The UnHolyCost in Palestine

So, it appears that our dear President Obama has finally convinced the Palestinians and Israelis to participate in bilateral talks that might lead to the much glorified 2 State Solution to the unrest in that region. I don’t know what what these discussions can hope to achieve, given that settlement building in full swing in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and Gazans living in a pile of rubble that is under siege for at least the 2nd year. And, I don’t know what substance the talks can have, given that the Palestinian participants are unelected collaborators, and Hamas, the only government in Palestine that actually was elected and actually governs in a region of Palestine, is specifically not invited. But, somebody is going to talk about something, and the details of their stillborn initiative will be dutifully reported to us as ‘progress’, or at least ‘news’ for some time in the future.

I know the title of this article is obnoxious and politically incorrect. I do. My previous post was related to what I might call an inappropriate usage of the Holocaust to justify an unreasonable line of logic 75 years after it has ended. Today, I want to share my reaction to some recent readings on Palestine.

I have just finished reading Joe Sacco’s book, Footnotes in Gaza. Sacco was in Gaza researching this book before and during the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, and at the time that Rachel Corrie was run over by an IDF Bulldozer as she attempted to stop it from destroying someone’s home. His topic, however, was a massacre of between 50 and 100+ men in Rafah, depending on whose numbers you like, that occurred on November 12, 1956. The research for the book involved finding and interviewing older people who actually participated in, or witnessed the event.

As Joe and his Palestinian helpers investigate this tragedy from the past, they inhabit a world of continuous threat and violence. There are daily killings by the IDF, 10 one day, 3 another. Sometimes there is a political connection, often there isn’t. House demolitions are ongoing. People’s homes are regularly shot up and pockmarked with bullet holes. It isn’t safe to walk down the street at night, as a tank might be waiting in the dark to shoot at you. It isn’t safe to stand on a roof facing the Egyptian border, as there is an Israeli control tower from which suspect individuals are taken out by sharp shooters. Helicopters and F16s fly overhead on a daily basis. In this environment, Sacco and his Palestinian Abed, interview elderly witnesses about their experiences during a day of terror long ago.

But getting to the story of what occurred in 1956. Sacco and Abed track the information from different witnesses carefully. People’s memories are fallible, but they develop a central core of reliable information, heard from numerous sources. At this time, Gaza was still controlled by Egypt. Israel,along with France and Great Britain, had attacked Egypt, by the US had forced them to halt their attack. At the time, Gaza was still under the control of Egypt, but Israel very much wanted to occupy it. On the 11th of November, heavily Armed Israeli forces came through looking for Palestinian and Egyptian soldiers. Not armed well enough to defend themselves, many of these men took off their uniforms and disappeared into the civilian population.

The next morning, it seems that a jeep with a loudspeaker came down the main street early in the morning, loudly demanding that all of the men between 16 and 60 go to the school. If they didn’t go to the school, they would be found and killed. As the men went out into the street,they were herded by IDF soldiers, yelling at them,and in some cases, shooting at them. Some men were forced to travel down the road in small groups, with their hands against a wall. Each group was told to stop at some point, and the men were gunned down in the street,while facing the wall. The surrounding crowd was desperate and moved more quickly as this happened, stumbling over the bodies of their friends and neighbors. When they eventually came to the school, they found that barbed wire strung across the entrance and a trench had been dug in front of the door. As the attempted to jump through the door, they were beaten with clubs and metal rods.

Inside the school, the men were crowded together and forced to kneel with their heads down while soldiers fired automatic weapons over their heads. Meanwhile, house to house searches were going on, and any man found was taken out and shot dead. In the school, many of the men were wounded, and they weren’t given any food or water, or allowed to use a bathroom. This went on for hours. Finally, at some point in the afternoon, some VIPs with British, and maybe French, accents arrived. A seemingly horrified British officer waved his hand and yelled at the soldiers to stop firing. He told the men to lift their heads. Several men reported that, at that point, they saw a dove on the man’s shoulder, or white doves in the air. They said they thought the doves were angels who brought this man to save them.

Throughout the rest of the day, the men were individually interrogated, and some were taken away. Initially there was an effort to get men to declare that they were soldiers, and to report other men as soldiers. Eventually, men were just randomly selected and sent to another room. Many of the participants thought they were all killed, but apparently most were later taken to a prison in Northern Israel. The IDF had the bodies from earlier in the day picked up from the streets and dumped in a nearby field. People later went to find their missing loved ones and bury them. More than a hundred bodies were heaped here and there in an empty cactus field outside of town. Around 200 more men had been taken away to an Israeli prison.

Technically, the general content of this book isn’t new to me. I’ve been reading about atrocities committed in Palestine for years. As I read on, I was safe in my little bubble of outrage and compassion until I got to the part where the European ‘Officials’ arrived, and expressed some discomfort with the proceedings. When I got to the part where the men were finally allowed to lift their heads, and they thought they saw angels in the vicinity of their interlocutors, that’s when I started to cry.

Sacco includes the reports and discussions of the event within Israel, and with the UN in appendices. Dag Hammerskjold was apparently unhappy with the reports he received on the event, but he didn’t act forcibly. Most of the pressure was on Israel, and as far as I can see, no one questioned their European allies who should have been out of the picture long before this event occurred. The war had ended months earlier. Despite some internal dissension, Israel ultimately claimed that, when the Palestinians thought the IDF had gone after the previous nights raid, they got cocky and tried to steal the food from the UNRAW storehouse. The soldiers that returned in the morning had to deal with a riot, and, oops, a few people were killed. But the soldiers had behaved appropriately and done their best to restore order without excessive violence. They claimed that there were 22 dead.

Sacco’s story has a very familiar ring, doesn’t it?

Judith Bello first encountered the Peace Movement in the late 60s when we were protesting the Vietnam war. Since then, she has continued as a Peace Activist, with an interest in Civil Rights and Women's Issues (she doesn't dare say 'Feminism' any more) through single parenting a child, developing and discarding a technical career, and returning to her heart's desire, to be a writer. Read other articles by Judith, or visit Judith's website.

11 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Rehmat said on August 25th, 2010 at 8:19am #

    Ben Obama was not put in the White House to resolve Middle East problems, but to change the Muslim world as submissive to the Zionist entity as the US is. Israeli Jewish leaders know how to wiggle US leaders’ tail. Bibi has already killed Obama’s new “direct-talk” initiative.

    Benjamin Netanyahu and his six cabinet ministers decided that Zionist-regime will reject any preconditions set forth by the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators (UN, the US, EU and Russia)……

  2. mary said on August 25th, 2010 at 9:26am #

    Thank you Judith for your moving account. Massacre after massacre and the one you write about took place 54 years ago. And yet there is forgiveness in the Palestinian.

    I have just been watching a little video made by the young people of Lajee in Aida Camp which is right up against the separation wall. This video follows the making of Knafeh and has a happy Palestinian song for background. What deft hands and how they make it all look so easy. The end product looks good too. I love the happy little smiling boy helping to take the ‘hair’ off the wheel. A peep into another world for me.

    Aida Camp was established in 1950 for some of the refugees from al Nakba
    ( )

  3. Ismail Zayid said on August 25th, 2010 at 10:13am #

    President Obama is acting as expected of American presidents, and will see to it that Abbas will make the necessary concessions to please Netanyahu and the Israeli lobby in America. We should remember the statement by Ariel Sharon, as prime minister of Israel, assuring Shimon Peres not to be concerned about the US objecting to some of Israeli policies and telling him that the Israeli lobby controls America. Similarly, the recent statement by Netanyahu at a broadcast in Hebrew on Israeli TV, where it is quoted that Binyamin Natanyahu “dismisses the US as ‘easily moved to the right direction’.

    Thus, Obama has already ‘moved to the right direction’, as Netanyahu directed him.

  4. hayate said on August 25th, 2010 at 10:40am #

    “The IDF had the bodies from earlier in the day picked up from the streets and dumped in a nearby field.”

    That’s was before the israelis realised that organ stealing was a viable business.

  5. judy said on August 25th, 2010 at 8:51pm #

    No one has any intention of a serious negotiation on a Palestinian State. It’ a ruse, nothing more. Love that video Mary. It makes the mouth water. The music is great too.

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain said on August 26th, 2010 at 3:10am #

    Yet another example of just what a Nazi state Israel is and has been from the very beginning.I remember being transfixed when reading Chomsky’s ‘Fateful Triangle’ years ago, not just by the relentless cruelty and sadism of the Israelis,but how thoroughly the facts of it had been suppressed, and by what a dreadful truth it revealed of human nature. That Jews, within a few years of Auschwitz, were cutting children’s throats, raping, terrorising and killing in cold-blood like any Einsatzgruppe or death-squad, filled me with despair, not for the last time, at humanity.
    Of course the Jews are not uniquely evil. Just as dreadful atrocities, and worse, have been committed by the most depraved elements of all societies and groups. And Jews are not unique in hypocritically denying the barbarity committed in their name. But Jews are unique in that they control and have perverted and corrupted Western politics,media and the public discourse to an extent unprecedented, except by the US,which has now been reduced to the role of cats-paw for a tiny,infinitely belligerent and demanding minority.
    I spent a while today perusing that Zionist propaganda sewer ‘The Atlantic’ and its ‘debate’ over when and how to ‘shock and awe’ Iran back to the Stone Age.As ever I was suitably impressed by the sheer arrogance,the racist contempt, the vainglorious posturing and the lying and hypocrisy of these Zionazis. It’s as if the German Nazis were still around, and had opened ‘Die Sturmer’ up to ‘debate’. The bloodlust, the fervour to spill blood would have done the genocidaires of the Book of Joshua proud.

  7. mary said on August 26th, 2010 at 7:31am #

    Just a little smack on the wrist here for Israel from Ashton at the EU. (She actually visited Gaza earlier this year). In turn Israel tells the EU it is none of their business but the irony is that Israel has been admitted to the EU in all but name.

    PityMr Abdullah Abu Rahmeh who now faces several years in prison and his wife and family. Stehen Lendman wrote in January about his arrest.


  8. mary said on August 26th, 2010 at 7:55am #

    That was the wrong link.

    ‘On December 10, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, coordinator of Bil’in’s Popular Committee Against the Wall, was arrested after nine military vehicles surrounded his home, broke down his door at 2AM, then blindfolded and seized him from bed in the presence of his wife and children as part of the effort to break the spirit of Bil’in’s residents and their popular struggle against the Wall. Since June, Abu Rahmah is the thirty-first Bil’in activist arrested.

    On December 22, an Ofer Prison Military Court indicted him on “incitement, stone-throwing, and possession of arms,” pertaining to tear gas canisters fired at demonstrators that he collected to display in his home.

    His lawyer, Gaby Lasky said: “The army shoots at unarmed demonstrators, and when they try to show the world the violence used against them by collecting (and) presenting the remnants, they are persecuted and prosecuted. What’s next? Charging protesters money for the bullets shot at them?”

    On December 24, Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for his unconditional release, saying he met with him and Mohammad Khatib in August in Bil’in.

    “We were impressed by their commitment to peaceful political action, and their success in challenging the wall that unjustly separates the people of Bel’in from their land and the olive trees. I call on Israeli officials to release Abu Rahmah immediately and unconditionally.”

    He’s been a member of Bel’in’s Popular Committee since its 2004 inception, and after Wall construction began there in March 2005, participated in organizing regular actions and demonstrations to stop it. He also represented Bel’in around the world, and in June 2009 was in Montreal for its precedent-setting legal case against two Canadian companies illegally building settlements on its land.

    In addition, he participated in a speaking tour, including in Germany to accept the Carl Von Ossietzky Medal for outstanding service toward the realization of human rights, awarded by the International League for Human Rights.’

    Shocking and outrageous behaviour by ‘ the only democracy in the ME’.

  9. shabnam said on August 26th, 2010 at 12:23pm #

    {There are daily killings by the IDF, 10 one day, 3 another. Sometimes there is a political connection, often there isn’t. House demolitions are ongoing. People’s homes are regularly shot up and pockmarked with bullet holes.}

    The stolen of Palestine was carried out by TERRORISM. This fact is known to everyone except the Zionist pro Israel, George Will, whose today’s Op-Ed page desperately tries to paint the Palestinian toys, he calls ‘rockets’, lethat to the ‘chosen people’ therefore Israel should keep the West Bank. Apparently, onlysecurity of the ‘chosen people’ is important not the Arabs.
    “Withdrawal from the West Bank would bring Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport within range of short-range rockets fired by persons overlooking the runways.”

    This treatment shows that Israel is not serious about PEACE with Palestinians and the neighboring countries, rather Israel is using her Organized Jewish Zionists and her stooges at the white house to complete the first part of the Zionist project, stolen of the historical Palestine and then expand beyond to be able to erect “Greater Israel” from Mauritania to Afghanistan.
    The majority of terrorist activities carried out in Palestine since 1930s were designed by THE ZIONISTS themselves to force the indigenous people out. In the following video As’sd Abukhalil tells the audience that it was the Zionists who carried out many terror acts in Palestine before the erection of the state of Israel in 1948 where killed many Arabs and non-Arabs, in the process.

    Thank you for your work.

  10. mary said on August 27th, 2010 at 7:27am #

    If this petition to Hague (UK Foreign Secretary) went by post you probably like me wouldn’t waste the stamp but have a go here, please.

    Abdallah Abu Rahmah, Co-ordinator of Bil’in Popular Ctte against the Wall convicted of incitement and organising illegal demonstrations, faces long imprisonment for organising non-violent actions; and the EU slams his conviction. Sign the petition to William Hague!

  11. mary said on August 27th, 2010 at 7:30am #

    There is a US version for Ma Clinton here.