[HCCN] fw To Gaza with Love

Judy Robbins jrobbins at mainecoastmail.com
Wed Feb 18 19:18:56 EST 2009

Published on Tuesday, February 17, 2009 by CommonDreams.org
To Gaza, With Love
by Medea Benjamin
When I traveled to Gaza last week, everywhere I went, a photo haunted  
me. I saw it in a brochure called "Gaza will not die" that Hamas  
gives out to visitors at the border crossing. A poster-sized version  
was posted outside a makeshift memorial at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza  
City. And now that I am back home, the image comes to me when I look  
at children playing in the park, when I glance at the school across  
the street, when I go to sleep at night.

It is a photo of a young Palestinian girl who is literally buried  
alive in the rubble from a bomb blast, with just her head protruding  
from the ruins. Her eyes are closed, her mouth partially open, as if  
she were in a deep sleep. Dried blood covers her lips, her cheeks,  
her hair. Someone with a glove is reaching down to touch her  
forehead, showing one final gesture of kindness in the midst of such  

What was this little girl's name, I wonder. How old was she? Was she  
sleeping when the bomb hit her home? Did she die a quick death or a  
slow, agonizing one? Where are her parents, her siblings? How are  
they faring?

Of the 1,330 Palestinians killed by the Israeli military during the  
22-day invasion of Gaza, 437 were children. Let me repeat that: 437  
children-each as beautiful and precious as our own.

As a Jew, an American and a mother, I felt compelled to witness,  
firsthand, what my people and my taxdollars had done during this  
invasion. Visiting Gaza filled me with unbearable sadness. Unlike the  
primitive weapons of Hamas, the Israelis had so many sophisticated  
ways to murder, maim and destroy-unmanned drones, F-16s dropping  
"smart bombs" that miss, Apache helicopters launching missiles, tanks  
firing from the ground, ships shelling Gaza from the sea. So many  
horrific weapons stamped with Made in the USA. While Hamas' attacks  
on Israeli villages are deplorable, Israel's disproportionate  
response is unconscionable, with 1,330 Palestinians dead vs. 13  

If the invasion was designed to destroy Hamas, it failed miserably.  
Not only is Hamas still in control, but it retains much popular  
support. If the invasion was designed as a form of collective  
punishment, it succeeded, leaving behind a trail of grieving mothers,  
angry fathers and traumatized children.

To get a sense of the devastation, check out a slide show circulating  
on the internet called Gaza: Massacre of Children (www.aztlan.net/ 
gaza/gaza_massacre_of_children.php). It should be required viewing  
for all who supported this invasion of Gaza. Babies charred like  
shish-kebabs. Limbs chopped off. Features melted from white  
phosphorus. Faces crying out in pain, gripped by fear, overcome by  

Anyone who can view the slides and still repeat the mantra that  
"Israel has the right to self-defense" or "Hamas brought this upon  
its own people," or worse yet, "the Israeli military didn't go far  
enough," does a horrible disservice not only to the Palestinian  
people, but to humanity.

Compassion, the greatest virtue in all major religions, is the basic  
human emotion prompted by the suffering of others, and it triggers a  
desire to alleviate that suffering. True compassion is not  
circumscribed by one's faith or the nationality of those suffering.  
It crosses borders; it speaks a universal language; it shares a  
common spirituality. Those who have suffered themselves, such as  
Holocaust victims, are supposed to have the deepest well of compassion.

The Israeli election was in full swing while was I visiting Gaza. As  
I looked out on the ruins of schools, playgrounds, homes, mosques and  
clinics, I recalled the words of Benjamin Netanyahu, "No matter how  
strong the blows that Hamas received from Israel, it's not enough."  
As I talked to distraught mothers whose children were on life support  
in a bombed hospital, I thought of the "moderate" woman in the race,  
Tzipi Livni, who vowed that she would not negotiate with Hamas,  
insisted that "terror must be fought with force and lots of force"  
and warned that "if by ending the operation we have yet to achieve  
deterrence, we will continue until they get the message."

"The message," I can report, has been received. It is a message that  
Israel is run by war criminals, that the lives of Palestinians mean  
nothing to them. Even more chilling is the pro-war message sent by  
the Israeli people with their votes for Netanyahu, Livni and anti- 
Arab racist Avigdor Lieberman.

How tragic that nation born out of the unspeakable horrors of the  
Holocaust has become a nation that supports the slaughter of  

Here in the U.S., Congress ignored the suffering of the Palestinians  
and pledged its unwavering support for the Israeli state. All but  
five members out of 535 voted for a resolution justifying the  
invasion, falsely holding Hamas solely responsible for breaking the  
ceasefire and praising Israel for facilitating humanitarian aid to  
Gaza at a time when food supplies were rotting at the closed borders.

One glimmer of hope we found among people in Gaza was the Obama  
administration. Many were upset that Obama did not speak out during  
the invasion and that peace envoy George Mitchell, on his first trip  
to the Middle East, did not visit Gaza or even Syria. But they felt  
that Mitchell was a good choice and Obama, if given the space by the  
American people, could play a positive role.

Who can provide that space for Obama? Who can respond to the call for  
justice from the Palestinian people? Who can counter AIPAC, the  
powerful lobby that supports Israeli aggression?

An organized, mobilized, coordinated grassroots movement is the  
critical counterforce, and within that movement, those who have a  
particularly powerful voice are American Jews. We have the beginnings  
of a such a counterforce within the American Jewish community. Across  
the United States, Jews joined marches, sit-ins, die-ins, even  
chained themselves to Israeli consulates in protest. Jewish groups  
like J Street and Brit Tzedek v'Shalom lobby for a diplomatic  
solution. Tikkun organizes for a Jewish spiritual renewal grounded in  
social justice. The Middle East Children's Alliance and Madre send  
humanitarian aid to Palestine. Women in Black hold compelling weekly  
vigils. American Jews for a Just Peace plants olive trees on the West  
Bank. Jewish Voice for Peace promotes divestment from corporations  
that profit from occupation. Jews Against the Occupation calls for an  
end to U.S. aid to Israel.

We need greater coordination among these groups and within the  
broader movement. And we need more people and more sustained  
involvement, especially Jewish Americans. In loving memory of our  
ancestors and for the future of our-and Palestinian-children, more  
American Jews should speak out and reach out. As Sholom Schwartzbard,  
a member of Jews Against the Occupation, explained at a New York City  
protest, "We know from our own history what being sealed behind  
barbed wire and checkpoints is like, and we know that ‘Never Again'  
means not anyone, not anywhere - or it means nothing at all."

On March 7, I will return to Gaza with a large international  
delegation, bringing aid but more importantly, pressuring the  
Israeli, U.S. and Egyptian governments to open the borders and lift  
the siege. Many members of the delegation are Jews. We will travel in  
the spirit of tikkun olam, repairing the world, but with a heavy  
sense of responsibility, shame and yes, compassion. We will never be  
able to bring back to life the little girl buried in the rubble. But  
we can-and will--hold her in our hearts as we bring a message from  
America and a growing number of American Jews: To Gaza, With Love.

For information about joining the trip to Gaza, contact  
gaza.codepink at gmail.com.
Medea Benjamin (medea at globalexchange.org) is cofounder of Global  
Exchange (www.globalexchange.org) and CODEPINK: Women for Peace  

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