Volunteering at Refugee Camps in Jordan

Author: Katherine Latham

Date: September, 2016

Last spring, I found myself facing several hurdles, and trying to get established with volunteer projects in Amman Jordan, having been turned away at the Allenby Bridge crossing into the West Bank by the Israeli authorities.  While it was a big disappointment to have my passport stamped “denied entry” plus a big red line drawn across the page designating very clearly that there was absolutely no welcome mat for me, I gradually got my bearings, found my way, and even found myself smiling time and again when I was greeted by the national mantra, “Welcome to Jordan.”

My journey last year had been backed by a solid invitation to do health care rehabilitation and trainings in Palestine. I felt much more prepared for my role in this work, than I had 25 years earlier, during the first Intifada, when I first volunteered in a Palestinian village health clinic.  Over the years, my clinical skills had improved, as had my appreciation for the struggles, the ever increasing squeezing of the Palestinian people, and how the military occupation severely affected the health status of the people.

jordans-finest

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The Gaza Blockade is Causing an End to Gaza’s Fresh Water

Author: International Solidarity Movement, Gaza Team

Date: August 7, 2016

As every year during the summer, the water shortage in the Gaza Strip is accentuated. At the same time, the energy shortage caused by the blockade prevents engines and water pumps from pushing it from wells and tanks to houses and farming fields.

The Beach Camp is one of the more densely populated areas of Gaza and therefore one of the most affected by water scarcity. In addition, because of its location, directly on the seafront, its aquifers are some of the most affected by the infiltration of seawater and wastewater.

We collected several testimonies of people affected by this problem in order to discuss them with the engineer Monther Shoblak, General Director of the Palestinian National Authority Coastal Municipalities Water Utility (CMWU).

in my home and in the homes of my four sons and their families we don’t have a drop of water

The first testimony is that of Azzam Miflah El Sheikh Khalil, who says “the water comes only once every three days, and just for a few hours, which is not enough [to fill the tanks]. People can’t imagine how we are suffering because of the lack of water. In addition, there is no difference between the water from our wells and the sea water… The main problem is that when there is electricity there’s no running water and when there is running water there’s no electricity . The only solution we have is to buy a generator to produce electricity when there’s water, but who can buy it if there is no work?”

azzam-el-sheikh-khalil-big

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Solidarity Movement for Free Palestine Work in Lebanon

Author: Katie Leslie

Date: October 2016

 

[In late 2013, some of the Palestinian leadership of ISM in Palestine created their own nonviolent resistance organization on the same model, calling it the Solidarity Movement for Free Palestine (SFP). We at NorCal ISM decided to support both groups, which we have been doing ever since.  The Israeli government came down hard on the new group, so a lot of our support in Palestine has consisted of paying fines and legal help for imprisoned leaders.  But this is not the only support that we have given, as you will see below.]

In early June an international volunteer of the SFP visited the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon to show solidarity with the refugees of Palestine. The visit included touring the medical facilities built and run by the Palestinian population of the camps and learning about the vital role they have played in securing dignity for the residents during their exile, awaiting their return home to Palestine. 

With help from NorCal ISM, SFP provided funds over the summer to the Nahr al-Bared maternity hospital project

Home to nearly 750,000 Palestinians, victims of the 1948 Nakba (‘Catastrophe’ in English) and their descendants, the tragedy but steadfastness of the Palestinian people of the Lebanese refugee camps endures. Nahr al-Bared camp exemplifies this more than many. Home to over 30,000 Palestinian refugees it was the scene of one of the latest examples of the continuing Nakba Palestinian refugees face in Lebanon.

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How an ISM Member Cheated Death

Author: Paul Larudee

Date: October 17, 2016

 

Julie Rufo’s last Facebook post (on the war in Syria) was probably minutes before she almost died on September 2, 2016.

I first met Julie at a talk I gave on the successful boat trips to Gaza, in late 2008. She told me that she would like to help, and that, as a retired person, she couldn’t offer much financially, but could make a gift of her talent as a professional bookkeeper. 

That was the beginning of a friendship, as well as an invaluable resource for the small but ambitious nonprofit corporation that sponsors the International Solidarity Movement and a number of other human rights projects concerned with the Middle East and Cuba. With as many as fourteen separate bank accounts, it’s quite a job, but Julie is definitely up to it.  She has kept the books for major entertainers, and makes it look easy.

Weeks later, Julie described what happened that September 2nd.

julie-ruffo

photo credit: Joseph Woodard Multimedia

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A Childhood Measured in Wars

A childhood measured in wars


Living through a war is an experience I don’t wish on my worst enemies. It’s one of the most excruciating experiences a person could have, and I first had mine when I was 10 years old.

It was 2006 when Fatah and Hamas fought for control of Gaza. I find myself at loss for words when trying to describe how I felt when my uncle rushed my cousin and I out of school, ducking behind a wall to escape gunshots as we tried to get home in one piece. Or when guns fired endlessly through the night, practically shattering my eardrums, while my grandma held me so tightly I could barely breathe, assuring me everything was going to be okay.

As a child, it baffled me how people who were supposed to be from a strong Islamic brotherhood could do this to each other. How could you possibly point your weapon at another human just like you? It didn’t take my 10-year-old self long to figure out this was going to be a recurring event in Gaza. But next time it was waged by a stronger enemy who wasn’t just looking for power, but to wipe us out completely.

2008

It was a day only about two years later, as I was leaving school after my first final exam in fifth grade, when I heard a massive explosion and saw a huge cloud of black smoke in the sky. I didn’t understand what was happening. By luck, my usual bus driver was running late that day and we were assigned another one who didn’t know my home address exactly. He dropped me off a mile or so away from my house, and I walked like I was in a daze, explosions still going off in the distance, ambulances rushing through the streets, people running around all over the place. I didn’t feel scared though; I felt confused.


As the days passed, the war kept getting worse and worse. I think the first time it hit me that the Israelis with their so-called “defense” forces wanted to hurt us was in the middle of one night when the bombing kept going on and on. With every bomb, a car alarm would go off, and suddenly I felt so scared for myself and my family that I started sobbing. To this day, the sound of car alarms makes my heart race.

2012

When the war was finally over, I thought it was never going to happen again. I was mistaken, of course. The 2012 war came. This time, I was much more aware of what was happening. I thought, if I was scared shitless, then how must the people who were defending us feel? The resistance fighters who were out there in the middle of it all risking their lives for us?

I was growing stronger, but there’s always a moment in a war when you feel death is so close it’s breathing down your neck, sucking you in; when all your senses are on such high alert the world around you seems to still. That moment in 2012 happened when I was with my aunt and brother. I distinctly remember standing by the balcony door watching huge bombs drop in the distance, lighting up the world around us in the pitch black night. I don’t remember the bombs having sound, I only recall the blinding, orange light.

That war ended after a “mere” eight days. But the worst was yet to come.

2014

The Israeli assault on Gaza in 2014 was the worst, the war that left me so bruised and hurt it’s impossible to describe. It was the longest and scariest; there wasn’t just a moment when I felt death was near, it was all the time.

I felt its presence when all six members of my family gathered in one small room for the worst night of our lives, the night bombs kept going off every five seconds until dawn. I felt death slowly tightening its grip around my neck every time we jolted awake to the sound of explosions. For the first three seconds after waking up, I felt relief, thanking God I was alive–until I remembered another family just like mine has been killed instead.


That war went on so long. I remember sitting like a lifeless skeleton in the candle light one evening, just staring into space, waiting for the end, waiting for our deaths to be reported on the radio. That war left everyone in Gaza deeply scarred.

After that war ended, I knew better than to think it would never happen again. Of course it will, on an even worse scale. It kills me that so many people around the world either stand with Israel or refuse to take sides. It kills me that an Israeli teen who spent the war in a fancy bomb shelter underground says her experience of war was horrible, while I spent it out in the open praying the next bomb would miraculously miss its target.

My words are nothing but a glimpse inside these wars, a glimpse from a fortunate person who never personally lost anyone or anything as a result, yet still feels their massive effect. I hate never feeling truly safe, knowing an Israeli assault could happen any day. I hate that everyone in Gaza has to live with that fear for the rest of our lives.

Do not judge us until you understand what we’ve gone through, because we’ve all been to hell and back. Every war that doesn’t kill us truly makes us stronger, even if it batters us and smashes us into pieces. We always seem to get back on our feet, and that’s what we’ll keep doing until this occupation comes to an end.

Lama Alhelou/ WeAreNotNumbers

I apologize for being alive

I feared I wouldn’t be able to go back to my former life after the war ended, but I did.

It felt so awkward. Everything was normal and people were acting as usual. How did I go back to my life, loaded with the guilt of being alive, of breathing?

I apologize for being alive. I apologize to the son who asked his dad to bring him some chocolate, but he got neither chocolate nor his dad. I apologize to the woman who dreamt of having her first child in two months, but a rocket stole her sweet dreams of motherhood. I apologize to the boy who wanted to see the sky, but it was the last thing he saw. I apologize to the people who went to an UNRWA school believing it was safer, a haven, but it was their graveyard. I apologize to the kids who prepared kites for summer, but never had the chance to try them out or boast about how good they’re flying. I apologize to the kids who had to spend a soulless Eid, forced to stay home, deprived of joy, sweets and swings.

I apologize to the man who worked overnight to build a house for his children and then witnessed it turning into rubble.

I apologize to the girl who thought her father abandoned her when her mother couldn’t be candid with her and tell her they could never find his body.

I apologize to Gaza, my love. I apologize that it must carry such a burden.

WeAreNotNumbers

Ahmad Manasra: On Trial for Being Alive

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The Palestinian child Ahmad Manasra at Zionist occupation military court today. Ahmad was severely injured after being shot by fascist Zionist occupation police about 8 months ago, he was left bleeding for about an hour, then he was kidnapped. Ahmad’s will to live was stronger than their will to kill, he is the living evidence of their terrorism, they tried to bury his story but he insisted to survive to tell the whole world his story despite their ongoing brutality against him.

ahmad 2

Via: Younes Arar

US Aims to Increase Military Aid to Israel, One of Top Ten Arms Exporters

The United States has offered to increase its military aid to Israel on the condition that Tel Aviv spends more of the aid on the purchase of American equipment and fuel rather than on its domestic products.

Israel and the US have been engaged in negotiations over a memorandum of understanding for an aid package to replace the current one that expires in 2018.

A letter by National Security Adviser Susan Rice and co-authored by the White House’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Shaun Donovan, outlines the US offer which includes a pledge to substantially increase the aid package, worth some $30 billion over 10 years. It further aims to secure a new deal that would constitute “the largest pledge of military assistance to any country in US history”.

The next 10-year deal could top $40 billion, and would include a 10-year pledge to fund Israel’s missile defense systems, the New York Times reported.

Under the existing agreement, Israel is permitted to spend about 25 percent of the aid it receives outside the US and another 13 per cent on fuel for its aircraft.

According to an Israeli newspaper, this arrangement originated in the 1980s to build up Israel’s defense industry, which has thrived. As a result, Israel has become one of the top 10 arms exporters in the world, and a US competitor.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported a senior US official as saying that this stipulation “no longer serves Israeli or US interests,” adding that “We would like to modify it.”

“It doesn’t make sense from a US perspective,” the source added. “We want more of the assistance to be spent in the US on US companies helping to support economic growth and jobs creation here at home.”

Palestine Chronicle

Palestine, An Unfinished History – A Poem

They came from Europe,
these people, single and in
families, eager to settle.

They said they were returning
home, though we had never
seen them, were here

for generations stretching back
for a thousand years
or more. Then, along

about 1917 – a British Lord
named Balfour said our land
was theirs without asking if

we minded. And so they came,
saying our land was empty,
was full of sand and little

else. Failing to see our ancient
olive groves, our cities, our
libraries and our learning,

they took everything
they wanted, killed our people
and destroyed our villages,

setting a million people
fleeing for their lives, then
denied us the right to remember

the event. They call their
attackers the most moral army
in the world. But we remember

the grandmother sitting on her
veranda embroidering a gift for
her granddaughter, when a

sniper sent a bullet through
her head. We remember the
schoolchildren obliterated

by a bomb dropped by this
very moral airforce, and all
the other bombs

too numerous to count.
When will it end? Have we to
weep a tide of bitterness

until all our memories
of joy are erased and replaced
with sadness?

What is wrong with
people that they mistreat
others with demonic fury

and contempt, yet continue
to proclaim their innocence
and see themselves as the victims?

– George Polley is a novelist and a poet. He is the  author of The Old Man and The Monkey, Grandfather and The Raven, Bear, and, most recently “The City Has Many Faces“. He contributed this poem to PalestineChronicle.com. Visit his blog

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