January 21, 2009
Ramzy Baroud | Arab News
As I sorted through another batch of fresh photos from Gaza, my three-year-old son, Sammy, walked into my room uninvited. I was seeking a specific image, one that would humanize Palestinians as living, breathing human beings, neither masked nor mutilated. To no avail. All the photos I received spoke of the reality that is Gaza today: Homes, schools and civilian infrastructure bombed beyond description. All the faces in the photos were either of dead or dying people, mostly women and children. Then, I paused as I reached a horrifying photo in the slideshow, that of a young boy and his sister huddled on a hospital stretcher in the queue to be identified and buried; their faces darkened as if they were charcoal and their eyes still widened with the horror that they must have experienced as they were slowly burned by white phosphorus.
It was just then that Sammy walked into my room snooping around for a missing toy.
“What is this, Daddy?” he inquired.
I rushed to click away the horrific image only to find myself introducing a no less shocking one. Fretfully, I turned the monitor off then turned to my son; he stood puzzled. His eyes sparkled inquisitively as he tried to make sense of what he had just seen.
He needed to know about these children whose little bodies had been burned beyond recognition.
“Where are their mommies and daddies?” “Why are they all so smoky all the time?”
I explained to him that they are Palestinians, and that they are hurting “just a little,” and that their “mommies and daddies will be right back.”
The fact is that these children and thousands like them in Gaza have experienced the most profound pain, a pain that we may never comprehend in our lives.
“I think that Gaza is now being used as a laboratory for new weapons,” Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor who recently returned from Gaza, told reporters in Oslo. “This is a new generation of very powerful small explosives that detonates with extreme power and dissipates its power within a range of five to 10 meters. We have not seen the casualties affected directly by the bomb because they are normally torn to pieces and do not survive, but we have seen a number of very brutal amputations.”
The dreadful weapon is known as Dense Inert Metal Explosives (DIME), one of several new weapons that Israel is using in Gaza, the world’s most densely population urban zone.
Israel could not have possibly found a better place to experiment with DIME or the use of white phosphorus in civilian areas than in Gaza, for many have disowned the hapless inhabitants of the Strip. Indeed, the power of the media, political coercion, intimidation and manipulation can demonize even an imprisoned nation fighting for its life in the tiny spaces left of their land. No wonder, Israel refuses to allow foreign journalists into the tiny enclave, and has brazenly bombed the remaining international symbols in Gaza, primarily, the UN headquarters there. As long as there are no witnesses to the war crimes committed in Gaza, Israel is confident it can sell a fabricated story to the world that it is, as always, the victim, one that has been terrorized and, strangely enough, demonized as well.
The Jerusalem Post reported remarks made by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Jan. 15: “Livni said that these were hard times for Israel, but that the government was forced to act in Gaza in order to protect Israeli citizens. She stated that Gaza was ruled by a terrorist regime and that Israel must carry on a dialogue with moderate sources while simultaneously fighting terror.” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert conveyed the same peculiar message as he declared his one-sided cease-fire on Jan. 17.
Never mind that the “terrorist regime” was democratically elected, and had honored a cease-fire agreement with Israel for five months, receiving nothing in return but a lethal siege, interrupted by an occasional round of death and destruction. Livni is neither perceptive nor shrewd; nor are blunt-speaking Ehud Barak or stiff-faced Mark Regev convincing men of wisdom. Their logic is bizarre and wouldn’t stand the test of reason. True. But they have unfettered access to media platforms where they are hardly challenged by journalists who know well that protecting one’s citizens doesn’t require violating international and humanitarian laws, targeting medical workers, sniping children and demolishing homes with entire families holed inside. Securing one’s borders doesn’t require imprisoning and starving one’s neighbors and turning their homes to smoking heaps of rubble.
Olmert wants to “break the will” of Hamas, i.e. the Palestinians, since the Hamas government was elected and backed by the majority of the Palestinian people. Is not 60 years of suffering and survival enough to convince Olmert that the will of the Palestinians cannot be broken? How many heaps of wreckage and mutilated bodies will be enough to convince the Israeli prime minister that those who fight for their freedom will either be free or will die trying?
Avigdor Lieberman, the rising star in Israeli politics, is not yet convinced, however. He thinks more can be done to “secure” his country that was established in 1948 on the ruins of destroyed Palestinian towns and villages. At least he has a plan. “We must continue to fight Hamas just like the United States did with the Japanese in World War II,” the head of an ultranationalist opposition party was quoted as saying by The Jerusalem Post.
Lieberman, a selective reader of history, could only think of the 1945 atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Something else happened during those years that Lieberman wished to omit: It is called the Holocaust, a term that many are increasingly using to describe the Israeli massacres in the Gaza Strip.
It is strange that conventional Israeli wisdom still dictates: “The Arabs understand only the language of force.”
If that were true, then they would have conceded their rights after the first massacre in 1948. But after more than 60 years of massacres, new and old, they continue to resist.
“Freedom or death,” is the popular Palestinian mantra. It is not words they simply utter, but a rule by which they live and die. Gaza is the proof and Israeli leaders are yet to understand.
My son persisted, “Why are Palestinians so smoky all the time, Daddy?”
“Silly boy. When you grow up, you’ll understand.”
— Ramzy Baroud is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com.