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Gaza 2014

How to respond to what is happening right now inside the Gaza strip? between Israel and the Palestinian territories?

A father trying to bring his two children into safety                     Gaza July 2014


How can we bring about solutions?

Human terms have to be set as much as be upheld.

The world needs to hear the voice of humanity. It includes the voices of children.

If things are made possible by soldiers following strict orders or else young men becoming militant fighters, but only after they have cut themselves off from their own human self consciousness, then that precondition for a humane way of treating one another has to be restored.

The terms have to be set right, if the present incursion of the Israeli Defence Forces into Gaza is to be halted and a still further escalation of the humanitarian crisis to be avoided.

Already it is said Millions of Dollars are needed in relief aid to rebuild destroyed infrastructures, provide water supply and electricity, never mind what alone the UN and hospitals need to treat the wounded. 

Also for years to come especially children shall need all the help they can get to overcome the traumas they suffered as consequence of having been exposed to so much 'senseless' violence. For what is really the whole fight about when neither side is ready to admit the mistakes which have been made all along. Repeatedly the peace negotiations have failed. There is some truth to what Michel Foucault said about parties only then prepared to speak with the other side once they have no longer a victory necessary. Right now both sides, the Israeli government under Netanyahu and Hamas militants feed on victory to stay in power, or at least be able to claim success for the position they have adopted, even though their actions have killed by now nearly 1000 Palestians in Gaza and 38 Israeli soldiers along with 3 civilians (stand: 26.7.2014)

A clear demand on the side of the Palestinian is that Israel and the world stop to dehumanize the Palestinians. The loss of lives in Gaza are just as tragic as the loss of lives on the Malaysian airliner. One member of the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah stated when interviewed by CNN "while it is tragic that 295 people including 80 children died on that Malaysian air-plane which went down in Eastern Ukraine, the world should not forget as well the Palestinians, among them children, elderlies, entire families, who have died or been wounded." 

Yet too many still hesitate to respond as to what is happening in the Middle East, specifically right now inside the Gaza strip with Israeli Defence Forces creating havoc and death. Why they hold back may be explained by the fact that this issue is too sensitive to be handled without the risk of wading into a minefield of misunderstanding. On the Israeli side, any criticism can easily be labelled as a sign of new anti-Semitism, while on the Palestinian side no one is really sure as to what are the full intentions of Hamas. So people end up being reluctant to take position and to do something to undo the plight of the Palestinians. Yet it can be done. It starts by reasoning with the Israeli side to end their occupation policy and to ensure the position of the Palestinian Authority in favour of a non violent resistance finds the necessary support.

To find solutions, the peace process has to be based on two premises:

  1. not to label the other side as an absolute enemy and not to see each side as a single bloc but in a much more differentiated way; for instance, the Palestinian youth is no longer just willing to follow the commands of Hamas and likewise there are many Israelis who do not agree with the policy pursued by their government.
  2. to encourage world governance in the name of peace, there is needed a collective discussion which is open to doubt and therefore in support of critical thinking begin to question all the false arguments put forth to justify war, inhuman practices and sacrifices of human lives.


When survival is at stake, everyone is driven by a mounting fear and thus there is lost the dimension of redemption and the ability to stop all this nonsense.

There are those who question to call the Israeli military incursions simply a nonsense. They prefer to invoke an entirely other theory and perfer to see all of this as a plot of Imperialism. However, that is the wrong way to analyse and to name the situation. Lets not take actions by the Israeli military and all related problems more serious than what it is in reality. It is afterall a demonstration of strenght in the hope to intimitate the other side. Instead of talking with the other and admitting the occupation policy cannot be upheld, it silences their own critical thinking and thus end up just killing more Palestians than what can ever be justified.

Likewise resistance against use of violence to resolve the conflict is only possible if not absolute qualities are projected upon either the Israeli Defence Force or upon the Hamas fighters. That there is a way to preserve non violent actions is being demonstrated by Red Cross in the Gaza strip offering to all who can run a safe haven.

Yet there seems no other choice possible but to resort to still more violence. While the one side does it to squash any further going uprising which could threaten seriously the existence of the state of Israel, the other does it out of clear preference rather than die passively, to go down at least fighting. In both cases it has to be proven on the ground that violence is not the solution.

To understand why an assymetrical war unfolded in Gaza with Hamas fighters engaging the Israeli Defence Force in a guerrila warfare, Israel should be reminded what was a crucial turning point in the Jewish ghetto of Warschau. That point came when the younger Jewish men and women decided contrary to the Council of the Elders to fight back rather than be slaughered passively by the Germans. Likewise Israel has transformed Gaza into a ghetto like zone and therefore should not be surprised when meeting stiff resitance. Indeed, the world should remind Israel that they are now acting very similar to what the German Gestapo did under the leadership of Jürgen Stroop when the Warszawa Ghetto was liquidated. Even if Israeli Defense Force does not wish to go so far as back then the Gestapo, it matters how the other side perceives its action and thereby finds justification for its militant resistance.

Can some redemption be found between the two sides? I recall Jean Amery who survived Auschwitz where he was for three years and who survived by trading in his food ration cards for cigarettes. After he left Auschwitz in 1945, he wrote a book which reminds of Dostoevsky's 'Crime and Punishment'. He called it 'Beyond guilt and sin'. He articulated in it a true dimension of redemption by saying both the Jew and the German soldier were exposed to the command to survive, and the only difference between the two was that the soldier had to learn to shoot faster than his enemy and the Jew stay passive by not touching the electric fence of the concentration camp. Can such a viewpoint gain some validity in the Middle East where quite other streams of thoughts prevail?

To find a strong enough political philosophy which allows everyone to speak their minds freely but where all parties are willing to recognize the best argument since it points a way forward on how to make peace last in the region, it has to mean to leave aside any solution being offered on the sole basis of an either/or option. Such fake solutions inflict in the long run just more damage upon the already badly hurt human tissue as they impose false alternatives. 

While it should not be forgotten that the Israeli soldier is exposed to such a command structure which is linked to a society tightly constructed, so as to oblige everyone with few exceptions to do military service. Hence every citizen of Israel is equally a soldier - something the Israeli side seems to forget when they claim Hamas would be using civilians as shields.

Likewise the civilians in Gaza are confined to where they are forced to live, namely in a fenced in ghetto underscoring the fact that they have not the same freedom to move and to travel like all Israelis. And as can be witnessed by alone following the news coming out of Gaza these days, they have nowhere to flee to once violence erupts. More so, it has to be realized that there comes a psychological moment of fatigue in people if they have been constantly bombarded and no where to go since the border is shut. That was a deliberate action on the side of the Israeli Defence Forces prior to moving into Gaza on the ground. No wonder when now many in Gaza say that they prefer to die rather than be held hostage of a siege for years to come. That too is an outcome of a reckless Israeli occupation policy underscored by further expansion of their settlements on this occupied land. In an interview with Rai Sourani, he confirms that this transformation of fatigue into defiance despite knowing it can mean certain death, is taking place:


When a reporter describes the funeral which took place in Gaza after those four children were killed while playing football on the beach, he notices that besides the anger being expressed that there is underneath all the shouts real grief. It says something about the quality of media coverage for such a report does go deeper than normally the case and thereby shows at least some willingness to understand reality.

At the same time, it is incomprehensible when reporters interview the very Ministers in the Israeli cabinet who justify the incursion but never connect the response on the side of the Palestinian to the occupation policy of Israel and what Palestinians have to endure not one week or two months but by now 60 years.

It is not by accident that the term 'apartheid' is being invoked and which means something in this context especially in memory of Nelson Mandela. Thus a way has to be found to communicate with the Israeli and Palestinian sides so as to end the blood shed. But no real peace negotiation shall be possible, if it cannot be based on a minimum of empathy each side will have to show for the other. Only once the imagination is freed and empathy supports a willingness to enter dialogue, then real needs and fears on both sides shall be recognized. Once that is allowed to form the negotiation, it will make possible the setting of the right terms needed to be in place if there is to be reached a durable peace agreement.

Clearly it is not enough to bemoan the most recent development in the Middle East. Everyone can write to a friend, a member of parliament, to the media, so that the 'Right for Israel to defend itself' can be questioned in a good way.

As articulated by a Palestinian spokesperson Israel and the world should stop the dehumanization of the Palestinians.

What I miss in the responses heard so far as to what is happening in the Middle East is human compassion. Hence the world lacks a sound basis for a willingness to explore ways of communicating with everyone, including the Hamas fraction and the Israeli security establishment. For if there is to be peace, then their respective influence upon events has to be limited. This is said for the sake of the ordinary people who suffer the consequences of not only war, but ill thought through ways of making business work.

How dangerous all kinds of interventions and an ill thought readiness to take just one side either with the Israelis or Palestinians are, that has been shown in the case of Syria. The West sees itself confronting a dilemma for supporting the opposition to Assad can easily land them in the midst of Jihadists and Islamic fanatics. The fact that Hamas belongs to this religious stream transformed into a radical political movement ready to use arms no matter the consequences says as well that taking sides with the Palestinians can also not be done blindly.

I met once a Dutch artist whose father was a theologist. During Second World War he rescued many Jews until he was himself betrayed and had to flee in order to avoid being arrested by the Gestapo. After the war he started to give lectures on 'ethics of seeing'. Presumably he did so in response to many Germans claiming that they never saw during the war Jews disappearing out of their midst. It is like the Europeans who do not wish to see what is happening to migrants in detention centres. It is also a fact that many Israelis do not wish to see what is being done to the Palestinians. So how to open up eyes for the plights of the others?

While thinking about this I received a photo from a friend in New York. It shows a little girl holding her hand over the eyes of her doll as if she does not want her doll to see all the horrific things happening in Gaza right now.




This photo alone might become a very powerful metaphor to understand the current plight but also what consequences for our common future it has if we do not wish to see solutions even though they are there, ready to be taken up, provided we do not wish to be proven right in our wrong theories and assumptions as if we are the good guys by identifying always the other(s) as the bad guys.

These are thoughts which come to me when receiving images and news as to what is happening right now inside the Gaza strip.


Hatto Fischer

Athens 26.7.2014

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