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Gimme shelter
by Yacov I. Claude
2014-08-01 11:40:52
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yoci_400In the gorgeous evening of June 4, 2014, 50,000 people gathered at the Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv for the legendary Rolling Stones to perform their standard numbers on stage : Tumbling Dice, Doom & Gloom, Gimme Shelter, Sympathy for the Devil, and more.

On July 17, at the same place, Neil Young’s scheduled concert was cancelled, for “reasons of safety”.

It was only 8 days after the Stones’ concert that three Jewish teenagers were kidnapped in an Israeli-controlled zone of the Palestinian territories, and found killed on June 30. In the meantime, over 500 Palestinians were arrested – among them the Speaker of the Parliament, Dr Aziz Dweik, who was taken from his home in the night of June 15-16. Dr Dweik being second-in-line to President Abbas would be the one to replace him in case of emergency. On the matter of the suspects on the run : http://www.buzzfeed.com/sheerafrenkel/israeli-intelligence-officers-doubt-hamas-involvement-in-inc ; on the rationale behind :  http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/06/qawasmeh-clan-hebron-hamas-leadership-mahmoud-abbas.html;

On the next day after the three teenagers’ burials, July 1st, a Palestinian child, aged 10, was tentatively kidnapped in a Northern suburb of Jerusalem. His mother struggled with the main kidnapper, and the gang fled. A few hours later, before dawn, on July 2nd, another young Palestinian from the same suburb, aged 16, was indeed kidnapped, and taken to the small Jerusalem Forest (notorious for its Yad Vashem memorial), where he was set on fire alive.


His funeral coincided with the first Friday of the month of Ramadan, July 4. On July 8, the Israeli Defense Forces launched “Operation Mighty Cliff” (otherwise known as “Protective Edge”). With a toll, as of July 31, 2014, of over 1,300 killed and 7,000 wounded on one side, 60 killed and over 160 wounded on the other, after three weeks of rocket firing, pounding, bombing and fighting.

Such is the frightful matrix of the events that have led to this 6th Israeli campaign in the Gaza Strip since 2006. Eight weeks that have sent us tumbling back into the most barbarous past, that leaves us all dazed, stunned and restless. Even the horrendous toll of the civil war in Syria is paling (1,900 killed in 6 months this year) compared to the growing brutality of what is happening to 1.8 million Gazans.

Blind hate is spreading like a forest fire. The rise of anti-semitism in Europe reminds us of the darkest years in the thirties. How could we shift so tragically from the seemingly carefree quiet of early June to this living hell by the end of July?

I remember my last time in Gaza, in 2013. My work there is to meet students and teachers, with the view that “the function of education is to think intensively and to think critically,” in Martin Luther King’s words, building bridges to non-violent alternatives, from Dr King’s to Mandela’s principles. This year, the war mind has outpowered us – I was not granted my usual work permit.

Few are those from abroad who could enter the Strip. Among them, Peter Beaumont, for The Guardian. He has been our eyes and ears there. His article “Witness to a shelling : first-hand account… There is a deafening explosion, then a second. Four children are dead” was published on July 16 with three photos. The first one shows the Gaza harbour. The second one, a wounded child lying on the ground. The third one, two men carrying a thin, swooning boy with his head bandaged, blood covering his arms, his shorts, his legs. The last one is eerily familiar to me. I know that place well, this terrace, with its rattan armchairs and round tables.

The caption says the men are employees of the Al Deira hotel. So, this is the Al Deira terrace, overlooking the harbour, where I take refuge whenever I have a little spare time, when there is no one to meet, and I can sit there, watching the horizon, thinking about my mother, on the other side of the sea, who never knows when I am in Gaza…

Now, it seems Al Deira is filled with journalists, photographers, but the rest of the time, when there is no shelling, no pounding of Gaza, the place is awfully empty, and the waiters just stand there, in a corner, un-expecting the unlikely customer. There has been no tourism whatsoever in Gaza, for so many years. How could there be ? First, no access, as stated above. No airport either. No harbour to speak of (what they call the Gaza harbour would fit a tiny Greek Island at best). The coastline blockaded anyway. No train station. No bus station either. The Gaza enclave has been totally isolated from the world for 8 years now, if you go back to June 2006, when Sergeant Shalit was captured.

The silhouette of the boy catches my breath. His features look so familiar. Could he be…? The few times I took shelter at Al Deira, on the empty terrace, there would always be boys playing on the beach, and one of them, a bit taller, who would be standing in the distance, with a fishing line, water to his knees or waist, a black cow-boy hat cocked on his head. It seemed he could stay hours like that. I never saw him catch anything. You know, because of the siege and war after war, they say 100 million cubic meters of untreated sewage are dumped daily into the sea. It has become toxic. In 2014, before the onslaught, many beaches had to be closed.

The boy in the black cow-boy hat was my hero. My own secret hero in Gaza. I admired his stand, his steadfastness. He was my Young Man and the Sea.

I never saw him from close. When he would retreat to the beach, I would not walk down to him. He remained veiled in the stuff of legend, mystery. I did not want to get a picture of his face. Only his silhouette. I did not want to know his age or name. To me he was the perfect Seeker from Gaza. In his early or mid-teens, in between.

Now I know his name. It is printed, with Peter Beaumont’s description : “Pulling up the T-shirt of the first boy, journalists administering first aid found a shrapnel hole, small and round as a pencil head, where he had been hit in the chest. Another boy, a brother or cousin, who was uninjured, slumped by the wall, weeping.

The injured boy cried in pain as the journalists cleaned and dressed the wound, wrapping a field dressing around his chest. He winced in pain, clearly embarrassed too...   A waiter grabbed a table cloth to use as a stretcher...”  The four children killed are all members of the same family. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/16/witness-gaza-shelling-first-hand-account

They say Palestinian combatants have launched around two thousand five hundred rockets at Israel in three weeks. 2,500 rockets to kill one Thai worker and a Palestinian Bedouin. Fortunately for my friends in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Iron Dome system provides them with a fine shield, and then in Sderot they have shelters where to take refuge when the sirens wail.

To speak of refuges for people on the other side of the wall: in a small town in the South-East of the Strip, military actions were so swift, the shelling so brutal that the people fled West, to the populated city of Khan Yunis. Among them, the Al Najjar family. The name is quite familiar to me : the man in charge of international relations with the Ministry of Education, from 2008 till 2012, is named Al Najjar. A fine tall chap if any, always impeccably dressed, dandy-style, with a nice streak of British humour. We have become friendly through the years. In the end, he quit. It seemed he was tired of hierarchy and doctrines. I was sorry I was losing a helpful connection there.

What happened to the Al Najjar family? On July 26, before 8 a.m. a missile “completely leveled the four-story building they were sleeping in.” Killing eleven children, and five women. More than twenty bodies from the same family were found in the rubble, two days before the end of Ramadan. http://www.albawaba.com/news/family-killed-gaza-ceasefire-death-toll-905-592934

Have I lost my Al Najjar friend ? The death toll then was 905, only 4 days ago. It now is around 1,300.

In January 2009, it was around 1,400. Since 2008, we have been campaigning to end the Gaza siege, end the killings, end the rockets, free the prisoners. The 1.8 million Gazans detained, and all those that should be freed on humanitarian and legal grounds. The Open the Doors Campaign (supported by 67 Nobel laureates and 200 Members of the European Parliament).

Experiencing another kind of detention, 6,000,000 Israeli Jews – with 1,500,000 Palestinians in their midst –  are living in angst, feeling surrounded by dark, hostile forces, North, East, and South. Fearing the fatal rocket that would finally hit a “target” : a market (like Markalé in Sarajevo in 1994 and 1995), a packed bus, a plane at Tel Aviv airport, a synagogue... They too have become prisoners... of circumstances, of their own devices ?

There are currently around 400,000 human beings wandering in Gaza, looking for shelter.

How many dead, displaced, and atrociously maimed ones does it take to be heard in this world ?



http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.608010 An inhuman war : stop the killing in Gaza

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.608008  Gaza Myths and Facts, by Peter Beinart


http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/interview-with-former-israeli-security-chief-yuval-diskin-a-982094.html All the conditions are there for an explosion (July 24, Der Spiegel)



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Emanuel Paparella2014-08-01 16:04:59
The above is certainly a much more nuanced report on the intricate chain of event leading to the present Gaza catastrophe and horror, then the intemperate biased one by Dr. Siddiqui we read only a few days ago, redolent of bias and ideological fanaticism. The reason for that is that it correctly identifies the proximate origin of the conflict (the killing of the three Israeli teens), albeit there are also more remote causes, and places the blame and responsibility not on demonized villains, present on both sides of the coin to be sure (as most anti-Semites which now pullulate in the West are in the inveterate habit of doing) but to the real villains in the matrix: war itself and its attendant ancillaries: violence, hatred, intransigence, leading to the misguided belief that war is the final solution to any intractable issue. Humankind needs to imagine a better more civilized way, if it is to survive.

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