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8-14 NYC Gaza Forum Part 2: Fida Qishta & Anees Mansour

Fida Qishta was another of the powerful speakers last Thursday night in the Great Hall of NYC's Cooper Union for World Can’t Wait’s consciousness-raising forum (and webcast) over the present Israeli war criminality going on in Gaza. Qishta is a journalist, camerawoman and filmmaker from Rafah City in southern Gaza. She documented the attack and invasion, Operation Cast Lead, by Israel of Gaza at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009. She has completed a documentary enitled “Where Should the Birds Fly?”

Qishta announced that she would be sharing her speaking time and translating for Anees Mansour, a young Gazan journalist who had just arrived from war-torn Gaza to NYC on a fellowship grant.

Qishta explained that she is communicating as closely as she can with her relatives back in Gaza. She comes from a very close-knit family there. She announced simply but stunningly that 7 of her cousins had been killed in the last 10 days. She spoke of the death of one cousin she was especially close to. She said he had been stubborn about not abandoning his home. He declared he was no coward. He did not belong to Hamas and that their home was far from the Gazan border. He was only 19 years old. Soon he and another cousin were killed while on their motorcycles heading to their home.

The very young looking Ms. Qishta confessed that when she came to New York City she could not get over how peaceful and safe an environment it was. How people near her age, twenties and thirties, casually gathered together to chat. They seemed so disconcertingly young and naive to her. These "young" people were very far from the continuing horror and heartbreak of her home in Rafah. Sometimes she found their questions downright enraging and/or humiliating she confided. She had to remind herself they were made out of simple ignorance. For example, often she was asked if members of her Gazan network received compensation for damages to their homes.

Qishta said that she strives to speak peacefully about the dreams of the Palestinian people but the present murders particularly of the children in Gaza, 430 out of the 2000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, now dead, prevented that. Qishta said that when she sees activists such as those of us before her in the audience demonstrating in various New York City locations on behalf of Gaza she is gratified but she recognizes it is not enough.

Qishta shared that she has started a project in both Europe and here encouraging everyone she can find to speak to ten people within the course of a year, raising that new person's consciousnesses about the grave reality of Gaza. These partners in communication could be friends, family members, work mates, or perhaps strangers on a bus, on a park bench, etc. If we all commit to this plan the truth will ripple its way through the universe.

Fida Qishta then turned the podium over to Anees Mansour, staying on stage to translate for him.

Anees Mansour launched his share by stressing that he had just arrived from the nightmare -- the hell -- of Gaza. All he basically could remember since he had arrived in NYC five days ago were 30 days of planes, rockets and bombs everywhere. Of the 30 days of the bombardments he said he had managed only one full night's sleep.

He said there was bitter advice Gazans exchanged with each other during this attack and invasion. “If you want to live, please stay away from children." He explained that to his eyes it seemed most of those who had been slaughtered were children. Children and other civilians.

He said one could be killed anywhere and everywhere. In simply walking down a street one could suddenly be struck by a rocket. If someone nearby were struck and killed or maimed by a rocket it was too dangerous to rush over and assist that person, since the chances were very high you too immediately would be targeted and killed.

You can’t imagine, he kept insisting to us.

He was right.

Mansour, probably in his twenties, confessed he had survived many wars already in Gaza. That statement alone was stunning. He said that the surreal nature of the present genocidal attack by Israel eclipsed the others by far in his estimation. He said often when a Gazan was struck and killed by a bomb, it wasn’t as we probably would imagine it. That the person would expire before one's eyes due to a critical wound say to the heart or to the head. It was that the person’s entire body would explode. And then he or she no longer was.

Mansour admitted to being in a state of shock.

I thought to myself, his being here now -- suddenly away from the horror -- would undoubtedly be triggering an additional psychological challenge -- “survivor guilt”.

Mansour scanned us all in the audience filling Cooper Union's Great Hall and said with sudden spirit, “But today I am here and seeing this number of people gave me hope.” He went on, “Despite whatever they do to us, they will not erase the Palestinian smile. They will not destroy our hope.”

Mansour was given a standing ovation.

TO BE CONTINUED

[cross-posted on open salon]

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