March 16: Worth no more, worth no less

Today's mural for the over 1,400 dead: "Gaza in my heart".

Today's mural for the over 1,400 dead reads 'Gaza in my heart'.

Our Rafah ISM colleagues (both of whom worked with Rachel) invited us south for a commemoration kite-flying today; 1 kite to comemorate ISMer Rachel Corrie who was killed by Israel on this day in 2003, and 14 kites to commemorate the over 1,400 Palestinians killed by Israel in Dec 08/Jan 09. They also invited local artists to paint a section of the Israeli wall near where Rachel was killed.

The kids flying the kites had a great time, but for us it felt sadly ironic to be doing this while waiting for news of Tristan. In our medic class this morning we were practising responding to a head injury, and very clear in our thoughts were the images of Tristan’s broken head just after his shooting. (In this footage you can see Israeli soldiers continue shooting tear gas at the medics during the evacuation.)

Tristan just after shooting (pic -

Tristan just after shooting (pic -

Anarchists Against the Wall provided more details on the 13th:

Tristan is unconscious, anesthetized and artificially respirated, has sustained life-threatening injuries to his brain (as well as to his right eye), and is expected to undergo several operations in the coming days, in addition to the one he underwent today.

New, "extended range" teargas projectile, similar to the one fired at Tristan's head. Photo: ISM Palestine

New, 'extended range' teargas projectile, similar to the one fired at Tristan's head. Photo: ISM Palestine

The impact of the projectile caused numerous condensed fractures to Anderson’s forehead and right eye socket. During the operation, part of his right frontal lobe had to be removed, as it was penetrated by bone fragments. A brain fluid leakage was sealed using a tendon from his thigh, and both his right eye and skin suffered extensive damage. The long term scope of all of Tristan’s injuries is yet unknown.

It should also be noted that soldiers at the Ni’ilin checkpoint prevented the Red Crescent ambulance from taking Tristan directly to the hospital, forcing it to wait for approximately 15 minutes until an Israeli ICU ambulance (called by Israeli activists) arrived at the scene, after which he had to be carried from one ambulance to the other. This, of course, is standard procedure – in the extremely rare cases where the army allows patients from the occupied territories to be tranferred into Israel.

Read more here...

In the taxi on our way home from Rafah, the man in the seat in front, from Beit Lahia, showed us photos of his three children on his phone. He said something about “phosphorous”. “They were all burnt with the phosphorous bombs?” I asked, looking at those little faces.

He shook his head, I hadn’t understood. They were all killed.

A couple of days ago, I made contact with Maher, a clinical psychologist from the Palestine Trauma Centre. The 14 year old in the family of our Jabalia friends whose mother S was killed in the first ten minutes of the Dec 27 attacks is frightened to ever be alone, even for a moment, and I wanted to see what support is available to her. I am also worried about another family member, F’s small nephew A, who bursts into tears whenever he hears tank fire – as he did the last time we were there visiting a few weeks ago. He has been traumatised to some extent ever since his father’s legs were blown off several years ago, and the recent hiding in the basement under bombing then fleeing their home hasn’t helped.

The PTC has only been fairly recently formed, and during the attacks its university trained therapists were in the field, 32 of them, based for example in the UNWRA schools-turned-into-refuges. Maher told me about one woman they did their best to help. Her family were in their house in Attatra when it was shelled. Her husband was decapitated by explosion in front of her. Her four children were set on fire by phosphorous bombs and died begging her for help she couldn’t give, but she sustained 3rd degree burns trying.

When the PTC people first met her shortly afterwards she was not sleeping, but awake 24 hours a day, weeping and calling for someone to help her children – who in her head were still alive and burning. After two weeks working with her, they took her to the graves of the children, to show her they were really gone. The therapists knew that, due to her burns and the possibility of contamination, they should do their best to prevent her from touching the earth of the graves. But of course she fell to the ground and tried to find some way to gather her children into her arms.

Another patient they have been working with, a 13 year old, didn’t lose her family, but her room and all her belongings were burnt. When she saw what was left, she quietly began to eat the ashes.

Later, I was listening to some Palestinians talking about the attacks.
“What do you think we learnt from this time?” one asked.
“It should teach us to stick together more.” the other answered.

I so wouldn’t be asking myself that question, or giving myself that answer, if I’d just gone through what these people have. For sure, there are some Gaza people I’ve met who I don’t like. I also know because I only understand a little bit of Arabic, my experience of some people’s personalities is smoothed over a lot, and so maybe I get on with people easier than I might if I got more of the details. But. There is still so very much that moves me about this community.

We now have a security liasion person, Abu Qusay, who was one of the few survivors pulled from the rubble of his police station on December 27. (Our first security liasion person, Hamza, is dead.) In his first meeting with us after the attacks, he went through the business stuff first, quietly, looking like you would if most of your colleagues had recently been crushed to death around you. After thanking us, and telling us the meeting was finished, he paused a moment and said, with what I can only describe as a kind of polite, almost humble bewilderment,

“Can I ask a question, just a personal one, outside the meeting? What you saw…in these weeks…do people outside know what happens to Palestinians? Is this on the television outside?”

And we thought of all those bodies. And the kids shot at point blank. And we thought of bomb after bomb after bomb falling, every day for weeks. And we thought of the sanitized minutes that in our experience are given to Palestine footage.

“No. The media doesn’t show what we saw.”

And he nodded, thoughtfully, then squared his shoulders, ready to set off. I could see we’d only confirmed his own belief. Many people here quietly, yet sturdily, carry this belief that – to the outside world – they don’t really matter. But they just don’t understand why.

My comrade J writes…

“Today is the 6 year anniversary of the murder of my friend and comrade Rachel Corrie. I was with her when she was crushed to death by a US-made Caterpillar Israeli Military Bulldozer as she stood nonviolently protecting a Palestinian civilian home. There are memorial services happening all over the country, I will be presenting and performing at one in Kansas City and will also be doing a live radio broadcast at 10pm
Central time that you can listen to online at”

He’s written a poem for Rachel today and I will finish with some words from it…

…So many remember you, but forget the thousands of Palestinians
They remember you but have never heard of Tom, or James, or Nabila or Ali…

As I’ve traveled this land speaking of your last stand
Still clutching to your hand, extending out of the sand

I accept that I cannot pull you out
But we
Might keep the rest of us
From being pulled under…


UPDATE: Tristan is conscious!

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3 Responses to March 16: Worth no more, worth no less

  1. Nina says:

    Beautiful post…
    Thanks so much.

  2. Sb from Amnesty says:

    The first picture is showing that kind of art people in Germany “customized” the Berlin Wall before reunion. It is opening mixed feelings in me. One hand I remember my childhood in ’89/’90, on the other hand it shows a weird and sadding kind of history repeating how people get along with the abnormal situation they’ve to live in.

    I want to ask you for he rights to use this picture for the following:

    On 28th of May Amnesty members are going to give an information desk in one of Germany’s big technical universities in Aachen (in the very west) to fill the big information leck students here got about the actual events in Gaza and Westbanks. Beside providing knowledge about the problems and the genesis of this conflict, we want to give visitors a chance to express their own opinion and wishes writing them down on the wall like people in Gaza are doing.

    I hope you’ll read our request and give permission like GPL, CC or any other way.

    • talestotell says:

      Hello, thanks for getting in touch. You are most welcome to use the
      picture, perhaps you could simply attach to it my blog address in place
      of a photographer’s name?

      I want to learn about “copyleft” and similar ways of sharing images and
      writing freely while preventing someone else copyrighting them and thus
      using them for profit, but I haven’t yet. (If someone wants to tell me
      what I should put on my photos to achieve that, or a message I could put
      on my website to cover using them in some sort of copyleft way, that would
      be great)

      I hope the event goes well, and you know, I think of my visit to the
      Berlin wall in 1991, a lot when I am in Palestine – because it’s a wall
      that didn’t last. So that gives me hope, and many Palestinians too 🙂

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