It is useless to continue to engage in the finger pointing blame game. We must rise above that and ask, "Who lets this happen?"
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There's a tragedy unfolding in Gaza-- not Israel, Gaza.
But first, I need to tell you a short story. Friday, I attended a showing of an exhibit that documented how Asian American students at a Philadelphia High School were attacked, beat up and brutalized, without the school administrators-- Principal or superintendent of the school system doing anything. The students ended up boycotting the school and the Asian community came together to protest... and to get the Department of Justice involved. The students carried signs "It's not question of who beat whom. It's a matter of who let it happen." (read about it here
, in the article We Cannot Keep Silent.)
That question, "Who let it happen?" is brilliant. It rises above the who-hit-who blame game and asks the more important question-- who could have stopped things? Who could have ended the bad situation?
That brings me back to the situation between Israel and Gaza.
On the one side, you have the Israelis, with Iron Dome, the IDF, and one of the most powerful armies in the world, and Benjamin Netanyahu running for office.
On the other side you have the people of Gaza and Hamas, which calls for the destruction of Israel and a few thousand rockets, probably supplied by Iran, maybe delivered through Lebanon's Hezbollah.
And we have a history of each side doing what they seem stuck in an endless cycle doing-- Rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, usually hitting dirt or walls, and m issiles fired by Israelis almost always killing someone-- including innocent women and children and civilians.
There's a new twist this time-- social media warfare. Israel's IDF posts hundreds of photos on Flickr, of broken glass and damaged property caused by missiles from Gaza and uses facebook and Twitter to sell their side of the story. You don't see much posted by Gazans. They're hiding in basements from missiles fired by F16s.
Israel sees 500 primitive missiles impotently fired by people in Gaza-- probably Hamas, but who knows, really, who's doing it? So Israel responds with tank incursions, jets and helicopters and probably drones, engaging in assassinations.
Now Israel has USA president Obama as an example and excuse. Obama does it in Pakistan. He's done it a lot. Israelis are much more effective. As one "peace activist" points out on Facebook-- they engage in "IDF kick-ass." I reply, that they engage in IDF-women-and-children-kickass."
So, a fusillade of Gazan missiles that almost all hit nothing, results in a collection of Israeli attacks that kill dozens or scores of Gazans. In operation "Cast Lead," the Gaza casualties exceeded 1200-- most of them innocent civilians.
Apologists for Israel point to some single missile that caused harm.
Hamas spokesmen speak of Israel attacks.
Each side says the other started it.
The truth is, with the history and ongoing actions that have continued for decades, the Israelis, could, at any time, justify a spiraling up of the intensity of the conflict-- read that-- firing missiles into gaza-- but, unlike the Gazan missiles, the Israeli ones kill people just about every time.
I don't accept the argument that Israel has the right to kill innocent civilians because missiles have been fired. This is collective punishment of innocent victims. It's a war crime.
And it is way too conveniently timed, with Israeli elections.
Also, the Israeli's blaming the Gazans for starting it, leave some important information out. There is not neat beginning to these hostilities.
Rabbi Arthur Waskow wrote about the sequence of events that preceded and led to the current escalation of hostilities:
Next I want to present a timeline of the violence from the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), an independent non-profit organization that provides journalists with quick access to information about Palestine and the Palestinians, as well as expert sources, both in the United States and in the Middle East.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 8
Following a two-week lull in violence, Israeli soldiers invade Gaza. In the resulting exchange of gunfire with Palestinian fighters, a 12-year-old boy is killed by an Israeli bullet while he plays soccer.
Shortly afterwards, Palestinian fighters blow up a tunnel along the Gaza-Israel frontier, injuring one Israeli soldier.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 10
An anti-tank missile fired by Palestinian fighters wounds four Israeli soldiers driving in a jeep along the Israel-Gaza boundary.
An Israeli artillery shell lands in a soccer field in Gaza killing two children, aged 16 and 17. Later, an Israeli tank fires a shell at a tent where mourners are gathered for a funeral, killing two more civilians, and wounding more than two dozen others.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 11
One Palestinian civilian is killed and dozens more wounded in Israeli attacks. Four Israeli civilians are also injured as a result of projectiles launched from Gaza, according to the Israeli government.
During an Israeli government cabinet meeting, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz urgesthe government to "cut off the head of the snake... take out the leadership of Hamas in Gaza." He also calls for a cutting off of water, food, electricity, and fuel shipments to Gaza's 1.7 million people.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 12
Palestinian militant factions agree to a truce if Israel ends its attacks.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 14
Israel breaks two days of calm by assassinating Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas' military wing. According to reports, at least eight other Palestinians are killed in Israeli attacks, including at least two children. Palestinian militant groups vow to respond.
3. Comment by Uri Avnery:
Netanyahu and Barak have decided to deliberately violate a cease-fire which had just been stabilized.
At the price of great and ongoing suffering on both sides of the border, the government's aim had been accomplished: social issues will be removed from the public agenda and the election campaign
"Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak have decided -- for the second time in a row the State of Israel will conduct general elections under the shadow of war in the Gaza Strip. The cease-fire which already started to stabilize has been broken deliberately and shattered to pieces. The inhabitants of the communities of southern Israel, who just started to breathe freely, are sent right back to air raid alarms and to running to shelters" said former Knesset Member Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom.
"At the price of great suffering on both sides of the border, the government's aim has been accomplished: the social issues, which threatened to assume prominence in these elections, have been pushed aside and removed from the agenda of the elections campaign. Forgotten, too, is the brave attempt of Mahmoud Abbas to address the Israeli public opinion. In the coming weeks, the headlines will be filled with constant war and death, destruction and bloodshed. When it ends at last, it will be revealed that no goal has been achieved and that the problems remain the same, or perhaps exacerbated. "
It's clear. Any time either side has a use for stirring up violence, they can make an excuse. The big question is, who lets it happen?
The Asian students had a community and the Department of Justice to help them stop things from continuing to happen. It is at least tragic, at most collusion in war crimes that Obama continues to pardon israel's actions-- though understandable, since Obama also engages, with his drone assassinations, in the same kinds of actions.
In the recent US elections, Netanyahu tried to help Republican Jews defeat Barack Obama. They conspired to directly and indirectly accuse Obama of not being strong enough on israel's security. They did pull about 13% of the Jews who'd voted for Obama to the Romney camp. But still, 69% of Jews supported Obama. I say that's a mandate to stand up to Israel-- a strong mandate for Obama to not simply rubber stamp whatever Netanyahu does, but rather to challenge Netanyahu and his right wing hawks.
If we ask "Who let it happen," we must look to the US and to Obama, to the powers in Europe, even to the Arab nations who do not do all they could. We must look to the 69% of US Jews who did NOT switch to support a Romney who promised to rubber stamp Netanyahu. Those Jews could be the solution-- if they spoke up and told Obama that they did not support him backing up a right wing war criminal like Netanyahu, that they did not support Obama continuing to do business as usual in the Middle east.
There are 1.6 million Gazans who are now hiding in basements as Israel, using US provided F16s, fires hundreds of precision missiles, so accurate that they can hit moving motorcycles. And yet the Israelis kill babies. We must ask, "Who lets this happen?" And we must demand that they stop allowing it to happen.
Since the Arab Spring, there are new governments in Tunisia and Egypt. Perhaps the changes there will break the decades long frozen balance and make some change happen.
This tragedy is no longer about "who started it." It's about the larger powers that allow it to happen. So don't drop to the old, standard level of defending either side for firing missiles. This has to stop, but it will not stop so long as there are so many outsiders influencing the situation.