My anger and my sadness are so great that I have to deliberately draw a deep breath from time to time to ease the bands I feel around my chest. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that millions of people in the world are feeling the same. People everywhere see and understand what is happening.
That’s Ahdaf Soueif writing in today’s Guardian in response to yesterday’s storming of the Gaza aid flotilla by Israeli commandos and the deaths of as many as 19 activists. She so perfectly expresses my feelings that I reproduce her piece in full below.
Can we hope that the international outrage that this action has provoked will at last lead to Israel being required to accept the norms of international law and human rights? Strange that Israel is not regarded as one of the world’s ‘rogue’ nations when its actions do so much to create instability, injustice and violence and contribute to global disorder. What is the difference between this action and North Korea’s attack on a South Korean warship in April?
Israel is a nation founded on fascist principles by terrorists. The leaders of the Stern Gang were willing to enter into negotiations with the Nazis to gain support in their war against the British occupation in Palestine, and last week The Guardian revealed how Israel offered to sell nuclear warheads to the apartheid regime in South Africa in 1975. That story confirmed what has been understood for a long time – that Israel does have nuclear weapons.
Last year, following the Israeli incursion into Gaza, the UN commissioned a fact-finding mission on the conflict. It was conducted by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone. His report accused Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes and “possibly” crimes against humanity. But in a conflict that saw 10 Israeli soldiers and three civilians killed compared with about 1,400 Gazans, Goldstone was particularly scathing about Israel’s “deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population” – which he said amounted to “collective punishment”.
Killed In Crossfire by Tom Paulin
To me the Zionists, who want to go back to the Jewish state of 70 AD (destruction of Jerusalem by Titus), are just as offensive as the Nazis. With their nosing after blood, their ancient ‘cultural roots’, their partly canting, partly obtuse winding back of the world, they are altogether a match for the National Socialists.
– Victor Klemperer, 13 June 1934
We’re fed this inert
this lying phrase
like comfort food
as another little Palestinian boy
in trainers jeans and a white teeshirt
is gunned down by the Zionist SS
whose initials we should
– but we don’t – dumb goys –
clock in that weasel word crossfire
First published in The Observer, Sunday 18 February 2001
Meanwhile the Wall is extended and settlements in the West Bank grow by the day. Just last week Ahdaf Soueif wrote about how Palestinians living in Jerusalem are being driven from their homes by archaelogical excavations conducted by an agency that is in reality an executive arm of the Israeli government. This comes at the same time as the row between Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, author and Nobel peace prize winner, and a group of Jewish residents of Jerusalem over the accuracy of his recent statements about housing developments that reflect systematic discrimination against the Arab population in the city.
The United States will, no doubt, continue to back Israel, reflecting the strength of the American Jewish lobby. But, as a recent piece by Peter Beinart in the New York Review of Books argued: Israel and its defenders in the American Zionist leadership threaten the interests of Jews everywhere.
Israel reveals its true face by Ahdaf Soueif
This will count. A flotilla of relief boats attacked in international waters. Armed commandos boarding a vessel carrying supplies for a besieged civilian population. More than 10 peace activists reported killed. This has to be made to count.
The dead have joined Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndall, James Miller and Brian Avery in giving up their lives for the Palestinians. None of these young men and women went out to die or wanted to die or was accepting of death. Each and every one of them ultimately believed that they were safe; that there was a boundary – call it a boundary of legality, a boundary of civilisation – that Israel would not cross. They were wrong. And in proving them wrong, Israel has revealed, once again, its true face to the world.
This face, of course, the Palestinians know well. They see it every day in the teenage soldiers of the occupation chewing gum as they dish out humiliations, in the settlers shooting young Palestinians with impunity, in the soldiers firing gas canisters at the heads of demonstrators. The world saw that face in January last year when Israel unleashed the might of its air force on Gaza – the only time in modern warfare that a civilian population was sealed in as it was being bombed and shelled. Now Israel is out on the high seas killing internationals.
So never mind the multimillion-dollar public relations campaign – actions speak louder than words, and the murder of these peace activists is Israel’s message to the world. It does not matter what Mark Regev or any other Israel spokesperson says. It does not matter what spin the Israeli government tries to put on this; the only link between Israeli words and Israeli deeds is this: Israel uses words as a decoy and an obfuscation and a cover for its deeds. It has done so for 62 years. These internationals, dead now, murdered, have ensured that anyone who does not see this is wilfully blind.
Western governments are fond of holding up Israel as the “only democracy in the Middle East”. So should we assume that the Israeli people are behind their government? That they approve these killings? Last month I was at al-Quds University in Abu Dis. Israel’s wall shaved the edge off the campus. On it, in tall blue letters, a Palestinian student had written: “My Israeli sisters: this is not the answer.”
A few days ago, young Jewish Israeli activists told me they saw that the only hope for their country lies with the international community. Israel is on a path to self-destruction, they said, and it will take the region with it. It will not stop, they said, until the price it pays for its actions becomes too heavy. This price has to be a moral and economic price imposed by the world.
My anger and my sadness are so great that I have to deliberately draw a deep breath from time to time to ease the bands I feel around my chest. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that millions of people in the world are feeling the same. People everywhere see and understand what is happening. Many of us feel that Palestine is nearing its South Africa moment. This latest outrage must push it closer. And it will.
Donations will, I’m sure, flood in to the other relief boats waiting in harbour. More and more people will take the boycott to heart. More civil bodies will insist on divestment from companies that do business with Israel. The time has come for the governments that represent us to stop engaging with Israeli lies and excuses. The price of Israel’s action today has to be to put the issue of sanctions squarely on the table.
Saturday 5 June: The Guardian publishes Henning Mankell’s private diary of the events leading to his capture. Back home in Sweden he concludes:
I listen to the blackbird. A song for those who died. Now it is still all left to do. So as not to lose sight of the goal, which is to lift the brutal blockade of Gaza. That will happen.
Beyond that goal, others are waiting. Demolishing a system of apartheid takes time. But not an eternity.
The previous day, the newspaper had reported that Gaza flotilla activists were shot in head at close range.