Friday, January 9, 2009

Israel and Gaza Continued....Humanity

Here we stand on the edge of one more humanitarian crisis in the world today. Where does end? Will it ever? Of course these are unanswerable questions at this time and place in history. One thing we do know is that humanitarian crises have occurred time and again throughout history, and still, they continue. It is up to humanity as a united front to put a stop to it. Does that mean, intervening in political battles, or jailing those we deem to be guilty? Some people may feel that it’s a necessary action due to the lack of other options at this time. Possibly. I think it’s going to take a huge overhaul in the mentality of the human animal before a true humanitarian concern becomes the status quo. Educating people to the plights of those suffering may help. If a person is first unaware of another’s suffering, or misinformed as to why they are suffering; it stands to reason that they’re not going to be concerned. But, I think humanitarianism goes far beyond that. I think there is a crucial state of being that needs to be present within the human psyche. A humanitarian, to me, is a type of person just as an artist is an artist, or an engineer an engineer. These are traits, characteristics…skills…that a person learns and develops through intentional practice. Humanitarianism requires that a person be able to consciously act against their own interest in a situation, when it will provide a means or way for another being to live a better, less sufferable life. Sometimes this can be a difficult road, especially if that person lacks adequate training. You wouldn’t expect a weather person to perform brain surgery. Why expect someone who has never been given humanitarian training to act humanely? I’m just sayin’. While some of you may believe that most people carry a compassionate trait in them; I’m saying humanitarianism goes beyond. Want to learn? Start by practicing patience…next time you go to the store intentionally pick the longest line and then, wait. Can you do it without feeling anxious or annoyed? If so, then you may be on your way. If not, keep at it until you can. K, today’s post isn’t about lessons in humanitarianism. It’s about the crisis in Palestine. Remember, the whole educating people who may be unaware or misinformed thing mentioned earlier? Well, that’s what this is about today. Maybe some future posts will have more exercises in humanitarian training…be patient ;-)

The occupied territories, Gaza and the West Bank have effectively been under siege since Britain left the lands in 1947. We’ve had the history, so you know that’s when Israel claimed the land after several Arab nations declared war on Israel and Israel was victorious. Since that time many Palestinian families have been displaced. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 600,000 Palestinian families were uprooted from their homes at that time, in what was now Israeli land, and relocated to refugee camps in areas that included Gaza and the West Bank. The remaining refugee areas were eventually handed back to the Arab nations, but Gaza and the West Bank remained under Israeli authority. There has now been two generations of Palestinians who have known no other life, than existence in a refugee camp, overseen by Israel. These are people who, for the last 60 plus years, have not been allowed to leave the sealed off West Bank and Gaza strip, without Israeli permission. Think Russia, during the cold war. It takes a great deal of money, power, and manipulation to obtain a pass out of these areas. That means, they are not free to visit America, or Syria, or even their remaining family members who live outside of the West Bank, or Gaza Strip without special papers and permission from Israel. In other words, they are captives whose basic freedoms are denied on an enormous scale. But, this is just the beginning.

How would you feel if you had to ask permission to cross the street so you could go to the store and buy food for your family? How would you react to being told that you were not allowed to send your children to school on some given day or days? How about not being allowed to work? Would any of these situations upset you? Answer honestly, and we all know that of course they would. We wouldn’t stand for it. But, these are the conditions Palestinians have been living in for the last 60 years. And who’s blinking an eye?

Of course, this too is only the beginning. Besides being denied access on a regular basis to places of daily life, let alone travel out of the country, many times food, fuel, and medical supplies are stopped from coming in. Hmmm…let’s see…this is not a starving Ethiopian suffering from conditions beyond his control. This is a Palestinian child suffering due to the impossible living conditions placed on him by an occupying state.

Again I ask, what if this was your life? What if this was your child? What if you knew your child was starving to death because of the restrictions placed on you by the governmental authority ruling over your state?

Alright, let’s talk about what it’s like to see that governmental authority in your presence everyday. You consider yourself fortunate because you have been given papers that allow you to hold a job, many you know are not. You leave at 5 AM walking your half an hour walk to your job. On the way you must pass through 2 check points guarded by soldiers. At the first check point you present your papers, then your body is searched, a stranger’s hands rub up and down your arms and legs, your torso is patted down, then you are told to sit and wait. You stay at that check point waiting for over an hour with no explanation as to why you have been detained. Finally, you are allowed to pass. When you get to the second check point you find out that it has been shut down. There is no access in or out until further notice. This may be a matter of minutes, hours, possibly even days. You sit and wait. It’s now 9 AM; you were supposed to be to work by 5:30. The check point opens, after standing in line you present your papers, are patted down and allowed through after watching many others be denied for no apparent reason. By, 10:00 you make it to work. You head back home at 4 PM, going back through the check points, knowing you could be detained for any period of time. You are at the soldiers’ mercy.

When you arrive home you are excited at the news that your wife was able to buy flour today. There was no produce allowed into the market but you have meat and bread. Your son and daughter work on their homework. At 7PM you hear the announcement over the area’s loud speaker, a curfew has been put into place until further notice. You hear gunfire at the end of the street, screaming, after a bit it gets quite. You stay in your home being sure to avoid the windows. In the morning you don’t bother getting up for work the curfew is still in effect. You understand that a curfew here means anyone caught outside their home after a curfew has been established will be shot. Your children’s homework goes ungraded and you hope the flour your wife bought will be enough to get your family through until the curfew is lifted. Over the next 2 days you listen to the sounds of sporadic gun fire and feel the rumbling tanks making their way down your street past your front door. You think how nice it would be to have some more meat to go with the small bit of bread that’s left. Finally, after 3 days the curfew is lifted and you are allowed to begin your day’s journey back to work. When you get home that night you discover that on their way to school your children came under gunfire and had to take cover in a blown out building. The group they travel with came out ok, this time. – If you think this scenario is embellished in any way, you’re wrong. This is what it is like to live in the West Bank and Gaza under Israeli occupation. Could you / would you live like this?

The latest outbreak of violence in Israel and Gaza is just one more incident of hatred and fear building up to an explosive point. Living under inhumane conditions would drive all of us to desperate measures. What if this was your child?

Understand that Israel claims this treatment is necessary to protect their people. That they have been the victims of bombardments and suicide bombs there is no doubt. Israel is certainly threatened by many of the surrounding Arab countries, and weaponry is in no small supply where terrorists are concerned. But let’s face it after 60 plus years of living the way the Palestinians have been forced to live is it any wonder things are getting worse instead of better. What is taking place, and has been taking place, is ethnic cleansing plain and simple. Most Palestinians only want to live a normal life, where they can go to work, earn a living, and provide an education for their children. A humanitarian crisis has developed over the years to a point beyond reproach. The world (WE) must stand up and demand the end to this. No person…no human being…should ever be subjected to conditions such as this. You know it, I know it. You wouldn’t stand for it if it were you. Are you willing to stand for it because it’s not?

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