Kiran Omar


Israel’s lust for Palestinian blood is so intense and crude that any one with heart and soul and a bit of sense of justice can get deeply traumatized. Here Kiran expresses her anguish and frustration mixed with a candid analysis of what is happening in Gaza and why.


As the world, geared up for the Tuesday 20th January inaugural party to kick off in Washington D.C, that would install President elect Obama  as the first black president in the White House, the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in Gaza, turned into a nightmare. The Israeli attack on the unarmed civilians of Gaza claimed over 1000 lives and millions of dollars damage of infrastructure, businesses and homes. Bombs, shells, and mortars rained down relentlessly on the defenseless citizens, even the UN Headquarters was not spared the brutality unleashed by the Israeli army, and their headquarters in Gaza city lost all the stockpiles of food, water, medicines and other relief supplies to bomb and mortar fire.


The attack on Gaza began on 27 December, when a 6-month, Egyptian-brokered  ceasefire expired. On the pretext of responding to missile attacks from Gaza, the Israeli armed forces, launched a coordinated offensive upon Gaza from land, air and sea.  Earlier foreign minister, and running candidate for Prime Minister, Tzipi Livni made it clear that one of her primary tasks, if elected, would be to overthrow HAMAS decisively. She and most of the Israeli administration continues its hard line stand and refuse to sit down to negotiate any sort of peace with HAMAS.


HAMAS, it may be recalled, has been democratically elected by the Palestinian people, in line with a US-sponsored initiative. It currently participates in a the coalition government headed by FATAH’s Mahmud Abbas. It is therefore counterproductive to imagine a peace negotiation round without representation and participation of HAMAS.


Despite an existing ceasefire, the Israeli authorities, working in tandem with Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, kept Gaza cut off from all essential supplies, including water and medicine. In fact, the Palestinians were not even allowed near the sea so that they may fish and eat. The world looked aside to this collective punishment in Gaza’s militarily-blockaded concentration camp.


Since 27 December, Israel has carried out a concentrated offensive, that has rapidly grown in both intensity and ferocity. It also has put in force a complete blockade of humanitarian aid to the entrapped population. The offensive, which was conveniently ended in time for Obama’s inauguration in its 22nd day,  has claimed over 1300 Palestinian lives. An uneasy and very fragile cease-fire has been in effect for the last 24 hours. Speculation is rife that the ceasefire may have more to do with the Tuesday inauguration of President-elect Obama than any move towards genuine peace on part of the Israeli administration. Could it be engineered to allow the new president to freely enjoy, without any shadow on his conscience, his day of glory?


The world has resounded with cries of outrage, albeit “unofficial”. Governments in the Western world, are unwilling and reluctant to name the State of Israel as an outright aggressor and to call for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza strip. There has been shock and disbelief at the disproportionate level of the Israeli response to the alleged rocket fire from Gaza. The Western powers continue to ignore the long blockade of food, and other necessities to Gaza that fuels Palestinian anger and hopelessness. The world turns a blind eye to the tightening noose of barriers, road-blocks and check-points that severely restrict movement of goods and services. Human rights observers were not surprised at the eruption of Gaza, it was long seen coming as the blockade threatened to starve the Gaza population. What was shocking was the intensity of the Israeli rebuttal, the refusal of the UN, to name it as the perpetrator and the deafening silence of the Western politicians and media. By their silence, they admit to their complicity and indeed encouragement of this latest holocaust against the Palestinians.


It sadly reflects the ineffectiveness of UN Secretary-General, Mr.Ban Ki Moon and the marginalization of the UN in the geopolitical stage. The UN has been increasingly reduced to a delivery mechanism for aid, to countries beset by man-made and natural catastrophes on an emergency footing. Its importance and viability as a voice of reasonable impartiality and as a arbitrator trusted to decide justly and fairly. However, the UN is only as effective or redundant as its members chose it to be. The US with its continuous use of its veto power, bogs down every session of the Security Council and UN Human Rights Committees on the question of resolving the Palestinian question.


Thousands of enraged human rights activists and concerned citizens have taken to the streets in protest and events have been organized to inform the general public and to step up pressure on world leaders and their respective governments, to bring an end to this human tragedy and ensure that the Palestinian people receive justice and are able to live in peace in their rightful homeland. There were strident calls to name the atrocities for what they really were: Genocide, war crimes and ethnic cleansing. The world’s leaders have proved to be moral dwarfs.


It is imperative to re-frame the conflict and context it  in human rights terms:

1) There is an Occupation and it is pro-active;


2) Israel is the strong party in the equation and thus the occupying power;


3) Israel is NOT fighting for its existence, it is expanding steadily its areas of control;


4) “Terrorism” is a symptom of an underlying and unacceptable malady, and is being practiced by the State of Israel. (It is a relative term, as the popular adage goes: “your terrorist is my freedom fighter”)


The thrust of the discourse has to shift and responsibility rest squarely on the State of Israel if any meaningful peace solution is explored. The present discourse revolves around a construct of violence and terror. It keeps the cycle of violence in motion.


It falls on every individual who reflects on humanism and human rights, to apply sustained pressure through media, elected representatives and the alternative media to change perceptions and bring a just and fair resolution to the Palestinian question. The end of Apartheid in South Africa was hard fought and a direct result of a highly motivated and engaged civil society asserting itself for change. The government of South Africa had no recourse but to crumble faced with sustained internal and international pressure. The boycott of South African products and proving the illegality of the “white only” government, was central in ending Apartheid.


I emerged into the bitterly cold, Montreal night after attending a talk by Nobel Peace Prize nominee and eminent Israeli human rights’ activist, Jeff Helper’s words ringing in my ears, and looked up into the clear night sky. I wondered what the thousands of cowering and frantic citizens of Gaza would make of all this whilst all manner of artillery rained down on them and turned their lives into one long, horror and blood-filled night. Would we, in the so called ‘civilized” Western world ever be able to offer those traumatized and terrified children, a future without war and death? How long would they hold on to what seems a fast, disappearing dream of a freedom and lasting peace?


I thought back to the time long past, when Jews and Muslims lived as an enmeshed, harmonious whole in Andalusia and the Maghreb, when Jews fleeing the rigors and horrors of the Inquisition and purges were given refuge in the Maghreb. When there was great intellectual and scientific discourse and flowering of learning from one another. That spirit of accommodation and harmony still lives on in the heart of Palestine.


The ICC (Islamic Community Center)  Montreal screened a movie entitled “Occupation 101” that sets the parameters for the sustained and systemized assault on the Palestinian people and the erosion of their rights and liberties.


As one little, precocious girl in the movie explained…all they want is to enjoy their homes and possessions …in her case her toys, trinkets and clothes…in peace and free from fear of bombs and artillery rounds.


Driving home, my thoughts turned to the first black president being inducted in the seat of power of one of the most powerful countries on the planet – The US. Mr. Obama, I mused, you certainly have your work cut out. Will you go down in history as bringing peace at last to an embittered land whose history is written in blood? Or will you too like your predecessors succumb to the pressures of the powerful lobbyists and arms manufacturers. Only time and Mr. Obama’s instincts, will tell.


 I cannot but help end with this poignant poem written by celebrated, deceased Palestinian poet, Mahmud Darwish, who wrote of the anguish of occupation and losing one’s homeland:


I Am There


I come from there and I have memories


Born as mortals are, I have a mother


And a house with many windows,


I have brothers, friends,


And a prison cell with a cold window.


Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls,


I have my own view,


And an extra blade of grass.


Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,


And the bounty of birds,


And the immortal olive tree.


I walked this land before the swords


Turned its living body into a laden table.


I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother


When the sky weeps for her mother.


And I weep to make myself known


To a returning cloud.


I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood


So that I could break the rule.


I learnt all the words and broke them up


To make a single word: Homeland…..

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