Rafah, Jenin, Khan Yunis, Zeitun: Foreign sounding names of so distanced and disturbing a reality. All that we know of them is what the media has selectively determined to impart, if we are even interested in hearing the story.
The Rafah refugee camp, a small strip of land at the southern edge of
Media reports said
Homemade land mines killed the Israeli soldiers. However, the blasts were exaggerated by the large amounts of explosives hauled by Israeli armored vehicles, apparently on their way to blow up Palestinian homes somewhere in
Even before the Rafah atrocities subsided,
Can logic be any more fallacious?
So what is it that Palestinians are permitted to do in self-defense, in accordance with the so twisted pro-Israeli Bush doctrine?
How about marching in a peaceful demonstration?
In Rafah, that too could not be tolerated. It was handled with resoluteness and vigor, the same way any â€œterroristâ€ threat deserves to be handled. A missile fired from a US-supplied Apache helicopter was all it took to eliminate that option of resistance.
â€œPhotos below are too graphicâ€, read a warning posted on a Palestinian website of images of dead civilians in the tragedy-stricken refugee camp. They were of the dozen bodies piled up in a local farmerâ€™s cooler since the hospitalâ€™s morgue was overfilled with victims.
One picture refuses to escape my mind. An olive-skinned child with slightly opened eyes. Dead. An unknown hand, holds the childâ€™s wholly disjoined arm closer to the dead body, as if he is telling the camera: â€œThis arm belonged here.â€ The boy was nameless. I quivered. The feeling of being that boyâ€™s father is horrifying.
In the case of Israeli victims of suicide bombings, reality can be equally gruesome. But Bush dares not use the same logic when Palestinians fall victim: â€œPalestinians too entail the right to defend themselves.â€ Never once has he uttered these words. So what else should Palestinians attempt, now that even peaceful protests are crossing the line?
Peter Hansen, the chief of the United Nations agency for refugees in the region confirmed that in Rafah refugee camp, homes were toppled on their dwellers.
Even as Hansen himself walked through the camp assessing the damages, Israeli soldiers were still shooting. â€œWe have now confirmation from the hospital that a girl was shot and killed in one of the two gun bursts we heard,â€ he said.
She was Rawan Abu Zeid, a 3-year-old girl from Rafah. Her peers said that she was skipping in her way to the candy store. Two bullets struck her, one in the head and the other in the neck. Was she taken to the same makeshift morgue, or did her tiny body find room for itself in the local hospital?
This time I implore an answer: What must Palestinians do to stand up to the Israeli occupation without being blamed for their own misery, now that suicide bombings, fighting occupation soldiers, protesting peacefully, huddling in fear with oneâ€™s family in oneâ€™s own home, or coveting a piece of candy from a nearby shop warrant so violent an Israeli response? Of course we are expected to pay little attention to the Palestinian victims, to ask who are they and who will pay for their death. In fact, few of us bother to find out what can be done to help those fortunate enough to evade the bullets and the bulldozers.
But enthusiastically we indulge in analyzing Ariel Sharonâ€™s motives, as if such senseless murder might possibly adhere to some kind of logic.
Is it blatant revenge that compelled the killings? Is it another campaign of ethnic cleansing of areas adjacent to the border with
Whatever the reasons, the fact is,
In a few days, the name Rafah shall concede to make room for more important headlines. It might be a few more days before another foreign sounding Palestinian name, associated with tragedy and death was introduced, and with it a long list of Israeli pretenses, coupled with a quote or two made by President Bush somewhere on his fundraising trail: â€œIsrael has the right to defend itself.â€ The chances are, the Rafah morgues shall be emptied and dusty yellow bulldozers shall remove the debris of over 230 destroyed homes. Whose morgue shall be filled next is hard to predict.
As for the refugees of the devastated camp, left alone atop the debris of their homes, scores of death certificates and hundreds of wounded to care for, they, astonishingly have a way to cope. For one, they insist that there are millions of people around the world who care about them. Someone chanting for their rights and freedom anywhere in the world feeds them with urgently needed hope for one more day.
A Palestinian friend of mine, who is living far away from home, told me that as she witnessed the images of the victims of Rafah, she felt a strange and overpowering sense of pride. She said, â€œIf I had not been born Palestinian, I wouldâ€™ve wished to be.â€ I understood, and I too felt the same.
-Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian-American journalist.