As I sit here in this new year, I am at a loss for words about the recent happenings in the Gaza Strip. For days my inbox has overflowed with horror stories and pictures.
With a moment’s notice, a mother loses five daughters, their small bodies wrapped in white like mummies next to one another as if they were sleeping peacefully, away from the chaos that was once their existence. More than 700 Palestinians killed and over a thousand injured. Homes, mosques, hospitals, markets, cultural centers and universities crumble to the earth.
A ship leaving from Cyprus, steered by Internationals of the Free Gaza Movement, including doctors, human rights activists and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, attempted to bring much overdue medical supplies. The boat was rammed by Israeli military boats and almost sunk with everyone on board, but it was eventually rescued by Lebanon.
Israeli officials claim they did not know who was on the boat. Yet, interestingly enough, the ship was rammed by Israeli military boats demanding that this boat of “terrorists” return to Cyprus.
The other day four Israelis, including two Israeli Arabs, were killed by rockets launched by Hamas. And as politicians and world leaders ramble on about ceasefires and terrorists, blood falls like rain upon the parched desert landscape.
I have to stop and breathe. The madness feels like it is all happening inside of me. I sit and observe from the distance of my home, from my computer screen, listen to the radio, catch a glimpse of MSNBC at the bank, sign a petition, send a letter to Obama, light a candle, mourn the dead, pray for peace.
"A parched and starving people bleed to death on American television screens."
Gaza is a small area, with about 1.5 million people in an area that is roughly 25 miles long by five miles wide. It is one of the densest ghettos on earth, an open air prison.
This land, once known as Philistia, is situated on the Mediterranean coastline and borders Egypt. “A city so rich in trees as to be like a cloth of brocade spread out on the sand,” the Arab chronicler Dimashqi said in 1300. It is believed that the ancient Canaanites gave Gaza its name, which means strength.
Of the 800,000 refugees forced from their country in 1948 when Israel declared its statehood, 200,000 ended up in Gaza. The Israeli occupation of Gaza began in 1967, spurring the construction of illegal Jewish-only colonies, checkpoints, separation and the dumping of the Israeli state’s trash on the road to Gaza.
Gaza has endured various closures, bombings, clearing of trees on vast portions of the small territory, and embargoes that have prevented food, medicine, electricity, water and water sanitation from entering the land. In 2005 Israel implemented the unilateral disengagement plan, withdrawing its Jewish-only colonies from the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli state still maintains control over Gaza’s borders, meaning Palestinians are under Israeli authority when trying to leave or enter. This includes goods to be imported and exported.
Israel also controls the waters and maintains a ban on fishing. As a result, Palestinian fisherman (sometimes accompanied by Internationals to support and witness) have been harassed, shot at and killed.
Gaza was a mess to begin with, and as a result of the bombings, the situation has completely deteriorated. Those suffering from injuries are now faced with overflowing hospitals, and water and medical supply shortages. Bottled water has run out, and electricity is needed to pump water from the wells. A parched and starving people bleed to death on American television screens.
"We sang for the Israeli soldiers who are being forced to become killers."
In the midst of all this I am perpetually haunted by the words “Never Again” written at the end of the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. I ponder why this phrase only seems to be applicable to one group of people.
I continually hear the argument that Israel has a right to defend itself, and I do not disagree, but I wonder who will protect the Palestinian population from the Israeli military (the fourth most powerful military in the world.) We are talking about a mostly unarmed population that is simply trying to survive.
Yesterday I attended a silent candlelight vigil in Los Angeles in front of the Israeli consulate. It was organized by the American Friends Service Committee, LA Jews for Peace and The Islamic Shura Council. Members of ImaginAction were there to facilitate a mourning ritual.
It was a most beautiful ceremony. There were a couple of hundred of us there, and we lit candles and chanted for the dead of Gaza. And we sang for the Israeli soldiers who are being forced to become killers. And we sang for Israelis and Jewish people around the world who resist the actions of the Israeli state.
And we sang for our world leaders to wake up and hear the voices of the people. And we sang to Gazan children who had to experience everyday horrors long before this assault took place. We also sang for the small group of people across the street waving Israeli flags, saying they were there for peace but refusing to join us.
With the help of the drum we vocalized, vibrated, chanted and softly pounded these hopes for peace into existence. Doing our best to honor the dead, both Israeli and Palestinian, and lighting a candle for the living!
Deema Dabis can be reached at .