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Crowdfunder for Gaza writer’s library gets support from Pollitt, Chomsky

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This is an inspiring story you won’t read in the New York Times. Mosab Abu Toah is a young Gaza intellectual in the groundbreaking program We Are Not Numbers. He has fallen in love with English language books and begun to amass a library. Here’s his Facebook page, which features Herman Melville and Noam Chomsky.

Abu Toah says books have allowed him to transcend imprisonment:

Freedom is a state of mind. You’re liberating yourself by living in an imaginary world where there are no boundaries…. I can be free through my writing, my speaking.

Mosab Abu Toha with Moby Dick in his library in Gaza.

He has 600 books in his house. He wants to make those books available to other Gazans. So he started an Indiegogo campaign to build a library, and as of late March had raised $2000 and gotten 200 books.

Katha Pollitt has an important piece up at The Nation about his effort: In Gaza, she writes, “most of the public libraries have been closed or destroyed, and where the remaining ones hold only 70,000 books for a population of 1.8 million.” (Susan Sontag had nearly 1/4 of that many books just in her NY apartment…) More from Pollitt:

 Mosab Abu Toha, a young Gazan with a degree in English literature who has never been able to explore the world due to Israel’s ban on travel, escapes through reading. Now he is trying to start an English-language library and book shop. (It will have books in Arabic as well—there is a great shortage of books in any language in Gaza, much fewer than one per person.)

He and his friend Shafi Salem have collected hundreds of books, which currently live in his apartment. His dream is to set up a library in a building of its own, with a coffee shop and a book shop—the sort of social and cultural amenity that is practically nonexistent in Gaza, where most of the public libraries have been closed or destroyed, and where the remaining ones hold only 70,000 books for a population of 1.8 million.

Now the two young men have started a crowdfunder to raise $15,000 to get the library off the ground–for rent, shelves, tables, chairs, and staff.

Here’s what Noam Chomsky had to say about the campaign:

It has been amazing, and inspiring, to see how people surviving in the Gaza prison, subject to constant and vicious attack and living under conditions of brutal deprivation, continue to maintain their dignity and commitment to a better life. Mosab’s initiative to create a library and cultural center in Gaza is an outstanding example of these remarkable efforts. What he is seeking to achieve would make a very significant contribution to enriching the lives of Gazans and providing them with opportunities for a much better future. It merits strong support from everyone concerned with justice and basic human rights.

Please take a minute and check out the crowdfunding site, watch that video. Mosab Abu Toha is up to $6,283.

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11 Responses

  1. Eva Smagacz on April 14, 2017, 8:18 am

    The problem with sending books to Gaza, is that Israel can keep them virtually permanently on the boarder, delaying permit to have them imported, waiting for them to turn to dust in a heat – something that they do with other goods, like clothes, fabric etc.

    This from Human Rights Watch: and situation is no better now then in 2009:

    “Falah Lubbad is one of 20 or 30 Gaza importers who deal with stationery. “I used to get notebooks from a factory in Hebron, but we can’t import from the West Bank now,” he told Human Rights Watch. I’m also out of pens, erasers, and stationery for university students.” Lubbad said he was paying storage fees for 15 truckloads of stationery in Israel that had not been granted approval to enter Gaza; eight of the truckloads had been held up since September 2008.(….)

    Israel has allowed only two truckloads of stationery to enter Gaza in 2009, while nearly 120 truckloads of stationery were waiting for Israeli clearance to enter as of August 25, according to the UN’s IRIN news agency.”

    This was 2009. Imagine how much Israel made on compulsory “storage fees” for materials they do not allow to Gaza.

  2. Eva Smagacz on April 16, 2017, 4:55 am

    Here is an address:
    Mosab Abu Toha
    Omar Almokhtar Street

    Tel. 00972592213114

    Email (please let him know that, and what titles, books have been send): [email protected]

    • Kaisa of Finland on April 16, 2017, 12:54 pm

      Eva Smagacz:

      I would so much want to collect and send him some good children’s books in english.. And I am sure I could get some good ones collected, but do you think there is any real posibilites for him to get them??? Knowing the border policies of Israel, I wouldn’t want to give them the enjoyment of not letting the package go through..

      Is there anyway that could make it easier?? – I’d be ready to go personally, if it just helped, but I have a doubt, it would make it even worse.. (These things make me so angry and frustrated and as I experienced in WB, I could easily get myself killed, when not being able to watch that s..t from the side..)

      So is it worth trying??

      • annie on April 16, 2017, 1:12 pm

        yes it’s worth trying. it took me 2 years to get some books to rawan but it was worth it. a friend (pam baily) was going in, she brought them with her. i also recall going book hunting with rawan and her long list from refaat (mostly all english lit classics). waved goodbye to her at the airport gate loaded down with an extra large extra suitcase full of books she couldn’t have carried on her own without the rolling cart it was so heavy. books are highly cherished in gaza.

        whatever your methods it’s worth trying, and forget about wouldn’t want to give them the enjoyment of not letting the package go through, what matters is getting the books there. just sending the books doesn’t work. find someone entering gaza or go yourself. if you are entering through egypt/rafah that is. i don’t know about ben gurion/erez crossing.

      • Kaisa of Finland on April 16, 2017, 2:06 pm

        Thanks Annie!! That is what I was thinking: If I (or someone I know) would be able to go with the books and maybe meet someone who can cross the border, in Egypt or where ever!! That is worth trying!!

        If I’ll collect some books first, is it ok, to send him e-mail?? How did you proceed??

        And about this sentence “I wouldn’t want to give them the enjoyment of not letting the package go through.. “:

        You know, I’d rather swim with the books to Gaza myself than give that enjoyment to the IDF people by the border. I’ve seen the disgusting pleasure on their faces when bullying Palestinians in the WB and I’ll do my everything to not to give them anymore reasons for such pleasure!!

        Just want to send some books (and love) to the children of Gaza!!

      • annie on April 16, 2017, 8:01 pm

        kaisa, i don’t recall seeing any israel police at the rafah border between egypt and gaza. there’s another border there called Kerem Shalom border crossing for trucks and most goods, so if you plan on bringing a large load all the goods would be diverted there. or for all i know even smaller suitcases are diverted there while you wait. but i just don’t recall seeing any israeli police until crossing from egypt into eilat after leaving gaza and heading to the WB. they made us wait 8 hours. the customs people there were insufferable but it was worth it.

        i haven’t sent books to Mosab nor do i have his email other than what eva posted, but yes i would recommend contacting him first because he might know other people coming in, and when they are coming, who could deliver your books given you’ve got enough time to transport the books to the courier. the way i did it was contacting many people who i heard were going in and eventually i had the books delivered to wash dc and a wonderful friend (pam bailey, who later founded we are not numbers) was able to deliver them. she took a photo of rawan with her stack of 10 books on her lap. i will never forget that photo.

        and thank you! it’s a wonderful idea sending english translations of children’s books by Swedish and Finnish authors.

      • Kaisa of Finland on April 16, 2017, 8:50 pm

        Thanks again Annie! I’ll start finding out about things. As he said, when they can’t travel, lets bring the world to them :)

  3. Eva Smagacz on April 16, 2017, 5:22 pm

    Hi Kaisa,
    I have no experience of sending books to Gaza.
    I found that Parcelforce will deliver to Gaza.
    5 kg parcel will cost £100 from UK.
    30 Kg will cost £350.

    I read somewhere that Israel censors books and does not allow political books. Not sure where I read that and how trustworthy the source was.

    I amassed a very large library in my time in UK and have many books that are on the list, but like many collectors, I am loath to loose any. I will however be able to order titles on Amazon, preferably in Hardback. With luck, one can have any book from a penny to a tenner,, and then there is inevitable £2.80 for postage.

    • Kaisa of Finland on April 16, 2017, 6:57 pm

      Thanks Eva!

      I know his list is mostly about English classics, but since I am from here, I was thinking, we have many good quality books for children by both Swedish and Finnish authors, translated to english and I think I could get collected some amount of them quite easily.

      If I get them through to Gaza and he doesn’t want them to his library, he’ll surely know a school/a teacher where to give them to.

      I’ll just have to find out how to get the books to him :)

      And thanks to Annie again for the advices she gave!!

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