DAY 93 – Gaza

July 16th, 2014 § 0 comments

In a deluge of dispatches, which you are probably reading as I am, I select this, from the Palestine Israel Network:

A Contextual Reflection on the Assault on Gaza

Written on July 12, 2014 by  (American Episcopalian)

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The frightening aerial war being waged by Israel against Gaza brings many recriminations and much finger pointing. Who started this? What incident set it off? The kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the occupied West Bank? Or the earlier murders of two Palestinian teens involving Israeli snipers which went largely unreported because such incidents are so common? Or the revenge murder against a Palestinian teenager who was burned alive? Is it rockets fired from Gaza into Israel or is that retaliation for a drone strike by Israel on Gaza? It’s the same scenario played out for decades. Tit for tat is the common refrain. In the context of all that is going on in Syria and Iraq, the Middle East appears to be a cauldron.

LI-Goya-plate20b-150x150Get him well, and on to the next

Pierre Whalon, bishop-in-charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, wrote on July 10: “An Israeli invasion of Gaza could be the match that sets off the powder keg…. It is therefore crucial that people of faith not only pray fervently, but also contact their governments’ leaders to demand that every possible effort be made to prevent a conflagration which could even spill over into a Third World War.” That’s a pretty grim prognostication. And a necessary encouragement to contact our government to exercise its considerable influence.

One thing is certain. As with previous assaults by Israel on Gaza, there is no proportionality in either the firepower of the two sides, nor its devastating consequences. So far, over 100 Palestinians have died, mostly civilians, including women and children, but not one Israeli. Diane Sawyer of ABC news committed a gaffe in reporting on the conflict, showing a displaced family among the rubble of what was their home, referring to it as an Israeli family. But it was actually a Palestinian family in Gaza. No Israeli homes have been destroyed. Brian Williams of NBC news, on the other hand, accurately reported on the “lopsided” nature of the attacks.   He noted most of the rockets fired from Gaza into Israel are shot down by a largely U.S. taxpayer funded Iron Dome which intercepts incoming missiles. But Israel’s bombs are the most sophisticated money can buy and Gaza has no defense against them.

There are 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza, crammed into poverty stricken cities and refugee camps that have been there since the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Unemployment is 40%. Israel controls Gaza on three sides with a desolate border fence and a navy blockade. Israel destroyed Gaza’s airport in an aerial assault years ago. Egypt controls the southern border and has no desire to absorb Palestinians into their country. Gaza is often described by its residents as an open air prison. It is part of the ongoing Occupation of 4.4 million Palestinians. And it is one of the most densely populated pieces of land in the world. And one of the poorest.

LI-Goya-Plate32b-150x150

Why?

Israelis living in the modern city of Tel Aviv 43 miles north of Gaza can live their lives without ever thinking about the conditions of life in Gaza. Until now. All of a sudden, air raid sirens are going off and people have 15 minutes to seek shelter because Hamas now has a few longer range rockets.  One angry Tel Aviv woman screamed “We must wipe out Hamas once and for all.” One Hamas spokesperson said Hamas was achieving its purpose, to get the attention of Israelis and to strike fear.

In contrast, one angry elderly Palestinian man in Gaza screamed over the rubble where nine Palestinian bodies lay “We are not people! They do not see us as people!” The nine dead were young men who had gathered to watch the World Cup at the ironically named Fun Time café. The café was obliterated. “It was a normal social occasion,a local policeman employed by the Palestinian Authority, Wael Soboh, told Agence France Presse.“The boys ate their Ramadan iftar meal here, and then began watching the match. It is not a military area.” Israel later said it was targeting one alleged terrorist.

LI-Goya-plate38b-150x150Barbarians!

Hamas in Gaza is largely an outgrowth of 66 years of a teeming mass of humanity that has as bleak an outlook as the barren place it is. Gaza is a breeding ground for rage and violence, and it’s directly proportional to the draconian conditions Israel applies. Hamas stands defiantly against the State of Israel for having displaced 750,000 Palestinians in 1948 from what is now Israel, wiping out over 400 Palestinian villages and towns. The creation of the State of Israel is known to Palestinians as the Nakba, the catastrophe. Israel says it will not negotiate with Hamas until Hamas recognizes Israel’s right to exist, accepts the (moribund) Oslo accords and renounces violence. So Hamas must give away its main bargaining chips before it can get a seat at the table while Israel says it will not agree to any preconditions. Yitzhak Rabin, former Prime Minister of Israel, assassinated by an Israeli extremist for making a peace agreement with Yasser Arafat was quoted as saying “You don’t make peace with your friends. You make peace with your enemies.” Is there any option to Israel and Hamas eventually sitting down to make peace? Does the Tel Aviv woman really believe Hamas can be wiped out?

In the midst of the current war in Gaza, a remarkable event occurred in Tel Aviv on July 8. The White House Middle East chief, Philip Gordon, spoke to an Israeli audience moments after the conference participants returned from taking cover during an air raid warning. He said, “How will (Israel) have peace if it’s unwilling to delineate a border, end the occupation and allow for Palestinian sovereignty, security and dignity? How will we prevent other states from supporting Palestinian efforts in international bodies, if Israel is not seen as committed to peace?”

LI-Goya-plate54b-150x150Appeals are in vain

This is a sign of the U.S. administration’s frustration with the recent failure of peace talks largely because of Israel’s defiance of international law in pursuing its settlement expansion in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which has continued with impunity for decades. It may also be a sign of the shifting political landscape where previously blind eyes are now beginning to see Israel’s intransigence and willingness to maintain its occupation in perpetuity, the world be damned.

Israel’s latest assault on Gaza is a tragic display of firepower that is inflicting mayhem and death mainly on innocent civilians, including children, which substitutes for any perceived desire to end the occupation. That’s the refrain Israel doesn’t want to hear. End the occupation.

Canon Brian J. Grieves

Steering Committee, Palestine Israel Network

The Episcopal Peace Fellowship

Poems:

I, too, have a dream …
that one day Jews and Christians
will see me as I am:
a small child, lonely and afraid,
staring down the barrels of their big bazookas,
knowing I did nothing
to deserve their enmity.
―The Child Poets of Gaza

I, too, have a dream …
that one day Jews and Christians
will see me as I am:
a small child, lonely and afraid,
staring down the barrels of their big bazookas,
knowing I did nothing
to deserve their emnity.
―The Child Poets of Gaza

Epitaph for a Child of Gaza
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

 

Distant light
by Walid Khazindar, a poet born in Gaza City
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Bitterly cold,
winter clings to the naked trees.
If only you would free
the bright sparrows
from the tips of your fingers
and release a smile—that shy, tentative smile—
from the imprisoned anguish I see.
Sing! Can we not sing
as if we were warm, hand-in-hand,
shielded by shade from a glaring sun?
Can you not always remain this way,
stoking the fire, more beautiful than necessary, and silent?
Darkness increases; we must remain vigilant
and this distant light is our only consolation—
this imperiled flame, which from the beginning
has been flickering,
in danger of going out.
Come to me, closer and closer.
I don’t want to be able to tell my hand from yours.
And let’s stay awake, lest the snow smother us.

 

And to round it off: ‘Greek Songs for Gaza‘ – with English and Arabic subtitles.

The report on my refereeing stint for the annual ‘Hedge Fund Managers vs. Human Rights Lawyers’ football fixture is unavoidably held over till the next post.

 

 

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