Friday, December 29, 2006

no military solutions

"There is no military solution to this conflict."
- Baker & Hamilton

Read more by Baker & Hamilton on the Middle East in their Iraq Study Group Report.

Also view this 90 second interactive map of imperial history in the Middle East

Monday, December 25, 2006

identity crisis in the Middle East

Uri Avnery is an Israeli activist and writer whom I respect deeply.

On December 23rd he wrote the following lines addressing the Israeli conception of their Arab neighbors.

"I believe that one of the most profound causes for the historic conflict between us and the Arab world in general, and the Palestinian people in particular, is the fact that the Zionist movement declared, from its very first day, that it did not belong to the region in which we live. Perhaps that is one of the reasons for the fact that even after four generations, this wound has not healed.

In his book "The Jewish State", the founding document of the Zionist movement, Theodor Herzl famously wrote: "For Europe we shall be (in Palestine) a part of the wall against Asia…the vanguard of culture against barbarism…" This attitude is typical for the whole history of Zionism and the State of Israel up to the present day. Indeed, a few weeks ago the Israeli ambassador to Australia declared that "Asia belongs to the yellow race, while we are Whites and have no slit eyes. "

One can perhaps forgive Herzl, a quintessential European, who lived in an era when imperialism dominated European thought. But today, four generations later, those forming public opinion in Israel, people born in the country, continue along the same path. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak declared that Israel is "a villa in the middle of the jungle" (the Arab jungle, of course), and this attitude is shared by practically all our politicians. Tsipi Livni likes to talk about the "dangerous neighborhood" in which we are living, and the chief advisor of Ariel Sharon once said that there will be no peace until "the Palestinians turn into Finns."

Avnery goes on to explain the roots of a deep seated Israeli fear.

"So where does this fear of annihilation come from in the 59th year of the state? A part of it surely emanates from the memory of the Holocaust, which is deeply imprinted in the national mentality. But another part comes from the feeling of not belonging, of temporariness, of the lack of roots.

That has, of course, domestic implications, too. Consciousness also affects practical interests. The assertion that we are a European people automatically reinforces the position of our ruling class, which is still overwhelmingly Ashkenazi-European, over and against the majority of the citizens of Israel, who are of Asian-African Jewish and Palestinian-Arab descent. The profound disdain for their culture, which has accompanied the state from its first day, facilitates discrimination against them in many fields."

In 1947 Uri wrote the following words in "War or Peace in the Semitic Region" trying to give his people direction and help them determine their identity,

"When our Zionist fathers decided to set up a 'safe home' in Eretz Israel, they had the choice between two roads: they could appear in West Asia as a European conqueror, who sees himself as a beachhead of the 'white' race and a master of the 'natives'…(or) see themselves as an Asian nation returning to its homeland."

So much of the conflicts around us are determined by our understanding of self versus others enforcing their
conception of us upon us. How do we perceive ourselves? Do we belong to the community we are living in? What are the sources of our self-hood? These are questions that Israelis must be asking themselves, and they are questions that Palestinians have consequently been forced to address as well. As Israelis find themselves planted in a region that is often foreign to them culturally, spiritually and socially they have imperatively become a political thorn in the flesh of their Arab neighbors. Their closest neighbors, the Palestinians have thereupon been hurled into an identity crisis of their own. The consequences of this are one dimension of the violent reality we are seeing played out on the streets of Gaza today.

With the world denying the existence of a Palestinian state and some even denying the existence of a Palestinian as Palestinian, the question looms, who and what is a Palestinian? With a majority of Palestinians having lost their land to the Israeli occupation and ending up as refugees across the region, many must be asking who they are? With Palestinians seeking a solution to their existential dilemma many are looking to party ideology or religion for an answer, seeking some reference point to guide them out of their suppression. Could the process of seeking autonomy to ultimately define oneself be driving Palestinians to violence?

One needs to have some say, just some self-determination in life.

Uri's article

Saturday, December 23, 2006

hassoun's little hands

A few days ago Mohamed came by with his little nephew Hassoun. I had just put on some tea and was waiting for Mohamed to ring the door bell when I saw this little mop of hair sneak past my kitchen. There was curious little Hassoun peaking around my apartment. My mind could not process what must be going through Mohamed’s. Just weeks earlier his three other nephews Osama, Ahmed and Salam had been climbing on his lap and holding onto his legs the way Hassoun was today. The cute little boy looked so similar to his cousins that had been murdered just two weeks prior. What had lead this place into such darkness?

Mohamed gave up most of his tea because Hassoun was drinking his like a drug and every time he would empty his little glass he would demand more from uncle Mohamed. Then he would reach for the cookies take a bite and then put them back in the cookie box. Next Hassoun spilled his tea, he was trying to hold the cup with just one hand like the grown ups, but his little hands were not quite big enough to go far enough around the cup to keep a grip on it.

My mind could not process what must be going through Mohamed’s. Just weeks earlier his three other nephews Osama, Ahmed and Salam had been climbing on his lap and holding onto his legs the way Hassoun was today. The cute little boy looked just like Osama the oldest of the three.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

why this civil war?

The threat of a civil war needs to be put into the context of the makeup of Palestinian society in order to be understood. Palestinians are tribal and thus look to their greater family or their political party in times of need. Today Palestinians are in need. 70% are either unemployed or not being paid for their government positions, 60% are living under the poverty line. Since we are addressing civil war, an internal Palestinian issue, let us try to assess this matter strictly from a Palestinian perspective.

In February Palestinians held unprecedented democratic elections. Following the selection of the new government in March, the wider international community implemented an embargo. This meant cutting all international aid, making up 90% of the PA’s budget. Israel, who collects all taxes on behalf of the Palestinian people, has withheld $600 million of taxes so far.

Hamas’ victory margin in February’s elections was actually not that drastic. The party won a majority by just a few percentage points. Furthermore, many traditional Fateh supporters voted for Hamas because they wanted a balance in parliament between the two main parties due to the corruption of Fateh. Few, likely including even Hamas itself, expected the victory. Palestinian society is very divided with close to half supporting either Fateh or Hamas.

Concerning lawlessness, both parties patrol the streets without either being in full control, thus criminals and gangs are often left unchecked. These are the makings of civil war. Each party takes care of its own and since Fateh was ousted from government their funding sources have been increasingly reduced. Government employees, most of whom are Fateh supporters, have not been paid a full months wage in nine months. Most Hamas backers are financially supported while being ideologically represented by the Hamas government. The outcome of these realities is an extremely divided society. Fateh backers are living in dire straits and want change, even if change will only come by force. The camps representing either of these positions are willing to back them with their lives.

Civil War is a catastrophe for all, but with a failing economy, ongoing Israeli closure and repression and a bleak outlook for the future, no one can afford to lose power.

Internal power may be the last thing Palestinian factions have to hold on to.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

slowly spiraling out of control

After a weekend away I arrived at the Erez border to return to Gaza. At the checkpoint I ran into a Frenchman, with a worried look on his face. I realized later he was escorting injured journalist Didier Francois out of Gaza. Francois was shot in the leg earlier in the day while coming into the line of fire of Hamas and Fateh clashes.

Throughout the day tensions were high as fighting between Hamas and Fateh broke out all across the Gaza Strip. The restraint on both sides that depicted the past many days was broken down today as Fateh aligned forces took over two ministries and the Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud A-Zahar’s vehicle was fired on. The president’s office was attacked numerous times throughout the day.

Jamal, having had his car returned on Thursday, took me through back roads and alleys avoiding likely clash points. For Jamal thirteen days of fear and anticipation had come to a close Thursday night. For those thirteen days Hamas’s security forces together with the Palestinian police had negotiated with a local mafia to return the car. When Jamal reported the incident at the police station he learned that at least five cases of car theft were being registered daily just at this station in the Northern Gaza Strip. With no one power really in control the lawlessness is naturally spiraling out of control.

Tonight ambulance sirens and gunfire make up the evening landscape.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

a boy named peace- the murder of my neighbor's nephews

I have three nephews in Germany. My dear friend and neighbor Mohamed had three nephews in Gaza.

Mohamed is a leftist Palestinian who does not have much love for the Gaza Strip. He dreams of leaving this place and making somewhere else his home. Mohamed is a law student and in charge of security at one of the universities in Gaza City, he is only 24 but already in charge. Last night I called him, his voice was quieter than usual and I asked him what was wrong. His three nephews had been killed.

Osama, Ahmed and Salam were murdered on their way to school.

Mohamed spent Sunday night with the boys and their family, Monday morning they were gone. When the boy's mother was informed of the attack she exclaimed, “all of my children are dead.” Somehow she knew.
She told Mohamed, “if only they could have left me one of them to hold at night.”

At 7 am on Monday morning 70 bullets riddled the car that was taking the children to school. All three died immediately. Najeeb, a tailor working near the incident said he came out of his shop, saw the bodies of the children being carried out of the car and left immediately. “One cannot handle such scenes.”

Since that time a tension has filled the air of Gaza City. Weapons are everywhere; the streets are packed with cars trying to get past burning tires in main intersection. The boys’ father, a former chief interrogator, has many enemies and twice attempts had been made on his life. Yet, never before have children been targeted this way.

This is one of my neighbors. I found him by the side of the road watching the funeral near our building. With dark smoke floating into the sky and an overwhelming noise from political rallies in the air I wondered what was going through his head.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

what would early elections mean?

source: maan news

As Palestinians hear news of potential early elections, little hope abounds.

This cartoon depicts the pinch Palestinians are experiencing, from one direction the international closure and embargo, from the other the internal situation. Lawlessness is increasing on the streets of Gaza, but it cannot be separated from international pressure due to Palestinians having practiced their democratic rights. What would early elections mean?

Early Elections would mean a complete collapse of the democratic process. Furthermore, such elections would be held with the sole purpose of changing the current political outcome. If Hamas wins a second time, their victory will have been set in stone. For some like my friend Ezzam, as he explained to me today, they will shut their doors and never leave their homes. Lawlessness is a result of the ruling government being strangled by international pressure.

The other side of the coin is this, if Hamas loses power due to renewed elections, the principles of democracy that the U.S. and the rest of the West hold so dear will have become moot.

If early election are held, each citizen will have one of two options, either to go hungry while holding on to a political ideology (thus practicing democratic rights) or to give up such ideals and accept corruption and a hypocritical pat on the back by a self-righteous international community (for giving up their democratic rights for more urgent needs).

Who do we think we are?

Friday, December 8, 2006

Beit Hanoun- one month after massacre

mosque: gone

The day I arrived in gaza, among the first people to greet me, a stranger, was Ra’id Ethamne. I knew very little about gaza and was waiting for a contact of mine to pick me at the border when Ra’id and his friends made me tea. Most of the people I sat with that day have become my friends since that time, I see them often as I come and go through that border crossing. But it was a massacre, 15 months to the day after my arrival that brought Ra’id and me back together again.

The building he lives in he shares with his extended family, 108 members in all. On November 8th Ra’id was meeting with a journalist early and had left his home by the time the first missile struck the top floor of his building at 5:30am. Ra’id’s brother Iyad was awake and preparing himself for prayers. There was no running water in the home since it had been turned off during the Israeli invasion. So Iyad had left the building to wash his hands and feet from the water barrel beside the house. When he saw the missile enter the top floor of the four0story building he panicked and started to rush upstairs. A relative stopped him and warned of a wall that was about to collapse in the stairwell.

Seconds later a further missile smashed into the home. Iyad rushed to the back of the house where his sister was screaming for help, she had lost her legs and was partially buried under rubble. In a panic Iyad carried his sister to what he believed to be safety, the road adjacent to their home, and left her there with his mother and cousin, then dashed back into the building to rescue his wife and two sons. He managed to make it to their apartment, cradled his 15 months old son in his arms, while his pregnant wife led his oldest son by the hand out of the smoking building.

Then the unimaginable happened.

As Iyad was heading towards the spot where he had left the rest of his family, a missile landed in the very place he was trying to reach. Before his eyes Iyad saw his mother, sister and cousin and a neighbor reduced to body parts. The ricocheting shrapnel hit his son Ahmed in the head, to this day it is lodged there. Iyad’s main artery in his right leg was cut. That day the streets were soaked with blood. He dropped Ahmed into the hands of a cousin who came to the rescue. Iyad’s wife lost her foot and is currently being treated in Egypt. Because of the missile strike heavy dust filled the air, only the headlights of the ambulance heading towards them were barely visible. Once aboard the ambulance Iyad lost consciousness and awoke much later in the hospital room. A relative stood nearby and he pleaded with him to tell him everything that had happened. Seventeen relatives dead, including of course his mother and sister and 42 others injured including his wife and his young son Ahmed severely.

Ahmed had been sent to a hospital in Israel where the family was informed that the shrapnel lodged in his brain would not affect the boy’s growth. With a look of deep fear in his eyes Iyad explained to me that the family was considering sending him back to Israel because he was not alright. He was constantly throwing up and often falling unconscious. While recounting the events of that disastrous day, over and over again with a look of trusting resignation in his eyes, Iyad repeated the words Ilhamdu-lilah, praise be to God. His spirit was broken all the same.

Ra’id is a man haunted by the reality of the life he has been given to live. He explained that daily he calls his family at least twenty or thirty times just to hear their voice, just to make sure they are ok, just to ascertain they are still alive. His family and the entire city of Beit Hanoun still live with the fear that the soldiers and tanks may return at any point.

One of Ra’id and Iyad’s cousin’s is called Intifada. She is severely handicapped and sits in a wheelchair. She needs to be fed and pushed around in her chair. With her head in its natural position tilted to the left and her soft voice she exclaimed, “let the Israelis withdraw.”

As individuals continue to fire homemade rockets into the desert of Israel and the Israeli military responds with tank fire, fear still looms over the city of Beit Hanoun.

women: displaced


Wednesday, December 6, 2006

two sides of a coin- hospitality & lawlessness in gaza

Today I got lost in town. I was thinking too much and walked right past where I was meaning to go. When I asked for directions at a sweats shop, one of the people recognized me and gave me a sweat pastry. I knew his face, but couldn’t place it. I love these people. Even getting lost is a good experience here.

A few days ago my friend Jamal, who is a driver, had his car stolen. I called him and his usually cheerful voice was anything but that. The customary niceties lost their sense and he told me he was down. While Jamal had stopped his car to make a quick purchase, leaving the key in the ignition, a group of gunmen had driven off with it. When he tried to run after them to recover his car one of the men hit Jamal in the head with the butt of his gun, leaving him wounded on the side of the road. It didn’t take Jamal long to find out who had done it. In Gaza this is the easy part. The police were informed and today Jamal is still waiting, hoping the problem will be solved peacefully. A few nights ago security forces recovered twelve vehicles from a group of known car thieves at the end of my block. Eleven people were injured in the course of it.

In a place so volatile, the gun has become the natural remedy for every ailment.

Jamal is one of the first people I met in Gaza. Almost without exception he has taken me to the border when leaving Gaza and picked me up upon my return. One of his closest friends, Ibrahim, sold his car over a month ago, upon receiving a visa to travel to Sweden. He was planning to immigrate there. Then the border didn’t open for week after week after week. Ibrahim had sold his source of livelihood to realize a dream and for over a month was stuck without work, living off his savings, fearing that his visa would expire. Last week Ibrahim finally got out. Days later Jamal lost his source of income, only, he had no choice in the matter.

this is jamal's car on a main road in gaza that was bombed by an f-16.

Monday, December 4, 2006

the dreams of a 'militant'

We sat at the window in a restaurant, which but for one table was deserted. The waves were crashing onto the shore beneath us, children were playing in the dim light nearby. We could see the lights of fishing boats through the darkness of the night, their lights, much like headlights of a car, moved quickly towards us. Rami looked around to ascertain the safety of the place, he claimed he had never been there, but it was not uncommon for him to lie to me. My friend was ruled by a combination of pride and fear, likely neither of which he would admit to.

Rami told me he had dreams, he dreamt during the day and he always remembered what he dreamt at night. During the night he dreamt the Israeli forces were coming to get him, he dreamt he had been killed in his home, he dreamt he had been arrested, he dreamt one of his relatives had disappeared, he dreamt. Then Rami proceeded to tell me that dreams were the events and thoughts of the day played out in reverse in one’s mind.

During the day he would explain he dreamt of peace and security, he dreamt of living a life independent of the tension and conflict he was surrounded by from all sides. Rami was a political man, and by most people’s definition, a militant. His brother was a Fateh spokesman and he himself was a party man. Gaza is divided not so much by social differences or by one’s status as a refugee or citizen, but by one’s political leanings. It seemed logical that a people occupied and ruled by outsiders for so long would look for some sort of solution. First the British, then the Egyptians and now Israel occupied this little strip of land. For some, their party affiliation determined how strictly they looked to religion for an answer. Whether Hamas did a good job of representing the faith for which it stood, is debated each and every day on the streets of Gaza, every Fathawi would tell you this is not the case and that Hamas used religion merely as a means to their political ends.

In the case of a larger internal political conflict between the two parties, Rami would surely be drawn into the midst of it. He didn’t want it; he didn’t seek or hope for civil war, who does? But he was a party man and he would stand by the decisions his leader, president Abu Mazen would make.

As we sat there, listening to the soothing whispers of the waves it felt like the calm before the storm. The period Gaza was about to go through would not be an easy passage. Not being able to agree on a unity government Abu Mazen was making statements that he would dismiss the current government and set up a new one without Hamas’s approval. While being a breach of even the weakest concept of a democratic process this would cause a civil war and Rami would be drawn into something he wanted no part of.

He so longed to leave this place and spend some time in Egypt away from it all, but he could not afford a trip, he claimed. Instead he had asked a friend to bring him a Eoud, a stringed oriental instrument. He had never played but hoped to learn quickly. Might music provide even a temporary escape from the world around him?

Everything in him seemed to scream for some peace.

If only replacing his guns with music for just that little while would bring him some rest.

*Rami's real name was not used

Sunday, December 3, 2006

with dr ghazi at al-shifa hospital

I didn’t recognize Dr Ghazi at first. He was sitting behind a desk, wearing a big, black winter hat, his rather long white hair was poking out from underneath it. He wore a brown, worn suit, with a cane resting next to him against the desk he was sitting behind; I had never seen Ghazi in anything other than his typical jalabeya, a white long robe.

Walking through the hospital corridors trying to locate my friend I passed room after room of young and old, women and men, all connected to machines with tubes pumping blood in and out of them. The world I had suddenly entered into, much like a scene from 1984 or Brave New World, was surreal and unexpected. Ghazi turned, identifying me with a smile and without so much as a thought, I entered this room that would capsulate my world for the next two hours.

The room bore in its womb five patients, attached to their lifelines and for these moments united by the common denominator of this temporary habitat. I felt I was entering a private place, which to the five patients and their caretakers was unconventionally made public. The odd silence was interrupted every so often by a private comment, heard by all, or the eerie ring of the dialysis machines dominating the big hospital room. An old Egyptian film played on a TV in one corner of the room and most of the visitors watched it, but only on and off, as they tried to kill the time. Surely those scenes were a reminder of the normal life they had left behind beyond the walls of this room. The beds varied from shabby but comfortable looking recliners to a variety of old hospital beds. The man sitting closest to the door lay on a brown reclining chair and was hidden behind a kofeya, his eyes full of fear poking out from underneath it. When he was done, he would be carted out of the room by a nurse, while most of the other patients upon finishing would pack up their blankets and sheets in a plastic bag and make their way beyond the confines of this room to their private spaces.

Dr. Ghazi had been there since 3 pm and would not get hooked up to a machine until five. It was first come, first serve; no matter that he had had an appointment, or that he was almost 60 and much frailer than most other patients. The first month of his relapse he was confused, did not utter a word and wasn’t able to walk. Today, just two months later, he was in much better condition, although I saw the weakness in his eyes still.

The man closest to Ghazi was dozing, an apple core lay next to him on his bed, he had over an hour left of his three-hour cycle. A girl in the middle of the room had just finished and was having her tubes removed from her very skinny arms. An elderly lady fully veiled took the girls place. Her companion tried to make her feel comfortable, but in a society where women when indoors were usually limited to the kitchen when men were around, it seemed a far cry from reality. Abu Hashim, the only nurse in the room constantly moved back and forth trying to serve all the patients simultaneously until he disappeared all together for 20 minutes for prayers and a break.

The floors were dirty and seemed more like a poorly kept bathroom floor than conditions of a hospital. The nurse was now hooking up the newly arrived lady for her three-hour procedure. She covered her eyes with her scarf and hid her tears as the man connected the tubes just underneath her right shoulder. Minutes later she was chipper again, nursing on a bottle of fruit juice that in conversation with Ghazi’s daughter she confessed she was not supposed to be drinking with her condition.

The man near us finished his time and covered the wound with gauze and medical tape, while the nurse was busy talking to a passing by doctor. He threw away his apple core, packed up his sheets, wished his companions in the room well and left the sanctuary. Now, it was Ghazi’s turn.

His son, Ihab helped him up and over to the bed, covered with a new sheet, and then undid his shirt and covered him with a heavy blanket. Immediately Ghazi began to shiver, it was not cold in the room. For ten minutes the nurse worked to get the machine to function correctly and then reluctantly connected Ghazi to it.

For the first half hour, with the doctor having left the room, the dialysis machine beeped every 60 seconds. The room was now down to just three patients. Sulafa, Ghazi’s daughter and closest companion in life, had placed a red rose on his chest near his face where he could smell the scent of life in the midst of his pain. At times Ihab rubbed his back. I pushed a button every 60 seconds to stop the beeping, which I was told had no purpose unless the wheel pumping the blood stopped turning. I kept my eyes on the spinning wheel until I left.

Life became so fragile in those moments. Dr Ghazi was a man of incredible humility. He was an Arabic scholar who up until three months ago had taught at Al-Azhar University in Gaza City. He also knew Syriac and ancient Hebrew and often quoted from the Torah in Hebrew. After seven years of study in Alexandria he had returned to his hometown of Beit Lehya in the Gaza Strip. He had missed working in the fields and was soon seen once again leading a donkey through the fields with his hoe.

In this room life was reduced to so little. A futuristic nightmare of sorts with young and old waiting their turn to stay alive.

And yet, Ghazi and the others in the room were fortunate.
Al-Shifa is the only hospital that provides kidney dialysis in Gaza, its machines run 24 hours a day and yet supplies often run low. All hospital supplies, like anything that enters or exits Gaza is under Israel’s jurisdiction, who control the economic border in and out of Gaza. So in May, when Israel blockaded Gaza, shortly after the Hamas government took over, kidney dialyses were sharply reduced and many lost their lives. (,,1771404,00.html)

When I left Al-Shifa Ghazi had almost two hours left to go, he would be back there Monday and Wednesday and then again next Saturday night. For this man that I loved, this room with all its nightmares was a vital life support.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

the smokescreen of democracy

In Beit Hanoun there is a wall that reads, “vote for your independent candidate for a future filled with hope.” I don’t know if the candidate won this past March, but the wall is broken, much like the rest of Beit Hanoun.

It has been just over two weeks since the partial withdrawal of Israeli forces from Beit Hanoun. 260 tanks, 5000 soldiers backed by some of the most advanced military arsenal in the world. They moved into this town of 32,000 residents, mainly farmers, most of them poor.

Why is it that I so often see images in the media of Palestinians with big guns, masked men with rocket launchers on their shoulders, images of damage done by homemade rockets that have landed near homes in settlements around the Gaza Strip? So rarely does the media portray the damage done by Israeli tanks, F-16s, Apaches, ground-to-ground missiles, armored bulldozers, snipers and drones, which are used on civilians and militants alike in Gaza. For one, the excess of damage must be difficult to capture and yet, there is more to this story.

According to the Beit Hanoun municipality 80 homes were completely destroyed in the latest incursion, while over 600 were left partially damaged. Homes, schools, colleges, lampposts, shops, streets in ruins, left was a city of rubble. After the initial withdrawal sewage flowed out of broken pipes, rubble of buildings spilled onto streets, the walls around a central cemetery were gone and an 800 year old mosque was a pile of stones and dirt.

The chief of staff at the municipality told me, “Beit Hanoun used to be a garden, today it is a desert.”

Beit Hanoun, being near to the bordering area with Israel is surrounded from most directions by luscious farming land and yet after every incursion the green is less green and more agricultural land is set back five, ten or twenty years. The municipality chief of staff listed this incursion as the 21st on Beit Hanoun, and the most destructive.

The justification for the incursion, during which over 80 Palestinians were killed, was putting an end to Qassams fired into Israel. Recently Israeli and American weapons manufacturers began vying for a contract to create a defense system for Israel to shield it from oncoming makeshift rockets launched out of Gaza. In Gaza you are constantly shown signs that the powers that be have become so near sited that they cannot see the forest for the trees. A good doctor when assessing a patient will determine what the root of the cause is and cure it, a bad doctor tries to quell the immediate pain and sends the patient home with barely any chance of recovery. Our political doctors dealing with the crisis that is plaguing the Middle East are bad doctors.

Back to the writing on the wall.

The Palestinians had democratic elections in February. They elected the candidates of their choice. After the new government took office an embargo was put in place, starting a grueling nine months period of collective punishment for a people making a choice that they were encouraged to make. Most people I know that voted for Hamas, did not do so because of their ideological convictions but because of their actions. In a place with an ailing economy and an 80% poverty level actions speak louder than words. My leftist friend from Beit Hanoun, Ra’ed, told me Hamas did a better job than all other parties in Gaza. While Israel utilized increased measures of suppression on the Palestinians, set up ever new obstacles to its economy, the ruling Fatah party was largely busy filling its own pockets with aid money flowing in from around the globe, while Hamas served the poor over the past 19 years. While the poverty level was still at 40% they went door to door and fed the poor, they looked out for the disabled and for the downtrodden. The only party not strictly looking out for its own interests was Hamas, quietly, but surely serving the people and building up its support base. March’s elections was Hamas’ first participation in the political process and the people voted for an alternative to the status quo that they had come to know and hate.

Despite grievances, few or many one may have with some of Hamas’ policies and positions there is a need, much like Ra’ed, to be honest and give them their due. Whether any outside force like it or not, Hamas was the choice of the people. Yet, counter to every U.S. claim of making the export of democracy a priority, the only ease out of Gaza’s current humanitarian and political calamity is to undo the Palestinian democratic process. If Palestinians give up their vote at the polls they are promised to be graciously conceded the living standards they knew just nine months ago, i.e. a slight ease of the lockdown of the prison they inhabit. Israel’s underlying strategy these past many months has been, anything but subtly, to convince Palestinians that the election of so-called terrorists is not to their advantage. But then what is?

Ra’ed left me with this image. If someone’s legs and arms are cut off, even if the doctor tells him he will be fine and sends him home, it doesn’t mean he will be fine. The Palestinians have lost everything that a human being has the right to keep.

Their hope is broken much like the wall in Beit Hanoun that speaks about the future.