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
March 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Roberto J. González
The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections
Paul Street
Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times
Nick Pemberton
The Ghost of Hillary
Andrew Levine
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Paul de Rooij
Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Coming in Hot
Chuck Gerhart
Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts
Robert Fantina
Distractions, Thought Control and Palestine
Hiroyuki Hamada
The Eyes of “Others” for Us All
Robert Hunziker
Is the EPA Hazardous to Your Health?
Stephanie Savell
15 Years After the Iraq Invasion, What Are the Costs?
Aidan O'Brien
Europe is Pregnant 
John Eskow
How Can We Live With All of This Rage?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Was Khe Sanh a Win or a Loss?
Dan Corjescu
The Man Who Should Be Dead
Howard Lisnoff
The Bone Spur in Chief
Brian Cloughley
Hitler and the Poisoning of the British Public
Brett Wilkins
Trump Touts $12.5B Saudi Arms Sale as US Support for Yemen War Literally Fuels Atrocities
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraqi Landscapes: the Path of Martyrs
Brian Saady
The War On Drugs Is Far Deadlier Than Most People Realize
Stephen Cooper
Battling the Death Penalty With James Baldwin
CJ Hopkins
Then They Came for the Globalists
Philip Doe
In Colorado, See How They Run After the Fracking Dollars
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Armed Propaganda
Binoy Kampmark
John Brennan’s Trump Problem
Nate Terani
Donald Trump’s America: Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
Steve Early
From Jackson to Richmond: Radical Mayors Leave Their Mark
Jill Richardson
To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done
Ralph Nader
Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear
Sam Pizzigati
Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk
Sergio Avila
Don’t Make the Border a Wasteland
Daryan Rezazad
Denial of Climate Change is Not the Problem
Ron Jacobs
Flashing for the Refugees on the Unarmed Road of Flight
Missy Comley Beattie
The Age of Absurdities and Atrocities
George Wuerthner
Isle Royale: Manage for Wilderness Not Wolves
George Payne
Pompeo Should Call the Dogs Off of WikiLeaks
Russell Mokhiber
Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections
Franklin Lamb
Despite Claims, Israel-Hezbollah War is Unlikely
Montana Wilderness Association Dishonors Its Past
Elizabeth “Liz” Hawkins, RN
Nurses Are Calling #TimesUp on Domestic Abuse
Paul Buhle
A Caribbean Giant Passes: Wilson Harris, RIP
Mel Gurtov
A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington
Seth Sandronsky
Hoop schemes: Sacramento’s corporate bid for an NBA All-Star Game
Louis Proyect
The French Malaise, Now and Then
David Yearsley
Bach and the Erotics of Spring