Thursday, April 21, 2011

Blog written by my friend and activist, Pam Bailey, who has been living in Gaza

A response to the killers of Vittorio Arrigoni (and to my family)

When the news first broke that Vittorio Arrigoni, the Italian who had been volunteering in Gaza with the International Solidarity Movement, had been kidnapped and murdered, the response in the U.S. and international media was similar to this comment by Charles Glass in The National: “After what happened to this brave young man, how many others will volunteer to take his place - when it may mean death to those who love them?”

The New York Times commented: “(The murder) raised embarrassing questions for Hamas about the security it says it has restored.... It also raises the specter of a growing boldness on the part of more extreme, virulently anti-Western Islamic groups in Gaza, which would pose a challenge not only to Hamas but to foreign activists promoting the Palestinian cause.”

No wonder that both my sister and my daughter, who had come to support my increasingly frequent trips to Gaza, now are discouraging me from continuing my work there. “I have to admit that now, with things becoming more dangerous in Gaza every day (from all sides--for example, Vik being killed by the very people he was trying to help), I completely understand why your daughters would be hoping that you don't go back,” wrote my sister. Another friend, who had visited Gaza with me on one of my first trips, put it even more bluntly: “I would never have thought that the people he was supporting and helping would turn on him.”

I am sure this reaction is exactly what Vik’s killers – whoever they are–had been hoping for.

Whether the murder was committed by collaborators with Israel or religious extremists who abhor Western influence and/or want to make Hamas look bad, the motive seemed to be – at least in part -- to scare off other internationals who might think to come to Gaza, whether via the next flotilla (planned for late May) or other route. Although no one knows --- and we may never know – the true motivation of Vik’s killers, Israel has certainly worked overtime in the last few months to stop the next flotilla from reaching the shores of Gaza. The newspaper Ha’aretz reported last month that Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi has threatened that if the boats try to reach Gaza, “forcing” the military to attack, “there may be no alternative to deploying snipers to minimize troop casualties.” Meanwhile, theJerusalem Post reported that the IDF will deploy attack dogs from its Oketz canine units. Likewise, Israel has not been shy about assassinating individuals it doesn’t like (the most recent example is the murder of Hamas official Mahmoud Mabhouh in Dubai).

However, whoever committed this gut-wrenching crime, and whatever their motivation, they are not Gaza (and the murderers of Juliano Mer-Khamis– the popular director of the Jenin Freedom Theater -- are not the West Bank – or Palestine). After all, should Americans be judged by Timothy McVeigh, or the Unabomber? When word began spreading like wildfire that Vik had been murdered, my friends from Gaza – and many whom I barely knew, but were just connections on Facebook – messaged me to apologize on behalf of their entire people. One email I received was titled “WE ARE SO SORRY.”

Even those who didn’t know Vik felt the need to express their deep sorrow and shame; in fact, they were the majority of the individuals who reached out to me. Sameeha Elwan, a young blogger in Gaza, wrote: “All of us were agonized by the news of his abduction, spending the whole night anticipating and hoping that morning would bring us the news of his release…(But) morning brought us mourning. The first unconfirmed news of his death came at 2 a.m., leaving us all speechless and confused...’Did you know him personally?’many asked me today in the funeral that was held by Gazans in honor of Vittorio. In fact, I did not meet him in person, as was the case of so many Palestinians who were there…(But) to know how brave Vittorio was, I only had to look around, and see the agony and anger in the faces of hundreds of people…”

Vik’s death was considered a national tragedy in Gaza – indeed, throughout Palestine. I can’t help but compare this to how Americans would react if a foreigner in their midst –albeit one who was there in solidarity with them – was randomly slain. I doubt it would elicit the same outpouring of grief, or that Americans who didn’t even know him would feel a personal responsibility for the perpetrators. Even when my purse was apparently stolen one night by a coffeehouse, everyone I knew felt compelled to apologize – going out of their way to track it down.

This is the reason that in the eight months I lived in Gaza – five months in 2010 and three this year, coming home barely two weeks before Vik’s death – I felt safe and literally “embraced.” Crime can happen anywhere; yes, Gaza is a “hot spot,” and may be more dangerous than most, but not because of the Palestinians. I am not unlike the other international volunteers who are drawn to Gaza, or to Palestine in general. We know the spirit of the people there; we see inside their collective heart. And we agree with Sameeha when she writes, “No matter who was behind this vicious crime against humanity, he is not the least Palestinian.”

So to my friends and family who ask why I want to continue to return to the region, when “the people I help may turn on me,” I say no, they will never turn on me. And if I am ever in danger, they will have my back. They may not always be able to protect me from the criminal elements that are present everywhere, but I know they would lay down their lives for mine.

And to Vik’s killers, I say you will never win. Because we will keep coming back.

Pam Bailey is an American who has been on several of the Codepink delegations to Gaza. She then lived in Gaza for five months last year and three months this year. Vittorio Arrigoni was her friend.

Pam Bailey, peace activist, writer & social entrepreneur

Sunday, April 17, 2011

For Vittorio

our eyes never met
but our souls surely did

dancing in timelessness
the sacred space of love

i kiss your sweet lips
and take your
final breath

that so reluctantly
leaves your body

i breathe it back
to life
in compassion
in truth
in love

Thursday, April 14, 2011

ohhhhh canada

oh canada
our home and native land
true native love
in all thy hearts expand
with glowing hearts
we see thee rise
thy true north stong and free
from far and wide
oh canada
we stand in love with thee
goddess keep our land
glorious and free
oh canada i will not kill for thee
oh canada don't make me hate for thee

Sunday, April 3, 2011

from Eyad El Balawi, an activist living in Gaza

The closing scene

Yonder, under the light
He went to bed
And once he came out he was soaked with blood
His wife wept: My darling where are you leaving..!
His silence was only what she got..
His sleeping has became more childish..
And his face was shining like the sun..
My beloved, you forgot this morning kiss…!
He didn’t replay ..
and his silence was a thorn in her throat
While he was quiet on the men’s shoulders
She cried again and again: My love where are you going…!
she found no answer…
Yonder, under the lights
There were residues of their love story
Which she began kissing along with crying..
here is a story from gaza


Rose al-dwaik

War is known by the huge effect which can make, if it waged on a country or even a
small piece of ground, and as it's said "WAR IS WAR".
One of the most affected classes of this society is Children, and as we know it should be the most considerable class so we specified it with our activities.
Therefore I managed with a group of my colleges a lot of abreaction activities for affected children to help them, to abreact and to empty their feelings, after what they saw and faced in this unjust war. when I started my workshop with them, I was shocked by their silence, quiet, and there rejection to play, talk, or even to change their places, there move were much less than the normal status , Especially those children under ten age , I gave them papers and colors, then asked them to draw…
The majority of them drown tanks, weapons, funerals and things related to war. The
used colors varied between black, red, and sometimes brown.
So firstly, I preferred to start my workshop with a drama activity, to calm them down
and to break their fear, I asked them to imagine themselves in a comfortable place,
such like a beautiful garden, they are surrounded by roses, playing and doing all what they want.
Then, we discussed there drawings together, I didn't stop any of them because they
started speaking at last. It was a good entrance to hold a conversation about what they faced and how did they feel, among this war, the majority of them participated in.

After listening to them I started to explain that we are living under occupation that
known by its savage deeds, also it was very important to emphasize on religious opinion about this war. "Our dead people are martyrs, god loves them and they will live in an endless comfort and bliss in paradise, they will be happy …"

Then, I succeeded to make them involved in a game, almost they all were involved in,
I've noticed that screaming or giving them the space to scream , dance, jump and play
was a good way to help them, to express their feelings and to empty their repression.
So I gave them that space, and they interacted perfectly.
And I trust that you will admit that parents play a very important role to help their
children to come over what they faced, so we targeted a lot of homes and we gave
mothers an important instructions about "how to deal with your child" after such
circumstances. Another important point that I have learned from my work with children, that I should be so friendly, and I shouldn’t shout or rise my voice.
I was always smiling , sending jokes and playing with them, because if they loved you
they will participate and never be hesitant to speak about their feelings, also I kept motivating them by words like "excellent, great, good", or by giving them presents or roses and sometimes by clapping hands for them.
Finally we should keep on our efforts to decrease their repression and to help them to come over what happened in this war, because they are all victims, uninvolved enough in this life to understand the reasons of such war.
Besides they are the bright side of our life, so we should rear them, towards the best.
From the porch
Welcome to this dialogue. I hope you will be inspired to open your heart to ideas and share some of your own. Peace and love, wendy

Yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu asked U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to stop the International Freedom Flotilla ll from sailing to Gaza in May. He claims that the Flotilla has been infiltrated by “radical Islamists bent on violence” He also claims that the ships will be used to attempt to smuggle weapons into Gaza. These ludicrous claims only further illuminate the desperate nature of the Zionist agenda to portray Israel as victim.

As one of the founding members of the Canadian Boat to Gaza project, part of the Freedom Flotilla ll, I offer a very different narrative. I am a white, Canadian born, middleclass, educated woman. I am a mother of three, a social worker and advocate for justice and peace. I am not a radical Islamist. I have no religion. I grew up knowing very little about the struggles in the Middle East but over the years became much more aware of my dark roots linking me directly to a history of colonialism. I could say that intellectually, I found my way to social activism as a way to acknowledge and offer my personal retribution for centuries of oppression at the hands of ‘white people’. I could say that, but the truth is much simpler.

The truth is that, thanks to the internet, the world is in our living room 24 hours a day if we are willing to look. During Operation Cast Lead in 2009which claimed the lives of more than 1300 Palestinians living in Gaza, haunting images of dead and maimed, trauma stricken children flooded my psyche. As a human being, regardless of race, nationality, culture or gender, how could I NOT speak out? How could we allow this to happen? Before you dismiss me as a naive leftist bleeding heart, I invite you to ask yourself the same question. There is no rational, humane answer. The five year siege of Gaza has collectively punished the population in violation of International Law, specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel continues to build illegal settlements in the West Bank, villages are demolished regularly and Palestinians are routinely evicted in East Jerusalem, all with the unwavering support of Western governments, particularly Harper’s Conservatives.

In spite of facing tremendous suffering, deprivation and loss, I remain in awe of the resiliency of the human spirit. In Gaza today, children still play, dance and sing although they carry unspeakable trauma in their little bodies. Their mothers and fathers try to carve out a life of hope while literally surrounded by the rubble and destruction of this one sided war. I do not condone violence on either side, but the disproportionate amount of violence perpetrated by Israel against Palestine is inarguable.
It is my connection to the hope and resiliency of our human spirit that compels me to act. I want Palestine to know that when it comes to justice, there are no borders. The diverse team of caring individuals who have joined together from coast to coast to launch the Canadian Boat to Gaza all understand that it is up to civil society to speak out against the illegal siege of Gaza, which confines 1.5 million people in an open air prison. We must do this because our governments are failing to do so. We join like- minded people from more than 15 countries in the Freedom Flotilla ll, and welcome and invite the UN and any other independent bodies to thoroughly inspect our ships prior to our departure for Gaza. We are not terrorists, and we will not be terrorized and intimidated by Israel. We are all Gaza.