Michael Riordon

the view from where I live


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“Genocide begins with the silence of the world.”

On August 1, The New York Times and other mainstream papers in the US and the UK published a full-page ad written by famous Holocaust survivor and campaigner Elie Wiesel. Part of a vast international propaganda offensive to justify Israel’s latest brutal war on Gaza and its decades-long occupation of Palestine, the ad was sponsored by This World: The Values Network.

Founded by American Orthodox Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, This World describes itself as “dedicated to disseminating the light of the Jewish people and promoting and defending the state of Israel as the supreme embodiment of a nation founded on these principles.”

Gaza ruins, 4Gaza, July 26, 2014. Photo: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

Among other things, Wiesel accuses Hamas of “child sacrifice,” and reframes the Israeli massacre in Gaza as “a battle of civilization versus barbarism.” In this he echoes Theodor Herzl, a key 19th century European proponent of a Jewish state in the Middle East: “For Europe we would constitute over there part of a bulwark against Asia as well as the advance post of civilization against barbarism.” (Der Judenstaat, The State of the Jews, published in 1896.)

Wiesel assumes that by now, surely his readers will know which label applies to which party in the Middle East.

Apparently some Jewish Holocaust survivors are not so sure.

On August 23rd, as Israel continues to bombard Gaza, 327 Jewish Holocaust survivors from a number of countries countered Wiesel’s attack ad with their own message in The New York Times:

As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine.

We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world.

We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch.  In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting Neo-Nazi insignia.

Furthermore, we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities.  Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.

We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people.

We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza.

We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel.

“Never again” must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!

Signed,

Holocaust survivors
children of survivors
grandchildren of survivors
great-grandchildren of survivors
other relatives of survivors.

The signers’ names (358 to date; more continue to sign on) and locations are posted here, on the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.


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Inside the Gaza ‘meat grinder’

Dr Ghassan Abu Sitta:  “All the areas around the hospital were being bombed all the time. We then got a call to the emergency room and we were told that the administration and the out patients building had been hit – a lot of families had taken refuge in that area – so we had to go and help.”

Injured Palestinians taken to hospital after Israeli airstrikesAl-Shifa Hospital, July 2014.

During each of Israel’s three major assaults on Gaza, Dr Ghassan Abu Sitta has volunteered as a surgeon at the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.  A Palestinian reconstructive surgeon, he lives in Lebanon.

This interview with him was conducted by journalist Yazan al-Saadi, and published in the English edition of Al-Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper.

As of August 18, 2014, the number of Palestinians killed by the Israeli assault on Gaza has risen to 2,016, including 541 children, 250 women and 95 elderly men. Wounded: 10,196.  The death toll keeps rising as more people die from catastrophic injuries.­

 


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Gaza: Why do Israel and the U.S. insist on war?

Gaza, July 27Gaza City, July 27, 2014.  Photo: Oxfam International.

“For the last eight years, Israel and the U.S. had repeated opportunities to opt for a diplomatic solution in Gaza.  Each time, they have chosen war, with devastating consequences for the families of Gaza.”

Why?

The answer is here, in a well-documented account by Sandy Tolan, author of The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East, and an associate professor at the University of Southern California

The only practical response that does not depend on goodwill or common sense from the Israeli or American authorities: the growing international grassroots movement for BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions.

 


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Silence for Gaza

Gaza, Shujaiyya 2Shujaiyya, Gaza, August 1, 2014. Photo: Mohammed Saber.

Silence for Gaza, a poem by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, 1941 – 2008

Gaza is far from its relatives and close to its enemies, because whenever Gaza explodes, it becomes an island and it never stops exploding. It scratched the enemy’s face, broke his dreams and stopped his satisfaction with time.

Because in Gaza time is something different.

Because in Gaza time is not a neutral element.

It does not compel people to cool contemplation, but rather to explosion and a collision with reality.

Time there does not take children from childhood to old age, but rather makes them men in their first confrontation with the enemy.

Time in Gaza is not relaxation, but storming the burning noon. Because in Gaza values are different, different, different.

The only value for the occupied is the extent of his resistance to occupation. That is the only competition there. Gaza has been addicted to knowing this cruel, noble value. It did not learn it from books, hasty school seminars, loud propaganda megaphones, or songs. It learned it through experience alone and through work that is not done for advertisement and image.

Gaza has no throat. Its pores are the ones that speak in sweat, blood, and fires. Hence the enemy hates it to death and fears it to criminality, and tries to sink it into the sea, the desert, or blood. And hence its relatives and friends love it with a coyness that amounts to jealousy and fear at times, because Gaza is the brutal lesson and the shining example for enemies and friends alike.

Gaza is not the most beautiful city.

Its shore is not bluer than the shores of Arab cities.

Its oranges are not the most beautiful in the Mediterranean basin.

Gaza is not the richest city.

It is not the most elegant or the biggest, but it equals the history of an entire homeland, because it is more ugly, impoverished, miserable, and vicious in the eyes of enemies. Because it is the most capable, among us, of disturbing the enemy’s mood and his comfort. Because it is his nightmare. Because it is mined oranges, children without a childhood, old men without old age and women without desires. Because of all this it is the most beautiful, the purest and richest among us and the one most worthy of love.

We do injustice to Gaza when we look for its poems, so let us not disfigure Gaza’s beauty. What is most beautiful in it is that it is devoid of poetry at a time when we tried to triumph over the enemy with poems, so we believed ourselves and were overjoyed to see the enemy letting us sing. We let him triumph, then when we dried our lips of poems we saw that the enemy had finished building cities, forts and streets. We do injustice to Gaza when we turn it into a myth, because we will hate it when we discover that it is no more than a small poor city that resists.

We do injustice when we wonder: What made it into a myth? If we had dignity, we would break all our mirrors and cry or curse it if we refuse to revolt against ourselves. We do injustice to Gaza if we glorify it, because being enchanted by it will take us to the edge of waiting and Gaza doesn’t come to us. Gaza does not liberate us. Gaza has no horses, airplanes, magic wands, or offices in capital cities. Gaza liberates itself from our attributes and liberates our language from its Gazas at the same time. When we meet it – in a dream – perhaps it won’t recognize us, because Gaza was born out of fire, while we were born out of waiting and crying over abandoned homes.

It is true that Gaza has its special circumstances and its own revolutionary traditions. But its secret is not a mystery: Its resistance is popular and firmly joined together and knows what it wants (it wants to expel the enemy out of its clothes). The relationship of resistance to the people is that of skin to bones and not a teacher to students. Resistance in Gaza did not turn into a profession or an institution.

It did not accept anyone’s tutelage and did not leave its fate hinging on anyone’s signature or stamp.

It does not care that much if we know its name, picture, or eloquence. It did not believe that it was material for media. It did not prepare for cameras and did not put smiling paste on its face.

Neither does it want that, nor we.

Hence, Gaza is bad business for merchants and hence it is an incomparable moral treasure for Arabs.

What is beautiful about Gaza is that our voices do not reach it. Nothing distracts it; nothing takes its fist away from the enemy’s face. Not the forms of the Palestinian state we will establish whether on the eastern side of the moon, or the western side of Mars when it is explored. Gaza is devoted to rejection… hunger and rejection, thirst and rejection, displacement and rejection, torture and rejection, siege and rejection, death and rejection.

Enemies might triumph over Gaza (the storming sea might triumph over an island… they might chop down all its trees).

They might break its bones.

They might implant tanks on the insides of its children and women. They might throw it into the sea, sand, or blood.

But it will not repeat lies and say “Yes” to invaders.

It will continue to explode.

It is neither death, nor suicide. It is Gaza’s way of declaring that it deserves to live. It will continue to explode.

It is neither death, nor suicide. It is Gaza’s way of declaring that it deserves to live.

[Poem translated by Sinan Antoon From Hayrat al-`A’id (The Returnee’s Perplexity), Riyad al-Rayyis, 2007]

Thanks to Mondoweiss.


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Gaza: what next?

According to mainstream media, the terms of a ‘cease-fire’ are currently in negotiation between the elected government of Gaza and the elected government of Israel.

In a tweet posted August 5, a spokesman for the Israeli military wrote: “Mission accomplished.”

Gaza in ruins“Mission accomplished”

What the latest Israeli mission accomplished:

  • 1,938 Palestinians killed, 1,626 of them civilians, including 460 children and 246 women
  • 7,920 wounded, mostly civilians, including 2,111 children and 1,415 women;
  • 800 houses destroyed and thousands of others severely damaged
  • Many thousands of Palestinian civilians forcibly displaced
  • The impact of Israel’s intentional destruction of health and education facilities, and water, sewage and electric infrastructure is beyond imagining.

August 5, the same day Israel declared “Mission accomplished,” US President Obama signed a $225 million cheque, approved by Congress, to resupply Israel with missiles.

What next?

In a searing cry for elemental justice, Raji Sourani, director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, writes from inside the “cage” that is Gaza: “A ceasefire is not enough.  It will not end the suffering.  It will only move us from the horror of death by bombardment to the horror of death by slow strangulation.  We cannot go back to being prisoners in a cage that Israel rattles when it chooses with brutal destructive offensives.”

Please read his eloquent call to the world, and give it wings by passing it on.  It’s the least we can do.


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STOP IT!

In my opinion, the resistance is just a temporary phenomenon to achieve particular goals: to end the blockade and allow Palestinians to live in freedom and dignity in a state of their own.” – Nour Omar Shaban, 16 years old, Gaza, August 2, 2014.

When the current attacks are called off, Israel hopes to be free to pursue its criminal policies in the occupied territories without interference, and with the U.S. support it has enjoyed in the past.”  – Noam Chomsky, 86 years old, Lexington, Massachusetts, August 3, 2014.

Under the Israeli bombsUnder Israel bombs, Gaza City, July 2014.

Day 25 of Israel’s assault on Gaza.  So far:

  • 1,888 Palestinians killed, 1586 of them civilians, including 447 children and 235 women
  • 7815 wounded, mostly civilians, including 2079 children and 1398 women

Through the toxic fog of propaganda, compelling voices speak out for truth and sanity.  Here are two:

From a young Gazan: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/25118-war-and-peace-the-youth-of-gaza.

From the venerable Noam Chomsky: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/25343-noam-chomsky-|-nightmare-in-gaza.

What is to be done?

Israel’s war crimes will only end when its illegal occupation of Palestine is stopped.

The occupation will only stop when it becomes impossible for Israel to sustain it.

The ruling authorities in Europe and North America offer no solution; they continue to support what Israeli historian Ilan Pappe calls “Israel’s incremental genocide on Gaza.”

For now, the only effective lever we have to end the occupation is the ever-growing international movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions.


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A pledge…

“…to the family of the one thousandth victim of Israel’s genocidal slaughter in Gaza…”

Ilan Pappe, Israeli author, professor of history, director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter, England.

On Day 20 of the Israeli assault on Gaza, the toll:

  • 1,014 Palestinians killed, 832 of them civilians, including 221 children and 121 women
  • 4,706 others wounded, mostly civilians, including 1,263 children and 939 women

Gaza, ShujaiyyaShujaiya neighbourhood, Gaza

In the face of such overwhelming crimes, words seem painfully inadequate, even pointless. But Israel’s colonial war on Palestinians is partly sustained by words, in torrents of propaganda from governments and the corporate media. In resisting it, words can also have immense power to convey facts, reason, and compassion.

Ilan Pappe has just written such a message “to the family of the one thousandth victim of Israel’s genocidal slaughter in Gaza.” A fragment:

“…I feel the urge today to make a pledge to you, which none of the Germans my father knew during the time of the Nazi regime was willing to make to him when the thugs committed genocide against his family. This is not much of a pledge at your moment of grief, but it is the best I can offer, and saying nothing is not an option. And doing nothing is even less than an option…”

Pappe’s pledge is here.