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.”

When I was young, I saw how the media portrays negative images of you, especially in Hollywood films—depicting you as uncivilized, savage, racist and drug abusers. Likewise, my people are portrayed as terrorists, “backward,” misogynists and anti-Semitic. And yet no one regards whites as all the same.

Like yours, our resistance has been labeled as acts of terrorism and violence rather than as a fight for survival and dignity. That's not surprising, since this is the policy of every oppressor who seeks to criminalize others to justify its acts. It is the oppressor's way to create its own version of reality to rationalize its behavior and brainwash the masses. And it is the oppressor's plan to make the colonized feel weak and alone. But you are proving they won’t succeed and I want you to know that my people are with you.

Seeing your women, elders and youth stand together to protest the pipeline and your exclusion from decision making is so inspiring! It gives us strength to go on with our own struggle.

As a Palestinian in Gaza, I have grown up feeling detached from the rest of the world as Israel tightens its decade-long blockade. I am sure many of you feel the same way. But we are not isolated. We are “soulmates” in the way that counts.

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Third Palestinian Submission to the International Criminal Court on Gaza Closure

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, November 22, 2016

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dsc_0068Raji Sourani, Director of PCHR, and Issam Younis, Director of Al Mezan.

Palestinian human rights organizations (Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Al-Haq, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, and Aldameer) held today, 22 November 2016, a press conference to announce presenting the third legal submission to the International Criminal Court (ICC) titled as “Gaza Illegal Closure: Persecution and Other Inhumane Acts Committed against Civilians as a Crime Against Humanity“. The conference was held in PCHR’s head office based in Gaza City and was attended by a large number of journalists.

shawanShawan Jabareen, Director of Al-Haq, and Prosecutor of the ICC, Ms Fatou Bensouda.

Both of lawyer Raji Sourani, Director of PCHR, and Issam Younis, Director of Al Mezan, delivered speeches during the conference while Shawan Jabareen, Director of Al-Haq, held a meeting in the Hague with Prosecutor of the ICC, Ms Fatou Bensouda, to deliver the legal submission on behalf of the Palestinian human rights organizations. It should be noted this is the third legal submission of its kind to the ICC by the Palestinian human rights organizations.

Sourani stressed that the human rights organizations has pledged on behalf of the victims to neither forget nor forgive and to proceed with the prosecution of Israeli war criminals for all their crimes, including the Israeli closure imposed for nearly a decade that has turned the Gaza Strip into the world’s largest open-air prison and resulted in a man-made disaster.

Sourani added that the human rights organizations’ role before the ICC will not end here, however, there are further submissions on settlement activities and the harvest of human rights organizations’ legal work before the Israeli judiciary.

Issam Younis added that today is a big day in the context of seeking justice for Palestinian victims in light of long-standing denial of justice within the Israeli judiciary.  He considered resorting to the ICC as an indispensable step after the State of Palestine had acceded to the international conventions and ICC’s Rome Statute.

Younis also said that the human rights organizations consider the ICC as a resort to grant justice. He hoped that ICC would seriously investigate the Israeli crimes and then move to the most important step that is starting the court proceedings.  He said, “Where to achieve justice if not in the ICC?”

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Update November 29, 2016
The Gaza Kitchen with Laila El-Haddad in Madison

The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey is a cookbook and a documentary portrait of the Gaza Strip by Laila El-Haddad and Maggie Schmitt, published by Just World Books.

The Crossing
1127 University Avenue
Madison [Map]

4:30 pm: Gaza, From Blogging to Cooking and Everything In Between
A Conversation with Laila El-Haddad based on topics raised in her book, Gaza Mom, led by Prof. Nevine El Nossery
6:00 pm: Laila’s Table, A Celebration of Palestinian Food and Culture
Reflections by Laila El-Haddad on her book The Gaza Kitchen, followed by a short cooking demonstration and a potluck social featuring samples of Palestinian food, including dishes inspired by recipes from the book. RSVP’s to dwallbaum at gmail.com by Nov. 22 are encouraged for this part of the evening. Please bring a dish to pass if you can.  If you are interested in trying a recipe from the book, include that in your RSVP; we can either get you a recipe, or we do have books available for advance purchase ($30).

Laila El-Haddad is a talented blogger, political analyst, engaging public speaker, and parent-of-three from Gaza City. She is the author of Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between (2010); the co-editor of the anthology Gaza Unsilenced (2015); and co-author of The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey (2nd Ed. 2016). All three books will be available for sale and signing at both events. If you want to purchase a book in advance, please contact rafahsistercity at yahoo.com.

Co-sponsored by: Madison-Rafah Sister City Project; Middle East Studies Program; Playgrounds for Palestine-Madison; Students for Justice in Palestine-UW Madison; WUD Cuisine; and WUD Distinguished Lecture Series. Additional support provided by Friends of Sabeel-North America.

  • Laila El-Haddad
  • The Gaza Kitchen, A culinary journey through the Gaza Strip:
  • The Gaza Kitchen is a cookbook which collects recipes from the culinary tradition of the Gaza Strip.  This is a rich cuisine which mixes Levantine and Egyptian influences, and is notably distinct from that of other parts of Palestine, reflecting the tortured political history of the Gaza Strip as well as the migratory patterns it has seen. 

    Food and cooking always exist in a particular context, and all the more so in a context as vexed as that of Gaza.  Thus we will also situate the cuisine in its context by exploring the lives of those who make these recipes and the sources of the ingredients they use.  This will provide us an opportunity to present a rich portrait of the social and cultural life of Gaza, as well as the dire situation of the Gazan economy under siege.

    Israeli Military Blocks Female Flotilla From Reaching Gaza

    Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams, October 05, 2016

    Group including Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire aimed ‘to highlight the vital role women play not only in the resistance movement, but in the survival of the Palestinian people as a whole’

    Map shows the path the boat took through the Mediterranean before it was stopped by the Israeli military. (Image: Women’s Boat to Gaza)

    The Israeli navy on Wednesday stopped a boat carrying international female activists, preventing them from breaking the blockade of Gaza.

    Among the 13 people on board the Women’s Boat to Gaza, a mission of the international Freedom Flotilla Coalition, were Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire of Ireland, retired U.S. army colonel Ann Wright, New Zealand politician Marama Davidson, and Malaysian doctor Fauziah Hasan.

    “In accordance with government directives and after exhausting all diplomatic channels, the Israeli navy redirected the vessel in order to prevent breach of the lawful maritime blockade,” the military said in a statement, according to Agence France-Presse.

    “The visit and search of the vessel was uneventful,” it stated.

    The Freedom Flotilla Coalition posted on its Facebook page that the boat was “attacked by Israeli Occupation Forces in International Waters.” The U.N. Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone states that territorial waters can extend out to 12 nautical miles.

    The Women’s Boat to Gaza tweeted on Wednesday: “Pls contact your Govt to demand their release and an end to the illegal blockade!” The tweet links to another page that encourages supporters to contact the Israeli military and international officials including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to “Demand that the women and the boat be freed!”

    In contrast to Israel’s depiction of blockade, U.N. officials have denounced it as illegal.

    The female flotilla posted an update earlier on Wednesday that the boat was roughly 100 nautical miles away from Gaza, and that it planned on arriving within 24 hours. The Israeli military reportedly boarded the boat when it was roughly 35 nautical miles from the coast.

    The female initiative was undertaken, the organizers’ website states, “because we believe that it is essential to highlight the vital role women play not only in the resistance movement, but in the survival of the Palestinian people as a whole. We intend to raise awareness about the ongoing struggle that women in Gaza, in the West Bank, inside the Green Line, and in the diaspora, have waged and continue to wage against the Occupation.”

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
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    SOS Women’s Boat to Gaza – Contact Lost

    miki_photo_zo

    At 15:58 CEST (Central European Summer Time) on 5 October, we lost contact again with the Zaytouna-Oliva and presume that the Israeli Occupation Navy has surrounded it in International Waters (latest recorded position: Lat+31.906033 Lon+33.757630) and has forced it off its course to Gaza. On board are 13 women, including Mairead Maguire, the 1976 Nobel peace laureate from Northern Ireland, Fauziah Hasan, a doctor from Malaysia, and retired US army colonel Ann Wright. Take action to protect them now – see below! Details of all of the participants are here.

    SOS messages from the Zaytouna-Oliva: please scroll down to read about how to take action now!


    See all of the SOS messages from participants here.

    Please act now. Contact the authorities listed at Women’s Boat to Gaza and demand that they call for the safety of these women.

    Follow the U.S. campaign on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Womens-Boat-to-Gaza-US-Section-996595507080925/?fref=ts

    PHROC Welcomes the Launch of Women’s Boat to Gaza

    Al-Haq, 26 September 2016

    ZAYTOUNAThe Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) expresses its full supportof the Women’s Boat to Gaza, with the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, to break the Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip. PHROC calls upon the international community to support the voyage of the Boat until it reaches Gaza’s shores in an expression of solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip andin rejection of the illegal and inhumane closure imposed on the Strip for over 10 years. Theclosure  constitutes a form of collective punishment, in violation of international humanitarian law, and rises to the level ofa crime against humanity that should be terminated and thus its perpetrators should be prosecuted.

    According to availableinformation, the Women’s Boat to Gaza Campaign, comprised of Al-Amal and Al-Zaituna ships, launchedon Friday, 23 September 2016, from Messina port in Italy towards the Gaza Strip. The female activists on board announced they were sailing towards the Gaza Strip with a message of peace the elimination of injustice, and solidarity with the besieged Palestinian people. The Freedom Flotilla Coalition consistsof a group of international organizations that support the Palestinian people’s right tofreedom and ending the Israeli occupation. The Coalition organized this voyage in which a group of female activists and public figures, including Nobel Peace Laureates, from around 20 countries, participated to end the inhumane closure imposed on the Gaza Strip.

    PHROC welcomes the Freedom Flotilla initiative which coincides with the tenth anniversary of the closure’s imposition. Furthermore PHROC believes this action is important in the face of  international silence over Israel’s continued violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.. PHROC also appreciates the international solidarity expressed by the Campaign.

    PHROC calls upon civil society organizations and all Arab and international solidarity campaigns to support the safe arrival of the Women’sBoat to the Gaza shore to break the illegal closure on the Gaza Strip imposed for more than 10 years. PHROC further calls on states and international organizations to ensure that Israeli authorities respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and guarantee the safety and security of the boat and its passengers.

    Zaytouna-Oliva departs for Gaza

    Amal-Hope II to follow soon

    Women’s Boat to Gaza, Messina, Italy, September 27, 2016

    This morning at 9:50 am, women representing 13 countries spanning five continents began their journey on Zaytouna-Oliva to the shores of Gaza, which has been under blockade since 2007. On board are a Nobel Peace Laureate, three parliamentarians, a decorated US diplomat, journalists, an Olympic athlete, and a physician. A list of the women with their background can be found here.

    miki_photo_zo Photo: Freedom Flotilla Italia.

    When asked why they are going, the women gave a variety of responses. Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate from Ireland, notes that “they say that ‘silence is golden’, but regarding the plight of Palestinians in Gaza the silence of the world, especially concerning their little children, shows a lack of moral and ethical leadership from the international community. Why has it lasted so long?”

    For two of the women, their countries’ own historical struggles for human rights played an important role in their decision to join the Women’s Boat to Gaza. Leigh-Ann Naidoo, an Olympic volleyball player from South Africa, feels that “South Africans understand the importance of international solidarity in fighting regimes that practice segregation.” Marama Davidson, a Maori Member of Parliament from New Zealand, carries with her a strong personal connection to Palestinian women in Gaza. “As an indigenous woman myself, I want to stand alongside the women of Gaza and to draw attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis there.”

    The Amal-Hope II has been making final preparations to sail and is scheduled to depart from Messina soon. Both boats are expected to arrive in Gaza in early October.

    Yudit Ilany, an Israeli participant who has sailed with the Zaytouna-Oliva since Barcelona, said “The blockade of Gaza is a crime against humanity being committed in my name, and it is my duty to protest it in any way possible.”