Archive | January 17th, 2011

Shameless Miss YaQOOB Support the Slutwalk

NOVANEWS
'' WHETHER THE HIJAB OR MINIS KIRT. IT'S A WOMAN'S RIGHT TO CHOOSE.''
See;www.salmayaqoob.com  27.10.2010
Health permitting, this Saturday I will be speaking at the ‘Slutwalk’ in Birmingham city centre.

I will be taking part for one simple reason; there is no place in a civilised society for sexism and violence against women.

And it is simply unacceptable to blame women for male violence against us, irrespective of what we wear or how we act.

The view that women can be at least partly to blame for being raped is widespread.

According to an Amnesty International survey, about 1/3 of people think women are partly to blame for being raped if they were under the influence of alcohol, had been flirting, or were dressed ‘provocatively’ at the time of the incident.

The consequence of these kinds of views is that they help create a culture which helps legitimises physical and sexual assault against women.

And the statistics are shocking. Globally, ‘up to 6 out of every 10 women experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime’.

In the UK an estimated 3 million women experience violence every year, and many have to live every day with the legacy of violence from their past.


I think an initiative that captures the imagination of new generations who want to tackle sexism and violence against women, and that gains the attention of the world’s media, is a good thing. But the tactic, and even the name ‘Slutwalk’, is controversial.

The word ‘slut’ has been used to shame women, and some feminists are uncomfortable at any attempt to use this kind of language, even in a good cause. Others are concerned that any positive message will be lost if there is just an attempt to be ‘shocking’.

Women face a constant battle against sexual exploitation. Images are promoted through advertising and popular culture which narrows our value to sexual attractiveness to men. Sadly, this increasingly sexualised image of women is often ‘sold’ as a sign of empowerment.

The results are clear in the heartbreakingly low self esteem of such a large proportion of young women; in the increased cases of anorexia; and in the worthlessness that older women are made to feel as their sexual appeal declines.

Music videos have become raunchy to the extent of blurring with soft porn (even the live performances of Rihanna and Christina Aguilera on the X Factor family show attracted thousands of complaints).

Such images are (rightly) criticised for encouraging the sexualising of children, as well as promoting the view that a woman is deemed successful if she is scantily dressed and gyrating around a (fully clothed) male.

Newspapers, magazines, advertising boards, films, generate huge revenues based on the exploitation of the basic premise that women can display their attractiveness by wearing fewer clothes.

But the point of Slutwalk is not that all women should be scantily dressed at all times in public. It is that however they are dressed, and even if they are scantily dressed, they do NOT deserve to be raped! It’s a pretty basic point which should not even be contentious!

The excuse of ‘I could not help violently raping a woman because I was provoked and overcome by desire by the wanton display of her body’ is simply unacceptable.

The irony is that Muslim women are coming under increasing attack for apparently wearing too many clothes. The heated debates and hostility around the face veil which a tiny minority wear is shocking.

Again you are perfectly entitled to disagree with their choice, or indeed question whether some had a choice – but to attack them for doing so or blame them when they are attacked is completely wrong. Personally I do not wear a mini skirt or burqa in public – but I vigorously defend the right of women to do so without fear of attack.

It is sad to think that in the twenty first century such a basic point needs to be made. But I shall be making it on the streets of Birmingham and encourage others to do so when I join Slutwalk at 1.45pm in Victoria Square.

Whether it’s a little or a lot – no woman should be shamed, blamed or maimed for the clothes she wears!

Posted in Campaigns, UKComments Off on Shameless Miss YaQOOB Support the Slutwalk

Dorothy Online Newsletter

NOVANEWS

 

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem

Chair of West Midland PSC

 

Dear All,

There’s lots to read below, I know.  But even these 8 items do not include another 6 that I omitted.  And the final 2 are long articles.  You decide, of course, which of these to read.

So, let me give you an idea of their contents.

Item 1 is about the demonstration last night—a much bigger success (if by numbers we can speak of ‘success’) than anticipated.  The participants included leftist Zionists as well as Radical left.  Together there were over 10,000—whether 15,000 or 20,000,  I don’t know.  But the square in front of the museum holds about 10, 000, and it was filled.  The police then cordoned off the square not allowing all the remaining marchers to enter it—and they were many.  The rain held off till spouse and I returned home.  We did not stay for the speeches, as I knew that we could read about them in today’s press. We felt that we did our duty by marching and contributing to the numbers.  Will the demonstration help change the course of things?  Not a chance.  The big question is, what will the rest of the world do as Israel goes more and more fascist, racist, militaristic?  Of course another question is what impact the situation in Tunisia will have on other Arab countries.  That, too, could influence what happens in Israel.

Item 2 reports on the 9th demolition of Al Arakib.  This time not only was the village demolished, but forces stayed on to ascertain that there would be no more rebuilding—nothing to disturb the Jewish National Fund (a fund that was erected to purchase land in Palestine for Jews only, but since the establishment of the State used to grab land) plan of planting trees on the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shvat.  No Jewish holiday is more hypocritical than this one.  Israel in the OPT uproots thousands of olive and fruit trees without blinking an eye, but teaches its children to love trees and planting them.  Ugh!

Item 3 reports that human rights organizations plan to demand an investigation into the death of a young man from Gaza due to not being allowed medical care in Israel.  Possibly he would have died even with the medical care, but possibly not.  I remember years ago when several of us independently (each not knowing about the other) tried to get a year-and-a- half child out of a village in the West Bank to a hospital.  But we failed because of a 30 hour curfew.  I was on the phone with her father a number of times during the attempt, and knew how difficult it was—how can a parent bear to see its child suffering as this baby did?  Even today when I recall the incident, I feel the pain, and cannot understand how the Israeli military authority can let a baby die!  How?

Item 4 reports that Israel has now made room for Jews to pray in a Muslim quarter of Jerusalem.  My dear Christian friends, you had best warn your churches to keep an eye on these Israeli Jews!  Soon they will be taking over all your holy spots and turning them into Jewish ones.  The via Dolorosa will become the road of the Macabees or some such.  Apart from this, the act is itself incitement, asking for trouble.  Just how much can the Palestinians take?  Their villages are demolished, their land is stolen, and even their neighborhoods are invaded by Jews—not that I think that Jews and Muslims can’t live together in peace.  They can and do, even in Israel.  But to go into a Muslim neighborhood to open space for Jews to pray?  Not a neighborly thing to do, to say the least.

Item 5 is a more positive peace.  It tells us that pop star Paradis has cancelled her planned program in Israel. Bds is working—not in every case, but in quite a few cultural events.  The list of successes is growing longer.

In item 6 Dorothy Zellner informs us that “Palestinians read Dr. King’s words and call his name and study the American civil rights movement, among other histories of other peoples, for ways to bring to the attention of the world the fact that little by little, their land is disappearing along with their rights.” May the Palestinians succeed.

Items 7 and 8 are long ones—you might need to make separate time to absorb them.

Item 7 is about Doctor Izaldin Abulaish from Gaza, who lost 3 daughters and a niece in an instant when during the Cast Lead massacre a tank shell exploded in their room.  I remember that evening.  It was caught live on Israeli TV, not the shell exploding, but the doctor crying “why, why, why” and the reporter Shlomi Eldar who had him on line blinking back tears.  I also recall in the next days, while the incident was still receiving much attention, some reactions to it.  One Israeli woman (TV news) shouted “you deserve it for all the things you are doing to us” as though anyone could deserve such a loss, as though he were responsible for the missiles shot from Gaza into Israel.

Item 8 reveals that Israel and the United States developed a computer worm that fouled up Iranian computers connected to its nuclear program.  Of course I’d rather see technical means rather than military ones used to stop the development of nuclear weapons, but (a) Iran has consistently denied that it is developing weapons, insisting that its purpose is purely for civilian use, and b) the money could be put to better purposes.  You can laugh at me if you want for suggesting that perhaps Iran is not lying.  But I recall the time when American politicians and others were warning us all about WMDs in Iraq.  And you know, as well as I, what happened to all the WMDs there.  Suddenly they evaporated into thin air, but by that time millions of Iraqis had lost their lives or homes or had been injured!  The other point is that if all that money and research efforts that went into developing this worm were used instead to add hospital or school rooms. how much more useful this would be.  Israeli hospitals are now in a desperate need for rooms, equipment, and staff—but there are no funds for this, all or almost all of the money goes into expansion.  One of the items that I did not include relates that Israel is planning on adding 1400 units more in Gilo http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4014086,00.html . . .

For that there is money, and for developing computer worms, too!  But none for education, social welfare, health.   By the way, while we are on the subject of nuclear weapons, remember that one and only one country has to date used them on humans.  And it is well worth keeping in mind the results of that on the people of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  It’s time to turn our weapons into more useful things, even ploughshares.

Dorothy

==================================

1. The Guardian

16 January 2011

Thousands of Israelis rally in defence of human and civil rights

Tel Aviv sees largest demonstration in years as people protest against parliamentary investigation into funding of rights groups

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/16/thousands-israelis-rally-rights-organisations

Harriet Sherwood in Tel Aviv

Israeli and Palestinian flags are waved by thousands of activists from leftwing groups at a rally in Tel Aviv. Photograph: Oded Balilty/AP Thousands of Israelis marched in Tel Aviv at the weekend in the biggest demonstration for years to protest against a series of attacks on civil and human rights organisations and a rise in anti-Arab sentiment.

Under the banner of the “Democratic Camp”, a coalition of organisations and prominent individuals, the marchers heard speakers lambast the Israeli government, singling out the rightwing foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who is seen as threatening Israel’s democracy.

But there was also strong criticism of the Labour party for being a partner in Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition government. Labour had allowed “the existence of the most racist coalition in the history of Israel”, Nitzan Horowitz, a member of the Knesset for the leftwing Meretz party, told the crowd. “No member of the Labour party can claim to have clean hands. You are members of the most extreme government … For what have you betrayed your principles? For a few ministers’ chairs?”

The organisers of the march and rally hoped it would signal the beginning of the revival of Israel’s left and a fightback against the dominance of the right. Around 20,000 people attended the rally according to the organisers; the police said there were 10,000 present.

The galvanising issue was the recent approval by the Knesset of a bill to set up a parliamentary investigation into the funding of civil and human rights groups. It has been seen by opponents across the political spectrum as a fundamental attack on democracy and reminiscent of a McCarthyite witch-hunt.

Following the vote, the opposition leader, Tzipi Livni, said an evil wind was blowing across Israel. Some in the crowd on Saturday evening held placards saying “Investigate me too”.

Speakers at the rally cited other recent moves including a call by rabbis to ban Jews from selling or renting property to Arabs, a parliamentary vote in favour of a “loyalty oath” to be taken by new Israeli citizens, and the jailing of the activist Jonathan Pollack after taking part in a bicycle protest.

Addressing the rally, Meir Sheetrit of the centre-right Kadima party said legislation to investigate rights groups would be “taking a brick out of the wall of democracy”.

Avraham Burg, a former Knesset speaker and a driving force behind the embryonic Democratic Camp, told the Guardian the situation was “an emergency”.

“Israel is not a democracy any more. Technically it is, but the foundations of democracy – liberty, equality – are under threat. The rabbinical fatwas and political harassment are red lights. If we don’t stand up now, tomorrow it will be too late.”

For a long time, he said, the left had been passive. The Democratic Camp “is not yet big, but it’s a beginning. This is the launching pad for the future political generation of Israel”.

Protesters held placards reading “Jews and Arabs will not be enemies” and “We will fight the regime of darkness”, and both Israeli and Palestinian flags were waved. One participant said “it must be the end of the world” for her to join a demonstration on a Saturday evening.

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2. The Regional Planning Committee: First Destroy – and then Discuss AppealI am from the Negev

Five people injured by rubber bullets in ninth demolition of El Arakib

Large forces destroyed this morning (16.1 at 0800) the shacks in El Arakib for the ninth time

For the first time in El Arakib police fired rubber bullets on the residents who refused evacuation. Five people were injured and were taken to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba

Large police forces entered the village this morning accompanied by tractors and trucks of the Jewish National Fund. For the first time, they evacuated the remains of earlier ruins and began to prepare the ground for planting. It seems that their intention is to take over the area before Tu B’Shvat and prevent residents from rebuilding tents and sheds as they did after previous demolitions. JNF is building adjacent to the El Arakib cemetery a parking lot for their heavy vehicles, storage spaces and accommodations for their people.

Residents El Arakib, volunteers and supporters are organizing a protest near the village.

Negev Coexistence Forum reported that the residents were left homeless, in severe winter weather, stunned by the intensity of evil that was directed towards them while they are occupied in mourning the death of one of Sheikh Sayah brothers who died a few days ago.

The Residents to El Arakib currently need all the help that they can get. They call Jewish and Arab citizens to stand by to their side against government’s cruelty.

large police presence guarding JNF workers and equipment is still in place in this time.

More images and story in Arabic in Panet

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3.  Maan news

14/01/2011

http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=350628

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Human rights organizations in Gaza have demanded a criminal investigation into the death of a young Gaza man who died two weeks ago while he was waiting for a permit from Israel to leave the Strip for medical treatment. 

Anas Saleh, 20, died on January 1 from a liver disease. He had been unconscious for several days in Gaza’s Ash-Shifa Hospital before his death. His doctors had sought permission for Saleh to enter Israel for treatment.

After the request was made Israeli authorities insisted that the unconscious patient appear for questioning by the Israel Security Agency, a report from the Al-Mezan center for human rights said.

A second rights organization based in Haifa, Adalah, had its Attorney Fatmeh El-Ajou file a complaint about the incident on behalf of the victim.

Following Saleh’s death, Adalah, on behalf of three rights organizations, submitted a complaint to the Attorney General of Israel, Yehuda Weinstein and to the Israeli Military Advocate General, Avichai Mendelblit, demanding the opening of a criminal investigation and prosecution of those responsible for “the suspicious death” of Saleh.

The human rights organizations argue in the complaint that the denial of an exit permit as the patient remained critical was “an act against the legal obligation to provide medical treatment to save the life of the patient, an act which brought about, or at least hastened, the death of the deceased.”

In September 2010, Saleh was diagnosed with a liver disease Budd Chiari Syndrome, a clinical syndrome resulting from obstruction of the veins in the liver. Due to a lack of appropriate medical treatment in the Gaza Strip health system, the rights group said, his condition deteriorated into acute liver failure and hepatitis.

The patient was referred to the Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem. He had a hospital referral and appointment for 26 December 2010. On 13 December 2010 the family presented a request, via the Palestinian Liaison Office, to the Israeli authorities in order to obtain an exit permit from Gaza.

Thirteen days later, on 26 December 2010, the patient’s hospital appointment date, the army informed the Palestinian Liaison Office that the patient must appear for interrogation by the Israel Security Agency on 30 December 2010 to further consider his request. However, on that date the patient was already unconscious and could not appear at the interrogation, the rights organization said in a statement.

The group said that the information was forwarded by the Palestinian health coordinator to the Israeli military on that same day, with a request to speed up the request procedure and to issue an exit permit from Gaza urgently.

Following the urgent request, the rights groups said the ISA “continued to insist that the patient appear for questioning.”

According to testimony from Saleh’s father taken by Al-Mezan, on 28 December he received a telephone call from a man who introduced himself as an ISA representative, and requested that his ill son present himself for questioning on the following day. The father informed him that his son was in a coma and asked that he be allowed to leave for medical treatment without delay.

Throughout this process, medical documents substantiating the patient’s medical condition were transmitted to the Israeli authorities, the rights groups say, noting a final medical document confirming the patient’s critical condition was sent on 29 December.

Source: http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=350628

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4.  The Independent,

January 14, 2011

Israel clears out disputed site in Muslim quarter

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/israel-clears-out-disputed-site-in-muslim-quarter-2185019.html

By Catrina Stewart in Jerusalem

Israel has widened access to a revered Jewish site in the heart of the Jerusalem Old City’s Muslim quarter, a move that threatens to inflame tensions at one of the world’s most contested religious sites.

Municipal officials recently ordered the removal of scaffolding — which propped up an arch underneath Palestinian homes — to enlarge the courtyard in front of a small section of the ancient wall, a remnant of the Second Temple destroyed in 70 AD, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported.

The clearance will allow more Jewish worshipers to pray at the site, which lies less than a hundred metres north of the Wailing Wall, one of Judaism’s most sacred and frequented sites.

On the other side of the wall is the site once dominated by the two Jewish temples of antiquity, and Jews know it as Temple Mount. It is now the location of the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.

The municipality’s decision drew immediate condemnation from the Palestinians, who view such moves as an attempt by Israel to establish a dominant Jewish claim over the Old City, part of East Jerusalem, which was captured and annexed by Israel after the Six-Day War in 1967.

“Under international law, the occupying powers are not supposed to make changes, especially in places with specific cultural importance,” said Ghassan Khatib, spokesman for the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. “Such changes are a provocation and will contribute to already growing tension in occupied East Jerusalem.”

But the move appeared to signal a victory for Ateret Cohanim, a Jewish settler group which has long campaigned for the removal of the scaffolding and which leads prayer groups at the site every Friday.

Their pleas have previously carried little weight. Teddy Kollek, Jerusalem’s mayor from 1965 to 1993, rejected religious groups’ appeals to remove the scaffolding because of the sensitivity of the site even though he acknowledged it was not needed to support the houses, Haaretz cited a former advisor to Mr Kollek as saying.

His fears were not unfounded. In 1996, the Old City erupted in deadly clashes when Israel opened a tunnel leading to the complex of the Al Aqsa mosque. And it was then opposition leader Ariel Sharon’s visit to the site in 2000 to assert Israeli sovereignty there that triggered the Second Intifada, the mass Palestinian uprising.

It is for that reason that many are wary of any acts that could be viewed as provocations.

“I see the Old City as a delicate ecosystem,” said Danny Seidemann, a lawyer and expert on East Jerusalem. “It is this kind of problematic move [to change access] that makes Jerusalem erupt.”

Some Palestinians still believe that the Jews intend to raze the mosques to make way for a Third Temple, which according to Jewish tradition will be built with the coming of the Messiah. Jewish groups have at times played on those insecurities, most recently with an advertising campaign that superimposed the Third Temple over the Al Aqsa mosque.

The Waqf, the Muslim council, had threatened a robust response if any changes were made to the so-called little Western Wall, next to which 17 Palestinian families live. The families, who have objected in the past to the removal of the scaffolding, said they were not consulted ahead of the alterations.

The municipality could not be reached for comment.

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5.  Haaretz,

January 16, 2011

Did pop star Paradis cancel Israel concert over politics?

French singer Vanessa Paradis claims her visit to Israel with partner Johnny Depp was cancelled for professional reasons, but insiders say anti-Israel boycott campaign played a role.

http://www.haaretz.com/culture/did-pop-star-paradis-cancel-israel-concert-over-politics-1.337312

By City Mouse Online and Matan Abramovitch

Tags: Israel news

French pop star Vanessa Paradis has cancelled her upcoming concert in Israel only a month before she was supposed to arrive in the country with her partner, Hollywood actor Johnny Depp, leaving fans and pundits speculating as to the reasons for the cancellation.

Paradis’ agent David Stern announced the change of plans in the French media, claiming that the cancellation was due to professional reasons, but insiders who organized the concert claim that the singer acceded to calls to cancel the show made by Palestinian solidarity groups.

According to the same sources, it was apparently the planned visit of Paradis’ partner  Johnny Depp that drew the attention of the groups that advocate boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel because of its treatment of the Palestinians.

Depp, who had intended to accompany Paradis along with their two young children, had excitedly informed various media outlets of the planned trip to Israel during interviews he gave to promote his new film “The Tourist.” It is thought that these interviews alerted BDS organizers to Paradis’ intentions to perform in Israel.

Although Paradis’ agent David Stern maintains that the concert was cancelled strictly for professional reasons, there have been reports that in the last few weeks, BDS organizers have asked Paradis to cancel the show, sending her letters and waiting outside her performances, threatening to boycott her too.

After successful ticket sales for the Paradis show, concert promoters announced with regret that they will refund the money of ticket purchasers.

The concert was initially supposed to be held on February 10 in Tel Aviv. Other celebrities that had intended to accompany that singer were French actress Isabelle Adjani and German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld.

One group that will be arriving in Israel despite the efforts of boycott campaigners who protested at their concerts throughout the United Kingdom is the British post-punk group The Fall, scheduled to perform at the Barby club in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

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6. Friday,

January 14, 2011

King’s words live in Palestinian city

http://www.ajc.com/opinion/kings-words-live-in-804582.html

By Dorothy M. Zellner

As a veteran of the 1960s civil rights movement, I hope this year’s Martin Luther King Day will be more than the usual constant repetition of his “I have a dream” speech. This has flattened the very essence of the movement, which was the vastness and the vibrancy of hundreds of thousands of “ordinary” people who wouldn’t and couldn’t stand for any more indignities and any more insults.

I know because I was in Georgia, Virginia and Mississippi as a staffer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; I spent two years in Atlanta.

This great movement of African-American civilians and their white allies lacked an army or air force, yet we imprinted our freedom demands on the national consciousness for the following decades and presumably, for decades to come.

There are other movements of civil society in every continent of the world. The one I have seen with my own eyes is the movement of Palestinians resisting Israel’s occupation.

It may surprise people to know that Palestinians read Dr. King’s words and call his name and study the American civil rights movement, among other histories of other peoples, for ways to bring to the attention of the world the fact that little by little, their land is disappearing along with their rights. The center of this effort now is in small West Bank villages like Ni’lin and Bil’in, where non-violent demonstrations have taken place weekly — for years. Yet these non-violent demonstrations of civilians are met with Israeli armed might.

Two weeks ago, I was in Bil’in, a small village about half an hour by bus from Ramallah, which in turn is about a half hour from Jerusalem. I went to attend the funeral of a 36-year-old kindergarten teacher, Jawaher Abu Rahmah, who was killed by American-exported tear gas used by the Israeli army, the IDF, the previous day in a demonstration against the separation barrier erected by the Israelis that divides the villagers from their land.

These demonstrations, which include many progressive Israelis as well as other internationals, have occurred every week. This Dec. 31 concluded five years of protests in Bil’in. Every Friday, members of this village of 3,000 and their supporters attempt to march to show their opposition to the wall. I say “attempt,” because, as I witnessed on another occasion in another village, the usual procedure is that only moments after the march begins, the IDF begins to hurl tear gas canisters, stink bombs and sound bombs at the protesters.

Although tear gas is normally used for crowd control, the IDF uses it as a weapon and aims canisters directly at the people (Jawaher’s brother Bassem was killed nearly two years ago after a high-velocity tear gas canister hit his chest). The adults are unarmed, although young boys, out of frustration at the IDF attacks, often throw stones at the end of the march (to the disapproval of their elders).

I did not go to the demonstration on Dec. 31 in Bil’in because I was afraid of the tear gas and am at an age where it is impossible for me to run. But I did go to Jawaher’s funeral in the village the next day and stood perhaps 10 yards from where they carried her body on a stretcher to the village graveyard and buried her there.

The killing of this woman was met with evasions and outright lies from the IDF, which disputed the cause of death pronounced by the Palestinian physicians who examined her. As the Israeli columnist Gideon Levy reported, “The IDF initially claimed she was taken to hospital and then sent home, where she died. Then they claimed she was not even at the demonstration. … Finally, the IDF claimed she died of cancer.” As Levy noted, none of this was true.

More civil society actions to highlight Palestinian dispossession are being planned, probably the most spectacular of which will be the next flotilla planned to take place a few months from now. Ordinary civilians from the U.S. will embark on “The Audacity of Hope,” a U.S.-flagged boat, to sail the Mediterranean and bring the world’s attention to the Israeli siege of Gaza. The Israelis have threatened snipers and attack dogs against unarmed people but ultimately, the worldwide effort to end this siege will succeed. That is because this action is in the spirit of the great civil rights movement 50 years ago and demonstrates the power of ordinary people to withstand whatever armies have in mind for them.

Dorothy M. Zellner is a member of Jews Say No! and an editor of “Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC.”

=========================

7. The Observer,

16 January 2011

Gaza doctor Izzeldin Abuelaish: ‘”We saved lives,” I told the children. “Your sisters’ blood wasn’t wasted”’ Two years ago, Israeli shells fell on Dr Abuelaish’s family home in Gaza, killing three of his young daughters and their cousin. The horror was caught live on Israeli TV when the doctor phoned his broadcaster friend. Amazingly, the loss did not embitter Izzeldin Abuelaish. Instead he decided his girls’ deaths must not be in vain – and slowly he has turned his family tragedy into a force for peace

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/16/gaza-doctor-izzeldin-abuelaish-interview

Rachel Cooke

Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish, whose three daughters were killed by Israeli fire in Gaza, at his home in Toronto, Canada. Photograph: Donald Weber/VII Network On 12 December 2008, Izzeldin Abuelaish, a doctor from Gaza, took his six daughters and two sons on a day out. The family rose early, packed a picnic and, at 7am, climbed into his old Subaru and headed out. Gaza is not big – just 25 miles long, and nine miles across at its widest – but the situation being what it is, it can take time to move around and Abuelaish was determined that they make the most of the hours ahead. Twelve weeks earlier, Nadia, his wife of 21 years, had died suddenly of leukaemia and ever since, every day had dawned black. It was his intention, that sunny winter morning, to shine a little light on them, to give his brood some respite, however brief, from their grief.

I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey

by Izzeldin Abuelaish

Their first stop was a surprise. Unbeknown to his family, Abuelaish had recently bought a small olive grove, about an acre in size. Separated from the urban sprawl by a 10ft-high fence, it was “a utopia, a little piece of Shangri-La”. The smaller ones, delighted to discover this new place, ran among the olive, fig and apricot trees, before finally settling down to eat their falafel sandwiches beneath a bower of vines. As they did so, the family talked. Abuelaish had been offered a job in Toronto, Canada, and he wanted to know how the children, who had never known anywhere other than Gaza, would feel about this. (Good, as it turned out.

“I want to fly, daddy,” said his daughter, Aya.) The family discussion over, they headed to the beach, where the children dashed over the dunes, chased the surf, and wrote their names in the sand. Abuelaish cherished their laughter, the way they mimicked and teased one another. For the first time in many days, his spirits lifted. “We are getting there,” he remembers thinking. “They will be okay. Together, we can do this.”

In Gaza, though, a man may take nothing for granted. On 27 December, Israel launched an air strike against the Gaza Strip, a response to the firing of Qassam rockets into Israeli border towns by Hamas. This was followed, on 3 January 2009, by a ground invasion. For the next three weeks, Gaza was a war zone. It was impossible even to leave the house. Was Abuelaish frightened for his family? Of course, he was. “But we were prepared. I filled two small suitcases with precious things: passports, certificates. I told each of the children what would happen in a case of emergency. Because the shelling was everywhere. No one was without risk.”

All the same, he refused to consider the possibility that anyone in his family would be hurt. Apart from anything else, they were not involved. No weapons in the Abuelaish basement, no Hamas militia on the roof. “Could we fight the most advanced military in the world? No. We had only our muscles, our blood.” He trusted in God and, though he does not spell it out, in a kind of magical thinking. Don’t think about it, and it will not happen.

He also made himself useful. For the duration of the war, the Israeli government allowed no journalists to enter Gaza; they could only gather on the border, and listen to the shelling. But Abuelaish knew plenty of Israelis – thanks to his work as an infertility specialist, he had worked in several Israeli hospitals – and among his many friends on the other side was Shlomi Eldar, a reporter for Israel’s Channel 10. Eldar began calling Abuelaish late every afternoon to ask what had happened during the course of the day.

Live on air, his friend would then describe the scene – from the vantage point of his living room window, he could see entire neighbourhoods being obliterated – for the benefit of viewers of the evening news show. Abuelaish knew that his audience was not likely to be particularly sympathetic to his point of view. Most Israelis believed the Gazans had brought this crisis on themselves. He also knew that there was a chance that someone on his own side would take against his addressing Israel, and that this might involve reprisals against his family, but he kept taking the calls. “With my voice in their ears, the Israelis couldn’t entirely ignore the cost to the Palestinians of their military action.”

The next days were dreadful. On 13 January, the air was so full of debris and dust, it was hard to tell day from night. On 14 January, a tank rolled up outside their front door, and only after a hysterical phone call to Shlomi – who, horrified, called the Israeli defence force to ask if they knew that they were aiming their guns at the house of a doctor with no connections to Hamas – did it finally move on.

Their home was starting to feel crowded. Abuelaish’s second eldest daughter, Dalal, 19, was at her aunt’s house, but his other children – Bessan, 20, Shatha, 17, Mayar, 15, Aya, 14, Mohammed, 12, Raffah, nine and Abdallah, six – were all with Abuelaish. So, too, was his brother Shehab and his daughter, Noor. In the apartment below was another brother, Atta, and his family; in the apartment above, his brother Nasser’s family.

Between the three apartments, there was much coming and going: there was comfort in crowding together. But supplies of food and water were running low. There was talk of a ceasefire, and Abuelaish tried to reassure his children that it must surely happen soon. Privately, though, he was worried. Rumours of a ceasefire often signal the last violent bombardment of a conflict. Could the worst be yet to come?

On 16 January, after a lunch of duck with rice – Shehab had taken the risk of heading out to the backyard to grab the birds – and a phone call to Dalal, whom everyone was missing, the family drifted out of the dining room. The girls, meanwhile – Shatha, Mayar, Aya and their cousin Noor – went into their bedroom to read and do their homework until it was time for the family again to huddle together on the dining room floor (no one slept in their own beds; they were considered too close to the buildings’ outer walls for safety). Nine-year-old Raffah was in the kitchen, with Bessan. Mohammed was in the hall. Abdallah, the baby of the family, was on his father’s shoulders. Abuelaish was trying to distract the boy; the situation – his family’s imprisonment in their own home – was incomprehensible to him.

Suddenly, there was a monstrous explosion: “a thundering, fulminating sound,” says Abuelaish, that penetrated his body, almost as if it were coming from within him. There was a blinding flash, and then it was pitch dark. Dust everywhere, the struggle to breathe, the sound of a child screaming: these are the things he remembers, and always will. In the next few moments, it dawned on him that a shell had hit his daughters’ bedroom. He ran towards it. “I saw everything,” he says. “My children in parts. A decapitated head. And Shatha in front of me, with her eye on her cheek.” The room was now a heaped mess of school books, dolls and body parts. Mayar, Aya, and his niece, Noor, were dead, their limbs strewn about the place as carelessly as their toys. Shatha was bleeding profusely from her hand, one finger hanging by a thread. Then came a second blast.

This took Bessan. Ghaida, his brother Atta’s daughter, who had run up the stairs from their apartment towards the noise, lay on the floor, wounds all over her body. Abuelaish looked at all this, and inside him, something stirred. A desire to fight pushed his shock, which should have been so paralysing, out of the way with unexpected force. “I thought: what can I do? And I started moving, fast. I thought of Shatha. I didn’t want her to be blind, to lose her fingers. I didn’t want that. Then I looked at my son. He has lost his sisters. Now what is he going to do? How can I protect him? Is he going to be an extremist, to be crazy, to hate the world?” These thoughts, he insists, are not retrospective. Truly. His brain was working overtime. “I started to think. What can I do for those who are living?”

Abuelaish remembered that, though there might be soldiers outside his door, though it would undoubtedly take a long time for an ambulance to push its way through the dangerous, pot-holed streets, he still had a powerful connection to the outside world. He pulled out his phone, and called Shlomi Eldar.

Eldar was in a Channel 10 studio in Tel Aviv, sitting behind a desk with another news pundit. He saw Abuelaish’s name come up on the screen of his phone, but he didn’t answer the first call. The show was live, after all. Then, just as an interview with the foreign minister Tzipi Livni was about to begin, his phone flashed again. This time – to this day, he doesn’t know why – he answered. Livni could wait.

I have since watched what happened next on YouTube at least a dozen times, and all I can tell you is that it never grows any less powerful. Eldar holds his mobile up to the camera, so the audience at home can see it. He also puts it on speakerphone so that the voice on the other end is clearly audible. On the line, a man is weeping.

“My God, my God,” he says, over and over. “What have we done? What have we done?” The expression on Eldar’s face is terrible. It is clear that he is struggling not to cry. “Tell me where you are,” he says. “They’ll send an ambulance to your house.” Abuelaish seems not to hear this. “I wanted to try to save them,” he says. “But they died, Shlomi.” This goes on for several minutes until, finally, Eldar, ashen, tight-lipped, excuses himself, pulls his microphone from his shirt, and exits the studio. “I can’t hang up this conversation,” he says.

Outside the studio, on another line, Eldar rang the administrator of the Erez checkpoint. Open the border, he told him. Let the ambulances we’ve called through. The idea was that the Israeli ambulance teams would meet their Palestinian counterparts at the border, so that Shatha, Ghaida and his brother Nasser, who had also been injured, could be transferred to an Israeli hospital (Gazan hospitals are simply not well enough equipped for most emergency work). Meanwhile, someone else had the foresight to dispatch a camera team to the border, too – which is how, a little while later, television viewers in Israel came to see Abuelaish first kissing a heavily-bandaged Shatha, who is by now on a stretcher, and then directing the paramedics as they put her inside an ambulance. I’ve watched this several times, too.

The first action is so tender, the second so determined. Though it seems not to make any sense at all, amid the chaos and the flash of camera lights, you already glimpse in Abuelaish the qualities on which, in the coming days, people were to remark admiringly, and with some amazement, again and again: his calmness, his stoicism and, above all, his dignity.

Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish, with his son Abdallah, 6, feels the strain in the aftermath of the Israeli air strikes against the Gaza Strip. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP Photo

In Toronto, it is far too many degrees below freezing for anyone’s comfort and when I arrive at his suburban house, Abuelaish is, somewhat inexpertly, shovelling snow. “You don’t get this in Gaza,” he says, with a smile. The job done – well, sort of – we go inside. “Welcome,” he murmurs, extending an arm. “Welcome.” The house smells faintly of za’atar, the thyme and sumac mixture Palestinians claim as their national dish and, on a side-table, stands a model of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. But otherwise, this could be the house of just about any Canadian family: flat-screen television, computer, gleaming fitted kitchen. From upstairs comes the reassuring sound of children bickering. Everything is very normal, and very safe: about as far away from Gaza as it is possible to be.

Abuelaish is now a professor in global health at the University of Toronto. What does it feel like to be here? Another beaming smile. “It’s not such a change,” he says. “We just think: why can’t it be like this in Gaza? Why not? I hope that when we go back to Gaza, this is the feeling the children will take with them.” So they will return? “Of course, eventually.” Is the family homesick? “Yes. We are so far from our beloved ones, from the graves: my mother, my wife, my daughters. But we are also great! The children are great! Talk to them, you’ll see.” His daughter Raffah appears. She is very pretty. “I’m the second youngest,” she says. Her father gazes at her adoringly. “It’s true what people say,” he murmurs. And what do people say? “That time is a great healer. And faith helps.

It’s a great asset; it’s a blessing from God, and it helps you.” Right from the start, he tells me, it was his children that reminded him of this. “When I called my friend [Shlomi Eldar] and I was screaming, my son Mohammed said to me: ‘Why are you crying? You must be happy.’ ‘Happy for what?’ I asked. ‘Because my sisters are with their mum,’ he told me. It came as a message: this 12-year-old boy telling me to move forward. I was saved, and now it was my job to save others. I could have been killed, too, so very easily, and then no one would have known our story.”

This is his mission: to tell his family’s story and, in doing so, prove to the world that not every Palestinian is motivated only by revenge – and he embarked on it right away, as soon as Shatha was out of surgery. The morning after he and Shatha arrived at the hospital, Zeev Rotstein, the director of the Sheba Medical Centre, a hospital where Abuelaish had once taught, organised a press conference, and asked him to speak. Abuelaish told the journalists that, inside the hospital, all were equal.

Why, he asked, could this not also be the case outside? About halfway through, however, he was interrupted, in full view of the television cameras, by a screaming woman, her face contorted with rage: Levana Stern, an Israeli mother of three soldiers. She blamed the victim. “Who knows what you had in your house?” she shouted. “No one is saying anything about that.” Abuelaish, pale now, put his head in his hands. “They don’t want to know the truth,” he said. This is the only time most people have ever seen him look anything like close to defeated.

It must have been a horrifying moment. But, amazingly, it didn’t change anything. “Actually, it was good,” he says to me, now. “She was one Israeli, only one. Others started to open their eyes. Hundreds of people from all over the Holy Land, people I didn’t know, sent messages to me. They were awakened. And that’s when I understood: this tragedy will do some good.” Hours later, Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, announced a unilateral ceasefire. “So, we saved lives. I told the children: your sisters’ blood wasn’t wasted. We sacrificed them for others. There was a reason.” Encouraged, he determined to keep going.

During the two years since the shelling of his home, he has travelled the world, always giving, in essence, the same speech: I refuse to hate, he tells his distinguished audiences, and I do not believe in revenge; hatred is an illness, and the enemy of peace. His stance has won him humanitarian awards around the world, and a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. But it has also, appallingly, led to claims that he is cashing in on his loss, a point of view to which I can only say: weren’t there people who said the same about Otto Frank?

So far, the Israeli government has neither compensated Abuelaish, nor apologised to him. “Actually, for me, it’s not a question of compensation,” he says. “But an apology? Yes. That would be good. The truth is the shortest way in life. It’s not shameful to apologise. If I did something wrong to you, and I said sorry, I would be highly valued by you, and in the eyes of others. I wish they would have the moral courage.”

He has been told that there exists a statute of limitations on the issue of compensation and apology of two years. Two years! “There is no statute of limitation for our loved ones. It’s insane. For me, it’s now. It’s now, and it will always be now. It will never leave me, so long as I am breathing.” He sees his daughters in waking dreams: they move, they smile. They live with him still, spiritually. “Believe me, even as I speak to you, I see them.” Though he makes no sound, he has begun to weep: huge tears, that he makes no effort to wipe away.

The pity of it is, he could not even bury his daughters. The Qur’an says that the dead must be buried quickly, and getting a permit to travel back into Gaza from Israel, where he was still watching over Shatha, Ghaida and his brother, would have taken too long. Nor were Bessan, Mayar and Aya permitted to be buried beside their mother; the family was told by Israeli soldiers that, at the present time, no one was allowed into the Jabalia camp cemetery. Did the doctors save Shatha’s eye? “Yes, but not its sight.” And her hand? “She is able to use it, but with some difficulty.” Where is she now? He smiles. “She’s upstairs, studying,” he says. “I wanted her to talk to you, but she apologises: she did not know you were coming, and so she is not ready to show herself.” A pause. He is grinning, now. “She is a very good student, believe me. Just a few weeks after the attack, you know, she got 95% in her final high-school grades. Now she’s studying computer engineering at the University of Toronto. She’s amazing.”

This is true. But my hunch is that she is also a chip off the old block. Izzeldin Abuelaish’s childhood was, as he puts it in his new book, spent “in the shadow of a promise”. We’ll go back soon, said his parents. Maybe in two weeks, maybe a little longer. The Abuelaish family is from Houg, a village near Sderot, the Israeli border town now so mercilessly plagued by Qassam rockets. The family was a large and prominent one, and Abuelaish’s grandfather, Moustafa, was the village head. In 1948, however, when the State of Israel was created, Moustafa decided that it would be wise for the family to leave; he had heard rumours of attacks on Arabs elsewhere and, though he didn’t know if these stories were true, he decided to run. Gaza, a designated safe area, was not far from Houg, so that was where they went. Today, the Abuelaish family farm is owned by Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli general and prime minister, who now lies in a coma in an Israeli hospital.

At the Jabalia refugee camp, where Abuelaish was born in 1955, life was hard. Until he was 10, the family, which eventually numbered 11, lived in a single room only 10ft square. Water was delivered by the United Nations; the children were usually barefoot, flea-bitten and hungry. When Abuelaish was five, one of his newborn siblings – there always seemed to be a newborn – was killed in a terrible accident. His brother Nasser had been messing around and, trying to escape his mother’s slap, had accidentally jumped into the dish bucket which doubled as a cradle at night, crushing his tiny sister. The child was buried the next day, and no one ever mentioned it again.

As the eldest son, Abuelaish was expected to contribute to the family’s meagre finances as soon as he was capable, and by the time he was 12, he had no choice but to combine school with part-time work. He sold milk rations to other desperate families, and he loaded fertiliser on to farm trucks, rising at four o’clock every morning to start. Life was a grind, punctuated by more misery: in 1967, came the six-day war, after which Israel assumed full control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; when Abuelaish was 15, his family home was unaccountably bulldozed under orders from Ariel Sharon.

There were, he writes, two ways young men could respond to all this. Some became political. Abuelaish’s brother, Noor, joined Fatah, Palestine’s biggest political party, and went on to do a stint inside an Israeli prison (after his release, he went to Lebanon; the family has not heard from him since 1983). Others invested everything they had in education. This was what Abuelaish chose. He worked, and worked, and he was rewarded: a scholarship to study medicine in Cairo; a postgraduate qualification in obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of London; and a masters degree in public health at Harvard.

Right from the beginning, he was determined never to generalise when it came to Israel. It was easy to despise an individual: a particularly difficult soldier at the border; the Jewish mother who accused him – a highly qualified Arab doctor – of trying to murder her baby. Ditto the policies that made life in Gaza so difficult. But it was not acceptable, he felt and still feels, to allow these feelings to transmute into hatred for an entire people. Besides, he had so many Israeli friends.

As a teenager, he had worked on an Israeli moshav, where he was never treated with anything other than kindness by its owners. As a doctor, he had been employed by several Israeli hospitals, helping Israeli women with fertility problems. At the time of the shelling of his home in 2008, he was working full-time at the Gertner Institute, a renowned centre for the study of health policy and epidemiology in Tel Hashomer, near Ramat Gan. During the long – they sometimes felt endless! – journeys between Gaza and Israel, he learned, not hatred, but a patience and a humility that have seen him through a great deal. Impossible to get ideas above your station when you spend as much time as any taxi driver, farmer or waiter standing at the border checkpoints.

On one occasion, Abuelaish arrived at the Israeli hospital where he was working, only to find that he had left his briefcase behind accidentally at the crossing. By the time he had driven the 27 miles back, it had been blown up by the soldiers. It took him two months to replace the documents – those all important travel permits – that had been destroyed.

Tell him that you wish more people were able to be so clear-sighted, though, and he will only admonish you. “I am not exceptional,” he says. “You think the same, don’t you?” But it’s easy for me, I say; I don’t live in Gaza or, for that matter, in Sderot. “Well, in the case of the Palestinians, we need to make them ready to listen. You didn’t do this interview out in the street in the cold, or in the middle of the night. You came with your tape recorder, and you were prepared, and you listened. It’s the same with Gaza. People are hungry, and sick. If we made sure they were not hungry, or sick, they would be in a position to listen. Who can help them? The Israeli side. Their sickness, their hunger, affects the Israelis. Return my life to me, and I will show you how much I appreciate that life.”

Nevertheless, I am in awe of his extraordinary optimism. Even from the safety of my sofa at home in London, I can’t feel optimistic about the situation in Israel/Palestine. “But that’s not true,” he says. “Why did you come to see me? Because you feel optimistic about this interview. And that’s great! This small spark of hope… maybe we can turn it into a big fire.”

There is talk of another war in the region right now; the borders are more tense than they have been for many months. Does this worry him? “I think that nothing is impossible. But I also think there are alternatives. If this situation was a patient of mine, I would not necessarily be suggesting surgery.” His main anxiety, he says, is the refusal of the Israeli government to stop building settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. “It’s such a small thing: just to freeze it for a few months. The world is begging them! But if we can’t even make this happen…”

What does peace look like? “I can say only that there will never be peace when it works only for one side, and that maybe peace cannot be imposed but must come by choice. It looks to me as though Palestinians and Israelis are sailing in the same boat, and what’s dangerous for one is dangerous for the other. They are like conjoined twins! We need a two-state solution which gives security and dignity to both.”

====================

8.  NY Times,

January 15, 2011

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/16/world/middleeast/16stuxnet.html?_r=1&ref=middleeast

Israel Tests on Worm Called Crucial in Iran Nuclear Delay

By WILLIAM J. BROAD, JOHN MARKOFF and DAVID E. SANGER

This article is by William J. Broad, John Markoff and David E. Sanger.

The Dimona complex in the Negev desert is famous as the heavily guarded heart of Israel’s never-acknowledged nuclear arms program, where neat rows of factories make atomic fuel for the arsenal.

Over the past two years, according to intelligence and military experts familiar with its operations, Dimona has taken on a new, equally secret role — as a critical testing ground in a joint American and Israeli effort to undermine Iran’s efforts to make a bomb of its own.

Behind Dimona’s barbed wire, the experts say, Israel has spun nuclear centrifuges virtually identical to Iran’s at Natanz, where Iranian scientists are struggling to enrich uranium. They say Dimona tested the effectiveness of the Stuxnet computer worm, a destructive program that appears to have wiped out roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and helped delay, though not destroy, Tehran’s ability to make its first nuclear arms.

“To check out the worm, you have to know the machines,” said an American expert on nuclear intelligence. “The reason the worm has been effective is that the Israelis tried it out.”

Though American and Israeli officials refuse to talk publicly about what goes on at Dimona, the operations there, as well as related efforts in the United States, are among the newest and strongest clues suggesting that the virus was designed as an American-Israeli project to sabotage the Iranian program.

In recent days, the retiring chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, Meir Dagan, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton separately announced that they believed Iran’s efforts had been set back by several years. Mrs. Clinton cited American-led sanctions, which have hurt Iran’s ability to buy components and do business around the world.

The gruff Mr. Dagan, whose organization has been accused by Iran of being behind the deaths of several Iranian scientists, told the Israeli Knesset in recent days that Iran had run into technological difficulties that could delay a bomb until 2015. That represented a sharp reversal from Israel’s long-held argument that Iran was on the cusp of success.

The biggest single factor in putting time on the nuclear clock appears to be Stuxnet, the most sophisticated cyberweapon ever deployed.

In interviews over the past three months in the United States and Europe, experts who have picked apart the computer worm describe it as far more complex — and ingenious — than anything they had imagined when it began circulating around the world, unexplained, in mid-2009.

Many mysteries remain, chief among them, exactly who constructed a computer worm that appears to have several authors on several continents. But the digital trail is littered with intriguing bits of evidence.

In early 2008 the German company Siemens cooperated with one of the United States’ premier national laboratories, in Idaho, to identify the vulnerabilities of computer controllers that the company sells to operate industrial machinery around the world — and that American intelligence agencies have identified as key equipment in Iran’s enrichment facilities.

Seimens says that program was part of routine efforts to secure its products against cyberattacks. Nonetheless, it gave the Idaho National Laboratory — which is part of the Energy Department, responsible for America’s nuclear arms — the chance to identify well-hidden holes in the Siemens systems that were exploited the next year by Stuxnet.

The worm itself now appears to have included two major components. One was designed to send Iran’s nuclear centrifuges spinning wildly out of control. Another seems right out of the movies: The computer program also secretly recorded what normal operations at the nuclear plant looked like, then played those readings back to plant operators, like a pre-recorded security tape in a bank heist, so that it would appear that everything was operating normally while the centrifuges were actually tearing themselves apart.

The attacks were not fully successful: Some parts of Iran’s operations ground to a halt, while others survived, according to the reports of international nuclear inspectors. Nor is it clear the attacks are over: Some experts who have examined the code believe it contains the seeds for yet more versions and assaults.

“It’s like a playbook,” said Ralph Langner, an independent computer security expert in Hamburg, Germany, who was among the first to decode Stuxnet. “Anyone who looks at it carefully can build something like it.” Mr. Langner is among the experts who expressed fear that the attack had legitimized a new form of industrial warfare, one to which the United States is also highly vulnerable.

Officially, neither American nor Israeli officials will even utter the name of the malicious computer program, much less describe any role in designing it.

But Israeli officials grin widely when asked about its effects. Mr. Obama’s chief strategist for combating weapons of mass destruction, Gary Samore, sidestepped a Stuxnet question at a recent conference about Iran, but added with a smile: “I’m glad to hear they are having troubles with their centrifuge machines, and the U.S. and its allies are doing everything we can to make it more complicated.”

In recent days, American officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity have said in interviews that they believe Iran’s setbacks have been underreported. That may explain why Mrs. Clinton provided her public assessment while traveling in the Middle East last week.

By the accounts of a number of computer scientists, nuclear enrichment experts and former officials, the covert race to create Stuxnet was a joint project between the Americans and the Israelis, with some help, knowing or unknowing, from the Germans and the British.

The project’s political origins can be found in the last months of the Bush administration. In January 2009, The New York Times reported that Mr. Bush authorized a covert program to undermine the electrical and computer systems around Natanz, Iran’s major enrichment center. President Obama, first briefed on the program even before taking office, sped it up, according to officials familiar with the administration’s Iran strategy. So did the Israelis, other officials said. Israel has long been seeking a way to cripple Iran’s capability without triggering the opprobrium, or the war, that might follow an overt military strike of the kind they conducted against nuclear facilities in Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007.

Two years ago, when Israel still thought its only solution was a military one and approached Mr. Bush for the bunker-busting bombs and other equipment it believed it would need for an air attack, its officials told the White House that such a strike would set back Iran’s programs by roughly three years. Its request was turned down.

Now, Mr. Dagan’s statement suggests that Israel believes it has gained at least that much time, without mounting an attack. So does the Obama administration.

For years, Washington’s approach to Tehran’s program has been one of attempting “to put time on the clock,” a senior administration official said, even while refusing to discuss Stuxnet. “And now, we have a bit more.”

Finding Weaknesses

Paranoia helped, as it turns out.

Years before the worm hit Iran, Washington had become deeply worried about the vulnerability of the millions of computers that run everything in the United States from bank transactions to the power grid.

Computers known as controllers run all kinds of industrial machinery. By early 2008, the Department of Homeland Security had teamed up with the Idaho National Laboratory to study a widely used Siemens controller known as P.C.S.-7, for Process Control System 7. Its complex software, called Step 7, can run whole symphonies of industrial instruments, sensors and machines.

The vulnerability of the controller to cyberattack was an open secret. In July 2008, the Idaho lab and Siemens teamed up on a PowerPoint presentation on the controller’s vulnerabilities that was made to a conference in Chicago at Navy Pier, a top tourist attraction.

“Goal is for attacker to gain control,” the July paper said in describing the many kinds of maneuvers that could exploit system holes. The paper was 62 pages long, including pictures of the controllers as they were examined and tested in Idaho.

In a statement on Friday, the Idaho National Laboratory confirmed that it formed a partnership with Siemens but said it was one of many with manufacturers to identify cybervulnerabilities. It argued that the report did not detail specific flaws that attackers could exploit. But it also said it could not comment on the laboratory’s classified missions, leaving unanswered the question of whether it passed what it learned about the Siemens systems to other parts of the nation’s intelligence apparatus.

The presentation at the Chicago conference, which recently disappeared from a Siemens Web site, never discussed specific places where the machines were used.

But Washington knew. The controllers were critical to operations at Natanz, a sprawling enrichment site in the desert. “If you look for the weak links in the system,” said one former American official, “this one jumps out.”

Controllers, and the electrical regulators they run, became a focus of sanctions efforts. The trove of State Department cables made public by WikiLeaks describes urgent efforts in April 2009 to stop a shipment of Siemens controllers, contained in 111 boxes at the port of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. They were headed for Iran, one cable said, and were meant to control “uranium enrichment cascades” — the term for groups of spinning centrifuges.

Subsequent cables showed that the United Arab Emirates blocked the transfer of the Siemens computers across the Strait of Hormuz to Bandar Abbas, a major Iranian port.

Only months later, in June, Stuxnet began to pop up around the globe. The Symantec Corporation, a maker of computer security software and services based in Silicon Valley, snared it in a global malware collection system. The worm hit primarily inside Iran, Symantec reported, but also in time appeared in India, Indonesia and other countries.

But unlike most malware, it seemed to be doing little harm. It did not slow computer networks or wreak general havoc.

That deepened the mystery.

A ‘Dual Warhead’

No one was more intrigued than Mr. Langner, a former psychologist who runs a small computer security company in a suburb of Hamburg. Eager to design protective software for his clients, he had his five employees focus on picking apart the code and running it on the series of Siemens controllers neatly stacked in racks, their lights blinking.

He quickly discovered that the worm only kicked into gear when it detected the presence of a specific configuration of controllers, running a set of processes that appear to exist only in a centrifuge plant. “The attackers took great care to make sure that only their designated targets were hit,” he said. “It was a marksman’s job.”

For example, one small section of the code appears designed to send commands to 984 machines linked together.

Curiously, when international inspectors visited Natanz in late 2009, they found that the Iranians had taken out of service a total of exactly 984 machines that had been running the previous summer.

But as Mr. Langner kept peeling back the layers, he found more — what he calls the “dual warhead.” One part of the program is designed to lie dormant for long periods, then speed up the machines so that the spinning rotors in the centrifuges wobble and then destroy themselves. Another part, called a “man in the middle” in the computer world, sends out those false sensor signals to make the system believe everything is running smoothly. That prevents a safety system from kicking in, which would shut down the plant before it could self-destruct.

“Code analysis makes it clear that Stuxnet is not about sending a message or proving a concept,” Mr. Langner later wrote. “It is about destroying its targets with utmost determination in military style.”

This was not the work of hackers, he quickly concluded. It had to be the work of someone who knew his way around the specific quirks of the Siemens controllers and had an intimate understanding of exactly how the Iranians had designed their enrichment operations.

In fact, the Americans and the Israelis had a pretty good idea.

Testing the Worm

Perhaps the most secretive part of the Stuxnet story centers on how the theory of cyberdestruction was tested on enrichment machines to make sure the malicious software did its intended job.

The account starts in the Netherlands. In the 1970s, the Dutch designed a tall, thin machine for enriching uranium. As is well known, A. Q. Khan, a Pakistani metallurgist working for the Dutch, stole the design and in 1976 fled to Pakistan.

The resulting machine, known as the P-1, for Pakistan’s first-generation centrifuge, helped the country get the bomb. And when Dr. Khan later founded an atomic black market, he illegally sold P-1’s to Iran, Libya, and North Korea.

The P-1 is more than six feet tall. Inside, a rotor of aluminum spins uranium gas to blinding speeds, slowly concentrating the rare part of the uranium that can fuel reactors and bombs.

How and when Israel obtained this kind of first-generation centrifuge remains unclear, whether from Europe, or the Khan network, or by other means. But nuclear experts agree that Dimona came to hold row upon row of spinning centrifuges.

“They’ve long been an important part of the complex,” said Avner Cohen, author of “The Worst-Kept Secret” (2010), a book about the Israeli bomb program, and a senior fellow at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. He added that Israeli intelligence had asked retired senior Dimona personnel to help on the Iranian issue, and that some apparently came from the enrichment program.

“I have no specific knowledge,” Dr. Cohen said of Israel and the Stuxnet worm. “But I see a strong Israeli signature and think that the centrifuge knowledge was critical.”

Another clue involves the United States. It obtained a cache of P-1’s after Libya gave up its nuclear program in late 2003, and the machines were sent to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, another arm of the Energy Department.

By early 2004, a variety of federal and private nuclear experts assembled by the Central Intelligence Agency were calling for the United States to build a secret plant where scientists could set up the P-1’s and study their vulnerabilities. “The notion of a test bed was really pushed,” a participant at the C.I.A. meeting recalled.

The resulting plant, nuclear experts said last week, may also have played a role in Stuxnet testing.

But the United States and its allies ran into the same problem the Iranians have grappled with: the P-1 is a balky, badly designed machine. When the Tennessee laboratory shipped some of its P-1’s to England, in hopes of working with the British on a program of general P-1 testing, they stumbled, according to nuclear experts.

“They failed hopelessly,” one recalled, saying that the machines proved too crude and temperamental to spin properly.

Dr. Cohen said his sources told him that Israel succeeded — with great difficulty — in mastering the centrifuge technology. And the American expert in nuclear intelligence, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Israelis used machines of the P-1 style to test the effectiveness of Stuxnet.

The expert added that Israel worked in collaboration with the United States in targeting Iran, but that Washington was eager for “plausible deniability.”

In November, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, broke the country’s silence about the worm’s impact on its enrichment program, saying a cyberattack had caused “minor problems with some of our centrifuges.” Fortunately, he added, “our experts discovered it.”

The most detailed portrait of the damage comes from the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington. Last month, it issued a lengthy Stuxnet report that said Iran’s P-1 machines at Natanz suffered a series of failures in mid- to late 2009 that culminated in technicians taking 984 machines out of action.

The report called the failures “a major problem” and identified Stuxnet as the likely culprit.

Stuxnet is not the only blow to Iran. Sanctions have hurt its effort to build more advanced (and less temperamental) centrifuges. And last January, and again in November, two scientists who were believed to be central to the nuclear program were killed in Tehran.

The man widely believed to be responsible for much of Iran’s program, Mohsen Fakrizadeh, a college professor, has been hidden away by the Iranians, who know he is high on the target list.

Publicly, Israeli officials make no explicit ties between Stuxnet and Iran’s problems. But in recent weeks, they have given revised and surprisingly upbeat assessments of Tehran’s nuclear status.

“A number of technological challenges and difficulties” have beset Iran’s program, Moshe Yaalon, Israel’s minister of strategic affairs, told Israeli public radio late last month.

The troubles, he added, “have postponed the timetable.”

Posted in Nova Newsletter1 Comment

Contemptible Governments

NOVANEWS

 

[I don’t always read the papers when I get them and sometimes might pick up on an article from a week or two ago, this is one of them.]

To say I was astonished and annoyed, reading the treatment of thousands of patients infected with hepatitis C because of incompetence and neglect, is putting it mildly.

For over 20 years the victims, of professional incompetence in the Blood Bank services and moral turpitude in numerous governments, have tried to get a degree of justice, without success, after being infected by contaminated blood products in the 1970s and 1980s.

As far as I understand, until threatened with court action in 1991 consecutive governments have done next to nothing to help and recompense the victim’s of their collective negligence, this explains it better:

“In 1991, under threat of court action for allowing knowingly contaminated blood products into the country, the British Government made ex-gratia payments to those infected with HIV, at an average of £60,000, upon the condition that haemophiliacs would sign an undertaking not to sue the Government for any future infection through their treatments. “

It doesn’t get much lower than that.

According to the Beeb, they (along with the families of those who died) might, if they push, get a little bit more money.

However, as the Yorkshire Post reports:

“But victims will still not receive the same levels of compensation as received by victims in the Republic of Ireland after the Government ruled such a move would be too expensive.

The package was unveiled after growing pressure on the Government to compensate those who became ill after receiving contaminated blood in the 1970s and 1980s, some of which came from “skid row” donors such as prison inmates.

Medical expert Lord Winston has branded the scandal “the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS”, with 4,670 haemophiliacs infected with hepatitis C, of whom 1,243 were also infected with HIV. Nearly 2,000 have already died.

A two-year privately-funded inquiry into the scandal led by Lord Archer of Sandwell found that commercial interests had taken precedence over public health and said Ministers should apologise to victims, provide financial assistance for those prevented from working, ensure victims could get insurance and offer them benefits not freely available on the NHS, such as free prescription drugs, counselling and home nursing. “

Posted in UKComments Off on Contemptible Governments

Lebanon: The Clash of Narratives

NOVANEWS

 

By Joseph El-Khoury

If the leaked New TV Hariri recordings reveal anything, it is the extent of the rift between the Lebanese. Since 2005, two narratives have evolved in parallel with no intersection points, even during periods of intense crisis or external aggression, such as in July 2006. Given any political development, half the country is almost guaranteed to reach an opposite interpretation and draw different conclusions from the other half. Concomitantly there is a dehumanising process in full motion of the other, initially the politician belonging to the other camp, but which is rapidly extending to the ordinary supporter or member of a religious sect.

Lebanon is not alien to this process, which mirrors the sequence of events from the late 1960s and the growing conflict around the Palestinian resistance and culminated with the non-discriminatory sectarian killings of 1976. It is not unusual to hear in a Beirut salon the total denigration of Hariri as morally corrupt in pervasive sense of the word: financially, politically and…Sexually. In another salon, Michel Aoun, who gathers the unwavering support of a significant constituency among the Maronite Christian population, is called a ‘nutter’ with references to a supposed mental imbalance and psychiatric illness. There are very few individuals capable of escaping this narrow-minded classification of all things Lebanese into two camps: March 8th and March 14th, Pro-resistance and anti-Hezbollah, pro- Iranian and pro-American, in essence Good and Evil (not in any particular order).

Even the latest events in Tunis were adopted by both camps as a vindication of their respective struggles. Those excitable elements within the March 14th forces that still believe in a democratic offensive led by the US department of State (or the Pentagon when the former falters) twinned it with their Cedar revolution. In their enthusiasm they omitted to mention the admiration that French and American administrations held for the Ben Ali regime until he made the request to land his plane in Paris-CDG en route to exile.

Their counterparts in the pro-Resistance camp saw it as an extension of their anti-imperialist struggle against all things foreign while happily gathering support from other undemocratic Middle Eastern regimes in Iran, Syria and Qatar. Many tried to draw more intelligent comparisons between the two developing stories in Beirut and Tunis with little success. Yes both countries are part of the Arab league and marred by corruption, foreign influence and underdevelopment but Tunisia is a country with a homogenous population and no minorities.

Its recent involvement in the Israeli-Arab struggle has been an emotional one and its importance in the geo-strategic quagmire of the Middle East is peripheral. Lebanon is by all measures a more complicated affair. The most obvious question would be which Lebanon would have to rise up and against which heads of state?

I get asked a lot about my solutions for the Lebanese problem, given that I spent a significant amount of time lamenting the absence of a political movement able to challenge the structural flaws in the Lebanese system. I still believe that bold grass-root work motivated by clear democratic, secular and socially responsible principles would be a winning formula. Interestingly, one element that could explain the success in toppling the regime in Tunis is the presence of an active secular left-leaning opposition with influence within the middle classes.

The Islamist movement, although active, did not appear to have taken a leading role in the uprising. I might be wrong and the days to come will reveal the full picture.

Posted in WorldComments Off on Lebanon: The Clash of Narratives

The Hour of Sunlight

NOVANEWS

 

Sami Al Jundi walks through the cobblestone streets of the Old City in Jerusalem, greeting passersby.

“Sami! How are you?” an elderly man says in Arabic, shaking his hand vigorously.

“Habibna! Salaam!” Sami calls out warmly to another man who is across the road buying falafel. “That one is in my book group. We are meeting tomorrow night at the Palestinian National Theatre.”

Sami’s cell phone rings as we move inside the coffee shop to work on the chapter about his blind mother’s childhood, expelled from her village as a little girl after the war of 1948.

“Yoel! Shalom!” Sami greets the caller in Hebrew and then covers the mouthpiece of the phone and whispers to me apologetically, “Sorry, Jen, this is my old friend Yoel who was in my Israeli-Palestinian dialogue group…he is inviting us to lunch at his home this Shabbat…”

I have never known anyone like Sami Al Jundi.

For over a decade, my colleagues and I had been prompting Sami to write a book about his remarkable life. Four years ago, I called Sami from Seattle. “You know that book you all told me I should write?” Sami said. “I’m ready now.”

By the end of the conversation, Sami and I agreed: I would come to Jerusalem and write Sami’s life story with him. I flew to Jerusalem in January 2007 and we began work.

 

And now, exactly four years later, I am thrilled to announce the publication of our book!!

THE HOUR OF SUNLIGHT: One Palestinian’s Journey from Prisoner to Peacemaker

Synopsis of The Hour of Sunlight:

 

As a teenager, Sami Al Jundi had one ambition: overthrowing Israeli occupation. With two friends he formed a militant cell and began building a bomb to use against the Israeli police. But their plans were derailed when the bomb exploded prematurely, killing one of his friends. Sami was sentenced to ten years in prison.

The Hour of Sunlight (Nation Books) describes Sami’s extraordinary metamorphosis from a militant to a passionate advocate of nonviolence and peaceful reconciliation. Born to a family of Palestinian refugees in the Old City of Jerusalem, Sami was only five years old when Israeli soldiers took over his home after the 1967 war. His family began life again as refugees in another part of the Old City. In moving detail Sami describes how these and other realities (and indignities) of his early years caused his radicalization.

Following his arrest, Sami was bound and tortured for weeks by the Israeli General Security Service before beginning his ten-year prison sentence. Ironically, it was in an Israeli jail that his personal transformation began: Sami was welcomed into a highly organized, democratic community of political prisoners who required that members of their cell read, engage in political discourse on topics ranging from global revolutions to Russian literature.

In the prison library, Sami found a book on Mahatma Gandhi. He was struck by one story in particular—a Hindu man who had murdered a Muslim baby came to Gandhi seeking repentance. Gandhi told him that there was one way that he could find peace again; he must raise a Muslim orphan for twenty years. It took two decades to build a life, Sami reflected, but only seconds to destroy one.

Sami left prison still determined to fight for his people’s rights—but with a very different notion of how to undertake that struggle. He discovered the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence, and later became supervisor of an Israeli-Palestinian coexistence center in Jerusalem. He kept his faith in reconciliation alive through the most difficult times, remaining determined to inspire a new generation to follow the path of peace and nonviolence.

The Hour of Sunlight offers a perspective that is sorely missing from the mainstream media’s portrayal of Palestinians. Marked by honesty, humor, pain, and, ultimately, compassion for all Palestinians and Israelis, The Hour of Sunlight charts an inspiring journey of perseverance and personal transformation. In so doing it illuminates the Palestinian experience through the story of one man’s impassioned struggle for peace with justice.

HOW TO ORDER ADVANCED COPIES OF THE HOUR OF SUNLIGHT:

The Hour of Sunlight is available in bookstores on February 1…but it is very important that advanced copies be sold! (This influences best seller lists, etc)

I urge you to order your copy (or copies!) of The Hour of Sunlight TODAY!

For those in the US:

I encourage you to purchase The Hour of Sunlight from an independent book store, rather than from chains or corporations such as Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

You may already have a favorite local indie bookstore! If not, I recommend purchasing The Hour of Sunlight through Riverwalk Books in Chelan, WA. It’s a wonderful bookstore to support! And the owner, Libby, is a good friend and has been incredibly supportive of me and my work. Libby is advanced ordering many copies of the book and is willing to ship it anywhere!

Click HERE to purchase your advanced copy of The Hour of Sunlight from Riverwalk Books!

Amazon.com is, of course, another option, as is Amazon.co.uk.

For those in Palestine and Israel:

The Educational Bookshop on Salah Eddin Street in East Jerusalem is ordering a stack of books and can ship/deliver them anywhere in Israel and the West Bank!

To pre-order your copy of The Hour of Sunlight with the Educational Bookshop, please contact them via email and let them know how many copies you would like to purchase! They will get back to you and work out the details.

Sami and I are tremendously excited to be launching The Hour of Sunlight into the world.

I hope that your experience reading it is a fraction as meaningful and thought-provoking as it was for me to delve deeply into Sami’s life, his experiences, and his convictions during the four-year writing process.

With excitement,

Jen Marlowe

Co-Author, The Hour of Sunlight

www.donkeysaddle.org

 

ADVANCED PRAISE FOR The Hour of Sunlight:

In this remarkable story of life under Israeli occupation, coauthors al Jundi, cofounder of the Seeds of Peace Center for Coexistence in Jerusalem, and Marlowe (Darfur Diaries) intertwine the personal and the political as they trace al Jundi’s evolution from Palestinian militant to peacemaker…the authors successfully convey al Jundi’s joys and sorrows, the triumph of his endurance, the complexity of the conflict, and the necessity of dialogue.”

–From “Publishers Weekly” Advanced Review (Starred Review.)

 

“Stark and immediate, with no glib messages, Al Jundi’s memoir, written with journalist Marlowe, brings today’s headlines very close; he is hopeful about friends, candid about enemies, betrayal, and corruption on all sides. Rooted in the experience of one fighter-peacemaker, this is sure to spark intense debate.”

–From “Book List” Advanced Review:

 

“This moving memoir vividly portrays aspects of Palestinian life rarely encountered by the English reader…Sami Al Jundi’s story, with its triumphs and tragedy, should be required reading for those who ask, ‘Where are the Palestinian peace activists?’” 

—Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Professor of International Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University and Director of The Peacebuilding and Development Institute

 

“This book is the most authentic account of Palestinian refugees’ painful ordeal that I have ever read. It is essential reading for anyone interested in a deep understanding of the Palestinian- Israeli conflict, as well as the fabric of Palestinian and Israeli societies.” —Akiva Eldar, chief political columnist, Ha’aretz, and author of Lords of the Land

 

“Both nuanced and realistic, its soaring prose is to be savored by everyone who wonders whether enduring peace can be built. This is a true story, missed by the media.”

—Mary Elizabeth King, author of A Quiet Revolution

 

“In fiercely compelling prose, Marlowe gives voice to Sami Al Jundi’s harrowing and redemptive story, cutting through dense thickets of propaganda and historical silence to bring us into a clearing that might very well be The Hour of Sunlight…The writing here is masterly, the story riveting, the achievement profound.”

 —Carolyn Forché, author of The Country Between Us, The Angel of History, and Blue Hour.  Professor, Georgetown University

 

“The Hour of Sunlight is a refreshingly frank and utterly gripping chronicle of Al Jundi’s personal journey that also grapples with the broader social and political developments that make his story so vital.”

— Joanne Mariner, Director of Human Rights Watch’s Terrorism and Counterterrorism Program

 

“This is a fascinating, beautiful, unforgettable memoir…”

–Roane Carey, Editor, The New Intifada and The Other Israel

 

“The Hour of Sunlight fills an important void in our understanding of entrenched international conflicts…The book demonstrates the thinking and leadership qualities that are necessary to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

–Peter Weinberger, United States Institute of Peace

 

 

“This biography is a fascinating story of an ordinary East Jerusalem man. This book personifies the realities of living under Israeli occupation. The continuity of Palestinian suffering comes to live, as this story’s generational continuity extends from the Nakba, to occupation, to post-Oslo peace times, to an eventual dead end of despair. For Sami Al-Jundi, the dilemmas of becoming politically-active are more about necessities than choices.”

— Dr. Karam Dana, Dubai Initiative Research Fellow, The John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

 

 

 

Posted in LiteratureComments Off on The Hour of Sunlight

Gaza Diary day 24: Visiting the Samounis

NOVANEWS

 

We oscillate here between outrage and willed calm, “maneuvering between numbness and hypersensitivity,” as a friend put it. You can’t get let every death, every demolition permeate you, you cannot let the anger over each obscenity carry you off like a riptide. In that, we have very good examples: almost everyone around us, including the Samouni children who sing, offer tea and coffee,  eagerly soak up Adie’s English classes.

But that will to calmness becomes alienating when you try to quietly absorb the graffiti scrawled on the wall of the home of the Samouni family saying, “1 down, 999,999 to go,” or the tombstone drawn on the wall with the inscription: “Arabs, 1948-2009,” without cursing or letting any emotion seep out, at least in front of the families (There was more: one note saying “die you all,” and several bits in Hebrew.

I also tried not to mouth the Hebrew letters and the words that the Israeli soldiers wrote; for some reason at that moment ‘proving’ to them that there are Jews who don’t hate them seemed tawdry). Israel has not committed genocide, but you see its seeds germinating in the minds of the Givati brigadiers who wrote those words on the walls of the Samouni home two years ago.

The gunner who rubbed out a hospital the pilot
Who burned a refugee camp…

the paratrooper

Who shot the third-time refugee the poet. Who lauded the nation on its finest hour and the nation. Who scented blood and blessed the MiG.

You see that they had a message for people other than the Arab-speaking Palestinians who would move back into that home after the war too; a message for the English-speaking journalists and investigators who would dutifully record those words after the Israeli army retreated back behind the perimeter of the ghetto. “We wish to remove these people from our world.” That was the message they left, the normal reaction if your mindset views Gaza as an “abscess, a troublesome pus,” as Matan Vilnai called it a few years ago. You lance it.

Maybe part of the reason we freeze a little, benumb ourselves, is because we cannot wrap our empathy around the emotive and human void that those sketchings symbolize, or at their human residue: Ahmed Samouni’s first-born baby sharing his birth-date with the death of Ahmed’s parents, the shrapnel slowly working its way out through his skin, the scars on his little siblings’ faces, his brother’s mangled breathing passages.

I don’t know why the Samouni family left those messages up on the raw concrete walls of their home. I’m not even sure they live in that section of the house anymore. An American psychologist was telling me yesterday that one of the points of murals and art-therapy is to share a trauma: to symbolically create witnesses where they had been none before, so that the raw pain and hurt of murder and destruction is softened or slightly dissipated through broader exposure.

Maybe they keep the writing up so they don’t have to keep it as private knowledge that there were young men in their home despoiling it, who orphaned them, who hate them in such an unalloyed terrifying way. They keep it up so that they can tell people about it. I don’t generally ask them or anyone to talk too much about the war, but the psychologist I was with wanted to hear the stories of the Samounis for her video documentary project. We spoke to Ahmed for maybe 40 minutes.

So another thing I learned was that many of the older men in the Samouni family spoke excellent Hebrew—Ahmed’s father had worked for 30 years in Israel. They had tried to use the Hebrew that in the past they had used to speak with their employers, co-workers, taxi-drivers, the Israelis whose economy they had shared for so long. During the massacre one of the men had gone outside, shown his hawiya, the Palestinian identity card, proved to the Israeli army that they were not terrorists, spoke in Hebrew to them, explained the number of women and children sheltering in the homes with them, and then was shot down by the IDF.

The person I was with asked Ahmed if he had a message for the outside world—she was aware that he had probably been asked that question before. Ahmed asked us, “Why do they do this to us? We are civilians, we had women and children with us—why do they destroy everything?” We glibly answer “Zionism” but a frequent reaction here to the Israeli destruction of their lives is befuddlement—I guess because they don’t see how the people abusing them have abjured their humanity for the tribal morality of the pogrom.

They merely describe it: “they want to destroy everything about us,” as the owner of the Rafah zoo described its destruction during the 2nd Intifada. I don’t see him as less confused than Ahmed Samouni, just sharp enough to see the clear outlines of what was being done to him and to all of them.

Posted in GazaComments Off on Gaza Diary day 24: Visiting the Samounis


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