Cobban to young Gazan writers: The internet is your Tahrir Square

by Yousef M. Aljamal on June 16, 2011

Helena Cobban addressing an audience at The Center for Political and Development Studies. (Photo: Yousef M. Aljamal)

On Wednesday, June 15th The Center for Political and Development Studies (CPDS) in Gaza invited Helena Cobban, a well-known veteran journalist and author, who owns and publishes Just World Books, to talk about her experience in writing, and to raise Gaza’s academics and journalists’ awareness of the best way to get published in the West. Cobban talked about her experience in blogging and writing before dozens of academics, journalists and students who attended the event.

The seminar began with an opening speech by Iman Abu Issa, who welcomed the visitor and the audiences. Cobban thanked the audience for coming and CPDS for organizing the event. She talked about her experience in the field of journalism and the importance of writing as a weapon to fight with.

“One of the most powerful things is to have public voice. It’s stronger than weapons, Because it allows you to talk to other people”, She stressed. “I published my first book in 1984 and it was entitled “Palestinian Liberation Organization: People, Power and Politics” by conducting a lot of interviews and research.” She added, “The most powerful thing is that it’s still read until now.”

Cobban awarding Mohammed Rabah Suliman with a copy of Laila El-Haddad’s book Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between

Realizing the powerful effect of new technology, Cobban had the idea of working with good bloggers, putting their posts in order, organizing them coherently and making a book out of them. Recalling the significant role of social media, she listened to her son’s advice and started her own blog. She added, “Two of the best blogs from Iraq During the US invasion were ‘Baghdad Burning’ and ‘A family in Baghdad’”.

Blogging and the anti-war movement

Blogging has helped the Anti-war Movement in the US. It explained to Americans why it’s wrong and clarified its consequences. It crosses the borders easily and reaches to peoples’ minds and hearts. The first person testimony can do what all others can’t.

“The power of firsthand testimony that is well-written, direct, fresh and honest is great. It can cross the borders easily. If you write in English, that’s wonderful. But the question is how to get this published and distributed. English is important to talk to all people all over the world, not only English speakers”, She assured.

How to get published

Many people write perfectly, but some of them they don’t follow the best way to get their works published out. Publishing one’s work is as important as writing it. “You should create a blog that attracts the community around. Twitter is a very powerful, especially when you talk about current events. If you are proud of your work, you need to sell it. The Internet is your Tahrir Square” Cobban said.

US Misadventures in Palestine

The American policy toward Palestine has been characterized by bias to Israel. This is clear in the US more than any other place else. Though, some changes have happened recently, particularly after the US has invaded Iraq.

“I found that the culture in the US is more Zionist than it is in Britain. Some important changes happened recently in the US regarding Palestine and Iraq. Americans didn’t know what occupation is until they invaded Iraq. There is anti-war movement. Some important people started raising these matters”, Cobban said.

“A large part of the society is outside the beltway. There are people who are ready to listen to Palestinians as mainstream Churches such as the Quakers. The churches played an important role in anti-war movement in Iraq and Vietnam. Those who criticize Israel are called anti-Semitic and Jews are called self-hatred. This accusation is used to refute any discussion about Israel”, She added.

Jews for Free Palestine

The Jewish community in the US has recently witnessed the activism and creation of organizations of young people, who support Palestinians’ rights and condemn Israel’s violations of human rights, its atrocities against civilians and its suffocating siege imposed on Gaza, especially after the Gaza-23 day war that took the lives of more than 1400 Palestinians, most of them civilians and one-third of them children, and the murder of 9 Turkish activists on The Freedom Flotilla a year ago in the international waters.

“There are many Jewish groups in the US that observe what’s going on and stand in solidarity with Palestinians such as “Jewish Voice for Peace”, she stressed. “There are a lot of young people in the Jewish community who are supporters of Palestine. Jewish People are not the main supporter of Israel. The main supporter is the Evangelical Christians”, She mentioned

The role of donors in US elections

Donors determine who and how long a congressman shall stay in his/her office. Raising money to finance the election campaign plays an important role in the process of decision-making. This vividly explains why congress men stood for 30 standing ovations to Netanyahu, while he was addressing them.

“Congressmen thinking of re-running the election once more and they look for money. That’s why they stood up many times while Netanyahu were talking to the Congress. The President needs to be elected once every 4 years and he has better chance to be a leader more than congressmen”, Cobban said referring to how money plays a great role in the election.

US Power Waning

The US has recently suffered from budget deficit and crisis. This pushed thinkers to question its role in supporting Israel and its war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The US power is waning for many reasons: the financial collapse in 2008, people started to understand that our ability to govern the world is waning and there are new raising economies such as Brazil, India, Turkey, and Russia”.

Palestinian Reconciliation

Hamas and Fateh have recently signed a pact in Cairo ending the four-year rift among the Palestinians. At the end of her speech, Helena cobban asked the audience” what are your hopes and expectations about Palestinian Unity?”

Dr. Hani Albasous, CPDS vice chairman and a political analyst from Gaza, answered: “There has been hope here after Hamas and Fateh signed the unity pact. Most people were happy and thought that implementation will come soon within 1 year. Some Palestinians have a lack of hope and they felt that this would not be implemented on the ground. Now, and after rounds of talks, both parties have reached an agreement on some points; we are going to see most likely the announcement of Palestinian Government next week. It’s not an easy thing to fix the rift. I hope things will be completely fine, unless we have pressure from Israel and the US … this will take more time.”

Meanwhile, some analysts believe that the pact provides an opportunity to reach a real peace agreement. Others see that Israel is not ready to take the risk of accepting the Palestinian unity pact. “Israel prefers a weak side more than a stronger one. Unity disturbs the US and Israel”, added Dr. Esam Adwan, well-know figure in Gaza.

At the end of the seminar, Helena Cobban introduced to the audience and talked briefly about its role and directors: Phil Weiss and Adam Horowitz. Cobban cheeringly handed the Mondo Awards winners in Gaza their singed copies of Laila El-Haddad’s book: Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between.

(  / 18.06.2011)

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