By Samah Sabawi, November 17, 2012 12:00AM
A bomb falls close to our neighbourhood in Gaza; I check Facebook to see if everyone has survived. A young cousin, Nihal, writes in her status: “Shoot, I should have had my nap earlier today, didn’t know it was going to be a sleepless night.”. Another cousin jokes: “We were happy it rained in Gaza but weren’t expecting the water falling to turn into bombs.”
For the 1.5 million Palestinians trapped in Gaza, humour helps to mask the terror they are experiencing. The bombs keep falling; they have nowhere to run and no place to hide.
At the time of writing, Israel’s aerial and ground assault on Gaza has claimed the lives of more than 10 Palestinians, including seven-year-old Ranan Arafat 7-year-old child – and an 11-month-old baby. Charred bodies of dead and injured women and children are pouring in to al-Shifa Hospital and other medical centres in the impoverished and underequipped Gaza Strip. Three Israelis have also been killed by Hamas in retaliation.
The toll will rise, no doubt. Israeli sources have confirmed that since Wednesday, Israel’s army has struck more than 100 targets in Gaza, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirming that the operation involving Israeli ground forces, aerial strikes and navy gunboats is likely to expand.
What prompted this brutal Israeli assault on the trapped population of Gaza, and who is to blame? Israel insists it is all being done in the name of self-defence. The media too has branded it “tit-for-tat violence”. Lacking from all the coverage is an important component: context.
The majority of people in Gaza are in fact stateless refugees whose homes were taken from them by the early Jewish settlers 65 years ago, in order to establish what is now Israel. To add insult to injury, those refugees are still living under siege and military occupation by the same state that stole their homes and chased them into the far corners of their historic homeland, confining them in refugee camps, denying them the right to citizenship, the right to self-determination, the right to freedom of movement and even the right to basic security.
A trigger for this recent escalation against Gaza came on November 8, when the Israeli army killed a 13-year-old Palestinian boy while he was playing football with his friends. In that same week, Israeli forces killed three children playing football. Really, what argument for self-defence can there be?
Even the killing of Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari was puzzling, to say the least. Hours before his assassination, Hamas had agreed to a ceasefire with Israel, brokered by Egypt, and Jabari was responsible for keeping the border secure by cracking down on militants firing rockets into Israel. After agreeing to the ceasefire, Israel broke it by killing the man who was supposed to have enforced it. If anything, Jabari’s assassination will draw Israel further into this blood path without an end.
So, why did Israel go to war? Some Israeli commentators think it is the usual election side-effect. Aluf Benn writes in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz: “When the cannons roar, we see only Netanyahu and (Defence Minister Ehud) Barak on the screen, and all the other politicians have to applaud them.”
Israel’s power-wielders need the war to keep the power. Jabari was killed because Israel can’t have peace and survive. Peace requires justice and a change of ideology. Peace requires compromise, and nasty words such as freedom, justice and equality tend to sneak into people’s mindsets when there is peace. Israel’s leadership knows it can only survive as long as there are threats, wars and fear.
I check my laptop once again. The family is doing well but they are tired after a day of not sleeping and edgy because the bombing has not stopped. I open a message from a friend, Ayman. He tells me that two of his children are at his mother’s house and the other two are home with him. He jokes: “This way we increase our chances of survival.” I ask him: “Which place is safer – your building or your mother’s?” He writes back: “Nowhere. No place is safe!”
Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian-Australian writer and political analyst. She is a policy adviser for al-Shabaka, Palestinian Policy Network.