About notesfrombehindtheblockade

I'm a civil rights attorney currently living in the Gaza Strip. It can be hard for those living outside the blockade to understand what life is like here in Gaza. I hope this blog will provide a small window into life here, at least through the eyes of a foreigner. Thank you for visiting. If you like something, please leave a comment!

Drones in the Shower, F-16s on the Street: On Leaving Gaza

I made the long journey out of Gaza last week.  I must say, though I will miss the dozens of people who invited me into their homes, shared their stories, cooked me lunch, put up with my bad Arabic, boiled me countless glasses of rosemary tea and served me thick black coffee in petite rimless cups, I could not get out of there fast enough.

Gaza is not a pleasant place to be.  The Israeli occupation smothers and suffocates, it makes one highly attuned to one’s surroundings in unnatural ways, or ways that were once natural but should no longer be.

I never thought I’d look so forward to coming to Cairo, a congested, polluted city that I had little love for before the revolution. After a long journey though the Rafah crossing, across the Sinai and back to my hotel off Tahrir Square, I jumped in the shower. And then the humming noise started.  I froze, soap bar in hand.

“The drones are really loud,” I said, to no one in particular. They must be quite close.  And then I realized, it was just a malfunctioning bathroom fan.

I continued on with my shower, washing my face. The water had a curious scent to it. It also felt gentle and silky. I continue to sniff it, curious. Why, it was the scent of clean water of course! I had grown used to the salty, contaminated water I had been bathing in for two months; water that caused my skin to itch, my hair to smell like an old towel, and to fall out at greater frequency than normal.

Later in the evening, I met up with a friend for a drink nearby. Oh the joys of electricity! Not that the streets around Tahrir have street lights in the American sense — but the stores are lit. And those lights, in turn, made it possible to see where one was stepping! Not so in Gaza, where one has the pleasure of walking around in pitch blackness after 5:30 p.m., listening to Israeli drones overhead.  Indeed, the latter half of my going away party took place by candlelight.

Back at the hotel, the shifts had changed and Sami the “bill boy” from two months earlier waited outside.

“Oh hello!” he exclaimed. “Your head is very small,” he said in English. “Before, big, now small.” He gestured with his hand for emphasis. Indeed, I had lost a lot of weight. I switched to Arabic and told him I had been in Gaza, and he made fun of my “Palestinian accent,” pronouncing the “j” as a “j” instead of a “g” as they do in Cairo.

The next morning I awoke to the strange-sounding Israeli F-16s outside my window. Many of them. I unearthed myself from under the covers. I was in Cairo.  The Israeli Air Force was not outside, only morning commuters. What a relief! I walked around the city which was filled with things to buy, all kinds of things, spare car parts, stuffed toy camels, circuit boards, Bedouin necklaces, digital cameras and steaming bowls of delicious kushari.

Back in New York City, I found that Gaza had also rendered me unnaturally attuned to the normal sounds of industrial life.

I stepped out of the subway from JFK airport onto the crowded streets of midtown Manhattan in deep conversation about something. A helicopter suddenly flew overhead. I couldn’t concentrate; IAF Apache helicopters meant death. I kept walking past store after store, admiring New York’s creative uses of electricity, knowing full well that Eyewitness News wasn’t going to assassinate anyone, but unable to not keep an eye on it.

So I’m back in the United States, enjoying the luxury of knowing a foreign government won’t shoot at me, kidnap me, limit my electricity or cause my water to be non-potable.  But in the midst of the decorated trees, sparkly lights and mistletoe, I can’t forget that two days after Christmas 2008, Israel launched “Operation Cast Lead”, its 22-day offensive in Gaza, that Palestinians simply call “the War.”


Still Casting Lead: Israeli Air Force Attack Kills 2, Injures 12 in Single Family

Update: Midgdad’s 12-year-old cousin died yesterday.

“This is the occupation,” a neighbor mumbled as we stepped into what remained of twenty-year-old Migdad El Zalaan’s cement-block home in the north of Gaza City this afternoon.  The Israeli Air Force dropped the first of three bombs near Zalaan’s home at approximately 2 a.m. this morning, killing his uncle, wounding El Zalaan and the rest of his twelve family members, and destroying his home.

Midhad El Zalaan in his home after Israel’s Bombing

In one corner of the living room a baby doll lay on a mattress buried under shards of tin roof.  Cement blocks squashed plastic party hats and red stuffed bears, and  El Zalaan’s family’s modest possessions lay buried under layers of dust and rubble.  El Zalaan was on his computer right before Israel attacked.

“After the Israelis dropped the first bomb, I took my family and left my home,” explained El Zalaan, periodically looking up at the sky, where the ceiling once was. “Then the second bomb dropped and I went to my uncle’s home to find out if they were okay. My uncle’s wife [Saada El Zalaan] called me from under the rubble. She was holding her baby, I took the baby and then Israel dropped the third bomb.”  El Zalaan then helped his aunt out of her house despite her pleas to get her son out and leave her.

“I kept digging, looking for my uncle, then I found him, buried, but still breathing. He told me ‘take care of my family, take care of my wife and my children’ and then he died in my arms.”  Bahjat El Zalaan was 33-years-old and the father of 5 when he died.

El Zalaan described how during the bombing he was screaming and pulling his hair out, and how he was trying to protect his mother, father, grandmother and siblings from the shrapnel by holding them in his arms. “I got rubble in my leg and back,” he explained, wincing in pain throughout the interview.

He took his family to Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City. Two of his cousins, ages 10 and 12, remain in critical condition.  Israel had destroyed the roof of his home before, during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009.  On the outside of the home, a small plaque hung near the broken window, “This shelter was repaired by UNRWA through a generous fund from the Federal Republic of Germany.”

Before leaving, El Zalaan asked if he could take a photograph with us and his cousin, who snapped a photo on his cell phone. As we left I asked him if he worked, and he said he had no home, and no work either.  “We stay at home because there’s no work.”  El Zalaan will be living with this cousin in the Beach Refugee Camp.

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Israeli Navy Shoots Palestinian Fisherman Who Sued Israel, Kidnaps at Least Nine Others in Gazan Waters

Nahad Rajab Mohamed Al-Hesy in His Home

The Israeli navy violently seized two Palestinian trawlers in Gazan waters yesterday, shooting one fisherman in the arm, and ultimately forcing at least ten men to Ashod, Israel, where they were interrogated for several hours. Israel released all of the fishermen at 2 a.m. this morning.

Twenty-eight year old Nehad Mohamed Rajab Al-Hesy reported that his boat, along with six others, were fishing in the same area  at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday morning when he suddenly saw five Israeli naval ships—three large and two small—approach his boat, along with that of Omar al Habil.  According to Al-Hesy, both men had sued Israel for destroying their boats in the past.

“The Israelis told four boats to go back to Gaza. All six boats tried to pull up their nets, but they prevented us. The Israelis started to shoot at us a lot and I got shot in the arm.  The bullet entered and went out of my arm,” he added holding out his left arm wrapped in white gauze and bandages.

The Israeli navy then asked who was in charge of the boat and Al-Hesy answered that the boat was his.  Next, the Israeli navy commanded him to take off his clothes, jump into the sea and swim until he reached the Israeli naval boats, then asked the three others—Mohamed Rajab Mohamed Al-Hesy, 18, Jarrimal Jehad Rajab Al-Hesy, 22 and Mohamed Jehad Rajab Al-Hesy, 19—to do the same.

A photo of the Nehad Al-Hesy’s Boat Destroyed by the Israeli Navy in 2007 and the Subject of his Lawsuit Against Israel

“It was a terrible thing. It was a scary thing,” said 22-year-old Jarrmal. “Now we are all sick from the cold water they forced us to swim in.”

Once on the ship, Al-Hesy was blindfolded and Israeli forces tied his arms behind his back and forced him to sit in a painful position for several hours. “My back, shoulders and my arm that was shot were hurting a lot,” he said, “but I was thinking about my boat which my family depends on for income.”

In Ashod, Israeli forces began questioning Al-Hesy at 5 p.m.

“Why did you break the 3 mile limit?” an Israeli soldier asked him.

“During Oslo, we were allowed to reach 20 miles so why do you prevent us from going past 3 miles? These 3 miles not enough,” Al-Hesy responded.

“I’m not the Israeli army,” the soldier responded, according to Al-Hesy.  “But there is something wrong with you. Why don’t you fishermen gather and ask the United Nations and go to the human rights centers so you can go more than 3 miles?”

The soldier subsequently changed the subject of the interrogation, asking Al-Hesy the names of the policemen working at the port.  When the interrogation finished, Al-Hesy was told that he would be sent back to Gaza, but he refused to go without his boat.

He explained how in 2003, the Israeli navy took his boat along with about $10,000 worth of equipment. He told the soldier “All my family depends on this boat. We can’t live without this boat. If I don’t go back I can eat and drink here.  If I go back without my boat I will not eat.”

When Al-Hesy saw the other fishermen he told them he wouldn’t go back to Gaza without his boat.  The other fishermen agreed to do the same and refused to get on the bus to the Eretz border crossing.  Israeli forces eventually forced all the fishermen on the bus.

Al-Hesy and the other men were eventually released at 2 a.m., but his trawler, along with that of Omar al Habil, remains in Israeli custody.  Al-Hesy has been fishing since he was 13 and makes about 20 shekels a day, or $5.70.  He recalls making 1000 shekels ($285) when Israel permitted fishing up to 20 miles. In addition to sustaining a bullet wound to the army, Al-Hesy also had scabs around his right ankle from the ankle cuffs.

His lawsuit stems from an incident in 2007 when the Israeli navy destroyed another boat of his.  That case is still ongoing.

“We fishermen never do anything bad. We don’t send rockets from our boats, we don’t touch any of them, but they kill fishermen, arrest fishermen; they took so many boats.”

Gazan Fishing Trawler Similar to Nehad Al-Hesy’s

Ode to Electricity

This morning, I felt the urge to write an ode to electricity, or kahraba, as it is called in Gaza. I woke up, it was Sunday and I had the day off. No farming, no fishing, no protests, no meetings.  I had the day to myself and my laptop. I would take a shower, have a cup of tea and work on my novel.  And, as I was at the end of my underwear, I would do my laundry.

I got out of bed, picked my laptop up off the floor and entered the living room. There, my roommate sat in darkness.  Curses!   It was 10 a.m., which meant no electricity until 3 p.m.  And I had forgotten to charge my laptop. No shower, no tea, no work for me.  And it was so cold in my drafty apartment! Of course, that had nothing to do with the electricity, but it made me all the more miserable.

In reality, I had one hour of battery life on my laptop and so I started on Chapter 12.  But all I could think about was the electricity.

Oh kahraba, how I love thee, let me count the ways!

I knew it was unfair of me to complain. I lived in a building with a generator that turned on everyday from 6p.m. until midnight. Most Palestinians in Gaza were not so lucky.  They sat out their eight hours a day in darkness.  I had taken my electricity for granted, and now she was gone.

A love poem from Pablo Neruda came to mind:

Today I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

Since 2007, Israel has allowed at most 63 percent of the amount of industrial fuel needed to operate the power plant in Gaza. According to the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem:

The fuel shortage directly reduces the generation of electricity in Gaza and impairs the water and sewage systems, which require fuel to operate the pumps.  Israel’s continued prohibition on import of spare parts for the electricity system causes additional malfunctions and deficiencies.

My laptop went dead. I paced around the apartment. I went up to the roof. It was too cold to work up there.  I went back down. I made some flashcards and attempted to memorize a new list of words: wheat, seed, greenhouse, important, equality, love, need, remember.  I looked at my watch. What if it didn’t come back on at 3 p.m.?

Oh electricity, Oh electricity!

Of all the things most lovely!

I sang, to the tune of “Oh Christmas tree.” Despite my cajoling it would not come on.  I imagined a world without water or electricity, a world that Israel had threatened the night before, if Hamas and the Palestinian Authority formed a unity government. Another layer of collective punishment on top of they years of layers before it.  How would people in Gaza survive?

I clicked on the water heater so it would start warming my shower the second the electricity went on. But what if it didn’t go on at 3? Sometimes, this happened. I called a friend in the West Bank, but we both ran out of credit. She suggested Skype. Alas, no electricity.

It was nearing 3 o’clock. My Welsh roommate had gone to her room and wrapped herself in her maroon fluffy blanket — underneath which she wore jeans and a puffy jacket. She was suffering and she’s from Wales! Cold, rainy, dreary, miserable Wales!

Oh electricity where are you? Don’t you know how much I need you? The clock struck 3 p.m., the lights went on and our refrigerator whirred to life.

“Yay,” I exclaimed.  Oh kahraba, I will never take you for granted again.

Thanksgiving in Gaza

It all started with a simple question from Jabar, a Palestinian farmer from Faraheen, during Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice.

“Is there an American eid (holiday) where you slaughter an animal?” he asked Nathan, a colleague here in Gaza, a few weeks ago.

Thanksgiving and turkeys came to mind.

And so, I found myself celebrating “Thanksgiving,” Gazan-style, this afternoon in the small, southern Gazan village.

Layla and her daughters with the turkey in Faraheen

Nathan painstakingly put together a variety of ingredients over the past couple of weeks to make a proper meal: turkey, baked beans, sweet potatoes, biscuits and chocolate chip cookies! We had to nix the stuffing, gravy was too difficult, and pie, out of the question.

After six weeks of falafel (delicious as it is), I was really looking forward to Nathan’s Midwestern cuisine. But would it all come together given Gaza’s regular power outages, Israel’s recent shooting at farmers in the area and the lack of key ingredients due to the siege?

We rose early to accompany farmers in Faraheen to their land within Israel’s 300 meter  “buffer zone” – or “kill zone” – as Palestinians here frequently call it.

The week had not been a good one, and I was concerned that our belated Thanksgiving would turn into Black Friday.

On Wednesday, the Israeli army had shot live ammunition in the air when our group went with farmers to the buffer zone in nearby Khuza’a.

The day before, the Israeli army had called the Palestinian Office of Coordination and told them that they “wanted to shoot” us and twenty Palestinians while we were in northern Gaza nonviolently protesting the Israeli occupation, the buffer zone, and 63 years of dispossession in the buffer zone.  The Palestinian Authority frantically looked for the phone number of Saber Zanin, the organizer of the weekly Beit Hanoun protests and told him, “We are trying to ask the Israelis not to shoot you. They wanted to shoot you and kill you.”

And yesterday, 3 nautical miles of the coast of Gaza, an Israeli naval warship chased our small humanitarian boat, the Oliva, along with several Palestinian fishing boats, towards the shore for no apparent reason.

Today just couldn’t be good.  Would our Gazan Thanksgiving look more like the original Thanksgiving — a symbol of land seizure, dispossession and ethnic cleansing — than the delicious turkey-filled version I was hoping for?

I rose early, gulped down a cup of sugary tea and dry floury date cookies that Jabar’s wife Layla made before heading out to the buffer zone. The sky cleared and I heard Israeli drones overhead.

On the way to the buffer zone, we met 26-year-old Yusef Abu Rjeela, the farmer who want was hoping to sow wheat on his land.  We asked him what he wanted to do if the Israelis started shooting.

“Stay on the land,” he said. If the Israelis shot in the air, he didn’t want to run. And if they shot at us, well . . . .

We continued onward, and my cell phone rang.  It was Nathan. “I put the beans in the pressure cooker for 30 minutes and they’ve become bean soup!” he exclaimed. “Layla says I shouldn’t have soaked them and used the pressure cooker.”

“Stay calm,” I said. “Do you have more beans?” He did.  We continued on our way.

Five of us foreigners donned our yellow vests, and accompanied Yusef and another farmer as one sowed wheat and the other plowed the land.  The drones went away.

All seemed quiet on the eastern front.

An Israeli military tower stood in the distance. A white balloon equipped with an aerial surveillance camera flew overhead.  The former farmland was dry and brown from years of Israeli bulldozing and tank traffic.

After a while, we made bets on when the Israelis would start shooting. It was 11:25 a.m., and I put in for 11:45 a.m., another person for 11:50 a.m. Hussein, a Palestinian university student who came with us, didn’t think the Israelis would shoot at all.

At noon, the farmers had finished and we all started to walk back to the village. Yusef explained to us the lawsuit his family had filed against the state of Israel for murdering his younger brother the day after Operation Cast Lead ended in January 2009.  His father, who had witnessed the murder, had gone to Israel to testify.

As we left the buffer zone, I congratulated Hussein on being right about the shooting. Then we heard it — Israeli army gunfire in the distance. The time: 12:05.

We promptly head back to Jabar’s house in the village. There, Nathan was immersed in a whirlwind of preparation.

“Get the baking soda out of the bag!” he directed.

“You mean baking powder?” I asked him, looking the plastic bag he had brought from Gaza City.

“No, soda.”  There was no baking soda. We were in for a biscuit disaster. Moreover, Layla and four of her five children were swirling around the kitchen, unsure of these strange American preparations.

Beans with sugar? In the oven? Nathan opened the ancient iron contraption, and held out a spoon for me.  I stuck my tongue out and slurped up the brown deliciousness.

“Is it good?” asked Layla, suspiciously. “Is Nathan a good cook? Can you cook better?”

Zacky ikthir,” I responded. Very tasty. “Not quite done,” I said to Nathan. “I can cook, but maybe Nathan is better than me,” I added to Layla. She didn’t seem convinced.

Nathan shooed everyone away, but we stayed in the kitchen, it was the warmest room in their small, cement block, metal sheet-roofed house.  And, I was clearly the only one cut out for the role of taster. Layla turned to more important questions.

“You’re a lawyer, can you sue Israel for me?” she asked. “All our problems come from Israel. When I was 14, they shot me in the hip. Then they bulldozed our olive trees and took our land. What can we do?”  I hadn’t realized that Layla’s limp stemmed from about 1980, when the Israeli army entered her school and shot her as she tried to help a wounded friend.

She turned away to take the turkey out of the pot.  The oven wasn’t big enough for a whole bird, which was only sold in pre-cut pieces. All in all, it was a delicious lunch, and no one got shot. And that, is something to be thankful for.

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Sowing Wheat in Israel’s Kill Zone

One need not be an agronomist to know that its been a long time since the farmers of Khuza’a, Gaza have tended to their land near the border.  When we arrived on Friday, the densely packed soil formed small hills with alien, ridged, patterns: Israeli tanks had roamed here, dozens of them. It was hard to imagine how anything ever grew on this brown, barren soil, much less the hundreds of olive, orange and grapefruit trees the Qudaih family reminisced about.

Mahmood Suleiman Qudiah Sows Wheat Near the Buffer Zone

But those groves and the greenhouses too, were long gone: the Israeli army bulldozed them in 2002 to create the ever-expanding no-man’s land Israel calls the “buffer zone” and Gazans call the “kill zone” — any Palestinian who steps foot inside is subject instant death or dismemberment by the Israeli army fire.

Khaled Mahmood Suleiman Qudaih called us a few days before, asking us if we would accompany his family to his father’s fields so that they could sow wheat.  We met them inside a small tent and they explained to us the situation. The Qudiahs and many other farmers were afraid that the Israeli army would shoot them if the attempted to reach their land near the buffer zone.  We informed them that we could not guarantee their safety, that the Israeli army had killed foreign civilians too.

Alas, our presence and our video cameras was all the impetus they needed to risk life and limb.

On Friday, we arrived to the south Gaza village early, drank two cups of sugary tea with sage, jumped on a cart pulled by a white donkey, and were on our way.  We slowly rode down the main street locals waving as we passed by.  Then we head east out to the farmland, passing between giant slabs of concrete placed at the outskirts of the village in an attempt to protect children playing in the streets from Israeli army gunfire.

The donkey cart pulled us down the lone road heading towards the school. I had been down this road before, my second week in Gaza, when I and 3 local children had been shot at by the Israeli army without warning, reason, or explanation. I understood why those farmers feared the Israeli army, and had not tended to this land in four years.

Our donkey continued on, and we passed the bombed-out shell of a house, covered in fuchsia bougainvillea. We had now reached the point where the Israeli army had shot at me three weeks before, where the road curved towards a high school.

It was quiet.  The sky was cloudy, and the Israeli military towers could be seen in the distance. The donkey turned off the road and onto the land, we were now slowly approaching the border, which was about 300 meters away.  Khaled’s father, Mahmoud, took the bag of wheat off the donkey cart, and I along with the other foreign volunteers donned our fluorescent yellow vests.

Mahmoud got right to work, briskly walking back and forth across his land, towards the Israeli military towers and back, sprinkling wheat on the barren surface.  Those who attempted to photograph him would get a fistful of wheat in their face; it had been five years since he had come to this land and nothing would deter him.

I wondered how these seeds would materialize into actual wheat just lying there on the hard ground, and when the Israeli army would start shooting.  Would we get actual warning shots this time?  According to the farmers, the machine guns were operated remotely – there were no actual human beings inside the towers.

Then the tractor arrived, and it all started to come together.  More farmers emerged with donkeys and equipment. They too wanted to visit their land.  One of us sat on the tractor, and others spread out, video cameras out, ready to record should the Israelis shoot at us.

But it was still early, and the people farmed in silence, certain that it was just a matter of time before the Israeli army started shooting.  Indeed, the border seemed very close. Could this nonviolent farming action end well?

I spent my time staring at the towers, thinking up different iterations of how the Israelis would shoot us. Unlike the day before, when I discovered what a crappy cabbage harvester I was while accompanying farmers in north Gaza, there wasn’t any actual work I could help with.

One of the other farmers even brought me a giant metal bullet he found in the earth. It wasn’t like anything I had seen before three to four inches long, and much heavier than a bullet from an M-16 military rifle.  And then he showed me one of the hundreds of white flyers I had seen stuck in the earth containing a little map of the Gaza Strip and lots of writing in Arabic.

Israeli planes had dropped “thousands” of these flyers over Khuza’a,  which state:

Involving yourself in terrorist activities will bring danger to you, your children, your families and your possessions. Distance yourself from this danger .  .  . Consider yourself warned.

The flyers had blown east, inland, towards the border. I wondered if any of them had blown back to Israel.

A couple of hours passed, and the mood grew celebratory. I wanted to caution them. It wasn’t too late, the Israeli army could still shoot us. Surely, if they shot at 2 women and three children farther away from the buffer zone, they would shoot at a large group of  farming closer.

But it was not so.The farmers plowed the field twice, tank tracks erased. Little black beetles scurried out of holes as we walked across the soft, upturned earth back towards the white donkey. It started to drizzle but moods were high.

“For four years I did not reach my father’s land!” said Khaled.

But the victory was bittersweet. “Before, [this area] was full of greenery and trees and now it’s like a desert,” he explained.  “But still I’m very happy to reach my land and plant on it.”

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A Million Dollars is Not Enough

I’ve already written about how Palestinians of all ages and genders in Gaza are nuts about Bollywood movies — and hence Indians — thanks to the “Zee Aflam” channel which streams Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Sharukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor & Co. 24-7.

But on Thursday I was shocked when Mohamed, a young Palestinian lecturer at Al Aqsa University in Gaza City, asked me if I had been to Sri Lanka and then proceeded to tell me about his deep concern for the human rights abuses of Tamils there.  “You really must go there and see for yourself,” he said. He had visited the island nation after attending a conference in New Delhi a few years ago.

Earlier Mohamed had asked me if I spoke Hindi, and I said no, that my family was from south India.  “Ah, are you Tamil?”  Even though I’m only half, I answered in the affirmative, surprised that he was familiar with Indian geography. Most Americans and Europeans I’ve met have never even heard the word, much less know where on the map Tamils hail from.

This conversation was all the more surprising because it took place in the besieged, blockaded Gaza Strip, land of the 37.4% unemployment rate, where 77% of households live below the poverty line and two-thirds of the population are refugees.  Another professor had just finished explaining how during “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008/2009, Israel not only killed the living, but disturbed the dead — shelling the cemetery where his mother was buried.

We had also discussed the similarities and differences between Israeli apartheid and South African apartheid. In South Africa, blacks were allowed to travel on the same roads as whites, not so in the West Bank, where Israel prevents Palestinians from traveling on the same roads as Jewish settlers –which  now being challenged by the   Palestinian “Freedom Riders.”  Similar to the South African apartheid regime, Israel has corralled Palestinians into bantustans, however apartheid South Africa, unlike Israel, never bombed said bantustans or fired white phosphorous at civilians, burning them to death at temperatures of 1500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Out small group concluded the conversation by agreeing that the growing movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel is more critical now than ever.  Today India announced a donation of $1 million dollars to United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides basic food and other basic services to 5 million Palestinian refugees.  While this money will no doubt be appreciated — especially in the wake of the U.S. cuts to UNESCO funding after Palestine gained a seat — people here in Gaza have repeatedly told me that they don’t want charity, they want solidarity, they don’t want aid, they want equality.

Just as India and Pakistan were the first countries to officially impose a trade embargo on South Africa in the 1950s, it is time for the developing world to yet again step up and act against apartheid — Israeli apartheid — when the west will not.