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Israel’s siege on Gaza is preventing delivery of 50 novels headed to a public library

Israel/Palestine
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There should be a mandatory reading assignment for Western journalists on the banality of Israeli evil, the daily indignations Palestinians endure during periods described in the mainstream media as “relative calm.” “Relative calm,” for mainstream Western journalists, is when Jewish-Israelis are not inconvenienced by Palestinian resistance to Israel’s violations of their human rights. It is in such periods of so-called “calm” that Israel expands its illegal settlements, continuing the ethnic cleansing it began in 1948, and conceives of more legislation to disenfranchise the indigenous population, thus furthering the apartheid system it now openly embraces, none of which makes the mainstream news.

For the almost two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, where the Israeli-imposed blockade is now in its tenth year, this column would remind us of how children are studying by candle light, how young men take cold showers because there is no warm water, how untreated sewage occasionally floods the streets, life-saving medicine runs out, and generators are on twenty-two hours a day in hospitals, as overwhelmed doctors and medical staff try to save the lives of infants born pre-term because of their mother’s anemia, a result of the “subsistence diet” imposed by Israel. This column would mention Israeli soldiers shooting at fishermen trying to make a living from their own coastal water, and would name the tens of thousands who are denied permission to leave the Gaza prison, because Israel has placed a strict limit on “humanitarian” cases allowed to escape. This column would not include the extra-judicial assassination of a wheelchair-bound double amputee, or the demolition of the tunnels through which life-saving essentials are smuggled—tunnels not unlike those that allowed European Jews to survive the siege on the Warsaw Ghetto.

One recent manifestation of the banality of evil is the depletion of public libraries in the Gaza Strip, something Mosab Abu Toha made it his mission to redress. At the young age of 25, the English language teacher has founded the “Edward Said Public Library” in Gaza, a small, modest library he hopes will provide the residents of the Strip with a window to the world through literature, mostly in English. He said the idea came to him in 2014, when the english department at his alma mater, the Islamic University of Gaza, was hit by an Israeli missile during Operation Cast Lead. He launched a fundraiser, and received $15,000 in donations in one month, allowing him to rent a small space, build some shelves, and initially stock them with his own books. With the very slight lessening of restrictions on what can enter the blockaded strip, individuals (including Noam Chomsky and Katha Pollitt) have been sending books to Abu Toha, but package delivery is still hit and miss at best.

Most recently, a donor in Canada sent a box of 50 novels to the library, for which they paid $1200 for FedEx in delivery charges. The address which FedEx clearly accepted to deliver to, as evident on the backing label, specifies Gaza as final destination. FedEx subcontracts with a Palestinian company, Wassel, but when Abu Toha inquired about the status of the books, Wassel informed him that it does not deliver to Gaza. Additionally, because of the size of the donation, the books are considered taxable goods, and are now held in Israeli customs. “My friend paid $1200 USD to ship the books to my address and now they [want to] charge me about $700 USD as taxes on goods. The books were a donation. He bought them for $600 USD.”

In the meantime, FedEx Canada has informed Abu Toha that unless he pays the $700 in taxes, the books will be destroyed. But even if he pays the $700 tax, Abu Toha would still need to go to the West Bank and bring the books back to Gaza himself—something he obviously cannot do, because of the blockade. Another option would be for the donor in Canada to pay to have them shipped back. “If my friend won’t cover the cost of returning the books, they will destroy the parcel,” Abu Toha wrote me. (FedEx Canada can be contacted here, and pressured not to destroy the books, when the donor has paid over $1200 to have them delivered).

Abu Toha has a dream, a vision, and determination. His case is one amongst millions, literally, of Palestinians who find every aspect of their daily lives poisoned by Israel. At the larger level, we need to put pressure on the Israeli government to end its occupation and apartheid regime. The best way to accomplish that is through BDS, which has changed the narrative about Zionism, showing it for the racist violent ideology that it is. This discursive change is finally beginning to impact policy, as we now have US politicians supporting a bill that protects Palestinian children’s rights—a breakthrough in the once impenetrable Zionist shield. In the meantime, on the smaller level, we can support the Edward Said Library by putting pressure on FedEx, or by donating to the library (the website has a wish list). Some of the titles Abu Toha hopes to receive include James Baldwin’s “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” and Toni Morrison’s oeuvre, but the library also needs more shelves, more computers, and they would like to be able to afford a larger space.

But for now, Abu Toha’s message is to “please rescue the 50 books.”

Editor’s update: Mosab Abu Toha is now raising money on Indiegogo to fund the library– raising “$15,000 to get the library off the ground–for rent, shelves, tables, chairs, and staff.” That’s a year’s operating expenses in just one month. We know readers will want to help!

About Nada Elia

Nada Elia is a Palestinian scholar-activist, writer, and grassroots organizer, currently completing a book on Palestinian Diaspora activism.

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6 Responses

  1. JLewisDickerson
    December 19, 2017, 4:15 am

    RE: “There should be a mandatory reading assignment for Western journalists on the banality of Israeli evil… For the almost two million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, where the Israeli-imposed blockade is now in its tenth year, this column would remind us of how children are studying by candle light… This column would not include the extra-judicial assassination of a wheelchair-bound double amputee…” ~ Nada Elia

    MY COMMENT: In order to fully comprehend what Israel has become, one merely has to contemplate the striking similarities between:
    • the recent extra-judicial assassination by the IDF of the wheelchair-bound double amputee in Gaza, and
    • the murder of Leon Klinghoffer on the Achille Lauro in 1985.

    • JLewisDickerson
      December 19, 2017, 4:33 am

      P.S. ALSO SEE: “Netanyahu: Stupid Like a Fox?” | By Uri Avnery | Antiwar.com | June 13, 2011

      [EXCERPT] Last week, there was a repeat performance. The Palestinians all around Israel have declared June 5 “Naksa” Day, to commemorate the “Setback” of 1967, when Israel spectacularly defeated the armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, reinforced by elements from the Iraqi and Saudi armies.

      This time, the Israeli army was prepared. The fence was reinforced and an anti-tank ditch dug in front of it. When the demonstrators tried to reach the fence—again near Majdal Shams—they were shot by sharpshooters. Some 22 were killed, and many dozens were wounded. The Palestinians report that people trying to rescue the wounded and retrieve the dead were also shot and killed.

      No doubt this was a deliberate tactic decided upon in advance by the army command after the Naqba Day fiasco and approved by Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. As was said quite openly, the Palestinians had to be taught a lesson they would not forget, so as to drive any idea of an unarmed mass action out of their minds.

      It is frighteningly reminiscent of events 10 years ago. After the first Intifada, in which stone-throwing youngsters and children won a moral victory that led to the Oslo agreement, our army conducted exercises in anticipation of a second Intifada. This broke out after the political disaster of Camp David, and the army was ready.

      The new [Second] Intifada started with mass demonstrations of unarmed Palestinians. They were met by specially trained sharpshooters. Next to each sharpshooter stood an officer who pointed out the individuals who were to be shot because they looked like ringleaders: “The guy in the red shirt… Now the boy with the blue trousers…”

      The unarmed uprising broke down and was replaced by suicide bombers, roadside bombs, and other “terrorist” acts. With those our army was on familiar ground.

      I suspect very much that we are witnessing much the same thing once more. Again, specially trained sharpshooters are at work, directed by officers. . .

      SOURCE – http://original.antiwar.com/avnery/2011/06/12/netanyahu-stupid-like-a-fox/kilhgj

  2. Elizabeth Block
    December 19, 2017, 11:12 am

    I just wrote to Fedex, saying that if they couldn’t deliver the books to Gaza they should have told the customer before he entrusted the parcel to them. And I said the next time someone criticizes the idea of a cultural boycott of Israel I shall tell them about this cultural boycott of Gaza.

  3. John O
    December 19, 2017, 12:26 pm

    “If my friend won’t cover the cost of returning the books, they will destroy the parcel …”

    And we all know what sort of people burn books.

  4. John O
    December 19, 2017, 1:11 pm

    “(FedEx Canada can be contacted here, and pressured not to destroy the books, when the donor has paid over $1200 to have them delivered).”

    Are they allowed to do this? The books are not their property. What are their terms for returning packages that cannot be delivered to the addressee?

  5. nada
    January 4, 2018, 10:11 am

    Update: Abu Toha insisted that he would not pay the exploitative customs tax. The donor has filed a complaint with Canada Post, who said they would look into it, but nothing has been resolved yet.

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