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Jacob Katriel

Gaza - Stop the siege!

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If Germany and France could ...

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Talk for December 2 Demo—Coalition to Stop the Siege of Gaza

Rela Mazali

December 2 2006

Tel Aviv

 

Translated from the Hebrew by Rela Mazali

 

 

Let's be clear about this: Israel's fire at Gaza has not ceased. There is no Israeli ceasefire in Gaza. There is no Israeli ceasefire even when Israel's soldiers aren't shooting a single bullet in Gaza.

 

There are food shortages in Gaza. Israel is denying Gaza food.  70% of the families in Gaza do not have enough food. The prices of food have risen, are rising. The price of flour is up by a third. Israel prohibits fishing off the Gaza coast, denying a source of protein that is central to many in Gaza. Food shortages kill.  Denying food is fire.

 

There's a shortage of potable water in Gaza. Israel obstructs the regular provision of water there, both for drinking and for hygiene. Water shortages kill. Denying water is fire.

 

There are medicine shortages in Gaza. Israel is denying Gaza medicines. A friend's brother, a physician who works in a hospital, is now calling himself a photographer. He x-rays patients' conditions but cannot offer them treatment. Mostly, medicine shortages take the lives of infants, of children, of elderly and sick people. Denying medicines is fire.

 

There are power shortages in Gaza. Israel denies Gaza electricity. Power shortages take the lives of kidney patients who do not get regular dialysis treatments, of patients who depend on respirators, of diabetics who depend on refrigerated insulin, of babies whose food rots. Denying electricity is fire.

 

There is no reasonable economy in Gaza. For nine months now Israel has denied the Palestinian Authority tax revenues amounting to half its annual budget. Israel is withholding the salaries of 165,000 employees in both Gaza and the West Bank, 60,000 of them from Gaza, representing 40% of the employed workforce there. In Gaza and the West Bank over one million and seventy thousand people now subsist without basic living conditions. For nine months both Israel and the world have also withheld additional funds from the Palestinian Authority. Agriculture, production and commerce are dying within the Authority and with them, people are dying too. Economic siege is fire.

 

There is no freedom of movement in Gaza. Denying free movement kills those in need of life-saving medical treatment; those who depend on work away from home; women who are forced to give birth without vital assistance and babies born to such women. More than ever today, unemployed workers are confined to their homes, to frustrating humiliation, to enraging helplessness. More than ever today women exposed to domestic violence are imprisoned within the danger zones of their families. Denying free movement is fire.

 

The siege of Gaza is fire in disguise. Its victims aren't counted among Israel's casualties. It creates a dominion of creeping, blind death; it doesn't even pretend to distinguish combatants from civilians. But first of all it kills the helpless.

 

Let's be clear about this: Israel has made Gaza a death compound.

 

True, the siege isn't total. There is no hunger as such in Gaza, there's food, but not enough. There is power in Gaza, some of the time, not enough.

There is medicine in Gaza, for some, not enough. There are exits and entries at the borders, sporadically, not enough.

 

Israel has created the semblance of a humanitarian siege; A weapon of mass destruction that is hiding in the details, reflected only through precise information and personal stories. But access to Gaza is difficult; communications are erratic. People there struggle to subsist day by day. How much can they invest in counting, recording, writing, in photography? The siege of Gaza is also a siege of freedom of information.

 

Therefore, for nine months now, the siege has been fairly successful at hiding this simple truth: The siege of Gaza is a crime; it is indiscriminate murder;

it is a systematic execution of hostages; it intentionally sows arbitrary death.

 

And the pattern is clear: while the situation is worse right now in Gaza, Israel will extend it tomorrow to the West Bank behind the wall.

 

Both Gaza and the West Bank will go on igniting under fire, till they kindle Sderot again too. The bullet-less fire that Israel is shooting at the dispossessed of Gaza is fire that it is also shooting, by proxy, at the dispossessed of Sderot. The siege-fire of Gaza subtly exploits the photogenic suffering of Sderot to justify and conceal the fact Israel's leaders are yet again choosing war.

 

The death siege of Gaza is designed to go on igniting the Palestinian community. It is designed to go on exploiting disenfranchised groups inside Israel. It is designed to present the false image of an Israel seeking peace and holding its fire. It is designed, first and foremost, to prevent true political process and a just peace while simultaneously absolving Israel of responsibility for war. The siege imposed in the name of Israel's defense is designed to defend only Israel's powerful, to defend the policies of force and appropriation that serve them so well.

 

I'm here to tell Olmert, Peretz, Halutz and every individual who serves the government's armies: Your siege on Gaza is a crime. It is unconscionable—under any circumstances, for any reasons. It is a manifestly immoral act.

 

An ex-Chief of Staff, Moshe Yaalon, just recently evaded charges for war crimes in New Zealand. For now. The world is beginning—maybe slowly but still—to take action against Israel's war criminals. And today, standing with us against the siege, against the prolonged oppression of the Palestinian people, are groups and individuals from one hundred cities and communities in Europe, in North America, in Asia, in Australia.

 

The crime of this siege is no less shameful or horrific than the crime that brought hundreds of thousands to the city square, twenty four years ago, bearing our shame. Then too, in Sabra and Shatilla, the act was disguised. Then too, there was blind killing of imprisoned helpless victims. Today we again bear our shame to this square and demand of you: Stop. Now. Unconditionally. Stop the crime immediately. Stop the siege.

 

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The red area is the shape of the Gaza strip

The Coalition against the Siege on Gaza and The High Follow-Up Committee for the Arab Citizens in Israel, invites you to a protest march:
Gaza – Stop the siege!
Only a just peace will end the violence!

Saturday 2.12.06 at 18:00 in Tel Aviv

Gathering n the Cinematheque Plaza & march along Ibn Gvirol str. to Rabin Square

Gaza is suffocating under an economic and military siege.
The residents of Shderot deserve to live in security and prosperity.
This cease fire is only a beginning,
The economic siege on the PA should be lifted, prisoners from both sides should be released and negotiations for a just peace should start immediately.

The coalition against the siege on Gaza: Coalition of Women for Peace, Gush Shalom, Anarchists against the Wall,  Hadash, Balad, Madaa, High School Seniors Letter, Rabbis for Human Rights, University Student Coalition – Tel Aviv, Yesh Gvul, Ta`ayush, Maki, Banki, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, The High Follow-Up Committee for the Arab Citizens in Israel, Combatants for Peace, Alternative information center.

 

The coalition against the siege on Gaza has gathered together in a coordinated, major campaign during the month of November, calling on the Israeli government and on the international community to end the siege on Gaza and to embark upon negotiations with the elected Palestinian leadership. For more information about the activities and for assistance in organizing activities in your area, please contact Smadar 054-4830418 and visit our web site:  http://gazasiege.net

 

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A Different Voice from Sderot

“GAZA: End the Siege” demonstration in Tel Aviv, 2 December 2006

Nomika Zion, Sderot

Translated from the Hebrew

 

Early last week, I threw open the metal cover of my ‘security room’ which had been sealed shut for many months.  The room, which is both my work area and my ‘protected space’ – filled up with sunlight at once.  It was a huge relief.  Within minutes and over the next two days, Qassam missiles landed around us, but something in our consciousness was already more calm and optimistic. Thus began the ceasefire.

 

For most of you here tonight, the ceasefire is an important political event.  For us, adults and children in Sderot and the adjacent villages, and for those in the Gaza Strip as well, it is the simple human act of opening a window (if you have one at all), and a release, if only for a moment, from the chronic fear and oppressed uncertainty that have become our constant companions.  It is called: normal life.

 

Allow me to share with you some personal insights and feelings of the past year.

 

I have been living in Sderot for almost twenty years.  For five and a half years I have been ‘breathing’ Qassams.  Some of them fell a few meters from my home, and for the first time in my life I comprehended the emotional meaning of the expression ‘victims of shock and anxiety.’ All the daily worries that were generously exported to the public are familiar to me too.  All the rituals that emerged around the anxieties: To jump in response to any unusual noise, to watch the sky while walking in the city, to bolt out of bed like an automaton at three in the morning and run to the security room, to tensely wait for the boom, to verify that everybody is okay, and so on again.

Nevertheless, I want to sound a slightly different voice.  Or at least, different than the stereotyped voices that are recycled endlessly in the media.  I will not say anything new or original here that has not already been said before me. The only validity to my words is the fact that I am a resident of Sderot.

 

Let me start by saying that the repeated calls ‘to destroy Beit Hannon’, ‘to raze Gaza’, ‘to black out cities’ and to ‘turn off the water’ horrify me when they are uttered by a frustrated public. They are even more horrifying when they are stated by public figures, ministers and journalists who are expressing empathy with the people of Sderot. These are calls for which there cannot be empathy!  When one repeats the same call so many times, it inadvertently becomes legitimate, part of the daily agenda.  What singed the ear five years ago is suddenly transformed into acceptable music and then to sweet music. One gets habituated. This process of habituation scares me even more than the Qassams.

Sderot is a multicultural city, multi-tribal.  Journalists must be extra cautious when they presume to reflect the ‘Feelings of the Residents’.  Not all the residents of Sderot seek revenge.  Not all the residents of Sderot wish to ‘Raze Beit Hannon.’  Not all wish to be rejuvenated by rivers of Palestinian blood.  We have enough on this account – too many years, too much blood.


Because I belong to those who believe in a proper welfare state, it is important for me to say: The State of Israel did indeed absolve itself of responsibility for many areas of the economy, but it did not absolve itself of responsibility for Sderot. The media did not forget Sderot.  The Israeli public did not remain indifferent.  The army was no less aggressive because we are residents of the periphery rather then of Ramat Aviv C [an exclusive suburb of Tel Aviv].  On the contrary!  The media grabbed Sderot in an empathetic and suffocating hug.  The public and all its sectors expressed concern and solidarity and showered us with gestures and gifts.  The IDF pounded the Gaza Strip, day and night.  Government ministries poured money in here, lots of money.  And that was how the State was supposed to continue until things would get better.

 

But last June, during the week in which the protest tent went up in Sderot pointing its darts against the Israeli government, youth at high risk (and there are lots in Sderot) went out to demonstrate in the town squares. ‘Where is the money?’, they shouted when they learned that their support networks were about to close, and they would find themselves thrown out exactly during that difficult hour. This is the really important question which remained echoing in space, without an answer:  Where did the money go to?  What are the priorities? Does the municipal structure provide a true and correct response to the needs of this exhausted city?  The Qassam produces true anxieties and mental burnout, but it also dangerously conceals the economic and social problems, which are no less deep, and with which the city must still deal.

During that same week in June, Shimon Peres chided us to maintain restraint, and earned the unfortunate headline ‘Qassam, Shmassam’.  I did not fall off my chair.  The wording certainly did not shine with political wisdom, but the content and the criticism were worthy of examination.  What Peres essentially said was that Panic is not a plan of action, that the destruction of Palestinian cities is not an agenda.  It is better for us to focus on the defense and strengthening of Sderot rather then grabbing the profits of short-term media coverage at the expense of the real tasks.  The town is indeed exhausted, but it is not under existential threat.

Leadership does not need to promote hysteria; it needs to provide calm.  It does not need to aid hyperventilating; it needs to help all of us live in a complex reality in which there are no magic solutions, and certainly none provided by power alone.  Leadership does not need to black out a city and block its entrances; it must continue the routine of life and broadcast stability. It does not need to rush and close the education system; it needs to nurture and strengthen it.  After all, the kids that are wandering outside are less protected and more traumatized than children who are inside a stable and supportive framework.  Brave leadership can go far by transforming the calls for the blood of Palestinians into extraordinary initiatives such as meetings between youth from Sderot and Gaza.

The media coverage during the past year raised my threshold for disgust to high levels.  The media reinforced emotions and fanned instincts and creatively orchestrated an endless number of dramas, without blinking and without inhibition. The communities of the ‘Gaza Wraparound’, all in the same boat as Sderot, are almost forgotten. Sderot became a byword for Ritalin and fainting.

 

For years, the media narrative has been addicted to the Power Paradigm. Our screens depict, one after another, the non-smiling and ‘non-apologetic’ security types, who reveal their hypnotic plans to defeat the Qassams through deep penetration, daring commando raids, and a host of other creative ideas that seem to come from the operational arsenal of ‘Terminator 2’ or ‘Rambo 3.’ One after another they emerged this month in Sderot where the microphone caught their deliberations with uninhibited commitment.

 

Even the Hebrew language has long since been mobilized for the cause and created an inventory of terminology cleansed of unnecessary sentiment, thereby enabling the selective reporting of what happens in the territories. The media collaborated obediently and the Hebrew language was reborn, cleansed and easy to pronounce: ‘Exposing,’ ‘Engineering Tasks, ‘Non-Combatants.’

Also in June, the ‘Festival of Southern Cinema’ took place in Sderot.  This uplifting experience somehow did not rate media coverage.  In the darkened halls, David Ben Shitrit's jolting movies about the refugee experience of Palestinian women were screened. Also, the story of the ‘refusenik’ pilots was shown.  It seemed almost hallucinatory:  Outside, the Qassams whistled and, on the screen, endless Palestinian suffering splashed. Many spectators bolted out of the theater; they did not want or could not allow the images to crack their defense mechanisms. The power ethos and the victim mentality that we get intravenously injected by the culture after our first breath on earth is so deep that, at times, it appears impenetrable.  For me, it was a most powerful moment.  This is a Sderot I want to live in – a Sderot that does not forget that on the other side of the equation there is human suffering as well.

I am revolted by our Palestinian neighbors who recycle again and again historical errors and are not building a Riviera in Gaza instead of shooting Qassams at us.  By doing so they are passing the verdict that millions of ‘Non-Combatants’ will live in a more horrible squalor than the one in which they already live.  But he who sows wind during forty years of occupation is destined to reap a storm, and this is occurring before our eyes and doesn't let up. Yes, even after Disengagement.  Reality is becoming increasingly more complicated and the State of Israel is heavily responsible, too heavily responsible, for this quagmire.

Every time in the past few years when a little quiet sets in, or some understandings were reached, there comes the next ‘targeted assassination of a senior or junior wanted person; Sderot immediately braces itself for the worst.  Who benefits from all these liquidations? What kind of security did we earn at the end of the day, save for the next barrage?  After that comes the Big Blitz.  For months we did not close our eyes, not only because of the Qassams. The IDF pounded the ‘launching areas’ 24 hours a day from the ground, sea, and air.  Restless nights for Sderot and the neighboring villages.  A nightmare for the residents of the Gaza Strip.  An endless and useless bombardment.  On whom?  For what?  To what end?  For whose benefit?  What security was achieved?

 

At the beginning of his term, Amir Peretz took a brave step as Minister of Defense. He reintroduced the moral discussion into the narrative, the very morality that was pushed outside the public debate many years ago.  If and when it was mentioned, it was generally only in soft tones and mumbling apologetics that were whispered only after all the advantage calculations and image problems were reviewed.  Not what we did, but how we will look to the world.  However, the person that reintroduced the moral dimension into our narrative has built a cemetery in his heart since last June, where hundreds of bodies of innocent Palestinian children and civilians are lying.  Yitzhak Ben Aharon [labor leader] once said: ‘I am trampling my own soul.’  Last June, Amir Peretz became, in my eyes, a tragic hero. He trampled his own soul.  Or at least that is how I wished to see him – one whose heart did not turn to stone, that the power of the IDF did not completely intoxicate him.  However, after the second Lebanon War, after the wholesale slaughter and destruction in Gaza under the cover of war and following it – I don’t know what to believe.

 

Ehud Olmert and Amir Peretz, something incredibly important happened here this past week. Don’t miss it!!  You even competed for the credit.  The terrible thing that happened to us the citizens is that we stopped believing.  Give us hope that there is something to believe in.  Allow us to open a window.  The window in the ‘security room’, and the window of opportunity and the window of dialogue.  Stop the liquidations policy.  Do not lead us under the populist deception of more force and more force. It is not calming; it provokes panic!!

 

Talk to them already!!  Through overt channels or covert ones.  Propose a creative policy. Break the myth of ‘There is nobody to talk to’ with which we are being drugged time and time again by cynical politicians and their loyal spokespersons in the media.  Do not close any window of opportunity, and don't quash any initiative in its infancy just to maintain a fossilized thought paradigm.

 

Break this insane ‘Had Gadya’ paradigm’ [‘one young goat’ Passover song]. Everything was already tried ad nauseam.  The slaughterer already slaughtered the ox, and the fire consumed the stick that had beaten the dog that had bitten the cat that had devoured the young goat.  Only the water has not yet extinguished the fire.

 

At least try, but honestly, without fear and preconditions, the political option.  It is your civil duty!!  It is your moral duty!!  Because if you do not, Hava Alberstein's chilling rendition of the never-ending Had Gadya song will exemplify our reality just as I close with these words: ‘Once again, we start from the beginning.’

Nomika Zion

Tel: (+972-8) 662 4447
Mobile: (+972-54) 768-9181
Email: nomika@migvan.co.il
Home: Kibbutz Migvan, POB 346, Sderot, 87013
Office: The Center for Social Justice in memory of Yaakov Hazan in Van-Leer Jerusalem Institute

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Ynet, 2 December 2006

מודעת "גוש שלום" ב"הארץ",

1 בדצמבר, 2006

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הפסקת-האש

ברצועת עזה

לא תחזיק מעמד

אם לא תהיה

הפסקת-אש

בגדה המערבית.

 

ראשי הצבא

יודעים זאת.

אז מדוע הם

מתנגדים?

 

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