Fiddling While Gaza Burns: Three Perspectives
In response to the start of Israel’s ground campaign into Gaza this past Saturday (January 3rd) Hamas spokesman, Ismail Radwan, warned Israel that they would pay a “high price” for the invasion, saying:
“Your incursion into Gaza will not be a walk in the park, and Gaza will become your cemetery.”
Reading this, I recalled the fierceness of fiddler crabs. Growing up in the U.S. South, one of my world classrooms was the coastal marshlands. The ground in these tidal mudflats virtually teems with fiddler crab populations as far as the eye can see. These crabs are fairly tiny — their shells about the size of a toe nail. Step into one of these mudflats, and you will see jillions of toenail-sized crabs scurrying sideways to the safety of their holes. Jillions, that is, except for a few fiddlers who are either the fiercest or most foolish souls on earth, as they stand their ground, menacingly waving the ‘big’ claw to warn away the intruder: a pair of human feet, each of a size that could effortlessly crush a dozen fiddler crabs in one step.
Still, the claw waves. Roughly translated, the fiddler crab says, “Your incursion into my mudflat will not be a walk in the park, and this mudflat will be your cemetery.” A sadistic, heartless person might choose to step on the fiddler crab, simply because he could. A sadistic, heartless person of questionable sanity could respond by uprooting the entire fiddler crab colony and crushing it into oblivion. Which brings me to the topic of Israel’s recent incursion into Gaza.
The citizens of Palestinians are as fierce as any population when attacked, but are as powerless against Israel’s war machine as the fiddler crab is to a human bootheel. Lacking a military or any modern-day weaponry & war equipment (much less the depleted uranium and the illegal cluster bombs and phosphorus shells Israel is using against the Palestinians) the citizens of Gaza are using the only things available to defend themselves: rocks and stones.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to appreciate the sheer brutality of this imbalance: one of the worlds most powerful war machines embarks on a campaign to slaughter innocent civilians armed with only rocks and stones. (note: see more photos of the stone-throwers, below, at the end of this post)
But what about Hamas — the stated target of Israel’s bombing? Compared to the stone-throwers, Hamas wields a slightly bigger claw with its arsenal of homemade rockets, capable of traveling 2 to 10 miles — each a hit or miss proposition, as they have little to offer in the way of accuracy. Israel predicts, however, that Hamas will one day have missiles capable of traveling greater distances and with greater accuracy, which is part of Israel’s justification for this war.
Having said this, I’m not going to sit here and argue on behalf of Hamas, nor weigh the relative crudeness of their weaponry vs. Israel’s, drawing overly simplistic conclusions about whether this war is ‘justifiable.’ I’ll leave this to someone who is empowered and authorized to make such assessments — Professor Richard Falk, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in the Occupied Territories, who said of this war:
Certainly the rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel are unlawful. But that illegality does not give rise to any Israeli right, neither as the Occupying Power nor as a sovereign state, to violate international humanitarian law and commit war crimes or crimes against humanity in its response.
In his statement, Falk cited the following three violations of the Geneva Convention:
• Collective punishment: The entire 1.5 million people who live in the crowded Gaza Strip are being punished for the actions of a few militants.
• Targeting civilians: The airstrikes were aimed at civilian areas in one of the most crowded stretches of land in the world, certainly the most densely populated area of the Middle East.
• Disproportionate military response: The airstrikes have not only destroyed every police and security office of Gaza’s elected government, but have killed and injured hundreds of civilians; at least one strike reportedly hit groups of students attempting to find transportation home from the university.
It is no secret that Israel’s military is — by comparison to any defense system in the world — a state-of-the-art war machine, funded by billions of U.S. dollars. Should Israel choose, they could track the coordinates of the hair on a gnats ass and hit it from hundreds of miles away, and with astounding accuracy. Which makes all the more sadistic, heartless and insane, Israel’s decision yesterday to bomb Gaza’s schools, crushing them into oblivion, even as they were filled to capacity with innocent civilians.
This was no accident.
A Palestinian medic carries the body of a girl killed in an Israeli air strike on the UN school in Gaza on January 6, 2009.
Palestinian relatives from the Deeb family mourn on January 7, 2009 near the bodies of a total of 10 people from their family who were killed yesterday in an Israeli strike on a UN school in Gaza.
A Palestinian man, Mouen Deeb, mourns next to the bodies of two of four children and his wife who were killed with 42 people yesterday in an Israeli attack on a UN-run school building, on January 7, 2009, during their funeral in Jabalia refugee camp, northern Gaza, An Israeli attack killed at least 42 people who had sought shelter in the UN-run building after they fled their homes at the Jabalia refugee camp. The United Nations has denied Israeli army allegations that militants were inside the school compound.
BELOW: Palestinian medics examine the body of a boy (the same child from the photo, above) who was killed by the Israeli forces’ bombing of the U.N. school on Jan. 6, 2009 where hundreds of Palestinians had sought refuge on Tuesday.
A Palestinian boy walks on the rubble of the Israeli-bombed U.N. school where hundreds of Palestinians — most of them women and children — had fled to safety.
After all, Israel knew the GPS coordinates to these schools (the United Nations had already provided them with this, just to be safe). And Israel knew these schools were being used as United Nations shelters, because the UN told them, plus the school roofs were well-marked (again, just to be safe) with bright blue United Nations flags. Isreal also knew, with cunning accuracy, that those schools were filled with with babies, children, mothers, fathers. Israel knew, too, that these families had already fled their bombed homes, fled the bombed streets, the bombed mosques, the bombed universities, the bombed hospitals. These families were trapped out in the open — like arcade targets — with absolutely no means to protect their children from the bombs. In desperation, they fled by the hundreds to protection of the schools, believing that the UN flags promised some assurance of protection, even as they prayed to God that the their children would be safe in these schools. Israel knew this.
Israel knew this and, yet, they dropped bombs onto the schools — raining death and suffering onto hundreds of mothers, fathers, children and babies.
Israel’s defense? Their PR spokespeople refer to the bombs as hitting “near” the school yesterday, as if the school were somehow incidental to their bombing targets. And, in an even greater lie, Israel insists that Hamas was shooting mortars from the school and using the children as “human shields.” The United Nations has flatly denied these Israeli army allegations that militants were inside the school compound.
But of more importance to this lie about “human shields” (and here’s where Israel’s propaganda takes an insidious turn, as it’s designed to make the parents of these children appear less than human to the rest of the world) is the fact that the ‘civilians’ inside this school were parents, desperately trying to protect their children, not offer them up as fodder to a terrorist cause.
But even if those atrocious lie were true, as even the rawest of rookie hostage negotiators could tell you, you don’t risk murdering hundreds of children to smoke out a few hostage-takers. Even as this truth is self-evident to any rational person, the international community has nonetheless established a system of international laws, called the Geneva Convention, to govern countries in times of war. In bombing the school yesterday, Israel committed a most atrocious act of savagery.
Not that the world is inclined to bat an eye, anymore, over such things as war crimes. It’s now been 11 days since United Nations special rapporteur, Richard Falk, made his statement on Israel’s war crimes. Since then, Israel has responded by calling Falk and other like-minded UN officials “Israel bashers,” and has forbid international journalists from covering the war inside Gaza. One can only presume that Israel does not want the world to know the truth about this war — a truth that has been there for the plucking for months and years, but only to those willing to suspend disbelief long enough to disregard the propaganda and learn the facts about the relationship between Israeli-Palestinian. There’s no need to go back to the 1st century BCE, when this whole mess started, or even to 1948, when Israel was formed. You need go no further than two years, or six months, or even two months of truth to understand how the Palestinian’s responses to Israel’s surreptitious bombing campaigns and their ongoing blockade of food and medical supplies to Gaza (both of which were in violation of the terms of the ceasefire) gave Israel the justification they sought to wage this war. Falk touched on the blockade in his statement:
“Earlier Israeli actions, specifically the complete sealing off of entry and exit to and from the Gaza Strip, have led to severe shortages of medicine and fuel (as well as food), resulting in the inability of ambulances to respond to the injured, the inability of hospitals to adequately provide medicine or necessary equipment for the injured, and the inability of Gaza’s besieged doctors and other medical workers to sufficiently treat the victims.
Israel has also ignored recent Hamas diplomatic initiatives to re-establish the truce or ceasefire since its expiration on December 26.”
That last sentence is as important as the rest, because it hints at the underlying truth of this whole damned war, and of every war between Israel and Palestine since 1948. The truth is this: Israel does not want peace. Israel does not want truces. Israel does not want ceasefires. Israels wants the Palestinian’s land, and Israel will do whatever it takes to get it — up to and including uprooting and crushing the entire population into oblivion.
Which brings me full-circle back to my original observation on the fiddler crabs in the mudflats of South Carolina, which I liken to the helpless stone-throwers of Palestine, as well as the the reckless bands of Hamas radicals bandying ludicruous threats (Your incursion into Gaza will not be a walk in the park, and Gaza will become your cemetery) as they are crushed under Israel’s boot-heel. This is one perspective on the war: that of a 1″ fiddler crab, menacingly waving its tiny claw at a 6-foot giant.
Here is another perspective:
Several days before Christmas (back when this war was still just a twinkling in Israel’s eye) I read a story about a former Palestinian stone-thrower from the West Bank. The first few paragraphs to his story are inspiration enough:
If no one had handed Ramzi Aburedwan a violin when he was a stone-throwing teenager in a refugee camp, he might’ve ended up languishing in an Israeli prison cell. He might’ve become little more than an obscure fatality lost amid the thousands of young Palestinians killed in the seemingly intractable conflict.
However, music teachers from Ramallah to Boston saw something else in Aburedwan’s arm: a natural, if unrefined, ability to play classical music.
With some doing, these mentors convinced the skinny Muslim teenager to put down his stones and pick up a violin.
That’s how a 9-year-old Palestinian refugee with an ear for music grew up to found a classical music school that’s become a cornerstone for a West Bank cultural revival.
The article’s last paragraph is a quote from the violinist, himself, Ramzi Aburedwan (pictured in the two photos, above and — in a snapshot from the stone-throwing days of his childhood, below). Speaking from the perspective of a once curly-haired 9-year-old refugee, he told about the day his outrage was born and he became a stone-thrower. He had just witnessed one of his schoolmates, shot in the head by Israeli snipers as she was walking home from the bakery. Today, Aburedwan speaks of the potential to transform Palestinian children of war, through music:
“Palestinians put culture aside for a long time because they thought this problem would be solved soon. People who came in 1948 said it was going to be solved in one or two months, one or two years. Now it’s 60 years and the people say, ‘No more time for waiting. Waiting is just losing time.’ “
It seems that what burns in the hearts of most Palestinians — stone throwers, claw wavers and fiddlers alike — is the same stuff that burns in the heart of most every living being under the cosmos: life, itself. Perhaps, one day, Israel will find itself in concert with this life. Until then, Israel will apparently do what Israel apparently does best — continue to commit the brutal, senseless crushing of life.
On a brighter note, there is a light at end of this particular tunnel, and you can bank on this: Israel will *miraculously* agree to a ceasefire no later than January 19, 2009, which is precisely one day before Barack Obama’s inauguration.
In the wake of this ceasefire, Israel’s immediate legacy will be a continuation of the legacy they’ve spent the past 40 years building: a legacy of untold human suffering, with many of their victims and their witnesses retaliating with more violence, which will only serve as more fodder to the Israeli propaganda machine.
Israel’s long-term legacy is more promising, as their aggression will serve as a standard by which mankind can forever measure its brutest levels of inhumanity — much like Mussolini, Hitler, and (as we can hope Tevye would attest) Nicholas II of Russia. Hopefully — and hopefully very soon — Israel’s lies and propaganda about their deeds will be fully revealed and will inspire the powers-that-be to once again proclaim before all the world, “Never again!”
Because, fact is, this war is but a ripple in Israel’s 60-year Zionist campaign to crush the Palestinians and take their lands. This is holocaust. In the words of Israel’s esteemed 20th Zionist-movement leader, Ze’ev Jabotinsky:
“Culturally [the Palestinians] are 500 years behind us; spiritually they do not have our endurance or our strength of will . . . They look upon Palestine with the same instinctive love and true fervor that any Aztec looked upon his Mexico or any Sioux looked upon his prairie. [Thus] we conclude that we cannot promise anything to the Arabs of the Land of Israel or the Arab countries. Their voluntary agreement is out of the question.”
Which brings me to the third perspective on this war: Israel does not want peace. The Palestinians do. The Palestinians want peace, even as their people have been persecuted, ethnically cleansed, starved and killed by the Israelis. The Palestinians want peace, even as the Israelis have discredited their plight with propaganda, and slandered their humanity slandered with lies. The Palestinians want peace, even as their own voices are being crushed, one by one, to silence.
by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers
YouTube Video in which Palestinian violinist, Ramzi Aburedwan, can be seen/heard playing. Of interest to this video is a news item from the December 17, 2007 Palestine Monitor, which reads: The international orchestra, which refused to perform in the Gaza Strip yesterday after its sole Palestinian member, violinist Ramzi Aburedwan, was barred from entering the Strip by the Israeli authorities, performed a concert in solidarity with the people of Gaza from Ramallah [the West Bank] today. The orchestra had been due to perform at the Latin Church in Gaza City yesterday as part of a Baroque Music Festival which is taking place throughout Palestine and Israel.
The stone-throwers of 2008-2009:
Palestinians carry the body of Ahmed Moussa during his funeral in the West Bank village of Nilin near Ramallah July 30, 2008. Israeli soldiers shot dead the Palestinian boy during clashes with stone-throwing protesters on Tuesday in the occupied West Bank, hospital officials and witnesses said. An Israeli military spokeswoman said the military had begun an investigation with the cooperation of Palestinian authorities to determine how the boy was killed.
An Israeli border police officer takes up position during clashes with stone-throwing Palestinian youths in Shuafat refugee camp on the edge of Jerusalem (Gaza territory) on March 3, 2008. [editor’s note: What part of “Stay the hell out of Gaza and quit tormenting and shooting at its people — then no one with throw stones at you!” do the Israeli’s not understand?]
Injured Palestinian and foreign activists stone-throwers lie sprawled on the ground after Israeli troops responded with tear gas and rubber bullets during a protest against Israel’s security fence February 22, 2008, which cuts off Palestinian farmers from their land at the West Bank village of Bil’in. Hundreds of villagers backed up by foreign and left-wing Israeli supporters marked three years of demonstrations against Israel’s controversial barrier.
Palestinian men throw stones at Israeli military armoured vehicles in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, 28 January 2008. Israeli troops shot and killed a Palestinian teenager during clashes in the biblical town, Palestinian medics said. Qussai al-Afandi, 17, was mortally wounded and another Palestinian was injured after Israeli soldiers opened fire on stone-throwing youths in Bethlehem.
An Israeli soldier jumps from an armored vehicle to fire teargas towards stone-throwing youths during an incursion into the Ein Beit Elma refugee camp on the outskirts of the northern West Bank city of Nablus on February 23, 2008. [Again, what part of “Stay the hell out of Gaza and quit tormenting and shooting at its people — and then no one with throw stones at you!” do the Israeli’s not understand?]
A Palestinian youth runs for cover after throwing a stone on an Israeli army vehicle during a military operation in the village of Jabaa, near Jenin, in the occupied West Bank on May 10, 2008. Eight Palestinians were wounded in confrontations during the incursion, according to a Palestinian medical source.
The grandfather (R) and friends of Palestinian teenager Qussai al-Afandi from the Dehaisheh refugee camp, mourn during his funeral, 29 January 2008 in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. Israeli soldiers shot and killed the Palestinian teenager after opening fire on stone-throwing youth, who were protesting Israel’s military incursion into the town.