Israel: Answer Me

Israel & The Occupied Territories
Israel & The Occupied Territories

Was Israel justified in attacking the aid flotilla?

  • Yes
  • No
See results without voting
Old Man: "You paint this wall. You make it beautiful." Banksy: "Thanks." Old Man: "We don't want it to be beautiful. We hate this wall. Go home."
Old Man: "You paint this wall. You make it beautiful." Banksy: "Thanks." Old Man: "We don't want it to be beautiful. We hate this wall. Go home."

This morning, I wept.

Awakening to news of the Israeli attack on the aid flotilla, a sense of outrage I’d tried to forget welled up inside me, and reminded me of a good friend, also senselessly targeted by Israeli forces.

I wept for Abu Sahla. A young father with a gift for insight into people and one of the gentlest men i've known.

Like much of the Palestinian diaspora, he was bright, urbane and cultured. A chemist by training, he studied in Switzerland and Australia, where I came to know him.

In 2008, his mother – stranded in Gaza – became ill. At the end of her productive life, and a stateless, politically toxic Palestinian, she could not escape the territories to live out her remaining years in the comfort and dignity we all hope for ourselves, and our loved ones in their old age. Her utilitarian benefit as a citizen spent, she could not afford our “decency,” as a refugee, and so Abu Sahla returned to Gaza to care for her.

Escaping the territories is an extraordinarily difficult task – akin to breaking out of prison. The fact that he was ready to forfeit his own freedom for his mother’s wellbeing spoke volumes about the type of man he was.

We still don’t know what the soldiers at the checkpoint were looking for the day when they removed Abu Sahla from the hopelessly long queue. Maybe they were looking for the same answers that the rest of us were searching for. The answer to the absurdity of a situation that puts automatic weapons in the hands of 18 year old Israeli soldiers, and asks the people who they point them at to be mindful – first and foremost – of the Israeli’s security.

Maybe his beard marked him as an Islamist. Maybe his background as a professional chemist had marked him as a potential bomb-maker. Maybe the interrogation became physical and escalated beyond the “standard” level of physicality. We will never know.

Whatever the soldiers were looking for that day, he did not have it, and they did not find it. The last anyone ever saw of Abu Sahla was as he was removed to the checkpoint for what we assume was questioning.

He was a good, humanitarian man. He was my friend. He did not deserve to disappear. His family deserved answers.

I wept for Sahla – apple of her father’s eye – the small daughter he left behind. I wept for the hope she had for a better future that disappeared with him inside that answerless, concrete box at the checkpoint.

I wept for Amina, his wife. In the poverty and fear of Gaza, the world’s largest open air prison, they were happier than most couples with everything – and for that, I envied them.

He was a good man. He escaped. He had a future.

He cared too much. He came back. And now he is dead.

I wept for the logic of a conflict that inverts the traits we normally consider blessings – love, loyalty, kindness and intelligence – and turns them into liabilities.

I wept for the peace his death will not bring closer. For, in death, he joins the ranks of the martyrs – mute testimony to the senselessness of the conflict, but used like political currency by which ever faction-du-jour has decided that red is the new black.

And then to wake up to these events most recently…

I want to scream. I want to scream until the skin on my face boils and my lungs collapse.

I want to scream at the waste of it all. At the insanity of a conflict which takes good, decent, honourable men and makes them more useful dead than alive.

I want to scream at a conflict that hides the obscene truth of that insanity behind maps and graphs and lobby groups and UN Resolutions and press releases.

I want to scream at the senseless fixation with the past that is so single-minded in its obsession that it chews up great chunks of the future before it has even happened.

I want to scream at the hate I feel for myself for wanting to tune out from the outrage, to forget the faces and the names and the tiny, empty shoes. I want to scream at the hate that is so overpowering it affects even those who observe it.

I want to scream every four-letter, single-syllable word ever conceived to express the obscenity of it all, and it doesn’t even come close.

And in the end, it doesn’t even matter. There’s only one three-letter word that matters anymore:

WHY.

To those who support Israel, justify yourself.

Find me the words that will make all of this better. Find me the words to tell the families of those whose greatest crime was to give a damn about their fellow human being. Find me the words that will make up for what you have taken away. Find me the words that will replace a son for his mother.

This is not rhetorical. Tell me.

All of you armchair generals and part-time Zionists: tell me about the price of freedom and the cost of war while kinder, gentler and better men, pay them.

Tell me WHY so I can tell myself.

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Comments 13 comments

myownworld profile image

myownworld 6 years ago from uk

This brought tears to my eyes -it was so powerfully written! I know and feel your frustration, I have seen too much of war in pakistan not to. But let the anger go ilm... it only hardens hearts. You already have the answer: your forum post said it - yes, reach out... and keep giving. Your friend's soul will find peace in that too. Take care, am always here as your friend x


ilmdamaily profile image

ilmdamaily 6 years ago from A forgotten corner of a dying empire. OK, it's Australia :-) Author

Thank you so much MOW - I really appreciate your input. You're right - carrying hate around is not a good idea - and seriously compromises one's health! You can feel it in the centre of your chest, and with the way the world is these days you sometimes have to close your eyes and just try to deliberately clear it.

I guess this piece was as much a lamentation as anything else - both for my friend, and the inherent value of human - and indeed all - life, which judging by the responses in the forum has been all but forgotten.

Take care also - ukhti fi salaam:-)


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Those who make the decisions regarding internal and/or foreign affairs (for the most part) cannot hear you from their mansions or bullet-proof limos; even if they could they would continue sending their email on their blackberry and you or I, perhaps even our existence as a specie does not matter much. To the political elite we are nothing but pawns to be moved around strategically for their presonal profit. I hear you ... this shit is crazy, beyond crazy ...


American Romance profile image

American Romance 6 years ago from America

We don't know the circumstances, but maybe if he had fought for the missles to stop traveling into Israel this type of thing would have never happened, its hard to feel sorry for those who support terror wether you have personal feelings for them or not! When the citizens begin to fight against hamas this situation will right itself over there!


ilmdamaily profile image

ilmdamaily 6 years ago from A forgotten corner of a dying empire. OK, it's Australia :-) Author

@Mr Happy: Thanks for the comments - you're right, this is absolutely crazy. People may not listen, but the important thing is to keep asking the question. And in this instance, I don't think anyone really has an answer to the question:

Why?

The answers you come to in life aren't half as important as the questions you ask.


ilmdamaily profile image

ilmdamaily 6 years ago from A forgotten corner of a dying empire. OK, it's Australia :-) Author

@American Romance: Thanks for stopping by and engaging.

I write about this person because he was part of my immediate experience of this conflict. I have also known many Israelis - some of whom were/are my friends. However, none of them have been stolen from us in the way that Abu Sahla was.

Moreover, he was a peaceful man. Caught up in something he was born into and very much wanted out of. To attempt to justify his death in the manner you have is to reinforce the ideological structure of terrorism.

That I should choose to write about a Palestinian does not devalue the life of any Israeli. There is more than enough sadness to go around, this is not a zero-sum game.

Implicit in my writing is a confession of the value of all life - Israeli or Palestinian. I do not conflate the actions of the state of Israel with all jews, nor even all Israelis. I lament only those who mobilise such tags to hide behind, when the truth of their grossness cannot remain in public view by itself.

If there is goodness or necessity in the taking of another human life, then I hope to find it. It would sooth my conscience. But I suspect it isn't there, and the inability of myself and anyone else to answer the question of "why" is testament to that.

If you lost your wife (or husband), brother, son, or friend to a military occupation in such a way, would someone showing up on your doorstep with the answer you've just given sooth or enrage you? How would you feel? I suspect you'd feel enraged that someone could cheapen the memory of your loved one by glibly politicising it.

I certainly hope that never happens to you.

There's a central human truth here: that *all life* is valuable, cherished and worthwhile - regardless of what country we come from or what belief we are.

Peace.


Mr. Happy profile image

Mr. Happy 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

The questions are very important indeed. Maybe we can do more than just ask questions though; maybe something will come out of us questioning the status-quo ... more than just dead innocent bodies ...

Cheers for a good blog!


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 6 years ago from India

I suppose it's when someone you know and love is involved that the tragedy of these senseless wars hits you. Till then, many of us might ask ‘Why' and maybe even feel - but not from the depths of our hearts as when it is someone we care about. This is a sad way indeed to lose a friend!


secularist10 profile image

secularist10 6 years ago from New York City

I can attempt to answer the question of "why." The answer is, ultimately, because of religious belief. The Jews have held for thousands of years two relevant beliefs: (1) that they are a unique ethnic group, chosen by God above all others to have a special relationship with him, and (2) accordingly, that God himself has given them the right to the land in question.

The religious nature of these beliefs ensures their strength in the face of senseless tragedies, as narrow-minded beliefs have for thousands of years across this planet. If one is acting in the interest of God, at the behest of God and in the service of God's plan, then one will justify, rationalize and excuse all sorts of human suffering and oppression, as the Old Testament itself demonstrates. Especially if the suffering is being born by humans that are inherently less valuable than you.

This helps to explain the devaluing of Arab life that is so common at the highest levels of Israeli decision-making, and of American political life.

There is good news, though: there is an endgame. This conflict will not last forever. Possibly in our lifetimes, within 50 years or so, given the demographic trends in Israel and Palestine, the current dynamic will come to an end.

Either Israel will be swallowed up by a massively growing Arab population all around it, stubbornly clinging to its bronze-age superstitions about a "Holy Land," or it will be forced by history to cede town after town, and accept a two-state solution on Arab terms.

American financial difficulties, interestingly, will necessarily contribute to this kind of outcome, because Israel can throw its weight around in an unfriendly neighborhood only as long as it has an external sugar daddy to pay its humungous military bills.

Bottom line: this won't last forever. Human suffering might be with us for a long time, but the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not.


Shadesbreath profile image

Shadesbreath 6 years ago from California

You wrote this with such passion. It's very beautiful and moving. I wish I had something to say that would matter, but I don't. War, conflicts, whatever we call them, always become so impossibly insane to fathom when reduced down to the level of individuals. One of my very favorite poems is a WWI poem by Wilfred Owens, "Dulce Et Decorum Est" I think captures some of what you have here too. I'm sorry about your friend. I hope you don't hold onto the hate for long. It's hard to let that sort of thing go, but it's the people on both sides who hold on to it that keep it going still. Easy to say for me, as I sit here safely where I am. So, I don't know. It's just sad in the most enormous way. You're right, you can't scream loud enough or long enough to vent. Great hub.


ilmdamaily profile image

ilmdamaily 6 years ago from A forgotten corner of a dying empire. OK, it's Australia :-) Author

@Mr Happy: Thank you for the comment - hopefully in time, our collective consciousness will be awakened. Until then, nonviolently confronting the moral absurdity of the situation is our only recourse...

@Shalini: Thank you for stopping by, and for the sentiment behind your comment - peace.

@Secularist02: Thanks for an insightful comment. To a certain extent I agree with you - religion does play a role in the conflict, but not to the extent that most people think. Ultimately it's a competition over land and resources. While religion is deployed as a galvanising politcal force to varying degrees by both sides, it's the daily realities of displacement and oppression which dictate the dynamic of the conflict.

You are right though: the conflict will not be with us forever. The trick will be to end it on our terms, not let it consume all those to the point where it exhausts all human decency. Thanks for the comment.

@ShadesBreath:

"I wish I had something to say that would matter, but I don't."

Thank you for your comments Shade...but what you have said does matter - we all have something valuable to contribute to this problem, and your contribution is welcome.

You're right - we can't hold on to the hate. And to be honest, i've let that hate go. In the vacuum of its absence though, pity, and an enourmous sense of mourning have taken its place. I don't have the energy to hate over this - but I do, and will always, have the energy to care.

Thank you so much for stopping by Shade.


Deborah Demander profile image

Deborah Demander 6 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

Very well written. Until humanity opens its eyes and sees, really sees the others, there will be no end to tyranny, terrorism and war.

Namaste.


medo 4 years ago

WOW i didn't think that someone still care about us i mean even arabs baled on us i just like to say thank god for people like you

mahmoud al-rajabi a proud palastinian

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