Wednesday, January 07, 2009

What Most US Media Isn't Telling You... Now Take Action!

What Most US Media Isn't Telling You

Four days ago, Israel invaded Gaza on the ground to compliment its aerial bombardment. The Palestinian death toll has reached 660. The official Israeli death toll is up to 5, of whom 4 were civilians. Attacks on civilians, no matter who they are, is criminal. Yet the US government, public relations officials, and mainstream media—unlike those of almost every other country in the world—continue to criminalize Palestinian violence while absolving Israel (the undisputed party in power) of almost any responsibility of its own. The official position seems clear: Israel can do as it likes until Hamas stops all violence.

The underlying assumption here is that Palestinians' human rights depend on the actions of their leaders. This is false. Palestinians do not have to earn the human rights inalienable to every person on Earth. Human rights are non-negotiable. Likewise, Israelis do not have to earn their human rights. Israeli state terror notwithstanding, it would be criminal to bombard the entire population of Israel (in which, as in Gaza, fighters live alongside their families in civilian areas) for the crimes of its government.

But this is exactly what Israel is doing in Gaza with US weapons before a seemingly impotent international community. Every day the carnage unfolds on CNN-International (different from CNN-US—the United States is the only country in the world with domestically customized international news coverage): a mother and her 4 kids killed instantly; a 7-year-old shot twice in the chest (I'm not sure how that happens accidentally, but does that even matter?); more than 40 policemen in training obliterated (even Israel does not claim the Palestinian police orchestrates rocket attacks); TV stations and places of worship successfully destroyed; a mortuary out of room for bodies.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, "sewage water is pouring into the streets in Beit Hanoun, following damage to the main pipeline between Beit Hanoun and the Beit Lahiya wastewater treatment plant." Save The Children reports that newborn baby Gazans are battling hypothermia due to power cuts and freezing winter winds.

Some of the worst news comes from the doctors. Can you imagine a hospital functioning without electricity? According to the mainstream British newspaper The Guardian, medics are working around the clock and running out of anesthesia. There is no more gauze so doctors are using cotton, which sticks to wounds. Nurses are forced to draw blood with the wrong sized syringes and without alcohol. The Guardian article was entitled, "The injured were lying there asking God to let them die." Many have gotten their last wish, dying as they wait in the emergency rooms.

Medical workers themselves have also been under fire, with at least 4 killed as they tried to reach victims. Ambulances are not safe, nor are the schools:

When I woke up yesterday a UN school had just been bombed, killing 3 of the civilians who had come to the school seeking shelter. Watching the news later in the evening, I learned the same UN school had been bombed again (twice in one day), killing 40 more. The British director of the school, having lost his usual calm, was irate and imploring the world to understand that nowhere in Gaza is safe anymore—there is nowhere left to go.

Yet reading the Washington Post and watching the nightly news you might believe that Israel's is in fact the most virtuous army in the world, going as far as sending text messages to and dropping leaflets in Palestinian areas explaining that unless civilians leave, they will be attacked. Reported alone, this might sound reasonable, but quickly becomes absurd if you know that Gazans have no place to go to! Nowhere inside the strip of land is safe and there is no way to leave it, since the borders are sealed.

The bombing and invasion have clearly heightened the threat against Gazans' lives, but they did not start it. For the 18 months preceding the invasion, the average Gazan could not reliably go to school, make a living, contact the outside world, divert their sewage, heat their homes, drink clean water, or eat. This was due to the enclosure summed up in the words of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights: "Gaza is a prison and Israel seems to have thrown away the key." This was the reality of Israel's "ceasefire."

The closure pushed Gaza's humanitarian crisis to a new low, with poverty reaching 80%. Any attempt to counter poverty was thwarted. Gaza students dependent on transportation could not reach their schools, and those accepted at foreign universities in America, Europe, and the West Bank were denied permits to leave. Without enough fuel, industrial businesses were either shut down or running below 20% capacity, resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs. Contrary to Israeli court order, the Israeli army allowed just 15% of fuel needed for generators, wells, and transportation, resulting in garbage piled high in the streets while up to 15,000,000 gallons of raw or partially-treated sewage flowed into the sea every day. This was the reality of Israel's "ceasefire."

On November 4th and 5th, Israel broke the "ceasefire" by killing at least 6 Palestinians in Gaza, reported on CNN-International but unlikely by CNN-US. Of course, there was no ceasefire to begin with, since the main requirement on Israel was to sufficiently unseal Gaza's borders, a requirement that was consistently ignored. By the end of the "ceasefire," 262 had Gazans died due to lack of access to proper medical care during the blockade.

Hamas should be condemned for its attacks on civilians, but it is na├»ve to expect that they would renew a truce that Israel had never adhered to. Whether or not it would cease cross-border attacks in exchange for Israeli reciprocity—as Hamas continues to offer—is something we cannot know, since Israel has never given the offer a chance.

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10 IDEAS for TAKING ACTION:

Analysis and sympathy have no value if they do not result in any action. There are enough action ideas below that every single person on this list has the power to do at least one, ideally many more.

1. Monitor and contact local media to inform others and counter misinformation. Write letters to the editor (usually 100-150 words) or op-eds (usually 600-800 words) for local newspapers. Also contact radio talk shows and television news departments, especially in response to biased coverage. You can find all local media at:
http://www.congress.org/congressorg/dbq/media/
The US Campaign to End the Occupation compiled a fact sheet about US direct contributions to the war on Gaza, which you can use for facts:
http://www.endtheoccupation.org/downloads/gaza_us_weapons.pdf

2. Organize and join demonstrations in front of Israeli embassies or (if that's not doable) in front of the offices of elected officials or other visible place. Inform the media beforehand. Here is a list of the many demonstrations happening around the country (For example, St Louis, where I live, usually has one a month, but this month there are demonstrations every day):
http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=1773

3. Join local activist groups organizing local actions. If there aren't any, start your own. Now is an excellent time to rally support.

4. Initiate boycotts, divestments and sanctions to nonviolently pressure Israeli compliance with international law, as was effective in the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa. Now is an excellent time to rally support and begin a campaign. More info and resources at http://www.bdsmovement.net/

5. Send direct aid to Gaza through one of the following organizations:
- United Nations Relief and Works Agency: www.un.org/unrwa/
- United Palestinian Appeal: www.helpupa.com
- Islamic Relief: www.irw.org
- Canadian Red Cross: www.redcross.ca
- American Near East Refugee Aid: www.anera.org
- Physicians for Human Rights: www.phr.org.il/phr
- Other groups: http://gazasiege.org/support_gaza.html
You can also support solidarity activists on the ground at www.palsolidarity.org/main/

6. Contact elected and other political leaders in your country to urge them to apply pressure to end the attacks. Find your representatives and their contact info at
http://www.congress.org/congressorg/officials/congress

Call the Obama/Biden Transition Office at 202-540-3000, press 2 to speak to staff member. Tell them the U.S. needs a new Middle East policy, which holds Israel accountable to international law and UN resolutions and human rights. Tell them the U.S. should not support Israel with billions of dollars every year and should not be arming Israel with U.S. made weapons. Add your own suggestions. The time is right for President-elect Obama to hear from the peace community.

7. Sign petitions for Gaza, for example:
http://www.avaaz.org/en/gaza_time_for_peace/98.php?cl_tf_sign=1
http://capwiz.com/arab/utr/2/?a=12364076&i=90758629&c
https://secure2.convio.net/pep/site/Advocacy?s_oo=d13BldH27ypl2jxg-1cOFA..&id=233

8. Put a Palestinian flag at your window. Wear a Palestinian head scarf (keffiya). Wear black arm bands (this helps start conversations with people).

9. Do a group fast for peace one day and hold it in a public place.

10. Inform others in your community with flyers, vigils, and conversations. At the very least, forward this on.

This list was based on a call from the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People and Friends of Sabeel.

6 comments:

TC Parsons said...

Anna, thank you for your writings. I've been vigiling with Instead of War in St. Louis, Mo, where I was directed to your blog. I have been seeking a comprehensive source like this to help in my attempt to dialogue with those who won't accept how terrible the conditions were in Gaza during the ceasefire.

Terrible actions on both sides of course, but only one side is getting massacred, and with our weapons and money.

Peace means more than a lack of armed conflict, it means just relationships and social structures which don't cause oppression and strife.

Thank you for this blog and your witness. We'll keep trying to get awareness raised and keep calling our representatives.

Peace friend!

Anonymous said...

Anna, I'm sorry to see you don't have more comments on your blog. I just wanted to let you know that your articles are making the rounds of mailing lists with members in the thousands who agree with what you've written. I wish you health, success, and strength to continue telling the story of Gazans that Israel so desperately wants to hide.

If, and when, the pro-Israeli lynch mob comes to find you with threats and hate then make a post online and we'll hide in our homes. Isn't it ironic that we'd draw parallels between the Nazis and Anne Frank to the Israelis and whoever they target next?

KS said...

I just watched one of your videos on youtube. Nice job. Another good talking point is that Israel's propaganda always changes. Like during the cold war they weren't fighting Fundamental Islamic terrorism - they claimed they were merely fighting Soviet terrorism. Meanwhile, they were bombing Palestinians in refugee camps. Not just in Palestine. But also in Syria, Lebanon, & Jordan.

Thanks for speaking out.

Imogen said...

Thank you for your writing and in particular your suggestions as to what to do to help the people of Gaza. As a British citizen I was confused at first as to what was going on in Gaza and began to suspect that the British media was not telling us everything, or at least not balancing it accurately. Having found out more about the truth, I am appalled at what the international community is complicit in and to realise the full extent the sanitisation and censorship of the British press. It's important that people in the West can access the full story; please keep writing.

Anonymous said...

Anne, I understand the pain of the Palestinian people, I understand your empathy. The Palestinians are and have been failed by their own leaders. Try to declare an end to the armed resistance. The post-Arafats and now-Haniyehs will not allow such a positive turn. All the decent supporters of Palestine must call for an end of the armed resistance which equals a policy of suicide. How many Palestinians will die before a leader will end the suicidal armed resistance. This is not romantic, this is self-destructive. I would like to hear intellectual innovations from the educated friends of the Palestinians, and it will be the best medicine for their suffering. Best to all of you......an optimist

Anonymous said...

no sense in being polemical, there's nothing on this blog i haven't already seen in the new york times or the economist, not exactly information "they dont want you to know about". there's a difference between policy positions and fact reporting, we should be building consensus on the latter not encouraging the idea that the western media wont report soundly on the facts. i was in the middle east when this violence broke out and media outlets there were reporting death's in gaza in the thousands, not hundreds. peope also told me that you couldnt trust american media because the jews ran it as well as the government...those are divisive comments that dont help. that said, i agree with your comments to the effect that if we hold human rights to be unalienable than they must be non-negotiable.