[Moments after I wrote this blog, I received word that Egypt was working to negotiate a ceasefire between Israel and Palestine. The first deadline for that ceasefire passed as of this morning, July 15. I am sharing this blog as originally written with the undying hope the violence will end. At this point the word to me is that Hamas is reluctant to agree without guarantees of the opening of the Rafah gate between Gaza and Egypt (which seals them off from the world) and the release of the more than 500 Palestinian men arrested in the past three weeks.]
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God speaking, Isaiah 55:3 – Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.
The third slaughter of Gazans in under five years is happening now. The total number killed in Operation Cast Lead – what the Arab world calls the Gaza Massacre – in the first days of 2009 was around 1400, the majority of them women and children. Thirteen Israelis were killed.
The number of Gazans killed between November 14-21, 2012 in Operation Pillar of Defense was 168, the majority of them women and children. Six Israelis were killed.
The last total I saw for the number of Gazans killed so far in Operation Protective Edge is more than 170 (plus another 1000+ injured), the majority of them women and children. Netanyahu says that with “this kind of enemy” Israel will take any means it needs to defend itself. So far no Israelis have been killed. If they do a ground assault, there will be Israelis killed. It is a guarantee. Everyone is crazy.
Thanks to Facebook I have seen things – body parts, emptied faces and skulls, spilling guts – that will never leave my mind. Ever. I do not regret it, I want to see it, but so far I have not reposted these realities of death as an explosion that tears your body into pieces on FB, and I will not here.
Seeing these things – the redness of blood, the same redness of everyone’s blood, flowing over the grey of concrete reduced to a powder that covers even the body that still bleeds – I am shocked to see my immediate world look the same as always. There are birds in my garden, photos of loved ones on my desk. I have a piano, it is intact and can be played.
People walk by, eat in restaurants, laugh. The world has become surreal, a stage of normalcy while on the other side of the scrim people kill each other. It is not just in Israel and Palestinian, it is many places, but this is the barbarism that has delivered itself to me in video after video at my door.
The IDF and Israeli citizens – the majority judging by what I see – say: “We warn Gazans where we will strike, we give a “knock” ahead of time with a warning shot. We are humane. Hamas is not humane, they don’t warn us where the missile will come” This is posted in varying ways as though it makes sense.
NOTE 1: the IDF only gives warning “knocks” sometimes, and when they do, it provides only a teeny window of time for everyone to evacuate that building before it is destroyed. A “knock” is a smaller, presumably non-lethal bomb launched to a rooftop. That is, the occupants hear of the impending destruction of their home, if not members of their family or themselves, a minute or two in advance.
In one video I saw the “knock” hit one building but the real-deal bomb landed next to that building where the people would have evacuated. Deliberate? I don’t think so. I think the IDF really thinks they are humanitarian by sending warning “knocks” – and pamphlets telling people to flee before the ground invasion. They even occasionally call residents in a building and tell them in Hebrew (huh?) that they have five minutes to flee. Of course, this method of protecting people is not fail safe. Extended families are being wiped off the map.
NOTE 2: Hamas cannot give warnings because they cannot pinpoint their missiles. Hamas launches missiles that go more or less willy-nilly, which along with the effectiveness of Israel’s anti-missile system, Iron Dome, is why to date not a single Hamas missile has killed an Israeli or seriously injured one. Iron Dome has been 90% or more effective, fortunately, in shooting down any missiles coming to populated areas inside Israel.
I am not saying Hamas operatives are, or are not, humane. I am furious that they used funds and time and energy and intent to obtain missiles instead of strengthening the infrastructure, health care, facilities, and education inside Gaza. I understand the boycott on materials, but they got missiles in. I understand the isolation, containment, limitations, and humiliation. Or maybe I don’t. No, of course, I cannot, I have no idea. But to use what little you have to bring in missiles is, as I see it, wrong-headed, even unconscionable.
I think the people launching missiles from Gaza would kill many Israelis if they could. Yet, I do not believe it is sufficient grounds to kill someone – and the innocents near them – on the theory that they would kill you if they could when, in fact, they cannot. There have to be more clever, not to mention more ethical, ways to disarm someone’s desire to kill you. Being a good neighbor for one.
The underlying fault line of the “right to protect yourself” argument is that, when you apply it equally to Palestinians as well as Israeli, the whole premise is exposed as absurd. It is an invitation to cyclical slaughter. It has no applicability towards peace. It shows no inclination towards the creativity, healing, and courage needed to achieve mutual beneficial peace. (It is, bottom line, why most women are better peace builders than the many men who believe bigger and harder is the answer to everything.)
NOTE 3: There are demonstrations against the assault in the UK, Belgium, Australia and elsewhere, and even inside Israel. Haven’t seen anything much in the US.
I have been inundated emotionally and psychologically. I have precious friends – Palestinian and Israeli – who are too close to danger, including Rula Salameh, whose article as a Palestinian mother living in East Jerusalem was in the New York Times last week.
I have read article after article documenting in detail the sequence that set off this opportunity for Netanyahu to continue to destroy the peace process (even Kerry placed the blame at his feet), to destroy a unity government that would have brought Hamas into a moderate coalition with Fatah and the West Bank, and to further weaken Gaza.
For one thing, the Israeli authorities knew within hours that the three kidnapped settlers were dead. They had a phone tape of the shooting and the boys’ blood was found in the kidnappers’ abandoned car. Yet for a week, even without telling the parents, they used the excuse that they were searching for the youth to arrest and imprison more than 500 Palestinian men, demolish and invade homes, have confrontations that led to several Palestinian being killed, and to stir up – unleash? – hatred against Palestinians. It didn’t take much.
Among the things I will never forget are the videos of young Israeli males in the streets of Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs” and stopping taxis looking for Palestinian drivers or passengers to beat up. My friend Rula told me by phone that she is scared. This is a woman who has maneuvered me in the West Bank, without bothering to comment, around IDF gun shooting and tear gas. She has a television program on which she sometimes calls Palestinian Authority ministers on camera to help out people in need immediately. She has nerves of steel and decades of experience.
Now she is scared. She lives with her parents and son in Beit Hanina in Arab East Jerusalem only two minutes from the home of the Palestinian boy who was kidnapped and burned to death. Her son is the same age. She told me Israelis are beating shopkeepers.
What can one say? How does one say it? If bombs don’t bring peace – they don’t – then can words?
This crisis has taken me to the Bible, a place I have not visited since I was in high school.
God speaking, Isaiah 55:11-
. . . so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
He’s speaking presumably to the Jews, and He states that He desires a place that will: bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater.
He – I’m ceding to the masculine just to be super-nice – says: Isaiah 55:9 –
As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Are we not to emulate God’s ways, to take the high road?
The hatred I am seeing on Facebook, from people on both sides, is essentially telling God to go to hell. There is a valiant minority – and oh the courage and oh the grief – that calls for an immediate ceasefire and for listening to each other, for tending, for examining one’s own culpability.
We must watch our words so that they are as free as possible of self-delusion, so that they recognize that we are equally human, and so that they have the intent of peace.
I don’t think a “knock” before you bomb people is Yahweh speaking. I don’t think Hamas launching missiles into Israel is Allah speaking.
If our words truly were emulating God, they would be for peace and caring and forgiving and getting our facts rights and not deluding ourselves about our favored status and not denying harm we have done.
Then God says, if you are good boys and girls: Isaiah 55:12 –
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
I read this as that to deliberately kill someone else is to deny the God you profess to worship.
And, yes, I know that both the Koran and the Torah can be interpreted from select verses to encourage you either to fight or to reach out in peace. Shouldn’t we choose the verses that bring good to the world – ourselves and others?