Representatives of Nelson Publishing House, Amel Association International and the committee supervising “The 100,000 Books Campaign to Support Gaza” held a press conference at Amel House for Human Rights. On this occasion, Mr. Suleiman Bakhti, Director of Nelson Publishing House, introduced the campaign, whereas Dr. Kamel Mohanna, President of Amel Association International and general coordinator of the Lebanese NGOs network, made a statement that emphasized the importance of support initiatives to the resilience of the Palestinian people in Gaza, who are suffering from a merciless and stifling blockade. The Palestinian cause is a just cause that deserves worldwide solidarity and has therefore to remain at the heart of any humanitarian struggle.
As Dr. Mohanna recalled, the “100,000 Books Campaign to Support Gaza” was launched in response to the recent Israeli aggression against Palestinian civilians, especially those living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, the 1948 Palestinians, not to mention the crimes committed in the Gaza Strip. This is not the first initiative that Amel Association International undertakes with its partners in order to support Gaza. Previous ones consisted of health aids.
He went on, stating: “When the director of Nelson Publishing House, our friend Suleiman Bakhti, proposed the idea of collecting books for Gaza, we were distressed by the news of the destruction of many public libraries during the aggression, as well as the scenes of killing and stoning shown in the media. So, we invited a number of friends and activists in the cultural field, and we launched a broad campaign. We did not imagine that the campaign would receive such a wide response and sudden donations from intellectuals, publishing houses and cultural institutions, and that it would extend to individual initiatives. We were able to collect one hundred and five thousand books.
He added: “On this occasion, we would like to thank everyone who contributed to the effort that we launched with the support of an intellectual committee that included Raji Sourani, Fayez El-Sarsawy, Helmy Moussa, Issa Saba, and Abu Salman Helles. We worked hard together to identify solutions to ship and distribute the books to the libraries in Gaza, but we came up against a strong blockade, and the collected books could not reach them”.
Dr. Mohanna said that the organizers of the initiative explored all possibilities to get the books to Gaza:
- through UNRWA, which suggested transferring the books via approved transport agencies, under the auspices of the International Red Cross, but with no outcome;
- through the Rafah crossing and the Egyptian government. We thus sent a letter to His Excellency the Ambassador of Egypt in Lebanon, accompanied by a letter from the Lebanese Minister of Culture, but we did not receive a positive answer from the embassy;
- through the Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon and the Ministry of Health in Gaza;
- through ANERA, an association which is based in Gaza and which could have helped to transfer the books.
Additional attempts were made through Russia, and through friends, such as Dr. Luna Abu Sweileh, who tried an initiative through a Gaza-based institution. All of them were unsuccessful.
Dr. Mohanna concluded: “Together, we tried everything to carry out the mission entrusted to us by those who contributed their books, and we did everything possible to do, without any delay. In vain. In light of this, we needed to find a solution for the books we had collected, one that does not rule out the prospect of donating books to Palestinians. In coordination with the Welfare Association, we decided to distribute the books in Lebanon to a number of Palestinian libraries, located throughout camps scattered across Lebanon. Some of the books of the campaign were also distributed to the Al-Sabil libraries linked to the municipality of Beirut, which are located in Al-Bashoura, Monod and Al-Jeitawi, noting that they work with many independent public libraries outside Beirut.
Finally, Kamel Mohanna stated: “We promise not to be complacent nor to give in to despair. Rather, our endeavors will be ongoing and not occasional. Palestine is always in our hearts, and we will not pass up an opportunity to support our suffering people in occupied Palestine. We will fight them until justice is served and the land is returned to its rightful owners.”