Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thoughts on Gaza...

I've been listening to news about Israeli air strikes on Gaza with sorrow and concern.  The last report I heard on the radio led with the fact that three Israelis were killed.  The report mentioned the 13 Palestinian deaths, two of which were deaths of children, much later, almost as an afterthought. A report I heard in the morning didn't discuss any Palestinian deaths except that of a Hamas leader.

Let me be clear before I continue that I don't condone violence. Period.  I think there are better ways of resolving conflict.  However, after doing some research, I can understand why some Palestinians in the Gaza Strip might be angry enough to use violence, the violence that Israel says is the reason for its current airstrikes.

Israel amped up its blockade of Gaza in 2007 when Hamas came to power.  The blockade means Israel tightly controls what goes into and out of the Gaza Strip.  The stated reason for the blockade is Israeli security, to prevent weapons and anything that might be used against Israel from getting into the area.  I get that reason.

What I cannot understand is how Israel justifies restricting food and other humanitarian aid to Gaza. In 2008 Israel drafted a report analyzing food needs of residents of the Gaza Strip, in which is stated that 106 lorryloads of food and other humanitarian supplies were needed daily for Gazans. However, according to Gisha, an Israeli human rights group against the Gaza blockade, an average of 67 lorryloads entered daily during that time, lower than Israel's projection of need, meaning that people's basic needs were not being met. Robert Turner, who works in Gaza for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, stated:

"We recognise that Israel has legitimate security concerns but we have said consistently that the blockade is collective punishment of the population. It's illegal under international law and we think it's counterproductive."

In addition, some of Israels' food restrictions seem random.  For example, cinnamon is allowed into the Gaza Strip. Coriander is not. The last time I checked, coriander was a spice, not anything that could be used against Israel.  Why isn't it allowed? Is it just another way (one of many I could cite) for Israel  to show who's got the power?

Though the blockade has eased minimally, conditions in Gaza continue to be difficult.  In August, the U.N. released a report stating that, if conditions in Gaza remain as they are now, by 2020 Gaza will not be livable.  According to U.N. humanitarian aid coordinator Maxwell Gaylard:

"Action needs to be taken right now on fundamental aspects of life: water sanitation, electricity, education, health and other aspects." 

I cannot imagine living in a place where my movement is restricted, my food consumption is restricted, my access to clean water, health care and electricity is restricted, and my educational opportunities are restricted. If my life were so severely limited, might I be more of a proponent of violence?  I don't know. I hope not, but I don't know.

I just looked at the news again.  The article I read says that 15 Palestinians are dead.  However, both the title and the first boldface line of the report highlight that "three Israelis [were] killed."

Are Israeli deaths more noteworthy because they are Israeli?  Because Israeli deaths are rarer than Palestinian deaths? Because Israeli lives are more important than Palestinian lives?  Does the placement of a government's money (to Israel) qualify whose lives are more important?

Personally, I grieve all the deaths and injuries. Every life is equally sacred.

I pray for an end to the violence.  I pray for my friends in Israel and Palestine.  I pray for peace, a peace that holds up Israelis and Palestinians as equal in life and death, a peace whose path I cannot envision, but nonetheless believe, through the grace of God and the work of people, someday, somehow, is possible.

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