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There are situations in our lives where old beliefs are confronted and challenged by experiences which impact how we view things, buy augmentin cod and how we look at the world overall.  Gaza moves a New York City mom from apathy to activism Debbie Mardon (left) and her Palestinian-American husband Mahmoud Bitar (center) attend a demonstration on 31 May demonstration in Times Square against Israel's attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Buy augmentin cod (Ellen Davidson) Alex Kane writing from New York City Last New Year's Eve, buy augmentin cod Debbie Mardon did not celebrate with noise makers or confetti -- instead, buy augmentin cod she headed to Cairo's main square to participate in the Gaza Freedom March with her daughter Jenna Bitar, buy augmentin cod 18, buy augmentin cod and son Joel, buy augmentin cod 23. Amid police violence aimed at protesters and Egyptian security forces blockading them inside their hotel, buy augmentin cod Debbie, buy augmentin cod 55, buy augmentin cod a native New Yorker, buy augmentin cod said that protesting in Cairo "was the scariest thing I've ever done in my life." It was an unlikely place to be for a previously apolitical mother who voted for George W. Buy augmentin cod Bush and as recently as three years ago relied on right-wing radio hosts Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh to help her make sense of the world. More than 1, buy augmentin cod300 activists from 43 countries traveled to Cairo to take part in the Gaza Freedom March, buy augmentin cod a demonstration aimed at bringing attention to the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip. Since 2006, buy augmentin cod after the Islamist movement Hamas won democratic elections, buy augmentin cod Israel and Egypt have completely blockaded this besieged coastal strip on the Mediterranean, buy augmentin cod only allowing in basic humanitarian aid. Buy augmentin cod The situation worsened in December 2008, buy augmentin cod when Israel invaded Gaza, buy augmentin cod eventually killing about 1, buy augmentin cod400 Palestinians, buy augmentin cod the majority of them civilians. Debbie and her children, buy augmentin cod like the rest of the activists who participated in the Gaza Freedom March, buy augmentin cod were outraged at what many have labeled the "Gaza massacre." The three-year journey for Debbie, buy augmentin cod her husband Mahmoud and their two children from political indifference to passionate involvement in the Palestine solidarity community has brought them closer together as a family, buy augmentin cod and they now regularly attend demonstrations together. For Debbie, buy augmentin cod things came to a head during the attack on Gaza in the winter of 2008-09. Buy augmentin cod It was a personally harrowing time -- both she and Mahmoud had lost their mothers and a good friend had been placed in a nursing home, buy augmentin cod and Debbie decided it was time to find out more about what was happening in Palestine. She started attending talks and lectures about Palestine, buy augmentin cod and one in particular, buy augmentin cod featuring Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert at Columbia University, buy augmentin cod left an indelible impression. "It was jaw-dropping. Buy augmentin cod He showed us photos of dying and maimed children, buy augmentin cod children burned from the white phosphorous, buy augmentin cod and the photos had me in tears. Buy augmentin cod Then he said, buy augmentin cod this suffering is not caused by a natural disaster, buy augmentin cod it is political, buy augmentin cod it is foreign policy and you can no longer be silent while your government supports this. Buy augmentin cod After that I made an effort to find out how I could get involved, buy augmentin cod" Debbie said. Native New Yorker Debbie, buy augmentin cod tall, buy augmentin cod outgoing and buoyant, buy augmentin cod can be found in her fifth floor walk-up apartment on the Upper East Side. Buy augmentin cod She is welcoming and quick to offer dinner and drinks. Buy augmentin cod The apartment she shares with her Palestinian-American husband and two kids is snug, buy augmentin cod with enough room to feel comfortable but not enough to avoid each other if everyone's home. There are pictures of Jenna in a Halloween costume in the kitchen, buy augmentin cod plants around the living room, buy augmentin cod a comfortable couch and a black cat named Blossom. Buy augmentin cod Their bookshelf is filled with the works of Noam Chomsky, buy augmentin cod Chris Hedges and Norman Finkelstein and flyers advertising leftist events in the city are posted near the refrigerator. Three years ago, buy augmentin cod Debbie would have been on the couch watching Bill O'Reilly and reading conservative Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan. Debbie took comfort in Fox News' slant on the world. Buy augmentin cod "I wanted to know that someone out there was watching so our country wasn't torn apart by unpatriotic voices, buy augmentin cod" she said. But for most of Debbie's life, buy augmentin cod politics were not important. Buy augmentin cod One of five siblings, buy augmentin cod she grew up in the Bedford Park neighborhood in the Bronx and attended Walton High School. Buy augmentin cod Her mother was a homemaker and her father worked as an electrician. Debbie went to the City College School of Architecture, buy augmentin cod where she first met her future husband, buy augmentin cod Mahmoud Bitar, buy augmentin cod a Palestinian-American, buy augmentin cod at the end of their sophomore year. Buy augmentin cod Mahmoud was taken with Debbie starting with the first time they met. "We talked under a tree in the rain on campus. Buy augmentin cod I saw her heart and fell in love, buy augmentin cod" Mahmoud said. When Debbie first met Mahmoud, buy augmentin cod she did not understand what it meant to be someone from Palestine. Buy augmentin cod Mahmoud was uncomfortable with his heritage, buy augmentin cod and he let people, buy augmentin cod including Debbie when they started dating, buy augmentin cod think he was Jewish or Italian. Buy augmentin cod Debbie recalls how "people said things to him like, buy augmentin cod 'You're not a Palestinian, buy augmentin cod you're too nice.'" Born in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1958, buy augmentin cod Mahmoud was brought up immersed in the politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Buy augmentin cod He lived in Jericho, buy augmentin cod a city in the West Bank, buy augmentin cod for the first ten years of his life after his family moved there because his father had set up a station in Jericho selling fruits and vegetables. Buy augmentin cod In 1967, buy augmentin cod when the war broke out, buy augmentin cod Mahmoud and his family returned to Jerusalem after Israeli bombs killed three of his relatives. As soon as Mahmoud and his two brothers were college-aged, buy augmentin cod their parents sent them to the United States. Buy augmentin cod Mahmoud, buy augmentin cod now a US citizen, buy augmentin cod arrived in the country in 1977 on a student visa. After getting married in 1980 and graduating from college three years later, buy augmentin cod Debbie and Mahmoud had their first child, buy augmentin cod Joel, buy augmentin cod in 1986, buy augmentin cod and their second, buy augmentin cod Jenna, buy augmentin cod in 1992. Buy augmentin cod Debbie worked part-time at an architectural firm while raising their children. Mahmoud, buy augmentin cod who has curly hair and seems to always have a twinkle in his eye, buy augmentin cod speaks in calm and at times airy tones, buy augmentin cod a contrast to Debbie's more forward and pointed way of talking. Buy augmentin cod He currently works as an architect for New York City's Administration for Children's Services. For most of their marriage and while raising Jenna and Joel, buy augmentin cod Mahmoud rarely talked about his childhood in Palestine. "I never got a greater picture, buy augmentin cod it was just bad things were happening to the Palestinians, buy augmentin cod or at least my family that was Palestinian, buy augmentin cod" Jenna said. Buy augmentin cod "I visited there before I knew what was going on, buy augmentin cod for three weeks, buy augmentin cod with my grandparents when they were alive. Buy augmentin cod I lived the life they lived for a bit, buy augmentin cod saw the checkpoints, buy augmentin cod but I didn't understand." 11 September 2001 The 11 September 2001 attacks jolted Debbie's political perspective, buy augmentin cod and made Mahmoud more nervous about his background as a Palestinian, buy augmentin cod especially as thousands of Middle Eastern men were profiled and arrested throughout New York City. Debbie had just dropped Jenna off at school when she returned home and watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center on television. Debbie turned to Fox News for clarity. "That was the first time I started learning about foreign policy, buy augmentin cod and why someone would attack us, buy augmentin cod" Debbie said. But Debbie and Mahmoud rarely discussed post-11 September politics. "We didn't discuss it, buy augmentin cod I just listened. Buy augmentin cod Debbie's a leader by nature, buy augmentin cod so she always led with the remote control, buy augmentin cod" Mahmoud recalled. Buy augmentin cod "She had the remote control with her so she would pick the information, buy augmentin cod and I would retreat when I had really had enough of it." Joel was apathetic about politics at the time, buy augmentin cod and Jenna stayed by her mother's side as she watched Fox. Debbie's close attention to post-11 September politics did not last for too long after the Iraq War started in 2003, buy augmentin cod though, buy augmentin cod as her trust in the government slipped when the US did not find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. However, buy augmentin cod a series of events in 2008 would bring politics back into the family's life in a prominent way, buy augmentin cod and they have not turned back since. Injustice and transformation Debbie's family started attending the Redeemer Presbyterian Church almost twenty years ago. Buy augmentin cod While they were initially drawn to the church, buy augmentin cod which met at Hunter College, buy augmentin cod by a smart and interesting pastor, buy augmentin cod over the years the congregation became a second family for all of them. However, buy augmentin cod they were forced to leave this community in March 2008 after Mahmoud, buy augmentin cod who worked at the church on Sundays, buy augmentin cod was accused of stealing a CD of a church sermon. Buy augmentin cod He was arrested by a City University of New York security guard and charged with assaulting an officer, buy augmentin cod resisting arrest and misdemeanor theft -- charges that Debbie and her family say were ridiculous and were later dropped. "It was a small thing in the larger world, buy augmentin cod but it happened to us, buy augmentin cod" Debbie recalled. Buy augmentin cod "I thought that we would be immune to all this, buy augmentin cod and that the community we were a part of would care about truth and care about justice being served, buy augmentin cod but they didn't care about either of those things. Buy augmentin cod It opened my eyes to greater injustices. Buy augmentin cod I used to think that people who went to jail were probably guilty. Buy augmentin cod But now, buy augmentin cod I thought, buy augmentin cod 'Oh my goodness! There are all these people in jail that are probably innocent.' Michael could've gone to jail, buy augmentin cod but he had a private lawyer. Buy augmentin cod What happens if you're poor?" she said, buy augmentin cod using the nickname that Mahmoud had used when he first came to the US. Nine months later, buy augmentin cod on 27 December 2008, buy augmentin cod Israel invaded the Gaza Strip, buy augmentin cod beginning what would be a devastating assault. "It was during Gaza that we started to awaken, buy augmentin cod" said Joel, buy augmentin cod who at the time was first foraying into politics by joining an antiwar organization at Hunter College and reading books about US foreign policy and the Israel-Palestine conflict. Buy augmentin cod "Killing civilians indiscriminately with US weapons, buy augmentin cod paid for with our tax money, buy augmentin cod seemed to be so hideously wrong." During what Amnesty International called "22 days of death and destruction, buy augmentin cod" Debbie could not avoid the Gaza conflict, buy augmentin cod especially because Mahmoud's brother Farid, buy augmentin cod who was glued to Al-Jazeera's coverage of the assault, buy augmentin cod was emotionally devastated. Joel, buy augmentin cod who was reading books like Noam Chomsky's The Fateful Triangle: The United States, buy augmentin cod Israel and the Palestinians, buy augmentin cod also started to talk with Debbie about the detrimental impact of US foreign policy on Palestine. After those 22 days were over, buy augmentin cod Debbie started going to lectures and protests about the conflict and soon found herself enmeshed in the world of Palestine solidarity activism. Buy augmentin cod Although described as the "leader" of the household, buy augmentin cod she was the last person to finally call herself an activist. The assault on Gaza also made Mahmoud become more engaged with the Palestine solidarity movement. "It's a natural conclusion to what happened in Gaza, buy augmentin cod" Mahmoud said. Buy augmentin cod "Our breath is being taken out of us. Buy augmentin cod I felt an urgency to start having a voice." In the last two years, buy augmentin cod the household has been transformed. Buy augmentin cod Jenna described how sometimes, buy augmentin cod before she goes to sleep, buy augmentin cod Debbie will run into her room and "just read me books out loud, buy augmentin cod" including passages from the work of Chris Hedges and Michael Parenti. Buy augmentin cod "She'll come and say, buy augmentin cod 'I have to read you this passage, buy augmentin cod it's so good' and it'll be something sad and depressing, buy augmentin cod" Jenna said, buy augmentin cod laughing. These days, buy augmentin cod it is nearly impossible to miss Debbie and members of her family at activist events related to Palestine. Buy augmentin cod The actions they frequent include protesting with Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, buy augmentin cod in the group's campaign against Lev Leviev. Buy augmentin cod An Israeli billionaire who owns a jewelry store in Manhattan, buy augmentin cod Leviev is involved with companies that invest in and construct illegal Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land. "She's really knowledgeable. Buy augmentin cod She has really educated herself on Palestine, buy augmentin cod" says Helen Schiff, buy augmentin cod a New York-based activist who has become close friends with Debbie over the past two years. Buy augmentin cod "She has a voracious mind, buy augmentin cod and she's very, buy augmentin cod very smart." However, buy augmentin cod her transition into political activism has not come without a cost for Debbie and her family. Buy augmentin cod Her passion for politics has "caused a lot of stress on our relationship, buy augmentin cod" said Mahmoud. Buy augmentin cod "There's always a cost to anything, buy augmentin cod and it's drawing from our reservoir." Some of her friends worry she is on the "wrong political track." One friend, buy augmentin cod Debbie said, buy augmentin cod told her, buy augmentin cod "I'm worried for your children." Debbie believes that this kind of reaction stems from the fact that the life she and her family have chosen to live is unconventional. "We're looking at the world from a whole different perspective, buy augmentin cod and it's a harder way to live. Buy augmentin cod Most people that I know would not want that -- they would want a pretty status quo type of life, buy augmentin cod" Debbie said. While some of Debbie's friends avoid discussing Mideast politics with her, buy augmentin cod Debbie is eager to talk with friends who are interested in learning more about Israel's occupation of Palestine. In 2009 Debbie took her brother to a talk by scholar Norman Finkelstein at the Brecht Forum, buy augmentin cod a political and social educational center on Manhattan's west side. Buy augmentin cod Her brother, buy augmentin cod a Democrat and strong supporter of Barack Obama, buy augmentin cod said he was "shocked" by the realities of the situation in Gaza. But for Debbie, buy augmentin cod knowledge is just the first step of many -- she helped raise money for students participating in the Gaza Freedom March in 2009, buy augmentin cod and helped organize a protest outside a Friends of the IDF fundraiser at the Waldorf-Astoria earlier this spring. With Jenna attending college in the fall and Joel working as a doorman in the Upper East Side, buy augmentin cod Debbie plans to continue her part-time job, buy augmentin cod as well as her involvement in the Palestine solidarity movement. "It is essential that the movement continue to grow. Buy augmentin cod Hopefully, buy augmentin cod in this economic climate, buy augmentin cod Americans will decide that there are better uses for their money besides supporting unending wars that will fuel terrorism, buy augmentin cod not end it, buy augmentin cod" Debbie said. She used to think individuals could not change anything in the world. Buy augmentin cod And she still thinks that. "Over a long time you can change [the world], buy augmentin cod but personally, buy augmentin cod me? Coming along and changing anything, buy augmentin cod it's unlikely, buy augmentin cod" Debbie said. "But I can have a part ... Buy augmentin cod I want to change things badly, buy augmentin cod but that's not even the thing that motivates me any longer, buy augmentin cod" she said. Buy augmentin cod "It's just that I can no longer sit by and watch things happen and not speak out and at least be a voice shouting out there." Alex Kane is a 21-year-old college student, buy augmentin cod journalist and blogger based in New York City. Buy augmentin cod He is a reporter for the Indypendent, buy augmentin cod and a frequent contributor to Mondoweiss. Buy augmentin cod His articles have also appeared in Common Dreams, buy augmentin cod Red Pepper (UK), buy augmentin cod and Palestine Chronicle. Buy augmentin cod Original article can be found at: