Archive for February, 2008

no place to live

February 24, 2008

Reading this latest report from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), in the Gaza Strip, I think of the many picnics I’ve seen…gatherings, a break from the norm (but in Gaza’s case no, there is never a break from the norm that is the terrorizing and shelling from the Israeli army, not to mention the starvation, dearth of medical supplies, dearth of food and drinkable water, of a life to live for essentially…). I think of my own family and how we cherished sunny days and spreading a checkered tablecloth and laying out picnic treats on warm day. I think of other countries I’ve visited: Cambodia, Korea, Tibet, India, Germany, France, Tunisia,…where I saw or participated in picnics…It is a universal joy, no?

It isn’t universal, however, that the picnic will be disrupted, torn apart rather, by a sudden missile, one which lands on the picnickers and dismembers them, aside from killing them instantly.

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Three Gaza picnickers killed by Israeli missile

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Palestinian relatives of one of three Palestinians killed by an Israeli missile mourn outside the hospital of Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, 23 February 2008. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns the Israeli war crime perpetrated in the evening of Saturday, 23 February 2008, east of the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. Three Palestinian civilians were killed by an Israeli rocket fired as they were on a picnic in the Nazaz area east of the town.

The Centre’s preliminary investigation indicates that at approximately 3:40pm on Saturday, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) fired a surface-to-surface missile from one of its bases along the Gaza Strip border. The rocket targeted three friends in a bamboo hut in a field belonging to the family of one of the victims in the Nazaz area east of Beit Hanoun. The targeted area was approximately 1.2 kilometers away from the border with Israel. The rocket landed in the middle of the three civilians who were preparing food during their picnic in the field. They were instantly killed and dismembered. Their remains were taken to the Beit Hanoun Hospital. They were identified as:

  • Mohammad Talal al-Za’anin (20), university student from Beit Hanoun
  • Ibrahim Ahmad Abu Jarad (20), driver from Beit Hanoun
  • Mohammad Hasan Hussein (22), an employee from Jabalia

After the incident, an IOF spokesperson was quoted on the Yediot Ahronot website claiming that the army targeted armed Palestinian rocket launchers. However, the Centre’s investigation refutes the claim, and affirms that they were civilians on a picnic in an open field. They were roasting meat and waiting for other friends to join them for dinner. The bombardment occurred before the others arrived.

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Who were these young men? An Israeli army spokesman, in the army spokesmen’s broken-record fashion, claimed the missile targeted rocket launchers. They use that claim a lot, don’t they? Like in Lebanon, when the Israeli army targeted the UN building, in which the Canadian peace-keeper was killed and now suddenly Canada cares a little –but just for it’s own people, not for those unmentionable Lebanese and Gazans that met the same fate during Israel’s war on Lebanon or on-going war on Palestinians.

According to the PCHR, the 3 young men were all in their early twenties, a university student, a driver, and an employee.

In their early twenties. I think of my Korean friends, with whom I would on weekends go for picnics, set up a camp-stove and roast vegetables and other edibles. What if that fate had befallen them? I am panicked by this thought.

But I am also panicked by the knowledge that this happened to Palestinians. More so, perhaps, because with their exponentially mounting death toll, don’t we all just pray that we won’t read of another war crime such as this, another attempt at living crushed with typical Israeli army brutality?

These reports repeat like broken records also. 3 civilians killed in northern Gaza today… 8 civilians killed in central Gaza today… a young child shot in the head…X houses demolished in Rafah yesterday…X acres of agricultural land razed by the Israeli army last week… On and on and on and on and on…

But that does not mean that we should tune out, block out the broken record, equate these very real, very present, daily tragedies to part of the “conflict that has been going on for so long” as the media would have us do.

I speak with people here, fresh from being over ‘there’ in Palestine, where these daily tragedies are very real and present. And well-intentioned people here inadvertently fall prey to the media: “I just don’t understand those people (who are those people??)? Why can’t they just get along? Oh, it’s a conflict that has been going on since time immemorial…”

No, no, no, no. It is not that complicated. There are two distinct major parties: Israel and Palestine. Palestine is Occupied, Israel is the Occupier. The West Bank is very clearly occupied, by the army, by illegal settlers (colonizers, let’s be frank) and their illegal settlements, and all the military infrastructure that go with them. Gaza is clearly occupied by the Israeli army who control every border point along the walled-in strip, as well as every basic human necessity (food, water, electricity, fishing waters, movement, humanitarian aid, building materials…).

And now this fresh massacre, in the footsteps of the killings, invasions, injuries, and human rights violations of the week preceding it:

IOF killed 6 Palestinians, including a child, in the Gaza Strip [Feb 14-20]

During the reporting period, IOF conducted at least 23 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and arrested 48 Palestinian civilians. To date the number of Palestinian civilians arrested by IOF in the West Bank since the beginning of the year stands at 432.

“Abdul Karim Mohammed al-Ghalban, 24, was killed by a gunshot to the chest when he was on his way to his agricultural land… ” [Sunday, 17 February, al-Shouka village, southeast of Rafah]

“At approximately 16:00, IOF troops opened fire at houses in the area. As a result, Tamer Mohammed Abu Sha’ar, aged 11, was killed by a gunshot to the head while he and his family attempted to escape from their house due to the intense IOF gunfire.” [Tuesday, 19 February, Wadi al-Salqa village in the central Gaza Strip]

And then there is the fine print, the details of the destruction of homes and personal belongings which comes with these military incursions:

“…the missile hit the rooftop of a 400-square-meter house belonging to Hassan Hussein Kalloub, in which 18 people live. The roof, the kitchen and the bathroom were all destroyed, although no casualties were reported. In addition, nine neighboring houses were damaged.” [Friday, 15 February,‘Izbat Bein Hanoun area in the northern Gaza Strip.]

And there is the on-going siege on Gaza, ever-mounting death toll of medical patients:

3 Patients Dies and Ambulances Stopped Operation Due to the Lack of Fuels

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distant confrontations

February 20, 2008

As I review my 8 months in Palestine, each face vivid with a distinct story to tell, I revisit also the pain of seeing the daily indignities, and also the pain of losing a friend.

I’ve hesitated to dwell on this, as losing a friend, loved one, family member is far too common in occupied Palestine. But it was new for me, aside from beloved pets and distant relatives. This was someone who only the day before I had seen and teased, whose sisters, mother, wife, and baby son live on without him. That abrupt loss of a friend was made worse by the fact that I was within blocks of his home –and heard the explosions –the night he was killed.

Explosions are normal in Nablus. Not because Nablusi are inherently ‘militant,’ ‘terrorist-minded,’ ‘extremist,’ or any of the other key words which are used to defame a resistance to a decades-old occupation (and deter from that fact)… Rather, explosions are normal because Nablus is in occupied Palestine and is still an area that actively resists, something which in almost any other nation would be supported and applauded. Terminology. Rhetoric. Words at the expense of lives.

I heard the bombs that killed Abed that night. I awoke to them. Sat up a bit, looked out the window of the central old-city Palestinian friend’s apartment I was sleeping in, and knew there was nothing I could do that night. Oddly, already accustomed to loud bombings and gunfire at night, I thought about it a while, then went back to sleep. Tomorrow was another day, of army confrontations and potential settler assaults, which was fruitful in both regards.

As I speak to people back in my own country about what I saw, experienced, felt, lost… it seems so distant. Life here has its own complications, but many in comparison seem engineered to distract from those very real, daily, debilitating, and horrific problems of life in occupied Palestine