about me

(The below was written while I was in Gaza. I’m now back in the UK, studying fulltime, working, and available to come see you as part of my Gaza book tour...)

I used to volunteer regularly with the International Solidarity Movement in the West Bank. After Israel’s creation of a blacklist to prevent human rights workers having access to Palestine, however, I wasn’t allowed to return there via any Israeli controlled border. So in 2007 I went to volunteer in Al Shafa clinic in Beddawi Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, during the attacks on Nahr Al Bared camp.

On August 23rd 2008, I was part of a project that made history by getting two boats to Gaza through Israel’s sea blockade – see the FreeGaza website, because my colleagues have just kept those boats coming! And now I’m posting from Gaza…my presence here almost entirely financed by small individual donations from people on my email list, which makes me feel pretty humble actually. I am now fully financed for the 6 months I hope to stay. This generous interest in my tales from Gaza has inspired me to expand to a blog…which you’ll have spotted I’m only just getting the hang of.

Some of the things I’m doing here: (this was written before Israel attacked Gaza in Dec/Jan, and I should update it)

with the ISM Gaza group, documenting Israeli attacks on Palestinians, which involves visiting hospital patients, bereaved families, and sites of attacks, and making reports on these for the ISM website among others, as well as accompanying Palestinians as requested, when they are threatened or attacked by Israeli forces while going about their daily lives – for example fishermen within Gaza waters.

attempting to publish some of this further afield (if you can help me get these stories into press near you, let me know)

reporting back to Sheffield Palestinian Solidarity Campaign with stories and photos of the projects they support via the Union of Health Work Committees

with E, visiting the child sponsored by 14 Friends of Palestine and reporting back to them

occasionally proofreading English for Dr Mona El Farra‘s blog From Gaza with Love

volunteering some time each week with the Union of Health Work Committees (who provide free health care to the increasing number who cannot pay) to assist with the English text for their Annual General Report and whatever other English they might need. They’ve also invited me to join in with Project Management Course they are running in English

working on arranging one day a week volunteering in one of the main hospitals, to be an extra pair of hands on call should the situation worsen

being on call to spend nights in regions that are experiencing increasing attacks

doing my best to learn more Arabic, to be more useful in all the above

…and of course writing for you, on this blog 🙂

PS I’m an anarchist.

54 Responses to about me

  1. DAVID SCHERMERHORN says:

    B-

    Sorry to have missed you.

    Well done on the blog.

    David S

  2. sami89 says:

    Great , we proud of you , go a head show the world the truth in Palestine ,highly appreciated your work and efforts .

    Sami89

  3. Le prime cartoline inviate on-line ai bambini di Gaza
    e inviate per posta alla sede di Cipro di Free Gaza Movement
    Free Gaza Movement http://www.freegaza.org ha rotto l’accerchiamento della striscia istituendo un proprio servizio postale, per nave da Cipro a Gaza City, diretto alle persone, alle famiglie e alle scuole

    una delle cartolina inviate – clicca l’immagine per ingrandirla
    clicca sull’immagine per ingrandire

    Guarda tutte le cartoline già inviate http://www.lascuoladipace.org/cartolineperlapace.htm#cartoline
    Aderisci, manda anche tu una cartolina per la Pace per rompere l’isolamento mediatico su Gaza http://www.lascuoladipace.org/cartolineperlapace.htm#inizio

    La Scuola di Pace – Roma
    http://www.lascuoladipace.org
    lascuoladipace@gmail.com
    tel.. 3400585167

  4. Kim says:

    I’ve been turning round and round like a lion in a cage wondering what I can do to help. In the meanwhile you’re turning round and round over there helping. You show us the way. Thank you and, through you, the marvellous resistance and resiliance of the palestinian people. I’ll be spreading your reports around me. Keep up the good work. You’re a light-house in the dark sea.

  5. sarahislam says:

    Good work! I love this blog. You are a brave and good person keep it up!

  6. sören says:

    keep upp the great work I wish i was there with you. it was soo close that i was going this winter but was in to bad shape… (ewen told my dad I was going.) we had a big demo in stockholm today. thinking of you and the situation!! lots of love to you the other ismers and all the Gaza people in this dark days… are John still down? give my best to him. /Sören

  7. pamela says:

    After a depressing day I came across your blog. I must say how I admire you , and wish I could do something to help, like you , God bless you and the Palestinian people , thankyou , you are the eyes and voice for a people who most of the world just want to dissapear , inshalla more and more people will see the truth and stop this massacre .

  8. Deborah Littman says:

    (from talestotell: Deborah directs this to Tom – I’m not Tom, I’m a girl, but I’m sure Tom – who I think is in the West Bank – is doing amazing work too!!)

    Tom, you are doing amazing work. I’ll do my best to pass your blog on out here in Vancouver, as well as in London when I’m back. The information you are providing about day to day life in Gaza is essential — not much is making it to the North American press, though it may be different in the UK. Stay safe, keep well.

  9. There will be a link to your blog in the February issue of “Divergences” . it will be placed under the title “Israel/Palestine”.

  10. Hello, we’ve spotted your blog here at Amnesty International UK and we wanted to feature your stories on our blog for a day or two – you can see it on our homepage at http://blogs.amnesty.org.uk

    we’d like to feature various bloggers from reporting from Gaza, so I hope you are ok with us linking to your blog. we are thinking of you and the people in Gaza.

  11. jasp says:

    thinking of you

  12. Thomas Lauth says:

    I praise you for your bravery and non-glossy stories about Gaza lately. We are desperately trying to find the real news. We have been wathching LINK and now that I have your blog we will stay tuned. Stay safe and keep hope for all those oppressed

  13. Naftali says:

    You are not a Peace Activist but a supporter of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. If you were a real Peace Activist you would stand in front of the offices of Hamas asking them not to fire thousands of rockets at civilians. The same Hamas that murdered people in pizzerias, buses, markets.

  14. Jolien Teuwen says:

    Dear,

    I’m a student from Belgium and we are making a paper about the conflict in Gaza. Our goal is to bring other stories than the media , to look at the conflict from another angle. It would be very interesting to publish an interview of you in our paper because you are so close to the people who live there.
    If you are interested you can always email me at jolien.teuwen@student.xios.be

    I hope to hear from you very soon.

    With friendly regards

    Jolien Teuwen

  15. Bob Birch says:

    Thank you for doing what you can and for being witness to these barbarous deeds. Keep safe. The thoughts of many of us here in Australia are with you.

  16. Bryan says:

    Please be assured that the hearts and mind of all peace loving South Africans are with you at this time. We lived through the tyranny and humiliation of apartheid for so many years but in the end, evil and injustice failed as it will do in Palestine. Israel has become the most immorally bankrupt nation that has ever existed. They will surely suffer for many years to come as a direct result of the flames of radicalism they have so spectacularly fanned in the past 15 days. Finally, the world can see that these are not indeed Gods chosen people but nothing more that the big bully boy of the middle east. Shame on them and shame on America.

  17. Janet and Max says:

    We just had the Newbury Bypass walk yesterday and Janet told us about your blog. All the best and keep safe. You are marvellous.

    Janet and Max from Newbury.

  18. max says:

    thinking of you..
    Massive respect. Much love. Stay strong as far as you can.
    The reports out are awesome and getting some decent coverage here.
    I wish I could be there and be an extra pair of hands in the hospital too.

  19. gerard says:

    You are a courageous, marvellous human being.

  20. erikwdavis says:

    I have nothing to add to the above: great respect to you, and the work you are doing. Some blogs are indulgent and serve no real purpose. This one complements your mission and convictions nicely, publicizing the struggle and your place in it. Thanks for both your work and your blog. And solidarity and cheers for identifying your anarchist convictions as part of the reason for your work.

  21. Farid Ahmad says:

    Few guys in Pakistan have started a campaign by the name save-humans.org
    They are planning to send medical aid to Gaza including doctors and medicine They are in
    search of contacts inside Gaza who can help them achieve this. email them if you can be of any help.
    their website is http://www.save-humans.org

  22. Leila says:

    You are one the few witnesses to the war crimes. Godspeed and keep those reports coming. There is very little detailed mainstream coverage about what happened to al-Quds hospital. Your details are important. In solidarity and with deep respect and thanks.

  23. Lucy Williams says:

    Well done on the blog, incredible work! I’m thinking of you often and hoping that you are safe. If there’s anything I can do to help let me know.

    Lucy

  24. Jane says:

    I heard your conversation with the Aljazeera news to-day after the strike on the Al Qods Hospital. I am a British born, brought up in Canada, Tunisian by marriage, and have lived in this country since the sixties. I have followed the Palestinian struggle since the time when the OLP was in Tunis, and have friends from that period who have returned to the West Bank and to Gaza. My sister is a very active member of the Solidarity movement in York, England, and has visited the West Bank and Gaza several times. My other sister has recently joinned the fight and my children are active here and in Qatar. We are all ‘Friends ogf Gaza” and support the boats who beat the blockade. The last two aborted attempts just another illustration of Israel’s disdain for international law. Needless to say I have been horrified by recent events in Gaza and the shocking human rights offences which have been committed against an imprisoned people. I have past the age where I could take an actice part as you do, but I do my very best to spread the word and the truth through friends in the UK and Canada. I spend my days and nights watching Aljazeera and Press TV, (how I wish the western media could get the truth out too) the closest I can get to Gaza, and I have frequently been moved to tears, and as a grandmother of seven, especially by the children. My thoughts are constantly with you and my heart with the people of Gaza. Keep up the wonderful work.
    Jane.

  25. Ahmed says:

    Hello there,
    I am an Egyptian journalist working at Al Sherook newspaper, a daily newspaper that is going to be available in news stands this Jan. 26. I would like to write a story about your efforts in Gaza.

    If you are okay with it, please send me your email and/or your phone no.
    Thanks,
    Ahmed Ebraheem

  26. Croltbopper says:

    inspirational, as I sit safely behind my computer I have you and all the suffering people in mind.

    I can see you making a difference. I took your blog into work and used it to help me speak to my colleagues, to help them to challenge pre conceived ideas, about the people of Israel and Palestine.

    I have been to demo’s, am selective about what I do and do not buy, you have helped me to look for the courage to do more

    Love

  27. Someone put me on to your blog, and i love it. i’ve worked w/ ISM in 2001 and 2002, and was basically deported. i am trying to plan a trip back later this year, though i’m not sure about the best way to go about it. at any rate, your blog, and your work, is great. thanks for it all.

    trevor

  28. occupiedoxford says:

    Over the past week, 17 British universities have staged university ‘occupations’ to express solidarity with Gaza and to demand that their universities extend moral and practical support to Palestinian students.

    The first sit-in began at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, then spread to King’s College Londond and the London School of Economics (LSE). They then moved to Sussex, Warwick, Newcastle, Oxford, Essex, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan, Bristol, Nottingham, Salford, Kingston and Cambridge.

    Student action on this scale has not taken place for several decades, and the recent protests are being seen as the first step in establishing a movement similar to the anti-apartheidmovement of the 1980s.

    We want to tell Gazans that there are people in the world that support them, and the Israeli government to know that the students of today will not allow their oppression of the Palestinian people to continue.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/jan/23/student-protests-gaza
    (Cambridge announced their occupation tonight, after this article was written.)

    Please spread the word across the blogsphere by providing links to these sites.

    Student occupation websites:
    *SOAS: http://soassolidarity4gaza.blogspot.com
    * LSE: http://lseoccupation.blogspot.com
    * Kings: http://kcloccupation.blogspot.com
    * Warwick: http://warwicksolidaritysitin.wordpress.com
    * Essex: http://www.visitpalestine.asia/page.cfm/id/98207
    * Birmingham: http://birminghamoccupation.wordpress.com
    * Sussex: http://sussexoccupation.blogspot.com
    * Oxford: http://occupiedoxford.wordpress.com/
    * Cambridge: http://cambridgegazasolidarity.blogspot.com/

  29. Bill Dienst says:

    Excellent work. Your blog as well as those of your colleagues on the ground have become the best sources for what is really going on in Gaza. The mainsteam news in the USA is abysmal!

    Warmest Regards,

    Bill

  30. ian dick says:

    Great work you’re doing.how does one go about volunteering/working in gaza or occupied territories?i am a school teacher and have recently done my tefl qualification.Have lived in the middle-east.

    • talestotell says:

      hello, I suggest start first with volunteering in the West Bank, as so many of us have been blacklisted by Israel and can’t go there any longer, so they need people. It’s also better to have West Bank experience before Gaza I would say. You could check out the International Solidarity Movement and Palestine Solidarity Project if you are interested in direct action type things, but there will be many English teaching opportunities I think too. Ahlan wa sahlan – welcome!

  31. Evangeline says:

    Very good work. Thank you.

  32. Habib Ahmadzadeh says:

    Salam

    A City Under Siege: Tales of the Iran-Iraq War (Thinking of Gaza)

    By Habib Ahmadzadeh;

    In a past 22days almost 1370 innocent civilians died in Gaza. The pain and sadness of these days make us all to do something. In my part as a writer, I want to share a true story I wrote many years ago.

    The story is based on a true experience during another disastrous war. A war, which was supported by the United States of America and its allies and was forced to the both countries of Iraq and Iran.

    Gaza and its news made me to think about this old story of mine and wanted to share this with you, a group of concerned citizens of the world.

    Let’s have hope we never see violence. Let’s have hope we reach peace for everyone; and let’s have hope for a better world for everybody.

    Sincerely,

    Habib Ahmadzadeh,

    Tehran, Iran

    Eagle Feather

    I see you being dropped off. I stop the movement of my scope and then I center the crosshairs on you…and on you waving the driver goodbye. He drives away…leaving you behind at the place where three roads meet, behind the date grove on the other side of the river. Now you’re not certain which road to take! The main road where you’ll wait for the next vehicle to come by or… the road that I want you to take? Hurry up and choose. My whole job today depends on your decision. It’s not clear from far away, but you put something on your back and move off.

    You’ve chosen and my happiness is boundless. You’ve eased the burden of waiting for me …and now you’re continuing along the paved road that will end up at your first route. You just continue moving along that line and I’ll sit in this lookout, waiting on this side of the river, a wait that should take no more than twenty-five minutes and which will reach its climax in the last seventeen seconds. And, during these twenty-five minutes, at least we can speak frankly to each other, though you will never hear what I have to say, but, perhaps, after those last seventeen seconds are over, all of what I say will reach your ears. How? I don’t know. Whatever the case this is the way we think on this side of the river in this completely surrounded city …and in any case you are not aware of me sitting here stalking you….and in this dark keep, with the entire plain, date grove, the roads you’ve crossed on the other side in sight…and especially…I keep every step you take under surveillance, and within my sniper scope lest I forget you. Yes, I am sitting here stalking you and there’s a shell in a mortar, waiting for my order, an order that will be broadcast on invisible waves through the air at the promised time via this radio. Your side’s radios may even receive the signal and then the waves will pass by your body and you luckily will be deprived from receiving it and then the radio of our mortar…then the firing…and it will take seventeen seconds for the shell to pierce the air, reach its apex and then like a gull diving for fish, fall on that stretch of road…and then…and then thousands of pieces of shrapnel both large and small will embrace you…but now before you reach that point in the road, which will perhaps be the last place in your life, there are twenty-three minutes left…the highs and lows of the time depends wholly on the speed of your steps,…go slower and you’ll add a few seconds to your life…go faster and you’ll shorten it by a like amount…and now you are moving. You want me to tell you more precisely how long you have before the shell that awaits you arrives?

    I have only to keep you within the crosshairs of my sight and then press the button on my stopwatch…but it’s better not to lose time. Perhaps this twenty-second friendship will become timeless with the shell. Would you like to know what the first question is that I ask after I climb up this tower and have selected a prey like you? It is: Where are you from? Khanaqin, Baghdad, Kirkuk, or Basra?…And, as always, Basra concerns me the most. Perhaps I should tell you why…and the moment the promised shell hits the ground…What are your parents doing at that moment? Is your mother making bread in one of those mud houses in a village along the Euphrates? Your father…What does your father do for a living? What is he thinking now? Could it possibly cross their minds that I am sitting here waiting to take the life of their child in less than nineteen minutes? And, if there is that odd feeling that exists between a mother and her child, how your mother will curse me at that moment? But I made my decision ages ago; at the time your forces surrounded this city. Want to know where I’m from? It’s not necessary to go very far from here. Maybe only a kilometer in that direction along this very boundary river, several years ago, my birthplace was at the hundred meter point along the river…yes and had I been born just seven hundred meters in the other direction, I now would be one of you, at the height of military prowess with those endless munitions which are more than enough to destroy a city far larger than our small town…and ignoring the screeches and howling of the women and children of the city…and drunk with power…I would be shelling them night and day, but now I’m happy…happy that I was born just seven hundred meters in this direction and that I am fighting for several things. My mother…Want to know what my mother is doing now? Like always she’s reciting the Throne Verse…for me…for my brothers and her brothers and all the people on this side of the river. What about your mother? Is she praying for you also? Whatever she prays or has prayed, in about fifteen minutes more it’ll all be for nothing…

    Iran-Iraq War by Mohammad Farnood

    And you keep moving…perhaps wanting to reach your front line faster to shell or fire on our city at night again. When you put your finger on the trigger and the stock shakes on your shoulder, do you have a sense of power?…Or does the sound of larger explosions thrill you? Do you dance up and down and clench your fist futilely, when the mortars, shells, and missiles explode on our side …but when the time comes and I hear that promised detonation, I will not jump for joy…and you are still walking toward the chosen spot…you still have fourteen minutes before I switch on the radio and the sounds form in my larynx and on that side a mortar round comes to greet you. Can you recall all the shells and mortars you have rained down on our city day and night, annihilating anyone and anything in range of your batteries? Is there any goal in the world more pointless than obliterating a city? Continue on your path. I have only have a daily ration of three shells, and, as on the first day, I have already used up one. Would you like to know how? You’ve stopped, why? Oh, I see, you’ve put your pack down. So you’re tired! What could be in the pack that has made you so tired? Your clothes? A souvenir maybe, for your foxhole buddies? Maybe some of those homemade cakes your mother makes? You want to know what I would bring if I could leave this besieged city? My souvenir would be some more rounds for the mortars. You tired? Sit! A few minutes either way will make no difference to me, but continue on your way. I fired my first shell into the middle of this very roadway, and the second one is ready to strike the same spot. You’ll be there in a few minutes and you’ll see the powder burn from the first shell on the ground, and, like your comrades who were there before, you’ll slow your pace…and, stunned, you’ll stare at the place where the shell hit, not knowing whether the second shell is coming or not…and this question will always remain for me: After seeing where the first shell landed, why didn’t you get scared and start running? You probably thought that it exploded and that you were so lucky not to have been there when it did…this is what caused you to be so calm but when the second shell comes crashing down…why will you still be sitting? You want to know more? What will you see if you reach the place where first shell hit and look at it carefully? Yes, that it’s one of yours…but make no mistake…it’s not part of the spoils we’ve taken from you. Look at it more carefully! It’s one of the dozens of shells that you have brought down on our heads, one of the few duds that lands here every day. They just have to be dug out from the ground, their fuses set on safety and their casings changed for a filed-off fifty-caliber shell…and then…three shells are the daily allowance; three shells that until yesterday were in your hands and today are in ours. By the way, your national symbol is the eagle! Maybe the same eagle that had thought that all of our cities would be under its wings. On this side of the river we have a tale known to all about an eagle pierced by an arrow… they say that when the eagle looked carefully seeing that its own feather…it said, why shed tears? we are our own undoing?…What are you doing? Those minutes added to your life aren’t to your liking? You’ve put your pack back on and you’re moving…yes you’ll go down the road and I, like yesterday and all the previous days, will lie in wait for you until you reach the zone of your last seventeen seconds…seventeen seconds to your death…and seventeen seconds till the time when the mortar round reaches its target…so I must recalculate how many steps you have to take during the seventeen seconds…and the radio will have to be switched on seventeen seconds sooner than the shell hits and, seventeen seconds later, a crater will be made where it impact the earth. My eyes, in addition to the scope, your body, the seventeenth second, the shell burst…and the launching of thousands of pieces of shrapnel all around and into your body…every day or so this scene must be repeated several times until you also on that side of the river are robbed of your security and realize that every time you go on leave your death will come…and this thought is many times more agonizing than being killed at the front itself. The insecurity of the back lines, those tributaries leading to family and normal life, so tied up with a sense of safety…but only a daily rations of three shells will cause that insecurity…and during that entire time you have no choice but to run down this road…3.5 kilometers of road…even when we are not manning our lookouts, you must be anxious…anxious that there is somebody waiting to switch on the radio…yes, with only three shells…and not with those thousands of shells…and we have decided to haul the fear and terror from this side of the river to that…and you’re still on the road, looking up at the sky and perhaps enjoying it! What wonderful, brisk weather! If I were in your shoes the only thing I’d want from God is a breeze so that the shell might be go slightly off course before it hits the road…or that the charge in the mortar round doesn’t work and the shell doesn’t fire in the chamber. Ten minutes to go before the seventeen-second zone. This is probably what you’re thinking: How long will the roads remain insecure? With ten, twenty, forty more people killed, you’ll doubt the safety of other roads. Yes, it’s a good question, you have every right to ask it, and I have every right not to answer. Today it’s your turn to find a strategy. Likewise it could be the turn of one of your comrades, someone just passing a few minutes before you and you would probably be inspecting his spattered blood on the ground; but today everything has conspired to make you the subject of the conversation. Want me to answer your question? You have the right to know! In the future if this method doesn’t work, I’ll find another way. Now everything is in place for the old method. Do you know what that is? Keep walking along the path and just listen. “The Mousetrap” is what we call it. At the same level with the road you are on and the others that go off into the desert behind it is a telephone pole. We just have to bring the first shell down on the telephone wires…and a break in communications…and then the poor lineman who will have to come and reattach the frayed cables…exactly at the point of impact…and here a seventeen second wait won’t be necessary…and the second shell…and the interesting thing is that I had never seen this break in the lines myself and only became aware of it from the movements of your linemen.

    Taking into account the extra time accrued when you stopped, we have another eight minutes to chat. It’s an interesting sort of friendship, don’t you think?

    Know how many people are sitting around our battery waiting for my radio signal? Five…five artillerymen…Want to know who they are? You have a right to. One of them is Mehdi who lost his father before the war. His mother was laundress at the hospital…until one of those thousands of shells landed on the hospital laundry. Want to know how long it took before those bloody sheets were white again? And then there’s Hoseyn who’s only thirteen and keeps the artillery clean. He had to bury his sister with his own hands; can you understand how hard that was? Bury bits and pieces of her, that is? Enough or should I say more? Thousands of rounds launched at the city just to kill a handful of non-combatants and all we have is three shells at our disposal and, when today’s work is done, all of us without the slightest remorse or pangs of conscience will sit down to lunch and then rest and once again track down some more of your duds so that we can prepare another three shells for the coming days. We, in fact, don’t even need the three shells to weaken your resolve. All we have to do every so often is to mount the kind of action we carried out two months ago when we got a battalion of your soldiers to turn on one another. Yes, the same battalion that was sent away from the front lines and was replaced by your battalion. Nobody on your side knew the secret behind those leaflets. The leaflets that angered the leadership of your third army. There shouldn’t be any secrets between us during these final minutes. In a few days it will be your battalion’s turn. One of those shells that dispense leaflets…leaflets that are simple on the surface, promising amnesty…amnesty with pictures of the Imam…the man that terrifies you…yes, you have rained thousands and thousands of leaflets on our homes in the besieged city…give up…until now none of them has done any good, but our leaflets have alarmed many of you, one little shell at that…and you never caught on to the trick we played on your forces! You weren’t in the old battalion, but your comrades in your present battalion will soon see a shell will open in the sky and pour leaflets down on them…each leaflet containing a picture of Imam Khomeini and the promise of amnesty. When we mount our operations, each leaflet will count as a writ of asylum…and your commander like the commander of the previous battalion will order that the leaflets, especially the writs of asylum, be collected and those in your battalion that don’t give up the writs will be reprimanded severely; and that in an army known for its collective punishments. Watch what happens when your battalion commander finds leaflets without amnesty writs! What’s he supposed to do? He’ll wonder who’s picked them up. Maybe a number of soldiers have actually taken them! There’ll put more pressure on the battalion to find them…If Baghdad gets word of this…your commander will be under pressure…collective punishment…maybe members of the battalion will start accusing one another to escape the punishment… bad blood and suspicion…and in the end a lack of trust in a battalion some of whose soldiers have hidden the writs of amnesty, even with their pictures of the Imam…and a lack of trust in war means laying awake at night fearing betrayal and expecting something bad to happen. But do you want to know the truth of the matter? It’s likely that nobody on your side picked up one of those amnesty writs, because from the very first we made a number of leaflets without pictures of the Imam and the writs. See how we use our wits and talents in a city under siege? O Mr. Iraqi eagle! How could one of your own feathers be the agent of your death? We never learned to fight anywhere except here during these last few months and if it weren’t for the war, we’d be in high school in this very city…and which class would we be in?…Probably math…and here I am calculating the three minutes you have left to live. Now it’s time to tell my five comrades down below to get ready. They have to be at the ready with a tight grip on the chord, as the seventeen seconds begin. Well, they’re ready…everything’s set against you. Do you know what I always think at such times? That you and those before you and those who come after you are probably Basran. I have a somebody there, or had, I should say, a person that I never saw…my mother’s sister…who years ago, long before she died, married a man from there. I always wonder whether you, if you are Basran, know anything about her or her children. They say she had two sons several years older than me. Sometimes at such moments like this I have the feeling that I have those two boys in my sights. Now there are only five steps before you enter the zone. Four steps, three, two, one.

    Seventeen seconds.

    I’ve turned the radio on. The chord is being pulled and the machinery of your death has been set in motion. Now a shell that for years remained hidden underground in the form of ore…was extracted, refined and then forged…and then made into a container for shrapnel and steel, brimming with explosive powder…and conveyed by boat over miles of ocean, is on its way to rack up your death; a shell that has been ordered twice to kill: once, when used on our city and twice, when used on you. O Iraqi eagle, here’s your feather back!

    Sixteen seconds.

    From this moment on the shell is making its way through the sky, under no one’s control, not even mine. Our friendship didn’t last very long. You probably would be in school now…and I, if I could, would take you prisoner to that after the war you could return safely to your family; but now your are on that side of the river and I am on this side.

    Fifteen seconds.

    You’ll have one chance at the thirteenth second when the sound of the shell reaches your ears. If, and only if, you pay attention…and stop for a second and sit…when the shell’s course is fixed…maybe you’ll survive the explosion…get ready to take that chance.

    Fourteen seconds.

    If I were in your place and knew what was coming, I’d spend these last moment asking God’s forgiveness…for everything and everyone…perhaps God…whatever the case you won’t need sermons from me when you’re dead.

    Thirteen seconds.

    The sound of the firing…and you are still determined to follow the same path. The sound of the shell didn’t attract attention. What are you thinking about? But there’s still a chance…the last chance…maybe a breeze will blow at the last moment, but I pray it doesn’t.

    Twelve seconds.

    As boldly as possible I must admit that after killing you and climbing down from this perch, I will have forgotten the whole thing. By donning that uniform, you have signed a contract to kill and to be killed.

    Eleven seconds.

    Clear your mind of everything except the wind…and me with my allotment of three shells…and that I have used up one of them…the other is on its way…the third?

    Ten seconds.

    The seconds remaining in your life have gone from two digits to one. Death is on the way, my friend.

    Nine seconds.

    The shell is also on its way. You are also on the way and my scope is trained on the spot where the shell will explode. The windfall outcropping whose sole cause is human, on that side of the river.

    Eight seconds.

    See: there’s no breeze to make the shell go off course and the blasting powder in the shell, though it’s handmade, has performed perfectly, propelling it from the artillery. Now only a miracle can help you…and, maybe, your mother’s prayers.

    Seven seconds.

    How many days will it take for your family to get word of your death? Two days, five? When it comes, what will your father be doing? For me it wouldn’t be more than twenty-four hours. My brother will be the first to know.

    Six more seconds.

    Time is short. Whenever one of your soldiers comes from that side of the junction in the direction of the riverbank, I say to myself, “Chalk up another enemy for our side.”

    Five more seconds.

    You may be wondering whether I would have called in the strike if you had been my cousin. Yes, I would have and I’d be waiting another four seconds. No in another four seconds you will be at the place where the shell is going to land and four seconds more before your rendezvous with it.

    Four more seconds.

    See the waterway for the last time? We call it the Arvand River and you the Shatt al-Arab. In any case it won’t make the slightest difference to you. Whatever happens the fresh water of the river will spill into the sea, becoming salty; as in the past, the present, and in the future. See how foolish it was to start killing the people of our city, in the hope of trapping a river that has never been captive to the man-made?

    Two more seconds.

    Again, you hear nothing I say; you just keep walking to the place where the shell will explode at the same pace. In one second you’ll hear the explosion, but you’ll only have part of a second to hit the dirt. So get ready and use the last chance to save your life.

    One second.

    Our friendship is in its last second. What are you thinking about during the last moment of your life? Your intended, who waited until the last second to say farewell? Your mother? The cold weather? There’s nothing else to do! My eyes are fixed on the point of impact and you are caught in my crosshairs and, in this half second, the sound of the shell…and…it’s all over. The blast happened exactly where it was supposed to, covering the place in a cloud of smoke and dust that made you disappear. I sit waiting for it to settle. What happens next means nothing to me, but for you, if you’re wounded…it is vital…every second you’ll bleed more than before…and I know exactly what you are thinking about during this time…about your friends helping you…but if it’s all over and your soul has taken flight…now your friends have a dilemma…should they rush to help you? I also have a friend who could come to your aid…don’t get me wrong…not to save you…I’ve let you in on our whole strategy…the third shell is already in the tube so that your friends will suffer the same fate as you.

    The smoke has cleared and you’re lying on the ground not moving. Your friends are observing from far away. You’ll be the bait for the next hook and I’ll remain here waiting for your friends so I’ll use the third and last eagle feather…

    And again another second.

    Our friendship is in its last second. What are you thinking about during the last moment of your life? Can you imagine how much the firing of one shell, only one shell, has caused me to think? Where do you come from? I wonder. Who’s thinking of you? And this is what I do every day, for every one of you who goes down this road. Do you, before firing all those shells at us, give my mother the slightest thought? So why is launching these three shells so painful for you? Three shells with so much thought versus thousands of shells without any thought, if those thousands of thoughtless shells had not been fired, then these thoughtful shells would never be launched. My eyes are fixed on the point of impact and you are caught in my sights and this half-second…what happened? Why are you lying on the ground? What are you looking at? At a dud? So the shell was a dud again! So now I’ll give you five seconds to get up and run away; if not, I’ll switch on the radio so and tell them to send the third your way.

    I start my stopwatch…one, two, three, four…run faster! You put my mind at ease! Don’t get me wrong: I’ve haven’t said this so you’d get away ahead of time. My third shell needs to fly seventeen seconds, and, if you were late to escape, it’s possible that there’ll be no one where the shell hits…now, perspiring, you’ll join your friends…without your back pack which you left in that appointed place…and now you’ve seen death with your own eyes…will your finger squeeze the trigger of your gun again tonight? Will you give the mothers on this side of the river a thought? Absolutely…so you’ve got my message loud and clear. With death or fear, it doesn’t matter which, you’ll transmit you fear to your comrades…like the leaflet-scattering shell that will explode over your heads in a few days…and maybe you are one of those who out of fear kept one of those writs of amnesty. Whatever the case I’ll be waiting for you, until at the crossroads…someone else is dropped off…perhaps in a couple of days…and again you my friend….

  33. marion willow says:

    in picturing you in Gaza, safe and sound each day … you are encompassed by a blue and white swirling impenetrable rubbery bubble, living your life and love … at times you are surrounded by children, other times, a whole house is in the bubble and large numbers of people, mostly you are sitting quietly alone, enjoying the solitude …. may your heart sing with it’s every beat …

    marion and joe
    pomona
    australia

  34. Lisa Fitz says:

    Tales to Tell… thanks for all the info and for your heart felt hard work. Lots of love, peace and strength… Fitz

    • talestotell says:

      Hey mate – your music helps keep me going, more power to your elbow! Folks, go check out Lisa’s website and see if she’s singing anywhere near you…

  35. Majed from free Gaza . says:

    How I love to thank our comrades who have joined us here during our calamities in the last frenzied and barbaric attack on Gaza , They came from all over the world, in solidarity with us ,they supported us graetly while there are lot of did not know what is happening in Gaza, or even where Gaza is located ?! Really they are great,heros and worthy of respect from all Palestinians . However, despite Israel’s insistence on our extermination,We insist to live also strongly . We do not have the weapons to fight them but we have the strong will and our science .we will never use weapons because we really who love and want peace .

  36. Mary Hughes-Thompson says:

    We fellow-travelers love and admire you. As must everyone who seeks peace and justice for the people of Gaza.

  37. Tyler says:

    Here are videos made in Gaza during a month long visit there. I came with a Code Pink Delegation for International Woman’s day, invited by the UN. The Delegation departed, I stayed on, that I might show a bit the world behind the siege.

    http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=8030E34DC8051C01

    Tyler Westbrook
    http://www.whynotnews.org/
    http://www.youtube.com/user/WHYNotNews
    Lincoln Vermont

  38. Hamed Nematollahi says:

    As we are approaching the first anniversary of Israel’s massacres in Gaza, I’m doing a special report about it for an one of the most prestigious Iranian news magazine. I’d appreciate a lot to have a note by you as a member of Humanitarian group activists in Gaza, who were present on that period there and a witness that has also written a book about it, that can contain:
    – why have you chosen to defend this cause and be there although it was very dangerous
    – from when were you there and till when?
    – what was the humanitarian situation of Gaza under siege before the Israeli attack
    – the situation under attack, what you witnessed (no electricity, …..
    – the way you made your voice heard worldwide (interviews, blogging, …
    – one year later, what’s your thoughts about what went on, and the future of Gaza?
    please attach also 3 photos of yourself in Gaza so that one can be used for the article

    Sincerely Yours
    Hamed Nematollahi
    hamid_ekb@yahoo.com

  39. Mary Hughes-Thompson says:

    Where are you? Irish talked to you but didn’t say where you are. Leaving tomorrow to join the Gaza Freedom March. Can’t wait to read your book.
    Love, Daisydozy

    • talestotell says:

      hey mdear, studying midwifery in the north of the UK! Though spending the holidays with a mate in the south who has a baby due any minute now. It will help me get through the anniversary of the attacks with a new little one to appreciate. But starting a book tour in Jan when it comes out. Brilliant you’re going on the Freedom March…so hope everyone gets in. Will be thinking of you.

  40. Sophie Huber says:

    Hello,

    I kindly invite you to take part in my survey about conflict related communication on the social web. It would be great if you – as an active contributor to the online conversation(s) surrounding the Mideast conflict – could take the time.

    Please find the survey here: http://www.conflict.uti.at/survey/index.php?sid=31416&lang=en

    Feel free to post the link and promote the questionnaire on your page(s)!

    I am a doctoral candidate at the ICT&S Center, University of Salzburg, Austria, Europe. I really appreciate your opinion and help – thank you,

    Sophie Huber [sophie.huber@sbg.ac.at]

  41. Diane Conti-Tuncay says:

    I am an American and a naturalized Turkish citizen living in Turkey. I teach English as a Foreign Language. Please tell me how I can support the Palestinian effort from my location with the skills that I have. My city firmly supported Palestine during the last Zionist attack by putting posters in windows and collecting money from small shops to huge factories. The Turkish Red Crescent also had a massive 3 day signature drive as well. I believe the signatures were sent to the UN. So as you can see, I live in a place where I can find support. Just advise me as to what I do.

    • talestotell says:

      hello! Diane, you’ve picked an exciting time to send this message. Have you heard about the IHH (Turkish Relief Organisation) ship about to sail from Turkey to be part of the FreeGaza Flotilla to Gaza? I don’t know what IHH stands for, I expect something in Turkish! I think this is the homepage, with a little bit about the flotilla.

      Anyway, I think it would be brilliant if there was as much English coverage as possible of this attempt, and I wonder if you contacted them and volunteered to write more about the trip for the English section of their website, if they might agree. Like, what Turkish people are going, and what are their motivations? What do they hope to do in Gaza? You could interview some of the participants. I am sure that http://www.freegaza.org would love to also post reports like this in English on their website; there is not yet much info about the Turkish boat or boats there. And it would only get more important as all the boats sail. Perhaps you can be part of the land support team in Turkey and continue to write reports in English of what is happening to the Turkish boat within the convoy. Since it may come under Israeli attack, reports from hour to hour will be important. I believe one of the reasons the original FreeGaza convoy arrived safely in August 2008 was because of good international awareness and support. And then you could cover the Turkish view after the boats arrive…perhaps there will be people writing Turkish blogs which could be translated.

      Anyway, that is a specific idea for now, but also, have a look at http://www.defendtherescuers.wordpress.com for some other solidarity work that could happen in Turkey…

      let me know how it goes!

      • Diane Conti-Tuncay says:

        This week, the English language daily newspaper,’Today’s Zaman’, had an outstanding story about Sonja Wentz, who is a trauma expert. She wrote about the systematic dehumanization of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israelis. You can find it on the internet with just her name.

        In the same issue there was also a story about the Turkish flotilla too, but I didn’t have time and only skimmed the article.

        I sent a letter to the editor commending him for these two stories. I have yet to receive a reply.

        I will devote my day off this week to running down all these leads that you gave me.

        My job as a school administrator prevents me from leaving town or else I’d be on that ship. However, my summer holiday will allow me to be more mobile to personally do more.

        I would like to take this conversation to my personal email address, which you have. Thanks again for your reply and I will get back this week with what I have learned from the leads you gave me.

  42. Diane Conti-Tuncay says:

    Today’s Zaman News National

    Trauma expert Wentz: Systematic dehumanization in Gaza is unique

    Sonja Wentz “Trauma is a way of life in Gaza,” says Sonja Wentz, an American mental health professional who was in the besieged strip recently to support Palestinian professionals who are trying to help Gazans cope with daily and continuous trauma.

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    “I felt abused by their border system,” states Wentz, who is a faculty member at the International Trauma Treatment Program in Olympia, Washington. She works with a non-political NGO that primarily works in areas where there is civil unrest.

    As someone who has also worked with trauma treatment in Croatia and Uganda, she thinks that the systematic dehumanization in Gaza is unique.

    “In Israel there was an elaborate structure of buildings and a system to show power and control over their border, but no one talked about it with me. In Uganda things felt more chaotic to me, and people talked about it. Gazans said that the only predictable thing in their lives was suffering and trauma, but despite this the resilience of the Gazan people is very great. Daily routines, religion and family relationships keep them going,” she says.

    According to Wentz, a unique quality of trauma in Gaza is the disassociation of the Israelis themselves from what is occurring in Gaza:

    “I did not experience it even in the Balkans and Uganda. But anyone in Israel who learned that I was going to Gaza immediately backed off. I did not have the chance to encounter many Israelis, and I am sure there are Israelis who would act differently, but I did not meet any of them. Anyone who I told that I was on my way to Gaza distanced themselves. To hear the word Gaza put people off.”

    She entered Gaza from the Erez checkpoint, which is mostly used by foreigners. According to Wentz, not only the conditions in Gaza but passage through Erez, the entry and especially the exit from Gaza, were inhumane.

    “When I got to the crossing, I gave my passport and started to wait. It was hot so I stood in the shade. Maybe I was too close to their facilities, but they repeatedly told me to move so I crossed the street. There was a gentleman from the French Embassy there, and he told me that they wanted to make me stand in the sun,” she remembers.

    Wentz adds that after the passport check, she was directed to a massive border facility that she had to pass through. The facility resembled a fun house filled with buzzers, mirrors and steel designed to make the people inside feel disoriented.

    “I was alone with two pieces of luggage and had to walk two kilometers. At one point I realized that people were looking at me from above.”

    Wentz was the only one of three members of her nongovernmental organization to apply who was issued a permit to enter Gaza. Once inside, she immediately began to offer training to people. She met with women’s empowerment groups, university students and medical and psychological professionals.

    “I was wondering about the meaning of the word ‘intifada,’ and I found out that in Arabic it means ‘shaking off.’ It really makes sense. When I toured the area, I could see how it had been shaken up, and one wanted to shake off the feeling of oppression.”

    She points out that the infrastructure of Gaza has been severely damaged and cement was not allowed to be brought in. Goods are scarce and symptoms of trauma are visible everywhere.

    But Gazans deal a lot with depression. People have flashbacks, are not able to sleep and experience anxiety. It is too dangerous for them to feel because feelings can be so overwhelming. So they suppress the feelings, which results in psychosomatic problems. “There must be a lot of rage. But I saw it productively channeled into working to maintain a normal life. However, there is domestic violence and abuse as a reaction to trauma,” she explains.

    Wentz was basically working to support professionals who help other people. But when professionals work with victims of trauma, they often are vulnerable to the trauma themselves.

    “So, self care, resilience and how you support each other are very important for them. We were talking about it one day, and one of them asked: ‘How many times can a person build a culture back up again. How many more times can we do it before we cannot do it any more?’ This is a very practical question. But it was answered by one of them, ‘Hey we have been doing it for years, we can do it again.’ It was amazing to see their resilience,” she says.

    According to her, not only mental health professionals but other Gazans as well have developed ways to build resilience.

    “I met with a woman who was in her late 40s but looked like she was 65. Everything around her was demolished. She was trying to survive by raising rabbits — they eat them there, so she tries to sell them. Despite all this trauma, they continue to find creative ways to move forward. They told me that ‘this is our life and the most predictable part of it is trauma and suffering. So what we have to do is find ways to deal with that.’ This woman was incredible, her pride and joy is the flowers that she grows,” Wentz explains.

    She adds that most of the Gazans she encountered just want a normal life for their children, that they are ready to share whatever they have and contrary to what many people might think, they are not full of hate.Wentz added that many might think that all Gazans are Hamas supporters, but this is not the case.

    According to her observations, the people of Gaza need many things, but one important thing for them is being able to have personal contact with people from outside. “It is a wonderful experience for them to meet foreigners. When I asked them what I should bring next time as a resource and if they wanted books and so on, they told me that I am the resource. This is true everywhere I have traveled, but for Gaza it is most important because in other places, people can get out, but not in Gaza. The worst traumas are the ones caused by other human beings, and it is important to have relations with other people.”

    Wentz says that the most difficult part was coming out and that it was traumatic for her. She felt that the procedure that she was subject to was a symbolic experience of what the Gazan people are living every day.

    “I had to pass alone through the same border structure again, full of glass and metal and directed by orders coming from invisible people through an intercom. At the entrance my picture was taken with my open suitcases. When I was directed to move forward inside I felt so helpless and vulnerable. They were telling me via the intercom that I could walk ahead, but doors and passageways were not visible. They wanted to me go into a tube, but I didn’t have any idea what it was. There was lots of buzzing and turning. At one point, they commanded me to raise my arms; I think they were scanning my body. This felt completely inhumane. I thought to myself that I really needed to have some human connection. I went into the passport control area. There was a woman guard. I thought this was my chance to say something, I said to her, ‘Hi, how are you?’ she looked right at me and her answer was, “I need your passport.’”

    Wentz says that she felt very helpless and asked herself, “If this is what I am feeling when I am just a visitor, what would it be like for the people who live here all the time?”

    “Trauma results in the severing of relationships. I departed Israel with a deeper understanding of the historical wound that remains. The International Trauma Treatment Program hopes to return to work with colleagues in Gaza soon, but in order to support healing in the region we understand the importance of building relationships on all sides of the conflict.”

  43. Diane Conti-Tuncay says:

    Today’s Zaman News National

    Countdown begins for Gaza aid ships in spite of Israel

    The İHH recently purchased a passenger ship, and it will be filled with medical equipment, medicine and construction materials to be used to repair schools and hospitals in Palestine. With two weeks left until a convoy of international aid ships departs for Gaza, the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH) is completing its preparations and hopes to break a years-long Israeli embargo on the Gaza Strip.

    Today’s interactive toolbox

    The foundation is organizing a flotilla of eight ships, known as the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, which are set to depart for Gaza on May 23, its chairman, Bülent Yıldırım, noted. The İHH ships will be joined by 12 others that will set sail from a large number of countries including Venezuela, Malaysia, Germany, Italy, France, Greece and the United States.
    The İHH’s role in the aid ship project was first announced last month with the motto, “Palestine is our destination, humanitarian aid is our load.” “We want this embargo to end. We broke it with an aid convoy [to Palestine] in December of last year. The aid ship project has carried the embargo back to the world’s attention,” Yıldırım remarked.

    The foundation recently purchased a passenger ship from İstanbul Seabuses and Fast Ferries Inc. (İDO) to take a delegation of around 500 people to Gaza. .

    “Palestine is faced with an inhumane embargo that lacks any legal basis. Civil society organizations should take the initiative to break this unjust embargo,” Yıldırım added.

    The Turkish ships will be filled with medical equipment, medicine and construction materials to be used to repair schools and hospitals in Palestine. Such repair has symbolic meaning for the country because Israel does not allow any construction materials to be brought in to Gaza, fearing they could be misused.

    The İHH’s aid ship project is also backed by the Free Gaza Movement (FG), a human rights group that in August 2008 sent the first international boats to land in the Port of Gaza in 41 years. The movement called on the international community to support peaceful efforts for humanitarian relief activities for Gaza in a message on its website that reads: “We want to raise international awareness about the prison-like closure of the Gaza Strip and pressure the international community to review its sanctions policy and end its support for continued Israeli occupation.”

    The Freedom Flotilla Coalition comprises the FG, the İHH, the European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza (ECESG), Ship to Gaza Greece, Ship to Gaza Sweden and the International Committee to Lift the Siege on Gaza.

    The coalition plans to carry 5,000 tons of construction materials, school supplies and medical equipment, as well as hundreds of passengers from over 40 countries.

    İHH worried about West Bank representative detained in Israel

    The İHH’s West Bank representative, İzzet Şahin, was detained by Israeli security forces on April 27 as he was passing through a checkpoint in Bethlehem. Şahin has been in custody since then without any charges filed against him, and Israeli officials have announced that the representative will remain in custody for another week.

    Şahin’s detention sparked concern among İHH officials, who are worried about his health. According to the foundation, the detention may be retaliation against the İHH project to send aid ships to Gaza.

    Şahin was transferred to Ashkelon Prison following his stay in an Israel Security Agency (ISA) detention center. Nobody has heard from him since the day he was arrested. Israeli officials have given no reason for the detention of Şahin, who has been studying Hebrew at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

    “Şahin arrived in the West Bank on Nov. 28 for a number of foundation-related activities in the region, such as the monitoring of aid projects there. However, he was detained on April 27 by Israeli forces as he was passing through a checkpoint. He appeared before a court on May 6. The court decided to extend his detention period for another week. The İHH is engaged in all efforts to bring an end to his detention and bad treatment,” an İHH official said.

    The foundation is worried that Israel will try to prevent the aid ships from delivering humanitarian aid to Gazans. It is, however, committed to breaking the embargo on Palestinians despite any preventive attempt from Israel or Egypt.

    The İHH was part of a convoy of around 250 trucks carrying European, Turkish and Arab aid that hoped to enter the Gaza Strip on Dec. 27, 2009 — the first anniversary of the start of a 22-day Israeli siege that left nearly 1,500 Palestinians dead and another 5,000 injured. However, the convoy faced bureaucratic obstacles from Egyptian authorities, which refused to allow the convoy to deliver the aid, both food and medical supplies, to Gaza via Egypt. The convoy was finally allowed to enter the Gaza Strip in early January.

  44. Mary Hughes-Thompson says:

    Did I ever tell you how much I admired you for your work in Gaza during the massacre? Friends in Gaza told me you were everywhere, helping get injured and dying people past Israeli tanks and to hospitals. And Eva — I can’t believe she is still there. You and the others are more than amazing; you take my breath away with your courage and commitment. I wish we could be shipmates again when the flotilla sails later this month. The important thing is that the people of Gaza know they are loved and that the world will not sit by quietly as Israel continues to dehumanize and terrorize them. Peace and blessings.

    • talestotell says:

      Mary, what a lovely message…I miss you! But you know perfectly well you would have been doing just the same. And it’s you folks that have kept FreeGaza going that take *my* breath away – and yes, Eva too, who I suspect has decided not to leave Gaza until Palestine is free, and Vik, who may not leave even then. I soooo wish I was sailing. Thank you for returning to my friends, our friends. Much love and respect.

  45. Hi,

    I just wanted to let you and your audience know about an event that I think you’ll really be interested in. On 21st September Intelligence Squared is hosting a live debate entitled “The Middle East peace process is a charade” in London. Speakers inlude Martin Indyk, Mustafa Barghouthi, Shlomo Ben-Ami and Manuel Hassassain. For info and tickets go to: http://www.intelligencesquared.com/events/the-middle-east-peace-process-is-a-charade

  46. Nikos says:

    Hi Leyla!

    I love your blog and I would love to read your book. Nice to meet you the other day. Hugs Nikos

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