We condemn in the strongest possible terms the shooting, killing and wounding of protesters in Gaza, and we urge you to contact Congress to do the same.

Yesterday, marked the bloodiest day of the Great March of Return demonstrations Palestinians have been organizing since March 30th (Land Day).  More than 60, including children, were killed and over 2,700 wounded including children, woman, journalists and paramedics – many are in critical condition.

Palestinians came out to protest the Trump Administration’s decision to open an American Embassy in Jerusalem.  Another decision by the Trump Administration that undermines Palestine rights and puts the U.S. at odds with our allies in Europe and others around the world who seek a peaceful solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

The Trump administration’s decision to abandon any vestige of American restraint in supporting Israeli aggression demonstrates — once again — why we must unite to restore the honor and decency of our country.

We must stand in solidarity with Palestinians on Nakba Day to condemn the ongoing murder of unarmed Palestinian protesters by Israeli forces, to reject the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and U.S.-Israeli collusion against oppressed peoples globally, and to celebrate 70 years of unrelenting Palestinian resistance and resilience to Israeli colonial occupation.

Contact Congress today and urge them to condemn the Israeli government’s action. And if you live here in the Bay Area, join us today, Tuesday, May 15th at 4pm for a protest at the Israel Consulate in San Francisco. (456 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA). 

We mourn for the people of Gaza. The Trump regime and the Israeli occupation must end.

 

Last Friday, over 30,000 Palestinians peacefully approached the border area of the Gaza strip, as part of the Great March Return, to bring attention to their unfilled right of return to their families homes and to highlight the ongoing plight of living under Israeli occupation. Israeli military forces responded with lethal force, deploying troops, drones, tanks, and snipers who fired on the crowds using bullets (live fire), rubber-coated steel pellets, and tear gas. By the end of the day, fifteen Palestinians had been killed and over 1,000 wounded.

Today, just one week later, the Israeli military killed another five Palestinians and wounded over 250. The toll is shocking, but premeditated. Israel had announced in advance that the protest would be met with military force.

March 30th marked the start of a of a six-week mobilization leading up to the 70th anniversary of the day (Nakba) in 1948 when the expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians began following the declaration of the State of Israel. It is now the most deadly day in Gaza since heavy Israeli airstrikes ended in 2014.

Refugees comprise nearly 90 percent of Gaza’s 1.9 million population. They live under a crippling decades-long economic blockade enforced by Israel and Egypt that has created conditions of permanent crisis. Poverty stands at 65 percent. Unemployment hovers around 45 percent.

Public health conditions in Gaza have deteriorated. An estimated 96 percent of the ground-water supply is undrinkable. Making matters worse, the Trump administration cut more than half of funding to the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees — funds that have long provided life saving nutritional and medical support.

Palestinians have the right to protest these conditions peacefully yet, on Friday, were shot down as they did so. The murderously disproportionate violence meted out against demonstrating Palestinians is the latest in a long series of deadly responses to popular protests.

We condemn the unjustified use of force by the Israeli military. Lethal force must never be used against peaceful protesters! We echo calls from the European Union and the majority of the members of the United Nation Security Council for an independent and transparent investigation into the use of live ammunition.

Israeli defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has refused to allow an investigation. He has the support of the Trump Administration who blocked the U.N. resolution.

PLEASE TAKE ACTION!

Ask the eleven Democratic members of Congress who just returned from Israel to:

1.)  Publicly condemn the attacks by Israeli Defense Forces against unarmed protesters in Gaza, and 2.) Join international calls for a full investigation of the tragic events.

Follow our Facebook page for updates on solidarity actions planned in the lead up to the May 15th the 70th anniversary of the Nakba.

peace-not-war

Photo: www.peace-not-war. org

This summer, we will feature the words from enthusiastic winners of What About Peace? contest and we’ll share their thoughts behind the incredible art they presented and what this big win means to them. These anecdotes not only showcases their art pieces but also encourages fellow students to come up with great entries for the new school session. The following is the third installment of our What About Peace? winner story series.

The world seems to be a messy place these days. It is indeed in a state of turmoil. Many U.S. observers look at the world- downing of Malaysia airliner being a target of ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, deadly violence in Gaza, deteriorating civil war in Syria-and see a planet unraveling. The tumult is scary and to see thousands of innocent lives confronted with bloodshed is indeed heartbreaking.

While friends and family gather around the streets, hold candle light vigils calling for peace, one of our winners of the ‘What About Peace’? contest also extends his ‘Peace Anthem’. His message has a different style altogether but it completely resonates with the present situation.

Photo: culturesofresistance.org

 16 year old Mac R Whaley from Minnesota, USA writes:

Without world peace the world is falling to pieces
Without our beliefs, man, nobody preaches
Without a cease fire, the fame never ceases
Without the death of war, the death number increases
Why’s the world gotta be like this?

Through his beautifully crafted poem with rap lyrics, Mac questions the present state of affairs and encourages all to take action.

Mac R Whaley was the winner in the written category of our ‘What About Peace’ contest. He is no ordinary writer but is a rapper in the making. He writes verses to instrumentals and pens down his experiences in life. He says his strength lies in hip hop music which is definitely evident from his poem. What needs an applaud here is that he is only 16 and is coming up with his mixtape titled ‘A Record of Therapy’ next month.

Congratulations on your great win! Tell us your first reactions when you got to know that you have secured the first prize.
I was told through my friend Brennan. He texted me after I was getting fitted for a tux saying “You won 300 dollars”. I was incredibly confused and he told me it was through the WAP contest. I thought it was really cool.

The Peace Anthem written by you has a very different style to it. It all rhymes in a rapper style which is quite interesting. What made you write a peace message in this style?
I like to create my own music whenever I have time to. I was sitting in study hall one day and I decided that I would write for the Peace contest. I already had experience writing verses, so I thought I would do it in that structure.

If you were to define Peace in one line without using rhyming words-How would you do it?
I define peace as the period of time where two opposing parties no longer struggle against each other. Peace is a state of being, where struggles have been overcome, and agreements have been reached.

What is your preferred writing style and on what issues you enjoy writing about the most?
I write verses to instrumentals, which usually call for 16 bars. I just write to whatever the beat calls for. If it’s 20, I write 20 bars. 12, I write 12. But normally, instrumentals are 16. I write whatever I feel, or whatever is going on in my life. I cannot write about experiences I haven’t gone through, and I encourage other writers/rappers/poets to avoid doing so. In August, I will be releasing a mixtape titled “A Record of Therapy”, which will include songs about tough times of depression, anger, and, most of all, loneliness. In the past, I have written on drug use, suicide, love, heartbreak, and stories.

What do you think makes a good poem?
Although I am unfamiliar in the art of poetry, I enjoy hip-hop music. I critique verses, songs, and even full albums based on 4 components- lyrics, flow, delivery and production.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?
My two favorite things outside of writing are sports and hip-hop. The two intertwine together. Much like sports, hip-hop has a sense of competition and debate that I find in no other genre of music today. Some of my favorite albums are The Eminem Show by Eminem, Illmatic by Nas, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by KanYe West and Together/Apart by Grieves. In order to improve myself as a lyricist and technical rapper, I have to study those who succeeded as such. My influences are Nas, Grieves, Tech N9ne, Eminem, and Slug of Atmosphere.

As I finished interviewing Mac, my belief in music and its power to bring peace only grew stronger. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love, music proves: We are the same.

We wish Mac R Whaley success in his life and may we all take a step forward to pray for peace and make this world a peaceful and beautiful place for all…

______

What About Peace? is a Global Exchange international arts contest for youth ages 14–20 to express ideas and thoughts about peace by responding to the question, “What About Peace?” through artistic expression.

This post was written by social media intern Sakshi Pathania.

Global Exchange and CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin just returned from an emergency delegation to Gaza. Learn more about how you can support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement with the Economic Activism for Palestine campaign.

Also see December 1, Truth and Trauma in Gaza and December 2, We Want It to Stop.

Eman El-Hawi, a smart and perky 24-year-old business student from Gaza got teary when she told our delegation about what she witnessed during the eight days that Israel pounded Gaza. “I saw the babies being brought into the hospital, some dead, some wounded. I couldn’t believe Israel was doing this again, just like four years ago. But at least this time,” she said with pride, “we struck back.”

The fight was totally disproportionate. Israeli F-16s, drones and Apache helicopters unleashed their fury over this tiny strip of land, leaving 174 dead, over one thousand wounded, as well as homes, schools, hospitals, mosques and government buildings damaged and destroyed. On the Palestinian side, crude Qassam rockets left six Israelis dead and caused little damage. But for many Palestinians, it was a perverse kind of victory.

If the Israeli government was trying to teach the Palestinians a lesson with this latest pummeling, the unfortunate lesson many learned was that the only way to deal with Israel is through firepower. We asked people why this round of violence lasted only eight days, unlike the 22-day attack in 2008. Some credited the Arab Spring that has created a new wave of pro-Palestinian public sentiment that governments have to respond to—especially in Egypt where the ceasefire was brokered. But others believed the Israelis backed down because Palestinian rockets had reached into the heart of Israel.

“It’s not that we want to kill Israelis but we want them to know we are not helpless,” said Ahmed Al Sahbany, an engineering student. “We want them to know that when they attack us mercilessly, when they treat us like animals, we will fight back.” A rap song by a West Bank group called “Strike, Strike Tel Aviv” that came out during the fighting was a hit among many of the Palestinian youth.

Many young people we talked to were dismissive of peace talks with Israel. They say the Palestinian Authority leadership in the West Bank has been talking to the Israelis for 18 years and all they have achieved is a new brand of apartheid, with bypass roads, separation walls, expanding settlements, Jerusalem ethnically cleansed, 500-600 checkpoints, and the continued siege of Gaza.

This latest round of attacks is just a continuation of the daily attacks we live with here in Gaza every day,” said youth leader Majed Abusalama. “Israeli soldiers shoot at our fishermen and confiscate their boats just for fishing in waters that belong to us. Israeli soldiers shoot at our farmers when they try to farm their lands that are close to the border, lands that belong to our farmers—our land!” In fact, a week after the ceasefire, our delegation visited a group of farmers in Rafah who were still unable to farm a good portion of their land. One of them, hobbling around in a cast, had just been shot in the leg, without warning, for venturing too close to the fence that separates Israel and Gaza.

Raji Sourani, a lawyer and director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a group that meticulously documented the crimes committed during the 8-day war, lost his normally calm demeanor when speaking to our delegation about Obama and the US Congressional support for what they called Israel’s right to defend itself. “How can Obama say Israel is defending itself when we are the real victims? We are the target of this dirty war, just like we were the last time in 2008, just like we are every day,” Sourani shouted. “The Israelis practice the law of the jungle with full legal immunity and no accountability.”

Sourani was happy with the vote that gave Palestine a seat at the UN because it showed that Israel and the US were opposed by most of the rest of the world. But he said the UN seat would only be meaningful if the Palestinian Authority used it as an opportunity to take Israel to the International Criminal Court, something the Western powers are pressuring them not to do.

The most poignant indictment of Israel and the Western powers came from Jamal Dalu, the shopkeeper whose home in Gaza City was demolished by an Israeli bomb that left 12 dead, including his wife and four children. Looking around at the wreckage that was once his home and family, he faulted President Obama for giving Israel the green light to carry out its attacks. “Obama, you say you want to teach us about democracy and the rule of law. Is this what you mean by democracy? Is this the rule of law?” he repeated over and over.

“I really don’t understand what the Israelis and their backers in the United States want,” said Sourani, throwing up his hands in despair. “They want us to vote, and when we do they refuse the recognize the winner. They say they want a two-state solution, but keep building settlements that make two states impossible. But if we say we want to live in a single, democratic state, they say we want the destruction of Israel because we produce lots of babies and will outnumber them. Honestly, I don’t know what they really want, but I can tell you this: the way things are right now can’t last forever, and time is running out.”

The delegation brought funds from Americans to support the Shifa Hospital and the Palestinian Red Crescent, and took up collections to help the Dalu family and a disabled group called the Al Jazeera Club whose building had been destroyed. The funds, and the gesture of solidarity, was much appreciated, especially since the US government is giving $3 billion a year to support Israel’s militarism. Also appreciated is the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign that is providing a nonviolent means for people around the world to challenge Israeli policy.

“Please don’t wait for the third Israeli round of attacks,” said Hala Ashi, a 24-year-old whose home was badly damaged and whose neighbor was killed, “and help show us, the youth of Gaza, that violence is not the answer.”

Young men from Beit Hanoun tell visitors what happened when Israeli rockets hit their neighborhood on November 15, 2012, killing two children. Photo credit: Johnny Barber

Kathy Kelly, who co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence, just participated in an emergency delegation to Gaza. Learn more about how you can support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement with the Economic Activism for Palestine campaign.

Also see December 1, Truth and Trauma in Gaza and December 5, Israel’s Lesson to Palestinians: Build More Rockets?

On November 15, 2012, day three of the recent eight day bombardment of Gaza, Ahmed Basyouni and his family were watching news of the attacks on TV in their home in the eastern section of Beit Hanoun. He and his wife assured his older children that they would be safe because they lived in a calm area where there are no fighters. Two of his younger sons were asleep in the next room.  While they were talking, at approximately 10:35 pm, the Israeli Air Force fired three rockets from a U.S.-provided F-16 bomber into a nearby olive grove.  Ahmed’s house rocked, all his windows shattered, electricity went out plunging the family in darkness, and Ahmed’s fifteen year old son Nader screamed  from the next room that his brother was dead.

When Ahmed went into the room, he saw, with horror, that it was true.  A fleck of shrapnel from the rocket had killed his youngest son, eight year-old Fares Basyouni.  Fares had been completely decapitated but for a strip of flesh from the side of his face. The child’s blood covered the ceiling, the walls and the floor.

Fares’s father and mother spoke softly about their murdered son. “He was a kind boy, sometimes naughty,” said Ahmed, “but very kind.”  Fares’s mother told us that he was crazy about food.  He would finish his breakfast and announce that he was ready for seconds.  And he loved to play.  Once he completed his homework, he was ready for games.  “He was the life of the house,” the father added. “Now the home seems so quiet.”

Across the road, the home of Jamal Abdul Karim Nasser is uninhabitable.  The ruins of the home face directly onto the missile crater.  Young relatives explained to us that shrapnel from the missiles had killed Odai Jamal Nasser, age 15.  We were standing on the edge of the crater when Odai’s brother Hazem, age 20, asked us into what remained of his home.

The missile explosions had shattered every window, and done extensive damage to walls and floors.

Hazem and his family had been sleeping in a hallway, so as to be safer from attack, when suddenly the house was falling down on top of them.  “My father’s arm and head were bleeding,” said Hazem, “and he was looking for a flashlight to check on the children.”  Hazem’s mother took the two youngest sons out of the house and headed for their uncle’s home. Hazem’s father suddenly realized that the son sleeping next to him, Hazem’s brother Odai, was dead.  Hazem’s other younger brother, Tareq, started crying out for help and then lost consciousness.  After calling for an ambulance Hazem’s father began heading for the nearby mosque to seek help.  But the mosque was ablaze.  They waited ten agonizing minutes for the firemen to arrive.  The moment the firemen arrived, so did another rocket, injuring several of the first responders.

Only after Tareq was safely at the hospital did Hazem’s father dare tell his mother that her son Odai was dead. The burial was the following day.

“Our area was safe,” said Hazem, “and we couldn’t imagine that this would happen.  It was very strange.  No one could believe that the Israelis would target our area.” He paused before adding, “They want to clear everything.”

This memory will always be with Hazem.  “I will remember what happened to my brother and my house and that will affect my choices in the future.”  He asked us to tell this story to others. “Ask them to look at our suffering and how we are slaughtered every day,” he urged, speaking softly.

Outside the home, as we spoke, young men had arrived with a donkey, a cart, and plastic buckets.  They were filling the buckets with chunks of debris from the Nasser’s front yard and dumping the buckets into the cart before refilling them.  They estimated it will take a week to clear all of the wreckage and debris that surrounds the Nasser home and covers every floor inside.

We asked the young workers, most of whom were relatives of the Nasser family, and most of whom had known Fares Basyouni, if they had any messages they’d like us to convey to people who might see the photos we’d taken or read our account of what happened to this neighborhood on November 15th.

Mohamed Shabat, age 24, who hopes one day to become a journalist, quickly replied:  “We want to stop the killing of Palestinians.”

Kathy Kelly, who co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence, just participated in an emergency delegation to Gaza. Learn more about how you can support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement with the Economic Activism for Palestine campaign.

Also see December 2, We Want It to Stop and December 5, Israel’s Lesson to Palestinians: Build More Rockets?

Dr. T., a medical doctor, is a Palestinian living in Gaza City. He is still reeling from days of aerial bombardment. When I asked about the children in his community he told me his church would soon be making Christmas preparations to lift the children’s spirits. Looking at his kindly smile and ruddy cheeks, I couldn’t help wondering if he’d be asked to dress up as “Baba Noel,” as Santa Claus. I didn’t dare ask this question aloud.

“The most recent war was more severe and vigorous than the Operation Cast Lead,” he said slowly, leaning back in his chair and looking into the distance. “I was more affected this time. The weapons were very strong, destroying everything. One rocket could completely destroy a building.”

The 8-day Israeli offensive in November lasted for fewer days and brought fewer casualties, but it was nonstop and relentless, and everywhere.

“At 1:00 a.m. the bank was bombed, and everyone in the area was awakened from sleep. Doors were broken and windows were shattered. There was an agonizing sound, as if we were in a battlefield.”

“The bombing went on every day. F16 U.S. jets were hitting hard.”

“This is more than anyone can tolerate. We were unsafe at any place at any time.”

U.S. media and government statements are full of accounts about the scattershot Hamas rocket fire that had taken one Israeli life in the months before the Israeli bombing campaign. The U.S. government demands that the Gazans disarm completely. Due to simple racism and a jingoistic eagerness to get in line with U.S. military policy, Western commentators ignore the bombardment of Gazan neighborhoods which has caused thousands of casualties over just the past few years. They automatically frame Israel’s actions as self-defense and the only conceivable response to Palestinians who, under whatever provocations, dare to make themselves a threat.

“Any house can be destroyed. The airplanes filled the skies,” Dr. T. continued. “They were hitting civilians like the one who was distributing water.” The Palestine Centre for Human Rights  report confirms that Dr. T is discussing Suhail Hamada Mohman and his ten year old son, who were both killed instantly at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 18, 2012 in Beit Lahiya while distributing water to their neighbors.

Dr. T. then mentioned the English teacher and his student killed nearby walking in the street. The PCHR report notes that on November 16, at approximately 1:20 p.m., Marwan Abu al-Qumsan, 42, a teacher at an UNRWA school, was killed when Israeli Occupation Forces bombarded an open space area in the southeast section of Beit Lahia town.  He had been visiting the house of his brother, Radwan, 76, who was also seriously wounded.

And Dr. T. mentioned the Dalu family. “They were destroyed for no reason. You can go visit there.”

The next day, I went to the building north of Gaza City where the Dalu family had lived. In the afternoon on Sunday, November 18, an Israeli F-16 fighter jet fired a missile at the 4-story house belonging to 52-year-old Jamal Mahmoud Yassin al-Dalu. The house was completely destroyed as were all inside.  Civil Defense crews removed from the debris the bodies of 8 members of the family, four women and four children aged one to seven. Their names were:

Samah Abdul Hamid al-Dalu, 27;
Tahani Hassan al-Dalu, 52;
Suhaila Mahmoud al-Dalu, 73
Raneen Jamal al-Dalu, 22.
Jamal Mohammed Jamal al-Dalu, 6;
Yousef Mohammed Jamal al-Dalu, 4;
Sarah Mohammed Jamal al-Dalu, 7;
Ibrahim Mohammed Jamal al-Dalu, 1;

On November 23rd, two more bodies were found under the rubble, one of them a child.

The attack destroyed several nearby houses, including the house of the Al-Muzannar family where two civilians, a young man and a 75year-old woman, also died. They were: Ameena Matar al-Mauzannar, 75; and Abdullah Mohammed al-Muzannar, 19.

One banner that hangs on a damaged wall reads, “Why were they killed?” Another shows enlarged pictures of the Dalu children’s faces. Atop the rubble of the building is the burned wreckage of the family minivan, flipped there upside down in the blast. The Israeli military later claimed it had collapsed the building in hope of assassinating an unspecified visitor to the home, any massive civilian death toll justifiable by the merest hint of a military target. Qassam rockets killing one Israeli a year are terrorism, but deliberate attacks to collapse buildings on whole families are not.

“All Palestinians are targeted now,” a woman who lives across the street told us. Every window in her home had been shattered by the blast. She had been sure it was the end of her life when she heard the explosion. She had covered her face, and then, opening her eyes, seen the engine from the neighbor’s car flying past her through her home. She pointed to a spot on the floor where a large rocket fragment had landed in her living room. Then, looking at the ruins of the Dalu building, she shook her head. “These massacres would not happen if the people who fund it were more aware.”

Mr. Dalu’s nephew Mahmoud is a pharmacist, 29 years of age, who is still alive because he had recently moved next door from his uncle’s now-vanished building to an apartment that he built for himself, his wife and their two year-old daughter who are also alive. With his widowed mother and several neighborhood women, he and his wife had been preparing to celebrate his daughter’s birthday. A garland of tinsel still festoons a partly destroyed wall. The blast destroyed much of his home’s infrastructure, but he was able to shepherd his family members and their guests out of the house to safety.  Several were taken to the hospital in shock.

“I don’t know why this happened to us,” Mahmoud says. “I am a pharmacist. In my uncle’s house lived a doctor and a computer engineer. We were just finishing lunch.  There were no terrorists here. Only family members here.  Now I don’t know what to do, where to go. I feel despair. We are living in misery.”

“Any war is inhuman, irreligious, and immoral,” my friend, Dr. T., had told me.

Dr. T. is afraid that Israel is preparing a worse war, one with ground troops deployed, for after its upcoming election. “We are hopeful to live in peace. We don’t want to make victims. We love Israelis as we love any human being.”

“But we are losing the right to life in terms of movement, trade, education, and water. The Israelis are taking these rights; they are not looking out for the human rights of Palestinians. They only focus on their sense of security. They want Palestine to lose all rights.”

Election logic aside, Israel has already violated the ceasefire – at any time the missiles and rockets could start raining down once more. Year round, that is what it means to live in Gaza.

I decided not to bring up the Santa Claus question and instead thanked him for his honest reflections and bade him farewell.

Also see December 2, We Want It to Stop and December 5, Israel’s Lesson to Palestinians: Build More Rockets?

 

Photo Credit: Code Pink

The following update is based on a press release issued by Code Pink. You can read the entire press release here.

CODEPINK Group Travels to Gaza to Bring Aid and Witness Devastation From Israeli Assault

In the wake of the ceasefire brokered by Egypt, a 20-person delegation of American journalists and peace advocates is traveling to the decimated territory to witness the hardships now facing the 1.7 million residents, deliver emergency aid and call attention to the need for a longer-term strategy to achieve peace and justice for Palestinians.

The delegates include CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin; former State Department official and retired Col. Ann Wright, and Voices for Creative Nonviolence co-coordinator Kathy Kelly.

“The U.S. government allowed Israel carte blanche for eight days while it pounded more than 1,000 sites in Gaza, disproportionately killing civilians,” noted Wright. “Americans of conscience must witness and report back on the heavy price exacted by our support of Israel, so that taxpayers back home will call for a more humane, productive use of their hard-earned dollars.”

A total of 162 Palestinians were killed during the attack. An estimated 73 percent were civilians, including more than 25 children. Five Israelis were killed. “We mourn the loss of lives on both sides,” said CODEPINK cofounder Medea Benjamin, “but we think it’s important to recognize the that the Palestinians have suffered much greater losses, and that the Israeli armaments used in the attack were financed largely by the United States, which sends Israel $3 billion in military funds every year.”

Continue here to read the complete Press Release.

TAKE ACTION!

 

The following post was written by leading Palestinian activist, medical doctor, academic and writer, Ghada Karmi. March 30th, on Palestinian Land Day, the Global March to Jerusalem will take place. Global Exchange is an endorser of this global initiative. See a listing of actions around the world.

On March 30th a ground-breaking event will take place. I had not expected it would ever happen when I first heard about it. While teaching at the Summer University of Palestine last July in Beirut, I met a group of Indian Muslims taking the course. They told me they were organising a people’s march to Jerusalem to bring to the world’s attention to Israel’s assault on the city’s history and culture, and its impending loss as a centre for Islam and Christianity. They explained how they and their friends would set out from India, drawing in others to join them as they passed through the various countries on their way overland to Israel’s borders.

They seemed fired up and determined, and I could not but admire their zeal and dedication to try and rescue this orphan city which has been abandoned by all who should have defended her. But I thought their ambitions would be thwarted by the harsh reality of trying to implement their dreams. It would never succeed, I thought, but I was quite wrong. The movement they and their fellow activists spearheaded, called the Global March to Jerusalem (GMJ), is now in its final stages. A distinguished group of 400 advisers, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nobel Laureate, Mairead Maguire, are promoting the GMJ. The marchers will head for Jerusalem or the nearest point possible on March 30th.

This date also commemorates Land Day, a significant anniversary for Palestinians. On that day in 1976 six Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli forces. They had participated in a peaceable general strike to protest against Israeli confiscations of privately owned Palestinian land, and paid with their lives for this act of non-violent resistance. Since then this tragic event has been commemorated annually by Palestinians everywhere. Today, it is a fitting reminder of Israel’s other confiscation of Jerusalem’s land, ongoing since 1967.

photo: GMJ

No one knows the exact numbers of marchers who will make it, but they promise to be large. Land caravans have been traveling for weeks from India, Pakistan and other Asian countries towards the meeting places in the countries bordering Israel. At the same time, marches towards Jerusalem will take place from within the occupied Palestinian territories. “Palestinians and their international supporters will attempt to get as close to Jerusalem as they can, whether at the borders of Lebanon and Jordan, at checkpoints in the West Bank or at the Erez crossing with Gaza”, the organizers have announced.

In tandem with this, solidarity protests and rallies are planned in 64 countries around the world, centered on Israeli embassies in each place. In London a mass rally is planned opposite the Israeli embassy. All the protests aim to be strictly peaceful, bearing in mind Israel’s brutal reaction on Nakba day in 2011, when 13 refugees were killed close to the border with Israel. This time the signs are that the army is preparing to behave similarly. Israel has already warned the neighboring states they must prevent protestors from reaching the border. Israeli troops have been deployed along the borders with Syria and Lebanon. The Israeli cabinet has met urgently to discuss security arrangements against the marchers at the borders and in the West Bank. In a sign of panic, they have accused Iran and Islamic fundamentalism of being behind the GMJ.

However it turns out on March 30th, it will have been a brave and admirable attempt to awaken the world’s conscience. Jerusalem is unique and irreplaceable, and its pillage and destruction at Israel’s hands ever since 1967 has been tolerated for far too long. Governments, institutions and official bodies have signally failed to halt Israel’s encroachment on the holy city. They must now make way for ordinary citizens to take charge and come to Jerusalem’s aid. That is why the Global March to Jerusalem matters and why it must succeed.


Ghada Karmi, 72, is a medical doctor and a leading Palestinian activist, academic and writer. She is a research fellow at the Institute of Arab and Islamic studies at the University of Exeter, Britain, and writes frequently for The Guardian, The Nation and Journal of Palestine Studies. Her books include Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine and In Search of Fatima, an autobiographical work about her exile from Palestine. Karmi was born in Jerusalem to a Muslim family and grew up in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Katamon with its mixture of Palestinian Christians and Muslims. As a young girl she and her family were forced to flee in the 1948 Nakba and settled in England.  In 1998 she visited her childhood home in Katamon for the first time since 1948. She was one of the first supporters of Global March to Jerusalem and is a member of the Advisory Board. 

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”  ~James Baldwin

“Action is the antidote to despair.”  ~Joan Baez

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  ~Margaret Mead

Tens of thousands of us have stood up this year and changed the global analysis and understanding of inequality, wealth accumulation and corporate greed and power. Ten of thousands of us have said enough is enough and brought change to our communities, cities and countries.

We here at Global Exchange offer gratitude to all those who have stood up to resist injustice, envision alternatives and take action. Together we are part of monumental shift, and there is no turning back.

We thank:

  • The change makers in Egypt: Thank you to the courageous demonstrators in Egypt whose force grew into a movement that brought about the end of Mubarak’s regime and more recently the military offering its resignation We’re inspired by your bravery, determination, and sheer numbers.

 

 

  • Those who saw that Chevron was found guilty: Thank you to indigenous community members and human rights and environmental justice advocates who worked together to ensure Chevron was brought to justice in an Ecuadorian court. The battle may not be over, but it took courage and conviction to get this far. We hope that BP is also held accountable.
  • Unionists and allies in Wisconsin: Thank you to the protesters who occupied the State Capitol Building in Madison, Wisconsin in attempt to stop the bill that curbs the bargaining rights of most state workers (now signed by Governor Walker). With efforts now underway to reclaim democracy, we support your efforts, voice and action.

 

  • Climate Activist Tim deChristopher: Thanks for your simple act of civil disobedience to scupper a controversial auction of thousands of acres of land, to protect it from false leases that would have been snapped up by gas and oil companies for exploitation. We send solidarity to you, as you serve the 2 year sentence in jail.

 

  • Money Movers and Shakers: Thanks to…
    · 22 year old Molly Katchpole who single-handedly launched a successful Change.org petition against Bank of America;
    · Move Your Money and other likeminded organizations that helped US bank account holders break up with their bank and move their money from big corporate banks to local credit unions where people are account holders AND owners.

 

  • Stop Keystone XL Activists: Thanks to the 1253 of you who were arrested in late summer at the White House, the 350 of you who were arrested in late September in Ottawa, the dozens of action teams who followed President Obama this fall, the12,000 of you who surrounded the White House in November, and the massive organizing effort of the Tar Sands Action crew. By making approval of the Keystone XL pipeline impossible to President Obama, we delayed a decision on this pipeline which would have opened up the tar sands in Alberta to an addition 900 000 barrels of oil extraction a day. We know we will stop this.
  • Javier Sicilia and the new peace movement in Mexico: Thank you for building a movement to free Mexico from the spiraling violence of the ‘war on drugs.’ We are grateful for your immense courage, dignity and integrity in the face of unspeakable horrors.

 

 

  • Gaza Freedom Flotilla: Thanks to activists aboard the Audacity of Hope and other boats in the Freedom Flotilla for your non-violent efforts this spring to bring needed humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza while striving to lift the illegal siege of Gaza and achieve freedom for the Palestinian people. 

 

  • Occupiers of Wall Street and Beyond: Thanks to the 99% who are standing up and taking action to say Enough is Enough. On Nov. 15th Berkeley professor Robert Reich shared with the Occupy Cal crowd these words:

Moral outrage is the beginning. The days of apathy are over, folks. And once it has begun it cannot be stopped and it will not be stopped.

Surely he is correct.

Who are you thankful for? What is the next victory and who will make it happen?

By Medea Benjamin and Robert Naiman

photo: Lina Attalah

Two boats full of courageous passengers were on their way to Gaza when they were intercepted on Friday, November 4, by the Israeli military in international waters. We call the passengers courageous because they sailed from Turkey on November 2 with the knowledge that at any moment they might be boarded by Israeli commandos intent on stopping them—perhaps violently, as the Israeli military did in 2010 when they killed nine humanitarian aid workers on the Turkish boat named Mavi Marmara.

The boats—one from Canada and one from Ireland—were carrying 27 passengers, including press and peace activists from Ireland, Canada, the United States, Australia and Palestine. They were unarmed, and the Israeli military knew that. They were simply peace activists wanting to connect with civilians in Gaza, and the Israeli military knew that. Yet naked aggression was used against them in international waters—something that is normally considered an act of piracy.

The passengers on the boats were sailing to Gaza to challenge the U.S. – supported Israeli blockade that is crippling the lives of 1.6 million Palestinian civilians in Gaza. They were sailing to stand up against unaccountable power—the power of the Israeli government—that has been violating the basic rights of the 5.5 million Palestinians that live inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders or in the Occupied Territories.  They were sailing for us, civil society, who believe in human rights and the rule of law.

The Arab Spring – which has now spread to cities across the United States in the form of the “#occupy” movement, and has been echoed in protests against economic injustice in Europe and Israel as well – has fundamentally been a challenge to unaccountable power. Some countries experiencing this protest wave are dictatorships under military rule or ruled by monarchies; others are generally considered “democracies.” But in all instances the majority feel that they have been shut out of decision-making and have been harmed by policies benefiting a narrow elite with disproportionate power.

The blockade of Gaza’s civilians is an extreme example of unaccountable power. Palestinians in Gaza aren’t allowed to vote for Israeli or American politicians. But due to political decisions taken in Israel and the United States, Palestinians in Gaza are prevented from exporting their goods, traveling freely, farming their land, fishing their waters or importing construction materials to build their homes and factories.

We have been to Gaza before, where we have seen the devastation firsthand.  We have also been to Israel and the West Bank, where we have seen how the Israeli government is detaining Palestinians at checkpoints, building walls that cut them off from their lands, demolishing their houses, arbitrarily imprisoning their relatives and imposing economic restrictions that prevent them from earning a living. We have seen how Palestinians, like people everywhere, are desperate to live normal and dignified lives.

A UN Report released in September found that “Israel’s oppressive policies [in Gaza] constitute a form of collective punishment of civilians”, that these policies violate both international humanitarian and human rights law, and that the illegal siege of Gaza should be lifted.  The International Committee of the Red Cross also called the blockade of Gaza a violation of international law because it constitutes “collective punishment” of a civilian population for actions for which the civilians are not responsible. The Red Cross is a neutral humanitarian organization. It doesn’t usually go around making pronouncements on matters of public policy. The fact that it has done so in this case should be a strong signal to the international community that the blockade of Gaza is extreme and must fall.

History has shown us again and again that when political leaders decide it’s in their interest, then peace, diplomacy, negotiations are possible. Recently, Israel and Hamas – with the help of the new Egyptian government – successfully negotiated a prisoner exchange that had eluded them for five years. In speeches, the Israeli government “opposes negotiations with Hamas,” and in speeches, Hamas “opposes negotiations with Israel.” But when they decided it was in their interest, they had no problem sitting down at the table and hammering out an agreement.

If Israel and Hamas can negotiate an agreement to release prisoners, then surely Israel and Hamas can negotiate an agreement to lift the blockade on Gaza’s civilians.

But the people of Gaza can’t wait for political leaders to decide it’s in their interest to negotiate, so it’s up to us—as civil society—to step up the pressure. That’s what these waves of boats are doing. That’s what the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is doing.

More than a year ago, President Obama called the blockade unsustainable. “It seems to us that there should be ways of focusing narrowly on arms shipments, rather than focusing in a blanket way on stopping everything and then, in a piecemeal way, allowing things into Gaza,” he said. That hasn’t happened. Why not? Why shouldn’t it happen now? What does blocking Palestinian exports from Gaza to Europe or keeping people from getting medical treatment abroad have to do with arms shipments?

The Israeli military stopped these two small ships carrying peace activists to Gaza, but they won’t stop the Palestinians who are demanding freedom, and they won’t stop the solidarity movement. We won’t stop challenging the blockade on Gaza’s civilians—by land and by sea– until the blockade falls. And we won’t stop challenging the denial of Palestinian democratic aspirations until those aspirations are realized.

Medea Benjamin is the cofounder of CODEPINK and Global Exchange. Robert Naiman is the Director of Just Foreign Policy.