Israel, Gaza, truth?

My friend Hannah Mermelstein works for justice and peace. She is a woman of Jewish descent who believes in doing justice and loving kindness for everyone, without distinctions based on religion or nationality. Here is what she is seeing, hearing, and experiencing from her current location in Palestine …
When it comes to reporting on the mideast, I trust the U.S. media less and less, which is why on-the-ground reports like this one … from someone I know and whose integrity I trust … mean so much. You can read 2 of Hannah’s email messages below the jump …

December 28, 2008
Today, 271 men, women, and children who were alive yesterday are now
dead in Gaza. More than 900 are injured, including 180 critically.
The death toll is rising as more people are dug out from under the
rubble, and the Israeli government promises that the attacks will
continue, and asks its people for patience.
Patience in the face of massacre?
I was on a tour yesterday with the Israeli organization Zochrot. We
visited Ras al Ahmar, a Palestinian village in the north close to the
Lebanon border, that was destroyed in 1948 and all its inhabitants
expelled. We heard the news from Gaza while on our way there, and the
leaders of the tour remarked, “Today we talk about a Nakba
[catastrophe] that started 60 years ago, and that continues as we
speak in Gaza.”
When we arrived back to Tel Aviv in the evening the bus was continuing
on to an Israeli protest against the bombing. There are
demonstrations and calls for revenge throughout the Middle East.
Hamas, who hasn’t carried out a bombing against Israel in almost four
years, is calling for a third intifada, a militarized intifada,
including suicide bombings.
When I first heard the news yesterday, standing in Ras al Ahmar in
front of a landscape of Lebanese mountains, I tried to call my friend
Summer, a Palestinian student who has never been able to leave the 140
square miles that make up the Gaza Strip, despite several times being
accepted to foreign programs and even being granted visas.
My phone calls wouldn’t go through. Finally, I got her on the phone
for a few seconds before the line went. The text message I received
from her just afterwards said: “There’s shelling everywhere, more than
120 killed, it’s horrible here!”
When I finally talked to her late last night, she told me she had been
in a meeting on a roof when she saw the first F16 drop the first bomb
in her area. She went inside. The windows were shaking. Her sister
was at the university when a bomb hit. “The bombing is everywhere!”
she said. I asked if it was still going on and she said she wasn’t
sure, the last bomb she had heard was a half hour earlier.
When I talked to Summer last week and asked how she was, she said
fine, and was her usual cheery self. When our connection failed in
the middle and I had to call her back, I asked, “Did the electricity
cut out?” “Electricity?” she responded. “No, of course we don’t have
any electricity; I’ve been talking to you in the dark the whole time.”
She went on to tell me she’d waited in line for hours the day before
for bread, and hadn’t found any. “They say a truck might get through
the crossing tomorrow,” she said hopefully.
At the same time, John Ging, the director of the UN Relief and Works
Agency in Gaza said: “Two weeks ago, for the first time in 60 years,
we ran out of food.”
This was all during a supposed “cease fire” which meant Hamas was not
attacking Israel at all, and Israel was not committing daily bombing
massacres against the people of Gaza. But the slow massacre of siege,
border closing, lack of fuel and electricity and bread… that was all
part of this “cease fire.”
So Olmert’s statement that “[t]he quiet we offered was answered with
mayhem. Our desire for calm was answered with terror,” is almost
laughable. If it weren’t for 271 dead and 900 injured. If it weren’t
for the Bush administration’s statement that the people in Gaza are
“nothing but thugs” and that Hamas is to blame for Israel’s largest
massacre since 1967.
When I see the footage, and then read these statements, I am
speechless with sadness and rage. I cannot respond. But Mourid
Barghouti, in his 2003 book I Saw Ramallah, has already responded:
“It is easy to blur the truth with a simple linguistic trick: start
your story from ‘Secondly.’ Yes, this is what Rabin did. He simply
neglected to speak of what happened first. Start your story with
“Secondly,” and the world will be turned upside-down. Start your story
with “Secondly,” and the arrows of the Red Indians are the original
criminals and the guns of the white men are entirely the victim. It is
enough to start with “Secondly,” for the anger of the black man
against the white to be barbarous. Start with “Secondly,” and Gandhi
becomes responsible for the tragedies of the British. You only need to
start your story with “Secondly,” and the burned Vietnamese will have
wounded the humanity of the napalm, and Victor Jara’s songs will be
the shameful thing and not Pinochet’s bullets, which killed so many
thousands in the Santiago stadium. It is enough to start the story
with “Secondly,” for my grandmother, Umm ‘Ata, to become the criminal
and Ariel Sharon her victim. …
The houses built on top of ours gallantly declare their willingness to
understand our odd predilection toward living in camps scattered in
the Diaspora of gods and flies, as though we had begged them to throw
us out of our homes and to send their bulldozers to destroy them in
front of our very eyes. Their generous guns in Deir Yassin forgive us
the fact that they piled our bodies high at the sunset hour there one
day. Their fighter jets forgive the graves of our martyrs in Beirut.
Their soldiers forgive the tendency of our teenagers’ bones to break.
Israel the victim polishes its hot, red knife with the sheen of
*There are protests all over the world right now. Please find one
where you are.*
Dec 29, 2008, 11:30pm in Palestine
The death toll in Gaza has reached 350. 1650 injured. I wonder how the
injured are counted. Are these people who reach the hospital? How
many others must there be? We watch the footage on the news of
children screaming, men and women wailing, fathers with tears
streaming down their faces as they kiss the heads of their dead
infants. We see the destroyed buildings. A university, a pharmacy, a
police station, a house…
I just sent a text message to my friend in Gaza (the same one I wrote
about the other day, the university student), asking how she was. Her
response: “We’re out of home now because it’s ruined. Dad and brothers
injured.” I tried to call and she didn’t answer. She then wrote,
“Please!! I can’t say a word now but we’re fine. Take care.” I wrote
and said I am so sorry, that I will continue to write to people in the
US and to protest. I asked her if there’s anything else she can think
of that I can do, knowing there probably isn’t. I offered to get her
a phone card if she needs credit. “What can a phone card do,” she
wrote back, “with my dad’s leg! It needs operation. I don’t want
more than safety. I want you to know I appreciate you.”
I was supposed to go to a friend’s house this afternoon in the
northern West Bank. She was going to cook me lunch for my birthday.
When I got to the area she was unable to cook or think or do much of
anything. She grew up in Gaza and most of her family is there. Last
night when she talked to her brother in the middle of the night, a
bomb had just exploded nearby and the children were all screaming.
They are in Rafah, very close to the border with Egypt. Today she has
been unable to reach him.
Please, please, stop what you’re doing and go out on the streets in
protest. Write to your newspapers. Especially those of you in the
US. Today everyone I talked to told me the US streets are silent.
That there are protests all over the world (people talk about a huge
protest in London that got a lot of media attention here), but that
the US is doing nothing. I tell them about the many e-mails I’ve
gotten in the past day of protests scheduled in New York, Boston, DC,
San Francisco, etc. And yet, it is not enough. Nothing is enough.
But please, do not continue as usual. 1.5 million people who have
been under siege in the largest prison in the world for months, even
years now, are now being bombed indiscriminately. We have ignored
Gaza for too long. Every day, every hour, every minute counts.
I will pray that the rain and clouds continue through the night. Yes,
the people fleeing their homes who are now outside may be cold and
wet, but the Israeli army is also having difficulty, apparently,
bombing in this weather.
This is insane.
(For anyone who still thinks this attack is a response to Hamas rocket
attacks of the past few days, read this Israeli article about how the
attacks have been planned for months:
For US folks who don’t know where to look for actions:

(For those in the DC area, there will be a 4:30 protest outside the State Department today.)