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Like most of us in America, buy actonel I was raised on certain beliefs which, buy actonel as I've grown older have come to realize such beliefs simply didn't match the reality I was living then, buy actonel or living now. While such thoughts as a child provided a sense safety and comfort for me, buy actonel I remember constantly guarding them so as to insulate them from any light that could reveal they weren't real and weren't what I observed to be true in life. Buy actonel   (Santa Claus comes to mind**, buy actonel although I do think that belief was a very lucrative one, buy actonel at least for a while.)    As I have grown I've also realized that while we may wish to distance ourselves from the real world, buy actonel it's seems to be where the real freedom and experience of living reside. It's pretty ironic Americans and probably most individuals worldwide today, buy actonel  are conditioned via technology to seek a kind of reality through fantasies and mythical entertainment which consumes our time and brain space, buy actonel not to mention dulls our senses, buy actonel whether its through television, buy actonel computers or whatever. Buy actonel   These days I as I'm sure a lot of us are, buy actonel I'm in a process of trying to find out exactly where one fits in a world where manufactured myth making (and pretty dysfunctional myths at that*) and superficiality seems to dictate our culture.   My friend thinks we all are existing in a low grade depression right now because most feel a lack of true purpose.  I can understand her point of view. And, buy actonel like so many others I love this wonderful, buy actonel magnificent planet of ours which seems as though its being treated like the goose laying golden eggs, buy actonel who's being beaten into a state of exhaustion by not performing and producing at a fast enough rate.  One thing I have come to understand, buy actonel is when we overlook the unpleasant realities on the horizon and problems coming down the train track, buy actonel  it's actually a good time to take note and pay attention. Buy actonel   We need to at least be aware and not avoid them altogether, buy actonel because situations of need never go away until they are confronted or until it's too late to confront them.  I will add I'm as shortsighted as the next person, buy actonel especially when it comes to projects/issues that don't interest me.  I came across Ewa while keeping up with the Free Gaza aid Fleet, buy actonel with whom I know a few of the brave activists who attempted to break the Gaza blockade.  I found this interview with her and I thought I'd share it. Buy actonel   Like others who cared enough to set sail for Gaza, buy actonel to me she is an example of extraordinary compassion and courage. Buy actonel "We are all complicit": an interview with Ewa Jasiewicz Frank Barat, buy actonel The Electronic Intifada A year ago, buy actonel Israel launched its invasion of Gaza. Buy actonel It is difficult if not uncomfortable to consider situations in other parts of the world where people are treated as targets and as in many cases less than human. Dubbed "Operation Cast Lead" by the Israeli military, buy actonel the invasion started on 27 December 2008 and finished on 18 January 2009. Buy actonel During those 23 days, buy actonel more than 1, buy actonel400 Palestinians were killed including more than 320 children. Buy actonel More than 5, buy actonel000 Palestinians suffered serious injuries. Originally from England, buy actonel Ewa Jasiewicz was one of a handful of "internationals" on the ground. Buy actonel A human rights activist, buy actonel union organizer and journalist, buy actonel Jasiewicz has spent years working in occupied Palestine and Iraq with oil workers, buy actonel refugees, buy actonel paramedics and community groups. Buy actonel She is a coordinator for the Free Gaza Movement and part of the editorial collective of Le Monde Diplomatqiue Polish Edition. Buy actonel Her book Gaza: Getto Nieujarzmione (Gaza: a Ghetto Unbroken) will be published in Poland by Ksiazka i Prasa in March. Buy actonel A year later, buy actonel she reflects on those bloody days with The Electronic Intifada contributor Frank Barat. Frank Barat: You were in Gaza a year ago during Operation Cast Lead. Buy actonel Why and how did you and other activists go to the Gaza Strip? Ewa Jasiewicz: Myself and several solidarity activists from Lebanon, buy actonel Spain, buy actonel Canada, buy actonel Australia, buy actonel Italy, buy actonel UK, buy actonel Ireland and Greece managed to get into Gaza aboard the Free Gaza Movement's (FGM) Dignity boat. Buy actonel FGM has sailed five successful missions to Gaza from August to December 2008, buy actonel bringing in human rights workers to build political solidarity activism, buy actonel to break the isolation of ghettoized communities and directly confront Israel's illegal and brutal siege. FGM's missions are political -- we know Palestine is not a charity case, buy actonel and that the solutions to a 60-year policy of ethnic cleansing, buy actonel apartheid and militarized ghettoization are not extra bags of flour, buy actonel medicine, buy actonel new tents and millions in aid, buy actonel but political will and direct action. Buy actonel This is currently unforthcoming from governments around the world, buy actonel so our actions are about directly applying international law from the grassroots up because it isn't being respected and is being violated, buy actonel daily, buy actonel from the top-down -- the siege of Gaza and occupation of Palestine is international, buy actonel the states supporting it either with their silence or direct complicity in economically supporting Israel are co-occupiers and collaborators in war crimes against the Palestinian people, buy actonel along with Israel. FB: Previously you spent some time in the occupied West Bank during various Israeli operations (more particularly in the Jenin refugee camp). Buy actonel What were the main differences between the two places and what did you expect to see in Gaza? Did you expect the attack? EJ: I didn't expect the attack -- but people in Gaza and the Hamas authority did expect an attack because the ceasefire had expired and Israel was saber-rattling, buy actonel threatening to eliminate, buy actonel as always but with greater intensity and focus, buy actonel resistance leaders -- military and political -- and their supporters. Buy actonel There was an increase in unmanned aerial vehicles flying 24/7. Buy actonel I had experience of smaller operations in the West Bank in Jenin and Nablus following Operation Defensive Shield in 2002. Buy actonel Operation Defensive Shield was massive, buy actonel hundreds of Palestinians were killed, buy actonel the heart of Jenin refugee camp was bulldozed and dozens of civilians massacred in the process. Buy actonel By the time I came, buy actonel all the ruins and trauma were still very fresh but the worst of the destruction and killing had subsided. The smaller invasions were carried out under curfew, buy actonel involving hundreds of troops, buy actonel carrying out house-to-house searches, buy actonel and mass arrests with every man aged between 15 and 50 rounded up, buy actonel interrogated and beaten. Buy actonel A typical operation, buy actonel with groups of children throwing anything they can at tanks and armored personnel carriers (APCs) in the street -- and often getting shot at for doing it. Buy actonel There would be sporadic resistance at night from fighters, buy actonel but many of the most experienced had been killed at that point. Buy actonel Troops would carry out collective punishment like home demolitions using bulldozers or explosives and civilians would be used as human shields. Buy actonel What was different at that time in the West Bank was that a lot of the Palestinian Authority's (PA) infrastructure and military infrastructure of the resistance -- fighters and leaders -- were destroyed during Defensive Shield by F-16 fighter jets. Buy actonel Israel was executing its cyclical strategy of having decimated the leaders of the armed and political resistance of major political factions, buy actonel moving on to target the social infrastructure -- community leaders, buy actonel social activists -- and continuing to arrest relatives of the "wanted" and trying to bait out and kill the younger, buy actonel more inexperienced fighters. Because of the tunnels, buy actonel fighters in Gaza have had access to more sophisticated and threatening weaponry than their West Bank counterparts, buy actonel so Israeli aggression has been more intense in Gaza and heavily reliant on aerial bombardment. Buy actonel Since the withdrawal of the colonists and military bases [in 2005], buy actonel this has increased. In the West Bank, buy actonel activists could be much more mobile and confront and dialogue with soldiers. Buy actonel In Gaza 2009 that was impossible. Buy actonel I only once saw soldiers -- a special forces soldier trained his gun and apparently shot at our ambulance. Buy actonel In the West Bank we were often between tanks and APCs and following and observing soldiers close-up. Buy actonel If you got close to soldiers in Gaza they'd kill you -- that is what everyone kept telling us. FB: What did you plan to do there? Did your plans changed once the invasion of Gaza started? EJ: I planned, buy actonel as had other activists, buy actonel to work with Palestinian partners -- civil society groups, buy actonel unions, buy actonel farmers and fishermen, buy actonel local campaigns for the right to education and to end the siege. Buy actonel My role was going to be to coordinate and guide visiting delegations coming aboard FGM boats along with [Irish human rights activist] Caoimhe Butterly. Buy actonel Once the invasion started, buy actonel it became immediately clear that what we needed to do as foreign activists was to fulfill our role of witnessing and reporting, buy actonel mitigating the risk to those most likely to be attacked -- which during invasions are the medical services. The Israeli occupation forces killed 16 rescuers in 22 days and injured dozens more. Buy actonel By volunteering with medics we attempted to deter attacks on them by informing the media and our embassies that we would be accompanying all services -- 13 of the medics killed were from the Civil Defense services. Buy actonel We did not differentiate between "independent" and "government" services; all must be protected under international law. Buy actonel Also, buy actonel we didn't just sit in the ambulances, buy actonel we physically carried the injured and dead and tried to assist where possible Secondly, buy actonel we could remain mobile -- ambulances were the only vehicles moving around 24 hours; we needed to be able to document and report on the attacks as fully as possible. Buy actonel Thirdly, buy actonel in our mobility and proximity to the front line we could witness the effects of the bombardment on civilians in their homes, buy actonel and take testimonies from families and Palestinian human rights workers inside hospitals. FB: Could you describe a day in Gaza during the invasion? EJ: The constant sneer of surveillance drones, buy actonel repetitive bombing and crashing sounds, buy actonel some close some further away, buy actonel muted panic, buy actonel empty streets, buy actonel rubble everywhere, buy actonel ambulance sirens wailing endlessly, buy actonel screaming relatives coupled with the groans of the bloodied and dust-covered crushed and injured, buy actonel medics praying and smoking, buy actonel heart-beating perpetual ratcheted-up adrenaline, buy actonel a constant readiness for the next strike and yearning for it to all end, buy actonel endless stream of bodies and blood-soaked stretchers, buy actonel cyclical dread, buy actonel pierced with fresh-surges of shock and horror unabsorbed, buy actonel and a deep fear of the night and whether we would make it through and whether each ambulance run might be the last. Buy actonel None of the fear paralyzed us but nevertheless it was present. Buy actonel But we all early on accepted we could die, buy actonel and took on the risks because it was worth it, buy actonel the Palestinian people are worth it. Buy actonel We wanted to save lives and I know I let go of my attachment to mine, buy actonel inspired and encouraged by the bravery of those around me, buy actonel and their willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of others. FB: What was the feeling of the population on the ground? How were they surviving and responding? EJ: Everybody was terrified but defiant. Buy actonel The feeling on the ground was that anything could happen, buy actonel all the red lines had been crossed. Buy actonel Not just with this operation, buy actonel we have to remember that Operation Cast Lead was only an intensification and a drastic one at that, buy actonel of an existing policy of massacre and deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, buy actonel but in [the northern Gaza refugee camp of] Jabaliya, buy actonel many of us were expecting another Sabra and Shatila with all witnesses banned from seeing the worst and with media being attacked, buy actonel and tanks moving in closer and close, buy actonel we felt that the atrocities already happening signified more could come and on a much wider scale. Buy actonel [Editor's note: Sabra and Shatila were Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon where a massacre occurred during Israel's 1982 invasion. Buy actonel Israeli forces surrounded the camps and allowed and supported the militia of the Lebanese Phalange Party to conduct the massacre inside the camps.] FB: What was the most useful thing you think international volunteers were able to achieve and contribute? What did Palestinians in Gaza think of your presence there? EJ: The community were glad we were there and kept telling us, buy actonel "Please report what you see, buy actonel we cant even believe this is happening to us, buy actonel let the world know, buy actonel it's your duty to speak out about what you witness." And that's what we did, buy actonel through TV and radio interviews, buy actonel our own written reports, buy actonel some of us wrote books too: for example, buy actonel Vittorio Arrigoni (Italy) Gaza, buy actonel Stay Human, buy actonel Sharyn Lock (UK) Gaza Beneath the Bombs, buy actonel myself Gaza: A Ghetto Unbroken. Buy actonel Some of us made films, buy actonel like Fida Qishta and Jenny Linnel, buy actonel and documentaries on the phosphoric bombardment of Khoza. Buy actonel Alberto Arce and Mohammad Rujailah produced To Shoot an Elephant. I think we contributed to the testimony of the Palestinian community that white phosphorous was being used, buy actonel that civilians were deliberately being targeted, buy actonel that hospitals, buy actonel schools, buy actonel emergency services were being targeted. Buy actonel And that counteracted Israel's propaganda. Buy actonel Also, buy actonel I know for a fact that we lifted the spirits of the medics we worked with; they felt they had a witness with them in case of their death, buy actonel and a possible small bit of protection against Israeli attack. Buy actonel Everybody needs a witness when they're going through hell -- wherever and whatever that hell is -- it's a form of solidarity, buy actonel of verification, buy actonel that the unbelievable really is happening to you. Buy actonel Also, buy actonel we were urging people on the outside to step up their protests and direct actions and advocacy for boycott, buy actonel divestment and sanctions. Buy actonel Getting that narrative out was important too, buy actonel peoples' eyes were opened and many people wanted to get involved and deepen their activism. FB: Could you recount one event that truly shocked you during the invasion? EJ: There were so, buy actonel so many. Buy actonel Probably the bombing of a house by an F-16 just a few feet away from four of our ambulances. Buy actonel I was in the passenger seat with my hand on the door, buy actonel my friend and driver told me just wait, buy actonel wait a little, buy actonel and suddenly there was this enormous explosion -- everything went bright fire orange and rubble and debris showered our ambulance. Buy actonel One of our drivers was injured and needed to be carried out on a stretcher. Buy actonel Our exit route was blocked by rubble, buy actonel a family was screaming and gathering their belongings and getting out, buy actonel we were stumbling with our casualty and surveillance drones were thundering above, buy actonel and we feared a repeat strike, buy actonel more casualties, buy actonel and losing four ambulances when every single one was vital. Buy actonel We cheated death that night. Buy actonel The Israelis saw us and our lone movement in the streets of Jabaliya, buy actonel and bombed a house less than 10 feet away from us -- this is a criminal, buy actonel reckless use of force. Another was the bombing of the Beit Lahiya Elementary School with white phosphorous. Buy actonel We arrived in our ambulances after evacuating dozens of residents suffering from phosphoric inhalation and after the school had taken a direct hit. Buy actonel I was masked up but the stench and smoke was still penetrating, buy actonel and when we got there a second round exploded above us, buy actonel I was frozen to the spot and could see these burning blobs raining down next to me, buy actonel I had to be screamed at to move and find shelter. Buy actonel The refugees in the school were screaming and crying under a flimsy metal shelter in the school yard. Buy actonel The third floor of the school was on fire. Buy actonel We brought Bilal Ashkar, buy actonel aged seven -- just this limp boy -- into our ambulance. Buy actonel He'd been hit by the phosphorous shell and thrown down the stairs of the school by the force of the explosion. Buy actonel He was dead on arrival. FB: A ceasefire was declared on 18 January 2009. Buy actonel Did things change much after this? What did Gaza feel like and look like after the ceasefire? EJ: The Israeli occupation forces flew F-16s over people returning to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives in Ezbet Abed Rabo [neighborhood near Jabaliya], buy actonel drones continued to sneer above us every night. Buy actonel There was this hollow humiliation and undigested horror, buy actonel and loss, buy actonel such a profound sense of dislocation and loss -- of lives, buy actonel of the loved, buy actonel homes, buy actonel whole communities, buy actonel streets, buy actonel mosques, buy actonel shops, buy actonel gone. Buy actonel People literally felt physically lost in their own neighborhoods. Buy actonel It was like another Nakba [the forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948 when Israel was created]. Buy actonel People felt mocked by the international community. Buy actonel "They're laughing at us, buy actonel the whole world doesn't care, buy actonel they're mocking us, buy actonel" was what we frequently heard. Buy actonel It felt like a tsunami had hit. FB: Many reports coming from UN bodies, buy actonel aid agencies and human rights organizations came out very quickly in the months following the invasion. Buy actonel Most of them agreed on the fact that war crimes and possible crimes against humanity were committed during the Israeli attack. Buy actonel Did you ever witness actions that for you were crimes of this magnitude? EJ: Absolutely. Buy actonel The targeting of civilians and civilian areas, buy actonel the reckless and wanton destruction of property, buy actonel the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force, buy actonel seen with the bombing of the Beit Lahiya School, buy actonel the Samouni family massacre, buy actonel the F-16 bombardment of the Hamdan children in Beit Hanoun, buy actonel the utter disregard for our ambulances, buy actonel the blocking of access to the injured resulting in hundreds of deaths, buy actonel the extrajudicial killing of Sayed al-Seyam and Nazar Rayan and scores of their family members. Buy actonel We picked up so many shredded men (and some women too) axed by heavy-duty bombs released by surveillance drones -- these can carry a 150 kg payload and are sophisticated enough to detect the color of a person's hair. Buy actonel According to the al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, buy actonel proportionally, buy actonel most people killed [during the invasion were] by UAVs followed by F-16s. FB: A few weeks ago, buy actonel 16 aid agencies issued a report saying that the international community had "failed Gaza." On the ground things have not changed at all for ordinary Palestinians in Gaza but have gotten worse. Buy actonel Keeping this in mind, buy actonel what do you think is the role of popular resistance or citizen activism? EJ: Yes, buy actonel the international community facilitates and pays for Israel's occupation, buy actonel and pathologizes and de-develops Palestine in the process. Buy actonel Ordinary citizens have a responsibility not to fund or politically support [an] industry which hides a relentless project of ethnic cleansing and colonization of Palestine. Buy actonel [Instead, buy actonel citizens have a responsibility] to build a critical mass of political pressure by all means available -- through BDS and direct action -- to bring about sanctions against Israel and to enforce international law by targeting the companies that violate it with respect to Palestinian human rights, buy actonel and to expose Israel in the same way [apartheid in] South Africa was exposed and eventually brought to an end. FB: What in your opinion is most urgently needed in Gaza? What can people do to help and change the status quo? EJ: Palestinians in Gaza should answer that, buy actonel but what many say, buy actonel is that what Gaza needs is the rest of Palestine. Buy actonel People living in camps in Jordan, buy actonel Lebanon, buy actonel Syria and the West Bank want to be reunited with their families and homes. Buy actonel The inalienable and legal right of return for Gaza's and all Palestinian refugees needs to be enacted. Buy actonel The Israeli tactic of divide and torture, buy actonel of chopping up the Palestinian community, buy actonel is a long-term tactic designed to break down the strongest weapon against ethnic cleansing that Palestinians possess -- memory, buy actonel community, buy actonel family. Buy actonel As long as you have a people who remember their homes and lands, buy actonel and know each other, buy actonel refer to one another as cousin, buy actonel uncle, buy actonel sister and brother, buy actonel and can ask, buy actonel "Which home/family are you from?" then the struggle can never be alienated or abstracted. Buy actonel Palestinians in Gaza need to have the means to speak and act for themselves and not be spoken for, buy actonel and to have access to the rest of the world -- twinning relationships and projects between schools, buy actonel mosques, buy actonel universities, buy actonel hospitals, buy actonel youth groups, buy actonel initiatives -- these are all means to break the isolation inside and build a more intimate and motivated solidarity movement on the outside. Buy actonel Aid is not the answer. Buy actonel Solidarity is. FB: A year after the war, buy actonel people marched in hundreds of cities around the world to "commemorate" those horrific events. Buy actonel What do you think of those demonstrations? What type of effect do they have on Palestinians in Gaza? Are they useful at all in your opinion? EJ: The rallies are a focus point; we do need collective mourning, buy actonel remembrance and action in our streets. Buy actonel But its also important to target companies violating international law and which are key in perpetuating Israeli apartheid, buy actonel which we must always remember is not limited to Gaza -- the West Bank is 15 times larger than Gaza and is full of mini Gazas -- Bantustans surrounded by Israel's apartheid wall. Buy actonel Companies like Veolia, buy actonel Alstom, buy actonel Caterpillar, buy actonel Elbit Systems, buy actonel CRT Holdings and Carmel-Agrexco could be charged with aiding and abetting war crimes of ethnic cleansing and illegal colony-building. Buy actonel The boycott, buy actonel divestment and sanctions call from Palestinian civil society needs to be responded to and supported -- actively, buy actonel daily. Buy actonel We are all complicit in the reproduction and reinforcement of the occupation -- it is an international occupation, buy actonel it is an international issue, buy actonel and international solidarity for Palestinian human rights can create the conditions for a local solution. FB: Will you ever go back to Gaza? EJ: I am going back! I only meant to leave for a month, buy actonel I deeply miss Gaza. Buy actonel It became like a home to me, buy actonel I miss my friends and "family" there. Buy actonel Like so many activists that go to Palestine, buy actonel what we witness never leaves us. Buy actonel We learn from and are humbled by the people that we work with, buy actonel and it's an honor and a privilege to participate in this struggle. Frank Barat is a human right activist and coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine. Buy actonel He lives in the UK.Original article can be found at: