Tsela Barr and Michele Bahl: Recent visit to Gaza heartbreaking

TSELA BARR AND MICHELE BAHL | members, Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, Cap Times, Nov 22, 2012

Picture this normal scene: Teenage boys are playing soccer in front of their house on a sunny day in November. Just one problem: These boys live in the Gaza Strip. Suddenly a 13-year-old drops bleeding to the ground, shot by an Israeli soldier in a helicopter.

We were in Gaza at the time and paid a condolence call to the parents of the dead boy. The grief of his mother was unbearable to see.

A man at the funeral said, “We hope you will be strong ambassadors to reflect our message that we need protection. We are looking for freedom and peace.”

Since we left Gaza, over 149 people were killed and over 850 injured during “Operation Pillar of Cloud.” A majority of those killed in this eight-day assault were noncombatants including women, children and the elderly. The many hundreds more who were injured were overwhelmingly civilians.

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Stories of Peacebuilding in Gaza and the West Bank

John Quinlan, WORT 89.9 FM – A Public Affair, November 19, 2012

On Monday November 19th, host John Quinlan was joined in conversation with visitors from a peace delegation sponsored by the Interfaith Peace-Builders.

The delegates just returned this past week from Gaza and and the West Bank. Permission for foreigners to obtain passage to Gaza is rare, and thus these interviews provided listeners with a vital opportunity to understand daily life in the Palestinian territories and how this existence is being affected by the current conflict. John spoke with Tsela Barr and Michele Bahl who just came back from a peace delegation to Gaza on November 12th. During the second half of the hour John spoke with Veena Brekke who recently returned from a peace delegation to the West Bank.

According to their website, “Interfaith Peace-Builders believes in the power of eye-witness experience and transformation. Given the opportunity to speak directly with Israelis and Palestinians, delegates return to the United States better informed, more energized, and with a deeper understanding of the possibilities for true justice in the Middle East.” Tsela, Michele, and Veena shared with WORT listeners their fascinating experiences from both Israel and Palestine.

Read more about Interfaith Peace Builders on their website: http://www.ifpb.org/

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Israel Attacks the Gaza Strip

On the day that the Interfaith Peace Builders delegation (with four women from Wisconsin) safely left Gaza, Israel’s attacks began … please read the following message and watch the news. The great fear is a repeat of Operation Cast Lead, launched exactly four years ago following the U.S. presidential election … emergency demonstrations are being organized around the world. There may be one in Madison, possibly downtown in the late afternoon on Friday, details TBA.

In the meantime, the US Campaign to End the Occupation is asking people to call the White House.

Today, Israel launched a major offensive in the Gaza Strip, killing the Hamas leader nearby civilians, including two girls under the age of five. The death toll continues to rise. The US Campaign strongly condemns these brutal attacks, carried out with U.S. weapons given to Israel as military aid and paid for by U.S. taxpayers, and Israel’s ongoing, illegal siege of Gaza.

Please act now and call on the Obama administration to exert diplomatic pressure on Israel to bring about an immediate cease-fire and to initiate an investigation of Israel’s misuse of U.S. weapons against Palestinians in this and previous attacks.

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An Ongoing Terror

Michele Bahl, Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, November 14, 2012

Yesterday we visited the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. Since the siege, which started in 2006 when Hamas won the election, there has been a medication shortage. Israel controls everything that comes into Gaza, and we were told that cancer medications are not allowed in. There are so many things that are not allowed into Gaza, such as materials to rebuild from the Israeli bombings, and utility vehicles to collect garbage. People are dying in Gaza not because there are a shortage of hospitals, but because there are a lack of supplies due to the severe restrictions that Israel imposes on the people of Gaza by this siege.

I haven’t seen one Israeli soldier here, but the population of 1.7 Gazans feel Israel’s presence here all of the time. It is a terrifying presence.

During Operation Cast Lead, which took place in Dec. ’08/ Jan. 09, Israel killed hundreds of innocent civilians. Over half of the population of Gaza is under 18 years old. There is no place that people feel safe in Gaza due to the reality that Israel can attack Gaza and cause widespread destruction at any time.

There is ongoing terror that people face every day, but Americans never hear about it. I believe if my fellow Americans were aware of the ongoing systematic violence that Israel carries out, they would be outraged and want to do something to stop it. If I didn’t believe this, I would have no hope.

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2012 Gaza Delegation Photos

 


Michele Bahl and Tsela (Carol) Barr of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project entered Gaza through the Rafah Crossing on November 5, 2012 as part of a 21-member delegation from Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB). This was the first IFPB delegation to enter the Gaza Strip since 2003. From the Interfaith Peace-Builders report:

    “Like other Interfaith Peace-Builder delegations, its purpose is to educate North Americans about the region and deepen their understanding of its conflicts.

    On the eve of the Presidential Election in the United States, the US-brokered peace process continues to show few results and US military aid to the region continues to flow unabated.

    This delegation focuses on the realities of Palestinian life in the Gaza Strip. Participants have the unique opportunity to hear directly from Palestinians throughout the territory regarding their hopes for peace and the role of the United States, the US government, and other international actors in promoting a resolution to the conflict.

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VOICES OF CONSCIENCE: DELEGATION to THE GAZA STRIP

Interfaith Peace-Builders, November 5, 2012

November 5, 2012 – Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB) is pleased to announce that our 21 member delegation to the Gaza Strip passed safely through the Rafah Crossing Monday morning and is now safely in the Gaza Strip.

Interfaith Peace-Builders has sent more than 44 delegations to Palestine/Israel since 2001. This is the first IFPB delegation to enter the Gaza Strip since 2003. Like other IFPB delegations, its purpose is to educate North Americans about the region and deepen their understanding of its conflicts.

On the eve of the Presidential Election in the United States, the US-brokered peace process continues to show few results and US military aid to the region continues to flow unabated.

This delegation focuses on the realities of Palestinian life in the Gaza Strip. Participants have the unique opportunity to hear directly from Palestinians throughout the territory regarding their hopes for peace and the role of the United States, the US government, and other international actors, in promoting a resolution to the conflict.

Continue reading