Sunday, January 25, 2009

What YOU can do: 10 way to help Gaza/Palestine

The last month has been mentally exhausting. Trying to keep up with events in Gaza, my parents safety, and the media frenzy, all while taking care of my children and home definitely takes its toll. But being able overcome that overwhelming feeling of frustration and nagging negative energy is the real challenge.

During such intense events, any person of conscience will be overcome with a feeling of anger, sadness, and often, helplessness. Our gut reaction is sometimes simply to shut down or disengage, whether you are a Palestinian living through this hell, or an observer on the outside, not matter what your level of involvement may be.

The question I keep hearing again and again from people is:

"What can we do to help? Nothing I will do can make much of a difference anyway so why do anything at all."

I am here to tell you, you are wrong! It is time to use that energy-that feeling of helplessness, and harness it into something positive and effective- change for the future.

There is a prophetic saying attribute to Muhammad, peace be upon him, that goes:

"He among you who sees something bad should change it with his hand (e.g. proactively-activism, organization, movement ). If he is unable, then with his tongue ( by speaking out against it ). If he cannot do that, then within his heart ( by always disliking what is evil or harmful ) and that is the weakest of faith".

Notice all are acts of faith. So do not despair!

We all have different levels and abilities and gifts and situations. For some of us, the spoken word is what we excel at. For others, organization and activism; still others, a simple conversation with our neighbors, co-workers, or friends. Or even just a silent prayer.

That said, I would like to offer a list of things that can be done to defeat this feeling of impotence. Things YOU can do to help Gaza. To help Palestine. To help achieve justice for all.

1. Get informed. Sounds easy enough, but a large number of people I have met whose gut instinct is to sympathize with the Palestinians cause are surprisingly uninformed about the issue, or the history. Knowledge is power, goes the cliche, and oh so true. Being informed will enable you to speak intelligently about the topic-whether to your family, to your friends, to your co-workers, or to your politicians.

Some of my favorite sources of information:

This Week in Palestine, the only English language magazine that is published in occupied Palestine. It is a monthly periodical with a distribution of 12,000 copies reaching all major cities and towns in Palestine. You can subscribe yearly (particularly good for institutions) or read the STELLAR compilation of articles online that run the gamut from cultural highlights (check out my piece on the foods of Gaza in the search engine!) to political analysis. This is one sure way to immerse yourself into Palestine.

Electronic Intifada

2. Wear a Palestine pin, t-shirt, or arm-band-great conversation starters and ways to show your support. You can purchase a number of creative shirts online in the Palstine online store or Cafe Press.

3. Contact local media. Write letters to editors (usually 100-150 words) and longer op-eds (usually 600-800 words) for local newspapers. But also write to news departments in both print, audio, and visual media about their coverage. In the US You can find media listings in your country using search engines like google.

4. BDS!! Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. Now more than ever the BDS campaign must be used and intensified against Israel to end its impunity and to hold it accountable for its persistent violation of international law and Palestinian rights. Remember: It was only when Apartheid was abnormalized that the anti-Apartheid movement gained momentum.

Thus, our efforts must focus on abnormalizing Israel's illegal occupation and its tactics. Begin work to encourage your local institutions to divest from Israel.

There are many regional branches active on various fronts- check out the global BDS website for more leads on who's active in your community.

One example of a successful BDS effort: The NY branch of Adalah managed to put enough pressure through their creative and sustained campaign against Israeli real estate mogul-cum-settlement financier Lev Leviev (who uses profits from his jewerly stores to build settlements) that ultimately were able to convince several starlets to stop purchasing his jewelry and using them as endorsers.

See who's active in your community and put on the pressure.

Here is a statement endorsing and encouraging BDS in the wake of the Gaza massacres:

5. Contact elected and other political leaders in your country to urge them to apply pressure to end the attacks. In the US, Contact the State Department at 202.647.5291, the White House 202-456-1111 the Egyptian Embassy 202.895.5400,

6. Work towards bringing Israeli leaders before war crime courts (actions along those lines in courts have stopped Israeli leaders from traveling abroad to some countries like Britain where they may face charges).

7. Join local groups in your area active on the issue. Many-such as those here in Durham- have also been successful in at bringing coalitions from different constituencies in their local areas to work together (human rights group, social and civil activists, religious activists, etc) and most are made of ordinary people who also have other lives to live and so welcome any input and activism. Some things to suggest:

*Develop a campaign of sit-ins at government offices or other places where decision makers aggregate. Canadian activists have been remarkably effective using this technique of civil disobediance as of late.

*Hold a group fast for peace one day and hold it in a public place, with signs and informative fliers explaining what you are doing.

*Make large signs and display them at street corners and wherever people congregate.

*Hold a teach-in, seminar, public dialogue, documentary film viewing etc. this is straightforward: you need to decide venue, nature, if any speakers, and do some publicity.

*Pass out fliers with facts and figures about Palestine and Gaza in your community (with direct relevance to the audience: e.g, US taxpayers paying for the carnage) or even place these fliers in car windshields (hey, if buffet restaurants do it...).

8. Visit Palestine! Two great groups that facilitate such trips are the Alternative Tourism Group, whose guide I helped write, and the Siraj Center.

If you cannot visit, support human rights and other groups working on the ground in Palestine, such as the Free Gaza Movement (which accepts tax-exempt donations).

9. Contact your local churches, mosques, synagogues, and other houses of worship or institutions and ask them to take a moral stand and act.

10. Support Palestinian farmers and workers by buying gifts and produce directly from the West Bank and Gaza. A few of my favorites:

Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children (Gaza Strip); a stunning array of hand-crafted items made by deaf men and women; proceeds go to support the Gaza Strip's first and only school for deaf children and to continue the vocational training provided for the deaf there. The building was damaged in the recent Israeli bombing but they are up and running nevertheless.

Mountain High Imports

Olive Branch Olive Oil


Blogger Kelly Kilmer said...

Thank you for this list, Laila. I will be passing it on. THANK YOU!

6:54 AM  

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