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Fadi Andrawos – Falasteen W Lebnan : aid contingents reach Gaza

As George Galloway’s 300 strong Viva Palestina aid contingent waits at the Rafah crossing to enter Gaza, celebrated author Alice Walker is already there.

The visitors include Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker and about 60 other people who arrived over the weekend to celebrate International Women’s Day and see for themselves what life is like for Palestinians after Israel’s devastating 22-day offensive.

The group visited women’s centres and organizations across the Gaza Strip yesterday, handing out about 2,000 aid baskets. They listened to the stories of the women, some of whose children were killed in the war. Over the next few days they will visit refugee camps and neighbourhoods levelled by Israeli shells and artillery.

“This is not a gimmick; it’s a strategy,” Kim Elliott, Toronto publisher of the independent news website http://www.rabble.ca, said in a phone interview from her hotel in Gaza City. “It’s for [us] to see what it’s really like and make the personal connection and go back to [our] homes to talk about it.”

“All great changes come from minorities,” Alice Walker insisted during a phone interview from the home of a Palestinian family where she was being hosted.

“In fact, they usually come from two to three people – especially if they are writers,” said Ms. Walker, best known for her novel The Color Purple. She said she danced, sang and ate and listened to the women and that she saw “a lot of sadness on the faces of the children.”

The visitors not only had to take a bus for hours from Cairo across the Sinai Desert, they were required to pay their embassies to write letters declaring that they assumed sole responsibility for their lives upon entering the Gaza Strip.

“It cost $130!” said Ehab Lotayef, a 50-year-old Montreal engineer who was able to enter Gaza with the assistance of the U.S. women’s peace group Code Pink, which organized the delegation.

“I think they didn’t want a bunch of women with big banners camping out at the border crossing,” said Sandra Ruch, 52, a Torontonian and program co-ordinator for Women’s Coalition for Peace in Israel and Independent Jewish Voices in Canada.

For 2009 International Women’s Day, we at the Fringe celebrate the dedication and intelligence of women throughout the world who resist apathy and make a difference.

Nepalese Music

Herda ramro Macha puchre – Folk songs released by Sur Sudha. The Himalayan lores.

Pravin from Russia disciple of great Bansuri master Harsh wardhan. Video made in Hari Krisna temple in Saint-Peterburg.

Thanks to @NewsFromNepal for these delectable musical vistas from my favourite magical country.

Happiness chemicals

Muso extraordinaire Darren Hanlon, bringing in 2009 on the Fringe!

Imagine there’s no heaven, I wonder if you can …

“A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.” – Nelson Mandela

Ghazza bombed againmilitary might against the occupied and oppressed in a blockaded prison camp, Israel getting away with murder for the past 60 years. As Shalom Rav says:

How on earth will squeezing the life out of Gaza, not to mention bombing the living hell out of it, ensure the safety of Israeli citizens?

We good liberal Jews are ready to protest oppression and human-rights abuse anywhere in the world, but are all too willing to give Israel a pass. It’s a fascinating double-standard, and one I understand all too well. I understand it because I’ve been just as responsible as anyone else for perpetrating it.

So no more rationalizations. What Israel has been doing to the people of Gaza is an outrage. It has has brought neither safety nor security to the people of Israel and it has wrought nothing but misery and tragedy upon the people of Gaza.

Jewish Voice for Peace pleads for an end to the insanity:

Jewish Voice for Peace joins millions around the world, including the 1,000 Israelis who protested in the streets of Tel Aviv this weekend, in condemning ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza. We call for an immediate end to attacks on all civilians, whether Palestinian or Israeli.

Israel’s slow strangulation of Gaza through blockade has caused widespread suffering to the 1.5 million people of Gaza due to lack of food, electricity, water treatment supplies and medical equipment. It is a violation of humanitarian law and has been widely condemned around the world.

In resisting these humiliations, Hamas resumed launching rockets and mortars from Gaza into southern Israel, directly targeting civilians, which is also a war crime. Over the years, these poorly made rockets have been responsible for the deaths of 15 Israelis since 2004.

Every country, Israel included, has the right and obligation to protect its citizens. The recent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza shows that diplomatic agreements are the best protection for civilian life.

Moreover, massive Israeli air strikes have proven an indiscriminate and brutal weapon. In just two days, the known death toll is close to 300, and the attacks are continuing. By targeting the infrastructure of a poor and densely populated area, Israel has ensured widespread civilian casualties among this already suffering and vulnerable population.

This massive destruction of Palestinian life will not protect the citizens of Israel. It is illegal and immoral and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. And it threatens to ignite the West Bank and add flames to the other fires burning in the Middle East and beyond for years to come.

The timing of this attack, during the waning days of a US administration that has undertaken a catastrophic policy toward the Middle East and during the run-up to an Israeli election, suggests an opportunistic agenda for short-term political gain at an immense cost in Palestinian lives. In the long run this policy will benefit no-one except those who always profit from war and exploitation. Only a just and lasting peace, achieved through a negotiated agreement, can provide both Palestinians and Israelis the security they want and deserve.

While the eve of destruction incorporating stock market crashes exhaled in the last panicky gasps of the print media is ever-present, over in the corner governments are getting busy with plans clamp down on our internet access as if our connections weren’t slow enough already. And now there’s shallow pontifications from UK “Culture” Secretaries … the pestilent, sanctimonious drive for control spreads fast.

The only thing worse than filthy web sites, are the filthy politicians who assure you that they are not launching their campaign to restrict free speech as a campaign to restrict free speech.

The Fringe is preparing a list of the best of the lists of whatever it was about 2008 that got you going. Meanwhile, we’re listening to our collection of live-streaming Darren Hanlon gems.