Monday, July 20, 2015

Gazing at Gaza

About a month ago, on June 22, I got in my trusty little rental car parked at trendy Dizengoff Center in the bustling city of Tel Aviv, drove a few blocks west, and then soon after seeing the Mediterranean Sea straight ahead turned left and pretty much drove due south for about an hour all the way to the Erez Crossing on the north border of the Gaza Strip.
On the way to Gaza, I buzzed through the outskirts of Ashdod and Ashkelon, two of the five main Philistine cities mentioned several times in the Old Testament. Gaza was also one of those five cities that were constantly warring with the Israelites and the Kingdom of Judah.
Gaza is mentioned 22 times in the Bible. It was the city where Samson was imprisoned after he was tricked by Delilah and captured by the Philistines and where he died when he caused the pagan temple to crumble. According to biblical accounts, Gaza came under Israelite rule during the reign of King David in the early 11th century BC.
When I arrived at Erez Crossing, I parked, went through a couple of security gates to the passport control window, and boldly asked for permission to enter Gaza. But as it turned out, it takes a permit requested by the U.S. Consulate for U.S. citizens to enter Gaza. Thus I didn’t get to go in as I wanted to.
So, soon after heading back north, I took the first road to the west and drove toward the Mediterranean Sea again, hoping to get a good view of Gaza. At the crest of a small hill I was able to see tall buildings on the horizon.
As you see in the picture, not very far from the green area in front of me as I looked south, there was a brown area with tall, grey buildings at the top of the hill in the distance. I was clearly gazing at Gaza.
Less than a year before, on July 8, 2014, Israel began a major offensive against Hamas in Gaza. The air raids and ground force of the Israeli army against the Gaza militants who were launching bombs into Israeli lasted for 50 days.
Both sides suffered damage and casualties—but certainly not equally. According to a U.N. report, there were 2,205 Gazans killed, including 1,483 civilians. By stark contrast, there were 71 Israeli deaths, including only five civilians.
Driving through various parts of Tel Aviv, I saw no evidence whatsoever of damage done by rockets launched toward Israel from Gaza. But this 7/7/15 picture from Gaza shows clearly the sad lingering effects from the conflict there.
Mark LeVine, a professor of Middle Eastern History at University of California, Irvine, recently referred to the Gaza Strip as “the world’s largest open air prison.” And he writes in opposition to the war cycle, which legitimizes violence against the Palestinians in Gaza.
“The Children of Gaza” by Jen Marlowe, a noted journalist, is a poignant article in the July 20/27 issue of The Nation. She refers to the Israeli attacks in February and December 2008 and in March and November 2012 along with last year’s “Operation Protective Edge” as being “permanent war” in Gaza.
When Marlowe asked a Gazan family what could bring them hope, here is part of what they said: “Open the gates. End the siege. . . . Be permitted to visit Al Aqsa [the holy Muslim mosque in Jerusalem]. Have rights like other people.”
Should that be too much for them to ask—or for us to pray for?

15 comments:

  1. Indeed, it is not too much to ask, and it is not too much to pray for. Thanks, Leroy, for clarity.

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  2. I eagerly await the comments of your thinking friend Rabbi Mark Levin. I learn much from eavesdropping on your "conversations."

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  3. Thanks Leroy for your first hand analysis of this part of the world.
    I too don't understand why Israel cannot be more tolerate of their neighbors and allow them more Freedoms.
    We may not All be children of GOD, but were All created in his image.
    Blessings to All,
    John(Tim)Carr

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  4. Like so many other places in the world, this location is tragic. Unlike the others in Turkey, Jordan, Butan, Thailand, Sudan, Kenya, and Tanzania, among others, some in Gaza continue to attack their "captors"/ isolators regularly in an unprovoked manner. Those who attack seem to be a minority, but like to target civilians, and use their own innocent civilians as shields. Maybe Israel should have never withdrawn from this territory. There are not good answers. Prayer does seem to be a good proposal. Sadly, like all the others around the world, this will not remembered long by the American Church, who have long since forgotten the Arab Christians in the region. Lord God, hear our prayer.

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  5. The Gazan family talks about the peace, the peaceful relationship between Israel and the Palestinians. We all know that the peace does not come with rocket attacking, but with negotiations. I feel very sad that the innocent Palestinians had to be killed because of the policy of the ruling group there.

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    1. " . . . innocent Palestinians had to be killed . . ." By what logic?

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    2. Ed, thanks for reading and commenting. But I would suggest reading LeVine's article that I linked to. In that article he asserts that the demonization of the Palestinian side "enables Israel to argue that its own violence is not only proportionate and justified, but ultimately on behalf of the very Palestinians who are its primary victims."

      Certainly I don't condone the violence used by Hamas, but I think it is a dangerous argument to say that the disproportionate use of Israeli military force is necessary in order to "save" the innocent people of Gaza.

      While I do not condone the violence, I think I can understand it to a certain degree: it has risen from anger, frustration, helplessness, hopelessness, and desperation.

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  6. Facebook Friend Mike Greer posted these comments on FB:

    "Leroy. There are already signs that agents of ISIS will be the next force that prevails in Gaza. I wish I could be optimistic, but the opportunity for a peace that could bring security to Israel and a relief for the innocents who reside in that hellacious prison (Gaza & the West Bank) has likely passed for good.

    "As long as those who believe that there is no solution but a military solution to the problems that plague us as a human race prevail (here in the U.S., in Israel, and in ISIS) the road ahead is quite predictable.

    'The illusion that what happens to the children in Gaza is of no consequence for us here in this nation is an insult to God and a testimony to the human potential for self-justifying wickedness."

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  7. A number of years ago, the Kansas City Star ran an experiment with the US Federal budget. It recruited a number of liberals, conservatives and moderates, mixed them up and set them at dozens of tables, and put each table to the task of negotiated a balanced budget. Every single table succeeded. Solutions varied, but all found one. Now try that in Congress, with armies of lobbyists, interest group pledges, and large donations swirling around.

    The news periodically reports some cross-cultural effort in Israel and the Palestinian territories. One I remember involved a Jew and a Muslim operating a tourist agency that visited sites in both cultures. One this week involved Jordanians coming to Israel to teach Karate to mixed groups of Jews, Muslims, Christians, etc. on an Israeli beach. This is what ordinary people do when they are given a chance.

    The forces of darkness and despair wield doubt and fear as weapons of political power. It happens in America, it happens in Israel, it happens in Gaza. Ordinary people are kept dazed and confused, far from the levers of power. Sometimes the social contract finally breaks down, and unspeakable horrors follow. Sometimes the forces of darkness and despair are destroyed in the chaos, more often they are merely reinforced.

    As an example of how political problems can be solved, I like to think about the governance controversies that have swirled for decades around Washington, DC. Ironically, that issue has already been solved once, and it works so well no one seems to remember it. Arlington County, Virginia was once part of Washington. Years later it was decided that this was too much land for the capital, and it was returned to Virginia. Washington being Washington, the land was later needed. Today the Pentagon sits in Arlington, Virginia without any problems. Indeed, government buildings are all over the country, and city, state and Federal authorities almost never have conflicts over the operations. Now, what would happen if Washington, DC were returned to Maryland under the same terms as Arlington to Virginia? See, there are ways to solve problems when people really want to solve problems. However, the colonial status of Washington is not a problem for Congress. It is a feature. I suspect that peace in the Middle East could be just about that easy if the powers-that-be actually wanted it. Same with the Sunni/Shiite conflict. Why has no one suggested a regional peace conference to find a way out of the problem? Could it be that those profiting from the status quo like things just the way they are?

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  8. Thanks to Mike Greer, I just now saw and read the following article by an anti-Zionist Jewish man named Philip Weiss, whom I don't remember hearing of before. It is a very strong article in support of the people of Gaza. The link is http://mondoweiss.net/2014/07/concentration-delusion-recognize

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  9. In trying to understand conflict, we like to have a simple narrative and identify one side as the hero/victim and the other as the villain. Such simple narratives are usually not accurate. It is clear that the Palestinian people have suffered more; but if the current leadership of the Palestinian people had the military resources of Israel and Israel had the military resources of Palestine, I believe that there would be even worse suffering and similar to what is going on in Iraq, Syria or Iran.
    After watching The 50 Years War: Israel and The Arabs
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSAD9pS8NIw
    that is now a 70 year war, that could be a 100 year war in 30 years, I wonder what could be the solution? One answer could be that we need men and women like Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat and Israeli Prime Yitzhak Rabin who are willing to risk all for the sake of peace. Unfortunately, both men had to pay the ultimate price for the sake of peace. We need to support men and women who are willing to risk all in the struggle for peace.
    For what I think is a fairly neutral point of view of this the history of the 2014 conflict, please see the following overview
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Israel%E2%80%93Gaza_conflict
    I have not read this in detail so it may have information I am not in agreement but it does highlight the issues that caused the latest major conflict and the history. It is sad that if only 50% of the effort that went into making war would go into trying to improve the quality of life on both sides, Israel and Palestine would be so much better off.

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  10. Thank for writing, Doug. I will try to write more tomorrow, but part of what I would like to say in response to what you wrote is related to the following statement I just now saw on Facebook as posted by the Christian Peacemaker Teams:

    "Palestinians and Jews used to live peacefully alongside one another in Hebron. In 1948 – al Nakba (the catastrophe) - 750,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes in the violent establishment of the state of Israel. In 1967 Israel annexed the West Bank and Gaza, and the military occupation of these lands began."

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  13. I feel for all people who have been displacement in this world. At this site (http://www.internal-displacement.org/global-figures) is a list of the sad numbers caused by conflict, generalized violence, human rights violations and natural hazard-induced disasters. When I worked in Austria and Spain in the early 1990s, I got to know some of these people from Iraq and Romania. Looking at the list of displace people, it is so sad that leaders in these countries have chosen conflict over peace and security for their people. I believe that the leaders of Syria did have a chance to make peace with Israel a number of times but chose conflict instead of peace. The Syrian civil war is one of the consequences of this choice. When Israel was militarily weak, the Arab community had a similar choice in 1948, 1967 and even later in the 1990s and the early 2000s but they chose to try to gain an advantage via conflict and lost. Israeli leadership have also made some bad choices that added to the conflict. No side is without fault and the people of Palestine and Israel have suffered because of these choices.

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