Those of us who are progressive Zionists believe that Israel can be a light unto the nations; and that at the very least creating a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict represents Israel’s self-interest. The goal of this blog is to suggest ways in which Israel can fulfill its highest values.
But what in heavens name can you do or say when a crime of such magnitude is committed in the name of the Israeli people? Let’s start from the beginning. According to the IDF, Palestinian militants had been planning to launch Qassam rockets from a site 400m from a Gaza beach which was full of beachgoers on a hot afternoon. Apparently, at least one errant shell hit the beach killing seven civilians including six members of the Ghalia family (this from the NY Times account):
The Ghaliya family, husband Ali, wife Raisa, and three children, ages 1, 3 and 10, were having a picnic on the northern Gazan beach on a hot afternoon and were all killed in the shelling.
We’re killing babies and mothers now. Is there no decency? At long last has Israel lost all sense of common decency??
Haaretz reports the same family suffered an earlier tragedy at the hands of the IDF:
Less than two years ago, four members of the family were killed when IDF shell hit the family farm in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahia. The military had been targeting the area in response to Palestinian mortar fire.
At times like this I wish I was Jonathan Swift so I could sublimate my fury in savage, artful political satire. But I am blazing with anger and cannot manage the sublimity of Swift’s extraordinary literary achievement. I can only rage at the injustice. Rage at the terrible toll Israeli civilians will have to pay for this blunder.
You must read the testimony of the victim, Wiham Ghaliya. She bears witness as no one else can. Can anyone be so heartless as not to weep at this outrage?
“There was a big boom and screams when the shells landed and I started running. I remember my father lying nearby, and now he is waiting for me. I saw everyone running away and I ran away too. I searched my family and I ran to find mum and dad. Then they took me to hospital. They told me I am a little ill. But I want to return to my family. My parents and my brothers are home waiting for me. I want to return to them,” she told Ynet.
Baby trams, tables, and ripped umbrellas stained with blood, were evidence of the horror that took place on the beach.
“All the people started running away as they looked in all directions for their relatives. It was an upsetting scene. Screams and bodies were everywhere. I wanted to reach my father, who was badly injured. I tried to get close to him to tell what we Muslims say in a moment of death. I tried to tell him, ‘There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is his prophet,’ but he couldn’t breathe or open his mouth,” Wiham said.
“I saw my father dying in my arms and the bodies of my brother and sisters dispersed everywhere. They took me to hospital, thank God, I am lightly injured, but I lost everything. My family was around me but no one was alive. Four sisters and a brother, my father and a stepmother, but no one was alive. The Israelis ruined my life and my future. I have nothing to say and I have no energy to speak. They said they didn’t fire. I don’t know what to say. They kill and lie.”
Wiham sat in the family’s mourning tent in Beit Lahiya when he spoke to Ynet. “I hope Allah will have mercy on them and avenge their death. In a moment we became nothing, with no taste for life. We were by the beach and we tried to find a little happiness and rest and this doesn’t happen to us a lot, and until we had the chance to live in this atmosphere; everything was blown away because of the Israelis who don’t let us breathe and live. There is no point in living.”
In past public statements, the IDF has warned that it was “closing” the range between shelling target sites and civilian areas to as little as 100m. Critics of this escalation noted that shrapnel from Israeli shells can land as far away as 200m from the target. So it seemed only natural that the IDF was indeed announcing that they didn’t care if they killed innocent civilians who were in the margin or error. But now the IDF, by its own admission, sent a deadly shell 400m off course causing this disaster.
This tragedy is not just horrible on its face because of the innocent life snuffed out. But it will have much greater collateral damage as Hamas, which had been pursuing a studied and careful strategy of honoring a 16 month ceasefire against Israeli targets has felt compelled to break the hudna. Its representatives have declared Israeli targets fair game once more for terror attacks. This is nothing short of a disaster of the first magnitude.
To read in Haaretz that the IDF has “apologized” for, and called a halt to the shelling is nothing short of gruesome irony. Once the golem is let loose how do you call it back? You remember the story of Rabbi Yehuda Loew of Prague who called a Golem into existence to save the Jews of Prague who were under attack. The Golem had the word emet inscribed on his forehead. After the Golem ran amok, Rabbi Loew was forced to destroy the monster which he did by erasing the aleph in emet leaving letters which spelled meyt or “death.” The IDF has let loose shells from hell all inscribed with the word meyt. And now, there is no way or erasing the word or the deed.
Of course, along with the so-called IDF “apology” comes a heinous veiled suggestion that Palestinians themselves might’ve been responsible:
In addition to the more likely scenario that a shell strayed from its path, the army was also exploring whether the explosion might have been caused by a “work accident.” [an IDF euphemism for Palestinian bombmakers who accidentally blow themselves up while assembling bombs].
Didn’t Malcolm X once say about American racism, “the chickens are coming home to roost?” Well, with this grisly news we can equally say that the fruits of a brutal Israeli policy of retaliation for Qassam rocket launches has also come home to roost. Now, not only Israeli civilians but all of Israel and Palestine will have to pay the price in blood.
It gives me no joy or pleasure in writing these words. I want only what is good and just for Israel (and the Palestinians). But how can you have sympathy for Occupation policies like these which bring such death and devastation to innocents (and I include Palestinian terror attacks in this denunciation)? Today’s news only reinforces the need for Israel to end the Occupation NOW. Undertake final status negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas NOW. Don’t wait a minute longer. How many more innocent lives must be taken from us before both Israelis and Palestinians will get this message through their goddamn thick skulls???
I usually try to write a more tempered style about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But in times like these when reality takes leave of its senses (if reality can be said to have any sense), caution and temerpateness are thrown to the winds just as body parts were scattered on the beach in Gaza. For the love of God and humanity, end this carnage now before it is too late.
George Bush and Condoleeza Rice–get off your asses and get things moving between these two parties. Work with the EU and the Quartet to put pressure on them to sit down and talk–Now. How can you do anything less?? The following, I’m sorry to say, is more like the “leadership” of which the U.S. is capable regarding this conflict:
The State Department on Friday night called for Israelis and Palestinians to show mutual restraint and avoid actions that could increase tensions following the IDF shelling of Gaza beach that killed seven Palestinian civilians.
The United States expressed regret for the killing and wounding of the Palestinians in Gaza and noted that the Israeli government had also issued a statement of regret and had launched an investigation, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement.
“We call on the Palestinian Authority to prevent all acts of terrorism, including the firing of missiles and rockets from Gaza,” McCormack said.
The United States has been in contact with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the government of Israel and will continue to monitor the situation closely, McCormack said.
Surely, they jest! They call on the PA to prevent terrorism when the IDF sends Palestinian body parts flying on a beautiful summer day on a Gaza beach?? What planet are they on?? And if they think Qassams are bad, just wait to see what else is in store.
This will also be a test for Amir Peretz, Israel’s defense minister. His hometown of Sederot is one of the areas targeted in Qassam attacks. But this disaster must deeply offend his sense of justice. Will he intercede and change IDF policy regarding the rocket firings? Can he do anything at all to make this sorry situation a little less horrible? I wish I was sure the answer might be ‘yes.” But this statement from him doesn’t bode well:
“We don’t seek to fight against the Palestinian people, only against terror,” Peretz said.
After you’ve just blown seven Palestinian civilians all to hell is NOT the time you say we don’t seek to fight against the Palestinian people. That is the time you call a permanent end to the shelling of densely populated Gaza urban areas. Peretz considered doing this a month ago and backed down. I hope he’s regretting his mistake. I hope he’s tossing and turning in his bed tonight. I hope he’ll get off his ass and do something.
They call on the PA to prevent terrorism when the IDF sends Palestinian body parts flying on a beautiful summer day on a Gaza beach?? What planet are they on”
Why does Arab vengence already have your approval? Can your enemies perhaps show restraint? If it is shown that the deaths on the beach were not caused by the IDF will you remain silent, or will you show the same emotion in retraction that you had in accusation? Do you, trust the mercy of armed jihadists? Who, or what will ever restrain them? Even, devout cities in Saudi Arabia live in fear of their anger.
You are scared and rightfully so, but somewhere deep inside, I know you realize, this is not about occupation, its about Jews ruling in Palestine. Submit to Islamic rule, surrender up our Jewish armies and police, live as a Dhminni , and you will have your peace with Islam. Then the left will again champion you, and Europe will deplore your depravations.
Finally what sort of men take their families on picnics in the midst of bedlam, Gehenna, and dueling artillery? Do the Negev villagers frolic in the dunes when the rockets fly?
Richard Silverstein says
You misunderstand my views either deliberately or unintentionally. Did I say that vengeance has my approval? Pls. show me where? I said that vengeance would come. It has to come. It is unfortunately an immutable law of blood feuds like the one bet. these 2 peoples. I approve neither of carnage caused by the IDF against Palestinian civilians nor carnage caused by suicide bombings or Qassam rockets against Israeli civilians.
It is now 3 days since the massacre. If Israel had any solid evidence whatsoever that it was not responsible it would’ve produced it by now. The more time goes by w/o such evidence produced, the more likely the IDF did cause the tragedy. I say provide credible evidence & let us be the judge. Until the IDF does so I will remain enraged.
Men of war, whether jihadists or IDF soldiers should not be where we expect mercy. We should expect mercy from our political leaders who should be leading us out of such hopeless carnage and toward peaceful reconciliation–a so far hopeless wish.
I will thank you for not trying to plumb my deepest soul for meanings I do not share. The IDF accident (if it was one) was ALL ABOUT the Occupation. Any Palestinian retaliation will be all about counter-reaction to IDF carnage. This is wholly about the Occupation & I utterly reject the notion that Israel will never live at peace with a Palestinian state next door. This WILL happen & I am convinced of it to my very soul.
You, like all your Arab-hating brethren are a hard-hearted cold soul. When human beings are trapped in a cage with bullets and bombs exploding all around them, they yearn for the sea, for sky, for water. It is a respite from the horror inflicted by the IDF on Gaza. Only a ghoul would blame victims blasted to smithereens for their own death. As for the inhabitants of Sederot, if they had to live under Qassam bombardment all day, every day for months on end and were so impoverished that they could find nowhere else to escape to–then certainly they would do precisely what the Gazans did by trying to find peace for a few minutes at the seaside. And besides, what would you know of a life of such privation? Are you living directly under the guns as they are? How would you know how you would react were you faced w. the same circumstances.
What I find most disturbing about your attitude is that you divorce yourself fr. any human sympathy with the victims. These were human beings seeking a drop of joy from a wretched miserable life inflicted on them by IDF tanks & artillery. They were doing what any human being would’ve done under the same circumstance. Yet you only find fault & blame.
Oh my. Shrapnel recovered from an injured baby treated in Israel is not made out of the same metal used by IDF shells! Read all about it in the Jerusalem Post. I’d love to hear your spin on this one Mr. Silverstein.
Where is the update?
Richard Silverstein says
I’m always bemused by readers who believe that my blog exists soley to address their own interests & ideas as Hettie appears to believe. Anyway Hettie, I have a sidebar on the right side of this page which lists my recent posts on this subject. Next time, before writing a comment like the one you did, why don’t you do a tiny bit of research & look at my Recent Posts section? There are seven posts on the Gaza beach massacre all told & the most recent is here.
Greg Foote says
Who knows where or how I can get that photo of the cry on the Gaza beach
I don’t know what URI is for me First saw it on the fron page of
NYTimes earlier this summer. …Thanks,,Greg
Richard Silverstein says
You should do a search for the news agency online, find its site, & query them about the image.