“But I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, which shall devour the palaces thereof.” – Amos 1:7
Imagine living in a dystopian world where New Hampshire has invaded and occupied Vermont and Maine’s coastal region.
In Vermont, roads are built that only Granite Staters can use. New Hampshire illegally seizes land from the locals and builds new towns and villages, most on hilltops with wonderful foliage views, with occupancy restricted to Free-Staters. To control a restive population New Hampshire sets up check points and military bases and displaces “natives” from “militarily sensitive” areas. New settlers, protected by their military forces, run roughshod over the local population while non-violent protests against occupation are forcibly suppressed.
In Maine, York and Kittery are surrounded by fences and watchtowers.
Offshore fishing is limited to three miles. New Hampshire controls all access, limits all imports and exports and even tries to establish a minimum caloric intake that can keep Mainers alive but not thrive. Arms smuggling thrives through tunnels and resentment against occupation grows unabated.
Inside the perimeter a free-fire zone is created. Any Mainer desperate enough to go into that 500-meter zone, which runs the length of the occupier’s fence, to farm his fields can be shot.
Call Vermont the West Bank, rename Maine Gaza and let me tell you what I think we should think about when we think about Gaza. Not that we will agree: only that we should care.
In 1948, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion said, “We might benefit from conquering Gaza. But it’s clear to me that Gaza won’t be in our hands even if we conquer it 1,000 times.”
In his 1956, “Letter from Gaza,” Palestinian Ghassan Kanafani replied to a friend who was asking Kanafani to join him in America:
“I went out into the streets of Gaza, streets filled with blinding sunlight. They told me that Nadia had lost her leg when she threw herself on top of her little brothers and sisters to protect them from the bombs and flames that had fastened their claws into the house.
“Nadia could have saved herself; she could have run away, rescued her leg. But she didn’t.
“I won’t come to you. But you, return to us! Come back, to learn from Nadia’s leg, amputated from the top of the thigh, what life is and what existence is worth.”
Almost in reply, Israeli Gen. Moshe Dayan, in eulogizing a commander killed in combat in 1956, said:
“Let us not today fling accusation at the murderers. What cause have we (Israelis) to complain about their fierce hatred to us? For eight years now, they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived.”
Sadly, such enlightenment and pathos, reflected by Dayan, is today missing. Sadly, that hatred recognized by Dayan still consumes 1.5 million Gazan Arabs, and the lives of millions of Palestinians in their Diaspora. Sadly, fear pervades the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians who live in dread of hearing the next warning siren of an incoming rocket or missile threatening their loved ones.
Sadly, hatred consumes the lives of many Israelis who are also occupying Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and, in perhaps the world’s largest open-air internment camp, the Gaza Strip. Sadly, both Palestinians and Israelis live under such fear because their leaders are more consumed with power than peace.
After Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas’ military wing, was assassinated on Nov. 14, Hamas said that Israel “had opened the gates of hell.” Too true. And, sadly, Gaza became Hell on earth once more.
Every news report mentions Hamas’ thousands of rockets. That is true. Few news reports mention that Gaza is on the receiving end of a much more sophisticated arsenal: tanks, bombs, drones, F16s, mortars, gunboats, tanks and white phosphorus shells, all of which have been used against Gazans at one point or another. These weapons, used to retaliate against Hamas, collectively punish all of Gaza.
Does Hamas’ terrorist targeting of Israeli civilians justify the use of massively disproportionate military power over an overcrowded ghetto of refugees? Does it justify limiting water, electricity and fuel to families — to not permit Fulbright scholars go to university and keep families from being united? If Hamas’ defiance has no return but death and bitterness, is there nothing else to offer? If repeated use of force is ineffective, isn’t there a straighter path to peace?
Few Israeli leaders exhibit any understanding of the Palestinian condition. Gaza is too densely populated for Hamas or any other group to operate outside of a populated area. “The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea,” Mao Tse- Tung famously said, and in Gaza, Hamas swims among the people, often with their approval sometimes without. No one disputes that Hamas has been engaging in terrorism and that it must be stopped.
Listen to Rabbi Yaakov Yosef: “The army has got to learn from the Syrians how to slaughter and crush the enemy”?
Listen to Eli Yishai, Israel’s Interior Minister, who said Israel’s goal was “to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages”?
Listen to Gilad Sharon, “We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima — the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too”?
Palestinian rockets into Israel are reactions to years of occupation, targeted assassinations and entrapment — of being trapped like rats inside a cage that keeps getting darker and smaller.
The Israeli missiles into Gaza are reactions to years of Hamas’ random terror rocket fire into Israeli.
Understand, though, that there is no equivalence. American media coverage gives a mistaken impression of equality between the two sides rather than reflect their asymmetry of power. Palestinians have no power. No authority. They have no state. No army.
When Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, it was against the pleas and entreaties of many parties, including Palestinians, who believed Gaza was not prepared for the transition and that chaos would ensue.
And it did.
When President George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice pushed for Palestinian elections many, including Palestinians, argued against them, fearing Hamas’ rise to power.
Hamas won. Afterward, Israel and the United States refused to deal with them.
“I heard you in the other room asking your mother, ‘Mama, am I a Palestinian?’ When she answered ‘Yes’ a heavy silence fell on the whole house. It was as if something hanging over our heads had fallen, its noise exploding, then — silence. Afterwards … I heard you crying. I could not move.” – Ghassan Kanafani
This column appeared originally in the Portsmouth Herald.