Asma Kaisi speaks with the Corries from Gaza just after the cease-fire has taken hold in the latest Israeli aggression against Gaza and the people of Palestine. The conversation included Dr. Hakim Young with the Afghan Peace Volunteers in Kabul and was facilitated by Doug Mackey as part of the Global Days of Listening which occur on the 21st of each month. Asma has participated in a series of weekly calls starting on the 21st of August. This is the second call. You can see the transcript of the first call in this blog. Global Days of Listening are Live Streamed so that anyone can join in. Go to the website to learn more.
Transcript of conversation:
Doug Mackey: We are joined by Cindy and Craig Corrie in their office. Good Morning, Asma.
Asma Kaisi: Hi. How are you, Doug?
Doug: I’m fine. It is so good to hear you again. It is my honor to introduce you to Cindy and Craig Corrie. Good Morning. Good Afternoon.
Cindy Corrie: Good morning, Asma. This is Cindy
Craig Corrie: And Craig
Asma: Hi Cindy
Cindy: We’re so glad to have the opportunity to spend time with you this morning.
Asma: The Pleasure is mine. I’m really happy to be part of this.
Cindy: Great. I’m looking at a photo of your oldest daughter, Maria. She’s beautiful I think her name is Maria. I learned from Doug’s transcript that she’s four years old, and that you have two other girls. And I hope this has been a better day for all of you.
Asma: Yes, it is a better day. The cease fire went on last night. People are kind of relieved after what has been going on.
Cindy: We saw photos of celebration. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about your own thoughts about the cease fire at the moment and about how people have been responding to that news around you.
Asma: Well, personally I don’t know whether to be happy because this has just come to an end or to be sad about what my people and myself have lost in the last 50 days. Regarding the people, people in my neighborhood . . . people started celebrating last night, you know, songs, and just started walking down the streets last night and fireworks. People are happy. This is what I can tell.
Cindy: Do you. I know there’s a sense in my reading that, something has been accomplished. So, I’m wondering from your point of view, and among those you know. Is there a feeling. I’m sure there must be relief if people feel that the violence, the worst of the violence is over. But is there a . . . can you tell us a little about why people are celebrating? Do people feel that something has actually been accomplished this time or is it just relief that this is a calmer time.
Asma: I actually don’t understand the actions of my people. But I can tell that sometimes reacting in such a way can be unhealthy. But I guess, on top of all, people are relieved that this has ended. For the first time for the last two months people slept last night with no drones and F-16s attacking and shelling. But I don’t think this is because we have accomplished something. They think we might have accomplished something but I don’t know what we have accomplished by losing two thousand people’s lives and ten thousand or eleven thousand people are injured in hospitals. I don’t see this as an accomplishment. I’m sorry.
Cindy: I think what we were hearing as things got started 50 days ago and in those early days particularly, what we were hearing from some friends in Gaza was that they just were unwilling to go back to the situation that you’ve all been living with, with the siege, and particularly with the new government in Egypt and the very difficult movement. I was interested to see that you were able to come out for the International Leadership Program.
Asma: Actually I went through Eretz and Jordan to France and then to the United States. I didn’t go through Egypt.
Doug: I notice that our friends in Afghanistan, who started these calls, are on the line, so we’ll bring them in and then the two of you can continue.
Dr. Hakim Young: Bale
Doug: Bale, Salaam. So this is Douglas in Olympia. I’m sitting here with Cynthia and Craig Corrie. They have been talking with Asma.
Cindy: We’re glad to have you with us. Asma and I have just been talking about the current situation and her thoughts about the cease fire in Gaza, and the way that people are responding in Gaza to the news of the cease fire. Asma, maybe you would like to share again with the folks in Kabul, more about that.
Asma: Sure. I mentioned earlier that my people are very happy and relieved that this is all over and they started celebrating yesterday once the cease fire was announced by fireworks, marches in the streets. Even I saw with my own eyes that people were distributing sweets and singing in the streets and etc. I mentioned that on a personal level I just don’t know what my feelings should be or – I have a mixture of feelings. I don’t know whether I should be happy because this is all over or sad because we’ve lost a lot in this aggression.
Hakim: Thank you, Asma for that. I’m going to translate for Zarghuna and Zahidi who are very anxious to find out how you are, how your daughters are . . .
Hakim: Zahidi would like to ask Asma if you feel that this cease fire will last.
Asma: Well, I don’t know. I hope so. I hope that this will last. I don’t know based on my experience; the Palestinians experience with cease fires, every cease fire has been broken. So, I hope that this one will last.
Hakim: Thank you.
Sherri Maurin: Asma, this is Sherri Maurin. I’m from San Francisco but I’m here in Kabul. It is so good to talk to you again.
Asma: Thank you.
Sherri: Have you seen the military leaving, and evidence that, at least that confirmation, that this must be getting close to ending?
Asma: I didn’t get that. Would you please repeat?
Sherri: Have you seen the Israeli Military leaving Gaza? That might be a better confirmation that this is really over.
Asma: I hope so. Unfortunately I haven’t seen any readings because, I mentioned this earlier, with the power cuts we have very limited access to the news and television these days. But I really hope, I hope that this is all over, that this is the end of it.
Sherri: Us too.
Doug: Cindy has something to say . . .
Cindy: Yes. This is Cindy. I just wanted to ask, maybe Asma could comment on this. My own experience in Gaza and talking to many many people there is that the military never truly leaves Gaza. When you’re there. When I’m there during times that are quiet times there is still evidence of the military everywhere. On the borders and, of course I think most of you listening are aware that farmers have not been able to get out to there land. I’ve met with families whose children have been killed when they tried to go out to, just to do farm work on their land. And the same is true, of course, on the sea. And really all around Gaza that’s true. Asma, maybe you could speak to that. We would hope, of course, that the situation would change from what it’s been these last 50 days but maybe you could talk about the presence you feel of the Israeli military all the time.
Asma: Well, the number one thing is that the drones just started hovering this morning. And they haven’t stopped for a second. This is an indication that they never actually never leave Gaza. The second thing, Cindy, is that you have been here so you know how small, how narrow Gaza is and it’s all surrounded by, the borders of Gaza are all surrounded by Israeli settlements. In one hour they can reach us at any time.
Cindy: Craig is here to and I know that he may have a question for Asma
Craig: I’ve been listening and, first of all, my heart goes out to all the people of Gaza. I’m looking at this picture of your beautiful daughter. I’m sorry, I’m having a hard time talking because I relate to the little girls in Gaza. Some friends of mine have little girls just a few miles away from you, north inside Israel. They wanted desperately for this never to happen. So mostly my message is that we follow you. We are trying to remind people around the world, particularly in our country that there’s been a siege on Gaza for, well really I guess since 48, but so much more in the last 7 or 8 years. And we need to work the end out whether there is bombing going on at the moment or not. Well there’s always bombing going on there whether it makes the news in the West or not. So I just want you to know that.
Asma: Oh. Thank you very much.
Cindy: Asma, I’ve been following things quite closely and I know that there are nearly a half million, there are over four hundred thousand displaced people in Gaza. We have friends that work in the UNRWA school shelters. I think yesterday I read that two hundred and seventy thousand people in UNRWA school shelters. I’m wondering if you have any knowledge of the shelters and how things are going in those places and also what you expect will happen with the starting of the schools. I know that yesterday they rang the school bells to share that every child deserves and education, and that that’s a universal human right, the right to an education. But I know that Gaza’s children, right now, can’t be in their schools. I’m just wondering how things are going for those people who are displaced, and what you anticipate as far as children getting back to school.
Asma: Well, I don’t hear this. I actually saw it with my own eyes. I volunteered to distribute food and clothing for the displaced children in UNRWA schools at the beginning of the war, the aggression. The situation at UNRWA schools, I can tell you. It’s horrible. There’s not enough hygiene, no water. The situation is really really bad for those people. The thing is that with almost 500 thousand displaced people in UNRWA shelters, school was supposed to start 2 days ago as you said but they are going to postpone them for 2 weeks from yesterday. This means that the people are going to be kicked out of the UNRWA schools. Where are they going to go? They have no houses, no homes, nobody knows. At the moment there is no clear decision as to where these people will go.
Cindy: Thank you for sharing that, Asma. I know that it’s important for people to understand that it’s an unprecedented situation. I don’t think there’s ever been a time when there’s been displacement of people to this level in Gaza. I think it’s something for all of us to be aware of and to think about what we can do – both advocating with our own governments and being in touch with what’s going on. Even with the cease fire it’s not a time to stop paying attention.
Cindy: I guess another thing that I know is that with the number of people who have died. One vivid memory that I have of being there in 2009 after operation Cast Lead was that whenever people would come up and talk to us, and they welcomed us and finally the conversation would go to finding out how they had been impacted, I realized that every person that I talked to had lost someone. And I guess I anticipate with the number of dead far beyond what it was in 2008 and 2009, that this must be true for most of the people that you know. I just want to share my sadness about that and my understanding of it. I guess maybe it would be helpful to hear from you how people cope with the grief.
Asma: Well, I’ve been working with an organization called the Center for Mind and Body Healing. The founder of this organization is Dr. James Gordon, in the United States, Washington DC. We’ve been working with people suffering from PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And from my experience people, in some way or another, can manage to over come their grief because of the close relationships they have as friends and family members. But, the situation is kind of different. A man or a woman has not just lost their families. They’ve lost their families; they’ve lost their neighbors, in some cases they’ve lost their homes. It’s a terrible grief and I just don’t know how are we going to overcome this. I find it really hard. I mean, when I go to bed. I’ve lost many friends in this aggression, and in the past aggressions. I go to bed and I remember the last words and I the photos I’ve seen and it’s just . . . I don’t think I will be able to overcome this. [breaking up] I’m sorry.
Cindy: There’s no need to be sorry. We appreciate your sharing. It’s important for people here to realize how the loss goes on and on and on for the people there, and doesn’t end when the bombs stop.
Asma: It doesn’t. People think that this is over, but we’re going to have scars for life.
Cindy: Asma can you? Maybe it would be helpful for people to hear, in your mind what are the most immediate needs that you all have, the things that we should be thinking about that we can advocate for.
Asma: I think it’s not about materialistic things. I think people here need to feel safe. I think children need to feel safe. I think we need to have a decent life just like any other people in the world. This is [??] need for the time being.
Cindy: Thank you
Asma: I know that there is . . .
Cindy: Go ahead
Asma: As a mother I know that my daughter refuses to leave my sight. 24 hours. She’s scared that this might come all over again. Whenever I ask her to do something or to go play with her sisters, she says “No. There’s bombing. They’re coming. “ And I just don’t know how to calm her down. I think feeling safe is more important than money or any other materialistic things.
Cindy: I expect that there are others that have questions.
Hakim: Thank you very much, Asma, for being open with us, and sharing your grief.
[Baby crying – line lost]
Doug: Hello. I think there may be thoughts and questions from Kabul
Asma: Oh yeah, sure.
Hakim: Zarghuna and Zahidi are not sure what to say to you now. They just want to say that they are hearing you and are with you. [baby talk] I was wondering how your other 2 daughters are.
Asma: My older daughter, Maria, is staying with my folks because she’s very scared and she doesn’t believe that this is all over. The second one is here, you can hear her crying right now, but she’s doing OK.
Hakim: Asma, are you able to see a video. If you turn on our video, Zahidi and Zarghuna will let you see them in Kabul.
Asma: Yeah, sure. No problem.
Hakim: I know the connections in Kabul are weak. I will just send out a very short video of Zarghuna and Zahidi
[ There’s a break in the conversation while everyone tries to get connected to see the video which will also be preserved on the live stream recording ]
Hakim: Can you see Zarghuna and Zahidi now?
[Asma can’t see the video, but the Corries and Doug can.]
Cindy: Ahhh. Yes. We see you sitting there. Hello. It’s great to see you.
Cindy: Asma, one thing I was thinking. I heard from the previous call that you were in Nuseirat camp. Is that correct?
Asma: Yes. That’s right.
Cindy: Can you tell us how Nuseirat was it impacted more or less. I realize that things happen throughout the Gaza Strip. Can you tell us compared to some of the other areas how it was in Nuseirat Camp?
Asma: Well, as you have mentioned things have been going on through the whole of the Gaza Strip. I live by the sea which was a little bit worse than many other places in the middle of Gaza because we used to receive bombs from the sea. But compared to Shuja’iyya, for example, I think we were a lot more lucky.
Cindy: Well, you mentioned Shuja’iyya, I know that my pronunciation of that isn’t good. But my sense was that there was just massive destruction there. Is that what you are seeing is entire neighborhoods and streets destroyed.
Asma: Yes. That’s what we are seeing. Whole blocks have gone down. Not just streets and neighborhoods, whole blocks. I went there with my group to see how we can help people who are still there, and I just cannot begin to describe the massive destruction we have seen there.
Cindy: Maybe you could. How many people are in Nuseirat camp? Maybe you could tell us a little about that camp. You said it’s located on the sea, but where it’s located in relation to Gaza City. Just a little of the geography and the numbers of people and I’m not sure I know very much about the name of Nuseirat either, and how that came to be.
Asma: Well, it’s a refugee camp. Actually it’s in the middle area to the south of Gaza City almost 10-15 minutes by car away from Gaza. I don’t actually live inside of Nuseirat Camp. I live more How can I say that? More in the not in the suburbs or the countryside. There is actually no countryside here – But I live a little bit far away from it. It’s near Deir el Balah
Asma: Yes. Actually the Middle Area consists of Deir el Balah, Nuseirat, Maghazi and Bureij. Four main towns in the Middle Area. So, Nuseirat is kind of. The name itself talks about or means ‘victory’ or a group of victories. I’m not from Nuseirat. I’m actually from Hebron. But I’m married here. I think the number of people is almost five hundred thousand people. If I’m not mistaken – or four hundred thousand people living in Nuseirat. And the name came from the many victories that this area has witnessed, as far as I know.
Cindy: You mentioned that you’re from Hebron. Did you live in Gaza all your life, or did you come after marriage.
Asma: Well, actually my father and my grandfather came here in 1967. And they were trying to visit a friend and then the war of 1967 erupted and so they couldn’t go back. My grandfather got married in Rafah, actually. And my father went to Saudi Arabia. He’s a communications engineer. I was born in Saudi Arabia, actually. You can say I have kind of a scattered background or origin. Because I’m not one hundred percent from Gaza. My mother is a Gazan.
Cindy: It might be interesting for people to hear. I heard Rami al Masri who’s a wonderful spokeswoman very powerfully talking about how we have to remember that Gazans are Palestinians and eighty one percent are refugees. And your family is part of that.
Asma: Yes. That’s right.
Cindy: I’m thinking there are other questions that our friends in Kabul might have, thoughts.
[Zahidi speaks in Dari]
Hakim: Both Zahidi and Zarghuna say they want to express that hearing your voice, is a lot more powerful than what they can get in the news or the media and Zahidi adds that your picture of Maria on your site icon is reminding her that she hopes that your daughters will always have a smile on their faces. Zahidi and Zarghuna will pray that the people of Palestine will see peace soon.
Asma: Thank you. Thank you. I really don’t know what to say. I appreciate your words, Zartiti and Zarghuna. Thank you very much.
Hakim: Asma, is there some way that Zarghuna and Zahidi and I can be in touch with you by email.
Asma: Sure Yes.
Doug: I’ll just send that right away Dr. Hakim
Doug: Sherri, is that you?
Sherri: Yes. Please. I’d very much like to do that. I want to give my greetings to all of you as well.
Hakim: Thank you very much, Asma. We are glad to be able to connect with you again this evening. Through email perhaps, I can work with Zartiti and Zarghuna. We will be able to to send you some photos to cheer you up and be in communication with you over email.
Sherri: To the Corries this is Sherri. I will probably be seeing you, I’m hoping in January. Elliott Adams will be up your way on a speaking engagement, talking about everything we’ve learned here and what he’ll be learning when he goes to Palestine. That’s wonderful. We hope to see all of you one day, in person.
Cindy: Asma, I don’t want to duplicate things that people have heard before. But I wonder because you did have the experience of coming to the United States, and traveling through Eretz checkpoint. Have you ever traveled through the checkpoint before. Maybe you could talk to people a little bit about your experience coming from Gaza and getting back to Gaza. I know from others from Gaza that I’ve talked with that often when they are, when for one reason or another they are permitted to make these trips it’s a once in a lifetime experience for them. But they’re also very limited. They’re not allowed to go very far, to see Jerusalem, for example, and other parts of the area. I wonder if you could talk a little about your journey.
Asma: Well, actually, everything was arranged by the State Department and Embassy in Jerusalem so luckily things went very smoothly for me during my travel through Eretz. And, I got the chance to go to Jerusalem and to see the famous religious sites there that I’ve always dreamed of seeing. So, I didn’t face much difficulty when I went there. Because the program was sponsored by the State Department so the Embassy organized and arranged for our permits and everything so things went smooth.
Cindy: And how long were you in the United States and what places did you visit in the United States?
Asma: Actually my program was for three weeks. We started off at Washington DC. Then we went to North Carolina, Raleigh and Greensboro. And after that we went to South Dakota, to Rapid City and Sioux Falls. We saved the best for last. Our last stop was San Francisco.
Cindy: I remember a couple of years ago being in the US Congress in the office buildings in Washington DC. I think when a group of women from the same program were visiting. I’m sure it was the International Visitor Leadership Program. And it was great that day to connect with that group of women. I’m wondering – did you make it to Capital Hill? To the Congress
Asma: Unfortunately our schedule was very packed. So we went to the Library of the Congress and to the State Department Building, and to the Department of Education but we did not get the chance to go inside the Congress.
Cindy: Uh huh. Well I hope that one day you’ll have the chance to come back. I hope that you’ll have the chance one day to come back to Washington State. I have one other question I have for you, and then I want to make sure others have the chance to ask. I wonder if you can tell us a little about your day; about what you expect to be doing tomorrow, with the situation as it is with your family. I know you’re a mother of three children. I wonder if you could just share with us how your days are going under these circumstances.
Asma: As I previously mentioned, it’s a little bit of a relief that things have hopefully come to an end. So, basically I’m going to start cleaning the mess in my home because my neighbor’s home was hit so there is some damage in my home. I’m going to spend some more time with my daughters and I’m going to visit my family and see some friends. You know, I’m an English language teacher and trainer at AMEDE office and I’m also an interpreter with many organizations. I’ve been receiving calls for the past two days to go and interpret for foreign journalists in Gaza. Things are not very clear at the moment. But I’m going to enjoy the cease fire as much as I can with my family.
Cindy: We certainly wish you well and hope you can find things to enjoy every day. Maybe you could tell us too. I know because we’ve been hearing from journalists there. But maybe you can tell me, do you have a sense that, about aid getting in, just how much movement in and out of Gaza there has been. The movement in and out of Gaza, with aid, or maybe people just coming to assess what has happened. Are there people coming in. We know there are journalists, but we are wondering about access. Is there access to Gaza right now.
Asma: I think things are going to be easier with the cease fire and the borders are open. The city is full with hundreds of journalists from all over the world, but they can access because they are foreigners, while the people from Gaza couldn’t leave in the past fifty days as you know. I think even with the supplies will be easier to enter now, with the Egyptian Border open, hopefully.
Cindy: Can you talk to us a little about what you know of the situation in the hospitals. If people that have special medical needs. Have they been able to get out to get the care that they need.
Asma: Yes. Some of them actually were able to go to Turkey. And some of them were able to be departed to Jerusalem, and West Bank. But that’s a tiny part of the injuries and now we’re working on a survey, me and my friends, to see what the hospitals need most and what do they lack, like medical equipment and medicines.
Cindy: We’ve just received a question about food and water. Can you speak to the availability of food and water right now?
Asma: Well, UNRWA is doing a good job with the food, and many other organizations in Gaza. But water is huge problem. We have a serious problem with the lack of water in the Gaza Strip, especially in the shelters. They cannot provide all the people’s needs in the shelters. With the massive, I mean, some of the UNRWA schools have two thousand people living in each. So, its hard enough with the summer to provide all these people with water supplies.
Doug: I want to also acknowledge that Leah, who introduced you to us, Asma, is on the call to make sure, Leah that you have a chance to share greetings and speak to your friend Asma. Can you hear us, Leah?
Leah: Yes, I can hear you. And wow, it’s amazing to hear you, Asma because we’ve been in communication via Facebook. So, it’s just so amazing to hear your voice.
Asma: I just want to say one thing to you my friend, and to all of our other friends who are in this conversation: I owe this lady a lot and I want to express my heartfelt appreciation and gratitude because she has not left my side for the last fifty days – and she introduced me to the amazing group of yours. Thank you Leah. She actually helped me through tough times. Whenever something happened, we would talk or I would text her on Facebook. I don’t know what I would have done without you being there. Thank you my friend. Thank you very much.
Leah: You’re welcome, Asma. I’m really glad to hear you, how strong. I’m in awe of how courageous and how brave you are. So really, you’re really an inspiration to me and it’s really an honor to know you. I’m so glad that you were able to connect with Global Days of Listening and people can listen to your story. Thank you.
Cindy: Asma can you tell us something about how you acquired your English. It’s always interesting to me to hear and amazing to hear wonderful English speakers in Gaza. And we really appreciate it because we have just a few words of Arabic. Could you share with us about that?
Asma: Well, it’s a pretty funny story, actually. When I was a child, sixteen, seventeen years ago, I used to listen to a group of singers called the Back Street Boys. I don’t know. I loved them so much. And my English teacher was kind of an inspiration to me in the ninth grade. And also my father, who speaks English very well, and University, English language literature. But, my speaking abilities come from television. As a teenager, I used to live off TV. If you know what I mean. It’s where I learned all of my accent, if you will, and my common language. It’s self learning.
Cindy: Well I’m sure that work now, really gives you lots of practice. You do wonderfully in English and it’s very helpful to us. Thank you.
Asma: Thank you very much.
Doug: It’s been the dream of many people in the US that the government would seriously question the military support that has been ongoing and that includes supplemental projects and funding. I was reminded by my wife Jody a few minutes ago of a conversation that Anais Monsour from the Rafah area had with the Afghan Peace Volunteers several years ago. We had just lost a friend in Gaza to the occupation and we were preparing for one of these days of listening. It’s difficult to get in touch with Anais and others. We used Facebook and email and Skype chat and it was actually through the Skype chat that he shared that he would not be able to be part of the phone call. And I just responded that we certainly understood. We were thinking about him and that the Peace Volunteers in Afghanistan looked forward to talking to him. And he responded, “Well maybe I can talk for a few minutes.”
Also on the phone call were two young peace activists from Africa. We had met them through a group called September Eleven Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. A woman from the Congo who had suffered very much from that conflict, and a young man from Rawanda; when he was fourteen he was forced to be a boy soldier. Anyhow, Anais was being comforted by Abdulhai and Lee and as they were comforting Anais. Anais was thankful but he had to leave the phone call, and the woman from the Congo had said something you said, Asma, that the conversations were so important to her to hear people comforting each other and being there for each other and the young man from Rawanda maybe four sentences said “I understand in Afghanistan what you are going through is horrible. And that there are days that you wonder if you’ll be able to wake up in the morning. There are days when you are not sure if you want to wake up in the morning. And you wake up, and you realize that you have dreams. Hold on to your dreams and I will dream with you.” And I think that’s what so many people are sharing with each other, is the dream for peace.
Cindy: I’d like to just share with you, Asma. I know people in Gaza are aware of this because people in Gaza are watching what’s happening around the world. I can tell you that ever since this started, that, our work goes on addressing, trying to do what we can to address all that Palestinians are facing. But, once this started, we have, we’ve been having here in Olympia, educational programs. We’re blessed that we have some people from Gaza close to our community so, we were able to have Mohammad, he lives in Portland and he’ll be coming to school here this fall, and he was able to be on the panel And his family was directly impacted by what went on.
Also, the panel included a former Israeli soldier who lives in Seattle. And this person is boycotting. He’s supporting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. I mean he’s so opposed to what his government is doing. Even though his family back in Israel isn’t completely in agreement with him. You know, I find these things really helpful and hopeful. We’ve also been traveling. Here in Olympia, people have been on the streets with signs at Peace Vigils reminding people about Gaza, and with the Palestinian flag flying. And the same in Seattle. We’ve been up there, marching in Seattle, talking to a lot of people.
I know you talked on a recent call about the blockade in Oakland of a ship, for several days, and Israeli ship that was bringing goods to the port. And we extended that effort in Tacoma and Seattle, at the airports this weekend. We weren’t as successful as they were in Oakland because we have a different situation here than they do. But still, hundreds of people came out to support those actions. And in doing that , there was some media coverage. It increases the awareness. I think we’re all very impatient. It’s hard to wait. But we see a shift and thinking about the funding of the weapons, we are seeing some differences in how our government is responding to that, even in the White House. And I can tell you it’s a very strong message coming from activists here in the United States. That our funding should not be used to do to you what has been done in these last fifty days. And I know that the work to share that message will continue. Craig actually shared the message with a member of Congress this last week, along with others in the community. I just want to assure you that that work is getting stronger and I think we’re having an impact and we’ll keep at it.
Asma: Thank you. Thank you very much. Whats worth mentioning here is that I know many people in Israel itself refuse what’s going on here. I met five wonderful people in the program that I was in in the United States and they keep in touch with me and they represent many other people on their side who refuse the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip and who do want to live in peace with the Palestinians in Gaza.
Cindy: Thank you, Asma, for your wonderful spirit and courage.
Doug: Asma, you had mentioned two other friends of yours that would be willing to join the con
Hakim: Thank you Asma and Cindy. Thank you Leah and most of all, Doug, for your story. We are going to say goodbye from Kabul.
[ Many voices say goodbye ]
Asma: Thank you Hakim and Zarghuna. Thank you very much.
Hakim: Khoda Hafiz
Doug: Leah, I know you have to leave soon too. Perhaps you’d like to share from San Francisco area.
Leah: Well, it’s lovely to meet you, and Cindy, I’ve heard a lot about you from many sources, to see you on Skype and to hear about all the work you are doing. Thank you. And thank you for being so supportive of Asma. And also thank you Doug for organizing this. I think it’s great. For the past few days I’ve been to several protests and I’ve read and hearing Asma’s story, it was truly heart breaking, from so far away and not now being able to comfort her in person, just being thousands of miles away and having to read about it and so just being able to hear her story and to hear how strong she is, to me it’s very uplifting.
I see on the ground some demonstrations that are trying to, they’re demanding an end to the occupation, lifting of the siege. I’m a member of Jewish Voice for Peace. And they do a lot of really great work. Actually, they’ve decided to hold a protest in front of Senator Dianne Feinstein every Friday. They are going to go there from four to five thirty and just demand that she, ask to speak to her and ask that she change her perspective, because she is very supportive of Israeli [inaudible] on Palestine, and trying to change her perspective trying to talk to the Congress Woman. We’ll see what happens. Yeah it’s very heartening to me, the protest at the Oakland sea port. It’s very heartening.
And seeing that there are groups that are trying to mediate, for example on September, I think the ninth, at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco there’s going to be a Town Hall talking about ways of looking at Palestine – whether some solutions come up in discussion. I think its very heartening that there are groups, different groups are trying to talk about it, trying to find a solution. And most particularly interfaith groups, talking about how to deal with the grief, how to talk to each other. Because in communities, particularly in Europe, there’s been a lot of antagonism between the Jewish and Arab Muslims. Trying to build bridges, trying to approach interfaith dialog, trying to find a way for them to talk to each other. I think that’s the process that’s being carried out slowly but surely.
Cindy: Thank you, Leah. I know with some of the time that we have left, Asma, I’m wondering if you have any questions for us, or thoughts about what is important for us to keep remembering.
Asma: I don’t have any questions for the time being. I just want to thank you all for organizing the discussion and the conversation. It’s really another form of relief when you can talk and have some people listening to you. I know that you know how do you feel and how does every mother feel here in Gaza. I just wrote something a couple of days ago. It’s so heart breaking when you put your kids to bed and give them a goodnight kiss and deep down you know it might be the last kiss you ever have to give them. So, this idea has been haunting me for the last fifty days that I just don’t understand why this all had to happen. I just there are just some things that we won’t be able to understand in this conflict. I feel a little bit better already, talking to you guys. Thank you very much.
Cindy: It’s so great to hear your children’s voices. They just – they’re magical, even in moments like this. One thing I wanted to say. I’m not surprised to hear Asna’s strength. Whenever I’ve gone to Gaza, I’ve always been amazed by the spirit of the people there and, their strength and their determination. And, even in the most, Rachel wrote about this, how even in the direst circumstances, people in Gaza find a way to hang on to their humanity. And she thought it was because of their love for their children and their families that that was the case. And you are evidence of that again for all the people that are hearing from you. I also want to say that I traveled to Gaza in 2012 with a Peace Builder’s Delegation and I think what Leah said about, I think the conversations and everything are so important.
I’m always very careful to say that we have to act. And this has been going on far too long for us only to talk to each other. But I think the talking is so critical and sometimes I say, you know, I see Palestinians and Jewish Israelis living together when I go there to visit inside Israel, and I see my Israeli Jewish friends, and I know that their numbers are very limited now and they come under great threat, but I see those who want to see a solution to this and they want it to be a just solution. And, I think that the connections we make are so critical to all of this, as long as we keep in mind that we must act so this doesn’t keep happening over and over again.
Asma: That’s what we fear the most. This is what we thought in 2009. We thought this was going to be it, but then it was repeated in 2012 and I remember talking to my husband and saying that things are going to be better and here it happened almost two years later. My biggest fear is that I survived three wars or aggressions so far. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to handle a fourth aggression on Gaza because I mentioned earlier that I had a slightly heart attack in 2012. My heart is weakening and I’m not thirty yet.
Cindy: I think, Asma that every one of us has a responsibility to make sure that you don’t have to go through this again. One of the things that I tell people is that the siege, the blockade of Gaza was as bad as it ever has been in the year and a half or so that preceded all of this, and nothing has happened. Craig and I have had people at the White House tell us that the Siege of Gaza was a failed policy. They told us that four years ago, and yet the policy continues. There are many people who realize that this is senseless. We just have to make sure that now there’s change. None of us knows what will happen but I guarantee that there are people who will do what they can.
Asma: I’m certain about that. And it’s hope that keeps us alive here in Gaza because it is the only thing that we have to stick to as long as we’re living here.
Doug: Asma, and especially everyone listening, we will take this conversation to the next conversation. There are nine people listening to this conversation. Can you each plan on joining the next conversation and be thinking about who else you want to invite. For instance, Noam Chomsky has had two conversations with the Afghan Peace Volunteers and may be able to join a conversation with you, Asma and the others that you have invited for the next call are Congressmen and former Congressmen. The Kuciniches are in this country are still very active. He’s the one that has been proposing a Department of Peace at our Federal Government level and a number of people are in touch with them. So we’ll widen the conversation and the context. Some kind of action must happen. Collectively thats how change happens, from a small group of people that are continuing to do the work. Cindy, you’ve mentioned on a number of occasions that even the small things we do now may have an effect that we’re not aware of.
Cindy: I almost always talk about that when Craig and I have opportunities to talk with people because people here too, in a different way, I think, feel – they can feel some hopelessness. Powerlessness. I keep saying what we do is cumulative, and we see this. Craig and I were brought to this issue by our daughter, Rachel. And, we’ve worked on it now for nearly twelve years. And I see growing awareness, even inside the government here. And that doesn’t happen. It’s not any one thing. I believe it’s all these things.
I know we have to be very selective about where we put our time. And decide whats most useful at any given time. Certainly at this time, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions are very important. But all the education that happens in different ways. All the communications with our governments, whatever they may be, whatever we can, whatever steps that we take. I really believe that they add up to something better. It just needs to happen as soon as we can make it happen. Thank you, Asma, for your time. And we wish your family a good night’s rest and better days ahead. And I really hope that, Craig and I will have a chance to be back in Gaza, I don’t know when that will be, but I hope when we do that we’ll have a chance to meet in person.
Asma: It was a pleasure to talk to you, Cindy and Craig and thank you Doug. I hope that I’ll welcome you here, one day, in Gaza. Or you could welcome me in [inaudible]
Cindy and Craig: Inshallah! Inshallah!
Doug: We’ll talk again soon because the connections are important.
Asma: Yes. My friend Ziad, who’s busy interpreting with a group of journalists today, and my other friend Asma who was supposed to be part of this conversation, she just went back to her home today. It was hit by the Israeli forces so she just went home this morning to check up what happened in her home so I couldn’t put this together on such a short notice. But I know that they’ll be here with us in the upcoming conversations.
Cindy: Thank you, Asma
Asma: Thank you very much
Doug: Well have, May the day of relief extend into a growing better environment there for you. We’ll talk again soon.
Cindy: Please share our love with everybody there.
Asma: Thank you. I certainly will. Thank you.
Doug: Thank you, Leah.
Leah: Thank you so much for including me in the conversation.
Doug: We’ll include everyone next time. As they say in Kabul, Khoda Hafiz
Cindy: And Masallah!
Doug: Thank you all for listening.