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Wednesday 9 July 2014

"Hello my name is..."

"Hello my name is..." (school for visually impaired children, Gaza City): photo by Achim Voss, 10 June 2014

[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.

Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008): from Under Siege in A State of Siege (2002), translation by Marjolijn De Jagered


 "Who are you?" Gaza City -- school for visually impaired children: photo by Achim Voss, 10 June 2014

Netanyahu instructs Israeli military to intensify assault on Gaza

Israeli PM authorises escalation of offensive as Palestinian death toll rises and rocket attacks from Gaza target Tel Aviv

Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the Israeli military to "intensify even further" its assault on the Gaza Strip.
-- Peter Beaumont in Gaza City, The Guardian, Wednesday 9 July 2014

Men should be either treated generously or destroyed, because they take revenge for slight injuries -- for heavy ones they cannot.

-- Niccolò Macchiavelli (1469-1527): from The Prince (1513)

Laughing! Gaza Strip -- children collecting reusable material: photo by Achim Voss, 10 June 2014

Israel's missiles strike out of the blue, but rockets still rain down

Civilian victims mount as Israel's offensive against Hamas intensifies, with children and an 80-year-old woman among dead

-- Peter Beaumont in Beit Hanoun, The Guardian, Wednesday 9 July 2014

The family of Hafez Hamad, a senior member of Islamic Jihad, were sitting on a pair of low orange divans in the space between two houses when the rocket hit them a little before midnight.

Fired from a drone it slammed into the ground a foot from one of the two sofas, leaving behind a round three-feet-deep hole and five people dead, including Hafez and his 20-year-old niece. "They were just talking, sitting outside their house," says Mariam Hamad, sister-in-law of Hafez. "Usually there is a warning, but in this case the missile struck out of the blue."

She meant a practice known as the "knock on the roof" -– when small projectiles are fired to warn civilians to leave buildings. In other cases strikes have been preceded by a telephone call telling its inhabitants to flee. But such bombing sometimes injures or kills people in neighbouring houses.

In any case there was no knock on the roof for the Hamad family.

Even this early in Israel's campaign against Hamas and other militant factions in Gaza the bodies of the civilian victims are beginning to pile up, children and an 80-year-old woman among the dead from the past two days.

As the Israeli military said it struck about 200 Hamas targets on the second day of its offensive and warned of a possible ground invasion, the rockets militants from Gaza continued to fire were intermittently visible being launched in pairs, threes and even sets of four, their vapour trails climbing into the Mediterranean sky. The Israeli military said more than 60 rockets were fired at Israel on Wednesday, forcing people to take cover in public shelters as far away as Jerusalem. So far there have been no fatalities.

In all, 43 Palestinians are reported to have been killed by Israeli strikes on Gaza. Many, hospital officials claim, have been civilians. Among the total are 15 women and children, amid claims that in four air strikes only women and children were killed. According to an emergency services spokesman, Ashraf al-Qudra, in one incident a missile struck a house in Al-Maghazi, a beachside refugee camp near Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, killing a mother and her four children. Earlier, another two women and four children died in a series of raids to the north and east of Gaza City.

In addition some 370 people have been wounded in the past two days. There have been no Israeli fatalities since the operation began.

For its part Israel has long alleged that the militants "hide" among the civilian population, but what is clear is that targets have included homes and public streets as well as missile sites and buildings associated with Hamas.

Hamad's house had been destroyed before in 2012 by Israeli military forces and been rebuilt.

His family admits he was a member of Islamic Jihad, a group involved in firing rockets into Israel, but claim he had left the militant group. One of his brothers –- who was killed with him -– had cancer, they also claim. "It happened at 11.45," said a cousin, Hamad Hamad, 22, who lives nearby and was one of the first on the scene.

"I heard the bomb and found the blood and bodies. He was the target, but they also killed two of his brothers, Ibrahim and Mahdi, the wife of Hafez and Mahdi's daughter who was only 20."

As he spoke the sound of a drone was audible above.

Among the locations targeted in Gaza have been some 40 houses, many of them listed on Gaza's radio news: an apartment block in New Gaza, a house in Zaytoun, the house of Hafez Hamad in Beit Hanoun.

In truth, there is little left of the house that once belonged to Mustafa Malaka in Zaytoun. A security officer with Hamas, who had been largely unemployed since his wages stopped being paid in the midst of the group's financial crisis in the coastal enclave, he had turned to farming chickens behind his house to make money.

Perhaps, like Hafez Hamad, he had been involved in firing rockets. When the bomb hit his house, say relatives, it injured Malaka but killed his wife, Hana, and three-year-old son, Mohammad. All that is left of the place that they once lived is a six-metre crater, six metres (20ft) wide, filled with rubble and the remains of their possessions –- a shirt hanging from a section of concrete.

Collapsed in the blast was the chicken coop the behind the house, the pullets wandering among the bodies of those killed.

At the Shifa hospital in Gaza, corridors that a day before had been half empty have been transformed into a chaotic scene, packed with relatives, who sit in the stairwells waiting for news, and the wounded.

A youth is brought in by his friends, his head wrapped in a bloody bandage; a young girl, her face and upper body burned, is wheeled urgently past on a gurney by nurses.
In many areas, especially to the north and south of Gaza City where the scrubby fields are used as launching sites for missiles aimed at Israel, the roads have almost emptied, the only sound audible the intermittent thuds of detonations, the whoosh of the rockets and the loud hum of drones and aircraft overhead.

In Gaza City itself, people were stocking up on food, not only for the Ramadan Iftar meal, but against the fear of what might happen next if a ground incursion. Even as the Egyptian government indicated it was involved in attempting to broker a ceasefire, as it has done in the past, Israeli ministers and officials were raising the prospect of widening the campaign to an invasion.

"Despite the fact it will be hard, complicated and costly, we will have to take over Gaza temporarily, for a few weeks, to cut off the strengthening of this terror army," Yuval Steinitz, Israel's intelligence minister, told Israel Radio. "If you ask my humble opinion, a significant operation like this is approaching."

His remarks echoed that of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who said after a meeting of his Security Cabinet: "The army is ready for all possibilities. Hamas will pay a heavy price for firing toward Israeli citizens. The security of Israel's citizens comes first. The operation will expand and continue until the fire toward our towns stops and quiet returns."

The government has authorised the army to activate up to 40,000 reservists for a ground operation. An Israeli government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing Israeli tactical strategy, said the reservists would be sent to the West Bank to allow active duty troops to amass near the Gaza border.

"We will not stop," said Israel's minister of internal security, Yitzhak Aharonovitz. "They'll first receive a hard blow from air and sea, and if a ground invasion is needed, there will be a ground invasion."

But few in Gaza are in any doubt about what a ground operation would mean for civilians. While Hamas might be confident it can "absorb the pain" -- the ground invasion during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009 is still fresh in the memory and its damage still visible on many buildings.

In that 22-day long offensive some 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including 300 children.

Palestinian children play outside their family's tent in a poverty-stricken quarter of the town of Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip: photo by Cubby Bear Blue,  26 June 2014

Palestinians inspect wreckage of a building destroyed by an Israeli military air attack, Gaza City: photo by Wissam Nassar / Xinhua, 8 July 2014; image by Diario Contraste, 8 July 2014

'Let him cry for his family': inside the Gaza Strip during the 26 December 2008-January 2009 Israeli invasion. Taken by the Palestinian co-ordinator of the International Campaign to end the siege on Gaza. She has titled her photographs: 'Gaza Terrorists'. 'In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends': photo by Free Gaza movement, 13 January 2009

Smart bombs murdering children (Gaza): photo by Free Gaza movement, 13 January 2009

'Some children who will never be able to terrify Israel again': Victims of Israeli air attacks on the Gaza Strip during the 26 December 2008-January 2009 Israeli invasion: photo by Free Gaza movement, 13 January 2009

Children's clothing left -- Jenny (Gaza): photo by Free Gaza movement, 7 January 2009

Israeli Attack on Gaza -- White Phosphorus. Amnesty International: "We noticed various things about this: the burn does not heal; the phosphorus may remain inside the body and goes on burning there, and the general condition of the patient deteriorates -- normally with 10-15 percent burns you would expect a cure, now many such patients die."  Other strange injuries were caused by unusual weapons (possibly including Deep Inert metal Explosive – DIME weapons) which doctors did not know how to deal with. "We had eight amputations on one day -– normally, the patients should all have lived, but they all died. We don't understand it," one doctor told the team: photographer unknown;  image by Haqq Rocks!, 21 January 2009

Total destruction of home -- Jenny (Gaza): photo by Free Gaza movement, 7 January 2000

There is nothing left -- Jenny (Gaza): photo by Free Gaza movement, 7 January 2009

A ball of fire is seen following an Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on July 9, 2014. Israeli strikes on Gaza killed at least 17 people and wounded more than 100, emergency services said, as the military began an aerial campaign against militants in the Strip: photo by Said Khatib / AFP Photo; image by Mundo33, 9 July 2014

Israeli / Gaza border: photo by Mark Nakasone, 19 April 2014

Israeli / Gaza border: photo by Mark Nakasone, 19 April 2014

Israeli / Gaza border: photo by Mark Nakasone, 19 April 2014


Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore said...

Thank you for this, for your labor in putting it together, agony for agony.

I would like to see the final sentence completed: "In that 22-day long offensive some 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including 300 children." Probably something like: "No Israelis died." That's how it usually reads... predictably.

By the way, I also edited a translation of State of Siege of Darwish from the Arabic that was published by Syracuse Univ. Press in 2010.

Our translation has it:

To a killer:
If you had looked into the face of your victim
and thought carefully,
you might have remembered your mother in the Gas Chamber,
and freed yourself from the rifle's prejudice
and changed your mind.
Come now, this is no way to restore an identity!

(I read some of our translations when Darwish visited Washington D.C. and read to the Anti-Arab Defamation League, a huge audience of mostly Palestinians, and noted that his poems in Arabic are filled with inner rhymes, he read majestically, and there was not a dry eye in the house.

TC said...

Haunting and terrifying lines. They seem to disrupt the serenity of much of the longer piece from which they come. The tilted ladder in the middle of the storm -- I think of Breughel, and of ships in the night. A prescient image of precariousness and exposure, of a vulnerability built into not just the situation, but the condition (i.e. of being human).

All this history coming round again in that place suggests Hell is cyclic, a medieval system of rotating pain loops.

The built-in either-or, the awful binary logic that begins to appear as clearly as in an X-ray.

"Men should be either treated generously or destroyed, because they take revenge for slight injuries -- for heavy ones they cannot."

Mose23 said...

I'd want to echo Daniel's thanks. The BBC only gives us flakes of the story. You have to come to quieter corners such as this to get the bigger picture.

The truth needs to be told.

Be the BQE said...

I've been out of the country for the last 9 days blissfully ignorant of the horrible news from Gaza. Your post hits me with all the more force for that. It is a testimony to the power of poetry and photography as tools for writing history of the present.

Lally said...

brilliant posting Tom, only sorry it's even bear witness is sometimes all we can do...

Maureen said...

One of the most eye-opening books I've read is Adina Hoffman's "My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet's Life in the Palestinian Century"; it's about Taha Muhammad Ali. I also have read his poems, one of which "There Was No Farewell" I've marked so as not to forget how movingly this poet wrote of existence denied.

I am now reading Khaled Mattawa's new book about Darwish.

My heart stopped at seeing the pictures here of the children, the steps littered with shoes. If you had posted them without words, their deep effect still would be undeniable.

TC said...

Duncan, David, Michael, Maureen, many thanks. All are witnesses.

Abdal-Hayy's's point re. the imbalance of "reporting" which allows (requires?) that familiar predictable false equation -- any inconvenience caused me in the course of inflicting great suffering upon you shall be viewed as fit justification -- is one that should not be forgot. It's that false equation upon which the removal of news regarding Gaza to the back pages always rests.

It's to be hoped all will take the two minutes needed to hear a few simple truths on this subject presented by young Owen Jones. Dead on.

And here is the poet to whom Maureen has helpfully referred us.

Taha Muhammad Ali reads "Revenge", 2006

TC said...

Today's updates suggest the menacing promise to "further intensify the assault" wasn't an empty one. Haven't we seen and heard all this before? You've got to figure this latest invasion will continue to "escalate" until somebody in the Casa Blanca picks up the white courtesy telephone used for calling off the slavering dogs, just short of meting out that perfect ultimate destruction Machiavelli would have prescribed.

Palestinian death toll rises as Israel escalates aerial assault on Gaza. Hospital officials say 81 people have been killed in three days of airstrikes, with no Israeli casualties reported.

Elmo St. Rose said...

the jABA ABADABA nightmare says
katushya rocket my love....lots of
concern here...partly phony

if the Israelis laid down there
arms they would be slaughtered

I bet the poets missed the news
piece about the Islamic fanatics
of Iraq and the Levant crucifying
other Muslims ,beheadings and mass
shootings etc.

What do you think Hamas has in mind?
Yes war is hell. Innocents will die.
So how come all over the world
hundreds die every day at the hands of Islamic extremists....
Boko Harum...the Taliban...Hezbollah...Assad...

I know you are all very sympathetic to suffering so how much do you know about that? ie the rest of the world beside easy
pickings...picking on the Israelis

TC said...

Charlie, thanks for your generous condescension, and your sarcastic dismissal of the sincerity of everyone who has commented here. But alas, pleasant though it may be to imagine a congenial community of unpatriotic layabout poet fanatics inhabiting this solitary old people's home, that would be pure phantasy. As a doctor you are the expert on suffering. As a political analyst you are a bit short on the nous. Your perception that someone is picking on Israel would qualify you wonderfully to run for office in Israel. The bully on the block (you know, over there it's the one with the brass balls paid for by your and my taxes) always claims somebody's picking on him, as an excuse to grind out their eyes, and the eyes of their children, and their children's children. Where this strategy goes wrong, and as you know it's been tried, is when it runs up against the logistics. Much as you might wish to, you can never kill them all. The ones you don't kill may come back to haunt you. Machiavelli's advice is mere pragmatism. In this case, no matter how extensive the genocide becomes, there will always be some of those hideaways in the tall grass, biding their time, hating you -- and making babies.

TC said...

Elmo, have to admit you threw me into a dingy little verapamil loop there with the Aba Daba nightmare reference (almost mistook it for some kind of garden variety jingoistic Islamophobic b.s., silly old me), so had to scramble to catch up. The circulating library in the Shelter is not an easy site for advanced research.

So what a relief it was to know you were merely weaving in a clever coded reference to a popular classic of our common youth from those good old days way back when.

Aba Daba

TC said...

... and the funny thing is, talking of nightmares, the collective societal hysteria on the subject of "security", probably the single most influential mass hallucination I've witnessed in my lifetime, seems not to have ebbed, as one might have hoped, as the years went by and no more towers fell, but, lo, actually increased; certainly the blind eye to Gaza is a symptom of that. With each successive massive technological warfare incursion scorching the streets and villages it's the same cynical let-the-carnage-go-on-for-two-weeks-give-or-take protocol now, and no one even knows. Around here it doesn't even make the news, which is cover to cover trannies these days. As recently as a decade ago, though, there were actual signs and glimmers of consciousness. Does anybody happen to remember this Mr. Fish cartoon from Harper's, way back in 2005? Do you think you'd see that cartoon in a mainstream magazine today?

Elmo St. Rose said...

All over the Islamic world Christians and other Muslims are being slaughtered....there are now over 50 million refugees in the world, the most since World War II...many of those are from ethnic conflicts and many from the effects of Islamic fanatics.
Polio too is back in Syria.
The first gesture toward peace may be not to fire rockets. There is a great deal of peace already between individuals in that area i.e. the human commerce that doesn't make the news.
When Iran talks about wiping Israel off the map with nuclear weapons you would think the ears of the Palestinians would perk up
because Palestine too and the occupied whatever would all be part of a new and much bigger Hiroshima without potable water.

1960's stock in trade the Beattles
"I read the news today Oh Boy" and
"Imagine all those in harmony"
The hope from bombed out Liverpool
took the world by song,,,but I don't think it can penetrate through to 8th century Islam. Just like in WWII the poets may have helped but they didn't stop the Nazis and yes they're to quote
a friend,as we know from history,there were
many still in the weeds too.

TC said...


When the massive technological arsenal supplied to a client state by a 21st century global superpower is trained on you and bearing down hard, you might shoot off a pop gun, and the pop might be heard down at the corner.

There have been more homicides here in our gritty little slice of hometown USA these past few weeks than there have been rocketfire fatalities in Israel.

It's pretty clear that the rage and despair that underlies these homicides here is deepest in certain precincts. So far however no one is pouring smart bombs or white phosphorus down from the sky on to those precincts.

There have been no fatalities in Israel during this latest invasion of Gaza. The insistence of American network TV on showing scenes of well-fed, well-clothed and smiling middle-class Israeli families in their air raid shelters, with their laptops and snack supplies, is so patently propagandistic in purpose as to have the reverse of the desired effect: one involuntarily pictures the scenes of bloody, burnt carnage occurring at the same moment in the densely populated, miserably impoverished urban areas where the Israeli smart bombs are targeted.

"JERUSALEM: Israel’s prime minister vowed Friday to press forward with a broad military offensive in the Gaza Strip, saying international pressure will not halt what he said was a determined effort to halt rocket fire by Palestinian militants as the death toll from the 4-day-old conflict rose above 100.
Addressing a news conference, Netanyahu brushed off a question about possible cease-fire efforts, signaling there was no end in sight to the operation.'

"'I will end it when our goals are realized," he said."

-- Josef Federman, Associated Press, 11 July 2014

It's hard to find trustworthy and informed neutral observers who might bring a bit of objectivity to the issues here. One witness who is obviously informed has been offering useful testimony for years. But there are people who don't like her conclusions -- so you will not have heard them.

"Racism has always been the lifeblood of Israel. Zionism rests on the fundamental belief that Jews have superior national, human, and natural rights in the land, an inherently racist foundation that excludes any possibility of true democracy or equality of peoples. Israel’s destructive rampage in Lebanon and Gaza is merely the natural next step in the evolution of such a founding ideology. Precisely because that ideology posits the exclusivity and superiority of one people’s rights, it can accept no legal or moral restraints on its behavior and no territorial limits, for it needs an ever-expanding geography to accommodate those unlimited rights.

"Zionism cannot abide encroachment or even the slightest challenge to its total domination over its own space — not merely of the space within Israel’s 1967 borders, but of the surrounding space as well, extending outward to geographical limits that Zionism has not yet seen fit to set for itself. Total domination means no physical threat and no demographic threat: Jews reign, Jews are totally secure, Jews always outnumber, Jews hold all military power, Jews control all natural resources, all neighbors are powerless and totally subservient."

Kathleen Christison: The Coming Collapse of Zionism

Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession. The story of her career suggests that a change of conscience remains possible, where there is a conscience in the first place.

It would be great to give peace a chance. But, as Kathleen Christison has pointed out with simple good sense, you can't really give peace a chance until you've given justice a chance.
Remember when America was a place where a sense of fairness was actually considered a virtue, rather than merely a sign of weakness?

TC said...

Really I don't think anybody wants to look too closely into this issue. If you're conscious, it hurts too much.

However, knowledge is sometimes like that.

Kathleen Christison's husband Bill Christison also spent three decades in the intelligence community, specializing on Middle East policy.

Bill spent the last few months of his life working with Kathleen to bring a bit of belated light into the darkness. You might call them patriots, I suppose.

I've put up a lot of links here, few people ever look at them. Here's another one to be avoided, if you want to protect your ignorance. On the other hand, the truth it contains ought to open some eyes. Don't worry about those visually-impaired Gaza kids, they can already see far deeper into all this than can the average American.

"Retired CIA analysts Bill and Kathleen Christison talk about the State of Israel's influence on the United States, focusing on the Zionist lobby that has grown steadily in the United States since the administrations of Roosevelt and Truman." (February 2010)

Topics of the presentation: media and policy control, silencing of dissent, dissemination of ignorance, the tools from the devil's work box which that have been used to construct our mental and spiritual prison.

Elmo St. Rose said...

Dear Tom,
I'm not part of the Israeli lobby.
I'm just trying to point out
that in the context of the chaos
in the Islamic world and its potential contagion to the rest of
the world that the Israeli Palestinian conflict is only a part of it and these days a small part of it and perhaps the least horror filled certainly by the numbers. Where is the stable, tolerant,democratic predominantly
Islamic country? Now Tom, I could
be a "people of the The Book" if
I kept my head down and mouth shut. You on the other in the end
might just be considered an Infidel. There is no day to day
coverage of the horror in Syria.
The journalists are killed or tortured and have stopped going.

On the lighter side maybe we could
get the CIA to instigate a war between Ireland and Switzerland...
why? because it's their turn. So
much for the wisdom of the far it had not seemed
very wise.

TC said...

Elmo, I've never thought of you a part of any lobby apart from the continuing lobby for mercy and compassion, and I know you've walked the walk, bent your weary back and racked your spirit in the long effort to generously support and promote the welfare of your fellow humans. And too, that as a maverick poet always unafraid of speaking his mind, you've been left off the map of the two-bit academic poetry industry, with its smug networking and scratch-my-back conveniencing. You've done better things in your life than schmooze at conferences and dole out useless degrees to trending robots.

And you know, when it comes to it, we'll both always be infidels at heart.

It's hard to know where to look to get the news any more. I've been feeling pretty bad, and many days have neither the heart nor the stomach to take any more incoming. Angelica says Al-Jazeera has day-to-day coverage of events in Syria, which she watched for a while, until it became too horrible to watch any more.

I thought those Christisons seemed like persons of principle, fighting the good fight as they were able. Since they had been part of the US intelligence infrastructure going back to the time of Vietnam, one would have to suppose they knew what they were talking about.