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Connexions Other Voices February 14, 2021: Beyond the Walls

February 14, 2021

The theme of the February 14, 2021 issue of Other Voices, the Connexions newsletter is “Beyond the Walls.”

From the introduction:

Here we are. It’s the middle of February, and we’re still in the midst lockdowns and alarms, missing our normal lives. We could probably all use some sunshine and some cheering up, and surely Other Voices is up to the challenge of providing that?

Absolutely. Sunshine and warmth? You’ll find four items about Gaza and Palestine in this issue. Gaza? Yes, Gaza. Gaza has sunshine, as well as its share of beauty, humour, and giggling children playing amidst the rubble. As Zainab Wael Bahseer writes in “Gaza City, an unusual beauty”, by carrying on with eyes and ears open, “we teach life.” Her article appears on “We are not Numbers,” the featured website in this issue, created for Palestinian youth to tell their stories to the world.

In “Postcard from a Liberated Gaza” Hadeel Assali joins other writers and activists in imagining a post-pandemic, post-occupation Gaza where people drink coffee by the sea and share stories.

Sameer Qumsiyeh, meanwhile, sets out from Palestine, travels to places (not many) which will accept a Palestinian passport, copes with all the additional restrictions of a pandemic, and makes a film, “Walled Citizen.” His goal in making the film, Qumsiyeh says, was to create “a picture of how things can be if you can transcend walls and barriers.”

From Palestine, we continue on to Kashmir, a territory blessed with many apple trees, and oppressed by a military regime which, like its counterpart in occupied Palestine, has been destroying trees by the thousands as part of a strategy of making it impossible for indigenous people to live. Largely cut off from the outside world, Kashmiris nevertheless also continue to live, and to teach life, in the land they are rooted in.

In India itself, people must try to find a way to keep living in the face of poverty and a pandemic made more difficult by a government that is worse than useless. “Online classes, offline class divisions” tells the stories of students in the Ambujwadi slum in north Mumbai who are trying to manage online learning using borrowed and shared cell phones while continuing to work to help their families survive. Serving customers who come to your vegetable cart while simultaneously continuing to pay attention to what the teacher is saying is part of a normal day for these young people.

John Pilger takes us behind the walls of Belmarsh prison, where Julian Assange continues to be imprisoned even after a court rejected an American extradition request. Watching the trial, Pilger says, was like watching a Stalinist show trial. Although, Pilger points out, at least in a Stalinist show trial, the prisoners were able to stand and face the court directly. Assange was imprisoned behind a thick wall of glass, and could only communicate with his lawyers by crawling on his knees to a slit in the glass to pass out a note, on yellow sticky notepaper, which would then be passed along the length of the courtroom to where his lawyers were sitting. Pilger reminds us that Assange’s “crime” is to have “performed an epic public service: revealing that which we have a right to know: the lies of our governments and the crimes they commit in our name.”

Leonard Peltier remains locked up in the American prison where he has been held for more than 40 years, convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. The International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee continues to work for his release. A film about his life: “Warrior: The Life of Leonard Peltier” is the featured film in this issue of Other Voices.

The featured book is Viktor Frankl’s “Yes to Life: In Spite of Everything,” written in 1946 not long after he was released from Auschwitz. “As long as we have breath, as long as we are still conscious,” says Frankel, “we are each responsible for answering life’s questions.”

The February 14 issue of Other Voices is online at

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