HCC co-sponsored film this Wednesday: The Occupation of the American Mind

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Healing Children of Conflict, along with the student group Peace MEans from GVSU, will be co-sponsoring the film this Wednesday that is open to the public.

The film is entitled, The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States.

Narrated by Roger Waters and featuring leading observers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and U.S. media culture, the film explores how the Israeli government, the U.S. government, and the pro-Israel lobby have joined forces, often with very different motives, to shape American media coverage of the conflict in Israel’s favor. From the U.S.-based public relations campaigns that emerged in the 1980s to today, the film provides a sweeping analysis of Israel’s decades-long battle for the hearts, minds, and tax dollars of the American people in the face of widening international condemnation of its increasingly right-wing policies.

The film will be shown at 7:30pm this Wednesday, February 8 on the GVSU Allendale campus, in room 132 of Lake Huron Hall. The film is free and open to the public. A discussion will the follow the film.

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They don’t want our pity, but they do welcome our solidarity: Physician tells stories about Palestinians living under siege in Gaza

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Dr. Mads Gilbert, author of the books, Eyes in Gaza andNight in Gaza, in which he describes what it was like to work under the bombs with Palestinian colleagues during Israel’s 2008 – 2009 and 2014 invasions of the Gaza Strip, recently completed a US speaking tour that took him to various venues in Michigan, Indiana, and Texas.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, Dr. Gilbert spoke to an audience of about 100 people at Calvin College. A Christian liberal arts college associated with the Christian Reformed Church, Calvin has previously hosted various speakers who focus on Palestine, among them Ali Abunimah, Nora Barrows-Friedman, and Mazen Qumsiyeh

A guest of Grand Rapids-based non-profit, Healing Children of Conflict, as well as of Calvin College’s History Department and Middle East Club, Dr. Gilbert provided an astute fact-based analysis of the situation in Gaza. However, Dr. Gilbert’s presentation did not just rely on facts. It was also structured around powerful stories of Palestinian civilians whom he has met while working in makeshift operating rooms at Gaza’s Al-Shifa’ hospital.

Dr. Gilbert accompanied his testimony with many photos of people, places, and events. For instance, he illustrated his talk with pictures of many of the children wounded from Israeli bombs that have been dropped on Gaza over the last decade. However, he asked the audience not to record any of the images. “I did not ask the consent of the wounded to be able to distribute their images online, I only use them in this capacity to be able to tell their stories,” said the doctor.

Dr. Gilbert began his talk by showing images of two Palestinian children wounded in July 2014 and by explaining that many children have been wounded or killed during the various Israeli assaults on Gaza. However, the pictures were not meant to just shock the audience; they were also meant to demonstrate the incredible resiliency of Palestinians living under siege in Gaza.

Throughout his talk, Dr. Gilbert occasionally used images other than those of Palestinians, like this image of maps that demonstrate how Israel has occupied more and more Palestinian land.

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At one point, Dr. Gilbert emphatically stated, “It is not a difficult conflict. Rather, it is a difficult occupation.” The Norwegian physician then observed that there are, “1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza, with 58% being 18 years old or younger.” He mentioned more than once that after the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza, Israeli generals considered that 90% of the targets were successful, which meant that the targeting of children was considered a “success.”

Occasionally the doctor included video clips of Israeli bombing, like a clip he showed of Gaza and Rafah being bombed in 2012. One video clip was from outside a Palestinian hospital, where you could see a constant influx of people coming in cars, ambulances and on foot as a result of the bombardment. Dr. Gilbert said they were mostly trauma patients, suffering from loss of limbs, internal wounds, and severe burns. He then showed an image of a 10-year old Palestinian girl. An F-16 fighter plane had bombed her home, killing 3 and seriously wounding 5 others.

Dr. Gilbert often made the point that the real heroes in this situation were the Palestinian doctors and nurses who were not only able to save lives, but who did so under horrendous conditions. He noted that the Israeli siege of Gaza and the economic blockade means that basic and necessary medical supplies rarely get in, so physicians must operate on patients in makeshift ways, often using the light from their cell phones. At one point, Dr. Gilbert showed an image of a Palestinian orderly who had an infectious smile on his face and was tasked with cleaning up the operating rooms in just 6 – 8 minutes before the next patient was brought in.

Throughout his presentation, the Norwegian doctor kept reminding the audience that all of this horror in Gaza was, “100% avoidable, that is was done by Israel and paid for by the US government.” The Norwegian physician then implored the audience to look up a poem written and performed by the young Palestinian artist, Rafeef Ziadah. The poem is entitled, We Teach Life Sir.

Dr. Gilbert continued with images of Palestinian children he came in contact with   during surgery. He showed a photo of a 7-year old boy who had been hit by shrapnel and who then died on the operating table. Another picture showed a 14-year old boy whose right leg had been blown off from shrapnel, by what according to Dr. Gilbert was most likely a new US-developed weapon, loaded onto a drone. This 14-year old Palestinian boy also died on the operating table. In a pained voice, Dr. Gilbert said the 2014 Israeli attack on Gaza were the worst he had seen during his many visits. During that assault, he saw 400 patients in just one night.

After a brief moment of silence, the doctor proclaimed, “I am an unapologetic anti-Zionist and Gaza is a colonial project.” He continued by condemning the Israeli system of Apartheid and by quoting South African leader Nelson Mandela’s famous statement, “Our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

Dr. Gilbert began practicing medical solidarity in 1982 in Beirut. He told the story of a Palestinian boy in the Lebanese city who has lost his arm from the bombing, and who was traumatized and bereft of family and security. A week later, he met with the boy and was amazed at how much he wanted Dr. Gilbert to teach him how to treat his own wounds. In addition, he said the boy would often sing Palestinian folk songs and encouraged other patients in the hospital. “He is the symbol of resilience,” said the Norwegian physician. The Arabic word he used was sumud; “steadfastness.”

The doctor stated that “There is a systemic Israeli attack on Gaza’s healthcare.” He showed a UN map of Israeli attacks on health care facilities in 2014, including 75 hospitals and clinics that had either been damaged or destroyed. Dr. Gilbert then went on to state that in 2014, the United Nations had created makeshift shelters that were mostly Palestinian schools. The Israelis were given the precise coordinates of these locations, but they bombed them anyway.gilbert2alray

The Norwegian physician said that what is need and what he was attempting to do was to provide “evidence-based solidarity.” What he meant by that is that we need clear documentation of the horrors Israelis have committed against Palestinians. He affirmed that, “we need to read reports and books and look at research that will compel us to engage in solidarity.” Dr. Gilbert has been working on a research project on treating amputations, based on his work in Gaza. Some of the research was published in the British medical journal, The Lancet. Because of that report, Dr. Gilbert us now banned ever from going back to Gaza.

Dr. Gilbert told one last story, that of a young Gazan girl called Samar. In 2009, when she was 4 years old, Samar came into hospital during that year’s Israeli assault. What was surprising about her was that she was so quiet. Eventually, Dr. Gilbert and his team discovered that she had a severe wound in the back and that her spinal cord was damaged. The reason why Samar was so quiet was that she could not feel anything. After performing some initial surgery on her, Dr. Gilbert came back to check on her and at that point she was crying and saying, “mama, mama, mama.” Dr. Gilbert remembers asking one of the Palestinian doctors, “how can this go on?” The doctor replied very calmly, “we have no human rights.”

However, Samar’s story was far from over. A BBC reporter found Samar’s father, informed him that Samar was alive if disabled, and told the story of how an Israeli tank has leveled the family’s home, and shot two of Samar’s siblings dead. Samar is now living in Brussels with her family. Although she is wheelchair-bound and will never be able to walk again, she is an excellent student and Dr. Gilbert regards her as the face of Palestinian resiliency.

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Dr. Gilbert ended his talk by offering up some ideas for ways that we in the US can be in solidarity with Palestinians. First, he said that we cannot remain silent. The US just approved an increase in military aid to Israel. He then said we need to study and see who is profiting from this injustice. He suggested the online sourcehttp://whoprofits.org/. More importantly, he encouraged people to join solidarity movements, likeStudents for Justice in Palestine or the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).   

One of the co-sponsors of the event, Healing Children of Conflict, is itself engaged in a Grand Rapids-based BDS campaign. For those interested in joining contact them at healingchildrenofconflict@gmail.com.

Israel Lines Its Pockets With Palestinian Aid — And The US Helps Israel Keep It That Way

This article is re-posted from Mint Press News.

A Palestinian boy looks from his family's destroyed house at workers rebuild a house which was destroyed during the last summer's war between Israel and Hamas, as the long-awaited reconstruction began in Shijaiyah neighborhood eastern Gaza City on Thursday, July 23, 2015. Construction has started on the first homes that will be rebuilt in the Gaza Strip since the devastating war destroyed much of the territory's infrastructure. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

A Palestinian boy looks from his family’s destroyed house at workers rebuild a house which was destroyed during the last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas, as the long-awaited reconstruction began in Shijaiyah neighborhood eastern Gaza City on Thursday, July 23, 2015. Construction has started on the first homes that will be rebuilt in the Gaza Strip since the devastating war destroyed much of the territory’s infrastructure. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

From severely limited water supplies to a blockade on even the most basic supplies, Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestine has destroyed even the most basic infrastructure Palestinians need to survive, forcing residents of Gaza and the West Bank to struggle through a humanitarian disaster.

This was intensified in 2014 during Israel’s most recent genocidal attack on the Gaza Strip, which left over 2,000 Palestinians dead and over 100,000 homeless. During that onslaught, Operation Protective Edge, Israeldeliberately targeted Gaza’s infrastructure, destroying factories and plants that posed no threat to the occupation.

In September 2015, The United Nations’ Roberto Valent estimated that, at the current rate, it will take 30 years to rebuild Gaza, not to mention the estimated $7.8 billion required to fund those efforts.

Now, just two years later, the unemployment rate in Palestine has neared an astronomical 27 percent, andOxfam International operates a food voucher program that assists 71,000 people in Gaza alone.

And while the chief reason for Palestinian suffering is the brutal, illegal occupation of Israel there are a number of other compounding factors found in the deeply corrupt Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas.

In March, Mondoweiss reported that Mr. Abbas refused an opportunity to construct new electricity lines that would have supported the power sector in Gaza, where residents have electricity for just a few hours each day.

Ongoing “security cooperation” between Israel and the PA is another example of Mr. Abbas’ complicity in Palestinian suffering. There is also strong evidence that the PA shares information with Israel to prevent armed resistance to the occupation.

This complicity and corruption in Mr. Abbas’ PA plays into another major roadblock on Palestine’s path to recovery: International funds meant for reconstruction efforts in Gaza and other forms of humanitarian aid are routinely diluted by Israel.

Israel: A sieve for aid money intended for Palestine

Last month, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, which regularly polls Palestinians on a range of issues, including their perception of corruption within the PA, reported that 80 percent perceive corruption and 52 percent view the PA as a burden.

An April report by Haaretz highlighted Palestinians’ long-standing grievances with the puppet government headed by Mr. Abbas and controlled by Israel and the United States:

“Outright theft of public funds, receiving of bribes and other favors in return for services, hugely inflated salaries and favors paid to senior NGO officials and high-level political interference in the replacement of senior civil servants.”

Monies donated to various NGOs operating in Palestine do not always reach their ultimate destination. This generally occurs for one of two reasons: corruption within the Palestinian government or theft by the Israeli government.

FILE - In this Oct. 11, 2014 file photo, Keith Mathias-O'Chez, an inspector of building materials for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, visits one of seven mixing concrete factories that are responsible for preparing the concrete for the U.N. projects in the Gaza Strip. Gaza reconstruction is moving at a "snail's pace" and at this rate, it would likely take 30 years to rebuild the extensive damage from last summer's Israel-Hamas war, a senior U.N. official said. Roberto Valent, the incoming area chief of a U.N. agency involved in reconstruction told The Associated Press on Wednesday, June 24, 2015 in an interview that the system is too slow and Israel must open Gaza's borders to allow for the speedy rebuilding or repair of 141,000 homes he said suffered minor to severe damage or were destroyed. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)

FILE – In this Oct. 11, 2014 file photo, Keith Mathias-O’Chez, an inspector of building materials for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, visits one of seven mixing concrete factories that are responsible for preparing the concrete for the U.N. projects in the Gaza Strip. Gaza reconstruction is moving at a “snail’s pace” and at this rate, it would likely take 30 years to rebuild the extensive damage from last summer’s Israel-Hamas war, a senior U.N. official said. Roberto Valent, the incoming area chief of a U.N. agency involved in reconstruction told The Associated Press on Wednesday, June 24, 2015 in an interview that the system is too slow and Israel must open Gaza’s borders to allow for the speedy rebuilding or repair of 141,000 homes he said suffered minor to severe damage or were destroyed. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)

Over a five-year period, Rafiq al-Natsheh, chairman of the Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission, recovered $70 million in state money which officials used to strike profitable deals abroad. While Al-Natsheh said tens of millions are still missing, he also refuted allegations that the missing monies total into the hundreds of millions. So the issue of corruption within Palestine, under the watchful eyes of the spineless Mr. Abbas, is significant, but it still isn’t the biggest component of the problem.

The main challenge to funding the needs of the Palestinians is caused by Israel. That apartheid nationdemands that all aid to Palestine go through Israel. Therefore, such things as taxes, transportation costs and many other “fees” reduce the amount of aid that actually reaches Palestine, while enriching the occupiers.

And this causes international donations to decrease. Reuters reported in February:

“Over the past five years, direct support to the Palestinian budget from the EU and others has fallen from around $1.3 billion a year to less than $700 million, with the decline attributed in large part to frustration over money not being spent where it was intended or not being fully accounted for.”

It is interesting that while money “not being spent where it was intended or not being fully accounted for” is cause for the European Union and other entities to draw back their support, the model is not the same for the U.S. In the final report of the Commission on Wartime Contracting, which reviewed monies ostensibly spent for the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan following the United States’ devastation of those countries, it is estimated that between $31 billion and $60 billion had been lost to fraud and waste. However, U.S. money still flows to Iraq.

Indeed, the occupation of Palestine is a lucrative arrangement for Israel. Mondoweiss reported in March thatIsrael periodically tests new weaponry, usually provided by the U.S., on Palestinians. Then, after the testing is done, leaving thousands of innocent Palestinians dead or maimed, the weapons are ready to be sold on the international market.

Aid subversion and unfulfilled pledges

Since all aid to Palestine must go through Israel, as the Mondoweiss report highlighted, this provides endless opportunities for “aid subversion” or “aid diversion.” That is why studies indicate that 72 percent of that money remains in Israel, never benefitting Palestinians.

Another related issue is the lack of pledge fulfillment. After the 2014 Israeli slaughter of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the “Cairo Conference on Palestine – Reconstructing Gaza” was held on Oct. 14, 2014. Several nations pledged $5 billion — including $3.5 billion intended specifically for Gaza — to support the reconstruction of the more than 200,000 homes and businesses destroyed or damaged by Israel. Yet, as of March this year, less than half of the pledged monies had been sent.

FILE - In this Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014 file photo, a Palestinian woman washes clothes as she sits in front of the rubble of her family house in Khuzaa, southern of Gaza Strip. A U.N. aid agency that helps Palestinians in Gaza says that after numerous delays, it's ready to begin helping a small number of people rebuild their homes, destroyed in last summer's war in the coastal strip. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)

FILE – In this Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014 file photo, a Palestinian woman washes clothes as she sits in front of the rubble of her family house in Khuzaa, southern of Gaza Strip. A U.N. aid agency that helps Palestinians in Gaza says that after numerous delays, it’s ready to begin helping a small number of people rebuild their homes, destroyed in last summer’s war in the coastal strip. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)

Donations were to be made available between 2014 and 2017, but even allowing for the donations being sent periodically, rather than all at once, they are still behind. The following table shows the pledges, monies sent and shortfall from four Arab nations as of April, the most recent date for which this information is available:

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If one looks at the $232 million that has already been sent, far short of the nearly $2 billion pledged by these four nations, and considers that Israel skims at least 70 percent off that total, the amount actually received by Palestine is less than $70 million.

One of the international arguments against universal recognition of Palestine is that it cannot be self-sustaining. Yet as Al-Jazeera reported in April:

“The Palestinian Authority is being deprived of $285m in revenues annually, the World Bank reported, attributing these losses to arrangements outlined by the Paris Protocol, the Oslo Accord-era agreement that determined the economic relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.”

The report further states that Israel is withholding $669 million in Palestinian revenue. Certainly, the influx of this money would greatly stimulate the Palestinian economy.

The 8th most powerful country in the world gets more US aid than Palestine

Israel is ranked as the eighth most powerful country in the world. Yet it still receives billions of dollars in foreign aid from the U.S. each year.

For fiscal year 2017, the U.S. has pledged $364 million to Palestine. Compare that to the proposal for foreign aid to Israel for 2017, which currently stands at $3.1 billion but could rise to as much as $4 billion. So the U.S. will give Palestine less than 10 percent of what it gives to the eighth most powerful country in the world.

And while the amount given to Israel is ever-increasing, the same is not true for Palestine. In October 2015,the U.S. reduced the $370 million promised to Palestine (less than what is pledged for 2017) to $290 million in order to send a “message” to that country in response to stabbing attacks in Jerusalem. Yet Israel kills hundreds of innocent Palestinians annually, and it continues to enjoy aid boosts from Washington.

FILE  - In this Oct. 1, 2014 file photo, Palestinian Madi Hasanein, sits next to his son while he swings in what is left of  their house in Tofah neighborhood of Gaza City. Gaza reconstruction is moving at a "snail's pace" and at this rate, it would likely take 30 years to rebuild the extensive damage from last summer's Israel-Hamas war, a senior U.N. official said. Roberto Valent, the incoming area chief of a U.N. agency involved in reconstruction told The Associated Press on Wednesday, June 24, 2015 in an interview that the system is too slow and Israel must open Gaza's borders to allow for the speedy rebuilding or repair of 141,000 homes he said suffered minor to severe damage or were destroyed. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)

FILE – In this Oct. 1, 2014 file photo, Palestinian Madi Hasanein, sits next to his son while he swings in what is left of their house in Tofah neighborhood of Gaza City. Gaza reconstruction is moving at a “snail’s pace” and at this rate, it would likely take 30 years to rebuild the extensive damage from last summer’s Israel-Hamas war, a senior U.N. official said. Roberto Valent, the incoming area chief of a U.N. agency involved in reconstruction told The Associated Press on Wednesday, June 24, 2015 in an interview that the system is too slow and Israel must open Gaza’s borders to allow for the speedy rebuilding or repair of 141,000 homes he said suffered minor to severe damage or were destroyed. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File)

Does it not appear that perhaps the international deck is stacked against Palestine? The U.S. sends it a fraction of what it sends to Israel, and Israel steals most of it anyway.

There can be no question that Mr. Abbas is far more beneficial to the U.S. and Israel than he is to Palestine, nor can it be questioned that the U.S. enables Israel’s apartheid regime. With billions required to rebuild Gaza, pledged donations only trickling in, Mr. Abbas cooperating with Israel, and the occupation continuing, the situation for Palestinians is dire.

Only when the rest of the world chooses to oppose the gross injustices that those two nations perpetrate on Palestine, will the Palestinians find peace and justice.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that Palestine will not be a free and independent during his time in office, yet worldwide protest and condemnation appear to make it harder and harder for him to keep that promise.

New Report looks at Israel’s detention of Palestinian Children

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A new report from the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, states that the number of Palestinian children arrested and imprisoned increased as a result of the Israeli government assault on Gaza in 2014.

From the report’s introduction:

In July and August of 2014, Gaza held the world’s attention as Israel launched massive air strikes and ground attacks against that part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt) over a period of 50 days. The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that more than 2100 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli onslaught. This number does not include the many more who were wounded or traumatized as a result of the Israeli offensive. In response to the unrest following the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir and the subsequent war on Gaza, Israeli occupation forces (IOF) intensified human rights violations against Palestinians in East Jerusalem including mass arrests, leading to an increase in the number of Jerusalemite Palestinians held in Israeli detention.

Not so apparent to the rest of the world however, was the lower intensity but nevertheless harsh repression that Israel continued to inflict upon Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 2014. While Palestinians suffer many forms of abuse and violence at the hands of Israel, this report concentrates on the detention of children from East Jerusalem between the years 2014-15, the cruel treatment they endured during arrest, detention and interrogation, and the impacts of this treatment on the children, their families, and communities. Furthermore, we examine the legal implications of Israel’s behavior and the political context in which it occurred.”

To read the entire report, go to this link.