#ObliteratedFamilies – Introduction by Amira Hass

Rubble of the Maadi house

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.

Behind every erased Gazan family is an Israeli pilot. Behind every orphaned child who has lost his brothers and sisters in the bombing is an Israeli commander who gave the order and a soldier who pulled the trigger. Behind every demolished house are the Israeli physicist and hi-tech specialist who calculated the optimal angles for maximal impact. And there is the army spokesperson (backed by legal experts) who always evaded the journalist’s question: how proportional is it to shell an entire building with all its inhabitants? What – in your laws – justifies killing 23 family members, babies, children and the elderly among them, in one fell swoop of a missile?

There is one very present absentee in the “stories” below: Israeli society. Whether those members of society directly responsible, from government ministers and general military staff down through the ranks, or those who are indirectly responsible in their support and refusal to know. Have the direct accomplices – most of whom preserve their armed anonymity – ever shown any interest in knowing who was targeted by their sophisticated smart bombs? Or how many unarmed civilians they killed, their names, how many girls and boys, how many members of a single family, how many entire families have been erased? Disastrously, the safe guess is that physical distance and the fact that both soldiers and commanders did not have to soil their hands with blood nor see the mangled bodies with their own eyes helped them greatly to bury any information, knowledge, and thought.

Before and between the major onslaughts of 2008-9, 2012 and 2014 “smaller-scale” Israeli assaults were carried out, and they too wiped out lives, or erased the toil of many years and added traumas onto past disasters. Another link in such a long chain of injustices that one’s head is dizzy with disbelief, or the need to forget. At times, Gazans themselves help one forget: with their humor, their warmth, the continuity of life and vitality their creativity which breaks through all barriers and limitations of the siege and the pain, their silences – for they are sick of telling, or because what’s the point. But more than ever, more than any previous large-scale or smaller-scale assault, after 2014, the quenched eyes of Gazans have recounted how that was the most horrific of attacks.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) calculated that 142 families lost three or more members, each of these families in a single Israeli shelling or bombing. The total was 742 persons, more than 25% of all Palestinian casualties of that summer. There is nothing more difficult than gathering testimonies from people whose families have been nearly wiped out, to try and describe the horrendous vacuum which has been created and cannot be filled. The choice of “only” ten families, is a statement: testimony gathering and reading must not become automatic. It mustn’t, lest feelings be dulled. Therefore, the silences and the spaces between the spoken and the unspoken, between the written and the unwritten, speak for all the rest.

The erasure of entire families was one of the appalling characteristics of the 2014 assault. These were no errors or mistaken personal choices on the part of a pilot or a navigator or a brigade commander. This was policy. There are no anonymous players here: the identity of the policy makers is well known, as are their names and positions. Between July 7 and August 26, Israel carried out about 6,000 air raids on the Gaza Strip and fired 14,500 tank shells and about 35,000 artillery shells. 2,251 Palestinians were killed, among them 1,462 civilians, 551 of whom were children, and 299 women. Some of the non-civilians killed – namely combatant members of the armed organizations – were not killed in battle but under the same civilian circumstances where their relatives were also killed: in their beds, in their own homes, during the fast-breaking meal, in their residential quarters.

As stated in B’Tselem’s report “Black Flag”, which investigated 70 of the 142 incidents, with the exception of a few cases Israel never gave any explanation for bombing or shelling those houses with their inhabitants inside. In other words, Israel never disclosed what and who were its targets: perhaps one of the family members, perhaps a weapons stash in the house or fire opened from a neighboring house? But the systematic action and the silence both show that Israel finds it ‘legitimate’ and ‘proportional’ to kill entire families: if one of their members is a Hamas fighter, if a weapons stash is held nearby or in their home, or for any other similar reason. What does it mean? That it is legitimate to shell nearly every home in Israel, for nearly every Israeli family has an armed soldier, and many homes are inhabited by senior army officials, and important military and security installations are situated in the heart of Israeli civilian population. This is an absurd and criminal criterion of warfare, opposed to international law and basic principles of justice. But the majority in Israeli society embraces it as right and justified.

According to OCHA, Hamas and other Palestinian armed organizations launched 4,881 rockets and fired 1,753 mortar shells against Israel. 94% of these reached the maximum range of 50 kilometers, mentions B’Tselem. This fire targeted mostly Israeli civilian communities. Because of the limited technology of Hamas’ weapons, and thanks to Israel’s state-of-the-art defense capacities and the evacuation of numerous Israeli residents, the number of Israeli civilian casualties was minimal: six Israeli civilians were killed, among them one 5-year old child. The 67 Israeli soldiers killed during the onslaught were casualties in battle. The Palestinian combatants who killed them were defending their own population from the invader.

The Gaza Strip is not a sovereign state, even if the Hamas regime sometimes behaves like a sovereign government of a liberated territory. According to international agreements, the Strip is an inseparable part of the Palestinian state which the world is still committed to creating, at least by declaration. It is still under Israeli occupation – even though the parameters of control differ from those in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. For example, the population registry of Gaza, as that of the West Bank, is subordinate to the Israeli Ministry of Interior and its policies. Only upon Israeli approval is the Palestinian Authority able to issue new ID cards to 16-year-olds in the Gaza Strip every year, as in the West Bank. Thousands of Palestinians, among them refugees from Syria, live in the Gaza Strip without Palestinian IDs: Israel will not have it. As an occupying force, Israel is supposedly responsible for the population – while it shirks this responsibility with increasingly brutal measures of domination and revenge. Its military assaults were and still are the continuation of Israel’s consistent policy of separating the Gaza Strip from the rest of the Palestinians in its attempt to crush the people and turn it into a collection of separate, disconnected groups and individuals.

As the occupied, Palestinians have the right to fight the occupier. But this right is also subject to international law, to common sense, to international circumstances, to the leadership’s responsibility towards its public. Hamas has had its own internal political considerations in choosing the military path in spite of all the previous rounds of warfare that failed to achieve its declared national objectives. True, over the years Hamas has developed its own means and skills of warfare. But, as the 2014 war showed, it has been – and remains – inferior to Israel’s military might. Military confrontations are Israel’s home field, where it excels. It is precisely the field that should be avoided.

Amira Hass
6 July 2016

The Gaza Strip is part of the Palestinian Occupied Territory; together with the West Bank and East Jerusalem, it has been under Israeli military occupation since 1967. More than 70% of Gaza Palestinians are refugees, forced to leave their homes in the lands grabbed by the nascent state of Israel in 1948 and forbidden from returning.

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Update: April 2, 2017
Rachel Corrie Commemoration: Intimate Portraits of Gaza’s Lost

 

St. James Church
1128 St. James Ct, Madison
2:00 pm [Map]

Please RSVP to Michele Bahl at mibahl02 at yahoo.com by Friday, March 31.

Intimate Portraits of Gaza’s Lost is based on the #ObliteratedFamilies project by French photographer Anne Paq and Palestinian-Polish journalist Ala Qandil. The project profiles Gaza families partially or entirely annihilated during the Israeli bombardment in 2014. Statistics and figures, political facts and flash point dates too often obscure the staggering consequence of each extinguished life.

#ObliteratedFamilies never departs from the perspective of the witness – the survivors left in grief, the neighbors who last saw the families alive, the friend who tried to find them safe shelter, and sometimes the photographer herself. To view the photos, narratives and projects, visit #ObliteratedFamilies.

Free and open to the public; beverages and desserts including baklawa will be served. Donations will be accepted for the Samira Project for traumatized children in Rafah (or you can donate here). The event will also offer the latest batch of gorgeous many-colored kufiyahs direct from Hirbawi Textiles, the new shipment of Holy Land Olive Oil and our other Palestinian crafts for sale. And don’t miss the return of Door Prizes! We hope to see you on April 2 as we once again reaffirm our commitment to Gaza.

Speaker Bios

Anne Paq is an award-winning freelance photographer and videographer who had lived for more than a decade in Palestine. She has been a member of Activestills photo collective since 2006. Her work has been exhibited worldwide and published in various media outlets such as the NY Times Lens, Paris Match, le Nouvel Observateur, Stern, the Guardian. Her work includes documentation of the Palestinian refugees and popular resistance, the Israeli military offensive on Gaza (2012), subcultures and artists in Gaza. She has also led many participatory media projects in the the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza. She has co-directed the short film “Bethlehem checkpoint, 4 am” (8’59, 2007), co-produced the award-winning documentary “Flying Paper” (52′, 2013) and co-directed “Return to Seifa” (2015, 10’49) and “Gaza: A Gaping Wound” (13’47). In 2014, she documented the Israeli military operation “Protective Edge” and its aftermath in the Gaza Strip. She is the co-author of the award-winning web documentary “Obliterated Families” which tells the story of the families whose lives were shattered by the 2014 Israeli offensive. In 2017, she won the International Photographer of the Year award, in the editorial documentary section.

Ala Qandil is a Polish-Palestinian journalist, a former correspondent of the Polish Press Agency, who had been covering for more than three years political, social, historical and cultural stories from Palestine/Israel and other countries in the region, with special focus on human rights issues, women rights, minorities, non-violent resistance, and including the previous two Israeli military offensives in the Gaza Strip. Qandil has worked with various international and Polish media, including Al Jazeera English and the Middle East Eye, number of weekly magazines and she often appeared as a guest commentator on Polish radio and TV. She produced and co-directed a short documentary about food resistance in Palestine “Resistance Recipes”. Qandil is a co-founder of Reporters’ Collective, an initiative of Polish writers based in Middle East, Africa and Asia, whose goal is to bring quality, in-depth foreign reporting on global issues to Polish audience. During the last two years, in between the work on the “Obliterated Families”, she had reported from the Balkan route and Greece on the stories of refugees arriving in Europe.

The event is co-sponsored by Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, the American Friends Service Committee group of Madison Friends Meeting, Playgrounds for Palestine-Madison Chapter, Mary House of Hospitality, Colombia Support Network; Memorial United Church of Christ-Fitchburg, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom-Madison, Jewish Voice for Peace-Madison, and Good Shepherd Parish social justice committee.

March 16, 2017 marks 14 years since an Israeli soldier killed 23-year-old American peace activist Rachel Corrie with a bulldozer as she protested the demolition of a family home in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Palestine. April 10 is Rachel’s birthday. Each year between these two dates, the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (MRSCP) honors Rachel’s memory with an event that benefits Palestinian children.

Palestinian teen killed by Israeli fire in Gaza

The Israeli army said it detected three people near the security fence and fired at them. A cousin said the 18-year-old was on the farming land that his family owns.

Al Jazeera, 22 March 2017

A Palestinian teen has been killed and two other men wounded by Israeli fire in southern Gaza, according to health officials.

Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said 18-year-old Yousef Abu Athira was killed before dawn on Wednesday by Israeli artillery fire east of Rafah.

He said two others sustained shrapnel wounds and were taken to Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah.

The Israeli army, which had been carrying out training exercises near the border overnight, said it detected three people near the security fence separating Gaza and Israel and fired at them, according to a military spokeswoman.

But Yasser Abu Athira, the killed teen’s cousin, said the 18-year-old was on the farming land that his family owns.

“We heard the noise of about 15 shells that came down. After a while, we found out that it was Yousef. The Israeli army said he was trying to get into Israel, but we completely deny that claim,” he told Al Jazeera.

“We are very angry and we blame this on the occupation and the Israeli army. He was not armed and he is not part of any faction.”


READ MORE: Gaza’s healthcare crumbling under Israeli siege


Gaza has been under a decade-long siege imposed by Israel following Hamas’ election victory and subsequent takeover of the enclave in 2007.

Israel’s military said that some 2,000 reserve soldiers had since Sunday been performing military exercises around Gaza Strip.

Tareq Rishmawi, spokesperson for the Palestinian government, denounced the Israeli army’s large-scale exercises over the past few days and called on the international community to end the systematic “Israeli assaults”.

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A message from Cindy & Craig Corrie


Painting by Malak Mattar; read more about
her painting at We Are Not Numbers.

March 16th, marks the 14th anniversary of the day our daughter Rachel stood in Gaza with other international activists and challenged the Israeli military’s illegal confiscation of Palestinian land and the demolition of Palestinian homes. Rachel’s life was stolen that day, but her spirit was not. As these anniversaries approach, there are sometimes tensions as we struggle to find the best way to remember, and to explain why we do so. But in a moment of illumination, we are reminded that each March 16th is for us another opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to Gaza. It is a place that overflows with suffering, yet is filled with so much more. Rachel wrote to us about the people. “…I am also discovering a degree of strength and of the basic ability for humans to remain human in the direst of circumstances…I think the word is dignity. I wish you could meet these people. Maybe, hopefully, someday you will.”

During the past fourteen years, we have been blessed with our connections to Palestinians in Gaza, in the West Bank, and elsewhere in the world. We have built relationships with them and with Palestinian and Jewish Israelis who reflect the strength and dignity Rachel recognized, and with open hearts and minds steadfastly pursue justice.

Here in the U.S., it is easy to be distracted by our new political challenges. But with colleagues in our hometown of Olympia and beyond, we are articulating our vision for a “great” country and world. In the words of the song from the Civil Rights Movement, we are keeping “our eyes on the prize.” We know you are doing the same. One part of that vision is freedom for Gaza.

At the Rachel Corrie Foundation, commitment is a core value. Today, as we remember and recommit, we are counting on you to join us in building community with Gaza. You, your organization, and your community can make so much difference for people there.

  • Support Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish who is in Israeli court this month seeking accountability for the deaths of his three daughters and niece during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2009. Dr. Abuelaish’s civil lawsuit, pending since 2010, seeks an apology and compensation that will benefit the Daughters for Life Foundation, which awards scholarships to women throughout the Middle East. Dr. Abuelaish has asked legal analysts, journalists, scholars, and activists to attend the trial and to raise public awareness. Watch for reports, and voice your support through social media. For information, press inquiries, or to attend the trial, contact izzeldin.abuelaish@utoronto.ca +1 (416) 567-6604. To learn more about the family’s story, see the March/April 2016 Washington Report.
  • Explore compelling stories from young Gazan writers and artists who, through mentorships, have seen their work published. Visit our colleague’s project We Are Not Numbers and empower these Gaza young people by sharing their voices.
  • During Women’s History Month and through Rachel’s birthday April 10th, please DONATE to build community with Gaza and to sustain the Rachel Corrie Foundation’s growing number of Gaza projects. Lend your support to grassroots activism, shared resistance and empowerment across borders – from Olympia to Gaza – through arts, sport, and education!

Thank you for remembering with us today and for keeping Rachel’s spirit and commitment alive through your actions for Gaza.

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Amira Hass: Introduction to #Obliterated Families

Gaza: A gaping wound

#ObliteratedFamilies

Behind every erased Gazan family is an Israeli pilot. Behind every orphaned child who has lost his brothers and sisters in the bombing is an Israeli commander who gave the order and a soldier who pulled the trigger. Behind every demolished house are the Israeli physicist and hi-tech specialist who calculated the optimal angles for maximal impact. And there is the army spokesperson (backed by legal experts) who always evaded the journalist’s question: how proportional is it to shell an entire building with all its inhabitants? What – in your laws – justifies killing 23 family members, babies, children and the elderly among them, in one fell swoop of a missile?

There is one very present absentee in the “stories” below: Israeli society. Whether those members of society directly responsible, from government ministers and general military staff down through the ranks, or those who are indirectly responsible in their support and refusal to know. Have the direct accomplices – most of whom preserve their armed anonymity – ever shown any interest in knowing who was targeted by their sophisticated smart bombs? Or how many unarmed civilians they killed, their names, how many girls and boys, how many members of a single family, how many entire families have been erased? Disastrously, the safe guess is that physical distance and the fact that both soldiers and commanders did not have to soil their hands with blood nor see the mangled bodies with their own eyes helped them greatly to bury any information, knowledge, and thought.

Before and between the major onslaughts of 2008-9, 2012 and 2014 “smaller-scale” Israeli assaults were carried out, and they too wiped out lives, or erased the toil of many years and added traumas onto past disasters. Another link in such a long chain of injustices that one’s head is dizzy with disbelief, or the need to forget. At times, Gazans themselves help one forget: with their humor, their warmth, the continuity of life and vitality their creativity which breaks through all barriers and limitations of the siege and the pain, their silences – for they are sick of telling, or because what’s the point. But more than ever, more than any previous large-scale or smaller-scale assault, after 2014, the quenched eyes of Gazans have recounted how that was the most horrific of attacks.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) calculated that 142 families lost three or more members, each of these families in a single Israeli shelling or bombing. The total was 742 persons, more than 25% of all Palestinian casualties of that summer. There is nothing more difficult than gathering testimonies from people whose families have been nearly wiped out, to try and describe the horrendous vacuum which has been created and cannot be filled. The choice of “only” ten families, is a statement: testimony gathering and reading must not become automatic. It mustn’t, lest feelings be dulled. Therefore, the silences and the spaces between the spoken and the unspoken, between the written and the unwritten, speak for all the rest.

The erasure of entire families was one of the appalling characteristics of the 2014 assault. These were no errors or mistaken personal choices on the part of a pilot or a navigator or a brigade commander. This was policy. There are no anonymous players here: the identity of the policy makers is well known, as are their names and positions. Between July 7 and August 26, Israel carried out about 6,000 air raids on the Gaza Strip and fired 14,500 tank shells and about 35,000 artillery shells. 2,251 Palestinians were killed, among them 1,462 civilians, 551 of whom were children, and 299 women. Some of the non-civilians killed – namely combatant members of the armed organizations – were not killed in battle but under the same civilian circumstances where their relatives were also killed: in their beds, in their own homes, during the fast-breaking meal, in their residential quarters.

As stated in B’Tselem’s report “Black Flag”, which investigated 70 of the 142 incidents, with the exception of a few cases Israel never gave any explanation for bombing or shelling those houses with their inhabitants inside. In other words, Israel never disclosed what and who were its targets: perhaps one of the family members, perhaps a weapons stash in the house or fire opened from a neighboring house? But the systematic action and the silence both show that Israel finds it ‘legitimate’ and ‘proportional’ to kill entire families: if one of their members is a Hamas fighter, if a weapons stash is held nearby or in their home, or for any other similar reason. What does it mean? That it is legitimate to shell nearly every home in Israel, for nearly every Israeli family has an armed soldier, and many homes are inhabited by senior army officials, and important military and security installations are situated in the heart of Israeli civilian population. This is an absurd and criminal criterion of warfare, opposed to international law and basic principles of justice. But the majority in Israeli society embraces it as right and justified.

According to OCHA, Hamas and other Palestinian armed organizations launched 4,881 rockets and fired 1,753 mortar shells against Israel. 94% of these reached the maximum range of 50 kilometers, mentions B’Tselem. This fire targeted mostly Israeli civilian communities. Because of the limited technology of Hamas’ weapons, and thanks to Israel’s state-of-the-art defense capacities and the evacuation of numerous Israeli residents, the number of Israeli civilian casualties was minimal: six Israeli civilians were killed, among them one 5-year old child. The 67 Israeli soldiers killed during the onslaught were casualties in battle. The Palestinian combatants who killed them were defending their own population from the invader.

The Gaza Strip is not a sovereign state, even if the Hamas regime sometimes behaves like a sovereign government of a liberated territory. According to international agreements, the Strip is an inseparable part of the Palestinian state which the world is still committed to creating, at least by declaration. It is still under Israeli occupation – even though the parameters of control differ from those in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. For example, the population registry of Gaza, as that of the West Bank, is subordinate to the Israeli Ministry of Interior and its policies. Only upon Israeli approval is the Palestinian Authority able to issue new ID cards to 16-year-olds in the Gaza Strip every year, as in the West Bank. Thousands of Palestinians, among them refugees from Syria, live in the Gaza Strip without Palestinian IDs: Israel will not have it. As an occupying force, Israel is supposedly responsible for the population – while it shirks this responsibility with increasingly brutal measures of domination and revenge. Its military assaults were and still are the continuation of Israel’s consistent policy of separating the Gaza Strip from the rest of the Palestinians in its attempt to crush the people and turn it into a collection of separate, disconnected groups and individuals.

As the occupied, Palestinians have the right to fight the occupier. But this right is also subject to international law, to common sense, to international circumstances, to the leadership’s responsibility towards its public. Hamas has had its own internal political considerations in choosing the military path in spite of all the previous rounds of warfare that failed to achieve its declared national objectives. True, over the years Hamas has developed its own means and skills of warfare. But, as the 2014 war showed, it has been – and remains – inferior to Israel’s military might. Military confrontations are Israel’s home field, where it excels. It is precisely the field that should be avoided.

Amira Hass
6 July 2016

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Banksy’s Murals Turn Up In The Gaza Strip

Krishnadev Calamur, NPR, February 26, 2015

Banksy’s work is now in the Gaza Strip.

The artist, who uses public spaces for his often-provocative murals, posted images that he said were of art he created in the Gaza Strip, along with a two-minute video of life in the Palestinian territory, titled “Make this the year YOU discover a new destination.”

Here are some of the murals, which you can also see on Banksy’s own website.

Banksy writes about this image:

“A local man came up and said ‘Please — what does this mean?’ I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website — but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens.”

A mural is seen on the remains of a house that witnesses said was destroyed by Israeli shelling during a 50-day war last summer in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. Suhaib Salem/Reuters/Landov

And on his website, he writes about the mural below: “Gaza is often described as ‘the world’s largest open air prison’ because no-one is allowed to enter or leave. But that seems a bit unfair to prisons — they don’t have their electricity and drinking water cut off randomly almost every day.”

A mural on a wall in Beit Hanoun. Suhaib Salem/Reuters/Landov

Banksy is known for his political art that is often provocative. And these images, and the video below, are likely to have supporters as well as detractors given that they deal with the impact last year’s fighting between Hamas, which runs Gaza, and Israel had on the territory.

YouTube

The two-minute video has a line that reads: “If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless we side with the powerful — we don’t remain neutral.”

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Gaza’s Kids Need Your Help

Rafah Children in the Samira Project at the Rachel Corrie Memorial Library. (Photo: Jeff Bright)

Please Support the Samira Project
for Traumatized Children

The Gaza Strip, one of the poorest and most densely populated places on earth, has been described as the world’s largest open-air prison. For nearly eleven years it has been tightly sealed off by the Israeli/Egyptian siege, which drastically restricts human travel as well as imports and exports. As a result at least 80% of the people live under the poverty line. Unemployment is around 43% while youth unemployment is over 60%. The educational system is overcrowded, unstable and inconsistent. Public services have been weakened more and more, especially psycho-social support and other programs serving mainly women and children. This situation has been made even worse by the continuing conflict between Fatah and Hamas, which means that public employees like teachers often go unpaid.

On top of this policy of imprisonment and siege, the people of Gaza are subjected to frequent Israeli military land and sea attacks, which sometimes turn into full-scale assaults and invasions. In 2014, your US tax dollars helped pay for a 50 day Israeli bombardment of Gaza that killed hundreds of children and severely injured thousands more. Entire families were wiped out, and every child in Gaza knows someone who was killed, injured or made homeless or destitute. The UN estimates that as a result, the number of repeatedly and severely traumatized Gaza children who need psychological support and healing is in the hundreds of thousands.

We’re so excited!

YES! I WANT TO SUPPORT THE
SAMIRA PROJECT FOR TRAUMATIZED CHILDREN!

 

DONE!!!!
4/10/17

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