Monday, June 20, 2011

A Letter

From: Diane Shammas
Subject: A personal message to all of you on the eve of your departure to Gaza

Dear All,
Above all, I want to thank all of you women for your commitment, dedication, and sacrifice towards breaking the Gaza blockade. As most of you who know me, I am of Lebanese/Arab American heritage. I am reminded by comrades on the left, do not expect us to be interested in the Middle East to the same extent as you are, we have  social, economic, and political injustices in the U.S. All of you have taught me differently, it does not matter what religion,ancestry, political stripe or whatever connection you have to the injustice, in this case, injustice in the Palestinian Occupied Territories,  humanity is your moral compass. I have been to Gaza Strip 3 times, once with the May 2009 Code Pink delegation and the last two times on my own. In the last 15 months I have lived in the Gaza Strip for 6 months. I teach at Al Azhar University  English, research methods, and American Studies.
  Prior to your departure, I want to send each of you a personal message.
Medea: Oh my God, we have experienced so much together, the May 2009 delegation to Gaza, the Gaza Freedom March 2009-2010, and the Egyptian Revolution--standing in the freezing cold at the Rafah gate, all of us negotiating with the army to let us in!!!!!!!!!!
Ann: As trite as it might sound, you are our "Rock of Gibraltar".person, having served for 30 years in the armed services and in the U.S. State department.    My first trip to Gaza, I will never forget when I witnessed the destruction of the American School in Beit Lahiya, flashbacks of what Israel did to Lebanon in several occupations, but the most recent war  2006 came back to home. Trying desperately to be stoic, I broke into tears and you were there to hug me. Words cannot describe how deeply I felt  your compassion.
Greta: What a firebrand you are! We were at an academic conference at UCLA, a joint sponsorship of Levantine Cultural Center and UCLA Comparative Literature Department, discussing the 2006 War in Lebanon. It was like a hurricane hit when you approached the Los Angeles Time reporter about their reporting of the Israel-Palestine conflict. Since then I have been in solidarity with the Free Gaza Movement--- from their maiden voyage of breaking the siege of Gaza to the several that have followed.  
Ridgely: Looking forward to seeing you on the streets of East Jerusalem (Sheikh Jarrah) and Beit Ummar where we last saw each other after the protest in late April 2011. Your work is immeasurable in the West Bank.
Hedy: What can I say, you give meaning to the word of "survivor". I am honored to have met you once.  We had a shared moment on New Year's Eve, where we embraced each other "Happy New Year 2010" at Mugamma Square (Gaza Freedom March).  
Kathy: I have corresponded a few times with you and Steve via email. We were both in Cairo at the Gaza Freedom March. Your dedication and commitment to both Palestine and Haiti is immeasurable. You are a veteran of the flotillas to Gaza and although I am not a religious person, I feel that given your intestinal fortitude this trip you will be there soon.
Hagit: Let me introduce myself. I have taught  as an adjunct professor in the American Studies and Ethnicity Department at USC, and my sister is a retired professor from USC. I thank you as an Israeli born for your sacrifice to joining the flotilla. My deepest wish is on your return to the United States, you can communicate to our USC community what is happening in Gaza. As a professor I received from my students' evaluations that I am quite knowledgeable about my topic, but I am biased when it comes to I/P conflict, Arab Americans and Muslim Americans. Perhaps  you can convey to them it is not a matter of bias, but justice and "being human".
My heart is with you, I will be tracking your voyage to Gaza. My love to all of you.
Diane Shammas, PhD
International Education and Urban Education,
Policy, and Planning
Lecturer, American Studies and Ethnicity  

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