Was it a Thumbs Up Sign or a Finger Gun Pointing at Us?

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I have to say it doesn’t take very long for Kansas’ 1st district Rep. Roger Marshall and his staff to feel like as though they are the victims of their constituents’ concerns and not the other way around.

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This time it started on Sunday, August 4 with some singing and chalking on Rep. Marshall’s sidewalk. The chalking included images as well as text such as

“Providing water to refugees is not a crime”

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“More mass shootings than days in 2019: 250 and counting”

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“‘I think the country is safer today than it was three years ago’ — Roger Marshall” (This was chalked the weekend of the El Paso and Dayton shootings.)

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A car drove by with people hanging their heads out and shouting obscenities and something about how “gun control won’t fix it.” And I thought to myself, they’re right. It’s not enough. The problem is much deeper and needs a cultural shift away from social, political and economic injustice as a whole.

 

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The next day, I went as usual to SMoC, my “Sidewalk Museum of Congress” studio, and just as I was getting ready to lay down my work mat, out of the corner of my eye I see a figure inside Marshall’s office come toward the door. For a second I thought the staff person was coming to talk to me, but nothing happened. Did she come to lock the door? Maybe she was intimidated by our chalking from the previous day, and when she saw me coming, was further intimidated and quickly locked the door. But I’m not sure.

Five minutes later my fellow-artist friend Rena joined me, and as she was laying her stuff out, I told her what I thought just happened. After a few minutes we decided to go in and submit a few questions we had hammering at our brains for Marshall about the recent mass shootings.

Marshall’s office has two doors, one of which is behind where I usually sit. It has an old curled up paper sign on it telling visitors to use the other door, around the corner. That’s the door that Marshall used to make a quick getaway, a year ago August 8, when we were protesting some of the same stuff we are today and demanding to meet him.

We haven’t seen him since. (Well, he did have a townhall meeting in Salina on April 20, but the local community access TV posted on Facebook saying “This is Easter weekend, so the crowd wasn’t large due to a lot of family activities around town this weekend.”)

Here Rena and I were again, our questions ready, my phone video on, and as we knocked on the door, Marshall’s staff person opened it and, seeing my phone, told me to please stop recording. I turned the phone off and we tried to voice our two questions for Marshall to a very defensive staff person as she typed them into her computer. Then we went outside to continue working.

Marshall's today

 

I am a native of India, and you know it’s a small world in which government policies affect minimum wage workers, day laborers, farmers, peasants and their families halfway across the globe when your own Kansas member of Congress makes it into one of your native country’s newspapers. The Hindu reported on August 6, “US Congressman Roger Marshall said once again, Trump is doing exactly what he said he would do with China, now in regard to their currency. ‘US producers, workers and consumers have waited long enough for an administration who would stand up to China. I’m thankful it’s finally happening,’ he said.”

Recent severe weather and market uncertainty have impacted Kansas farmers. So on the day that the Hindu reported Marshall’s thankfulness for the tariffs, we decided to write an all-caps message at SMoC using some Kansas crops —soybean, wheat, corn and sorghum. Rena came up with a good one: TRUMP HARMS FARMS.

As we started to fill our palms with the grains to plant them on the concrete, I thought I saw someone nearby taking our picture. Then he walked by us and disappeared around the corner only to appear a little later with Marshall’s staff person, who was smiling and shaking his hand. The scene happened very fast, and only I saw it; Rena’s back was to them. Then the guy got into his car (oddly, with Florida plates) and drove off. Almost immediately, Rena got an email from Marshall’s office regarding our questions (see below.)

We sat back down to continue with what we were doing, and a few minutes later a pedestrian wearing sunglasses just walked right into me, stepping on our “TRUMP HARMS FARMS” slogan-in-the-making and saying, “I’m sorry, I’m hard of seeing.”

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Seconds earlier, another guy in a passing car had blown his horn; Rena looked up at him and her eyes went dark. My back was to the street, so I was sitting there wondering what she’d seen when the guy in sunglasses crashed into me. (Here you see her watching, unsettled, as the car goes by.)

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As we tried once again to finish the work we’d come there to do, Rena told me about the driver who blew the horn. Gesturing with her hand, she said that she couldn’t be sure if it was a thumbs-up sign he’d given her or a “finger gun”.

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Fortunately, we had perched my phone on a little tree on the sidewalk to record the making of our grain slogan in time lapse. Rena patted the tree gently and exclaimed “Thank you tree.” (We had not been thankful for our phone experience inside Marshall’s office the previous day.) You can see for yourself part of the strange sequence of events that interrupted our SMoC studio work that day. Coincidence? Paranoia? What just happened?

One of my questions for Marshall the previous day was whether he still believed himself when he’d said, “I think the country is safer today than it was three years ago,” and whether he was ready to take that statement back.

This is the response we got back from his office while we were planting TRUMP HARMS FARMS on Marshall’s sidewalk:

“Thank you for stopping by Congressman Roger Marshall’s District Office in Salina, Kansas yesterday. This email is to advise that your opinion was filed with Congressman Marshall and our legislative team in Washington, D.C.”

My “opinion?” It was a question. Once again Roger the Dodger is living up to his reputation and ignoring his constituents’ concerns.

I shouldn’t have to go into my Congressman’s office with my video camera in hand to begin with. But let’s face it, I’m paranoid that in the shadow of whatever is left of our democracy, artists like Rena and me are an exposed sidewalk target.

Wouldn’t you be?

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SMoC diary to be continued…

Please go here to see a SMoC experience from October, 2018. By the way, the Republican campaign headquarters that featured in that incident is now a CBD shop lol!

 

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Patterns of Occupied Palestine: Part 2 of Uncountable

What do Shahed Amer al-Bayoumi, Abdel-Raouf Salha, Arafat Jaradat, Ayoub Asaleya, Mohammed Suleiman, Sawsan Ali Dawud Mansour, Mohammad H., Isma’il Muslem Hamad Abu Bteihan, Ala Ziad Abu ‘Aasi, Fadi al-Darbi, Atef al-Maqousi, Jaber Ibrahim Abu Hweige, Fadiyah Jaber Abu Hweige and Muhammad Jaber Abu Hweige have in common? They are Palestinians between the ages of 9 and 69 who have been severely injured, imprisoned, or killed by Israeli occupation forces since 1992

The first segment of this series, Patterns of Occupied Palestine: Part 1 of Uncountable, included a portrait of 18-month-old Malak Shaker Abu Shouqa. She was one of 13 people who were killed on July 31, 2014 when an Israeli F-16 warplane struck their homes. Four of the people killed that day included members of the al-Bayoumi family.

13 Shahed Amer al-BayoumBorder pattern includes a toy found in the rubble after the incident

This segment, Part 2, includes 9-year-old, Shahed Amer al-Bayoumi, who survived that attack but was badly injured. According to the multimedia web documentary Obliterated Families, “She now shivers all the time. She was in a coma for 38 days… initially she could not recognize her family. She cannot hold a pen to write, so sometimes her cousin sits with her at the school to help her write.” Shahed lost her cousin Hassan, and her three sisters Abeer, Aseel, and Hadil in the attack.

 

14 Abdel-Raouf SalhaBorder pattern includes a protest sign that says in Arabic “Until when will the siege last?”

13-year-old Abdel-Raouf Salha, was the first Palestinian child to be killed by occupation forces this year. Abdel was injured while participating in the Great March of Return protests on January 11 in the northern Gaza Strip when he was struck in the head by an Israeli-fired tear gas canister causing severe brain injury. He died two days later in a hospital in Gaza City.

According to Ayed Abu Eqtaish, the Accountability Program Director for Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP), “Crowd control weapons such as tear gas canisters can become lethal weapons when fired at children, especially if the point of impact is on a child’s head or torso.” DCIP also said that “a high proportion of the Gaza Strip fatalities, 45, were killed by Israeli forces since the start of Great March of Return protests on March 30, 2018, often in the context of protests or related activities.”

 

15 Arafat Jaradat

Suspected of throwing stones and a Molotov cocktail at occupation forces, 33-year-old Arafat Jaradat from the occupied West Bank was arrested on February 18, 2013 and locked up in Israel’s Megiddo prison, where he died five days later after being interrogated by the security agency Shin Bet. On February 24, the Palestinians rights group Al-Haq tweeted saying that the “autopsy of #ArafatJaradat confirmed that he didn’t die of heart attack. Body displayed multiple signs of beating.” He was tortured. According to The Electronic Intifada (EI), “Israel has failed to launch a single criminal investigation for torture despite more than 1,000 complaints by victims since 2001.”

Arafat had two children, Yara and Mohammad. His wife Dalal was expecting their third child at the time of his death. According to the prisoner solidarity network Samidoun, she gave birth to a boy on June 30 and named him Arafat, “after his martyred father.”

 

16 Ayoub Asaleya

12-year-old Ayoub Asaleya was playing with his cousins when he was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Jabalia refugee camp on March 11, 2012, as cross-border fighting between the Israeli military and Palestinian militants raged on for a third day. Adel Essi, 63, was killed by shrapnel from another missile as he was guarding an orchard. According to the New York Times, the attacks had begun “when Israeli air-to-ground missiles killed the leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, Zuhair al-Qissi, and his assistant in Gaza.” The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu boasted, saying, “My instructions are to strike at anyone planning to harm us… The combination of offensive capabilities, defensive capabilities and civilian resilience is a winning combination, and we have it.”

 

17 Mohammed Suleiman

Mohammad Suleiman, was arrested on April 18, 2011. He is 34 years old and suffers from thalassemia and chronic anemia for which he requires daily medical care, including frequent blood transfusions. As a result of the transfusions his blood contains high levels of iron, causing a perpetual weakening of his heart muscle for which he has had to undergo a daily routine of intravenously injecting a medication called Desferal for 8 to 10 hours to cleanse his body of some of the excess iron. Since his arrest and subsequent medical neglect, his health has deteriorated rapidly; tests confirm that he has an enlarged heart and liver.

According to the prisoner support group Addameer, Mohammad is currently in administrative detention, “a procedure that allows the Israeli military to hold detainees indefinitely on secret evidence without charging them or allowing them to stand trial… The entire family, except for his 20-year-old sister, is currently forbidden from visiting Mohammed.” In early October of ’11 Mohammed’s wife gave birth to Suleiman, their first child.

 

18 Sawsan Ali Dawud Mansour.jpg

In a new wave of unrest that broke out between Occupation forces and Palestinians in October 2015, 28 Israelis and more than 200 Palestinians were killed, including the latest victim,19-year-old Sawsan Ali Dawud Mansour, who was gunned down near the Ras Biddu checkpoint north of Jerusalem on May 23, 2016. According to Ma’an News Agency (MNA), an Israeli spokesperson claimed that a “female terrorist” allegedly attempted to stab a soldier, when “another officer immediately fired gunshots at the Palestinian teen and ‘neutralized’ her.” No Israelis were reported injured in the incident.

 

19 Mohammad H

“I used to play soccer and ride my bike but now my life has completely changed… My message to Israel is that I was participating in a peaceful march and they shot me in the leg and now I don’t have a leg.” Those are the words of 13-year-old Mohammad H., who was severely injured on June 29, 2018. According to DCIP, Israeli forces shot him “at around 6:30 p.m., near Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip… He marched toward the fence with a group of other protesters. Mohammad was unarmed and making a ‘victory’ sign with his fingers. Israeli forces fired multiple rounds at the group and one bullet struck Mohammad’s leg.”

In 2018, DCIP “documented 18 cases of Palestinian children who suffered permanent disability as a result of injuries sustained in the context of Great March of Return protests.”

 

20 Isma’il Abu Bteihan

The patterns of Israeli atrocities and collective punishment carried out on the Palestinians, their families and neighbors, their homes and infrastructure can clearly be seen in the summer of 2014 and the 51-day onslaught of explosives that rained down on the Gaza Strip. The explosive force that killed more than 520 children, including Malak Abu Shouqa and Shahed al-Bayoumi’s three sisters and cousin and left her constantly shivering with fear was “roughly equivalent to that of the Hiroshima atomic bomb,” according to EI.

Just four days before the August 26 ceasefire agreement that ended the assault, Isma’il Muslem Hamad Abu Bteihan, a 69-year-old resident of a-Zawaydah, Deir al-Balah district was killed in a missile attack. According to B’Tselem, he was “killed while sitting under the shade of a tree opposite his home. Four hours later his home was bombarded and completely destroyed.”

 

21 Ala Ziad Abu ‘Aasi

In addition to Malak Shaker Abu Shouqa, Part 1 of Patterns of Occupied Palestine featured 16-year-old Naji Jamil Abu ‘Aasi, who was killed on the 17th of September, 2018 by an Israeli missile along with his cousin. According to Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, “At 12:50 am the next day… Palestinian Red Crescent Society medical teams found the bodies of two civilian-dressed persons. Both had shrapnel injuries on various parts of their bodies and one of them was torn to pieces. The two bodies were taken to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, where they were identified as Naji Abu ‘Asi, 16, and Alaa’ Abu ‘Asi, 19 [featured here, in part 2]—both residents of Al-Zanna area in Bani Sohaila town in eastern Khan Younis.”

 

22 Fadi al-Darbi

A 30-year-old Palestinian resident of Jenin named Fadi al-Darbi died on October 14, 2015 after suffering “medical negligence by the Israeli Prison Service.” Fadi had been detained by Israeli forces back in 2006 and sentenced to 16 years in jail. The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society said in a statement “that he suffered bleeding in his abdomen two years ago, but was left in solitary confinement, without medical treatment.”

 

23 Atef al-Maqousi

37-year-old Atef al-Maqousi from Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza died on November 8, 2107, after living in a quadriplegic state for 25 years. According to the media center IMEMC, he was shot in the spine by Israeli soldiers in 1992 and as a result suffered ongoing infections and other complications that eventually lead to his death.

 

“At 11:27 am on 27 December 2008, Gaza was bombarded by Israeli warplanes. Instead of the anticipated school bell, the children heard the horrifying sound of bombs.” That’s when Operation Cast Lead began. According to the EI “Israel used its air force, navy, infantry and artillery against a population that already had a long experience of being under military occupation and, more recently, under siege.”

This following testimony is of Jaber Abu Abu Hweij, a resident of Gaza City:

“I lived with my parents and brothers and sisters in the Tufah neighborhood in Gaza City. Our house is between the police building and the al-Mahata mosque. On Saturday, 27.12. 08, while I was at work, one of my neighbors called me and told me to come home quickly.

24 Jaber, Fadiyah & Mohammad

I got home and was shocked by what I saw. The house had been hit by an explosion and was a pile of rubble. Where the house had been there was a big hole. There were dozens of people trying to get my family out of the ruins, but they only managed to get some of them out alive.

My father, Jaber Abu Hweij, 52, my sister, Fadia, 22, and my brother Muhammad, 18, were killed in the bombing. Many other family members were injured.

The neighbors told me the house had been hit three times, one right after the other. Some of my family was hurt in the first strike and while others tried to help them, the house was hit again and others were injured. It happened so quickly there was no time to flee.

I keep seeing my sister Fadia in my mind. She was the last one I saw that morning when I left for work. She is the one who woke me for morning prayers and to go to work. Her voice still echoes in my ears….

Our family has fallen apart. Some [have] been killed and others are hospitalized. We lost our home and all our possessions: all our mementos, our dreams, our stories, our furniture, everything is under the ruins. The important thing now is for me to take care of my family that is still alive. I am particularly taking care of my brother Ahmad, who is still in intensive care.”

I would like to thank Obliterated Families, DCIP, The EI, Samidoun, ADDAMEER, MNA, B’Tselem, Al Mezan, and IMEMC for providing valuable material for this project.

Please go here to see Patterns of Occupied Palestine: Part 1 of Uncountable. Part 3 will follow next month . . .

 

Patterns of Occupied Palestine: Part 1 of Uncountable

See also at PINK TANK

There is no one poster child who embodies the struggle of the Palestinian people living in the shadow of Israeli settlers and military occupation. Every Palestinian child, woman, and man will tell you intricate stories of what life and death is like under the perennial burden of occupation, and what that means for the land beneath their feet, their usurped rivers, their beloved farmers and the artisans, etc.

Aisha Lulu, Amal Mustafa al-Taramsi, Haitham Ismael Saada, Amin Mansour Abu Moammar, Ahmad Ghazal, Izzedin Bani Gharra, Malak Shaker Abu Shouqa, Qutayba Ziad Zahran, Naji Jamil Abu ‘Aasi, Iyad Ousamah Sha’th, Bushra al-Taweel and Yousef Abu Sbeikha al-Boheiri are just twelve of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who have either been displaced, killed in cold blood by Israeli occupation forces, arrested, injured physically and psychologically, or have died indirectly by the regime’s sadistic design of collective punishment.

Each pattern of occupied Palestine tells its own story. As part of a lifelong project, I will be embroidering images of hundreds of Palestinians, deceased and living. Each of the embroidered portraits to come has a border inspired by Tatreez — a traditional Palestinian embroidery-style, and by the occupied territories’ natural, threatened landscape. Each bordered portrait is also a statement against the ugly and violent apartheid border wall.

Below are the first twelve portraits of occupation in this open-ended series:

1 Aisha LuluBorder pattern includes the hairy pink flax flower

“My heart broke every day my daughter was away… Why does Israel treat us like this? We are not affiliated to any political faction, we are just normal people,” says Muna, whose 5-year-old daughter Aisha Lulu of the Bureij Refugee Camp in the central Gaza Strip was one of the latest casualties of the Israeli occupation. Diagnosed with brain cancer in April, Aisha died on May 17 in a Gaza hospital. Prior to this, she spent a month alone in a hospital bed in Jerusalem, crying for her family, who were denied permits by the Israeli military to accompany her.

 

2 Amal al-Taramsi

The first Palestinian to be killed by Israeli occupation forces this year was a 44-year-old resident of the Shaikh Radwan neighborhood of north Gaza City, Amal Al-Taramsi, who was shot in the head during protests in the occupied Gaza Strip on Friday, January 11, 2019.

 

3 Haitham SaadaBorder pattern includes the endangered Palestinian mountain gazelle

“Haitham was not yet 15 when he died. His average grade in school this year was 87. In the memorial photos he wears a dark kaffiyeh on his head. He was the firstborn child and only son of his parents; there are three younger sisters. His father, Ismail, 43, a construction worker in Kiryat Gat, looks as though he has not yet absorbed what happened. A crooked smile occasionally crosses his lips as he recounts the events of his Black Friday.” Ismail’s son, 14-year-old Haitham Saada was hit by two Israeli bullets on February 5, 2016. The IDF accused him of getting ready to throw a Molotov cocktail at the soldiers, and so they fired and killed him.

 

4 Amin Mansour

On March 30, 2018, during the Land Day protests along the Gaza-Israel boundary, more than 1,400 Palestinians were wounded by live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets, and 16 were killed by Israeli occupation forces. One of the dead was 22-year-old Amin Mansour Abu Moammar from Rafah, in the southern Gaza strip.

 

5 Ahmad Ghazal

17-year-old Ahmad Ghazal from the Ras Al-’Ain neighborhood of northern occupied West Bank, was shot and killed after he stabbed and wounded two Israeli men in the Old City of Jerusalem on April 1, 2017. The Accountability Program Director for Defense for Children International – Palestine, Ayed Abu Eqtaish, said, “Israeli forces now appear to routinely resort to the use of intentional lethal force in situations not justified by International norms, which in some incidents amount to extrajudicial killings.”

 

6 Izzedin Bani

21-year-old Izzeddin Bani Gharra was one of almost 200 Palestinians killed by occupation forces in the occupied territories in 2015. He was shot and killed during an Israeli arrest raid on June 10, 2015. “I lost everything after Izz was killed, it was a shock, my son Izz loves life and he loves Palestine. Israel killed him in cold blood,” Bani Gharra’s mother told Ma’an News Agency.

 

7 Malak ShakerBorder pattern includes the Palestinian sunbird

Between July 7 and August 26, 2014 the besieged Gaza strip was bombarded by Israeli explosives, killing more than 2,130 Palestinians. 18-month-old Malak Shaker Abu Shouqa lived in the Al Nuseirat refugee camp, which is home to more than 80,000 refugees, and is located in the middle of the Gaza strip. On July 31, she, along with 12 other Palestinians were killed when an Israeli F-16 warplane struck their homes. Two of the others killed were her relatives.

 

8 Qutayba ZahranBorder pattern includes olives

The Israeli border police continued to fire into 17-year-old Qutayba Ziad Zahran’s body after he fell on the ground at the Zaatara military checkpoint in northern occupied West Bank. The Israeli authorities alleged that the teenager attempted to carry out a knife attack on Israeli forces, but in fact a soldier was hurt in a friendly fire incident. Hundreds attended Zahran’s funeral procession on September 9, 2017, 20 days after the incident. Zahran’s father learned of his son’s death through local news and Facebook. According to Ma’an News Agency “Israel often delays the delivery of slain Palestinian bodies to their families in the occupied Palestinian territory, and imposes strict conditions on funerals, alleging that funerals of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces leads to ‘incitement.’”

 

9 Naji Abu ‘Aasi

Twenty of the twenty-three Palestinians killed in the month of September, 2018, were from Gaza, including 16-year-old Naji Jamil Abu ‘Aasi, who was killed on the 17th by an Israeli missile, along with his cousin, 19-year-old Ala Ziad Abu ‘Aasi (portrait follows in part 2 of this series.) Both were from the Bani Sohaila town in eastern Khan Younis.

 

10 Iyad Sha’thBorder pattern includes the Dead Sea which has been “shrinking rapidly due to Israel’s diversion of the head waters of the Jordan River.”

Israeli General Ariel Sharon’s September 28, 2000 walk through the Muslim holy site Haram Al-Sharif in occupied east Jerusalem, as he was accompanied by hundreds of Israeli police officers, triggered the second Palestinian Intifada. But the uprising had more to do with the failed peace process, continuing settlement expansion and the deteriorating lives of Palestinians living under occupation. According to Defense for Children International, more than 1,996 children have been killed since then, with 700 children killed between September 2000 and February 2005, including a 14-year-old resident of Khan Younis, Iyad Ousamah Sha’th, who was killed by live ammunition on October 24, 2000.

 

11 Bushra al-Taweel

The 26-year-old journalist and photographer Bushra al-Taweel has been arrested three times in her young life by occupation forces, with the latest arrest happening on November 01, 2017. According to the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association ADDAMEER, “Human Rights Defender Bushra al-Taweel has been subjected to continuing adversity imposed by the occupation forces. She was first arrested at 18 years old and was released from her second arrest in May 2015 after serving almost a year in detention. Now, Bushra is imprisoned under administrative detention. She will, hopefully, be released in July 2018 after spending 8 months without having any charges brought against her and without having the opportunity to stand trial.” Bushra remains a detainee at the Hasharon (Telmond) Prison in Israel.

 

12 Yousef al-BoheiriBorder pattern includes olive trees. “Since 1967 some 800,000 olive trees have been uprooted by Israeli forces and settlers in the occupied West Bank alone.”

A 48-year-old farmer, Yousef Abu Sbeikha al-Boheiri from the al-Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza, died on December 27, 2015 from gunshot wounds he had sustained the previous Friday while working in his farmland.

Part 2 follows…

I would like to thank The Electronic Intifada, Defense for Children International, Addameer, Israel-Palestine Timeline and B’tselem for providing valuable material for this project.