Friday, 7 July 2006

From the eye of the storm

Sami Abdel-Shafi in Gaza
Friday July 7, 2006
The Guardian

After causing long term damage to civilian life and inflicting mass punishment on the Gaza Strip, it is perhaps the Israeli leaders who deserve sympathy, for having to live with the guilt of what they have done. Gazans will not send a mayday from the eye of the storm. Instead they will continue to survive and improvise in the intolerable conditions that they have been subjected to for so long.
This crossed my mind as I paced by an apricot tree I planted about a year and a half ago, during what I thought was one of the darkest periods for Gaza, to renew my hope for better times. A shoot then, and a young tree now, the apricot tree grew in defiance of Gaza's unfriendly skies, where Israeli airforce planes have replaced the birds.
The tree shakes to the low altitude sonic booms which Israeli F-16 jets blow into Gaza's skies. But its steadfastness inspires people, like me, to hold on and remain sane until the next unannounced breaking of F-16 hell, the humming of Apache helicopters and heavy artillery. It reminds me how difficult it must have been for people who had their orchards uprooted by the Israeli army in previous years in Gaza. Now it seems the army is back to uproot an entire population.
But Gazans would not compromise their humanity, even with the escalating military operation. Contrary to the insinuations of Israel's media and public relations machine, the majority of Gazans truly hope that Israel's hostage soldier is treated humanely and eventually freed. Palestinians dearly miss the basic human rights that Israel's military occupation has deprived them of for so many years, and would not wish their loss on any soldier.
Ariel Sharon's government conjured up every possible measure to drown Palestinians in every aspect of life. It stretched for so long that the world grew used to it. Ehud Olmert's government, which started out ostensibly dovish, responded to the disappearance of the Israeli soldier in Gaza with shameful haste. What is not understandable is why Israel chose to disable Gaza's power station and blow the major arteries of infrastructure that are necessary for life. This is Israel's response to Palestinian attacks that used homemade, less harmful, rockets. Whether Israel's action is reactionary or not, the nature of their retaliation is going far beyond any reason.
It is already too late for Israel to pretend to be avoiding civilian death. Civilians were compromised by the first attack on Gaza's infrastructure. Still, Israel has the audacity to boast that it is acting on world opinion that civilians must be spared. Moreover, Israel's admittance of food and fuel to Gaza in the wake of their initial attack seems humanitarian, but the supplies are far below the minimum requirements of the 1.4 million residents.
Mass destruction and punishment of Palestinians amounts to questionable morals. In future years it will embarrass the state of Israel. It probably already saddens every peace-loving Israeli.
The genuine hope is that Palestinians will not become entrenched in this sad human tragedy and instead concern themselves with resolution. Palestinians should be alert to Olmert's plan to devour the livelihood of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, having turned Gaza into a swamp of sorrow. This is the "New Gaza" that will take many months and hundreds of millions of dollars to bring back to what it used to be just a week ago, the "Old Gaza".
The apricot tree will somehow live, like many other trees around Gaza, and will, I hope, continue to inspire.


  1. God bless this Sami abdel-Shafi for his insight and courage to call a spade a spade!!
    The Palestinian people will remain strong - they won't buckle but life, without doubt, will get more and more difficult for them. BY GOD I wish I knew how to help them ..

    I like the phrase: " ... it is perhaps the Israeli leaders who deserve sympathy, for having to live with the guilt of what they have done." There is a law of nature which not even THEY can touch: imagine a blowl full with water and throw a pebble right in the middle. Now watch ... you can see the ripples move OUTWARDS - but you can NOT see that they same ripples reverse direction once they edge on and get RIGHT BACK to where they came from! What does that tell? Have a wild guess ...
    I wouldn't want to be in their shoes!