07 January 2013

A Voice from Gaza

“Apartheid is a crime against humanity.  Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property.  It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality.  It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians, contrary to international law.  It has, in particular, waged a war against a civilian population, in particular children.” – Nelson Mandela, former prisoner-of-conscience for 25 years

The most singular physical manifestation of the apartheid which the State of Israel is inflicting on the native population of Palestine is the Apartheid Wall surrounding the West Bank.  It is quite similar to the Berlin Wall destroyed in 1989 and to the so-called “Peace Lines” built in 1969 between Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods in Belfast, Derry, Portadown, and other cities which still exist. 

The Israeli-inflicted apartheid is harshest, however, in the Gaza Strip.  Since 2006, the State of Israel has converted the Gaza Strip into a 141 sq. mi. (365 sq. km) prison comparable to the Warsaw Ghetto.  Don’t get mad at goy me for that comparison; Israeli survivors of the Ghetto and of the Holocaust made that comparison before me.

And for what crime has Israel been inflicting this illegal collective punishment on the people of Gaza?  In 2006, in what international observers judged to be a cleaner election than many in most developed countries, Hamas won a majority of seats in the parliament of Occupied Palestine fairly and squarely.  In local elections, Hamas won a large majority of the offices and council seats in the Gaza Strip, where Fatah won few.  People in the Gaza Strip were sick of neglect by Ramallah and the corruption and complacency of Fatah.

I do not like Hamas, any more than I like any sectarian, theocratic political group regardless of their professed religion, but it was a clean election and they won fairly.  Israel and the U.S.A. hubristically failed in their analysis and did little to support any alternative.  Thus red-faced at being caught with their pants down, the IDF (Israeli Defense Force), the Mossad, and the governments of Ehud Barak and Bibi Netanyahu have taken out their chagrin on the people of Gaza, collective punishment in violation of every tenet of all international law and standards of human rights for exercising their freedom to vote.  Especially after the coup d’etat they attempted through Fatah in 2007 failed so miserably.

In the recent war of Israel upon the Gaza Strip dubbed “Operation Pillar of Defense”, which began with Israel’s assassination of Ahmed Jabari, 162 Palestinians died compared to just 5 Israelis.  Of those Palestinians, at least 30 among the 110 civilian victims were school-age children.  Also among the dead were eleven members from four generations of a single family whose home, according to official IDF sources, had been deliberately targeted. 

In their 2008-2009 invasion of the Gaza Strip dubbed “Operation Cast Lead”, the IDF killed 1400 Palestinians, 353 of whom were children, while suffering only 13 casualties.  Such lop-sided casualty rates remind me of Mark Twain’s story “War Prayer”, his response to a massacre during the Moro War (1902-1913) of 900 civilians (men, women, children) on the Philippine island of Mindanao by American troops who suffered a mere 35 casualties, all by friendly fire.

The following was written by my niece in Gaza City, Hadeel, who is 16 years old, and with her permission I am including it so that readers may know “the rest of the story”, which you may not be getting from CNN, Fox, or MSNBC.

 “Yesterday night, I almost closed my eyes to catch some Z's after a bloody, miserable day, I barely slept, the sound of explosions began approaching, it was everywhere, I was telling myself it's ok, it's just one, don't worry it's almost over, another explosion, I said that is the last one then everything will be over, Booomb! Another one, two and three ... it was too much so that I got up from bed.  With every sound of shaking bombs I was fleeing to my parents' room, daddy took me in his arms, he tried hard to stop my rainy eyes. 

“Lying between my dad's arms, covering my head under the blanket, closing my eyes to this dark world, having nightmares even while I'm not sleeping, that was how I spent this night. Daddy was watching the window and warning me with every rocket-propelled, he was whispering LIGHT!  As a sign to hold my breath and get ready for the next explosion!

“Daddy thought that I was crying because I was afraid of death.  Not really! It was a crying with a different flavor; I was crying because it was the first time to feel that I'm going to lose someone of my family, despite everything was going, I was not afraid of death, it doesn't scare me anymore, even if I knew I would be underground within seconds...but what is scaring me the thought of losing someone I love in these events, I may lose the life of my father, mother, brother, or a friend.  I will be lucky if it is about losing my life only. With every explosion, I could see the death becomes closer to one of them, many thoughts were spoiling in my head, I was extremely weak, it was the first time to feel that weakness, I was someone I've never met before.

“Fire, bombs, explosions, blood and death, it was too much for a girl in my age to endure, to breathe the atmosphere of blood smell is something terrible!  As if you are experiencing death more than once while you are still alive!!

“Then, for a moment, I closed my eyes. There was an instant of extreme cold and total darkness. Suddenly I was in deep, dreamless, sleep.

“I opened my eyes upon my mom, she was raising her hands to the sky and praying to God to keep us safe, this increased my faith, I said to myself: they can never defeat us! I decided to curse my weakness and shackle it with chains; I decided to be stronger, yes stronger!”

– Hadeel M. Abu Oun, 19 November 2012, Gaza City, Palestine

According to Gideon Levy, an Israeli reporter for the newspaper Ha’aretz, since April 2001 a total of 59 Israelis have died in hostilities between them compared to 4,717 Palestinians in both the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

There’s this story about a Palestinian, an American, a French Iranian, and an Israeli meeting on a tour boat on the River Seine through Paris…sounds like the beginning of a joke, right?  Only it really happened; I know because I was one of them.  The picture we had taken of the four of us together has proven to be one of the more popular that I’ve posted to Facebook.  It’s about peace, and the hope for a future in which We the People of the World will finally fulfill President Eisenhower’s prediction that one day we will want peace so much that our governments will have to step aside and let us have it. 

And if they fail to do that, we will just step around them.

(NOTE:  This article was originally written as an opinion piece in a local online newspaper, The Chattanoogan.  However, when I sent it, I received this reply from the editor: "chuck not sure want to get into that topic".  He was silencing not just me but my niece and all the other victims in the Gaza Strip.)

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