Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A phone call for Gaza

While drifting in and out of sleep during a layover in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport this morning, I was finally brought into consciousness by a call from Lauren, a dear friend who lives near Los Angeles, California.

“I heard the updates about Gaza this morning and wanted to call you. I am so sorry.”

What more can be said at a time like this? I’ve had trouble putting any words to the images I’ve seen from Gaza since Saturday and to the feelings welling up inside of me as I think of friends in Palestine and of Palestinian friends here in the States wishing they were home with their loved ones. All of my past study on the political and historical context of the horrific events of the last few days has helped me to explain to people here what is happening, but even this doesn’t seem like enough as the bombs continue to fall.

“I don’t know what the Gaza Strip looks like, but I heard on the news this morning that the population density is similar to New York City.”

Like Lauren, I also have never been to Gaza. My first glimpse of what the Strip is like came from a friend I made during my undergraduate years. We met while I was reading the BBC in the library computer lab. At our tiny Midwestern Christian university it wasn’t common for Hassan to find someone reading news on the BBC, let alone news on Palestine. So, he struck up a conversation. Throughout that year (2002), I watched him ride a roller coaster of emotions. Calling home to Gaza to hear familiar voices was as therapeutic for Hassan as it was frightening. Practically every time he picked up the phone he received news that another friend had died or another family member was out of work. Hassan humanized Gazans for me in a way the BBC never could. They became more than numbers on a webpage: they were his obstinate mother whose strength kept the family going; they were Hassan’s depressed father who after months of unemployment was ashamed of not being able to provide for his family; they were his sister who loved learning and devoured every book that crossed her path; they were his younger brother who hated living in Gaza, but had no way of leaving. They were people sharing life with one another, hoping for better days amidst a world of pain and oppression.

“It doesn’t seem right to be heading towards Disneyland today as a war is just beginning.”

Lauren’s words echoed my thoughts. What do you do at a time like this? Living an entire ocean away, how can you adequately take in what is happening and respond in some way? These thoughts are not new, of course. Every tragedy has the power to bring such questions to the surface. I wanted to invite my friend to the protests happening in Washington, DC this week. However, knowing her pocket book couldn’t handle the expense and knowing one or two protests are not enough to move my government, I instead told her about this blog.

“Please send it to me. And I promise I’ll send it out to everyone I know. It’s the least I can do.”
And writing this piece this morning as I travel home to DC is the least I can do, and hopefully it is just the beginning. To those in Gaza, please know you are not forgotten. And to those outside of Gaza, whatever your opinion on this war, do not forget that Gazans are more than casualty numbers or the titles of “civilian and combatant”. They are human beings like you and me.

Sarah Scruggs, American
Washington, DC

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I love Gaza

Painted last night.. off the Bruckner in the Bronx, 149th street...
everyone sees it driving into and out of the city there...

Max Uhlenbeck

Monday, December 29, 2008

Three Hundred Sunflowers

My aunt shakes,
“who told you?”
her voice bleeds through the phone,
“three hundred in one night, and we
haven’t gotten over
our one natural death.”

Before my mom died,
she hesitantly collected sunflowers.
She would contemplate ripping them from the ground,
“Everything has a mother,” she would whisper,
in the mountain’s green ear.

A girl, two-years-old,
held the hand of stranger,
her mom told her never to but now,
she is buried in the rubble
of a mosque.
They were hiding from ten thousand bombs
exploding like light bulbs,
who is kinder than God to shield them,
in his holiest house?

A boy, sleeping under the bed, dreams
of windows, the bringers
of oxygen.
He smiles, in quiet revenge of missiles
that are sucked out of breath.
There is nothing more beautiful
than air.

In the police station,
down the street from the sea,
There was a graduation.
Policemen celebrated learning the laws of traffic,
on streets were cars park in the middle
to buy bread or bananas.
Drivers yell “we didn’t wait for the Israelis
to halt our stones and you think
we are going to stop for red?”
One policeman dreamed of the day he raises
his hand and freezes a river of vehicles.
He believed in the sugar of magic.
When the doctor arrived, right after the bombs
fell everywhere, he didn’t know which arms
belonged to which body,
they were all equally toned.

A woman, twenty two,
has been putting olive oil on her hair,
every single day, these last three months.
Her grandma, whose breasts are still firm
told her that the juice of olives,
pulls the hair longer, triple
its natural capacity.
She counted months and thought,
her summer wedding would have to brace itself
for locks of curly, black hair.
When they found her, curled up under her building,
with an iron wire passing through her heart,
her plastic hat was fully intact.

There is a man the neighborhood hated.
He used to beat up his wife,
in the dim of the night.
When he got mad at her,
for forgetting to iron his shirt,
he would throw her food out the door.
Pieces of the fifth missile,
pierced through him,
and the pot.

One of the men whose ceiling
melted onto his body,
really wanted to be in love.
He said he wasn’t in it for sex,
but for the drunkenness of emotions.
He wanted to be so love struck
he would write letters to the moon.
He wanted to say things like “your
eyes are the irises of the universe,”
and not feel ashamed.

Last night, I slept with my teeth clenched
pressing news headlines tattooed
on burned bodies.
I had a dream
of a big bandage comforting
the city with mint ointment.
as ten giant men were lining
the brown parts on the smoky buildings
my mom stepped in, and shooed them away.
She put my hands together
pressed them like jars of pickles,
we can do nothing but pray for healing,
so pray baby, pray.

Tala A.Rahmeh, Palestinian
Washington, DC

Gaza: Lessons to Learn from Lebanon

For the past few days, I have watched the tragic events unfold in Gaza and have tried to make sense of the unfolding situation. I realize that as an American Palestinian who has friends in Gaza, I could write a very frustrated personal rant which cries out for social justice, peace, change and the like. Instead, I would actually like to take this post in a different direction for various reasons. I wish to first, share some self-conscious reflections based upon my personal experiences and secondly, shift the latter part of this post into the analytical realm.

For starters, my family is admittedly pretty distant from the events in Gaza and I will not in any way suggest that I can truly understand, grasp, or even imagine the human horror of the situation, or for that matter other humanitarian crises worldwide. During my visit to south Lebanon in January 2007 (a few months after the summer war), I still felt distant even as I gazed at the glass bits that cluttered the streets, the exposed sewage, the main roads lined with armed soldiers, the barbed wire, the UN convoys, and the children playing in bombed ruins. I recall staring up at signs which in Arabic warned Tyre’s worn residents to not venture off the streets due to the presence of cluster bombs in the area. I just remember silently asking, “Why? Why? Why? Is it all really worth it? Is it?”

Even then as I tried desperately to understand the human face behind conflicts in the Middle East, I still could not possibly say that I was able to empathize with people or share their experiences. The reality of the situation was and still is I am an American citizen who lives a relatively comfortable life a world away from the world’s conflicts and human tragedies. My family may consist mainly of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war, but we are still very fortunate–my relatives have created a comfortable middle class life for themselves in neighboring Arab countries.

What we Palestinians abroad and elsewhere then collectively share is a feeling of loss and grief–a lack of national actualization. We shed tears and grieve not because we can necessarily come to grips with the death and destruction occurring in the remains of Palestine–though many can. We distant travelers and wanderers cry for the remains of our beloved country, our homeland, and our very national identity because it has not been defined by peace or prosperity–such entities have been torn apart as they were defined by perpetual pain and loss. Perhaps this is a reason Palestinians have learned to journey through this world as permanent travelers; we are wanderers who collectively reminisce over our shared memories and experiences, yet never fit into any part of this world including a part we label ours.

I do not pretend to be an effective poet or artist who can capture our collective human spirit through creative expression. This task should be left to others who will likely perform it better than I possibly could. Instead, I would like to venture beyond self-conscious reflections to ask larger questions. Amidst inaction at the international level, individuals at a person-to-person level can try to learn from such experiences. I will thus use the remainder of this post to address the following questions: Have the parties to the conflict ignored their lessons from history? Are there parallels between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at this stage compared to other aspects of this conflict in previous times (perhaps at the regional level)? If so, how can we analyze and address such comparisons? Furthermore, what dynamics of this conflict can we elucidate through historical analysis?

Given that this is already a lengthy blog post, I also do not pretend to offer concrete or sufficient answers to the above questions. I only ask that we consider them to reflect upon this complex situation. Consider this a basic start.

My first impression after hearing the news from Gaza is that there are quite a few parallels between this recent set of airstrikes and those which occurred during the 2006 summer war between Hizbullah and Israel. There are a few key points here to consider: Hizbullah arguably triggered the war initially through capturing two Israeli soldiers at the border, killing others, and constantly launching rockets into northern Israel. (Amnesty International’s 2006 report documented the details of the war and can be viewed here). In response, Israel launched a 34 day war of airstrikes by land, sea, and air which resulted in an estimated 1,183 casualties of which a third were children, 4,054 people injured, and 970,000 Lebanese and Palestinian people displaced. Hizbullah in turn launched rockets into northern Israel which killed 40 civilians including both Israelis and Israeli Arabs.

The Amnesty Report also provided the following insights based upon interviews with both Israeli and Lebanese officials:

“According to the New York Times, the IDF Chief of Staff said the air strikes were aimed at keeping pressure on Lebanese officials, and delivering a message to the Lebanese government that they must take responsibility for Hizbullah’s actions. He called Hizbullah “a cancer” that Lebanon must get rid of, “because if they don’t their country will pay a very high price.”

The widespread destruction of apartments, houses, electricity and water services, roads, bridges, factories and ports, in addition to several statements by Israeli officials, suggests a policy of punishing both the Lebanese government and the civilian population in an effort to get them to turn against Hizbullah. Israeli attacks did not diminish, nor did their pattern appear to change, even when it became clear that the victims of the bombardment were predominantly civilians, which was the case from the first days of the conflict.”

There are two interesting developments here to consider: 1) based upon the above report, a few parallels exist between Gaza’s present situation and that of Lebanon’s in 2006 which merit attention, and 2) there are a few lessons that can be learned from the war in Lebanon that can be applied elsewhere. After all, Israel is not the only state that has launched airstrikes in an attempt to weaken militant or insurgent movements.

South Lebanon, like Gaza, is not only a politically volatile region, but is also extremely difficult to govern given previous humanitarian crises, frequent wars and violent skirmishes across the border, and the lack of a strong central government which enjoys full sovereignty (sounds strikingly similar to Pakistan and Afghanistan at times doesn’t it?). The end result is that non-state actors (in this case, political Islamist movements like Hizbullah and Hamas) are able to enjoy free reign in a politically unstable environment that is ripe for mobilization of new recruits.

All such movements need is a worthy cause and an extra reason to adopt politically violent resistance in the name of God and country. Israel’s fundamental error in Lebanon was not merely tactical–in my view, it would not matter whether or not they restricted their attacks to the air or pursued an actual ground raid. Likewise, in Gaza, it will not matter if they shift tactics and try to ‘learn’ from their encounter with Hizbullah. They committed the same mistake in 1982 that they did in 2006 and arguably will in 2008 in Gaza: by assuming that national security can be increased solely through military means, that an influential social movement can be defeated through sheer force or weakened, and by assuming that the local population will turn against such movements under extreme duress, Israel’s actions in Lebanon and Gaza have and will likely undermine its security and its political position in the Middle East. These airstrikes have already angered both Arabs and Muslims across the region–moderates and extremists included.

Hamas, like Hizbullah, will likely end up the unintended victor of this scenario since even moderate Gazans, other Palestinians, other Arabs, and quite possibly other Muslims elsewhere will likely support the political actor they believe opposes the state that is responsible for killing 300 civilians. I would argue the historical lesson to be learned from Lebanon is that airstrikes and sheer force will not necessarily lead to greater national security, but will instead produce the opposite result. The attacks in Gaza will not win the hearts and minds of moderates throughout the region, but will instead harden them, embolden them, and intensify their polarization at a time when negotiations are desperately needed and a comprehensive peace process is sorely absent.

In environments where central governments (or in Gaza, the inherent lack thereof) do not enjoy full sovereignty, the military intervention or attack by another state or political actor ultimately undermines any remaining sovereignty, power, and influence the central government previously enjoyed. The end result of the recent attacks in Gaza may very well be a further fractured Palestinian government, increased support for Hamas over other Palestinian political actors that embrace negotiations, and a further shift in the regional balance of power towards militant movements that have no desire to sit down at the negotiation table.

If Israel truly wanted to increase its security or to progress in the steps of restarting the peace process, its political and military establishment would rethink the lessons learned from Lebanon and pursue ’solutions’ beyond simple tactical changes. Likewise, if Hamas truly cared about Palestinian civilians, they would not commit the same mistake as Hizbullah and provoke violent responses across the border that usually result in the loss of human life.

The tragedy inherent in this situation is that both sides lack the politically courageous leadership needed to resolve conflicts and pursue tough negotiation. The Palestinian and Israeli leadership is weak, fractured, and all too willing to pursue temporary solutions that will likely fail and set us back further than initially imagined.

Nawal Mustafa, Palestinian

Washington, DC

My Journey with Shadow

I turned the TV on this morning, holding my bowl of cereal. I saw smoke, debris and bodies on the ground! But I had blurry eyes because I still haven’t washed them! I put my breakfast down without taking a bite and went to the bathroom to wash my eyes. On my way I saw a shadow in front of me! I thought I was going insane but it put its hand into my hand. We then flew.

We are fighting the cold air, the flames, smoke, and a horrible smell. I coughed until my stomach started bleeding. I saw my own blood fly in front of me. I was trying to show the shadow so we can stop for a minute until I regain strength. ‘We have no time’, the shadow said to me. We flew faster and lower. My stomach groans and squeaks from hunger.

Suddenly, I see myself standing on top of a demolished burnt building. I look around and see people crying, screaming, running. I can’t exactly see what else because the black smoke is covering my vision and a strong smell takes over my thought.

I felt my body shake; at first I thought it was an earthquake. I begged and cried to Shadow to take me back home. I told him I have seen enough. He then asked me if I knew where I am. I was so embarrassed and told him that I haven’t got a clue. I was too scared and confused to even ask that question. I just wanted to go home.

Someone grabbed my foot from underneath the debris. I screamed so loud I can hear my echo. I yelled to Shadow and asked him if this is a scene from a horror film. I told Shadow I hate horror films and commanded him to take me home.

‘GAZA, this is GAZA it is no horror film, it is reality’. Shadow said.

I can feel my body no more. I am numbed. Tears are trapped in my eyes. I unconsciously bend down and see who is holding my foot. I can’t see a face, but I can hear his voice. It is a young teenager’s voice.

This is what he said to me:

‘I saw a flicker of light in the sky…Now all I can see is darkness…I can’t even remember if I heard the blast... I was just passing by this morning…I remember my friend and I were together…I can’t see him now…I wonder if anyone of you saw him…I can give clues of what he looks like…

I do remember he only has one leg…I remember him telling me how he lost it sometime ago to a situation almost like this…

I also remember the marks he had around his body from prison torture…

I remember his hand without fingers; he lost them when he found a buried ambush …

I don’t know what he has lost now! But I do know he won’t lose his heart because it is soft no more…I recall his lecture about the heart… ‘It has many doors, all are soft, but the door of fear in my heart turned into stone’

When that young boy said that, I wondered why my heart can’t turn into stone…

I want to be as strong as him and his friend…

Here I am trying to take off burnt debris off the boy, but he insisted I find his friend first.

Shadow first said he wanted to show me something else. We flew a few minutes away into a house. The TV was open. I can hear people in power from different Arab countries saying something like ‘…and we should stop this… we should be… we will … we support…’

At that moment I just wanted to smash the TV. I can’t understand why people talk and never do… those in power show their sympathy, as if we need it…

I can tell them what we need… ‘we need you to get off your fat lazy asses and start doing something… start fighting with us… start showing concern… and stop talking…

‘We understand the necessity of this; Israel is only trying to protect themselves!’

I can never understand when I hear this on TV from foreign countries WHHHHHHHAAAT the HELL

Don’t fool me!

I am sure whoever thinks like that was born without a heart! Where is Mercy!!!

I wouldn’t wish that for any nation! That is just a sign of weakness. You just don’t want to get yourselves involved you fear everything … you fear you’ll lose that nice comfy chair and bed of yours…is that the reason!

Shadow grabs my hand and we fly back into the black smoky air with the smell of cooked bodies with fresh blood. I tell him to take me back down. But he wouldn’t he told me his time with me is coming to an end. My tears finally drop and mingle with other tears and I see my blood mingle with theirs.

I look at my stomach and the bleeding stops. I felt a part of my heart turn into stone. Suddenly, I became fearless.

But still what can I do? What have I done! Why did shadow come and take me to that journey? What is he trying to tell me? Why did I meet that teenage boy under the debris? Why did he want me to find his friend?

I wonder if you all went through that journey, will you still be sitting on your chairs and eating popcorn and watching TV?

Lema Salem / Palestine

Do not Forget

my rage is inarticulate today. i cannot believe this is happening again, not because it is not predictable, but because the Israeli state's insistence on perpetuating genocide in my generation threatens my belief in humanity. i take this personally.

i am grateful that i hold someone in my heart whose rage is articulate.

i ask that as we hold everyone in Gaza in our hearts we remember this poem by June Jordan:

Apologies to All the People in Lebanon

Dedicated to the 60,000 Palestinian men, women and children who lived in Lebanon from 1948-1983

I didn't know and nobody told me and what
could I do or say, anyway?

They said you shot the London Ambassador
and when that wasn't true
they said so
They said you shelled their northern villages
and when U.N. forces reported that was not ture
because your side of the cease-fire was holding
since more than a year before
they said so
They said they wanted simply to carve
a 25 mile buffer zone and then
they ravaged your
water supplies your electricity your
hospitals your schools your highways and byways all
the way north to Beirut because they said this
was their quest for peace
They blew up your homes and demolished the grocery
stores and blocked the Red Cross and took away doctors
to jail and they cluster-bombed girls and boys
whose bodies
swelled purple and black into twice the original size
and tore the buttocks from a four month old baby
and then
they said this was brilliant
military accomplishment and this was done
they said in the name of self-defense they said
that is the noblest concept
of mankind isn't that obvious?
They said something about never again and then
they made close to on million human beings homeless
in less than three weeks and they killed or maimed
40,000 of your men and your women and your children

But I didn't know and nobody told me and what
could I do or say, anyway?

They said they were victims. They said you were
They called your apartments and gardens guerilla

They called the screaming devastation
that they created the rubble.
Then they told you to leave, didn't they?

Didn't you read the leaflets that they dropped
from their hotshot fighter jets?
They told you to go.
One hundred and thirty-five thousand
Palestinians in Beirut and why
didn't you take the hint?
There was Mediterranean: You
could walk into the water and stay
What was the problem?

I didn't know and noboby told me and what
could I do or say, anyway?

Yes, I did know it was the money I earned as a poet that
for the bombs and the planes and the tanks
that they used to massacre your family

But I am not an evil person
The people of my country aren't so bad

You can expect but so much
from those of us who have to pay taxes and watch
American TV

You see my point;

I'm sorry.
I really am sorry

Jade Foster, American


I just got off the phone with my friend Nizar. I met him when he was
getting his Masters at the University of Michigan last year, under a
scholarship from the Academy for Educational Development. He returned
last summer to his wife, children, and UN job in the Gaza Strip.

Typically, when I hear from Nizar after incursions, bombardments, or
several days of consecutive border closures, he is unfathomably
optimistic. He brushes off my apprehensions and moves on to more
interesting things. What do I think about the Annapolis conference?
What did I do for Thanksgiving?

On Saturday, I received an email from him that said simply, "this time
is very different."

The first thing he told me over the phone is that he is fine. His wife
and children have not been hurt in the aerial bombardments that have
taken place since Saturday, in which over 300 people have been killed.
The second thing he told me is that this is not the end. Israel is
planning a ground invasion and he is sure his village will be
effected. Beit Hanoun, situated along the northern border with Israel,
has been the scene of sporadic Israeli incursions and aerial attacks
since 2005.

Nizar's fears are not limited to the anticipation of an incursion,
however. "The Beit Hanoun security station is 70 meters away from my
house," his calm voice quivered. "It hasn't been hit yet."

If Israel continues its attacks targeting Gaza's security apparatus,
the police station in Nizar's community will undoubtedly be hit.
Nizar, his family, and his neighbors will be at risk of becoming yet
another statistic of civilian casualties. An estimated one-third of the
casualties in Gaza since Saturday have been civilian.

Before I hang up the phone, I say, "Please let me know if there is
anything I can do for you," and
we both burst out laughing.

Clearly, there is nothing I can do.

A million paper petitions couldn't construct a white flag big enough
to be seen by an unmanned drone. A
hundred thousand tiny rockets couldn't shoot down that missile and
send the shrapnel to disappear into space. All the hubris and spite
from the mouths of comfortable leaders couldn't make Gaza into a
fortress. All the condemnations from foreign heads of state are buried
in the debris.

Elizabeth Detwiler, American
Washington, DC

A Poem for Gaza

I never knew death until I saw the bombing of a refugee camp
Craters filled with disfigured ankles and splattered torsos
But no sign of a face, the only impression a fading scream
I never understood pain
Until a seven-year-old girl clutched my hand
Stared up at me with soft brown eyes, waiting for answers
But I didn't have any
I had muted breath and dry pens in my back pocket
That couldn't fill pages of understanding or resolution

In her other hand she held the key to her grandmother's house
But I couldn't unlock the cell that caged her older brothers
They said, we slingshot dreams so the other side will feel our father's presence
A craftsman
Built homes in areas where no one was building
And when he fell, he was silent
A .50 caliber bullet tore through his neck shredding his vocal cords
Too close to the wall
His hammer must have been a weapon
He must have been a weapon
Encroaching on settlement hills and demographics

So his daughter studies mathematics
Seven explosions times eight bodies
Equals four Congressional resolutions
Seven Apache helicopters times eight Palestinian villages
Equals silence and a second Nakba
Our birthrate minus their birthrate
Equals one sea and 400 villages re-erected
One state plus two peoples…and she can't stop crying
Never knew revolution or the proper equation
Tears at the paper with her fingertips
Searching for answers
But only has teachers
Looks up to the sky and see stars of David demolishing squalor with hellfire missiles

She thinks back words and memories of his last hug before he turned and fell
Now she pumps dirty water from wells, while settlements divide and conquer
And her father's killer sits beachfront with European vernacular
She thinks back words, while they think backwards
Of obscene notions and indigenous confusion

This our land!, she said
She's seven years old
This our land!, she said
And she doesn't need a history book or a schoolroom teacher
She has these walls, this sky, her refugee camp
She doesn't know the proper equation
But she sees my dry pens
No longer waiting for my answers
Just holding her grandmother's key…searching for ink

Remi Kanazi, Palestinian
New York, New York

Sunday, December 28, 2008

To Our People of Gaza

To our people in Gaza. To the dead and living.

Your cries and wails flood my entire house. Your bodies lie scattered and abandoned around me, in my sink, on top of my shelves, in corners, across the carpet, all over the floor, hanging from ceilings, limbs dangling, drooping, swaying. Lined one by one, thrown out one by one, tossed aside like shrapnel, piled one on top of another. Your faces follow mine, eyes closed tightly, peacefully, slightly, barely, wide open in horror, disbelief, and defiance. Food is tasteless. I drink the smoke and dust. I steal your air and watch you suffocate. I wash my hands yet still see blood and smell the stench of death, of fear, of desolation. My tears do not warm your bodies, and you remain dead. No time to mourn, no time to learn your names or your features, no time to count down your last seconds or find your missing limbs.

As the night nears, I slowly give in to my own weariness and abandon you. Forgive me for turning off the TV before going to bed. But for what it’s worth, I can’t seem to sleep.

May your names be learned, your faces remembered, your deaths mourned and your life rekindled. May our words reach those who are deaf. May we all finally find real, genuine peace within us. Inshallah.

Nada Dajani, Palestinian
Jerusalem, Palestine

Live From Gaza

It's 1.30 am but it feels like the sun should be up already. For the past few hours there's been heavy aerial bombardment of Gaza city and the northern Gaza Strip simultaneously. It feels like the longest night of my life. In my area it started with the bombing of workshops (usually located in the ground floor of private/family residential buildings), garages and warehouses in one of the most highly condensed areas in Gaza city "Askoola". About an hour ago they bombed the Islamic university, destroying the laboratory building. As I mentioned in an earlier account, my home is close to the university. We heard the first explosion, the windows shook, the walls shook and my heart felt like it would literally jump out of my mouth. My parents, siblings and cousins who have been staying with us since their home was damaged the first day of the air raids, had been trying to get some sleep. We all rushed to the side of the house that was farthest. Hala, my 11 year old sister stood motionless and had to be dragged to the other room. I still have marks on my shoulder from when Aya, my 13 year old cousin held on to me during the next 4 explosions, each one as violent and heart stopping as the next. Looking out of the window moments later the night sky had turned to a dirty navy-gray from the smoke .

Israeli warships rocketed the Gazas only port only moments ago, 15 missiles exploded, destroying boats and parts of the ports. These are just initial reports over the radio. We don't know what the extent of the damage is. We do know that the fishing industry that thousands of families depend on either directly or indirectly didn't pose a threat on Israeli security The radio reporter started counting the explosions, I think he lost count after 6. At his moment we heard 3 more blasts. "I'm mostly scared of the whoosh", I told my sister, referring to the sound a missile makes before it hits. Those moments of wondering where its going to fall are agonizing. Once the whooshes and hits were over the radio reporter announced that the fish market (vacant of course) had been bombed.

We just heard that 4 sisters from the family of "Ba'lousha" have been killed in an attack that targeted the mosque my their home in the northern Gaza Strip.

You know what bothers me more than the bangs and the blasts, the smoke, the ambulance sirens and the whooshs? The constant, ominous, maddening droning sound of the Apaches overhead that’s been buzzing in my head day and night. It's like I'm hearing things, which I'm not, but I am.

Safa Joudeh, Palestinian
Gaza, Palestine

J Street Comment

Dear J Street Member,

Twenty-four hours ago, Israeli Defense Forces struck the Gaza Strip, leaving hundreds dead and wounded - pushing the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict further down a path of never-ending violence.

I felt immediate pressure from friends and family to pick a side. Did I think that Israel's actions were fully justified or disproportionate? Did Hamas bring this on itself by firing rockets and provoking Israel or are the strikes an act of aggression against a people trapped in misery and poverty? Couldn't I see who's right and who's wrong?

At this moment of extreme crisis, J Street wants to demonstrate that, among those who care about Israel and its security, there is a constituency for sanity and moderation. There are many who recognize elements of truth on both sides of this gaping divide and who know that closing it requires strong American engagement and leadership.

Click here to sign our petition demanding an immediate and strong U.S.-led diplomatic effort to reinstate a meaningful ceasefire ending the violence, including the rockets aimed at Israel, and lifting the blockade of Gaza.

Israel has a special place in my heart. I lived there last year while my wife was studying to be a rabbi. But I recognize that neither Israelis nor Palestinians have a monopoly on right or wrong. While there is nothing "right" in raining rockets on Israeli families or dispatching suicide bombers, there is nothing "right" in punishing a million and a half already-suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists among them.

And there is nothing to be gained from debating which injustice is greater or came first. What's needed now is immediate action to stop the violence before it spirals out of control.

The United States, the Quartet, and the world community must not wait - as they did in the Israel-Lebanon crisis of 2006 - for weeks to pass and hundreds or thousands more to die before intervening. There needs to be an urgent end to the new hostilities that brings a complete end to military operations, including an end to the rocket fire out of Gaza, and that allows food, fuel and other civilian necessities into Gaza.

The need for diplomatic engagement goes beyond a short-term ceasefire. Eight years of the Bush Administration's neglect and ineffective diplomacy have led us directly to a moment when the prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict hang in the balance and with them the prospects for Israel's long-term survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

Following a renegotiated ceasefire, we urge the incoming Obama administration to lead an early and serious effort to achieve a comprehensive diplomatic resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflicts.

This is a fundamental American interest. We too stand to suffer as the situation spirals, rage in the region is directed at the United States, and our regional allies are further undermined. Our goals must be a Middle East that moves beyond bloody conflicts, an Israel that is secure and accepted in the region, and an America secured by reducing extremism and enhancing stability. None of these goals are achieved by further escalation.

Even in the heat of battle, as friends and supporters of Israel, we need to remember that only diplomacy and negotiations can end the rockets and terror and bring Israel long-term security and peace. American politicians are already hearing from those who see only one side. Help us give voice to the large number of Americans who recognizes that justice will only be served when the rights and grievances of both sides are recognized and a peaceful two-state solution to this long-running conflict is put in place.

Click here to sign our petition to show your support for immediate and strong U.S. intervention to renegotiate a ceasefire in Gaza.

We know that many policy makers agree with us privately, but hesitate to express their views publicly because they hear only from the partisan extremes. This is our moment to show that there is real political support for shedding a narrow us-versus-them approach to the Middle East.

The situation in Gaza could not be more urgent. Who knows how many more lives will be lost before this round of violence is over? When it ends, will we look back and say if only we had spoken out sooner, more lives could have been saved, more damage avoided?

As far back as I can remember, those who see the world in black and white have overwhelmed those of us who see the shades of gray. I hope that you'll help us to change that dynamic by forwarding this message to everyone you know - after you've signed our petition.

Thank you so much for joining our efforts at this difficult time. Together, we can achieve an end to this round of violence, a resumption of the ceasefire, and a serious move toward peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.

Isaac Luria

Online Director
J Street

Half Brothers

According to Islam, Christianity and Judaism, Arabs and Jews are half brothers. Abraham’s wife, Sarah could not have children and so Abraham asked Hagar, his servant to have his child. After the child was born, it turned out that Sarah is pregnant. Sarah’s son was believed to give birth to the Jews and Hagar’s son to Arabs.

Judaism is the oldest monotheistic religion.

Jesus’ parents were Palestinian Jews.

Arabs are known as one of the oldest poets and scientists ( especially known for Astronomy and Algebra).

A wise man tore us into being, brother.

You were the chosen,

I was a son of a slave.

Brother, I counted stars and travelled the earth for so long,

I invented the truths and carved poetry…father was proud.

But you, brother, you gave birth to Gods and afterlife,

Wrote sacred books and hummed prayers…

You were the prophet, the savior and THE son.

Children are cruel, they got jealous of the title

They weaved a cloth out of hatred and death

Hunger and silence embroidered bloody crimson collar.

Evil seeped through and tore the cloth somehow.

You stand tall and strong now, brother.

You decided to pass me your dress.

The dress bit right into the outside of my soul and yelled for demons,


Your gift hurt mother’s eyes

Proud, you sewed the dress into my flesh with needles made of tears and a thread made of mercilessness.

Brother, can’t you see the dress does not fit?

Gods hear me bleed but they’re afraid

Of your anger.

Brother, lately the dress is getting wider.

Needles grew out of my dress, threads made of no tomorrow sniff looking for your skin.

Brother, they will find you.

But I won’t let you die alone.

Nadia Al-Ahmad, Palestinian
Amherst, Massachusetts

Saturday, December 27, 2008


I walked this morning with my briefcase
And all I heard were voices
Reverberating like song
As the day began to emerge.

I walked this morning with my briefcase
For I was going to work
Then the peace was ended
Political action

The rockets descended
For no human can see the force
Behind such mass destruction
Behind cloaked, ignorant laws.

They pounded the ground around me
I stood, briefcase in hand,
Craters threw out corpses
Children bled
Once the ground again
They found.

Alarms rang out in chaos
The echo of every bomb
For they know not the intruder
The invisible coward

Hoards began to usher
The wounded
The dead
To other places
But their plight once arriving
Piles of people
Piles of faces.

The blood ran beneath my feet
My grip consuming my briefcase
Concrete showered the streets
Fire screened the waste.

But above the military crescendos
Above fire and smoke and blood
Were the screams, the ailing voices
The screams, the screams a flood.

Into the vacuum they bellowed
Into the vacuum, consumed
For who hears the scream of the innocent?

Not even those who planned, who loomed
Above the night, the dawn
Above the baby and nurse
Above the Chief of Police
Above the stranded pawn

For this is not a time for consideration
Of peace, of justice nor love
This is the war of man
And all that he does covet.

My briefcase was of course empty
I walk each day only to pretend
That my life has any function
In this walled hovel, this existential dead-end.
Clinging to it now, as I stand unable to move
I cannot even believe in the children
As my means to what could improve,
Taken in the name of justice
Yet they took justice to the grave
For where the just are slain in innocence
They take the glory with which to save,

Tom Scott, Irish
Kilcoole, Ireland

A letter from Gaza

Mama,I'm dying...

Long long ago I saw the future.
There, at the abandoned refugee camp
spitting despair and smoking up better days.

I hope you bake your hands in bread.
I hope your hands are warm.

I smell ashes of my children sometimes,
I can't quite make out what the smoke whispers but I feel that it's
I try not to listen.

Mama,I'm dying.

I fade away just like the letters that birds tried to draw in the sky, asking
for help,
but they bleed and fall down before they write "HELP" and instead it's just

I heard the soil choke on words and I decided to lay down and listen.
I know how bad it hurts when no one listens.

Mama, it got so heavy.
The pain is so heavy I will just lay here.

Mama, I'm dying.

I've been starving for months...
But then a little boy came and gave me some bitter bread.
He says he's from some camp.
He says it's dark and scary but they still give them bread, so he shares.

His mom reminds me of you.
She also has quiet dim eyes.
Her smile still holds some light.
It's not as bright as the yellow star on her coat.


I'm dying.

I've been lonely for so long, but the boy comes and we lay on the ground, listen
and hold hands.
We don't cry.
We don't know how.

Sometimes we are so many people,here, on the ground.
A lot of us have wounds but we don't try to stop them from bleeding.

Nothing ever is about the blood.

Mama,I'm dying.

I've just been born today.

Nadia Al-Ahmad, Palestinian
Amherst, Massachusetts


Tonight we light the Chanuka candles not in commemoration of the revolt against tyranny of 2000 years ago but in solidarity with the people of Gaza who are being subjected to collective punishment at the hands of an insane regime. And in the hopes that we can save today's people of Israel from their own leaders, much, much more dangerous to Jewish survival than the foreign tyrants of old.

Mark Braverman, American
Bethesda, Maryland

The people of Truth

Sixty years, 60 years, sixty years, and damn the 60 years. Say what you will but our fingers all point over here, on the left side of our chest. Saturday, December 27th, 2008 is every day, every single day where my siblings live, but today is the day hundreds of my other siblings and their parents will not and cannot point to over here. They are dead and you killed them. Today and every day the people of Gaza are slowly rocked in the arms of my, of our hearts and you cannot take that away. 1917 is the year a promise of false hope was made to you. 2008 is the year, like every year, I promise my people H O P E. You manage to carve a letter off every time. And the people of Falisteen continue to rewrite every letter with the bloody tip of their finger. They carve with the same finger that points to their chest. We continue our journey to live. You continue yours to kill. In the end we always win. With our winning fingers we point to your chest and know it is hollow. You point to ours and with envy you continue to make massacres. This is why the people of Gaza are the people of truth. 60 years, sixty years, and damn those sixty years.

Ghada Abdelqader, Palestinian
Providence, Road Island


Stop the Massacre of Palestinians!

Tuesday, December 30: National Day of Action
Emergency Demonstrations on Tuesday, December 30 and other days (listed below)

The ANSWER Coalition, Muslim American Society Freedom, Free Palestine Alliance, National Council of Arab Americans, and Al-Awda, International Palestine Right to Return Coalition are calling for Tuesday, December 30 to be a National Day of Action to show solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza and to demand an immediate end to the murderous attacks carried out by the Israeli military against the people of Gaza.

In Washington, D.C., there will be a demonstration at the State Department at 4:30 pm. Demonstrations will also be held in cities around the country. See below for an initial list. If there is a demonstration in your city, email the details to so it can be posted on the ANSWER Coalition website and listed in any future emails.

Hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza have been massacred and wounded today as Israel has launched a massive bombing campaign against the people of Gaza. The bombing rampage took place as thousands of Palestinian children were in the streets on their way home from school. Palestinian parents were running frantically in the streets looking for their children as U.S.-provided F-16s and Apache helicopters rained down more than 100 bombs and missiles on Gaza.

The U.S.-backed Israeli Occupation Force destroyed every security station in Gaza. AFP reported: "There was no space left in the morgue and bodies were piled up in the emergency room and in the corridors, as many of the wounded screamed in pain."

Because of the U.S.-backed Israeli blockade and strangulation of the people of Gaza for the past 18 months there is little or no medicine to treat the wounded, electricity for hospitals, or food or clean water for much of the population.

An Israeli military spokesperson said, "The operation is 'only just beginning'." The Israeli Defense Ministry said in a statement: "The action will continue and will widen as much as is demanded according to the evaluation of the situation by the high command of the army."

Take Action:
- Demonstrations Across the Country
- Send a letter to the State Department and Congress

Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, December 30
4:30 pm
State Department: 22nd St & C St NW
Contact: 202-544-3389 x14,

San Francisco
Tuesday, December 30
5:00 pm
Israeli Consulate:456 Montgomery St.
Contact: 415-821-6545,

Los Angeles
Tuesday, December 30
4:30 pm
Israeli Consulate: 6380 Wilshire Blvd.
Contact: 213-251-1025,
* * * * *
In Anaheim, CA (Orange County):
Sunday, December 28
2:00 pm
512 S. Brookhurst St. (between Orange Ave. & Broadway)
Initiated by a coalition with a large number of groups

New York City
Tuesday, December 30
5:00 pm
Israeli Consulate: 800 2nd Ave (b/w 42nd and 43rd Sts)
Contact: 212-694-8720,
* * * * *
Sunday, December 28
2:00-4:00 pm
Gather at Rockefeller Center
March to the Israeli Consulate: 800 2nd Ave (b/w 42nd and 43rd Sts)
Initiated by Al-Awda New York

Fort Lauderdale, FL
Tuesday, December 30
5:00 pm
Federal Building: 299 E. Broward Blvd.
Contact: 954-707-0155,

Details to be announced
Contact: 773-463-0311,

Details to be announced
Contact: 857-334-5084,

Saturday, January 3
12:00 noon - 2:00 pm
Westlake Park: 4th and Pine
Initiated by Voices of Palestine

Sunday, December 28
2:00 pm
Israeli Embassy Consulate: 180 Bloor St. West
Initiated by a number of local organizations

If there is a demonstration in your city, email the details to so it can be posted on the ANSWER Coalition website and listed in any future emails.

Send a letter to the State Department and Congress: Join with people around the country and around the world who are demanding an end to U.S. aid to Israel. This is an urgent situation and we must all act now. You can send a letter with our easy click and send system demanding an end to U.S. aid to Israel. Without U.S. aid, the Israeli military attacks, siege and blockade of Gaza could not be continued. Click this link now to send a letter to the State Department and elected officials in Congress.

You can help to support this important organizing effort by making a financial contribution today. Click here to donate online, where you can also find information on how to contribute by check.

Free Palestine Alliance Statement: To read a statement from the Free Palestine Alliance, click here.


I woke up this morning to news from my family about 200 people killed in Gaza overnight in raids, and clashes happening right now in Ramallah.
I could say, these are two hundred people that had lives, lists of places to visit before they die or a plan for a better life, even a TV show they have been wanting to follow till the end, but it doesn't matter.

All I can think about, are all of those people that are still alive. The millions in the West Bank and Gaza, and in Israel. The millions in America that are sitting in comfortable houses or sleeping on the street, all of us that are witnessing these deaths, but also tracking down our breath and knowing we are alive. My friend Mohammad, who has held me together when other news of massacres in the past two years have bled through my phone, told me today that even the smallest people can do something, can rebuild my broken home or at least learn how to mourn and remember.
But you are not small people, I'm writing to you because you are all really big in love and generosity, and I want to ask you, for me and my people, to do something little today. Write a poem, write to your local newspaper, tell your friends and family to light a candle, research the name of one of the people who was killed last night, or one that was left alive, and keep them with you, make a piece of music, send this email, send any email about whats going on. Do one thing that will ripple through your street, neighborhood, or country, and most importantly, believe that that one little thing will mean something.

I know for most of you these are news items, but this is my home. I have been mad at it for long, and I will continue to be critical and aware, but more importantly, I love it like we all love our messed up families, and the wound that fractures through it hurts me like its in my womb.
Having said that, I hope that you think about it, look in the mirror, and know that this pain is familiar, even if you have never heard gunshots or seen missiles falling.

Last but not least, and for all of those who know about my obsession with James Baldwin, here is a quote I find very important, and relevant today, from a letter James Baldwin wrote to his nephew James
"Well, you were born, here you came, something like fifteen years ago; and though your father and mother and grandmother, looking about the streets through which they were carrying you, staring at the walls into which they brought you, had every reason to be heavyhearted, yet they were not. For there you were, big James, named for me-you were a big baby, I was not-here you were: to be loved. To be loved, baby, hard, at once, and forever, to strengthen you against this loveless world. Remember that: I know how black it looks today, for you. It looked bad that day too, yes, we were trembling. We have not stopped trembling yet, but if we had not loved each other none of us would have survived. And now you must survive because we love you, and for the sake of your children and your children's children"

Tala A.Rahmeh, Palestinian
Washington, DC