Gaza perspective on Mothers’ Day. From Mohammad Arafat

This gift is for those mothers who died in all over the world….
To My Non-existent Mother
I don`t know how long you have been died. I don`t remember or even I don`t want to try to remember that. My brain forces me to think about you and my heart also does. I`m living without those brain and heart. They are apart from me. I don`t want to think about your death. I just want to let my little mouth speak about your humanness with me and my brothers and sisters, but I don`t think I can keep my sorrow inside my heart without telling it to you during these lines.
Mum, I missed your voice that used to call my name in every morning before going to school with my little brother. I was always going to school, but now I`m not. I don`t need the school because I`m looking for a job to feed my sisters and brothers that you left. I missed the tea you used to make for me. I loved the tea so much as the heart loves the Oxygen. But now, I forced myself not to love it and not even to think of it. Mum, I missed your everyday kiss. You used to kiss me every day while waiting the bus of the school. Do you remember that? I think you missed that too. Mum, I need your face that was always emerging and smiling at me whenever I enter the home after going back from the school. I missed your stories that you were narrating to me before sleeping every day. I missed your voice and your small mouth that was speaking to me. I missed the times that I used to see you in when you were praying in the midnight. Mum, I know you were praying for me and for my family. Mum, I missed the days that I was sick in. You were not sleeping. You used to force yourself to stay with me in every night I was sick in. Mum, I cannot complete. I really want to stop talking about those fabulous things. My soul missed all of those things and missed the founder of them.
Mum, I cannot form words to tell you my story after your death. I`m so depressed and down. Many gave me help. Many took after me. Many sympathized me, but actually no one of them could replace your humanness and love with me and my family. All my words are frozen between my throat and my tongue. I don`t have hands to melt those words. I don`t have brain to do something for them. I`m just a dead body with a soul without senses after you left. The only thing that can melt those words is your returning to me. I know you have gone without returning, but I know I will travel to you to Paradise soon.
Mum, I don`t know where to begin. I don`t know how to begin. I don`t know how to speak and how to form words, but I will try. I don`t know what will happen to my sisters and brothers that you left. I know what happened to my dad. I want to tell you what happened to him, but I`m afraid I hurt you. But I will tell you his story. Mum, my dad has passed away after two months of your death. He got a clot in his brain that drove him to paralysis. I with my brothers and sisters could not help him. We could not know what he needed and what we had to do for him because we are still babies and we don`t understand the life well. After two days of his paralyzing, he passed away. No one helped us in burying him. We begged for help from many, but they were just deaf. So, we did our best to drive him to the grave yard. We found a cart in the street. We carried our dad on it and went to the grave yard. We just put him beside an empty tomb without burying him. We asked God to look after him then. My mum, sorry for making you sad about my dad`s story, but that is the truth.
Mum, if you were here with us, we would never see what happened to us. Ahhh my mum, no one feels what we felt. No one sees what we saw. No one can tolerate what we tolerated. Every child in this life has a mum and a dad except me. I cannot deny that many children lost their parents, but I`m sure that what happened to me did not happen to anyone. I`m the only one who lives without a mother.
Mum, I`m still nine years old and I`m the eldest between my brothers and sisters. My responsibilities began to be increased for my brothers and sisters after your and my dad`s death.
Mum, I don`t want to increase my and your sorrow. What I said is enough. I don`t want to remember what happened to you and my dad. I just wrote you this letter to congratulate you in this holy day, the mother day.
Happy mother day to you my non-existent mother.
This is a gift for the non-existent mothers who died during the wars in Palestine, Syria, Egypt and in all over the world.
Done by: Mohammad Arafat

Gaza without Cement!! Until When??

(By our correspondent of Gaza Mohammad Arafat)

While walking in Gaza streets and lanes towards my university in the west, I saw something not familiar. I looked around myself here and there. I looked at the houses and I found many houses are constructed partially. I saw the stanchions that support the unconstructed ceilings that have no concrete to be built with were still as they were. I realized that Gaza lacks something is very important for it and its people. I looked at the entrance of a building there and found that there is a guard was guarding it called Abu-Osama who was sitting on two stones that he made like a chair to sit on. He was boiling unsweetened coffee in a small kettle. I came closer to him and said” Hello Abu-Osama”.

He replied and said” Hello Mr. Mohammad, you are so welcome”. I had a seat also of two stones beside him. Then he rushed and brought an empty cup for me to fill it with the coffee after it was boiled. I shared him drinking coffee and we began our chatting about the current situations of Gaza and its problems. I told him that my heart is sad about the scenes of the unconstructed homes and I did not go to university because of that. I asked him that I want to know about cement crisis and about what`s going on and why the houses are not constructed. I asked him to explain to me about this problem.

He began his speech while drinking coffee while I was listening to him calmly.” I was as a guard for many buildings before thins one here in Gaza. I was guarding them until their residents came and live in them. Eight months ago, the owner of this building asked me to be the guard of his building until the builders finishing building it completely. I agreed and began my work. Everything was going alright. One month passed and the Egyptian government blocked the tunnels that the Gazans invented between Gaza and the Egyptian lands. We waited just for less than one month before the Israeli government allowed us to import cement from our occupied lands. But luckily, it just stayed for two weeks and then they stopped exporting the cement for us because of some flimsy reasons. So, as you see now, this home stopped its constructing after the builders finished the basis and the columns of it from that time.”

The guard stopped speaking and nodded his head sadly and then I realized that his mouth had tons and tons of speech he had to pour on my ears. I finished my cup of coffee and then thanked him before he welcomed me again. I was about to leave the building, but the contractor of the building came and asked me to have the same seat again after he introduced himself to me. His name was Abu-Mohammad. He knew that I was doing an appointment with
Abu-Osama about the cement crisis, so he asked me to listen to his story and to try to show the world what`s going on for the contractors and builders of Gaza.

He began his story” I`m the contractor of this building and another one in the east. I had more than twenty workers who were working and enjoying at the same time. They just worked for three years after the tunnels inventing, so all of them are without work right now. Every one of them is sitting with his children and wife. Everyone has approximately six or more children. If we say 20 beat 6, the result will be 120, so there are 120 people are without sources now from the people I know. As I know, in Gaza there are 60000 workers who were working as builders who are without work and sources now. If we say that every one of those workers has about six organs in his family, that means 60000 beat 6 will give us 360000 Gazans are without sources now. This number is just of the people who were getting money from the building work. It`s an unbelievable number. I myself have a big family. I have four sons and four daughters. Three of them go to universities and another three are in Schools. I have two babies who need care and of course this care needs money and even a lot of money, but I say Alhamdulillah, I`m better than others.”

Abu Mohammad began to beg me after finishing his story to transfer his letter to the world and to tell them the truth and to let them know how much the people of Gaza suffer. He asked me to let the world feel what Gazans feel, so I promised him to show others his story hopefully someone can do something for the people of Gaza. I asked him and the guard Abu-Osama to be patient and to think positively not to be pessimistic.

So will the world, especially Egypt, answer the cries of Gaza and its workers? Will the leaders open their eyes and have a look on Gaza and its people? Will they think of the babies and the children of Gaza who are suffering of the slow death? Will they ask and even force the countries that are besieging Gaza to open the ports and to allow us to get the cement easily?

Notice: My father is one of those builders who have big families…..

Done by Mohammad Arafat

Al-Yarmouk Camp is Calling You. From Mohammad Arafat

I don`t write this article because Al-Yarmouk camp in Palestinian. I don`t write this article because it`s an Arab camp inside an Arab country, but I write it because the humanity wants me and every pure pen to hoist the flag of humanity in the sky of the silent world to show others what`s going on in Al-Yarmouk camp and its people in Syria
I don`t want to speak about who is creating the crisis in this camp. I don`t want to speak about who is responsible for that. I just want to speak about the problems and how the Palestinian refugees suffer and being tortured.
There were many things in my mind about this camp two weeks ago to speak about. I told my mind not to say anything in order not to increase the Palestinian wounds. My mind began to moan and told me that the scenes that inside him are so heavy and he cannot carry them alone. He told me he will explode unless I don`t say what he has. He begged me more than three times and finally I agreed and began my article with: What`s going on in Al-Yarmouk camp? What`s happening with its Palestinian people? Are they really hungry and thirsty? What are they eating and drinking?
Al-Yarmouk camp is a Palestinian camp that established by the UNRWA since 1957 .It is a 2.11 square kilometers of Syrian lands. It`s the biggest camp in Syria for the Palestinian refugees. This camp is full of narrow streets and small homes with big families. Many poor Syrians are living in it beside their Palestinian refugees.
In 2011 and during the Syrian crisis, this camp was a shelter for many Syrian families after they lost their homes in Syrian cities, villages and lanes.
I was watching T.V here in Gaza moving from a news channel to another looking for something new to write about. I watched Al-Jazera news channel and got some news that Al-Yarmouk camp is being besieged. I told to myself that this camp has been being besieged since two years from the beginning of the Syrian crisis, so I did not consider those things. I continued watching news and then moved to a Palestinian news Channel was talking about the same thing about Al-Yarmouk camp. I told to myself that there must be something new in the Palestinian camp in Syria. I moved from a channel to another many times and found the same thing too. The media was just talking about the Al-Yarmouk camp and the starving waves that occupied it .As I was listing to that, I got shocked and felt some hot tears dropping from my eyes and then I asked myself” Is that really happening those days? Can that really happen?”
I saw what no one saw. I saw tragic sad clips full of horrible scenes about the Palestinians there. I saw what my heart believed and what my mind didn`t. I saw three little cute children were looking for something to eat in a trash container. They found some old pieces of paper and began to eat them gluttony as if they eat something delicious. I saw an innocent tolerated mother was cooking water with stones in a big cooker on fire for her two sons and daughter waiting for someone to come and get her real food. I saw four grownups were eating the leaves of trees and one of them was saying” We cannot even find the green leaves”.
I saw something unbelievable that I cannot mention, but I will mention it in order to let others know the truth. I saw some men were slaughtering a cat preparing it for boiling and then eating as if they slaughter a sheep or a big cow. Then one of them said” This camp is empty of cats. We cannot find them any more”.
A friend of mine told me something I could not believe at all. He told me that many Palestinian refugees began to burn their homes completely. I asked him why and he answered sadly” They are burning their homes because they are despair of life. They lost their wishes in this life. They lost the solidarity of their Arab and non Arab countries in this world”. During his speech, my eyes were full of tears and my they turned into red.
Why are the Palestinians suffering everywhere and anytime? What is happening? Why are others silent? Why are others still putting their fingers in their ears in order not to hear the Palestinian refugees` moaning? Why are others still closing their eyes in order not to see what`s going on there? Why are others still folding their arms with glue waiting for nothing? Why are others saying that those scenes are just kinds of nonsense?
Done by Mohammad S. Arafat
12:15 pm
12/ 1/ 2014

A Community Trust In Handsworth Wood

With the great give away of community assets there is a great wish to try to preserve some control in the hands of local people as local council representation continues to weaken. Local councillors wring their hands. “Nothing can be done” is their cry.

In Birmingham’s Handsworth Wood Ward the City Council announced they were considering a transfer of assets of the hard won Laurel Road Sport Centre. At one time a very modest wooden building was freely available to use until a fire caused by an electrical fault in a vending machine burned it down. Local people supported by there then councillors helped campaign for a new improved rebuild. This was achieved with the help of Sports England with a new brick building and greatly enhanced sporting facilities. It came at a price of greatly reducing the availability of the centre to local people. No the considerable sums spent could just be handed over to a private concern who, if like Sports England, will be interested for a short period. After that anything could happen.

Why not then set up a local Community Trust? I have just learned that one has been set up, but the opportunity to get involved seems obscure. Who is a member of it and how to apply is not “open” and “transparent” as these well worn words, continuously and consistently declared as key to local democracy is not apparent.

Mick Archer, a local political activist, has been asking some pertinent questions and found that such a trust was formed in 2013 as a limited company, with Councillor Gurdial Singh Atwal the lead director. We know it was awarded £10,000 of money from the devolved Community Chest, decisions for the spending of which are in the hands of the three Handsworth Wood Ward Councillors. Mick Archer’s ongoing enquiry is proceeding.

Heads they win, tails we lose

Politics today is discredited for very good reasons. Once politicians get into office they are immediately bombarded with offers from lobbyists as soon as they walk through the door of our “democratic” parliament. Directorships are on offer for them and their families. so whose tune will they dance to then? Not yours and mine, but those of the big powerful corporations that have a handle on all parties in Westminster. Very few resist. George Monbiot likens them to glove puppets on the right and left hand.

With privatisation of everything our national wealth, gained from the efforts of all of us, are handed out to the few for profit, win or lose, effective or poor service – most usually the latter. So while we froze or nearly drowned this Christmas when the lights went out for many the very companies hiking their charges failed us but still ended up with largesse paying the Chief Executive millions. Why? If ever there was an argument for re-nationalisation of our utilities this must be it.

The Independent “exclusive” cited above began by being a main headline, although the editor placed the story of a celeb., Michael Schumacher’s skiing accident above. Both were then replaced by the news of a mile-long train blowing up in Dakota in the USA. Another illustration of how people and safety are relegated in the bid for never ending wealth but only for the few. The question is begged that while it is reported there were no injuries, will the people escape the clouds of toxic gases released!?

Over in the Guardian, Polly Toynbee is also reminding us about “useless” politicians and their spectacular breaking of promises they made to get elected. It’s our fault that we put them there and then let them off the hook she says.

As for the New Year we learn that G4S, a spectacular failure in 2013, is to have its contracts extended in the prison service in spite of declarations to the contrary, and the small problem of the outstanding fraud investigation into G4S and Serco. We need to know which of our politicians have personal interests in them and their ilk.

Companies charged with organising Government “services” like G4S, Servo and ATOS are allowed oversight of the poor and the vulnerable. It takes us back centuries and archaic views of how this group, as defined by the powerful, require management. The companies are typically huge operating internationally. Typically they will be operating offshore and minimising their tax commitments. The view that it is the economically inactive – including the elderly – who are the drain on society is overturned. It is these wealthy organisations, cosseted by governments and politicians, that are the true parasites

2014 is high time for a fundamental rethink of priorities.

Sports centre in Handsworth up for asset transfer

Once upon a time when we lived in a fairly civilised society we had a wooden hut which served as changing facilities for a range of sporting activities. The hut was available to us in the community, With Ernie in charge it was made available when needed. From 1990 onwards the ward changed from being represented by Tory councillors it transformed in three years to having three Labour councillors with the largest majority in Birmingham. After elections we would return to Laurel Road to tune into the election results late into the night.

One day came the news of a fire. Our precious centre had burned down due to an electrical fault in a drinks machine. What would happen to the site. We wrote letters to Pepsi-cola, or whoever owned the drinks dispenser to see if they would help sponsor a rebuild. Eventually we learned that we would get a new building which we were asked to comment on. I remember we were told we couldn’t have a clock tower (don’t remember anyone asking!) Sports England came on board to help out and gave us funding for upgrading the facilities including a climbing wall (instead of the clock tower I suppose).

On the downside Ernie disappeared to look after another centre nearby. African Caribbean himself he was popular with local youth and could reach out to young people with excellent results. The centre became managed with a new staff. We could hire the building for meetings but it had to be cleared by 9.00pm.

Last Wednesday a large group of people assembled at Hamstead Hall School from the Handsworth Against the Cuts Campaign with banners and songs led by Dave Rogers of Banner Theatre. Laurel Road was a candidate for asset transfer. It was the Handsworth Wood Ward Committee meeting at which the three Labour councillors were present. A request had been made for Laurel Road to be an agenda item. This had not happened but I suppose because of the size of the protest group discussion was grudgingly allowed. We were promised that our views would be taken back to the City Council. The councillors said they were on our side, but in view of the draconian cuts in funding there was little they felt could be done.

The question remains why the Labour Party, now in control, acquieces to everything thrown at it. Handsworth Wood Ward may have continued with its Tory representation. The question is whether the three Labour Councillors oppose the transfer of assets and privatisation. The sad fact is that they do having openly supported first Academies and then Free Schools. While Labour brought in academies their stance of Free Schools has been oppositional. At least of two of the Councillors actively supported Free Schools in Handsworth set up by the Nishkam Centre. Do these councillors not understand that asset transfer and privatisation is the handing over of public money for the purpose of making the now private assets profitable to an unaccountable group of people? How will they support us when they believe in asset transfer etc?

What kind of society is this? What kind do we want as jailed woman left to clear up after miscarriage?

Pauline Campbell campaigned against the imprisonment of women and would turn up outside prisons to tell the van drivers to take the women to a place of safety. I don’t know whether even she encountered anything approaching what is alleged to have happened at HMP Peterborough, a privatised prison, after a pregnant woman was arrested in November. She had stolen food to the value of around £13.00 in desperation the court was told. When she miscarried the child she was carrying she was required to clear up while the foetus remained in the cell. It is said she had mental health problems. The company commissioned to run the prison is Sodexo, not one of the well known corporations that have their fingers in every pie possible. They say they run “ethical” services in a number of countries. They are involved in handful across the UK. They declioned to comment on this case.

There’s “No Health Without Mental Health” proclaimed this government trumpeting that they would be the first to ensure parity of treatment with physical illness. When we see the incidence of mental health issues in our jails alarm bells should be ringing in the highest places, with men 14 times more likely to have problems. With women it is THIRTY FIVE times. What are people like 37 year old Nadine Wright doing there in the first place?

No light went out with Mandela, it continues to shine ever brighter

I have a picture on my mantlepiece showing Nelson Mandela leaving the International Convention Centre in Birmingham during his visit to the UK in 1993. He had just spoken to a packed hall for two hours, without notes, and it seemed as if he was just holding a conversation with us. It certainly didn’t seem like two hours and those present would have willingly stayed another two or more to hear what he had to say to us. As the car left I positioned myself to salute him which he acknowledged with a smile and wave. He made everyone he came across, it seems, feel important, and as we have seen the people of South Africa are celebrating his life which brought them not only freedom but a knowledge of who they are. This feeling of course extends not only across Africa but the whole world.

One of the first to pay a tribute to Mandela in Birmingham was Rev Jesse Jackson. He is no stranger to Birmingham and Handsworth, home to a significant African Caribbean community. When former Councillor Phillip Murphy made a request for Nelson Mandela to come to Handsworth the response was that it would be impossible given his tight and exhausting schedule. When ANC contacts let it be known that such a visit had been requested he insisted on meeting them early that morning.

Tributes to Mandela continue to pour in across the world, including from the Israeli government who continue to uphold their own apartheid regime between Arab and Jew. Palestinian tributes were countered by the Israeli army using their accustomed violence.

Food Aid Britain

Hunger is a major issue in Britain. Food poverty added to fuel poverty add up to a threat to life in a wealthy nation where its leaders have more pressing priorities. The dismantling of a welfare state and redistributing wealth to an already overfed elite.

Food is something we can take control of and grow our own – as happened in war time. Havana in Cuba, struggling from an embargo imposed by its mighty imperial neighbour, has created a means of helping to feed its population. Havana can provide for about 50% of its population. Which other city in the world could approach anything like that? If we ask how many of its population of around 1 million could Birmingham in the UK support a target of 10% would seem daunting. Yet a sizeable number of people demand allotments and use leisure time to cultivate food for themselves. Rules for allotments, set years ago, do not allow for a system which, as in Cuba, brings about a market where food grown is sold to the community at affordable prices.

Much is happening at the Uplands Allotment in Handsworth, Birmingham UK to enhance urban living. They note that fruit is lefty to rot on trees in gardens across the city. THeir response is an urban harvest where volunteers will collect the fruit. They have introduced bees to ensure the fertility of crops.

On the other hand big business has other ideas claiming that it has the solution the world hunger. This involves the seizure of land displacing peasant farmers, many of whom committed suicide, and introducing genetically modified crops. Food is a commodity to produce maximum profit.

Food waste is a huge issue with about half of that expensively produced wasted. Supermarket chains have become aware with some produce, just a little, ending up in food banks. Much of this is tinned and processed so does not provide the healthy nutrition that the growing number of people with families need to keep healthy. THe potential cost to society and its services is enormous. Yet a poor country like Cuba can keep its population healthy and educated. What can we learn?

Banks, finance and what could be.

The people of Costa Rica believe small is beautiful since they have retained their banks over tremendous outside pressure. In contrast one of the UK’s mutual banks, the Co-operative has fallen prey to the voracious appetite of the banking world of hedge funds and those who have the power to do what they want with available wealth, whoever it belongs to. Labour sadly joined Tories and friends in attempting to make this a large corporate organisation. If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em I suppose is the philosophy.

The transition of the UK amongst others of changing from an industrial base, which produced tangible wealth to the country, to the paper-based finance dominated economy, began years back. My Father set up his own business manufacturing and selling equipment for use on farms and industrial sites. One day the Distillers Company took charge and it was an accountant who made decisions about the company’s future. What he knew about industry I don’t know, but it didn’t seem to matter. From then on it didn’t have a future.

The practice of accountants running things has snowballed as large off-shore corporations take charge of our lucrative public services running councils, schools, health services, prisons and security. With them it doesn’t seem to matter how well they do or don’t perform, they are the Untouchable.

I seem to remember that as the established accountancy firms began to take control Capita came into prominence, I thought with Labour’ support at the time. If the Tories could do it they should get in on the act and compete. Of course Capita is now huge and undistinguishable from any other corporation. It dominates Birmingham City Council and is adept at getting its fingers into every pie at a huge cost to us as tax payers. Two Capita stories were prominent in yesterday’s news. The first in the Birmingham Post reported on the massive charges Capita were making for providing a website for the New Birmingham Public Library. As the libraries await a decision on a sell off we find our money going into someone else’s pocket. Capita were in the news previously for the delays and incompetence in setting up the Council’s website.

The second Capita story is about one of their executives pronouncing the need for bigger and better wars, the lack of which he opined had led to the demise of large sections of Britain’s armed forces. This is usually an unstated reality of the raison d’etre of the huge industrial-military complexes of the world, bit occasionally someone will state the unmentionable truth. Trust Capita.