Gaza Lives: Reflecting on ‘Operation Cast Lead’
And the flag that refuses to lie down. (Julie Webb)
Gaza – In Israel, nothing is more rewarding than committing systematic mass killings and war crimes against Palestinians. It seems, according to Israel’s moral system and code of conduct, nothing is more trivial than a Palestinian life. Inflicting death on Palestinians is not punishable in Israel but instead ornamented with decoration and job advancement. I reckon it’s the highest and most honorable accomplishment through which an Israeli soldier can achieve most prominent ranks in the military.
This has been evident throughout the Palestine-Israel conflict, as countless planned massacres were and are still being committed against Palestinians since Palestine was occupied in 1948, and typically, the perpetrators have always been leaders of sorts, either political or military figures.
For example, every year Palestinians widely remember Sabra and Shatila massacre, in which thousands of Palestinians were slaughtered in Beirut, Lebanon in 1982. An independent Israeli investigation followed at the time, and it held the then minister of defense Ariel Sharon responsible for allowing the massacre to take place. Not only that, Sharon was found guilty of committing several pogroms against Palestinians. However, he never stood a trial; but on the contrary, he kept ascending the highest rungs of power, where he eventually ended up being Israel’s prime minister in 2001.
Colonizers living on land illegally sequestrated from Palestinians in the West Bank are possibly most hostile to Palestinians, who are subject to constant humiliation and attacks. Every now and then, news is heard of separate incidents of settlers stabbing an unarmed Palestinian, running over a child, or committing mass murder, like the Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein did in 1994, when he opened fire inside the Ibrahimi Mosque at the Palestinian prayers performing the dawn prayer during the Holy Ramadan, killing 29 persons, and injuring another 125.
Israel’s 22 day invasion of the Gaza Strip three years ago was not an exception. Based on universally held moral values and international laws of war, a lot of neutral and fact-based reports conducted by human rights organizations, including the Goldstone report, and consistent documentations proved that Israel committed war crimes against Palestinian civilians. Israel particularly dismissed the Goldstone report as “biased and one-sided,” refused to cooperate and claimed it would launch its own investigations.
A year ago, the Guardian reported that: “The military’s Judge Advocate General, Maj. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit ordered almost 50 investigations arising from the operation.” Surely, one can’t help but burst into laughter at what some of these investigations were about. The report continues recounting three specific cases, one of which was “for stealing and using a Palestinian’s credit card”. Another Israeli soldier was convicted “for forcing an 11-year-old boy to open bags which could have contained explosives.” For Israeli judges, stealing one’s money—still immoral of the Israeli army–is by all means far more incriminatory than bombing his body. And did Israel really sanctify the Palestinian children’s lives? If so, what about the 352 children who were killed in cold blood? Were they all posing a threat to Israeli soldiers?
Some of the alleged Israeli investigations were reportedly said to be covering—as Col. Tamir Yadi put it—”claims regarding incidents in which many uninvolved civilians were harmed,” but not mentioning a single word about Al Samouni massacre, the single most atrocious incident in the entire assault, where Israeli forces had ordered the entire Al Samouni family to gather in one house—of course, to ensure the highest ratio of casualties–before they premeditatedly bombed it, killing 21 persons and injuring 19 others.
The incident, however, grabbed the world’s attention as hundreds of media reports and firsthand witnesses amassed. Israel immediately pretended an investigation was under way. Despite the overwhelming evidence, including a bunch of air force officers’ compatible testimony, that Ilan Malka, a senior brigade commander, was responsible for authorizing the strike while being aware of a civilian presence in the area. Later on, exactly three years after the massacre, Israel deliberately buried the case and didn’t take any legal actions against him, but instead decided to promote him to the position of brigadier general.
This was quite shocking to me, but later I couldn’t think of any “state” other than Israel capable of doing this. And in retrospect, I was able to grasp the horridness of this racist, inhumane behavior of Israel.
December 27, 2011 marks the third anniversary of Israel’s war–or “Operation Cast Lead,” as Israel sinisterly put it– on the Gaza Strip in late 2008. What can’t be coincidental is the day on which Israel initiated its intensive airstrikes before it proceeded with a 22-day operation from land and sea; it was few days before 2008 drew to a close.
The end of every year is and will always be totally different for the people of Gaza, for it evokes all the painful memories of bodies torn asunder, of houses, mosques and schools destroyed. The timing of the strike was absolutely right, that Israel purposely intended to make the grievance of the people of Gaza recurrent.
Even the Gaza youth, instead of celebrating the heraldry of the new year by congratulating each other and posting hopeful wishes on all social networking sites like the people in the rest of the world do, you see most of them posting statuses of reverential sorrow and lamentation, and make the famous corner-taped black background picture indicating mourning for Gaza their profile pictures. Some others post pictures of burnt children or their beloved relatives Israel killed during the 22 days.
The same is true for Christians in Gaza. They suffered just as equally. When they were supposed to celebrate their Holy Christmas peacefully in 2008, Israel rained on their parade and turned it into an absolute nightmare, which is going to be remembered yearly.
The irony seems beyond imagination; while the entire world was preparing to welcome 2009’s beginning with celebrations and fireworks, Palestinians in Gaza were made to have their own special rituals and extraordinary fireworks too, but ones that rained downwards and made flesh sizzle and bones melt.
This, however, didn’t work completely. It is true Palestinians lost their sons and houses, but one thing they can’t lose for sure is their resilient spirit and ability to heal. In Gaza, meanwhile, Christians are going to churches, decorating their Xmas trees and having lively celebrations. Also, Muslims are going to celebrate on the eve of the New Year and hang out with family and friends. My friends and I have plans too.
- Mohammed AlNadi is Gaza-based English literature graduate. He works as a translator.