Bearing Witness

Week Four in Gaza > Mavi > Prisoners > Arabic > Al Mezan > Editing

To start the week I attended a presentation by Kevin Neish a fellow Tahririan and Mavi survivor, Kevin presentation was on the brutal Israeli Occupation Force [IOF] raid on the Mavi Marmara, the Mavi was a Turkish aid ship that was part of the first Freedom Flotilla to Gaza. The IOF raid in international waters killed 9 human rights activist and left 54 severely wounded, with five of the dead shot execution style at point-blank range.

The main section of the presentation was a 16 minute film that Kevin has narrated about his experiences on that bloody night in the mediterranean.  If you want more than just the Israeli hasbara of what happened that night follow this link and get the real story > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oub0oaPnr8 Here are some photo’s I took of the Kevin’s presentation > http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.448112025258748.99792.158095294260424&type=1

Three days ago I attended a protest rally called for after Arafat Jaradat allegedly died of a heart attack in Megiddo prison, these claims of a heart attack by the Israeli prison service seem to contradict the evidence at hand. Jaradat had told his Lawyer that “he had serious pains in his back and other parts of his body because he was being beaten up and hanged for many long hours while he was being investigated” for the incredibly serious crime of rock throwing. The Ministry of Detainee Affairs confirmed that “Israeli interrogators routinely used hanging techniques and sleep deprivation to torture Palestinian prisoners”. In addition to this Jaradat’s family, who have viewed his body, said there were traces of blood on the body and they rejected Israeli claims that he died of a heart attack.

The protest in Gaza and others throughout occupied Palestine called for a international probe into Jaradat’s death. The protest was also a show of solidarity with Hunger striker Samer Issawi who has been without food now for over 215 days, lets just hope the world wakes up to the draconian Israeli prison system before Samer Issawi joins Arafat Jaradat in an Israeli body bag : / Here are some photo’s of the protest rally, which is the first one I have been to since arriving in Gaza where all the factions came together in a show of Palestinian unity > http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.448112025258748.99792.158095294260424&type=1

This week I also had my first Arabic lesson since arriving in Gaza, Sundus Ghalayini – Mona El Farra’s daughter, has taken on the rather large challenge of teaching me Arabic. I hope that by learning Arabic I will be able to communicate with all levels of Palestinian society, as my shaway – aka little – Arabic means I am not getting the whole story of life in Gaza. Improving my Arabic will also make me more effective in sourcing products and civil society endorsement for the Gaza’s Ark Project. It might also mean that next time I go to get a hair cut here in Gaza and request a little off the length, I don’t walk out with a crew cut ; ]

In addition to this I visited Al Mezan Center for Human Rights to meet its director Issam Younis, who is a member of the Gaza Ark Advisory Committee here in Gaza. We not only discussed all things Ark related, but Issam also talked me through the great work Al Mezan does in capacity building in Gaza and the never-ending process of documenting Israeli violation of international law.  Finally this week I finished editing the Gaza’s Ark fundraising video that me and some of the Gaza Ark Youth Committee filmed last week. However I should give most of the credit for the video to Sami Dawoud a  great local producer and Ibrahim Faraj a man who is so good with a camera he could even make me look OK.  If you’re in Sydney get down to Plunge on the 6th of March for Free Gaza Australia’s fundraiser in support of Gaza’s Ark, where the video will be premiered. Here is a link the FB event page > http://www.facebook.com/events/131257413706111/

Look what else I got this week > my foreigners residence card for the Gaza Strip : ]

Look what else I got this week > my foreigners residence card for the Gaza Strip : ]

February 25, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Week Three in Gaza > Youth > Products > Celebrations > Fundraising

This week I have been feeling a little off colour and actually fainted several days ago, so I have not been as busy as I was in the first couple of weeks. I think I over did it trying to do too much at once when I first arrived and that plus the stress of adjusting to a new environment was just too much for me. However I am feeling better now and I have started to pace myself, as I am here for the long haul.

This week I had the pleasure of meeting the Gaza Ark Youth Committee, a group of inspiring and highly motivated young people who are asset to the Gaza Ark project. Up until our first meeting I had mainly been working the Youth Committees Products Sub-Committee, who had been assisting me in finding producers and helping with translation at meetings, as I only have shawy aka little Arabic at this point.

Hanging with the Gaza Ark Youth Committee

One of the producers that they have put me in contact with is the Palestinian Association  for Development and Heritage Protection and this week I spent an amazing day with their very talented staff, looking at there wonderful embroidered products and incredible selection of heritage items. I am sure you will see some their products in the second release of products available through the Gaza Ark project. On that note keep an eye on the website this week for the announcement of the first release of products available through the Gaza Ark project, we have chosen eight products to start with that will be available for sale through our website and exported aboard the Ark > http://www.gazaark.org

One of the very talented women from the Palestinian Association  for Development and Heritage Protection modeling a hand embroidered shawl

One of the very talented women from the Palestinian Association for Development and Heritage Protection modeling a hand embroidered shawl

This week I also got to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the  Palestinian Peoples Party at a celebration out at Rafah, this was great day to be with the comrades. Shamikh badra, the co-ordinator of their youth wing and who I meet on his trip to Australia last year, has been very welcoming and supportive since my arrival in the Gaza Strip. Which has been very appreciated, as to a certain extent I am flying solo here, unlike my time in Nablus where I volunteered with Project Hope and had a ready-made support network to fall back on. See the photo’s of the celebration here > http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.446680098735274.99569.158095294260424&type=1

Finally this week I shot a fundraising video for Gaza’s Ark, this video will be premiered at Free Gaza Australia’s “Gaza’s Ark fundraiser at Plunge” in Summer Hill in Sydney  on the 6th of March > if you’re in Sydney get your self there to enjoy some amazing Middle Eastern food and to show your support for ending the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Here is the link to Facebook event page > http://www.facebook.com/events/131257413706111/ and here a link to some photo’s of our day filming at the port in Gaza > http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.446982592038358.99628.158095294260424&type=1

Speak next week > my Salaam.

February 22, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Week Two in Gaza > Endorsements > Products > Solidarity

Well my second week in Gaza has come to an end and it’s official, I now have my permit to stay > got to love Palestine, it’s the only place on earth where my criminal record and deportation in regards to my solidarity actions are appreciated on a visa application.
This week has mainly been spent meeting with civil society organisations to seek support for the Gaza’s Ark [GA] http://www.gazaark.org/ project. I have met with the Palestinian Non Government Organisation [PNGO] http://www.pngo.net/, which is an umbrella group for over 60 NGO’s working through out Gaza and the West Bank and the Palestinian  Agricultural Relief Committee [PARC] http://www.pal-arc.org/index.html, whose main goals are to protect Palestinian land from confiscation by the Israeli occupation and to improve the Palestinian agricultural sector. I am honoured to say they now both now endorse the GA project. Although most of the credit for the ease in which these endorsements have been granted must go to the committed and visionary GA Steering Committee, with a special mention to David “the conscience of humanity” Heap – whose visit to Gaza at the end of last year laid an incredibly strong foundation to be built on.
In addition to this I have been chasing up information from several producers whose products are going to be sold through GA. We now have three producers on board, excuse the pun. Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children http://www.atfaluna.net/, Al-Ahlyia Association for the Development of Palms & Dates, as well as a Women’s Group from Gaza who make some amazing cross stitched and embroidered products. Watch the GA website for the first announcement of products to be sold through the project and exported from Gaza aboard the Ark.
I also took my first trip to the buffer zone, The buffer zone is a 300 meter area between Israel and the Gaza Strip, it is a military no-go zone that extends along the entire northern and eastern perimeter of the Gaza Strip adjacent to Israel, but inside Palestinian territory. Its enforcement by the Israeli Occupation Force has resulted in loss of Palestinian lives and land, and to add insult to injury is some of the most fertile land in the Gaza Strip. For more information on the buffer zone check out the Diakonia analysis http://www.diakonia.se/sa/node.asp?node=4090. Saturday was a day of international action in support of Palestinian Farmers and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees [UAWC] in Gaza organised a march into the buffer zone to plant olive trees in an act of defiance to the IOF, see how it went down here > http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=442402179163066&set=a.442402012496416.98962.158095294260424&type=1&theater
This week I also attended and spoke at a protest organised by the Palestinian Peoples Party [PPP] Youth Wing. The protest was in solidarity with the thousands of Palestinians in Israeli jails, many of whom have never been charged with any offence > let alone convicted ! See my photos from the protest here >http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=442879619115322&set=a.442879529115331.99038.158095294260424&type=1&theater
Speak next week, my salaam.

My turn on the mic at the Palestinian Peoples Party Prisoners Protest

My turn on the mic at the Palestinian Peoples Party Prisoners Protest

February 13, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m in : ]

Well I have arrived in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian people are still as inspirational as I remember : ] Though as I also remember from my last visit there are far to many sad stories : [ Two nights after my arrival a family of six in the Nusiefat Refugee Camp burned to death in their home, when a candle they where forced to use for light, due to the power cuts of  12 hours a day on average, started a fire that trapped the whole family. These death are a direct result of the blockade that I am here to challenge !

In my first week I have had the honour of meeting and spending time with the amazing Dr Mona El Farra, author of the blog “From Gaza with Love”, she is also the co-founder of the Union of Health Workers Committee and numerous women’s, children’s and youth centers serving the needs of the many marginalized refugees in Gaza. I have visited two of these centers already and witnessed the incredible work that they undertake, Afaq Jadeeda – aka New Horizons – Women’s and children’s center and Al Assifa  Cultural Center. Photos from the visits are here http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.440219259381358.98647.158095294260424&type=1 > and here http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.439891096080841.98588.158095294260424&type=1

I have also had my priorities set by the Gaza’s Ark Steering Committee, which are meeting and getting feedback from our Gaza based Advisory Committee, while also sourcing products that will be sailed out of Gaza on the Ark – as our focus on this project is trade not aid – in addition I will be trying to get more civil society endorsement of our project. In addition to these priorities I will also be making a short video to be presented at a fundraiser in Sydney on Wednesday the 6th of March, followed by a Skype call > power, internet and Israeli Occupation Force permitting. Here is the link to FB event page http://www.facebook.com/events/131257413706111/137734983058354/?comment_id=137735286391657&notif_t=event_mall_reply Please show your support and together we can attempt to bring this brutal blockade to an end !

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.

February 6, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , | Leave a comment