Journalist Zebula “Sha” Hebert has been “shot at, stabbed, pepper sprayed, maced, tear-gassed, tased, arrested, detained, beaten, and interrogated” while conducting his work. He knows what repression feels like, which is why he is undertaking a highly ambitious project: in the wake of the recent US-backed Israeli assault, Hebert will return to Palestine and spend a year in Gaza. He will conduct interviews with Gazans, publish reports, and ultimately write a book about his findings and experiences, all to help amplify the voices of a trapped refugee population being brutalized by the world’s most powerful aggressors.
Hebert conducted an interview with Robert Barsocchini for Washington’s Blog, to elucidate and spread the word about his upcoming journalistic endeavor:
RB: What personally motivates you to continue covering this topic?
ZH: The current global economic/military dynamic reduces entire nations, cultures, and peoples to prisoners and slaves in their own homes. Nowhere in the world is this more evident than in Palestine, though certainly it is happening and has happened many other places as well, including within the US. It takes only a small understanding of honest scholarship to see that the US was founded on the principals of ethnic cleansing, slavery, and genocide. The US is now supporting this same behavior in Israel (among other places). I believe that people who are conscious of the consequences of our own historical and contemporary atrocities ought to take a stand against their continuation. Having access to accurate information is a critical element.
RB: Why do you want to write this book now? I imagine the latest assault on Gaza plays a role.
ZH: I have travelled to Palestine twice over the past ten years. While the latest assault on Gaza has been a highly visible abomination perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians, it is no greater a crime than the occupation itself, which has taken, broken, trapped, and ended countless lives and families since the Nakba [initial Israeli campaign of ethnic cleansing of Palestine, in 1948].
Gaza is an open air prison. The West Bank is not in much better shape. The timing does not have a correlation with the latest assault on Gaza. This is a standing issue.
Israel’s policy is now and always has been (despite their vigorous and effective PR campaigns and “peace talks”) not to ever make peace but to make life so miserable and traumatic that Palestinians will eventually just leave or die. I should state emphatically here that not all Israelis agree with their government’s policies; many of them actively fight to subvert Israeli policies. Nonetheless, they are annexing the West Bank with illegal settlements as we speak, killing and imprisoning at will. Despite their rhetoric we have to look at what they do, not what they say. And what they do and have always done suggests ethnic cleansing, not peace. When I look at it, I see the United States’ genocide against American Indians. Gaza and the West Bank are two big reservations and Palestinians who have Israeli “citizenship” within Israel are second class citizens.
RB: What will you encounter when you get to Gaza?
ZH: A people fighting for their very survival. A people pushed to absurd extremes economically, culturally, spiritually and physically, with the same unbreakable spirit so endemic to humanity.
RB: What are you going to do in Gaza? Who are you going to talk to? Where are you going to stay? How long?
ZH: I will talk to anybody who wants to talk. Ordinary people, officials, mothers, fathers, the goldfish… whomever wants a voice. I will stay with friends and colleagues and anywhere I can. I will follow wherever the stories and interviews take me. Palestinians are some of the most hospitable people I’ve ever met; I will not have trouble finding places to stay while I work. I will respond to leads, seek and find newsworthy stories and publish them on PNN [Palestinian News Network]. I will also work on my book. I will stay for as long as I can. My goal is at least one year.
RB: What resistance have you experienced previously while covering this and other topics?
ZH: In the course of covering and/or protesting state violence, I have been shot at, stabbed, pepper sprayed, maced, tear-gassed, tased, arrested, detained, beaten, and interrogated. I hate what violence does to the victim and the aggressor. I hate violence towards anyone, in any form, may it be economic, psychological, or physical. Still I believe, in spite of my hatred for violence, that people subjected to state violence have a right to defend themselves, by whatever means they have available.
RB: What do you think of mainstream US coverage of this topic?
ZH: I am constantly reminded how media in the US (which enjoys a “free press”) is actually just an advertisement for this or that idea, this or that policy, this or that politician. It isn’t news, its cheerleading. One need only research US reports through any major news outlet concerning the conflict (or any other conflict for that matter) to find a mind boggling absence of actual journalism. There is a terrifying lack of critical analysis within our national media apparatus which enables the status quo to continue.
RB: What do you hope to accomplish with this project? What do you see as the viable end goal?
ZH: The viable end goal is to contribute to honest information dissemination concerning the occupation. I simply want to be a small part of the effort to end the travesty that is occurring daily.
What is happening now in the Middle East (Iraq, Afghanistan, US support of Israel) is nothing new. It began with genocide against the indigenous of North America as well as economic and military domination throughout Latin America, then spread globally in many different forms. The result is always the same, millions upon millions suffer and die needlessly while Americans (well, some of us) thrive. If people can wake up to this and take responsibility for it, we can end the madness that we have birthed and start to build something better.
Critically, the people of Gaza must be heard in the one country that makes their subjugation possible and ensures its continuation: the United States.
To end the repression, US citizens need to learn about and care for Palestinians, and then pressure the US government to end its massive support for Israel until Israel decolonizes Palestine and ceases its human rights violations.
To help achieve these very attainable goals, become part of Mr. Hebert’s effort to humanize Palestinians and bring more of their voices and stories to the United States and world. Mr. Hebert will carry out this mission on a shoestring budget of $8,000 dollars, and has created a Kickstarter project so anyone can contribute towards raising these funds. Let’s continue to show Gazans, all Palestinians, and the US government that we are against what is being done, and will continue to intensify our resistance until it stops.
Thank you, Mr. Hebert, for taking the time to talk to Washington’s Blog, and best of luck with your admirable undertaking.
Zebula Hebert studied Political Science at the University of Oregon and was a wild land firefighter for many years. He has lived in Japan and Egypt, and has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa.
Robert Barsocchini is a researcher focusing on global force dynamics. He also writes professionally for the film industry. Here is his blog. Also see his free e-book, Whatever it Takes – Hillary Clinton’s Record of Support for War and other Depravities. Click here to follow Robert and his UK-based colleague, Dean Robinson, on Twitter.