A few days after the Sandy Hook school murders in Newtown CT, I posted the following article from the Guardian about the Israeli assault on Gaza a few days before the school massacre. My email led to a brief dialog with one of my correspondents, Mr. H. I offered more details about my comparison.
Gaza: ‘My child was killed and nothing has changed’ by Harriet Sherwood in the Guardian, December 11, 2012
The morning ritual goes like this: three-year-old Ali Misharawi wakes up and reaches for his father’s mobile phone. He kisses and strokes the face of his baby brother, Omar, on its small screen. Then he starts asking questions. Why is Omar in paradise? Why did you put my brother into the ground? Why can’t I play with him any more?
“He asks a lot of questions. Every day he asks if Omar is alive or dead. He knows what happened, he was there, but he needs to make sense of it,” says his father, Jihad Misharawi, whose family was devastated in an inferno on the first full day of last month’s war. Misharawi’s 11-month-old son Omar and 19-year-old sister-in-law Heba were killed instantly; his brother Ahmed, 18, died after 12 days in intensive care with burns to 85% of his body….
Jihad Misharawi weeps while he holds the body of his 11-month-old son Omar, killed by an Israeli airstrike. Photograph: Majed Hamdan/AP
Mr. H replied to my post which I’d entitled, “Sandy Hook Compared to Gaza”:
No! There is no comparison. It would be like comparing the climate on Venus to the climate on Mars. Gaza and Sandy Hook exist in two different worlds. Much more heat than light would be generated.
BTW, as reported by Mondoweiss.net there was an op-ed in the NY Times today comparing Palestinian suicide-bombers to US mass murders such as Adam Lanza [shooter at Sandy Hook school]: check it out. A lot of grotesque emotions will be stirred up by such talk.
Please reconsider such titles such as the one above.
Distraught family members leave the fire station after hearing news of their loved ones from officials Dec. 14, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. (Don Emmert/AFP, via Getty)
Thanks for engaging on the issue of my comparing killing children in Gaza and killing children in the Sandy Hook school.
Of course they cannot be equated. However I maintain there are at least 3 key similarities.
1. The slaughter of innocents. Children and entire families die in Gaza, 20 children and 6 of their teachers and their principal die in Sandy Hook.
2. The deliberate slaughter of innocents. Altho Israel claims they do not intend to kill civilians, they do, predictably. The UN-initiated and accepted Goldstone Report about Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli assault on Gaza of 2008-09 which killed more than 300 children, established Israeli’s deliberate policy of striking non-combatants. Yes, one of the authors, Richard Goldstone, later recanted that claim but the other 3 authors maintained the claim’s veracity.
3. The US complicity in the deliberate slaughter of innocents in both places. As is well-known the US is the main supplier of Israeli weaponry, namely F 16 jet fighters, Apache helicopters, white phosphorus (used during Cast Lead) and M 16 rifles. The US also provides political cover to the Israeli regime. Compare this to the prevailing policy, fostered by congress and accepted by the administration, in our country which allows, even encourages, purchase and possession of assault weapons.
I publicly claim the comparison to illustrate the gaping disparity between attention to the two regions—20 children dead in this country and the nation stops, the president appears in person and speaks, media swarm, flags descend to half mast, prayer vigils everywhere, and even Congress may react. 300 children die in Gaza—who notices?
I could also compare Sandy Hook with the drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and earlier the carnage wrought by international sanctions, led largely by the US, on Iraq. More slaughter of innocents, deliberate and with US complicity. But that’s another story.
I look forward to your response.
BTW, I read the article you suggested in the NY Times and found it provocative, worth thinking about. I’m not sure why you feel that “a lot of grotesque emotions will be stirred up by such talk.”
After an attack by Israel F-16′s fighter jets supplied by the United States
From Mr. H:
Of course you are correct on all counts: the problem is that all points apply GLOBALLY. Therefore it is incorrect and misleading to apply them in isolation to one or two particular geographical locations or populations. #1 the slaughter of innocents is constant and widespread #2 Israel, Hamas, Assad, Komaini (sp?) AND the CIA slaughter innocents on a regular basis #3 the US complicity in “the deliberate slaughter of innocents” applies, at minimum, to the US use of drones wherever it is employed and, in general, globally.
If you want to address immorality and depravity in the human psyche I suggest that you do it both on an individual and global basis.
As regards Gaza: too many Americans already have preconceived opinions to make comparisons to Sandy Hook meaningful. As regards to Sandy Hook: everyone is well aware that that is an upper income community that has experienced a terrible tragedy. They may possibly be aware that Connecticut enjoys considerable revenue from sales of guns manufactured there AND has the fifth weakest support (among the 50 states) for mental health programs and treatment.
I think that the problems and successes of any community should be taken up and appreciated on their own merits, weaknesses and possibilities. Pitting unlike and unequal and emotionally charged situations against each other does not help.
If you want to make points which I think are universally true please make sure you intend that they apply to EVERYONE and EVERYWHERE.
P.S. My response to comparing Palestinian suicide bombers to mentally-ill Americans: I do NOT think Palestinian suicide bombers are mentally ill. I think they are driven to frustrated, lethal revenge by years of subjugation and humiliation. The mental illness of an upper-middle class American who has demonstrated mental and social development problems and who has been introduced by his mother to the love and use of assault weapons is nothing like the situation of Gazan youth. Anyone seeking to make such a comparison is surely following some other nefarious agenda.
if i understand you correctly on two points, the universality of what you term immorality and depravity, terms i’d agree with, and whether palestinian militants engaging in martyrdom operations, as they choose to name them, are mentally ill, i have these reactions.
to analyse we draw specific connections. sometimes better to localize the connections to bring the pot to a boil sooner, to make the connections more vivid. if the connections are too general the pot may never boil, ie, people may not understand the primary connections. some would argue against comparing israel and south africa using the lens of apartheid by declaring, “well, many regions hatefully separate people, why single out israel and south africa?” one reason is that the connection is dramatic, raises the question, forces the issue, stimulates thought—and is bound to upset many. jimmy carter dared to use the term in his ground-breaking book. i laud him and all who defy conventional propriety.
point two, i’m just not sure about whether palestinians who commit horrendous acts against civilians—along with their counterparts in israel who do the same—are or are not mentally ill. as norman finkelstein has said about the israelis in many of their policies, hysteria prevails. a form of mass psychosis. which might apply to militant palestinians as well. individuals might test sane, but collectively they often exhibit insane behavior. consider the nazis, both the foot soldiers who killed civilians wantonly and the political leaders, officers, and camp commandants, all the way up to hitler. probably individually mentally healthy on most measures but together insane.
thanks for the reminder that ct benefits mightily from gun manufacturing and is one of the least supportive states for mental health programs and treatment.
Khan Yunis buffer zone, Gaza Strip, shell fired by Israeli military
From Mr. H:
My current thoughts are these: #1 Gaza, and the Palestinians at large, have suffered great injustices. This has been largely at the hands of the Zionists. This is a great and enduring evil. This evil is a transgression of Divine Truth and Cosmic Law. The evil, itself, will eventually bring about the destruction of Zionism. This is told over and over again in the Hebrew Bible.#2 The US is guilty of associating with, and supporting, for its own geopolitical and religious reasons, this immoral enterprise. But this association is our problem and not related to the plight of Palestine. Our actions will have their own ultimate, and probably tragic, consequences.
#3 The Palestinians are caught in the mill grinder of the great global powers. They will have to navigate their own way through these fierce waters: they are beginning to gain some traction in the UN and in playing the global powers off against each other. BDS [boycott, divest, sanction] and other divestment movements are helping but they have their own overlapping dimensions with other justice [issues].
In the end salvation must and will be found in both politics and spirituality.
There must be people, in all walks of life, who decide: Enough’s enough; there are children here. That even if, in your derangement and pain, or your greed and covetousness, you do me grievous harm, even to the taking of the life of my child, I still choose to see you and your people as human; though perhaps distorted, warped and tortured almost beyond human recognition. I refuse to turn away from the effort to talk to you, frightened though I might be. Whenever possible, I will not refuse to make friends.
—Alice Walker from her foreword to the book, The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, by Miko Peled
Skip Schiel teaching photography in Gaza, 2005 c.