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!

A letter from Gaza to the Natives of Standing Rock

Israa Suliman, WE ARE NOT NUMBERS, November 15, 2016

Dear Native Americans,

Although we are of different color, religion, culture and place, I have learned, as I read about the protests at Standing Rock, that we have much more in common than differences. When I read your history, I can see myself and my people reflected in yours. I feel in my core that your fight is my fight, and that I am not alone in the battle against injustice.

My ancestors were not the only ones who lived in Palestine. Jews, Christians and Arabs all lived side by side in my country. But my ancestors—including my grandparents and great-grandparents—were the indigenous people, just like you. And they suffered the same fate as your people. America's policy of occupation and displacement through forced marches like the Trail of Tears, and the gradual transfer of so many of your people to massive, impoverished reservations, hurts me deeply because it is so similar to the ethnic cleansing of my ancestors by the Israeli military occupation in what we call “al-Nakba” (the catastrophe). We know what you know: that our land is sacred.

In 1948, my ancestors—along with nearly a million other Palestinians—were frightened away or forced off their lands, in some cases at gunpoint. More than 10,000 others were massacred. Hundreds of our villages and cities were completely destroyed in a systemic plan to erase our identity—just as yours has been under continuing assault.

Native Americans' Trail of Tears
Trail of Tears

Palestine today is just 22 percent of our original homeland. Like you, some of my people (an estimated 1.5 million) must live in degrading “camps” (our word for reservations), where living conditions are "comparable to the Third World." Like your reservations, they are characterized by high rates of unemployment, poverty and suicide.

Many other Palestinians (about 6 million)—now including descendants of the original residents—are scattered elsewhere around the world, just as yours are around the United States. Today, not only has the military occupation taken over our land and declared it "the state of Israel," but it continues to carry on a policy of expulsion, demolishing Palestinian houses in the little bit of land we retain, building illegal settlements and preventing free movement with a network of “security checkpoints.”

Nakba
The Palestinian Nakba

Like you, we don’t control our natural resources. Just as you were not consulted about the Dakota Access Pipeline that will traverse your land and contaminate your water supply if installed, we are not consulted by Israel, which wants to mine the gas supply in our harbor for its own use and monopolizes the water supply in the West Bank for the green lawns of its own residents—leaving Palestinians parched and dry. In Gaza, where I live, only 10 percent of our water supply is drinkable due to the conditions in which we must live. We too know that “water is life.”

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Keep Gaza Children Warm

Anees Mansour, gofundme, November 5, 2016 

We are about to enter the winter season in Gaza. The houses can’t handle the weather as they are not insulated properly and we only get about eight hours of electricity a day. The conditions are extremely difficult.

We’ve been working with children from some of the most marginalized communities for over a year now putting together summer camps and educational workshops which has resulted in terrific participation and results.

But now we need to deal with the absolute basics: we just need to keep the children warm.

Public response and support of our work has been tremendous in the past and we’ve raised enough money for many activities. So now we’re looking for help to provide warm Jackets to the children here in Rafah.

Rafah is one of the poorest areas in Gaza, which, of course, is suffering from a prolonged brutal siege. All and any help is appreciated. Each jacket costs $20. The more money we can raise together, the more children we can keep warm.

Winter is close and we expect it will be harsh so we are aiming to raise this money in just a few days.

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A special appeal from our friend Anees Mansour in Rafah

The Hope and Peace Foundation has now been providing services for Rafah children for one year. The program is going to lose the lease on the building they are presently using, unless they raise six months worth of rent by the end of this month, through this on line funding campaign. Please see the link below for more information. Anees wrote:

My friends,

I hope you, your families and your loved ones are doing well. I would like to wish all my Muslim brothers and sisters Eid Mubarak.

The 1st September was the final day of the building rental, and this is where we practice our activities with the kids. We received an evacuation note from the building owner to evacuate the building. As you all may know that we have been doing our best since August 2015 to serve the children of Rafah via the art and cultural activities. As a team we believe these kind of activities are extremely beneficial to the kids, where we can keep them away from the bad psychological situation. We are all together here to support those who in need our help. So we are hoping to achieve our goal as soon as possible through this link: http://www.launchgood.com/ ChildrenOfPalestine

Let me thank you all for all of your kindness and support.

​Best Wishes
Anees

Gaza: Abandoned in the Middle of Nowhere

, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, June 28, 2016

During a brief pause to hostilities in July 2014, families returned to eastern Gaza, which saw some of the heaviest bombings. Photo Credit: Oxfam / Flickr

Palestinians in Gaza are largely forgotten. They are an invisible people inhabiting a world without rights and possibilities. Over Israel’s near 50-year occupation, Gaza and the West Bank were reduced from a lower middle-income economy to a dysfunctional economy disproportionately dependent on foreign assistance. Gaza is under immense pressure from a continued blockade, now in its tenth year. Egyptian restrictions on the movement of people through Rafah, “which has remained largely closed… since October 2014, including for humanitarian assistance”[1] increased internal discord and hindered intra-Palestinian reconciliation.

There are stunningly high levels of unemployment and poverty. According to the World Bank, unemployment currently stands at 43 percent and in excess of 60 percent for Gazan youth. Yet, while Gaza’s economic demise is well documented, the blockade’s societal impact is often neglected. The blockade created a series of long-term, chronic conditions in Palestinian society,[2] including the destruction of civilian space, changes to social structure and health status, widespread trauma, a dramatic change in popular attitudes, and finally, a widening generational divide.

As United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Spokesman Chris Gunness notes: “The juxtaposition of hopelessness and despair, contrasted with the transformational potential of Gazan society, has never been so palpable.”[3]According to the World Bank, the Israeli blockade alone—which has severed almost all of the territory’s ties to the outside world, virtually terminating Gaza’s critically needed export trade—decreased Gaza’s GDP by at least 50 percent since 2007.[4] Egypt’s near total termination of Gaza’s tunnel trade—a vital, albeit underground economic lifeline—dealt an additional and extremely damaging blow. On top of this, the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, or Operation Protective Edge (OPE), worsened an already bleak situation by reducing Gaza’s economy by an additional $460 million.

This set in motion what one local analyst called a “dynamic of disintegration” that produced a range of unprecedented socioeconomic changes. Combined with the ruinous impact of the blockade, OPE was resulted in extensive damage to or destruction of homes, schools, health facilities, factories, businesses, sewage and water treatment infrastructure, and agriculture — effectively resulting in the destruction of civilian space. At least 100,000 people found themselves homeless, resulting in an estimated 75,000 being displaced, 11,200 being injured, at least 1,000 becoming permanently disabled, and 1,500 children becoming orphaned.[5]

Gaza’s society was radically leveled, particularly with the virtual destruction of its middle class and the emergence of an unprecedentedly new class of “poor.” Perhaps emblematic of the damage done to society, particularly since the imposition of the blockade, is Gaza’s rising infant mortality rate (IMR). IMR not only measures the health status of children, but also of the whole population. For the first time in more than 50 years, the IMR in Gaza increased from 20.2 per 1,000 live births in 2008 to 22.4 in 2013. Neonatal mortality rates, or the number of children who die within four weeks of birth, experienced a dramatic increase from 12.0 in 2008 to 20.3 in 2013, an uptick of nearly 70 percent. In Gaza, there is also a documented rise in domestic violence and child labor, as well as considerable anecdotal evidence for an increase in prostitution. No doubt the blockade, coupled with the last three wars in Gaza, is a contributing factor.

According to local health officials, 80 percent of adults in Gaza suffer from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder. During OPE, all sectors of the Strip were subject to or threatened with some kind of attack. According to Yale Professor Brian Barber, “OPE was uniquely crippling because no one was free of risk, and no place was safe to find refuge. It was, in a sense, universally and inescapably terrorizing.”[6] Every child over the age of six has seen three wars, and at least 400,000 children are in need of immediate psychological intervention, according to the UN. As a result, OPE has created a profound sense of collective dread and desperation that has less to do with the war than the inhuman conditions left unchanged since the war. People have never felt less safe and secure or more devoid of hope.

The people of Gaza once maintained more nuanced views of Israel, but now see little possibility for peace. There appears to be a greater generational divide between the “older” Oslo generation (and earlier cohorts), who had some insight into Israel and the world beyond, and those born since Oslo, who have little insight, if any. Gaza’s population is very young, with nearly half of the population being 14 years of age and younger. This is extremely dangerous, especially in the absence of effective leadership and in an environment that offers so little. Furthermore, the generational divide appears to be shifting. Young people, some reportedly as young as 10-12 years, are assuming responsibilities reserved for individuals far older. Children are forced out of school to work and help support their families; in some cases, they even head households.[7] Even before OPE, almost 30 percent of all young people aged 16-17 were out of school in Gaza and the West Bank. People, especially the young, are acutely aware of what they are being denied. How long can they be expected to accept their own deprivation?

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Gaza’s plight matters to the world

Elizabeth Kucinich in Gaza
Elizabeth Kucinich in Gaza (UNRWA USA)

Elizabeth Kucinich, The Hill, June 23, 2016

This month, U.S. congressmen, including Reps. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), were refused entry into the Gaza Strip at the Erez crossing while on a fact-finding mission in Israel-Palestine. Israeli authorities, without elaboration, claimed that their application had not met the criteria necessary to enter. Apparently elected U.S. congressmen inspecting American taxpayer-funded projects and reviewing U.S. aid to Palestinians in Gaza is not worthy criteria.

Bernie Sanders’ representatives to the Democratic platform committee have brought the plight of the Palestinians into the national political debate. This could become a breakthrough moment, presaging policies that address the security of both Israelis and Palestinians as being mutually inclusive.

Some have suggested that the members of Congress may have been turned away from Gaza by Israel through the influence of the U.S. State Department, attempting to prevent Democratic members from elevating the issue of Israel-Palestine. Whatever the motivation, in that moment of rejection, those Congressmen experienced a small taste of the restrictions on freedom of movement that Palestinians live daily. For the Palestinians in Gaza, living under a blockade that just entered its 10th year, virtually all movement in and out is prohibited.

As I watched the Israeli military assault on Gaza in 2014, I was desperate to help. I looked to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, mandated with providing essential services for Palestine refugees, and joined the board of its nonprofit arm, UNRWA USA. Last spring, I traveled with UNWRA USA staff to the occupied Palestinian territory — the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip — to visit our projects, ascertain living conditions and witness for myself the political and economic situation. The trip was my first to Gaza. Had the other members of Congress been permitted to enter Gaza, they may have seen for themselves what I witnessed firsthand.

At Erez, the Israeli-controlled crossing into Gaza, I passed through chutes that resembled the herding bays that lead cattle into an abattoir — a standard feature of Israeli checkpoints throughout the occupied Palestinian territory. As we waited for our entry to be approved, young Israeli guards paraded around with automatic weapons.

Elizabeth Kucinich visiting Gaza school children

Once in Gaza, I met Palestine refugees who had faced unimaginable tragedies, like Amal*, a mother who fled the war in Syria with her 13 children. After a perilous journey, they arrived in Gaza only to find themselves under Israeli fire a few weeks later. I met the Nasser family from northern Gaza, whose home had been destroyed in the 2014 assault. I heard their account of fleeing their home under the cover of darkness, petrified, with distraught children and a pregnant mother. When I met them, they were still living in a collective shelter in an UNRWA school with hundreds of other families, a full nine months later.

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Child Psychological Support by Anees Mansour

Hello from Gaza. My name is Anees Mansour, one of a group of volunteers working with at-risk children in Rafah, Gaza. With your help we’ve already done so much this year, we’ve put on a summer camp, a series of educational workshops, art therapy and performance sessions. From the photos below you can see some of the great results we’ve had.

The public response to our work has been so supportive – so thank you. Our new initiative is to train 18 new volunteers to provide psycho-social support to the children we work with here in Rafah. To reach more children we need more volunteers and we need to train them in basic counselling and art therapy. You don’t need me to tell you how badly the children of Gaza need a creative outlet in a safe space. Rafah is one of the poorest areas in Gaza and the psychological pressures on children are, frankly, brutal. We are working to create and maintain some small safe spaces for them to grow and your ongoing help is central to our efforts.

Rafah is in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, Palestine on the Palestinian-Egyptian border, with an estimated area of 55 km and home to a population of 270,000 people, of whom a large proportion are children. Rafah is one of the poorest areas in Gaza, which, of course, is suffering from a prolonged, brutal siege. All and any help is appreciated.

you can see the pictures of our past projects @
• Gaza Summer Camp
• Our Right To Play
• Our Health in Our Hands
• Field Trip

For any further information , don’t hesitate to contact me at: anemansour@gmail.com or by phone on 00970598699046

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