June 2009

If politics are said to be a game of chess, they are sometimes closer to one of those neverending winter Sunday nights game of Monopoly, when everyone’s running close to bankruptcy except for that one player who keeps banking the twenty thousand bills, and refuses to declare the game over because he is still buying hotels. There is a New York version of the Monopoly, and it has come to life.

no, Im not kidding, he REALLY looks like that.

no, I'm not kidding, he REALLY looks like that.

Tom Golisano is a billionnaire, meaning he is a thousand times richer than a millionaire, living in New York, which Senate has recently tried to pass the “billionnaire’s bill” – a decree raising the billionnaire tax by a mere 2% in order to cover recent governmental expenses. Tom Golisano wasn’t very pleased. Those 2% were apparently enough for him to lose his quick billionaire temper. Tom Golisano and his billion of dollars have left the democrat building and thrown their billionaire support behind the Republicans. Tom Golisano stormed off like the diva that he is, moved to Naples, FL in his billionaire sea front mansion. In the meantime, Republicans took over the New York Senate.

Although a billion dollars do not necessarily speak to my heavily indebted self, I know that Tom Golisano might have not even noticed this slightly smaller dent in his stellar earnings. I may not know exactly what those 2% might have rewarded the glorious State of New York, but I know that governmental expenses cover services that are in dire need of financial support. Tom Golisano withdrew necessities from firemen, policemen, nurses, health care buses, etc. Tom Golisano, whilst closing the door behind him on New York, gave the proverbial finger to a non-negligeable number of New Yorkers who, unlike him, have never seen a paycheck with more than four numbers before the comma. After a certain amount, money is just paper, meaningless and fruitless, numbers on your speculative screen. Under a certain amount, money is more than wages, it becomes food on your plate and a roof over your head. Tom Golisano is not just another selfish billionaire. He’s an ungrateful, obnoxious and self-absorbed little prick.

Now, Tom Golisano‘s weight in the New York Senate is just as frightening as his disgusting refusal to throw more pennies at his home state. Where does the democracy lies in a representative board that just switches over anytime a billionaire decides to throw a fit? New York Democrats fell into Golisano‘s black books; the Senate immediately switches, without any input from the people of the state of New York, without any popular mandate, without any consultation. The difference between Tom Golisano and New Yorkers is obvious though: most of New York State residents don’t necessarily have a secondary residence by the Atlantic Ocean to retreat to when things fail to go their way.  Let’s see it from a different perspective: New York residents could be upset at Tom Golisano for refusing to give away 2% of his unfathomable dividends to public services, but sadly, New York residents are not in a position to slam the door in his face, telling him to go sulk outside and leave without dessert. The world has officially gone backwards.

At the end of the day, what it comes down to is that not only it is easy to evade your duty as a citizen to pay taxes – and more than a duty, it is a responsibility you owe your state and country – but it can be easily forgotten about since it no longer provokes ire and outrage in the very people you are depriving of the most necessary protection the state is supposed to be providing them. Tom Golisano has enough power, I mean, money to decide who, where, what and when citizens of New York will be able to be protected from assault, arson, be treated in the ER, or receive their administrative forms. Tom Golisano‘s Monopoly money bought him an entire state. Go him.


I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow.  Maybe they will turn violent.  Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed.  I’m listening to all my favorite music.  I even want to dance to a few songs.  I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows.  Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow! There are a few great movie scenes that I also have to see.  I should drop by the library, too.  It’s worth to read the poems of Forough and Shamloo again.  All family pictures have to be reviewed, too.  I have to call my friends as well to say goodbye.  All I have are two bookshelves which I told my family who should receive them.  I’m two units away from getting my bachelors degree but who cares about that.  My mind is very chaotic.  I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure.  So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them.  So they know that our ancestors surrendered to Arabs and Mongols but did not surrender to despotism.  This note is dedicated to tomorrow’s children…

These words are from a courageous Iranian blogger, struggling against Ahmadinejad’s willingness to shut down internet access to rebels; defying the very rationality that is supposedly an inherent ingredient to political, social and human apathy; challenging his very life by fighting for the only life is worth living for: freedom.

UN Resolution 1540, pertaining to the rights of colonial people – and technically not applicable to Iran’s case – is however universal in its call for independance, uncompromising freedom and as a hidden, half-secretive call for rebellion: All peoples have the right to Self-Determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. any have called international law and the subsequent humanitarian and human rights legal branches utopist, ideological, and completely unpragmatic. What is happening in Iran right now is proving that whenever a population is vehemently, violently and obnoxiously denied their rights of expression, they rebel, and would fight with all their might to prove that they exist, that they deserve to exist, that their voices deserve to be heard. If you are, by any sort of complex and cynical stretch of the soul, unconvinced that revolutions can reach their goals, keep in mind that the goal is not necessary the focal point of a revolution. The point is to revolt.

is it safe to ignore that many peoples plight?

is it safe to ignore that many people's plight?

Revolutions are bloody. They are also often unplanned, chaotic, and often become historically embellished over the years, depending on which side have won over the flesh and limbs of the nation to form the government forcing it to return to relative peace. Revolutions are progressive. They are driven by a force that goes way beyond national interest, and appeals to the very core of a population that had often been divided and isolated in the past. Revolutions are collective, they call to the heart of empathy, of community, and of solidarity. They’re a fantastic means of social upheaval. Iran is revolting because they believe their votes have been hijacked, and that the election has been stolen away from them. They believe Ahmadinejad is attempting a coup to stay in power despite a relatively democratic regime, and they want him to leave. All they want are for their votes to be counted.

In the meantime, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is flaunting his racist rhetoric, anti-semitic speeches and bragging about his hatred for the western world. Giving Samuel Huntington a little more than he’s asked for, he’s build nuclear weapons faster than India even did, once again showboating to the greatest dismay of the United States, unnerved, afraid and aggravated by such a mental, unstable presence a little too close from the hot spot that is Palestine. Ahmadinejad has been running towards a war with the United States in the last few years, begging for it, calling for it, praying for it, hoping that a strike from the long-standing ignorant and revengeful enemy will give him the legitimacy he’s always waited for. Unable to bring his country back into the light it once was for its surroundings, Ahmadinejad chose the path of the religious crusade to the Ayatollah’s greatest delight. Now that a more moderate candidate is claiming victory, Ahmadinejad sees his martyrdom dream vanish in front of his eyes.

But that’s not what matters here. What matters is the spontaneous, willing, and sudden outburst of a young, motivated, and fearless population, claiming the core values of democracy, marching for the respect of their human rights, and re-establishing what we in the western world had taken for granted, then entirely forgotten about: by the people, for the people, and for this precise reason, people are killed. People are being targeted by a governmental police for being patriotic. They’re being dragged away and beaten to the pulp for having a political conscience. Their legitimate electoral winner has been placed on house arrest for simply defying the leader of the coup. Now, shamelessly, in front of the whole wide world to watch, in front of our bewildered eyes, murder is taking place for one simple ideal: freedom.

Ahmadinejad wanted a war. It may not be the one he had been longing for, but he’s got one. Civil wars are shameful and their long-lasting effects are devastating. The outcome is not known yet, but here’s the bottom line: anyone marching in the streets of Tehran with a piece of green fabric tied around their arms knows what they’re here for. And we shall take lessons from them.

Be informed: Twitter #iranelections,  ontd_political Iran Elections Watch. Also keep in mind that Iranis are being refused Internet access: bloggers and twitters can be arrested for giving out info to the rest of the world. Find more about how to become a proxy server for the Iranis (thanks to mr_spivens)

We westerners have been so patronizing and condescending towards Middleeastern countries in the last few decades we had almost forgotten that they, like us, uphold the long-standing tradition of regular scheduling of people-sponsored freedom: democratic elections. The meaning of democracy and the extent to which it is applied varies from nation to nation, but the principle remains the same: the population decides who they trust enough to become their leaders, from a list of potential candidates supposedly representing various sides of the ideological spectrum. Whichever candidate gets the most votes win. It’s simple, it’s easy, it’s worked since the dawn of times in the countries politically secure enough to implement the process, and generally guarantees relative social satisfaction. Unless, of course, the result is not good enough for some, and is hi-jacked.

Hi-jacking election results is a concept probably born at the same time as elections themselves, since leading elites generally mistrust the people and its capacity to know what is best for the country. There is a general consensus among powers that be that the bewildered herd that we, little people, are, is hardly au fait of the struggles and nerve-wracking games of the political system and should therefore be left out of it. Should we be surprised that now that the United States are feeling confident enough to monitor Iran’s elections, the aftermath turns sour?

Tehran, shortly after the election results

Tehran, shortly after the election results

Iran has been the thorn in the United States Foreign Affairs’ side ever since its race to enriched uranium made it one of the most threatening nations in the Middle East, especially under the rule of Sarkozy-sized leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, conservative enough to earn Ayatollah Khomeini’s good graces, belligerent enough to infuriate the powers that be, powerful enough to make his threats a top priority in diplomatic relations. Alas, Iran hardly ever benefited from the sweet game of chess that international relations are, suffering from an embargo implemented under Reagan and only just relieved by President Obama, keen on trying new methods to rally Iran to the good cause of pretend democracy and political stability. Ahmadinejad, a fervent believer in the clash of civilizations, and staunch adversary to Israel, could care less of what Europeans and Americans think – his own agenda is pushing him closer and closer to severing any ties he’s had with the United Nations.

In that regard, Ahmadinejad was not the moderate, open-minded leader we us white privileged spin doctors had requested. Iran, proud of its revolutionary past, even more proud of its revolutionary and forward-thinking civilization, lifting their noses high at the ignorant calling them “arabs”, defied western culture, western beliefs, and more importantly, western imperialism. The problem lied in how they did it – by becoming a threat to security, a threat to human rights, and a threat to civil liberties. Ahmadinejad has perhaps more in common with the western world than he thinks. Election times coming, several candidates opposing the former president rose to the challenge, including Mossavi, a moderate, educated, politically-inclined former advisor. In Iran, every candidate must be validated by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeiny, whose preference for Ahmadinejad was hardly a secret.

From prohibiting the access to Facebook for fear of letting moderate candidates do some online canvassing, to coercing voters into picking the right candidate by bringing the army to voting booths, Iran did everything by the book to make this election illegitimate and completely unnecessary. There were times when former Presidents were too insecure about the results of forthcoming elections and would rather release a decree instauring them a lifelong position on top of the government. Ahmadinejad played the game, but tricked them, with the complicity of the Ayatollah, the police, but forgetting the most important key ingredient of all: popular support. Mind you, there is only so much oppression a population can take before the spark turns into fire, and Tehran is now facing another cultural and social revolution, of the utmost democratic kind.

In a world both fascinated and obsessed by the seemingly constant threat of terrorism, world leaders had forgotten the power of a popular uprising, and its undeniable capacity to overthrow governments. Too busy debating the alleged necessity of torture in pseudo-philosophical terms, and too self-absorbed to contemplate the decay of the social and economic fabric right underneath their soundproof windows, nothing but a brick could have awaken them to the harsh reality of revolution. Ahmadinejad claimed over 62% of the vote. The population – around 75 percent of the country’s 46.2 million eligible voters, according to MSNBC – heavily supported Mossavi, and wants to be heard. If the process of democracy is simple, so is the context surrounding the abrupt and obnoxious loss of democratic values: it becomes the most threatening incentive for violence. Hell hath no fury as a cheated people’s scorn.

If anyone believed that the sudden popular outburst would convince Ahmadinejad to back down, and the Council to investigate a possible fraud, they were deadly wrong, as Ahmadinejad’s first move as a reconducted president was to indulge into a vast array of several law enforcement decrees violating every liberty in the book, starting with putting his opponent under house arrest, raiding the offices of newspapers Green Word and Etemademelli, and arresting the head of the Islamic Iran Participation Front.  What will happen to the journalists caught in the descent is not yet known, but imaginations are running wild, and they have every right to do so: if it looks like a coup, smells like a coup, and sheds as much blood as a coup, chances are you are in the presence of an illegitimate, coercive, and liberticide government.

It is now Sunday evening, temperatures are rising all over Western Europe, and if you live in Iran, stay in hiding, we will shortly contact you… if we remember.

Erin Cunningham is a 25 years old journalism rising star currently living in Gaza City. She’s collaborated with us in the past, specifically providing insight into the Gazean lifestyle post-Israeli strike last February, giving us fantastic photographic evidence of the damage caused by a rogue foreign policy practised by Israel. She agreed to sit down with us in-between two power cuts to talk about her career, Middle Eastern politics, and the future of Palestine.

Formerly based in Cairo for the most part of 2008, Erin perfected her knowledge of Middle Eastern politics, arabic, and honed her writing skills by being one of the first journalists allowed to cross into the Gaza Strip from Egypt after the Israeli raids destroyed the city in January. Covering the aftermath for the Inter Press Service, Erin witnessed first-hand the disaster that had been created by  a policy based on fear, intolerance, and unconsciousness. Shortly after her coverage, she briefly returned to her native California, only to make a swift trip back to Gaza. “What I saw during those three days, and the unbelievable destruction afterward, changed me. It changed the way I thought about war, about life, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, about journalism and about finding greater meaning in my future work”, she explains. As for now, Erin is no longer a simple journalist, but chronicles the every day lives of a people she feels extraordinary compassion for. “I decided it was time to go back to Gaza to pursue not only what I felt would be meaningful and rewarding work for myself, but also a way of telling the story of Gazans that presents them not just as blood-thirsty suicide bombers, but as people. People who have dreams, who tell jokes, who love their children, love the sea, and whose spirits and lives are being crushed by this crippling economic siege — and now war. “

Now living in Gaza City like any other resident, Erin Cunningham is giving us a compelling glimpse of assieged life.

Erin, with neighbour Islam Shawhan

Erin, with neighbour Islam Shawhan

Semi-autonomous Collective: what are your actual living conditions, and what does it tell us about the siege Gaza City is currently under?

My living conditions are okay, but that doesn’t say much. Currently I’m living in the apartment of a friend who was forced to leave Gaza during the Hamas-Fatah clashes of 2007. It is a nice building, in a middle-class neighborhood, but power outages occur daily. They have become more frequent as of late, and I only have power for a few hours a day now. This means that I can’t heat water for baths (which I take out of a bucket because the water pressure is so low), and most of the food in my refrigerator goes bad. Of course, I have it better than most and remind myself of that every day.

Meat, fruits, vegetables and anything else not available in the food aid packets distributed by the UN are terribly expensive. They are not always available, depending mainly on the amount of livestock being smuggled in through the tunnels. “Supermarkets” are sparsley stocked, and don’t even think about variety. You’ll often find cans of tuna, beans, cooking oil and packets of salt and sugar. One thing Gazans have made sure gets in, however, is chocolate, and there is more chocolate in Gaza than anything else.

As far was water goes, the situation is pretty dire. The majority of Gaza’s water supplies are contaminated, mainly from the dumping of raw sewage into groundwater supplies as a result of dilapidated infrastructure, and are not safe to drink. Bottled water is expensive (3 shekels or $.75 for 1.5 liters), as is the installation of a water filter. Water treatment plants were damaged during the war, and it’s obvious given the size of the Gaza Strip (40 kilometers long and 10 kilometers wide) and the size of its population (1.5 million) that they are going to face major problems in the future in terms of not only securing safe sources of drinking water, but building the infrastructure to make it available.

Israel’s new Foreign Affairs Minister, Avgador Liebermann, said, during a recent trip in Europe,  that there was no way Israel would ever go back to its 1967 boundaries, and that in any case, it wouldn’t resolve the conflict; that East Jerusalem could never be Palestine’s capital city, “that it had always been, is, and will always be Israel’s true heart”. What do you think will happen to Gaza? Do you think it’ll eventually be wiped off the map or perhaps swallowed by new colons?

There’s already talk of the fact that Gaza may be Egypt’s “problem” once again, now that Israel has “disengaged” (meaning that while it evacuated settlements in Gaza, it retains control over the territory’s airspace, borders, and sea access) and effectively sealed its borders with the territory. Many are afraid that if the Palestinian factions reach a power-sharing agreement, and Egypt opens its only border crossing with Gaza at Rafah, that it will give an opportunity for Israel to wash its hands of Gaza once and for all while it increases settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The argument is they want Israel to continue to bear responsibility for Gaza, so that it keeps Gaza and the West Bank, also occupied by Israel, connected for any future Palestinian state.

If that were to happen, and Israel were to “wash its hands” of Gaza by creating facts on the ground, I think it would be devastating politically for the Palestinians. But I’ve talked to a handful of Palestinians here, even those in the Hamas-led government, that say if that did happen, it’s very unlikely Gazans would acquiese to become part of Egypt. Palestinians here seem much more fervent in their attachment to Palestine, and maintain the world’s highest birthrate. That spells trouble for both Egypt and Israel in the coming years, and as long as the idea of Palestine or at least a rump Palestinian state is kept alive, Gaza is unlikely to disappear into Egypt any time soon.

For most of the international community, the nightmare Gaza went through in January/February is over. You were recently telling me about airstrikes. How often do they occur, and what are their targets?

The airstrikes happen once or twice a week it seems, there’s no real pattern. They are obviously nowhere near the levels they were during the war nor are they as frequent or as deadly as they were even prior to the war, or last year at this time prior to the 6-month cease-fire.

What seems to be happening is the Israeli army and the armed Palestinian groups are doing tit-for-tat strikes. They both say they are reacting to the other, but in all it has been fairly calm. The majority of the bombing happens either at the border areas with Israel or on the tunnels. I believe it was two weeks ago when an F-16 bombed a blacksmith’s shop in Gaza City, probably the first of strike of its kind away from the border areas since the war.

Shelling from the sea is daily, however. Even inland (although Gaza is not that wide), you can hear Israeli warships firing on Palestinian fisherman. Rarely are people are killed, but it is a constant reminder that Gaza is under siege. It should be also noted that while air strikes don’t necessarily happen daily, that F16s do fly over the strip every day, and unmanned drones fly over the border areas 24 hours a day. You can imagine the damaging psychological impact it is having on the population.

The danger is and remains that the horror experienced by Gaza residents fall into the pit of oblivion, leaving a population of over a million deal with the increasing lack of food security, oppression and eventually displacement, if not complete disappearance, of what was once their home. Despite the constant insistence from the European Union and the slight shift in attitude showed by the Obama Administration, who is keen to insist on a double-state solution to the conflict, tiredness and reluctance from Israel to participate into any sort of peace process will eventually hinder the willingness to provide peace. Are we on the verge of settling for the worse instead of fighting for the best? Erin has no answer to the current state of affairs, but insists that everyone must keep in mind that the lives of millions of Palestinians do not reside in the hands of Hamas, but in those of a relentless international community committed to the respect of basic human rights. “It all of course depends on the continued will to create a Palestinian state among leaders in the international community. If Palestine isn’t created soon, and Gaza slowly becomes an appendage of Egypt, the international community may very well get fed up with the Palestinian cause later on and abandon it completely, no matter how many more Palestinians there are. A United Nations rapporteur on Gaza once said, ‘Gaza is a prison, and Israel threw away the key.'”

You can read more of Erin Cunningham’s works on Sift Through The Rubble @ Blogspot (with our friend and colleague Cassidy Flanagan), IPSnews.com and Associated Content.

As we are still mourning the sudden and violent death of Dr. Tiller in Wichita, KS last week, the condition of women and that of their protectors and defensors seem to be worsening in a worrying way. It is becoming increasingly hard for a woman to stand up and feel free in a western world supposedly at war against discrimination and intolerance, yet violations of basic human rights and the failure to recognize attacks as nothing more than a glitch in the span of space are hard to come by. Women appear to have been propulsed back into the corset of shame and guilt they were stuck into back at the beginning of the 20th century, so ice-cold and ucomfortable is the reception made for women who speak the truth and explain the complexities and hardships of their lives.

Sexual behaviour and the ensuing alleged moral dilemma surrounding abortion and contraception might take center stage in the United States, but elsewhere in the world, the trauma provoked by domestic violence is still a damaging and sometimes murdering taboo. In Korea, a young woman has recently lost her job and is facing public trial for being a victim of her husband’s violence. In 2004, Choi Jin Shil applied to be the representing model for Shinhan Engineering & Construction Co. Ltd. The contract was clear in its stipulation that Choi Jin Shil was to represent the company in a joyful, positive, and attracting way – she was to ensure the trust of potential customers. As a model, her image was to be clean-cut, family-friendly, and whatever troubles she might be going through at the time of the photoshoot were to disappear behind the face of a woman who would put her life in the hands of Shinhan Engineering & Construction Co. Until one day, make-up artists saw their limits.

Choin Jin Shil and her two children

Choin Jin Shil and her two children

Choi Jin Shil was a popular actress in Korea; and when her bruised and swollen face surfaced in the national papers, the result of her husband Jo Sung Min, it was obvious she could not, at least until her face healed, appeared “dignified” and “happy” as her contract with Shinhan wanted her to be. The company didn’t show support to its employee, it didn’t prove compassion, nor did it even try to use the opportunity to campaign against the horror of domestic violence; it chose, instead, to sue Choi Jin Shil for breach of contract. The contract asked for 500 million won (approx. $400,000) for eventual damages made to their image, but in that specific instances, given the severe aspect of the damage caused to Choi’s face, Shinhan sued for 3 billion won (about $2 million). No one ever considered, in this instances, that the damage Choi’s husband caused to her, her family, her professional credibility, her lifestyle and her mental well-being could be more than a series of zeroes. No one ever considered that Jo Sung Min could be the one responsible for the tarnished image of the company. Choi Jin Shil, as a woman, is not just entirely responsible for upholding contractual clauses, she is also responsible for the violence she is a victim of, and must pay the price for other people’s crimes. She is a woman after all.

In the early weeks of October 2008, this burden finally ended when Choi Jin Shil committed suicide. This wasn’t enough for Shinhan Construction, since nine months after her death, they finally won their case at the Korean Supreme Court, which ruling gives us women folk fantastic food for thought: “We use this model so that their image will attract customers. The model’s failure to maintain a decent image is a breach of contract.” The obligation to appear delightful and delighted was not respected, and the causes of the change were never addressed. Whatever happened in the Jin Shil household is not supposed to affect Shinhan Construction in the slightest. I guess her death can also be considered a breach of contract, considering she can no longer appear at all to represent the company. Someone should perhaps sue the undertaker for daring burying her six feet under before the contract even came to its rational and legal end.

Amidst the ugly custody battle surrounding Choi Jin Shil’s two children and the disgusting amount of money requested to compensate for her husband’s inhumane mediocrity, lies the ideal of a woman trying to concile professional success and personal happiness, a woman believing in its own freedom, be it contractual, legal, or emotional. At the core of this Supreme Court ruling lies the fundamental respect that is due to any victim of a misdemeanour, felony, or crime; the basic compassion that must be felt towards anyone whose lives has been altered in a violent and arbitrary way, and who should therefore be protected by the law. On top of the nightmare endured by Choi Jin Shil’s family, who recently lost their daughter, sister and mother, lies the question of whether a woman is allowed to ever even just aspire to a decent standard of living, free from fear, free from bloodshed, free from male domination, and free from oppression. Domestic violence is not a question of intimacy or personal boundaries. Domestic violence is a crime that must be reported and legally condemned – but not because the victim failed to appear “dignified” and “happy” about it.

They say music soothes the most savage beast, but when it comes to the West Bank, most people are at a loss when it comes to figure out what could end the bloodshed and start an eventual process of co-existence. As often in those instances, the most peculiar ideas bring the most happiness, and it is in Gaza City that several rotating music teachers have found their most dedicated students – assieged children and teenagers seeking refuge from Israeli bombshells in Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.

from the Episcopal Vocational Training Center in Ramallah

from the Episcopal Vocational Training Center in Ramallah

Classical music is certainly not part of their traditional heritage, but it is through their timeless and flawless melodies that aspiring violinists and solo flutists manage to extend their imagination beyond the wall separating them from Israel and from the rest of the world. Living in decaying and destroyed villages next to colonies, or even in refugee camps, the sound of string quartets have started to emerge from the burning ashes of Ramallah or in Gaza City, still recovering from the 22-day war with Israel in January. Reanimating a resemblance of a cultural life might seem superificial when basic needs are not met and the threat of violence is a daily concern, but in the current climate, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still refuses to address the possibility of a Palestinian state despite American and European pressure, attending to one’s musical ambitions is a hope for normality, a call to resistance under the crushing asphyxia. Speaking to the International Herald Tribune, George Diek, an oboe teacher in Bethleem, explains the motivation: “Deep inside, it is to demonstrate that we are alive, that we deserve to be alive and have our own culture.”

Because everything somehow has to be manipulated and instrumentalized, a concert honoring the memory of Holocaust victims was swiftly banned by the Palestinian authorities – under Hamas’  iron fist – under the pretext it “served enemy’s interests”. The very idea of compassion not knowing any borders, legal or imaginary, never crossed the collective minds of respective governments basking in the lights of their mutual ignorance of each other’s lives, histories, customs and practices, even those they might have in common. That attempt at creating a little island of humanity and tolerance within the core of a seemingly endless war might have been aborted, but this will hardly stop music schools from burgeoning all over the West Bank. Wafaa Younis, one of the music teachers behind the project, also in the difficult position of being an Israeli Arab, choose to overlook the decision.  A music festival will also take place in Jerusalem later this month, and a Baroque festival was set up in December.

The Barenboim-Said Foundation, created by Daniel Barenboim (an Israeli conductor and pianist) in collaboration with Edward Said, the late Palestinian historian, is one of the major actors in the setting up of music schools and the possibility for gifted Palestinian children to win scholarships to study abroad. The Foundation itself is a proof that Israelis and Palestinians can indeed not simply coexist, but work together to create something that is of a benefit to both population, in an educative, non-violent and socially progressive way. For now, music schools will have to settle with providing students with an escape, a flowering imagination, and the dream of better, wider landscapes in which death is not a constant and regular guest at the dinner table. Which is already way more than anyone ever gave to Gaza City.