+972 Magazine » +972 Blog http://972mag.com Independent commentary and news from Israel & Palestine Wed, 20 Aug 2014 20:59:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8 Palestinians continue to create life from death http://972mag.com/palestinians-continue-to-create-life-from-death/95746/ http://972mag.com/palestinians-continue-to-create-life-from-death/95746/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 15:56:29 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95746 Gaza’s injuries have provoked every Palestinian and created in us the desire for all Palestinians to live in unity in our lands occupied since 1948. 

By Badia Dweik

I was unable to recognize him from the photos I saw on social media sites. Neither could I recognize him from the hospital photos that showed him dead. I went to his funeral after Friday prayers, where thousands had gathered. Suddenly I saw a poster and on it the martyr’s name, Nader Mohamed Idriss. I was surprised, since I had seen him only a few days before in the exact place where he was killed.

Nader had been fatherless since the age of 12. He was an activist whom I got to know one year after the 1987 First Intifada, and he continued to be committed to the struggle until his last days. Nader was poor and peaceful during his life; he was employed in the shoe industry, which became unprofitable after Chinese goods began flooding the Palestinian markets.

Funeral procession of Nader Mohamed Idriss (photo: Imad Abu Shamseh)

Funeral procession of Nader Mohamed Idriss (photo: Imad Abu Shamseh)

Nader helped to transport and package donated goods for the people of Gaza from Hebron. His last photos were taken as he was volunteering. Some of the people who accompanied him said he had brought a bag of flour that he intended to use to bake goods for Gazans, since he lacked the money for a donation.

Nader was assassinated in cold blood by an Israeli army sniper who shot him in the heart; some activists in the Human Rights Defenders’ group filmed Israeli snipers using silencers on their weapons. Nader is gone and he has left his wife and seven children to face the dangers of life alone. He left us, saying: “Yes I’ve gone, but Palestine has not.”

Creating life from death

The concept of the afterlife appears in the creative work of Palestinian artist and activist Bushra Shanan. She has turned photos of death and destruction into living photos. Bushra, a founding member of Human Rights Defenders, felt psychologically affected by the extent of devastation and crimes committed in Gaza. She therefore decided to reflect this through graphic paintings like the one in which children killed in Israeli attacks are flying to heaven. In another she has painted Gaza surrounded by a huge snake hungry to swallow it. Amongst her other paintings Bushra depicts stones weeping for those destroyed.

In its latest offensive on Gaza, Israel wanted to turn buildings into ashes, to displace the civilians living in them and put pressure on the resistance through collective punishment. Regardless, the result is that Palestinians still call for freedom, breaking the siege and opening all the crossings, including the only one that links Gaza to the West Bank. Palestinians call for the freeing of those prisoners released in the Gilad Shalit deal who were then vengefully detained during Operation Brother’s Keeper, along with the fourth group of prisoners that was scheduled to be released under an American-led agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

As part of the ceasefire negotiations, Hamas in Gaza has called for the building of a Palestinian sea port. This is a simple human demand that must be met so that we don’t remain under Israeli control in the name of security. This is a security that is killing Palestinians daily and requires that we have no right to security or freedom, while Israelis must have everything. In this way, what is expected of the victim is to protect the occupier and the controller.

Artwork by Palestinian artist Bushra Shanan

Artwork by Palestinian artist Bushra Shanan

The creative Shanan said that she has established a group of friends in a campaign called “Make a child smile,” which aims to sell paintings for the benefit of Gaza’s children. She has called on all her Palestinian friends to deliver her message and help Gaza rise once again. Shanan believes that art and painting are a form of resistance that must be used to serve the Palestinian cause.

Unity in resistance

Palestinians continue to be united after the failure of Israel’s campaign of mass destruction intended to undermine the will of the people. Israel could easily be condemned for war crimes if there was justice in the world. To emphasize this sentiment, youths have established campaigns calling on people to use local Palestinian products instead of Israeli ones, in a call to boycott Israeli goods. Palestine has been turned into a big workshop and many merchants have been seen emptying Israeli products from their shops.

Gaza’s injuries have provoked every Palestinian and created in us the desire for all Palestinians to live in unity in our lands occupied since 1948, so that this unity can be coalesced in the blood of the martyrs and so that Bushra can paint about life and about the Phoenix bird who reappears from the ashes after many thought that he was dead.

Badia Dweik is a Palestinian activist based in Hebron.

Related:
‘Ending the siege is not a Hamas demand – it is a Palestinian one’
The West Bank may be on the verge of exploding
Gaza dispatch: Why the people support Hamas

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COMIC: Wiesel, weaponized http://972mag.com/comic-wiesel-weaponized/95738/ http://972mag.com/comic-wiesel-weaponized/95738/#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 15:11:37 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95738 By Eli Valley

Nobel Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Eli Wiesel published a new ad campaign in major newspapers across the U.S., in which he claims that the war between Gaza and Israel is a battle between “those who celebrate life and those who champion death,” and refers to “child sacrifice” and “worshippers of death cults.”

Eli.Valley.Wiesel.Weaponized

Eli Valley is a writer and artist whose work has been published in The Nation, The Daily Beast, The Forward, 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:
Gaza exit interview
Consensus in the conference
Dershowitz preps for Goldstone II
Google Glass for the Gaza gaze

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A letter to the Israeli government from a retired terrorist http://972mag.com/a-letter-to-the-israeli-government-from-a-retired-terrorist/95720/ http://972mag.com/a-letter-to-the-israeli-government-from-a-retired-terrorist/95720/#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 13:39:02 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95720 Ruth Reznik was only 14 when she joined a Zionist militia and took up arms against the British in Palestine. Now, she says, is the time to understand why Gazans are taking up arms against Israel.

By Ruth Reznik (translated by Sinewave)

I was drafted to the Irgun, a pre-state, right-wing Zionist militia, in the summer break after eighth grade, after I voiced my intention to enlist with either the Irgun or with the Lehi. As it happened, the representatives of the Irgun were the first to meet me. I wasn’t even 14 at the time, but the strong desire to join the underground resistance grew ever since the hanging of Eliahu Hakim and Eliahu Beit-Zuri, two Lehi men who were executed by the British in Cairo for the murder of the Baron Moyne (responsible for the 1941 Struma disaster, which claimed the lives of over 900 Jewish refugees in 1941). Hakim and Beit-Zuri were sent to the gallows on March 22, 1945.

At the time, my resolve to join the resistance against the British grew as more and more members of the resistance were handed death sentences, and as the gates to the country were closing in the face of waves of Jewish refugees from Europe. I decided it was time to become part of the fight against the British occupier.

Irgun fighters training in 1947. (photo: Archive of Jabotinsky Institute in Israel/CC BY 2.5)

Irgun fighters training in 1947. (photo: Archive of Jabotinsky Institute in Israel/CC BY 2.5)

Even though I was only a teenager, the danger did not deter me. I sat through nights full of resistance theory; entire evenings were spent getting familiar with how to use light firearms like Stens and Brens. We also learned how to identify gun calibers in the dark as well as different kinds of grenades and explosives. During vacations, we underwent live fire training and ground exercises. The lessons took place in a kindergarten located in Tel Aviv’s Florentine neighborhood, and in 1947, Arab gunmen were already sniping at nearby Hertzl street from Jaffa’s Hassan Bek Mosque. I took part in the funerals of fallen Irgun members who died in the conquering of the Menashiya neighbourhood in Jaffa. And in May 1948, the State of Israel declared its independence and the Irgun was disbanded. At age 15-and-a-half I was already a retired resistance fighter.

To this day, I understand the need of an occupied people to resist their occupier, and establish underground resistance forces until they gain their sovereignty. The same happened with oppressed peoples in America, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Kenya, South Africa and many other countries.

I raise this issue now in order to try and show that the occupation of Gaza will bring many deaths among our soldiers. 30, 300, 3,000, 300,000? And what about the tens of thousands who will come home wounded and shell-shocked? We cannot erase the hatred toward the occupiers. I still remember how Shoshana Damari’s simple song Anemones made the Queen’s soldiers go crazy.

Suppose we manage to re-occupy Gaza again, only to evacuate it years later. Will we not create the next generation of terrorists with our own hands? My suggestion is that the Israeli government remember Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. One year before he arrived at the Israeli Knesset, he gave a famous television interview in which he was asked about the possibility of peace with Israel. He answered: “A thousand years will pass before we make peace with Israel… rivers of blood pass between us… but a wise and daring man makes brave decisions and is not dragged down by hot heads.”

I remind you that two of the leaders of anti-British resistance movements, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, became Israeli prime ministers. Nelson Mandela, who was a prisoner of the apartheid South African government, was the man who, in his wisdom, prevented terrible bloodshed in his country.

Ruth Reznik is chair of No2Violence NGO and winner of the Israel Prize for special contribution to society and the nation. The post was first published on the No2Violence website. You can also read it in Hebrew on Local Call.

Related:
Gaza dispatch: Why the people support Hamas
‘Ending the siege is not a Hamas demand – it is a Palestinian one’

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Gaza dispatch: Why the people support Hamas http://972mag.com/gaza-dispatch-why-the-people-still-support-hamas/95697/ http://972mag.com/gaza-dispatch-why-the-people-still-support-hamas/95697/#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 09:14:43 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95697 More than seven years of Israeli siege, a punishment for voting Hamas into power, have led Palestinians to rally around the party. After all, every time they look to Mahmoud Abbas for salvation, they are sorely disappointed.

By Abeer Ayyoub

GAZA CITY – With Operation Protective Edge becoming longer and more violent, questions over the attitude of the 1.8 million residents of Gaza toward Hamas are coming to the fore. Although both the international and Israeli media are concerned about Gazans, they are noticeably more critical of Hamas than they are of Israel. That concern is understood, but needs to be made clearer.

What ought to be clear for everyone following the events from a distance is that Palestinians have enough awareness to differentiate between Hamas as a government and Hamas as a resistance faction. It is true that Gazans have multiple attitudes toward the Hamas government. However, resistance is something Palestinians agree on almost unanimously. More importantly, people know that resistance is not only coming from Hamas.

A Hamas supporter in Gaza City, March 23, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

A Hamas supporter in Gaza City, March 23, 2014. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

One of the main accusations leveled at Hamas, especially from Israeli journalists and analysts, is that it uses building materials for constructing tunnels, rather than letting people use them for housing or supporting our civilian infrastructure. It is true that Gaza is an impoverished enclave that requires huge efforts and funds to develop. However, that does not lessen the importance of security. Like any other country in the world, Gaza has the right to self defense. It is well-known that Israel spends a lot of money on enhancing its military infrastructure, while neglecting poor neighborhoods and slums across the country. America, which has the most powerful military in the world, has more than 600,000 homeless people.

Another accusation, and one no less important, is that Hamas uses its citizens as human shields. But can Hamas really do so when the Israeli army intentionally targets civilian compounds? If the fact that civilians are near a military location doesn’t stop Israel from firing rockets towards them, what is the point of Hamas “hiding behind civilians?” Besides, Gaza is a very densely populated area, meaning that any military action will always take place close to civilians.

Hamas is also accused of firing rockets at Israeli civilians. This is a valid accusation and no one can deny it. But if one compares the number of causalities among Israelis, almost all of whom were soldiers, it becomes clear that civilians are not Hamas’ main targets.

Furthermore, Hamas is being blamed for its rejecting most of the ceasefire initiatives during the ongoing conflict. Palestinians see it differently; they are fed up with the stringent blockade being imposed on them for the past seven years. Borders are often closed to both individuals trying to exit the Strip, as well as goods entering entering it. People say they have been slowly dying this entire time; now, after more than 2,000 been killed, they refuse to accept their slow death. This is the reason that Hamas is rejecting any truce that doesn’t, at the very least, lift the blockade.

One more important factor that leads the majority of the population to support the resistance is the huge disappointment Palestinians constantly feel from the President Mahmoud Abbas. Whenever they have any sort of expectations from their president, they are always sorely let down by his collaboration with Israel’s occupation. In Gaza, Hamas and the rest of the armed factions are still defending the population with their lives, so it is no wonder that the popularity of Hamas increases as that of Abbas decreases.

In these sensitive times of war, Gazans know that they better support the home front and confront Israel, rather than become split over their leadership and lose the battle. Moreover, the large number of people being killed creates unity among the public, which has led Palestinians that to hold the same set of demands.

A mourner carries the body of a child among 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.

A mourner carries the body of a child among 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.

More than seven years of being under Israeli siege, a punishment for voting for Hamas, have led people to rally around the party. Hamas was boycotted widely by international community, as well as many regimes in the Arab world. However, Palestinians now understand that Hamas, despite the disadvantages, managed to survive the battle.

Today, Palestinians will not accept anything less than the lifting of the siege and the building of an international port. Gazans are still convinced that having a port is not a fantasy, especially, with the humiliation they must encounter while travelling through the Egyptian border.

Abeer Ayyoub studied English literature at the Islamic University of Gaza. She is a journalist who covered the last war on Gaza and has recently covered various internal issues. She has written pieces online in English for Al Jazeera, Haaretz and other publications.

Related:
‘Ending the siege is not a Hamas demand – it is a Palestinian one’
Netanyahu is talking to Hamas. It’s about time
Photos of the week: Gazans search for normalcy among the ruins

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The West Bank may be on the verge of exploding http://972mag.com/the-west-bank-may-be-on-the-verge-of-exploding/95673/ http://972mag.com/the-west-bank-may-be-on-the-verge-of-exploding/95673/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 10:21:12 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95673 Armed men roam the streets, enlisting people to the Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, Fatah officials call for the end to security coordination with Israel and Mahmoud Abbas is seen as the enemy of the people. Is the explosion closer than we think?

By Gershon Baskin

I have just returned from a work visit to Ramallah. I am very concerned and disturbed by what I heard from friends and colleagues there. The calm appearance of the city hides the sizzling bubbling under the surface. The West Bank is on the verge of explosion.

As an illustration of what I’ve heard from people I spoke with, on the way home I listened to some Palestinian popular radio stations. All of the songs were full of praise for Hamas and al-Qassam Brigades – “let’s hit Tel Aviv with our rockets” and much worse . It was horrible to hear the drums of war and battle calls on the radio.

Mourners carry the body of killed Palestinian Mohammed al-Araj, 17, during his funeral at the Qalandiya refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 25, 2014. Al-Araj was shot with live ammunition in the head the night before during clashes with Israeli army following a mass demonstration against the attack on Gaza. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Mourners carry the body of killed Palestinian Mohammed al-Araj, 17, during his funeral at the Qalandiya refugee camp near the West Bank city of Ramallah, on July 25, 2014. Al-Araj was shot with live ammunition in the head the night before during clashes with Israeli army following a mass demonstration against the attack on Gaza. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

I was told that scenes that haven’t appeared for years since the intifada are now all over Ramallah, Bethlehem and throughout the West Bank – street gangs of masked men with weapons calling for young people to join the Al Aqsa Brigades and other battalions – “revenge for the death of our brothers and sisters in Gaza, we are all Gaza, we are all-Qassam Brigades.”

There is no more talk of peace and two states. The discussions on the street and in the cafes are all about the end of the ceasefire and the renewal of war in Gaza. They say the Jews’ war is not against Hamas, it is against all Palestinians, and the Qassam Brigades are the only ones fighting the Zionists, who want to kill all the Palestinians.

Abbas is described almost as a public enemy. Every day, Mohammed Dahlan transmits calls against Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, from the Gulf. Dahlan and other important Fatah leaders in the West Bank are calling on Palestinian security forces to stop the security coordination with Israel and use their weapons against Israel instead. There are calls to attack settlements and to kidnap Israeli soldiers and civilians.

Everyone is watching Al Jazeera and Al Manar, Hezbollah’s television station, seeing the destruction and killing in Gaza. All day long people hear the repeated calls by Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Liberman to kill Hamas leaders, to occupy and destroy Gaza. For them, these are calls to destroy the whole of Palestine.

The peace demonstration in Tel Aviv this week was not aired on any Arab station and the Palestinian public does not hear about Israelis who still talk about peace.

Thousands gather at a pro-peace rally in Tel Aviv, calling for a just peace and an end to violence in Gaza, Tel Aviv, August 16, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

Thousands gather at a pro-peace rally in Tel Aviv, calling for a just peace and an end to violence in Gaza, Tel Aviv, August 16, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

The atmosphere is very pessimistic; people expect that the ceasefire will not be renewed and the fighting in Gaza will resume. After Gaza, the fighting will emerge in the West Bank.

The atmosphere of the war is spreading and the public appears willing to enlist. They know there is much to lose, and yet they feel that this is a war of necessity – a war to protect their home, a war for Palestine.

Read: In ceasefire talks, Netanyahu is letting Hamas win Gaza war

I know the West Bank well. In recent years I have been there several times every week. What I heard and felt today is very worrying, in part because I also believe that Israel has no idea how explosive the situation is.

There is a kind of complacency, an illusion that what is happening in Gaza does not affect the West Bank. It seems that Israeli security officials and decision makers are completely disconnected from the reality in our backyard.

What happens in the West Bank is also happening across the Jordan river. The explosion when it comes will be like wildfire and will spread across the West Bank into Jordan. It will threaten both the Palestinian Authority and the Kingdom of Jordan.

A Palestinian woman shouts at Israeli soldiers during an army operation in which soldiers killed Zakaria al-Aqra, age 24, at his family house in the West Bank village of Qabalan, August 11, 2014. Qabalan village has been raided several times in the last two weeks by the Israeli army.

A Palestinian woman shouts at Israeli soldiers during an army operation in which soldiers killed Zakaria al-Aqra, age 24, at his family house in the West Bank village of Qabalan, August 11, 2014. Qabalan village has been raided several times in the last two weeks by the Israeli army.

Only a 180-degree turn by the government, which would mean launching a genuine peace process, can change the direction of the horrors just around the corner. But first we must reach a settlement in Gaza and prevent the resumption of hostilities there.

I tend not to display such prophecies of doom, but the situation now is too serious not to be taken seriously.

Gershon Baskin is the co-chairman of Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, and is a contributor to the Jerusalem Post.

Related:
Is the West Bank ripe for an intifada?
10,000 protest in Tel Aviv for a just peace, end to occupation

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Palestinian unity is no substitute for a viable political system http://972mag.com/palestinian-unity-is-no-substitute-for-a-viable-political-system/95634/ http://972mag.com/palestinian-unity-is-no-substitute-for-a-viable-political-system/95634/#comments Sun, 17 Aug 2014 20:55:28 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95634 Where do the U.S. and Israel want Hamas: as part of a transparent political system, or in underground tunnels?

By Sam Bahour

Palestinian “unity,” reconciling tensions between Hamas and Fatah, is being revered as the foundation that can extract Gaza from the misery wrought upon it by yet another brutal Israeli military onslaught. The devastation from what Israel called “Operation Protective Edge” is overwhelming: nearly 2,000 Palestinians dead, over 10,000 wounded and paralyzed, and a third of the 1.8 million people in Gaza homeless. Added to this human tragedy is the rabid destruction of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure. Palestinian political “unity” requires an operating political system, which is something that Israel dismantled long ago with official Palestinian acquiescence. Anyone seriously wanting to see Palestinians survive this latest Israeli attack should support the reemergence of a fully operating Palestinian political system, rather than just the replacement of a pair of failed political monopolies with a reconciled but leaderless political duopoly.

File photo of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: PPO/Thaer Ghanaim - Handout)

File photo of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: PPO/Thaer Ghanaim – Handout)

If this newly founded Palestinian “unity” was cemented in a strategic political agreement and emerged from a unified political system that was representative in nature, one may have hope. But it was not. It is a unity of Fatah and Hamas, two non-representative political entities, one more militant today than the other, but both equally squeezed into a political corner that not only challenges their strategies to end the nearly five decades of Israeli military occupation, but also casts doubt on their political legitimacy.

On June 3, 2014—more than a week before three Israeli teenagers from the Gush Etzion settlement in the West Bank were reported kidnapped and murdered—I made the following comments on the Middle East Eye website and on my Facebook wall regarding the unity agreement reached in Cairo on April 23, 2014:

Palestinians have finally created what has been coined as a “unity government” after nearly eight years of paralysing division between the two largest political parties, Fatah and Hamas. This step is extremely overdue, but should be welcomed nevertheless for what it is: a baby step in the right direction, finally accepting government for what it is, a branch of politics and not some technocratic institute.

The Palestinian political spectrum is much more colourful than the bipolar duopoly that this new government depicts. If Palestinian decision-makers are serious about reconstituting an operating Palestinian political system, then no time should be wasted in passing a political party law so new political groupings, mainly youth groups, can organise politically, and then subsequently be allowed to enter elections for all levels of Palestinian governance—starting with the PLO and ending with the Palestinian Legislative Council.

In the meantime, US and Israeli threats against the government because Hamas has joined it are strategically misplaced. One must ask, where does the US and Israel want Hamas to be: in a transparent political system, or in underground trenches? Regardless, the Palestinian government is not any other country’s business unless, that is, they allow Palestinians to choose the Israelis we accept to lead Israel.

On July 3, 2014, the Israeli Air Force conducted 15 air strikes in Gaza supposedly directed at Hamas targets in response to a rocket attack from Palestinian militants. The subsequent bombardment of Gaza during July cut short the unified government’s efforts to take serious steps forward to solidify the unity agreement.

In a fury to stop the mass killing and destruction that came with the latest aggression against Palestinians in Gaza, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas attempted to leverage the still-fresh unity agreement. Abbas appointed a “unity delegation” to negotiate with Israel indirectly, given that Hamas refuses to negotiate directly, for a permanent ceasefire.

Negotiating a ceasefire agreement was not planned to be the first act of the unity government, but Israel successfully disrupted any planned unification of the Palestinian political system by imposing the latest humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Instead of beginning organizational tasks such as reunifying ministries, integrating Gaza’s security personnel into the national security institutions, merging two legal systems, and holding national elections, the “unity government” effort morphed into a “unity delegation” to deal with the ceasefire. There is a huge difference between a unity government based on a unified political system and a “unified delegation” focused solely on saving what remains of the Gaza Strip.

Given the horrific carnage in Gaza, few in the West will even recall that the Israeli government lashed out against any unification of the Palestinians, threatened to cut funding, and took punitive measures to further entrench their state of military control over the West Bank. A very plausible argument can be made that massive destruction of Gaza and rampaging in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were all orchestrated to ensure Palestinians remain divided and Hamas continue to be perceived as a legitimate threat to Israel, providing the perfect justification for not ending the Israeli occupation.

Members of the Al Kaferna family stand in their flat which was destroyed by Israeli strikes in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, August 4, 2014. They went back to quickly salvage a few of their belongings during a short ceasefire. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Members of the Al Kaferna family stand in their flat which was destroyed by Israeli strikes in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, August 4, 2014. They went back to quickly salvage a few of their belongings during a short ceasefire. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

With the ceasefire being the centerpiece of “unity,” I posted these remarks in the Middle East Eye on August 8, 2014:

The sheer use of the word “ceasefire” is insulting. It depicts an artificial symmetry that the Palestinians have fell for, even though reality on the ground is totally contrary.

For a fragile, non-representative, Palestinian unity delegation to be engaged in “ceasefire” negotiations with their military occupier (it means little if done directly or through intermediaries) sets up Palestinians for an Oslo-like phase, where, no matter what is agreed, the Palestinian side will be signing away rights that have been stripped from them by Israel for decades.

These rights, first among them protection, should be secured by Third States under their obligations toward the Fourth Geneva Convention, without the need for “resistance” or “ceasefire” talks.

A “ceasefire” simply reinforces the false impression that there is some hint of symmetry between Palestine and Israel. There is not! Furthermore, to be conducting these “ceasefire” talks [in Cairo,] the capital of a country that participates in the siege of the Gaza Strip, should be an embarrassment to every member of the Palestinian negotiating team, first among them Hamas.

After all the dead are buried in Gaza and the mourning process comes to a close, politically we will be exactly where we were two months prior to this tragedy: living the illusion of unity in the absence of a legitimate political system. Meanwhile, the reality of military occupation keeps us physically and politically fragmented, led by unelected leaders, and sustained more than ever by foreign donors who have their own agendas. These are the ingredients for yet another round of violence.

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business consultant in Ramallah and serves as a policy adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network. He blogs at ePalestine.com. Read this piece in Hebrew on Local Call.

Related:
More than just the PA at stake in Palestinian reconciliation
In ceasefire talks, Netanyahu is letting Hamas win Gaza war

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‘Ending the siege is not a Hamas demand – it is a Palestinian one’ http://972mag.com/former-nyt-correspondent-gazans-not-hamas-demand-an-end-to-the-siege/95617/ http://972mag.com/former-nyt-correspondent-gazans-not-hamas-demand-an-end-to-the-siege/95617/#comments Sun, 17 Aug 2014 13:54:30 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95617 How is this Gaza war different from all the others? Former New York Times correspondent to Gaza, Taghreed El-Khodary, speaks about her time covering the siege of the Strip, and why the international media is slowly coming around to the Palestinian story.

By Moriel Rothman-Zecher

“I don’t mind being interviewed. Let’s plan the timing,” wrote Taghreed El-Khodary, formerly the Gaza correspondent for the New York Times and currently an editor at fanack.com, ’’I just need to make sure my sister and her family managed to escape their building in Rimal area in Gaza City.”

I had reached out to Taghreed via email, hoping to get her perspective not only on the current horrifying attack on the Gaza Strip, but her thoughts on how today’s situation compared to the 2008-2009 Israeli assault. The media outlets I had been following (Hebrew, Arabic and English alike) were drawing comparisons only in terms of data: how many had been killed now versus in Cast Lead, the number of injured, how many homes destroyed. I was hoping Taghreed could offer me a broader context than that which I was reading.

Taghreed El Khodary

Taghreed El Khodary.

The first thing I asked Taghreed when she signed onto Skype from a café in Amsterdam, where she has lived since resigning her post at the New York Times in Gaza in 2009, was how her sister was doing.

You know, it’s so hard to talk about, to tell you the truth, because I am far away. I was Skyping with them until yesterday, but now, because of the Internet – because Israel bombed the electricity – it will be hard for many people to charge their computers or phones. Today is the first day that my Facebook has not been filled with prayers and calls for help from Gaza: people can’t use their computers anymore. I fear that it will be hard to access people now, including my family. I am shocked. Yesterday, my sister and her entire family, including her parents-in-law, who suffer from cancer, moved to my mother’s place. Why did my sister move? Because they sent twelve bombs at her house! My sister and her family live in their own house, they don’t have any strangers in their building. Why did they bomb their house? They have nothing to do with politics. They own an ice cream factory. And all of a sudden, Israeli planes bombed their house. The bombs hit many parts of their building and they all ran and hid in a huge ice-cream refrigerator located in the ground floor, from midnight until 8 a.m. ‘We were all afraid and thirsty,’ my 12-year-old nephew Riyad Abu Alouf told me. ‘I counted 12 bombs.’

Israel is bombing randomly. I have other friends whose houses were also bombed: one is an analyst, another works in an NGO, and I learned that a very popular football coach was killed when Israel bombed his house. His wife and children survived. These people have nothing to do with politics. It’s reaching my friends, my family, my neighbors.

What is different between what is happening now and what happened in Operation Cast Lead?

I covered the first war on Gaza in 2008-2009 [as the New York Times correspondent]. I lived that fear. It was so scary, and so long, and so many civilians were killed, many families, many children. This time, Israel has new tactics. They cannot see the Hamas fighters much of the time, so what they are doing is killing the families of the fighters. Of course, Israel had killed families along with Hamas leaders before, but now they are simply targeting the families of the fighters directly.

[Another] difference is, in 2008, there was almost no international media. This time, almost all the international media is there – Europeans, Americans, everyone. This time, the images are reaching the world. I think it was very strong for someone like Jon Snow from Channel 4 to go to Gaza, and to explain what he sees, from his own perspective, not as an Israeli or a Palestinian, but as an outsider. I witnessed so much in 2008, but when I tried to tell what I saw, I was immediately attacked by some members of the American Jewish community as being a “Hamas spokesperson.” I felt alone in 2008, accompanied only by Al Jazeera International, and of course other Palestinians covering for the wires. But this time, I think European media and some American media, reporters like Ayman [Mohyeldin of NBC], really get it, and are communicating what they see back to their publics. And there is also social media. Social media has pushed American mainstream media to cover more elements of Gaza and has pushed them to show more images of killed civilians and damage. Social media has also been important to those of us outside Gaza. I haven’t lost touch because of Facebook, you hear first-person accounts, read feelings, all of this is coming through social media.

What other changes have you seen in Gaza over your years as a reporter there?

I was a freelancer in Gaza during Oslo [peace process signed in 1993], and I reported for the New York Times during the Second Intifada [between 2000-2004], during Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza strip [in 2005], and the [2006] elections, which Hamas won, and then after the world refused to recognize the Hamas government, I covered the civil war between Hamas and Fatah. And the siege [2007], and then the war in 2008. And I can say that the situation has consistently deteriorated, starting from Oslo, as if Oslo was a curse. It led to nothing except checkpoints, expanded settlements. And the situation we have now, with the siege.

I think the fact that Israel was not severely questioned by the international community after killing so many civilians in 2008-2009 – and I still cannot forget the smell of death all around me – Israel can think that they are above international law, that everything is justified.

Ending the siege is not a “Hamas demand.” It is the people’s demand. Gaza is still under occupation—it is an open jail. Israel always says, “We withdrew, we gave them land to control…” I am always shocked when I hear this line repeated by someone on CNN. The borders are completely controlled by Israel, the sea is completely controlled by Israel. The airspace is completely controlled by Israel. The crossings are completely controlled by Israel, aside from one crossing, controlled by Egypt—and this is now closed as well.

My father had cancer. Because he knew people, he managed to go to Israel to get treatment, but most others cannot. When he died two months ago while getting his cancer treatment in Israel, only my mother was allowed by Israel to join him. None of his daughters or brothers were permitted to join him. Imagine dying far away from your loved ones…the occupation is cruel.

What is happening in Gaza and throughout the occupied territories is not primarily a humanitarian issue, although there are devastating humanitarian side effects: It is a political issue. Focusing only on the humanitarian issues is a pretext not to have to come up with a long-term political solution.

We hung up our Skype call, and I closed my computer, thinking about Taghreed’s parting words. She was right. Though she lauded the efforts of the international media in making sure that, finally, images from Gaza reach the world, there has been a serious failure on the part of the international media and international community in framing Gaza primarily as a humanitarian crisis.

Palestinians look over Khuza'a neighborhood following bombardment by Israeli forces, Gaza Strip, August 3, 2014. Khuza'a came under heavy shelling on Monday night, July 21st. Israeli army ordered all the inhabitants of the village, nearly 10,000 people to leave. Khuza'a remined a closed military zone, and only International Committe of the Red Cross managed to secure a few brief incusions into the village to evacuate some of the injured, killed and the civilians. Most residents flew the village but some stayed behind. (Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Palestinians look over Khuza’a neighborhood following bombardment by Israeli forces, Gaza Strip, August 3, 2014.
(Basel Yazouri/Activestills.org)

Addressing the broader context of occupation and siege is critical to ending violence and achieving a future of freedom and human security for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Moriel Rothman-Zecher is an American-Israeli writer and activist, based in Tel Aviv. He blogs independently at www.thelefternwall.com, and can be followed on Twitter @TheLefternWall.

Related:
Netanyahu is talking to Hamas. It’s about time
Photos of the week: Gazans search for normalcy among the ruins

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South African Jewry erupts over Palestinian keffiyeh http://972mag.com/south-african-jewry-erupts-over-palestinian-keffiyeh/95557/ http://972mag.com/south-african-jewry-erupts-over-palestinian-keffiyeh/95557/#comments Sat, 16 Aug 2014 20:18:17 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95557 After South African Jewish schoolboy Josh Broomberg donned a Palestinian keffiyeh in solidarity with Gazans at the opening of the World Debating Championships, the local Jewish community exploded in a torrent of vitriol against anyone who dared to deviate from the strict communal line of full support for Israel’s military operation in Gaza.

By Yoni Bass

When Josh Broomberg left for the World Debating Championships in Thailand last month, he left as one of the crowning products of South Africa’s Jewish community, which stands at a humble 60,000 people. He was the deputy head boy of King David Victory Park Jewish day school and he was off to represent his country. Perhaps it was his connection to Jewish history, which highlights the Jewish commitment to justice, or maybe it was being brought up as a child in post-apartheid South Africa, with its progressive constitution, that led Broomberg to publicly don a Palestinian keffiyeh for the opening ceremony of the debating championships in an act of solidarity with innocent Palestinians killed in Gaza in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. Whatever it was, and despite his expressed public commitment to Zionism and Judaism, an anonymous petition was soon initiated to strip him of his title of deputy head student and his school honors. As the Jewish community raged, its leadership remained quiet.

A screenshot of a Facebook post in which Josh Broomberg is seen wearing a keffiyeh at the opening of the World Debating Championships in Thailand, August 6, 2014 (Facebook)

A screenshot of a Facebook post in which Josh Broomberg is seen wearing a keffiyeh at the opening of the World Debating Championships in Thailand, August 6, 2014 (Facebook)

This incident didn’t materialize out of nowhere; it was the current violence in Gaza that spurred it. Gaza has dominated the news in South Africa for the past month. Most South Africans, like many poor and working class people around the world, identify with the oppression and violence faced by Palestinians; they tend to view Israel through the prism of their experiences living under apartheid. Condemnation of Israeli military action in Gaza has been forthcoming from South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), and the largest trade union federation, Cosatu, with several pointed public statements issued. Simultaneously, the Palestinian solidarity movement has had a significant impact in getting ordinary South African’s onto the streets in protest. Last Saturday reportedly over 100,000 people marched on the streets of Cape Town against Israel’s actions in Gaza and called for the expulsion of Israeli Ambassador Arthur Lenk. Despite mass public pressure, and the ANC’s own statements (one of which praised Josh Broomberg), the South African government has ignored calls to diplomatically isolate Israel.

Meanwhile the institutions of the South African Jewish community have remained steadfast in their uncritical support of Israeli action in Gaza. Rallies around the country co-hosted and attended by all major Jewish communal bodies have drawn 15,000 people in total. The message of these rallies has echoed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office: military action in Gaza was unavoidable, the IDF acts at the apex of morality, and Hamas bears all responsibility for civilian casualties in Gaza.

The origins of the conservative Jewish communal structures are difficult to track. After a period of conspicuous silence during the apartheid era, the late 1980s and 90s saw a consolidation of Jews into South Africa’s major cities, and of Jewish children into Jewish schools. Over the same period, the numbers of Jews ‘returning’ to Orthodox Judaism increased and religious Orthodox Jews began to dominate communal positions; the schools being no exception.

South Africans march in solidarity with Gaza, in Cape Town, South Africa, on August 9, 2014. Some contend that this was the biggest protest in South African history with estimates ranging from 10,000s to 100,000 (photo: Marwaan Britow)

South Africans march in solidarity with Gaza, in Cape Town, South Africa, on August 9, 2014. Some contend that this was the biggest protest in South African history with estimates ranging from 10,000s to 100,000 (photo: Marwaan Britow)

An overtly nationalist and Orthodox approach to Jewish education, and a Zionist narrative that has long-since been dismissed by historians has generated a steady output of students with a homogenous view of Judaism and Zionism. This view sees itself as traditional, but is in fact a radical new conservatism, or fundamentalism, unlike the culture that dominated the Lithuanian Jewish milieu to which many South African Jews trace their ancestry. Tolerance towards those who deviate from the norm is seldom encouraged nor tolerated.

This conservative community sits uneasily alongside another tradition, that of radical Jews who played a storied role in helping to liberate South Africa from apartheid. Whilst more than 10,000 people recently rallied in support of Israel in Johannesburg, a small counter picket of Jewish Voices for a Just Peace grabbed media attention. A week later 500 “Proudly Jewish” South Africans under the moniker “South African Jews for Gaza” condemned Israel’s actions in the Strip in a letter published in the Sunday Times, South Africa’s largest weekend newspaper.

Within the Jewish community the response to those who’ve expressed dissent has been vitriolic. Anonymous smear campaigns have been launched against progressive Jewish voices and organizations. Death threats have been bandied about without shame or fear of censure. Personal invective has been levied at those who dare to speak off a different script to the common narrative. Leading intellectuals like Professor Steven Friedman have been uninvited from speaking at communal events on unrelated matters. Saul Musker, one of the debaters pictured with Broomberg in the now infamous Facebook picture, characterized this, perhaps only slightly too strongly, as “the unprecedented rise of right-wing fascism in the institutions of South African Jewry.”

South Africans gather at a pro-Israel rally organized by the South African Zionist Federation, Johannesburg, South Africa, August 3, 2014 (photo: Daily Maverick)

South Africans gather at a pro-Israel rally organized by the South African Zionist Federation, Johannesburg, South Africa, August 3, 2014 (photo: Daily Maverick)

These past few weeks of intra-communal fighting could very well mark a tipping point in the struggle for dissent within the South African Jewish community. The numbers of those with a more critical outlook on Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza are steadily increasing, despite remaining small in comparison to the mainstream community. A small space is being pried open where criticism of Israel by South African Jews is heard. This has forced traditionally conservative structures to attempt to slightly moderate their positions.

In the past few days both the head of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the chief rabbi of South Africa, Warren Goldstein, have issued calls to respect differing opinions. These statements are new and unusual. Before the Broomberg incident there was no word from any formal structure on the right to a different opinion, the value of diverse views, or the need to maintain a civil discourse within the Jewish community. Instead, their unquestioning responses to the developments in Gaza bolstered contempt for those who dared to question their narrative.

The South African Jewish community is still saddled by an unimaginable deep sense of fear of internal difference. At its core sits the interaction of the challenge to a Zionist narrative that the community has spent years manufacturing and the unfounded belief that even the slightest demonstration of solidarity with Palestinian suffering could somehow motivate an anti-Semitic response from a South Africa that sees parallels between apartheid and the treatment of Palestinians at the hands of the Israelis. These fallacies have created a toxic climate resulting in vitriol being focused on those who dissent.

Whilst violence rages on in Israel and Palestine, South African Jewry is struggling for real leadership in the fight for a space within the community where alternative views can be heard.

Yoni Bass works for Equal Education, a social movement aimed at improving the quality of public education in South Africa. He tweets from @Yonibass.

Related:
Apartheid’s legacy lives on: South Africans polarized over Israel
Can South Africa provide the inspiration that Israel needs?
On Mandela’s legacy: Three political innovations

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10,000 protest in Tel Aviv for a just peace, end to occupation http://972mag.com/10000-protest-in-tel-aviv-for-a-just-peace-end-to-occupation/95569/ http://972mag.com/10000-protest-in-tel-aviv-for-a-just-peace-end-to-occupation/95569/#comments Sat, 16 Aug 2014 19:05:07 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95569 Under a coalition of Israeli left-wing political parties and organizations, thousands gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square in the largest anti-war demonstration since the outbreak of violence in Gaza.

(Moriel Rothman-Zecher and Haggai Matar contributed to this report)

Some 10,000 Israelis flooded Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square under the slogan “Changing direction: toward peace, away from war” in the largest anti-Gaza war demonstration in Israel since the outbreak of hostilities more than one month ago.

Thousands gather at a pro-peace rally in Tel Aviv, calling for a just peace and an end to violence in Gaza, Tel Aviv, August 16, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

Thousands gather at a pro-peace rally in Tel Aviv, calling for a just peace and an end to violence in Gaza, Tel Aviv, August 16, 2014. (photo: Activestills)

The protest was scheduled to take place last week, but was postponed after the police and Home Front Command revoked its permit, ostensibly to stop large gatherings during a time when missiles were being fired at Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities. Roughly 500 non-aligned activists flooded Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square anyway, in defiance of the ban.

The major left-wing parties, including Meretz and Hadash, as well as Peace Now and other left-wing organizations, joined tonight’s demonstration, calling for a wide range of demands, from continuing negotiations between Israel and Hamas to an end to the occupation and Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Many who have demonstrated throughout the past weeks of hostilities expressed disappointment at Meretz and Peace Now for their refusal to support anti-war demonstrations until now.

Meretz MK Zehava Gal’on addressed the protest, affirming that her party was against the Israeli military operation in Gaza all along. She lashed out at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not immediately recognizing the Palestinian unity deal and instead choosing war.

To large applause, Hadash MK Mohammad Barakeh stated in Hebrew and Arabic, “We are building a partnership against the occupation, for a free Palestine.” He continued, “We are here for a two-state solution, for life and a future for people in Gaza and the South.”

Famed Israeli author David Grossman addressed the large crowd, saying, “We won’t be able to breathe deeply in Israel as long as people in Gaza feel choked,” adding, “We will always be neighbors with people in Gaza. We must live together.”

David Grossman speaks to a crowd of 10,000 anti-war protesters in Tel Aviv, August 16, 2014 (photo: Activestills)

Israel author David Grossman speaks to a crowd of 10,000 anti-war protesters in Tel Aviv, August 16, 2014 (photo: Activestills)

Naomi Tzion, a resident of Sderot, called on the crowd to think of those in Gaza who have now been made refugees twice or thrice, adding, ”The true spitting in the face of the residents of Sderot? The attempts to paint us all as a single stereotyped collective.” Gaza is “the biggest jail in the world,” she continued.

Along with anti-war sentiment, protesters expressed their anger at the Israeli government for its lack of leadership, chanting “Bibi, go home!”

According to the protest organizers, the demonstration was organized to send the following message to Israel’s political leaders:

The next round of fighting can be prevented. No to the way of wars – we must have a political solution! After an agonizing month of war and death, in the face of mounting waves of incitement and hatred, which increasingly tear up the Israeli society, we stand up to demonstrate for peace and for democracy.

The rally at Rabin Square came two days after another demonstration was held to express solidarity with the residents of communities along the Gaza border.

Related:
Hundreds in Tel Aviv defy police ban to protest Gaza war
The night it became dangerous to demonstrate in Tel Aviv
‘No more deaths’: Thousands of Israelis protest the Gaza war

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Who will care about Israel’s south when the rockets stop flying? http://972mag.com/who-will-care-about-israels-south-when-the-rockets-stop-flying/95536/ http://972mag.com/who-will-care-about-israels-south-when-the-rockets-stop-flying/95536/#comments Fri, 15 Aug 2014 11:25:11 +0000 http://972mag.com/?p=95536 Ever since the beginning of the war, jobs have evaporated in Be’er Sheva. Those who could afford to have left the city. And the worst part? The moment the rockets stop, the journalists and commentators will pack up their things and leave. Then what?

By Daniel Beller

I can’t stand seeing cynical politicians, those with easy access to a microphone or camera, speaking about the “strong home front” in Israel’s south. People have been living from siren to siren for more than a month, and earlier this week someone on the radio called for an end to the Home Front Command warnings, arguing that they ruin the smooth sequence between programs. In Be’er Sheva, people know that the minute the television crews leave the city, no one will care whether rockets are being fired at us. As long as they don’t fall in Tel Aviv, everything is cool.

Since the beginning of the fighting, the city has had difficulty returning to its normal self. There is no work. Be’er Sheva is based on a service and trade economy. Instead of establishing a major source of employment, the local leaders decided to set up service centers, jobs that outside of Israel are outsourced to the Third World, as well as malls and shopping centers.

Israeli children make arts and crafts in a bomb shelter in southern Israel, July 14, 2014.

Israeli children make arts and crafts in a bomb shelter in southern Israel, July 14, 2014.

When there is no money, the Be’er Sheva food chain collapses. Okay, not completely: there are those who have a permanent income, regardless of what happens outside. Others make do with what they can. The population continues to rise. The workers are transparent, cynically exploited, lack rights and must meet all their obligations all the time. The handyman, the private tutor, the graphic designer working from home, the teaching assistant, the gardener, the cleaner. Because of the situation, many of them now lack work.

Apart from some exceptions, cultural life in Be’er Sheva has all but come to a halt. That means that artists, mentors, actors, stage workers and tens of professionals are sitting at home. The city pinned its hopes on the summer as its festival season. Low-wage workers can barely take a week of military operations. This time, Israel is a month-deep into the fighting.

All the residents are asking for is to live a normal life. Security is not just Iron Dome and soldiers, but a way of living. It has been more than a month since people stopped being able to do the most basic things here, in accordance with the instructions of the Home Front Command. Those who can afford to will find somewhere else to go. You can see the roots of this phenomenon in the towns surrounding Gaza, where some residents have decided not to return. In a large city like Be’er Sheva, where the cost of living has long matched that of central Israel, people cannot survive without a promise of a just and decent mechanism to ensures their livelihood during war time. Without such a mechanism, some will be forced to find somewhere else to live.

It is very easy to speak of a united home front from inside a concrete bunker and with a guaranteed paycheck. It is more difficult to do so when there is nowhere to run, when rockets are falling and when you know that tomorrow you’ll have to pay the bills and go to the grocery store between sirens.

In light of this situation, how is it that the south does not rise up? People are afraid. Afraid about keeping the little livelihood they have – afraid that they may be seen as “leftists” or “unpatriotic.” It is this fear that causes them to prefer to take loans illegally rather than demand what they deserve.

Medics and soldiers bring an Israeli wounded by rocket fire to Soroka Hospital, Be'er Sheva. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Medics and soldiers bring an Israeli wounded by rocket fire to Soroka Hospital, Be’er Sheva. (photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

“Be careful with what you write. They may break your hands. People today are violent, and someone like you is in danger,” said a friend who lives in central Israel. He used to live in Be’er Sheva, but grew tired of the “capital of the Negev.” “Forget journalism, it’s a dead profession. And anyway, you’re placing yourself in great danger. You will crash because there is no more tolerance. There is no democracy here. You should lower your profile and do something else. Sell your stupid house in Be’er Sheva and rent or buy a room in Tel Aviv.”

Yes, it is scary in Israel. But the periphery is even scarier, since one’s fear for personal security is compounded by a feeling of helplessness. The minute Israel’s television broadcasters fold their equipment and leave, we may be left with rockets and no livelihood. PR agencies, on the other hand, will continue to sell the story that there are opportunities in the Negev.

I’m not asking for endless opportunities, only two: to build a bomb shelter, and to be able to earn a decent living. I’ve already given up on quality of life and happiness. Since I am not rich enough or connected enough, a bomb shelter and a steady income will have to do. And I have no intention of leaving. This is my home, for better or for worse.

Daniel Beller is a journalist, blogger and radio broadcaster based in Be’er Sheva. Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call.

Related:
POEMS: After a night full of missiles in Gaza
Beyond protest: War and the Israeli Left

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