Tell Me a Secret

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Back From China

I just came back from China after a work trip that lasted a bit over a week, and came with back with flu and a bunch of notes that I am about to share with you.

Upon Arrival: In the airport walking and looking through the trillion name signs banners trying to find my name, i found one of the people carrying a banner that says "WTF" exactly and literally, in capitals. Cheer up, it does not matter what size of problems you have in your life, at least you do not walk around knowing that your initials are WTF.

Fact: China's name is not China. It is only so for us foreigners, for Chinese the name of China is Zhonghua. For real!

Fact: In China, not only it is that Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and others are blocked, they have their own version of each of them, but the funny thing is that you are not allowed to know that they are blocked in the first place, if you write in your browser it will direct you to the same page you get when internet is disconnected. How cool is that? :D

Fact: All people in China have two names, a Chinese one that you can not possible pronounce right and an English one. However they are free to change the English one at any moment as its not registered in any official documents. One day you wake up as a Peter, next day you can be a George. Tell me that is not neat.

Fact: After going to China..I mean Zhonghua, if you think that Chinese look alike then you are a blistering idiot. I do not know if blistering is a word but it just has the right ring and decided to use it. Chinese people come in every possible variation of human kind, tall and short, very fair skin or darker, long hair, short hair, curly and straight, circular, square and rectangular faces, I have not found one Chinese that can be mistake with another, they look completely different and have completely distinct and extinguishable faces unless you are legally blonde and blind. at the same time. One time at Mcdonalds though i thought the cashier was Lucy Liu and for a moment i thought it was candid camera or something. Then she turned out to be just a Chinese cashier going about her day. I asked our Chinese friend Tina, who is about my age and is the international sales manager for one of the companies we represent if she notices how much the girl looks like Lucy Liu. She did not know who that is. 

-Fact: You are prohibited by law to know the gender of your baby until the delivery moment, Chinese culture favors boys and in many cases would choose to lose the baby if they know it's a girl.

Fact: Unlike what you think, Asians including Chinese people, are not born with black belt in martial arts:P In our minds we always have a connection between any Asian and Martial arts, somewhere in the back of our heads we think that any two Asians with road rage will get off their cars, set a ring and settle the issue with 12 rounds of Kung Fu while pedestrians give notes and academically discuss the positives and negatives of the techniques each fighter is using. I asked one of the people that accompany us if they or anyone they know at all plays martial arts, he said no. Bummer.

Incident: We were in Shanghai to attend an exhibition for water treatment products, 99% of exhibitors and visitors are Chinese, we stopped by one booth that had a western looking guy, it went along these lines:
- (Serious Guy from Holland who represents a company that would not sell water projects equipment unless they operate it themselves on the long run): I see what you want, It won't work.
- (Me): But we only need the equipment!
(Serious Guy from Holland who represents a company that would not sell water projects equipment unless they operate it themselves on the long run): I can't supply you with that. I mean I can, but I won't.
-(Me): What if I say please?.

Ok it does not sound as funny now for some reason. but it was hilarious. I can't take that setting so seriously and people who do look like comedy material to me.

Note: Chines people are so incredibly humble in their manners and attitude, when we accompanied the staff of the first company we met we used to go around with the owner and his assistant, and also the steel supplier who supplies steel for that company came along, we were going about in a new 7 Series BMW (that's the largest one) and the supplier always took the driver seat. I was under impression that it's the car of the company owner and that this guy works also as a driver for him, turned out to be the owner of the BMW. You could not detect a hint of "look how rich I am" in a Chinese person's attitude, dress or the way they treat others. The company owner dresses no different than other people in the factory, he carries the same phone brand that other workers carry, we later visited his 4 million USD house that he just purchased. No sense of arrogance or showing off at all. I admired that very much.

- All water dispensers in China offer you two options: room-temperature water and hot water. Cold is not an option.

-While walking back to hotel in we found a group of people, mostly older people, on a street corner they set up an old cassette player and every couple is happily performing a slow dance. Apparently it's normal. The translator asked me if we had that in our country too, i told her that if we see this in our country we would call them insane. They thought that was HILARIOUS.

- Fancy Chinese restaurants are so unique, the restaurant is made of a number of big rooms, each room contains a big round table that's maybe enough for 10, and next to it a number of couches a nicely decorated living room, each room has its own kitchen, you make your order and they go prepare it in your kitchen, Chinese menu is so diverse and has trillion different dishes, they order so many dishes and they arrive one by one, take their place on the rotating center of the round table, they rotate it to face the guest first and then everyone else eats out of it, few minutes later they arrive with a new dish and so on, it could go on for couple of hours and still they would bring a new dish every now and then. I think if you eat all the dishes you would not feel painfully full and could not possibly get fat. very light on the stomach.

-Uniform for nearly 80 or 90% of Chinese women is a very short skirt and high heels. 

-At this time of year it's hot every day, around 35C but AC is not widely available and when so, not very efficient, with AC on in the hotel you would still be hot. For over a week in China i have not seen the sun once. I traveled to different places but always the sky is the same: Grey. I do not know if that's clouds or fog or pollution. Maybe a mix of all three! and in Shanghai it was also humid.

-China is a very not Muslim-Friendly country, statistics say that there are 20 000 000 Muslims in China nearly, although the number is huge, it still is only 1% of the population and apparently a very small part of them live in Shanghai and Hangzou where I mostly spent my time, in Shanghai I asked 2 of the 3 companies to try to find us a Halal restaurant when they invited us for dinner, they looked at me and said:" ..em...khalal?!" They honestly did not know what that means. Neither did it help to say "Muslim Food" They did not know what Muslim is either. Some of them do after some explanation though. In general China is very cheap if you go to local areas but rather expensive for touristic areas and goods unless you know how to bargain. You can find something to eat for few RMBs in local areas, ($1 = 6 RMB) approx, when we went to the two halal restaurants in town, one Lebanese and one Irani, each of them charged us about $300 for a meal for four. Talk about exploiting religion to make money! In general if you travel to China you would starve, food smells and looks strange, in Huangzhou they have a saying: "We eat anything that runs on the ground except a car, anything flies in the sky expect a plane and anything that swims except a ship." Enough said. Oh hotels are cheap though, we stayed in this really really nice 5 stars hotel in some town, and I mean really nice with 29 floors and sea view,  we payed about $80 per night. 

-Very difficult to find someone speaking English, road signs are sometimes in both local language and English, but everything in the machines used to buy tickets for the metro is in local language only which takes that out as a transportation option, what a shame, its vast and fast, clean and efficient. Bullet train is amazing though, goes like a bullet and you can easily book it as most of the offices that sell tickets speak English. It's a great way to go around cities, super fast, affordable, and these bullet trains, which are called Harmony Trains, run on such high bridges that you can take amazing photos all around while flying at 300km/h. 

-Chinese babies are SO cute.

-For a reason I do not understand, China is full of VW cars, nearly all Taxis as VW and so many private cars too. Buick also out of all cars is astonishingly common, I do not remember seeing a Buick since I left Iraq in 2005, I have no idea why are they in production in such huge numbers in Chine.

-Traffic is not bad. For real. In many areas there isn't traffic at all even, and the few times we were caught in traffic it wasn't much worse than it is in Amman in peak times. But I am not sure about that as we spent most our time in meetings, maybe i missed their peak hours!

-After a week the withdrawal symptoms of being away of bread and facebook start to fade away and you start to believe that you are not going to die and that you can actually make it back home.

- I went to buy gifts for the family, went to this mall, found nearly all shops closed which is strange, shortly after people started to approach us and ask if we want bags, they would open the shop secretly for us, turned out police has been arresting people for buying smuggled/fake products and everyone is scared, they refused to let my Chinese friend accompany me they thought he was a cup, they said I should come alone, I said maybe you would kill me if I come alone bring the bags here we will wait, they refused, it was getting more worrying by the moment, I said I would go alone if my friend would stand at the end of the hallway and see where I was going, they agreed, I walked with them and they opened a shop and let me in very cautiously and then closed the shop, the person with me pushed one of the shelves racks and a secret door opened leading us to another room, pushed a shelf again and a new secret door opened inside the secret room to reveal a selection of Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Chanel bags. I wanted four, the initial asking price was $800 or so, I ended up buying them for about $80. We also bought silk, all legal and in the open though, and silk is beautiful and comes in all shiny colors, depending on the quality it ranges from 15-50 USD per meter length. Do not buy from Shanghai though it's much more expensive there, the real silk market is in Huangzhou. 

-At one occasion our Chinese friends had a small laugh among them while we were eating, I asked them what's funny and they said I was eating in the ashtray and putting bones in the eating dish. Honestly they all look alike and there is no way you can tell. DISHES that is, not people, you blistering idiot! :)

Friday, April 27, 2012

ِِAlive and Kicking...Hard!

Well Well Well, and here we are again! I miss this place immensely, I just got too old for blogging i think. Well, since i still have six months to enjoy being in my 20s (turning 30 in October!) I guess i am not really that old. So i will write something just to update all the 3 of you that still visit this page about what happened between me and life.


As you three remember, i was kidnapped back in 2005 one month before graduation and left Iraq immediately after I was released and headed to Jordan, where I had to redo the last three years of my university courses in order to graduate. Eventually it was done, and I was a certified engineer by the end of 2008.

After taking a rest of couple of months I started looking for a Job and shortly after, started my first Job with a big company in Jordan. Three months later I decided I should try my luck in a bigger market and went to work for a German company in Saudi Arabia, that went on for about a year and a half, and for the last 6 months of them, I was officially married to the amazing girl and follow Iraqi blogger, Attawie. (The wedding was in Dubai, sorry for not inviting you all).

After the end of my year and a half period in Saudi Arabia we went back to Jordan and joined the family business.

Few months after arriving to Jordan, we have had our first child, Mr. Karam himself. He is 10 months old now :)

So you can how between work, my wife and son and all girlfriends, I forgot about staying in touch and blogging, C'est la vie! However I did join the useless worlds of Facebook and Twitter, on and off.

What about you guys? :) What have you been up to? are you still following Iraq's news as you used to? Are you following the legal disasters in Egypt and human disasters in Syria? and finally and most importantly:

Do you have a secret?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Just Married :D

Sunday, November 08, 2009

yay :D

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The full speech of Muntader after he was released

My Flower to Bush, the Occupier

The Story of My Shoe By MUTADHAR al-ZAIDI

Mutadhar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi who threw his shoe at George Bush gave this speech on his recent release.

In the name of God, the most gracious and most merciful. Here I am, free. But my country is still a prisoner of war. Firstly, I give my thanks and my regards to everyone who stood beside me, whether inside my country, in the Islamic world, in the free world. There has been a lot of talk about the action and about the person who took it, and about the hero and the heroic act, and the symbol and the symbolic act. But, simply, I answer: What compelled me to confront is the injustice that befell my people, and how the occupation wanted to humiliate my homeland by putting it under its boot.And how it wanted to crush the skulls of (the homeland's) sons under its boots, whether sheikhs, women, children or men. And during the past few years, more than a million martyrs fell by the bullets of the occupation and the country is now filled with more than 5 million orphans, a million widows and hundreds of thousands of maimed. And many millions of homeless because of displacement inside and outside the country.We used to be a nation in which the Arab would share with the Turkman and the Kurd and the Assyrian and the Sabean and the Yazid his daily bread. And the Shiite would pray with the Sunni in one line. And the Muslim would celebrate with the Christian the birthday of Christ, may peace be upon him. And despite the fact that we shared hunger under sanctions for more than 10 years, for more than a decade.

Our patience and our solidarity did not make us forget the oppression. Until we were invaded by the illusion of liberation that some had. (The occupation) divided one brother from another, one neighbor from another, and the son from his uncle. It turned our homes into never-ending funeral tents. And our graveyards spread into parks and roadsides. It is a plague. It is the occupation that is killing us, that is violating the houses of worship and the sanctity of our homes and that is throwing thousands daily into makeshift prisons.

I am not a hero, and I admit that. But I have a point of view and I have a stance. It humiliated me to see my country humiliated. And to see my Baghdad burned. And my people being killed. Thousands of tragic pictures remained in my head, and this weighs on me every day and pushes me toward the righteous path, the path of confrontation, the path of rejecting injustice, deceit and duplicity. It deprived me of a good night's sleep. Dozens, no, hundreds, of images of massacres that would turn the hair of a newborn white used to bring tears to my eyes and wound me. The scandal of Abu Ghraib. The massacre of Fallujah, Najaf, Haditha, Sadr City, Basra, Diyala, Mosul, Tal Afar, and every inch of our wounded land. In the past years, I traveled through my burning land and saw with my own eyes the pain of the victims, and hear with my own ears the screams of the bereaved and the orphans. And a feeling of shame haunted me like an ugly name because I was powerless.And as soon as I finished my professional duties in reporting the daily tragedies of the Iraqis, and while I washed away the remains of the debris of the ruined Iraqi houses, or the traces of the blood of victims that stained my clothes, I would clench my teeth and make a pledge to our victims, a pledge of vengeance.The opportunity came, and I took it.I took it out of loyalty to every drop of innocent blood that has been shed through the occupation or because of it, every scream of a bereaved mother, every moan of an orphan, the sorrow of a rape victim, the teardrop of an orphan. I say to those who reproach me: Do you know how many broken homes that shoe that I threw had entered because of the occupation? How many times it had trodden over the blood of innocent victims? And how many times it had entered homes in which free Iraqi women and their sanctity had been violated? Maybe that shoe was the appropriate response when all values were violated. When I threw the shoe in the face of the criminal, Bush, I wanted to express my rejection of his lies, his occupation of my country, my rejection of his killing my people. My rejection of his plundering the wealth of my country, and destroying its infrastructure. And casting out its sons into a diaspora.After six years of humiliation, of indignity, of killing and violations of sanctity, and desecration of houses of worship, the killer comes, boasting, bragging about victory and democracy.

He came to say goodbye to his victims and wanted flowers in response. Put simply, that was my flower to the occupier, and to all who are in league with him, whether by spreading lies or taking action, before the occupation or after. I wanted to defend the honor of my profession and suppressed patriotism on the day the country was violated and its high honor lost. Some say: Why didn't he ask Bush an embarrassing question at the press conference, to shame him? And now I will answer you, journalists. How can I ask Bush when we were ordered to ask no questions before the press conference began, but only to cover the event. It was prohibited for any person to question Bush.And in regard to professionalism: The professionalism mourned by some under the auspices of the occupation should not have a voice louder than the voice of patriotism. And if patriotism were to speak out, then professionalism should be allied with it.I take this opportunity: If I have wronged journalism without intention, because of the professional embarrassment I caused the establishment, I wish to apologize to you for any embarrassment I may have caused those establishments. All that I meant to do was express with a living conscience the feelings of a citizen who sees his homeland desecrated every day.History mentions many stories where professionalism was also compromised at the hands of American policymakers, whether in the assassination attempt against Fidel Castro by booby-trapping a TV camera that CIA agents posing as journalists from Cuban TV were carrying, or what they did in the Iraqi war by deceiving the general public about what was happening. And there are many other examples that I won't get into here.But what I would like to call your attention to is that these suspicious agencies -- the American intelligence and its other agencies and those that follow them -- will not spare any effort to track me down (because I am) a rebel opposed to their occupation. They will try to kill me or neutralize me, and I call the attention of those who are close to me to the traps that these agencies will set up to capture or kill me in various ways, physically, socially or professionally. And at the time that the Iraqi prime minister came out on satellite channels to say that he didn't sleep until he had checked in on my safety, and that I had found a bed and a blanket, even as he spoke I was being tortured with the most horrific methods: electric shocks, getting hit with cables, getting hit with metal rods, and all this in the backyard of the place where the press conference was held. And the conference was still going on and I could hear the voices of the people in it. And maybe they, too, could hear my screams and moans.

In the morning, I was left in the cold of winter, tied up after they soaked me in water at dawn. And I apologize for Mr. Maliki for keeping the truth from the people. I will speak later, giving names of the people who were involved in torturing me, and some of them were high-ranking officials in the government and in the army.

I didn't do this so my name would enter history or for material gains. All I wanted was to defend my country, and that is a legitimate cause confirmed by international laws and divine rights. I wanted to defend a country, an ancient civilization that has been desecrated, and I am sure that history -- especially in America -- will state how the American occupation was able to subjugate Iraq and Iraqis, until its submission.

They will boast about the deceit and the means they used in order to gain their objective. It is not strange, not much different from what happened to the Native Americans at the hands of colonialists. Here I say to them (the occupiers) and to all who follow their steps, and all those who support them and spoke up for their cause: Never.Because we are a people who would rather die than face humiliation.And, lastly, I say that I am independent. I am not a member of any politicalparty, something that was said during torture -- one time that I'm far-right, another that I'm a leftist. I am independent of any political party, and my future efforts will be in civil service to my people and to any who need it, without waging any political wars, as some said that I would. My efforts will be toward providing care for widows and orphans, and all those whose lives were damaged by the occupation.

I pray for mercy upon the souls of the martyrs who fell in wounded Iraq, and for shame upon those who occupied Iraq and everyone who assisted them in their abominable acts. And I pray for peace upon those who are in their graves, and those who are oppressed with the chains of imprisonment. And peace be upon you who are patient and looking to God for release.And to my beloved country I say: If the night of injustice is prolonged, it will not stop the rising of a sun and it will be the sun of freedom.

One last word. I say to the government: It is a trust that I carry from my fellow detainees. They said, 'Muntadhar, if you get out, tell of our plight to the omnipotent powers' -- I know that only God is omnipotent and I pray to Him -- 'remind them that there are dozens, hundreds, of victims rotting in prisons because of an informant's word.'They have been there for years, they have not been charged or tried.They've only been snatched up from the streets and put into these prisons. And now, in front of you, and in the presence of God, I hope they can hear me or see me. I have now made good on my promise of reminding the government and the officials and the politicians to look into what's happening inside the prisons. The injustice that's caused by the delay in the judicial system.Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you

The translation is by McClatchy’s special correspondent, Sahar Issa.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

HNK wrote a book!

The Lovely HNK has written a book, was gonna tell you about it but its well put in her blog, HNK is a teenage Iraqi girl and one of the youngest Iraqi bloggers in the blogsphere, she just turned 20 though, so you are not allowed to call her a teenager anymore :)

Check her post, buy her book, congratulations HNK! :)

People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of ))
Paulo Coelho.

Every thing begin with an idea, and then become a dream, a dream become a destination and then finally become a work that may lead to success.

I had read a words that had been stocked in my ears "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it"

And I really did want to write a book so strongly and there were and are still some people stand beside me and pushing me forwards to achieve my dream and my goal.

Haymarket's book ,
John Ross ,
Elizabeth Wrigley ,
Sasha Crow (my dear friend) ,
Grandfather ,
Mam and dad
And my annoying sister,Najma ^__*

Here in this book, I shared my diary with you.
In this book, you will read my thoughts, mypoems, and most of my last post and you will have an idea of my life as a teenager in the middle of this war.

Best wishes &
May all your dreams come true...



Read the original post in her blog

Monday, May 18, 2009

Quick Update..

Hello everyone!

it's been a while, i know, i know!

couple of things i have to say :

First, i recieved an email notifying me that our book has won a medal in some contest or something that i didn't bother memorising its name :D and then i remembered that i never shared with you the fact that the Jarrars published a book in the first place, what a horrible, horrible blogger i am, i know!

So check the book and buy it to provide us with the life style we are used to :P

Second issue:

I moved to Saudi Arabia a little while ago, things looking great and promising here in Riyadh, its a very nice city. And i am just dying, litterally craving to hear an American or British speak, not like i like you people or anything and you know it (:P) but my ears are desperate for it, Saudi Arabia is so full of Indians and Banghalis that disfugre the English language when they prounounce it in the most most brutal of ways, i am dying to hear one person speaking English properly. The other day i was nia restaurant and a table nearby had someone that looked American, i kept staring at the poor soul hoping to hear him speak i think i freaked him out and he could be still looking over his shoulders ever since :P

What else...

I have a secret but i am not sharing until its well done ;)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Freaking Awesome Saying

"War does not determine who is right - only who is left."

-Bertrand Russell.... whoever that is.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Words to be written with gold, and hanged on every wall.

" They say, how can one that claims to support peace support the resistance? and they refer to us by that mainly, i say here today: how can anyone that supports peace not support the resistance?"

- Bashar Alassad, right now, in the Arab leaders meeting, Live on Aljazeera, From Doha.

Words to be written with gold, and hanged on every wall.

What if that was your family? What if that was your house?

Posted by Picasa
This Video is of a Palestinian father in Gaza, explaining to the camera, how the Israeli army killed his four children, in Hebrew he addresses us, hoping his message would get to the world...

Monday, January 12, 2009




For More Information, Please Contact:

(Cyprus) Huwaida Arraf, +357 96 723 999 or +357 99 081 767

(Gaza) Ewa Jasiewicz, +972 598 700 497

(Egypt) Caoimhe Butterly, +20 121 027 072

(U.S.) Ramzi Kysia, +1 703 994 5422

(Cyprus, 11 January 2009) - The Free Gaza Movement ship, “SPIRIT OF HUMANITY,” will leave Larnaca Port at 12:00 noon, Monday, 12 January, on an emergency mission to besieged Gaza. The ship will carry desperately needed doctors, journalists, human rights workers, and members of several European parliaments as well as medical supplies. This voyage marks Free Gaza’s second attempt to break through the blockade since Israel began attacking the Gaza Strip on 27 December. Between August and December 2008, the Free Gaza Movement successfully challenged the Israeli blockade five times, landing the first international ships in the port of Gaza since 1967.

The Israeli military violently attacked an earlier attempt by the Free Gaza Movement to send an emergency boat filled with doctors and medical supplies to Gaza. In the early hours of Tuesday, 30 December, the Israeli navy deliberately, repeatedly, and without warning rammed the unarmed ship, the DIGNITY, causing significant structural damage and endangering the lives of its passengers and crew. The ship found safe harbor in Lebanon, and is currently awaiting repairs.

Fouad Ahidar, a member of the Belgian Parliament sailing to Gaza aboard the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, responded to concerns that Israel may attack the unarmed mercy ship by saying, "I have five children that are very worried about me, but I told them, you can sit on your couch and watch these atrocities on the television, or you can choose to take action to make them stop."

Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have injured thousands of civilians and killed over 800 people, including scores of women and children. This ongoing Israeli massacre severely and massively violates international humanitarian law defined by the Geneva Conventions, especially the obligations of an Occupying Power and the requirements of the laws of war.

The United Nations has failed to protect the Palestinian civilian population from Israel's massive violations of international humanitarian law. Israel has closed off Gaza from the international community and demanded that all foreigners leave. But Huwaida Arraf, an organizer with the Free Gaza Movements, stated that, “We cannot just sit by and wait for Israel to decide to stop the killing and open the borders for relief workers to pick up the pieces. We are coming in. There is an urgent need for this mission as Palestinian civilians in Gaza are being terrorized and slaughtered by Israel, and access to humanitarian relief denied to them. When states and the international bodies responsible for taking action to stop such atrocities chose to be impotent, then we--the citizens of the world--must act. Our common humanity demands nothing less.”

Israel has been notified that we are coming. A copy of the notification to the Israeli Authorities is attached.

The media is invited to the Larnaca Port at 10:00am to for final preparations and a press conference before departure.



Take Action! CALL the Israeli Government and let them know that the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY is coming to Gaza. DEMAND that Israel immediately STOP slaughtering civilians in Gaza and STOP using violence to prevent human rights and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.


Mark Regev in the Prime Minister's office:

+972 2670 5354 or +972 5 0620 3264

Shlomo Dror in the Ministry of Defence:

+972 3697 5339 or +972 50629 8148

Major Liebovitz from the Israeli Navy:

+ 972 5 781 86248

Official Notification of Intent to Enter

January 11, 2009

To: The Israeli Ministry of Defense, Fax: 972-3-697-6717

To: The Israeli Navy

To: The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Fax 972-2-5303367

From: The Free Gaza Movement

This letter serves as a formal notification to you as the Occupying Power and belligerent force in the Gaza Strip that on Monday, January 12 we are navigating the motor vessel, Spirit of Humanity, from the Port of Larnaca to the port of Gaza City. Our vessel will be flying the Greek flag, and, as such, falls under the jurisdiction Greece.

We will be sailing from Cypriot waters into international waters, then directly into the territorial waters of the Gaza Strip without entering or nearing Israeli territorial waters. We expect to arrive at the Gaza Port on Tuesday, January 13, 2009.

We will be carrying urgently needed medical supplies in sealed boxes, cleared by customs at the Larnaca International Airport and the Port of Larnaca. There will be a total of 30 passengers and crew on board, among them members of various European Parliaments and several physicians. Our boat and cargo will also have received security clearance from the Port Authorities in Cyprus before we depart.

As it will be confirmed that neither we, the cargo, any of the boat's contents, nor the boat itself constitute any threat to the security of Israel or its armed forces, we do not expect any interference with our voyage by Israel's authorities.

On Tuesday, December 30, an Israeli Navy vessel violently, and without warning, attacked our motor vessel Dignity, disabling the vessel and endangering the lives of the 16 civilians on board. This notice serves as clear notification to you of our approach. Any attack on the motor vessel, Spirit of Humanity, will be premeditated and any harm inflicted on the 30 civilians on board will be considered the result of a deliberate attack on unarmed civilians.

The Steering Committee of the Free Gaza Movement

Contact: Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza Movement, 357 96 723 999

Sunday, January 11, 2009

What IF They Were Your Children?

Posted by Picasa

Enough. It's time for a boycott

Enough. It's time for a boycott

The best way to end the bloody occupation is to target Israel with the kind of movement that ended apartheid in South Africa

It's time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa. In July 2005 a huge coalition of Palestinian groups laid out plans to do just that. They called on "people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era". The campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions was born.

Every day that Israel pounds Gaza brings more converts to the BDS cause - even among Israeli Jews. In the midst of the assault roughly 500 Israelis, dozens of them well-known artists and scholars, sent a letter to foreign ambassadors in Israel. It calls for "the adoption of immediate restrictive measures and sanctions" and draws a clear parallel with the anti-apartheid struggle. "The boycott on South Africa was effective, but Israel is handled with kid gloves ... This international backing must stop."

Yet even in the face of these clear calls, many of us still can't go there. The reasons are complex, emotional and understandable. But they simply aren't good enough. Economic sanctions are the most effective tool in the non-violent arsenal: surrendering them verges on active complicity. Here are the top four objections to the BDS strategy, followed by counter-arguments.

Punitive measures will alienate rather than persuade Israelis.

The world has tried what used to be called "constructive engagement". It has failed utterly. Since 2006 Israel has been steadily escalating its criminality: expanding settlements, launching an outrageous war against Lebanon, and imposing collective punishment on Gaza through the brutal blockade. Despite this escalation, Israel has not faced punitive measures - quite the opposite. The weapons and $3bn in annual aid the US sends Israel are only the beginning. Throughout this key period, Israel has enjoyed a dramatic improvement in its diplomatic, cultural and trade relations with a variety of other allies. For instance, in 2007 Israel became the first country outside Latin America to sign a free-trade deal with the Mercosur bloc. In the first nine months of 2008, Israeli exports to Canada went up 45%. A new deal with the EU is set to double Israel's exports of processed food. And in December European ministers "upgraded" the EU-Israel association agreement, a reward long sought by Jerusalem.

It is in this context that Israeli leaders started their latest war: confident they would face no meaningful costs. It is remarkable that over seven days of wartime trading, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange's flagship index actually went up 10.7%. When carrots don't work, sticks are needed.

Israel is not South Africa.

Of course it isn't. The relevance of the South African model is that it proves BDS tactics can be effective when weaker measures (protests, petitions, backroom lobbying) fail. And there are deeply distressing echoes of apartheid in the occupied territories: the colour-coded IDs and travel permits, the bulldozed homes and forced displacement, the settler-only roads. Ronnie Kasrils, a prominent South African politician, said the architecture of segregation he saw in the West Bank and Gaza was "infinitely worse than apartheid". That was in 2007, before Israel began its full-scale war against the open-air prison that is Gaza.

Why single out Israel when the US, Britain and other western countries do the same things in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Boycott is not a dogma; it is a tactic. The reason the strategy should be tried is practical: in a country so small and trade-dependent, it could actually work.

Boycotts sever communication; we need more dialogue, not less.

This one I'll answer with a personal story. For eight years, my books have been published in Israel by a commercial house called Babel. But when I published The Shock Doctrine, I wanted to respect the boycott. On the advice of BDS activists, including the wonderful writer John Berger, I contacted a small publisher called Andalus. Andalus is an activist press, deeply involved in the anti-occupation movement and the only Israeli publisher devoted exclusively to translating Arabic writing into Hebrew. We drafted a contract that guarantees that all proceeds go to Andalus's work, and none to me. I am boycotting the Israeli economy but not Israelis.

Our modest publishing plan required dozens of phone calls, emails and instant messages, stretching between Tel Aviv, Ramallah, Paris, Toronto and Gaza City. My point is this: as soon as you start a boycott strategy, dialogue grows dramatically. The argument that boycotts will cut us off from one another is particularly specious given the array of cheap information technologies at our fingertips. We are drowning in ways to rant at each other across national boundaries. No boycott can stop us.

Just about now, many a proud Zionist is gearing up for major point-scoring: don't I know that many of these very hi-tech toys come from Israeli research parks, world leaders in infotech? True enough, but not all of them. Several days into Israel's Gaza assault, Richard Ramsey, managing director of a British telecom specialising in voice-over-internet services, sent an email to the Israeli tech firm MobileMax: "As a result of the Israeli government action in the last few days we will no longer be in a position to consider doing business with yourself or any other Israeli company."

Ramsey says his decision wasn't political; he just didn't want to lose customers. "We can't afford to lose any of our clients," he explains, "so it was purely commercially defensive."

It was this kind of cold business calculation that led many companies to pull out of South Africa two decades ago. And it's precisely the kind of calculation that is our most realistic hope of bringing justice, so long denied, to Palestine.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Brave Israelis and Jews

Hamas Speaks..

Hamas Speaks... to the LA Times, this time!

Israel warns Gaza of escalation

Now IN Gaza, by a collection of bloggers.

Now in Gaza is an interesting blog, features posts from a number of bloggers, all about the news and analysis of Gaza.

It's Available with two versions: An Arabic and an English version, not related in content, both feature different writers but still share some.

Take a look now and then, they update frequently.

UN levels war crimes warning at Israel

UN levels war crimes warning at Israel

Killing of 30 people in Gaza when army shelled house full of evacuees 'has all hallmarks of war crime', says high commissioner for human rights

The body of a child is removed from a house in Zeitun

The body of a girl who was found in the rubble of her destroyed house following an Israeli air strike on a house in Zeitoun Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

The Israeli military may have committed war crimes in Gaza, the UN's most senior human rights official said tonight, as Israeli troops pressed on with their increasingly deadly offensive in defiance of a UN security council resolution demanding a ceasefire.

Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, singled out the killing this week of up to 30 Palestinians in Zeitoun, south-east of Gaza City, when Israel shelled a house where its troops had told about 110 civilians to take shelter.

Pillay, a former international criminal court judge from South Africa, told the BBC the incident "appears to have all the elements of war crimes". She called for "credible, independent and transparent" investigations into possible violations of humanitarian law.

The accusation came as Israel kept up its two-week-old air and ground offensive in Gaza and dismissed as "unworkable" the UN security council resolution calling for "an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire". Protests against the offensive were held across the world today as diplomacy to halt the conflict appeared to falter.

With the Palestinian casualty toll rising to around 780 dead and more than 3,100 injured, fresh evidence emerged today of the Zeitoun killings.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said in a report it was "one of the gravest incidents since the beginning of operations" against Hamas militants in Gaza by the Israeli military on 27 December.

OCHA said the incident took place on 4 January, a day after Israel began its ground offensive in Gaza. According to testimonies gathered by the UN, Israeli soldiers evacuated about 110 Palestinians to a single-storey house in Zeitoun. The evacuees were instructed to stay indoors for their safety but 24 hours later the Israeli army shelled the house. About half the Palestinians sheltering in the house were children, OCHA said. The report also complains that the Israeli Defence Force prevented medical teams from entering the area to evacuate the wounded.

The OCHA report does not accuse Israel of a deliberate act but calls for an investigation. Responding to the report, an Israeli military spokeswoman, Avital Leibovich, told AFP news agency: "From initial checking, we don't have knowledge of this incident. We started an inquiry but we still don't know about it."

Among the dead were nine members of the Samouni family; a picture of three of the family's children in blood-stained clothing laid on a morgue floor and in front of their grieving father was shown in the Guardian on Tuesday. The father, Wael Samouni, said dozens of people had been sheltering in the house after Israeli troops ordered them and neighbours to stay inside.

"Those who survived, and were able, walked two kilometres to Salah Ed Din road before being transported to the hospital in civilian vehicles," the UN said.

Rescuers from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said they were able to reach the area on Wednesday only after being allowed safe passage by Israel.

The ICRC issued a statement on the incident yesterday, accusing the Israeli military of "unacceptable" delays in allowing medics safe access to injured Gazans.

More than 40 Palestinians were killed in another incident on Tuesday after missiles exploded outside a UN school that had been sheltering hundreds of people in the Jabaliya refugee camp, despite the UN saying the school was clearly marked with a UN flag and its position reported to Israeli military.

More than 750 Palestinians have died since the start of the Israeli military operation. More than half of Gaza's population are children, and the Palestinian ministry of health said about 42% of the casualties have been children.

Unicef said at least 100 children and minors were killed in the first 10 days of fighting. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, which posts staff at hospitals to track casualties, put this number at more than 160.

Abdel-Rahman Ghandour, the Jordan-based spokesman for Unicef in the Middle East and North Africa, said: "We are talking about urban war. The density of the population is so high, it's bound to hurt children … This is a unique conflict, where there is nowhere to go."

Israel has accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields and has said militants have fired rockets from rooftops of homes and mosques.

Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman, said: "Israel wants to see no harm to the children of Gaza. On the contrary, we would like to see their children and our children grow up without the fear of violence. Until now, Hamas has deliberately prevented that from becoming reality."

Fighting in Gaza has continued despite yesterday's UN security council resolution calling for an "immediate" and "durable" ceasefire and the full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza. The resolution was passed with 14 out of 15 members in support of the resolution. The US abstained from the vote., The World's Blog Aggregator