Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sex May Sell but what about the conflict in Gaza?

Last night I posted an entry titled “SEX SELLS”. It was a sort of a cheap way to get readers and although I believe in what I wrote, it might not have been my best work. As expected it got more “hits” in 15 minutes than some of my posts do in a day. It was sort of an adrenaline rush and I was caught up in the moment. However, as I was checking “twitter” I saw a post from journalist, Jon Donnison for the BBC. He posted a soundcloud from Gaza and it quickly brought me back to earth.

In the recording one can hear the sound of distant rocket fire. There are explosions, then about 25 seconds of quiet and then the sound of more rocket fire, it repeats with shorter amounts of quiet. It was nearly 9:15 p.m.  and I had just put Eli to bed. He was safely in his own queen sized bed, tucked neatly into his blankets, beneath a tent or canopy that we made together. I had given him permission to watch his “nook” for thirty minutes. Outside my house there was relative silence. I could hear an occasional car driving by or dog barking.  Our house alarm was set.  Olivia was in the living room with her IPOD plugged into her ears. Andrew was in our bedroom reading. My world was safe and comfortable.

The recording from Gaza was made at 3:49 a.m. I tried to imagine how a mother living within the sound range of the rocket fire in Gaza would exist. I wondered if she could sleep. Did she fall asleep for those seconds between the rocket fire only to be jolted awake by fear? I wondered if she spent the night sleeping beside the bed of her children with the belief that if rocket fire hit her home she could save them. I’ll bet you anything that she told herself that she would rather die with her child then live without him or her.

In the last week I have tried to learn more about the conflict between the Hamas and the Israelis. I am trying to understand the history of Gaza and why this history of violence runs so deep. I also want to understand why the US seems to have a bias towards the Israelis and whether that bias is well founded or politically motivated.  This is my perception and understanding:

The Gaza 
 Gaza is a small strip of land that is approximately 25 miles or 40.23 kilometers long. It is about 8 miles or 12.87 kilometers wide. It is basically a small area of land within Israel that shares a tiny border with Egypt.  The Mediterranean Sea is on is on the western border of the Gaza is largely controlled by Israel.  In 2011 a little more than 1.5 million people lived in the Gaza, making it one of the most densely populate places on earth. Most of the residents of the Gaza are the descendants of refugees who lost their homes in the Arab Israeli war in 1948.

Israel has controlled Gaza and its residents by maintaining territorial waters, the entry of foreigners, the import and export and even air space. Although Hamas governs Gaza, Israel controls almost all access which means that it has the Gaza in an economic stronghold. Author, and MIT professor Noam Chomsky, calls the Gaza Strip an open air prison.


The word Hamas translates into the word “Enthusiasm” or “Zeal”in Arabic. Hamas is an acronym for "Harakat Al-Muqawama Al-Islamia," or Islamic Resistance Movement. Gaza has been governed by Hamas since 2007, when it seized power.  Hamas have strong social welfare programs and operate soup kitchens, orphanages, hospitals and schools in Gaza.  . Hamas refuses to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.  In the recent past the US has recognized Hamas as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. 

The US Relationship with Israel

The US has historically demonstrated a strong bias towards Israel. Nearly 3 billion US Dollars have been given to Israel in the form of grants since 1985. Some assume that this relationship is based on the US need to maintain a strong ally in the Middle East but many feel that it has been at the expense of building strong relationships with the Arab governments.  Israel is listed as having the 10th most powerful military firepower globally.

The more that I tried to learn about this conflict, the less I felt that I really understood. I then resorted to my usual method of deciphering information that I simply can’t get my “head around”, I asked my learners their opinions.

Many of my learners were also overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation, one said it was more about religion than anything else, many said that it was simply a war that could never be resolved. I told one learner that I felt that Israel was not the victim in this situation, his response was, “Not this time”. I asked one learner if he believed that Hamas are terrorists. He said, “What is a terrorist when you are defending your home? What is a terrorist when you see your neighbor’s son loaded into a wooden box?”.

Often it is my learners who have come from very humble beginnings that impart the most significant wisdom in my life. Some are refugees from Vietnam, some started their lives in Algeria then went to live in the Parisian slums, and some grew up on a mountain top village in a remote part of central Africa. When  they tell me about children who are enlisted into the army at age 8, or describe a government that abandon them or a family that betrayed them, I ask them how to put it all in perspective. How do I live my life of good fortune and safety with the knowledge that I simply won the lottery of being born in Lawrence, Kansas? How do I balance knowing that others suffer simply because they did not win the location lottery? The response is simply, “Teach your children to know the world, help them to understand their advantages. Make them understand their responsibility to be educated and to understand others”.

In the end my opinions and knowledge is based largely on opinions of those reported in the media and those spoken by friends and learners. My knowledge of the situation changes absolutely nothing but it gives me a little more of an ability to empathize with that mother who hears rocket fire and wants only to protect her children. She does not have a face or a name but in my mind but we have both carried life in our bodies and we both know that one life regardless of geography, socioeconomic position, religion or sex is not more important than another.

This Thanksgiving, I will give thanks for the silent moments between rocket fire.

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