Now, I can hear the bombings, shelling and air strikes every where in Gaza. Where is the situation is going?
—Dr. Mustafa El Hawi, Gaza City, August 19, 2014
Recently at a large gathering of New England Quakers, to a small group, a woman outlined her visionary response to the recurring violence in Gaza and Israel. Essentially: a group of Israeli Jews, spontaneously, recognize the desperate needs of their Gazan neighbors—and their government’s role in causing those needs. Addressing only the merciful side of the problem, not yet the justice side, they gather building materials, food, water, medicines, and other needed supplies and personnel intending to bring it to Gaza personally, an aid mission, not blessed by their government, nor by the majority of their fellow Israelis who overwhelming support the assault on Gaza.
Of course their government will not allow this citizen group to enter the Gaza Strip so they bring ladders, crowbars, sledgehammers, and a large number of determined people to the wall which imprisons their neighbors. They storm the wall and enter Gaza. This act of chutzpah gains much favorable international publicity, a new form of news from Israel and Gaza. Others from around the world spontaneously organize their own aid missions and successfully land on Gaza’s beaches, push back Egyptian security at the southern border, flood thru the breach in the Israeli wall, and reconstruct the Strip.
Gaza wall, click image for an enlargement
Far fetched? Speculative? A fantasy? Another good idea but is it possible? One small hint of reality occurred several weeks ago when Gershon Baskin, a Jewish Israeli-American activist, discovered a huge amount of potatoes in Israel that for various reasons might need to be abandoned. He organized a crowd-sourced fundraising appeal and hopes to generate some $730,000 to purchase and transport the potatoes to Gaza.
According to the Jerusalem Post he launched “an online Indiegogo campaign aiming to raise the $730,000 necessary to purchase a 5,000-ton surplus of potatoes from the Israel Vegetable Growers Association. Due to union bylaws guaranteeing farmers a fair price for their labor, the association cannot simply donate the potatoes.” And Europe recently experienced a surfeit of potatoes so it is not a market. As of today, he’s raised a little more than one tenth his goal, $78,000, enough to buy and ship some of the surplus potatoes.
(UPDATE: After asking the Israeli vegetable growers association to donate some of the potato surplus to Gaza they responded positively and agreed to reduce the price we will pay by 20%!!! That is a sizable amount of money and will enable us to increase the amount of potatoes we will send to Gaza’s neediest people! Spread the word!—Gershon Baskin)
Another precedent is post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans when groups such as the Common Ground Collective and later during Hurricane Isaac elements of the Occupy movement rallied to help reconstruct the city and fight for a fair disposition of resources, an exemplary combination of mercy and justice. Detroit’s problems might be at least partially alleviated by a similar grass-roots movement from outside the city, which is already occurring on a small-scale. The Detroit Water Project locates donors from outside the city to help pay Detroiters’ water bills. As of July 27 it has found 4,000 donors. Inside the city, organizations like the Boggs Center organize residents and visitors in social justice movements.
What a mind shift this could create in the international community. anti-Semitism is rising in Europe, the United States may follow. If such a vision were to be implemented, organized initially by Israeli Jews, the nation of Israel could be viewed differently: from criminal state, becoming a pariah, more and more hated internationally, to a benefactor, a rescuer. As many people rescuing Jews did during the holocaust.
I now extrapolate from the initial vision. Phase two would occur when others, more strategically oriented, realize this is only a partial solution. What prevents Israel from attacking again and maintaining the killing siege, or Gazan militants from firing missiles into Israeli civilian districts and building tunnels into Israel to attack the army and possibly civilians as well? This second phase could either organize appeals to the international court system and finally, finally, the case of Israel and Palestine comes to the International Court of Justice, while other elements of the case go to the International Criminal Court. Or, as in South Africa, organize a truth and reconciliation process, inviting elements from all parties to acknowledge suffering and admit complicity.
In a Gaza hospital, photo by Skip Schiel
Untreated sewage into the Mediterranean Sea, photo by Skip Schiel
Generators to supply electricity when municipal services fail
Once this second adjudication phase has begun, the third phase would be enacted: reparations from the responsible parties. After another Israeli operation, Defensive Shield, ravaged much of the West Bank in 2002, international donors like USAID paid for the repair and reconstruction. Why not the afflicting parties? Why not Israel itself, required to pay for the damage it brought? And perhaps a similar reparation program to compensate those injured, killed, and otherwise destroyed by criminal acts of Palestinian parties? Justice served, finally. Is it possible? A vision for a program?
(Thanks to Liberty G for the initial vision.)
I have a crazy fantasy.
Peace will come and filmmakers will produce movies about this war, too.
One scene: Israeli soldiers discover a tunnel and enter it in order to clear it of enemies. At the same time, Hamas fighters enter the tunnel at the other end, on their way to attack a kibbutz.
The fighters meet in the middle, beneath the fence. They see each other in the dim light. And then, instead of shooting, they shake hands.
A mad idea? Indeed. Sorry.
It was a great feeling to arrive on that boat [one of the first freedom boats sailing to Gaza in 2008], a feeling of freedom that I had never experienced. It was the first time in my life that I had visited home without the humiliation of being questioned or interrogated by the Israelis, without being threatened, having my travel documents thrown in my face, and not knowing whether I would be able to get out or not. It is a sense of liberation I hope every Palestinian will experience one day. I am proud of being one of the first Palestinians from the Occupied Territories to enter Palestine without Israeli permission since 1967.
“Meeting in a Tunnel,” by Uri Avnery
“Anti-Semitism flares in Europe amid Gaza war,” by Janelle Dumalaon, Jennifer Collins and Angela Waters,
“Repression against grassroots hurricane relief lingers in New Orleans,” by Jake Olzen, November 9, 2012
“Detroit Allows Outsiders to Pay Past Due Water Bills,” by Douglas A. McIntyre, July 27, 2014
“$200K expected to fill Detroit water bill fund,” by Darren A. Nichols, August 18, 2014
“Son of Death,” by Uri Avnery