Crisis in Gaza

It’s not news to anyone what has been happening since last Wednesday, at least I hope it’s not.  But I wanted to create an ongoing post that will attempt to keep up to date information on what is going on in Gaza.  I feel it is important to air all statistics for both sides.  I think once those are seen, you will be able to tell what is really going on here.

Our newly re-elected president today has said merely that Israel has a right to defend themselves.  I think “defense” is what is at question here.  Is it defense when you bomb a house full of people with only one member of your enemy inside it?  Is it defense when you bomb a media tower with journalists?  He also said that the precipating event of this crisis was Hamas firing rockets into Israel.  Which, if we look back, the precipitating event is actually the attack by Israel that killed the Hamas leader in the middle of a cease fire between the two sides.  It is this breaking of the ceasefire that led to more rockets.  I am not condoning the rockets.  Civilians on both sides are equally tragic.  But the force of response that Israel is showing is simply not equal.

Here is how we stand five days into the conflict:

72 Palestinians have been killed in total.  26 of those were today.  11 of those were children of the same family when their house was hit.  Some of those killed are from Hamas, a great portion are civilians and children.

Three Israeli civilians were killed last Thursday.

76 missiles were fired into Israel today.  Some hit civilian areas and there are several injured or being treated for shock.

Israel is also firing shells from the sea, completely surrounding Gaza.  Eight Palestinian journalists were injured from this when the media tower was hit.  One had his leg amputated.

Total injured Palestinians: 660

Hospitals in Gaza don’t have enough supplies for the injured.

Many families in Gaza are trapped in their house without power and water and are running out of food.

November 19:

Death toll in Gaza has reached 100. 

In somewhat better news, Obama has urged a cease fire and made a statement implying that a ground invasion was discouraged.

November 20:

Egypt has claimed that Israel will stop air strikes later today. Inshallah this is true.

One Israeli soldier and civilian have been killed by a rocket and two civilians were injured.

Death toll in Gaza: 130

Leaflets dropped over villages in Gaza asked residents to evacuate to Gaza City.

November 21:

Hamas has claimed responsibility for a bomb on a bus in Tel Aviv. How, I don’t know. 10 Israelis were injured.

Morsi and Clinton announce ceasefire has been agreed!

The ceasefire is in effect. Both sides have agreed to stop hostilities. Thank god for Morsi, Ban Ki-Moon, Clinton and all negotiators.

Final death toll in Gaza reached 150 over the past week. Total Israeli casualties were seven. Let’s all hope it doesn’t happen again.

Hillary has also promised to help improve conditions in Gaza. I’m going to hold her to that.


Call Center on Halsted Tomorrow!

It would mean a lot to me if everyone that read this post could take a couple minutes to call.  

Don’t ‘pinkwash’ apartheid at the Center on Halsted!

Call-in day – Friday, October 19th!

This call to action is coming from an ad-hoc group of Palestinian, Jewish and LGBTQ organizers in Chicago, in response to the LGBT center’s decision to participate in the Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema.   

Last week, an ad-hoc group of Palestinian, Jewish, and LGBTQ community members met with Tico Valle, the C.E.O. and Julie Walther, the Chief Program Officer of the Center on Halsted, the largest LGBT center in Chicago.  We discussed our concerns with their decision to participate in an Israeli government-sponsored event, and asked them to cancel their screenings of “Yossi” and “Melting Away,” which are a part of the Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema, scheduled for October 25th.  As of Thursday October 18, their answer was to proceed with the screenings.  Express your disappointment to the Center on Halsted for their decision and let them know that we don’t want our LGBT community center participating in the Brand Israel campaign in the future!

What you can do:
On Friday, October 19th,  We are asking for people to call the Center on Halsted at 773-472-6469 and ask for either the C.E.O, Modesto Tico Valle (ext. 250) or Chief Program Officer, Julie Walther (ext. 178).  If possible, tell whoever answers the phone that you would like to leave a message with them and not a voicemail.

Some things you could say:

“Hi, my name is __________________. I’m calling to express my concern/disappointment to the Center on Halsted for their sponsorship of the Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema. I feel strongly that:
  • Events like this use queers to paint Israel as “gay-friendly” and divert attention from Israel’s crimes of occupation and apartheid. 
  • Hosting this event, sponsored by the Israeli government, would create an unwelcoming and hostile environment at the Center on Halsted for Palestinian and Arab queers, and for all of us LGBTQ-identified folks who are opposed to racism and militarism.
  • Pinkwashing narratives exploit the realities of self-determined LGBTQ Palestinian, Muslim and Arab people, without a legitimate commitment to solidarity with those communities.
If you make a call, please join the facebook event and let us know how what kind of response you got from the Center on Halsted!

And if you’re in Chicago, join us on Thursday, October 25th for a protest outside of the Center on Halsted! There will be a demonstration to show our queer and justice-lovin rage if Center on Halsted decides to go forward with the screening.  More creative details to come soon, so be sure to join the Protest Pinkwashing @ Center on Halsted Facebook Event!

Thirsting for Justice

Last Saturday, I did a challenge that required living on 6 gallons of water for twenty-four hours in solidarity with Palestinians struggling for clean and accessible water.  Here’s what happened.

Thanks for watching.  Donations can be made at 

Insulting the Dead and Depriving Basic Needs…All in a day’s work

We all know the story of Rachel Corrie.  As a young activist in the International Solidarity Movement in the Gaza Strip, Rachel took a stand and used herself as a human shield against a bulldozer about to demolish yet another Palestinian home.  Some other activists shouted at the driver to stop.  This was not enough.  The driver continued, abruptly ending her life, and continued to demolish the home.

Ten years later, her parents are still fighting the state of Israel in court for negligence and failure to conduct a proper investigation.  The latest hearing was last Tuesday, where the judge claimed “She [Corrie] did not distance herself from the area, as any thinking person would have done.”

Any thinking person.  Wow.  Any thinking person would also have stopped when there was a human in their way.

So there you have it.  The judge favored the Israeli government and also managed to insult the deceased victim at the same time.  Insensitive, cruel, despicable.  And what were the Corries asking for in this suit of negligence?  One dollar.

“No, I won’t grant you a dollar and also, your dead daughter is stupid.”  Thank you, Judge Gershon.

In other news, a new UN report on Gaza has deemed that the territory will be unliveable by 2020.  That is less than ten years from now.  “The UN report, “Gaza in 2020: A liveable place?”, estimates the territory will need double the number of schools and 800 more hospital beds by 2020, and says it is already suffering from a housing shortage.”  -BBC News

Their fresh water source will be not be useable by as early as 2016, and not too long ago the water was reported to be non-potable in the first place.

Let’s just hope Egypt keeps those tunnels open since their entire economy is forced to rely on smuggling.



Artistic Director of Freedom Theatre Arrested

 Below is text from a letter by the Friends of the Freedom Theatre, based out of New York, in response to the recent arrests of staff members of the theatre over the last few months.  It will be featured in Time Out New York Magazine.  Please consider contributing to the cost of the ad.  The address to send a check follows the letter.  Your name will be listed with the letter, but just tell them if you do not want your name. This could be a breakthrough if they can afford to put in the whole letter!  Some of you may remember that I blogged about my visit to the Freedom Theatre while I was in the West Bank.  It was one of the most moving experiences of my life and I truly hope some of you contribute to this great cause.  Don’t let theatre become a crime. 
A Statement By The Theatre Community of The United States

It has come to our attention that on June 6, 2012, Nabil Al Raee, Artistic Director of The Freedom Theatre, was arrested at gunpoint at 3:15am by the Israeli Defense Forces at his home in Jenin.  This arrest and continuing detention violates Nabil Al Raee’s basic human rights and international law.

Al Raee was held for over two weeks before being allowed counsel and has still not been allowed to see his family.  He has not been brought to court or accused of any crime.  In the United States this arrest would be illegal.  In Israel this arrest would be illegal.  Under international law this arrest and detention is illegal, and it should be illegal in the Occupied Territory of The West Bank.

Six times in the last ten months members of The Freedom Theatre staff have been arrested and detained without charge.  On May 5, The Freedom Theatre co-founder, Zakaria Zubeidi, was arrested by Palestinian Authority security forces.  He remains in custody with no clear reason for his arrest and has also not been given access to his family.  Zubeidi is well known for his determination to eschew armed resistance to the Israeli occupation in favor of cultural resistance.   What we have learned from Zubeidi, the tragedy of Juliano Mer Khamis, and “Arna’s Children” is that we all need more theatre, not less.  The children of all refugee camps need more theatre, more arts activity, not less, and The Freedom Theatre stands for more personal freedom and free expression, not less.

Nabil Al Raee is an artist, not a criminal, but apparently in the West Bank, being an artist at The Freedom Theatre is now a crime.  The IDF, in its continuing harassment of The Freedom Theatre staff, has taken a man into custody who has chosen to resist through purely artistic means.  We believe that Al Raee is being targeted as an effort to intimidate and harass The Freedom Theatre because of its vital work in serving and empowering refugee youth and its artistic expression of political viewpoints.

The theatre community in the United States is gravely concerned about this matter.
We denounce these arrests and detentions. We demand the immediate release of Nabil Al Raee and Zakaria Zubeidi.  If they continue to be incarcerated, we demand that they be afforded proper legal protections due to any person under the law: including public hearings where the reasons for their arrests are made public, continuing access to counsel, and immediate access to their families.
For any society that claims to be a democracy, where the rule of law presides over public life, it is necessary that all persons be protected by due process and from unlawful arrest, torture or abuse, including arbitrary imprisonment by the military. For any democracy to thrive, artists must be free to express themselves.  Out of solidarity with a fellow artistic leader, we ask that the Israeli and Palestinian authorities reconsider their positions and immediately return to actions that demonstrate respect for the arts and all people’s basic human rights.

Friends of the Jenin Freedom Theatre
PO Box 592
Tarrytown, NY 10591

Send checks to:

Friends of the Jenin Freedom Theatre

PO Box 1125

New York, NY 10276

Media Manipulation–a Perfect Example

I often claim that media here in the United States falsely depicts news and events that happen in the Middle East and especially Palestine (which is the reason I write this blog).  Well, today I have the perfect example of an article from the New York Times that has most of the facts wrong.  I know because I was there: the NATO rally and demonstration that took place yesterday in Chicago.  For reference, please read the article here:

Protesters and Police Clash at NATO meeting

Here is how the reporters portray the protest in a completely different light than what actually took place.

1. From the very first sentence, they begin their false reporting :

“Protesters at the NATO summit meeting clashed with the Chicago police late Sunday as officers tried to disperse thousands of people who had gathered several blocks from the site of the meeting and refused demands to leave.”

There were not thousands left to be dispersed.  There were thousands of us in the march that took place BEFORE the clashes.  After our march was over, the majority of us dispersed of our own accord and only a couple hundred refused to leave.

2. “At times, the march was calm.”

Actually, the entire five hour rally and march were peaceful the entire time. FIVE hours, not “at times.” As I said before, fighting did not take place until after the official march.

3. The print version of this article claimed that a group of people in military uniform started the confrontations when they threw their war medals in the street. False. They did throw the medals, but afterwards asked everyone to leave with them peacefully to the west. Hardly inciting violence if you ask me.

So use this as a reminder that our media will paint the picture they want. In this case, it was making Chicagoans look unable to handle a peaceful demonstration. Which in reality, we did beautifully. And it was an amazing moment.

Palestinian Prisoners Day

Yesterday was Palestinian Prisoners Day and the day of Khader Adnan’s release from Israeli administrative detention.  Every year this day is celebrated in Palestine within the families of current and former prisoners.  This year was unique, however.  International attention has been drawn on human rights abuses in Israeli prisons, and especially on the phenomenon of administrative detention.  This is where Israel can hold someone without charge or trial indefinitely.

Hana Shalabi is currently in such a situation.

The most recent report from Addameer states that 203 of the overall prisoners are children and 31 of them are under the age of 16.  Below is a chart of the demographics of prisoners over the last year:


This year, Palestinian Prisoners Day was honored globally, including here in Chicago.  A day long fast in solidarity with the prisoners was called upon by Chicago Movement for Palestinian Rights, and I had the privilege of attending their dinner and educational event in the evening.







Please take some time to watch this short video about prisoners and educate yourself: