don’t want to be overly dramatic, but I was sort of shot at yesterday.
say "sort of" because I don’t think the Israeli soldiers in their
tower were trying to hit me, or the people with me… if that had been their
purpose I have no doubt that they would have. There is massive evidence here
that their aim is quite good. I think they were simply asserting their power.
And I think they were trying to intimidate me, as a foreigner, into leaving the
were no "clashes." There was no stone-throwing. Everything was quiet.
I was being shown around Khan Yonis, a bullet-riddled refugee camp in southern
Gaza filled with ragged barefoot kids and angry, resigned, perplexed parents.
"Why are they doing this to us?" people kept saying to me… "Why
they do this Palestine people? They say we guns. Where guns? Why America help
Israel? Why America not help Palestinians?"
were riddled — and I mean riddled — with bullets. There were 2-foot wide holes
in roofs where mortars had come through. People showed me around their homes –
for the most part they had moved into areas away from the outside, where, they
hoped, they would be safe — huddled on mattresses on the floor. They showed me
around one house right at the periphery of the camp. It had lovely,
bullet-riddled archways inside, the remains of a tiled kitchen. When the
children saw I was curious about the bullets, they gathered them for me by
handfuls – smashed, distorted pieces of metal that tear through walls and
people. Ill try to bring some back. I wonder if Israel will let me bring my
souvenirs of their country.
opened a door a few inches for me — they were afraid to do more, they know what
happens if you do — and I could see a guard tower a few hundred meters away.
Even I was afraid — usually so easily brave, armed with my middle-class
American feeling of invulnerability — I’ve read too many reports of injuries in
just such situations… seen too many pictures of people with bandages over eyes
that had been shot out. Earlier in the day I saw a picture of four boys probably
about 7-12 sitting on chairs in a waiting room somewhere, looking at the camera
with no expression on their faces, and each with a large piece of gauze where
one of their eyes should be. They were the lucky kids — these were only rubber
bullets, and they hadn’t gone on into the brain…
I say no expression? Perhaps the expression is beyond describing… of being old
far beyond their small bodies.
when I looked out at the guard tower where soldiers with sniper scopes and
binoculars were no doubt watching us, I, too, was nervous.
continued to wander around the camp — groups of smiling children coming up,
saying salaam, hello, giggling. The streets were Gaza sand –the ocean is
probably only half a mile away… but these children never get to swim in it.
There are soldiers in between.
they play in the dirt.
needed batteries for my camera, so we went to a tiny store. The owner gave us
small glasses of strong coffee, and would take no money for the batteries.
frustrated, he pointed out what his life had become. He showed the inevitable
bullet holes in his store, the larger hole where a missile had entered a
store-room — destroying what looked like 50 five-gallon jugs of oil. He showed
me his house next door — full of bullet holes, and told me about his children
who luckily had remained uninjured, if trauma and subjugation don’t count as
injuries. He told me that all he wanted was peace, to live his life. Again, he
asked why Israel was doing this, why America was doing this.
could I answer? All I could try to do was explain that Americans don’t know that
this is going on — that their newspapers and television don’t tell them. And so
Americans think it is a complicated issue, and that it doesn’t involve them.
I don’t find people hostile toward me, as an American, even though they so
clearly know America’s role in their suffering. By the way,
"suffering" is a word they use often in trying to tell me what their
lives are like. They always smile at me, shake my hand. When they hear I am from
America, they virtually always say, "Welcome."
wandered over to another house, on the other side of town. I saw a family home
no longer livable — bullet holes everywhere, large hole in the roof — another
once-lovely home, and probably loved home, with an interior garden and
children’s toys, and bullets scattered on the floor.
was when we went outside of this home that the gunshots occurred. We were behind
a wall, and so it didn’t feel scary. Of course, feelings lie — I had seen
numerous holes through such walls. They showed us another way out. At the time,
I didn’t take the gunshots personally. Once again, a middle-class American, I
didn’t think anyone was firing near me on purpose — I thought it was just an
accident, a coincidence.
as I’ve thought about it further, I think I was wrong. Why then? There? In that
particular part of town?
this would fit the pattern I’ve heard about lately. A few days ago when the UN
team investigating human rights violations was here in Gaza they were shot at.
The Canadian Ambassador was shot at. A young American documentary filmmaker I
met this morning, James, had been in Khan Yunis a few days ago, and had been
shot at. He showed me footage of the Israelis shooting at him: He is letting the
camera roll as he walks on a dirt road following 5-6 small boys. None are
throwing rocks. It is quiet. There is a tank at the end of the road — this is
nothing unusual. They continue walking. Suddenly there are gunshots, the camera
tilts. No one is injured. But the Army has made its point. Except it didn’t
work. He went back today.
asked him if he had a time-frame for making his documentary. He said until he
ran out of money or got shot, whichever came first. It isn’t much of a joke.
you heard about the American stringer for AP who was shot a few months ago? — a
young woman, her name is in another notebook (I’m at an Internet Cafe in Gaza
City with the slowest computers on earth) — but I think she was about 26. Mark,
a 30-year-old freelance English photographer I’ve just met, knew her, and told
me about it. The Israelis shot her in the pelvis, destroying her spleen and
uterus. They say it was an accident. She says they knew quite clearly that she
was a journalist. Israel is apparently investigating how this could have
happened. Was this reported in the press? Will we hear the results of the
investigation? Wouldn’t you think this would have been headlines? Shouldn’t it
have been? If she had been shot by Palestinians don’t you think it would have
man today told me about working with a Fox film crew, when suddenly they were
being shot at by the Israelis. They finally, barely managed to escape, and they
filmed it all. But Fox never aired it. He told me the problem with the US
coverage wasn’t the crews, it was management back in the States. I believe him.
people in the refugee camp told me about a new gas bomb the israelis shot last
weekend at them. They said it had black smoke, and a "good" smell. At
least 40 people are still hospitalized from it — I’m going to pin the number
down tomorrow — apparently there are people in several hospitals, so the true
number could be considerably higher.
the refugee camp we went to Al Amal Hospital, to meet the doctor and see the
patients.. I saw a 22-year-old man in the ICU. He was moaning and had IVs in
both arms. He said it felt like knives in his intestines. Sometimes he had
trouble breathing. His mother and aunt were hovering over him. His little sister
was sitting next to him. I went to another ward, and saw six more. I met a
father who was obviously distraught — two of his sons were in the hospital. I
saw two men have seisures while I was there — convulsing.
all said the same thing. They had just been going about their lives when
suddenly "bombs" came into their houses. some had been outside, and
had gone in to rescue people because they thought the house was on fire. But
they said there was no flame, just black smoke, and a good smell. In most cases
nothing happened immediately, but after 10 to 15 minutes they collapsed… some
is, as usual, denying that there was anything unusual about this gas. As usual,
they are lying.
this also explains a lot of the bias in the US press. The reporters in Jerusalem
and Tel Aviv get their numbers and "facts" from military spokesmen.
Information from Israeli sources is printed, information from Palestinian
see, an Israeli is one of us. A relative, a friend’s relative, a colleague’s
relative. We hear distorted versions of what is going on from these friends, and
colleagues, and we think they know what they’re talking about. And that they’re
not biased. Because they sound so reasonable and confident and knowledgeable.
They say just enough about what is wrong about Israel, about the
"two-sides" to seem neutral. This is bs.
problem is when you know the truth, it is far too much to describe, far too
cruel… far too diametrically opposite what we used to think and what everyone
still thinks to express. It is hard not to sound fanatic, over-wrought, biased.
The lie is too big, the repression too complete, the Palestinians’ lives too
horrible to write about reasonably. I find it difficult to write anything –
rare for me — because there is so so so much. You have to retrieve and redefine
the very words out of the newspeak that Israel has created of
"closures" and "bypass roads" and "security."
I think maybe I should try to take on just one topic at a time — and for now,
this new gas… Today I was going to visit the Ministry of Health for more
information, and then back to the Khan Younis hospitals with Mark to take
photos. But he didn’t show up at the scheduled time. Probably something just
came up. But over here you always worry…
I said, there is so so so much to try to describe. Who will ever believe all
this? Israel couldn’t possibly be this cruel, this arrogant. Who will believe
it? They must have a good reason… There are two sides here, of course… just
the way there was in South Africa’s apartheid period…
also visited two tiny encampments of women and children living in tents on the
dirt. They were people who used to have homes in Khan Younis, but the Israelis
decided to make a road through them — for "security?" to divide the
people? to terrorize them? just because they wanted to? who ever knows? an
absolute conqueror doesn’t have to explain — so they bulldozed their homes and
their date palms and orange groves. This is already far too long — I won’t go
into the details of how they bulldozed them, how the people fled…
the people are living in the dirt, and show me a bent-up aluminum wash pan that
they retrieved from where their homes had been — everything else, they said,
was "under the land" Again, they asked me why america was helping
Israel do this to them. Why did Bill Clinton do this? Would George Bush still do
this? They’re on a first-name basis with our presidents. And we don’t even know
about them. One old, newly poor woman knew all the international news — she had
been given a radio and listens to BBC, French broadcasts, German broadcasts,
etc. She hears the Israeli statements. The US government positions… She’s
living in rags in the dirt now. Four months ago she and her husband had two
homes — they had just built another one for their son, who had been married
just two months when his new home was bulldozed.
you’ll be glad to know the international community isn’t ignoring these people.
The Palestinians have been pleading for an international team for months to come
over to protect them from the Israelis — but the US keeps blocking this. Why???
Why??? How could this be even imagined to threaten Israel’s
"security"??? But you’ll be happy to know that the international
community isn’t ignoring them — it contributed the fly-covered, floor-less
tents that the people are living in. Meanwhile, how much aid did we give to
Israel today? Eight million was it? Sixteen million? And tomorrow we’ll give it
to them again, and the next day, and the next day, and the next day…
gave me tea, as we sat surrounded by dirt, and told me to tell America to stop
doing this to them. I’ll try. Maybe you could try too.