Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dissent and Unity in Gaza

There are ripples of Palestinian allegiance beginning to arrive throughout the OpEd and mainstream journalistic world, like the passive, receiving shoreline absorbing a Doppler effect. A quick scan of the carnage stats yesterday yielded 940 Palestinian dead (mostly civilians) and 13 Israeli casualties. Last week, Red Cross workers were denied access to scores of dead and wounded Gazans, and a civilian crowd near a United Nations school was hit, with at least 40 people killed.

To Israel’s critics abroad, the picture cannot be more lucid: Israel’s war in Gaza is an obtusely disproportionate response to the rockets of Hamas, causing horrendous human suffering. The bombing of an already isolated and impoverished population into the Age of Hunting and Gathering must be stopped. This surprisingly united anti-Israeli front among increasing numbers of writers and journalists has in turn rallied together Israelis who have circled the wagons and closed shop.

Voices of dissent in Israel have been rare. And while tens of thousands have spilled into the streets of world capitals demonstrating against the Israeli military operation, antiwar rallies in Israel have struggled to draw participants. The Peace Now organization has received many messages from supporters telling it to stay out of the streets on this one.

In an article yesterday, The New York Times writes that Israel, which is sometimes a fractured, bickering society, has turned in the past two weeks into a paradigm of unity and mutual support. Flags are flying high. Celebrities are visiting schoolchildren in at-risk areas. Soldiers are praising the equipment and camaraderie of their army units, and neighbors are worried about families whose members are on reserve duty. Ask people anywhere how they feel about the army’s barring journalists from entering Gaza and the response is: let the army do its job.

As the editorial page of The Jerusalem Post put it on Monday, the world must be wondering, do Israelis really believe that everybody is wrong and they alone are right? The answer is yes.

Sounds like the familiar, pompous mantra of a certain western superpower during the years 2000-2008, doesn't it. It's quite amazing the bravado one displays if one has the weapons to bump his enemies into the Stone Age.

But the situation is complicated. It always has been. Hamas leaders encourage its fighters to hide among civilians. Their rockets are launched from within the decimated Palestinian community, giving Israel no choice but to counter-attack particular dwellings. And for all the support the Arab world seems to extend to its embattled brothers, it falls short on action. Egyptian president Mubarak has refused to open up his borders and take in Palestinian refugees.

Talking to an Arab friend, I was taken aback by the candor and language with which he explained: "Just as the Irish consider themselves the n*$%ers of the British Isles, so are the Palestinians thought of by their Muslim brothers throughout the world."

Eye-opening, to say the least.

1 comment:

Jasper Palmer said...

It is complicated . . . and the distortion/omission of certain events in the Israeli narrative of why the current invasion started doesn't help. Check this out.