10 January, 2009

A Breakdown of the Breakdown of Gaza and One Family's Losses

An excellent piece by Sara Roy from the London Review of Books on the realities life in Gaza. You really must read this if you do not have an idea of how desperate life already was there before the Israeli invasion.

Please, please, please read the story of the Samouni family of Gaza.


08 January, 2009

Aid to Victims Blocked and More Ripples

Reading: Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieria de Mello and the Fight to Save the World by Power & Islam and Social Work by Crabtree, Husain & Spalek
Recently Watched: Starting Out in the Evening and Sacco & Vanzetti (both excellent)
Thankful for: the great libraries here, that make my book habit non-life-threatening
Working on: Making a big pot of harira

From the Jan. 8th edition of The Washington Post, not exactly the bastion of liberalism and Palestinian solidarity:
"The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday that it had found at least 15 bodies and several children -- emaciated but alive -- in a row of shattered houses in the Gaza Strip and accused the Israeli military of preventing ambulances from reaching the site for four days."

The news that rockets were fired from Lebanon is troubling, but not totally unexpected. Let's hope this isn't the stirrings of a broader regional conflict. Juan Cole, always a good read for grasping the wider ramifications, reports al-Sadr calling for Iraqis to kill U.S. troops in retaliation for the Gaza assault.

707 dead and more than 3,000 wounded since Dec. 27 in Gaza. 11 Israelis killed, eight of them soldiers, four of them killed in friendly fire incidents. Enough?

Academically, I understand P.E. Obama's insistence that there is not much he or his administration can do until he takes over on Jan. 20. Emotionally, I don't know what or who will be left to negotiate over by then, nor am I sure if the rest of the world will see this as simply another Bush failure. Will Gaza haunt the new administration?

Again, those of you in the U.S. must understand how different a view, how neutered a view we get of this and other conflicts, to say nothing of the rest of the world on a good day. In a country where even the respectful photograph of flag-draped coffins of our own dead soldiers cannot be published, how can we ever expect to get a realistic view of the world and of war? Most of us in this society are so insulated from the notion of death, both in relation to war and in a broader sense, and I believe that is so dangerous because it takes the concept of consequences out of the equation. "War" is that cockpit image of a smart bomb hitting it's target on the nightly news or that first-person shooter game your kid plays all day long. It's all happening over there to somebody else. However, the world doesn't work that way anymore; it's smaller and more mobile. When other people around the world see things like this (disturbing) or the images we don't see of our own war dead (and, yes, they are out there), we need to see it and understand that all actions have consequences. Call it what you like, but understand that this is what the rest of the world sees. Most in this country would do well just to go back and look at the photographs of corpses on battlefields of the Civil War made by Mathew Brady or Thomas O'Sullivan. War is hell.


PS: One spot of good news out there. Add that to the apology Air Tran finally gave a Muslim-American family it kicked off a recent flight. I guess I can wear my اين الحب؟ tshirt next time I fly.

07 January, 2009

The Ripple Effect

An excellent, must-read post from Juan Cole on the potential implications of yesterday's shelling by Israel of a U.N. school in Gaza that resulted in the deaths of 42 people, nearly all civilians and reportedly many of them children, who had sought shelter there. Israeli forces are dropping leaflets telling Gazans to flee, but where are they supposed to go if you're targeting the U.N. shelters? The fact that this is still only registering as a blip on the news - of course so are the two wars we are personally fighting at the moment - is sinful. Your tax dollars paid for all this - the bullets, the tanks and the shells. Remember that, please. Why do people hate us? First of all, it's not us, but our government they despise. As I've said many times, in every country I've been in I've found that people are very good at distinguishing Americans from their government. Not everybody, but the vast majority. And, it's not our freedoms they hate! To hear Bush & Co. drill that one into people's brains year after year sickens me. It's for our policies and the people (the same people who deny them all those freedoms they supposedly hate) we have the sickening, unending habit of crawling into bed with and then later turning out violently when they no longer please us.

Gaza is about 25 miles long and about 7 miles wide. Roughly 1.5 million people live there. 1.5 million on 146 miles of land. The vast majority, about 80 %, live below the poverty line. Since Hamas took power, international sanctions and the closure of the borders by the Israelis and Egyptians have reduced supplies and quality of life. Shortages of everything - gas, electricity, water, food, medicines - have become routine. Hospitals were already overwhelmed. Sewage and sanitation has been an sometimes fatal issue. Now add to that an invasion and constant bombardment. And, people here don't realize it does get cold in that part of the world. Madam Foreign Minister, how dare you claim there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza?

And Israel is STILL barring foreign journalists from the battle zone. And, as usual, ambulance crews are being refused safe passage to do their job and are being killed.

660 dead. Lesson learned yet? Enough?

05 January, 2009


You have to love politicians. O.K. admittedly a lot of the time you don't, but they are the ultimate do as I say, not as I do folks. Neither party gets off the hook on this one, but this week it's the Republicans looking like jerks, something they seem to have honed to a high art.

It looks like the Minnesota Senate Race is finally - FINALLY - over and that Republican incumbent Norm Coleman has lost by a whisper-thin margin - 225 votes from almost 3 million cast overall - to Democratic candidate Al Franken. Now, way back on election day, when it looked like Coleman might win by a nearly as thin margin and Franken was saying he would look at all his options - translation: recount and/or lawsuit - Coleman was saying Franken should accept the will of the people, shut up, give up and go home. Now that the state has certified the results -but (sigh) not declared a winner - Coleman and his party are pulling out whatever stops may be left: a lawsuit and Senate rules and maneuvering. Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R), head of his party in the Senate, says he won't allow Franken to be seated until everything is cleared up, which might be next January at the rate things are going.

Now, leaving the nasty winter landscape of Minnesota, I ask that you follow me back to balmy Florida, circa 2000, when the Republicans claimed Al Gore and Democrats were all sore losers for have election results from a far more bizarre election (I should know, being from Palm Beach County). They ranted and railed; democracy was at stake. And we all know how things turned out: I went to bed with Gore and woke up with Bush!

There's no lesson here, just an observation that when you're winning, you're opponent is an enemy of the Republic for questioning election results/filing a lawsuit/etc. and when you're losing your opponent is an enemy of the Republic for...well, for not supporting your lawsuit. The real questions are when will we get candidates strong enough and different enough to, one would guess, prevent teeny-tiny margins and when will more Americans get out and vote?

In the meantime, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R) from Kentucky just said on NPR that the Minnesota election will not be over until the people of Minnesota say so. Alright, Minnesota, please step up to the mike and make yourself heard. Please!


Essential Reading

In the midst of tracking news from across the world, I don't want to forget about struggles of a different sort ongoing in this country. I just finished reading a very, very good book about poverty and welfare in the U.S. that was given to me by one of my new professors. I know, I know, you're thinking, "Welfare?!" Don't tune me out!

The book, American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and A Nation's Drive to End Welfare, was written by Jason DeParle, a reporter with the New York Times, and is so well written it is an honest-to-God page-turner. DeParle does such a good job weaving the macro with the micro. His chapters alternate between a journalistic dissection of the political forces and decisions that led to then-Pres. Clinton signing a bill that shunted 9 million women and children from this nation's welfare rolls and a vivid, painfully honest examination of the lives of three women in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - Jewel, Angie and Opal - who let DeParle deep into their lives and families, which he traced back six generations into the Mississippi Delta.

It's maddening, heartbreaking, and something I think everybody should read.

The View From the Hospital Floor

A very good report on CBS - yes, wow, C.B.S. - from Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor currently working in Gaza. LISTEN TO WHAT HE IS SAYING:

I think he makes to good points to remember - the average age in Gaza is 17 years and that with borders closed this is a bit like shooting chickens in the coop.


غزة/Gaza: See for Yourself

Seeing as Gaza barely registers a blip on the news radar here and seeing as most reporters for major outlets are reporting from outside Gaza and seeing as STILL NOT ONE cable television or major U.S. satellite provider will carry Al-Jazeera International, you have to work a little harder to get news on what's going on right now. One resource is YouTube, where you can subscribe, free, to Al-Jazeera International video clips, including news coverage and their usually excellent documentary features. Here's the latest video post on Gaza:

I also just discovered that you can watch and subscribe to Al-Jazeera in Arabic. To those of you who say it's propaganda, just look at the pictures and understand that this is what millions of people are seeing all day, every day, and very often an image is far stronger than any commentary that could be given. Compare these images from Gaza to the neutered coverage - of Gaza, of Iraq, of Afghanistan - on American television. Remember that these are the images people around the world remember when the U.S. blocks a simple declaration in favor of cease fire at the U.N. or when Pres. Bush opens his mouth...

Seriously, people, you have the Internet so use it and read about and see what you won't get on your nightly news.
Laila al-Haddad is still doing a fantastic job over at her blog, Raising Yousuf and Noor. Like so many, I pray her family in Gaza is able to stay safe.
Dr. Mona El-Farra, though not in Gaza at the moment, is relaying stories of those who are on her blog, From Gaza, With Love.
Other blogs from Gaza include In Gaza and many others. Jamal Dajani, Senior Director and Producer with Mosaic News (also available on iTunes!), is writing over on The Huffington Post. Alas, A Blog has a good post covering the many Jewish and Israeli voices raised against the assault on Gaza and calling for a ceasefire.

Sad news that the American International School in Gaza, which offered an American curriculum-based education for children in grades K-12 and was attacked last year by Islamic extremists for supposedly being too western, has now been destroyed by the Israelis. It's not the only school destroyed in the last 10 days, but the "damned if you do, damned if you don't" story just really gets me.

10 days. 530 killed and 2,500 wounded in Gaza. 5 killed in Israel. Enough?