Fighting Israel with a camera and a stethoscope

Raymond Deane, The Electronic Intifada, 31 July 2015

Night in Gaza by Mads Gilbert (Skyscraper Publications)

Since 2006, Israel has launched four merciless assaults on the besieged and defenseless Gaza Strip. After Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 and early 2009, with its 1,400 Palestinian fatalities, the Norwegian surgeon Dr. Mads Gilbert published the best-selling Eyes in Gaza.

That book, a record of his and co-author Erik Fosse’s experiences in Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital during the massacre, made him the object of a relentless campaign of defamation by Israel and its fellow-travellers.

In July 2014 Operation Protective Edge, the most recent Israeli onslaught, inflicted more than 2,200 Palestinian fatalities, including 551 children. This attack was also partly witnessed by Gilbert; in its wake the Israeli authorities did not stop at defamation, but imposed a permanent ban on his entry to Gaza, reportedly for “security” reasons.

In the preface to his new book Night in Gaza, Gilbert comments: “When a pen, a camera and a stethoscope are seen as security threats, we know we are dealing with a regime that is afraid of the truth and that believes power confers rights.”

Clearly, however, the ban on Gilbert stems less from fear of the “small, black Sony … compact digital camera” that he carried wherever he went, even into the operating theater, than hostility to his unapologetically political stance.

Not neutral

“The medical profession cannot … be detached from society,” he tells us in his preface. “I am not neutral. I have taken a side. This book is a plea: in favor of the Palestinians.”

A photograph of a Palestinian nurse giving the victory salute as he deals with an emergency is captioned: “The health workers see themselves as part of the popular resistance.” And in his final, valedictory chapter, he proclaims that “the social aspect of [medical] work … means supporting all measures to reduce social inequalities … it is what makes the medical profession a political tool.”

Of course, the State of Israel also sees the medical profession as a political tool, periodically sending teams of doctors, soldiers and press photographers to the sites of natural disasters (Nepal, Haiti, the Philippines) while hindering alleviation of the disaster it has created in Gaza.

If Israel’s politicization of medicine is designed ultimately to further the Zionist project of dispossession and conquest, Gilbert’s political stance is, on the contrary, taken in defense of Palestinian rights and universal human values.

Gilbert’s small black camera, nonetheless, may arouse certain reservations. One approaches the very cover with trepidation: a photograph of a little girl’s head swathed in a sheet, her eyes closed. A glance inside the cover reveals that she is not in fact dead but anesthetized: a “beautiful moment of serenity amidst all the chaos of the nightmare that was the Shujaiya massacre.”


While this experience of unease followed by relief recurs throughout the book, there are also profoundly disturbing photographs of the dying and indeed the dead.

Gilbert writes that “Every single image in this book has been evaluated by senior medical staff at al-Shifa and by the Palestinian ministry of health with regard to whether it is ethically justifiable to publish them and to whether patient confidentiality has been respected. I have received official authorization for all the pictures included in this book. Names have generally been omitted.”

It might have been better for this clarification to have been placed at the beginning of the book rather than at the end.

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Gaza patients stranded at Egypt’s border

Charlotte Silver, The Electronic Intifada, 18 June 2015

Palestinians queue at the Rafah crossing on 14 June. Ashraf Amra/APA images

Fahad stood on his crutches at the Rafah terminal, the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, his right foot swaddled in bandages. He waited for his name to be called.

Fahad, a 27-year-old man from the northern town of Beit Hanoun, is one of more than 3,000 Palestinians hoping to cross into Egypt to receive medical care that is unavailable in Gaza.

Fahad’s right leg was seriously injured when it was hit by shrapnel during Israel’s assault last summer. At the time, he was rushed through Rafah to receive care in Egypt. But once he returned to Gaza he was unable to get the necessary follow-up treatment.

Now Fahad, who did not want his last name printed, has been told by his doctors in Gaza that the only option they can provide him is amputating his leg.

Egypt has kept the Rafah crossing — the only crossing point for the vast majority of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents — almost entirely sealed for more than seven months. Egypt’s president Abdulfattah al-Sisi closed Rafah last October following attacks against the Egyptian military in the Sinai Peninsula.

The crossing has been opened for travel in both directions for a mere five days since that time. When Egypt recently announced it would open its gates for three days only, the list of Palestinians waiting to leave had swelled to 15,000.

Gaza’s health care system has been severely restricted since Israel and Egypt closed Gaza’s crossings after Hamas was elected to power in 2006 and took control of the Strip’s internal affairs in 2007. Even before the siege, Palestinians in Gaza relied on traveling abroad to receive specialized treatment.

But for the last eight years, patients in Gaza have found it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to receive a medical permit to exit.

Fees to leave first

Students, people with certain medical conditions and Palestinians with citizenship abroad are able to register with the interior ministry in Gaza for an exit permit. When Egypt opens the crossing, the ministry publishes the names of those who will be allowed to exit on its website.

According to Gisha, an Israeli group that monitors the freedom of movement for people in the Gaza Strip, a special committee within the interior ministry determines and prioritizes the urgency of needs — not all of them medical — and places those deemed most pressing on the first buses.

But the scores of people seated at the Rafah crossing late afternoon Monday said it is those who have paid a handsome fee to Egyptian authorities who are able to leave first.

“I don’t have the money to pay the authorities of Egypt,” Fahad said. He was supposed to cross on Sunday.

Fahad estimated that those who were allowed to cross first paid as much as $4,000.

Only two years ago, according to Gisha, it cost Palestinians around $100 to coordinate with the Egyptian authorities. But with an increasingly dangerous political climate in Egypt for Palestinians and the greatly reduced frequency of border openings, the cost has spiked.

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Ex-U.N. Official John Dugard: Israel’s Crimes are “Infinitely Worse” Than in Apartheid South Africa

Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!, May 06, 2015

John Dugard, former U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories. He’s now emeritus professor of international law at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. He was born in South Africa.

As Palestine joins the International Criminal Court, former U.N. Special Rapporteur John Dugard talks about how an apartheid case could be brought against Israel in the ICC. "I’m a South African who lived through apartheid," Dugard said. "I have no hesitation in saying that Israel’s crimes are infinitely worse than those committed by the apartheid regime of South Africa."


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JOHN DUGARD: I think the strategy of Israel and also of the United States is simply to allow talks to go on forever and ever, while Israel annexes more land and takes over Palestinian territory. The purpose of the International Criminal Court, as I see it, is to circumvent this strategy on the part of Israel and the United States and to make Israel and the United States see and face the issues very clearly—namely, that Israel has committed very, very serious international crimes. And I might add that I’m a South African who lived through apartheid. I have no hesitation in saying that Israel’s crimes are infinitely worse than those committed by the apartheid regime of South Africa.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you’re saying. You’re the former U.N. special rapporteur on human rights, as well.

JOHN DUGARD: For seven years, I visited the Palestinian territory twice a year. I also conducted a fact-finding mission after the Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008, 2009. So I am familiar with the situation, and I am familiar with the apartheid situation. I was a human rights lawyer in apartheid South Africa. And I, like virtually every South African who visits the occupied territory, has a terrible sense of déjà vu. We’ve seen it all before, except that it is infinitely worse. And what has happened in the West Bank is that the creation of a settlement enterprise has resulted in a situation that closely resembles that of apartheid, in which the settlers are the equivalent of white South Africans. They enjoy superior rights over Palestinians, and they do oppress Palestinians. So, one does have a system of apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territory. And I might mention that apartheid is also a crime within the competence of the International Criminal Court.

AMY GOODMAN: You say, John Dugard, that the situation in the Palestinian territories is worse than apartheid. What would an apartheid case brought to the International Criminal Court look like? Again, you were the special rapporteur, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, as well as being a South African and an international rights lawyer.

JOHN DUGARD: Well, of course, I think it’s important to stress that the whole international environment has changed since the end of apartheid, because the apartheid regime, fortunately for itself, did not have to face a legal action either before an international criminal court or before a national court, whereas Israel today does face action before an international court. Of course, the crimes are substantially the same: discrimination, repression, targeted assassinations, house demolitions. I think, in one respect, Israel’s crimes are much worse, and that is in respect of its military action against Gaza, where it has not hesitated to kill civilians indiscriminately.

‘Gaza Is Hell’

Desolation and destiny in a land in limbo

Banksy artwork on the ruins of a building destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Beit Hanoun (Alice Su)

Alice Su, The Atlantic, May 2, 2015

BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip—Eight months after last summer’s war between Israel and Palestinian militant groups, Gaza remains in ruins. Drive five minutes into the territory from the crossing point in southwestern Israel and you reach Beit Hanoun, one of the areas hit most severely by land and air during the conflict. Bright blue sky spreads over buildings with big bites taken out of them. Half-eaten bedrooms and kitchens yawn open to reveal tangled wires, broken rock, and household goods: a slipper, a pack of sanitary pads, a ripped-up schoolbook. People peek over mounds of rubble from tents behind their former homes, like aliens come to settle an abandoned planet.

In Gaza City, the flags and slogans of Hamas, the Islamic militant group that governs Gaza, cover the street corners: “Resist, O Palestinian people, your perseverance is our only hope for freedom.” Driving through the city, you see murals of doves and children holding hands, UNRWA cartoons about saving water and picking up trash, and then a stick figure blowing up an Israeli tank. Across the street, someone has scrawled a Star of David on a garbage bin.

But ask what people are doing, and they say, “Sitting. Waiting.” Hamas’s rhetoric is all about resistance, but most people I met in Gaza were not so much defiant as desolate, not so much resisting as resigned. Those who survived last summer’s war are trapped in 360 square kilometers of trauma and contradiction, choking on war and blockade, disillusioned with the Palestinian leadership and disempowered by the aid community. They sit without jobs, relief, or means of rebuilding, waiting for things to change.

“Gaza is hell,” 20-year-old Ahmad told me in Shejaiya, one of the worst-hit neighborhoods in Gaza City. He and his 19-year-old brother were picking over the leftovers of their home. Sometimes they sell salvaged iron and rubble for recycling; other days they search for their old photos, papers, and clothes. “Gazans have Israel on one side, Hamas on the other, and here we are just eating shit,” he said. “People are only living because they are not dying. If death was nicer, we’d go for it.”

Gaza, which was under Israeli occupation from 1967 until 2005, when Israeli troops and settlers withdrew from the territory unilaterally, has been overseen by Hamas since the organization defeated the PLO-affiliated Fatah party in Palestinian elections in 2006. Fighting broke out between Hamas and Fatah the following year, leaving Hamas running Gaza and Fatah running the West Bank. Israel responded by imposing a blockade on Gaza to deter Palestinian rocket attacks and other militant activity against Israeli civilians—forbidding all access by air and sea, controlling physical movement through its crossings, and placing restrictions on access to commercial goods as well basic supplies like fuel, electricity, food, and medicine. Israel has also launched three military operations in Gaza since the Hamas takeover, with the latest leaving 2,131 Palestinians and 71 Israelis dead. Almost 70 percent of the slain Palestinians were civilians, including at least 501 children.

“People are only living because they are not dying. If death was nicer, we’d go for it.”

“I don’t support any political party. But when Israel is killing us, Hamas is like our special ops. They’re the only ones doing anything to defend us,” a 21-year-old nursing student at the Islamic University in Gaza City told me.

Another college student said she’d lost faith in politics, but would vote for Hamas if an election were held now. Palestinian politicians are corrupt, she said, but she’d rather support Hamas than forego resistance altogether: “We know that if we stopped, Israel would wipe us all out. We are being crushed and crushed and crushed and crushed. So it’s either die for your cause or compromise, but you’ll be killed one way or another.”

Last June, Fatah, Hamas, and other factions formed a unity government, promising to hold presidential and parliamentary elections within six months. But then the war broke out. The window for elections has passed and the politicians are split over several issues. Some are ideological: Hamas advocates militant resistance to Israel while the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank prefers negotiation.

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The United States should recognize the state of Palestine

A Palestinian girl in the northern Gaza Strip this month. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

Matthew Duss and Michael A. Cohen, The Washington Post, March 27, 2015

Matthew Duss is president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace. Michael A. Cohen is a fellow at the Century Foundation.

The Israeli-Palestinian peace process — the one that is supposed to end with a two-state solution — is on life support. Both sides in the conflict have made their share of missteps, but Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, all but pulled the plug earlier this month by pledging during his reelection campaign that Palestine would never become a state on his watch. He reaffirmed the sentiment even as he dialed back the rhetoric after the vote. This position runs directly counter to U.S. national security goals.

A two-state solution has been an American policy for nearly two decades. In a 2002 speech, George W. Bush became the first president to explicitly call for the creation of an economically sustainable, demilitarized Palestinian state. “The establishment of the state of Palestine is long overdue,” he said in 2008. “The Palestinian people deserve it. And it will enhance the stability of the region. And it will contribute to the security of the people of Israel.” Today, virtually all American politicians, on both sides of the aisle, publicly support this outcome. But with Netanyahu standing in its way, how can the United States advance this goal?

By recognizing the state of Palestine.

This is not about punishing Israel; it’s about protecting U.S. national security. Recognizing Palestine would, by helping the two-state cause, address a key source of resentment toward the United States, making it easier for American policymakers to pursue other priorities in the Middle East, such as preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon, defeating the Islamic State and strengthening regional security partnerships. It would ease dealings with governments in Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which often agree with Israel’s regional strategy but revile its treatment of Palestinians. It would signal to the Israelis — and their neighbors — that the United States will act in its own interests, even when those interests conflict with a close ally’s views. And it would strengthen the Jewish homeland’s security (a long-standing U.S. national interest), as many in Israel’s security establishment understand.

Recognizing Palestine would also address a persistent foreign policy problem: the divide between America’s official policy of support for Palestinian statehood and its continued support for an Israeli government that deliberately impedes that goal.

Netanyahu, while paying lip service to the two-state solution, has relentlessly worked to undermine it during his three terms as prime minister — and not just by expanding settlements, violently suppressing unarmed protests and exacerbating the divisions between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. He has offered no hope to the Palestinians. No wonder Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas began asking other countries, and the United Nations, to recognize Palestine after a previous round of talks collapsed in 2010. Now that Netanyahu has admitted publicly what many already believed — that he’ll never play midwife to Palestine — it’s clear that if Washington wants to achieve this goal, it must seek another route.

The only way to end this conflict, presidents from both parties have argued for decades, is through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. That’s why U.S. officials have opposed unilateral measures, such as Palestinian-backed U.N. Security Council resolutions condemning Israeli settlements or efforts to join international organizations. But the path of direct talks is closed off, at least while Netanyahu remains in power: Palestinians are not going to sit down with an Israeli prime minister who campaigns on a rejection of their foundational demand. As one American official told us last fall, “There is not a Palestinian alive who believes that there is any hope for political negotiation with Netanyahu.” At a news conference Tuesday, President Obama said much the same: “What we can’t do is pretend that there’s a possibility of something that’s not there. . . . For the sake of our own credibility, I think we have to be able to be honest about that.”

Given this reality, it is pointless for the United States to initiate yet another round of talks that will accomplish nothing. But the Israelis and the Palestinians will eventually have to return to direct talks to negotiate issues such as national borders, dividing Jerusalem, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, the future of Israeli settlements and joint security arrangements. Recognizing Palestine now would lay the groundwork for those future negotiations. It would be an object lesson for Israelis about the costs of continued recalcitrance, and it would ensure that the United States plays a more effective role as a broker in talks by diminishing the dramatic power asymmetry that has bedeviled the peace process.

In some ways, recognition of Palestine would look awfully like an American seal of approval for Abbas and his actions. This is problematic, because he, too, has at times been a obstinate partner in the peace process. According to U.S. officials, he “shut down” when Obama presented him with a framework for future negotiations in the Oval Office in March 2014. He has dragged his feet on a deal in which Palestinian Authority security forces would take control of Gaza’s crossing points, a prerequisite for desperately needed relief and reconstruction in the territory. And in the 11th year of a four-year presidential term, he has not taken any serious steps to prepare Palestinians for national elections — even though this was an ostensible goal of his party’s reconciliation agreement last year with Hamas, the extremist group that rules Gaza.

Elections are particularly important because Abbas is a weak and embattled president. Any enduring agreement with Israel will require a Palestinian leader who is credible and legitimate. Recognizing Palestine would signal to its electorate that diplomacy (which Abbas favors) clearly works better than violence (which Hamas favors), serving as a powerful campaign argument for moderate Palestinian politicians.

Until then, in exchange for this diplomatic victory, the United States should require the Palestinian leadership to deal with a number of issues — the transfer of security authority in the Gaza Strip, an end to the crackdown on civil society in the West Bank, preparations for elections — while also making clear that international pressure on Israel cannot replace the hard bargaining and painful compromises that negotiations toward a final settlement require.

March 15, 2015 Rafah Filmmaker Fida Qishta at First United Methodist Church

(See Funding Campaign for Filmmaker Fida Qishta)

Sunday, March 15
First United Methodist Church
Fellowship Hall
203 Wisconsin Avenue
Madison [Map]
7:00 pm

Join us for “Dessert and a Movie” at this year’s Rachel Corrie commemorative event with Rafah filmmaker Fida Qishta and her ground-breaking Where Should the Birds Fly? The event is free and open to the public, but donations to cover costs will be appreciated. Desserts, including baklawa, and coffee and tea will be served. Please RSVP to dwallbaum (at) with the number of attendees.

March 16 will be twelve years since Rachel Corrie was crushed to death in Rafah by an Israeli bulldozer as she tried to stop the demolition of the Nasrallah family home. Just last week, the Israeli Supreme Court confirmed a lower court decision that the Israeli army bears no responsibility for her death; for more info and a statement from Craig and Cindy Corrie visit the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice. Portions of Where Should the Birds Fly were filmed in and around the area where Rachel died.

Don’t miss your chance to see this powerful film and meet the remarkable woman who made it.

Co-sponsored by the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, Playgrounds for Palestine-Madison, First United Methodist, Memorial United Church of Christ in Fitchburg, and Pilgrims of Ibillin.

Fida Qishta will also be showing Where Should the Birds Fly? in the Janesville area at

    Milton United Methodist Church
    241 Northside Drive, Milton, WI [Map]
    Sunday, March 15 at 1 pm

There will be a discussion with Fida after the film, and refreshments will be served. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. Sponsored by the Milton United Methodist Church and the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

From the film’s web site:

Where Should the Birds Fly? is the first film about Gaza made by Palestinians living the reality of Israel’s siege and blockade of this tiny enclave. It is the story of two young women, survivors of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead. Mona Samouni, now 12 years old and the filmmaker, Fida Qishta, now 27, represent the spirit and future of Palestinians.

The film is a visual documentation of the Goldstone Report. But it is so much more. It reveals the strength and hope, the humanity and humor that flourishes among the people of Gaza. Few films document so powerfully and personally the impact of modern warfare and sanctions on a civilian population.

The film itself breaks the blockade. Filmmakers in Gaza have never had the opportunity to make a full length, professional documentary of their reality. Fida Qishta, born and raised in Rafah, Gaza, began her filmmaking career as a wedding videographer, and soon moved on to working with international human rights observers in Gaza, documenting day to day life under siege. Her commentary on the siege was published in The International Herald Tribune. Her video reports of Operation Cast Lead were published widely including in the UK newspaper The Guardian and in their weekly news magazine The Observer.

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March 12, 2015
Norman Finkelstein on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Thursday, March 12
Educational Science Building, Room 204
UW-Madison Campus [Map]
7 pm

Dr. Norman Finkelstein, well known speaker and scholar, will address recent events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the future of Palestine. All students, faculty, and guests are welcome to attend.

Sponsored by UW-Madison Students for Justice in Palestine, in cooperation with the Wisconsin Union Directorate Society and Politics Committee and support from Associated Students of Madison.

For more info: Facebook — UW-Madison Students for Justice in Palestine

March 13, 2015
Rafah Filmmaker Fida Qishta at the Memorial Union

Friday March 13
Memorial Union
UW-Madison Campus
6:30 pm [Map]

Gaza film-maker Fida Qishta will speak and show her groundbreaking film “Where Should the Birds Fly”, the first film about Gaza made by Palestinians living the reality of Israel’s siege and blockade of this tiny enclave.

Sponsored by UW-Madison Students for Justice in Palestine, with support from the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

For more info: Facebook — UW-Madison Students for Justice in Palestine
Film trailer: Where Should the Birds Fly

January 28 – February 17, 2015
Mornings in Jenin Book Group

Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, Playgrounds for Palestine-Madison, the Peregrine Forum and the Madison Infoshop Free Skool are partnering to host this book discussion in Madison.

The first session of the Mornings in Jenin book discussion was held at the Madison public library on January 28, in coordination with similar discussions around the world.

The second will meet Tuesday, February 17th, 7 pm at 122 State Street, Suite 200, Madison [Map]. It will cover the novel’s middle chapters on the early Israeli Occupation from 1967-1983, the 1982 Lebanon War, and the Palestinian Diaspora.

A report on the world-wide January sessions can be found here.

January 28 & Ongoing
See the Facebook Event page!

Mornings in Jenin is a sweeping, heart-wrenching historical saga about four generations of the Abulheja family. From Jenin to Jerusalem to Beirut to Philadelphia, the novel follows the family from its displacement from Ein Hod village in 1948 through love and loss over decades of life in Palestine and the diaspora.

Participants should read the first two sections, “Nakba” and “Naksa”, for the first meeting. If you plan to attend, please RSVP before January 20 to rafahsistercity (at) for room size. We also have information on the availability of printed and eBook copies and financial assistance. The book was originally published under the title Scar of David, and there should be no significant difference between the two versions.

We hope you will consider joining us. If you have any questions, please contact rafahsistercity (at)

Librarians and Archivists with Palestine

information workers in solidarity with the Palestinian people

One Book, Many Communities: Mornings in Jenin. January 2015.9781608190461

This winter, join Librarians and Archivists with Palestine for an exciting international reading campaign: “One Book, Many Communities: Mornings in Jenin.” The project draws inspiration from the “one book, one town” idea — wherein people in local communities come together to read and discuss a common book. Librarians and Archivists with Palestine invites readers, librarians, and others to organize gatherings in January 2015 to discuss Mornings in Jenin, the acclaimed novel by Palestinian-American author and activist Susan Abulhawa. (See the toolkit for a promotional code for discounts on book purchases.)

“Every now and again a literary work changes the way people think. Abulhawa…has crafted a brilliant first novel about Palestine… [This] intensely beautiful fictionalized history… should be read by both politicians and those interested in contemporary politics.” – Library Journal

LAP’s “One Book, Many Communities” campaign will introduce readers to the richness of Palestinian literature, and create a broader awareness and understanding of Palestinian history and the struggle for self-determination.

Please join us! If you’re interested in organizing a reading group in your community, let us know and check back here soon for more information and resources. Book groups can be held at a library, university or school, at a local non-profit organization or community center, in your living room, or at a bookstore. If you schedule your event for sometime during the month of January 2015, you’ll be connected to readers across the globe who will be reading and discussing the book at the same time. Use your imagination! And let us know what you’re planning!One Book logo

Librarians and Archivists with Palestine is a network of self-defined librarians, archivists, and information workers in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.

The hashtag for the campaign is: #lap1book

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