Monday, July 28, 2014

Why Does Hamas Keep Firing Rockets

Someone asked. “Why do they keep firing rockets when their children are dying?

In the first place, their children are not just dying. They are being killed; blown  up and shot down. They are running, screaming, being carried into medical treatment centers which long ago ran out of medicines and anesthesia. They wake up frightened to learn that their father, mother or both have been killed, wondering who in the world will protect and care for them. That is the reality in Gaza.  Dr. Mads Gilbert, Swedish volunteer in  the Shifa Hospital describes his feelings.

And as I write these words to you alone, on a bed, my tears flow, the warm but useless tears of pain and grief and fear This is not happening. And then, just now, the orchestra of the Israeli war-machine starts its gruesome symphony again, just now salvos of artillery from the navy boats just down the shore, the roaring F-16, the sickening drowns, and the cluttering Apaches. So much made in and paid for by the US,
Mr. Obama – do you have a heart?
I invite you – spend one night – just one night – with us in Shifa, disguised as a cleaner, maybe. I am convinced, 100%, it would change history.
Nobody with a heart and power could ever walk away from a night in Shifa without being determined to end the slaughter of the Palestinian people.
But the heartless and merciless have done their calculations and planned another “dahyia” onslaught on Gaza.
The river of blood will keep running the coming night.  Please do what you can. This, THIS cannot continue.

So, why does Hamas keep firing rockets?  Well, it’s not to push Israel into the sea as is the so often announced motive in the US media.  They fire rockets as the only way to say “NO” to the oppression of their people in such a way that the outside world may hear them. When the only power you have is the power to say “no”, it is very difficult to give it up.

The last time Israel massively bombed Gaza, (2008-2009), killing over 1400 people, mostly civilians and many children, Hamas gave in to the promises that everything would get better.  However, in fact, nothing got better. It became worse;  The increased blockade at the border, daily control over their lives by restricting food, medicines, fuel and even toys from being brought into Gaza, attacks on humanitarian ships bringing aid, water and electricity shut offs for hours at a time by Israel’s destruction.  Hamas learned that to bow down and say, “Yes Master,” means a continuing of the status quo and to Israel. Status quo is even better than a peace process.  Just keep it going, for another 45 years. Who cares?

Now fast forward to July, 2014.  What has changed since the last time?  Netanyahu continues to cry, “rockets, rockets.”  He never raises the question of WHY? 

Hamas has learned, there have been no calls for justice from the outside. The Western world has turned a deaf ear to their appeal for International law. The Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory, forbids the violation of basic human rights and the occupation of land captured by force. Even when it is pictured on the front page of the world’s media, and flashed across TV screens around the world, nothing is done. The US even supports Israel’s right to brutalize the people of Gaza by redefining the term “occupation of Palestine,” to “disputed territory, thus castrating all UN resolutions aimed at putting some control over Israel.

Hamas has learned not to expect help from the US. which has never been an honest broker. Our government continues to support Israel with billions of dollars every year, and justifying its actions by 100 to 0 votes in the Senate, 42 UN vetoes blocking even a verbal concern for what is happening to the Palestinians. It raises the question, what does Hamas have to gain by giving in?

Of course, the other question is, what does Hamas have to gain by not submitting?  Very little. But, at least the people of the United States are talking about Israel/Palestine. A casual glance at the evening news and we are catching on to the fact that the West Bank is, in fact, occupied and Gaza is a prison camp.  By refusing to submit, Hamas is saying to Israel, you may take our land and water, you may destroy our economy, you may put us in prison and even kill our children, but the one thing you cannot do by force is wipe out our struggle for human dignity and freedom.

Jeff Halper, Jewish author who lives in Israel,  explains the Palestinian resistance:

You can impose upon us an apartheid system, blame us for the violence while ignoring Israeli State Terror, pursue your programs of American Empire, or your notions of a “clash of civilization.” We will not submit. We will not cooperate. We will not play your rigged game.
The conflict will continue until the Israelis realize they cannot prevail by force, by their massive “facts on the ground,” even by skillful international diplomacy. In the end, the cost of maintaining the occupation will become unacceptable, if not to Israel, to the Western powers who support it at the cost of global instability and polarization. [1]

He quotes Mahatma Gandhi:

How can one be compelled to accept slavery? I simply refuse to do the master’s bidding. He may torture me. Break my bones to atoms and even kill me. He will then have my dead body, not my obedience.  Ultimately, therefore, it is I who am the victor and not he, for he has failed in getting me to do what he wanted done. Non-cooperation is directed not against… the Governors, but against the system they administer. The root of non-cooperation lie not in hatred but in justice.

I remember in school celebrating the heroism of Patrick Henry who said back in 1775, “Give me liberty or give me death.”  Of course, Henry was dealing with a more civilized foe. He risked only his own life. It’s a more difficult choice for Hamas. They are trying to negotiate with a ruthless oppressive regime which has demonstrated very little concern for the lives of Palestinian children.

It is still hard to understand why Hamas would keep firing rockets when the people of Gaza pay such a painful price for it. I am at least trying to understand. And with Dr. Gilbert, it is hard to keep from just crying.

                                                                                                Thomas Are
                                                                                                July 28, 2014

[1] This entire blog has been inspired and fueled by a speech I heard last month by Jeff Halper and his book, An Israeli in Palestine. (Pluto Press, New York, 2010) Especially pages 207 – 212. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Three Ways to Respond to Charles Krauthammer

Read someone like Charles Krauthammer and we have three choices.[1] 

One, we can join the popular ranks of Israel defenders. The U.S. Senate recently (July 18) passed a resolution supporting Israel’s attack on Gaza by a vote of 100 to 0. A week earlier, the House of Representatives passed a similar resolution and President Obama has been tongue tied with the exception of, ”Well, Israel has a right to defend itself.” However, defending Israel’s right to “defend itself” is a position which is becoming harder and harder to maintain.

Two, we can choose to ignore the whole situation which is what most Americans do. After all, who does not have enough to think about? And we are so busy with making a living and keeping the family happy. Rather just think about a ball game or watch a movie.

Or, three, we can push back against popular opinion, consider the obvious and ponder the history. We can listen to our hearts, but when we do, suddenly the first two options no longer appear valid. However, I warn you. This third option, of facing what you know is right, and standing up for peace through justice may well make you an outsider. That is why so few people do it.  

Krauthammer sees every act of caring for the suffering of the Palestinians as abetting terrorism and every criticism of the policies of Israel as anti-Semitic.  He shows little concern for the facts that do not support his opinions.

He writes:, “Israel accepts an Egyptian proposed Gaza ceasefire; Gaza keeps firing.”

Wow! What terms were offered for the cease-fire?  Israel will continue to blockade the borders, air and sea access to the outer world. Deny the entrance of fuel, electricity, medicines and food, to make life for the Palestinians as  miserable as possible. 

Palestinians did reject the cease fire. In spite of the pain and death they were experiencing every day, they were unwilling to go back to the “slow death” they have been enduring for 47 years. Since 2000 Israel’s right to security has killed a Palestinian child on the average of one every three days

According to the Jerusalem Post, Hamas proposed a 10 year cease-fire in return for the release of prisoners arrested during the hunt for missing Israeli teens, the opening of Gaza’s borders with Israel and Egypt, and UN supervision of Gaza’s port.[2]

Emily Manna, a young girl from Gaza writes:

Dear American media, I’m asking you to simply tell what’s happening in Gaza. You watched this play out. You watched a heinous murder of Israeli teens, and you saw no evidence presented that this was an action sanctioned by the Hamas organization. You watched as Israel demolished houses, arrested hundreds, and killed civilians in clashes, all in a supposed attempt to find the killers and punish them, and with no attempt at due process. You watched as Palestinians were targeted by Israelis in racist attacks, and you watched as Israeli police abused an American teen, the visible representative of the invisible masses of Palestinian teens who undergo the same and worse. You watched as Hamas said it would not tolerate collective punishment of Palestinians, and you watched as violence between Israel and Gaza followed.
         You watched, but you chose to tell Americans that Hamas simply began firing rockets at Israel with no clear rationale, and that Israel had no choice but to defend itself. You chose to give Americans a picture that portrayed an oppressed, impoverished, and desperate people as a violent, insane aggressor, and Israel, a nation with one of the world’s most advanced militaries, as a victim that must defend itself by bombing Gaza.[3]
In a post the day before, from the Jabalya refugee camp, Sarah Ali (a contributor to a collection of short stories called Gaza Writes Back) wrote:

Last night was horrible. My house shook every five minutes! Except for half an hour in the evening, we’ve been without electricity for over 48 hours. Due to the long blackout, we had no water as well. The Israelis have (again) bombed a main power generator that supplies electricity to many areas. There was Israeli shelling from the sea, air and land. I could hear the kids in our neighbors’ houses crying in terror all night. This is not about destroying Hamas; this is about destroying every Palestinian in Gaza, destroying our lives, crushing our dignity and morale. Let it be known to (Israel) that the more they kill and destroy, the stronger we become. We have nothing left to lose. Now I would rather die with my family under the rubble of our house than have a humiliating truce. No justice, no peace.”[4]

Killing Palestinians seems to make up the agenda for the day.  So far, in this “war” only one side has tanks, planes, gunships and drones.  Only one side has a defensive shield and safe places to hide. Not surprisingly, the casualty list is 608 Palestinians, 75% civilians, and 27 Israeli soldiers. On Sunday alone, a hundred Palestinians were killed, many of them children.

Krauthammer declared that “Hamas deliberately aims at civilians; Israel painstakingly tries to avoid them.”  Of course, those Palestinian rockets are pretty crude, without any guidance system. That is why so many of them land in open areas or even back on Palestinian soil.  On the other hand, Israel has the most sophisticated rockets on the globe.  Yet, It’s disturbing how many hit mosques, schools, hospitals, water systems and electric grids. It is also funny how with all the blast and search for rockets which are supposed to be hidden in those building, very few have been found. I am sure if Israeli soldiers stumbled on a warehouse of explosives and rockets in a school it would be all over the US media.

Krauthammer writes: “Occupation? There is not a soldier, not a settler, not a single Israeli in Gaza. It was less then 1o years ago that Israel uprooted its settlements, withdrew its military and turned Gaza over to the Palestinians.”

“Turned Gaza over to the Palestinians?”  What he does not tell you is that Israel withdrew only to the borders of Gaza. Cut off food, electricity, water, medicine and continued to restrict aid to the impoverished people of Gaza.

He says, “Israeli counterfire produces dead Palestinians for international television. Which is why Hamas perversely urges its own people not to seek safety when Israel drops leaflets warning of imminent attack.”

Could he be serious? If so, he surely hopes we do not watch the evening news. Parents screaming, children running and hospitals looking like horror movies as doctors witho0ut medicines try to treat the injured.  Palestinians caged in the world largest open air prison have no place to go. Israel has the fence surrounding Gaza patrolled and electrified with both gates locked.

For those of us who chose option three, this has been a frustrating and painful week. But, nothing like what Krauthammer supports, in Gaza.

                                                                                                Thomas Are
                                                                                                July 23, 2014

[1] Charles Krauthammer, Gaza Situation Presents us Moment of Moral Clarity, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Saturday, July 19, 2014.
[2] Reported on  All In with Chris Hayes.
[3] Reported in Mondoweiss, July 22, 2014
[4] Pam Bailey, We have nothing left to lose. I would rather die with my family under the rubble of our house than have a humiliating truce’: Palestinian youth demand justice. Reported in Mondoweiss, July 22, 2014.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Chris Matthews in Context

I am never surprised by what I hear on Fox News.  I was not even surprised when Diane Sawyer lamented the suffering of the Israelis while showing pictures of Palestinians being bombed.  She later apologized, not for her one sided report, but simply for showing the wrong pictures.  However, I was surprised when Chris Matthews on MSNBC took such a Zionist position on Hardball. (July 15th)

He begins by grabbing your attention with a “Now hear this.”

It’s about how Israel and its Palestinian neighbors are dealing with the tragedy of four young people killed …

         Israel went out and found the killers of the Palestinian boy. They found them, arrested them, charged them. They clearly went about the business of punishing the guilty.

         What about the Palestinians?  How did they go about rendering justice? Matthews quoted Chuck Schumer, “They cheered. They called the kidnappers heroes. The mother of one of the suspected kidnappers said, ‘If he (my son) truly did it, I’ll be proud of him till my final day’”.

Matthews goes on to say:

I have thought for a while about when will we have true peace between Israel and its neighbors?  It’s when Arabs are ready to punish another Arab for killing a Jew. That will be the day when Israel will be ready to trust their neighbors, when they show the most primitive respect for the Jewish people, respect for their right to their homeland, even more, respect for their right to life.”

It’s hard to know where to start. I excuse Chuck Schumer.  His political life depends upon Jewish money and votes.  Matthews however is a different case.

Israel blew up the homes of the families of the Palestinian suspects. No trial. No evidence of guilt. Just suspects.  I can’t help but point out that Israel has not blown up the Israeli homes of those arrested.

As I read, “They called the kidnappers heroes,” I reflect on the murder of 29 Palestinians in prayer at the mosque in Hebron by Baruch Goldstein.  He was killed while pulling off his massacre . But drive through Hebron today and you will see an Israeli memorial in his honor as a hero of Israel. What’s the difference?

Matthews talks about respect for Jews, while teenaged girls walk around Tel Aviv carrying a placard reading, “ HATING AN ARAB IS NOT RACIST, IT’S HAVING VALUES.”  Scribbled on the walls at check points through which Palestinians are forced to line up are anti-Arab slogans such as, ARABS TO THR GAS CHAMBERS,” and DEATH TO THE ARABS.

Matthews talks about respect for Israel’s right to a homeland, which of course was taken from Palestine by driving off or killing 750,000 Palestinians, many who are still living in refugee camps in Gaza to be bombed yet again, for the third time in seven years. Nevertheless, the Palestinian leadership has offered peace and recognition for Israel to have 78 percent of what used to be their homeland and over and over, Israel has rejected the offer in favor of building more settlements on the 22 percent left for Palestinians to live on.

Most offensive of all, Matthews calls for Palestinians to learn to respect life. At the time of his broadcast, 222 Palestinians had been bombed to death by Israel, mostly civilians including many, many children, while one, I repeat, ONE, Israeli militant died of shrapnel injuries from a Palestinian rocket.  Back in 2008-2009, 1430 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli bombardment of Gaza as compared to 13 Israeli soldiers, with 4 having died by friendly fire.  In 2012, Israel again bombed Gaza killing 133 Palestinians, mostly civilians, while two Israeli soldiers lost their lives.  So, I ask Chris Matthews, who needs to “show the most primitive respect for life?

I am certain that what Chris Matthews said is all true.  I believe the grieving mother did say that she was proud of her son and I have no doubt that Israel arrested those responsible for the murder of a Palestinian kid.  However, that is such a tiny sliver of the total picture until he distorts the truth. All speakers know that, “text without context is pretext.”  Look at the numbers. The context, as Matthews spoke, was:

214 killed, including 44 children, 1,585 injured, including 435 children, 22,600 people displaced, 23 health facilities, 81 schools, and 2, 360 homes damaged, 900,000 people without access to water.[1]

Think for a moment. What happens to people who do not have water? They fight, get sick or die.

 I am puzzled that a seasoned journalist such as Matthews would present such a warped analysis of the massacre taking place in Gaza.  Perhaps he was influenced by the AIPAC junkets he took to Israel. At any rate, I have lost a bit of confidence in MSNBC and I will never trust Chris Matthews again.

                                                                                                 Thomas Are
                                                                                                 July 17, 2014

[1] Source:  UN OCHA, updated July 16 at 3pm local time, does not include 4 children killed this afternoon on the beach or several other incidents. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

It's Absolutely Amusing

The headline story in my newspaper this morning is about a superstar basketball player  moving from one town to another to attract sports fans.  You have to look back four pages to see anything about Israeli rockets killing more than 150 people in Gaza, most of them refugees with no safe place to run in order to protect their families. They have had little to do with the small ineffective rockets fired into Israel by radical militants. Most of them are simply refugees who had everything stolen from them by Israel in 1948 or again in 1967. They live day by day just trying to hold on to life while living under the control and abuse of a mighty army determined to make their lives miserable. And now, yet again, they are being bombed, one explosion every four and a half minutes.

 A doctor, serving with The Palestinian Medical Relief Society in Ramallah, wrote just today,
July 13, 2014:

As you all know by now, almost a week ago, under the false pretense of self-defense, Israel launched yet a new deadly massive attack on Gaza. At the time of my writing this message to you, 151 people have been killed, among which at least 26 children, and another 1,000 at least injured. OCHA estimates that over 75% of victims so far have been civilians. More than 500 homes have been either completely destroyed or severely damaged, putting over 3,200 people – families with young children and elderly – in the streets. 300,000 more are threatened with displacement if Israel moves forward with the announced ground operation. Just yesterday morning, Israeli forces bombed a care facility for people with special needs without any warning while 5 patients and one nurse were inside. The building was destroyed and two of the residents, two handicapped women, were literally blown to pieces.

But, that is not news.  Our news media is far more concerned with who is playing basketball.  No wonder that Americans have been accused of being “sports crazy.” We yearn to be entertained and spend billions of dollars every year on amusements.

I think it is significant that the word “muse” means to think. Thus, “amuse”  means to not think.  How often someone has said to me,  “I know things are bad over there, but I don’t want to think about that right now.”  In the meantime, the middle east is exploding and much of the pain is supported by our government.  Will we as Americans ever shoulder our responsibility for what is happening in Gaza? One answer is “no”, not as long as we can find ways to keep from thinking about it.

What is not amusing is the poor refugee family standing by helplessly as bulldozers demolish their home and a wall separating them from their work and medical care or Jewish only roads preventing them from traveling from one little community to the next. Even while sick or wounded, they negotiate 600 road blocks and check points where 18 year olds with machine guns humiliate them. It is not amusing when forty year old olive trees are cut down in less than a minute, or when their water is piped away for Jewish use only in settlements built all around them by armed extremist who harass them because “God gave their land to the Jews and the Jewish God wants only Jews to live on it.

How can the mainline churches of America be so silent?  Do we also go to church to be entertained? Nothing in Christian or Jewish theology can justify the theft of a neighbor’s land and the killing of another people. NOTHING.

However, go to church, read the paper, listen to the news or just the conversation in most homes and restaurants, and what gets our attention is a basketball player moving from one city to another.

It’s absolutely “amusing.”

                                                                                                            Thomas Are
                                                                                                            July 14, 2014 

Sunday, July 6, 2014


I remember very well the kidnapping and murder of three civil right workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi. I was living in Mississippi and I cried for them and their families. I was angry. They were good “kids,” who risked their lives to help an oppressed people and had hurt no one in the process.  I also remember, everyone knowing exactly who to blame.  Yet, in my wildest emotion, I never dreamed that my government would go after the Ku Klux Klan, or the State of Mississippi, with tanks and bombs. The whole nation would have been outraged at the thought of homes being destroyed, hundreds of people arrested and innocent kids killed.  Go after the guilty, OK, but for heavens sake, do not pounce on the whole community. That is not the way democracy works. It’s not even the way decent human beings protect themselves or treat others.

Now, fast forward to last week, June 12, 2014.  Three Israeli teens, living in a settlement built on stolen land, were kidnapped and killed by God only knows who. Nevertheless, Netanyahu said, “It was Hamas and they will pay.”  Certainly, Hamas had kidnapped in  the past, most notably Gilad Shalit in 2006.  He was treated humanely. Hamas wanted to use him as a bargaining chip in an exchange for Palestinians in Israeli prisons. Hamas openly announced its responsibility and purpose. It causes one to wonder, what would Hamas have to gain by killing three young teens?

Since then, at least ten Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers. This morning’s newspaper reports the abduction of a young Palestinian teen. He had been burned alive.

Palestinian Attorney General Abdelghani al Owaiwi said he received initial autopsy results from a Palestinian doctor who was present at the autopsy in Tel Aviv. He said it shows that 16 year old Palestinian , Mohammed Abu Khdeir, whose death has sparked large protest in his east Jerusalem neighborhood suffered burns on “90 percent of his body.
            “The results show he was breathing while on fire and died from burns and their
             consequences,” al-Owaiwi said.
            His account provided the first details of the preliminary findings to be made public.   
            The autopsy found evidence that Abu Khdeir had breathed in the flames as burns were
            found inside his body, in his lungs, bronchial tubes and his throat.[1]

In retaliation for the death of their three, Israel has arrested over 550 Palestinians, including children hefted from their bed in the middle of the night, hauled away to be brutally treated, denied sleep, water, and the right to use a bath room. Even visits by a parent or a lawyer are denied. Fifteen hundred homes, businesses and schools have been raided and Gaza has endured more than 40 bombings, even though the kidnapping took place in the West Bank.

Since the year 2000, 1,384 children have been killed. Of that number, only about 40 were engaged in hostile activities, such as throwing rocks at soldiers occupying their land.[2]

Maybe the saddest part is that we hear very little of this side of the story from our media.  The evening news simply dismisses it as a “cycle of violence,” which must be addressed by the parties involved.  They seldom mention that this violence is taking place in occupied land and that only one side uses planes, tanks, and white phosphorus to punish an entire people.

Back in 1964, I celebrated the trial and conviction of those responsible for the death of three civil rights workers. I also celebrated living in a democracy that punished them because they were guilty of a crime and not because they belonged to the Klan or just happened to live in the State of Mississippi.

God help us.

                                                                                                Thomas Are
                                                                                                July 6, 2014

[1] Mohammad Daraghmah, Doctor: Arab teen was Burned Alive. Atlanta-Journal-Constitution,
Sunday, July 6, 2014.,  P. A-2.
[2] Pam Bailey and Medea Benjamin, Children’s Lives in the Balancer (Is one worth more than another? Mondoweiss, July 1, 2014. Also see Action Alert, Jewish Voice for Peace, July 2, 2014.