Dear Shalom Center readers and members –
We are posting the reports that follow about the convoy of Israelis that brought relief supplies to Gaza on Saturday, January 26, demanding as they did so an end to the embargo on food and fuel imposed on Gaza by the Israeli government. We are doing so because we think it important for a wide spectrum of American readers to know what some Israelis opposed to government policy on Gaza are saying -– even though we do not always agree with everything they are saying.
The first of these reports came before the event, announcing it, and reached us directly from Israel. The rest were sent out by Jewish Peace News -- www.jewishpeacenews.net
Shalom, Rabbi Arthur Waskow
1) Israeli Relief Convoy for Gaza
Joins with Palestinians to Demand:
Lift the Blockade
Saturday January 26, 2008: A countrywide relief convoy and Israeli demonstration in solidarity on the Gaza border with a parallel Palestinian demonstration in the Strip.
On Saturday, 26 January 2008, a humanitarian convoy of supplies headed by peace and human rights organisations will go from Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beer Sheva to the Gaza Strip border, decked with signs “Lift the Blockade!” The convoy will meet up at 12.00 noon at Yad Mordechai Junction and all will then travel together to a hill which overlooks the Strip, where a demonstration will take place at 13:00.
Speakers will be Shulamit Aloni, Uri Avnery, Ronit Matalon, Hassan Jabareen and Prof. Jeff Halper. There will be a ‘phone link between the Israeli demo and hundreds of Gazans on the Gaza side in Gaza City at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, demonstrating as part of the "Palestinian-International Campaign to End the Siege,” one of whose spokesmen is psychiatrist and human rights activist, Dr. Eyad Sarraj.
The convoy will contain sacks of flour, food supplies and other essential products, especially water filters. Water supplies in Gaza are polluted, with nitrates at a level ten times the maximum recommended by the World Health Organisation. Due to the Israeli blockade, Gaza has a critical shortage of water filters, creating an intolerable violation of minimum humanitarian standards.
Organisers of the convoy will be appealing to the army for immediate permission for the goods to be allowed into the Strip, and are prepared for an ongoing campaign next to the border crossings, together with a public and judicial appeal; nearby kibbutzim, which are within the range of the Qassam rockets and mortars, have offered their warehouses for storage of the convoy’s goods.
A simultaneous demonstration will be taking place in Rome, Italy. There will also be demonstrations in various cities in America, at the initiative of San Francisco-based Jewish Voice for Peace.
To travel as part of the event, you may go in one of the convoys (8.30 a.m. departure from Reading Terminal in Tel Aviv, 8.45 a.m. from Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem) or join the general convoy as it leaves at 12 noon from Yad Mordechai Junction, or go individually to the demo, which will take place at “Nabiya Maraai Lookout,” near Kibbutz Mefalsim (from Yad Mordechai Junction, go on Road 34 and at Gavim Junction turn right onto Road 232, after about 6 kms, immediately after Kibbutz Mefalsim, turn right and go for a short distance to the site). A map showing the site of the demonstration is available on the website: http://toibillboard.info/26janmap.jpg
For further details: Adam Keller, Gush Shalom (0506-709603), Adi Dagan, Coalition of Women for Peace (0508-575730), Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, ICAHD (0547-366393).
Dr. Eyad Sarraj (Gaza), End the Siege on Gaza campaign, (0599-408438), Marwan Diab (Gaza), End the Siege on Gaza campaign, (0599-462037).
Participating organisations: Gush Shalom, Combatants for Peace, Coalition of Women for Peace, ICAHD – The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Bat Shalom, Bat Tzafon for Peace and Equality, Balad, Hadash, Adalah, Tarabut-Hithabrut, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, AIC – The Alternative Information Center, Psychoactive – Mental Health Workers for Human Rights, ActiveStills, The Students Coalition (Tel Aviv University), New Profile, MachsomWatch, PCATI – The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, Yesh Gvul, Gisha, Local Television on the Internet.
Background: Despite unilateral evacuation of 7,000 settlers, the Gaza Strip remains Occupied Territory and the situation of its residents is increasingly worsening. The Government of Israel continues to control its airspace, territorial waters, population registry, tax system, supply of goods, freedom of movement and access to healthcare. Entry and exit of people and goods is completely controlled by Israel, and is currently under total closure, so that the Strip has actually become the largest prison in the world.
We sympathize with Sderot’s residents and others living near the border, exposed to traumatising Qassam rockets, but siege and collective punishment are no answer: although 1.5 million men, women and children are denied basic necessities, driven to the edge of starvation, Israel is increasing the daily deathtoll among Palestinians, many of whom are civilians, whilst the rocket fire has increased. Few Israelis ask why several Palestinian ceasefire offers have been rejected out of hand by the Israeli government. We’ll go to the Gaza border, in co-operation with Palestinian partners inside Gaza, to show there’s an alternative to siege and rocketfire – an alternative of peace.
END THE BLOCKADE ON GAZA!
Does it help the children of Sderot that we are forcing starvation on the children of Gaza, and making them drink polluted water?
On Saturday, 26th January, we will not stay at home!
There will be a huge supply convoy to Gaza.
Israeli and Palestinian peace organisations will be working together!
We shall travel in a huge convoy of private cars and buses, in order to bring basic supplies to the people of Gaza.
Owners of private cars are asked to come with their cars and their families, too. Bring food packages from your own family for a family in Gaza (make your personal choice from basic food stuffs, with a personal message placed inside).
2) A personal report by a convoy participant, Rebecca Vilkomerson, who wrote about her experience in an email to the American organization Jewish Voice for Peace, which held rallies around the U.S. in solidarity with the convoy (http://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/). Rebecca gives an overview and a narrative of yesterday’s event, including descriptions of the moving speeches by Dr. Eyad al-Sarraj – via telephone, because he is stuck in Gaza -- and Shir Shozdik, a young woman from Sderot, the nearby town that is facing the brunt of the Qassam-rocket fire.
3) A link to video of the convoy and rally, including parts of Dr. Sarraj’s moving speech, among others. Rela Mazali writes a brief introduction to the video.
4) The text of the speech given at the rally by Nurit Peled-Elhanan.
[She is the daughter of the late general, Arab scholar, and politician Mattityahu Peled, Peled managed the logistics system of the Israeli Army during the 6-day war, and immediately afterward urged steps to encourage the emergence of a West Bank Palestinian state. Peled-Elhanan is an Israeli peace activist, professor at Hebrew University, and one of the founders of the Bereaved Families for Peace. After the death of Elhanan's 13 year-old daughter in 1997, she became an outspoken critic of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Elhanan's daughter, Smadari Elhanan, was the victim of a suicide bombing attack Ben Yehuda Street Bombing in Jerusalem on September 4, 1997.]
About the speech, Rela Mazali writes that “About half of it is quoted from Bialik's poem "Be'ir Hahareiga" (In the City of the Slaughter) about the scene of a pogrom, that Israelis of my generation (roughly the same age as the state) recognize immediately. It's a very effective subversion of the Zionist, nationalist, comfortably self-righteous and victimized way in which the poem has been read for half a century.” This Bialik poem about the 1903 Kishinev pogrom was also a staple of the Jewish and Zionist education I received growing up in the U.S. in the 1980s.
JPN readers will be familiar with Peled-Elhanan’s haunting, incisive way with words. This speech is as powerful and heart-wrenching as any she has delivered, and equally calls on us to respond with our highest moral, feeling and thinking abilities.
5) The article from Israeli news source YNet reporting on yesterday’s convoy. The article reports that the activists brought three tons of food and supplies to the Gaza border, and activists believe these supplies will be transferred to Gaza on Monday (January 28). The article also quotes the young woman from Sderot who spoke at the rally, saying that “Despite the fact that Shodzik's aunt and cousin were injured in a Qassam rocket attack in Zikim, the teen wanted to express her dissatisfaction with Israeli government policy vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip. "I came to show my identification with the Palestinian people. There is no need for violence or (the use of) force in order to solve this situation," she said.
[The Ynet article also quotes a Sderot resident who is resentful of the convoy.]
6) Finally, a list of the Israeli organizations that participated in the convoy.
Sarah Anne Minkin
2. Hi JVP'ers--
today i participated in the gaza convoy against the siege, and i wanted to give a quick report back, especially since so many of you worked so hard to support it.
we met early in tel aviv (there were also meet ups in nazareth, haifa, jerusalem and beersheva) and right away it was clear that it was going to be big--at 8:30 am there were already about four buses and at least 50 cars from tel aviv alone (press reports said 1000 people total and about 100 cars but i believe it was more than that--probably closer to 1500-2000 people. there were 14 buses that i counted, and i think quite a bit more than 100 cars).
we had been told ahead of time to decorate our cars and bring food for the convoy. when we got there, we found that despite what we thought of as our pretty minimal attempts to decorate, we were the only car that came painted with our own slogans, so we got a lot of attention for our efforts. (see pics of the whole rally by clicking http://picasaweb.google.com/rvilkomerson/GazaSiegeProtest )
it was a good thing we did that, because there was heavy rain as we drove south, and many of the posters attached to our cars were washed away. everyone stopped at the last rest stop before the checkpoint to rendezvous with the mini-caravans coming from all over the country. it was pretty funny to see about 500 israeli leftists doing what they do best--drinking coffee-- at this border outpost!
the last few kilometers took a long time, because there were simply so many cars and buses--farther than the eye could see in either direction. the rain had conveniently stopped just as we got back in our cars, and the area was green and lush and hilly, in stark contrast to the giant checkpoint station, protected by a wall, which was protected by barbed wire, which was patrolled by attack dogs.
at a certain point we had to all park on the side of the road, unpack our flour, lentils, oil, sugar, school supplies, etc. and walk the rest of the way. although we had been asked not to bring flags, there were quite a few palestinian flags, and a few communist ones. I would estimate (really a guess) that about 40% of the participants were palestinian israelis, and they were for sure the most spirited, organized, and loud of anyone.
We pressed farther and farther toward the checkpoint itself. especially knowing what happened in rafah in the last couple of days, it felt for a moment like we could have pushed right through the barrier. a few of the people associated with the anarchists against the wall moved up and started knocking on the fence with rocks--gently, just making noise, not trying to break through, and that was the only moment that the many, many policemen in attendance got jittery and aggressive.
The rally itself was mc'd by khulood badawi, a very inspiring palestinian israeli woman, and the voices of women were quite prominent. it was a joint jewish-palestinian rally--both jewish/palestinian israeli and the gazan rally that was happening on the other side of the border (though unfortunately too far away for us to see them),and while it was exciting and moving to be in that joint space, it wasn't exactly together. the arabic speakers chanted in arabic, the hebrew speakers in hebrew, and there was very little joint chanting. similarly, each speaker spoke either only one language or each in turn (that is, the palestinians could repeat themselves in hebrew, the hebrew speakers spoke only hebrew) so we in the crowd were responding to different statements at different times. i can't say that there was exactly a feeling of unity there, but there was a sense of joint purpose.
the two most moving speakers, for me, were Dr. Eyad Sarraj, the founder of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, and a very young woman (about 17) from Sderot who closed the rally.
Dr. Sarraj was leading the palestinian side of the protest, we heard him by holding a cell phone on speaker up to the microphone. he spoke in english, and he spoke of the rally as a historic day. he said he was so proud of all of us that we were there, together, and he said that any time blood is spilled, in gaza, in sderot, or anywhere, it is an affront to humanity. he spoke so beautifully, and his deep sense of humanity came through so strongly, and especially to think of his ability to be that generous of spirit while in a state of siege and disaster all around, made tears come to my eyes, and i noticed that i wasn't the only one. to think that anyone could say there is no non-violent movement in Palestine!
Jeff Halper, when he spoke, mentioned all the rallies of support for the convoy happening around the world.
The last speaker was this teenager from Sderot, it was her first rally ever, and she talked about how she and her family suffer from the Qassams, but also how she also always remembers how much deeper and worse the suffering is in Gaza.
at the end of the rally they announced that the negotiating team had succeeded in persuading the border cops to let the supplies through, i think they said they will go on monday. a neighboring kibbutz offered their storage space until then, which again shows that not everyone living with the qassams is vengeful.
during our coffee break earlier in the day, my friend/driver/fellow former bay area resident emily had a conversation with one of the most committed activists in the movement about what the purpose of the protest really was. they agreed that being more confrontational might have been more fun and maybe more satisfying, but that in the end, of course, a rally, even one that is relatively large (at least for this location: 1000 people in tel aviv is nothing, but at erez it is quite remarkable), doesn't change much. but, the important thing is that we showed that there is an alternative to war and siege and destruction, and that there is a substantial part of the israeli public who are willing to fight for it, and that the partners are there to make it happen.
i was amazed to discover that it took only an hour to return to tel aviv.
(formerly bay area)
3. Below is a link to a video report created by the Israeli group, "Social TV", on the End the Siege of Gaza rally at "Erez" checkpoint. The introduction and concluding texts are in Hebrew but it also shows fragments of speeches made in English. The visuals and atmosphere need no translation. The camera first runs alongside the convoy, giving a sense of its length as it drives to Erez in the rain. It goes on to show the demonstrators walking towards the checkpoint and collecting provisions to transport into Gaza. Then it moves on to the rally with slogans called by MC Hulud Badawi and others, concluding with selections from the speeches by Uri Avnery, Eyad al-Sarraj (from Gaza via cellphone; in English), Jeff Halper and young seventeen year old Shir Shusdig, from the Israeli town of Sderot, that has been under bombardments from the Gaza Strip for years now. The piece ends with the long list of local organizations that jointly, cooperatively created the event.
4. At the gates of Gaza
26 January 2008
These words are dedicated to the heroes of Gaza who have proven once again that no fortified wall can imprison the free spirit of humanity and no form of violence can subdue life.
The appeal to go today to the gates of Gaza at the height of the pogrom being carried out by the thugs of the Occupation army against the residents of the Gaza Strip has terrible echoes of another appeal that was sent out into the air of the impassive world more than a hundred years ago.*
"Arise and go now to the city of slaughter;
Into its courtyard wind your way;
There with your own hand touch, and with the eyes of your head,
Behold on tree, on stone, on fence, on mural clay,
The spattered blood and dried brains of the dead."
What can one think as one stands at the gates of Gaza?
"There in the dismal corner, there in the shadowy nook,
Multitudinous eyes will look"
What can we imagine today as we stand at the gates of Gaza, other than
"A babe beside its mother flung,
Its mother speared, the poor chick finding rest
Upon its mother's cold and milkless breast;
And "how a dagger halved an infant's word,
Its ma was heard, its mama never heard.
O, even now its eyes from me demand accounting,"
And what can we say to this infant, who demands from us accounting - we who stand helpless at the gates of Gaza? What will we explain to him and to all the hungry, sick children locked in that terrible ghetto, surrounded by wire fences, what can we say to the babies whose lives have been choked out of them in incubators before they began their lives because the State of the Jews shut off the flow of oxygen? What can we say to all the mothers who are searching for bread for their children in the streets of Gaza and what can we say to ourselves? Only this: sixty years after Auschwitz the State of the Jews is confining people in ghettoes and is killing them with hunger, asphyxiation and disease.
"Brief-weary and forespent, a dark Shekinah
Runs to each nook and cannot find its rest;
Wishes to weep, but weeping does not come;
Would roar; is dumb.
Its head beneath its wing, its wing outspread
Over the shadows of the martyr'd dead,
Its tears in dimness and in silence shed."
Because today, as we stand at the gates of Gaza, we have no voice, we have no words and we have no deeds. There is not a single Yanosh Korchak among us who will go in and protect the children from the fire. There are no Righteous Gentiles who will endanger their lives in order to save the victims of Gaza. We stand forlorn and contemptible in front of the gates of evil, in front of the fences of death, and obey the racist laws that have taken control over our lives, and all of us are helpless.
When Bialik wrote:
" Satan has not yet created Vengeance for the blood of a small child,"
It did not occur to him that the child would be a Palestinian child from
Gaza and his slaughterers would be Jewish soldiers from the Land of
And when he wrote:
Let the blood pierce
through the abyss! Let the blood seep
down into the depths of darkness, and
eat away there, in the dark, and breach
all the rotting foundations of the earth.
He did not imagine that those foundations would be the foundations of the Land of Israel. That the Jewish and Democratic State of Israel that uses the expression "blood on his hands" to justify its refusal to release freedom fighters and peace leaders would submerge us all in the blood of innocent babes up to our necks, up to our nostrils, so that every breath we take sends red bubbles of blood into the air of the Holy Land.
"And I, my heart is dead, no longer is there prayer
on my lips;
All strength is gone, and
hope is no more.
How much longer,
* The poems "City of Slaughter" and "On Slaughter" were written by the Jewish poet Haim Nahman Bialik in tribute to the victims of the Kishinev Pogrom in 1903, Russia - trans.
5. Left-wing activists protest Gaza blockade at Erez border crossing
Dozens of buses carrying a thousand leftists arrive at Erez crossing to bring food, humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza Strip and to protest blockade on enclave. MKs from Balad and Hadash, youth from Sderot take part
More than a thousand left-wing activists made their way to the Erez border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Saturday in order to bring food and medical equipment to the costal enclave.
The activists held a demonstration against the Israeli-imposed blockade on the Strip. Palestinians on the opposite side of the crossing also organized a rally of their own.
Twenty-five buses and around 100 cars arrived at Erez from all over Israel. The activists collected three tons of food and medical supplies during the demonstration. The items will be brought to the Kerem Shalom crossing where, according to the protesters, they will be transferred to Palestinians in Gaza on Monday.
MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) attended the event and called for an end to the blockade and the reopening of border crossings to the Hamas-held enclave.
"The Israeli government holds the responsibility for the humanitarian disaster in Gaza," Zahalka said during the protest. According to the MK, Israel is employing "fascist methods" by preventing food and fuel from reaching the area.
"We'll continue to protest and reveal the war crimes (being carried out) against one and a half million Palestinians in the Strip," he said.
Shir Shodzik, 17, a resident of the battered town of Sderot also took part in the demonstration in order to express her opposition to the Israeli-imposed sanctions. Despite the fact that Shodzik's aunt and cousin were injured in a Qassam rocket attack in Zikim, the teen wanted to express her dissatisfaction with Israeli government policy vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip.
"I came to show my identification with the Palestinian people. There is no need for violence or (the use of) force in order to solve this situation," she said.
Shodzik added that she "knows it is absurd that I am taking part in this protest," but explained that it is the path she has chosen.
'We won't be party to this crime'
Left-wing activist Uri Avnery made a speech during the rally in which he said: "Three days ago, a wall fell here, like the Berlin Wall fell, like the separation wall and all walls and fences will fall. But the inhumane closure that has been imposed on one and a half million Gaza residents by our government and by our army in our name – this closure will continue with all its cruelty.
"As Israelis who came here with basic supplies, in our desire to tell the Israeli public and the whole world: We won't be part of this crime. We're ashamed of this siege," Avnery said.
Avnery added that: "Our hearts are with our Palestinian brothers who are demonstrating with us on the other side of the fence. Don't lose hope that one day we will meet without fences and walls, without weapons and violence, as two nations living together in peace, in friendship, in partnership.
"Our hearts are also with our brothers in Sderot. The Qassam threat must be stopped, but it won't be stopped through a policy of an eye for an eye or 100 eyes for one, because this leaves us all blind. It will end when we speak with the other side. Yes, yes, with Hamas," Averny said.
AnnaLynne Kish, an activist from the left-wing New Profile organization also took part in the rally. "We decided to come here as a sign of identification with the Palestinians in Gaza. The closure on the Strip is inhuman and goes against international law. This is an instance of collective punishment.
"We decided to bring food and water to the residents and if only we could bring them electricity – we would do this too," she said.
Another Sderot resident who wished to remain anonymous told Ynet in response to news of the demonstrations that "for seven years we haven't seen one of them in Sderot. They didn't come to (see) us even once after a Qassam barrage.
"Suddenly, they discover that the other side is suffering and come to protest, but what about our suffering? They should stop trying to look so good (in the eyes of others) and return to their strongholds in northern Tel Aviv.
"I invite them to spend a week in Sderot with their children. Then it will be interesting to see if they continue to protest in favor of the Palestinians."
Sharon Roffe-Ofir contributed to this report
6. Israeli organizations that participated in the convoy: Gush Shalom, Combatants for Peace, Coalition of Women for Peace, ICAHD - The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Bat Shalom, Bat Tzafon for Peace & Equality, Balad, Hadash, Adalah, Tarabut-Hithabrut, Physicians for Human Rights, Alternative Information Center, Psychoactive - Mental Health Professionals for Human Rights, ActiveStills, Student Coalition Tel-Aviv University, New Profile, Machsom Watch, PCATI - Public Committee Against Torture, Yesh Gvul, Gisha, Social TV on the internet, Faculty for Israel-Palestine Peace.
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