By Susan Abulhawa
In yet another of Israel’s ‘operations’ against unarmed civilians, Israel 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 human toll thus far is 16 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 homes, jobs and families to gather on a boat in order to lure Israeli commandos into international waters and proceeded to attack them with sticks and kitchen knives. The 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 destruction 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 breathe 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, a former US ambassador, a retired math teacher from California, and many other known and unknown extraordinary individuals from all walks and 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?
Will you 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?
For many, this is a call to conscience and a call to action: To take a stand as individual citizens; to demand a principled stand from our government and to divest and distance yourselves from Israel and those who profit from these endless war crimes that go on with impunity.
– Susan Abulhawa is the author of Mornings in Jenin and the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.