Gaza Again

by Starhawk


Building with mud — as we’ve been doing in California for the last four days — is an ancient tradition in the Middle East. I’m told the people of Gaza revived some of their traditional natural building methods over the last few years after the Israeli military destroyed hundreds of homes and public buildings in the bombings and invasion of 2009 — and then embargoed rebuilding supplies. As we finish up our beautiful project, I’m thinking of them: the warm, welcoming people I met there almost ten years ago.

Now once again the Israeli military is bombarding the most densely populated region on earth. Already they have killed over 321 civilians, including dozens of innocent children who had no voice in the underlying politics ( And Israel is calling up its reserves, beginning a ground invasion.

The ostensible reason, the murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank, is a horrible crime, and its perpetrators should be brought to justice. But arresting hundreds of Palestinians, assaulting the West Bank as Israel has done in the last weeks, and now bombing Gaza, wiping out whole families and indiscriminately murdering people who had no part in this crime — it’s compounding crime with mega-crime, murder with mass murder.

The real reason, the underlying politics: Hamas and Fatah recently made peace with each other, which is a step forward for Palestinians and therefore a perceived threat to the right-wing Israeli political interests. Here’s a bit of Palestinian politics 101: Hamas and Fatah are two factions, the two major political parties in Palestine. Fatah, the new face of the old Palestinian Liberation Front, was long headed by Arafat, who started off as Israel’s most-hated terrorist enemy but ended up being the one who signed the peace accords in Oslo back in the ‘90s that were supposed to usher in the two-state solution. Unfortunately, after the accords were signed, Israel continued to colonize the West Bank with illegal settlements — basically gated, heavily guarded Israeli enclaves built on land confiscated from Palestinians without compensation in territories that were supposed to be part of an eventual Palestinian state. They then surround those settlements with a network of private roads for Israelis only, military checkpoints, and heavy control that interferes with everything from access to farms, jobs, and education to emergency medical care.

Fatah runs the Palestinian Authority, the government of the West Bank, which often collaborates closely with Israeli authorities. They are the “peace” party, also noted for high levels of corruption.

Hamas are the hard-liners, the ones who say, “We want all the land back.” They have refused to recognize the Israeli state, tend to be more strictly Muslim, and they won the elections in Gaza, after the Israelis withdrew unilaterally in 2005. And if you’re wondering what the hell that means, here’s the short explanation. Picture Gaza: a tiny strip of desert, with Israel on two sides, Egypt on the other, the Mediterranean the fourth wall. Up until that time, the Israeli military directly controlled Gaza. Internal checkpoints meant you couldn’t go from Rafah, in the south, to Gaza City without risking hours or even days of delay when the checkpoints would suddenly close. A few hundred fanatic Israeli settlers had established strongholds in the center of Gaza, and in order to protect them the military made life hell for a million and a half Gazans. When I was there in 2003, the military were clearing a larger buffer zone with Egypt by bulldozing the homes of Gazans whose families had lived in that area from time immemorial — without compensation. Rachel Corrie was killed standing in front of a bulldozer to prevent it destroying a home. Israeli snipers regularly fired on the town, and tanks blew shell-holes into family homes.

In 2005, Ariel Sharon basically said, “We’re out of Gaza. Now we’ll control you from without, and we’ll abandon any responsibility for your lives or well-being.” They evacuated four small Israeli settlements, and proceeded to tighten the borders so that virtually no one could get in or out without their permission. Fishing boats are not allowed to go out to sea, students are not allowed to leave the country to study, the sick are not allowed out to seek medical care. Goods are strictly controlled, and not much is permitted either in or out, so Gaza’s economy was destroyed.

When the Israelis pulled out, Hamas and Fatah fought bitterly. Hamas ended up in control of Gaza. In response, the Israelis invaded Gaza in 2009, killing 1400 people and destroying hundreds of homes and public buildings. Then they tightened the blockade, allowing even fewer things in and increasing the poverty and misery in that crowded strip of desert land.

But a few weeks ago, Fatah and Hamas reached a peace accord between them. Clearly, this could be a good thing for Palestinians, offering a more united voice in negotiations, a softening to Hamas’ hard line, and possibly a counterbalance to the Palestinian Authority’s corruption and collaboration.

The murder of the three teens, who disappeared while hitchhiking in the West Bank, was apparently done by extremist fanatics who objected to the reconciliation and wanted to sabotage it. Their interests coincided with the Israeli extreme right who also wanted to sabotage the alliance, and proceeded to use the murders as a pretext for mass arrests and incursions in the West Bank and mass bombing and murder in Gaza.

Why do I bother giving you all this background?  Because most people in the US don’t know it, and conventional reporting on this issue is so bad and so biased that a 2004 study by the Media Group at Glasgow University found that many people were unsure who was invading whom, and some thought the Palestinians were refugees from Afghanistan! (

Diane Sawyer on ABC News actually misidentified pictures of Gazans under Israeli fire as Israelis under Palestinian fire (, possibly the most blatant example of the bias that always portrays Israelis as the victims of Palestinians, and ignores or discounts Palestinian suffering.

But the Palestinians are suffering, although they are an amazingly resilient people. Murder is a terrible crime, and the murder of the three teens is indefensible. But responding to murder by mass murder is also a terrible crime, illegal under international law, indefensible by any true standard of morality. The Israeli authorities must be held to account, and the blanket support by the US for the Israeli government’s campaign of terror must end.

What can we do? The most effective strategy so far in putting pressure on Israel to conform to international standards of law and justice has been the BDS movement: Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. It is time to stop buying goods made in Israeli settlements, like the SodaStream products, or supporting corporations that supply the Israeli military in their illegal operations, like Caterpillar which makes the bulldozers that destroy homes. We can pressure our own institutions to divest from these corporations, as the Presbyterians recently did, and we can pressure our government to end its three billion dollars of yearly military aid. There are also many, many demonstrations we can join, letters to write–all the ways we can bring political pressure to bear.

Don’t be silenced by the shrill voices who shriek “Israel-hater” at every criticism. Holding Israel to internationally-recognized standards of law and justice is an act of respect.

As an American Jew born in 1951, I was raised to love a vision of an Israel founded as a refuge for victims of anti-Semitism, racism, and fascism, that stood for equality and intellectual freedom and mutual care.  Much later in life, I reluctantly came to see that shining ideal, like most ideals, was tarnished, founded on stolen land. But Israel’s current policies have eroded the best of everything it might have exemplified, and unleashed a really nasty fundamentalism, a racist, fanatic hatred of Palestinians and an intolerance of dissent that poisons life in Israel as well as Palestine. My Israeli friends are enduring twin fears right now: fear of the rockets coming their way from Gaza, albeit so far they have killed no one, and fear of the right-wing Israeli fanatics who recently savagely beat Israeli peace protestors in Tel Aviv–something your news media most likely did not report!

In any case, Israel is not a person one can either love or hate. Some of Israel’s policies I applaud; others I detest. There are many individual Israelis I love dearly, as I also dearly love many Palestinians. They are far more similar than they are different, right down to the astounding ability of grandmothers of both peoples to stuff you with much more food than you really want to eat, when they have food. I would like to see them all live in peace, and the best hope for that is for all of us to exert every pressure we can bring to bear on the Israeli government to step off the path of aggression and onto the path of negotiation and diplomacy.

7 comments to Gaza Again

  • Cindy Savage

    Sometimes I wonder that the Palestinians who kidnapped the Israeli athletes in 1972 may have accidentally killed their country. Not that I’m saying any one deserves to die, far from it. The American media prefers to fear monger instead of educate and the events of 1972 make it far too easy to stick to the Israeli side. The most rabid pro-Israeli people I know are evangelical Christians, who are actually cheering for their perceived “end times” when they support Israel. Most Jews I know are conflicted by the whole situation, much like you are.

  • Ariel Ninio

    it is very sad , that you don`t know or don`t want to know the true about Gazza ….. the reason for the war this time ( already 13 days ) is the amount of missiles sent to us from the gaza strip from the Hamass activists (already 1500 missiles more untill you, read this ) the missiles are sent from schools , houses and from the middle of urban areas , so when we strike , mor people will die and they can shout to the world ” look what the JEWS did ” …… for them the dead of their people is a blessing ( they became JAHID ) and the moto of the HAMAS is ” we love death as much as jews love living ” and much more …….. please as a person who I respect as a PAGAN LEADER I ask you and I dare you to ask the other side about what we consider the truth , becouse as a person who live here I really don`t see the same things that you believe is the truth from abroad , and believe me I was a true believer in the peace between us Israelies and Palestinians , and they slap ono my face more than once , showing me that I was very naif , please show the Pagan comunity in Israel that you listen to the other side too and you are a true fair person …….. if after you hear the israeli side , you say it is all bullshit , I will respect your way , but not before you listen to the Israeli spokers ( even if you detest them ) believe me you are going to be surprised about the true

    • Ariel, believe me I have heard the Israeli side, and I have many dear Israeli friends and even some relatives. I have spent a lot of time in Israel, and am very glad to see the Pagan community growing there. But may I suggest that you see the Palestinian side. And no, for them the death of their people is NOT a blessing, it’s a tragedy, just as it would be for you. The children of Gaza are not responsible for Hamas’ bombs–which I also condemn–and they do not deserve to die. And Israel needs to follow international law, allow the people of Gaza basic human rights and freedom. Then there is a chance for peace.
      Blessed be, Starhawk

  • Marc Regal

    Great stuff Starhawk, I didn’t realise you were such an activist. If we can make more people aware of the reality of Israel’s iron grip over the Palestinian people, we can surely bring peace and justice to this much maligned region. Peace and blessing, Marc.

  • I have mixed feelings and it may be I will for a long time to come. I thought at one point if I could ground myself in history that it would give me a framework and point of reference to see more than one side of issues related to identity politics but there is another layer of ‘the glass ceiling’ that may just be modernism or the whole post modern idea that we can never truly know the other that arises when you use that as a framework in the first place. As it is, I applied to the Peace Corps this month and finally submitted my Health History form. I got a diverse list of places that could meet my health needs in reply to request assignment in. I requested Asia because my background is health and spa and massage and wellness (interdisciplinary degree with health and business and history) and I wont know if that is the right choice or not for some time. Be well. Praying for you and your work

  • Sue Skinner

    Thanks much for your cogent review of the tragedy of the Israeli state’s ongoing invasion and occupation of Palestine. The discussion about Hamas and Fatah is especially useful.

    All Best,

    Sue S

  • I am a very involved Suffolk County community member and I am a counselor and psychotherapist for over 30 years. My response is in keeping with what I want to model for my children, i.e. tech by example. No one deserves to be oppressed or killed- neither Israelis or Palestinians. the pathway to Peace is PEACE.

    At some point, the leaders of our nation, more powerful than others should be urged to promote Peace, Positivity, Compassion and Love for their fellow man. Yet everyone has a right to protect themselves from harm but not deliberately harm others to do it.

    All of us can take this opportunity to seek a 3d alternative, that is neither your way or my way but is our way. This would require some introspection and communication.

    We must recognize that our answer is only one of rhe answers and seek to be sensitive to both sides.

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