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Sunday, 20 July 2014

Mahmoud Darwish: Under Siege


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Protesters demonstrate in support of the ongoing Israeli military operation on the Gaza strip, in Friday, July 18, 2014, in Philadelphia.  Israeli troops pushed into Gaza on Friday in a ground offensive that officials said could last up to two weeks as the prime minister ordered the military to prepare for a "significantly" wider campaign. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Protesters in Philadelphia demonstrate in support of the ongoing Israeli military operation on the Gaza strip, on Friday, July 18, 2014. Israeli troops pushed into Gaza on Friday in a ground offensive that officials said could last up to two weeks as the prime minister ordered the military to prepare for a "significantly" wider campaign: photo by Matt Rourke / AP, 18 July 2014


Here on the slopes of hills, facing the dusk and the cannon of time
Close to the gardens of broken shadows,
We do what prisoners do,
And what the jobless do:
We cultivate hope.

***
A country preparing for dawn. We grow less intelligent
For we closely watch the hour of victory:
No night in our night lit up by the shelling
Our enemies are watchful and light the light for us
In the darkness of cellars.

***
Here there is no "I".
Here Adam remembers the dust of his clay.

***
On the verge of death, he says:
I have no trace left to lose:
Free I am so close to my liberty. My future lies in my own hand.
Soon I shall penetrate my life,
I shall be born free and parentless,
And as my name I shall choose azure letters...

***
You who stand in the doorway, come in,
Drink Arabic coffee with us
And you will sense that you are men like us
You who stand in the doorways of houses
Come out of our morningtimes,
We shall feel reassured to be
Men like you!

***
When the planes disappear, the white, white doves
Fly off and wash the cheeks of heaven
With unbound wings taking radiance back again, taking possession
Of the ether and of play. Higher, higher still, the white, white doves
Fly off. Ah, if only the sky
Were real [a man passing between two bombs said to me].

***
Cypresses behind the soldiers, minarets protecting
The sky from collapse. Behind the hedge of steel
Soldiers piss -- under the watchful eye of a tank --
And the autumnal day ends its golden wandering in
A street as wide as a church after Sunday mass...

***
[To a killer] If you had contemplated the victim’s face
And thought it through, you would have remembered your mother in the
Gas chamber, you would have been freed from the reason for the rifle
And you would have changed your mind: this is not the way
to find one’s identity again.

***
The siege is a waiting period
Waiting on the tilted ladder in the middle of the storm.

***
Alone, we are alone as far down as the sediment
Were it not for the visits of the rainbows.

***
We have brothers behind this expanse.
Excellent brothers. They love us. They watch us and weep.
Then, in secret, they tell each other:
"Ah! if this siege had been declared..." They do not finish their sentence:
"Don’t abandon us, don’t leave us."

***
Our losses: between two and eight martyrs each day.
And ten wounded.
And twenty homes.
And fifty olive trees...
Added to this the structural flaw that
Will arrive at the poem, the play, and the unfinished canvas.

***
A woman told the cloud: cover my beloved
For my clothing is drenched with his blood.

***
If you are not rain, my love
Be tree
Sated with fertility, be tree
If you are not tree, my love
Be stone
Saturated with humidity, be stone
If you are not stone, my love
Be moon
In the dream of the beloved woman, be moon
[So spoke a woman
to her son at his funeral]

***
Oh watchmen! Are you not weary
Of lying in wait for the light in our salt
And of the incandescence of the rose in our wound
Are you not weary, oh watchmen?

***
A little of this absolute and blue infinity
Would be enough
To lighten the burden of these times
And to cleanse the mire of this place.

***
It is up to the soul to come down from its mount
And on its silken feet walk
By my side, hand in hand, like two longtime
Friends who share the ancient bread
And the antique glass of wine
May we walk this road together
And then our days will take different directions:
I, beyond nature, which in turn
Will choose to squat on a high-up rock.

***
On my rubble the shadow grows green,
And the wolf is dozing on the skin of my goat
He dreams as I do, as the angel does
That life is here...not over there.

***
In the state of siege, time becomes space
Transfixed in its eternity
In the state of siege, space becomes time
That has missed its yesterday and its tomorrow.

***
The martyr encircles me every time I live a new day
And questions me: Where were you? Take every word
You have given me back to the dictionaries
And relieve the sleepers from the echo’s buzz.

***
The martyr enlightens me: beyond the expanse
I did not look
For the virgins of immortality for I love life
On earth, amid fig trees and pines,
But I cannot reach it, and then, too, I took aim at it
With my last possession: the blood in the body of azure.

***
The martyr warned me: Do not believe their ululations
Believe my father when, weeping, he looks at my photograph
How did we trade roles, my son, how did you precede me.
I first, I the first one!

***
The martyr encircles me: my place and my crude furniture are all that I have changed.
I put a gazelle on my bed,
And a crescent of moon on my finger
To appease my sorrow.

***
The siege will last in order to convince us we must choose an enslavement that does no harm, in fullest liberty!

***
Resisting means assuring oneself of the heart’s health,
The health of the testicles and of your tenacious disease:
The disease of hope.

***
And in what remains of the dawn, I walk toward my exterior
And in what remains of the night, I hear the sound of footsteps inside me.

***
Greetings to the one who shares with me an attention to
The drunkenness of light, the light of the butterfly, in the
Blackness of this tunnel!

***
Greetings to the one who shares my glass with me
In the denseness of a night outflanking the two spaces:
Greetings to my apparition.

***
My friends are always preparing a farewell feast for me,
A soothing grave in the shade of oak trees
A marble epitaph of time
And always I anticipate them at the funeral:
Who then has died...who?

***
Writing is a puppy biting nothingness
Writing wounds without a trace of blood.

***
Our cups of coffee. Birds green trees
In the blue shade, the sun gambols from one wall
To another like a gazelle
The water in the clouds has the unlimited shape of what is left to us
Of the sky. And other things of suspended memories
Reveal that this morning is powerful and splendid,
And that we are the guests of eternity.

 
.....................Ramallah, January 2002

Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008): Under Siege, from A State of Siege, 2002, translated by Marjolijn De Jager 


An explosion by an Israeli strike is seen in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, late Saturday, July 19, 2014. Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra said the new round of strikes raised the death toll from the 12-day offensive to more than 330 Palestinians, many of them civilians and nearly a fourth of them under the age of 18.(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

An explosion caused by an Israeli strike is seen in Gaza City, northern Gaza Strip, late Saturday, July 19, 2014. Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra said the new round of strikes raised the death toll from the 12-day offensive to more than 330 Palestinians, many of them civilians and nearly a fourth of them under the age of 18: photo by Lefteris Pitarakis / AP, 19 July 2014

In this image made with a long exposure, the sky and the city is lit by Israeli forces' flares in the northern Gaza Strip, Friday, July 18, 2014. Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza on Friday to destroy rocket launching sites and tunnels, firing volleys of tank shells and clashing with Palestinian fighters in a high-stakes ground offensive meant to weaken the enclave's Hamas rulers. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

In this image made with a long exposure, the sky and the city are lit by Israeli forces' flares in the northern Gaza Strip, Friday, July 18, 2014. Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza on Friday to destroy rocket launching sites and tunnels, firing volleys of tank shells and clashing with Palestinian fighters in a high-stakes ground offensive meant to weaken the enclave's Hamas rulers: photo by Lefteris Pitarakis / AP, 18 July 2014

Israeli forces' flares light up the night sky in the northern Gaza Strip, early Saturday, July 19, 2014. Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza on Friday to destroy rocket launching sites and tunnels, firing volleys of tank shells and clashing with Palestinian fighters in a high-stakes ground offensive meant to weaken the enclave's Hamas rulers. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Israeli forces' flares light up the night sky in the northern Gaza Strip, early Saturday, July 19, 2014: photo by Adel Hana / AP, 19 July 2014

Israeli forces' flares light up the night sky in the northern Gaza Strip, early Saturday, July 19, 2014. Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza on Friday to destroy rocket launching sites and tunnels, firing volleys of tank shells and clashing with Palestinian fighters in a high-stakes ground offensive meant to weaken the enclave's Hamas rulers. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Israeli forces' flares light up the night sky in the northern Gaza Strip, early Saturday, July 19, 2014: photo by Adel Hana / AP, 19 July 2014

Israeli forces' flares light up the night sky in the northern Gaza Strip, Friday, July 18, 2014. Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza on Friday to destroy rocket launching sites and tunnels, firing volleys of tank shells and clashing with Palestinian fighters in a high-stakes ground offensive meant to weaken the enclave's Hamas rulers. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Israeli forces' flares light up the night sky in the northern Gaza Strip, Friday, July 18, 2014: photo by Adel Hana / AP, 18 July 2014

A Palestinian child runs on debris from a destroyed house, following an overnight Israeli strike in Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza strip, Saturday, July 19, 2014. A Gaza health official says the death toll from Israel's 12-day offensive against Hamas militants has topped 300. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

A Palestinian child runs on debris from a destroyed house, following an overnight Israeli strike in Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza strip, Saturday, July 19, 2014. A Gaza health official says the death toll from Israel's 12-day offensive against Hamas militants has topped 300: photo by Lefteris Pitarakis / AP, 19 July 2014

A Palestinian child walks on debris from a destroyed house, following an overnight Israeli strike in Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza strip, Saturday, July 19, 2014. A Gaza health official says the death toll from Israel's 12-day offensive against Hamas militants has topped 300. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

A Palestinian child walks on debris from a destroyed house, following an overnight Israeli strike in Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza strip, Saturday, July 19, 2014: photo by Lefteris Pitarakis / AP, 19 July 2014

Palestinians flee their homes in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, following heavy Israeli shelling, Saturday, July 19, 2014. Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra said the new round of strikes raised the death toll from the 12-day offensive to more than 330 Palestinians, many of them civilians. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Palestinians flee their homes in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, following heavy Israeli shelling, Saturday, July 19, 2014. Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra said the new round of strikes raised the death toll from the 12-day offensive to more than 330 Palestinians, many of them civilians: photo by Lefteris Pitarakis / AP, 19 July 2014

A Palestinian medic is overwhelmed by emotion as he takes a break treating wounded people by Israeli strikes, at the emergency room of the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, Saturday, July 19, 2014. According to the hospital, there were more than 35 wounded Palestinians from different Israeli strikes that arrived at the hospital Saturday -- five with serious wounds, and three were dead on arrival. A health official said Saturday's strikes raised the death toll from the 12-day offensive to more than 330 Palestinians, many of them civilians and nearly a fourth of them under the age of 18. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

A Palestinian medic is overwhelmed by emotion as he takes a break treating wounded people by Israeli strikes, at the emergency room of the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahiya, Saturday, July 19, 2014: photo by Lefteris Pitarakis / AP, 19 July 2014

Palestinian relatives mourn for Qasim Alwan, 4, and Imad Alwan, 6, who were killed Friday by an Israeli tank shell, during their funeral in Gaza City, Saturday, July 19, 2014. Relatives say the tank shell kit the Alwan family's kitchen, killing Qasim and Imad. Rizk Hayek, 1, who lived nearby, was killed by shrapnel. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Palestinian relatives mourn for Qasim Alwan, 4, and Imad Alwan, 6, who were killed Friday by an Israeli tank shell, during their funeral in Gaza City, Saturday, July 19, 2014l: photo by Hatem Moussa / AP, 19 July 2014

Palestinian relatives mourn for Qasim Alwan, 4, and Imad Alwan, 6, who were killed Friday by an Israeli tank shell, during their funeral in Gaza City, Saturday, July 19, 2014. Relatives say the tank shell kit the Alwan family's kitchen, killing Qasim and Imad. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

Palestinian relatives mourn for Qasim Alwan, 4, and Imad Alwan, 6, who were killed Friday by an Israeli tank shell, during their funeral in Gaza City, Saturday, July 19, 2014. Relatives say the tank shell kit the Alwan family's kitchen, killing Qasim and Imad: photo by Hatem Moussa / AP, 19 July 2014

Protesters hold posters designed with images of the Palestinian flag during a demonstration to show support for Palestinians in front of Israel's diplomatic headquarters, in Quito, Ecuador, Friday, July 18, 2014. Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza on Friday to destroy rocket launching sites and tunnels, firing volleys of tank shells and clashing with Palestinian fighters in a high-stakes ground offensive meant to weaken the enclave's Hamas rulers.  (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

Protesters hold posters designed with images of the Palestinian flag during a demonstration to show support for Palestinians in front of Israel's diplomatic headquarters, in Quito, Ecuador, Friday, July 18, 2014: photo by Dolores Ochoa / AP, 18 July 2014

Avi Shlaim: The Siege of Gaza

Al Jazeera, 19 July 2014

As long as the root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remain unresolved, occasional outcroppings of violence, like the current mini-war in Gaza, are inevitable. This is the third major Israeli offensive against Hamas and the people of Gaza in the last six years. Refusing to accept international legality as the basis for resolving its dispute with the Palestinians, Israel's right-wing government is ever ready to resort to military force.
 
With a degree of cynicism that is difficult to comprehend and impossible to condone, Israel's leaders describe their periodic incursions into Gaza as "mowing the lawn". Now, once again, and with characteristic callousness, they have unleashed the full force of the IDF against Gaza's captive population.

The death toll in the current round of hostilities is a grim reflection of the asymmetry of power between the fourth strongest army in the world and a virtually defenceless civilian population. In the first ten days of aerial bombardment, the "score" was 260 Palestinian dead, mostly civilians, and one Israeli. 

By launching a ground offensive on July 17, Israel sharply escalated the death toll to over 300; destroyed many more houses, hospitals, and water plants; and displaced some 50,000 people out of their homes. "Operation Protective Edge" has thus turned the densely populated Palestinian enclave on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean into a living hell.
Both sides claim to be responding to aggression by the other side. The stated aim of Israel's incursion into the strip is to put an end to the firing of rockets by Hamas militants on Israeli civilians. Hamas, the Islamic party that rules Gaza, claims it is engaged in legitimate resistance to Israel's military occupation and that the rockets fired by its military wing were a response to the violent IDF crackdown on the West Bank following the abduction and murder of three Israeli youths. The chain of action and reaction is endless. But the underlying cause of the violence is the Israeli colonialism.

Collective punishment

In 2005 Israel carried out a unilateral disengagement from Gaza but under international law it is still the occupying power because it controls access to the strip by land, sea, and air. Israel's pullback did not herald freedom for the Gaza Strip. On the contrary, it turned it into an open-air prison and a convenient punch-bag.

In 2006 Hamas won a free and fair election but Israel and its Western allies refused to recognize the democratically-elected government and resorted to economic measures to overthrow it. In 2007, following the Hamas seizure of power in Gaza, Israel imposed an economic blockade, cutting it off from the West Bank and from the rest of the world and inflicting indescribable suffering on its 1.8 million inhabitants.

A blockade is a form of collective punishment proscribed by international law. So for the last seven years the entire population of Gaza, mostly refugees from previous Arab-Israeli wars, has been subjected to an illegal, inhumane, and unrelenting siege.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu's handling of the current crisis is of a piece with his general approach: to shun diplomacy and rely on brute military force to preserve the status quo -- with Israel in direct control of the West Bank and remote control of the Gaza Strip. His ultimate goal is hegemony, not co-existence. He was actually opposed to the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and, rhetoric aside, he continues to reject a two-state solution to the conflict.

During the nine months of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks orchestrated by secretary of state John Kerry, Netanyahu did not put forward a single constructive proposal and all the while kept expanding Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Kerry and his adviser, General John Allen, drew up a security plan that they thought would enable Israel to withdraw from most of the West Bank. Israel's serial refusnik dismissed it contemptuously as not worth the paper it was written on.

When Hamas and Fatah reached an accord in April, Netanyahu went on the offensive, denouncing it as a vote not for peace but for terror. For him any sign of Palestinian unity or moderation is a threat to the existing order with Israel as the dominant power. The unity government produced by the accord in early May was in fact remarkably moderate both in its composition and in its policies. It is a government of Fatah officials, technocrats and independents without a single Hamas-affiliated member.

To escape isolation and bankruptcy, Hamas handed over power to the Fatah-dominated, pro-Western Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. The unity government explicitly accepts the three conditions of the United States and European Union for receiving Western aid: recognition of Israel; respect for past agreements; and renunciation of violence.
 
Israel responded to this promising development by what can only be described as economic warfare. It prevented the 43,000 civil servants in Gaza from moving from the Hamas payroll to that of the Ramallah government and it tightened siege round Gaza's borders thereby nullifying the two main benefits of the merger. The military assault on Gaza completely disrupted the work of the new government, unfairly recast Hamas as a terrorist organisation pure and simple, and inflicted additional horrors on the long-suffering population of the Strip.

What is needed now is an immediate ceasefire. The Egyptian ceasefire proposal of July 15 met Israel's needs but utterly failed to meet the needs of the people of Gaza. Israel was consulted before the proposal was announced; Hamas was not. Hamas found out about the one-sided proposal from the media, not through diplomatic channels.

The proposal involved a return to the status quo with calm for Israelis but with the people of Gaza continuing to live under a crippling siege. Not unreasonably, Hamas demands an end to Israeli aggression, the easing of the blockade by Israel and Egypt, and the release of recently rearrested prisoners. It refuses to return to the status quo ante because it is intolerable.

Beyond a ceasefire to end the current round of fighting, the international community will need to tackle the much tougher task of persuading Israel to abide by the laws of war, respect UN resolutions, end the odious occupation, and recognise the natural right of the Palestinians to live on their land in freedom and dignity.
 
Avi Shlaim is an Emeritus Professor of International Relations at Oxford University and the author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World and Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations


Hazy Gaza City is seen in northern Gaza strip early Saturday, July 19, 2014. Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza on Friday in a ground offensive that officials said could last up to two weeks as the prime minister ordered the military to prepare for a "significantly" wider campaign. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

 Gaza City is seen in northern Gaza strip early Saturday, July 19, 2014. Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza on Friday in a ground offensive that officials said could last up to two weeks as the prime minister ordered the military to prepare for a "significantly" wider campaign: photo by Lefteris Pitarakis / AP, 18 July 2014

5 comments:

Wooden Boy said...

"The disease of hope"

What a perfect and true line.

TC said...

Duncan, as hope is currently very difficult to maintain (conjure up?), I fear the best we can muster is a contortion which allows us to be affected (infected?) by some sort of side-stream hope emanating from those who have understood that its maintenance requires the presence of virtues like belief and courage, probably so far out of our reach at this point that we may as well be honest and admit, we can't help, all we can do is offer compassion, and refuse to look away.

__
Resisting means assuring oneself of the heart’s health,
The health of the testicles and of your tenacious disease:
The disease of hope.

***
And in what remains of the dawn, I walk toward my exterior
And in what remains of the night, I hear the sound of footsteps inside me.

__

It's the sound of those footsteps one can't so easily ignore...

TC said...

Meanwhile, news of the day, as expected, not very hopeful...
__


The secretary of state, John Kerry, on Sunday appeared to criticise Israel’s claims about the targeted scope of its attacks on Gaza, as a open microphone caught him talking to an aide ahead of a TV interview.

“It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation, it’s a hell of a pinpoint operation,” Kerry, who was appearing on Fox News Sunday as part of a tour of all five main US talkshows, said to an aide on the phone, in a frustrated tone.

It was not the first time Kerry's private criticisms of Israeli policy have emerged in public. In April, the Daily Beast reported that he had warned a closed door meeting of world leaders that Israel could become an “apartheid state” if a two-state solution was not found and that if peace talks failed there could be a resumption of Palestinian violence against Israeli citizens.

Israel has launched air strikes, artillery fire and a ground operation in Gaza. According to health officials in the Palestinian territory, 340 people have been killed, nearly 2,400 wounded and tens of thousands displaced in 12 days of fighting.

Ahead of his interview with Fox News Sunday, Kerry said: “We’ve got to get over there. Thank you, John. I think, John, we ought to go tonight. I think it’s crazy to be sitting around.”

In his interview on CNN's State of the Union, Kerry said President Barack Obama would ask him to go to the Middle East soon to aid in efforts to secure a ceasefire.

Earlier, speaking on CNN, the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said Israel’s response to rocket attacks from Gaza had been “very measured and trying to be as pinpointed as we can”.

“What choice do we have?” Netanyahu said. “We have to protect ourselves. We try to target the rocketeers, we do. And all civilian casualties are not intended by us but actually intended by Hamas who want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can because somebody said they use telegenically dead Palestinians for the cause. They want the more dead the better.”

-- Dominic Rushe, The Guardian, Sunday 20 July 2014

__

Israel must attack Gaza even more mercilessly, expel the population and resettle the territory with Jews, the deputy speaker of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, has said.

Moshe Feiglin, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party, makes the call in an article for the Israeli news website Arutz Sheva.

Feiglin demands that Israel launch attacks “throughout Gaza with the IDF’s [Israeli army’s] maximum force (and not a tiny fraction of it), with all the conventional means at its disposal.”

“After the IDF completes the ‘softening’ of the targets with its firepower, the IDF will conquer the entire Gaza, using all the means necessary to minimize any harm to our soldiers, with no other considerations,” Feiglin writes in one of several calls for outright war crimes.

Following the reconquest, Israel’s army “will thoroughly eliminate all armed enemies from Gaza. The enemy population that is innocent of wrongdoing and separated itself from the armed terrorists will be treated in accordance with international law and will be allowed to leave,” Feiglin writes.

“Gaza is part of our Land and we will remain there forever,” Feiglin concludes. “Subsequent to the elimination of terror from Gaza, it will become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews. This will also serve to ease the housing crisis in Israel.”

-- Ali Abunimah, author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, from his blog, 19 July 2014

TC said...

... and spectator sports, it may be helpful to note, are definitely trending up in Sderot.
____


Israelis gather on hillsides to watch and cheer as military drops bombs on Gaza. People drink, snack and pose for selfies against a background of explosions as Palestinian death toll mounts in ongoing offensive: Harriet Sherwood in Sderot, The Guardian, Sunday 20 July 2014

As the sun begins to sink over the Mediterranean, groups of Israelis gather each evening on hilltops close to the Gaza border to cheer, whoop and whistle as bombs rain down on people in a hellish warzone a few miles away.

Old sofas, garden chairs, battered car seats and upturned crates provide seating for the spectators. On one hilltop, a swing has been attached to the branches of a pine tree, allowing its occupant to sway gently in the breeze. Some bring bottles of beer or soft drinks and snacks.

On Saturday, a group of men huddle around a shisha pipe. Nearly all hold up smartphones to record the explosions or to pose grinning, perhaps with thumbs up, for selfies against a backdrop of black smoke.

Despite reports that millions of Israelis are living in terror of Hamas rockets, they don't deter these hilltop war watchers whose proximity to Gaza puts them within range of the most rudimentary missiles. Some bring their children.

In the border town of Sderot, which has been struck by countless missiles from the Gaza Strip in recent years, one family gathers on a top-floor balcony, draped with an Israeli flag and banner of the army's legendary Golani Brigade. A house with a war view may even command a premium price these days.

An atmosphere of anticipatory excitement grows as dusk falls, in the expectation that Hamas militants will increase rocket fire after breaking their Ramadan fast, and the Israeli military will respond with force.

The thud of shellfire, flash of an explosion and pall of smoke are greeted with exclamations of approval. "What a beauty," says one appreciative spectator.

Shimrit Peretz, 19, has come with her off-duty soldier boyfriend, Raz Sason, whose army-issue assault rifle is slung across his shoulders.

"We come to look at the bombing," Peretz says, adding that this is their fourth visit to the hilltop. They plan to stay several hours: "It's interesting." The pair have brought a backpack filled with bottles of water and bags of crisps.

Peretz says that she doesn't worry about the Palestinian civilians caught in the bombing; Sason disagrees. Despite his concern for the innocents caught in the assault, the young conscript soldier wishes he was with his comrades across the border in Gaza. "I'd like to be going in, to help my country and help the soldiers inside," he says.

Given the dramatic views, media crews are coming to the area to cover the fighting. On a nearby hilltop, an ugly scene develops as a group of Israeli men threaten a photographer, accusing him of being a "leftist". We are warned against asking for interviews, as another cheer goes up.

Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore said...

GREAT CRUELTY AND HEARTLESSNESS

We’re living in a time of great cruelty and heartlessness
where instead of a sun they’re throwing up
anvils

Instead of sunlight there’s the sound of
hammers beating

Instead of walking there’s kicking

Instead of thinking there’s talking

It’s almost as if there’ve never been times like
these before

Even shadows thrown by cartwheels on dirt roads
resemble the grimaces of armies as they
slide across rocks

In the palaces of power clocks go off but no one
wakes

Decisions are made by pouring acid down drains
or waiting for nightfall in a room lit by
neon tubes

If anyone speaks all eyes are upon them

I saw a sparrow fly over a fence

An ant stop and not go on

But laughter has turned to pebbles
falling on zinc

And children have been torn from their futures

_____________________________________________

7/19/2006 (from In the Realm of Neither, written during Israel's invasion of Lebanon)