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Refusing to Acquiesce in Gaza

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  • Romi Elnagar
    Refusing to Acquiesce in Gaza by JOSHUA BROLLIER Gaza City. The past few days have been harrowing, yet still deeply inspiring in Gaza as people in the strip
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 30, 2012
      Refusing to Acquiesce in Gaza
      Gaza City.
      The past few days have been harrowing, yet still deeply inspiring in
      Gaza as people in the strip must carry on with their lives after the
      Israeli army’s deadly 8 day offensive operation “Pillar of Cloud” which killed at least 160 Palestinians and left over 1000 wounded, many of them severely.  To “carry on” in Gaza does not mean returning
      to predictable routines or a reasonable set of expectations of calmness
      in what amounts to everyday life in most parts of the world.  This is
      exceptionally true for Palestinian fishermen who return to the daily
      struggle with the Israeli Navy to fish in waters that are rightfully
      There has been no ceasefire for these men who bravely attempt to
      exercise not only their legal rights, but perhaps more urgently, the
      human right to fulfil the most basic of needs, such as feeding their
      families and paying rent.  Since November 26th, 2012, 15 fishermen have been arrested and 6 boats destroyed. As participants in an emergency delegation to Gaza, we have had the opportunity to speak to several of the fishermen
      arrested, members of their families, and a Palestinian activist, Maher
      Alaa, who was documenting the situation while aboard one of the adjacent boats, which also received heavy gunfire.  We spoke with concerned
      relatives in the afternoon after the attacks, but we did not get the
      full story until Maher returned in the evening.
      Israeli gunboat off coast of Gaza.
      The scene Maher described was chaotic, but not uncommon.  Only one
      boat sailed the full length of six nautical miles, the distance
      supposedly conceded by Israel as a term of the ceasefire, before it was
      attacked. Israeli Navy and helicopters assaulted the others boats, most
      far inwards of six miles, with live fire periodically from the early
      morning until evening.  (It’s also essential to keep in mind that Gazans were guaranteed 20 nautical miles for fishing in the Olso Accords.) The boat of Jamal Baker (20) was completely destroyed. Others had
      engines destroyed from bullets. Five men from the al-Hessi family were
      ordered to take off their clothes and jump into the water, which is a
      common humiliation tactic deployed by the Israeli Navy. They were then
      forcefully arrested at gunpoint and their boat impounded for the second
      time in one year. The al-Hessi’s boat alone was the main source of
      income for the twenty-five person crew and the families depending on
      Another brave Gazan fisherman, Mohammed Morad Baker (40), was fired
      upon and ordered to strip his clothes and leave his boat.  According to
      Maher, he looked directly at the Israeli gunboat captain and responded
      loudly “You can put a bullet in my head before I will jump into the
      water.” He then draped his body over the engine to protect it.  This
      brave act apparently caught the Israeli soldiers off guard as he was
      then able to navigate another course and avoid being detained.
      In the aftermath of an eight day war and what Dr. Khalil Abu-Foul of
      the Palestine Red Crescent describes as a “chronic, acute and protracted state of emergency” in Gaza, the heroic acts of fishermen like Mohamed
      Baker are often left out of the broader mainstream media’s discussion of military and diplomatic victory or defeat.
      It has often been said that “existence is resistance” in Palestine.
      From what I have seen here, Gazans are doing far more than just
      existing.   They are standing up with dignity and ingenuity to a slow
      and inhuman process of destabilization and colonization that many feel
      is intended to gradually force Gaza to become uninhabitable for Palestinians. Mohamed Baker and the other fishermen’s refusal to
      acquiesce to the destruction of their livelihoods is a victory over the
      cowardly conscience of Israeli soldiers who make sport of shooting at
      unarmed men, most of whom are very poor and supporting families with
      over ten children.
      It’s also heartening to witness that after such a traumatic eight
      days where many people did not leave their houses for fear of their
      lives, Gaza’s streets are alive.  Just across from our apartment at
      Al-Bakri Tower, families are filling a wedding hall.  Dozens of youth
      pile into the back of trucks, enthusiastically beating on drums. Adults
      and children alike laugh and hold hands as they perform Debke, a
      traditional wedding dance.  Though Khalil Shahin, director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, has spent long nights taking only as little as two hours of sleep while documenting and double checking the casualties and injuries from the
      conflict to avoid duplication, he still smiles brightly as he tells of
      reviving plans for his daughter’s upcoming wedding, which had been
      postponed due to the fighting.
      In the afternoons, children pour out of the schools, many of which were used to shelter thousands during the recent bombings. They kick cans and soccer balls while approaching
      our delegation with openness, curiosity and playfulness. The shock they
      have just endured will likely remain with them in some ways for the rest of their life, but the strong sense of community and family is evident. I cannot help but wonder how children and families from the United
      States would cope given such conditions, especially with the breakdown
      of the communal structure and obsessive focus on individualism in our
      Perhaps one of the most beautiful things i have seen throughout our
      short time here is that, despite the very legitimate anger, mourning and failure of the political process to provide scarcely any justice to
      Palestinians, the Gazans I have met know better than to waste their
      lives on hate.  The suffering they have seen all around them is too
      great to wish upon others.  Just today we sat with Dr. Anton Shuhaibar, a Palestinian physician and also one of Gaza’s 3000 Christians, who
      described at length his hope for a solution that includes psychological
      healing for all parties involved, especially the youth, so that both
      Israel and Palestine’s children can live as neighbours.  His sentiment
      was not without critique of long needed political changes that would
      have to be implemented for this vision to be a possibility. However, the intention I sensed from his words reminded me of what Mamie Till
      uttered so profoundly in response to the brutal and racist lynching of
      her son in Mississippi in the fall of 1955: “I have not a minute to
      hate. I’ll pursue justice for the rest of my life.”
      Palestinian farmer in Johr Al-Deek.
      Gaza’s farmers continue to pursue justice on the issue of land rights. Yesterday, November 29th at approximately 9:30 AM, members of our delegation accompanied other
      international solidarity activists and Palestinians from the Ministry of Agriculture to the farm of Ahmad Hassan Badawi  who lives and farms along the border with Israel in an area called Johr
      Al-Deek.  Mr. Badawi has remained on his land despite multiple
      incursions and direct attacks from the Israeli Occupation Forces,
      including attacks during the recent Israeli offensive which killed many
      of his sheep and chickens.
      Much of Ahmad’s farmland has now been rendered useless by Israel’s
      arbitrarily declared buffer zone, which has confiscated around twenty
      -per cent of Gaza’s arable land.   After the November 21st ceasefire, negotiations were supposedly in place that Hassan would now be able to
      farm within 300 meters of the fence. The allowed distance has often
      changed and has nothing to do with international law or an
      understandable pattern.  After we heard from Hassan and other farmers
      about their situation, we approached the barb wire fence, which also
      separates residents of Johr al-Deek from their former water source. In a manner of minutes, multiple shots were fired in our direction by
      Israeli soldiers.  Moments later, tear gas canisters were launched
      within a few feet of where we were standing.  This treatment was mild
      compared to many other instances, including the killing of a young Palestinian named Anwar Abdul Hadi Musallam Qudaih (20) in Khan Yunis on November 23rd and the injury of 14 others.
      One does not need to travel far in any direction to witness the
      destruction wreaked by the Israeli offensive.  Yesterday in Tal al-Hawa
      we met with Ahmed Suleman Ateya.  His entire house and a small olive
      grove were destroyed when Israel targeted an empty house across the
      street ostensibly used by militants.  His was not the only other house
      flattened nearby by Israel’s “precision guided” missile strikes.  A
      former farmer, Ahmed is sixty-six years old and has no money to rebuild
      and no permanent place to house his family who are staying with
      relatives in Al-Tufah while he searches for scrap metal from the rubble
      of his home to sell for a few shekels. As we talked with Ahmed, an
      Islamic relief agency arrived to provide him with a heavy blanket for
      the winter and a few other items.  Mr. Ateya received them gratefully
      and with a dignity which escapes those who have not suffered such loss.
      Ahmad Hassan Badawi amid ruins in Gaza City.
      The wounds from operation “Pillar of Cloud” are obvious and the
      stories we have heard are tragic, but a spirit of resilience and
      determination is equally visible in the eyes of the families we have
      visited.  Last night, Gazans were in the streets celebrating  the UN
      General Assembly’s decision to upgrade Palestine’s status to a
      non-member observer state. The United States was one of only nine UN
      countries, including Israel and Canada, to vote against the
      resolution.  Even so, Palestinians continue to extend hospitality to the members of our delegation as relentlessly as the fishermen who refuse
      to be pushed from their waters. It is my hope that residents of the
      United States will learn such strength based in friendship and
      resistance to inhumane policies, demanding that our government recognize the aspirations and political rights of Palestinians that have been
      ignored now for decades.
      Joshua Brollier (joshua@...) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (vcnv.org).


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