Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Recounting of the Gaza Massacre of February 2008

The Day the Earth and Sky Traded Places - Gazan Shoah

This is not about recounting the bodies, and there was a lot of bodies to count. By best estimates, a bit over a hundred. Ninety of them were civilians, and 25 were children. The pictures of whatever was left of their little bodies, has been on a lot of newspapers and web sites. Nothing I post can add to the pain and anger many of us who are seeking justice and peace feel. Arrogance and pride backed by unlimited military power is blinding the hegemonies of the world, leading them to forget that 'pride comes before the fall' [or as per the original text of the Old Testament -Proverbs 16:18: "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall."].
But today I want to share with you one of the most emotional recount I read about those several miserable days in Gaza. It is written by Jennifer Loewenstein, associate professor of Middle East Studies in the University of Wisconsin. She is one of a growing number of Jews, Israelis and Westerners that can see through the mud that most media sling against anything that is Arab or Muslim. She lived in Palestine, among Palestinians in Gaza and the West bank.
Her article narrates the thoughts of a Palestinian Gaza resident 'M', whose goals are like anyof us, but his life is not. She also adds her own thoughts at the end.

"Around 10:30pm on the night of February 28, M and his wife S spoke in low tones in a dark room dimly lit by a battery-operated lamp. They were trying to decide if it was still safe to send their children to school and decided in favor because the elementary school building is in a safer part of the city near a number of international offices."
"This is a black day in Gaza," M wrote; "a holocaust as (Israeli deputy defense minister Matan) Vilnai put it. There is an attack every five or ten minutes. It keeps our nerves on edge and our senses strained. There is so much rage at what is happening; especially the scenes of murdered children and babies. I am so busy I don't know how to describe my feelings. I work to avoid feeling because right now that's too unbearable."

Jennifer Loewenstein, who has lived on the 'Western' side of the world most of her life, is painfully aware of how 'selective' the West can be when it comes to empathy and sympathy. We hand pick the people we would like to share our human emotions with, and we deny the 'others' any share of our concern and love.

"... rockets fired into the interiors of homes with no knowledge of who is inside. Eye-witnesses report this and worse: a six month old baby girl becomes tiny body parts with her mother and brother. A small child is cut apart by shrapnel and screams that she doesn't want to die just before leaving this world. The mothers and fathers cannot protect them so they weep and scream at the funerals that this side of the world never views, especially during basketball season."
She is also very critical of the belligerence and audacity behind the logic of the Israeli government militaristic mentality justifying such operations:
"Who really cares about these children? Every Palestinian is a militant because everyone (sooner or later) wants Israel off their land, out of their lives, and forgotten like a horrible dream. It is for this reason that they are all equal targets"
Loewnstein knows very well that it is greed and a sense of entitlement that get in the way of peace and justice.
"Peace would require relinquishing regional hegemony. Peace would demand sharing the land and the resources equally. Peace might, heaven forbid, require democratic decision making in a region where the Israelis are not better, more entitled, more deserving of Their Way than everyone else in the neighborhood."
In a super powerful concluding sentence, she alludes to racist and nationalistic attitudes as the underpinning of the current policies and attitudes toward the Palestinians;
"Untermenschen [German for sub-human; a term from Nazi racial ideology used to describe "inferior people"] who can be denied food, water, fuel, electricity, medical supplies, the right to leave and return home, the right to not to die in an ambulance that without the proper permits, the right to their own land and their own nationhood precisely because they are lesser human beings can also be picked off one by one or in groups or in families or because they are "militants," or all of the above, who deserve no fair hearing, due process, photographs, names, headlines, stories, grief or televised tear-jerker funerals to commemorate their sacrifices. In such a world contexts are an insult to the intelligence of the policy-makers."

Please read the article in its entirety on the Tikkun to get the full impact of a very powerful article.
Jennifer Loewenstein is an American Jew who lived for extended periods amongst Arabs in Gaza and writes frequently on Middle East issues with special focus on its human cost. She founded the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project and she is a member of the board of the USA branch of Coalition against House Demolition.

Recommended Links:
Another, somewhat older, but equally interesting article on CounterPunch by J Loewenstein.
I also like to recommend taking a look as the Tikkun web site. This is an informative progressive Jewish web site run by Rabbi Michael Lerner. You will find a lot of interesting articles and discussions (from a liberal humanistic perspective) about the Israeli Palestinian conflict, Iraq was, AIPAC and the Israeli lobby in Washington, and USA elections.
Tikkun - Network of spiritual progressives


  1. What I don't understand is what Gaza wants from Israel. I hope you will address this in a future post.

    Why doesn't Gaza import food and other supplies from Egypt? There is a large Egyptian city just south of Gaza. The highways and infrastructure are in place for trucks full of supplies to travel from Egypt to Gaza. Why is Israel responsible for the shortages in Gaza, not Egypt?

    The Israeli bombings are horrible! I wish the Israeli government would think up some other response to the rocket attacks! And it is important to remember that the Israeli bombings are not attacks out of the blue, they are responses to bombings/rocket attacks from Gaza. As I understand it, Israel tries very hard to hit precisely the locations that the rockets were shot from. (This has been confirmed by UN observers, who note that rocket launches are seen coming from the roofs and balconies of apartment buildings in Gaza.) Why do Gazans permit terrorists to set up rocket launchers in residential buildings? Why doesn't the Gazan police force search out and arrest the people who attract Israeli bombs to the homes of innocent children?

    We know it's because the government of Gaza, run by Hamas, supports the rocket attacks on Israel. And for the life of me what I can't understand is why. Why in the world is Gaza attacking Israel? Israel has withdrawn from Gaza. It is no longer occupying Gaza. What is it that Hamas wants Israel to do?

    I'm starting to think that Hamas is deliberately trying to provoke Israel into attacking, and deliberately letting rocket attacks come from residential neighborhoods so Israeli attacks will kill Gazan civilians. That way the Hamas leaders get great PR, get the "Arab street" on their side, and get to stay in power. And maybe Hamas doesn't try to import food, water, and power from Egypt because it gets more money from Muslim charities to help poor starving Gazans (and line their own pockets) than it would if there was a healthy trade with Egypt. But what's really scary about that thought is that Hamas was elected in the first place because it was seen as less corrupt than Fatah.

  2. I'd like to add to emphasize that the Israeli response is just plain wrong.

    I feel intellectually frustrated at the Gazan/Hamas support for rocket attacks.

    But the Israeli bombings are killing so many people. It's just feeding into the cycle of violence.

    What else could Israel do to prevent attacks on its own civilians? I'd like to see Israel give so much positive support and aid to Fatah that the Gazan people choose to follow the path of peace instead of Hamas.