My friend M, a journalist and human rights activist from Gaza, came to a conference in February of this year that I helped organize, entitled "Gaza-Sderot: Moving from Crisis to Sustainability." This conference, which called for exploring sustainable solutions to our impossible violent reality, was hosted by the Sapir College. This conference was the joint effort of organizations/institutes that do a lot of good and important work for peace and social justice: Other Voice, The Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development, Kollot baNegev, The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, and the Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy
M spoke at the opening ceremony, and over the three days he spoke to many of the 300 people - Israelis, Palestinians and internationals - who attended the conference. He was also interviewed by the Israeli press. VERY unfortunately, after he gave an interview to a major internet media source, they acted in a very irresponsible manner and ran a headline, stating, that according to M, the Hamas government could be toppled. (This is not what he said; he talked about the need to end the occupation and end the siege on Gaza, and about the lack of human rights, and his willingness and desire to speak to Israelis about this ...). This article reached the Palestinian press, causing this good man, and his family, great damage.
When M returned to Gaza after the conference, the Hamas police stopped him at the check- point and interrogated him. They continued to interrogate him many times, took away his documents, got him fired from his job, and openly threatened his life for being in touch with Israelis, for spending time in Israel, and for 'betraying' the Palestinian people.
His 'crime' was that he came to a peace conference in Israel, and talked to Israelis.
Life became impossible for M. He has been on the run, and finally managed to escape from Gaza. He had to leave his wife and children behind, since he has no documents, no job, no money... He is now trying desperately to get his family out, and to perhaps get to another country where he has has a chance to find a job, and regain life. He and his family have been caught in an impossible bind for nearly 8 months.
I 'speak' to M two to three times a day on Facebook. I usually feel that my words are empty, because they are just that, only words, and because all I can offer is moral support. I managed to raise a few donations from generous and kind-hearted people (many of them from my family). He managed to get these funds to his family in Gaza, who are in a desperate situation. But words and an occasional donation are only stop gap measures, certainly not long time solutions.
My friend from Gaza needs our help. If you - who are now reading these words - are able to help this dedicted peace and human rights activist - by sending a donation, I will make sure that this money gets to him. Any size donation is welcome.
If you have other concrete ideas about how to help my friend from Gaza, please let me know so that I can get these ideas to him as well.
This may not be the proper use of a blog; some of you may be uncomfortable with this request, and decide to stop reading. Some of you may be saying: "I don't read this to get hit up for money."
In spite of the uncomfortable position I have put you in, and in spite of the chance I take that this will be the last time you visit this blog, I hope that you will keep this blog on your reading list and even share the link with others. I also believe that those of you who can help, will do so.
We need to help M. He is a good man. He did nothing wrong. His family did nothing wrong. He is being punished for coming to Israel and speaking to Israelis.
If you can help, in any way, let me know, and I will make sure that your donations and/or your concrete ideas for help, reach my friend, who is in desperate need now for all of the support we can give.
He is a good man.