+972 Magazine » +972 Blog http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Fri, 01 Aug 2014 13:50:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 How Europe’s Jews lost their humanity in Gaza http://972mag.com/how-europes-jews-lost-their-humanity-in-gaza/94759/ http://972mag.com/how-europes-jews-lost-their-humanity-in-gaza/94759/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 07:53:52 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94759 The racism that has swept across Israel is devastating to behold. It is also an abdication of what Jews have prized for centuries: A sense of common humanity.

By Gilad Isaacs

For centuries Jews knocked on the door of Eurasian civilization. As they stood precariously on the doorstep they understood that crossing the threshold – being enveloped by the warmth and light within – would signify acceptance, normalization and safety. Sometimes they begged, sometimes they yelled; often they declared: “I am a Jew,” and continued in the vein of:

Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? [The Merchant Of Venice]

Most Jews did not wish to become something they were not. They were happy to remain Jews, and simply sought for others to accept them as such. Some of these Jews became Zionists, whose dream was more than land. They proclaimed that Jews would be accepted as equals if they had a state of their own; if they, as Theodore Herzl proclaimed, entered the “family of nations.”

Fast forward to today. In Israel, the most devastating casualty of the ongoing occupation has been this cherished notion of common humanity.

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian youth, who shows signs of being beaten, following a demonstration against the occupation and in support of Palestinian prisoners the West Bank city of Hebron, March 1, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian youth, who shows signs of being beaten, following a demonstration against the occupation and in support of Palestinian prisoners the West Bank city of Hebron, March 1, 2013. (photo: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Activestills.org)

The racism that has swept across Israel is devastating to behold. Israelis maraud through the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv yelling “Death to Arabs”; a renowned Israeli scholar argues that the sisters, mothers and wives of potential Palestinian terrorists should be raped as a method of deterrence; Knesset members call for a war against all Palestinian people and the forced expulsion of Palestinians out of Gaza and the West Bank; the deputy mayor of Haifa is beaten; a Palestinian teenager is burnt alive; and the list goes on. These are not the misdeeds of rogue anti-social elements: This is a wave of hatred and violence that is committed or supported by large swathes of the Israeli public. Most disquieting is the celebration of Palestinian death and suffering, whether it be cheering from the hilltops of Sderot as bombs fall upon Gaza, or joyous outbursts from Israelis on social media.

Such enmity, and the justification of the hundreds of civilian deaths in the assault upon Gaza, is premised upon a profound “othering” of the Palestinian people, a disregard of the common humanity that Jews prized not so long ago.

Many Israelis would not actively identify with this open loathing, but they are no less a product of their society. In response to the killing of innocent Palestinians, an Israeli woman – whose generosity of spirit I respect – asked me, “Is anyone asking, though, why Saudi money wasn’t used to build shelters for the children of Gaza?” The blockade is the obvious answer, but the question really means: The fault is not ours, it is theirs; they choose to squander their money on attack tunnels instead of protective shelters for their civilians. They are not like us, they do not sufficiently love their children, Golda Meir said in 1972, and Netanyahu repeats ad nauseam.

Why then do Palestinian mothers weep?

Palestinian women cry after Israeli air strike on Gaza Strip. (photo: Activestills.org)

Palestinian women cry after a deadly Israeli air strike on the Gaza Strip. (photo: Activestills.org)

Not all Israelis are guilty of this disregard. Yet, the depths of intolerance and hatred are arguably more evident when one witnesses the viciousness of the Israeli right’s reaction to those Jewish Israelis calling for an end to the carnage: Right-wing thugs stone antiwar protestors; the captain of a youth soccer team in Be’er Sheva writes on his Facebook page, “send left-wing voters to the gas chambers and clean this country of leftists”; Israeli journalist Gideon Levy is nearly assaulted in the rocket-battered southern city of Ashkelon; an angry mob, some (unknowingly) wearing neo-Nazi t-shirts, yell slogans such as “Death to Arabs” and “Death to leftists” while rampaging in coffee shops identified with the left, breaking things and beating people up. The list could go on. Whilst these might be the most acute manifestations of intolerance of difference, the mainstream is guilty of the same; they accuse those who speak out against the current atrocities of being “unpatriotic.”

Not only do many Israelis view the Palestinians as less than them, they also harbor – uncomfortably perhaps – similar sentiments about those that would abandon their brothers-in-arms and defend the “other side.”

Israel right-wing protesters attack left-wing activists after they protested in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israel right-wing protesters attack left-wing activists after they protested in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

That said, we must applaud the large number of Israelis who are prepared to demonstrate against the war, and the many more who sit at home profoundly shaken both by the attack on Gaza and by the hate on the streets. Despite the wartime closing of ranks, dissent is neither impossible nor uncommon.

The Jews are no longer knocking on doors to be let in. We have our own fortress now, bristling with arms. But the cost has been heavy; on the altar of nationalism and ethnic supremacy we have sacrificed the long-cherished ideal of common humanity. Israelis and Zionist Jews, and their most vociferous supporters, can no longer see themselves in the Palestinians. And what we are left with is the second half of Shylock’s speech:

And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.

Gilad Isaacs is an economist and activist, he tweets from @giladisaacs.

Related:
Not just escalation: A frightening new era of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel
The night it became dangerous to demonstrate in Tel Aviv
‘Our’ murderers – what would Arendt and Buber say?

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Blaming Palestinians for their own deaths http://972mag.com/blaming-palestinians-for-their-own-deaths/94729/ http://972mag.com/blaming-palestinians-for-their-own-deaths/94729/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 12:52:12 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94729 ‘All the targets hit by the IDF in Gaza were attacked morally; those killed are responsible for their own deaths. And Netanyahu – he just wants the Gazans to be safe.’

By Hagai El-Ad (translated by Keren Rubinstein)

It is moral because we told them to leave, and those who stayed did so at their own peril. It’s moral because Hamas encouraged them to stay, that’s why this is a self-inflicted genocide carried out by Hamas. The Palestinians who died in Shejaiya, in Khan Younis, actually everywhere and always, are to blame for their own deaths. Maybe it’s only the children who aren’t guilty of their own deaths – maybe it’s the parents who are to blame. As for the elderly people who died, that’s definitely Hamas’ fault. Whichever way you twist it, that blood was not spilled by our hands.

How deeply can you suppress the denial by Israelis? How can the prime minister – the prime minister of the army whose air force killed four nameless children on the beach in Gaza for the world’s cameras to see – look straight into the camera and tell the Palestinians of Gaza, “We want you to be safe”?

Paramedics and people run at the scene where four Palestinian children were killed by Israeli military shelling on the harbor and nearby beach of Gaza city, July 16, 2014. Four children; Ahed Bakr, 10, Zakaria Bakr, 10, Mohd Bakr, 11, and Ismail Bakr, 9.; were killed during the attack.  As of 16 July 2014, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the 2014 Israeli assault against the Gaza Strip, and more than 1,400 have been injured. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Paramedics and people run at the scene where four Palestinian children were killed by Israeli military shelling at the harbor and nearby beach of Gaza City, July 16, 2014. Four children; Ahed Bakr, 10, Zakaria Bakr, 10, Mohd Bakr, 11, and Ismail Bakr, 9.; were killed during the attack. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Anyone who has been listening to Palestinian voices in Gaza in recent weeks has heard one message repeated over and over through the thunder of Israeli bombardment: No place is safe in Gaza, a bomb can fall anywhere, anytime, on anyone. And there’s nowhere to run, because you can’t leave Gaza; while in it – inside this narrow, impoverished and overpopulated strip of land – nowhere is safe.

They were named Zakariya Ahed Subahi Bakir, age 10; Ahed Atef Ahed Bakir, age 9; Ismail Muhammad Subahi Bakir, age 9; and Mohammad Ramiz Izat Bakir, age 11.

Out of the thousands of targets “attacked” morally, none of these “surgical” bombardments featured in the IDF spokesperson’s clips or the few bombardments cancelled at the last minute, nor did any of the prime minister’s pleas manage to convince Gazans that Israel wishes for their safety. Perhaps they were actually convinced by the overflowing morgues, or maybe they were thinking of the more than 177 dead children. Maybe they were thinking about the Al Batsh family and its 17 dead, or maybe about the Al Haj family and its eight dead.

After the “surgical” phase they moved onto the heavier instruments. The moral side called on the residents to leave and the immoral side told them to stay. Many chose to stay: Some presumed that it was safer at home; others were afraid to leave, perhaps caring for an elderly mother, a relative in a wheelchair or small children. Maybe they stayed because Gaza is closed from all directions – where could they run for safety?

Maybe they stayed because they heard that UNRWA’s schools were already overflowing with incoming refugees, and in any case those schools are also being shelled. Maybe they stayed because they were afraid that if they left, the democratic side’s graces would guarantee that they would have nowhere to return to. Maybe they were afraid of Hamas, maybe of the IDF. Either way, maybe they thought of the morgues. Maybe they were afraid. Of course they were. Frightened Arabs dying by the dozens don’t make for telegenic photos. The kids on the beach weren’t captured telegenically either. Morally, but not telegenically.

A relative cries over the body of one of the children killed earlier by an Israeli attack in a playground in al-Shati refugee camp, Gaza city, July 28, 2014. Reports indicate that 10 people, mostly children, were killed and 40 injured during the attack which took place on the first day Eid. Israeli attacks have killed more than 1,000 Palestinians and injured more than 6,200 in the current offensive, most of them civilians (photo: Activestills)

A relative cries over the body of one of the children killed earlier by an Israeli attack in a playground in al-Shati refugee camp, Gaza City, July 28, 2014. Reports indicate that 10 people, mostly children, were killed and 40 injured during the attack, which took place on the first day Eid. (photo: Activestills)

Hamas most certainly intended for all this to happen; we, most certainly, did not intend for any of it. But if intent is the outcome expected of a reasonable person, then what was the intent of the person who dropped bomb after bomb on one house and then another, and buried entire families? Those families apparently weren’t persuaded to flee for their lives after the bombarding army’s courteous announcement.

Israel and Hamas both know – it is impossible not to know – that the inevitable result of the war in Gaza is devastating civilian losses there. The bloody experiences already accumulated are sufficiently horrifying to establish with confidence that this is the inevitable outcome, that any claim about the absence of intent is simply detached from reality and renders the word “intent” totally devoid of meaning.

But the main point is that it is moral, and we can move onto the next house, the next family, the next neighborhood. In Beit Hanoun, in Beit Lahia, in Jabaliya, there are another few dozen, hundred, thousand cowardly Palestinians, afraid of the democratic army for no reason at all, and who have every reason to fear the terrorists, whose morality lacks values and is undemocratic. Arabs are cowards; they shake with fear. It will of course be done morally and, in any case, whatever happens Hamas is to blame. Always. What the IDF does is moral. Always. And legal too. The main thing, once again, is that the blood that we spilled was not spilled by our hands.

Hagai El-ad is the CEO of B’Tselem.

Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call

Related:
What Israel’s ‘precision bombing’ of Gaza looks like
Catch-22: When a humanitarian ceasefire becomes a death trap
WATCH: Whole Gaza neighborhood destroyed in an hour

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129 Palestinians, 3 Israeli soldiers killed; U.S. approves Israeli request for ammunition http://972mag.com/129-palestinians-3-israeli-soldiers-killed-u-s-approves-israeli-request-for-ammunition/94690/ http://972mag.com/129-palestinians-3-israeli-soldiers-killed-u-s-approves-israeli-request-for-ammunition/94690/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 23:26:14 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94690 Wednesday saw a particularly deadly day of violence in the Gaza Strip, while diplomatic efforts to reach a ceasefire continued with urgency. 

According to officials at the Palestinian Health Ministry, 129 people were killed and more than 200 wounded in Gaza throughout Wednesday. Israel’s Operation Protective Edge has killed a total of 1,400 Palestinians and wounded more than 7,500. The high death toll comes after a bloody day on Tuesday, which saw more than 120 people killed by Israeli airstrikes in the Strip.

The Israeli army announced that three of its soldiers were killed on Wednesday afternoon, pushing the military death toll to 56.

Dead horses lie in the street following the overnight Israeli shelling of an UNRWA school where some 3,300 Palestinians were seeking shelter, Jabalia, Gaza Strip, July 30, 2014. At least 20 people were killed in the attack, which injured more than 100. So far, at least 1,300 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's offensive. In addition, 56 Israeli soldiers have been killed, as well as three civilians in Israel (photo: Activestills)

Dead horses lie in the street following the overnight Israeli shelling of an UNRWA school where some 3,300 Palestinians were seeking shelter, Jabalia, Gaza Strip, July 30, 2014. At least 20 people were killed in the attack, which injured more than 100. So far, at least 1,400 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive. In addition, 56 Israeli soldiers have been killed, as well as three civilians in Israel (photo: Activestills)

In one of two major attacks in Gaza Wednesday, a UN school in the Jabaliya refugee camp was struck overnight by what is believed to have been Israeli artillery. The attack killed at least 19 people. The school was attacked three times, UNWRA said, despite the fact that the agency had informed the army of its exact location a number of times. The White House condemned Israel’s shelling of the school.

“We have visited the site and gathered evidence. We have analyzed fragments, examined craters and other damage. Our initial assessment is that it was Israeli artillery that hit our school, in which 3,300 people had sought refuge,” said UNRWA spokesperson Christopher Gunness.

Just hours later, after the Israeli military unilaterally declared a partial humanitarian ceasefire, the second major attack of the day occurred. Ma’an News Agency reported that as thousands of Gazans took advantage of the temporary ceasefire to shop on the third day of the Eid holiday in a market in Shejaiya, they were targeted in an Israeli attack that left 17 people dead and 200 wounded, many seriously.

The bodies of Palestinians lie in the Al Shifa Hospital morgue in Gaza City following an attack on an UNRWA school in Jabaliya, July 30, 2014 (photo: Activestills)

The bodies of Palestinians lie in the Al Shifa Hospital morgue in Gaza City following an attack on an UNRWA school in Jabaliya, July 30, 2014 (photo: Activestills)

In a diplomatic show of force, Bolivia canceled its visa agreement with Israel and declared it a “terrorist state” in protest of the military operation in Gaza. Bolivia broke off its diplomatic ties with Israel in 2009, in protest of Operation Cast Lead. In another diplomatic move, El Salvador joined Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru in recalling its Israeli envoy over the violence in Gaza.

While Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to recognize Gaza as a disaster area, UNRWA notified Israel that it would not be able to accommodate further waves of refugees if the attacks on the Strip continued. UNRWA’s Gaza-based director, Robert Turner, stated that of the 400,000 Gazans who had fled their homes, 220,000 were being housed in the agency’s schools.

According to CNN, the U.S. agreed to an Israeli request for ammunition, including 120 mm mortar rounds and 40 mm ammunition for grenade launchers.

An Israeli delegation traveled to Cairo earlier in the day to discuss with Egyptian officials the possibility of a ceasefire, while chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat was set to travel to Qatar and expected to meet with Hamas political chief Khaled Mashal to discuss a possible agreement.

Related:
Will there be peace if Palestinians lay down their arms?
Gaza catch-22: When a humanitarian ceasefire becomes a death trap
Protective Edge: The disengagement undone

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COMIC: Meanwhile… http://972mag.com/comic-meanwhile/94621/ http://972mag.com/comic-meanwhile/94621/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:26:25 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94621 By Eli Valley

Eli.Valley.Dershowitz.Goldstone

Eli Valley is a writer and artist whose work has been published in New York Magazine, The Daily Beast, Gawker, Saveur, Haaretz and elsewhere. He is currently finishing his first novel. Eli’s website is www.EVComics.com and he tweets at @elivalley.

Previous work by Eli Valley on +972 Magazine:
Google Glass for the Gaza gaze
What if Mahmoud was named Jonah?
The hater in the sky

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Hope during wartime: A Palestinian return http://972mag.com/hope-during-wartime-a-palestinian-return/94658/ http://972mag.com/hope-during-wartime-a-palestinian-return/94658/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 11:25:01 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94658 The displaced former residents of Kafr Bir’im decided in the summer of 2013 to return to their village, and since then, they haven’t left. The author and his partner visited them one year later.

By Eitan Bronstein Aparicio (translated by Ami Asher)

We had to travel as far as Kafr Bir’em to find faith in these sad and desperate times, during the terrible war on Gaza. We spent an entire day with the Bir’em returnees. The last time we visited this community of internally displaced villagers was exactly one year ago, in their traditional summer camp, organized in order to educate the younger generation never to give up on their right to return to Bir’em (the village’s original residents were expelled during the 1948 War; they were promised the right to return, but were never granted permission by the military). There were scores of children, youth and adults there, singing and dancing in the open church’s court.

Far from a sultry and depressed Tel Aviv, we found determined people hanging on to hope and home against all odds. Ever since they decided to return, there wasn’t a single night they did not spend in the village – sometimes dozens of them, sometimes less – running various social activities and simply living there.

Kafr Bir'im summer camp. (photo: Eleonore Merza)

Kafr Bir’em summer camp. (photo: Eleonore Merza)

Northern Israel is relatively quiet these days, and the weather is pleasant, but the distance from the violent attack on Gaza is repeatedly erased when troubling news reaches us. “Thirty people were arrested in the antiwar demonstration in Haifa, including Saher Jeries from our village,” says my friend Nahida Zahra, one of the leading returnee activists, in a proud voice. Asil Abu-Warda shows me a picture of his arrest by an undercover policeman disguised as a Palestinian. “Is Asil also a girl’s name?” I ask and recall Asil ‘Asle, who was murdered during the October 2000 incidents while sitting and watching a Palestinian demonstration near Arabe, inside sovereign Israel. Abu-Warda seems to read my mind and tells me that ‘Asle was her classmate. “My mother would always argue with his mother on who chose the name first. I was born two months before him, so clearly my mother was first.”

We are having lunch in the shade of a tree, the tasty menu including mujaddara and vegetable salad. The dessert was a lesson for me – after a short trip among the destroyed village homes, the kids return with a bag full of tiny purple-green fruits that look like plums. Indeed, this is a type of plum called Arasia. Nahida says the trees keep growing in the village, bearing fruit every summer since 1948.

“What next?” I ask her. “Where do you want to take this activity of return?” She tells me they held a workshop with a professional facilitator and 30 village refugees, discussing that question exactly. It is now clear to them that the most urgent challenge is to recruit as many community members as activists.

Children in Bir'im eat 'Arsia,' a type of fruit native to the village. (photo: by Eitan Bronstein Aparicio)

Children in Bir’em eat ‘Arsia,’ a type of fruit native to the village. (photo: by Eitan Bronstein Aparicio)

The Israel Land Authority is working to expel them from the village once again. The cemetery, church and adjacent kitchen are beyond dispute, but any other sign that the returnees are laying claim to village property is immediately removed by the ILA. It also uses punitive measures and tactics of harassment: its inspectors have blocked the road leading from the cemetery to the church, which had been previously used to transport equipment and drive the village elders to the center of Bir’em. In addition, the regional council, which until now had approved the summer camp every year, informed the returnees this year that the Israel Land Administration [ILA] won’t allow it.

The returnees keep close contact with the internally displaced villagers from Iqrit, whose story is very similar to that of Bir’em’s. Both had obtained the High Court of Justice’s approval of their right to return, but this was subsequently denied by the IDF and later the Israeli government. The displaced persons of these two villages acted legally together for years to change this policy but finally reached the conclusion that this strategy would achieve no concrete results and decided to return without the state’s permission.

I comment that their actions are reminiscent of actions taken by Israel and individual Israelis, in that it is not completely legal. Nagham agrees. “Indeed, it is similar in a way, but we have moral law and justice on our side!” We enjoy tea seasoned with mint and za’atar grown in the garden near the church. In a recent court hearing, the ILA demanded that it be destroyed as well, but the judge refused.

The church at Kafr Bir'im. (photo: Eitan Bronstein Aparicio)

The church at Kafr Bir’em. (photo: Eitan Bronstein Aparicio)

It’s cool and windy outside, but very cozy inside the tent we’re sleeping in. The only disturbance is Hezi the rooster, named after the chief ILA inspector acting against the Bir’em returnees. He crows insistently, but slowly this becomes a background noise for a sleep deeper and longer than in recent troubling nights.

In the morning, George is already waiting for us in the kitchen with coffee. He surprises us with a poignant statement so early in the day: for him, Bir’em is both a blessing and a curse. It’s the place of his hopes, of political action and sweet grandfatherly memories. On the other hand, it is an ongoing curse that has been tormenting the internally displaced ever since 1948.

Some of the activists pitched tents where Kafr Bir'im's school used to be. (photo: Eitan Bronstein Aparicio)

Some of the activists pitched tents where Kafr Bir’em’s school used to be. (photo: Eitan Bronstein Aparicio)

While his mind wonders, somebody walks into the central courtyard and starts obsessively taking pictures. George asks who is she. She mutters, “Dvora from the ILA”. Every few days they come here to document the villagers’ activities and demonstrate their resolve to kick out the returnees. The villagers’ uncompromising struggle against Israeli authorities highlights what my partner Eleonore kept telling them, over and over again, throughout our short stay: what you are doing is so important, and so impressive!

Eitan Bronstein Aparicio is the founder of Zochrot.

Related:
On Easter, Palestinians resurrect their destroyed village
Who’s afraid of the right of return?

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‘Unprecedented’ violence stalks anti-war demos across Israel http://972mag.com/unprecedented-violence-stalks-anti-war-demos-across-israel/94530/ http://972mag.com/unprecedented-violence-stalks-anti-war-demos-across-israel/94530/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:24:26 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94530 The recent demonstrations in Tel Aviv and Haifa against the Gaza war have largely failed to reach the global media. And while the end of the bloodshed still seems far from sight, there is a different, violent confrontation being held inside Israel – one that targets Arab citizens and left-wing activists on the internet, and uses physical violence against anti-war demonstrators.

By Omer Raz

Tel Aviv, July 13

The second weekend of Operation Protective Edge saw the first bout of physical violence at Habima Square – the cultural heart of Tel Aviv. At around 8 p.m. a crowd of several hundred people gathered to protest against Operation Protective Edge, and called for a ceasefire. A second small group, comprised largely of teens and young adults draped in Israeli flags, began harassing the anti-war demonstrators, shouting slogans against their protest and accusing them of treason. The protest got tense as the right-wingers became physically violent.

A few minutes after 9 p.m., air raid sirens began blaring after Hamas shot multiple long-range rockets at Tel Aviv. The leftist protest scattered to find shelter, while the rightists chased them into dark alleys and cafes, where several leftists were beaten. Shortly after, +972’s Haggai Matar wrote the following: “When the sirens sounded into the night, only one thing was obvious to all of us: the fascists in front of us are more dangerous than the rockets on the way.”

Right-wing nationalists attacking left wing activists during a protest in center Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. The protest ended with the nationalists attacking a small group of left-wing activists with little police interference. Three activists injured and one right-wing person arrested. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Right-wing nationalists attacking left-wing activists during a protest in center Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. The protest ended with the nationalists attacking a small group of left-wing activists with little police interference. Three activists were injured and one right-wing person arrested. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The scene was later described by the new, self-ordained nationalist leader – a long forgotten ex-rapper who goes by the name of “The Shadow” (HaTzel). He wrote the following on his Facebook profile shortly after the protest:

We started with three people against their 800, and finished with 350 of ours and zero of them. It was crazy to do it all with sirens in the background and explosions in the sky.

Haifa, July 16-17

A city with a mixed population of Jews and Arabs, Haifa is known as a bastion of Jewish-Arab coexistence. (In the past it was referred to as “Red Haifa” for its blue-collar port and industry working class politics.) Haifa has held regular Saturday night demonstrations since the beginning of the assault. The July 16 protest was organized by the Balad party and Abna’a Al-Balad – a secular Palestinian movement in Israel – and included prominent Arab political figures such as Knesset members Hanin Zoabi and Jamal Zehalka, both of whom are hated by the general non-Arabic public.

The demonstrators marched and chanted slogans through the streets of the Wadi Nisnas and the German colony neighborhoods, before violence erupted between the protesters and police forces, resulting in 40 arrests. The following day, Hadash, the Arab-Jewish socialist party, held a joint demonstration against the Gaza war as well as against the arrests. In response, leading figures of the far-right, including Kahanist activist Baruch Marzel, called on supporters to attend and “take a stand” against the anti-war demonstration.

Palestinian protesters demonstrate in front of Haifa's Baha'i Gardens against Operation Protective Edge. (photo: Activestills)

Palestinian protesters demonstrate in front of Haifa’s Baha’i Gardens against Operation Protective Edge. (photo: Activestills)

The police did not take any chances this time; helicopters hovered above Mount Carmel, police officers on horseback guarded the main entrances to the protest, and a large vehicle equipped with a water cannon was station across the road. The anti-war demonstrators numbered no more than 300, while at least 1,000 counter-protesters stood on the other side of Moriya Avenue. Police presence was heavy and kept the two sides at bay. The rightists yelled slogans such as “Go to Gaza,” “Death to Arabs,” and “Death to leftists.” Water bottles and stones were thrown at the Arabs and Jews who stood together and yelled “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.”

Young men in their 20s roamed the main road leading to the protest. They were hooligans; we had never seen them in Haifa before. This wasn’t only hostile ground for Arabs, it was hostile to anyone who is not committed to the war effort. When the left-wing protest dispersed and buses began to load people back to their homes, the mob got out of control. They started again chasing and beating leftists, including women and elderly people. The police then used water cannons and stun grenades to disperse the rioters; at least 30 people were injured.

Tel Aviv, July 26

It took three weeks before the anti-war camp slowly materialized. After the events in Haifa, organizers put together an event to be held in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square – where 400,000 people once demonstrated against the Lebanon war in the 1982. Thousands were expected. Three hours before the event, just as people from all across the country were making their way to Tel Aviv in the heavy Saturday evening traffic, the police announced that it was canceling the protest for security reasons, because was slated to coincide with the end of the humanitarian ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. However, the police reversed its decision one hour later. Between 4,000 and 5,000 protesters came to Rabin Square, with hundreds on the nationalist side. The latter were supported by many passersby on the street, who shouted and harassed the leftists.

Israelis protesting the Gaza war in Tel Aviv light candles to commemorate the victims. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israelis protesting the Gaza war in Tel Aviv light candles to commemorate the victims. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

The demonstration was once again heavily guarded by police, and the two sides were separated by steel fences. Speeches were made by politicians, as well as by members of Combatants for Peace (former soldiers and militant Palestinians who have since come together to renounce violence). Police dispersed the protest at 10 p.m., a full hour before it was scheduled to end. But the nationalists did not stop there. As demonstrators were leaving the square, several were accosted and attacked by right wingers, some of them wielding metal batons. At least eight people were beaten and needed medical attention, while eight nationalist protesters were detained by police.

WATCH: Anti-war demonstrators square off with right-wingers in Tel Aviv:

Omer Raz is an environmental engineering student and former editor of the student magazine editor at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa.

Related:
‘No more deaths’: Thousands of Israelis protest the Gaza war
How can you possibly oppose this war?
Israel has alternatives to this war

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Why did Israel reject Kerry’s ceasefire proposal? http://972mag.com/why-did-israel-reject-kerrys-ceasefire-proposal/94559/ http://972mag.com/why-did-israel-reject-kerrys-ceasefire-proposal/94559/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 19:34:35 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94559 Is Israel willing to prolong the fighting and to intensify the killing and bereavement on both sides just so that its ally in Cairo gets the credit, rather than the Hamas-allied Turkey and Qatar? 

By Elizabeth Tsurkov

There is hardly any difference between the draft agreement presented by Kerry and the Egyptian proposal, apart from the question of who will be its sponsor: Cairo, or Turkey and Qatar?

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, on July 22, 2014, amid a series of discussions with Egyptian leaders focused on creating a cease-fire for fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (State Department photo/ Public Domain)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, on July 22, 2014, amid a series of discussions with Egyptian leaders focused on creating a cease-fire for fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (State Department photo/ Public Domain)

On Sunday morning, Haaretz’s excellent diplomatic correspondent, Barak Ravid, published a commentary on the new draft proposed by the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry:

The draft Kerry passed to Israel on Friday shocked the cabinet ministers not only because it was the opposite of what Kerry told them less than 24 hours earlier, but mostly because it might as well have been penned by Khaled Meshal. It was everything Hamas could have hoped for.

At the end of his article Ravid added:

[Kerry's] conduct in recent days over the Gaza cease-fire raises serious doubts over his judgment and perception of regional events. It’s as if he isn’t the foreign minister of the world’s most powerful nation, but an alien, who just disembarked his spaceship in the Mideast.

A report published in Haaretz reveals the text of the draft, compares it with the draft presented by Kerry last Thursday and discusses the negative aspects that appear in the draft. We do not have access to the full text of Thursday’s draft, but we do have the full text of the Egyptian draft of the ceasefire proposal, which Israel accepted and which was rejected by Hamas.

A close reading of the full version of Kerry’s “Hamas-inspired” draft and that of the Egyptians reveals insignificant differences between the two. The Egyptian draft, which was put together with Israel, while excluding the Hamas from the process, was formulated before the land invasion of Gaza and therefore does not address the question of Israel’s continual destruction of the underground tunnels.

           Click here for +972′s full coverage of the war in Gaza

According to Haaretz, the Thursday draft allowed Israel to continue destroying the tunnels for a period of one week following the beginning of the ceasefire, whereas the “Hamas-inspired” draft does not allow it. Effectively, the current draft states that immediately after the onset of the ceasefire ”both sides will refrain from carrying out military or security activities that could lead to confrontation between them.” It is obvious that the draft forbids targeted assassination attempts against members of Hamas and the other organizations, but it is not at all clear that the continued destruction of the tunnels is forbidden as well.

Haaretz lists other problems in Kerry’s draft, the most important being the lack of any reference to the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip. However, the Egyptian propsal does not deal with this issue, and it is clear to Israel that the demilitarization will not be achieved by a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. Therefore demilitarization was not stipulated as the objective of its current operation in Gaza.

Another claim presented by Haaretz is that the new draft requires both sides to return to the understandings reached after Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. This agreement was put in place in order to secure the reopening of the border crossings, as well as to enlarge the area to which Gazan fishermen have access. However, the Egyptian draft presented the agreement of 2012 as the basis of negotiations between Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Israel. It is important to note that Hamas considers the return to this agreement an accomplishment, in light of Israel’s breaching of the agreement and the tightening of the blockade on Gaza, which took place in the time since the agreement was signed. It was also claimed by Haaretz that the draft does not mention the Palestinian Authority and thus weakens it. However, Egypt’s proposal also did not refer to the PA.

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

According to Kerry’s draft, it was claimed that the negotiations for a permanent arrangement with Hamas will address the organization’s demand to open a sea harbor and an airport in Gaza. There is no reference in the text of the draft to these demands, and the chances that they will be supported by the U.S. are next to nothing. The airport in Gaza was bombed in 2001 and has not been in operation since. The site of the harbor under construction was also bombed in 2001. Since Israel did not adhere to its commitment (part of the 2005 agreement regarding border crossings), to enable the construction while Mahmoud Abbas was in control of the Gaza Strip, it will not do so under Hamas rule.

There is only one difference between the drafts: the identity of their respective sponsors. According to the Egyptian draft, Egypt will supervise the implementation of the agreement, whereas in Kerry’s draft the role of supporting the agreement and providing humanitarian assistance was given to the European Union, the Arab League, the UN, the United States, Qatar and Turkey.

A senior official in Kerry’s delegation was therefore justified in stating that the Kerry draft was based on the Egyptian proposal, which had been wholeheartedly endorsed by Israel. Thus, if Israel is opposed to the Kerry draft, it is opposed to its own plan.

Is Israel willing to prolong the fighting and to intensify the killing and bereavement on both sides just so that the regime in Cairo gets the credit rather than Turkey and Qatar? Or maybe the fact that 86.5 percent of Israelis currently oppose a ceasefire is driving the spin masters who need to look for excuses to continue the fighting?

Elizabeth Tsurkov is a human rights activist and a graduate student in Middle East studies.

Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call.

Related:
Why Israel won’t sign any ceasefire that’s fair
What does Israeli ‘acceptance’ of ceasefire really mean?
Protective Edge: The disengagement undone

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WATCH: Israeli teen refuses to serve in army, likely to face jail time http://972mag.com/watch-israeli-teen-refuses-to-serve-in-army-likely-to-face-jail-time/94538/ http://972mag.com/watch-israeli-teen-refuses-to-serve-in-army-likely-to-face-jail-time/94538/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 15:38:03 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94538 Dozens of supporters, including past refusers, hold demonstration outside Haifa draft board office in solidarity with 19-year-old Udi Segal.

By Moriel Rothman-Zecher and Yuval Orr

For the past month, the news in Israel/Palestine has been filled with reports of more and more people killed, the vast majority of them Palestinians. As much of Israeli society is swept up in the fever of the most recent war on Gaza, there are those voices that refuse to accept a present, or future, filled with violence, occupation, fear and hostility. One of those voices belongs to Udi Segal, a 19-year-old Israeli from Kibbutz Tuval, who was sent to jail on Monday for refusing to enlist in the Israeli military.

Watch this short video of Udi explaining his refusal to serve:

About 75 people – Jews and Palestinians – gathered in Haifa to stand with Udi. Among the crowd were Ruty and Yael Ferera, the mother and sister of Uriel Ferera, an Orthodox Jewish refusenik who has been in and out of military prison since April for refusing; Omar Saad, a young Druze refusenik who was recently released after over six months in prison; and a number of other past refusers and current signatories on the 2014 letter of conscientious objection.

Udi Segal walks in the direction of the Draft Center in Haifa, where he will refuse to enlist.

Udi Segal walks in the direction of the Draft Center in Haifa, where he will refuse to enlist.

Across the street was a small gathering of flag-draped counter-protestors. There had been calls to demonstrate against Udi’s refusal circulating on Facebook, but thanks to clever organizing (the Facebook event for Udi’s protest listed the start time at 11:00, at the Navy Museum, and then, surreptitiously, told actual supporters to meet at 12:00, near the Draft Office, five kilometers away, on the other side of Haifa), only a few showed up. Their chants touched on a number of now-familiar tropes (“Go to Gaza! You’re all traitors! Gaza is a cemetery! Go get f**ked in the a**!”) but also took on an uglier, more personal element, targeting Udi by name, branding the demonstration as his “gay coming out party,” calling him a “son of a whore” as he stood by his mother.

Omar Saad, a few months after his own release, lending support to Udi Segal.

Omar Saad, a few months after his own release, lending support to Udi Segal.

The demonstration in support of Udi was quiet and dignified, with signs declaring support for his refusal, critiquing the occupation and calling for an immediate end to the war on Gaza. One demonstrator held a sign that said “Over 800 people killed does not equal security.” When he saw me looking at the sign, he shrugged sadly and said: “I made this sign a few days ago. The death toll in Gaza is now estimated at over 1,058.

After a short gathering, Udi said his goodbyes and walked off to the draft station, where he approached the commanders with the words that have crossed the lips of thousands conscientious objectors before him: “I refuse.”

Reporting, photography, interview and editing by Yuval Orr and Moriel Rothman-Zecher. Moriel is an American-Israeli writer, activist and refusenik. He blogs independently at www.thelefternwall.com. Yuval is a American-Israeli filmmaker and activist whose first short film “Hebron is Beautiful” explores the banal absurdity of the Israeli occupation of Hebron through the eyes of a Palestinian teenager. They are both members of the All That’s Left Anti-Occupation Collective.  

 You can follow Yuval on Twitter at @YuvalOrr and Moriel at @TheLefternWall.

Related:
IDF denied draft refuser letters, access to his lawyer
‘God can’t hear you’: Orthodox draft refuser’s first night in prison
Druze conscientious objector hospitalized with liver infection

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Why the EU needs to rein in Israel’s settlement policy http://972mag.com/why-the-eu-needs-to-rein-in-israels-settlement-policy/94370/ http://972mag.com/why-the-eu-needs-to-rein-in-israels-settlement-policy/94370/#comments Sat, 26 Jul 2014 15:49:38 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94370 An Israeli academic makes the case for Europe to contain Israel’s settlement policy with greater determination and more concrete measures.

By Nurit Peled-Elhanan

Times are very tough for both Israeli and Palestinian families. The death toll in Gaza currently stands at more than 1,000, the majority of whom are civilians. The death toll in Israel stands at 43, three of whom are civilians. Three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank. A Palestinian youth from Jerusalem was burned alive by Jewish extremists. Dangerous and violent racism against Arab-Israeli citizens encouraged by Israeli ministers and parliament members has led to street riots, bred aggression and severe discrimination against Palestinians, along with a new aggression against peace activists.

Israel is currently suffering from an unprecedented social and economic crisis. The single source for this crisis is Israel’s destructive occupation. The occupation has raised two generations of Palestinians as prisoners, jailed between military checkpoints and walls. The two generations of Israelis who believe that they are the lords of the land are nurtured by the illusion that the oppression of 4.5 million Palestinians gives them security and peace, and that such an oppressive society is capable of raising compassionate children. Therefore, they are shocked when their boys become ruthless killers, as is revealed by current events.

Israel right-wing protesters attack left-wing activists after they protested in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Israel right-wing protesters attack left-wing activists after they protested in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

One of the most dominant and disastrous expressions of the occupation is the settlement project in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, which is illegal under international law. The settlements allow Israel to take control of Palestinians’ natural resources ­– in violation of international law – to strengthen its presence in the territories and to make the occupation irreversible. Despite various agreements, international resolutions and Israeli promises, the settlements are expanding.

All the while, Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and so-called Area C (61% of the West Bank, under full Israeli control) are constantly destroyed. While water flows in the settlements without limitation, Palestinian villages live under a cruel water regime, as was recently pointed out by the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, during a speech he gave before the Israeli parliament. Many roads are closed to Palestinians and the restriction of movement is unbearable.

To this day, the international community has not done enough to stop Israeli settlements. European countries have profoundly criticized them, while continuing to cooperate fully with Israel economically, politically and militarily. As a result, Israel does not pay any price for seriously violating international law. On the contrary, Europe also pays for much of the humanitarian damage of the occupation, making it even easier for Israel to maintain.

House demolition in Anata, Northern Jerusalem, April 14, 2008 (Photo: Meged Gozani/Activestills.org)

House demolition in Anata, Northern Jerusalem, April 14, 2008 (Photo: Meged Gozani/Activestills.org)

A year ago, the EU made a small step in the right direction: guidelines were issued prohibiting EU institutions to fund or to finance research organizations and activities in the settlements. Twenty European countries have published formal warnings to their citizens and companies regarding trade and financial relations with the settlements.

And yet, these measures do not seriously challenge Israeli policy in occupied Palestine. Europe could do much better, as illustrated by its harsh response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. It took the EU a few weeks, not years, to make its stance against Russian actions crystal clear. Just this week the EU took a further bold step in suspending the funding of new public-sector projects in Russia by the EU’s lending institution, the European Investment Bank. This is in addition to the previous decision to ban the import of Crimean goods and to impose targeted sanctions on both Russian and Ukrainian officials and on business firms operating in Crimea. This all occurred, of course, well before the Malaysian passenger jet was shot down just this week.

Israel controls millions of Palestinians under an ongoing military occupation, claiming that this situation is “temporary.” However, a military occupation of 47 years, which includes the establishment of settlements, cannot be described as “temporary.”

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton with PM Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: GPO/Avi Ohayun)

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton with PM Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: GPO/Avi Ohayun)

As an Israeli longing for peace and justice, I believe Europe has to contain the settlement policy with greater determination and more concrete measures. The world increasingly understands the threat that the settlements pose to peace and stability in the region. Over time, neither Palestinians nor Israelis can survive without freedom and independence for the Palestinians. Already, the undemocratic character of the state of Israel is increasingly transforming it into an apartheid state.

For the two nations living in this region, there is a joint and real interest in ending the Israeli occupation as a precondition for peace. We, the citizens of Israel and the stateless people of Palestine, cannot bring this about on our own. We need the help of the international community at large and of the EU in particular.

As a laureate of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Human Rights, and as a mother and a human being, I call on the EU to use all the diplomatic and economic tools at its disposal to help save my country from the abyss of eternal occupation and injustice.

Professor Nurit Peled-Elhanan is a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the 2001 Sakharov Prize Laureate, and the co-founder of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

Related:

When reality becomes hate speech: President of EU Parliament visits Israel
By refusing to drastically amend its settlement guidelines, EU reopens debate on occupation within Israeli elites
How will the EU elections affect Israel-Palestine?

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Gaza war diary II: No one is safe, everyone is a target http://972mag.com/gaza-war-diary-ii-no-one-is-safe-everyone-is-a-target/94361/ http://972mag.com/gaza-war-diary-ii-no-one-is-safe-everyone-is-a-target/94361/#comments Sat, 26 Jul 2014 13:58:47 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=94361 Walid Abuzaid offers a look into the everyday reality of living in Gaza during the current violence. As the fighting worsens, he asks why Palestinians should settle when they haven’t got the rights they deserve.

By Walid Abuzaid

Thursday, July 17

It’s 10 p.m. when the power finally returns. The electricity has been down since 11 p.m. last night. The power company said the electricity lines were down during the bombardments and that there’ll only be six hours of electricity every day.

I turn on the water heater so I can finally shower in the morning, since Eimar is asleep at last and I don’t want to make any noise. As I brush my teeth, I’m reminded of the salty water I have to shower in. When I asked the tower guard, Abu-Zeyad, about it when I returned home at the beginning of July, he said the water pipes for the whole neighborhood were damaged a while ago and no one has repaired them. I remember Mohammed, my friend from Beit Lahia, complaining about it since moving here after the war began. The water they use back in their home is really sweet water coming from the wells.

People of Khan Younis gather at a water well to fill some plastic jugs of safe drinking water, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Israeli attacks have killed 566 Palestinians in the current offensive, most of them civilians. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

People of Khan Younis gather at a water well to fill plastic jugs of safe drinking water, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

We gather around in the living room, the TV is on the news channel; we don’t follow any Ramadan series this year. Although Lamar forces us every once in a while to switch to MBC so she can watch the prank series with the sharks. We still check the news channels during every commercial. Nirmeen, my step-mom, tells us about her friend from university that has a Swedish passport. She and her family left in the morning and they’re now safe in Jordan. Lamar hears this and angrily asks my father, “When are you going to get us passports so we can travel whenever we want?” I’m speechless, so is my father. I wonder how many desperate fathers and mothers don’t have an answer to that question.

Friday, July 18

My father can describe the situation with no other words but these: “Sabra and Shatila.” Names are all I can think of – Akram, Ahmed, Khaldoun, Karam, Karma, Mohammed, Abu-Zeyad. Am I going to hear their names on the radio? Images of everyone I know in Shujaiya are rushing through my mind.

I talk to Khaldoun, my best friend from high school and also my neighbor ever since I’ve lived here. He’s also Karam and Karma’s older brother; their family house is in Shujaiya and they were staying there with the rest of the family when the attacks occurred. He says, “Once you’re in that situation, you aren’t able to think about anyone else – not your brother or sister, not your parents, just yourself. All you can think about is the possibility of your imminent death. You can’t run, you can’t hide, and you can’t not be scared.”

Ambulances can’t get to Shujaiya while it is being heavily bombarded. There are images of people dead in the streets. With no discrimination, everyone was a target. I can’t help but feel angry, helpless, and afraid. I don’t want to lose anyone. I don’t want anyone losing anybody anymore.

A Palestinian killed during the latest round of Israeli attacks against Al Shaja'ia is seen under the rubble of a house, Gaza City, July 20, 2014.  (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian killed during the latest round of Israeli attacks against Al Shaja’ia is seen under the rubble of a house, Gaza City, July 20, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Saturday, July 19

Jet maneuvers make the girls go crazy. Nirmeen is being smothered by Eimar’s fear. Lamar is beside her on the ground, crying and covering her ears. It sounds like a rocket is falling but it goes on forever. No explosions, just the fear. This goes on for over an hour. My dad thinks the Israelis are widening their ground incursion. Wasim and I have no words to share, we both know that we are as frightened as Eimar and Lamar.

We listen to the radio all through the night; the electricity is down tonight, too. Shujaiya is being obliterated. Nirmeen’s uncle, Emad, and his family left their house just minutes before it was targeted. They didn’t know it would be hit, but neither did the people now under the rubble. Tanks don’t send out warning shots.

I talk to my friend Basel, who is also a photographer from ActiveStills; he was in Shujaiya during the ceasefire. “Walid, we have to meet so I can explain the situation,” he said. “I can’t express it over the phone. It’s just terrible. I’ve been covering many places during this war, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Abu-Zeyad manages to get out safely along with his family. They are now living in the guard’s room here – three families in a single room. I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved and happy to see someone. Abu-Zeyad is the neighborhood’s godfather. He was the first person I hugged the day I came back to Gaza.

Gazans flee the Shejaiya area after Israeli tanks invaded the area, bombarding it heavily, causing over 60 casualties and hundreds wounded, July 20, 2014.  (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Gazans flee the Shejaiya area after Israeli tanks invaded the area, bombarding it heavily, causing over 60 casualties and hundreds wounded, July 20, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Sunday, July 20

While Nirmeen is doing the laundry on the balcony, we are startled by a huge explosion. As soon as I get to my bedroom window to check where it is, another blast, less than a minute apart. Wasim and I duck for cover, while Nirmeen holds the girls in the hallway. She’s probably more scared than they are. The Abu-Ras family house is hit. They’ve been living in this neighborhood for more than 20 years. I can see clothes and window frames among the rubble from the balcony. I can’t see the house itself though, as the view is blocked by a building between our tower and the family house.

Today our dinner is spaghetti with meatballs; we’re low on food. We might go out tomorrow; I’ve been noticing people are going out more. People around me are getting fed up and desperate. I’ve been thinking about what would happen if they target our house. My brain is nagging me more and more with every night that passes. I can no longer lie to myself every morning, saying it will be over soon.

Monday, July 21

Today it’s the Khalaf family house; they live just around the corner. It was an unmanned plane that targeted it this time. The family has left the house with bags slung over one shoulder, and a child on the other. Some guys stand a safe distance away and charge the house with their cameras, expecting the F16 to strike any minute. But no explosion, the girls and Nirmeen stay in the hallway for over two hours, shivering with every unusual sound. My brain ticks again and the questions are back. What would I take with me? Should I just grab the girls and run down eight floors? How can someone pack memories into a backpack?

Gazans flee the Shejaiya area after Israeli tanks invaded the area, bombarding it heavily, causing over 60 casualties and hundreds wounded, July 20, 2014.  (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Gazans flee the Shejaiya area after Israeli tanks invaded the area, bombarding it heavily, causing over 60 casualties and hundreds wounded, July 20, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

We send our condolences to our friends in the Netherlands, after we find out that they’ve lost friends in the plane crash in Ukraine. They do not grieve alone during these times, and we let them know that we are here for them. We know all too well what it means to lose a loved one.

My mom calls after dinner and cries her soul out. She also heard about the Abu Jame’ family – 26 people from the same family killed, including 18 children. She apologizes for only seeing me once since I came back home. She can’t help but feel guilty because she insisted I come to Gaza for the summer. She was the most anxious for my return – well, I was the most anxious, really.

Mourners fill the mosque during the funeral for 24 members of the Abu Jamea family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Reports indicate that 15 of the 24 killed were children of Abu Jamea family.

Mourners fill the mosque during the funeral for 26 members of the Abu Jamea family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Reports indicate that 18 of the 26 killed were children of Abu Jamea family.

The electricity comes on for only four hours today, from 5-9 p.m. As soon as it’s on, the charging race begins. I have to wait until one phone is fully charged so I can connect my second phone. Meanwhile, Wasim goes back to Abu-Malek’s store downstairs, refills the water gallon, gets a couple of packs of cigarettes, and comes right back up – he doesn’t want to walk up eight floors. The tower generator no longer works for the elevator when the electricity is down, there isn’t enough fuel. The UPS batteries barely charged, so we only get two extra hours of light and Internet tonight.

Tuesday, July 22

We throw out most of the fruit and left over food from the fridge. It has gone bad because of electricity shut downs. I really should have eaten the watermelon right after it was sliced. The electricity situation is getting worse.

As we listen to the radio in the kitchen, people are in calling and saying they’ve been targeted and that ambulances can’t reach their areas. They’re pleading with the Red Cross and humanitarian agencies. I call a friend of mine, Eweida, to check up on him, because the bombardments are getting closer to him in Tal El-Sultan, Rafah. He assures me that it’s closer to the border than he is, and that he is safe. We were supposed to meet in his house for qedra, a delicious type of rice, before the war started. He’s not getting away with it though; as soon as the war’s over, I’m demanding my feast. Most people living near the border are suffering. Tanks are ruthless, or those in them.

Today moves slower than ever. The ground invasion is getting worse, but the resistance is stronger than in the 2008 war. Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance. If it was 2008, the Israelis would have occupied the Strip by now. The people are backing the resistance because they can’t handle a war every two years. They’re taking more children every two years, stealing our future every two years. The resistance’s demands for a 10-year truce are the same demands the Palestinian people beg for. Would any other human settle for less? We don’t want to lose any more of our children. We don’t want our children to suffer like we have.

Palestinian children ride bicycles past a bomb crater in Gaza City, July 14, 2014.

Palestinian children ride bicycles past a bomb crater in Gaza City, July 14, 2014.

Wednesday, July 23

The electricity isn’t coming on today. They’re saying they’ve almost run out fuel, and the one remaining generator can’t feed the whole Strip. I probably shouldn’t have let Lamar play on my phone last night.

I try cauliflower for the first time today. I stay away from it when I have the privilege of choosing what to eat, but today I didn’t. It’s actually pretty good. After dinner Wasim and I sit in the dark and compare our years in the U.S. I went to Maine, and he to Indiana. When I ask him what he misses most, he looks at me as if I’ve asked a rhetorical question, and then says, “Living, man.”

We join the rest of the family in the living room. The girls are playing with the mini-swing they have in the corner. My dad and Nirmeen are on the couches closest to the window, smoking. The sky is bright and starry, but after a second we notice something strange. Those little lights that are going on and off are way too many tonight. We count at least 12, and those are only over the sea of Gaza. It really is getting worse, as are our thoughts. We can’t even trust the stars anymore.

Thursday, July 24

The electricity comes on at 4 a.m. We are already up, playing cards in the living room. We begin our charging routine and continue our game of cards. We’re sick of watching the news, so we keep it on the news channel but mute the volume this time. Three and a half hours later, after the girls get up early, as usual, and everyone has taken a shower, the electricity goes out again.

After dinner we notice that the gas container is almost empty. It’s too late to call anyone to figure out where we can refill it. I doubt any stations are open during these times, and if they are, it will probably take days to refill since a lot of people are in the same situation.

Medics at the Al-Shifa hospital mourn their colleague targeted and killed in Shejaiya neighbourhood earlier today, Gaza Strip, July 20, 104. Spokesman of the Palestinian ministry of health Ashraf al-Qidra said rescue teams evacuated more than 80 dead bodies from destroyed houses in Shejaiya including 17 children, 14 women and 4 elderly people. More than 200 injured people were taken to al-Shifa Hospital. Death toll in the Gaza Strip accedes 392 with over 2650 wounded since the beginning of the Israeli offensive. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Medics at the Al-Shifa hospital mourn their colleague targeted and killed in Shejaiya neighbourhood, Gaza Strip, July 20, 104. A spokesman of the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Ashraf al-Qidra, said rescue teams evacuated more than 80 dead bodies from destroyed houses in Shejaiya, including 17 children, 14 women and 4 elderly people. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Friday, July 25

Wasim calls a friend of his from school, Mohammed, to check up on him. He also offers to refill our gas container in a couple of days, and that we can take one of theirs until ours is full. People are helping each other with whatever they can. Some are donating clothes, food, money and blood; others are opening their houses to their relatives and friends who live in dangerous areas or have already lost their homes. Some are not as fortunate and take refuge in schools. These people were also a target. No one is safe.

I’ve stopped wishing for it to be over. I think that feeling has started to grow on everyone around me. I don’t want it to be over until we get what we deserve, until we live in peace without the fear of being a target. I don’t want it to be over until the children are safe, all the children, until they can no longer be stolen before their time. I don’t want it to be over until I can go to Cyprus by boarding a ship I can see from my living room window. I don’t want it to be over until Wasim is able to “live” in Gaza. I don’t want it to be over until Lamar doesn’t have to ask for another passport. I don’t want it to be over until Eimar can enjoy a bonfire instead of a boat on fire.

Related:
Gaza war diary: ‘A second of silence, then the bombs go off’
Israel has alternatives to this war

Israeli, Hamas war crimes becoming increasingly hard to distinguish

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