Part #1 of a discussion with Denny Cormier – Hosted by with Ariyana Love (Click on image below to hear this show)
An American Journey
Denny Cormier, an American human rights activist and citizen’s journalist is not the typical foreign national to visit Gaza. Seeing beyond the media narrative, he viewed a profound gift in the Palestinian culture, like a diamond in the rough, pressurized by years of oppression, occupation and siege.
Compelled to follow his heart, and with no other agenda but to live among the Palestinian people as a fellow man, he set out to humanize this civilization to the world, through his own eyes.
Denny wrapped up his life in USA and in March of 2014, he passed through the gates of Rafah and into Gaza City, where he rented an apartment on the beach.
Not bound to the restrictions of an NGO or a Government organization, Denny had more freedom to walk the streets and mingle with the locals, as compared to other foreign nationals who find themselves restricted to the rules of their own government, NGO, or even the Hamas authority who keeps a close eye on foreign visitors. Considered a “security risk,” foreign nationals must be accompanied by a chaperone everywhere they go outside their hotel rooms and access to certain areas is restricted.
The Hamas Government are most protective of foreign nationals because of tragic incidents like the kidnapping and murder of Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni, in 2010. Or the kidnapping of BBC reporter Alan Johnston in 2007.
Incidentally, these are the only two foreign nationals ever kidnapped in Gaza and in the case of Johnston, Hamas was able to negotiate his release. Despite what media portrays, kidnapping of foreign nationals in Gaza is rare.
Equipped with his camera, Denny immediately began documenting daily life in Gaza, through his photography and writing, he shared his experiences with a growing number of followers on Facebook. He began filming a series of short documentaries, with a group of young Palestinian filmmakers and social media activists. The series is called,
“Gaza Through My Eyes – An American Journey to Gaza”
Having raised already, 4 thousand dollars to make an 8 part series of short films, Denny hopes to raise double this in order to make 16 short films.
“Gaza, Through My Eyes” Episode 1: Released January 1st, 2015.
“Gaza Through My Eyes” Episode 2:
Some very meaningful relationships have blossomed for Denny into an extended Palestinian family and the expressions of love he had only hoped existed but never before found in the West. A Palestinian’s expression of love is to place the others needs equal to their own. They quickly recognize and adore the “pure at heart.” Generous to a fault, you will never feel alone among them.
But these are not foolish people. Being highly self-reliant and educated, they literally built the infrastructure for the Israeli society through contracted labor.
When asked if they hate Jews, they will answer:
“Our Qur’an tells us Jews are our brothers and sisters. We know the enemy is Zionism.”
Weathering the consequences of siege and occupation, Denny knew there could be an Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip at any time and sure enough there was. On July 8th, 2014, Israel launched “Operation Protective Edge.” Instead of fleeing to Egypt to sit it out, or returning back to his home country, Denny chose to remain in Gaza. Demonstrating remarkable courage he decided, “you don’t abandon your friends when things get tough.”
During the 51 days of bombing, Denny broadcasted live from his living room in Gaza city. This was when Denny and I first met. We had both joined a team of volunteer journalists and activists who were on the ground in Gaza and in other countries, in order to consolidate all breaking news as it was being released by Palestinian news stations and by civilians reporting the Israeli war crimes with cell phones cameras.
We received images and breaking news around the clock. Nights were the busiest since the Israeli bombing intensified after dark. So that’s when Denny broadcasted. Knowing that global media was not reporting on Israeli crimes, we took it upon ourselves. The news was translated immediately, from Arabic to English and shared as quickly as possible with the public, through volunteer social media sites. We gave breaking news to Denny during his broadcasts so he could convey the information through the live-stream. The breaking news was shared to Denny’s, “Eyes on Gaza” page and my own, “Exposing Israel’s Agenda” page and also “Occupy Middle East” Facebook pages.
Witnessing the dreadful war crimes of the Israeli Regime was horrifying beyond belief. Watching civilians targeted, exterminated and defenseless, with whole families killed within their own homes, was the most traumatic thing I had ever witnessed. Denny was right in the middle of it, suffering 51 days of sleep depravation along with everybody else.
There was a constant buzz of drones in the Gaza sky, loud like a mosquito in your ear, even during ceasefires the bombings continued, just less. There was heavy bombardment of artillery fire from the Israeli war ships near Denny’s coastal building. Sonic booms from F16 fighter jets ripped through the air and caused Denny to leap from his chair quite a few times during broadcasts.
Fatal explosions echoed by screams of those searching frantically for loved ones, buried beneath the rubble, followed by the smell of chemical gas clouds and ambulance sirens and children’s terrified cry’s. There was blood, so much blood in the air! Denny soon realized nobody was safe in Gaza.
The entire infrastructure was targeted. Gaza’s main electrical plant, power lines, water pipes and tanks, farmland, businesses, livestock, mosques, schools, UNWRA shelters while children slept, high rise residential buildings, media and press centers, playgrounds while children played and died, graveyards while burials took place, hospitals and rehabilitation centers while patience were residing within and universities were all targeted.
When Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa received warning from Israel that they intended to bomb it, Denny volunteered to stand as a human shield with a group of brave foreign activists who held 24 hour vigil within Al Shifa and also Al Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital. They managed to prevent Israel from bombing Al Shifa, but Al Wafa was not spared. Staff evacuated patients who were unable to walk, carrying them outside in their beds at the last minute and just escaped death. One journalist was at al Wafa, as a human shield and reporting to our team.
Hamas Government Leadership in Gaza
In one of our recent discussions, I asked Denny what he thinks about Hamas. We had both observed Hamas leadership during Israel’s summer assault and their resistance to ground invasion. Given that he has almost daily encounters with the ruling government body when he simply walks down the streets, I thought to share his perception and opinion, which does reflects my own.
Hamas is on the US Government Terror List. Both Denny and I do not agree with the US Government position, as we recognize the Palestinian people’s international human right to resist occupation.
The 4th Geneva Convention declares our international human rights to resist occupation, stating,
“A militarily occupied people have a duty to defend themselves”,
including resistance by the use of force.
Hamas is on the US Terror List because of Jewish influence on US law, APAIC and the influence of the arms industry in politics. Considering the majority of weapons Israel uses in Gaza are from US arms manufacturers, as well as their own, it’s clear a special relationship exists which allows the US and Israeli arms industry to test ongoing, their weapons in Gaza. Many of them are illegal, internationally banned, never before tested weapons. It’s therefore logical to assume that having Hamas on a US Terror List serves a political and financially corrupt, Zionist agenda. Never mind a human being’s right to resist occupation.
Hamas was however just removed from the EU Terror List in December 17th of 2014. This is a progressive move in Europe’s recognition of Palestinian rights to self-determination.
What both Denny and I observed from Hamas behavior this summer was accurate reporting and exemplar ethics in war. I could not fault them. Hamas was reliable and never once lied to the public. They held out from retaliating with rocket fire, for 3 weeks while Israel bombed the Gaza Strip and raided homes in the West Bank, looting & shooting innocent civilians. But Zionist owned, global media wouldn’t tell us that.
Media also doesn’t tell us that Hamas gives ample warning to the Israeli Government before firing rockets at a target that could have civilians in the vicinity. We’re also not told that Hamas targets are Israeli Government facilities or facilities within illegal settlements on Palestinian land. Again, civilians are warned ahead of time to vacate.
We observed the integrity of Hamas this summer, while the Israeli Government did nothing but lie, which is the Israeli Government’s number one rule art of war tactic. There is nothing honorable about it.
Israel has a powerful influence on global corporate media and governments, lying and manipulating the public has been it’s greatest tool.
If you read articles from Israeli newspapers of last summer, or study any of the Israeli Government claims or reports released about their sickening operation in Gaza, you will not find any two reports that are the same and not any two articles with the same claims, facts, reports or statistics. Israel even lies about their casualties.
The best example I could use of Israeli government lying during Operation Protective Edge was the Israel breech of the 72-hour UN enforced ceasefire on August 1st. Israel broke the ceasefire in order to kill their own captive soldier, Lt Hadar Goldin, who had been taken captive hours before the ceasefire would take affect, by a military wing of Hamas called al Qassam.
So that Goldin would not be taken to a safe house and so Israel would not be forced into making concessions with Hamas later for his release, the Hannibal Directive was enforced.
August 1st is known to Palestine as “Black Friday” because Israeli military bombarded the city with almost every mode of destruction available to it, from F-16 missiles to Apache rockets to naval shelling to drone strikes and mortars. Bulldozers ripped down homes at random while tanks barreled through neighborhoods, shelling anything in sight. In a matter of hours, at least 500 artillery shells and hundreds of missiles were dumped on the city, almost entirely in civilian areas. By the end, 190 innocent civilians had been killed, so many that unequipped local hospitals were forced to store their corpses and body parts in ice cream coolers. (Max Blumenthal) 350 more, were wounded. Needless to say, they succeeded in killing Lt Goldin.
In order to cover up their criminal operation in Rafah, Israeli Government lied and blamed Hamas for breaking the ceasefire. UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon and Obama also lied for Israel, condemning Hamas repeatedly for “ceasefire breech.” Even though, evidence to the contrary had already been produced.
Later, Israeli Government admitted to lying and Colonel Ofer Winter also admitted to ordering the mass-bombardment in Rafah and to enforcing the Hannibal Directive.
But by then, people only remember the first media reports, a president condemning Hamas of ceasefire breech and not the Israeli Governments retraction, unfortunately. This is how “We the People” are manipulated en masse.
Before this summer, all Palestinian factions of resistance signed an agreement to belong to a new Palestinian Unity Government. Hamas agreed to hand over the governmental role in Gaza to the Unity Government, while maintaining itself as the military resistance in Gaza. Israel would not tolerate a united Palestine and this is the main reason for Israel’s sudden and harrowing attack.
Denny says, Hamas wants to get out of government but they have no money. He says Hamas must hold onto the military wing because if they gave that up altogether, there would be a vacuum, causing more harm than good to Gaza. They don’t have resources to do much and Israel’s withholding of Palestinian tax revenues, amounting to 50-60 million USD per month, is a blatant violation of Israel’s duty as an Occupying Power to ensure the welfare of the civilian population in the OPT. The sanctions Israel is imposing on the Palestinian population represent a form of collective punishment, prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and constitute an attack on the exercise of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people. Furthermore, the lack of funds has disrupted the supply of services essential to the safeguard of fundamental human rights such as the right to health and the right to education.
Through last summer’s assault on Gaza and for over one year, no government employee’s in Gaza has received salaries. Can you imagine? Medics, Doctor’s and aid workers laboring through the conditions of the Israeli assault on Gaza, without pay and for such an extended period? From where do they get the strength and how do they manage to eat? Denny continues,
“Without financial resources, you cannot run a country. Hamas wishes to turn government leadership in Gaza, over to a Unity Government, but right now their biggest concern is another attack by Israel.”
He says Hamas are kind and educated and they do the best with what they have. Their main concern is protecting the population from another land invasion and assault on the Gaza Strip. Israel keeps them in a perpetual state of trauma and self-defense. All blame, even for Hamas rocket fire belongs to the Israeli Government.
Donations: If you would like to donate to Denny Cormier to help fund the completion of 16 short films in Gaza, please contact him directly, at Denny’s Facebook page.