Yesterday I was privileged to be able to attend an event at Habibi restaurant in Coventry. The speakers were Paveen Yaqub, Ken O’Keefe and Doctor Izzeldin Abuelash. As a newbie to ‘the cause’, I was ignorant to who these people were, so I googled them. These three people were collectively the most important people of the moment to do with Palestine. Collectively the three speakers and hundred plus members of the audience, formed an energy so strong and positive it was vibrant.
The first speaker was Paveen, a slim, attractive woman, who came across as a warm, gentle person…..yet she is labeled a terrorist!
Paveen is a peace activist who was on the Mavi Marmara, a flotilla which tried to break the blockage of Gaza. It was seized and 9 people were killed, many more were wounded. These people peacefully tried to enter the country and were attacked. Paveen ended up in an Israeli prison, and as recent as last month was again jailed for 5 days out there whilst trying to attend the Flytilla that was organised. This wonderful, strong yet gentle woman fascinated me with her composure as she discussed things that no human being should have to endure. I wouldn’t be able to do justice to Paveen’s words, so you can hear them from her own mouth, but I will do a direct quote which really struck a chord with me.
“There is a very clear difference between Human Rights and Human Wrongs.”
Next came Ken O’Keefe, an amazing man with such presence! No-one could help being drawn to such an exuberant personality. He spoke with eloquence and passion. He was an ex-marine and also relinquished his American citizenship when he became disillusioned with the lies his government was feeding him (as all governments feed us!)
I was shocked to discover that Palestine is the most aid dependent nation on earth. 80% of people in Gaza are dependent on aid, and there are over 1.5 million people blockaded into Gaza! You may think “great, at least they are getting aid.” However, this is just making these peoples more dependent on those already quashing their freedom. Ken fully supports a Trade NOT Aid stance, where they need to relearn skills so make their own lives sustainable. At the moment this can’t happen, but Ken is setting wheels in motion to put this into practise…….watch this space!
He then told the plight of the Samouni family, an extended family of over 100, who were forced into a building by the IDF (Israel defence force) This building was subsequently attacked with mortars and 21 members of the family were killed. No-one was allowed out of the house and there was no help or aid for 2 days. Children had to live next to the dead bodies of their relatives for 2 days. Ken got us all to imagine as we were sitting there in the packed Bedouin tent, that happening to us as a collective family. Tears sprang to my eyes. This is about land????? How the hell is THIS about land????
This amazingly vibrant man has many many plans for Palestine and told us of a few. I for one want to be part of it, and we can all hopefully make history and change lives for the better.
Next was the Doctor. This Nobel peace prize nominee, was one of the most humble people I have ever met. He was the first Palestinian doctor to be employed in an Israeli hospital. He was a well respected man in his work. On the 16th of January 2009….yes 2009!!!! His house was bombed and his three eldest daughters and niece were killed by Israeli bombs and shells. This happened 12 weeks after his wife had died from Leukemia. Yet, this softly spoken man isn’t ripped apart by hate, because if he hated they have won. In his words, “The Antidote to hate is success.” In honour of his daughters, Bessan, Mayar and Aya and his niece Noor, he has started a foundation educating girls and young women funding their educations.
He read a poem written by an Israeli woman about his daughter Bessam. I swear there was not a dry eye in the place, and I am in tears again as I am writing this, remembering his emotion whilst reading it and talking about the loss of his family. How can this be about land??
Dr. Abuelaish has written a book about his story called I Shall Not Hate. I will now cherish my signed copy, and look forward to reading it albeit with a heavy heart.
We were served superb food and then the floor was opened up for questions, and many there were……we started the event at 11am, I left at 4.30pm. Where on earth had the time gone? I had been so mesmerized and captivated by these incredible people, as had the hundred or so other people who had turned up for the event…..collectively, the positive energy in the room, MUST have shifted something!
I walked home feeling very inspired. However, as soon as I was in my house and had sat down I wept. I wept for those who had lost their lives, those who are still existing….and they are just about existing, I can’t call it living. Most of all I probably wept for humanity. How can we sit back and let this happen? How can we allow the murder and destruction of people and places, all in the name of a land? My heart feel heavy with the pain and the suffering happening to another human being. How can this be? Individually, none of us can change the world, however, just knowing a little bit about what is happening will enlighten you. I was happily ignorant to all of this, even when I booked my trip. As I said this blog is as much about my journey before I go, as it is when I am there. I am not going to change the world, but I may just make a little difference in someones life. If I can put a smile on someones face and feel the warmth of their hearts, then that will be enough for me. I feel enlightened, I hope I have enlightened some of you to make a difference too.