Like playing cards, residential towers fell in Gaza. There, in the besieged Gaza Strip, spirits for nearly 14 years have entered a cold digital count that has stripped every victim of the privacy of his or her tragedy.
There is no time to stop the tears of a boy crying “Good bye, Yaba” after his father was killed by Israeli bombs or to calm the horrified Gazan children whose mother tries to convince them that the sound of the air strikes will soon go, so they can return to their sleep.
But how can they when they are shivering at the possibility that Israeli airplanes will shred them to pieces, as it does with so many around them?
The Israeli right and much of the world have set the scene as a war waged by Hamas that causes the Gazans to suffer again. Gaza is never approached for what it really is, a place inhabited by people, a huge and horrific prison, a site filled with human experience and memories.
Most Israelis – just as their prime minister – have never spoken to anyone from Gaza. They only know the Gaza Strip as a haven for “terrorists,” so it is acceptable to besiege and shoot them.
Yet, the scene is much more complex. Not far from Gaza, yet again a stage for death and destruction, there is the Israeli interior transmitting videos of settler attacks on Arab homes, expulsion, and murder attempts, while clashes between Arabs and Jews erupted like never before in places like Lod and Jerusalem.
The Arab-Jewish clashes from house to house and street to street are no less volatile than the Israeli bombing raids killing Gaza and its people, or the rockets indiscriminately fired by Hamas.
All the evils seen in recent days in Gaza, Lod and Jerusalem are the inevitable and explosive result of the Israeli occupation that has lasted for more than 70 years. There is no way to beautify it or ignore this truth fueled and nurtured by decades of apartheid, discrimination and the rise of the fascist right.
But the real battle is more “intractable,” its scope much wider. It is about state, and borders, and people and identity, and unless the Palestinians obtain their rights to land, dignity and identity, these last scenes of death will remain but a round in a cycle of rounds.
Arabs, Palestine … and Hamas
However, the Palestinian predicament cannot be viewed from an Israeli angle alone. The Arab silence about what is happening is so loud that it deafens the ears and blurs the eyes. And silence here does not just mean shrugging shoulders and swallowing words.
Refraining from taking a stand is exactly what increases the Israeli immunity for its crimes. The Abraham Accords were supposed to stop settlement encroachment in exchange for recognition of Israel and direct diplomatic relations.
Israel was recognized, and relations were established, based on what we witnessed in the past months in terms of reciprocal Emirati-Israeli visits and the celebration of “peace” through empty songs and phrases.
Yet, the rush with which countries as the UAE and Bahrain celebrated Israel preceded the confirmation of any Palestinian rights. It only showed they did not really care, and this was reflected during the clashes in recent days, during which a fatal disregard for what befell the Palestinians prevailed.
In Jerusalem, the Palestinians had embarked on an unprecedented confrontation showing in all frankness the face of the aggressor, and the world started to witness a real reversal in public opinion towards Israel.
They were aided by an extremely important report by Human Rights Watch about Israel and “the crimes of Apartheid,” as well as a series of opinions from influential figures both in and outside Israel describing the racist and violent reality of the occupation.
In the midst of this all, the Iranian-backed Hamas movement decided to enter the confrontation with their rockets and soon after the scene was transformed from a civilian uprising in the face of an unjust occupation to a battle of missiles.
Israel welcomed the step, because it provided an opportunity to relieve the burden of the Jerusalemites, and allowed it to divert attention from the evils of the settlers to a missile confrontation in the Gaza Strip.
Israel, within hours, brought down residential towers, destroyed neighborhoods and homes, and killed and wounded dozens of Palestinians. The indiscriminate rockets of Hamas also wounded and killed Israelis, but it is hard to compare the two violence from both sides in terms of size and military results
In all conflicts, the military option is presented as the easiest option, because it is the fastest, the loudest, and has the strongest influence on emotions and instincts. It is the option we surround with holiness in the form of a slogan like “Marching towards Jerusalem.” Whoever proposes an option other than weapons, questions the sacred slogan and usefulness of non-violence may be accused of cowardice and betrayal.
The moment the Palestinians are currently living may be the most dangerous in decades. But is it sufficient to view it from an angle of Hamas rockets as “a cure for the poor”?
The Palestinian issue is primarily a an ethical issue, a cry for justice and, no matter how brazen and violent the settlers, no matter how intense the attempts to employ the Iranian, Islamic and Arab opposition team for Hamas missiles, the Palestinians will pay the price for all of this.
Any action that confronts Israeli arrogance that does not take into account blood and lives is an unreliable act. Rather, it is an irresponsible clumsy act that builds its rockets, bullets and knives on a narrow bet and calculation that that is not part of Palestinian public interest.
Coming up with an alternative is not easy, especially since Israel will arguably succeed in containing Hamas’ missiles and encircling the uprisers by force, thus ending the latest round of conflict with the resumption of abuse against the Palestinians.
But the question how the Palestinians should respond and restore truth and moral superiority remains a crucial component of any future move. This is exactly what the people of Sheikh Jarrah and Jerusalem did. And this is exactly what the Hamas missiles threaten to dispel.