Below is a comment piece I read yesterday in Haaretz. I came across it via Facebook, and was moved by its power and lyricism so I contacted the writer, Marilyn Garson, to tell her so. Writers on difficult topics need support, and those of us in whose bones and organs this issue is lodged need whatever scraps of hope and fellow-feeling and beauty we can find. Marilyn responded quickly, and very kindly invited me to share her piece on my blog.

Marilyn is Jewish Canadian who lived in Gaza four years, including throughout the 51 day Israeli siege in 2014; she left a year later. Here are some comments about life in Gaza:

“For four years, I led teams of young Gazan parents. They were all bilingual, with graduate degrees. We employed dozens of recent university graduates. We worked with aspiring, professional Gaza: businesses, job-seekers, artists, freelancers and start-ups. The walls of Gaza do not confine a single, undifferentiated enemy object. They conceal a life-loving, complex society that treasures education and family.”

“Resistance is Gaza’s unifying civic virtue, and under pressure, Gaza coheres like contact cement. But those walls press many forms of resistance into absurd proximity; those who sacrifice everything today, and those who protest by living each day meaningfully in inhuman conditions. The walls empower the violent factions, who monopolize force in a closed space.”

For more of Marilyn’s lovely writing visit her blog, Contrapuntal: Transforming Gaza. Meantime, here’s her piece from Haaretz.

“Netanyahu seals the gates of the West Bank and Gaza, confining millions of Palestinians, to enjoy the Sukkot festival. If anywhere or anyone else demanded a Jew-free holiday, would we shrug that off?”

My team in Gaza were especially fond of one brand of Israeli honey cookies. We gorged whenever we spotted them, a Hebrew label among the Arabic. I dawdled over that label one morning, imagining Hebron settlers sipping coffee with Gaza strawberries.

My colleague misunderstood my reverie, and helpfully reminded me, “It’s just a cookie. It’s not politics.” The settlers with the red-stained fingers vanished.

Living in Gaza, the rest of the world could look absurd.

Newt Gingrich, an American politician, disparaged Palestinians as “an invented people”. A Gazan colleague flounced into my office. Hands on hips, she demanded, “Isn’t everybody invented?”

Israelis and Gazans had such basic, human things in common. At funeral after funeral, they both said, “Those boys were everyone’s boys. I have lost one more son.”

Some people preferred the safe distance of binary distinctions. One Tel Aviv taxi driver insisted, “We can’t live together because we’re human beings and they’re not.”

When we cannot even imagine living together, we underestimate all the creativity, the money, the technology and infrastructure, and the hard work that has gone into keeping us apart.

We slip down the self-referential slope: it’s all about us. We see only our suffering and our reasons, and we brandish the license of our losses. History becomes a litany of gestures made to straw men, who inexplicably rejected each one because they only understand violence. How could we live with straw men like that?

So the leaders of two nations with long memories wait for the other to forget, or be punished enough, or just go away.

Israel insists on its good motives but cannot ascribe the same to Palestinians. Palestinians are judged by their actions, overlaid with malevolent intentions.

Israelis at home are civilians; Palestinians in their homes are human shields. Dead Israeli civilians are victims of terror, while dead Gazans can only be collateral damage, because the IDF has its purity of arms. An IDF poster from the 2014 war made it simple: Israel uses weapons to protect civilians, while Hamas uses civilians to protect its weapons. There’s no living with people like that.

These are not the first belligerents to lie, or to wilfully refuse to see the humanity of the other side. As a witness in Gaza from 2011 to 2015, I was outraged by the asymmetry and the tactics of this conflict, and the failure of imagination – but I’m not Israeli. And I’m hardly the first Jew who has waded through the fission-fusion-fission reaction of recognizing Israel as a state rather than as a religion.

I was left with the dismay I might feel if my sister erupted in repeated, violent road rage. I didn’t do it. However, she is a part of me. The name on the warrant is also mine.

So it is, when Israel’s elected government attaches Judaism to its apparently inalienable right to dominate. In the name of religion, they withhold from others precisely the human rights that we Jews claim for ourselves. Their religious appropriation makes us more than witnesses.

Netanyahu seals the gates of the West Bank and Gaza for eleven days, to enjoy Sukkot. How flagrant, to confine millions of people in the name of a holiday that celebrates the flimsy, temporary nature of our walls.

If Jews were herded behind concrete walls and locked away for eleven days, so that someone else might enjoy a Jew-free holiday, would we shrug that off?

We tolerate a nationalism which withholds from others precisely the political rights that we claim for ourselves. Have we forgotten that statelessness was the problem statement of Zionism? Jews felt vulnerable and voiceless in a world comprised of states – yet we avert our eyes from the stateless peril of others.

We accept the straw men they show us. If Jewish nationalism requires this domination, we assume that Palestinian aspirations must be as lopsided. Their rights would necessarily be realized at our expense, wouldn’t they? We leave every better possibility unexamined, because we have already decided that we cannot live together. We’ve been primed.

Naturally, Netanyahu is preventatively foreclosing on Palestinian reconciliation.

We’ve seen this. In 2014, this was one of the last way-stations before a calamitous and (according to Israel’s State Comptroller) avoidable war. First there was no Palestinian interlocutor who could deliver all of Palestine. Then, overnight, at the prospect of reconciliation, there was no acceptable Palestinian interlocutor because someone might represent all of Palestine. The risks of war are more tolerable than the risks of compromise.

Why do we permit it? Netanyahu invokes the spectre – they all want to kill us. They always, only, want to kill us. That’s why we can’t live together, because Israel’s strength is the only Jewish safety. Be very afraid. Build walls. Then build more walls.

The Global Militarization Index ranks Israel as the most militarized country on earth, a distinction it has held for 17 of the past 25 years (Israel was ranked second from 1999 – 2006). Israel has imprisoned itself, and still finds it necessary to spend another $800 million, on yet more walls, to hide itself from immiserated Gaza.

So, um, are we safe yet?

No. There is no separate safety in our entropic time. Jews, and everyone else, will become safe in a tolerant world, when Jews enjoy the same rights as those human beings behind the walls.

Call all this brick-laying ‘Israeli’, if that is what you want ‘Israeli’ to mean. But do not call it Jewish, because oppression is not the content of Judaism. Value life, and resist its waste. Seek justice – that is the content I understand. We are failing at it.

Marilyn Garson lived and worked in Gaza from 2011 – 2015, as the Economic Director of Mercy Corps and the Business and Livelihoods Consultant to UNRWA. She is a co-founder of the Gaza Gateway social enterprise. She now writes from New Zealand. Her blog is Transforming Gaza.


This piece by Haaretz’s Gideon Levy appeared on Middle East Eye on June 30th. I excerpt a few bits below, but I’d urge you to read it in its entirety. It speaks for itself, very painfully. I’m too old for naivety but apparently maintain the capacity for bewilderment that our political leaders collude with their shameful silence in the incremental genocide of the Palestinians of Gaza. Never again, indeed.

“One of the biggest experiments involving human subjects ever conducted anywhere is taking place right before our eyes, and the world is silent.

“The project is at its peak and the world shows no interest. This experiment on human beings, unsanctioned by any of the international scientific institutions whose oversight is required by the Helsinki Declaration, seeks to examine human behaviour in situations of extreme stress and deprivation.

“The experimental group does not comprise just a few, nor dozens or hundreds, nor thousands or tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people. The experimental population includes no fewer than two million human beings…

“At first Gaza was deprived of electricity for about a third of each 24 hours, then for about half, and now the level has been ratcheted up such that the two million residents of Gaza have electricity for only about 2.5 hours in each 24. Let’s see what that does to them. Let’s watch how they respond. And how about when they are supplied with electricity for only a single hour per day? Or for one hour per week? This experiment is still in its early stages, and no one can foresee its end…

“Israel bears primary responsibility for this situation, due to the siege it imposes, but Israel is certainly not the only culprit.

“The PA and Egypt are full partners in this crime. Yes, crime. This is 2017 and preventing millions of human beings from receiving electricity means depriving them of oxygen and water. Israel’s responsibility cries out to the heavens because Gaza is still under partial Israeli occupation.

“Gaza is dying, slowly. Elsewhere, its suffering matters to no one. No one in Washington, or Brussels, or Jerusalem, or Cairo nor even in Ramallah. Incredibly, there is evidently almost no one who cares that two million people are abandoned to the dark at night and to the sweltering heat of the summer days, with nowhere to run and no shred of hope. Nothing.”

On a hunt for something else, I came across this account  of a series of talks by the Haaretz journalist Amira Hass at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. I’d read it when it was first published on Informed Comment last July, but had forgotten the sheer force of it so I’m sharing it now.


I am a huge admirer of Hass, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor who has chosen to live amongst Palestinians in Gaza and then the West Bank, where she invariably calls it like she sees it with her own eyes, despite the usual threats and slurs by people who mostly haven’t. Compare and contrast with the ethnically-cleansed West Bank where New York Times bureau chiefs make themselves at home in the former villa of the Palestinian Karmi family forced out in 1948.


Although she’s best known as a critic of her government,  I especially admire Hass’s willingness to grapple with the inconsonance of her own position. As Informed Comment report,


Hass said she’s aware of the “contradiction of reporting about the Occupation,” while at the same time “profiting from” that Occupation as an Israeli.


“It’s a constant contradiction in my life. It is a bitter acknowledgment of a privilege and a contradiction,” she said during one of her talks. “It is especially bitter when I talk about Gaza.”


Speaking of Gaza, here’s an excerpt about the convenient fallacies that prop up Western governments’ refusal to address Israeli behaviour there,


In practice, Gaza has become a huge, let me be blunt, concentration camp for right now 1, 800,000 people. This is not a novelty. This is not something new. This did not start, unlike what many people think, with the rise of Hamas, Hamas being elected in 2006, or Hamas taking over the security agencies and apparatus in Gaza in 2007 after the short civil war. We can almost trace it to the moment when it started, and this is the 15th of January 1991 — long before Oslo, long before Madrid, and of course long before the suicide attacks inside Israeli cities and against Israeli civilians.


And here’s the rest.

This is a powerful piece by Dina Elmuti which I just came across this morning, although it’s a few days old. It was published on the independent media website American Herald Tribune and is re-printed here under their Creative Commons license.

If you click here you can read the second half of Dina’s piece, ‘Israel dropped 800 tons of bombs on Gaza, the world didn’t blink an eye

“Every day, I desperately attempt to make sense of the senseless. I feverishly try to patch and weave together the pieces of history to understand and grapple with the calamities that have bestowed us today. But reality has satirized itself too many times over. By the time we update the list of murdered Palestinians, the list is outdated. Criminal atrocities and genocidal assaults have become so commonplace and typical of the monstrous, egregious, laughable irony etched deeply in the psyche of a state founded in the aftermath of the Holocaust.

What exists today is an almost Kafkaesque reality in which the humanity of the oppressed is posthumously twisted and put on trial over and over and over again. Year after year, they’re forced to prove that they are human enough. That they’re alive enough. That their blood and flesh are worth enough, like others. Body count, political leverage and an extensive history of settler brutality exemplify one ugly reality. The media exemplifies another. The Palestinian people live under illegal military occupation and Israel holds the preponderance of military, political and cultural power over the occupied Palestinians. Palestinians have no army, no tanks, no bombers, and no naval ships. And yet, it is the occupied Palestinian people who are constantly asked to guarantee the security and ensure the well-being of their occupiers, while the occupiers are continually held accountable for nothing.


Fact becomes fiction and fiction become fact, and the unjustifiable is justified. Acute agony rips through the bodies of old and young alike, tremors terrorize small, defenseless bodies, and the world accepts it all as deplorable but necessary. Because everything Israel does is reactionary and justified under the normalization of Zionist brutality.

As I sit here watching Israeli forces stop to pose for a selfie before unloading bullets into the bodies of Palestinian youth and severing their lives in incomprehensible ways, I feel so angry, so horrified, so humiliated and burning with indignation, so raw that it’s like a fire raging with decimated hopes. I’m desperately trying to figure out how to be alive in a moment when the indifference of the world to the suffering of my people has never been more unapologetic. I don’t live under Israel’s draconian punishment system and illegal occupation, but I find myself wondering how those in Palestine have suppressed a rage so strong it threatens to tear their being to shreds. I’m crying out the ocean lodged in my throat, but I can’t seem to scream loud enough for the anonymous screams that are silenced by the fetters of bloodcurdling atrocities.

And I’m tired.

I’m so tired of having to explain why my people deserve to live. Why the beaten, exhausted victims of Israel’s cruelty and brutality have every right to rise up and fight for their dignity. I’m so tired of having to explain why young boys who look like my younger brother and young women who look my younger sister shouldn’t be hunted down like game and subsequently put on trial for their own murders. For fighting for the fundamental rights so many of us casually take for granted every day. I’m so tired of seeing Palestinian elders, who lived through the 1948 Catastrophe (al-Nakba), have to see Zionism manifest itself in the most horrific ways against the Palestinian youth they have tirelessly fought for. My heart constricts at the reality that they will leave this Earth without seeing true liberation and justice for the Palestinian people come to fruition. I’m so tired of seeing bodies shrouded in white, stored in mercilessly public morgues and placed into the ground. I’m so tired of having to see orphans abandoned and mothers bereft. I’m tired, so very tired of people reduced to nothing more than collateral damage and state-sanctioned carnage – easily interchangeable, easily removable, easily destroyed for daring to resist state-sanctioned terror and every apparatus of a colonial regime.

I’m tired of this heart-wrenching feeling of knowing that every time there’s a Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a Ali Dawabsha, a Fadi Aloun, there will be swarms of bigoted Zionist demagogues ready with a premeditated laundry list of justifications why their existences were not even worthy enough to be mourned and that their murderers deserve for their lives to be protected and continue unscathed. Because incinerating and asphyxiating children and robbing them of life are no crimes to them. There will always be mobs of Zionist zealots and supporters who will exert effort and energy if it guarantees demeaning and destroying the lives of Palestinians.’

I want to share a quote from the Palestinian scholar and legislator Hanan Ashrawi which I’ve read before and came across again the other day. For me, it sums up precisely where we are at the moment in Israel and Palestine, and indeed where we’ve always been. Besides identifying the sinister dynamic at play in this conflict, the brilliant Ashrawi captures the essence of media spin on the issue in which the words ‘settler’ ‘occupation’ and ‘blockade’ rarely appear in the context of the violence there. Instead, we hear of ‘reprisals’ and ‘clashes’ – and ‘security,’ of course.

Ashrawi writes,

‘We are the only people on Earth asked to guarantee the security of our occupier…while Israel is the only country that calls for defense from its victims.’

So far this month, more than 1300 Palestinians have been wounded in confrontations between heavily armed fighters from one of the world’s largest and best-financed militaries, and stone-throwing and knife wielding Palestinian youth. The injured now include a Human Rights Watch Research Assistant documenting a peaceful demonstration where she said some people were ‘singing’. A medic who witnessed the shooting told HRW “[w]e didn’t see any soldiers near us. That’s why we felt safe. No one was throwing rocks or anything. Soldiers just started shooting.”

The IOF also shot a Ma’an News Agency cameraman on Sunday, and last week shot Hana Mahamid, a Lebanese TV reporter, in the face with a stun grenade. When images appeared online a short time later of Mahamid filing a report with her face heavily bandaged, hasbarists took to social media to claim the photos came from ‘Pallywood.’ Yup.

These are the Palestinians Israel has shot dead so far this month in order to ‘defend itself.’ You’ll see that many of them were children; indeed, one was not yet born. And note that the mother of Thaer Abu Ghazaleh was denied an entry permit to attend her son’s funeral.

This list comes courtesy of my Twitter contact Bea, a tireless Swedish advocate of Palestinian rights.


And here are final thoughts from Pallywood.




Doing some research for a blog of my own, I came across the comment below, ‘After the murder of baby Ali, is Zionism beyond redemption?’ from the writer Robert Cohen which I thought I’d share. I don’t agree with all of it, but I found it thoughtful and considered, and sometimes a little painful.

As someone who follows this issue closely, it’s often struck me that many of its most fearless and outspoken writers and activists are Jewish, from Noam Chomsky and Norman Finklestein, to Gideon Levy, Amira Hass and Philip Weiss, to Max Blumenthal, Dan Cohen, David Sheen and Anna Baltzer. Two of the most compelling contributions to the case of Steve Salaita, infamously ‘unhired’ by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign over his ‘uncivil’ tweets about last summer’s Gaza siege, are from the academics Michael Rothberg, who heads the English department at UIUC and directs the campus’s Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies, and Todd Presner who runs UCLA’s Jewish studies programme.

The demonstrations and other events I attend are invariably populated by the tireless crew from Jews for Justice for Palestinians, reps from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, and countless ordinary people of extraordinary conscience. These are the folks contemptuously smeared as ‘self-hating’ by self-appointed guardians of Israel’s putative interests, and ignored by a mainstream media content with its facile conflation of apparently homogeneous ‘Jewish’ interests with those of the state of Israel.

Their commitment to a tradition of Jewish dissidence, their distaste for injustice, and their willingness to confront uncomfortable truths offer romantics like me a flicker of hope, albeit one that’s increasingly snuffed out by the hawkish xenophobia of the Israeli leadership and its cynical patrons and pitiful apologists in the West, from Hasbarists on Twitter to the editorial leadership of the BBC.

And yet: there it is again, a flash barely detectable out of the corner of my eye, and I can keep on writing.

After the murder of baby Ali, is Zionism beyond redemption?

‘They can write slogans on houses like, ‘the only good Arab is a dead Arab’ and so it becomes clear; they are unconstrained and they want you dead… through this combination of bio-politics, geopolitics and security theology, we reach a situation of what I call a necro-political regime – an economy of life and death which tells you who should live and how, and who should die and how.’

A chilling must-read from from Open Democracy:

Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian spoke to Zoe Holman in the West Bank about Israeli settler-colonialism, a necropolitical regime, and her latest book, Security Theology, Surveillance and the Politics of Fear.

Source: Security theology: life, death and the everyday in Israel-Palestine