A letter on Gaza
This letter came to me through a fellow activist and I asked Randall (the author) if I could share this. It is very powerful and a perspective that I would like others to have the opportunity to read. I've also found a blog from a Palestinian mother living in the US. Her family is in Gaza. I so appreciate her reporting of the events.
My personal post regarding Gaza will follow.
In spirited partnership,
I am not exactly sure which list this is or how I am on it. If it is indeed the listening circle list then I feel bad to be sharing analysis rather than feelings. Linda and I just returned from Israel and the Palestinian Territories not five days ago and my feelings are all over the place. Most present is my mind are the feelings of relief I felt on the day we left: relief to have sucessfully cleared the "are you Jewish" questions at Ben Gurion airport with my Arab wife; relief at passing through immigration and being away from the place (even though we will undoubtedly want to go back in the not too distant future); and most of all relief upon landing in Zurich, and being able to walk around in a place where there are no checkpoints (we must have crossed through a hundred, many more appearing in Jerusalem by last Monday), no tear gas cannons (one of which was fired at me), no home demolitions (we saw the sites of a few just in the month of December), no one-hour cab ride to travel from one part of a university campus to another, and most of all no one carrying a machine gun, not even the police, much less civilians. There are also the feelings of helplessness, that we could not do anything to stop the violence, ease the pain, etc etc etc. One of the things I hear from many Americans, particularly those who have not spent much time in Israel, is that they just wish Israel could be a normal place like any other country. Only someone who has spent little time and paid little attention could ponder such a possibility in a place so terribly far from normal. It is not normal in the sense that it is so deeply uncomfortable. It is also not normal in that the logic that people use to justify their actions is so convoluted. Convoluted perhaps by the conflict, but convoluted more by the psychological toll that occupation takes on the occupier. Perhaps perhaps perhaps Palestinians, Arabs, or Muslims (as most people there would express it) are really just consumed with hatred for Jews and wish nothing more than to destroy Israel and all the Jews within it. But I would ask for reams of evidence in support of such an awful claim and I don't think even Abe Foxman could muster it. I have never seen evidence of it in my extensive reading or in my personal experiences. I also don't believe that Jews have an inherent hatred of Arabs or Muslims, though I heard many people in Israel utter things that should not be repeated about Palestinians and about killing Palestinians. No, reality is far more complicated than this kind of simple hate. Instead I believe there is a back story behind all this animosity and violence. But just because there is a back story does not then mean that it must be incredibly complicated with many twists and turns. Perhaps the backstory is one that can be told fairly simply. Going back well before 1947, Jews have held the upper hand in Palestine militarily, economically, and diplomatically. Perhaps there were ways to wield this power in a peaceful, nuanced way that won friends, perhaps not. But instead the situation is defined continuing wounds of the independence war and the widespread displacement of Palestinians in 1948 and the continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967. Israel can plead it wants that they are the righteous party, that anti-Semitism is at the heart of this, or that there is a complicated history, but it will not make them a normal country. Certainly bombing Gaza to oblivion will not make it a normal country. Another argument I hear a lot is that perhaps Palestinians should, like many other refugees and indeed like many Jews throughout history should just let it go and assimilate into their new countries like other refugees do. You hear this argument a lot, and by extension you hear that if they are unwilling to assimilate and they continue to fight on for Palestine, then it must be because they hate Jews, because they are supported by a global conspiracy of Jew haters, and because they would rather spend their lives hating and tormenting and demonizing Jews than simply enjoying their lives, their families, their jobs, etc. Well guess what? Most Palestinians who were expelled did assimilate into their host nations. Much of the Jordan's middle class are Palestinian. There are many successful and highly assimilated Palestinian Americans. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians settled for better or worse throughout the new world, Europe, and the Middle East, families like Sergio's. But guess what else? Many people quite reasonably miss home, or feel wronged by the way they had to leave home. Many others, for a variety of reasons, were not able to assimilate in their new homes. On top of that, about 5 million Palestinians, only half of the total but still a great many, have stayed in Palestine. Some could leave but choose to stay, but most simply can't leave. Let me be perfectly clear about this. They have nowhere to go. They are stuck in Palestine like any person from a third world country who can't migrate. For every 1 Palestinian who stays in the West Bank or Gaza or a godforsaken refugee camp in Lebanon because they won't leave behind their homeland and they want to fight there are 100 who simply have nowhere else to go. My research specialty is migration and one of the most important things we have learned about migration over the years is that every migrant, even the refugees, are subject to forces of selection. When you see a Palestinian American, you are perhaps seeing someone who was forced to leave their homeland because of circumstances outside their control, but you are also seeing someone whose family history, social networks, religion, skills, moxie, or some other attribute allowed them to migrate. The ones who are left in Palestine, for the large part, have nowhere else to go. Nobody wants them. And they suffer dearly in their homeland, not because they choose to stay there to fight for their land and certainly not because they want to stay and express their hatred and violence towards Jews. No, they suffer because the world has forgotten them, because the world hates them. Unlike people who are trapped in other third world countries, they are not simply left alone in their poverty; instead their lands are taken, their homes are destroyed, their movement is restricted. They ask why do we suffer so much and the Israeli government bulldozes their homes and the world cheers Israel as a bastion of democracy and truth. They are called terrorists for their troubles. As a director of a global health program, I know all to well that there are many places in the world where there are more people suffering depredations that are far more horrible in terms of the
death toll or the sheer starvation. But I also know that there is no place on earth right now, with our modern global economy and global rules of human rights, where a developed nation inflicts such harm on so many and does so with the full support of most of the world's governments, with the eager enthusiasm and celebration of people who would normally be horrified by such behavior, and with a mandate from the United Nations. So when someone asks me why do they hate us and why do they fight back and why don't they just leave, it must be because they are all anti-Semites who hate Israel and hate Jews or terrorists who hate civilization, I say NO. Palestinians are not stupid and they are not consumed by hatred. They hate you because of what you have done to them, they fight back because that's what humans do, and the don't leave because they have nowhere else to go. By all means fight them and demonize them if you want to, but don't pretend that you are
being righteous in doing so. That said, dropping rockets on Ashkelon and Be'er Sheva is both a violent and ineffective response to the horror that Gaza has faced over the last 2, 5, 60 years. I don't condone it, but I also know that there is a history behind it. A history of occupation, a history that led to Hamas's emergence, to Hamas winning an election, and to Hamas being isolated. Israel can respond with violence according to international law, but they can never escape their own violations of human rights and they can never escape their culpability in this whole awful situation that they could have prevented decades ago. Instead, the violence simply further corrupts and distorts what has become an incredibly violent and virulently nationalistic place. I know it is painful to recognize this but I find it hard to avoid. Sorry for the rant but I feel very emotional and so frustrated that so many people who have condemned injustice and fought for the disadvantaged and the oppressed in so many corners of the earth continue to make excuses for this horrible exercise. By all means see both sides of the story, empathize with all parties, but then please get down to the business of seeing and speaking the truth. Below is a link to a timeline of ceasefire violations since June 19. It is pitiful to even have to mention that the very first ceasefire violations in June and the more immediate violations in November were carried out by Israel as the larger point is about who is at fault for this whole fiasco of the so-called withdrawal from Gaza, the coup, the siege, not to mention everything that came before it since 1967. http://bbsnews.net/article.php/20090101212318310 Sadly casting blame will not make the violence stop any sooner. Again, my apologies... Randall