Creating people's geographies
** 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.”
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.
- Doctors at a hospital near Gaza are almost overwhelmed by the number of Palestinian children needing treatment for bullet wounds to their heads.
- Israel accused of executing parents in front of children in Gaza
- Gaza ‘human shields’ criticized
- Outcry Over Israel’s War Crimes
- Gaza family recounts day of horror
- ‘Tungsten bombs’ leave Israel’s victims with mystery wounds
Middle East Children’s Alliance
1101 Eighth Street, Suite 100
Berkeley, CA 94710
ph: (510) 548-0542
fx: (510) 548-0543
GAZA CHILDREN’S VIGIL AND MEMORIAL
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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.
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.