Aida Zabidi
Sharing this well-written article by Josh Wyndham-Kidd, originally here. Just because some things should be shared.

This has been difficult for me to write. Many of you, my mates online, are in Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories now, or have family and friends in Gaza, Bethlehem, Tel Aviv or Ashqelon. Many more of you have deep personal connections to what happens in those places. And here I am, some kid sitting in a warm kitchen in Canberra, having opinions about the choices of people living in much harsher conditions than I've ever experienced. I'm aware that you may feel personally aggrieved by what I write because of your connections that are far deeper than mine, and if so I do apologise - and I really want to talk to you about it. 

 I'm also aware that as an outsider I need to make sure I'm not claiming some kind of special wisdom on the basis that I've spent time there, or that I speak a little of Arabic and of Hebrew, or that I've studied some history. I'm not. I'm an outsider, and this is my personal take, not to be prioritised over the voices of those experiencing violence. 
These reasons and plenty more besides have been part of my choice to stay largely silent about what's happening in Gaza now - indeed about anything that's happened in that conflict for as long as I've been aware of it. 

All of those things said, it's also true that what's happening in Gaza and the reactions to it that I've seen here on Facebook from around the world have been keeping me sleepless at night. 

 So many traditions that so many of us follow tell us that we have power to change what's around us, and that staying silent in the face of injustice allows it to continue. From our position here in Australia, we have little direct power indeed - though I don't believe that we have none. 

Still, I am more than aware that one more Facebook note won't stop bombing - or rockets - if the latest ceasefire fails. But I can't stay silent, and still be personally consistent with anything I claim to believe, anymore. 

Last weekend, the Israeli armed forces bombed a UN-run school. The shelling killed at least 10 Palestinian people, who were there to escape the violence. It was the third such attack on a UN-run school. Israeli forces bombed the school despite the UN communicating - repeatedly, hourly - the coordinates of the school. In other words, it was a choice. 

Surely this is a moment at which all the tired certainties fall apart? Surely the third bombing of a UN school in which innocents were sheltering for their lives - and before that, the shelling from above of four children playing on a beach - and now, the knowledge that nearly 1 in 4 of the more than 1700 Palestinians killed in Gaza in the last month have been children - surely these are the points at which all our default positions can no longer be maintained? 

Surely the death of children gives us pause? No matter what we believe, or say, or write in 'normal' circumstances - and it is a mark of the depth to which this conflict has sunk that 'normal' is a military occupation that has lasted for nearly 50 years - surely the killing of children means that we must, must, must question the actions of the Israeli government and commanders? 

In the face of such uncompromising violence against the innocent, the only response is to tell the truth about that violence - that it is not only wrong but also a choice. Defence of Israel does not, does not, does not require military choices through which more than 400 children have been killed in the past weeks alone. It does not require military conduct that kills 4 civilians every time it 'targets a non-civilian combatant'. It does not. No matter what you think about the conflict in general, the choices made by Israel's military commanders in these last weeks have been indefensible, and we must say so. 

The disproportionate killing of innocents is always indefensible. It's one of the central elements of every international law of war - of every faith - and of every government's public statements in war. It's also a key reason for which Hamas and other groups have been condemned for their tactics that target civilians in Israel - and they should be condemned. In the name of their cause, they use tactics that cannot be defended if you value the principle of civilian immunity. 

As a pacifist, as a Buddhist - as a human - I mourn every death. Israeli, Palestinian. War is a tragedy for everyone. 

But mourning, prayer and condemning violence on both sides is not quite an adequate response, by itself. We need to train ourselves to see power. The victims of this latest period of intense armed force have overwhelmingly been civilian, and overwhelmingly on the Palestinian side. Nearly a quarter of Gaza's population has been forced from their homes by violence, and the guilt for that violence has not been equally distributed between actors. It rests most with the powerful. 

Militarily, this is not a 'fight' - between Israel and Hamas - in which the two are clashing on a battlefield. It is a conflict in which an advanced military force is shelling an area overwhelmingly inhabited by civilians. Israeli forces didn't 'invade' Gaza. They opened the border crossing that they keep closed to Gazans and to most economic activity, which keeps Gazans in grinding poverty, and walked into a territory that has been under Israeli military occupation or blockade since 1967. 

If the Israeli government truly wants peace - this is not a way to achieve it. And if they truly want to defend themselves within internationally recognised borders - this is not a way to achieve it. 

I do not believe that the current Israeli government wants any kind of meaningful peace - one of its key Ministers openly talks about annexing most of the occupied West Bank, and their policy choices on the ground continue to build on Palestinian land. You may believe something different, and reasonable people that I love do indeed believe something different. But surely we can join together and start with the premise that military choices like those made in the last month cannot be justified. 

I'm not writing this tonight from any animus whatsoever towards Israeli people. Israelis have welcomed me, housed me, taught me, fed me - corrected my Hebrew, encouraged my Hebrew - I've hitchhiked with them - I've had crushes on them. I want to remind everyone that the Israeli peace movement was once one of the strongest in the world, and that 500 Israelis marched in Tel Aviv against the war just days ago, in defiance of a police ban. 

This note is emphatically not about my attitude to Israeli people. This note is about the continuous line of policy choices made by Israeli governments, from 1967 until now, that have taken land, freedom and life from countless Palestinians. It is an apparatus of systematic violence that can and must end. 

So. Having said that, what then? I wrote at the start that I believe we must do what is within our power to stop violence against innocents. From the warm kitchen in Canberra, as an individual I have no direct power to change what happens in Gaza tomorrow. 

But Minister Pyne of my government was in West Jerusalem less than a week ago. He offered unequivocal support for the Israeli government, saying that Australians supported the Israeli government's "firm action" in Gaza. 

Do we? 

That kind of unquestioning international support matters to the Israeli government, or they would not have thanked Australia for its language change on the occupied status of East Jerusalem in June. And some in the Australian government can be moved: Foreign Minister Bishop has just stated for the first time that the shelling of the UN-run schools was "indefensible". 

So, I have a political power to exercise: as an Australian voter and a citizen, I can act on my government to start questioning. And I will, by writing to its Ministers, and by organising for a party that aims to replace it in Parliament with people who value moral conduct above the kind of alliance that becomes a shield for the indefensible. 

I'm also an economic agent. Because I am personally secure, I can give my money to the doctors in Gaza right now who are caring for the injured - I can also add my pressure to the millions around the world who are pressuring companies who profit from the Israeli government's violence to stop - I have done both and I invite you to join me. 

These are small powers. Real, but small. But the most important reason pushing me to write this tonight is that I know that my main power here is the ability to start a conversation with you. I can talk to you about it - below in the comments, in a private message, over the phone - and we can change the way we talk and think and act. This is the basis on which social and cultural change can take place. It's a little thing to start but it's what I have. So please, please get in touch with me so we can talk this through together. 

The people that I personally know and love who are standing up for an end to the violence now, an end to the Israeli military occupation and a free Palestine alongside Israel are doing it from the goodness of their hearts and their values that tell them that oppression by those with power is wrong. They are the same people who rally against racism, against economic injustice, against other kinds of war and violence. They are at their best when they call out and condemn the anti-Semitism that does motivate some - emphatically, not all - criticism of the actions of Israel's government. 

And in all cases, they are doing it in a simple expression of shared humanity with the people in Gaza tonight, who are hoping that the guns that fell silent this morning will not be fired again. 

I stand with them. Please talk to me about why.
0 Responses

Post a Comment