Adonis Diaries

Archive for January 2014

“Goodbye Gaza. This vast Prison Camp for 1.7 million Palestinians”

Hazem Balousha was uncharacteristically despondent when he greeted me recently at the end of my long walk through the open-air caged passageway that separates the modern hi-tech state of Israel from the tiny, impoverished, overcrowded Gaza Strip.

After 3 years reporting on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, our Middle East correspondent is coming home to the UK.
With heavy heart  pays a farewell visit to Gaza and pays tribute to the resilience, creativity and humour of its people
 published in The Observer this January 25, 2014

Goodbye Gaza: our correspondent reflects on her time in the Middle East

Hazem has been a colleague and a friend for three and a half years, a relationship built over more than 20 visits I’ve made to Gaza.

He arranges interviews and provides translation; but most importantly he helps me understand the people, the politics and the daily struggle of life in Gaza. We have talked for hours in his car, over coffee, at his home.

Hazem has accompanied me to grim refugee camps and upmarket restaurants; to the tunnels in the south and farms in the north; to schools and hospitals; to bomb sites and food markets; to the odd wedding party and rather more funerals. In the face of Gaza’s pressure-cooker atmosphere and bleak prospects, he – like so many I’ve met here – has always been remarkably good-humoured.

Palestinians enjoy the weather on the beach in Gaza City

The beach in Gaza City, ‘Gaza’s one magnificent natural asset’. Photograph: Mohammed Salem/Reuters

But not this time. As we waited for Hamas officials sporting black beards and bomber jackets to check my entry permit, I asked Hazem: “How’s it going?”

He shrugged, and began to tell me about the many phone calls he’d had to make to find a replacement cooking gas canister recently, and how his small sons whine when the electricity cuts out for hours each day, depriving them of their favourite TV shows.

gaza hazem baloushaHazem Balousha.

“This is what we have come to. We wake up in the night worrying about small things: cooking gas, the next power cut, how to find fuel for the car,” he said dejectedly. “We no longer care about the big things, the important things, the future – we just try to get through each day.” (Not much different from the poor in Lebanon who cannot afford private providers in electricity, potable water…)

The people of Gaza are reeling from a series of blows that have led some analysts to say that it is facing its worst crisis for more than six years, putting its 1.7 million inhabitants under intense material and psychological pressure.

Israel’s continued blockade has been exacerbated by mounting hostility to Gaza’s Hamas government from the military regime in Cairo, which sees it as an extension of Egypt’s deposed Muslim Brotherhood.

The Egyptians have virtually cut off access to and from Gaza, and as a result Hamas is facing crippling financial problems and a new political isolation.

Power cuts, fuel shortages, price rises, job losses, Israeli air strikes, untreated sewage in the streets and the sea, internal political repression, the near-impossibility of leaving, the lack of hope or horizon – these have chipped away at the resilience and fortitude of Gazans, crushing their spirit.

This was my last visit to Gaza before returning to London to live and work.

I moved to Jerusalem in May 2010, to report principally on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also social and cultural issues and the regional upheavals that erupted three years ago.

Since I first came here almost 10 years ago, I had been fascinated by the place, its people, its history and its compelling complexity.

I arrived eager to learn more about what is frequently called the world’s most intractable conflict, and to try to understand the powerful feelings of historical injustice on both sides.

I am leaving angry about an occupation that has lasted close to half a century, weary of Israel’s grinding oppression of the Palestinian people, cynical about the political leadership on both sides and in the international community, and pessimistic that a fair resolution will be reached.

Before heading home, I needed to say goodbye to Gaza, an extraordinary and unforgettable place.

David Cameron once described it as a prison camp, which is exactly how it feels, hemmed in by walls and fences on three sides. On the fourth side, the Mediterranean, Israeli war ships patrol the horizon; overhead, F16s roar and drones buzz around the clock.

“They are exercising their engines,” said Hazem with a wry smile, as a plane screeched over us. But they also unleash missiles on weapons stores, military training sites and militants’ homes in response to rockets launched at civilian targets in Israel.

Not many outsiders get to see Gaza.

As a foreign journalist, holding an Israeli-issued press card and a Hamas-issued Gaza residency permit, I can enter relatively easily.

Israeli journalists are banned by their own government, which means their readers are rarely exposed to first-hand reports.

Israel allows diplomats, UN staff and accredited aid workers to cross Erez, the border crossing at the northern tip of Gaza which it controls, and issues special permits to Palestinian officials and foreign delegations.

Pretty much everyone else is barred.

gaza; erez walkway

The caged walkway at the Erez border crossing between Israel and Gaza. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Consequently, the vast hangar-like terminal on the Israeli side echoes to the footsteps of these few, plus a tiny number of Palestinians, nearly all of whom are going to or returning from business trips or hospital visits.

Since a number of suicide bombings at Erez a decade ago, the Israeli border and military personnel remain in offices high above the ground level, watching through blast-proof glass and CCTV, and issuing instructions via speakers. It is an eerie and unsettling experience, however many times you do it.

Once you have passed through Israeli passport control, arrows direct you down a high-walled narrow corridor and through a series of turnstiles that take you to a remotely operated steel door in the vast concrete wall built along the border.

The other side of the wall is Gaza, but you are confined to a long caged corridor through the Israeli-designated “buffer zone”.

For the fit and healthy, it’s a 15-minute walk to the official Palestinian Authority office, where your passport is checked again.

Attesting to the bitter political divide between the Fatah-run PA and the Hamas government in Gaza, Hamas officials run a separate entry process in a handful of shabby Portakabins half a mile down the road.

Here you need to present your Hamas entry permit and have your bags checked for contraband, including alcohol. Booze-smuggling is not tolerated; if found, it is immediately poured into the ground.

Inside Gaza, there are few restrictions imposed on foreigners. I’ve often been asked if I have to wear a headscarf on Hamas-controlled territory.

Only once have I been asked to cover my hair, when visiting the Islamic university which operates a strict dress code for women students and staff – but I do have a “Gaza wardrobe” of trousers and long-sleeved, loose-fitting shirts.

The vast majority of women in Gaza wear the hijab, but not all; and among those who do, there is a cheering amount of fashionable creativity and individuality on display.

Another question I’m frequently asked is if I feel safe. The answer is yes and no.

I’ve never felt in danger from any Palestinians in Gaza, Hamas or otherwise, except from customary gunfire at funerals. But I’m constantly aware of the risk of being inadvertently caught in an Israeli airstrike.

During Operation Pillar of Defense, the 8-day war in November 2012, I lay awake at night listening to shells launched by Israeli warships whizz past my hotel window, the sound of overhead bombing, and the whoosh of Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets being fired out of Gaza. I was very frightened – and acutely aware that Palestinians faced a far bigger risk.

Fourteen months after that mini-war, on this last visit, Hazem and I talked of the hope – now long faded – that swept Gaza when the Israeli army and Jewish settlers pulled out in 2005.

The sense of liberation at the time, and the dream that Gazans might be free to determine their own future, and become a model of a future state of Palestine, was swiftly dashed on the rocks of Israel’s political actions and military operations, and the rise of Hamas.

Another brief moment of hope came in May 2010.

Under intense international pressure following the killing of 9 pro-Palestinian activists on board a flotilla of boats attempting to break the blockade of Gaza, Israel eased its draconian siege which had been in force since Hamas took control of the strip.

Then, I talked to factory owners who were desperate to begin importing raw material and exporting finished goods, fishermen impatient to take their boats beyond a 3-mile limit imposed by Israel; families who longed to visit relatives in the West Bank without having to travel through Jordan.

gaza tunnels

Palestinians clean up the tunnels destroyed by Egyptian forces, who flooded some of the tunnels with sewage. Photograph: Getty Images

But now, 8 and a half years and two wars since Israeli “disengagement”, Gaza is still blockaded and hope is rare. Israel controls most of its borders, deciding who and what can get in and out.

Almost all exports are still banned; fishermen are regularly shot at by the Israeli navy; families are still separated. And in recent months, Egypt has destroyed hundreds of tunnels which had been Gaza’s life support system, and has locked down the sole border crossing at the southern end of the strip, cutting Gazans off from the outside world.

Inevitably, the consequences of the policies of Israel and Egypt – plus the continued political enmity between Hamas and Fatah – have had their most acute impact on ordinary people.

In Gaza City, Hazem and I passed long queues of vehicles, whose drivers were waiting for hours to buy fuel. One, his face filmed with stress-induced sweat, suddenly leapt from behind the wheel of his yellow taxi to yell at another motorist.

Omar Arraqi had waited in line for two hours to partially fill his near-empty fuel tank, and there was no way he was going to allow the interloper to push in front.

Yelling and finger-jabbing have become routine at Gaza’s gas stations; sometimes punches are thrown. “People have fights all the time,” said Arraqi, whose income has dropped by 70% since Gaza’s fuel shortages took hold.

The government fixes rates for taxi journeys – the only form of public transport in Gaza – while the cost of fuel, when available, has rocketed. Arraqi said it was becoming increasingly hard to buy food as prices of basic provisions were also rising.

But he was most worried about the health of his 2-year-old daughter, who was born with hydrocephalus. After two failed operations in Gaza, she had surgery in Egypt – but since the Cairo regime closed the border crossing last summer she has had no further treatment. “Without help, she will be disabled,” said Arraqi, worry etched across his face.

His story was one of many accounts of daily small-scale struggles I heard during my last visit. The manager of a family-owned clothes shop told me he’d reduced his staff from 25 to 12, as well as cutting their wages by 10%.

Families whose breadwinners are among the tens of thousands who have lost their jobs, or whose pay has been cut, told me they have less money to spend in the markets, where prices have shot up as a result of higher transport costs and the absence of cheap Egyptian goods.

The price of a kilogram of tomatoes has quadrupled, along with steep hikes in the cost of essentials such as flour and sugar.

Electricity is rationed, currently 8 hours on followed by eight hours off. Some families are cooking indoors on open fires, at considerable risk of injury.

Children are forced to study by candlelight. People set alarms for the early hours in order to be able to take a shower or charge their phones or send an email. Mealtimes are now determined by power supply rather than tradition.

Gaza’s hospitals have to take into account the vagaries of the power supply when scheduling surgery; pharmacies are running low on medicines.

Roadworks and half-finished buildings – new homes, hospitals, schools – are abandoned as the lack of materials makes completion impossible.

Last month, a devastating storm swept through the Middle East bringing chaos and destruction to Gaza. At least 10,000 families were made homeless by flooding; children had to wade through rivers of rainwater mixed with raw sewage to reach school.

The storm wiped out fruit and vegetable crops. “After almost 7 years of siege, we were simply unable to cope,” a local aid worker told me.

An indication of personal desperation and social unravelling lies in an unprecedented rise in property crime, previously almost unheard of in Gaza. Domestic violence is also increasing.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, is feeding more than 800,000 Gazans – almost half the population, and a record number.

But UNRWA is also facing a catastrophic 20% drop in income while need is rising. “So much pressure has built up,” Robert Turner, UNRWA’s director of operations, told me. “How far can Gaza bend before it snaps?

Gaza has come close to breaking point before – especially during the brutal three-week war with Israel in 2008-9. But I’ve always been impressed by the resilience, creativity and humour of ordinary people, despite their adverse circumstances and repeated setbacks.

Memories of many individuals I met will stay with me for a long time.

In June 2012, I visited the artist Maha al-Daya at her home just after she returned from a four-month stint as artist-in-residence at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, leaving her 3 young children in the care of her husband amid some disapproval.

As Maha showed me her colourful seascapes and vivid abstracts, she laughed when I asked her how she found inspiration in the dust and destruction of Gaza. “This is what I see,” she said, adding that if I looked for colour and vibrancy against the grey backdrop of Gaza, I would also find it.

Long before he shot to global fame after winning Arab Idol last year, I met singer Mohammed Assaf at a wedding party at which he was performing. He told me he had been arrested more than 20 times by Hamas security forces, who demanded he stop singing in public.

He refused to be deterred: “My message as a Palestinian is that we not only speak or fight or shoot, but we also sing,” he said.

gaza  Izzeldin Abuelaish

Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish. Photograph: AP

I spent a glorious day on the beach – Gaza’s one magnificent natural asset – with 12-year-old Sabah Abu Ghanim, a passionate surfer who regularly hogged the single ancient board shared between friends and family and who studied surfing techniques on the internet.

Sabah told me she felt “freedom and happiness” in the waves that crash into Gaza’s coastline. Yet she accepted without resentment the conservative social mores that would require her to give up her beloved sport when she reached puberty.

I cooked maftoul, a type of couscous, and made cheese- and herb-filled pastries with the women of the Zeitun Kitchen, who run a successful collective business catering for weddings and parties from premises that regularly lack power. Along with a tightened waistband, they left me with an indelible memory of cheerful gossip and laughter as they worked in the gloom and stifling heat.

I had the privilege of meeting Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish, a remarkable obstetrician whose 3 daughters were killed in an Israeli airstrike in January 2009. His anguished telephone call moments after their death to an Israeli television presenter and friend was broadcast live to shocked audiences.

His book, I Shall Not Hate, was a testimony to an extraordinary capacity to overcome. “Hate is a poison, a fire which burns you from the inside,” he told me at his family’s home, which then still bore the scars of the shelling, in Jabalia in northern Gaza. “It’s easy to destroy life but very difficult to build it.”

These and others belie the demonic image of Gazans, often promoted by Israel. Rather, they are overwhelmingly decent people who simply want food on the table, a better life for their children, dignity, respect and freedom.

But not all my encounters were positive.

I also met grieving mothers who expressed fervent hope that their infant sons would grow up to avenge their dead fathers or siblings by killing Jewish children, a profoundly depressing illustration of the cycle of violence here.

I listened to Hamas officials saying the bloodshed of their own civilian population was necessary in the fight to the death with the “Zionist entity”. I witnessed the funerals of children, saw the destruction of homes, felt growing despair and the near-extinguishing of hope.

And – despite’s Israel’s intentions when it tightened its siege following the Hamas takeover in Gaza in 2007 – I’ve seen the Islamic party’s power become more entrenched during my time here.

Hamas was elected on a wave of revulsion against the corrupt Fatah old guard and on a track record of providing practical support and services to the population, as well as a pledge to lead the resistance against the Israeli occupation.

Hamas has since suppressed political opposition, enforced an Islamic code of social conduct and, with its repeated rocket attacks, provided Israeli politicians with a useful justification for some of their more extreme right-wing policies.

Now, after the brutal crackdown on Hamas’s ideological parents, the Muslim Brotherhood, in next-door Egypt, the faction is facing a crisis. It is unable to ease the harsh living conditions of the people of Gaza, thanks to the calamitous loss of income and cash flow following the closure of the tunnels. It is now politically isolated in the region, and its unpopularity at home is growing. Yet its power is unchallenged.

“This is Hamas’s hardest moment, its worst crisis since it won the election in 2006,” Mkhaimer Abusada, professor of political science at Gaza’s Al Azhar university, told me over sweet mint tea. “But we are very afraid. Hamas does not allow any protests, any opposition. We’re sick and tired of Hamas, but we don’t have an alternative.” Gazans, he added, had become “hostages to Hamas and Fatah, Israel and Egypt – they are all gambling with our lives. I think the worst has not yet come. There will be more miserable days ahead.”

The UN recently warned that Gaza was rapidly becoming uninhabitable. But this is not as a result of a natural disaster – an earthquake, say, or a typhoon – but of destruction, de-development, suffocation and isolation caused by the deliberate policies of Israel and Egypt, with significant contributory factors from both Hamas and Fatah.

And the material and psychological siege of Gaza has profound consequences not just for the population, but also for regional security.

On my last morning in Gaza, the terrace restaurant of the beachfront hotel I have frequented over recent years was almost empty. Few journalists and diplomats come to Gaza these days, as attention – understandably – has swiveled to crises elsewhere in the region. “The world has forgotten us,” one Gazan told me.

After breakfast, Hazem drove me back to the Erez border crossing, through streets in which donkey-drawn carts are replacing fuel-thirsty vehicles, and men while away their lives sipping coffee on plastic chairs for the want of a decent day’s work.

I left a place that I have grown to care deeply about with a profound sense of gloom about its future. After Hamas officials gave me permission to go, Hazem and I risked a socially unacceptable parting hug and he wished me good luck.

But it’s he and the people of Gaza who need luck, and a lot of it.

Davos Forum, Richest people…: “How to make our clan richer?”

The world’s wealthiest people aren’t known for travelling by bus, but if they fancied a change of scene then the richest 85 people on the globe – who between them control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population put together – could squeeze onto a single double-decker.

The extent to which so much global wealth has become corralled by a virtual handful of the so-called ‘global elite’ is exposed in a new report from Oxfam on Monday.

The report warned that those richest 85 people across the globe share a combined wealth of £1tn (1,ooo billion) as much as the poorest 3.5 billion of the world’s population.

 published in theguardian.com, this January 20, 2014

Oxfam: 85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world

As World Economic Forum starts in Davos, development charity claims growing inequality has been driven by ‘power grab’
The InterContinental Davos luxury hotel in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos

The InterContinental Davos luxury hotel in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos.
Oxfam report found people in countries around the world believe that the rich have too much influence over the direction their country is heading. Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann/REUTERS

Working for the Few - Oxfam report

Source: F. Alvaredo, A. B. Atkinson, T. Piketty and E. Saez, (2013) ‘The World Top Incomes Database’, http://topincomes.g-mond.parisschoolofeconomics.eu/

Only includes countries with data in 1980 and later than 2008. Photograph: Oxfam

The wealth of the 1% richest people in the world amounts to $110tn (£60.88tn), or 65 times as much as the poorest half of the world, added the development charity, which fears this concentration of economic resources is threatening political stability and driving up social tensions.

It’s a chilling reminder of the depths of wealth inequality as political leaders and top business people head to the snowy peaks of Davos for this week’s World Economic Forum.

Few, if any, will be arriving on anything as common as a bus, with private jets and helicopters pressed into service as many of the world’s most powerful people convene to discuss the state of the global economy over 4 hectic days of meetings, seminars and parties in the exclusive ski resort.

Winnie Byanyima, the Oxfam executive director who will attend the Davos meetings, said: “It is staggering that in the 21st Century, half of the world’s population – that’s three and a half billion people – own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all fit comfortably on a double-decker bus.”

Oxfam also argues that this is no accident either, saying growing inequality has been driven by a “power grab” by wealthy elites, who have co-opted the political process to rig the rules of the economic system in their favour.

In the report, entitled Working For The Few (summary here), Oxfam warned that the fight against poverty cannot be won until wealth inequality has been tackled.

“Widening inequality is creating a vicious circle where wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs from the top table,” Byanyima said.

Oxfam called on attendees at this week’s World Economic Forum to take a personal pledge to tackle the problem by refraining from dodging taxes or using their wealth to seek political favours.

As well as being morally dubious, economic inequality can also exacerbate other social problems such as gender inequality, Oxfam warned.

Davos itself is also struggling in this area, with the number of female delegates actually dropping from 17% in 2013 to 15% this year.

How richest use their wealth to capture opportunities

Polling for Oxfam’s report found people in countries around the world – including two-thirds of those questioned in Britain – believe that the rich have too much influence over the direction their country is heading.

Byanyima explained:

“In developed and developing countries alike we are increasingly living in a world where the lowest tax rates, the best health and education and the opportunity to influence are being given not just to the rich but also to their children.

“Without a concerted effort to tackle inequality, the cascade of privilege and of disadvantage will continue down the generations. We will soon live in a world where equality of opportunity is just a dream. In too many countries economic growth already amounts to little more than a ‘winner takes all’ windfall for the richest.”

Working for the Few - Oxfam report

Source: F. Alvaredo, A. B. Atkinson, T. Piketty and E. Saez, (2013) ‘The World Top Incomes Database’, http://topincomes.g-mond.parisschoolofeconomics.eu/ Only includes countries with data in 1980 and later than 2008. Photograph: Oxfam

The Oxfam report found that over the past few decades, the rich have successfully wielded political influence to skew policies in their favour on issues ranging from financial deregulation, tax havens, anti-competitive business practices to lower tax rates on high incomes and cuts in public services for the majority.

Since the late 1970s, tax rates for the richest have fallen in 29 out of 30 countries for which data are available, said the report.

This “capture of opportunities” by the rich at the expense of the poor and middle classes has led to a situation where 70% of the world’s population live in countries where inequality has increased since the 1980s and 1% of families own 46% of global wealth – almost £70tn.

Opinion polls in Spain, Brazil, India, South Africa, the US, UK and Netherlands found that a majority in each country believe that wealthy people exert too much influence.

Concern was strongest in Spain, followed by Brazil and India and least marked in the Netherlands.

In the UK, some 67% agreed that “the rich have too much influence over where this country is headed” – 37% saying that they agreed “strongly” with the statement – against just 10% who disagreed, 2% of them strongly.

The WEF’s own Global Risks report recently identified widening income disparities as one of the biggest threats to the world community.

Oxfam is calling on those gathered at WEF to pledge:

1. to support progressive taxation and not dodge their own taxes;

2. refrain from using their wealth to seek political favours that undermine the democratic will of their fellow citizens;

3. make public all investments in companies and trusts for which they are the ultimate beneficial owners;

4. challenge governments to use tax revenue to provide universal healthcare, education and social protection;

5. demand a living wage in all companies they own or control; and

6. challenge other members of the economic elite to join them in these pledges.

(Pledge my ass call)

• Research Now questioned 1,166 adults in the UK for Oxfam between October 1 and 14 2013.

Little has Egypt to celebrate this January 25, 2014

CAIRO — As Egypt’s interim president and ministers of defense and interior celebrated the third anniversary of the January 25 Revolution, countless authors and TV show hosts continued to smear the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship.

On this day in 2011, Egyptians took to the streets and called for an end to decades of torture, killings and injustice, but now these authors and TV hosts accuse the revolution’s youthful participants of disloyalty, espionage and call for crushing those who dare criticize the police.

Three years after the uprising that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt is more polarized than ever.
Author Mohannad Sabry Posted this January 23, 2014
A couple of hours after the celebration aired on national TV — as I was in a taxi heading to Cairo’s Zamalek neighborhood — a radio news program received a call from a top official of the Beni Suef governorate, commenting on a militant attack at a checkpoint on Jan. 23 that killed five police officers.

A woman mourns during the funeral of 5 Egyptian policemen who were killed when masked gunmen on motorbikes opened fire on a checkpoint, Beni Suef, Jan. 23, 2014. (photo by REUTERS/Al Youm Al Saabi Newspaper)

“This terrorist attack is an attempt against the harmony and unity shown through the constitutional referendum, but it will only make us more persistent in our fight against terrorism,” said the official.

His comment was followed by random calls from listeners pledging to join the Jan. 25 celebrations in Tahrir Square and in every major square across the country. They called for celebrations in all Egypt’s squares — the squares that are remembered for being the sites of bloody confrontations over three years of unrest.

Celebrating a constitution that never satisfied the wishes of the dead youth and was boycotted by those who are still alive,” said the cab driver. “What a pity!”

I looked at the driver, a grim man likely in his late 50s, and said, “If the radio audience heard us say that, we would be accused of disloyalty and supporting a terrorist organization.”

That’s why I keep my mouth shut. I wouldn’t have hissed if I hadn’t seen that smirk on your face,” said the driver without looking at me.

I don’t know if the driver took me for a Muslim Brotherhood member because of the smirk, but it didn’t really matter. Members of the April 6 Movement, secular activists, high school students and even foreign correspondents are in Egyptian jails along with hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood officers and members.

The conflict between the government official’s comment on “harmony and unity” and the taxi driver’s confession to keeping his “mouth shut,” summed up the collective analysis of 3 Egyptians that I interviewed over the past three years.

I saw Egypt’s developments through their experiences, along with dozens of other activists and apolitical people.

The first was Mai Raafat, a woman in her early 30s who organized a campaign for securing medical treatment for the victims of the January 25 Revolution. Rafaat connected me with several victims, one of whom I featured in an article I wrote on the first anniversary of the revolution.

Back then, Rafaat’s campaign assisted dozens who were injured during the violent confrontations of January 2011, and provided aid for the families of dead protesters. Some of the volunteers running the campaign alongside Rafaat were themselves injured victims of the revolution.

Speaking to Rafaat by phone on Jan. 22, she wasn’t the enthusiastic and optimistic person I met in 2012. Instead, she was pessimistic and resentful as the revolution’s anniversary approached.

“Some of the victims continue to receive aid from nongovernmental organizations. Some lost hope in finding a job due to their disabilities and others prefer to live on minimal aid than take the few jobs offered by the government or outsourced by the organizations,” said Rafaat.

“We tried to resurrect the campaign in recent months but were shocked to see people refusing to donate blood because the victim we were trying to help was injured in the dispersal of the pro-[Mohammed] Morsi sit-in last August,” she said.

Rafaat’s words reminded me of Gaber Sayyed, a January 2011 victim whose surgery was canceled because pro-Mubarak nurses refused to treat him.

“They were humiliating me for being an [anti-Mubarak] protester,” he told me in a January 2012 interview at his house, where he was bedridden in a thigh-high cast autographed by his friends. One note read: “The police are thugs.”

As for Rafaat, she was in a position similar to  the taxi driver’s: “Isolated, because if I defend an injured member of the Muslim Brotherhood, or am sympathetic to them, I would be accused of disloyalty and being a member of [a] terrorist organization.”

The second was Fouad Mokhtar, a private company employee who paid $600 to print a massive poster emblazoned with the names and photos of slain protesters. His poster was hung on the facade of a Tahrir Square building during the 18 days of the uprising, then pulled down and spread in the middle of the square before it disappeared.

Mokhtar, a 32-year-old who joined the protesters in Tahrir Square in January 2011, decided to boycott the constitutional referendum held less than two weeks ago. “I believe the referendum was a despicable show that I would have never taken part of,” said Mokhtar.

He recalled a story of a non-voter who was attacked by several supporters of the constitution in front of a polling station in Cairo’s southern district of Maadi.

“He was physically attacked by other citizens as the military and police personnel securing the polling station watched, just because he revealed his intention to vote against the constitution because it allowed military trials of civilians,” said Mokhtar. He said that Jan. 25, 2014 “will be a continuation, not a celebration.”

“This is a continuation of January 2011, not an anniversary,” he stressed.

The last of the three people I interviewed — who were all fierce critics of Mubarak, Morsi and the current interim, military-backed regime — is a Bedouin tribesman and Sinai activist who refused to have his name mentioned.

The revered tribesman, who took part in organizing the anti-Mubarak protests in North Sinai during the 18 days of protests, fled North Sinai after his house was shelled in the wide-scale military operation that kicked off in the aftermath of Morsi’s ouster on July 3, 2013.

This man who I met with countless times, spending several nights at his house in a remote North Sinai village — before it was destroyed along with dozens of Bedouin homes in September 2013 — spoke with me via the Internet and refused to reveal his location.

“There is no place for moderate speakers now. The stage is reserved for fanatics and propagandists of the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. The remnants of Mubarak’s regime are waging war on any form of change since 2011.”

He said, “Every drop of blood worsens the situation and further divides the country. Neither the constitution nor the anniversary and celebrations will absorb the anger of anyone who suffered injustice and remains without compensation, if not further violated.”

The last time we spoke was a few days after his house was destroyed last September. Back then, he told me that his house “is not the main issue. I could rebuild the house again, but what seems impossible is refilling the widening gaps between different sectors of the Egyptian people, and other gaps between the people and the state.”

Two days ago, he said he is “afraid Egypt is pacing toward another phase of civil strife, not nationwide celebrations.”

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/01/egypt-jan-25-anniversary-no-celebration.html##ixzz2rQpDzsJJ

Social experiment on perception, taste, and priorities: Joshua Bell playing at a metro station in Washington DC

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played 6 Bach pieces for about 45 minutes.

During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that 1,100 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

"A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that 1,100 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.</p><br />
<p>Three minutes went by, and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace, and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried up to meet his schedule.</p><br />
<p>A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping, and continued to walk.</p><br />
<p>A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.</p><br />
<p>The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally, the mother pushed hard, and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.</p><br />
<p>In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.</p><br />
<p>No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.</p><br />
<p>Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.</p><br />
<p>This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?</p><br />
<p>One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:</p><br />
<p>If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?"</p><br />
<p>Share if you took the time to read this :)
“Three minutes went by, and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace, and stopped for a few seconds, and then hurried up to meet his schedule.
A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping, and continued to walk. A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.
The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally, the mother pushed hard, and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children.
All the parents, without exception, forced their kids to move on.
In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while.
About 20 gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32.
When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it.
No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the most talented musicians in the world. He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.
Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100. This is a real story.
Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and priorities of people.
The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty?
Do we stop to appreciate it?
Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?
One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:
“If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?
(If the artist was a Rock and Roll singer, people would recognize the person, even if he didn’t sing) 

Dieudonné: “I have been a Mossad agent since 2003”

In a previous post I described the controversy surrounding the black French humorists https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/quenelle-de-dieudonne-mbala-mbala-nazi-reverse-salute-who-is-he-and-zemmour-position/

The French authorities banned all the theater representations and gathering of Dieudonne on the basis of exacerbating anti-semitic sentiment.

In a press conference at the Théâtre de la Main d’Or, Dieudonné confirmed that he was an Israeli agent for the last 10 years.

He admitted that by the end of 2002 that he learned to be a descendants of the Ethioean Falashas Jews, most of them have been transferred to Israel 4 decades ago, and now live as third rate citizens. 

Israel contacted him and the spying resumed on French citizens.

Goal? Infiltrate “anti-semite” groups and weaken them financially…

And the Mossad retrieved 50% on Dieudonne’s shows and sold articles

Woody Allen on Dieudonné:

1.”He says that he is not Jew… But he is”

2. “The uncontested Jewish humorist of all time… In line with Jewish tradition of mocking their own communities…”

It would be interesting to know the saga of Mbala’s parents: Was his father originally a Falaja Jew who immigrated to and settled in Cameroon? Was his mother originally a French Falaja Jew?

And how the Mossad tampered with documents and concocted a credible story to convince Dieudonne?

Has DMbala read the horror stories of how the Ethiopian “Jews” were transferred to Israel? https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/horror-transfer-story-ethiopian-jewish-falasha-trips-to-israel/

The French text:

L’affaire Dieudonné  prend un tour nouveau.

Ce matin, l’humoriste Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala, au cœur de la polémique, organisait une conférence de presse surprise au Théâtre de la Main d’Or.

Le comédien a révélé qu’il travaille en réalité depuis plus de 10 ans pour les services de renseignement israéliens. Sa mission : infiltrer les réseaux antisémites de France afin d’obtenir le maximum d’informations sur eux tout en les affaiblissant financièrement.

Le déclic de 2002

Il est 10h15 ce mardi. Les portes du théâtre de Dieudonné s’ouvrent pour laisser passer une nuée de journalistes et de fans anonymes. La salle sature de monde puis l’artiste controversé apparaît sur scène, la mine sérieuse. Pas de blagues ni d’attaques contre la communauté juive. Calmement il prend la parole :

« Fin 2002 j’ai découvert par hasard que j’étais l’un des descendants des Falashas, ces juifs éthiopiens. J’ai mis un an à m’en remettre… Puis je l’ai accepté et j’ai finalement décidé de savoir comment je pouvais aider ma communauté, mon peuple. C’est à ce moment que le Mossad m’a contacté pour me proposer un CDI. »

L’agence de renseignement israélienne réfléchit à un moyen d’utiliser cette nouvelle recrue. Quelques semaines plus tard, le Mossad propose à l’humoriste de devenir « un aimant à antisémites » en se faisant lui-même passer pour une personnalité anti-juive sous couvert d’anti-sionisme.

Dieudonné : « Je travaille pour le Mossad depuis 2003 »

Dieudonné

L’affaire Fogiel

Pour lancer cette opération tout à fait unique, le Mossad et Dieudonné doivent frapper un grand coup. Ce sera le fameux sketch de Dieudonné chez Fogiel en décembre 2003 dans lequel il incarne un colon israélien extrémiste effectuant ce qui ressemble à un salut nazi. Une performance qui, en réalité, a été écrite et répétée en toute discrétion à Tel-Aviv un mois avant son passage à l’antenne.

Après sa prestation chez Fogiel, la machine est lancée. Dieudonné enchaîne les déclarations chocs en qualifiant la Shoah de « pornographie mémorielle » ou en attaquant de nombreuses personnalités de confession juive.

Le 26 décembre 2008, ce dernier fait même monter sur scène l’écrivain négationniste Robert Faurisson, suscitant une levée d’indignation : « A la base je trouvais ça too much et pas très drôle mais les ordres sont les ordres. Ça m’a coûté moralement mais après ça l’opération est entrée dans une seconde phase et tous les antisémites du territoire ont commencé à affluer vers moi. » explique Dieudonné lors de sa conférence de presse.

Le Mossad récolte alors un nombre impressionnant d’informations grâce au système de billeterie du Théâtre de la Main d’Or ou via les réseaux sociaux: « C’est notre meilleur élément. En l’espace de 10 ans on a récolté plus de données exploitables sur les réseaux antisémites qu’en un demi-siècle. Et puis franchement le sketch du cancer est quand même très drôle. » nous confie le porte-parole du Mossad au téléphone.

L’autre grand pilier de cette opération consiste à assécher les caisses des antisémites qui se mettent à graviter autour de l’humoriste reconverti en espion. C’est dans cette optique que Dieudonné développe un merchandising acharné en vendant tasses, t-shirts, DVD’s et autres objets à son effigie.

Un accord est même passé entre l’artiste et la direction du Mossad : le comique gardera 50% de l’ensemble des recettes en guise de notes de frais dans le cadre de son service rendu. La stratégie est payante.

Pour peaufiner la supercherie, Dieudonné s’associe avec Arno Klarsfeld, l’avocat et fils de la célèbre famille de «chasseurs de nazis ».  « Arno a accepté de jouer le jeu et de devenir mon faux adversaire. C’est un patriote. Sans lui, je n’aurais jamais pu apparaître comme l’antisémite que je suis devenu dans l’esprit des gens. »

Enfin, pour s’assurer du bon déroulement de l’opération, le Mossad dépêche également auprès de Dieudonné un officier traitant qui prendra les traits de Jacky, le pseudo régisseur du comique, en réalité capitaine dans l’armée israélienne et neveu d’Ariel Sharon. Un ingrédient de plus qui aura permis à cette tromperie d’enfumer la France entière.

Fatigué par le mensonge

Alors pourquoi arrêter cette opération de renseignement maintenant alors qu’elle semble marcher plus que jamais ? La réponse, M. M’Bala M’Bala la donne à la fin de sa conférence de presse: « Je suis un peu fatigué et j’en avais marre de mentir à toutes ces personnes qui sont devenues mes fans et que j’ai vendues au Mossad. Et puis j’aimerais revenir à mon premier amour : la comédie. Tous ces sketchs haineux sur les juifs m’ont un peu dégoûté. J’aimerais bien faire un spectacle sur les godasses par exemple. »

En cause également, les mesures prises à son encontre depuis lundi par Manuel Valls et les maires de différentes villes où Dieudonné est censé bientôt se produire: « Alain Juppé a décidé de m’interdire de jouer à Bordeaux. Si je commence à ne plus pouvoir faire mon métier qui est ma véritable passion, là cette opération doit s’arrêter. C’est la limite que je me suis fixée. »

Alain Soral est le premier dans l’entourage de Dieudonné à avoir réagi à cette révélation. L’essayiste polémique se dit en colère, trahi par un compagnon de route idéologique, mais guère étonné : « Cette révélation ne me surprend pas. J’ai compris récemment que Dieudo se foutait de notre gueule quand il nous demandait de rembourser ses amendes avant même d’avoir été condamné par la Justice. On a maintenant la preuve que même l’antisémitisme est un complot juif » écrit-il sur son site Égalité et Réconciliation.

La Rédaction

Illustration : Wikicommons / Axis for Peace

Woody Allen on Dieudonné: “The most hilarious Jewish humorist of all time…”

Alors que dans un entretien accordé au magazine Première, le réalisateur américain Woody Allen aborde son futur retour en France pour le tournage de son prochain film, le petit homme aux célèbres lunettes en a profité pour parler d’une foule de sujets.

Dans cette interview il revient notamment sur sa carrière, ses angoisses mais témoigne étrangement aussi de son admiration pour l’humoriste controversé Dieudonné. Une déclaration d’amour pour celui qu’il qualifie de « maître incontesté de l’humour juif ».

Un génie de l’autodérision

C’est donc ce surprenant aveu qui sera à retenir de cette entrevue donnée par Woody Allen à Première.

Une rencontre où celui qui est peut-être le plus illustre représentant de l’humour juif new-yorkais confie son admiration pour Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala :

« C’est un très grand, si ce n’est LE plus grand humoriste juif au monde. L’autodérision sur les Juifs, l’utilisation des stéréotypes que l’on porte sur nous-mêmes ou que les autres nous renvoient, les thèmes abordés comme l’argent, le commerce, la religion et bien sûr l’antisémitisme. Bref tous les ingrédients sont là. Dieudonné est l’archétype même de l’humoriste juif et dans ce domaine c’est un très grand. »

Une prise de position qui surprend tant le parcours du comique français a été jonché de polémiques et de scandales autour de ses attaques répétés contre la communauté juive.

Mais Woody Allen interprète cela comme un argument de plus à sa vision des choses : « Tous les grands comiques juifs se sont à un moment donné moqués de leur propre communauté. Et Dieudonné s’inscrit dans cette digne lignée. Il maîtrise l’humour juif comme personne. Alors oui je sais qu’il dit qu’il est pas juif…mais il est juif quand même… »

Une réaction nuancée de l’intéressé

C’est quelques heures seulement après la publication de cet entretien-hommage que Dieudonné a tenu à répondre à Woody Allen sur sa page Facebook en écrivant :

« Pour les amateurs de quenelles, joli glissage de barquette de Woody Allen dans Première. C’est au moins du 170 qu’il fait passer avec l’art et la manière du grand artiste sioniste qu’il est. Pour une fois que quelqu’un ose dire ce qu’il pense…J’peux vous l’avouer, physiquement, à la maison, ça zouke dans tous les sens » et l’humoriste juif de continuer en renvoyant la politesse : « Finalement au dessus c’est Woody Allen. Mes respects W, chapeau bas ! »

La Rédaction

Illustration: WikiCommons / Colin Swan / Copyleft

À PROPOS

Entre The Onion et Le Figaro, votre meilleure source d’information de la journée.

Le Gorafi est né après un conflit d’intérêts avec les créateurs du Figaro en 1826.

Jean-René Buissière, journaliste dyslexique, tente alors de créer son propre journal, transformant Le Figaro en Le Garofi. Mais, dyslexique, il écrit « Gorafi ». La faute est restée et est entrée dans l’Histoire.

Le Gorafi se veut impartial et irréprochable.

Tous les articles relatés ici sont faux (jusqu’à preuve du contraire) et rédigés dans un but humoristique. L’utilisation de noms de personnalités  ou d’entreprises est ici à but purement satirique.

All items here are recounted fake (until proven otherwise) and written in a humorous purpose. The use of names of persons or companies is purely satirical here.

Last Meal before execution of inmates: In pictures

Part of a larger campaign that uses food to change minds.

Amnesty International Puerto Rico has fronted a campaign for the exoneration of Death Row inmates by displaying food requested by the wrongfully accused before their deaths.

Here were their last meals, photographed by James Reynolds.

, BuzzFeed Staff, posted on Oct. 18, 2013:

A Photographer Captures The Last Meals Of Wrongfully Executed Inmates

Ruben Cantu, executed for murder in 1993, presumed innocent in 2005 (then proven innocent in 2010).

Ruben Cantu, executed for murder in 1993, presumed innocent in 2005 (then proven innocent in 2010).

James Reynolds / Via jwgreynolds.co.uk

Ruben requested fried chicken and rice.

Leo Jones, executed for murder in 1998, even though presumed innocent since 1993.

Leo Jones, executed for murder in 1998, even though presumed innocent since 1993.

James Reynolds / Via jwgreynolds.co.uk

He requested steak, eggs, potatoes, and toast.

Cameron Todd Willingham, executed for murder in 2004, presumed innocent in 2010.

Cameron Todd Willingham, executed for murder in 2004, presumed innocent in 2010.

James Reynolds / Via jwgreynolds.co.uk

Cameron requested tater tots, onion rings, enchiladas, and two slices of pie.

David Spence, executed for murder in 1997, presumed innocent in 2000.

David Spence, executed for murder in 1997, presumed innocent in 2000.

James Reynolds / Via jwgreynolds.co.uk

David asked for fried chicken, fries, tea, coffee, Coke, and chocolate ice cream.

Claude Howard Jones, executed for murder in 2000, presumed innocent in 2010.

Claude Howard Jones, executed for murder in 2000, presumed innocent in 2010.

James Reynolds / Via jwgreynolds.co.uk

Claude asked for steak, eggs, toast with jam, and a single sausage.

The campaign has also implemented this idea into a “Last Meal Restaurant.” Watch what happened: youtube.com

CORRECTION: Cameron Willingham was executed in 2004. An earlier version of this item stated 1994. (10/18/13)

A List of Don’ts for Women on Bicycles Circa 1895

by 

“Don’t ask, ‘What do you think of my bloomers?’”

We’ve already seen how the bicycle emancipated women, but it wasn’t exactly a smooth ride. The following list of 41 don’ts for female cyclists was published in 1895 in the newspaper New York World by an author of unknown gender.

Equal parts amusing and appalling, the list is the best (or worst, depending on you look at it) thing since the Victorian map of woman’s heart.

  • Don’t be a fright.
  • Don’t faint on the road.
  • Don’t wear a man’s cap.
  • Don’t wear tight garters.
  • Don’t forget your toolbag
  • Don’t attempt a “century.”
  • Don’t coast. It is dangerous.
  • Don’t boast of your long rides.
  • Don’t criticize people’s “legs.”
  • Don’t wear loud hued leggings.
  • Don’t cultivate a “bicycle face.”
  • Don’t refuse assistance up a hill.
  • Don’t wear clothes that don’t fit.
  • Don’t neglect a “light’s out” cry.
  • Don’t wear jewelry while on a tour.
  • Don’t race. Leave that to the scorchers.
  • Don’t wear laced boots. They are tiresome.
  • Don’t imagine everybody is looking at you.
  • Don’t go to church in your bicycle costume.
  • Don’t wear a garden party hat with bloomers.
  • Don’t contest the right of way with cable cars.
  • Don’t chew gum. Exercise your jaws in private.
  • Don’t wear white kid gloves. Silk is the thing.
  • Don’t ask, “What do you think of my bloomers?”
  • Don’t use bicycle slang. Leave that to the boys.
  • Don’t go out after dark without a male escort.
  • Don’t without a needle, thread and thimble.
  • Don’t try to have every article of your attire “match.”
  • Don’t let your golden hair be hanging down your back.
  • Don’t allow dear little Fido to accompany you
  • Don’t scratch a match on the seat of your bloomers.
  • Don’t discuss bloomers with every man you know.
  • Don’t appear in public until you have learned to ride well.
  • Don’t overdo things. Let cycling be a recreation, not a labor.
  • Don’t ignore the laws of the road because you are a woman.
  • Don’t try to ride in your brother’s clothes “to see how it feels.”
  • Don’t scream if you meet a cow. If she sees you first, she will run.
  • Don’t cultivate everything that is up to date because yon ride a wheel.
  • Don’t emulate your brother’s attitude if he rides parallel with the ground.
  • Don’t undertake a long ride if you are not confident of performing it easily.
  • Don’t appear to be up on “records” and “record smashing.” That is sporty.

For more on the history of women and bikes, see the excellent Wheels of Change, among both the best photography books and the best history books of 2011.

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