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.

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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

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Palestinian Civil Society Organizations Call on the International Community to Stop the Offensive on Gaza (PNGO)

(Received from Amjad Shawa of the Palestinian NGO Network,  I have tried to update some of the  grim stats but of course the death toll and numbers of civilian buildings hit only keep rising…)

Since Wednesday evening, 14 November 2012, Israeli Occupation Forces have continued their offensive on the Gaza Strip, code-named “Operation Pillar of Defence” through aerial, marine and ground bombardment throughout the Gaza Strip, using missiles and artilleries. This is occurring amidst increasing Israeli threats to expand the offensive with a ground invasion; large numbers of Israeli troops have been deployed at the borders of the Gaza Strip, and it is reported that 75,000 reservists have been called up. Contrary to claims by the Israeli government that Israeli forces do not target civilians, the outcome of this offensive so far has indicated that only civilians pay the price. Over 70 civilians have been killed, including children and women, and hundreds more, including children and women, have been wounded. Israeli forces have attacked civilian facilities, including houses, mosques, churches and schools, and governmental buildings of a completely civil nature, such as the buildings of the Council of Ministers and the Civil Department of the Ministry of Interior.

Over the past few days, Israeli forces have intensified the bombardments in a serious escalation, targeting civilian lives and property. Recently, Israeli forces directly bombarded media offices in Gaza City, seriously wounding a number of journalists. There has been no safe place in the Gaza Strip, which essentially does not have any shelter where civilians can have protection from day and night bombardments. Approximately 1.7 million people have become under Israeli forces fire, and their lives are in danger. A number of people have been killed or wounded while inside their houses, as a result of the bombarding of residential areas and their vicinities, with bombs weighing up to one ton dropped by F-16 fighter jets.

During this offensive, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is dramatically deteriorating, especially with the closure of all border crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel and the denial of entry of basic goods and materials into the Gaza Strip, including medical consignments, food and fuel. This is in violations of the obligations of Israel as an occupying power under the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which requires Israel to facilitate the passage of medical and foods consignments to the civilian population in the occupied territory in all circumstances. We, Palestinian civil society organizations in the Gaza Strip, condemn the ongoing offensive by Israeli forces, and warn of further deterioration of the situation and its catastrophic impact on the lives of Palestinian civilians. We are concerned that the worst has not yet come, and unless the international community intervenes to stop this offensive, only Palestinian civilians will pay the price of this escalation. Even before this offensive, their suffering that has been constant due to the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip for more than six years; the recent crimes committed by Israeli forces will further deepen their suffering. The role of the international community is not just to condemn international crimes, but to act to prevent them from being committed. The failure of the international community to intervene to protect Palestinian civilians serves to encourage the State of Israel and its occupation forces to commit more crimes against them. Such crimes will continue as long as accountability is lacking and impunity for the perpetrators is pervasive. Less than four years ago, Israeli forces already waged an offensive on the Gaza Strip in late 2008 (“Operation Cast Lead”). After this offensive, the international community failed to assume their responsibility to hold the perpetrators of war crimes accountable.

Therefore: We call upon the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War to fulfill their obligation to ensure Israeli forces’ respect for the Convention, and to stop Israel’s systematic attacks against Palestinian civilians and their property.

We call upon the United Nations, represented by the Secretary General, to immediately act and intervene to protect international security and peace in accordance with the UN Charter. We express our deep shock at his decision to visit Israel and Ramallah on Tuesday, 20 November, without visiting the Gaza Strip which is currently under attack. This has serious indications that the Secretary General is following the US position of supporting Israel, the party which practices occupation and aggression, at the expense of Palestinian civilians who are the victims of the offensive. We call upon the Human Rights Council to hold a special session to address the situation in the Gaza Strip and take effective steps to stop the offensive. We highly appreciate Arab and international official and public visits to the Gaza Strip in solidarity with its people, especially the visits of the Egyptian Prime Minister and the Tunisian Foreign Minister, and call for more solidarity visits in the upcoming days. We call upon Arab civil society organizations to organize visits to the Gaza Strip in solidarity with the Palestinian people and rejection for the Israel’s offensive and crimes, and we highly appreciate the solidarity activities organized by them and call upon them to continue such important activities.

We highly appreciate demonstrations and protests by solidarity movement with the Palestinian people throughout the world, and express our full support for their efforts to pressurize their governments to intervene in order to stop the offensive.We call for establishing a safe passage to ensure the entry of medical and food consignments into the Gaza Strip, which is an obligation of the occupying power under international humanitarian law.

(adaptation of image from Picasso's Guernica)

Signatories: – Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network, representing 130 Palestinian NGOs- The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights- Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights- Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights.

“Have you not thought” (a poem by Sameeha Elwan on numbers)

Have you not thought

While writing down statistics

While raising the number of victims

While reporting an explosion

Whose sound has not your ears pierced

your stomach hurt, the inner bones

to which you’ve not jumped once

or twice, and shouted for life

before you realize

it is still not you

Have not you thought

that maybe i’m not a figure

not a number

not a statistic

to add to your record of experience

to add to ur lecture on human rights

to address your audience of intellect

~Sameeha Elwan

for Rama Al Chandi (intro + poem from Akram Habeeb)

(from our IUG colleague Akram Habeeb: one more heartbreaking story among far far too many…).

It is terrible when you lose sense of time. In Gaza we started not recognize the days of the week or even the boundaries between day and night. All what we see and recognize are the terrible scenes of devastation caused by the Israeli attacks on Gaza, the ribbed bodies of killed children. Today  I was devastated when I saw the dead body of the one year and a half – baby, Ram

a Al Chandi. Rama was killed by an Israeli attack on an old, already destroyed governmental prison called Al Sarayaa. Rama, who was dressed in red pullover was killed while she was sleeping in her purple room. When you drop a 1MT ton bomb on a place adjacent to residential places, you verily know that the neighboring houses will be destroyed and people will be k

illed. This is what is happening in Gaza. The Israelis are targeting deserted and previously destroyed buildings and the results are very devastating; more victims are added to the death toll of the real holocaust the Palestinian people in Gaza are exposed to. When I saw doctors cuffing the hand of Rama, I understood that Rama was no more among us. However, I imagined Rama assuming Lazarus figure and questioning president Obama about the gift he sent for her. Here it goes:

It was dark when I had suddenly seen

What, later, I knew the Phantom F 16

I smiled for the lovely gift,
It might be a doll?Uncle Sam finds for me fit.

A swing,

for me to push and pull?

It roared down as a hell

I never heard of or smell.

First, I thought it July 4th

When fireworks are sent forth,

It might be then my birthday,

Ah, but it is not yet Good Friday

Tell me Uncle Sam what I have seen

Is it a doll or the hideous F 16?

(adaptation of an image from Picasso's Guernica)

To Uncle Jacob you gave for free

To end my Lovely and Rosy Reverie.