Vail Daily letter: Thoughts on Gaza City
I am not sure what compelled me to write the following letter. Perhaps having been so close to death, even at one point thinking I was dead, has given me a greater appreciation for the sanctity of life. Since my instincts, guided no doubt by the hand of God, saved my life, I tend to trust them as I have in writing this letter. My main purpose is to stimulate thinking and to change perceptions. If I can accomplish this, my effort will not have been in vain.
When I was 14 years old, I had a middle school teacher, Mr. Johnson I recall, an old military guy who served in World War II. Somehow he had gotten a hold of some images of the German World War II death camps taken when they were liberated by Western forces toward the end of the war. These were not prints, but original photos. There were photographs of the gas chambers, the showers, the ovens, the boxes of gold fillings, piles of children’s shoes and dolls left outside the showers, etc.
The most poignant to me were the photographs of the emaciated Jewish prisoners, tiers of them, who were photographed right after the doors to their barracks were opened by the American liberators. The look of death in their eyes was seared into my psyche forever.
Since then, I have carried these in my memory like a brand. To say I have empathy for the Jewish people would be an understatement. However, despite this empathy, I am very concerned about the current situation in Israeli.
To begin, a classical description of a ghetto is a place where displaced people are confined in a closed space with monitored ingress and egress. One of history’s most famous examples of this is the Warsaw Ghetto of the late 1930s and early 1940s in Warsaw, Poland. Displaced Jews were crammed into a small section of Warsaw where they were closely monitored and forced to live in crowded conditions isolated from the outside world. It was a place of squalor and despair.
Gaza City has an eerie resemblance to the Warsaw Ghetto. The same conditions exist; confirmed displaced people, monitored access and policed borders. These factors over a period of time (decades in this instance), must instill in the people living inside the ghetto a sense of desperation and despair. As much as it grieves me to say, the parallels between the Warsaw Ghetto and Gaza City cannot be dismissed.
I find it ironic that some Israelis are behaving in the same fashion as the people who tried to exterminate them. The people of Israel should be, and it should be noted that in many cases are, spiritually and morally the polar opposite of the Nazi regime that tried to eliminate them. The situation in Gaza calls into question the moral superiority of the Israeli state. At times, her spokesmen have seemed smug and condescending. To say that Hamas is using Gaza children as shields and then try to break those shields apart by violence could be deemed to be hypocritical.
Thinking that you have a sense of racial entitlement may put you in bad company — unfortunately the Warsaw Ghetto comparison does not seem to be that far off the mark.
The desperation that the people of Gaza City must have felt to allow ideological zealots to become their caretakers probably cannot be put into words; at least none that I could find. Unfortunately, Hamas has completely dropped the ball. To put your ideological and political concerns above the interests of the people who entrusted their care to you is simply wrong, probably criminal.
Although I truly disagree about the means used to accomplish its goals, the need for the state of Israel to address the genuine threat posed by having a military complex built underneath Gaza City is understandable. By its actions and its polemics, Hamas has proved to be an enemy of the Israeli state.
In fairness to Hamas, it should be pointed out the state of Israel was founded by guerrilla activities that today would be called “terrorism.” As part of the Jewish insurgency between the years, 1939 and 1947, underground guerrilla groups engaged in terrorists acts against the British up until the formation of the state of Israel in 1948. Certain guerrilla leaders latter became the leading statesmen for Israel such as Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir.
Moreover, many of the complaints of Hamas are legitimate and should be addressed. As you read this, imagine your daughter or someone dear to you, a straight-A student, getting accepted to a nursing school in a neighboring state or country. She even has a scholarship. Great, except for one little thing — she cannot leave town. This is what has been happening in Gaza City for generations.
In Gaza City, basic necessities are restricted and liberty has been constrained. There are no heroes in this tragedy. Both sides have blood on their hands.
This situation is an ideological and political Gordian knot. Cutting through this tangle is going to take collective will, something which is sadly lacking. This task will be difficult at best.
The tragic situation in Gaza City evokes a macabre dance; the Hamas and Israelis cha-chaing over the rubble and dead bodies of the Gaza ghetto. I saw the prime minister of Hamas doing a BBC interview recently. It was one of the greatest examples of demagoguery I have heard; right up there in Joe McCarthy territory, admitting in front of Allah and everyone, that the agents of Hamas murdered the three Israeli teenagers. He did not even have the good sense to lie about it. Then he went on to say that his Hamas boys were safe in their tunnels.
The Israelis behind the Iron Dome and the Hamas fighters in their tunnels have not suffered much of a human toll. Unfortunately, the people of Gaza City, pawns in the game, are above the ground and have suffered dearly.
The situation seems to have been highly choreographed: a perfect political and ideological storm. Upon provocation, the Israelis jumped into the blood-tinged pool like a cannonball and what a splash they made. By adopting a military response, the Israeli forces created carnage and havoc upon the people who live in the “Warsaw ghetto.”
Despite its popularity in Israel, the Israeli state’s reactionary approach has led to worldwide condemnation and renewed threats against the Jewish people.
To reach a lasting solution, it is imperative that there be a balance between Israel’s security and the people of Gaza’s liberty. In order to end the suffering and destruction, a solution must be found whatever it takes to end this imbroglio.
The military wing of Hamas needs to take a sabbatical for a while. They are needed in Lebanon and Syria. To get Hamas to walk away, Israel needs to concede to their just and long overdue demands such as freedom of movement.
The situation has become so dire that serious international cooperation seems essential. Since the Israelis won’t trust either the PLO or Hamas to police and monitor the border crossings and the status quo within Gaza, the military wing of Hamas would be well served to turn their stewardship of Gaza to another entity
The rebuilding and stabilization of Gaza is going to be an immense challenge organizationally and logistically and it seems certain that the two Palestinian organizations will not be able to handle the task while both Israel and Egypt would be mistrustful of a Mideastern regional alliance making such a solution unlikely.
The most likely scenario to achieve a balance between Israel’s security and Gaza’s liberty would be international intervention. The security of the border and the rebuilding effort needs to be supervised by a neutral international entity.
The rebuilding process of infrastructure, property and the damaged psyches of the people of Gaza will be enormous and will take the collective will of the international, regional and local entities to pull this off.
The first tangible benefit of the endeavor could be the technical education and employment of the youth of Gaza in the rebuilding effort. The unemployment rate among young people could be reduced drastically, and for the first time in decades, the youth of Gaza will be able to learn usable skills and put them to work to achieve an opportunity for economic prosperity and to exchange hope for despair.
The most experienced and best equipped group to undertake this effort is the United Nations or a coalition under its jurisdiction. While it may seem unrealistic, it could serve as an issue that the Security Council could agree on with the potential to reinstate the U.N’s political viability. If the United Nations with the backing of the Security Council were to extend such an offer, it would be difficult for Israel or the Palestinians to refuse. The world as a whole would stand to gain from a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that respects the need for security and permanence and that emphasizes reconciliation.