Thursday, June 30, 2016

Who Are The Palestinians of Gaza?

Currently the State of Israel and Egypt are imposing an economic blockade upon Hamas ruled Gaza. This blockade has been in force since 2007. Who are these people who live in Gaza? What are they like?

We can get some idea of the answer to this question in the book Gaza: Beneath the Bombs by Sharyn Lock with Sarah Irving (2010). Sharyn Lock was a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement who was volunteering as a nurse in Gaza when violence erupted in Operation Cast Lead which lasted from December 27, 2008 till January 18, 2009. Afterwards she provided a first hand testimony of what she saw and experienced during those terrible days. Here is some of what is written in this book about the people who live behind the blockade.

Christmas in Gaza (2008)

Before the war erupted Lock attended a Christmas sermon among the Palestinians of Gaza. Hundreds of the Christians Palestinians of Gaza asked permission from the State of Israel to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem. Many were denied permission and stuck in Gaza by the State of Israel's decision. The fact that the State of Israel can control their movement shows that the State of Israel continues to occupy the Gaza Strip even after the disengagement of 2005. This denial of movement was mentioned in the following Christmas sermon. The Christmas sermon is described below.
'He is reminding them of their legitimate right to Jerusalem, to Bethlehem, to dignity, life, celebration.' And to any who had given up: 'The Christian who doesn't shout "no" to death and "yes" to life is not Christian. We must reject the injustice, the crimes oppressing us. This isn't about politics, this is about life.' (p. 35.)
Even though the vast majority of the Palestinians of Gaza are Sunni Muslim many were in a festive spirit during that time and shared in the Christmas celebrations.
After church we hurried to the Kabaritis' seaside house, to find that the little girls had set us up a Christmas tree. I have spent a past Christmas in Bethlehem, where the population is actually half Christian, but I though the Muslim folks here in Gaza might not pay much attention. In fact, everyone is wishing us Merry Christmas and many are taking the opportunity to be festive. I guess folks gravitate towards any bright spark in these difficult days. (p. 35.)
Alas, the most terrible bombardment would be unleashed by the State of Israel under the leadership of Prime Minister Olmert just a few days later. While Washington was busy transferring power from President Bush to President Obama the deadly bombardment began.

The Death of a Palestinian Christian in Gaza

This book records many painful moments in which the Palestinians of Gaza were killed during those terrible days. And at least one of the Palestinians who died happened to be a Christian.
Our local colleague ... told us of a teenager from his youth group who died yesterday. A 16 year old Christian girl, Christine Wade'a al Turk, died of a heart attack brought on by a severe asthma attack, resulting from the stress of the ongoing strikes. (p. 55.)
Later the author meets with a friend who relates to the author what happened to her during the bombardment. While relaying her account she also mentions the same young woman who died.
I lost my friend from the WhyNot project--Christine al-Turki. She was really dear to me, she was one of the sweetest girls, kind of smooth and soft. Her parents only had her and her brother, so they took such care of her, and gave her so many opportunities, she took lots of classes and things... she was literally scared to death. She got asthma and then a heart attack, from fear. It was Friday, the day she died. I began to think it would happen to me too, because I was scared to death too. I was so affected by that, my family tried to be very close to me to help me. I looked on Facebook, her friends made an online group for her, and the photos of her after she died affected me so much; one of her father kissing her goodbye for the last time. I couldn't believe she would never be back. (p. 115.)
How terrible war is. The best way to help is this terrible situation is to advocate for peace.

Israeli Military Attack on Palestinian Police Officers

One of the first of many terrible happenings described herein was an air strike on a police station. Hamas' armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, is clandestine in nature so it is quite doubtful that this bombardment would have done anything to weaken Hamas' armed wing.
Vik later ascertained that the F16 jets had targeted the port police station, and also the 'President Palace' nearby, killing about 20. ... Several of the police stations that were targeted were having training days ... The many policemen killed and injured just now are government employees-they deal with traffic offenses, petty crime. Women and children are dead. The police station nearest us was right by a school. (pp. 37-38.) 
Skepticism About Claims that Hamas Uses Human Shields

It is sometimes asserted that Palestinians use themselves as human shields just to make the State of Israel look bad. However this book presents reasons to be skeptical of this assertion.

The following discusses the bombing of a school operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert alleged to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, who was visiting Israel at the time, that Palestinian fighters were using the Rimal compound as a base for attacks. UNRWA's John Ging 'denied that any Palestinian fighters had entered the compound, let alone fired from it.' (p. 72.)
The following discusses assertions that Hamas exploits ambulances for transportation purposes.
Amnesty International stated: 'The Israeli army media briefing of 22 April, in the section on "incidents involving shooting at medical facilities, buildings, vehicles, and crews", contends that "Hamas systematically used medical facilities, vehicles and and uniforms as cover for terrorist operations", but provides no evidence for even one such case.' Amnesty said that it did not exclude the possibility of such abuses, but stressed that no evidence had been provided and that the burden of proof fell on the Israeli authorities. (p. 75.) 
The Generosity of the Palestinians of Gaza

Among the COGs they constantly portray the Palestinians in the worst possible light. By fixating their attention so assiduously upon political turmoil it obscures the fact that many Palestinians are quite generous and friendly to guests as Lock testifies below in her first hand testimony.
I want to hear more but it's at this point that, in true Palestinian style, some of the others start getting distressed that there is hot food next door and I am not there eating it. It isn't good enough that I can come and have some later, or that some can be put aside for me; it doesn't matter that this is an important conversation, I am A Guest And I Must Eat It Now. (p. 95.)

Such small girls. 'Are they terrorists?' asks their mother. 'My family cares about all people. We don't mind if they are from a different country or a different religion. We think all people are the same. That's what we believe.' (pp. 142-143.)

I tried to give short notice of my last visits, in the hope of avoiding gifts. But you can't stop Palestinians giving you things, because if they didn't (or can't afford to) buy something for you, then they will raid their own belongings for something they think you might like. (p. 204.)
The COGs' fixation on politics ignores the humanity of the Palestinians of Gaza. Why is it that the COGs have miserably failed to mention these things about the Palestinians of Gaza?

A ceasefire agreement was made just before President Obama assumed office. A few months later elections were held in the State of Israel and power was transferred to a Likud led government.

An American's Testimony

Another testimony regarding the hospitality that is offered by individuals among the Palestinians of Gaza comes from an American who lives in Gaza.

During the 2014 war American journalist Max Blumenthal visited Gaza to investigate what was happening. While there he met an American anti-war activist who had moved into Gaza earlier that year.
"Everywhere I go here," he remarked with a look of wonder, "I make new friends and people invite me into their homes for dinner. I've never met more beautiful, welcoming people." (Max Blumenthal, The 51 Day War, 2015, Chapter 11.)
The Palestinians Need Peace

The blockade was imposed on Gaza partly in the hope that it would compel the Palestinians of Gaza to rise up against Hamas and overthrow them. However after so many years this has failed to happen. In this sense the blockade is a miserable failure.

Furthermore the lack of normalized relations between Hamas ruled Gaza on the one hand and the State of Israel and Egypt on the other hand make it much more likely that war will eventually break out again. The blockade itself makes renewed war practically certain to occur.

The blockade needs to be abolished. These Palestinians of Gaza deserve to live in peace and safety with their neighbors.

The State of Israel has a strong military. The leaders of the State of Israel are quite capable of finding ways to counteract Hamas without this blockade. Even during the worst days of the second intifada (2000-5) a blockade such as the present one was never imposed upon Gaza.  

It is terrible that the COGs insist that violence such as this is fated to occur until Christ returns. Instead the COGs should advocate for peace. There will never be peace until people of conscience speak out about these painful events.

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