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I’m continually told by Christian Nationalists that the idea of separation of church and state is just some lie thought up by liberals. Those liberals! They are the reason everything in the U.S. goes wrong when it does. They are the reason why capitalism never gets the real chance it deserves to let the riches of the wealthy trickle down to the poor losers who never really deserve anything better anyway! I’ll never forget how a spokesperson for a right-wing Christian ministry assured me that the real enemy of the Palestinians were their liberal supporters.
I passionately believe that Jesus is God come in the flesh and the inspiration of the Bible. It may shock readers of this blog, but I’m not much of a Darwinist either, but none of that matters in the eyes of those who believe in Christian nationalism or support the Zionist state. Once you support things like indigenous rights to self determination or , God help me, think that there may be a better way than capitalism and that western imperialism is not justified by even one conversion to Christ, then all is lost. You are a GODLESS liberal and everything you stand for instantly becomes a lie.
After years of being bombarded with the counter narratives of the religious right, I finally decided that what my faith really is about is going out and showing the same mercy that was shown to me by God. That is, unmerited favour. If anyone else out there feels the same, then read the following article posted on the Mondoweiss website on the 22nd of October 2011.
Struggling for water in Gaza
Oct 22, 2011 07:14 am | Leila al-Najar and Ishraq Othman
The Beach camp “Al-shate” is located to the west of Gaza City. Small houses are crowded together with an unbearable smell springing from the wastewater running through the alleys. As volunteers in Youth for the Right of Water and Sanitation project (YRWS) we occasionally visit homes there randomly for our case study on water problems. Residents suffer enormously from serious water problems caused by the Israeli occupation which for years has undertaken exploiting and withdrawing all our pure water resources; groundwater, the Jordan River, the Gaza valley and Lake Tiberius. Thus, all aquifers start to run out and the problem of salty water is increasingly appearing in most houses in Gaza.
We visited the home of Haider Saed Abu-Jazya, a 51 year old carpenter and a father of 14 children whose family has a long miserable history with water. “We have been suffering from water shortage and unfair distribution for 10 years. It’s only available for two days a week beginning at midnight only to run out again in the morning. Along with the problem of polluted insufficient supply another problem has emerged, salty water” said Haider who looks older than his age.
The tone of Haider’s voice tells us he is extremely worried about his family’s life. He is likely to pass on the misery he inherited from his refugee parents to his children. “Can you drink a cup of tea melted with three spoons of salt? Absolutely you cannot” he stresses. He describes how salty and polluted water negatively affects his family. For this, he is obliged to buy a 500-liter gallon supply of water which costs 15 NIS 4 US dollars a day. Sometimes he borrows from a neighbor or friend to pay for it, other times his friends have no money to offer.
Not only is pure water used for drinking but also for ordinary daily use. Haider has a big family, yet he earns a low income to cover the simplest and most important needs of life like water which must be affordable to all people as a matter of human rights.
“A house without water as quiet as a desert”, he concludes.
Once, he ran out of water for two weeks in a row, so his wife couldn’t do the house chores like cooking, washing and laundering. Thus, they had to throw their dirty clothes away, which were not laundered for days and could not be used again.
How can a human being survive in such conditions?! How can not one be infected by diseases of salty water?
“The low quality of water causes allergies and red pimples arising on my children’s skin” his wife whispers.
WHAT TO DO?!
“All dwellers of the neighborhood gathered and headed to the municipality to complain about the water problems we all face, there were promises made but never fulfilled” he said.
Haider speaks on behalf of the Palestinian nation, hoping this voice will be heard all over the planet.
To those who read this article, imagine that you cannot get a drop of pure water while your baby is strongly crying because his milk is his only food.
Palestine suffers from severe lack of water and Gaza’s water in particular is going to run out by 2020. As long as the world commits absolute silence, Gaza will turn into a wasteland. Gaza needs your help, don’t hesitate to help our people.
The Legacy of Oppression in Palestine.
Supporters of the current policies of the Zionist State of Israel point to the situation in Gaza as proof as to why Israel can not afford to allow a Palestinian state of any kind to exist until the Palestinians somehow prove themselves to be worthy of such an honour.
They point to the brutality of Hamas militants and other extremists as justification for the oppressive policies of the Israeli state. “What else can Israel do?” they say. Such people seem to forget that self determination is a right, and a right is something you do not have to earn. What sort of behaviour do they think people will exhibit when their rights are continually denied? What behaviour did the Zionists themselves exhibit such that they earned the right to statehood in Palestine? Zionist terrorism in the British Mandate period (when Jews in Israel suffered the oppression of British policies that amounted to collective punishment against Jews) is well documented.
Was it the Holocaust that gave Zionists the right to self determination in Palestine? Do some people groups need to first become victims of atrocities before they are granted the same rights that we in the west take for granted? I think not.
Arab or Islamic extremists were not the cause of the Israel-Palestine conflict any more than the Black Panthers in the U.S. were responsible for the creation of slavery, discrimination and racism against Negroes in the U.S. or Aboriginal Land rights activists in Australia were responsible for the dispossession of Aboriginals in Australia that occurred at the hands of British colonialism. Nelson Mandela and the ANC were not responsible for the creation of Apartheid in South Africa.
Hamas and other Arab or Islamic extremists are the product of the Israel-Palestine conflict, not the cause of it. Those groups (with their hostility and violence towards Jewish people) simply did not exist before the advent of Zionist colonialism in Palestine. Religious Zionists who call for the extermination of Palestinian men, women and children did not exist then either. Those who do not grasp this fundamental reality will never make sense of the situation in the Middle East and hence will never understand the nature of any real solution.
What do we expect as a reasonable outcome of the conditions now experienced by the citizens of Gaza? A society under siege and cut off from the rest of the world. Do we really believe that such a situation is conducive to the creation of pacifism or democracy? Have such conditions anywhere else in the world been able to create such things? Conditions of despair and hopelessness make fertile soil for the voices of revenge and violence. Is anyone surprised that Gaza does not produce 1.5 million Zionists? Did Operation Cast Lead endear the citizens of Gaza to the state of Israel? Apparently not, yet the Zionist state is once again gearing up for another round of destruction in Gaza. Why do they think another episode of murdering Palestinian civilians will solve anything this time when it has clearly only strengthened the resolve of both moderates and extremists to continue to resist the Zionist state in the present?
If we do not approach the Israel-Palestine conflict with a sincere desire to listen to the basic, historic grievance of the Palestinian people, we can be assured that violence and horror will continue in this part of the world. What can Israel do? They can acknowledge the pain of the Palestinian people when they suffered the terrible dispossession of 1948. They can acknowledge the wrongs they have committed against the indigenous Arab population. They can stop perpetuating the odious lie that Israel was a land with no people for a people with no land. They can reciprocate the acknowledgment of the Palestinian people in 1993 that Israel has the right to exist with safe and secure borders. They can acknowledge the legitimacy of International Law that deems the occupation of the West Bank with its Jewish only settlements, Israeli only highways, checkpoints and separation barrier as being illegal. This would be a brilliant start and would not require Israel giving up once square metre of land that was not given to it by international law. I am certain such acknowledgments would bring a lasting peace within a very short period of time.
But Israel is drunk with power. Power that has been inflated by the continued empowerment of the U.S. and the west. And the powerful never just hand over their power; that would require a type of wisdom never seen by politicians. Anyone who empowers anyone else to commit crimes against humanity is no true friend, but is exploiting the other party just as surely as night follows day. The U.S. in reality is no friend of Israel.
The open-air prison that is Gaza will continue to fill the need for justification felt by the supporters of the Zionist state of Israel. The continued oppression of the Gazans will undoubtedly provoke some to violence and this violence will be used by the self righteous amongst us to say yes to yet more oppression of the 1.5 million inhabitants of that tiny piece of real estate. Sanity and humility must prevail. Put yourself in the shoes of the powerful, the ones who have the power to make real steps towards reconciliation and justice. What would you do? If you are a Christian…what would Jesus do?
ACTION FOR PALESTINE
Questions about terrorism inevitably occur when discussing the Israel-Palestine issue. For Christians who support the cause of the Palestinian people’s search for justice and self determination in the land of their birth, these questions are even more prevalent.
The general narrative concerning Palestinian and Arab terrorism runs along the lines that it is motivated by religious extremism and blatant anti-Semitism. The Palestinian people’s legitimate grievance against the Zionist State of Israel is completely ignored as is the circumstances that they are forced to live under because of the illegal occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of the Gaza strip. The facts of history that testify to the origins of this conflict not being even remotely connected to some imaginary conflict between Islam and Judaism and that anti-Semitism never was part of elite or popular culture in the Arab world, as it was in Europe, are totally ignored. The oppressive policies of the State of Israel are given a pardon by the demand that it is actually the Palestinian leadership that is the cause of the Palestinian people’s plight.
The fact that the vast majority of Palestinians have never been involved in acts of terrorism but in fact resist their oppressors in a “Ghandi” like fashion is also overlooked.
In my opinion, the vast majority of acts of terrorism are driven by the despair, misery and sense of helplessness experienced by victims of oppression as non violent means of protest are seen to be useless as they are met with only increasing levels of oppression and violence by their oppressors. As despair deepens, the voices of extremism begin to seem like the only ones worth listening to. I believe this is the universal experience of humanity. All resistance movements act in ways that have integrity and in ways that do not. The Palestinian people are no different. While the U.N. has declared that the Palestinian people have the right to resist the illegal occupation of their homelands to the point of armed struggle, the use of terrorism has been denounced by Palestinian leaders and intellectuals as being unjust, immoral and counter productive, for many years. Palestinians have long accepted Israel’s right to exist in peace and security while the Zionist state has made no reciprocal statements about the RIGHT of a Palestinian homeland to exist.
The words of David Ben Gurion, the real founder of the Zionist State of Israel, ring true when talking about Jewish terrorism during the British Mandate period in Palestine:
“Two hundred and fifty thousand Jews of Tel Aviv and suburbs, core of country’s social and industrial life, and thirty thousands of Jews in Jerusalem, mostly working class quarters, isolated from all normal contact with outside world, facing complete breakdown of mechanism civilized life apart from food supplies and skeleton medical service. Industry crippled, trade paralysed, unemployment threatening to become catastrophic. Industrial raw materials cannot enter, goods manufactured with available stock cannot be marketed outside. Workers cut off from places of work, children from schools. These restrictions have not affected terrorists nor stopped their outrages but instead have increased resentment of hard-hit population, created fertile soil for terrorist propaganda, frustrating community’s attempt to combat terrorism by itself. Martial Law absolutely futile and senseless unless really meant to punish whole community, ruin its economy and destroy the foundations of the Jewish National Home.” (Cited in Finkelstein, 2003. p. xxxvi)
Here Ben Gurion passionately condemns the use of collective punishment (illegal under the Fourth Geneva convention of which Australia is a signatory) on the Jewish people for the acts of Zionist terrorists, and its ineffectiveness in combating further acts of terrorism in the future. An almost identical statement could be made concerning the citizens of Gaza today.
The Zionist state constantly condemns Palestinian acts of terror while only continuing to increase the measures which even David Ben Gurion clearly admits will only increase the likely hood of further terrorist attacks.
The government of Gaza was initially elected to power in elections that were declared free and fair by all the international organisations that monitored them. The ensuing blockade and demonisation of Hamas and the people of Gaza, which lead to Operation Cast Lead, has only consolidated the hold that Hamas has on Gaza and further opened the ears of young Palestinians in Gaza to the voices of those even more extreme than Hamas. The blockade of Gaza is no more about a true fight to rid the region from terrorism as the Separation Barrier in the West Bank is about security for Jews in Israel and the West Bank.
Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, Norman G. Finkelstein. Verso, 2003 (second edition)
ACTION FOR PALESTINE