Unbalanced circles : a response to Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo is a native American poet and musician. She is currently visiting Israel, where she was invited by Tel Aviv University. She accepted the invitation, despite many appeals to her to cancel the performance.

I googled her name and just came upon her latest entry on her blog, which reads as follows: Down.  I will be taking Facebook down tonight for awhile. Thanks to my supporters. Thanks to those who disagreed with my stance but were willing to dialogue with civility. We live in a circle. A circle has no sides. Maybe the circle of life on this earth has been broken. Maybe not–Either way, I do not condone killing of anyone. Never have…

In me it created the following response.  I have submitted it to her comment section, and perhaps she will ‘approve’ it. In the meantime I will also post it here.

To Joy:

“We live in a circle. A circle has no sides.”

How nice this sounds.

But there are different kinds of circles. And some circles need to be broken. Have you not considered that?

The Palestinian people are caught in a circle that needs to be broken. A circle of perpetuate injustice, of collective punishments, of continued deprivation of their rights. And ultimately, in a circle of violence. Children are born into this circle, grow up in it, and many die within it. But you know this, Joy!

The boycott-divestment-sanctions movement seeks to break this destructive circle by non-violent means.

Together we have the power to help restore harmony in that part of the world that you are visiting right now. Your visit to only one “side”  (there are sides!) tilts the weight to the side that already has all the power, all the military might. And even claims to have all the moral weight. While it kills children with its bombs.

I hope in the future you will join those who seek to shift the weight to restore a circle where all can live with dignity. A circle that is inclusive of Palestinians, and everyone, regardless of religion and ethnicity.

It takes courage to make circles change.

circle2

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(Source of circles.)

From under the bombs

Below is a powerful piece written by our dear friend Ayah Abubashir, who lived through the week-long terror Israel brought on her, her family, Gaza. With Obama’s backing, with Canada’s backing, with the EU’s backing. She lost two family members. The article was published on Electronic Intifada

She reminds us that after Gaza 2012, the BDS campaign needs to grow and become stronger. The world needs to show growing solidarity with Palestinians. We need to press our leaders into calling on Israel to start respecting Human Rights.

***

From under the bombs: our catastrophe and our hope in Gaza

by Ayah Abubashir

Since the beginning of Israel’s “Operation Pillar of Defence,” the number of Palestinians killed or injured has risen dramatically. How harsh, I feel, to use the word “number” since we are not actually mere numbers, but very tragic, heartbreaking and harrowing stories.

My aunt lives in al-Bureij refugee camp in the center of the Gaza Strip, not far away from where I live in Deir al-Balah. Her house was bombed many times during Israel’s 2008-09 attacks on Gaza and is still a very possible target for the Israeli air strikes.

The actual target is her brother-in-law who now has taken Ahmad Jabari’s place as a new commander in Hamas’s military wing. For the sake of their target, Israeli F-16s couldn’t care less when they kill children, women or the elderly or to destroy a five-story building even if they know that “the wanted man” doesn’t stay with his wife and children in this home.

We heard a very loud explosion in al-Bureij and swiftly we called my aunt who was barely able to speak to check on her safety. The blast was in her neighbour’s house and the victim this time is a one-year-old baby Eyad Abu Khusa. Though she has refused to leave her house since the start of this ongoing assault, she, along with her two sons, came today to stay with us after the repeated bombardment of al-Bureij.

No shelter is safe

Another aunt left her house in Rafah and brought her two daughters saying “she doesn’t wish to die away from her parents and brothers.” Both aunts, along with us, thought that our area might be a “safer one.” But what is a “safer place” when everyone is a possible target? When the whole strip is a bare land to the Israeli reconnaissance aircrafts?

Ironically, my aunts were welcomed by the most piercing blast we ever heard and we all witnessed the black smoke very close to us, the same moment we were speaking about the “safer place”. We knew later that it was the warplane Hamas declared it had downed. No shelter in Gaza is safe. I realize it is our instinctive human nature that we tend to grab a hold of our loved ones, keep them near and hold them tight such times. This, as it happens, is what might give us a sense of safety — we think.

Since the morning, the killing of Tamer al-Hemry, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad member, a vast rage and anger at Israel has been stoked in Deir al-Balah. Though Tamer, 25-years-old, was involved in armed resistance, he was not involved in militant tasks or firing rockets when he was assassinated.

The Israeli jet located him by calling him on his cell-phone, which he answered, and hit him before he could escape death. Al-Hemry was a neighbor and relative and his funeral was held right in front of my front door.

Whenever someone has been martyred, we can hear everywhere unfaltering calls from mosques emboldening people and encouraging them to keep their patience, steadfastness and resistance high. That dreary day, since the first hours of the day, a very close mosque has been asking people to come and pray over the martyr. Hundreds of townsmen did so, accompanied by photographers and buses bringing people from other places.

Radio-frequency amplifiers were transmitting religious and revolutionary songs all over the street. Though the number of mourners was really prodigious, people were conscious that Israel might, at any moment, bomb the funeral, as it in point of fact did on the first day of the offensive.

People have learned not to trust the occupier’s forces. There has been a general sentiment not to gather in large numbers. For Israel has repeated its vicious tactic of bombing a place, waiting five minutes, as people will gather to help and carry the victims — then it will hit the same place again to score more deaths. What a continuous process Israel is applying to dehumanize the people of Gaza.

Election bill

We have been asking ourselves why we always have to pay the bill of the Israeli elections. Honestly, we didn’t expect that this latest onslaught would keep escalating. Our catastrophe is shown to the world allowing it to happen again.

As I am writing these lines, the house is shaking from a huge explosion nearby. Looking from the window, darkness is all over the place as there is a blackout. I am using the UPS backup power supply, which not all people here have and even this device doesn’t last for long.

Now the UPS battery died and I have no net connection so I have to wait till I have electricity to resume writing this. The streets are completely deserted. Over the previous days, we have been forcefully listening to either explosions or ambulance sirens from the land or the relentless piercing sound of the drones, which are filling — literally filling — the sky of Gaza. Most of the time both sounds go together.

Tonight there is very heavy artillery shelling with the sound of drones rising higher. Have you ever imagined living with this noise day and night? It doesn’t stop. The whole situation is heartbreaking as Israel pounds the Gaza Strip from air and sea.

A deep tragic sense of déjà vu is conveyed by the events unfolding in Gaza and the Israeli escalation of violence directed at the defenseless population of Gaza. Our memory recalls the moment on 4 January 2009 when Israeli soldiers invaded the Zaytoun area south of Gaza City.

Another outrageous massacre

Twenty-one family members were killed and 19 injured in the shelling of just one house belonging to the Samouni family. Nine of the dead were children and the youngest was a baby of just six months. This evening, an Israel F-16 jet bombed the home of al-Dalou family and committed another outrageous massacre, wiping out a whole family. Twelve members of the same family were killed, including five children and three women, marking this Sunday as the deadliest day of the current attacks on the Gaza Strip.

People in Gaza usually listen to local radio and TV stations especially in these circumstances. From the beginning of the attacks, Israel has hacked many local radio stations, along with the leaflets Israeli forces drop over Gaza, to transmit and circulate trepidation among the people.

Lately even media centers have been targeted as Israeli aircraft fired missiles at al-Shawa Hosary residential building, where most media broadcasting channels were located, and destroyed the local Hamas station al-Aqsa TV, as part of its psychological warfare. Since the inception of this war, we have been receiving calls from Israel to help in giving information about the resistance “terrorists.” In the last two days, we have got more threatening calls telling us to leave our houses because they’ll bomb it, but they don’t. Their aim is to spread panic and to terrorize people.

Attack on my family

At 7am on 19 November, two people from my extended family and a neighbor were hit by an Israeli missile. All three (Tamer, Amin and Rashid) were martyred at once.

It was Amin’s birthday.

Charred, shrunken and torn into pieces, piled up upon one another as they were covered by their white coffin shrouds. The three weren’t going to fire rockets on Israel, they weren’t going to kill Israeli children or women or even soldiers. They hadn’t got weapons, they were not “terrorists.”

I knew two of my relatives Tamer and Amin personally and am certain that they had never been involved in armed resistance. The three were farmers who grew tomatoes on their land — this was their work. Their van was open and the Israeli jet, with its high technology, could easily recognize the tomatoes in the back.

It hit them with a missile that not only killed them, but terribly deformed their figures. Nothing happened to the tomatoes because they were not the target.

Through their high level of technology and an expertise in killing, the computerized missile wasn’t dropped vertically as you might imagine, but from the side direction to penetrate the front door and kill the three sitting beside each other. It is only the front part of the van, which is completely destroyed, but the back part is intact.

Tamer and Amin were cousins who were 32 and 40 years old respectively. Tamer had two sons and one daughter; Amin had two daughters. All children are less than eight years old. We went to Tamer and Amin’s house where hundreds of people gathered — relatives and otherwise, old and young, men and women.

Their mother was bawling, their wives fainted many times; their aunts were running after their funeral and their children were standing shocked with no expressions on their faces as if they were in denial or as if they couldn’t fathom what was going on as the tragic loss of their father was something beyond their comprehension.

Tamer’s father is, until now, in the hospital. One daughter asked her mother, “Please Mom please call Dad to come soon.” Another daughter kept holding her grandmother who ran, along with men, to the cemetery saying that she has to keep looking at him until the last moment. When they returned, the daughter asked her grandma, “when will dad return Teta?”

Trying to calm the child down, her grandma said, “don’t get afraid Habibti [sweetheart] he will come tomorrow.” Shockingly and surprisingly, the six-year-old girl replied: “have dead people ever returned?”

Men brought the martyrs’ bodies to their homes, but they were completely covered. Martyrs’ faces are only covered when completely damaged. We couldn’t see Tamir and Amin’s faces. My brother said that Rashid’s head is shattered into two, but there was only one part to bury.

Now it is 6pm. While people are sitting in the funeral tent, an Israeli missile was dropped near the tent. People fearfully rushed away, but we don’t know if it will explode later.

Thanks to the blood of the children of Gaza in the 2008-09 massacre, of which we used to think as the Sharpeville and Guernica of Palestine, boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) gained momentum worldwide.

Now this massacre is over and we are still alive. But we Gazans survive only to remember our anguish. To ensure that the blood of our martyrs was not spilled in vain, we are sending a clear message to the world to intensify the calls for a meaningful ethical international campaign of BDS to isolate apartheid Israel until it abides by international law and ends its racist policies.

After Gaza 2012, BDS need to become more effective so that it can take us closer to achieving our just rights.

Gaza sea

CBC coverage – hardly reaches the level of the absurd.

A the end of the bloodiest day in Gaza. More than 30 people have been murdered in the past 24 hours or so, and many many more injured.

The demonstration downtown was a brief uplifting reprieve. Although I don’t particularly like chanting at demos, it did feel good to be surrounded by so many different kinds of people who all shared one thing with me, outrage.

Since I got back my soul has been weeping for my friends in Gaza. I feel so pained, and shamed, I don’t know where to turn. Social media, reading articles, posting blogs, … keeps me busy. At some point during the day it felt like I was running around my laptop and the internet like a headless chicken. I’m new to this.

All this pales naturally with what people in Gaza are living through at the moment.

Before going to bed, I go through a few news pages for the last time. In Gaza it is early morning. I’m almost shutting my laptop, but give the CBC a last check. The headline :

Death toll rises in Gaza after Israeli strikes

It is a short video clip. I click on it. It opens, a woman speaking, like this:  The most dramatic damage is in Gaza itself. But Israelis are under fire too. In the past 5 days hundreds of rockets have been launched by Palestinian militants into Israel and three people have been killed. CBC Saša Petricic is in Southern Israel where people live in close range of these rockets.

Then Petricic’ reportage picks it up. For the remainder of the time – hardly another word about Palestinians. Interview with a soldier, a citizen. We see some broom sweeping up a bit of shrapnel, looks more like small gravel to me. We hear about a missile slamming into on a hospital.  We are not told about casualties, so I presume there were none. For the remainder of the 1:51 min we do not return to the death toll in Gaza. In fact, we are never informed about how high it rose today.

That’s it!  We only hear about Israelis.

I check out two more clips. Reporting almost 100% from the Israeli perspective. We do not get to hear one person living in Gaza speak. The third clip is a long five minute interview with a Canadian teacher, Terri Millstone, in Ashdod in Israel, who takes us through the stress of living through a day continuously having to duck from rockets. The reporter is awed.

The scenes I watched earlier, from Aljazeera and independent news channels, of panic and hysteria in Gaza, of a father carrying the dead corpse of his infant son, of another father waiting to pick up the corpse of his 10-year old daughter from the morgue. These scenes, again, apparently not worthy of showing us.

A white Canadian woman who just wants to live a normal life in a democracy deserves all our compassion.

The bleeding wounded, the corpses, the children ripped apart by bombs of Palestinians, of Arabs, of Muslims, well, they apparently don’t deserve our compassion. They are just business as usual. We’re supposed to be used to them living in misery, crying, shrieking, dying. Why bother showing them?

The quality of such reporting doesn’t even reach the level of the absurd.

Media reporting on Gaza: Nous accusons.

Below is a statement that appeared on Mondoweiss and on  Rabble.ca today. It was written yesterday, on November 13.  After the scandalous (non-)reporting of the recent attacks on Gaza, we felt we needed to say something publicly. Since then, all hell has broken loose with Israel’s operation “Pillar of Defense”.  (An iota of honesty would have chosen “Pillar of Offense” as the name.)

Media reporting on Gaza: Nous accusons.

Noam Chomsky and the ‘Gaza Eight’

While countries across Europe and North America commemorated military casualties of past and present wars on November 11, Israel was targeting civilians. On November 12, waking up to a new week, readers at breakfast were flooded with heart rending accounts of past and current military casualties. There was, however, no or little mention of the fact that the majority of casualties of modern day wars are civilians. There was also hardly any mention on the morning of November 12 of military attacks on Gaza that continued throughout the weekend. A cursory scan confirms this for Canada’s CBC, the Globe and Mail, Montreal’s Gazette, and the Toronto Star. Equally, for the New York Times and for the BBC.

According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) report on Sunday November 11, five Palestinian civilians including three children had been killed in the Gaza strip in the previous 72 hours, in addition to two Palestinian security personnel. Four of the deaths occurred as a result of Israeli military firing artillery shells on youngsters playing soccer. Moreover, 52 civilians had been wounded, of which six were women and 12 were children. (Since we began composing this text, the Palestinian death toll has risen, and continues to rise.)

Articles that do report on the killings overwhelmingly focus on the killing of Palestinian security personnel. For example, an Associated Press article published in the CBC world news on November 13, entitled Israel mulls resuming targeted killings of Gaza militants, mentions absolutely nothing of civilian deaths and injuries. It portrays the killings as ‘targeted assassinations’. The fact that casualties have overwhelmingly been civilians indicates that Israel is not so much engaged in “targeted” killings, as in “collective” killings, thus once again committing the crime of collective punishment. Another AP item on CBC news from November 12 reads Gaza rocket fire raises pressure on Israel government. It features a photo of an Israeli woman gazing on a hole in her living room ceiling. Again, no images, nor mention of the numerous bleeding casualties or corpses in Gaza. Along the same lines, a BBC headline on November 12 reads Israel hit by fresh volley of rockets from Gaza. Similar trend can be illustrated for European mainstream papers.

News items overwhelmingly focus on the rockets that have been fired from Gaza, none of which have caused human casualties. What is not in focus are the shellings and bombardments on Gaza, which have resulted in numerous severe and fatal casualties. It doesn’t take an expert in media science to understand that what we are facing is at best shoddy and skewed reporting, and at worst willfully dishonest manipulation of the readership.

Furthermore, articles that do mention the Palestinian casualties in Gaza consistently report that Israeli operations are in response to rockets from Gaza and to the injuring of Israeli soldiers. However, the chronology of events of the recent flare-up began on November 5, when an innocent, apparently mentally unfit, 20-year old man, Ahmad al-Nabaheen, was shot when he wandered close to the border. Medics had to wait for six hours to be permitted to pick him up and they suspect that he may have died because of that delay. Then, on November 8, a 13-year old boy playing football in front of his house was killed by fire from the IOF that had moved into Gazan territory with tanks as well as helicopters. The wounding of four Israeli soldiers at the border on November 10 was therefore already part of a chain of events where Gazan civilians had been killed, and not the triggering event.

We, the signatories, have recently returned from a visit to the Gaza strip. Some among us are now connected to Palestinians living in Gaza through social media. For two nights in a row Palestinians in Gaza were prevented from sleeping through continued engagement of drones, F16s, and indiscriminate bombings of various targets inside the densely populated Gaza strip. The intent of this is clearly to terrorise the population, successfully so, as we can ascertain from our friends’ reports. If it was not for Facebook postings, we would not be aware of the degree of terror felt by ordinary Palestinian civilians in Gaza. This stands in stark contrast to the world’s awareness of terrorised and shock-treated Israeli citizens.

An extract of a report sent by a Canadian medic who happened to be in Gaza and helped out in Shifa hospital ER over the weekend says: “the wounded were all civilians with multiple puncture wounds from shrapnel: brain injuries, neck injuries, hemo-pneumo thorax, pericardial tamponade, splenic rupture, intestinal perforations, slatted limbs, traumatic amputations. All of this with no monitors, few stethoscopes, one ultrasound machine.  ….  Many people with serious but non life threatening injuries were sent home to be re-assessed in the morning due to the sheer volume of casualties.  The penetrating shrapnel injuries were spooky. Tiny wounds with massive internal injuries.  … There was very little morphine for analgesia.”

Apparently such scenes are not newsworthy for the New York Times, the CBC, or the BBC.

Bias and dishonesty with respect to the oppression of Palestinians is nothing new in Western media and has been widely documented. Nevertheless, Israel continues its crimes against humanity with full acquiescence and financial, military, and moral support from our governments, the U.S., Canada and the EU. Netanyahu is currently garnering Western diplomatic support for additional operations in Gaza, which makes us worry that another Cast Lead may be on the horizon. In fact, the very recent events are confirming such an escalation has already begun, as today’s death-count climbs. The lack of widespread public outrage at these crimes is a direct consequence of the systematic way in which the facts are withheld and/or of the skewed way these crimes are portrayed.

We wish to express our outrage at the reprehensible media coverage of these acts in the mainstream (corporate) media. We call on journalists around the world working for corporate media outlets to refuse to be instruments of this systematic policy of disguise. We call on citizens to inform themselves through independent media, and to voice their conscience by whichever means is accessible to them.

Hagit Borer, U.K.

Antoine Bustros, Canada

Noam Chomsky, US

David Heap, Canada

Stephanie Kelly, Canada

Máire Noonan, Canada

Philippe Prévost, France

Verena Stresing, France

Laurie Tuller, France

 

Addendum

I am just home from a demonstration at 6 p.m. in Montreal to protest Israel’s bombardment. Given that it was called only a few hours before as an emergency rally, there was a considerable crowd of people. Some good speeches were held. Both Antoine and I were invited to say a few words with respect to our recent Gaza visit.

Upon coming home I open the BBC world news page, see the article entitled Israel ready to widen Gaza operations, says Netanyahu, and scroll down to see what has happened in the past hours I was not online. It turns out that the BBC either has not been able to establish any civilian death toll, or doesn’t bother reporting it, at least not in this main piece. Since people at the demonstration knew that there were eleven casualties, I assume the BBC knows too, but has more urgent matters to report. Such as things that need to be stated when you make yourself the mouthpiece for the IOF (Israeli Offense Force). And foremost, to report this very important item, concerning the reaction from the US:

‘The United States said it supported Israel’s right to self-defence, and condemned militant rocket attacks on southern Israel.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner added in a statement that “we encourage Israel to continue to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties”.’

This is indeed informative to read, but hardly surprising, knowing the U.S. track record when it comes to human rights of those who aren’t its allies. But really, “to continue to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties”?!! When did Israel ever start taking these efforts? HELLO!?

So in a nutshell, the media will continue its whitewashing of Israeli crimes, and Western leaders will bend over backwards to propagate the lies. Or vice versa. One can only hope that people will be smart enough to get their news from elsewhere than the BBC. Use independent media. And see through the crap that politicians try to feed us. (I posted some links to independent media sources on the righthand side of this blog.)