January 31, 2009
I crossed the threshold of my house in Almina, facing Gaza City port, after several days of absence. Everything was exactly as I had left it – the gas cylinder still anorexic (feeding it is too expensive) and the electric current cut off by foreign shears. The once pleasant panorama outside my window has changed and no longer gladdens my spirits from the misery of living under siege. On the contrary, it now rubs salt in the wound, a trauma that won't heal with its reminder of a massacre. Twenty metres from my front door, where the fire station once stood, a huge crater now gapes wide enough for children to mess around in, as if to expel their parents' demon.
The afternoon call to prayer no longer has the same comforting quality of the muezzin's chant that I had grown accustomed to. I wonder where he's gone, if he managed to survive at the top of one of the few minarets that were left intact. The last time I listened to him, this anonymous muezzin had to interrupt his solemnly chanted liturgy because of a chesty cough. It's an affliction I'm familiar with myself, as the gases of the bombs in Gaza have spared no one. I found a note at the foot of the French window looking onto a small balcony, as if it had been put there by a friendly hand. The street and garden were littered with these same leaflets. They had been dropped from Israeli airplanes warning the Palestinians to stay alert, and be aware that the walls had ears and eyes.
"At the slightest threatening action against Israel we'll be back to invade the Gaza Strip. What you've seen these days is nothing compared to what awaits you." Some kids in the streets had picked up the leaflets and folded them into paper airplanes, seemingly sending the message back to its destination.
Ahmed told me on the phone about a new kids' game – until a few days ago, they amused themselves by relighting the fires, simply by kicking the fragments of white phosphorous bombs found scattered all over the Strip. The debris left by these devices with high chemical potential has very long-lasting inflammable properties. Even when picked up several days after their detonation, it still catches fire if shaken about. The Al Quds hospital paramedics speak of how they gave up trying to put out the fires provoked by these illegal bombs – their flames seemed to feed off the water being thrown at them.
"The consequences of all the shit that's been thrown at us in these last three weeks will surface in the near future, with new cancer cases and deformed babies", Munir, a doctor at Al Shifa hospital told me. Even Gaza's neighbours seem to be worried by this massive use of weapons forbidden by all international conventions. In Sderot, and likewise in Ashkelon, Israeli citizens have formally asked their government for clarifications regarding the weapons that have been used to torment us. It's obvious that impoverished uranium and white phosphorous scattered in such a criminal manner all over the tiny patch of land that is Gaza won't discriminate between Jews and Muslims when it comes to provoking generic illnesses.
The truce ought to have started by now, but today I was woken in my bed by the deafening rumble of cannon shots from the war ships, exactly like a few days ago. Some brave Palestinian fishermen had ventured from the port on their tiny boats equipped with fishing nets. The Israeli Navy pushed them back. Nowadays, the only edible fish found in Gaza are the Egyptian cans of tuna that came through the tunnels months ago. Yesterday, yet two more casualties of "collateral damage" were caused by Israeli bombs. East of Gaza City two children were blown up when playing with an unexploded device. The witnesses we heard spoke of active mines in front of the Tal el Hawa houses' ruins. Some bomb disposal experts sent over by Hamas defused them and, judging by the care with which they loaded them onto an off-road vehicle, I think the al qassam brigades will soon return that message of death directly to its lawful owner.
Looking from Naema's roof, the Israeli-Palestinian border has never seemed so easy to pick out. On one side lie the green hills which are constantly watered by the Israeli kibbutzim, on the other you see the parching thirst of a land robbed of its water springs and herds. Naema wished to tell me all about her last few days – a tactile, aural and olfactory account of the massacre, considering that Naema is blind. The soldiers threateningly ordered her fellow villagers to evacuate their homes only a few minutes before storming the place. The men loaded smaller children onto their shoulders and ran away, along with their women. Naema chose to stay so as not to slow down their escape. She took refuge in her own house, believing herself to be safe, and welcomed her neighbours, who had nowhere to go: three women, an elderly lady and a paralyzed old man. The tanks and bulldozers then trespassed and started spreading death and destruction, devouring acre by acre, until they stopped in front of Naema's house. Standing on a small hill, the building she inhabits is the tallest in the village, and the soldiers of Tsahal, who found it was strategically positioned, let themselves in and occupied it for two weeks.
"They came in and pointed their weapons at us, pushing us into a small room, where they locked us up for eleven days." Naema continues her story: "During that entire time they brought us water to drink only twice, and food came in the form of the soldiers' rations' left-overs. They never let us go to the bathroom, so we had to go to the toilet in one corner of the room.
They wouldn't let us talk amongst ourselves, and they would come in and beat us when at night, huddled in a circle, we tried to gather some strength in prayer. Sometimes they'd come over and, intimidating us by touching our bodies with the cold metal of their weapons, they threatened us with death to confess our support for Hamas. I gave them my cell phone, so they could check my phone book and the calls I'd made. Even this gesture didn't mellow their spite."
At the end of the eleventh day of imprisonment, the international Red Cross finally arrived and released the six prisoners from their jailers. "They didn't allow us to pick up anything, not even my sunglasses", Naema brings her story to a close, adding that when they came back to her house, they found out about the thefts that had been carried out by the soldiers. They had taken all their gold trinkets and hidden savings, after having destroyed their few possessions, two TV sets, a radio, a fridge, and the solar panels on the roof. I saw tears in this woman's eyes, hidden behind her new dark glasses. They seemed the most vivid I had ever seen. In fact, what Naema "saw" is a lot more that any young woman her age will ever get a chance to see, if she had the bad luck of being born in this tormented land.
(Translated from italian by Daniela Filippin)
January 30, 2009
I usually don't have much in common with the Turkish prime minister Erdogan. - His and the Turkish military's hard stance towards the Kurds and the opposing of freedom of speech, is not compatible with how I view things ... To put it mildly!
PS. If you'd thought, that being found guilty, would make Rod Blagojevich shut up ?- You're so wrong! -He'll cont. to be an embarrassment to the Dem. party for a loooong time to come!
The show must go on, you see...
January 29, 2009
You might find this video a bit..... eh, well .... eh ahem.... I find it hard, not to say something rather unkind about I think of the song it self and the way it's performed, it is a bit over the top, and sounds like thousands of other ballads of exactly same sort... The images are heartbreaking though and drives the message home.... It just might do the trick, where such tricks are necessary, where mere facts aren't enough...
January 28, 2009
This is a Video clip LINK
Look at this old world of mine....
My sadness knows no bounds!
- Oh, Humanity ....! Look at thy hands !
When blood and tears wet the ground -
Then there is no defence, no reason, no forgiveness.....
In this old world of mine...
January 27, 2009
Here we go again! Israel has made an violent attack, crossing the Gaza border! How do they propose to make a lasting peace treaty, when they continue to break every rule in the book?
In Gaza, only the dead have seen the end of war.
For the living, no truce can make up for the daily battle for survival. They have no running water, gas, electrical power, and no bread and milk to feed their children. Thousands of people have lost their homes. Humanitarian aid seeps through the passes in drips and drabs, and you get the feeling that the benevolence of the killers' accomplices is only temporary. Tomorrow, Ban Ki-Moon, the UN's Secretary General will travel to Gaza, and we're pretty sure that John Ging, Chief of the Palestinian Refugees' Agency, will have many stories to tell him after Israel bombed two UN schools, assassinated 4 of their workers, bombed and destroyed the UNRWA centre in Gaza City (which reduced tons of medicine and food supplies destined for the civilian population to ashes).
Gaza's mountains of rubble continue to spit corpses back up to the surface. Yesterday, between Jabalia, Tal el Hawa in Gaza City and Zaitun, the Red Crescent paramedics, with some help from the ISM volunteers, have pulled out 95 corpses from the ruins, many of which are in an advanced state of decay. Walking through the streets of the city and no longer feeling constantly terrified by the thought of a bomb surgically aimed to decapitate me, I still tremble at the sight of stray dogs gathering in a circle, imagining what could reveal itself before my eyes as their meal. The relieved men go back to hang out in their mosques and cafés, but their attitude of feigned normalcy is easy to detect. Many of them have lost a relative or have nowhere to live.
They pretend to go back to their everyday routine to boost their wives and children's spirits – somehow, even this catastrophe must be dealt with. This morning we drove with some ambulances to the most devastated neighbourhoods in the city, Tal el Hawa and Zaitun. Questionnaire in hand, we went door to door and compiled a list of the damage suffered by the buildings , and wrote down the families' most urgent requirements: medicine for the elderly and sick, rice, oil and flour, basically the essentials to feed themselves. All that we've been able to give them so far are metres of nylon, to be used in lieu of their shattered windowpanes to block out the cold.
ISM colleagues in Rafah informed me that the municipality has handed out a few thousand dollars – mere pennies – to the families who've had their houses completely razed to the ground by the bombs, the very same that according to Israel, had been dropped to destroy the tunnels. After the end of the conflict with Lebanon, Hezbollah donated millions of dollars in cheques, to refund the homeless Lebanese citizens. In Gaza, under siege and embargo, Hamas is barely able to refund its people with what "will scarcely be enough to rebuild a barn for livestock", says Khaled, a Rafah farmer.
The truce is unilateral, hence Israel unilaterally decides not to respect it. Khan Yunos, a Palestinian boy, was killed yesterday, and another was injured. East of Gaza helicopters have showered a residential area with white phosphorous. The same happened in Jabalia. In Khann Younis today, the war ships fired their cannons at an open plain, thankfully without harming anyone. But while I write, the news of storming tanks has just reached me. We're not aware of any Palestinian rockets having been fired in the last 24 hours...
International journalists are clamouring for news all along the Strip, as they only managed to get in today. Israel granted them a pass only now that the massacre is winding down. Those who got here in the thick of the battle have seriously risked being killed, as I was told by Lorenzo Cremonesi, a correspondent for Corriere della Sera. Israeli soldiers shot potholes into the car that he was traveling in . Standing by the blackened skeleton of what remains of Al Quds hospital in Gaza City, an astonished BBC reporter asked me how the army could possibly have swapped the building for a terrorists' den.
I said: "For the very same reason that children running away from a burning building were put in sight of the snipers on the roofs, who don't hesitate to kill them, spreading their grey matter all over the road", to which the journalist furrowed his brow further. The enormous difference between us eye-witnesses and first-hand victims of the massacre, and those who hear about it through our stories, is now further highlighted. From Rome I'm told that the EU intends to freeze the funds assigned for the reconstruction of Gaza as long as it's governed by Hamas. The European Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, has made her point clear on this score. "The aid for the reconstruction of the Strip", stated the European diplomat, "will only arrive if Palestinian President Abu Mazen will once again re-establish his authority over the territory."
For Gaza's Palestinians this is an explicit invitation from the outside to engage in civil war, or in a coup d'état. It's equivalent to legitimising the massacre of 410 children, who died because their parents chose democracy and freely elected Hamas. "The EU is diligently echoing the criminal policy of collective punishment imposed by Israel. Why not entrust the funds to the UN? Or some governmental organisation?" "The Unites States are free to elect a war-monger like Bush, Israel can choose leaders with bloodied hands like Sharon or Netanyahu, but we, the people of Gaza, aren't free to chose Hamas…", suggested Mohamed, a human rights activist who never voted for the Islamic movement himself. I have no arguments to contradict him.
The surviving Palestinians learn from their dead; they learn to live while dying, right from the tenderest age. Truce after truce, the general perception here is that of a macabre pause between one massacre and another during which to count the dead, and peace has never felt so elusive. Scouring Gaza City on board an ambulance with the siren switched off for once, the war is still everywhere, among the ruins of a city robbed of its smiles and now populated only by frightened gazes, eyes that insist upon scanning the sky for planes still endlessly flying overhead. Inside a home we visited with some paramedics, I noticed some pastel drawings on the floor. It was clearly a child's hand that had abandoned them after evacuating the house in a mad rush. I picked one of them up – tanks, helicopters and a body in pieces. In the middle of the drawing a child with a stone had succeeded in reaching the sun's height and was damaging one of the flying death machines. It's been said that in a child's drawing, the sun represents his desire to be, to appear. The sun I saw was crying tears of blood in red pastel. Is a unilateral truce enough to heal such traumas?
January 26, 2009
Gaza, late January 2009
January 24, 2009
"For those who bring unique and creative elements to their blogs. For those who incorporate art, music, creative writing, photo's, and other beautiful visual effects into their website. For those who put a unique spin on things and come up with new ideas. This award is for the artsy, the funky, the inventor, and even the rebel. This award is for those creative individuals who stand out from the crowd."
January 22, 2009
Okay I'll admit it, I sort of got sidetracked there for a day or two... But Obama has settled in at the Oval and has already talked to more Middle-East leaders in his first day than his predessesor in his first 4 years! - George Mitchell has just been appointed special envoy to the Middle East - Richard Holbrooke to Afghanistan/Pakistan- Good men (More or less) and experienced! "The House of Pain & Shame" will be wrapped up before the end of the year and the saleries of his staff is frozen stiff... Apparently a good boring, solid change has come and Jon Stewart will have to work for a living, now that it'll be much more difficult to spin a yarn.... I mean Bush and his croonies, made satire sooooo easy!
"...... - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist......."
Barack Hussein Obama's inauguration speech Jan.20.2009 -
..............- So be it!! - says me!
January 20, 2009
Barack Hussein Obama and The WonderKid; Jon Favreau did again!!! (Man! That boy can write!) - Most people prefered the Grant park speech, - but I really enjoyed the imagery of the inauguration speech and choked up again... As I was supposed to.... But then again, I'm the kind of person who likes Country music, due to the lyrics epic nature - So - eh....!
January 18, 2009
Dante Alighieri could never have imagined circles as hellish as the wards of the damned in Jabalia's hospitals. The laws of divine justice are turned on their head around here: the more innocent the victim, the less likely that they'll be spared martyrdom through bombing. At Kamal Odwan and Al Auda hospitals, the ceramic tiles in the first aid units are always shiny. The cleaners are permanently busy wiping away the blood dripping copiously from the stretchers constantly carrying in the massacred bodies. Iyad Mutawwaq was walking in the street when a bomb tore open a building not far from him. He and other passers-by rushed over to try and bring some aid when a second bomb was dropped on the same building. It killed a father of 9, two brothers and another passer-by who had rushed over to help. The same story could be told over ten, or one hundred times. The perfect terrorist technique is being immaculately carried out by the Israeli army. You drop a bomb, wait for the first-aiders, then drop another bomb on the wounded and the first-aiders.
In Iyad's eyes, those were American bombs, but they also carry the stamp of Mubarrack, the Egyptian dictator who rivals Olmert here in Gaza when it comes to provoking hatred. Behind Iyad's bed, an elderly man with both his arms in plasters is lying staring at the ceiling, and I'm told he's lost everything: his family and his home. He stares at the cracks in the falling plaster, as if seeking an answer to the sheer destruction of his existence.
Khaled worked in Israel for 25 years, prior to the first Intifada. In recognition, Tel Aviv hasn't even granted him a pension, only a series of missiles from land and air onto his house. He suffers from shrapnel wounds all over his body. I ask him where he plans to go after he's been discharged from hospital. He says he'll join his family, out in the streets. Not unlike Khaled's, many families don't know where to find shelter. The most fortunate were offered hospitality by relatives and acquaintances, but can you really say that one hundred people crammed into two apartments counting three rooms each is really a life? Two bombs were dropped onto Ahmed Jaber's home and though his family fled, for some of them it was too late. A third explosion buried 7 of his relatives under the rubble, including two children aged 8 and 9 – his neighbour's children. He says: "They made us leap back in time, back to 1948. This is their punishment for our attachment to our country. They can tear my arms and legs off from my body, but they won't make me leave my land." A doctor takes me aside and tells me that Ahmed's 7-year-old daughter, or what was left of her, was just brought in inside a tiny cardboard box. They don't have the heart to tell him and make his already precarious health condition any worse. In the evening they took the phone away from Iyad as well, to prevent him from receiving any more bad news. A tank had hit his sister's house full in the middle, beheading her in the process.
In the end, our Free Gaza Movement boat never got to the port in Gaza. About 100 miles from their designated destination, in international waters, they were intercepted by 4 Israeli war ships poised to open fire and kill its cargo of doctors, nurses and human rights activists. No one must dare to obstruct the massacre of civilians now in full swing for the last 3 weeks.
East of Jabalia, in front of the border, eyewitnesses speak of numerous decaying bodies in the streets. Their rotting meat is being eaten by the dogs. There are also hundreds of people unable to go anywhere, many of whom are injured. The ambulances simply cannot get anywhere near, with the trigger-happy snipers all over the place. Palestinians are sick of languishing in the midst of this general indifference, and many even accuse the international Red Cross and the UN of not doing enough, including not fulfilling their duties, nor risking their lives to save hundreds. We ISMers will thus equip ourselves with some stretchers and proceed on foot to the areas where humanity has surpassed all boundaries, eclipsing itself in the process.
The heavy-bottomed settlers sitting in the pristine lounges of armchair politics harp on about military strategies against Hamas, while we're being literally massacred out here. They bomb hospitals, and yet there are some who still champion Israel's right to self-defense. In any self-styled civilised country, self-defense is proportionate to the attack.
In these 20 days we've counted 1,075 dead Palestinians, 85% of whom were civilians, and over 5,000 injured, of whom half were under 18 years old. 303 children were atrociously massacred. It's equivalent to saying that for Israel, butchering at least 250 Palestinians is a justified blood-bath in avenging each dead civilian on its own side. How can this lop-sided reaction not take one back to some of modern European history's darkest pages?
Let's get straight to the point: are we seriously talking about self-defense? For journalists like Marco Travaglio, Piero Ostellino, Pierluigi Battista and Angelo Panebianco, who harp on with the refrain of Hamas having full responsibility for this genocide as well as for breaking the truce between Israel and Palestine, I would like to remind them of the United Nation's position on the matter. Professor Richard Falk, special rapporteur for human rights with the United Nations, has clearly expressed his views: it was in fact Israel that broken the truce in November, by blatantly exterminating 17 Palestinians. In the same month zero Israeli victims had been recorded, zero in October and likewise in the previous month, as well as the one prior to it. We were also recently reminded of this by Nobel prize winner and ex US President Jimmy Carter. It really is a crying shame that a journalist like Travaglio, who's earned our admiration as a proud upholder of freedom of the press, is now sporting an IDF helmet and entertaining the masses on TV while amusing himself with the pastime most in vogue at the moment – infant-shooting in Gaza.
As I tap on my keyboard in the Ramattan press agency office, all the Palestinian reporters around me are wearing bullet-proof vests and helmets. They haven't come straight from riding in a tank – they're simply sitting in front of their computers. Two floors above, the Reuters offices were recently struck by a rocket, which seriously injured two. Almost all the floors in the building are empty at the moment, and only the most heroic of journalists are still around. The story of this hell must somehow continue to be told. And yet earlier this week, the Israeli army had assured Reuters it wouldn't need to evacuate, as staying in their offices would be safe. This morning many casualties were also caused by the bombing of the United Nations building, built among others with money from the Italian government. Berlusconi, where are you?
John Ging, chief of the UNRWA, UN agency for Palestinian refugees and eye witness, clearly spoke of white phosphorous bombs. In the Tal el Hawa neighbourhood in Gaza city, a whole wing of Al Quds hospital is presently in flames, and Leila, an ISM colleague is also trapped inside it along with forty doctors and nurses, and one hundred patients. She describes these last dramatic hours to us via phone. A tank stands in front of the hospital. There are snipers everywhere, ready to shoot at anything that moves. All around is destruction. At night, from their windows, they could observe a building going on fire after having been struck by a bomb. They heard the cries of whole families with children, imploring help. They were impotent to help as they watched the bodies devoured by the flames, running into the street and then be reduced to ashes. Hell has switched places and come to the centre of Gaza, and we are the damned designated by an inhuman hatred.
(Translated from italian by Daniela Filippin)