Gaza: Toward Understanding and Action
by Mark Chmiel
Because of the extensive, though sanitized, U.S. news coverage of Israel’s bombing and invasion of Gaza, many Americans are paying closer attention to the Israel-Palestine conflict (those with access to Arabic news programming and Youtube clips are not spared the gruesomeness and enormous destruction of Israel’s effort to deal Hamas a death-blow.)
Many people are shocked, if not disgusted, by the mounting death and injury tolls, the David and Goliath asymmetry, and the “collateral damage” and war crimes inflicted on the Palestinian people.
Given this latest escalating round of brutality, and events in recent years such as the publications of Jimmy Carter’s controversial book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid and Walt and Mearsheimer’s The Israel Lobby, more people may be ready to critically question the U.S.-Israel relationship. Further, those horrified by the mass death in what has been called the world’s largest prison may ask, “What can be done to stop this?”
Americans may pride ourselves on being problem-solvers and pragmatists. Yet, these dispositions can sometimes lead to knee-jerk quests for quick-fixes.
Over twenty years ago, MIT professor Noam Chomsky concluded his grim study of the U.S. support for bloodbaths in Central America with these sobering words: “There are no magic answers, no miraculous methods to overcome the problems we face, just the familiar ones: honest search for understanding, education, organization, action that raises the cost of state violence for its perpetrators or that lays the basis for institutional change—and the kind of commitment that will persist despite the temptations of disillusionment, despite many failures and only limited successes, inspired by the hope of a brighter future.”
As far as the search for understanding and education, allow me to mention a few resources that provide alternatives perspectives to those often found in the mainstream media or voiced by the U.S. Congress. That search for understanding and education requires a willingness to question all kinds of authority, exposure to various viewpoints, thoughtful consideration of evidence, and on-going dialogue. I offer the following not as “the last word,” but for those wanting to begin to invest more attention to this part of the world.
One website: Electronic Intifada, offers a stimulating range of news, analysis, and commentary, including diary entries from internationals working in the Palestinian territories.
One book: The Question of Palestine, by the late Edward Said, the foremost Palestinian voice in the U.S. for decades. Part of his work is to show what Zionism has looked like, not from the standpoint of Jews fleeing anti-Semitic Europe, but from the standpoint of Zionism’s victims, the Palestinians.
One documentary: Occupation 101: The Voices of the Silenced Majority deals the current and historical root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The group If Americans Knew is distributing this documentary for free; contact them at http://www.ifamericansknew.org/about_us/freeocc101.html The g.roup’s hope is that people will take the initiative to screen the film in homes and gathering places for friends, family, neighbors, and community members.
For those who want to deepen their understanding by acting in concert with others, whether that means material aid, lobbying Congress, political protest, boycott campaigns, and/or travel to Palestine, one can begin by investigating the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.
Chomsky’s “hope of a brighter future” is undoubtedly tested by the accumulated misery of the Gazans in the last few years up to this very hour. More of us need to reach out to others who have begun to question the predictable pieties of American political discourse. Further, as activist Kathy Kelly has said, we need to “catch courage from one another” as we seek ways to encourage moves toward justice and peace. Last, we ought to ponder these famous words of Dr. Martin Luther King: “Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly….”