Atfaluna Society: Help 10 Deaf, Needy Children from Gaza

We have received an appeal for help from the Atfaluna School for the Deaf in Gaza City. Atfaluna (“Our Children” in Arabic) has for many years been one of the main sources of the beautiful Palestinian crafts, including embroidery, ceramics and wood products, that we market in order to support Palestinian livelihoods.

Atfaluna sells these items both to benefit the craftspeople and to support their school for deaf children.

Due to the continuing (and worsening) crisis in Gaza, the school is facing the possibility of having to close some classrooms. They sent MRSCP the following message:

We are writing to you today in hope that you may be able to support our most urgent school campaign which aims to secure funds for the upcoming academic year 2017/2018 for all 20 of our deaf education classrooms. Our school serves 300 deaf girls and boys from extremely fragile backgrounds and in light of the deteriorating situation in Gaza, Palestine we are struggling to maintain our services for the deaf.

We are working hard to avoid ending our educational services for the deaf children in our care and have therefore setup an online fundraising campaign. We were hoping you would kindly circulate, share, contribute to our appeal for classroom 1A which comprises of 10 deaf girls and boys. The link to our online campaign is

Please consider making a donation to this online campaign. These funds do not go through MRSCP but directly to Atfaluna. We are looking into the possibility of doing some direct fundraising for the school, and will let you know if you could therefore make a tax-deductible contribution through MRSCP, but in the meantime we wanted to circulate this appeal.

Finally, you may want to check out these articles about the current situation in Gaza:

As always, thanks for your support.

2 Million Palestinians Denied due to Closure of Gaza Border Crossing

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, June 19, 2017

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) follows up with concern and sorrow the deterioration of humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip due to the ongoing Israeli closure imposed on the movement of persons from and to the Gaza Strip, in addition to the additional restrictions imposed at Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing that denies over 95% of the Gaza Strip population from traveling to the West Bank and abroad. The closure of Rafah International Crossing Point at the Egyptian borders has been ongoing for over 3 months, inflicting more suffering over the Gaza Strip population, especially thousands of humanitarian cases whose health conditions aggravated or their business obstructed. There are over 30,000 persons waiting for the crossing to reopen, most of them are patients who have no proper treatment at Gaza hospitals; university students in Egypt and abroad; and holders of residence permits or visas in countries abroad.

According to PCHR’s follow-up, the Rafah International Crossing Point has been closed for 156 days since the beginning of this year, while it was open for 10 days in both directions and for 4 days for persons only returning to Gaza. During this period, around 6,209 persons were able to travel while 9,052 persons returned to Gaza. The same period last year witnessed the closure of the crossing for 173 days, while it was open for 9 days. During that period, around 6,595 persons were able to travel via the crossing, while 2,822 persons returned to the Gaza Strip. As a result of the closure, the health conditions of hundreds of patients, who had received referrals for treatment in Egyptian hospitals, deteriorated. In addition, thousands of other persons and families, including university students, holders of residence permits in countries abroad, and businessmen, experienced hardships as a result.

PCHR realizes that the current suffering endured by the Gaza Strip population goes back mainly to the illegal and inhumane Israeli closure imposed on Gaza for the 11th consecutive year, which constitutes a collective punishment against 2 million Palestinians. The Gaza Strip is a part of the occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt) under the international humanitarian law. Therefore, Israel as an occupying power is responsible for the main obligations towards the population of the occupied territory. Accordingly, the Israeli occupying authorities should declare ending the illegal closure immediately and allow the freedom of movement of individuals and goods, as the closure constitutes a grave violation of the international humanitarian law and amounts to a crime against humanity. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions 1949 to oblige the occupying authorities to abide by the rules of international humanitarian law and to open all border crossings of the Gaza Strip, including Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing, without any restrictions like age restrictions, because Erez is the only crossing that gives importance to the geographical unity between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, so it would allow the Gaza Strip residents to move freely between Palestinian cities and travel abroad.

PCHR is aware of the security situation in Sinai and understands the security measures taken by Egypt to preserve its sovereignty and national security. PCHR takes in consideration the significant role played by Egypt towards the Gaza Strip population to alleviate their suffering, including opening Rafah crossing and allowing them to move and travel freely. PCHR demands Egypt to respond to the humanitarian needs of the Gaza Strip population and to provide the necessary facilitations for their travel and transportation to and from the Gaza Strip via Egypt, especially in view of the illegal closure imposed on the Gaza Strip.

Condemn, don’t celebrate, 50 years of occupation of Palestine

Barbara Olson, The Cap Times, Jun 11, 2017


Palestinian workers wait to cross the Israeli checkpoint of Al-Jalameh, south of the West Bank city of Jenin, on their way to work in Israel May 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)

June 2017 marks 50 years of Israeli military occupation of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. In 1967, in open defiance of international law prohibiting acquisition of territory by force, Israel began settling its own Jewish population on occupied Palestinian land, seizing large swathes of the most valuable, fertile and resource-rich areas.

For 50 years this dispossession has been enforced by a violent regime of military occupation, a regime that has expanded and deepened until many argue that it now meets or exceeds the legal definition of apartheid — a system of laws, institutions and practices that treat people differently based on race, ethnicity, nationality or religion.

For the last 70 years, Israel has also denied millions of Palestinian refugees their right under international law to return to the homes and properties from which they were ethnically cleansed from 1947 onward. In contrast, Israel’s “Law of Return” gives automatic citizenship rights to any Jewish person from anywhere in the world.

Those Palestinians who refused to flee after the Israeli state was declared in 1948 spent years living under martial law before gaining Israeli citizenship. Now making up at least 20 percent of Israel’s population, they face dozens of discriminatory laws that privilege Israeli Jews.

A special mention must be made of Gaza. While Israeli soldiers and settlements were withdrawn in 2005, Israel exercises “effective control” over Gaza’s borders, coastal waters and airspace, making it the occupying power under international law. For 10 years it has enforced a suffocating and deadly blockade of Gaza, condemned by the UN as an inhumane act of collective punishment of nearly 2 million civilians, half of them children. Devastating Israeli military assaults in 2008-09, 2012 and 2014 killed thousands of civilians and deliberately destroyed Gaza’s civilian infrastructure.

U.S. political, military and financial support makes this possible. Republican and Democratic administrations have given lip service to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, calling the settlements and occupation “obstacles to peace.” In reality, they envision not two equal states side by side, but disconnected, fragmented and nonviable “Bantustans” for Palestinians under permanent Israeli control.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is underwriting Israel’s abuses of Palestinians and the massive expansion of the Jewish-only settlements that long ago killed the possibility for any two-state solution. U.S. taxpayers already give Israel more than $3 billion in weapons like F-16 (and now F-35) fighter jets, Apache helicopter gunships, Caterpillar bulldozers, the Iron Dome, and more each year. This was before President Obama agreed to give Israel another $38 billion in weapons over the next decade. And before the election of Donald Trump, who has enthusiastically aligned himself with Netanyahu and the most racist and militaristic elements of Israeli society.

As Trump recently — at least temporarily — backed off on his campaign pledge to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Senate Democrats, including progressives Tammy Baldwin and Bernie Sanders, joined Republicans to unanimously call for just that.

While such congressional efforts to make the Israel lobby happy go back many decades, no president has yet chosen to inflame tensions in the region by legitimizing Israel’s East Jerusalem occupation and mistreatment of Palestinians in this way.

Sen. Baldwin actually joined Mitch McConnell in co-sponsoring the resolution, which as U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights policy director Josh Ruebner pointed out also “celebrates a half century of Israeli military occupation of East Jerusalem while ignoring Israel’s violations of international law there and its separate-and-unequal regime which discriminates against Palestinian Jerusalemites.”

Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace noted that “Jerusalem could not be more divided, physically, economically, socially and politically,” as Palestinians there face home demolitions, property seizures, collective punishment, and discrimination in residency rights and public resources.

One would think that true progressives would condemn rather than celebrate 50 years of military occupation, mass imprisonment, violent repression, property theft, and expulsions, and call for a just solution based on respect for international law, equality, justice and human rights. Clearly, both Baldwin and Sanders failed that test.

Barbara Olson is a member of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

#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

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.

The Gaza Strip is a tiny Palestinian enclave, just 360 km². It is one of the most densely populated places in the world. The siege imposed by Israel and enforced by Egypt turned this place into the world’s largest open air prison. 2014 summer’s 51-day long Israeli assault from land, air and sea left the Strip in ruins and 100,000 Palestinians homeless. 2,200 people, the vast majority of whom civilians and nearly a fourth of whom children, were killed; more than 11,000 were injured; and at least 1,000 children were permanently disabled.

#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.

The Gaza Strip is a tiny Palestinian enclave, just 360 km². It is one of the most densely populated places in the world. The siege imposed by Israel and enforced by Egypt turned this place into the world’s largest open air prison. 2014 summer’s 51-day long Israeli assault from land, air and sea left the Strip in ruins and 100,000 Palestinians homeless. 2,200 people, the vast majority of whom civilians and nearly a fourth of whom children, were killed; more than 11,000 were injured; and at least 1,000 children were permanently disabled.