“Wait for the Exodus”: Today in Gaza

Palestinian infant injured by missle fire
Maybe we’ve stopped praying for Palestine. Maybe we never cared to start. Maybe it was too hard to ask God for a fix to this complex situation; and, hey, we don’t know the history well enough.

I hear lots of Christians decrying violence in Kenya – cuz, ya know, there are missionaries there. It’s a “save-able” country.
I haven’t heard much Christian response to the remarks made by Israeli deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai that if Hamas does not stop its rocket fire, then it will be in for a big shoah and Israel will defend itself at all costs.

What does shoah mean? Well, it can be translated as “big disaster”. But, for most folks who speak Hebrew, shoah generally means holocaust. It is almost exclusively used to describe the mass extermination of the Jews during World War II, and certainly it would not be used by a high ranking official in public for any other reason.

Did he mean a “big disaster”? No, I don’t think so, not any more than a homophobic bigot calls someone a “fag” and means “cigarette”. He meant holocaust.

Holocaust. Just roll that around in your brain a little. He was encouraging genocide. There’s no getting around that. Israeli government officials are toppling over themselves to marginalize Vilnai, but his comments are probably much more reflective of Israeli officials thoughts then they want everybody else to know.

For those unfamiliar with what is happening, let’s start from the (most recent) beginning. Because of rocket fire that had come from Gaza last year, on September 19, 2007, the Israeli security cabinet unanimously declared all of Gaza an “enemy entity”. As a result, the Israeli Occupation Forces were given the ability to do what was basically already in place: cut off the borders and all supplies coming in/going out of Gaza.

As reported by Gaza Community Mental Health Programme Director Eyad Al Sarraj on January 17th before the IOF cut off all electric power to Gaza:

[The] Israeli military establishment decided to stop power supply and fuel to Gaza. Since Thursday, food and humanitarian aid are not allowed in. Very soon life will come to a standstill. Water will not be pumped for a even drink. My step-son is on ventilator for asthma every night. What will happen to him when our generator is not running anymore? What will happen to hospitals, vaccines and blood banks? What will happen to patients on dialysis machines, and to babies in incubators?

Before it is dark and when there is no communication with the world, I want to tell you that the current Israeli policy of squeezing [Gaza] has the aim of pushing Egypt to open its borders with Gaza and bring the situation to [Egyptian occupation as it was] prior 1967. Israel will then close its borders with Gaza, separate the Strip from the West bank, and destroy the peace proposals of one state or two states. In short, Israel is fulfilling the Sharon unilateral withdrawal strategy. If Egypt fails to open its borders with Gaza, Israel will push us through Rafah towards the Sinai desert. Wait for the exodus.

Right now, what could ostensibly be called “refugees” are flooding the border with Egypt looking for any basic supplies they can get: food, water, etc. Meanwhile, Gaza lives in darkness. And with the constant bombardment of missile-strikes

Hamas, three days ago, sent rockets into the town of Sderot, killing one Israeli student. Since then, Israeli military forces have killed 30 Palestinians. Civilians for the most part.

Perhaps, as the sun sets in Gaza, the darkness can hide the suffering of shoah. Yet, with each rising day, there is a chance to bring injustice to light in the rays of the morning sun and to demand an end to oppression and a commitment to reconciliation.

If you feel under-educated on Israel-Palestine, feel free to visit the following sites. I make no attempt at “objectivity” or comprehensiveness. I have no love for suicide bombings or rocket launchers that Hamas funds; I neither have any sympathy for a multi-billion dollar military murdering children. Yet, I think the voices of the poor, homeless, and oppressed – usually the Palestinians in this case – go unheard in the public debate.

The Gun and the Olive Branch by David Hirst – a primer on the history of Palestine-Israel since the early 20th century until 9-11.

Electronic Intifada – Updated daily with commentary from Middle East analysts and activists.

B’tselem – Israeli Human Rights Organization

Al-Haq – Documents War Crimes in Palestine

Al-Mezan – Palestinian Human Rights Organization

Edit: More Resources on Israel-Palestine below

American Evangelicals Letter to President Bush on Israel- Palestine

Human Rights Watch: Civilians Bear Brunt of Attacks in Gaza/Israel

Amnesty International: Israel Must Allow Basic Necessities Into Gaza

Amnesty International: Israeli Army Destroys Palestinian Homes

Amnesty Int. Report: Enduring Occupation, June 2007

Yesh Din: Human Rights Workers Documenting Law Enforcement and Military Law in Palestine

Sabeel – Palestinian Liberation Theology

Update, Saturday March 1: Two IOF Soliders and 59 Palestinians (at least 29 of which were civilians, 5 children) were killed today in gun fire in the streets of Jabaliya in the Gaza Strip. Go to Israeli daily news site Ha’aretz to read more.

Comments (15)

  1. SteveK

    Thanks for informing us. I will be praying about the situation.

    Steve K

    Reply
  2. somasoul

    I stopped reading when you started assuming that someone meant something else that he may of meant or may have not have meant.

    Yup, the above comment is supposed to confusing.

    Reply
  3. jurisnaturalist

    As an American Christian I cannot choose sides in that battle. It’s like asking who was better, Hitler or Stalin? Mao or Tojo? Neither.
    I don’t support the pagan nation-state of Israel, though I believe there are unfulfilled promises for the Jews, independent of a centralized government. Likewise, the Arabs are so fractious among themselves that reasonable solutions for Jordan, Syria, and other nations to assist the Palestinians are rejected.
    We must remember, there are separate clans among these peoples with their own feuds dating back hundreds of years. Intervention by foreign nation-states cannot possibly be part of a solution.
    On the other hand, where innocents are concerned, why not invite them to come live with us if we want to exercise our compassion? Why must we always go there, and help them to change, instead of inconveniencing ourselves. Lutheran Family Services has been helping people escape oppression and poverty by helping them move to America and make a fresh start for decades. Theirs is an effective, anti-statist solution to a problem whose roots are in statism.
    Nathanael Snow
    ndsnow@gmail.com

    Reply
  4. folknotions (Post author)

    Somasoul,

    I’d appreciate that you read my post before you make a comment.

    I made no assumptions; it’s pretty clear Vilnai meant holocaust, and if you read any of the news stories (provided by the sources above which you neglected to read before commenting), the reaction of a lot of Israeli public relations figures was to marginalize Vilnai. It wasn’t because he said things would be a “big disaster”, it’s because he meant holocaust.

    Reply
  5. folknotions (Post author)

    jurisnaturalist,

    For me, it’s not an issue of choosing sides between one nation or another nation. It’s between choosing to support those who are oppressed or those who oppress.

    Desmond Tutu didn’t have much of a hard time choosing his side: he’s on the side of the oppressed, and has publicly decried the situation in Israeli-occupied Palestine as apartheid (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/apr/29/comment) .

    And Desmond Tutu knows a thing or two about apartheid.

    Reply
  6. somasoul

    Folknotions,

    Do you speak Hebrew?

    Reply
  7. folknotions (Post author)

    Somasoul,

    I’m waiting for you to say something of substance about this post. I find it ironic that you were lobbing charges of trolling at me on your health care post and now are trolling on mine.

    The answer to your questions is no. However, it is hardly a question that defeats my argument. Even if you were able to prove that I didn’t understand the words of Vilnai, it doesn’t undermine the point that apartheid is being perpetuated in Gaza, and that the de-humanizing effect of the conditions in Gaza are the first steps toward ethnic cleansing (ghettoing and removal of self-determination were some of Hitler’s first tactics in the ethnic cleansing of Germany).

    If you need further proof of my point on Vilnai’s words, here’s some wikipedia articles:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Holocaust – note that the term in Hebrew is “Ha-Shoah” – THE HOLOCAUST. By the way, if you replace “The_Holocaust” with “Shoah” it redirects to the Holocaust page.

    Shoah Foundations are organizations formed to further remembrance of the Holocaust: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoah_Foundation

    Yom HaShoah – the Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yom_HaShoah

    And there was a famous documentary called Shoah in 1985 about…guess what? The Holocaust: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoah_(film)
    Here’s a review on the film by The Guardian which details how the Israelis use the word exclusively for “Holocaust”.
    http://film.guardian.co.uk/Century_Of_Films/Story/0,,411316,00.html

    I’m not really sure what the point of your comments on this thread are, other than to antagonize me because I questioned your arguments on another post. Please read this post before you comment again.

    Reply
  8. Pingback: jonathan stegall » Blog Archive » links for 2008-03-01

  9. somasoul

    So Hamas was democratically elected to run Palestine. Hamas shoots rockets into Israel. And now the people of Palestine are angry that Israel feels the need to defend itself?

    I’m not saying I think missle barrages into refugee camps are a good thing. But I think it’s rediculous that the Palestinians get angry over this stuff when they worked so hard to get Hamas into power.

    Reply
  10. j alan meyer

    Somasoul,

    I guess it depends how far back in history you take this. Like, for instance, if you think Israel even has a right to exist in the first place. It seems you’re making some drastic assumptions about the will of the Palestinian people. Who is “defending” who’s self?

    Reply
  11. Lora

    So Hamas was democratically elected to run Palestine. Hamas shoots rockets into Israel. And now the people of Palestine are angry that Israel feels the need to defend itself?

    I’m not saying I think missle barrages into refugee camps are a good thing. But I think it’s rediculous that the Palestinians get angry over this stuff when they worked so hard to get Hamas into power.

    That strikes me as an incredibly oversimplified response to a very complex issue. Perhaps we need to parse that first sentence: what do you mean by “democratically elected?” That you can control your own borders? That you can control what gets into your territory; readily import medicines and export goods? That you can run your own airport? Determine that your citizens may come and go freely? Gazans can’t do any of those things. Gazans can’t even get to the West Bank; most residents of Bethlehem have never been to Jerusalem, which is just a few miles away. So countries have the right to arm themselves against indigenous peoples who don’t share their faith, fine. Have we learned nothing from history?

    Reply
  12. SteveK

    Isn’t it possible to pray for peace without placing blame? There’s plenty of blame to go around, both in and out of the Middle East. Maybe it’s time to stop pointing fingers and to just beg God for repentance and mercy and shalom.

    Shalom not Shoah.

    Steve K

    Reply
  13. TimN

    Folknotions,

    Thanks very much for writing this post. Your first 3 sentences are a poignant call to remember the people of Gaza.

    With all the focus on the situation there, one of the stories that gets less coverage is the continued illegal expansion of settlements in the West Bank. Christian Peacemaker Teams has been accompanying one village that has been consistently using nonviolent techniques to defend their land. This article gives a good introduction to this “dynamic nonviolent movement”:

    Heroes of the South Hebron Hills

    I think this is a pretty exciting model that could be replicated in a lot of similar situations around the West Bank. Whether it would be applicable in the situation in Gaza is another question.

    Regardless, what is quite clear is that giving more international coverage and support of successful nonviolent movements in Israel/Palestine would be a big boost to efforts there for lasting peace and justice.

    Reply
  14. Pingback: “It could be that civilians were nearby… it would not be the first time,” » Young Anabaptist Radicals

  15. Ipswitch

    “It could be that civilians were nearby; it would not be the first time,” she said.”
    I had a different reading. I did not see callousness towards civilians in that answer. I saw it as a criticism against Hamas who likes to fire their rockets in populated areas.
    Would you consider this reading as a possibility?

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>