Alexander Gerst’s view of the rockets and explosions in Gaza from the International Space Station
Burned books from the collection of Gaza poet Othman Hussein. Photo by Maysoon Hussein.
According to family friends in the UK who spoke to The Electronic Intifada, the house, located in Shuka, an agricultural town east of Rafah, was hit by tank shells on Thursday, 17 July. The home was completely destroyed, although Hussein and his relations were able to escape harm.
Hiding among civilians by Richard Seymour
Hamas, they tell us, is cowardly and cynical.
Hiding among civilians.
They hid at the el-Wafa hospital. They hid at the beach, where children played football. They hid at the yard of 75 year old Muhammad Hamad. They hid among the residential quarters of Shujaya. They hid in the home of the poet, Othman Hussein. They hid in the thousands of houses damaged or destroyed. They hid in 84 schools and 23 medical facilities. They hid in a cafe, where Gazans were watching the World Cup. They hid in the ambulances trying to retrieve the injured.
Masters of disguise, they hid so well that no one ever found them. They hid themselves in a young woman in pink household slippers, sprawled on the pavement, taken down while fleeing. They hid themselves in the little boy whose parts were carried away by his father in a plastic shopping bag. They hid themselves in an elderly woman, lying in a pool of blood on a stone floor.
Hamas, they tell us, is cowardly and cynical.
Tribute to Mohammed, Ahed, Zakaria, and Mohammed Bakr, murdered by the IDF on a beach in Gaza while playing football, by artist Amir Schiby.
Yesterday I cried my eyes out in my office, sat at my desk frozen in front of a tab open to Facebook, because I didn’t know how to wish a happy 24th birthday to a friend in Gaza. Bombs raining down on her birthday. Everyone on her wall was wishing her a “safe birthday” so I did eventually too, writing to her and saying, I wish I could sit with you in my kitchen and bake a cake for you and make you tea. Hourly you and all in Gaza are in my prayers. She deserves so much more than just a safe birthday.
There are more of us aware and speaking out than there were in 2009, but still so many are silent. Still the world sits and helplessly watches the systematic murder of civilians. I read an Israeli woman on Facebook say all she can do is translate the names of the dead and recite them to honour them, and she asks that others do the same. I wonder as the death toll rises, does she feel tired reading and writing that long list, or is it all that is keeping her going. I feel raw and selfish in my tears. I keep thinking of those four little boys running on the beach in the sun. Of journalist Ayman Mohyeldin kicking a footy around with them minutes before the bombs hit them.
Too much empathy doesn’t help me sleep at night. It is hard at times like this when most of my comrades are somewhere else: other cities, other countries, not amongst my friends here. We reach out to each other online, because for me it is harder to find political care and solidarity in my small city, as blessed as I am with loving friends here. I think briefly, about going back to church. I think of my ancestry, Indigenous resistance and war. Of my tupuna tāne refusing to cede sovereignty.
Today I went to a girlfriend’s baby shower. Feasted and drank, breaking bread in celebration. Baby mamas and baby daddies and baby mamas to be. Touched the soft head of a 5 week old baby girl, held a nearly one year old girl, watched a brother and sister play Lego and fight, rubbed my friend’s pregnant belly. She is due close to my sister whose belly I don’t get to rub, because she too is far from me, in India. How I wish I could be there with her. A friend and mother of three with a newborn talks about missing her belly and says, “Sometimes you wish they were back in your belly where you could keep them safe.” How I long for this experience of motherhood, in a world where the horror sometimes overwhelms me. I came away from this healing time looking forward to welcoming these new babies into the world, and to keep working for peace for all children. Inshallah.
—Hedaya Shamun, “I Do Not Wish For You To See Gaza As Anything But a Rose
Or, after attempts by all our enemies to marginalise the central issue, the loadstone for progress: Palestine, we can choose another path. We can choose a sense of priority, of proportion and of strategic unity.
All together in a single fist deployed for the Palestinian people and not for selfish ends.
The test of the claims of any who claim to represent progress, justice and dignity in the region and beyond is to what extent they stand practically with the Palestinian people. And the measure of their falsity is how much they elevate secondary divisions to avoid doing so - whether the self defeating division is based on sect or political tradition.
All out in every way you can for Gaza - and through Gaza to a Palestine, free, sovereign dignified.
Hatta al Nasr, Hatta al Nasr, Hatta al Quds (until victory, until victory, until Jerusalem).
(This was written by a friend who wishes to remain anonymous. Passing it on as it’s a very useful set of tips)
I have seen a lot of people in my life, myself included, going through hard times right now with the extreme escalation of colonial violence in Palestine. People are sad, angry, and praying. Many people are overwhelmed. Worried for our families. Many people in our communities are learning more about Palestine for the first time, and want to know ways to connect. It’s hard to know what to do from so far away, and easy to feel helpless when you don’t know what to do.
This list is for all of us, to recommit to the work we’ve been doing, to get grounded when this massacre has knocked us off our feet, and to get connected where we haven’t been before.
Please share with your communities!
1. BDS – BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT, & SANCTIONS
Boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) is a movement that was called for by Palestinian civil society. It is a grassroots, nonviolent form of resistance that there are so many ways to participate in.
Here is the Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions: http://www.bdsmovement.net/call
Get involved with (or start) a campaign for your university, workplace, union, etc. to pull out its investments in companies that are connected to Israeli human rights offenses.
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) has led many successful divestment campaigns at universities across the country. http://sjpnational.org/
We Divest is a project of Jewish Voice for Peace, which has successfully pressured TIAA-CREF around its occupation investments. https://wedivest.org/
Here is a quick list of companies that profit from Israeli human rights offenses.
Consumer boycott is about individually deciding not to buy these products, but it’s also about popular education. Flyering to educate people about what’s behind this stuff. Encouraging local shops not to sell these products.
There are ongoing successful consumer boycott campaigns against SodaStream and Sabra Hummus, for example.
Cultural and Academic Boycott:
As artists and academics, it’s very important that we decolonize the way we produce our work, and don’t let it be used to normalize violent structures.
There is a set of guidelines for cultural and academic boycott from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) that artists and academics can sign on to.
Academic boycott guidelines: http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1108
Cultural boycott guidelines: http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1047
If you are an Israeli citizen, you can also sign the Boycott from Within statement, and get involved with their work: http://www.boycottisrael.info/
An excellent resource, which can help you find information for whichever kind of BDS campaign you decide to get involved with, is the Who Profits? database: http://www.whoprofits.org/
Donating money is not an action that everyone can afford to get involved with, but if you have even a small amount to spare, here are some great places to donate to:
Middle East Children’s Alliance: http://www.mecaforpeace.org/
Palestinian Center for Human Rights: http://www.pchrgaza.org/portal/en/
American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA): http://www.anera.org/
United Palestinian Appeal: http://www.helpupa.org/
Australians can make tax deductible donations to:
3. PARTICIPATE IN LOCAL PROTESTS & VIGILS
Protests and vigils are a great way to make the Palestinian struggle visible in your city, and also to build community with other people who are feeling the same way you are.
If you go to a protest, come through with good friends that you can trust, and have a plan for what to do if police or counterprotestors escalate.
For organizers: Palestinian liberation is connected so intricately with all of our liberation. Reach out to members of other oppressed communities and build coalitions, feature their voices at your demonstration (for example, African, Latin@, and Indigenous activists). Keep racial, gender, and disability justice as the foundations of your work.
4. MAKE ART! & SUPPORT ARTISTS
This is giving us a whole lot of feelings, right?! Write/draw/paint/act/sing/print/dance it out! Bring attention to Gaza and Palestine within your artistic communities.
Endorse the USACBI statement, commit to its principles. Educate other artists you know about it, and encourage them to sign as well. http://www.usacbi.org/about/
Tell your story and tell it true. Be ethical and accountable in the way you handle the stories of others.
If you are not an artist: Help support Palestinian artists, and artists from other communities in struggle against Israeli apartheid. Donate, purchase work, host events, for example.
5. CHECK YOURSELF
Make sure that the information you have is accurate. Behind every single news story is a human being with a life as full as your own, and you owe it to them to get the facts straight. Do not re-post gory images of dead children on social media with no context—this is extremely disrespectful.
Below are a few (but not the only) reliable English-language news sources:
Al Jazeera English: http://www.aljazeera.com/
Ma’an News Agency: http://www.maannews.net/eng/
The Electronic Intifada: http://electronicintifada.net/
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: http://www.pchrgaza.org/portal/en/
Read and understand the BDS call, and its demands and guidelines, and do not present false information about it. This is very important, because oftentimes even people who are part of the Palestine solidarity movement can misunderstand the guidelines, and fall for Zionist misinformation about them. Read the calls for yourself and figure out how you can plug in. (see above for the guidelines)
Think about what your role is in this movement. Ask yourself some questions before you take action:
What is your relationship to Israeli apartheid historically, and the recent colonial violence?
What are you directly complicit in and what can you do to address that?
Who are you being accountable to?
Amplify the voices of, and support people who are more directly impacted than you. Step back when you need to and when you are told to.
Avoid false and oppressive binaries, like Arab/Jew. Remember that Israeli apartheid is a multi-layered system, and bring that understanding to your work.
Think about your social position in the country where you’re doing this work, and consistently check yourself on this, too. Again, keep racial, gender, and disability justice as the foundations of your work.
Don’t judge people for not being able to take part in the same forms of resistance as you.
6. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF & EACH OTHER
Mourn the dead. Speak their names. Publicly and privately. Do rituals if this helps you.
Read/watch/listen to/share poems/music/film/art by Palestinian artists.
Make art. (even if you are not “an artist.”)
Write it out. (even if you are not “a writer.”)
Cook Palestinian food. Share it with your loved ones.
Take time and space to feel.
Lean on your friends and let them lean on you.
Tune out the news if you need to. (Keep the news on, if you need to be reassured by the steady flow of information.)
Don’t go to protests/demos/events alone.
Take alone time if you need it.
Turn to your faith if that helps you.
Stay committed to healing, and recognize healing as part of the work.
If you are close with them, stay in touch with your family and friends in Palestine.
Remember, it is not your responsibility to educate your oppressors!
Keep checking yourself.
Affirm life. Affirm life. Affirm life.
“We teach life, sir” by Rafeef Ziadah : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKucPh9xHtM
“What I Will” by Suheir Hammad : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFbE8RBhSDw
"We do injustice to Gaza when we look for its poems, so let us not disfigure Gaza’s beauty. What is most beautiful in it is that it is devoid of poetry at a time when we tried to triumph over the enemy with poems, so we believed ourselves and were overjoyed to see the enemy letting us sing. We let him triumph, then when we dried our lips of poems we saw that the enemy had finished building cities, forts and streets. We do injustice to Gaza when we turn it into a myth, because we will hate it when we discover that it is no more than a small poor city that resists." - Mahmoud Darwish, from Silence for Gaza|
But what is there to do in these times of anger and grief and horror, but turn to the poems of Darwish? I read him over and over. What is there to do outside of boycott and prayer? I went to a speak out in my city and there were a couple of hundred people, in Sydney where I used to live they numbered 5000. I can never make the words of that chant, "Hey Israel! USA! How many kids did you kill today?" rise in my throat because I just start weeping. Palestinian youth at the front of our march carrying banners, children, young men and women. There but for the Grace of God they are not in Gaza being bombed. Millions of refugees scattered around the world. When half of Palestine’s population is under the age of 18, daily we see reflected in the death toll, how effective this campaign of ethnic cleansing is. Israel killing a Palestinian child every three days since the year 2000. Photos in my Facebook feed of a man whose entire family was murdered and I can’t bear to look. Photographs of thousands of Hasidic Jews in New York protesting for the freedom of Palestinians and my heart swells. Jewish friends who dare to speak out against the actions of Israel waking up to messages from their community telling them they belong in a gas chamber. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be shunned from your community and being unable to participate in religious life. I cannot imagine what it is like to be bombed at mosque while you are praying. A young man in a black shahada shirt weaves his way through the crowd, in another city these black flags do not fly without surveillance. A young woman I know in Gaza writes "Sleeping with my headscarf on, and that’s the farthest I can go with precautionary measures." and I am haunted by it. Young Muslim men after the march shouting “Takbīr!” then “Allāhu Akbar!” “Now we break our fast!” and my heart is in my stomach, thinking about how these military campaigns so often happen during Ramadan. Later I read Aamer Rahman’s status, “That awkward moment when Muslim kids scream “Allahuakbar!” at the Palestine rally and white leftists get nervous LOL” and I laugh too, and at the jokes below it. After the march a Palestinian man gets on the loudspeaker and tells us his family are in Gaza. “I called my brother and managed to get through, he listened to you all chanting, he says, “Thank you, we need you so that people will listen”. Suddenly so glad I rushed from work on a Friday night to be there. I have cried every day since this latest campaign began, it is so easy to feel hopeless and useless, it is so easy to break the silence.
Gaza is far from its relatives and close to its enemies, because whenever Gaza explodes, it becomes an island and it never stops exploding. It scratched the enemy’s face, broke his dreams and stopped his satisfaction with time.
Because in Gaza time is something different.
Because in Gaza time is not a neutral element.
It does not compel people to cool contemplation, but rather to explosion and a collision with reality.
Time there does not take children from childhood to old age, but rather makes them men in their first confrontation with the enemy.
Time in Gaza is not relaxation, but storming the burning noon. Because in Gaza values are different, different, different.
The only value for the occupied is the extent of his resistance to occupation. That is the only competition there. Gaza has been addicted to knowing this cruel, noble value. It did not learn it from books, hasty school seminars, loud propaganda megaphones, or songs. It learned it through experience alone and through work that is not done for advertisement and image.
Gaza has no throat. Its pores are the ones that speak in sweat, blood, and fires. Hence the enemy hates it to death and fears it to criminality, and tries to sink it into the sea, the desert, or blood. And hence its relatives and friends love it with a coyness that amounts to jealousy and fear at times, because Gaza is the brutal lesson and the shining example for enemies and friends alike.
Gaza is not the most beautiful city.
Its shore is not bluer than the shores of Arab cities.
Its oranges are not the most beautiful in the Mediterranean basin.
Gaza is not the richest city.
It is not the most elegant or the biggest, but it equals the history of an entire homeland, because it is more ugly, impoverished, miserable, and vicious in the eyes of enemies. Because it is the most capable, among us, of disturbing the enemy’s mood and his comfort. Because it is his nightmare. Because it is mined oranges, children without a childhood, old men without old age and women without desires. Because of all this it is the most beautiful, the purest and richest among us and the one most worthy of love.
We do injustice to Gaza when we look for its poems, so let us not disfigure Gaza’s beauty. What is most beautiful in it is that it is devoid of poetry at a time when we tried to triumph over the enemy with poems, so we believed ourselves and were overjoyed to see the enemy letting us sing. We let him triumph, then when we dried our lips of poems we saw that the enemy had finished building cities, forts and streets. We do injustice to Gaza when we turn it into a myth, because we will hate it when we discover that it is no more than a small poor city that resists.
We do injustice when we wonder: What made it into a myth? If we had dignity, we would break all our mirrors and cry or curse it if we refuse to revolt against ourselves. We do injustice to Gaza if we glorify it, because being enchanted by it will take us to the edge of waiting and Gaza doesn’t come to us. Gaza does not liberate us. Gaza has no horses, airplanes, magic wands, or offices in capital cities. Gaza liberates itself from our attributes and liberates our language from its Gazas at the same time. When we meet it – in a dream – perhaps it won’t recognize us, because Gaza was born out of fire, while we were born out of waiting and crying over abandoned homes.
It is true that Gaza has its special circumstances and its own revolutionary traditions. But its secret is not a mystery: Its resistance is popular and firmly joined together and knows what it wants (it wants to expel the enemy out of its clothes). The relationship of resistance to the people is that of skin to bones and not a teacher to students. Resistance in Gaza did not turn into a profession or an institution.
It did not accept anyone’s tutelage and did not leave its fate hinging on anyone’s signature or stamp.
It does not care that much if we know its name, picture, or eloquence. It did not believe that it was material for media. It did not prepare for cameras and did not put smiling paste on its face.
Neither does it want that, nor we.
Hence, Gaza is bad business for merchants and hence it is an incomparable moral treasure for Arabs.
What is beautiful about Gaza is that our voices do not reach it. Nothing distracts it; nothing takes its fist away from the enemy’s face. Not the forms of the Palestinian state we will establish whether on the eastern side of the moon, or the western side of Mars when it is explored. Gaza is devoted to rejection… hunger and rejection, thirst and rejection, displacement and rejection, torture and rejection, siege and rejection, death and rejection.
Enemies might triumph over Gaza (the storming sea might triumph over an island… they might chop down all its trees).
They might break its bones.
They might implant tanks on the insides of its children and women. They might throw it into the sea, sand, or blood.
But it will not repeat lies and say “Yes” to invaders.
It will continue to explode.
It is neither death, nor suicide. It is Gaza’s way of declaring that it deserves to live.It will continue to explode.
It is neither death, nor suicide. It is Gaza’s way of declaring that it deserves to live.
[Translated by Sinan Antoon From Hayrat al-`A’id (The Returnee’s Perplexity), Riyad al-Rayyis, 2007]
I stand between shame and relief
The missiles missed this time
Truth is, they didn’t really miss
Someone’s house is destroyed
but not the house I know so well
Someone’s family is grieving
but not the one whose name I carry
between shame and relief
I tell myself
‘this flesh, torn and scattered,
is not flesh I have ever embraced’.
I soothe myself,
‘Nor are these small lifeless hands
the ones with a crayon I’ve traced’
The missiles missed,
those whose names are engraved on my lips
They didn’t stop
Those hearts beating in my chest
But I must confess
Every time the bombs fall on Gaza
I search for answers
Where did they strike?
Which street did they blow up?
Which neighborhood did they destroy?
Which lives did they steal?
Aware of my guilt I whisper a prayer
Dear God, please don’t let it be the ones I know.
Dear God, please don’t let it be the ones I love.
And when it’s over
And while a less fortunate family weeps
I stand between shame and relief
Thank God my loved ones are spared
There is no stray bullet, sirs.
No bullet like a worried cat
crouching under a bush,
no half-hairless puppy bullet
dodging midnight streets.
The bullet could not be a pecan
plunking the tin roof,
not hardly, no fluff of pollen
on October’s breath,
no humble pebble in the street.
So don’t gentle it, please.
We live among stray thoughts,
tasks abandoned midstream.
Our fickle hearts are fat
with stray devotions, we feel at home
among bits and pieces,
all the wandering ways of words.
But this bullet had no innocence, did not
wish anyone well, you can’t tell us otherwise
by naming it mildly, this bullet was never the friend
of life, should not be granted immunity
by soft saying - friendly fire, straying death-eye
why have we given the wrong weight to what we do?
Mohammed, Mohammed deserves the truth.
this bullet had no secret happy hopes,
it was not singing to itself with eyes closed
under the bridge.