion of Iraq, David Barsamian asked Noam Chomsky what ordinary Americans could do to stop the war. Chomsky answered, “In some parts of the world people never ask, ‘what can we do?’ They simply do it.”

For someone who was born and raised in a refugee camp in Gaza, Chomsky’s seemingly oblique response required no further elucidation.

When Gazens recently stormed the strip’s sealed border with Egypt, Chomsky’s comment returned to mind, along with memories of the still relevant - and haunting - past.

In 1989, the Bureej refugee camp was experiencing a strict military curfew, as punishment for the killing of one Israeli soldier. The soldier’s car had broken down in front of the camp while he was on his way home to a Jewish settlement. Bureej had previously lost hundreds of its people to the Israeli army and killing the soldier was an unsurprising act of retaliation.

In the weeks that followed, scores of Palestinians in Bureej were murdered and hundreds of homes were demolished. The killing spree generated little media coverage in Israel.

I lived with my family in an adjacent refugee camp, Nuseirat, at the time. Characterised by extreme poverty, it was a natural home for much of the Palestinian resistance movement. Our house was located a few feet away from what was known as the ‘Graveyard of the Martyrs’. It was an area of high elevation that the local children often used to watch the movement of Israeli tanks as they began their daily incursion into the camp. We whistled or yelled every time we spotted the soldiers, and used sign language to communicate as we hid behind the simple graves.

Although watching, yelling and whistling were the only means of response at our disposal, they were far from safe. My friends Ala, Raed, Wael and others were all killed in these daily encounters

During Bureej’s most lethal curfew yet, the sound of explosions coming from the doomed camp reached us at Nuseirat. The people of my camp became engulfed in endless discussions which were neither factional nor theoretical. People were being brutally murdered, injured or impoverished, while the Red Cross was blocked access to the camp. Something had to be done.

And all of a sudden it was. Not as a result of any polemic endorsed by intellectuals or ‘action calls’ initiated at conferences, but as an unstructured, spur-of-the-moment act undertaken by a few women in my refugee camp. They simply started a march into Bureej, and were soon joined by other women, children and men. Within an hour, thousands of refugees made their way into the besieged neighbouring camp. “What’s the worst they could do?” a neighbour asked, trying to collect his courage before joining the march. “The soldiers will not be able to kill more than a hundred before we overpower them.”

Israeli soldiers stood dumbfounded before the chanting multitudes. While many marchers were wounded only one was killed. The soldiers eventually retreated to their barricades. UN vehicles and Red Cross ambulances sheltered themselves amidst the crowd and together they broke the siege.

I still remember the scene of Bureej residents first opening the shutters of their windows, then carefully cracking their doors, stepping out of their homes in a state of disbelief breaking into joy. My memory - of the chants, the tears, the dead being rushed to be buried, the wounded hauled on the many hands that came to the rescue, the strangers sharing food and good wishes -reaffirms the event as one of the greatest acts of human solidarity I have witnessed.

The scene was to be repeated time and again, during the first and Second Palestinian Uprising: ordinary people carrying out what seemed like an ordinary act in response to  extraordinary injustice.

The father who lost his son to free Bureej told the crowd: “I am happy that my son died so that many more could live.”

Later than day, our refugee camp fell under a most strict military curfew, to relive Bureej’s recent nightmare. We were neither surprised nor regretful. We had known the right thing to do and “we simply did it.”

Now Palestinian women, once more, have led Palestinian civil society in a most meaningful and rewarding way. Just when Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak was being congratulated for successfully starving Palestinians in Gaza to submission, ordinary women led a march to break the tight siege imposed on Gaza.

On Tuesday, January 22, they descended on the Gaza-Egypt border and what followed was a moment of pride and shame: pride for those ever-dignified people refusing to surrender, and shame that the so-called international community allowed the humiliation of an entire people to the extent that forced hungry mothers to brave batons, tear gas and military police in order to perform such basic acts as buying food, medicine and milk.

The next day, the courage of these women inspired the same audacity that the original batch of women in my refugee camp inspired nearly twenty years ago. Nearly half of the Gaza Strip population crossed the border in a collective push for mere survival. And when people march in unison, there is no worldly force, however deadly, that can block their way.

This “largest jailbreak in history”, as one commentator described it, will be carved in Palestinian and world memory for years to come. In some circles it will be endlessly analysed, but for Palestinians in Gaza, it is beyond rationalization: it simply had to be done.

Armies can be defeated but human spirit cannot be subdued. Gaza’s act of collective courage is one of the greatest acts of civil disobedience of our time, akin to civil rights marches in America during the 1960’s, South Africa’s anti-Apartheid struggle, and more recently the protests in Burma.

Palestinian people have succeeded where politics and thousands of international appeals have failed. They took matters into their own hands and they prevailed. While this is hardly the end of Gaza’s suffering, it’s a reminder that people’s power to act is just too significant to be overlooked.

-Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London).


http://www.pacbi.org/boycott_news
_more.php?id=A655_0_1_0_M

'Masterful prose - a scathing but heartfelt portrait.' Norman G. Finkelstein
The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle
By Ramzy Baroud




Gaza Redux¦ Third Time Around

February 1, 2008 

In mid-May, President Bush will be making another tour of the battlefields of peace in the Arab-Israeli dispute and will join in the celebrations for Israel's sixtieth year of independence. Meanwhile, in Gaza we are witnessing the destruction of the slim chance for peace and a two-state solution.

Gaza has been the issue causing wars between Israel and the Arab world twice before. The first Israeli invasion and occupation of Gaza occurred in 1956 during the Suez Crisis, but lasted only four months.  Heavy international pressure forced Israel to return the territory to Egyptian administrative control in 1957. The second invasion of Gaza occurred during the Six-Day War in 1967, and Israeli military control lasted for 38 years, until 2005. The Prime Minister of Israel and George W. seem equally shortsighted. Will it happen again as we seek to implement a clumsy policy that seems at times to be led by two blind men? 

This is the third time during those 60 years that the Israel/Palestine disagreement over splitting up the land west of the Jordan River has stumbled into making Gaza the centerpiece of that struggle between the two peoples. What began in Gaza in 1956/57 has now repeated itself in somewhat different ways.

In 1967, Israel went to war over the demand by Egypt that they be allowed back into Gaza under the original armistice agreements of 1948.   The six-day war was a huge success for Israel, more than quadrupling its territory.    Yet   in Gaza, over the years of the occupation, the Israelis consistently met the stubborn resistance of the population being held in this maximum security prison and denied even charity to maintain their existence.
 
There are many intriguing questions one could ask about this entirely new situation, perhaps they can be summed up by the whispers coming from Israel that Gaza should be seen as an opportunity to be an independent state. Will such a Gaza, with relations with the rest of the world and international organizations become the second part of an emerging two-state solution?    

Another interesting question one could ask is, where is the international pressure that originally forced Israel to withdraw in 1957?  The United Nations Security Council draft resolution regarding the humanitarian situation in Gaza was dropped after the United States threatened to exercise its veto.  The 15 members of the council studied the draft statement and all except the United States supported it. 

Domestically, there was rare showing of support of Palestinian human rights from members of Congress last week.  Representative Dennis Kucinich issued a letter (click here to see full text of letter) to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calling the Israeli blockade of Gaza illegal and detailing the humanitarian situation caused by the siege.  Ten other Members of Congress signed the letter: Neil Abercrombie, John Conyers Jr., Danny Davis, Sam Farr, Raul Grijalva, Maurice Hinchey, Eddie Johnson, Betty McCollum, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and James Oberstar.  Please show your support and appreciation for their actions by calling and/or writing to thank them.

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The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

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The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership....a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition. The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and common sense, of intellect and creative imagination, and of empathy and understanding between cultures."  - William Fulbright



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