Najla Shawa talks about #GazaUnderAttack on July 23, 2014

Follow Naja at @WhateverInGaza.

(20 min.)

And if you love Najla as much as I do, you may want to see previous conversations we’ve recorded:

July 17, 2014 on ground invasion during #GazaUnderAttack (8 min)

July 13, 2014 Nighttime update on #GazaUnderAttack (20 min)–Nyu6H2U&list=UU3f9es6ASkFcjaaLMP5RvbA

July 11, 2014 update on #GazaUnderAttack (21 min)

July 10, 2014 update on #GazaUnderAttack (14 min)

And before the recent escalation:

May 3, 2014 about the beach in Gaza (4 min)

April 29, 2014 Even more about electricity (5 min)

April 24, 2014 How do women dress in Gaza? (4 min)

April 21, 2014 More about electricity in Gaza (7:40 min)

April 18, 2014 Electricity in Gaza (7 min)

April 12, 2014 What is the siege on Gaza? (6 min)



I think all people of conscience must be distraught right now. People are getting killed in Gaza in alarming numbers and with no sense to it. I am one of those who is struggling to figure out how to be constructive.

One thing I’ve been doing is reaching out to people I know in Gaza and letting them know I care, that they are not alone. Some of those conversations have been so informative and insightful that I started to record them. I am now recording a conversation with someone in Gaza everyday. It’s an opportunity for people all over the world to hear directly from a Palestinian about what it’s like to live through #GazaUnderAttack.

I’ll post new ones as they are available on this page (newest at the top) and you can also follow my Facebook and Twitter feed. But it won’t matter unless we all take action. So please, let your representatives and the media know that you want this current violence to stop and that you want them to intervene politically to bring a much-deserved just peace to the region.



US complicity in Israel’s attack on Gaza

This article first appeared on Aljazeera.

It was very kind of Brenda from the US Consulate in Jerusalem to finally return my call at 7pm, long after work hours.

I had been trying since early morning to get an appointment for a group of concerned US citizens living in Palestine to meet with a policy officer. We came together through social media and word of mouth because we are desperate to speak out about the unjustifiable slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza that is now under way.

We want to express our opposition to United States’ complicity in the Israeli attacks that have taken over 90 Palestinian lives, with hundreds more injured. We want to demand a change of policy before the threatened Israeli ground invasion becomes a reality. But it turned out that it was difficult to reach anyone in the consulate, much less to get an appointment.

Brenda was clearly in a hurry, but she responded professionally and explained that the American Citizen Services section was busy trying to help US citizens stuck in Gaza to get out to safety. They had priorities, she explained. They couldn’t take time to hear our views. Besides, her office doesn’t do policy work. That would be the other office.

No, she didn’t know the name of the person responsible for policy at the other office. It’s that transitional time of year when people finish their missions and new people replace them. She advised that we not bother the policy people either. There is a crisis now and everyone is busy.

How convenient! US representatives are “too busy with the crisis” to talk about US responsibility for creating the crisis. I explained my view: The US gives billions in military aid to Israel year after year; it provides unconditional political support despite Israel’s belligerent settlement policies; and it has refused to hold Israel accountable for violations of international law in the 2008-9 attack on Gaza and the 2012 attack on Gaza, not to mention the current attack. Isn’t the US government – and, by extension, US taxpayers – complicit in creating the emergency that has now placed over 1.5 million lives at grave risk in Gaza?

Sounding a bit frustrated, Brenda said she understood my point but still advised that we cancel our visit to the US consulate tomorrow since no one would be available to hear our complaints.

There are protests here in Palestine, in Boston, Chicago, New York, Washington DC, and in cities across the United States and the world. People want the US to stop unconditional support for jingoistic Israeli actions. But our government is too busy to hear our complaints? How loud must we scream before our government hears our demand for justice for Palestinians?


Gaza under fire: What does it mean for philanthropy?

This article appeared on Philanthropy for Social Justice and Peace where I will be contributing monthly.

I’m a critic of “poverty porn,” the selling of poverty to increase donations. It dehumanizes “beneficiaries” (a word that itself is dehumanizing), but even worse, it’s a slippery slope. Engaging donors on the basis of crisis means you always need a new crisis to keep them engaged; successful philanthropy becomes dependent on having a steady stream of victims.

That’s why I tried a different approach when I designed my Gaza birthday campaign. I was turning 50 and wanted to do something that would matter for Gaza. I decided to ask my friends and family to do three things: 1) make a financial gift to the Gaza Fund at Dalia Association, a community-controlled fund at Palestine’s community foundation; 2) write a letter to a political representative or media outlet calling for an end to the siege; and 3) sign up for an organization’s newsletter, to get ongoing news about the struggle for Palestinian rights.

My thought was that asking for three things would demonstrate that meaningful philanthropy isn’t about giving away money and feeling better, it’s about engaging in meaningful ways. To make it real, I gave my friends and followers a gift too (in the spirit of “pay-it-forward”): I released a short video clip with a Palestinian from Gaza every day for the 31 days proceeding my birthday.

I intentionally started the campaign when Gaza was not in the news, and I used that in my appeal. I suggested that we should seek to empower Palestinians to be better able to withstand or even prevent the next escalation, rather than giving money only when Gaza is in the news.

Well, I only raised a little over $1,500, not the $5,000 I was hoping for, and the vibrant exchange of ideas about campaigns and organizations and strategies for lifting the siege – that didn’t happen at all. Some of my failure is likely attributable to the limitations of my network and my social media skills, but not all. I fear that people really don’t want to give to an issue that’s not “hot,” even if it’s likely to explode soon.

Another piece of evidence to consider is the announcement, reported in Newsweek, that the Algerian soccer team plans to donate their World Cup winnings – a reported $9 million – to Gaza. The announcement came after the most recent round of Israeli bombings of Gaza, named Operation Protective Edge, hit the news.

We will have to wait and see before we conclude. Will the Algerian soccer team actually pay, or will their $9 million go the way of so much aid that pledged but not delivered? If they do fulfill their commitment, will they give their contribution to an expensive and impotent international intermediary as many aid recipients complain? Or, will they really make history by recognizing that while Palestinians need money, they need political support even more, and that money they do get should be allocated by Palestinians according to Palestinian priorities and monitored locally by those intended to benefit.

Whether or not the Algerian soccer team does the correct and courageous thing, I intend to try my experiment again. I’m not ready to give up on Gazans’ right to self-determination in development, including their right to control their own development resources. And I’m also not ready to give up on the common donor. There must be people out there who understand that it’s more effective to give before a crisis, and that philanthropists who want to make a difference must make a commitment to stay engaged over the long-term – regardless of what’s making headlines. Meanwhile, I hope that those who give now, hearts broken by the senseless suffering, take the time to give well.