FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Siege of Gaza Must End

In late June 2011, I’m going to be a passenger on “The Audacity of Hope,” the USA boat in this summer’s international flotilla to break the illegal and deadly Israeli siege of Gaza. Organizers, supporters and passengers aim to nonviolently end the brutal collective punishment imposed on Gazan residents since 2006 when the Israeli government began a stringent air, naval and land blockade of the Gaza Strip explicitly to punish Gaza’s residents for choosing the Hamas government in a democratic election. Both the Hamas and the Israeli governments have indiscriminately killed civilians in repeated attacks, but the vast preponderance of these outrages over the length of the conflict have been inflicted by Israeli soldiers and settlers on unarmed Palestinians. I was witness to one such attack when last in Gaza two years ago, under heavy Israeli bombardment in a civilian neighborhood in Rafah.

In January 2009, I lived with a family in Rafah during the final days of the “Operation Cast Lead” bombing. We were a few streets down from an area where there was heavy bombing. Employing its ever-replenished stockpile of U.S. weapons, the Israeli government sought to destroy tunnels beneath the Egyptian border through which food, medicine, badly-needed building supplies, and possibly a few weapons as well were evading the internationally condemned blockade and entering Gaza.

Throughout that terrible assault, Israel pounded civilians in Gaza, turning villages, homes, refugee camps, schools, mosques and infrastructure into rubble. According to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, the attack killed 1,385 Palestinians, nearly a quarter of them minors, with an uncountable number more to succumb, in the months and years following, to malnutrition, disease, and suicidal despair, the consequences of forced impoverishment under a still continuing siege that salts Gaza’s dreadful wounds by preventing it from even starting to rebuild.

All I could feel at the time was that the people in the Gaza Strip were horribly trapped, almost paralyzed.

The day of the cease-fire, when the sounds of bombing stopped, my young friends insisted that we must move quickly to visit the Al Shifaa hospital in Gaza City. Doctors there were shaken and stunned, after days of trying to save lives in a hopelessly overcrowded emergency room, with blood pooling at their feet. Dr. Nafez Abu Shabham, head of Al Shifaa’s burn unit, put his head in his hands and spoke incredulously to us. “For 22 days, the world watched,” he lamented, “and no country tried to stop the killing.”

He may well be putting his head in his hands again, today as too many of us have stopped even watching. “Human rights groups in Gaza are urgently requesting international aid groups and donor groups to intervene and deliver urgent medical aid to Palestinian hospitals in Gaza,” according to a June 14 Al Jazeera report. “Palestinian officials say that Gaza’s medicinal stock is nearly empty and is in crisis. This affects first aid care, in addition to all other levels of medical procedures.”

After the attack, I visited the Gaza City dormitory of a young university student with two of his friends. It was a shambles. We sifted through broken glass and debris, trying to salvage some notebooks and texts. Their lives have been like that. They’ve since graduated but there is no work. “The Gaza Strip enters its fifth year of a full Israeli blockade by land, air and sea with unemployment at 45.2%, one of the highest rates in the world,” according to a UN aid agency report. (June 14, 2011). Harvard scholar Sara Roy, in a June 2, 2009 report for Harvard’s Crimson Review, noted that :

“Gaza is an example of a society that has been deliberately reduced to a state of abject destitution, its once productive population transformed into one of aid-dependent paupers….After Israel’s December (2008) assault, Gaza’s already-compromised conditions have become virtually unlivable. Livelihoods, homes, and public infrastructure have been damaged or destroyed on a scale that even the Israel Defense Forces admitted was indefensible. In Gaza today there is no private sector to speak of and no industry,”

When the bombing had stopped, we visited homes and villages where the unarmed had been killed. Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times would later verify that, in the village of Al Atatra, IDF soldiers had fired white phosphorous missiles into the home of a woman named Sabah Abu Halemi, leaving her badly burned and burning to death her husband and three of her children. I visited her in the hospital, watching a kindly Palestinian doctor spend his greatly needed time off sitting at her bedside, offering only wordless comfort as she gripped his hand.

We must not turn away from suffering in Gaza.

We must continue trying to connect with Gazans living under siege.

There is some risk involved in this flotilla. The Israeli government threatens to board each ship in the flotilla with snipers and attack dogs. A year ago the Israeli Navy fired on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, from the air, then documented its passengers’ panicked response as their justification for executing nine activists, including one young U.S. citizen, Furkhan Dogan, shot several times in the back and head at close range. It then refused to cooperate with an international investigation.

The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, amounting to what is internationally recognized as an apartheid system, could end in peace, with Israel abandoning paranoia and racial violence to allow peace. Apartheid ended in South Africa without the wave of bloodshed and reprisals that its supporters claimed to fear as their excuse for holding on to the wealth and power which their system afforded them. They achieved greater peace and safety for themselves and their children by finding the courage to finally allow peace, safety, and freedom to their neighbors. It’s a lesson the U.S. government has all too often missed. This June, the governments of Israel and, (above all), the United States must finally embrace the audacity of hope.

Kathy Kelly (kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Visit www.vcnv.org for a resource packet on drone warfare http://vcnv.org/drone-resisting-sanitized-remote-control-death

More articles by:

KATHY KELLY co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence and has worked closely with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. She is the author of Other Lands Have Dreams published by CounterPunch / AK Press. She can be reached at: Kathy@vcnv.org 

Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!
Joyce Nelson
The NED’s Useful Idiots
Lindsay Koshgarian
Trump’s Giving Diplomacy a Chance. His Critics Should, Too
Louis Proyect
American Nativism: From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Trump
Stan Malinowitz
On the Elections in Colombia
Camilo Mejia
Open Letter to Amnesty International on Nicaragua From a Former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience
David Krieger
An Assessment of the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit
Jonah Raskin
Cannabis in California: a Report From Sacramento
Josh Hoxie
Just How Rich Are the Ultra Rich?
CJ Hopkins
Awaiting the Putin-Nazi Apocalypse
Mona Younis
We’re the Wealthiest Country on Earth, But Over 40 Percent of Us Live in or Near Poverty
Dean Baker
Not Everything Trump Says on Trade is Wrong
James Munson
Trading Places: the Other 1% and the .001% Who Won’t Save Them
Rivera Sun
Stop Crony Capitalism: Protect the Net!
Franklin Lamb
Hezbollah Claims a 20-Seat Parliamentary Majority
William Loren Katz
Oliver Law, the Lincoln Brigade’s Black Commander
Ralph Nader
The Constitution and the Lawmen are Coming for Trump—He Laughs!
Tom Clifford
Mexico ’70 Sets the Goal for World Cup 
David Swanson
What Else Canadians Should Be Sorry For — Besides Burning the White House
Andy Piascik
Jane LaTour: 50+ Years in the Labor Movement (And Still Going)
Jill Richardson
Pruitt’s Abuse of Our Environment is Far More Dangerous Than His Abuse of Taxpayer Money
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
Pardons Aren’t Policy
Daniel Warner
To Russia With Love? In Praise of Trump the Includer
Raouf Halaby
Talking Heads A’Talking Nonsense
Julian Vigo
On the Smearing of Jordan Peterson: On Dialogue and Listening
Larry Everest
A Week of Rachel Maddow…or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Ronald Reagan
David Yearsley
Hereditary: Where Things are Not What They Sound Like
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail