- 2012elections - 9/11 Special Coverage - aca - africanamericanalzheimers - aids - Alabama News Network - american - Awards & Expo - bees - bilingual - border - californiaeducation - Caribbean - cir - citizenship - climatechange - collgeinmiami - community - democrats - ecotourism - Elders - Election 2012 - elections2012 - escuelas - Ethnic Media in the News - Ethnicities - Events - Eye on Egypt - Fellowships - food - Foreclosures - Growing Up Poor in the Bay Area - Health Care Reform - healthyhungerfreekids - howtodie - humiliating - immigrants - Inside the Shadow Economy - kimjongun - Latin America - Law & Justice - Living - Media - memphismediaroundtable - Multimedia - NAM en Espaol - Politics & Governance - Religion - Richmond Pulse - Science & Technology - Sports - The Movement to Expand Health Care Access - Video - Voter Suppression - War & Conflict - 攔截盤查政策 - Top Stories - Immigration - Health - Economy - Education - Environment - Ethnic Media Headlines - International Affairs - NAM en Español - Occupy Protests - Youth Culture - Collaborative Reporting

California Trio Headed to Gaza to Protest Occupation

ChicoSol, News Report, Leslie Layton Posted: Dec 17, 2009

Retired nurse-practitioner Ann Polivka learned to swim and snorkle in the Mediterranean Sea. She remembers scouring the Israeli coast as a child for old Roman coins. During the four years she lived in Israel, she studied Hebrew and Latin at a Presbyterian missionary school.

On Christmas Day, she'll leave Northern California for her first trip to the Middle East since leaving Israel at age 9. But in spite of her bond with Israel, she won't be returning to the country born one year after her own birth. (Israel won its statehood in 1948). Polivka, 62, is one of three Chico women who will be participating in the Dec. 31 Gaza Freedom March to protest Israel's occupation and blockade of Gaza.

The other two women are Peggy McCormack, 75, and Hayley Wallace, 24. The three registered for the march independently of each other and met as a group for the first time Dec. 13 at a downtown coffee shop. Their age span and backgrounds reflect the diversity of 1,350 people from around the world who have signed up for the Gaza march.

Sixty Northern Californians are among the 330 Americans registered for the protest, says organizer Medea Benjamin. Forty-two countries will be represented. Apparently, no one has ever attempted to take a protest group of this size into Gaza.

Polivka said she registered in part because of her bond with Israel. Wallace, who says she's committed to social-justice activism, is a recent Chico State graduate who was introduced to Middle East political issues as a student. Both Polivka and Wallace belong to the local ACLU's Immigrant Rights Committee.

McCormack, a geographer, has been studying the Middle East for much of her life and hosted a KPFA radio program on related issues in the 1960s.

"I'm going to a part of the world I have some strong feelings about," said Polivka, whose father was a Chico State math professor and United Nations employee. "That part of the world provided my first childhood memories."

Polivka, who became a Quaker about five years ago, said she feels strongly enough to travel 8,000 miles to participate in a protest in part because of the degree of human suffering she's heard about in Gaza. "I've always been the kind of person who can't stand to see others suffer," Polivka said. "Life in Gaza is miserable."

The Gaza Freedom March, supported by an array of organizations including Code Pink, has planned the event to mark the first anniversary of Israel's 22-day war on Gaza. During an invasion last winter, as many as 1,400 Gaza residents were killed and 4,500 injured. Bombing raids destroyed buildings and cut off water and food supplies, worsening what many already considered a humanitarian crisis.

On Dec. 31, an international coalition including Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Alice Walker, plans to participate in a march inside Gaza to protest what organizers say are Israel's violations of international law, including illegal settlements, house demolitions, torture and curfews. About 50,000 Palestinians residing in Gaza are expected to march. Also planned is a march by both Palestinians and Jews inside Israel who want to protest Israeli policies.

About 80 percent of Gaza's 1.5 million people live on less than $2 a day, according to the Gaza March coalition. Since 2006, border blockades have created a dearth of basic supplies like food and fuel, and Israeli checkpoints within Gaza one of the most densely-populated places on Earth restrict movement and often subject residents to humiliation.

Israel says it was obliged to take drastic measures because its people have been under assault from rocket fire coming from the Gaza Strip.

"I agree that peace has to happen from both sides," Polivka said. "But I believe in the power of people sitting down and talking to each other. We're all human beings who at the root want the same things a decent life. I don't believe Israelis and Palestinians are any different."

McCormack said the rocket fire from Gaza is an indication of the desperation of residents there. "They can't get diapers, they can't get medicines, they can't get spaghetti," McCormack said.

Gaza residents are not only deprived basic supplies and sources of employment, but are tormented by Israel's flyovers that hit the sound barriers, she said. "The policy of the United States and Egypt appears to be to strangle Gaza out of existence. The United States has to stop being a blind and complete supporter of Israel."

Wallace, who studied organizational communication, said she knows the march won't immediately convince the United States to cut off aid to Israel. "I'm not so deluded to think that my being there is suddenly going to change foreign policy," she said. "But the more times a large group of people show they give a shit, the more likely those in control will start to take notice."

McCormack and Wallace will fund their own trips to Gaza, while Polivka is funded by community members who donated to the Chico Peace & Justice Center for this purpose.

International protestors plan to meet in Cairo and travel to Egypt's Rafah border with hopes of entering Gaza Dec. 29. Organizers say that since closing registration Nov. 30, they've been swamped by e-mail from would-be participants. Both Israel and Egypt maintain closed borders with Gaza, but Egypt has been asked to let the protestors cross for a non-violent, 3-mile march that will end near the Erez border crossing with Israel.

Polivka said she finds "irony" in the behavior of Israel precisely because of what Jews suffered under Nazi rule.

Her father, Jaroslav "Jerry" Polivka, left his native Czechoslovakia to fight Nazi fascism for Britain's Royal Air Force. As a result, said Ann Polivka, his Czechoslovakan family was incarcerated in a concentration camp. Jaroslav Polivka later worked as a UN flight instructor near Tel Aviv.

"After [all these] years, Israel is still fighting with its neighbor," Polivka said. "It makes it difficult for me to feel at rest. If there's some small change toward peace, it will be worth it. If we do nothing, the situation will continue to disintegrate."

Leslie Layton, a freelance writer, publishes chicoSol. She can be reached at chicosol@sbcglobal.net

Page 1 of 1




Just Posted

NAM Coverage

Civil Liberties

Why There Are Words

Aug 10, 2011