#ObliteratedFamilies – Al-Kilani Family

During the 2014 Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, 142 Palestinian families lost three or more members. Some of the families were wiped out entirely.

The #ObliteratedFamilies project tells the stories of some of these families, their loved ones who were killed and those left behind.

“Don’t worry. This is routine for us.”
Al-Kilani family, Beit Lahiya
11 people killed
July 21, 2014

Fatma al-Kilani walks briskly into the room, gives it a quick glance, and locks her eyes on her son Saleh. She is mumbling a stream of barely intelligible words. Suddenly, she asks her son in a clear voice, “Saleh, did you find them?” When there is no answer, just an embarrassed, apologetic smile, she goes back to muttering and wandering around the house. She does not know how to sit still. Neither did her younger son, Ibrahim.

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Update April 21-24, 2017
Juan Cole Programs

April 21, 2017
WORT 89.9 FM
A Public Affair: Juan Cole On The Middle East
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Listen to the program

Professor Juan Cole will be Esty Dinur’s guest on A Public Affair, WORT’s daily hour-long talk program, for a wide-ranging discussion of issues, wars and prospects in the Middle East.

April 24, 2017
“Paganism and Muslim Peace-Building in the Mecca Period”
206 Ingraham Hall
UW-Madison [Map]
12:00 to 1:00 pm

UW Middle East Studies Program presents Juan Cole (Professor of History at the University of Michigan) speaking on “Paganism and Muslim Peace-Building in the Mecca Period (610-622): What does the Qur’an Say?”

Later Muslim accounts posit an essential enmity between Muslims and pagans in the Hejaz, leading to the wars of the 620s. These Umayyad and Abbasid accounts have influenced the interpretations of contemporary scholars. A close examination of Qur’anic texts from the Meccan period, however, reveals a consistent and strongly held option for peace. It will be argued that the sanctuary status of Mecca as a holy city made this experiment in peace theology possible.

April 24, 2017
“ISIL/Daesh and the Fate of Iraq in the Age of Trump”
Elvehjem Building L150
7:00 pm [Map]

In his second talk of the Day, Juan Cole will address the future of Iraq with a focus on the policies and approaches the new Trump administration may take in combating ISIL.

For more info please contact: Névine El Nossery, Director of the Middle East Studies Program, elnossery at wisc.edu


Juan Ricardo Cole is a public intellectual, prominent blogger and essayist, and the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He writes Informed Comment, Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion, which includes “The Map: The Story of Palestinian Nationhood Thwarted”. In 1973, Juan gifted his extensive comic book collection to Northwestern University; Stan Lee of Marvel Comics attended the opening.

#ObliteratedFamilies – Shuheibar Family

During the 2014 Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, 142 Palestinian families lost three or more members. Some of the families were wiped out entirely.

The #ObliteratedFamilies project tells the stories of some of these families, their loved ones who were killed and those left behind.

“She was called Fulla”
Shuheibar family, Gaza City
3 people killed
August 2015

Like many families throughout the Gaza Strip, Kifah and Wissam have grown weary of the steady stream of journalists coming in and out of their home since last summer, asking them to repeat their story just one more time. “You come here, we open our hearts, you take what you want, go and forget. And we are left with all the painful memories again,” they say, but continue with their tale. “We named our only daughter Afnan, after a girl from Gaza who memorized the entire Quran and ended up on the news a few years ago. But Afnan sounds hard, while Fulla just rolls off the tongue. In the end everyone called her Fulla,” Kifah explains.

Her parents named her Afnan, but everyone called her Fulla, or sometimes “Hassan”, a tomboy’s nickname, just to tease her.

July 2014

It was 17 July, the twentieth day of Ramadan and the ninth day of the Israeli offensive. The day was supposed to be quiet. A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas had been in place since the morning. Fulla went to visit her cousins’ house. Her aunt loved the little girl plenty. They often joked around, her aunt liked to tease her. “Give me a shekel and I will let you stay here,” she said playfully. “No? Okay, then give me your hairband.”

August 2015

In the summer heat, without electricity to run a fan, Wissam and Kifah pull chairs up to the roof, hoping for a summer breeze to bring some relief. On the walls of the staircase, an irregular trail of white paint blotches marks the way up to the roof. In the corner, there is a small wooden hut, with metal netting instead of a front wall. It’s a birdhouse. Kifah says she’s been struggling this past year to keep her focus. “I’ve been distracted, I forget things,” she explains. Except for the memory of her loss; that’s always clear in her mind.

July 2014

Though Israel had been bombing Gaza for nine days, people insisted on observing Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims, a month of fasting and a month of nighttime celebrations in the dim light of lanterns hanging across the streets. “Make the Ramadan a month of darkness for them,” a former Israeli Knesset member, Michael Ben-Ari, said to the Israeli public. His call was answered: a few days into Ramadan, Israel began a military offensive on the occupied Gaza Strip, codenamed Operation Protective Edge, effectively turning what many Muslims refer to as the ‘holidays of light’ into nearly two months of darkness.

RAMADAN NIGHT IN GAZA 2016. Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims, a month of fasting and a month of nighttime celebrations.

In Gaza City, 8-year old Fulla was taking care of her little brother, Abdallah, just like on any other day during the Ramadan holidays. That morning, she helped him wash and change into clean clothes. She hugged him and told him: “I adore you, my brother.” A little later, she took off for her aunt’s house. Her aunt, as usual, began with her good-natured teasing: “You want to stay here? Give me a shekel.” Fulla dug a shekel out of her pocket, and with a heavy heart gave it to her aunt. “Okay, fine, you can have your shekel back if you clean the room.” The aunt was always pushing the little girl’s patience.

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April 26, 2017
Film Benefit for Open Doors for Refugees

Barrymore Theater
Atwood Avenue, Madison
7:00 pm [Map]
Discussion following the film

Open Doors For Refugees presents Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary Feature
FIRE AT SEA, Gianfranco Rosi’s award-winning documentary about the heavy toll of the migrant crisis, and the price of freedom.

This fundraising event is sponsored by Open Doors for Refugees, a growing community volunteer organization advocating for, welcoming and helping settle refugees in the greater Madison area. See facebook.com/OpenDoorsForRefugees.

Fire at Sea was an Academy Award® nominee for Best Documentary Feature and the first nonfiction film to ever win the top prize at the Berlin International Film Festival. The film takes place in Lampedusa, a remote Mediterranean island that has become a major entry point for refugees into Europe. It jolts the audience into a new understanding of what is happening in the region, the heavy toll, and the price.

Please contact: OpenDoorsEvents [at] gmail.com

April 22, 2017
Peace Contingent in the Madison Climate March


Saturday, April 22
1 pm Lisa Link Peace Park, 452 State St, Madison
2 pm State Capitol Building

Join the Peace Contingent
in the Madison Climate March

Please join with MRSCP and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in a Peace Contingent as part of Madison’s Climate March. We will assemble at 1 pm at Lisa Link Park for a “Solidarity Hour” and then march up State Street to join the main rally, which begins at 2 pm at the State Capitol Building. Wear your kuffiyehs and come help us carry our banners!

Update: Feds Drop Charges against AMP staffers

American Muslims for Palestine, April 22, 2017

(WASHINGTON DC 04.21.2017) — The federal government has dropped the charges against AMP staffers Taher Herzallah and Kareem El-Hosseiny. Stephen Rickard, Deputy Chief of the misdemeanors section in the U.S. Attorney’s office notified the men’s attorney Ann Wilcox on Friday evening.

Filing what is called a “nolle prosequi,” or a formal notice of abandonment, the charges have been dropped and the case is closed.

“The United States of America, by and through its attorney, the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, hereby notifies the court and the defense that the government is entering a nolle prosequi in this case, thereby causing the information to be dismissed without prejudice.”

“We are overjoyed,” Herzallah said. “We showed the federal government we were not going to take their biased charges silently. This really shows the power of the people to speak truth to power.”

Herzallah and El-Hosseiny were arrested in February along with four others from Code Pink and If Not Now for protesting at the Senate confirmation hearing for U.S. Ambassador David Friedman. Herzallah and El-Hosseiny — the only two Arabs and Muslims in the group — were the only two with criminal charges filed against them by the U.S. Attorney’s office. Three of the protesters were allowed to pay a small fine the same day. One had his case transferred to traffic court.

The men rejected a plea deal that would have required 32 hours of community service and included being banned from Capitol grounds for a lengthy period of time. Instead, they opted for a trial to fight the selective prosecution charges on the grounds they were based on racial, religious and ethnic bias.

El-Hosseiny added, “This proves that all the public, organizational and faith-based support sent a strong message to the federal prosecutors.”

In addition to a successful social media campaign, which was joined by several Palestinian rights and social justice organizations and that reached upwards of 1 million accounts, the Huffington Post, AJ Plus, Mondoweiss, Muftah and other media outlets kept the case in the news. The Associated Press had also started working on a story.

The American Muslims for Palestine is extremely grateful for how our partners rallied around our colleagues and supported their effort to fight the charges that amounted to selective prosecution.

“AMP thanks NLG attorney Ann Wilcox for her expertise, professionalism and willingness to fight for justice and to see this through to the end,” said Dr. Osama Abuirshaid, AMP national policy director. “We could not be prouder of our colleagues and we’re relieved at the positive outcome.”

AMP is also thankful to all the individuals and groups who helped spread the word, including the US Palestinian Community Network, the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Friends of Sabeel North America and the 15 faith leaders who signed the letter of support, DCI-Palestine, Adalah, IfNotNow, Code Pink, Jewish Voice for Peace national, as well as the DC and New York chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace.

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#ObliteratedFamilies – Foreword by Rajah Shehadeh

During the 2014 Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, 142 Palestinian families lost three or more members. Some of the families were wiped out entirely.

The #ObliteratedFamilies project tells the stories of some of these families, their loved ones who were killed and those left behind.

Don Paterson, the prize winning Scottish poet, has never been to Gaza, and yet following the news of the Israeli attack on the Strip in the summer of 2014 found that he could not remain silent. He wrote a sonnet about the Israeli shelling of a boy playing on the beach. The sonnet is called The Foot and it begins with the line:

I have no words so here are the no words

Often during that dreadful summer I also found that I had no words in the face of such inhuman shelling by the Israeli military of so densely a populated area as the Gaza Strip. But Anne Paq and Ala Qandil in this web documentary found the words and took photographs that tell the stories of ten families whose lives were literally shattered by the Israeli offensive of 2014.

What we hear from Gaza, as from other war-torn areas of the world, are always the numbers and figures; the news is often so grim that we are numbed and feel we can no longer imagine what it’s like to live there. The significance of this project is that it brings us through word and image the intimate lives and tragedies befalling the Gaza families and makes it impossible for us, the readers and viewers, to shield ourselves and not to profoundly feel the experience of those who lived through the Israeli bombardment during that black summer of 2014.

When approaching carnage there are some who may exhibit a pornographic interest in the subject, callousness, lack of empathy or an attitude of voyeurism in their observation of others. This was perhaps true of some of the Israeli soldiers who carried out the bombing, one of whom the author caught smiling right after he shot towards the sight in which she stood. It is certainly not so with the sensitively woven and narrated accounts in this web documentary.

The documentary’s cover photograph was taken with a wide lens from a high point. It is of a young man standing in the midst of a yard that is full of pieces of metal, wood, porcelain, cement and stone. These are the remains of what had once been the factory which he owned and his nearby home, where two of his brothers along with their wives and kids were waiting to be evacuated when they were bombed along with all the walls, furniture, personal belongings, and photographs, all reduced to rubble.

It is tragedy enough to lose one’s home and place of work, and worse still to lose one’s loved ones or one’s entire family. But what is not often remembered is the consequence on the survivor’s life and future of losing all one’s documents: birth certificates, property deeds, school and university certificates and health reports, as happened to many Gaza residents whose houses were bombed. Just imagine the complications that would arise from being unable to submit to any authority proof of your past and the details of your previous existence. It is difficult to imagine how one can manage to build one’s life anew after such immense loss.

And yet in the midst of all this destruction, the young man whose life was shattered stands tall, looking up, seemingly ready to go on, a true representative of the legendary resilience of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip. There are also two portraits of Hussein al-Najjar, whose family is amongst the ten shattered lives that are highlighted here. In neither of them does he look at the camera. In one of the photographs his seeing eye (the other is bandaged as is his head) is looking down, introspective, sad, terribly sad, but not seeking sympathy. In the other, his left hand covers his mouth as if he did not want to speak; he wants to be left alone to think his own thoughts, lost in his own world as he tries to figure out how it has come to this, to this horror that humans can bring on other humans who live close by.

In the introduction we are told that Hussein went to pray when his house was bombed. He lost consciousness, then when he opened his eyes again he learned that his wife, two children and 16 other members of his family were killed. The question that comes to mind is: how could anyone want to wake up after such knowledge? And yet, from following the news from Gaza one knows that the people in the Strip do just that. Four months after this photograph was taken, Anne Paq returned to Gaza and visited Hussein and wanted to give him the photograph. But he refused to take it because, as he told her, “I don’t want to remember that day.” His reaction made her shift from being the researcher and documenter to the human being she is and she writes that she felt ashamed and cursed herself. She then adds: “I felt that for a moment I had lost that fragile balance between documenting the tragedy and bringing more sorrow into the already devastated lives of the survivors.” She adds: “Everyone wants an original account of the attack, a piece of their intimate feelings, a few personal details…” The authors of this documentary are not among those who try to take anything. Instead, they generously give back to the people of Gaza. This work would move many a viewer to tears.

One of those whose stories are told in this book, Saleh Kilani, says: “Life in Gaza has always been consumed by war.” But has it always? Before the Israeli occupation the people living in the Strip were known for their humor and ability to live happy, carefree lives, as any other people who lived by the sea. One day the siege of Gaza and its occupation by Israel will end and, in the words of one interviewee, ’natural’ life will be possible again in Gaza.

by Rajah Shehadeh

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