Bearing Witness

The Importance of Gaza’s Ark

I have just returned to Australia after four months in the Gaza Strip working on the Gaza Ark Project ( During this time, I saw for myself and experienced some of the daily hardships that Palestinian people suffer, including increasing irregular power cuts of up to 12 a day [since my departure sources in Gaza have relayed to me that the power cuts can now last up to 20 hours a day] , salty and unclean drinking water and a sea where you cannot safely swim due to pollution caused by the sewerage systems that has been destroyed by the Israeli military. I also sailed out with fishers and visited farmers who are harassed constantly by the Israeli Occupation Forces and saw for myself the conditions in which they struggle to maintain their livelihoods.

While in the Gaza Strip I participated in the purchase of a 24 metre long fishing boat and the public launch of the Project in Gaza. I also met with potential suppliers of goods and produce, which we are now selling and which will be transported on Gaza’s Ark. I helped establish a local youth committee to support Gaza’s Ark and met with many organisations and individuals who have agreed to endorse Gaza’s Ark.

My time in Gaza increased my belief in the importance of the project. The high rate of unemployment in Gaza is a direct effect of Israel’s illegal blockade and no amount of aid will change the despair of those currently unemployed. By attempting to establish a trade route between Gaza and the rest of the world, Gaza’s Ark provides a ray of hope to the Palestinians of Gaza for an economy independent of their occupying power. This is a vital step towards self-determination, a step the Olso process of the 1990s – which was supposed to lead to a final peace in the region – has failed to deliver.

However Gaza’s Ark to me, and the Palestinians of Gaza, is much more than a trade mission. It is an act of solidarity which raises awareness of the situation the residents of Gaza currently face. Whilst the people of Gaza have a lack of export opportunities – just 2% of pre-blockade levels – the living conditions of the vast majority of the population are summed up by the UNRWA in its recent comprehensive report on the Palestinian enclave, which concluded that: “Gaza will no longer be ‘liveable’ by 2020 unless urgent action is taken to improve water supply, power, health and schooling”.

With governments around the world ignoring Israel’s regular violations of international law, I feel it is important to show the Palestinian people through direct actions, that our governments do not speak for us on the issue of their human rights. History has shown us that on issues of social justice, people lead and governments follow. To get the people to lead, though, they need to know the facts and not the myths.

Gaza’s Ark can only continue and progress with your support. You can help fund the refurbishment process, or you can purchase Palestinian products that will be exported aboard the Ark. And let’s be honest, how often in this modern world do you get a chance to purchase a share in hope !

This photo to me symbolises the situation of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip, trapped in a net of collective punishment.

This photo to me symbolises the situation of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip, trapped in a net of collective punishment.

September 25, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Week 15 in Gaza > Media > Refurbishment > Products > Goodbyes

Well this will be my last weekly update from Gaza, as my four months in the Strip is almost over. As I write this entry I only have four days left and I am sad and excited all at the same time. Sad to be leaving behind all my new friends, as I unsure when I will get to see them again : [ However excited about my travel plans and knowing that I am on my home to my family and friends, who I have missed so much : ]

After we sent out the email introducing Gaza’s Ark to her share holders and supporter, we felt it was time to introduce her to the media. So this Sunday at 11am in the Port of Gaza we will hold a media event to show Gaza’s Ark to the world. This has meant that I have spent the majority of this week complying a media list, drafting and sending out emails and spending more time on the phone than I care to mention. However it looks like we will have good variety of media in attendance, insharlla, to conduct interviews and witness the initial stages of the transformation of our fishing trawler into a cargo vessel that will attempt to export products Palestinian products from Palestine via the only mediterranean port closed to international shipping. Here is our media advisory for the event >

While I have not spent a whole lot of time in the port this week, I am pleased to report that the refurbishment process is moving along nicely. We have finished the sanding of the vessel in preparation for the fiber glassing to begin and the last pieces of the winch structure will be removed on Sunday while the media event is underway. You can now follow the progress of the refurbishment process on our website >

There has also been movement on the solidarity item that will be sold through the Gaza Ark project, we have received the prototypes that were commissioned last week and now the products committee have the difficult process of chosing between the wrist band with the Palestinian flag or the wooden brooch in the shape of historical Palestine, with a keffiyeh pattern burnt into the wood or my favourite the heart-shaped brooch painted with the Palestinian flag.

Unfortunately with the media event, work on the solidarity item, documenting the refurbishment process and finalizing plans for my work on the products and civil society endorsements to continue in my absence – my work load has only increased this week, not giving me the time I would have liked to say proper goodbyes to my Gaza peeps. The Gaza Ark Steering Committee have well and truly got their last pound of flesh from me, for month and a bit anyway. However I have had a chance to catch  up with most of the peeps who have supported, encouraged, advised and inspired me during my time in Gaza > Sukran ictir my Gaza peeps, I miss you already!

Myself with Habibi Awni and two of his young cousins : ]

Myself with Habibi Awni and two of his young cousins : ]

June 7, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Week 14 in Gaza > Palfest > Products > Refurbishment

This week in Gaza was great, Pal Fest came to town, the refurbishment process is now moving along well and my last couple of product tasks are progressing nicely : ]

Palfest in Gaza was fantastic, Susan Abulhawa of “Mornings in Jenin” fame, Lina Attalah former Egyptian Independent journalist and fellow Tahririan, Nora Younis producer of “Reporting a revolution” and Ali Abunimah co-founder of the Electronic Intifada all came to town to do presentations, run workshops, present documentaries and help inspire the already inspirational Palestinian youth activists. Everything from BDS to hasbara to humanizing the Palestinian cause was discussed, debated and argued about. I attended workshops with Ali Abunimah and Susan Abulhawa on the first day of the festival, saw a presentation by Lina Attalah, Susan Abulhawa and Ali Abunimah at al-Aqsa University on the second day and also checked out Nora Younis presenting her film “Reporting a revolution” on the third day. Unfortunately Gaza Ark commitments meant I could not attend the closing concert, which celebrated Palestinian culture old and new, with performances of Dabke through to hip hop. Thank you to all who organised Palfest in Gaza, it helped me get my focus back on the big picture and away from the daily struggles of being part of a rather large international solidarity project.

On the Gaza Ark product front we have commissioned the production of two small solidarity items that will soon be available through Gaza’s Ark. These items will be instantly recognisable as Palestinian and have a price point around the $5 mark. They will be targeted at international solidarity groups, who will hopefully buy them in bulk to sell at information stalls and protest rallies, we have already had some expressions of interest in these items from groups in South Africa, Canada and Australia. We have also started the production of English labels for our agricultural products. We now have 7 agricultural products for sale through the Gaza’s Ark project, including Dugga, Za’atar,Maftoul, Debes, Honey, Ajwa and  Makhtom. Plus soon to be announced Olive Oil from the Olive Tree Protection Society > so what are you waiting for, go forth and buy into the hope Palestinians have for an independent economy >

The refurbishment process of the Ark is also moving along nicely, this week has seen sanding of the boat in preparation for the fiberglassing to begin and the removal of the last parts of the winch structure. We are also preparing for the boat to be removed from the water so the major structural work can begin. The removal of the boat from the water will also hopefully see the start of filming for the Gaza’s Ark documentary. Everything seems to be starting to come together and while it has been a long difficult process to get to this point, as no one has ever tried to sail from Gaza against the blockade, I am now feeling more confident every day about the success of the Gaza Ark project. Not to mention I now have an even greater appreciation of what the those pioneers in the Free Gaza Movement went through when they attempted to do what no one else had done. I just hope we have the same result as they did back in 2008, but that will not be possible without your support. Go to and donate and spread the word, Palestinians don’t want hands out they want their freedom !

The Ark refurbishment continuing at pace

The Ark refurbishment continuing at pace.

June 1, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Week 13 in Gaza > Refurbishment > Endorsement > Documentary > Rafah

Well this week has been another productive week, though after the excitement of last week with the boat purchase and the second product release it almost seems mundane. Even though this week saw the start of the refurbishment process, we received another significant endorsement and we finalised the arrangements for a full length documentary to be filmed about the project.

The week started with the winch being removed from our fishing vessel, the first step in our vessel being transformed from a fishing trawler into a cargo vessel. This was an exciting day, as it was the start of turning what has for the last 12 months been a wonderful idea into a reality : ] We now have a work plan approved by the steering committee that should see most of the major tasks of the refurbishment being completed by the start of Ramadan, when things in Gaza will slow down dramatically > meaning we should be in a position to challenge the illegal blockade of Gaza by the end of the year.

However this will only be achieved with your support, Gaza’s Ark is reliant on grass-roots donations to achieve our goals, so please consider supporting our project by buying a symbolic share in the Ark or raising awareness of the project to your friends and family and together we can help build the hope that Palestinians have for an independent economy.

When I came to Gaza my instruction on the civil society endorsement front, was to achieve a board spectrum of civil society support. This week  I went a long way to achieving this. I now have civil society endorsements from Islamic, secular and leftist civil society institutions and organisation of the Gaza’s Ark project. Keep an eye on the Gaza’s Ark website in the next couple of week for a major announcement of the all civil society organisations and institutions that have signed on to support the Gaza’s Ark project >\

The other piece of major news out of this week is that when have found a journalist in Gaza who is willing to undertake the task of documenting the Gaza Ark project for a full length documentary. Yousef Al-Helou who works for The Real News Network [TRNN] has got on board with the project, excuse the pun, which we all very excited about. Yousef is a great journalist and has a long history covering the Gaza Strip, first for Press TV, before moving to the TRNN. Personally, apartment from the fact that this unique project is going to be documented for posterity, the best thing about having the documentary made is that post the sailing of the Ark if I am asked to do presentations on the project I won’t have to bore the peeps in Sydney with my limited public speaking skills. I can now show the documentary and then conduct a Q and A session with the audience > I can hear the Sydney solidarity communities sighs of relief from here.

This week also saw the closure of the Rafah Crossing with Egypt, the only route out of Gaza for the vast majority of Palestinians living in Gaza. The crossing was closed after militants in the Sinai kidnapped 7 Egyptian military personnel who worked at the crossing, even though there was never any link from the militants to the Gaza Strip. You could feel the tension building here in Gaza as the closure dragged on, almost like the pressure release valve had been turned off.

Finally this week saw the release of an interview I recently did about the Gaza’s Ark project on New Zealand radio station Plans FM > forgive the lack of clarity, I conducted the interview after spending the whole night out doing accompaniment work with fishermen off the coast of Gaza > Note to self > do not do interviews the morning after spending the whole night out doing accompaniment work with fishermen !

Our nautical brains trust devising the refurbishment plan.

Our nautical brains trust devising the refurbishment plan.

May 23, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Week 12 in Gaza > Boat > Products > Fishing > Jabalia

This has been a productive week for Gaza’s Ark, we were excited to announce  that we have finally purchased the fishing vessel that we will now converted into Gaza’s Ark, plus we had our second release of Palestinian products that will be exported aboard the Ark. While on the personal front I spent a night on the water doing some accompaniment work with Palestinian fishermen off the coast of Gaza and also spent some time in the Jabalia Refugee Camp.

The moment we have been working towards for the last 12 months finally arrived this week and we are now the proud owners of a 24 meter fishing trawler that we will covert into a cargo vessel to export Palestinian products from the only port in the Mediterranean currently closed to shipping. Even though the size of our cargo vessel will only allow us to attempt to export a symbolic amount of products from Gaza. Our main aim is to raise awareness of Israel’s strangulation of the Gazan economy, that prior to the blockade was an export based economy. Exports are currently at just 2% of pre blockade levels, this has resulted in a youth unemployment rate of around 50% and this figure does not take into account the levels of under employment which are rampant in the Gaza Strip. You can find the official purchase announcement here >

This week also the second release of products that will be available for sale through the Gaza Ark project. The second release focused on Palestinian agricultural products and includes > Honey, Debes – which is a date molasses, Maftoul – Palestinian couscous, Za’atar and Dugga – which are herb mixes. For more details on the these products check out the products page on the Gaza Ark website >

Tuesday night I finally got to do some accompaniment work with Palestinian fishermen in Gaza, fishermen in Gaza are on the front line of the blockade. As Israel has unilaterally, in violation of the Oslo accords, limited their fishing zone to three nautical miles from the coast of Gaza. This means that they are unable to access to majority of their fish stocks that inhabit the rocky bottom nine nautical miles from shore. In addition to this fishermen are often attacked by the Israeli Navy within the this three-mile limit, these attack have resulted in injury and even the deaths of Palestinian fishermen in Gaza. The reduced profitability caused by the three-mile limit and the risk of attack by the Israeli Navy have resulted in the number of fishermen in Gaza falling from over 10000 to just over 3500 who fish the waters off Gaza currently. After 12 hours work by 14 crew, they only had 15 barely half full creates of fish to show for their nights work and no fish over 10cm in length. Check out my photo’s from the night here >

Finally this week I was taken on a guided tour of the Jabalia Refugee Camp in Gaza yesterday, at last count in 2002 the camp had a registered population of 103,646 inhabitants. The camp only covers an area of 1.4 km² making it one of the most densely populated places on earth. The camps proximity to the Israel boarder means in has been the scene of much Israeli violence, but despite all this, what struck me most on my tour was the joy that the children of the camp found in their impoverished surroundings. It was a real lesson in appreciating what you have and not concerning yourself with what you can’t attain > Thank you for this lesson in perspective Jabalia : ] Check out my photo’s from the tour here >

The sun setting over the three mile buoy off the coast of Gaza.

The sun setting over the three-mile buoy off the coast of Gaza.

The kids of Jabalia Refugee Camp.

The kids of Jabalia Refugee Camp.

May 17, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Week 10 & 11 in Gaza > Illness > New Priorities > Farming

Well I have been back in the Gaza Strip for the past two weeks, although this is my first update since returning from my two weeks R&R in Paris because the day after I arrived back in the Strip I became violently ill. I got salmonella poisoning on my last night in Cairo and the night after I arrived back in Gaza the symptoms started to kick in diarrhea, a fever of 40+ degrees and sever abdominal cramps. Thinking it was just a bug I struggled with it at home for several days, before deciding I needed urgent medical treatment and was I rushed to Al Awada hospital. After 24 hours of fantastic care from the dedicated staff at Al Awada, whose work with limited resources is quite amazing, I was released with a course of four medications. I am almost back to being fighting fit thanks in large part to my peeps in Gaza, Sukran ictir Awni, Mona, Adie and the staff at Al Awada  for being there when I needed it : ]

Since recovering I have had my new priorities set by the Gaza Ark Steering committee. I have been tasked with finding a local news crew to cover the refurbishment process of the Ark for a documentray film, while also finding a independent film maker to prepare monthly video’s to show the progress of the build to our international supporters via our website > In addition to this I need to find supporters in Gaza to continue my work in Gaza post my departure in mid June. While I am also continuing my work on civil society endorsements and Palestinian products to be exported aboard the Ark.

On Wednesday morning I managed to find some time that was not taken up with Gaza Ark tasks, to undertake some accompaniment work with farmers harvesting wheat in the buffer zone. The “buffer zone”is a strip of land on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip and is a military no-go area that extends along the entire northern and eastern perimeter of the Gaza Strip adjacent to Israel, but inside Palestinian territory. It has at times stretched up to 1.5 kilomenters into Palestinian territory, however after the November cease-fire Palestinians were granted access to this land again, however like most agreements Israel reaches with the Palestinians what is written in the agreement does not often happen in reality. The buffer zones conitued enforcement has resulted in loss of Palestinian lives and land. For more on the buffer zone and it’s effects check out his article on the Diakonia website > . I hope to continue this work for the last month that I am in the Strip, here are some photos from the morning.

Harvest season in the buffer zone.

Harvest season in the buffer zone.

The boarder with Israel.

The boarder with Israel.

Adie responding to the IOF, that had just sent several live rounds over our heads.

Adie responding to the IOF, that had just sent several live rounds over our heads.

May 9, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Week 9 in Gaza > Airstrikes > Products > Inspection > Endorsements

Well this will be my last update for a couple of weeks, as I am off to Europe for some well-earned R&R > even if I do say so myself. It has been an eventful couple of weeks since my last entry, I have met many wonderful new producers, secured a rather significant endorsement, participated in the final inspection of the possible ark and survived my first Israeli airstrike.

On Tuesday night Israel launched its first airstrike on Gaza since the November ceasefire and my arrival. I became aware of the strike via twitter when I started reading unconfirmed reports of several Israeli attacks in the North and East of the Gaza Strip. The information coming through was confused and suggested that their where F-16 and drones thick in sky over the port area, where I live, so I ventured outside to see for myself. However I struggled to hear anything over hum of the night here in Gaza, aka the generators that power most of the buildings in the Almenia area where I live. I then returned home to check for media updates and found that Haaretz had confirmation of the attacks, which it stated where in response to Palestinian rocket fire.

Interesting how Israeli attacks are almost always reported as responses, when reported at all, but Palestinian attacks are never framed in the same way ??? Take the November ceasefire for example prior to the Tuesday nights events there have been over 100 Israeli violations of the agreement, that have left four Palestinians dead and scores injured, yet in all the articles I read in the western media on the topic nowhere did I read “the Palestinian rocket fire was in response to over 100 Israeli violations of the ceasefire agreement”.  It seems Israel’s and the west’s idea of a ceasefire between the Palestinians and the Israel, is that Palestinian resistance stops, while Israeli oppression is allowed to continue unabated.

On a more positive note I now have 14 new producers on board with the Gaza Ark project, excuse the pun, whose products will be available in our second release of products coming soon > . The project now has a good variety of products to choose from agricultural goods, arts and crafts, carpets, furniture, Jewelery, pottery and even organic cleaning products. However unfortunately, but as expected, they all had stories of difficulties they now face due to the illegal blockade. Confirming the importance and the need for the Gaza’s Ark project. Weather its difficulties getting the raw material need for manufacturing or the stories of unemployment caused by the lack of access to exports markets.

The story of Mahmoud Attallah and his two son’s who have a pottery factory in the Old City in Gaza has stay with me all week. Mahmoud has had to lay off his entire workforce due to the blockade, as his factory prior to the blockade used to export the majority of their pottery to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. He and son’s now struggle to keep the business going on their own and to make enough to even support their own family. His is a factory that used to support over ten families and now barely supports one.  This story is common in Gaza and shows clearly the indiscriminate nature of the blockade and the collective punishment that it enforces in violation of international law.

This week also saw the final inspection of the possible Ark, all that remains now is for the Steering Committee to approve the inspection report and for the Gaza’s Ark financial officers to sign on the doted line. On the endorsement front, I secured a rather significant endorsement of Gaza’s Ark this week. However due to the media teams decision to embargoed this and all future endorsements I can not tell who the endorsement is from, but lets just say I am rather chuffed about it. The decision about placing an embargo on the endorsements is so the project can make the most impact with them, through carefully timed media releases.

In addition to this I have been working closely with the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions [PGFTU] on a letter writing campaign between the PGFTU and their international comrades in support of Gaza’s Ark. Here is the link to the first general letter from the PGFTU to their international brothers and sisters > . However going forward  there will be specific letters from the PGFTU to specific unions internationally to increase awareness of the situation here in Gaza and the importance of the Gaza’s Ark project.

As my first tour of duty draws to a close the main reflection I have of my first two and a bit months in Gaza is that I hear the word “only” way to often here. “Only’ one person was injured in last nights airstrikes, I “only” spent two years in-goal in Israel, I have “only” lost one family member to the occupation forces > what the Palestinians of Gaza have had to put up with and become accustomed to is completely unacceptable, when will the rest of the world see this ???

Mahmoud Attallah and his two son's in their pottery factory in the Old City of Gaza

Mahmoud Attallah and his two son’s in their pottery factory in the Old City of Gaza

April 5, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Week 8 in Gaza > Photo recap of my first 2 months in Gaza

Well today marks the end of my first two months in Gaza, it has been at times wonderful and inspiring and at others frustrating, emotional and even heart breaking. So as I struggle with the written word at the best of times, I have decided to let my photo’s do the talking this week – by posting some of my favourite photo’s of the last two months. However one thing I have learnt over the years, its people who make somewhere special. So in that spirit I have not just selected photo’s of the  cool things I have done, but also photo’s of some of the people who made them special. Sukran ictir my Gaza peeps, this blog is dedicated to you.

What it is journey is all about, Gaza's Ark > the anchor from the Ark, insharalla one day soon it will be dropped in a European port.

Insharalla one day soon Gaza’s Ark will be dropping anchor in a foreign port.

Meeting the inspirational Dr Mona El Farra to hand over some medicine donated by Gaza's Ark to the Red Crescent Society in Gaza.

Meeting the inspirational Dr Mona El Farra to hand over some medicine donated by Gaza’s Ark to the Red Crescent Society in Gaza.

In the buffer zone, the sign say's it all > BDS now yella !

In the buffer zone, the sign say’s it all > BDS Israeli Apartheid now yella !

In the buffer zone, where existence truly is resistance.

In the buffer zone, where existence truly is resistance.

Hanging with the Gaza Ark Youth Committee

Hanging with the Gaza Ark Youth Committee

Getting ready to speak at a PPP protest in support of Palestinian prisoners

Getting ready to speak at a PPP protest in support of Palestinian prisoners

The optimism of youth

The optimism of youth

Filming a fundraising video for Gaza's Ark > that's a wrap !

Filming a fundraising video for Gaza’s Ark > that’s a wrap !

Sunset over Gaza

Sunset over Gaza

Kevin Neish inspecting the Ark

Kevin Neish inspecting one of the possible Ark’s

Heading out to sea with my peeps from the PPP

Heading out to sea with my peeps from the PPP

Translator extraordinaire Awni

Translator extraordinaire Awni

Palestinian fishermen > who have seen there numbers halved in the last decade due to Israeli restrictions to Palestinian maritime areas.

Palestinian fishermen > who have seen there numbers halved in the last decade due to Israeli restrictions to Palestinian maritime areas

Rally in Rafah to commemorate the10th anniversary of Rachel Corries murder by the IOF.

Rally in Rafah to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Rachel Corries murder by the IOF

Gaza Ark's nautical brains trust

Gaza Ark’s nautical brains trust Mahfouz and Nizar in their element at the port

Norma from PSC and Laila from Snad Charitable Society at the Gaza Women's Trade Fair

Norma from PSC, Laila from Snad Charitable Society and myself at the Gaza Women’s Trade Fair

Sunset over the Mediterranean

Sunset over the Mediterranean

March 29, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Week 7 in Gaza > Rachel Corrie > Boat > Haidar Eid > Obama

Well my seventh week in Gaza has come to a close and as I sit here with a sand storm lashing Gaza outside and whistling through my window, I am wondering what I have achieved ? Sometimes it feels like Dabke, the Palestinians national dance, should be two steps forward and one step backwards. However after some soul-searching I realise these solidarity projects are always an emotional rollercoaster and we are making progress shaway shaway, aka step by step – thanks in large part to the dedication and commitment of the Gaza Ark steering committee here in Gaza and internationally. Maybe the reflection has been brought about by the fact I am a long way from home on the eve of my birthday and I am missing my peeps, who I now havent seen for almost five months. – but what ever the cause it is always good to take stock.

This week started with the 10th anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s murder by the IOF, the town of Rafah held a rally to show their ongoing appreciation and gratitude to Rachel and her family. The saddest thing about the day for me was that a decade on from Rachel’s murder the houses she was trying to save still have not been rebuilt and the bulldozer driver that crushed her to death by running over her, more than once, has never been held to account for his actions – much like the state he resides in, Israel ! Here are some photo’s from the day >

I know I have been saying this for  week or two now, but we are close to purchasing the vessel that the Gaza Ark project will refurbished to sail across the mediterranean in an attempt to open the only port in region closed to shipping, and in the process hopefully establishing a vitally important trade route for the besieged Palestinians of the Gaza Strip. Contacts have been negotiated, drawn up and translated – all that remains before the purchase process is complete is for one final inspection to be undertaken before we sign on the doted line.

The highlight of my week however was meeting Haidar Eid, who amongst other commitments, is on the Gaza Ark Advisory Committee.  He is also an Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University, a member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel [PACBI] Steering Committee and a co-founder of the One Democratic State Group. Haidar is incredibly insightful and sharp and he spent the afternoon schooling me on all things Palestinian, hopefully it was the first of many lessons from Haidar while I am in Gaza.

This week also saw a visit to Palestine by Barack Obama, his itinerary and speeches laid bare the double standards of the US position on the occupation and discrimination that Palestinians endure. Describing Israel’s settlements in the West Bank as “inappropriate”, not illegal. Talking about a two state solution, which fails to address the discrimination of the 1.5 million Palestinians residents of Israel – not to mention the right of return that has been denied to over 5 million Palestine refugees. As Ali Abunimah pointed out this week on twitter > There is no “two state solution” to the problem of Zionist racism and land theft. During his visit Obama’s often talked about the shared values and similarities of the US and Israel, this might have been the most honest thing he said all week, as both countries are colonizing entities that committed massacres and ethnic cleansing of the population indigenous to the land they settled on.

The double standards in the US foreign policy on Palestine are also reflected in the mainstream media. For example, Israel has, on average, breached its November ceasefire with the Palestinians at least once a day. Resulting in the death of 10 Palestinians and injury of nearly 700. However the mainstream press would have you believe that the ceasefire was only broken on the 26 February 2013 when a single rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel and resulted in a damaged Israeli road. The deaths of Palestinians didn’t rate a mention in the mainstream media, but a damaged road in Israel is news worthy ???

Rally in Rafah to commemorate the10th anniversary of Rachel Corries murder by the IOF.

Rally in Rafah to commemorate the10th anniversary of Rachel Corries murder by the IOF.

March 22, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Week 6 in Gaza > Fundraising > IAW > BDS > Tunnels > Products

My 6th week in Gaza started with a Skype hook up to a Free Gaza Australia [FGA] fundraising dinner in support of Gaza’s Ark [GA], the fundraiser was held at Plunge No.46 in Summer Hill in Sydney. From all accounts it was a huge success with over 50 supporters in attendance and raising over $2500 for the Gaza Ark project. Thanks to everyone who attended for showing their support, the FGA crew for putting it all together and the peeps at Plunge No.46 for their generosity and hospitality. However there is one person who deserves a special mention and that is James Godfrey, the driving force behind FGA, his commitment, focus and attention to detail are second to none > so a big thank you to James, not just for all the effort he put into the fundraising dinner, but for everything he does for FGA and GA. Thank you my friend : ]

While my Arabic is improving its definitely not up to the level needed to translate the GA leaflet, so this week I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful young activist from Gaza, who has volunteered to undertake this task. Mahmoud Hammad is an English graduate from al-Aqsa University in Gaza that works closely with Dr. Haidar Eid, associate professor of English at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University, founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and is also on the GA Advisory Committee. They were both involved in putting on Israeli Apartheid Week [IAW] in Gaza, which I attended where my GA commitments would permit. I attended the opening session which featured a welcoming speech by the Boycott National Committee member Mr. Mohsen Abu Ramadan, a Skype interview with Jeremy Karodia from South African Artists Against Apartheid, a few short films and some traditional Palestinian music. The only other session I made it too was another Skype hook up with another South African activist Muhammed Desai on BDS.

The campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions was featured heavily during IAW in Gaza, and while the movement is growing here, it is not as widely know as I would have thought. However in saying that, Gaza is not the easiest place to maintain the boycott. Due to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, Gaza is heavily reliant on Israeli imports and this has only been made worse with the recent clamp down on the tunnel trade by Egypt. I have read that in the last month since the tunnels were flooded by the Egyptian military there has been a concerted campaign by the Egyptians to close as many tunnels as possible, with 60% now inoperable – however I have heard from local sources that figure is more like 80%. Cairo’s decision to flood and close the tunnels has cut a lifeline to around 1.7 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip – around 30 percent of all goods that reach the enclave come through the tunnels, according to estimates.

Finally this week I had a wonderful afternoon with the ladies from the Palestinian Women’s Union, looking at their amazing Falahi embroidered tablecloths and serving trays – which will be available soon through the Gaza Ark project. However for those that can’t wait GA’s first release of products that will be exported aboard the Ark are now online. There are eight products in our first release and they are from two Gaza based producers: Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children, and Al-Ahlyia Association for the Development of Palms and Dates. Atfaluna offers some amazing traditional Palestinian arts and craft products, while Al-Ahlyia provides Palestinian Ajwa (pressed dried dates) and Makhtom (delicious date and nut preserves). Check the link > with your help the hope of Palestinians in Gaza for an independent economy and an end to Israel’s inhumane siege can seem just that bit closer.

My Skype hook up with the Sydney fundraiser at Plunge No.46 > Photo by Kate Ausburn

My Skype hook up with the Sydney fundraiser at Plunge No.46 > Photo by Kate Ausburn

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments