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Letter From Gaza: Barbara Lubin

** Please see important update from MECA below about unconfirmed reports and our editorial note **

An eyewitness account of the horrors of the aftermath from Barbara Lubin of the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) by email:

I entered the Gaza Strip on Wednesday night with my friend and fellow activist Sharon Wallace after waiting ten hours at the Egypt/Gaza. The destruction and trauma is even greater than I expected.

In just two short days I met with families who were given minutes to evacuate their homes and are now living in overcrowded UN schools; I saw the ruins of bombed greenhouses; I looked out the window at fields and roads torn up by the tread of Israeli tanks; and I visited two universities where MECA supports students with scholarships-severely damaged by Israeli bombs.

Out of all the devastation I have seen so far, there is one story in particular that I think the world needs to hear. I met a mother who was at home with her ten children when Israeli soldiers entered the house. The soldiers told her she had to choose five of her children to “give as a gift to Israel.” As she screamed in horror they repeated the demand and told her she could choose or they would choose for her. Then these soldiers murdered five of her children in front of her. The concept of “Jewish morality” is truly dead. We can be fascists, terrorists, and Nazis just like everybody else.

I spent the first morning visiting Rafah then drove north to Nuseirat Refugee Camp where our partner organization Afaq Jadeeda Association is buying food a delivering cooked meal to displaced families with funds MECA provided. Then to Gaza City.

Today I visited Jabaliya Refugee Camp and the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City, two of the areas hardest hit by Israel’s brutal attacks. Pharmacies, schools, and homes were indiscriminately hit in Jabaliya. Mohammed, one of our volunteers in Gaza, and his family were forced to evacuate their home because of intense bombing in their area.

In Zaytoun, I saw families gathering wood from charred trees. The almost two-year blockade of Gaza has deprived people of cooking gas, so these terrified families build fires to keep warm and cook the little food they can get.

I talked to people on the street who told stories of wild dogs coming to eat their dead neighbors, relatives bleeding to death because Israel would not allow emergency workers into the area, and Israeli soldiers entering homes to beat and kill.

But despite the immense mourning and devastation, people are starting to put their lives back together. Sabreen, a young woman from Rafah, told me, “We are a strong people. No matter how many times Israel bombs us we are not leaving. We will keep trying to live as normal a life as possible.”


Barbara Lubin
Gaza City

This update was issued and MECA and Barbara Lubin have asked that it be circulated with the letter.

Unconfirmed: Gaza Children Murdered by Israeli Soldier in Front of Mother

Barbara Lubin and all of us at the Middle East Children’s Alliance believe that we should have confirmed the story about the Gaza woman who was told by an Israeli soldier to choose which five of her ten children should die, and then witnessed their murder. We are doing everything we can now to verify the story, but have been unable to do so. We ask that you do not publish or post this story on the Internet. If you have already done so, please post this statement, as well.

Barbara Lubin went to Gaza to deliver four tons of medicine and other aid to the people there. When she arrived in the immediate aftermath of the Israeli assault the scene she encountered was chaotic and the people traumatized. She heard and retold many horrifying accounts, and saw for herself the devastation to homes, schools, businesses, land and lives.

In these catastrophic circumstances, it’s not difficult to see how Barbara would find this story credible. Unfortunately, we sent it out before taking the time to verify it.

We know that several hundred children lost their lives in the assault, and that some appear to have been shot at close range. There are reports of family members being shot in front of each other. Israeli forces entered Gaza homes and apparently used people as human shields. Israel is now being investigated for using unconventional weapons like white phosphorous and dense inert metal explosive (DIME). (See links below.)

All of us at MECA are committed to accuracy as we relate the stories of what we see when we travel to Palestine. We will keep you informed about what we learn.

Deborah Agre
Middle East Children’s Alliance
1101 Eighth Street, Suite 100
Berkeley, CA 94710
ph: (510) 548-0542
fx: (510) 548-0543



From P U L S E Editors:

We have been written by a couple of people requesting that we consider removing Barbara Lubin’s letter because the most controversial anecdote it contains (horrifying ‘Sophie’s choice’-style allegation of a Gaza mother having to choose five children) is unverified. One Israeli academic acknowledged we had posted the follow-up but questioned how ethical it was to have the letter published while the story about the five children was still pending verification.

We have considered this carefully and thought it best to preserve the post as part of the documentary record. While this particular incident is as yet unverified and we too are committed to accuracy, we have clearly published the caveat and qualification. More importantly, and beyond the verification of this single claim, we do know that atrocities like this have indeed happened, and they have been verified; other corroborated accounts or those under investigation include civilians with white flags being shot, the deliberate targeting of Gazan civilians, whole villages ‘wiped’ and parents executed in front of their children, and vice versa, and israeli use of Gazan human shields, for which independent organisations say the evidence is either established or strongly compelling. All this is not even to mention other known war-crimes that include illegal use of weapons.

As editors we also note that other blogs and sites have given publication of this letter due consideration, and have reached similar conclusions about not removing it, but allowing it to be scrutinised and discussed. At Mondoweiss, for example, Philip Weiss has included the letter while acknowledging the nature of anecdotal reporting, and has also included this note from Jeff Blankfort, which we reproduce the beginning of here. — Eds.

I have known Barbara Lubin for more than 25 years and she is a hero of our times, working tirelessly in behalf of the children of Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq while fending off vicious barbs from Berkeley’s smug pro-Israel community. She knows truth from fiction and she doesn’t make up stories, nor do the Palestinian mothers whose treatment at the hands of Israel’s sadist military have been reported over the years in Israel’s Hebrew press, and were available in English through the late Dr. Israel Shahak’s translations.

I have my own stories of Israeli sadism to tell … READ REST

UPDATE TWO: A massacre did happen, though not the one as originally outlined during the current assault by Lubin who has offered this to correct her account.

Excerpted from a letter to Barbara Lubin from Talal Abushawish

It’s not so far from from what you reported because the victims are the same…the story happened in Bourij Camp in the middle of the Gaza Strip.  The Israelis called the woman, Manal Albatran, and told her that they wouldn’t kill her or her husband Hussein Albatran, instead they would make them die of sadness because they would kill her children.  The next day they shot her house with a rocket killing her and 5 of her children.

The dead:
Manal Albatran  30 years old
Walaa Albatran 12 years old
Islam Albatran 11 years old
Belal Albatran 10 years old
Ezz Albatran 8 years old
Ehsan Albatran 7 years old

The father who is an employee at an UNRWA school and the youngest child were saved. This is the real story and I hope the amount of victims will convince others to believe the crimes we face.  Thanks a lot for your appreciated visit and I hope to see you again soon.
Talal Abushawish

9 comments on “Letter From Gaza: Barbara Lubin

  1. naftali
    26 January, 2009

    This is an outright lie. I am sure that this did not happen.

    Out of all the devastation I have seen so far, there is one story in
    particular that I think the world needs to hear. I met a mother who
    was at home with her ten children when Israeli soldiers entered the
    house. The soldiers told her she had to choose five of her children
    to “give as a gift to Israel.” As she screamed in horror they
    repeated the demand and told her she could choose or they would
    choose for her. Then these soldiers murdered five of her children in
    front of her. The concept of “Jewish morality” is truly dead. We can
    be fascists, terrorists, and Nazis just like everybody else.

  2. Finebeer
    27 January, 2009

    You’re “sure” this did not happen, are you? And you were there, like our correspondent? And you probably believe in the complete fiction of Israeli “purity of arms”? The established and documented facts, detailing targeting of civilians, the use of illegal weapons and Israeli brutality, child-killing and mass murder, are against you.

  3. Finebeer
    27 January, 2009

    Or how about this corroborated incident, among many others:

    Abed Rabu’s daughter Suwad died in Gaza on January 7, the day Israeli tanks churned across the strawberry fields and knocked their way into a little park about 20 yards from her house. Residents of Jebel al-Kashif recall being warned by the Israelis, through loudspeakers, to evacuate their homes.

    Abed Rabu says he herded his wife, his mother and three young daughters, Amal,2, Samar,4, and Suwad to the door, and gave the children a white flag to wave. “Two Israel soldiers were beside their tank, eating chocolate and potato chips,” he recounts, waving empty wrappers bearing Hebrew writing that he found later in the rubble. “It was like a picnic for them.”

    Then, according to Abed Rabu — whose account is backed up by his wife, Kauthar, and two neighbors — a third Israeli soldier popped out of the tank with an M-16 rifle and fired. “I didn’t understand what happened,” says Abed Rabu. “I thought he was firing in the air, and then I looked down and saw my two-year old daughter lying there with her insides spilling out.”

    “I started screaming ‘Why are you doing this?’ And then the soldier shot my two other girls. My wife fainted. And when my mother tried to drag Suwad inside the house, the soldier shot my mother in the chest, her shoulder and her leg.”

    Monsters. Child-killers. Worse than nazis: zionazis.

    Interviews with other neighbors and eyewitnesses corroborated the Abed Rabus’ account of the deaths, and certainly their grief and anger appear genuine. Two of the daughters died of bullet wounds, doctors say, while the third, Samar, was evacuated through Egypt and airlifted to a Belgian hospital, where she lies paralyzed. Interviews with other neighbors and eyewitnesses corroborated the Abed Rabus’ account of the deaths.

    After the shooting, Abed Rabu says he dragged his wounded children and mother into the doorway, and shouted for help. “I could see an ambulance nearby,” he says. The ambulance driver Samiyeh al-Sheikh told TIME that he heard shots and screams coming from Abed Rabu’s house. “But when I tried to go towards them, the Israeli soldiers beat me up. Then, with a bulldozer, the soldiers backed the ambulance against my house and crushed it.” The twisted wreckage of the ambulance, partially buried under a house, was visible when reporters arrived several days later.

    Inside his house, Abed Rabu, moved his injured family under the staircase for protection. Frantically, he began phoning the Red Crescent, friends with cars, anyone who might help him reach help a hospital. His two-year-old daughter, shot in the stomach, was demanding water. “I wet her lips with my finger. It was all I could do,” says the mother Kauthar, “This was like an official execution of my children.”

    For two hours, Abed Rabu says he was unable to summon help or move from the house. He says he pleaded with the soldiers to let him leave with his injured family but they refused. Finally, his aged father picked up Samar in his arms and stood in the doorway. He said, “I’m willing to risk my life to take her to the hospital.” This time, Abed Rabu says the soldiers allowed them out. He and nine other family members followed, carrying the two other wounded children and their grandmother. “I couldn’t tell if Suwad and Amal were still breathing, but there was still a chance they might be alive,” says Abed Rabu. “As we walked up the road, the soldiers shot at the dirt around our feet.”

    Then, he claims, a neighbor named Adnan with a donkey cart came to their rescue. “But when he got off the cart to help us, he was shot and killed by the Israelis. They killed his donkey, too,” claims Abed Rabu. “I carried my daughters over a mile, but by the time we reached the hospital, Amal and Suwad were were dead,” he says.

    Genocidal murderers.

  4. Theodore H. Friedgut
    29 January, 2009

    Dear Pulse editors: You publish the story of Khaled Abdu Rabu’s children being killed by an Israeli soldier at close range, calling it a “corroborated” item. The Mezan Human Rights Center, a Gaza organization which I imagine you would accept as having some weight, ascribes the children’s death to artillery fire-quite a different situation. I append the Mezan report as it appears on their web site. “1. North Gaza District: At approximately 11:45am yesterday, Wednesday, 7 January 2009, IOF fired artillery shells at the Ezbet Abed-Rabu eastern Jabaliya, destroying the house and killing three child sisters. They were identified as:
    Three-year-old Amal Khalid Abed-Rabu;
    Four-year-old Samar Khalid Abed-Rabu; and
    Seven-year-old Suad Khalid Abed-Rabu.” The children are dead, and that is horrible, but perhaps the difference in the two reports has some significance and whoever wants to speak truly should not ignore this..

  5. peoplesgeography
    29 January, 2009

    Thank you for your comment. The Abdu Rabu case was listed amongst several examples, in which the qualification “or under investigation” has been added. The difference in the two accounts between Time magazine and the Al-Mezan press release is noted in this particular case; whether by shooting or by Israeli shell fire, as you say they are still dead.

    We’d also add, on our decision to keep Lubin’s original letter, that it is far more prudent, given its reproduction elsewhere on the web as a stand-alone letter, that the follow-up caveat be read alongside it. Our site stats show several visitors have come upon it on a web search, and it would maximise the chances that the follow-up is read in conjunction with the original letter.

  6. saa
    31 January, 2009

    It unfortunate that Gaza Isreal has become the 21st century Nazi. How can you justify compound punishment in this day and age. I can swear that Israel has not killed more that 19Hamas they claim to be fighting.

    Thank God His mercies starts in the World, not land ever moves forward when tainted with the blood of the innocent, Israel has signed its death warrant.

  7. Pingback: GAZA: Israelis forced mother to choose which of her children would die « Pakistanpal’s Blog

  8. Thom
    8 February, 2009

    Of course, there is absolutely no confirmation that the Israelis called the people and said that, and the new version is still a third-hand version with no way of checking about the call, but why should the revised story be any more honest than the original one.

    BTW, for those keeping score. Barbara Lubin’s new version proves that she was outright lying in her original version. She gave it extra credibility by saying that she got it from the mother herself. At least one of her defenders cited “why would a mother in mourning lie” as a reason for believing Lubin’s lies.

    Barbara Lubin now admits that she got the story third-hand. If anyone here knows her, ask her why she originally lied and said she got it first hand.

  9. kub
    9 February, 2009

    As a journalist retired, really, there is an ethical line crossed here with this unverified story of people who seems to have no names or vague names, no street addresses, no relatives willing to speak, no photos of bodies, no verifications of evidences. This is war mongering, not reporting. If you think in the era of internet, putting up an unverified atrocity story contributes to peace, now or later, you are wrong.

    This story is inflammatory. There is, having been in two wars, what people call ‘the fog of war,’ and you can count on atrocities on all sides as well as despicable rumors that turn out not to be true. It’s a responsible writer’s ONLY job to get the facts… often made up by those who were not heroic but now create their own fables. That’s why journalists verify such stories, bring evidences, and to show their sources in a story like this so that other professionals can carry the story too IF in fact, it occured in this way, at this time. In this case, with this writer, there is no journalist of conscience that will carry unverified rumor. Your angst ought not supercede your professionalism

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This entry was posted on 24 January, 2009 by in Gaza, Israel, Palestine, War crimes and tagged , , , , .

Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"