03 January, 2009

How do you say "quagmire" in Hebrew?

Before sending ground forces - CNN just claimed about 10,000 - into Gaza the Israelis supposedly dropped leaflets telling Gazans to leave immediately. With all borders closed, where exactly are the residents of one of the most densely populated places on Earth supposed to go?

Make no mistake, I agree with Human Rights Watch - any indiscriminate firing upon populated areas is wrong. It doesn't work in Gaza, Sderot, Afghanistan or anywhere else. Both sides must forge a durable ceasefire and stick to it. Nobody gets off clean in this one. Foreign Minister Livni's quote in the New York Times earlier this week that, "There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce," is obscene. After being sealed off for months, it's well known what conditions there were before this operation began and one can only image what things are like on the ground at the moment. However, hearing a Hamas spokesman speaking on NPR earlier in the week claim that the rocket attacks on Israel were solely the work of Israeli collaborators, made me scream at my radio.

Now that they've gone in, what's the objective? The Israelis claim they don't want to retake Gaza. What marks the endpoint for this? What will mark for them the point when they have "crippled Hamas' infrastructure"? This will be all out urban guerrilla warfare in the heart of Gaza city and that will likely not favor the Israeli troops. What happens if the ground forces get bogged down in bloody street to street fighting? Intensified air assaults? Where does it all end?

The UN says at least 25% of the casualties - over 400 killed and 2,000 wounded so far - are civilians. Of course, verifying anything is next to impossible since the Israelis are STILL barring foreign journalists from entering Gaza and conditions for Palestinian journalists at work inside Gaza are difficult to say the very least. The world has a right to know.


02 January, 2009

One, two, three, four...

Just back from another peaceful demonstration for Gazans in front of the state capitol - about 50 to 75 people. Funeral prayers were offered in absentia for those killed in Gaza. A fair number of honks in support from passing cars, but also some one-fingered salutes and many, too many, bewildered stares. There is still such a need for education and outreach on this, but, then again, my mother - a public school teacher - has trouble getting people to care about their own children, so how do you get people to care about children thousands of miles away? And, when the media doesn't even see Iraq as worth covering anymore, how can we get them to take an interest - and dare we even ask for accuracy and impartiality? - in a story as "old news" as Gaza?
421 dead so far and word on the news is the Israelis are ready to send in ground forces. And what will come of all this?

Funny thing that this all happened just before P.E. Obama takes over, isn't it? Some are saying he should speak out, do something. The truth is he has little to no power at the moment and the Israeli government and military knew exactly what they were doing in making this move before Bush leaves office. He may be hamstrung at the moment, but be sure that we will all be watching how the new administration handles this come January 20th. I just hope Gaza makes it to the 20th.

And, as far as demonstrations go...crowds have a strange, unfortunate habit of filtering into their own cliques, which is bad for long-term organizing and actual progress. Mix it up people! Hijabis - walk up to that scruffy socialist and offer up a warm "Salaam!" Fashionista ISMers with your Urban Outfitters kifayas - walk over to the MSA crowd and introduce yourselves. Non-Muslim interfaithers wade and offer up a big "Howdy!" Young people, ask questions of your elders. Come on people! DECAMP! MINGLE! Get OUT of your comfort zone! Nothing changes until we band together.


01 January, 2009

Day 1 - The More Things Change...

I'm not one for New Year's Eve celebrations, favoring a more solitary, introspective evening. I also have a long, unintentional tradition of going to bed just before midnight. Last night, as I drifted into unconsciousness, I heard the sharp cracks of fireworks signaling the arrival of the new year. My last thought of the previous year and first of the new year was of the civilians in Gaza, who welcomed their new year under a very different barrage.