Friday, January 30, 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. Ipsa Scientia Potestas Est. 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 are also the least orthodox:

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 thoughtful political analysis. This is one sure way to immerse yourself into everything 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 http://tinyurl.com/2jxwf 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: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10056.shtml

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. Ahttp://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=9082405&postID=8428369486442165593 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


Holy Land Olive Oil

Palestine Online Store

11. If you prefer, donate your money to a charity, or hold a creative bake sale (manaeesh anyone?). Some good options:

MECA (Middle East Children's Alliance)

ANERA (American Near East Refugee Aid)

Playgrounds for Palestine

Other aid organizations include CARE, the IRC, Islamic Relief...and so on.

You can also learn about specific NGOS working in Gaza.

Ending on an inspiring note, I just read that One Laptop Per Child donated 5000 solar-powered laptops to Gaza's children through the UNRWA.

Wait a second...I just realized that was 11 ways (after much condensing of "ways" into option 7).

29 Comments:

Blogger Ali said...

Great post! I was praying and thinking and wondering how can I really help my brethren in Palestine while sitting in Pakistan. AlhamduLillah I saw this post today, million thanks for posting this.

7:26 AM  
Blogger dx_acutefelicity said...

MANAEEESH!!!! I will hold a creative bake sale! I love that idea! Fatayer, manaeesh, and harisa!

Man, my mouth is watering just thinking about such an idea! You have inspired me to have a bake sale on my university's campus. :-)

7:46 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I like your suggestions very much. May I add another? Psychologists for Social Responsibility is an organization partnering with other groups to collect money to provide direct support to the Gaza Community Mental Health Program which had its administrative offices and one clinic badly damaged. Donations can be made here: www.grassrootsonline.org/donate/psysr to help this wonderful organization provide support to traumatised children and adults.

I appreciate your blog very much, Laila. Thank you.

9:31 AM  
Blogger PEN Atlas said...

Hi Laila: Thanks for an amazingly detailed and organised post! I hadn't heard about the OLPC project, that's very inspiring.

For more inspiration, you might like to check out -- and let your readers know about -- a way to support Palestinian writers -- by reading new work in English translation on the PEN Atlas blog: http://penatlas.blogspot.com/2009/01/new-writing-from-gaza-portfolio.html

In solidarity

11:20 AM  
Blogger Dragonfly said...

Thank you so much for the time, effort and thought put into this Laila. Definitely given me some more ideas.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Alef said...

Those are excelent ways. I try to discus with friends about the issue, showing them whats happening.

6:24 PM  
Blogger Gene said...

Laila, may I just post these few links that contain some additional pieces of information.

What you can do to help

Global Movement of Non Violent Resistance

I Heart Gaza Campaign


Thanks!

12:09 AM  
Blogger Phil Sumpter said...

For a Christian site, go to the Mennonite homepage here: http://mcc.org/. They also have practical tips for the lay person.

12:14 AM  
Blogger ChaiTime said...

I was cleaning out some boxes and came across a diary I had kept in 1993 while I was doing research in Poland. In it, I describe my feelings after the visit to Auschwitz - how sickened I was to my core. The number of innocents who died is beyond anything you have imagined.

I find myself today with pretty much the same sickened feelings against the perpetuators of genocide in Gaza.

For all the Jews who still can tell me that it was correct of the IDF to kill infants and children in Gaza - take a moment and go to Auschwitz and look at what evil does - then take another look at what your country did to the people and Gaza. And if you do not come to the same conclusion as I did, you are really not human at all.

5:27 AM  
Blogger rbguy said...

Dear Laila:

Thank you for this informative post. I wanted to let you and your readers know of another thing they can do. Last week a fundraising webpage was created on ActBlue.com titled "A Dream Of Peace:.. to support US Democratic elected officials who are seeking a just peace for all of the people in Palestine and Israel. The page can be found here

The candidates on the list have varying level of support. The candidates at the top of the list are more supportive of a just peace than those lower down on the list. I agree with you that all of the options you discussed are equally important in order to support the people of Gaza. As someone with community organizing experience, I feel that this fundraising option is one more part of the overall picture.

President Obama's campaign showed the power of a large number of people making small dollar donations for a political cause. If people feel comfortable supporting our campaign and any of our candidates, they can become part of a bigger political movement. Then, when that person contacts an elected offical and their Foreign Affairs Legislative Assistant their suggestions and concerns will hopefully be given greater strength (That is not the way it should be ideally, but seems to be the way it works in D.C.).

I thank you for your consideration.

9:46 AM  
Blogger MIchael said...

I wonder what is the reason for Hamas to shoot more rockets and mortars today. Are they trying to get the IDF back to Gaza?

What is wrong with those people?!

12:15 PM  
Blogger Houseonahill said...

I have been reading your blog for quite some time.

You are an inspiration.

I love your suggestions. While I have done a few on my own, this list gave me sort of a "checklist" so that I can do more!

In peace,
Houseonahill

3:50 PM  
Blogger Amna said...

Dear Laila
Recently here in San Francisco, I came across a TV program by Anna Baltzer on Palestine. It was aired on the local public access channel. These local channels by law are required to air material sent to them except in cases of highly objectionable content. I have since read more about how others to can get similar programs aired. If this is not too long a post, here is how Anna Baltzer, a leading human rights / peace activist based in USA and Palestine explains the process:

"There are thousands of Public Access TV stations around the
country—sometimes several in one city. Even if just 1 tenth of 1
percent of Americans ever watch, that's still hundreds of thousands ofpeople, thousands for every local station.

The best part: Public Access TV stations are required to air materialssubmitted by local citizens. In fact, to my understanding, FCC
regulations prohibit station employees from censoring films (except those including pornography, extreme violence, and commercial content). Informing your community is your right—so use it.

Over 2,500 stations nation-wide are currently without sponsors to air Palestine films. This is a much-needed community service, and it doesn't matter if:
-you don't have money
-you haven't visited Palestine
-you want to remain anonymous

All that matters is if you're a resident somewhere with Public Access TV (almost everywhere). Take advantage--

*AIR EDUCATIONAL FILMS about PALESTINE on your local TV STATIONS!*

===================================

4 EASY STEPS:

1. Choose DVD(s) about Palestine. If you want to use Anna's DVD but
don't already have a copy, write anna.baltzer@... for a
complimentary copy to air on your local station(s).

2. Find local station(s)—instructions above.

3. Call station(s) to tell them you wish to air the film(s) and ask
what is necessary.

4. Follow the steps they give. If you encounter problems, contact Fred Shepherd at Global Information Services for help: 415-459-8738,
Altencon@...

===================================

FOLLOW-UP IDEAS:

1. Notify schools & libraries—for which this presents an opportunity
for teachers and others to "safely" educate their students about the conflict—as well as friends & local peace groups.

2. If using Anna's film, notify her at anna.baltzer@... (she can
publicize further).

3. Consider sponsoring A WHOLE SERIES of films on Palestine on your
local station(s). 2 options:

- SERIES 1: "America, Israel, & Palestine: Cause & Effect," has over 50 films (including Anna's), which you may be able to submit all at once. TV stations (or local sponsors) can pay $179 for the 45+ hours of content, with a $30 rebate if all are aired during a 6-month period. Contact Anna for more information.

- SERIES 2: Get a monthly time-slot (this is remarkably easy—I called my local station and got a WEEKLY slot on the spot!) and "Alternate Focus" will send you tapes once a month to deliver to the station. There are sponsors around the country. Details at
www.AlternateFocus.org or contact Ed Sweed: 858-551-0191,
edsweed@...

===================================

Public Access channels are taxpayers' TV stations. They welcome quality films, many of which are broadcast repeatedly and can be used to fill dead air and scheduled randomly, which is helpful for the stations and for the cause. With your help, we can educate millions who can stand with us for responsible US policy & a just peace in Palestine. Please, join us!"

12:44 AM  
Blogger Kimmie said...

Mrs. Laila;

I can't tell you how happy I am that I stumbled across your blog. I'm fifteen and homeschooled. I attend a homeschool co-op (in case you don't know, it's where a bunch of homeschoolers get together once a week to take extra curricular classes...much like a regular school), and one of my classes is the discussion and analyzation of current world events.

I was assigned an article from the magazine we use (World Magazine), and the article was "Permanent Temporariness", an article about you and your views and concerns over the Israel and Gaza conflict. I was researching the subject more, so I googled your name, and it took me to your blog. I just wanted to tell you I really enjoy reading what you have to say. You're a very strong woman, and I pray God will bless you and your family tremendously.

Keep your head up!

-- Kimmie

6:30 AM  
Blogger Dragonfly said...

Michael your question has been answered by myself and others, alzheimers? or BLINKERS?

Rockets stop when the stranglehold of border control by Israel ceases.
The stupid people are the Israeli's who don't recognize that their own government is using their citizens as canon fodder, KNOWINGLY.

Tell your government to take its hands off the neck of Gaza. Better still, demand they stop border control completely.

10:46 AM  
Blogger littlehorn said...

Last week a fundraising webpage was created on ActBlue.com titled "A Dream Of Peace:.. to support US Democratic elected officials who are seeking a just peace for all of the people in Palestine and Israel.

Frankly, I think you're deluded. The Democrats have always been the biggest supporters of Israel, even more than Republicans. Only Republicans -meekly- raised their voice against Israel. It was mostly for show, but the point is Democrats cannot be counted on.

2:22 PM  
Blogger MIchael said...

Israel's only term to open borders is to release Gilad Shalit. Why Hamas can't do that? Only one person....

BTW Chai, please confirm my respond on your blog.

11:38 PM  
Blogger American 6103 said...

America has always supported Israel, doesn't take much history reading to understand why. All the palestinians dancing the streets after 9-11 soured many a american to their cause, including me.

11:58 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

Salam Laila

You are a great inspiration mashallah 3alaike :) I support your ideas 100%.. and yes.. this is the least that we can do to help people in Gaza. I hope your family in Gaza is doing well.

Salam from little New Zealand

11:48 AM  
Blogger Singapore Kopitiam - Voices of Singaporeans said...

Hi Laila:

Thanks for providing information for the Palestinians’ cause.

You are invited to join our forum discussion to provide informative inputs from your side:
http://forums.delphiforums.com/sunkopitiam/messages?msg=20153.1

Many people are not aware of what is gong on in Gaza.

Regards,
Victor Sun
Singapore Kopitiam - Voices of Singaporeans
http://forums.delphiforums.com/sunkopitiam

11:58 AM  
Blogger Edila said...

Hi Laila!
Great post!
Have you seen this video?

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4752349n

60 minutes by CBC had the courge to show the American people the truth about the injustices in palestine.
Best regards!

1:00 AM  
Blogger Dragonfly said...

American 6103
I can understand the Palestinians dancing in the streets after 9/11 . . .

The US finances the Israelis who the Palestinians have suffered from for decades.

Under the same circumstances I might well do the same . . . and I know you would too.

Michael
Yes Michael, only ONE person . . . need I even say anything else?

ONE person is the reason that Israel maintains its stranglehold? ONE person is the reason that ALL of Palestine has to suffer? When over 900 Palestinians are held by Israel?

You two guys. . . I hope you aren't getting paid for these posts because you're both pretty pathetic at it. You just keep repeating the same old stuff - it gets tired.

1:36 AM  
Blogger American 6103 said...

might I do the same in their shoes, maybe.

but I am not them, and I feel no need to support political enemies.

7:18 AM  
Blogger MIchael said...

11. Stop Hamas and their terrorist friends from shooting rockets on Israel.
12. Stop the hatred against Israel in the muslim world.
13. Stop fabricating facts using Pallywood's fictionate movies.
14. Give citizens of Gaza a citizenship in your country.
15. Demand that Hamas will leave the way of destroying Israel.
16. Stop the de-legitemization of Israel in the arab world.
17. Stop teaching children about hate and shahada.

6:18 PM  
Blogger MIchael said...

18. Stop Hamas stealing goods from UNWRA and selling them!
19. Stop thinking of USA as your main enemy. They provide about 25% of UNWRA's finances, more than all of the muslim world combined.

5:57 PM  
Blogger LWR said...

Hi Laila!
There is an excellent organization which has been doing a wonderful job of helping Palestinians (and others) in addressing medical needs. It's called the Palestinian Children's Relief Fund (PCRF). It was founded by an American named Steve Sosebee who has been a long-time resident of Ramallah in the West Bank. Please tell your readers about this worthwhile organization. This is their website: http://www.pcrf.net/first.html
و جزاكم الله ألف خير إن شاء الله
Thank you very much,
L. W. Rumsey

10:23 PM  
Blogger The Yarn Whisperer said...

Assalamu alaikum,

I think another good organization to add to the list is Palestine Children's Relief Fund.
www.pcrf.net

among many of their activites and causes, is that they help bring children to the Us for medical treatment. However, they have a large deficit of families who sign up for this. I Think it would be a great idea to mention this on your blog to help get awareness and hopefully a few sign ups. sadly, some children have been denied entry here as they had no host family to stay with during their treatment.

I am going to post a link to your blog on my knitting for Palestine group. We are currently trying to find ways to get the knitted and crocheted items (blankets, clothing, toys) to Palestine in general and Gaza in specific. If you have any insight on this, please let me know.
We have been trying to find a solution.
You can reach me at Safiyah@gmail.com

9:40 PM  
Blogger hirra said...

Great blog - thanks for the tips - here's a boycott Israeli Goods video I thought would be informative for people and friends around - feel free to pass on -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1gGValAMlY

8:58 PM  
Blogger leon said...

among many of their activites and causes, is that they help bring children to the Us for medical treatment. However, they have a large deficit of families who sign up for this. I Think it would be a great idea to mention this on your blog to help get awareness and hopefully a few sign ups. sadly, some children have been denied entry here as they had no host family to stay with during their treatment
http://tsitologiya.ru/
http://copilka.info/

3:01 PM  

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