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Holding Gaza close this Ramadan season and beyond

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It is just after sunrise on the first day of Ramadan, and I am in Mali. This landlocked West African country is one of the most vulnerable in the world, and notorious for land grabs. My mind is indeed on land grabs, but it is thousands of miles away.

I’m so angry about Gaza. It’s the kind of anger that leaves me shaken but not shocked, like a heartbreak long in the making, or a confirmation of terminal illness in the family that could have been prevented.

On one side, this is not mine to grieve. I am not Palestinian, nor do I live the kinds of struggles that come with daily life in Gaza. This time around, I do not personally know any of the dead—at least not yet. When I go to a protest in any given part of the world, I most often emerge with a camera full of images of smiling and determined faces, colorful flags held high.

In Gaza, emerging from a peaceful demonstration unharmed—or even alive—is clearly not a given.

On the other side, I grieve this because it is deeply personal. Despite the roll of the dice that dictated the circumstances of my birth (and thus privilege), I have lived in Palestine—and visited Gaza several times, some of those visits taking place in the aftermath of massacres. I saw things there that no one should see, and these things will haunt me forever.

I met some of the most welcoming, intelligent, and resolute people that one could imagine—living in unbearable conditions—and I am fortunate to count them among my friends and colleagues. They are comrades who hold me accountable at times like these.

Most importantly while in Palestine, I unlearned the stubborn kinds of politics that hold on like a vice until something tears them away, unlocking the potential for freedom. So I was fortunate to have seen such unthinkable things, because seeing is believing, and believing can be a catalyst for action.

This also hits home in a more uncomfortable way, and that is that my country of origin, the U.S., provides the military power that is necessary for the Israeli army to go on killing sprees in Gaza and elsewhere in the occupied territories. That has always been the case, but the nationalist soaked belligerency of this current U.S. administration has fast-tracked Israeli atrocities in Palestine that are also done in the name of nationalism.

In the hardline love affair between Israel and the U.S., both parties have become drunk on power, with the European Union and others enabling the dysfunctional relationship through aid, trade, and other means. When it inevitably ends, the hangover will be debilitating but the sobriety to follow will be sweet. Occupation, militarization, and empire are simply not built to last—although their ultimate duration depends on those who facilitate them.

So because of this, it is mine—if not to grieve, to act upon. This so-called “conflict” is all of ours.

A Palestinian medical worker reacts from tear gas during clashes with Israeli security forces in a tent city protest where Palestinians demand the right to return to their homeland, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the “Nakba”, and against U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem at the Israel-Gaza border, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 15, 2018. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)

What does this mean? Our actions must be constant. It’s easy—and appropriate—to feel so much emotion when the headlines and feeds of our social media are bubbling over with memorials to baby girls and double amputees whose lives were ended abruptly.

But death in Gaza doesn’t always happen with a well-documented strike of the sword. More often, it’s a slow drip of poison drowned out by background noise. Sometimes it comes by the way of a contaminated aquifer, an encroaching invisible border, or a staple food source blacklisted.

There are things we can do about this. We can invest in Palestinian-led sustainable development, and when necessary, humanitarian relief. We can divest from those who profit from Israeli militarization and occupation. We can educate ourselves, and then others, and we can take it to the streets.

And we can strengthen the movement to change the system, from anti-war to agroecology, because it is all intertwined. There is a place and a need for each of us—for our individual arsenals of talent—that can collectively arm the twin struggles for sovereignty and justice.

Today, back in Mali, I will join a small local delegation to the site of a Chinese land deal where communities will describe experiences of dispossession and strategies of resistance. Rural Malians know these things because they have lived them time and again.

Perhaps for that reason, there is a sense of unshakable solidarity with Gaza here. As West African Muslims celebrate the arrival of their holy month through fasting and prayer, they do so holding up Palestinians. They match that with action in the fight against land and water grabs, not only in the Sahel but also around the world.

And so can all of us do our part to hold Gaza close, even if that means holding Israel accountable.

Salena Tramel

Salena Tramel is a PhD researcher at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague, where her work is centered on the intersections of resource grabs and climate change mitigation, and the intertwining of (trans)national agrarian/social justice movements. In addition to her research at ISS, Salena draws on her global experience with social movements and grassroots organizations to inform her work as a policy and communications consultant and freelance journalist. Prior to joining the academic community at ISS, Salena served as the program coordinator for the Middle East and Haiti at Grassroots International, where she oversaw two key geographical areas while developing pro-poor advocacy strategies at the US/UN levels. She holds an MA in Sustainable Development with concentrations in Policy Analysis and Advocacy and Conflict Transformation from the School for International Training and a BA in Romance Languages from Point Loma Nazarene University. She has language skills in French, Spanish, Arabic, Haitian Creole, and Romanian.

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15 Responses

  1. Kay24 on May 18, 2018, 4:40 pm

    The UN has called for an investigation of this latest massacre , and independently other nations have too. How far will these investigations go, it is hard to predict, but most times the US vetoes votes at the UN, and sabotages any attempt to hold the occupiers accountable. Every time these poor Palestinians are attacked, and there is a massacre, one only hope that perhaps this time, the world will finally act and do what is right by these people. Israel has turned out to be a vicious nation, it lies, and justifies all its crimes, by blaming Hamas. This time too, they have their hasbara all over the comments sections calling all who died “terrorists” or members of Hamas. Hamas does not matter, the people who are suffering do.

    At least the international community should make sure the occupation ends, and these people are given their freedom. Killing Palestinian civilians have become easy, and a bad habit for these killers. It is because the US keeps protecting, aiding, and arming them, that they find it that easy. The US makes sure they are never held accountable, just like the US never is, for their massacres of Muslim nations.

    Here is Max Blumenthal being interviewed about this massacre:

  2. marc b. on May 18, 2018, 7:35 pm

    From the AP

    “Since last spring, Chinese authorities in the heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang have ensnared tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of Muslim Chinese — and even foreign citizens — in mass internment camps. This detention campaign has swept across Xinjiang, a territory half the area of India, leading to what a U.S. commission on China last month said is “the largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today.”

    Those damn Chinese.

    • Misterioso on May 19, 2018, 9:57 am

      @marc b.

      Yes, it is very important that we remember it is not only in historic Palestine where indigenous Muslims (and Christians) have been and are being killed, dispossessed, persecuted and expelled, (i.e., by Zionist Jews of foreign origin.) It is worldwide.

      For instance, your comment brings to mind the horrors the Rohingya Muslims are now experiencing, which are virtually identical to those that befell defenseless Palestinians when 800,000 were dispossessed and expelled between late 1947 and the autumn of 1948 (according to Walter Eytan, then Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry) by Jewish Zionist militias and the IDF through force of arms, several massacres, mass rape and intimidation. **(see below.) Over 500 Palestinian towns and villages, including churches, mosques and cemeteries, were destroyed by Jewish Zionist forces.

      The same tactics were used by Zionist Jews before and during their first invasion/occupation of Egypt in 1956, when about 25,000 more Palestinians were expelled and during and after Israel launched the June 1967 war, which resulted in the dispossession and expulsion of an additional 250,000 Palestinians.

      BTW, true to form, the entity known as “Israel” is now selling Myanmar much of the weaponry its armed forces are using to brutalize, kill, dispossess and expel the Rohingya.

      **In 2004, when asked by Ha’aretz journalist, Ari Shavit, what new information his just completed revised version of The Birth of the Palestinian Problem 1947-1949 would provide, Israeli historian Benny Morris replied: “It is based on many documents that were not available to me when I wrote the original book, most of them from the Israel Defense Forces Archives. What the new material shows is that there were far more Israeli acts of massacre than I had previously thought. To my surprise, there were also many cases of rape. In the months of April-May 1948, units of the Haganah were given operational orders that stated explicitly that they were to uproot the villagers, expel them and destroy the villages themselves.” (Ha’aretz, January 9, 2004)

      • marc b. on May 19, 2018, 11:12 am

        Yes, ‘Islam’, rarely defined, is the enemy du jour. that’s where the peace dividend went after the conclusion of the Cold War if anyone is wondering. My comment was also meant to be ironic. I’d say that Gaza is the ‘largest mass incarceration of a minority population in the world today’ contrary to the opinion of a ‘US Commision on China’.

  3. wondering jew on May 18, 2018, 10:23 pm

    When one achieves martyrdom, which might be called ritual suicide, it is the context of Gaza’s despair that is the essential fact, rather than this “peaceful demonstration” rhetoric. Israel is at war against Gaza and Gaza is at war against Israel and this “peaceful demonstration” is a form of propaganda.

    my view says that the suffocation of Gaza will not achieve the goal of surrender by Hamas without the wars and the fence picnic riots, and so the siege should be lifted. but this was not a march against the siege, it was a march of return. not a peaceful demonstration.

    there is no level of communication between Israel and the Palestinians of Gaza and one is allowed to blame Israel for this situation. Personally I think the movement towards Jewish statehood was a natural occurrence given the historical context and the harmful exile of the Palestinians follows from the event quite harmfully and naturally. (a contradiction: both harmful and natural. imagine that? a contradiction.) but it is the role of the rejuvenated yehudi people to be resilient and move on to the next stage and undo the harm or ameliorate the harm or fess up to the harm, and that has not been the next stage. (it is not realistic to expect such a stage, but it is befitting to be disappointed by the retarded progress rather than a desired progress.)

    Palestinians who have suffered by the natural Jewish land oriented movement are naturally angry and so a demonstration is perfectly understandable. but yes. gaza is a prison. don’t go near the wall and think it’s a picnic. call it a picnic riot. call it the fence suicide martyr movement.

    now that we have got that out of the way, ramadan karim.

    • Mooser on May 19, 2018, 1:05 pm

      And there’s “yonah”, with his bottomless pilpul vial. All you can swallow, one price, cheap.

    • eljay on May 19, 2018, 1:33 pm

      || Yonah Fredman: … Personally I think the movement towards Jewish statehood was a natural occurrence given the historical context and the harmful exile of the Palestinians follows from the event quite harmfully and naturally. … ||

      Core tenet of Zionism: Acts of injustice and immorality committed against Jews justify acts of injustice and immorality committed by Jews.

      It’s a shame that Zionists like you insist on paving the way for the harming of Jews as part of a “natural occurrence given [a] historical context”.

      || … it is the role of the rejuvenated yehudi people to be resilient and move on to the next stage and undo the harm or ameliorate the harm or fess up to the harm, and that has not been the next stage. … ||

      Of course it hasn’t: The “rejuvenated yehudi people” (I’m assuming that some new code-phrase for “Jewish Zionists”) continue to believe that the evil they do is virtue because they are entitled to be Jewish supremacists in a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine.

      One can only hope that the “rejuvenated yehudi people” decide before too long to abandon Jewish supremacism (Zionism) and pursue instead the universal and consistent application of justice, accountability and equality.

      • Mooser on May 19, 2018, 6:32 pm

        “Personally I think the movement towards Jewish statehood was a natural occurrence given the historical context and the harmful exile of the Palestinians follows from the event quite harmfully and naturally. (a contradiction: both harmful and natural. imagine that? a contradiction.)”

        Sure, we know “yonah”, a contradiction, just like the Holocaust. One of those contradictory things, about which no judgments can be made.

        C’mon, “yonah”, you are doing your usual pilpully gloating about the fact that Israel can shoot Palestinians with impunity. Does that help “rejuvenate” (ROTLMSJAO) the Jewish people?

    • Marnie on May 20, 2018, 3:51 am

      auntie yonah, hang onto your pearls girl. Peaceful protests are routinely slandered by the pro zionist manure spreaders like yourself, who believe fervently that palestinians have no rights to anything, especially protesting their imprisonment and a quality of life that is the antithesis to living, only the sacred cows known as holocaust survivors living in ‘israel’ could be close to being on a par with, and they at least are free to move around, mostly from dumpster to dumpster, in search of their daily bread. FO already.

      • wondering jew on May 20, 2018, 1:58 pm

        I’ll give you my perspective as of this hour:
        Unlike the West Bank where there is the complication of settlers, now that Sharon removed the settlers, Gaza’s “solution” is relatively easy: a hudna between Gaza and Israel and a relatively free flow of goods and people in and out of Gaza, passing through a third party inspection regime. Israel is instead set on getting Hamas to hand over the keys of Gaza to Fatah. I understand the desirability of this goal, but do not believe it is attainable in the short run, partially because of the negative press of tactics such as the sniper response to “March of Return” and the lack of ability or will by the IDF or political echelons to create a strategy or find a weaponry to protect the fence with lower casualties. I think the wars against Gaza and the siege of Gaza have been harmful and negative and I do not foresee a handing over of the keys to Fatah in the next while, so I prefer the creation of a modus vivendi with Gaza, despite its Hamas rulers.

        As far as a deeper view of the history and the Zionist enterprise, I defer that to another day and possibly another venue.

      • Mooser on May 20, 2018, 3:51 pm

        “I’ll give you my perspective as of this hour”

        Based on the complete misapprehension of the situation. There is no “border” between Israel and Gaza. Any more than there is a ‘border’ at the gate of Folsom Prison.

        “As far as a deeper view of the history and the Zionist enterprise, I defer that to another day and possibly another venue.”

        Like your bedroom mirror? You’ll see just as much disagreement there as you do here.

      • echinococcus on May 20, 2018, 11:34 pm

        I’ll give you my perspective as of this hour:

        Fredman, who ever asked you for your perspective? And who do you imagine gives two sticks for it, in this hour or at the hour of our death? Name the people who are eager for it.
        I mean, even among the many Zionists over here.

      • Marnie on May 21, 2018, 1:45 am

        “a relatively free flow of goods and people…” WTF does that even mean?

        Why do you put March of Return in quotes? It’s an actual event, not something fake like the boundaries of ‘israel’. Speaking of failed theocracies, ‘israel’ is swirling in the drain as we speak. Unbelievable desperation from hasbara central to try to spin ‘israel’s’ latest atrocities in any palatable way to the rest of the world. It’s not working, no matter how many eurovision contests are won or how high ‘israel’s’ rank on the happiness scale is or anything else. Shit is shit. And boy howdy we’re neck deep in it. Karma is going to be a MF (that’s Maryland Farmer for the faint of heart) Only you and your compatriots can speak so blithely about ‘lower casualties’ because people have to die, right? And the blood spilt has to belong to the other, right? Is that thirst for the blood of the real children of israel never slaked?

        Your perspective is nothing more than your usual gobshite (love this phrase, just borrowing it, all respect to the creator of it too).

  4. Boomer on May 19, 2018, 7:35 am

    Thanks for a powerful statement from one who cares about the people who live in Gaza. I’m struck by how different is the tone in the NYT. Today, for example, the headline on one story about Turkey tells us that “Ties With Israel Sour as Erdogan Seizes Gaza Issue Before Election.” Clearly, one infers, Erdogan is seizing on a pretext for political purposes, it can’t be real concern about a real problem. Not to worry, however, “For all the rhetoric, he has not been able to change the situation for the Palestinians, and perhaps he does not intend to.”

  5. Ossinev on May 20, 2018, 4:54 pm

    @Yonah Friedman
    “I’ll give you my perspective as of this hour”
    You then miss out on one vitally important aspect of the Great March of Return.Yes Yonah it`s that word”return”. Despite all the predictable but in this instance frenzied ZioHasbara the Palestinians of Gaza succeeded in getting across a simple message which Western society to date at best have simply not appreciated or at worst have chosen to ignore – they were trying to return to the lands and the homes which were stolen from them by warmongering foreign colonists.

    Adds a whole new dimension to it all don`t you think Yonah ? No longer simply a question of Hhhhggggamas terrorists at war with the only Western ” Democracy” in the Middle East but a question of whole families imprisoned in the largest and longest lasting concentration camp in history trying to escape and return to their homes.

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