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We Should All Have Equal Life, Peace, Justice, Dignity. Period.

destruction in gaza

By Abby Zimet, Used by Permission

Horror on all sides. What is there to say on the conflagration consuming Gaza and Israel? As the US and much of the Western world denounce the Hamas “terror,” millions more acknowledge its savagery but painstakingly insist we see nuance and context in desperate acts of resistance by a people who have long had done to them what they, now, have done in turn – in the only way they feel they can avow, “Palestine will not be buried.” The awful lesson: “Ultimately, the dispossessed will rebel.”

Hamas’ armed Al-Qassam Brigade said they launched their largest rocket attack against Israel in over 15 years, and its unprecedented, accompanying infiltration by land, sea, and air “deep into the heart of Israel,” in response to “the crimes of the Occupation.” After firing up to 5,000 rockets toward Israel in the first 30 minutes, they urged all Palestinians to join the battle, declaring, “Today the people are regaining their revolution.” In what’s been widely deemed “an intelligence fiasco,” the “Al-Aqsa Flood” took Israel’s “invincible army” and famed surveillance system by surprise, leading to clashes in up to 50 locations even as sirens sounded across a stunned Israel and Palestinians in disbelief freely walked around abandoned IDF bases. To date, Israel’s death toll has climbed to 900, including 260 young people at a music festival; Israeli strikes have killed 700 Palestinians in Gaza, home to 2.3 million people with nowhere to flee; thousands more are injured on both sides; Hamas has taken over 100 Israelis captive, reportedly including many officers of Israel’s Southern Command; and, in an ultimate irony, video showed thousands of Israeli settlers running away in helpless terror of the kind of violence often experienced by Palestinians at their hands.

Amidst the chaos, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu raged that Israel will “take mighty vengeance,” that we “will strike them,” “will annihilate terrorism,” will turn Gaza “into cities of ruins” in a pitiless war that has “only started.” Of such rhetoric, along with its barbarous actions, was the current carnage born. “These developments did not occur in a vacuum,” noted the Palestinian observer to the U.N. The violence is a “chilling reminder that occupation and oppression bear a price,” the “apotheosis of what happens at the end of a road of exhausted options,” the inevitable result of a decades-long Israeli rule that “demanded the unquestioning surrender of its victims, refused to accept defiance in any form, and produced a generation of Palestinians who have lost faith in nonviolent resistance.” It’s also a likely “turning point” in the struggle between Israel’s apartheid system and the Palestinians who live under it. Years after creating “a pressure cooker” in the world’s largest open-air prison and periodically “mowing the lawn” to keep its lid on, writes Mitchell Plitnick, “Israel would have us believe it was because Hamas are just vicious killers who have a bloodlust for Jews. In reality, it was the actualization of what anti-apartheid activists have been warning about for many years.”

Tipping the balance, many argue, were “the provocations of the most extreme right-wing government in Israel’s history.” This year has been deemed the deadliest for Palestinians since the height of the Second Intifada, with 248 civilians (40 of them children) killed this year (almost the same number as at the music festival). The number of IDF raids, arbitrary arrests, home demolitions, random shootings and killings, settler mobs left free to burn villages, evict civilians, and attack holy sites has soared as far-right Israeli officials call for Palestinian genocide and expulsion. In the West Bank, 3.5 million Palestinians live packed into segregated cantons between Jewish settlements built on Palestinian land, an “Apartheid Wall” and new “Apartheid Road,” and endless checkpoints. In Gaza, over 2 million survive in cramped refugee camps under unlivable conditions, constant air strikes, and a suffocating 16-year-long blockade with contaminated water, sporadic power, and so few jobs that 80% depend on international aid. A recent report found that four of five children say they live with depression, grief, and fear, and yet Israeli officials have seemed intent on perpetuating a brutal, longstanding, counter-productive, doom cycle: “Cage, smother, subdue, repeat.”

They were evidently so intent on upholding their status-quo oppression that they missed what media have called “Israel’s 9/11” in the most catastrophic intelligence failure since the last October surprise, almost precisely 50 years ago, of 1973’s Yom Kippur War. Both times, observers charge, Israeli hubris played a part. Then, its leaders ignored peace offerings from Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and intelligence of an attack; now, Israel’s “invincible” military remains overly confident, somewhat disorganized, and beholden to an ultra-nationalist government incapable of choosing any alternative solution to any problem except military violence – and secure in the knowledge a complicit U.S. will fund their bad choices. Thus did their American friends leap to condemn Hamas “terrorists,” rushing to declare their support for “our incredible ally” “defending” itself against what J Street called “murderous” Palestinians. The GOP rushed to blame Biden’s “weakness,” but none came close to a rabid Stephen Miller’s Straight-up Seig Heil shit” as he raved Biden “turned calm into calamity” with his “rules-based international order” – like no genocide – in contrast to Trump’s “clear-eyed realism (and) raw projection of national strength” when “our world was at peace.” (What the Goebbels-loving fuck).

Democrats joined in to condemn Hamas; so did Bernie Sanders, but at least he recognized that “innocent people on both sides will suffer hugely” as a result. His former foreign policy aide Matt Duss also noted the attack destroyed the idea that “we can just bottle up the Palestinians and it won’t matter,” insisting the right of people to live in security “includes Israelis and Palestinians.” Declaring “there is no excuse (for) what Hamas has done,” he added, “Palestinians have continued to suffer under an occupation and blockade that is decades old. That is absolutely necessary context.” Startlingly, CNN also let Palestinian advocate Dr. Mustafa Barghouti cite the context of “the longest occupation in modern history” and a system of apartheid that has killed thousands of Palestinian civilians. The U.S. “cannot say that Israel has the right to defend itself, but we the Palestinians don’t have the right to defend ourselves,” he said, citing 560 Israeli military checkpoints, 5,300 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, the charge that any Palestinian who resists occupation is terrorist, violent, provocative, or anti-Semitic. “We should all have equal life, we should all have peace, we should all have justice, we should all live in dignity,” he said. “The way to achieve that is to end the occupation.”

Movingly, Israelis have spoken out to acknowledge blood only begets more blood, to concede their dread “is a sliver of what Palestinians have been feeling on a daily basis.” “We need to act with sensitivity,” said the father of a girl taken captive from the music festival, asking she be rescued but “only by peaceful measures.” “(Palestinians) also have mothers who are crying.” Israeli journalist Orly Noy dismisses the bellicose threats by a corrupt Netanyahu: “Rightfully he is now seen as personally responsible. He seeks to save his own political skin.” She understands a desire for revenge, but fears “the erasure of any moral red line,” arguing “it’s important to remind ourselves that everything inflicted on us now” – shootings to civilians taken captive – “we have been inflicting on Palestinians for years.” “Ignoring this context is giving up a piece of my own humanity,” she writes. “Because violence devoid of context leads to only one possible response: revenge…the opposite of security, (of) peace, (of) justice. It is nothing but more violence.” While “terrible crimes were committed against Israelis this Saturday…in this time of dark grief, I cling to the one thing I have left to hold onto: my humanity. The absolute belief that this hell is not predestined. Not for us, nor for them.”

Still, the devastation goes on. An Israeli airstrike killed 19 members of one Palestinian family in Rafah; said Abu Quta, 57, “There were screams. There were no walls.” As Israelis beg their government for help finding captive relatives – “They are not telling us anything” – the IDF’s “Swords of Iron” operation has fired 3,284 no-warning rockets at “Hamas targets” that are in fact often apartments, houses, mosques, schools where Palestinians huddle in terror: “We do not know what fate has in store for us.” In response to the relentless airstrikes, Hamas has said any time Israel targets civilians in their homes without warning, they will “regrettably” execute one captive Israeli civilian. Israel has recovered the bodies of over 1,500 Hamas fighters, and escalation looms: Gazans try to flee south fearing an Israeli ground assault, Hezbollah militants have been killed at the Lebanon border, as was at least one Israeli commander, among 85 IDF casualties. Israel’s U.N. Ambassador, without irony, accused Hamas of “war crimes…The era of reasoning with these savages is over.” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant ordered a yet more draconian “complete siege” against Gaza’s “human animals” (see below): “Nothing is allowed in or out. No electricity, food, water. (Also a war crime). And Netanyahu has vowed “the enemy will pay an unprecedented price” from attacks “with neither limitations nor respite.” “What we will do to our enemies,” he said, “will reverberate with them for generations.” True, and tragic, for all of us.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    I don’t disagree. There is no happy ending in the near future, and if any leader of Israel can make anything worse, it is Netanyahu.

  2. Avatar

    There is no excuse for what Hamas has done. There is no context that makes it understandable or inevitable. Hamas has an agenda, and uses the Palestinian people to achieve that agenda. It makes no true effort to solve this problem. It simply wants to destroy Israel and has no concern for who suffers for their cause, whether it be Palestinian or Israeli.

    Israel has it’s own issues in how they deal with Palestinians. They also do not seem to have a real concern to solve this problem. They treat Palestinians terribly and give them few, if any, rights. Still, I do not see them launching large scale attacks against non military targets and killing and capturing hundreds of non combatants.

    Brutal murders are just that..brutal murders. There is no context or excuse that explains it away. “Yeah but…” has no place in the conversation when the topic is an organized, large scale, military based assault against civilians. Such attacks do not help their case, and do nothing to advance the cause of peace.

    In my view, no one in that region seeks peace. Each side blames the other then claims in innocence. Each side wants peace as long as peace means the other side surrenders and does what they want. Some may find it hard to believe , but peace is not achieved through violence. There are better ways to settle this issue without terrorism, and Hamas only seeks the violent path.

  3. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Hamas’ attacks and Israel’s treatment of Palestinians illustrates what to me, is what makes war so evil: Its perpetrators and prosecutors, whomever they are, see people as nothing more than pawns. In their way of thinking, there are “acceptable” reasons to kill, and numbers of, innocent victims.

    As with most conflicts, blaming the current combatants on either side is futile because the roots of the conflict go back further than even the formation of the current state of Israel. More than a century ago, Britain, France and other colonial powers seized upon the fact that the Ottoman Empire was gasping its last and took control of the Middle East.

    While many people have heard of the Balfour Agreement, fewer have heard of what made it possible: the Sykes-Picot Agreement–to my mind, one of the most obscene documents in the history of “diplomacy.” ( Essentially, it divided the Middle East into British, French and “neutral” spheres of influence; the fate of the latter was to be decided at a later date. (The agreement was signed in the early days of World War I.) The French got what are now Lebanon, Syria and parts of southern Turkey and northern Iraq (including Mosul). The British ended up with southern Iraq, Jordan, Haifa and Acre in Palestine and the areas between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea.

    With that agreement in place, Balfour, the Prime Minister, declared in a letter to Walter Rothschild, the leader of the Jewish community in England, that with the blessing of the King, he was going to establish a “Jewish homeland” in Palestine but that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

    To put it bluntly, Balfour lied, at least when it came to the Palestinian people.

  4. Avatar

    The best way I know to say it is that it’s a shit-show there where innocent people are being killed for political reasons. As MJ stated, the region was taken by Europeans, split up, plundered, and the people used for political gain. I feel for the people who can’t flee, and for the people who are suffering for political garbage.

  5. Avatar
    Ted M. Gossard

    Yes, good points. Hamas’s actions have been atrocious and evil, no excuse for them. But the injustice in that region produces fertile soil for such activity. And when people live by force and violence and that’s all they know, then we’re in for more of this, more and more unfortunately. The world needs moral leadership in demonstrating a different way.

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