Yes, more Palestinians killed in 7 days than Israelis in 7 years, and yet no comments from President Bush or President-elect Obama. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice places blame solely on Hamas for holding Gazans "hostage," as if Israel's actions were beyond judgment. Would Rice ever respond to a Palestinian attack on Israelis by blaming the Israeli government for holding its citizens hostage with their army's violence?
I am writing you from Jordan. I arrived the day after the attacks began. The day before they began, my friend and colleague Hannah had asked me to deliver a book of poetry to her friend Summer in Gaza, hoping I'd manage to make it on a Free Gaza boat. Since then, these boats bringing unarmed witnesses to Gaza (www.freegaza.org) have been attacked in international waters, and Summer's house has been blown to pieces, her brother almost died under the rubble, and her father desperately needs an operation but the hospitals are overflowing. In every home or shop I enter in Jordan, people are huddled watching the stories unfold: a family killed in their home, a university destroyed, a pharmacy blown to pieces, countless bloody babies screaming or worse, silent.
I wonder if people in the US are also seeing the bodies and faces or, as I fear, only some rubble and angry Gazans. The day after attacks began, Israel's largest newspaper Yediot Aharonot covered almost the entire front page with the words, "500,000 Israelis Under Attack!" In smaller font, one could learn that in addition to 1 Israeli, 225 Palestinians had also been killed. It was surreal. Consider where you are getting your news, and what is not being told to you.
Hamas is also a terrorist organization by this definition, so it would be easy to simplify the conflict as "an endless cycle of violence" were there no historical context. But there is a context, and there are alternatives: Let us remember that Hamas was elected after an intentional shift away from violence towards a mainstream political agenda. Hamas stopped its attacks and began offering the Palestinian people an alternative to the corruption of Fatah. Hamas was democratically elected and immediately strangled by a US-led boycott, preventing the government from functioning. Hamas continued to hold to its one-sided ceasefire (totaling almost 2 years), meanwhile the US and Israel began to train and arm the opposition government, Fatah, which they preferred. In response to plans for a coup in Gaza (anti-democratic takeover by the US-supported opposition government), Hamas secured its control (again, democratically-elected whether or not we like them) over Gaza, and continues to offer Israel an
indefinite ceasefire--no more violent attacks, period--if Israel simply complies with international law. The Arab League (comprised of 22 Arab nation members) has offered the same. These offers are dismissed by Israel and silenced in the US media. Israel says it has tried everything else, but it has not tried the most obvious: complying with international law and accepting repeated offers for a peaceful resolution.
As events unfold in Gaza neither the media nor the people are silent here in Jordan, where people refuse to go on as if nothing were happening to their brothers and sisters (sometimes literally--more than 60% of Jordan's population is Palestinian refugees). Just one day after attacks began, the king of Jordan gave blood to send to Gaza and inspired hundreds of others to do the same (meanwhile President Bush was on vacation in Texas). Spontaneous demonstrations have erupted at least twice here in the capitol today, and thousands are protesting in various major cities around the Middle East and around the world.