By Hedaya Shamun
To be a woman living a war of terror, with an unborn child, holding on to your two young daughters, surrounded by death and fire consuming what remains of your humble house. To be a woman and live through that can only mean you are a Palestinian surviving the most recent massive attack on Gaza.
To be a woman barely twenty seven years old, with dark fears spinning around your head, your house is not safe, your little daughters cannot stop crying and screaming from the sound of bombs, you only know that you’re alive now after being on the edge of life and death for days in a row; it can only mean you are an exceptional woman on this earth.
To feel all this fear and horror, knowing that any second you might give birth with no one by your side: not your mother, your family, your friends or a doctor, to feel all this on top of being a refugee in your own country….
To run more than three kilometers in the dark, between the rockets and the scattering shrapnel that turn night into light by fire, to breathe the scent of destruction every second of every day, houses burnt down to the ground, trees no longer stand, you cry and you cry, because the worst feeling of all is being powerless, so helpless you no longer know what to tell your children. Living through all this and surviving means you are born of light because only a guardian angel could enable someone to withstand this; it means you are a Palestinian woman, under the indiscriminate bombing of the Israeli forces, and you’re still surviving…
Reham Shiekh Al-Eid, twenty-seven years old and pregnant in her last month, resides in Zalata to the east of Rafah. Every day the scent of death from Israeli bombing came closer and closer and made it impossible to reach a hospital for a check-up on her unborn child.
Reham said, “The shrapnel wrecked my house, which has no roof, only a zinc cover (a very weak metal that can barely stop water from dripping). Every time an Israeli strike took place, the whole house shook and I thought it may just fall to pieces. The gunfire was even scarier; I felt that death might arrive at that moment. I feared for my family the most and my pregnancy made every second stressful because any minute I might go into labor. That is when my husband and I, my two daughters and some neighbors, decided to take the risk; we collected some clothes and just left without looking back. We start running; it was barely dawn, but the sky was bright from the death lights of the Israeli rockets. I carried my youngest daughter, while my husband carried our second daughter, despite his serious leg injury. We ran for a long time, literally running for our lives. We kept screaming and crying, but eventually we made it to Al-Awda School, a shelter * for people whose homes are no longer safe.”
“It was just then that I felt a lot of pain in my stomach. I have been through labor before and I knew what was coming,” Reham continued. “My husband started to panic. We needed to get to the hospital; it was 6:30 am. Simply by chance, we met a helpful man who agreed to take us to the closest hospital (Al-Emarati) where I gave birth to my son, Mohammad.”
Reham’s voice fades as if she can barely speak. “Our survival was a miracle, but I lost a lot of blood and had to stay a day in the hospital. The next morning I returned to the shelter with nothing to give my newborn.” Wracked with sobs, she said, “We left our money, clothes, we don’t know what happened to our house. Now we’re living with thousands of people on the floor, with nothing to give our children. My newborn son is one day old and sleeping on the floor right next to me. I’ve been wearing the same clothes I left the hospital with. I didn’t even have clothes for my newborn son; luckily they gave us some basic supplies to keep a newborn alive: some diapers and a few items of clothing.”
Reham’s husband, Ayman Shiekh Al-Eid, said: “My wife suffered the indescribable, living under weeks of non-stop bombing knowing her labor could start at any moment, while fearing for me, our daughters and the whole chaotic situation. My wife kept asking me how she would survive giving birth in such horrible circumstances, not being able to recognize day from night. Merely standing one meter from our doorstep was a serious risk, I felt so powerless, so helpless as a husband, unable to answer my wife’s questions about how we could survive and that is why we took the risk and came to the shelter; because we knew nothing and could do nothing. The situation here is better, although the facilities are limited. I thank the shelter and all those working in it, but they cannot meet the needs of a woman who has just given birth. The toilets are not near and queues are long. She has lost blood and needs rest for a stable recovery. I stay next to her because that’s what she needs the most right now.”
Mo’een Al-Hour, the manager of the shelter, gave a statement about the circumstances in which Reham and others are living in that shelter: “This school has over 4,000 people sheltered in it. Reham’s family is in a room with just 32 other occupants, but in other sections of the shelter there are 70 to 80 people in a single room. There are over 700 children below the age of two in the shelter and it is getting harder and harder to supply basic items like milk, towels and diapers.” Mo’een expressed gratitude to those who established and maintain the shelter, who are not acting in an official capacity like UNRWA, because the number of people without homes is too overwhelming to be handled by one single organization.
The birth of Mohammad Sheikh Al Eid is a symbol of hope in these difficult circumstances. Between the death and destruction, joy came as a beam of light to those who are reminded of death second by second, a reminder that joy and life goes on
By Ibrahim Hewitt
It is all too easy for Wesern commentators, and those in the pay of the West across the Middle East, to criticise the Palestinian resistance movements. Worse, such movements have been declared to be “terrorists” by governments whose “interests” trump human rights and international law in the region. This is not only plain wrong and unreasonable but also reveals selective recollection of historical precedents for heroic resistance groups fighting against tyranny and injustice.
Within living memory, in the Second World War resistance against the Nazis across Europe included the famous French Resistance, between 15 and 20 per cent of whose members were Jews. In fact, as the main victims of Nazi persecution and industrialised murder Europe’s Jews were engaged in resistance activities across the Third Reich.
According to acclaimed author Martin Gilbert, Jewish resistance was found “in every ghetto, in every deportation train, in every Labour camp, even in the death camps”. It wasn’t limited to fighting, but included civil disobedience and defiance of German orders over everyday matters, such as “obtaining food and water”. Writing in The Holocaust: The Jewish Tragedy, Gilbert said: “Even passivity was a form of resistance. To die with dignity was a form of resistance. To resist the demoralising, brutalizing force of evil, to refuse to be reduced to the level of animals… these too were acts of resistance.”
Famously, the Jews herded into the Warsaw Ghetto took up arms against the occupation army, forming the Jewish Combat Organisation and Jewish Military Union to fight back. It is estimated that at least 13,000 Jews were killed when the Germans entered the Ghetto; almost 60,000 were taken to the death camps.
Resistance was considered to be so important that the British Army trained Jewish volunteers to organise groups across occupied Europe. British military training of Jewish volunteers backfired with the formation of terrorist groups such as Irgun and the Stern Gang, and even the Palmach and Haganah, the forerunners of the Israel Defence Forces, which fought against the British Mandate government in Palestine.
Movements resisting against the Nazis could be found in every country under occupation, including Yugoslavia, Russia, Poland, Norway and Holland. Mainland Britain was not occupied during the war, although the Channel Islands were. Nevertheless, the government had plans for a home-grown resistance movement, the secretive Auxiliary Units, just in case Hitler’s forces crossed the channel. Now thought of as a butt of jokes thanks to the BBC’s Dad’s Army, Britain’s Home Guard, in its various manifestations, was also intended to resist a German invasion. Even America had a role in establishing resistance groups in Europe through the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency, the OSS. Arabs and Jews fought alongside each other in Algeria’s resistance movement formed to fight against the Germans in North Africa. The history of resistance to military occupation is long and noble.
Hamas Resistance suppoters
It is ironic, therefore, that the main enemies of Palestinian resistance today are the descendants of the Jewish resistance fighters now living in Israel; and that their main supporters are heading towards the same end of the political spectrum as Germany’s National Socialists against whom European Jews once fought so bravely. The current Israeli government and its supporters in the West are on the far-right wing (in spirit if not in name), and are willing and able to ignore international laws and conventions in order to crush legitimate resistance to Israel’s occupation of Palestine. These laws were established in the wake of the Nazi Holocaust to ensure that such an atrocity could not take place again, but if they did, that the perpetrators would be brought to justice; that isn’t happening, and is unlikely to happen in the near future, such is the influence of the pro-Israel Lobby over Western governments.
The brutality of Israel’s latest military assault on the civilians of the Gaza Strip, sold to the world as “self-defence” against Palestinian resistance groups, has echoes of the German army’s massacre of more than 200 people, including women and children, in the French town of Vassieux-en-Vercors in July 1944 as a “reprisal” for French armed resistance. The only difference appears to be that the Israelis have been even more merciless than the Nazis, with the death toll in Gaza approaching 2,000 and, yes, that includes many women and children. The Nazi analogy is even more striking given the Israeli deputy speaker’s recent call for ethnic cleansing and the use of what would be nothing less than concentration camps to clear the Gaza Strip of its Palestinian population.
US Military occupation in Iraq
Which brings me back to my original question. What would you do if your country was occupied by a foreign army? Would you accept the status quo, collaborate and get on with your life subjugated and lacking in the basic freedoms that we all take for granted? Or would you stand up and fight for those freedoms, as our parents and grandparents did in World Wars One and Two, so that we could live in freedom or die with dignity? The Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have chosen the latter and, for doing so, Israel and the West, and their Arab lackeys, condemn them as “terrorists”.
This hypocrisy is so obvious that it hardly bears comment, but it is a disgrace to the British values trumpeted by the current government led by David Cameron that he and other politicians continue with the charade that they are standing up for justice and freedom by standing with Israel today. They aren’t. In fact, they are going against the very values that Britain, America (eventually) and Europe’s Jews fought for so valiantly all those years ago. Remember this the next time that the legitimacy of Palestinian resistance is questioned by a politician or the media. History and international law are on the side of the Palestinians; our governments should be too.
This initiative yet again proves the preposterous disregard of EU leaders for the Palestinians rights..
Israeli sources announced that Germany, France and Britain recently presented an initiative aimed at reconstructing Gaza subject to international supervision that will prevent the rearmament of Hamas and other factions in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli newspaper Haaretz today reported unnamed Israeli sources as saying that “the proposal by the three European states is an answer to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand for the disarmament of Hamas.”
The “principles for agreement” about the Gaza Strip are:
Preventing the armament and strengthening of Hamas and the rest of the “terror organisations” in Gaza.
Rebuilding the Gaza Strip in cooperation with the international community and the Palestinian Authority and enabling the transfer of humanitarian aid.
Setting up an international mechanism to prevent the entry of prohibited materials to the Strip and ensuring that materials, such as cement and iron, do not reach the “terror organisations” but are used only to rehabilitate Gaza.
Returning the Palestinian Authority and puppet President Mahmoud Abbas to the Gaza Strip (i.e. dismantling Hamas).
The possibility of returning the European Union’s Border Assistance Mission to the Rafah border crossing alongside the Palestinian presidential guard.
Terror organizations according to Israel are any organizations that resist the occupation and genocide. In a summary, Israel is saying : ” We will kill, arrest whomsoever we want and destroy your homes, steal your lands, prevent the basic necessities for life from getting into Gaza and in exchange you should not resist us. If you resist, you are terrorists hence we will kill you because it is “Self-Defense”.
Since Hamas, the legitimate government of Gaza, which Israel considers a “terrorist organisation” won the Palestinian legislative elections in January 2006; Israel Terrorists have imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip, where more than 1.8 million Palestinians live. This blockade was tightened after the group seized control of the territory in June of the following year.
In response to this shameful initiative, Senior leader of Islamic Jihad (Resistance forces) Khader Habib said on Wednesday that the Palestinian conditions for the Cairo talks are: halting Israel’s aggressions and ending the siege of the Gaza Strip.
“These are not demands,” he told Palestinian news agency Quds. “They are rights,” he explained.
He also ruled out any discussion over demilitarising the Palestinian resistance in return for reconstructing the Gaza Strip. “The issue of arms is connected to the existence of the occupation,” he said, adding that, “this right is guaranteed by the laws of heaven and earth.”
Regarding Islamic Jihad’s position towards the possibility of international peacekeepers in Gaza, Habib said: “We will have a say when this is posed for discussion. However, initially, we refuse the existence of international forces in Gaza because previous experiences have proven that they protect the enemy.”
Commenting on the absolute destruction resulting from Israel’s massive attacks on several parts of Gaza, Habib said: “When the Israeli occupation felt it had failed to face the resistance, it put all of its power in destroying homes and infrastructure in order to break the will of the fighters.”
He added: “Our nation will continue fighting until achieving all the goals set by the resistance.”
Everyone has the right to recognise Gaza’s honour and pride and praise its people for their heroism, which has written a new chapter in the Arab-Zionist conflict. Due to their epic battle over the past few weeks, witnessed by the whole world, against those who have defined themselves as civilised and modern but were able to kill women and children unlawfully and in cold-blood, the Palestinians in Gaza have provided rich material for analysts and historians for many years to come. Despite their limited capabilities, the Palestinians have triumphed and can add this victory to the list of their many achievements.
Gaza is now associated with pride in the free world and has become a symbol of heroism, steadfastness and victory. However, it also symbolises the international community’s hypocrisy and exploitation of “human rights”, “the fight against terrorism”, “protection of children and women”, and “international conventions”. Their mantras on such issues sound like broken records. Will Obama, the criminal Netanyahu and other leaders succeed in convincing the younger generations around the world that they are really fighting terrorism while they are committing one massacre of civilians after another? There is a history of Israeli massacres of Palestinians, and while we reflect on them the bottom line will always be that Gaza triumphed.
Gaza’s victory is special because the circumstances under which the current war began are completely different to Israel’s previous attacks. In addition to this, the ordeal itself was different, with Egypt under the military coup regime playing a very different role. The Arab world is unstable and faces internal conspiracies aided by foreign states against the will of the people, Egypt included.
Israel’s latest attack on the Gaza Strip will go down in history for three reasons. First, besieged Gaza has triumphed through the steadfastness and resourcefulness of its people. The Palestinians have impressed the world even though a great deal of time and effort has been spent trying to isolate them.
The second point is the hypocrisy of the international community, especially the larger countries which monopolise political, military and economic decisions. They do not translate any of the human rights, democracy and justice slogans, which they promote in their universities and media, into actions on the ground.
The third issue is the official Arab position, which has moved from secret collusion and hypocrisy to open and public collaboration with Israel, with notable exceptions such as Tunisia, Sudan and Qatar. The collaborators have done this out of their desire to eliminate the Palestinian resistance that has now become a symbol of honour and pride, and to ensure the survival of their own regimes. Why are they demanding conditions to be complied with by Hamas while they are witnessing the crimes committed by Israel against civilians, including women and children?
Arabs, Muslims and every other human being with the tiniest bit of dignity, have acknowledged the strength of the people of Gaza and opposed the actions of their own governments by taking to the streets in solidarity with the Palestinians. Nevertheless, as the bodies are being dragged from beneath the rubble in Gaza, the people are asking, “Where are you, Arabs? Where are you?”
Such messages from Gaza, as the Palestinians count the cost of the destruction and the number of dead and wounded, are very strong. What is the meaning of the unified political and military resistance among the various factions in the Gaza Strip? What about the words of the people who now thank the resistance fighters readily, to the extent that they are prepared to risk their lives and money for them?
Yes, there are media and political platforms, unfortunately they nearly all belong to Arabs, which push a different interpretation of events. However, the truth is that the Palestinian people, and the people of Gaza in particular, are certain and firm in their belief that unity with the resistance, along with their steadfastness and patience, is the only way to end Israel’s brutal occupation and colonisation of Palestine.
Many will write about Gaza and its glory, as well as about Palestine and the steadfastness of its people, and the resistance and its achievements. I would like to thank Gaza and its people for wiping away much of our collective shame, and say with unmatched humility in my heart: Thank you Gaza; message received.
By Claire Cohen
A Mumbai photographer has caused outrage after publishing images which appear to glamorise the attack of a female student on board a New Delhi bus. Claire Cohen asks whether fashion and art that depict crime can add anything positive to the conversation
Photo: Raj Shetye
Presumably it seemed like a good idea at the time. But photographer Raj Shetye’s new picture series has sent ripples of anger around the world.
Why? ‘The Wrong Turn’, as it’s called, depicts a young, glamorously dressed, Indian woman on a bus, posing being groped and manhandled by a gang of men. In one image she holds her head, while two men attempt to pull her arms apart. In another she’s straddled by a man seemingly naked, but for a pair of boots. A particularly controversial shot shows the model being held in a grip lock by one man, while another pulls her bare leg from her long dress and appears to be kissing her knee.
Needless to say, it’s not a huge leap to associate the posed images with the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a bus in New Delhi, in December 2012. The crime shocked India, started an unprecedented debate on the vulnerability of women to sexual assault and led to days of protests, which forced authorities to introduce tough new anti-rape laws. Four of the perpetrators were eventually sentenced to death.
The Mumbai based photographer has denied that his work depicts the exact circumstances of the crime, which Indians refer to by the pseudonym given to the victim; ‘Nirbhaya, a Hindi word meaning ‘fearless’.