GRIEVING FOR PALESTINE
I am grieving and finding it hard to find words to fit the cause of my grief: Israel’s official murder of Palestinians in Gaza and U.S. support for that murder.
Because I have been to Palestine’s West Bank multiple times (though not to Gaza), I can picture this slaughter and help you to picture it also.
Picture a large auditorium in your town, and see it full to overflowing with townspeople - some are your neighbors and some you never met. You have come to this place to seek safety from a storm raging outside. But after a few hours the electricity is cut. The toilets stop working and the tap water turns brown. There is no drinkable water. When night comes, it is cold, and there is no heat. You don’t know why but suddenly there are armed guards at the doors, and In the balcony there are snipers.
You are not allowed out. Days pass. Supplies that arrive are meager; there is not enough food, water or blankets. Babies cry. Shots ring out. Someone near you drops and blood comes from their body. The snipers are aiming at random individuals! Another shot, and the target is the person who was trying to call for calm and for a plan to escape from this place. Some people walk toward the armed guards to demand they open the doors. They are shot also.
Outside the auditorium, there are news reports about what Is happening. Officials say that the people trapped inside are terrorists because they approached the guards and the guards felt threatened. While some outside people question the use of snipers, they think the people inside must have done something wrong for this to be happening to them. Towns farther away hear about this catastrophe and they speak out against it, but they don’t do anything to free the people still inside the auditorium.
This is what is happening to the Palestinians in Gaza. Seventy years after being driven off their land, and 22 years since Israel completed a fortified fence around them with just a few gates controlled by Israeli soldiers, and eleven years after being cut off from enough supplies to make life livable, and a year since electricity was cut to 2 to 6 hours a day, the people of Gaza, adopting non-violent tactics, marched towards their jailors and demanded to return to the land that was stolen from them. (Their right to return was established by U.N. Resolution 194 in 1948.)
Israel said it was threatened, that the terrorists were going to breach the fence and start killing Jews. Israel put snipers on their side of the fence and ordered them to shoot into the crowds, sometimes selecting leaders, or press, or medics. You may have read the statistics: over 100 killed, over 7,000 injured in seven weeks. You may not have read that much of the live ammunition used against the unarmed protesters was a new type of bullet that explodes inside the body causing extensive damage, if not death.
You may not know that in between the weekly demonstrations, many families camped out near the border fence and celebrated their traditional ways of cooking, dancing, singing and reading their literature and history.. They are proud of their heritage.
I have friends in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They too are proud, they too are trapped; they too are grieving. My friends in the West Bank are barred from visiting Jerusalem unless granted a permit by the Israeli military - even if they have family there, or need specialized medical attention, or want to pray at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or al-Aqsa Mosque.
My friends in East Jerusalem cannot repair or expand their cramped residences because their homes will be demolished for lack of building permits which are almost never granted. My Palestinian friends who are citizens of Israel are not allowed to visit relatives in the West Bank. That last one is a mind-twister unless you know that 20% of the population of Israel is Arab Palestinian, also perceived as a demographic threat to Jewish Israel.
Enough injustice. Palestinians are human beings. Jewish Israelis are human beings also. As such they have a moral obligation to recognize the humanity of Palestinians. Locking them into Gaza and shooting at them for wanting to get out is wrong. Our government paying Israel for brutalizing Palestinians is also wrong. The U.S. gives $3.8 billion in military aid to Israel every year. Broken down by state, Massachusetts gives Israel $128,495,047 a year.
Palestinians have rights under international law. One of those rights is the Right of Return. That is what Gaza has been marching for and dying for. They want their rights recognized and negotiated. We in the U.S. are complicit in denying Palestinians their rights. Let us admit it and work to change our policies. Our own humanity is at stake.