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January 08, 2009

"We Are Dead People Who Are Still Breathing"

By: John Caruso of The Distant Ocean

Our tax dollars at work:

In Naim Street Beit Hanoun, at 9.30pm on Sunday, Samieh Kaferna , 40, was hit by flying shrapnel to his head. Neighbours called him to come to their home. Fearing his home would be struck, he and a group of relatives began to move from one home to another, to be safer.

The second missile struck them down directly. When we arrived one man, eyes gigantic, was being dragged into the pavement, half of his lower body shredded, his intestines slopping out. He was alive, his relatives were screaming, we managed to take four, whilst six others, charred and dismembered, were brought in on the back of an open cattle truck. Beit Hanoun Hospital was chaos, with screaming relatives and burning bodies. Three men died in the attack, 10 were injured, six from the same Abu Harbid family. Three had to have leg amputations, and one a double amputation. [...]

A Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees ambulance was fired upon at approximately 8.30am on Sunday morning killing Paramedic and father of five, Arafa El Deyem, 35. He and another rescue worker had been evacuating casualties which had come under fire from an Israeli tank East of Jabaliya in the North of the Gaza Strip. Witnesses report that as the door of the ambulance was being closed a tank shell hit El Deyem. El Deyem died from a massive loss of blood following a major trauma to his chest. Paramedics I ride with cherish his memory, carrying his photo - a kind and strong looking, bearded man - on their mobile phones.

This is from Ewa Jasiewicz, who's currently in Gaza volunteering with the Palestinian Red Crescent.  She compares the attack on Gaza to Israel's 2002 rampage in the Jenin refugee camp, but as awful as that was, what Israel is doing in Gaza now seems much worse to me: all the same crimes but on a much bigger scale, and—crucially—without the mitigating factor of nearby Jewish settlers (real human beings whose lives matter, as opposed to the upright-walking animals who otherwise infest the Occupied Territories) to restrain the ferocity of the attack.

This is just what we feared when I was in Gaza in 2002 with other activists, positioning ourselves against an Israeli invasion that never materialized.  And when Israel announced its pullback from Gaza in 2005 it was clear to me that one of the main effects would be to create a huge free-fire zone for the eventual and inevitable Israeli military onslaught.  Now that that day has finally come, it's even worse than I thought it would be: in just under two weeks, the numbers of those killed and maimed in Gaza are already nearing the levels of Israel's month-long 2006 assault on Lebanon.

And still there's no end in sight, no matter when Israel finally decides to let up on their latest killing spree—which will temporarily stop the wholesale killing, but not the less telegenic daily suffering.  As a Palestinian human rights worker (and friend) in Gaza said to me in 2002, in words I'll never forget, "They died once in Jenin; we are dying every day. We are dead people who are still breathing."

AND ALSO: More on the life (rather than the death) of Arafa al Dayem here, from another Western volunteer in Gaza:

A science teacher by profession, Arafa had volunteered as an emergency medic for 8 years.  He was delightful, warm, had a nice singing voice, and was not at all shy about being silly.  I remember him stomping ridiculously around the now-vacated Jabaliya PRCS office (Israeli soldiers have taken over the area) saying he was hungry, very hungry, and chomping down on the bread and cheese that we had for a meal.

I had the privilege of working one night with Arafa, of seeing his professionalism and his humanity.  "He wanted to die like that, helping our people," Osama, a fellow medic told me.  Not a martyr complex, so engineered by living with death, occupation, invasions, humiliation, and injustice for so long, but a dedication to his work, to people.

— John Caruso

Posted at January 8, 2009 09:29 PM

Luck runs out standing IN FRONT of tanks. Chances get better to the side (flank) or even to the rear, far away is even better. WE did these same things taking Baghdad.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 8, 2009 10:49 PM

Jeez. Should I, perhaps, go stand in front of a tank in Gaza? I think I'm a coward.

Posted by: saurabh at January 9, 2009 12:56 AM

Also, let's not excuse ourselves from this episode; WE are doing these same things here, insofar as we've been arming and funding Israel for decades. Those helicopters didn't grow on olive trees, you know.

Posted by: saurabh at January 9, 2009 01:01 AM

Americans are the ones who are dead but still breathe. In a completely different and opposite sense, of course.

Posted by: Baldie McEagle at January 9, 2009 09:30 AM

hv: Pay YOUR TAXES, do ya? Make ANY effort to withdraw financial support of this Israeli/Palestinian conflict? THIS ONE benefits the USA, this has "BOMB IRAN" stamped on the front page. Financing war crimes=engagement in war crimes. WE STOOD SILENT for 8 years while George and Dick murdered and stole everything they could, WE DID NOTHING. This Gaza situation is just the icing on the cake, George and Dick's "Kiss Farewell". (they dropped the other shoe is all and it fell on Gaza)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 9, 2009 11:54 AM


First, I'm not American. I'm Canadian. And I recognize that despite its false reputation as some "leftist/liberal" paradise, the Canadian elite sector is just as racist, corrupt, and vicious as its American counterpart (really, the only thing separating America from any other Western country behaving the same way is opportunity, military power and economic success), as are vast segments of the Canadian public, and that Canada belongs to the same clique of Western imperialist global power structures and domination of the planet, and that Canada has not an unimportant role as a loyal boot-licker to enable the American empire's goals, in Afghanistan, for example.

Secondly, you're delusional if you think this has anything to do with Bush, or even the Republican party. America has given Israel carte-blanche to do as it wishes for a long time now. Both the Republican party and the Democratic party are staunchly pro-Israel, and in fact, the Democratic party has traditionally and historically been the more pro-Israel one because of the greater presence of American Jews in that party, as the American Jewish population were historically more progressive when they were more on the margins of Americans society and were not exactly welcome in the Republican party, which used to have strong strains of overt anti-Semitism, among other racist sentiments. This is course is not the case now, and the unconditional, pro-Israel sentiment is now strong in both political parties.

Posted by: hv at January 9, 2009 12:22 PM

hv: SORRY, I cannot see much if any Canadian involvement in this matter. MY Apologies, please.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 9, 2009 01:21 PM

SteveB: Huh, interesting. There are certainly plenty of people who read the Times under protest so some of it is likely them sending it on, but hopefully it was news to some people as well.

(Liberal engagement with the Times is like liberal engagement with the Democrats in a lot of ways; it may seem like a marriage of convenience, but it takes a constant effort to remember just what a tricky, lying bastard your mate really is. An article so contrary to the standard line is a good reminder.)

Baldie McEagle: That's absolutely true—I thought it at the time and have many times since. In fact it's so true that it's worth another posting, which I may put up here as well.

Posted by: John Caruso at January 9, 2009 05:36 PM