SJP Member receives local coverage on Palestine trip

Danielle Back had read about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and studied the history of that region of the world.

This summer she had a chance to experience what was happening there firsthand.

Back, a junior at Arizona State University spent three weeks in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, as part of a delegation organized by Interfaith Peace-Builders and the American Friends Service Committee. The delegation met with Israeli and Palestinian groups representing a wide cross-section of both societies.

She said her trip helped make the things she had read or heard about seem real.

“To go there it affects you so much,” Back said. “You hear about these things, but to actually see them, it makes your realize that the Palestinian plight is not exaggerated.”

Back, who spent much of her childhood in Chandler, has no real ties to the Middle East. She said her interest in the Palestinian cause has grown out of studying the U.S. government and its influence in world affairs.

She’s a member of the Barrett Honors College at ASU and is majoring in economics while pursuing a certificate in Arabic studies. Her first trip to an Arabic country was in summer 2009 when she traveled to Morocco to study the language on a scholarship from the U.S. State Department and the Council of American Overseas Research Centers.

While Back’s sympathies lie more closely with the Palestinian point of view, she said the trip also allowed her to see the Israeli side of the conflict more clearly.

“Going there, I definitely sympathize with their fear and with the pain that they have suffered. It did humanize the conflict for me, but the fact still remains that the situation is not equal.”

Back said the difference in resources available to the Israeli government – due at least in part to the support of the United States – made it hard for the two sides to negotiate on an equal level.

Back said they learned of issues such as home evictions in the Palestinian community and the fear Israelis have of rocket attacks.

“It’s more frustrating now because I know people there,” Back said. “We had home stays with Palestinian families. We had a home stay in a city close to Jerusalem with an Israeli family as well. I made friends with a (Israeli) soldier I met on a bus. I have friends on both sides.”

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Gaza Postcard Action

Amnesty International has launched a Gaza Postcard Action. The plan is to send 10’000 postcards to the White House and call for the lifting of the blockade in Gaza. They have already met the goal of 10’000 postcards which they will be sending but are asking for people to continue sending emails or postcards directly.

The postcard can be printed from here:

The email template can be accessed here:

Deconstructing the Gaza blockade

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By Oday Shahin August 23, 2010 at 6:27 pm

A ship carrying women activists who hoped to deliver aid to Palestinians through the Israeli blockade along the Gaza Strip will no longer travel to Cyprus from Lebanon, effective Sunday, according to a Saturday report from Reuters.

To some, this may seem like just another grievance to add to the long list of ills caused by the Gaza blockade, but maybe it’s time for people to see a different side of the story — one barely covered by U.S. media.

Beyond the occupation of Palestine since 1967, Israel imposed an unyielding blockade in 2007 meant to cut off the Palestinian-occupied Gaza Strip. Three years have passed, and the blockade has evolved into a man-made humanitarian disaster. In large part, the U.S. government and media have turned a blind eye to the situation. But, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, the blockade violates all standards of international humanitarian laws and must be lifted.

The blockade does nothing to “secure” Israel, as denying access to food and medical supplies will only expand the rift between Palestinians and Israelis. However, both sides accepted the Obama administration’s invitation to begin a peace talk two weeks from last Saturday, Israel still controls all of Gaza’s borders, airspace and the freedom of movement, goods and thus the economy.

In the Palestinian parliamentary elections of 2006, the Hamas political party won the majority of seats. When it assumed power the next month Israel, the US and the European Union refused to recognize the party’s right to govern.

Hamas and other factions decided that if Israel broke the six-month cease-fire after Obama’s election, they wouldn’t recognize the authority given by the people, nor let Gaza live, the use of force was its only way of expressing resistance. So Hamas created homemade, uncontrollable rockets from available scrap metal. There was no comparison between the unprofessional Palestinian military, armed with unsophisticated weaponry, and Israel, whose army is equipped with F-16s from the U.S. and other supplies manufactured by numerous companies such as Micro Electronics and Motorola, in Arizona that produce defense-based electronics via military contracts.

The world must accept that Hamas won in clean elections with EU’s monitoring. But our reaction was immobilizing by allowing Israel to impose a crippling blockade in response. President George W. Bush justified the blockade by saying, “Israel has the right to protect itself.” Then, shortly after, America armed Hamas’ political rival to conduct a coup against elected Gazan officials while Israel arrested parliamentarians.

The important question is: are Palestinians entitled to the same basic human rights as other ethnic groups suffering displacement or discrimination? These rights  include the freedom of movement, access to food and the right to shelter one’s family. But how is the public supposed to be educated about these injustices if the U.S. media coverage reflects the U.S. political obligations?

According to national media watch group Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, “U.S. corporate media coverage of the Israeli military attacks…has overwhelmingly failed to mention that indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets are illegal under international humanitarian law” after attacks in 2008. Only the Israeli narrative was conveyed in media, with information including: “Israel is being attacked using unprovoked rockets by Hamas the ‘terrorist’ organization.”  There was no mention that the majority of rockets were shot after Israel and the U.S. rejected the democratic process in Gaza or that Israel has broken more than 50 U.N. resolutions, conducted a humanitarianly illegal blockade against an entire population, killed 1,400 people and did not allow international media into Gaza during the Operation Cast Lead attack in 2008.
The U.N. Fact-Finding Mission on Gaza, headed by Richard Goldstone, a Jewish South African judge with strong personal ties to Israel and known for a sparring reputation in international law and human rights, concluded that Israel had used disproportionate force, targeted Palestinian civilians, using them as human shields and destroyed civilian infrastructure.

As a nation, we need to make a more conscious effort to divest from companies that manufacture products aiding Israeli occupation and learn to question the holes in media coverage of the Gaza Strip. We need to open our eyes.