|Carrying a wounded child at the al Deira Hotel, Gaza.
Seeing the man I knew carry the wounded boy made the violence more immediate, more urgent and desperate, and to use Anthony Bourdain’s words on Twitter in relation to a photo of the children, “so devastating.” It broke my switch. I have such a hard time processing the images I’m seeing from Gaza that I can’t think straight anymore. Half my Facebook newsfeed pops up with friends sharing the latest images of children gored by the bombings; the other half shows friends on sunny beaches during their vacation. In one particularly stark contrast this morning, one friend posted a video of babies being tickled, while the next feed from a different friend showed a disemboweled infant in Gaza cradled in a man’s arms. Last week I switched off the misery in Gaza and even resorted to the fluffy stuff by posting a few of my own sunny, life-is-good pictures from a peaceful beach.
I think of the people I’ve met in Gaza, the mothers, the fathers, their children. I think of the homes they’ve invited me to, I think of their smiling faces, I think of their resolve, their kindness, their fears, their squalor, their blood. None of what’s happening now makes sense. To make matters more difficult to understand, so much of the violence gets filtered through rhetoric from people posting an astounding amount of hatred online directed at both Israelis and Palestinians. Every argument and opinion advocating one perspective is counterbalanced with an opposing viewpoint that invariably starts with “Yes, but.” None of that helps us move forward, none of that helps stop the violence, the fear, the anguish.
I am not pro-either side, nor am I anti-neither. I am pro-peace, I am pro-human rights, pro-love and pro-anything else that makes sense if you want to live in a world in which you’re happy and safe. The leaders on both sides have undertaken actions that are reprehensible. The Israeli government’s defense measures have resulted in the deaths of over 300 Palestinians, most of whom are civilians. Its actions are abhorrent and considered by Human Rights Watch to be unlawful acts. Rockets launched by Hamas into Israel are an equally abhorrent act, and while the death toll is astoundingly disproportionate between the two sides, the anguish caused to Israeli citizens is something no one should ever have to go through.
|Tell it like it is, Gustave.|
I have to believe in the faint glimmers Gustave mentions, and try my best to leave out his last three words. I’ll probably go back to Gaza one day, and see friends whose lives have been fractured, and knowing them they will continue to search for happiness and peace and a life of dignity every way they can, but the anguish of these past days will stay with them forever. Right now, I don’t think any of them have them have the option to turn off their switches. But for those of us who can show our support, we should. Taking to social media is one way, demonstrating in the streets another, or even signing a petition – here’s one for the Canadian government to take a stronger stance on forging peace. Does any of that ease the suffering – maybe, maybe not. But as a Palestinian friend once said to me, quoting Martin Luther King, Jr., “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
|Participants during a training workshop in Jordan. Photo © UNRWA.|