Friday, June 4, 2010

A call to conscience, in the name of humanity

I was on my way back from Norway and Iceland in the immediate aftermath of yet another of Israel’s “operations” against unarmed civilians. Its navy went at least 50 miles into international waters and boarded a global humanitarian flotilla from the Free Gaza Movement, which was carrying food, medicine, school supplies, and building material to the besieged and hungry people of Gaza. The boat had been inspected in Turkey by an independent sources as well as the Turkish authorities. Israel knew this. The human toll thus far is 9 unarmed civilians, murdered. Israel has refused to release their names and over 680 have been taken to unknown locations. By holding the only witnesses to this crime, Israel is stealing precious time to disseminate its propaganda and spin the story to its advantage.

Before anyone had a chance to react, Israeli PR and spokespeople were busy feeding stories and giving interviews. Their claim amounts to this: “Rioters” from all over the world left their lives to gather on a boat to lure Israeli commandos into international waters and proceeded to attack them with sticks and kitchen knives. These highly trained Israeli special unit soldiers with the most advanced and technological weapons known to man had no choice but to kill unarmed civilians on this boat. Thus, Israel acted in “self defense” against “terrorists” and organizations with “links to Hamas and Al Qaeda” – A mendacious mantra that has become tiresome.

The abuse of language does not stop there. Israel goes on to claim that its barbaric devastation of Gaza is an “embargo” and therefore legal – as if the intentional starvation and devastation of an entire people were legitimate!

The Free Gaza Movement was started by friends of mine – ordinary citizens of the world who refuse to hide behind “I didn’t know” or “What could I do?” as Israel has slowly turned Gaza into a death camp, where food and medicine are disallowed in sufficient quantities. The consequences are clear in reports from the World Health Organization – rampant malnutrition, with at least 10% of Gaza’s children having stunted growth for lack of food; where the education system has all but collapsed not least because Israel has bombed hundreds of Gaza’s schools and continues to prevent the import of books and school supplies; where Israel rains death from the sky onto this captive civilian population with no place to run or take refuge, leaving thousands dead and wounded and 80% of Gaza’s children suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, a crippling disorder that may well produce generations of lost children; where employment (not unemployment) hovers around 20%; where the sewage system cannot be repaired after Israel’s assault and clean water is a luxury few have; where fishermen are fired upon by the Israeli navy dare they try to catch a day’s food in their own waters; and where diabetics, asthmatics, dialysis and cancer patients must die because they lack the most basic medicines and cannot leave to get help in other countries.

So, as Gazans have been left by Israel and by the “international community” to trod in their own excrement, drink toxic water, beg for food, die of treatable diseases, wet their pants at night and quiver with fear in the arms of their equally bewildered parents, unable to work, to fish, or to get an education; unable to breath or to find hope in this tiny sliver of a prison land, world leaders meet to decipher the “competing narratives,” issue their impotent “statements” and summon their Israeli ambassadors for a slight smack on the hand.

Incidentally, these so called “rioters” and “terrorists” with international “terrorist links” include Hedy Epstein, an 85-year old Holocaust survivor, Mairead McGuire, an Irish Nobel Laureate, Henning Mankell, an renowned Swedish author, a baby whose name I do not know, a journalist for Al-Jazeera, and many other known and unknown extraordinary individuals from all walks of from a multitude of nations. They are my heroes. They are doing what leaders have failed to do, namely to stand up to extreme racism, tyranny and oppression. Not for one moment do I believe Israel’s lie that these individuals were carrying and firing guns.

What do you believe?

More importantly, what will you do?

My trip to Norway and to Iceland was my first in each country. I fell in love with both. The beauties of the lands were matched only by the warmth, humor and hospitality of their people. And so it is in the name of this first impression and new friendships, in the name of humanity, I call you to conscience – to ask yourselves what have Palestinians done to deserve such a fate? What have we done to deserve the world’s silence as Israel slowly and cruelly wipes us off the map and destroys our society, then kills those righteous individuals who try to show a minimal recognition of our humanity? And I call you to action – to take a principled stand, somehow, some way, even if your leaders don’t.

susan abulhawa is the author of Mornings in Jenin and the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine

1 comment:

khulud said...

here's my personal account of the day 31 May. A voice you don't usually hear in the media.