Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, January-February 2010, Pages 54-55

Waging Peace

Gaza Steadfast—Skip Schiel on Tour

Skip Schiel (c) with members of the University of South Florida’s Muslim Student Association. (Photo M. Underbakke)

PHOTOGRAPHER AND activist Skip Schiel appeared at First United Church of Tampa, FL on Oct. 28 with his multimedia presentation “Gaza Steadfast.” His presentation the following day at the University of South Florida was sponsored by the Muslim Student Association.

It was his ninth stop on a five-week tour that began in North Carolina, with talks in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Alabama. Approximately 30 stops were planned before the tour concluded at the annual School of the Americas Watch in Fort Benning, Georgia.

Schiel, who is based in Cambridge, MA, has been to Israel/Palestine yearly since 2003 to document the events there, and to report back to American audiences. He was in Gaza both before and after the Israeli onslaught in December 2008/January 2009, and thus witnessed the effects of Operation Cast Lead, as well as the effects of Israel’s continuing siege of Gaza.

Schiel showed photographs depicting the current situation in Gaza. About 1,400 people died during the onslaught, mostly civilians, including many children. He showed a photo of a child who almost certainly was a victim of white phosphorus—the flesh on his leg was burned away to the bone. He also showed photos of destroyed homes, factories, farms and schools. One photo was of a farmer who had lost 40,000 chickens. People whose homes were destroyed were still living in tents months later because there are no building materials in Gaza due to the ongoing siege.

Schiel began both Tampa presentations with a discussion of Justice Richard Goldstone’s Report of the U.N. Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. Goldstone is a Jew, a Zionist, and a strong supporter of Israel, but the respected South African jurist concluded that there is a strong possibility of war crimes by both Hamas and Israel. His report called for an investigation and an end to impunity for violations of international law in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. At the time of Schiel’s presentation, House Resolution 867, which called on President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “to oppose unequivocally any endorsement or further consideration” of the report, was moving through Congress (see p. 18). The audience was urged to call on their representatives to vote against this resolution.

Schiel’s presentation showed how conditions in Gaza have deteriorated. Many people have lost hope and are trying, unsuccessfully, to leave, he said. However, others remain to continue the struggle.

Asked why Schiel chose “Gaza Steadfast” as the title of the presentation, he explained that “steadfast” (or sumud in Arabic) is the single word that describes many of the people living in Gaza.

Mel Underbakke

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