Letters etched in lead
1) Letter from Vanessa Farr
2) Letter from Luisa Morgantini
3) Letter from Khalil Abu Shammala
4) Link to Social TV report
5) Link to The Real News interview
While Israel continues to deny world journalists any access to the area and people under its cynically named "Molten Lead" attack on Gaza, flouting freedom of information among the many other basic rights it is violating, people around the world are resorting to receiving and spreading information in the tried and proven form of letters—personal ones to friends and family or open, public letters to politicians and elected representatives. Often coming from or transmitted by known contacts such as friends, friends of friends, acquaintances, these letters embody the reliability of personal voice and personal connections. Many of them are widely disseminated over the web by their original recipients.
The first three items below are literally letters. The first two written by women professionals whose work directly connects them with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the current attack against Gaza.
First, a personal communication from Vanessa (Vee) Farr, feminist scholar and anti-arms activist, expert on gender mainstreaming in processes of conflict resolution, disarmament and demobilization, who works with the UN Development Program in Palestine. Vee, who is also my dear friend, draws on a steady flow of detailed UN information and reports but also on her personal experience of South African apartheid.
Second, a letter, forwarded by Vee, from Luisa Morgantini, Vice President of the European Parliament, a tireless worker for justice and equality in Israel/Palestine. The letter contextualizes the current attack and challenges western politicians and governments regarding Israel's continued impunity.
Third, a letter from Khalil Abu Shammala, of the Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights in Gaza (http://www.aldameer.org/index.php?language=2). I received this letter via a dear friend, a Gazan currently living abroad, who wrote me, "I received the letter below from a friend and a relative of mine in Gaza. and I thought to share his words with you just to give you a first hand account of how it is to be trapped in the besieged Gaza under the shelling from land, sea and air."
Fourth, a more modernized equivalent of a letter—a link to a painstakingly prepared video report on the large protest against Israel's actions last Saturday evening in Tel Aviv. The news item was prepared by the Israeli alternative media group, Social TV and it includes English subtitles.
Fifth, another such video-letter of alternative news—a link to an interview with Phyllis Bennis, Senior Analyst at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC. I see this interview as highly important in its detailed focus on the violations of international law that Israel has been and is now committing and its close look at how the UN is confronting this international issue. The item is featured on another alternative media source, The Real News (http://therealnews.com/t/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1).
1) Personal letter from Vanessa Farr
From: Vanessa Farr
Sent: Wed 1/7/2009 1:23 PM
Dearest family and friends
I've been wanting to update all of you about what it's like being here – from my house I hear war-planes flying overhead every now and then, I've passed through burning skips and tyres lit by protestors as I move from home to work and the checkpoint only 20m away is a stern daily reminder of the multiple levels of violence people face as they try to negotiate the 'grey dragon', as some call the separation barrier. But this is only the daily violence in and near the West Bank and it is nothing – nowhere near – like the horrors unfolding in Gaza.
I want to reassure you all that I am safe: we are daily briefed by UN security on what's going on. My own work right now is focused on what we will do when the guns finally stop – how we will decontaminate the strip of unexploded ordnance, clear rubble, restore people's homes, jobs, schools; how we will apologise, make amends, still fears and restore hope and security.
But I also want, realistically, to observe that the safety of all of us here is being daily eroded as more anguish, extremism and desire for revenge is stoked by each new outrageous violation of international humanitarian law in Gaza...the bombing of shelters whose GPS location the Israeli Air Force knows, the direct shelling of ambulances, strikes on hospitals and medical centres, the continued blockade making access of medical equipment, personnel, food, almost impossible. I fear that this violence cannot be contained: there will be those who wish to take revenge against ordinary Israelis in the days to come, and some may succeed in breaking into what are currently safe havens.
I won't say much more than this: you're all reading the news online or watching it (if you're in countries that are interested in showing the truth that is) so you know about the horrific daily death toll…the hundreds of innocent women, men and most unbearably, children, who are dying and being maimed each day; the million and a half being terrorized as they wait, entirely trapped, for the next horror to unfold.
You also know that the dead now include several Israeli soldiers…sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends…like the very young conscripts who patrol the checkpoint near me and who I have seen terrified in the only incidence of violence involving gunfire we've witnessed to date. Having grown up in apartheid South Africa with friends who took years to recover from the evil they were forced to do in the name of that illegitimate regime, I also think about these young people and the pain they will not be able to leave behind when this is over.
I'm attaching a letter from Luisa Morgantini because she says in it much of what I would like to say. The very last time I managed to get into Gaza, in early November, Luisa was on her way in too. She's an amazing character, knows the Palestinian situation very well, and here has written the most passionate and clear statement I've read from any senior politician. I wish the men who 'lead' the world would step up and make comparably lucid remarks and act on them; that they would bring this terror, this evil, to a swift end.
Thanks to all of you for your outpouring of love and support in the past days. I apologise if I don't reply to your messages in a timely fashion but I very much appreciate everything you send. Please forward this letter to others who might be interested in its contents. Please write to your MPs, call up talk shows, write letters to editors, sign petitions, attend rallies, in protest against the disproportionate use of force in Gaza. Please remind everyone, as I explained to a 9-year old friend of mine yesterday, that what we need now is for all who lead, and those who follow, to find ways to use their words, not their guns.
May all of us find ways in 2009 to come closer to peace.
With love, Vee
2) Public letter from Luisa Morgantini
TO ITALIAN POLITICIANS and not only to them
Vice President of the European Parliament
Rome , 3rd January 2009
Not a word, not a thought, not a sign of grief for the hundreds of people killed, women, children, the elderly and Hamas militants,also them persons. Homes, entire buildings, ministries, schools, pharmacies, and police stations gutted. Where has our humanity gone? Where are the Veltronis, with their "I care"? How can you be silent about or defend the Israeli policy of aggression?
The people of Gaza and the West Bank, all Palestinians, pay the price of the failure of the international community to oblige Israel to respect international law, and to halt its politics of colonialism.
Certainly, by launching rockets, Hamas generates fear and is a threat against the Israeli civilian population, unlawful actions that are to be condemned. They must by stopped.
But enough with the impunity of Israel and the blackmailing by its leaders.
Since 1967, Israel has militarily occupied the Palestinian territories; a brutal and colonial occupation. The theft of land; the demolition of houses; checkpoints where Palestinians are treated with contempt, beaten, humiliated; colonies that grow alarmingly, taking over land and water resources, destroying crops. Thousands of political prisoners, who are even denied visits by family members.
But you political leaders, have you ever seen the desperation of a Palestinian farmer who embraces his olive tree while a bulldozer uproots it and while soldiers beat him with their rifles to force him to let it go? Or a woman giving birth behind a rock, whose husband cuts the baby's umbilical cord with a stone because Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint do not allow them to cross to reach the hospital? Or Um Kamel, evicted from her home bought through sacrifice because Jewish fanatics not Holocaust survivors but from Brooklyn - thinking that this land and therefore this house is their divine right, entered her house by force and occupied it because they want to build another Jewish colony in this Arab quarter of Jerusalem?
Have you ever seen the children of the villages surrounding Tuwani in the south of Hebron who, in order to go to school, must walk for more than an hour and a half because a settlement lies along the direct road from their villages to the school, and whose inhabitants beat and assault the children? Or the shepherds of Tuwani who find their water tanks or their sheep poisoned by fanatical settlers? Or the city of Hebron, reduced to a ghost town because 400 settlers live in the old city defended by several thousand soldiers, having chased out thousands of Palestinians, forcing them to close more than 870 shops?
Have you seen the wall that cuts through streets and neighborhoods; that steals land from villages; that separates Palestinians from Palestinians; that annexes fertile land and water resources to Israel; a wall deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice? Have you seen the cancer patients waiting at the Eretz crossing, turned back for 'security reasons'? In the last 19 months, 283 people have died from a lack of medical care that they should have received at hospitals abroad, but who were not allowed to pass despite receiving guarantees from Israeli doctors from the group 'Physicians for Human Rights.' Have you felt the cold of the icy Gazan nights that penetrates the bones, because there is no heating and no light? Or premature babies born at the Shifa Hospital, whose little bodies want to live but who will die after just thirty minutes without electricity?
Have you seen the fear and terror in the eyes of children, their bodies torn apart? Certainly, the fear of the children of Sderot is no different, and rockets can also kill, but at least they have somewhere to take shelter, and fortunately, they have never seen buildings gutted, dozens of dead bodies around them, or airplanes that carpet-bomb them. One death is enough to say no, but proportionality also counts, and since 2002, 20 people have been killed in rocket attacks by Palestinian extremists. Too many, but at the same time, thousands and thousands of homes have been destroyed in Gaza, and more than 3,000 Gazans have been killed, including hundreds of children who played no part in the firing of rockets.
After the demonstrations in Milan where Israeli flags were burned, you political leaders all expressed your outrage, you shouted out your condemnation. You have every right. I do not burn the flags of Israeli nor of other countries, and I think that Israel has a right to exist as a normal State, a state for its citizens, along the 1967 borders, much wider than those of the partition plan passed by the United Nations in 1947.
But I would have liked to hear your outrage and your humanity, and to hear you shouting for the pain of so many deaths and so much destruction, for such arrogance, for so much inhumanity, for so many violations of international and humanitarian law. I would have liked to hear you tell the Israeli government: cease your fire, end the siege on Gaza, stop the construction of settlements in the West Bank, end the military occupation, respect and implement the United Nations resolutions. This is the way to remove any room for fundamentalism and threats against Israel.
And listen to the thousands of Israelis in Tel Aviv, they are saying: we refuse to be enemies, stop the occupation, stop the massacre.
My God, what a terrible world we live in!
[English Translation by Kirsten Sutherland ]
INFO: Luisa Morgantini, 0039 348 39 21 465
OFFICE 0039 340 56 49 335 - 0032 22 84 7151;
A letter from Gaza By khalil abu shammala
Imagine you are living in Gaza
Imagine that you're living in the besieged Gaza Strip by the Israeli occupation two years ago, and you are looking for something and do not find in the markets or in hospitals, imagine that you have the flu and can not find a cure, how can that if you were seriously ill, and doctors were unable to help you or give you any kind of treatment?
Imagine you are faced with shelling by Apache aircraft and tanks, F-16, and you expect that the shell may come to your windows or on the roof of your home during your sleep, or your lunch or dinner, or follow the news, and imagine that you lose all your family members who are being killed and you can not save one of them.
Imagine that you view your children who do not know anything about the cause of war and aggression and they die before you, or ask you about the future and you can not find any answer.
Imagine that you are enforced by the Israeli forces to evacuate your house and go away and then turn to one of the UNRWA school, while believing that the flag of the United Nations can protect you from death, but you discover that death follow you by the apache helicopters.
What is happening in Gaza, more than the possibility of any human being, and the people of Gaza need many years to go beyond the shock, and will need psychiatric treatment and rehabilitation so that they re-discover that they can think, love, hate, learn, eat, laugh and smile like the others. But definitely many of the Gazans will face great difficulty in overcoming adversity.
We must congratulate the occupation army, who challenge all of the middle east countries, we congratulate them on achieving a victory on children and the elderly and women. What can tell our children about the future, and how can we convince the Palestinian children of the principles of tolerance and human rights?
Congratulations to the Israeli occupation forces on the killing of children, mothers and fathers, Blessed with success in the implementation of ethnic cleansing in the Gaza Strip.
Khalil abu shammala is the Director of AL-Dameer association for Human Rights in Gaza
4) Link to "Social TV" news item on Tel-Aviv protest – Saturday, January 3rd 2009
This report includes English subtitles: http://www.tv.social.org.il/medini/stv-aza-oferet-3-1-09.htm
5) Link to "The Real News" interview with Phyllis Bennis
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