Last night at De-Bug, a wonderful organization in the South Bay, while waiting for M1 to arrive to talk about his trip to GAZA in July, I met a wonderful Palestinian/Cuban poet/activist/feminist and undergraduate at San Jose State, Karimah Al-Helew. Karimah shared a poem with us, "Dying to Survive," which reflected her family's experience in occupied Gaza.
Karimah spoke of Viva Palestina founder, British Member of Parliament George Galloway. Galloway created the humanitarian aid convoy in 2008-2009 in response to the Israel-Gaza conflict. Karimah worked on the organizing effort here for the July convoy which M1, Cynthia McKinney and others participated in.
We opened the program with libations for the ancestors--Palestinian, Pan-African, and others. I then asked persons present to introduce themselves as the seating arrangement lent itself to such intimacy. Before the program began I met the Wallachs, Donna and her sister Darlene who both have spent significant time doing Anti-Zionist work and Palestinian liberation work. Darlene spoke of being captured and imprisoned, then deported minus her passport. She said she had never flown in such fine style before. These were the same detention centers Cynthia McKinney spoke of when she was here last month--prisons full of African refugees.
The two sisters make regular presentations called "Eyewitness Gaza," and are a part of the Free Gaza Movement and International Solidarity Movement. Darlene spoke of accompanying Palestinian fishermen and the Israeli soldiers--frogmen target these vessels, arrest the owners and then remove costly equipment--GPS systems which are needed to navigate the boats.
Along with 41 other human rights workers Donna and Darlene broke the Israeli blockade of Gaza on board the 2 Free Gaza movement boats, SS Liberty and SS Free Gaza, which arrived to Gaza in August 2008. For their speaking schedule visit: http://tiny.pl/3r2m
Darlene, Donna and Karimah spoke of the humiliation Palestinians suffer daily under occupation from the settlements built literally over their heads...the Palestinians in the valleys below... to the claustrophobic containment experienced by all in Gaza who can't visit cities just next door.
Karimah spoke passionately about post-traumatic-stress among the children and gave an example of her cousin who'd been caught on camera throwing a rock at a tank. The Israeli soldiers came to the child's house one evening and made everyone line up outside. His grandmother, who was bedridden, was allowed to stay inside under armed guard. The soldier asked "who threw rocks today?" When no one confessed, he pulled out a photograph which had the child in question, dressed in the same shirt--his face the center of the bulls eye. He could have been shot. His father immediately cuffed and chastised him. The soldier, no more than 18 years old, told the elder man, he "needed to have better control of his child."
When I asked Karimah if the father hugged the child once they were inside, she said, no, that the families were in such a state of siege, they didn't have the tools to even question the emotional toll such violence can have on a child, let along the entire family.
"This is why refugees in the states don't ask for such resources." This is one reason why Karimah is studying social work.
It was encouraging to meet the San Jose Peace and Freedom organizers, also present, that evening, and learn that they have sponsored a Palestinian Peace March each Monday evenings 5-6 p.m. at Cesar Chavez Park, Market and San Carlos, for the past nine years without except, unless it was the time when the sisters were in GAZA.
East Palo Alto, Oakland, San Leandro and San Francisco and of course San Jose, were in the room that evening. Calls to JR were that the party in Oakland were on their way at 7 p.m. We hoped they make it, but at 7:55 there was no sign of them. When we concluded at 8 p.m. one of the organizers of the tour's stop at De-Bug--he arrived after the program ended, told us the contingent was in San Jose somewhere and were looking to organize a program somewhere else.
I thought it was rude for JR and M1 to be in San Jose, but not stop by De-Bug just to thank the hosts for their hospitality. Perhaps they did after I left shortly after 8:00 p.m. I was feeling under the weather and today I could barely drag myself to work--think relapse.
My friend, Hamdiyah went to San Francisco yesterday and borrowed a projector and laptop computer for the program. She then lugged the heavy equipment from her office to BART, this was so M1 would be able to show his slides. Today she had to leave home early to drive to work to take the equipment back. I spent a few hours preparing for the interview over the course of the evening. I also skipped a memorial for a friend, Elsie Washington Sunday, so I wouldn't be late. I gave myself an hour to get to De-Bug,701 Lenzen Avenue, San Jose, CA(408) 971-4965.
The program was filmed, so perhaps De-Bug might air some of the program on its TV show.
DYING TO SURVIVE
-- Karimah Al-Helew
This is a dedication
A movement of thoughtful innovation
It is long past due, our compliant lack of vocalization
Is simply as explosive as silent incineration
Maybe you view this as my obsession
Or maybe you just prefer consistent digression
But the subject never dies,
and unlike the media of the many--
uncorrupted Death tolls never lie
Leaflets of justice
Blown to pieces
Ashes collide in the shifting breezes
Burning the children, making creases
Fold after fold on a war torn heart
Bruised and broken, given an unfair start
Why should you care?
You live in the U S of A.
Thirteen million of your tax dollars
goes to israel per day
Twisted spines like “S”’s
The physical embodiment of the snake that oppresses
No you don’t understand
Scoliosis can be treated
But kids born in Gaza
Are accused first, then defeated
Innocents vibe on nutrients, way past depleted
And mothers, collect blown body parts of babies, who’s lives had been cheated.
PTSD for the veterans of war
A damaging disorder for the ones who swore,
What about PTSD for the children who are born
veterans, victims from birth
Living and laying and breathing in occupations mirth
Born into an altered history
Reliving a lying past
Rather than looking to our present
We see our future dying fast
Usually in life, we take on one role
And those who take on too many
Are the ones who like control
So when you convince the world
That you are a victim
And at the same time manage an occupying system
What choice do you leave, the ones that are oppressed
Living in your shadow, what do you think manifests?
Ayat Al-Akhras, may she rest in peace
17 and half years old
Now a legend tenfold
People argue this is a crude mentality
And now I ask you
Why could this be?
What drives a 17 year old
To blow herself up
In the kindest of words
Her life must have been pretty messed up
There are many forms of resistance
most methods are not accepted
but imagine what breeds
when you've constantly been negated, neglected and
I dedicate this piece
To the ones that have died
To the ones that have fallen
To the oppressors cage-like lies
I hear suicide bombers
Get critiqued every day
But were you to stand face to face
What is it that you’d say?
The one thing, no one is daring to admit
Is that something must be wrong
For such a method to exist
I don’t claim to understand
This vision that is planned
Nor the minds of the many
Who have been named martyrs already
That is incomprehensible
To you or to I
Because we don’t live smothered by oppression
Dying to survive