From Gaza, with Love

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Wednesday, July 12, 2006
'Never again' gone mad in Israel
In the name of forcing the release of a single soldier, Israel has seized members of democratically elected government; bombed its interior ministry, the prime minister's offices and a school; threatened another sovereign state (Syria) with a menacing overflight; dropped leaflets from the air, warning of harm to the civilian population if it does not "follow all orders" of the Israel Defense Forces; loosed nocturnal "sound bombs" under orders from the Israeli prime minister to "make sure no one sleeps at night in Gaza"; fired missiles into residential areas, killing children; and demolished a power station that was the sole generator of electricity and running water for hundreds of thousands of Gazans.

Besieged Palestinian families, trapped in a locked-down Gaza, are down to one meal a day, eaten in candlelight. Yet their desperate conditions go largely ignored by a world accustomed to extreme Israeli measures in the name of security.

"Wake up!" shouted the young Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer from Gaza on San Francisco's "Arab Talk" radio in late June. "The Gaza people are starving. There is a real humanitarian crisis. Our children are born to live. Don't these people have any heart? No feelings at all? The world is silent!"

For the Palestinians, Omer's cry speaks to a collective understanding: That the world sees the life of an Arab as infinitely less valuable than an Israeli's; that no amount of suffering by innocent Palestinians is too much to justify the return of a single Jewish soldier. This understanding, and the rage and humiliation it fuels, has been driven home endlessly through decades of shellings, wars and uprisings past.
Indeed Omer's plaintive words form a mantra, echoing all the way back to the first war between the Arabs and the Jews.

The Arab-Israeli war of 1948, known in Israel as the War of Independence, is called al-Nakba, or the Catastrophe, by Palestinians. During the 1948 conflict, more than 700,000 Palestinians fled the violence or were driven from their homes. In the middle of July, when temperatures exceeded 100 degrees, more than 30,000 Arabs marched into exile, some for more than 20 miles. Many never made it; those who did were certain they would be coming back in a matter of days or weeks. Fifty-eight years later, they remain in exile.

Some refugees wear the keys to their homes around their neck; others tell stories of golden fields, or of a lemon tree whose fruit grows larger in the memory with each passing year.

Fifty-eight summers after the Nabka, as U.S.-made weapons pound Gaza from Israel, a déjà vu settles on the old men and women of the refugee camps, and in the vast diaspora beyond, reminding them of yet another bitter anniversary.
The latest attacks by Israel in Gaza, ostensibly on behalf of a single soldier, recall the comments by extremist Rabbi Yaacov Perrin, in his eulogy for U.S. Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 massacred 27 Palestinians praying in the Hebron mosque. "One million Arabs," Perrin declared, "are not worth a Jewish fingernail."

Israelis, too, are a traumatized people, and their nation's current actions are driven in part by a hard determination, born of the Holocaust, to "never again go like sheep to the slaughter." But if "never again" drives the politics of reprisal, few seem to notice that the reprisals themselves are obscenely out of scale to the provocation: For every crude Qassam rocket falling harmlessly, far from its target, dozens, sometimes hundreds of shells rain down on the Palestinians. For one missing soldier, a million and a half Gazans are made to suffer. In Israel, today, it is "never again" gone mad.

The irony is that, contrary to making themselves more safe, the Israelis, just like the Americans in Iraq, are only sowing the seeds of more hatred and rage.

Sandy Tolan is author of "The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East" and a professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California-Berkeley.


  • Where have all the flowers gone long time passing.

    By Blogger chumly, at 7/22/2006 8:59 AM  

  • Hello from a blogger down under in New Zealand. I have mentioned your blog, on my blog - Around The World In 80 Blogs, as it is worth sharing with other people.

    By Blogger Kelvin, at 7/22/2006 10:18 AM  

  • What can I say Mona ... except: I wholeheartedly AGREE!!
    GOD bless you ALL .. I pray this nightmare will come to an end SOON!! STAY STRONG - we're ALL with you!!

    By Blogger Karin, at 7/22/2006 11:16 AM  

  • Hi,

    take care of yourself, I'm from Poland and i'm against Israel. They are selfish and egoistic.
    I belive, that Palestin will be free, nobody can tell anybody, what to do, or where to live.

    ot of love,


    By Blogger Gosia (beautyfascination), at 7/22/2006 12:19 PM  

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