Making love under the bombs. I remember a friend from Nablous once telling me how difficult it was during the occupation to make time to reserve a moment of intimacy with his wife. One evening, while they lay in a tender embrace, a bullet lodged itself into their headboard, inches away from their heads. Canoodling under the bombs these days in Gaza is out of the question, and the conjugal future of young Palestinian couples is shaping up to be quite a challenge. Many have lost their homes and are forced to live amassed in the UNRWA schools, or crammed with as many as 20 people inside a tiny apartment. "Tonight is Saturday and the young couples in Tel Aviv go out and have fun in the clubs or on the beach. Meanwhile, out here we can't even make love in our own beds", says Wissam, who got married in November. "We also have strobe lights, though", he says, while pointing towards a succession of flashes from the South, the evidence of bombings in full swing. Young men like Wissam, nineteen, become fathers very early on in life and are already grandfathers by middle age, being aware as they are that in Palestine, this is the only form of immortality possible.
While on the outside there’s talk of a truce, approved by Hamas but as usual rejected by Israel, in the last two days there’s been an escalation of bombings with a subsequent boost in civilian deaths - 60 only yesterday. About ten were killed outside a mosque in the hour of prayer. What worries Palestinians the most is a ceasefire being called without a simultaneous reopening of the frontier passes. Firstly, this would serve to let the material and food supplies required for reconstruction, and secondly, to let the seriously wounded out. Hospitals are overwhelmed from over-crowding. In the entire Strip, they can accommodate a maximum of 1,500 beds, but the number of the wounded hovers around 5,320 at the moment. In addition, there’s mistrust among Palestinian public opinion towards Egypt, the chosen intermediary for the talks, whose leadership is notoriously obsequious to Israel. “Why not have a European country to mediate? The role of Germany, a truly neutral country, was decisive in the resolution of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah,” says a heavy-hearted Hamza, a university professor.
This morning another UN school, in Beit Lahiya, North of the Gaza Strip, was hit full in the middle by Israeli tanks. There were 14 injured and two little brothers, Bilal and Mohammed Al-Ashqar, aged 5 and 7, were killed. Their mother survived, but she lost both her legs. Along with 42 thousand others, they had sought shelter in the school after Israel had ordered them to evacuate their homes. They believed they'd be safe there, just like the 43 refugees exterminated last 6th January in the UNRWA school massacre in Jabilia. "These two children were without a doubt innocent, just as there isn't the shadow of a doubt that they're now dead", said UN chief in Gaza, John Ging, who tirelessly, albeit in vain, continues to report the war crimes committed by the Israeli soldiers. But the Israeli Generals are still preparing themselves to make the "mission accomplished" announcement to the world.
I went back to what's left of Tal el Hawa hospital, the part still standing after the building was set on fire by the Israelis. It has now started operating as a first aid unit and logistical base for ambulances again. They continue to extract casualties trapped for days under the rubble left around its seriously damaged buildings. Shifa hospital hosts a child called Suhaib Suliman, the only survivor in a family of 25, all of whom are dead. A young girl, Hadil Samony, lost 11 relatives. She'll have no one to take care of her after being discharged from hospital. Excuse me, can someone please explain what kind of mission this is? Straight from collective punishment to mass slaughter.
On his blog, a frustrated Arab called Raja Chemayel sums it all up as follows: "Take a strip of land about 40 km long and only... 5 km wide. Call it Gaza. Then cram in one million four hundred inhabitants. After that surround it by the sea in the West, Egypt with Mubarak in the South, Israel in the North, and dub it "The land of terrorists". After that, declare war against it and invade it with 232 tanks, 687 armoured vehicles, 43 airports for fighter jets, 105 war helicopters, 221 units of ground artillery, 349 mortars, 3 spy satellites, 64 informers, 12 spies and 8,000 assault troops. Then call all of this "Israel defending itself". After that, stop for a minute and state that you will "avoid hitting the civilian population" and call yourself the only democracy in action. Whichever way you look at it, it'll be a miracle to avoid those civilians, or it could simply be a lie, since it's quite simply impossible to avoid hitting them! But once again, just call it "Israel defending itself." Now comes the question: what would happen if the invader turned out to be a liar? What would happen to those unarmed civilians?? With such firepower how could even Mother Theresa, or Mickey Mouse avoid hitting all those civilians, considering the equation/situation/scenario? Call it whatever you like, but Israel knew damn well about those unarmed people out there. It was Israel itself that had put them there! So, go ahead and call it a genocide! It's much more credible."
Aside from a couple of brutally assassinated leaders, Hamas hasn't suffered from this attack, and certainly hasn't lost its popularity - if anything, they've gained some more. Once in a while it would be wise to remember that Hamas aren't a bunch of terrorists, nor a political party, but a movement, and as such they're impossible to neutralise with a storm of cluster bombs. When I ask Palestinians for their opinions on the real agenda behind this brutal massacre, many say it has everything to do with the Israeli elections in February. They make propaganda using their heads, it's always been like this on the eve of all the elections. One head, one vote. Just one month ago, Netanyahu was forecast as the sure winner, but he's now expected to lose when competing with the blood-shot eyes of Olmert and Livni. Avigdor Lieberman is the leader of Yisrael Beitenu, the country's fifth political force, but the polls show that they are gaining consensus after statements like the following: "Gaza ought to be erased from the map with a nuclear bomb, the way the Americans did with Hiroshima and Nagasaki." Yesterday Israeli writer Abraham Yehoshua stated to Haaretz: "We kill their children today to save many more tomorrow". I'm afraid that now, his "Journey to the End of the Millennium" has ended up on board a tank in front of a hospital in flames. Voltaire invited us to respect all opinions. I would suggest to stop sewing the seeds of hatred, which are then sprinkled with blood and feed into a terminal resentment.
(Translated from italian by Daniela Filippin)
Il Manifesto link: http://www.ilmanifesto.it/il-manifesto/ricerca-nel-manifesto/vedi/nocache/1/numero/20090118/pagina/01/pezzo/239807/?tx_manigiornale_pi1%5BshowStringa%5D=amore&cHash=3485392c59