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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 indocin 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 indocin (Ellen Davidson) Alex Kane writing from New York City Last New Year's Eve, buy indocin Debbie Mardon did not celebrate with noise makers or confetti -- instead, buy indocin she headed to Cairo's main square to participate in the Gaza Freedom March with her daughter Jenna Bitar, buy indocin 18, buy indocin and son Joel, buy indocin 23. Amid police violence aimed at protesters and Egyptian security forces blockading them inside their hotel, buy indocin Debbie, buy indocin 55, buy indocin a native New Yorker, buy indocin 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 indocin 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 indocin300 activists from 43 countries traveled to Cairo to take part in the Gaza Freedom March, buy indocin a demonstration aimed at bringing attention to the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip. Since 2006, buy indocin after the Islamist movement Hamas won democratic elections, buy indocin Israel and Egypt have completely blockaded this besieged coastal strip on the Mediterranean, buy indocin only allowing in basic humanitarian aid. Buy indocin The situation worsened in December 2008, buy indocin when Israel invaded Gaza, buy indocin eventually killing about 1, buy indocin400 Palestinians, buy indocin the majority of them civilians. Debbie and her children, buy indocin like the rest of the activists who participated in the Gaza Freedom March, buy indocin were outraged at what many have labeled the "Gaza massacre." The three-year journey for Debbie, buy indocin 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 indocin and they now regularly attend demonstrations together. For Debbie, buy indocin things came to a head during the attack on Gaza in the winter of 2008-09. Buy indocin 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 indocin 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 indocin and one in particular, buy indocin featuring Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert at Columbia University, buy indocin left an indelible impression. "It was jaw-dropping. Buy indocin He showed us photos of dying and maimed children, buy indocin children burned from the white phosphorous, buy indocin and the photos had me in tears. Buy indocin Then he said, buy indocin this suffering is not caused by a natural disaster, buy indocin it is political, buy indocin it is foreign policy and you can no longer be silent while your government supports this. Buy indocin After that I made an effort to find out how I could get involved, buy indocin" Debbie said. Native New Yorker Debbie, buy indocin tall, buy indocin outgoing and buoyant, buy indocin can be found in her fifth floor walk-up apartment on the Upper East Side. Buy indocin She is welcoming and quick to offer dinner and drinks. Buy indocin The apartment she shares with her Palestinian-American husband and two kids is snug, buy indocin 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 indocin plants around the living room, buy indocin a comfortable couch and a black cat named Blossom. Buy indocin Their bookshelf is filled with the works of Noam Chomsky, buy indocin Chris Hedges and Norman Finkelstein and flyers advertising leftist events in the city are posted near the refrigerator. Three years ago, buy indocin 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 indocin "I wanted to know that someone out there was watching so our country wasn't torn apart by unpatriotic voices, buy indocin" she said. But for most of Debbie's life, buy indocin politics were not important. Buy indocin One of five siblings, buy indocin she grew up in the Bedford Park neighborhood in the Bronx and attended Walton High School. Buy indocin Her mother was a homemaker and her father worked as an electrician. Debbie went to the City College School of Architecture, buy indocin where she first met her future husband, buy indocin Mahmoud Bitar, buy indocin a Palestinian-American, buy indocin at the end of their sophomore year. Buy indocin Mahmoud was taken with Debbie starting with the first time they met. "We talked under a tree in the rain on campus. Buy indocin I saw her heart and fell in love, buy indocin" Mahmoud said. When Debbie first met Mahmoud, buy indocin she did not understand what it meant to be someone from Palestine. Buy indocin Mahmoud was uncomfortable with his heritage, buy indocin and he let people, buy indocin including Debbie when they started dating, buy indocin think he was Jewish or Italian. Buy indocin Debbie recalls how "people said things to him like, buy indocin 'You're not a Palestinian, buy indocin you're too nice.'" Born in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1958, buy indocin Mahmoud was brought up immersed in the politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Buy indocin He lived in Jericho, buy indocin a city in the West Bank, buy indocin 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 indocin In 1967, buy indocin when the war broke out, buy indocin 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 indocin their parents sent them to the United States. Buy indocin Mahmoud, buy indocin now a US citizen, buy indocin arrived in the country in 1977 on a student visa. After getting married in 1980 and graduating from college three years later, buy indocin Debbie and Mahmoud had their first child, buy indocin Joel, buy indocin in 1986, buy indocin and their second, buy indocin Jenna, buy indocin in 1992. Buy indocin Debbie worked part-time at an architectural firm while raising their children. Mahmoud, buy indocin who has curly hair and seems to always have a twinkle in his eye, buy indocin speaks in calm and at times airy tones, buy indocin a contrast to Debbie's more forward and pointed way of talking. Buy indocin 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 indocin Mahmoud rarely talked about his childhood in Palestine. "I never got a greater picture, buy indocin it was just bad things were happening to the Palestinians, buy indocin or at least my family that was Palestinian, buy indocin" Jenna said. Buy indocin "I visited there before I knew what was going on, buy indocin for three weeks, buy indocin with my grandparents when they were alive. Buy indocin I lived the life they lived for a bit, buy indocin saw the checkpoints, buy indocin but I didn't understand." 11 September 2001 The 11 September 2001 attacks jolted Debbie's political perspective, buy indocin and made Mahmoud more nervous about his background as a Palestinian, buy indocin 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 indocin and why someone would attack us, buy indocin" Debbie said. But Debbie and Mahmoud rarely discussed post-11 September politics. "We didn't discuss it, buy indocin I just listened. Buy indocin Debbie's a leader by nature, buy indocin so she always led with the remote control, buy indocin" Mahmoud recalled. Buy indocin "She had the remote control with her so she would pick the information, buy indocin and I would retreat when I had really had enough of it." Joel was apathetic about politics at the time, buy indocin 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 indocin though, buy indocin as her trust in the government slipped when the US did not find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. However, buy indocin a series of events in 2008 would bring politics back into the family's life in a prominent way, buy indocin and they have not turned back since. Injustice and transformation Debbie's family started attending the Redeemer Presbyterian Church almost twenty years ago. Buy indocin While they were initially drawn to the church, buy indocin which met at Hunter College, buy indocin by a smart and interesting pastor, buy indocin over the years the congregation became a second family for all of them. However, buy indocin they were forced to leave this community in March 2008 after Mahmoud, buy indocin who worked at the church on Sundays, buy indocin was accused of stealing a CD of a church sermon. Buy indocin He was arrested by a City University of New York security guard and charged with assaulting an officer, buy indocin 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 indocin but it happened to us, buy indocin" Debbie recalled. Buy indocin "I thought that we would be immune to all this, buy indocin and that the community we were a part of would care about truth and care about justice being served, buy indocin but they didn't care about either of those things. Buy indocin It opened my eyes to greater injustices. Buy indocin I used to think that people who went to jail were probably guilty. Buy indocin But now, buy indocin I thought, buy indocin 'Oh my goodness! There are all these people in jail that are probably innocent.' Michael could've gone to jail, buy indocin but he had a private lawyer. Buy indocin What happens if you're poor?" she said, buy indocin using the nickname that Mahmoud had used when he first came to the US. Nine months later, buy indocin on 27 December 2008, buy indocin Israel invaded the Gaza Strip, buy indocin beginning what would be a devastating assault. "It was during Gaza that we started to awaken, buy indocin" said Joel, buy indocin 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 indocin "Killing civilians indiscriminately with US weapons, buy indocin paid for with our tax money, buy indocin seemed to be so hideously wrong." During what Amnesty International called "22 days of death and destruction, buy indocin" Debbie could not avoid the Gaza conflict, buy indocin especially because Mahmoud's brother Farid, buy indocin who was glued to Al-Jazeera's coverage of the assault, buy indocin was emotionally devastated. Joel, buy indocin who was reading books like Noam Chomsky's The Fateful Triangle: The United States, buy indocin Israel and the Palestinians, buy indocin also started to talk with Debbie about the detrimental impact of US foreign policy on Palestine. After those 22 days were over, buy indocin Debbie started going to lectures and protests about the conflict and soon found herself enmeshed in the world of Palestine solidarity activism. Buy indocin Although described as the "leader" of the household, buy indocin 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 indocin" Mahmoud said. Buy indocin "Our breath is being taken out of us. Buy indocin I felt an urgency to start having a voice." In the last two years, buy indocin the household has been transformed. Buy indocin Jenna described how sometimes, buy indocin before she goes to sleep, buy indocin Debbie will run into her room and "just read me books out loud, buy indocin" including passages from the work of Chris Hedges and Michael Parenti. Buy indocin "She'll come and say, buy indocin 'I have to read you this passage, buy indocin it's so good' and it'll be something sad and depressing, buy indocin" Jenna said, buy indocin laughing. These days, buy indocin it is nearly impossible to miss Debbie and members of her family at activist events related to Palestine. Buy indocin The actions they frequent include protesting with Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, buy indocin in the group's campaign against Lev Leviev. Buy indocin An Israeli billionaire who owns a jewelry store in Manhattan, buy indocin Leviev is involved with companies that invest in and construct illegal Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land. "She's really knowledgeable. Buy indocin She has really educated herself on Palestine, buy indocin" says Helen Schiff, buy indocin a New York-based activist who has become close friends with Debbie over the past two years. Buy indocin "She has a voracious mind, buy indocin and she's very, buy indocin very smart." However, buy indocin her transition into political activism has not come without a cost for Debbie and her family. Buy indocin Her passion for politics has "caused a lot of stress on our relationship, buy indocin" said Mahmoud. Buy indocin "There's always a cost to anything, buy indocin and it's drawing from our reservoir." Some of her friends worry she is on the "wrong political track." One friend, buy indocin Debbie said, buy indocin told her, buy indocin "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 indocin and it's a harder way to live. Buy indocin Most people that I know would not want that -- they would want a pretty status quo type of life, buy indocin" Debbie said. While some of Debbie's friends avoid discussing Mideast politics with her, buy indocin 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 indocin a political and social educational center on Manhattan's west side. Buy indocin Her brother, buy indocin a Democrat and strong supporter of Barack Obama, buy indocin said he was "shocked" by the realities of the situation in Gaza. But for Debbie, buy indocin knowledge is just the first step of many -- she helped raise money for students participating in the Gaza Freedom March in 2009, buy indocin 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 indocin Debbie plans to continue her part-time job, buy indocin as well as her involvement in the Palestine solidarity movement. "It is essential that the movement continue to grow. Buy indocin Hopefully, buy indocin in this economic climate, buy indocin Americans will decide that there are better uses for their money besides supporting unending wars that will fuel terrorism, buy indocin not end it, buy indocin" Debbie said. She used to think individuals could not change anything in the world. Buy indocin And she still thinks that. "Over a long time you can change [the world], buy indocin but personally, buy indocin me? Coming along and changing anything, buy indocin it's unlikely, buy indocin" Debbie said. "But I can have a part ... Buy indocin I want to change things badly, buy indocin but that's not even the thing that motivates me any longer, buy indocin" she said. Buy indocin "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 indocin journalist and blogger based in New York City. Buy indocin He is a reporter for the Indypendent, buy indocin and a frequent contributor to Mondoweiss. Buy indocin His articles have also appeared in Common Dreams, buy indocin Red Pepper (UK), buy indocin and Palestine Chronicle. Buy indocin Original article can be found at: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article11349.shtml