Behind the Lines (Palestine. Oppression. Resistance)

May 12, 2009

Behind the Lines

Behind the Lines

 It’s not hard to know why some of the information landing on my desk on any given day may never make it into print. The answer?Gatekeepers.Vested interests. With the British and global economy in deep recession – dozens of local and national publications are shutting up shop. Not the time for editors to risk printing something new. Some quite openly say they no longer have the budget to fund research for investigative journalism – or to finance the legal back-up needed if they decide to publish something ‘challenging’.

 Is this really what we mean by ‘democracy’? The news and the questions remain. And so does the threat of another war. 

The Pope visits Palestine this week.  I’ve heard when he is gone – it’s likely there’ll be another military attack on Gaza. That is as well as the assaults on well-being people have to put up with every day. Like the drone attacks – unmanned aerial vehicles increasingly deployed across the globe (see the link here

Oliver Sprague, Amnesty International’s UK arms control programme director said:

 “Available evidence suggests these drones are powered by UK engines. Until someone from the UK government goes and physically inspects the drones, it’s hard to see on what basis they are dismissing these serious allegations.”

 “Until a robust system of end-use monitoring is in place, the UK will forever be reliant on assurances from other countries, and from arms companies, that British-made equipment is not being used to abuse human rights.” (Quoted in The Guardian 3rd. February, 2009)

Yes, I know this isn’t the only conflict on the planet. And some are sick of hearing about it.  But not half as sick as the people in the middle of it. The ones who can’t feed their children. The ones who can’t access health care properly because of the issues at the borders. 

It’s a few months now since I found Laila El-Haddad’s blog – ‘Diary of a Palestinian Mother’. She’s a journalist, like me and tells us:

“The quintessential Palestinian experience,” historian Rashid Khalidi has written, “takes place at a border, an airport, a checkpoint: in short, at any one of those many modern barriers where identities are checked and verified.”

In this place,  (adds Robyn Creswell) “connection” turns out to be only another word for separation or quarantine: the loop of airports never ends, like Borges’s famous library. The cruelty of the Palestinian situation is that these purgatories are in no way extraordinary but rather the backdrop of daily existence.”

Laila’s most recent  posts describe in detail how she was held at Cairo airport with her two children and couldn’t return to Gaza.

 Someone once told me I couldn’t be a mother AND a journalist. I wouldn’t be able to see things ‘objectively’ enough. Well, maybe that’s just because empathy is sometimes more important. Laila is the only writer I know who treats potty training as serious news. And it is serious, (and very human) news. And most of us don’t have to do it with two young children whilst in detention at Cairo airport. 

In this post – I’ve given you a disparate news flash on oppression – so I’m adding some snapshots of resistance:

  • Women Say No to War (Code Pink) organise another freedom delegation to Gaza (see link for details). There will soon be a sit down protest at  the Rafah border.
  • International Campaign to Open the Rafah Crossing has started a letter writing campaign for the permanent opening of the crossing (see the sample text at the end of this list)
  • Boycotts of Israeli goods are gathering momentum.
  • Following the death of Bassam Abu Rahmah, a demonstrator who was killed at Bi’lin by a tear gas grenade (see also previous posts) a large number of international,  Israeli and Palestinian activists have been keeping up the long-standing Friday vigils and building a memorial. To read an article written about Bassem by Frank Barat of the organizing committee of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine and a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, click here.
  • At the Trade Union Conference on Palestine solidarity last month Hugh Lanning of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign described how PSC membership is growing every week. Addressing long-standing members of solidarity groups in a friendly challenge – he said :        “It’s time to stop giving new members a history test”   
  • Protest against Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s racist foreign minister
    Wednesday 13 May 10.30am to 12.00 Noon
    Foreign Office, Whitehall, London. Called by Stop the War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, British Muslim Initiative, CND, Palestinian Forum in Britain. These organisations say: “Join us to show our disgust at the government’s willingness to meet with Israeli warmongers. During Israel’s bombing and invasion of Gaza, Avigdor Lieberman threatened action ‘just like the United States did with the Japanese in World War II’, when the US used nuclear bombs to obliterate two cities”.
  • Remember Gaza demonstration. This Saturday in London. Assemble 12noon Malet St London WC1E 7HY. March to Trafalgar Square. (Look out for Rod Cox and the children’s pictures from Gaza at the square) More details.

International Movement to Open the Rafah Border (also on Facebook). Contact:

Sample letter of protest: to be sent to your Egyptian Embassy:

Dear Sir or Madam,

  As a world citizen, I address to you my preoccupations about Palestinian people who live besieged in the Gaza Strip. 

Gaza is in the grip of a man-made humanitarian crisis. Thousands of tons of food, medical and emergency shelter aid including blankets and mattresses, donated by countries including the United States and aid organisations, are being denied entry through crossings by the Israeli government but also by your government.

I also learnt that your Foreign Affairs Department has put another obstacle to the entry of the foreign aid into Gaza: Our embassies have to write to the Egyptian Dept of Foreign Affairs asking permission to go to Gaza, which can take up to 7-14 days to get reply and bring permission to cross! This new rule is shocking from an Arab government.

Only 100 aid trucks of the estimated 500-600 trucks deemed necessary to sustain the population of Gaza according to the United Nations are being allowed into Gaza each day – 30 less than were being brought in last year and substantially less than before Israel’s operation ‘Cast Lead’: an attack that has left over 1,300 Palestinians dead, the vast majority of them civilians massacred in their streets and homes. With over 5,000 injured and 900,000 Gazans now depending on food aid, admittance of aid is crucial at this time. 

Reconstruction from Israel’s three-week assault on Gaza has been stalled due to a blanket prohibition enforced by Israel on imports of construction materials, including cement and steel. Now, thousands of Palestinians are still residing in the rubble or in flimsy canvas tents reminiscent of the mass dispossession through the ethnic cleansing of 1948 when the state of Israel was first established on Palestinian land. 

More than 3500 medical patients are injured from this war and Israel’s previous invasions, many are waiting to leave Gaza for indispensable medical treatment. Over 320 people have died of preventable and treatable conditions after being denied access to treatment since the beginning of the ongoing siege four years ago. 

Under the Geneva Conventions and Universal Declaration of Human Rights (December, 10th 1948), they are entitled to freedom of movement and protection from collective punishment. 

So, we call you to open the Rafah border and to lift all the bans, because this siege is a collective punishment and illegal under international law.

 Egypt, end the collective punishment of the Gazan people, open the border definitively! 

One Response to “Behind the Lines (Palestine. Oppression. Resistance)”

  1. […] Khalidi in journalist Lala El-Haddad’s blog: Diary of a Palestinian Mother – in my  post of […]

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