Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Where to next: A slow boat to Gaza?

(Photos are of Dr. Paul Larudee and my lamb dinner at DishDash)

Someone just wrote and asked me if I was planning to go on any more trips. "Where are you going to go next?" she asked.

"I'm planning to go hide under the bed," I replied. It's cheap and easy to get to and nobody tries to shoot at you once you get there. Except maybe the dust bunnies.

"But would you go back to Iraq if you got the chance?" Let's get real here. Nobody in their right mind is going to let me back into Iraq. I figure it this way. Everyone over there KNOWS that I totally support the troops. But they probably also know that I'm not exactly supporting the "war".

"But Jane," you might ask, "if you really want to go back and embed in Iraq, why don't you just keep your mouth shut about not supporting the war -- then you might stand a chance that they would let you back in." I'm sorry, but I just can't do that. Why not? Because it wouldn't be fair to the very people who seem to want me to spin my stories toward making the "war" look good. I mean, seriously. Just look at the reality of the situation.
Bush's war is bankrupting America. We are no longer a super-power because of Bush's Shock and Awe folly. And we are going to HAVE to evacuate Iraq or else face another sub-prime disaster here in the US -- only when this next one hits, we will lose our treasury, our healthcare, our infrastructure and our jobs as well as our homes.

And when the American military IS forced to get out of Iraq -- not by insurgents but by economics -- I want be over there so that I can report on the evacuation. Why? Because I'm a freaking journalist! That's only good journalism -- to want to go where there's a story. Double-duh!

Not only that, but even the Pentagon itself should be freaking THANKING me for alerting them to this new sub-prime problem. Then when the spit hits the fan dollar-wise, they won't be surprised. Why wait until they've got to pull everything together at the last moment when with a proper amount of warning they won't have to worry about last-minute packing.

"But would you like to go and report on Gaza if you have the chance?" Yeah, right. How much fun can that be. They strip-search you at the border, you live in abject poverty with no food, water or electricity, you get to watch the sewage run down the streets and the little children die slowly and painfully from bullet wounds. You get your sleep interrupted by sound bombs all night, sleep in the heat because there's no electricity to run the A/C and live on witchity-grubs because there isn't any food. And on the way out you get strip-searched again. No thanks. I'm a rational adult. I prefer to hide under the bed.

But then I got invited to a dinner in Sunnyvale, a benefit for the Free Gaza Movement. They are planning to buy a boat and sail from Cyprus to Gaza, bringing food and clothing and fuel. That sounded sort of interesting. A Mediterranean cruise. Would there be shuffleboard and a buffet?

After dinner, Dr. Hatem Bazian spoke. "The Israeli policy in Gaza is deliberate -- to promote isolation," he said. "They tell Palestinians that, 'We need to occupy you in order to bring you democracy. And if that doesn't work, then we shoot you.' Bush pushed for an election in Palestine so that there would be a victory for Fatah. However, Fatah was divided and its candidates were known to be corrupt. Their corruption was common knowledge to the Palestinians on the street, so Fatah lost the election.

"So then the United States went to Option 2: To prevent a unity government from emerging. And so they imported the El Salvador model -- to create a civil war, trying to get rid of the party that has popular support and trying to bring back the old party. So they brought in Elliot Abrams, the man who was successful in creating the El Salvador civil war." Wow! America actually brought in the original oldie-but-goodie guy who INVENTED the Salvador Model. That's a real walk down memory lane.

"Meanwhile, the Egyptians were trying to block the Islamic Brotherhood in their own country and so Egypt supported Fatah. And the Sunnis supported the enemies of Iran. But despite all their efforts, the civil war plan didn't work and so they started the siege instead." Plan C.

"Currently the Israelis are withholding fuel from Gaza. But what is ironic is that the European Union and the Palestinians pay for the fuel, not the Israelis." And also apparently the Israelis also make the EU pay Israel a gas tax as well. "It is the responsibility of an occupying power to provide necessities to the country that they are occupying, yet the Israelis are forcing the Palestinians to pay for their own occupation." Then they served us lamb shiskabobs and tabuli.

Then Dr. Paul Larudee showed us a film on Gaza. "There are often up to 25 people living in one room, there are extremely narrow alleyways instead of streets and the children have no place to play." And apparently Dov Weinglass stated that it is the Israeli policy to put the people of Gaza on diets -- not to starve them to death totally, like the Nazis did at Auschwitz. Whew! I took another bite of the lamb.

"Children under the age of five," stated Dr. Larudee, "have stunted growth. 40 million litres of sewage per day flow into the Mediterranean because there is no fuel to process it. 107 different types of medications are completely unavailable. Water is 10 times more polluted than international standards allow. Kidney failure is rampant. There is NO FUEL AT ALL -- even to power the generators at the hospitals. 123 people have died so far because they can't get even the simplest medical treatment. 1,500 people are on the waiting list for medical care." People are always saying that Gaza is like a jail but it sounds like these people would be better off at San Quentin.

"African-Americans were suffering in the 1950s and they needed relief," continued Dr. Larudee, "but the civil rights movement didn't just cover up the results of years of segregation but addressed the problem itself. The people of Gaza are not suffering life-threatening danger as a result of an earthquake or a tsunami. Their situation is the result of human rights violations."

Then Dr. Larudee talked about the boat that his group plans to send in order to relieve the siege of Gaza and that the boat shouldn't have any resistance from Israel because they can no longer control access to Gaza by sea. "Oslo gave Israel the power to patrol the waters off of Gaza. But Ariel Sharon himself stated that Oslo isn't in effect any more so the Israelis have given up that right as well. We will be making two trips -- with food, medicine and books -- and it will take two days to get from Cyprus to Gaza. And we also hope to be escorted by other volunteer boats. The Mediterranean in August is like a big party, so there will be plenty of other boats around. We also plan to have our secret weapons on board -- little old ladies and clerics." Hey, I'm a little old lady! I could come too.

"The people on this boat will be going to Gaza unarmed -- and they will be facing the third most powerful army in the world." Hmmm. Does the Princess line or the Royal Caribbean offer an entertainment package like that? I think not!

Then Mohammed Raja spoke. "Before you can get away with committing genocide, you have to make the rest of the world think that your victim is an object of fear. And so you create conditions that lead to resistance in order to justify the suppression. Ariel Sharon used to say, 'Give us just one week of quiet and we will sit down at the negotiating table.' So the Palestinians gave him three weeks of quiet. And it got to be embarrassing for Sharon because he still hadn't negotiated. So he ordered the assassination of four Palestinian leaders in order to get resistance going again." Then we had baklava for dessert.

So. There is a moral dilemma here. Is it that the Israelis should stop turning Gaza into a post-modern Auschwitz? Or is it that I should start standing up for justice and stop hiding under the bed....

I think that I would chose to keep hiding under the bed forever if it weren't for one problem. It's getting sort of crowded under here -- what with most of America down here hiding under the bed with me.

PS: Good grief! I just got word from Baghdad that I AM gonna get embedded in Iraq! And that I should get over there ASAP! So I immediately bought a ticket, flew to Qatar, spent 12 hours with my wonderful friends Betsy and Cliff in Doha and am now at an unnamed airbase in Kuwait, about to toddle off to have lunch at the DFAC! I am totally amazed.

And what was more amazing still was that as my plane winged its way from California to Qatar, we passed right over Gaza.