I tend to see it as a flaw in my cognitive abilities that deaths of people who live across the ocean or [die from] poison in the water in Woburn, Massachusetts seem distant to me. I don’t think I am alone in this at all. Actually, I am probably different from some people in that I actively seek to personalize suffering that is distant from me. And if I am not using that to make brave, radical steps toward environmental and social change every day, what are the people who actively try to distance themselves from other people’s suffering doing? What is going to act as a catalyst for them?
Injured by Israeli sniper, hospital, Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip, 2004
Injured by Israeli sniper, hospital, Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip, 2004
The writing below is from Mahmoud Abu Aisha who I met on my last trip to Gaza, in January 2008. We met briefly at the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. When he contacted me recently I recalled an earlier meeting at the GCMHP: Mohamed Mukhaimar, a man dedicated to healing the traumas of children in Gaza.
In 2004 with Mohamed I photographed in several hospitals as he assessed psychic damages to children hit by deliberate Israeli sniper fire. As I photographed I felt water surging behind my eyes, about to burst thru my eyeballs. Later in the taxi, I stifled my need to weep, waiting until I was private. Now at times I weep uncontrollably at the slightest stimulus, whether related to Gaza or not.
Mohamed Mukhaimar, 2004
That’s me. Imagine Mohamed or Mahmoud, or Amal Sabawi (her name means hope in Arabic), the director of the American Friends Service Committee Popular Achievement program, who I’ll write about in another blog, or Rawand who translates for me or Ibrahem who helps train college age youth or Mosab at the AFSC in Gaza or Mustafa a professor in one of the Gazan universities, perhaps the one destroyed by Israel. They live there, they can’t leave. Imagine the children living there. Imagine the soldiers and fighter-bomber pilots delivering their Hanukah massacre, a macabre form of New Year’s blessing from Israel. Imagine the Israeli leaders who issued the orders. Imagine the Israeli citizens who at this point overwhelmingly support their government’s actions in Gaza. Imagine the governments who support this carnage. Imagine the taxpayers who pay for this havoc. Do they weep—from sorrow, or from joy?
I wonder also how Gaza can ever be rebuilt. If the siege continues, Israel will ban all building materials, most money, most experts, most equipment. Unless they relent—and they may not without massive international pressure—the Gazans are fated to slowly perish. Is this behind the Israeli strategy? Not only to stop the rockets, not only to demolish Hamas, but to punish and eventually annihilate the Gazans who purportedly support Hamas? And then the entire region, ethnically cleansed. Seem far-fetched? Read The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by the renowned Israeli academic (now in exile because of threats), Ilan Pappe.
Jabaliya, Gaza Strip, 2004
In recent memory I cannot recall another instance of such savagery, and not only savagery but international compliance. Ah, yes, one, the “shock and awe” campaign of President GW Bush against Iraq. How could I have forgotten? Whose tax money bought the bombs dropped on Baghdad, on Gaza? And then the Nazi driven holocaust. Are there parallels?
Let’s imagine a slightly different scenario. Hamas is labeled a terrorist organization, and there is truth to this. It is certainly extreme and does state in its covenant its goal to erase Israel, a position I oppose. Let’s identify a similar organization in Israel, say, led by Benjamin Netanyahu of the Likud party who is now a candidate for prime minister. Let’s imagine the Palestinians have the 4th most powerful army in the world, Netanyahu wins, and Palestine declares his party to be terrorist, a charge I’d support. And then, as night follows day, Hamas sends in its war machinery to eliminate the Likud party and Netanyahu himself. Might as well rub out all the government offices, the entire infrastructure and while we’re at it, wink when anyone says they’re intentionally killing civilians. They could claim, we have a right to defend ourselves, and civilian deaths are regrettably but unavoidable. Would the international community acquiesce, merely mouthing platitudes, like end the violence, sit down and talk?
One bright possibility (“To the stars over rough roads, oh valiant friends!”): finally, finally the international community, you and me, rise up and declare: Enough! Yesh Gvul! There is a limit! No more! End the carnage! Pull back! Resolve this justly! End the occupation! Two peoples living securely and freely in one land! Soon!
My next blog will feature the words of Amal Sabawi.
Late breaking: the bombing of a police station near the Gaza Community Mental Health Program offices destroyed part of the center—closed until further notice <http://www.gcmhp.net/>
Hospital, Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip, 2004
From Mahmoud Abu Aisha – GCMHP <firstname.lastname@example.org> (unedited)
January 1st, 2008
Gaza Bleeding under the Israeli War
Dear Friends and Supporters…
I’m writing to you in this very critical situation in Gaza. Now at 3:30 am I still hear the shelling all over Gaza…We are in unbearable conditions where we are subject to the Israeli undiscriminating missiles; we live moments of fear, panic and terror under the Israeli war. Israel practices its brutal crimes against innocent civilians in an attempt to attack Hamas movement or to put and end to the rocket shelling at its settlements. Under this pretext, Israel has entirely destroyed the Gaza Strip Infrastructure and the civil society completely.
Under these dreadful conditions, our children are terrified and I tried to avoid them viewing any scenes of the war at TV when electricity comes. In my home, whenever a bomb happen my young brother and nephews scream, terrified from these extremely loud explosions. I tried to calm them down and said these are sounds of a party outside, but these lies can no longer deceive them as they hear the roaring of the helicopter and the terrible shattering of buildings due to airplanes’ strikes… Many symptoms immediately appeared among our children as I noticed, they have suffered from urinating in the day, bed wetting in the nigh, clinging to the elderly, wanting to die with elderly and not to be left alone, panic, fear and hyperactivity…
Jabaliya, Gaza Strip, 2004
In these moments, the Palestinian populations live in very hard conditions with very short provision supplies of basic food and lack of electricity in most of day hours. No more 6 hours a day the electricity comes and cuts off the rest of the day… we can hardly receive our bread through waiting 3-4 hours to take a sack of bread that is very rare in the Gaza strip as most of the bakeries have shut down their doors due to lack of flour in the Gaza Strip. They used to grind the wheels used for cattle. Though, we have to eat it willingly or unwillingly… December and January are the coldest months in the area, yet we have no electricity for heating or cocking…
Israel has destroyed the whole community in Gaza; infrastructure and civil society have also been devastated by the Israeli war planes… Neither mosques, nor universities, nor charities, nor sport clubs, nor ministries, nor civil homes were exempted from the Israeli bombardment. My heart is bleeding about what happened to my university, the Islamic University of Gaza that I graduated from in the last July, 2008. I feel honored to have two certificates, the Bechelor Degree in English Literature and a General Diploma in Education from this university in the Gaza. Israel warplanes shelled many buildings of by home university and demolished many buildings entirely…
With brother, hospital, Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip, 2004
Moreover, Israel has practices the psychological warfare in hideous way. Israeli authorizes sent phone threats to many houses calling them to evacuate their homes within 5 minutes or less to shell their homes. If they were late for few moments, they collapse happen on their heads as what happened yesterday in the north of Gaza Strip when the Israelis gave Ba’lousha Family two minutes only to evacuate the home that included seven daughter… the parents couldn’t evacuate in this limited time especially the children were sleeping, and the air strike was faster… FIVE Daughters were killed under the rubble of the demolished home… Israel used missiles weighed over 1000 tons against simple homes or charities in intensively crowded areas… Israel has been sending phone threats to thousands of homes and civil society associations calling them to evacuate, but they find no other places to live in!!! Israel intended to start the war in the time of children’s departure of their schools at 11:25 am where they used over SIXTY F16 warplanes. This resulted in big numbers of injuries among school children. It is a real war against the Gaza Strip that is only 360 Km2 with over 1.5 million people, over 50% under 18 years old. About 60 children were killed in Gaza since the beginning of this war against Gaza in addition to 400 killed and about 1800 injuries, aren’t these war crimes?
With mother and brother, hospital, Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip, 2004
Israel acts the desperate choice to end the home made rockets against its towns around the Gaza Stip. Israel has imposed this cruel severe siege since 15 June, 2007, denying the access of all life supplies just with very limited amounts… the Gazans have had no choice to obtain their food rather than digging tunnels under the Palestinian-Egyptian boarders, and smuggle food and fuel and other possible needs from Egypt. This has accumulated the life under siege as prices have become doubled and they couldn’t afford their needs under the difficult economic hardship with 80% poverty and 85% unemployment rate…Nevertheless, Egypt denies entry of humanitarian aids into the Gaza Strips…Egypt controls the Gate of Gaza, though mobilize forces at the Boarders with the Gaza Strip, and Israel destroy the tunnels at the Gaza Side… Egypt is exposed to pressures, yet we say that agreements on papers are not equal to national, Arab, historic ties between the two nations… I’m writing now and following up what the Security Council will conclude regarding its urgent session to discuss the situation in Gaza???
Finally, we have nothing to do just to ask Allah to rescue us from this terrible War…
Please mention us in your prayers…
Mahmoud Abu Aisha – GCMHP <email@example.com>
Extraordinary photographs of the current attacks: Israel and Gaza – The Big Picture – Boston.com