Gaza’s writers keep writing under the bombs

via The Electronic Intifada:

Smoke rises after an Israeli missile strike in Gaza City on 19 July.

(Mohammad Othman / APA images)

Despite Israel’s relentless aerial bombardments, shelling and ground attacks for nearly two weeks, Palestinian writers in Gaza have responded to the latest onslaught by doing what they know – writing.

According to an email from Ra Page, director of Manchester-based Comma Press, which recently published a collection of short stories from writers in Gaza, “all of theBook of Gaza contributors are writing away like crazy, whilst they have power.” (Eighty percent of households in Gaza currently have only up to four hours of power per dayas Israel has badly damaged the Strip’s electricity infrastructure.)

These writers include Nayrouz Qarmout, whose work is currently being translated for publication, and Najlaa Ataallah. Ataallah has built upon her existing Arabic-language writing — which includes two novels and a short story collection — with English posts to her blog, in the hope of sharing her experiences of the bombing and invasion with a wider audience.

Her response to the ninth day of the current attack includes this passage:

Did I die?

No doubt, this is all your hallucination of what it’s like to be dead. I’m still thinking of being not dead. Yes, I kicked him out. I triumphed upon him. He did not hug me nor took me with him to the sky.

I’m still here. I’m on this ground.

You are delirious. Your temperature skyrocketed. Your body trembles uncontrollably. Your mother recites the verses from the Quran over your head. The bed shakes.

“What day is it today?”, you asked your mother.

She lowers her head, trying to answer you. It looks like she too has forgotten the day and the date.

But that’s not what you are asking for…

You wanted to know which day of the aggression is this day. Did you pass the ninth day without death harvesting you, or are you still inside this ninth day cycle?

More of Ataallah’s writing can be found on her blog.

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Comment on “Gaza’s writers keep writing under the bombs”

  1. As I walked through my peaceful neighborhood early this morning I noted with great pleasure the absence of rockets between the houses and schools and the lack of jets overhead. When I go the other way, I walk through a valley of bushes, trees, a couple of streams, 4 large ponds, the occasional muskrat, birds and bunny rabbits. No rockets or planes there either. Lucky me.

    It is always a tragedy when homes are destroyed by war as it also is when artworks burn along with them. Writers should write. Painters should paint. Indiscriminate rockets by the thousands and suicide bombers in markets, bars and buses are none too pleasant either. War, as they say, is hell and the innocent suffer it more than most.

    Hamas is a terrorist group according to their own charter which promises to push Israel into the sea. My government and most others also declare them to be so. War or no war, they rain down hundreds of rockets a month on Israel who has not only the right but the responsibility to defend its citizens. Who among us would do less? Who among us could?

    I’m not sure a magazine with ‘Intifada’ in its title would be the least biased source of in formation but each to his own. It is interesting that all Israeli attacks are upon unarmed and innocent citizens unlike those war-like bus riders, market shoppers and diners on the Israeli side. There is no telling just how much damage can be rendered by a bus pass, ripe fruit or a schnitzel.

    This not to mention the Hamas rockets which have hit the Israeli cities of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa, towns in the West Bank as well as Bedouin villages. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum addressed Arabs in areas targeted by Hamas thusly:
    “Our rockets will not touch you,” Barhoum said on Hamas-run television. “We know the geography. Our rockets will not hit one Arab Palestinian child. Our rockets are aimed at the Israelis.”

    He might have added that they really have no idea where the rockets are going but hey, war is hell as I said. I’m sure they get that in Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv, not so much in the West Bank and the Bedouin villages, however. “Heads up,” would have been better advice. And oh yes, thanks to Iran and Hezbollah, Hamas has a stock pile of more than 10,000 rockets and missiles, including some with a 200-km range. Heads up indeed.

    The few rockets that actually seem on course to hit anything of value are invariably intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. Even West Bank leader Mahmoud Abbas, whose own territory has been hit by the errant rockets of Hamas, has asked: “What are you trying to achieve by sending rockets?”

    Obama and Kerry sound and look good as always but sound bites are not facts, neither do they reveal any knowledge of history. In fact, they carry no weight whatsoever. With great power comes great responsibility, at least it used to. America has become feckless and weak. The world knows it. Ask Putin, Hezbollah, Hamas or Iran to name but a few.

    Today’s Palestinians prefer the terminology of the oppressed and so, after much shouting and ranting about, fire rockets at will. They also rewrite what history they cannot ignore. A brief refresher follows below for those who cannot or will not read past the first Google page.

    Even in the PLO’s terrorist charter, Jews living in “Palestine” prior to 1917 were to be called, “Palestinians.” The original idea of a “Palestinian Arab” state grew out of the Balfour Declaration of 1917. “Mandated Palestine” was to become the permanent Jewish Homeland. The Arabs, however, were not about to let even a grain of sand be set aside for a Jewish homeland. Owning 99.5% of the Middle East was not enough, apparently.

    It was the PLO and Arafat in the late 60’s who defined exactly where the borders of the fictitious and ancient “Palestinian Homeland” were to be drawn. 78% of the proposed Jewish National Homeland was given to King Faisal’s brother as a consolation prize. The only thing left to add to a Pan-Arab empire was the land from the Jordan River to the Sea. This has been the “rallying cry” of every terrorist “Peace Partner” for the past 40 years.

    For the most of its existence since the 2nd century, the area mistakenly named “Palestine” was considered to be the southern part of Syria. When the Roman emperor Hadrian finally conquered Israel after the Bar Cochba Revolt of AD 132 to 135, he wanted to erase any Jewish connection to the land of Israel and anything else associated with Jewish history. Previous Jewish-named cities were intentionally changed: Sepphoris, to “Diocaesarea,” Beth Guvrin, to “Eleutheropolis,” Jerusalem, to “Aelia Capitolina.” In the latter city, he laid out the plans for a great temple of Zeus. He renamed the land of Israel, “Syria Palestina,” combining the names of two great traditional enemies of the Jews (Syria and Philistia) in what was intended as a colossal historical insult. Palestina was simply the Latin way of pronouncing the name of David’s ancient enemy, the Philistines.

    In 1921 following WWI, the British government offered an elective asse1mbly to the Arabs and Jews. The Arabs would have outnumbered the Jews 9-1. This would have effectively halted further Zionist immigration. The Arabs, naturally, rejected it indignantly as an affront to their delicate sensibilities. What sensibilities?

    The very next year (1922), through a League of Nations mandate for Palestine, the British again proposed a Legislative Council with more elected than appointed members. The Zionists unhappily agreed; the Arabs said “NO” and boycotted the elections. Apparently they objected to the very existence of the Jewish people who trace their roots in the area back some 4,000 years, more than 2,000 years before the birth of Muhammed.

    In 1936, a British Royal Commission held 66 meetings to investigate the roots of mob violence and riots. The ever agreeable Arabs boycotted the first 55. The World Zionist Organization did not. The British offered partition with the Zionists getting about a quarter of the land not including Jerusalem. The Zionists sucked it up and said yes. The ever peaceful Arabs swept three quarters of Palestine off the table without discussion and launched a revolt. Naturally, they were crushed by the British.

    The British tried again in 1939. They offered an Arab-dominated unitary state, full independence in a decade as well as significant restrictions on Jewish immigration and land purchases. The Arabs, figuring they would do even better after another World War, scorned the offer. By 1941, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (Haj Amin) had skedaddled for Germany to support Hitler. He helped raise Bosnian Muslim SS troops and urge the Nazis to bomb Tel Aviv. Ho hum. Another peaceful effort thwarted.

    The hapless UN created Israel in 1948. It was bigger than the British offer of 1937 but still did not include Jerusalem. It was deemed to be economically unviable. The Arabs, unable to wait for it to collapse, told the Palestinians to flee. The Arab League then launched what they called “a war of extermination.” True to form, they lost. This time they lost not only the war but more land including part of Jerusalem. Israel sued for peace. The Arabs stopped whining and became deaf and dumb.

    By 1967 they were ready for war again. They uttered their usual threats of annihilation and worse before rolling over to play dead. Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem then sued for peace once more. The deaf and dumb Arabs ignored them.

    Any and all Arab negotiations for peace include no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel. This just might explain the lack of progress. No matter the agreement, the rockets fly and the crowds cheer each and every launch.

    In 1973 the Arabs, respectful and cheerful as always, launched the Ramadan War on the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. They are consistent; they lost again. To its credit Egypt, fed up with the repetitive and destructive nonsense, made peace. It was and is a very cold peace but it has held. Egypt even offered a peace plan to the current skirmish. Hamas, of course, refused.

    At Oslo in 1973, the Palestinians were offered independence in basically the pre-1967 borders. There was the Intifada instead. At Camp David in 2000 they were offered 86% of the West Bank and Gaza. They launched the second Intifada. In 2005 Israel gave back Gaza unilaterally.

    Israel has no possible reason for cross-border fighting. Peace with their neighbors, who wildly out man them, is their most natural and reasonable course. Everyone knows Hamas started this current mess. Everyone also knows that Hamas’ declared reason for being is the eradication of Israel and its Jews. They are proud of it.

    Pro-Palestinians, those who apologize and make excuses for Hamas, constantly refer to the Israeli occupation and blockade. What occupation? What they mean is the very existence of Israel. That is the “occupation” to which they refer. It is the existence of Israel plain and simple. Nearly 10 years ago the Israeli army pulled diehard settlers off synagogue roofs in Gaza. They uprooted the settlements, expelled its citizens, withdrew its military and turned every inch of Gaza over to the Palestinians. They did all this on television. I saw it. There was not a soldier, not a settler, not a single Israeli left in Gaza. There was no blockade.

    In order to help the Gaza economy get started, Israel gave the Palestinians its 3,000 greenhouses that had produced fruit and flowers for export. It opened border crossings and encouraged commerce. The idea was to establish the model for two states living peacefully and productively side by side. At the same time, Israel also dismantled four smaller settlements in the northern West Bank as a clear signal of its desire to leave the West Bank too.

    The Gaza Palestinians were granted something that none of their previous rulers, Egyptian, British, or Turkish had ever given them, an independent territory. And just how did they respond to this opportunity, this state they had been demanding? First, they demolished the greenhouses. Then they elected Hamas. They began to launch over 1,000 rockets a year from Gaza. They have spent the better part of a decade turning Gaza into a massive military base, brimming with weapons of terror to make ceaseless war on Israel. After nearly 70 years of existence, Israel remains under attack.

    Where is the Palestinian state that could have been? Where is the state that virtually any people on earth could have created with the massive financial support they continue to receive from the world community? They are per-capita the most subsidized people on earth!
    Where are the roads and rails, the industry and infrastructure of the new Palestinian state? They are nowhere to be seen. They used the world’s money to build miles of underground tunnels that hide weapons and Hamas military commanders. They have spent millions importing and producing rockets, launchers, mortars, small arms and yes, even drones. Most astonishing and cowardly they placed their arsenal and rockets in schools, hospitals, mosques and private homes all the better to expose their own civilians.

    All Hamas wants to achieve, beyond the odd kidnapping and prisoner exchange, is Israeli counter fire. This produces dead Palestinians for international television, which is why Hamas perversely urges its own people not to seek safety when Israel warns of an imminent attack.

    I have little doubt that the Israelis and the Palestinians distrust each other. The politics on both sides makes any kind of agreement a sign of weakness for one or the other. Still, there is more in their historical connections than rockets and settlements. They once got along and shared the land like neighbors. The Israelis demand their settlements as buffers and homelands for an increasing population. The Palestinians see themselves as victims in need of money and terrorist “heroes.” Maybe it is time for both sides to talk alone without outside do-gooders and legacy seekers. Maybe they could reach back through their combined history to lay out a format from which a mediator could work. Even management/labor negotiators do not require a mediator right from the outset. That puts another agenda on the table. Too many egos spoils the deal. Perhaps a mediator might start alone by reading Israeli and Arab history books as taught in their schools. Might make a good start if they each sang from historically correct hymn sheets, so to speak.

    Israel need not fear the UN, boycotts, International Conventions or the International Criminal Court. Both the U.S. and Canada to name but 2 democratic countries will stand by them. The 120 plus 17 non-aligned can stand with the others when not fighting amongst themselves. Maybe they could supply the money too so that taxpayers like me can keep our money at home or send it to those countries willing to build a nation rather than to those who would rather kill for one.

    For the record, I regret any loss of life, most particularly children. I do not like to see books and paintings burn either. I have a long association with both. What I do like to see are peaceful neighborhoods with bunnies on the path. I like to see nations grow and prosper while freely trading both goods and tourists.

    I’m a Libran. I like balance. But let me assure you, I understanding fighting. In my youth, I did some. But even as an old man I would defend my own and that of my friends as best as I could. I treasure my own. I treasure my friends. I’m sure the Israelis and the Palestinians do too. But me, I have no rockets. I don’t as much as own a gun. I have one knife. Still, I would talk. They should too. Maybe I’m a model! No one seems to want to fight me.

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