For 10 days, smack in the middle of Rome's shopping district, a 12-hour daily vigil was held calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Organized by several Italian and Palestinian groups, with the support of our group of U.S. citizens, the daily presence sought to break through the silence and indifference surrounding Israel's attack on Gaza.
And the silence was indeed broken, if for no other reason than the presence of Gianni Novelli's legendary Comiso-era mega-megaphone, which blasted out the voices of activists calling for a ceasefire, an end to the siege and protection for the civilian population.
Through rain and shine, we collected hundreds of signatures and handed out thousands of flyers. We had copies of ‘A Call from Within,' the letter signed by over 500 Israeli citizens who called “on the world to stop Israeli violence and not allow the continuation of the brutal occupation” and to “condemn and not become an accomplice in Israel's crimes.” The letter was delivered to embassies in Tel Aviv on January 5, 2009.
We also distributed the appeal from Pax Christi, which began with the words of the Catholic parish priest in Gaza, Father Manuel Musallam: “What is going on in Gaza is not a bombing, but a massacre. It is a war crime and, once again, no one utters these words.”
Women in Black brought a number of flyers, including a letter from women in Haifa which expressed their opposition to "the view that these attacks are defending us in any way," and instead see the attacks as "deepening of the bloodshed and war and as a threat to the hope for peace and quite in our area." Women in Black also brought banners, which attracted the attention of by passers, as did their beautiful maps illustrating the tragic loss of Palestinian land over the decades.
On one evening, a group of young people created scenes of war, with smoke bombs, leftover fireworks and recordings of combat blaring from a loudspeaker. 30 people then threw themselves down in the street, splattered with red paint. The performance stopped traffic – even on the sidewalks!
But for the most part, we simply talked with the tourists and shoppers on one of Rome's busiest streets. Conversations ranged from informing a group of university students from the U.S., who were completely unaware of what was happening, to heated yet civil discussions with Israelis on holiday in Italy.
Many stopped by to offer solidarity, but we also had our share of people contesting what we were doing and there were also a few tense moments. The negative comments and insults, however, were usually simply shouted out as people walked by, their positions limited to talking points.
The most common question was “Why aren't you condemning the rocket fire from Hamas?” And, of course, we were. But there was also a sign saying it is disingenuous to equate the rocket fire to the death and destruction taking place in Gaza, which will only serve to increase support for Hamas.
There has been much talk of equidistanza, or equidistance, in Italy, with regards to the assault on Gaza; in other words for the need of “balance” in any talk of Palestine and Israel. But as Giovanni Franzoni, who is also on a hunger strike for Gaza, said, “We shouldn't be distant at all! That's the problem. Enough with equidistance, we should be equi-involved!”
Join the USC4P&J mailing list to stay informed on events and initiatives.
Our Film Series is on vacation. It will start up again on October 19th with "I am Not Your Negro"
Also, read about our Film Committee meetings to decide programming:
Photo of a school in Yemen bombed by Saudi Arabian jets supplied by the U.S. and fueled in the air by the U.S. Air Force.
Tell Trump to STOP THIS CARNAGE, not fuel it! Click here.
Also participate in the CodePink email and/or phone initiative:
Click here to sign a petition, to put an end to the sanctions against Syria - their only effect is to take a terrible toll on the population, causing them to migrate! And click here to see the video by the Italian Committee to lift sanctions against Syria.
Did someone tell you that U.S. military intervention in Iraq was over? Not true: we're at it again. This time the pretext to drop bombs is "curbing ISIS" (which was created by the U.S. in the first place, to overturn al-Malaki in Iraq and then Assad in Syria, and is now out of hand.
Like what happened to "our" creature al Qaeda in Afghanistan). And the death toll continues to rise...
Write your senators and tell them: "Enough! U.S. out!! Iraq has shown it can curb ISIS by itself!"