Zoom: Dilemmas of Rebuilding Gaza

A Conversation between Sara Roy and Salem Al Qudwa

Thursday, January 12, 11 a.m. CT

AFSC will host regular webinar conversations with Palestinian writers from our anthology Light in Gaza: Writings Born of Fire in 2023.

In our first webinar in January, Dr. Sara Roy and Salem Al Qudwa will discuss development and rebuilding in Gaza. The webinar will focus largely on Al Qudwa’s work as an architect, and his chapter “Ethical Implications of Environmental Design on Affected Communities in the Gaza Strip,” in Light in Gaza: Writings Born of Fire. They will address what recovery and rebuilding has looked like in Gaza after Israeli bombing campaigns. What are the challenges and obstacles rebuilding Gaza? What are the opportunities? 

Salem Al Qudwa is an award-winning architect and university lecturer, exploring everyday architecture as a resource for positive social transformation. He is a Fellow in Conflict and Peace at the Harvard Divinity School, and contributor to the book Open Gaza: Architectures of Hope (American University in Cairo Press, 2021). 

Sara Roy is a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. A distinguished political economist, she is the author of numerous books on Gaza, including Unsilencing Gaza: Reflections on Resistance (Pluto Press, 2021), and The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-development (1995). 

Accommodations: This webinar will take place on Zoom from 12 to 1 PM EST. To request accommodations such as captioning, please contact our meeting support team at events@afsc.org.
 

End-of-Year Appeal: Help with Rafah Family Home

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Dear Friends of MRSCP,

We hope you will consider contributing to our year-end fundraising drive to renovate and repair a family home located in the Tal al Sultan neighborhood of Rafah, where we previously installed a playground.  This house is one of 20 that the U.S. organization Rebuilding Alliance has selected for their new Gaza Family Guided Home Construction Project which involves each family as well as local agencies and contractors in design and construction of their particular space.

We are also asking you to support a housing solution here in Madison: Occupy Madison’s Tiny Houses project.

 
Help Provide Shelter in Gaza

As you are probably aware, the housing crisis is just one of many afflicting the over 2 million men, women and children trapped in Gaza. The fifteen year-long Israeli-US-Egyptian blockade has made it virtually impossible to keep up with the demand for proper shelter created by population growth, or to recover from the devastation of either massive demolitions along the borders or Israel’s periodic devastating military bombardments.

Rebuilding Alliance has launched this pilot program to implement low-cost housing solutions for 20 families which will (1) improve access to water & sanitation facilities; (2) decrease overcrowding and allow more privacy by adding upstairs rooms; and (3) upgrade heating and ventilation.

The home that MRSCP hopes to renovate is occupied by two parents and three children. The father has become disabled and the mother works to try to keep the family afloat.  Their small apartment is desperately in need of roof repairs, interior renovations especially to the main living area and bath, and the addition of another room–especially now that the cold and rains of winter have arrived.

The project will be completed in three stages. As of this writing, we have raised $960 of the $3080 needed for Phase 1. The total cost of all three phases is $10,064.
Contributions to the Rafah home project can be made online via Global Giving.
 
If you prefer, send a check payable to MRSCP marked “Rafah House” to MRSCP, P.O. Box 5214, Madison, WI 53705.
 

AND… 
 
Help Provide Shelter Here in Madison

Once again, we also ask your support for a local project that is related to our campaign in Rafah. Please consider donating to Occupy Madison’s Tiny Houses, addressing the housing crisis right here at home.

Occupy Madison has built two tiny house villages that house 30 formerly homeless individuals and is in the process of buying a third property. Self-governed by the people who live there, the goal is to become self-sustaining by selling goods made in a wood shop, home-grown flowers and plants, crafts and jewelry and soon, a coffee cart!  There is a very long waiting list for these houses. 

Your donation will help support the current villages and build new houses for another village.

You can donate online to Tiny Houses here. (Please include a note in the comment box that the donation is for the Tiny Houses.) 
 
You can also send a check made out to Occupy Madison marked “Tiny Houses” to Occupy Madison, 304 N. Third Street, Madison 53704.

We hope you are able to help support these two projects. And as always, we thank you for your support! Continue reading

Tragedy in Gaza after 21 people die in fire

The Abu Rayya tragedy is a direct result of the blockade, as frequent power cuts have forced families in Gaza to use alternative fuel sources to fight the dark, often in hazardous conditions.


MOURNERS ATTEND THE FUNERAL OF 21 PALESTINIANS WHO DIED IN A FIRE THAT BROKE OUT IN AN APARTMENT IN JABALYA REFUGEE CAMP IN THE NORTHERN GAZA STRIP, NOVEMBER 18, 2022. (PHOTO: ASHRAF AMRA/APA IMAGES)

TAREQ S. HAJJAJ, MONDOWEISS, NOVEMBER 19, 2022

It was a rough night in Jabaliya refugee camp, north of Gaza City. Neighbors could not sleep peacefully after what they saw on Thursday, November 17 — the image of the woman holding the steel bars of the window on the fourth floor, screaming and pleading for help as the fire raged on in the room behind her, lighting up the area with red flame. In a second, she was engulfed by the flames and fell down.

Neighbors tried to get into the building to help her and her family, but the locked steel doors shut them out. The fire burned alive her extended family of 21 people, leaving the exact cause of the fire uncertain.

They had all gathered inside a single apartment to celebrate one of the family’s sons who had completed his PhD and arrived from Egypt a week earlier, as well as the birthday of one of the grandsons. The father, Subhi Abu Rayya, 51, the mother Yusra Abu Rayya, 44, and their sons and families, were among the dead.


Palestinian firefighters extinguish a fire that broke out in an apartment in the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza strip, on November 17, 2022. A large fire that ripped through a home north of Gaza City killed at least 21 people, including seven children, official and medical sources said. (Photo” Palestinian Ministry of Interior/APA Images)

Neighbors in the area told Mondoweiss that a huge flame had gone up and people were trying to go into the apartment to help, but were unable due to the locked doors. The police were the first to arrive and break the doors down, while firefighters and their trucks took over 40 minutes to arrive on the scene.

The tragedy of the Abu Rayya family quickly became what everyone in Gaza was talking about, as speculations abound as to the origins of the fire. Thousands of people came from all over the Gaza Strip to participate in the funeral.

“Everyone is so shocked. Look at their faces, look at how it has affected them,” Abdulnasser Abu Rayya, 41, a family relative of the victims, said as he walked through the funeral procession on the way to the cemetery. Abdulnasser has tried to understand what happened, but all that comes to his mind is a flashback from when entered the apartment that day as it was already on fire, witnessing his relatives burning alive.

“One mother was holding her two kids. Both of them were lying down on her lap. It looked like the mother was trying to protect her children from the fire. They were in there for an hour before the fire was extinguished,” Abdulnasser said. 

The Internal Ministry in Gaza commented on the accident, stating that initial results from investigations have confirmed that the family was storing a large amount of gasoline inside the apartment, which presumably is what caused the huge conflagration.  

“When we entered the apartment, we could not definitively figure out what caused this fire,” Abdulnasser told Mondoweiss. “We start to ask whether they kept gasoline in the house, or whether the cooking gas had leaked at the same time.” Abdulnasser confirmed that no sound of an explosion had been heard at the time of the fire.


Mourners attend the funeral of 21 Palestinians who died in a fire that broke out in an apartment in Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, November 18, 2022. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)

Using alternative fuels to fight the dark

Storing deadly materials in living quarters, such as gasoline, unsaved electricity cables, and batteries to light up glow-lamps during power outages, are fairly common in Gaza, explained by the 15-year blockade that has harshly restricted power sources in Gaza. 

Due to frequently scheduled power cuts, people use alternative energy sources to fight the darkness and light up their homes. In 2006, 3 kids in the Al-Hindi family burned to death in their room at Al-Shati refugee camp, in a fire that was caused by a candle they used in their room. 

Abu Rayya’s neighbors said the family used a generator that ran on gasoline, which is likely why the family had stored reserves of it in the house.

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Light in Gaza Speaking Tour in Milwaukee


Light in Gaza: Writings Born of Fire book cover. (Photo: AFSC)

American Friends Service Committee, Sep 27, 2022

    11/17/22 update: WORT’s Gil Halsted talks with Yousef Aljamal and Asmaa Abu Mezeid, two of the Light in Gaza authors now on tour in the U.S.

Light in Gaza: Writings Born of Fire brings together sixteen essays and poems by twelve Palestinian writers. The book includes political essays, personal narratives, economic analysis, and poetry. The book is edited by American Friends Service Committee staff Jehad Abusalim, Jennifer Bing, and Mike Merryman-Lotze and published by Haymarket Books. Read the full press release here.

AFSC is excited to host a speaking tour featuring Asmaa Abu Mezied and Yousef Aljamal, contributors to the Light in Gaza anthology.

Join us for a discussion of this new literary anthology featuring two of the book’s co-authors: Asmaa Abu Mezied and Yousef Aljamal.

This book imagines what the future of Gaza could be, while reaffirming the critical role of Gaza in the struggle for Palestinian liberation.

“This is a different view than most Americans see in the news.  Usually we see people in Gaza being killed or living without electricity. So they are either victims or superhumans. You miss the everyday family gatherings, the importance of nature. We hope this book inspires people to want to learn more,” said Jennifer Bing, director of the AFSC Palestine Activism Program in Chicago and editor for the Light in Gaza book project.

We will talk with the authors about their contributions to the book, and discuss the current conditions in Gaza. We will also be discussing the role that we here in Turtle Island can play in support the struggle for Palestinian liberation.

This event is co-sponsored by: Milwaukee 4 Palestine (milwaukee4palestine@gmail.com); Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition, Party for Socialism and Liberation (Milwaukee), Jewish Voice for Peace (Milwaukee), Students for Justice in Palestine (UWM), Students for Justice in Palestine (Marquette University).

About the speakers:

Asmaa Abu Mezied is economic development and gender expert working to address issues of gender, development, and climate change.  Her main area of focus is women’s economic justice through gendered economic policies, women’s rights in economic sectors, unpaid care and domestic work campaigning, inclusive markets, and feminist economics in fragile and conflict areas. Asmaa is a beginner gardener in the Gaza Strip and is interested in the intersection of Palestinian political, agricultural, and environmental identities. Asmaa is a policy member and a current fellow at Al Shabaka, a Palestinian think tank.  She was an Atlas Corps Fellow with U.S. President Obama’s Emerging Global Leaders, a Gaza Hub-Global Shaper Alumna in the initiative of the World Economic Forum, and a 2021 Mozilla Foundation Wrangler at “Tech for Social Activism” space. 

Yousef M. Aljamal is a Palestinian refugee from Al-Nusierat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. He has obtained an MA degree from the Department of International and Strategic Studies Department at the University of Malaya. He is now a PhD Candidate at the Middle East Institute at Sakarya University in Turkey. Aljamal, besides his research interests in diaspora, security, and indigenous studies, has contributed to a number of books which highlight the Palestinian narrative. He translated two books on Palestinian prisoners entitled The Prisoners’ Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag (2013) and Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Child Prisoners Speak (2016). He also co-edited the book A Shared Struggle Stories of Palestinian and Irish Hunger Strikers (2021). Aljamal has published a number of journal articles on topics that include Palestinians in the diaspora, travel restrictions imposed on Palestinians, and struggles for liberation. Over the years, he has spoken at various forums and platforms to highlight the plight of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation.

Investigate war crimes during August offensive on Gaza



© MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images

Amnesty International, October 25, 2022

The International Criminal Court (ICC) must investigate unlawful attacks committed during Israel’s August 2022 assault on the Gaza Strip as war crimes, Amnesty International said today in a new research briefing. Using ph​otographs of weapons fragments, satellite imagery analysis and testimony from dozens of interviews, the organization reconstructed the circumstances around three specific attacks, two of which were carried out by Israeli forces and one most likely by Palestinian armed groups. The briefing, ‘They were just kids’: Evidence of war crimes during Israel’s August 2022 Gaza offensive, sets out why these attacks may amount to war crimes.  

Amnesty International found that the two Israeli attacks together killed six Palestinian civilians. Throughout the August offensive, Israeli authorities boasted about the precision of their operation. Yet Amnesty International found that victims of these ‘precise’ attacks included a four-year-old boy, a teenager visiting his mother’s grave, and a 22-year-old student at home with her family. The third attack, which killed seven Palestinian civilians, appears to have been caused by an unguided rocket launched by Palestinian armed groups.

Israel’s latest offensive on Gaza lasted only three days, but that was ample time to unleash fresh trauma and destruction on the besieged population.
Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General

“Israel’s latest offensive on Gaza lasted only three days, but that was ample time to unleash fresh trauma and destruction on the besieged population. The three deadly attacks we examined must be investigated as war crimes; all victims of unlawful attacks and their families deserve justice and reparations,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. 

“These violations were perpetrated in the context of Israel’s ongoing illegal blockade on Gaza, which is a key tool of its apartheid regime. Palestinians in Gaza are dominated, oppressed and segregated, trapped in a 15-year nightmare where recurrent unlawful attacks punctuate a worsening humanitarian crisis. As well as investigating war crimes committed in Gaza, the ICC should consider the crime against humanity of apartheid within its current investigation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” 

Amnesty International interviewed 42 individuals for the briefing, including survivors of attacks, relatives of those killed or wounded, eyewitnesses, and medics. Israeli authorities have denied Amnesty International access to the Gaza Strip since 2012, so the organization worked with a fieldworker who visited 17 attack sites and collected evidence such as photographs of weapons remnants. Amnesty International’s weapons expert and Evidence Lab analysed evidence collected on the ground, as well as satellite imagery and other open-source material such as footage of attacks.

Amnesty International considered it had sufficient evidence to assess the lawfulness of three of the 17 attacks it documented, and these are the focus of the report.

The organization wrote to the Israeli authorities and to Palestinian Islamic Jihad on 30 September 2022, providing a summary of its key findings and requesting comment. It had not received a response from either at the time of publication. 

Dozens of civilians killed 

On 5 August 2022, Israel launched what it described as a “pre-emptive” military offensive on the Gaza Strip, targeting Palestinian Islamic Jihad and its armed wing the Al-Quds Brigades. Israeli authorities said the offensive was in response to threats of attack.  

According to the UN, 49 Palestinians were killed as a result of the fighting. Amnesty International’s assessment is that 33 of these, including 17 civilians, were killed by Israeli forces.

Of the remaining 16 Palestinians who were killed, Amnesty International concluded that 14 were civilians. The organization gathered sufficient evidence to conclude that seven of these were killed by a rocket launched by Palestinian armed groups; it was unable to conclude which party was responsible for the seven remaining civilian deaths. These seven civilians were killed in four attacks, after which remnants of weapons were immediately removed, preventing Amnesty International’s researchers from accessing material evidence. As noted below, this removal matches the pattern identified in past cases where Palestinian rockets misfired.

In this conflict, rockets launched by Palestinian armed groups did not cause deaths or serious injuries among Israeli civilians.

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Gaza: The Longest Siege in Modern History


Video recorded October 3, 2022

In 1948, the tiny Gaza Strip was cut off from the rest of historic Palestine, absorbing a huge number of Palestinian refugees who were ethnically cleansed from their ancestral lands.

In 1967, it was militarily occupied by Israeli forces, its inhabitants suffering from a plethora of colonial domination techniques and movement restrictions over the subsequent decades.

An unprecedented land, air, and sea blockade was imposed on Gaza since June 2007, constituting the longest siege in modern history.

As the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 has noted in her latest report: “Israel’s apparent strategy is the indefinite warehousing of an unwanted population of two million Palestinians, whom it has confined to a narrow strip of land through its comprehensive 15-year-old air, land and sea blockade.” 

The outcome has been a harrowing process of de-development resulting, as the UN Special Rapporteur notes, “in a 45 percent unemployment rate, a 60 percent poverty rate and with 80 percent of the population dependent on some form of international assistance, in significant part because of the hermetic sealing of Gaza’s access to the outside world”. 

Besides this siege imposed by the Israeli state with Egyptian state collusion, the Palestinian people living in Gaza have been assaulted and bombarded by Israeli forces from land, sea, and air on a regular basis. Their cities, villages, and refugee camps have suffered from several Israeli military invasions, which have led to the killing of thousands and the maiming of tens of thousands of Palestinians. Centering the voices of Palestinian scholars and intellectuals from Gaza, this panel examines the political and historic context of this process, accounting for its enormous human toll but also highlighting the ongoing will to resist this oppressive colonial present.


Hosted by Darwish Visiting Professor in Palestinian Studies, Abdel Razzaq Takriti

Panelists:
Jehad Abusalim, PhD candidate, History and Hebrew and Judaic Studies Joint Program, New York University
Aya Al-Ghazzawi , Writer, English language teacher, Palestinian Ministry of Education
Swee Chai Ang , Orthopedic surgeon, Author
Hadeel Assali, Postdoctoral Research Scholar, Lecturer, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University
Fady Joudah, Physician, Poet, Translator 

Israeli Apartheid: A Breakdown

Israel applies an oppressive, separate, and unequal regime on Palestinians. There is only one word for this: Apartheid.

Omar Baddar, Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), Oct 14, 2020

Omar Baddar is Director of Communications for the Institute for Middle East Understanding, and past Deputy Director of the Arab American Institute.

Update: Back-To-School Backpacks For Rafah Kids

135 backpacks to Rafah by MECA on our behalf
More MECA photos from Gaza

 


 

The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is partnering with the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) to provide back-to-school backpacks to 2000 poor children in Gaza, including Rafah and Rafah camp which suffered significant damage and casualties in the latest Israeli assault.

Our goal is to provide at least 100 Gaza-produced backpacks that MECA will distribute at schools and kindergartens in Rafah. The backpacks cost $17.50 each for a total of $1,750. MRSCP will match half the cost of the first 100 backpacks before the end of August, when school resumes in Gaza. 100 percent of your donation will go to this project.

The people of Gaza suffered terribly from the recent Israeli bombardment, which was just the latest in a series of what Israeli officials callously refer to as “mowing the grass” — periodic military assaults on the two million people (one million of them children) with no safe place to hide in what has been called the world’s largest open-air prison.

But even when bombs are not falling, Gazans struggle to survive under the Israeli land, air and sea blockade that deprives them of safe drinking water, medical care, employment, and fuel, and which kills and traumatizes them day in and day out through this cruel policy of deliberate deprivation.

Your tax dollars are paying for this outrage. Please consider partially offsetting them by contributing to the backpack campaign.

 

School Backpacks for Gaza!School backpacks for Gaza

Send a check payable to “MRSCP”
and marked “Backpacks” to:
MRSCP
P.O. Box 5214
Madison, WI 53705
or donate online:

Donate

Thank you for helping the children of Gaza.

 

AND…Here at Home:

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Daniel Levy: Apartheid Label Must Be a Wakeup Call

Daniel Levy, President of the U.S./Middle East Project

Meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Thursday, August 25, 2022
“The Situation in the Middle East Including the Palestinian Question”

I would like to thank the Council and the Chinese presidency in particular for allowing me to share some thoughts with you today. The events of earlier this month covered in detail by Special Envoy Wennesland are as concerning as they are predictable. To be very clear, Israelis deserve security; Palestinians deserve security.

Mr President, month in and month out the Council meets to repeat its familiar condemnations, formulas and slogans. I want to use this opportunity to rethink and re-appraise some assumptions and beliefs that may inadvertently contribute to the intractability in Israel-Palestine—to consider afresh, reasons why this conflict remains so prone to stalemate and human suffering.

I suggest to do this through 5 concepts that may assist us in such an endeavour:

First, Justice: The permanent dispossession and denial of the most basic rights and freedoms to the Palestinian people will never be a recipe for achieving sustainable security: this, the illegal blockade of Gaza and the unlawful occupation, represents forms of structural violence and collective punishment that we cannot ignore.

While the need for a political horizon is acknowledged, the dimensions of that horizon shrink and shrivel, becoming ever less ambitious.

There can be no effective or prolonged approach to Gaza in isolation—it is part of broader Israeli-Palestinian realities—in terms of security, the separation policy and closure. And crucially, there is a need to respect international law across the board—whether in state responses to armed threats or partisan resistance against state occupation.

Also in this context, there is a need for Palestinian political renewal, internal reconciliation and overcoming of divisions as well as an international need to engage all relevant actors without applying unrealistic and selective preconditions.

Second, Equilibrium: Any attempt to resume negotiations between the parties without addressing power asymmetries is a hollow and redundant exercise. As Comfort Ero, president of Crisis Group—with whom my organization the U.S./Middle East Project cooperates extensively—noted to this Council recently— “the structural power imbalance between an occupying state and an occupied people must be acknowledged.” A focus on relations of power rather than both sides-ism offers a path to clarity of thinking and policy.

As an example, attempts at economic confidence building measures are consistently too little, too late, and too ephemeral when attempted under conditions of a permanent, relentless and expanding matrix of occupation. This defies principles of harmony and reciprocity.

Especially with global resources stretched thin, the Palestinian economic predicament must be understood primarily as a function of politically imposed obstacles—on movement, borders, access to land, confiscations, demolitions and ever-expanding settlements—rather than an absence of charity. Economic palliatives under occupation deepen dependence and enmity.

We have heard the briefing of UNRWA Commissioner General Lazzarini. There must be an
economic commitment to a predictably resourced UNRWA capable of delivering services, not only a security necessity but also a political commitment to the Palestinian refugees who continue to be denied a solution.

Third, Accountability: I have previously highlighted to this Council two core problems; a legitimacy deficit in Palestinian politics and an accountability deficit viz Israel’s policies. It is Israel’s actions as the powerful occupying party that pre-eminently determine the direction of travel of this conflict.

Profound shifts are occurring as a result of the unwillingness to hold Israel to account not least on settlements.

Recent months have witnessed a disturbing intensification of that trend as Israel has targeted those least able to protect themselves and those most in the frontline bearing witness to violations of international law.

Following the shock expressed by Secretary General Guterres over the number of Palestinian children killed and maimed by Israeli forces last year, we have continued to see the same trend and suffering among the very young in Gaza this month.

We have witnessed the killing of those who report on and expose these crimes, Shireen Abu Akleh, being the latest journalist to pay with her life. And now the assault on those who document abuses and defend human rights, as well as community service providers, with Israel’s actions against six prominent Palestinian civil society organizations.

Following a terror designation having been made against the six NGOs by the Israeli authorities, a number of countries went on record that compelling evidence had not been forthcoming. Now in the past week, the offices of these organizations have been raided and shuttered and their workers interrogated.

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