Posts Tagged ‘Gaza’


Stephen Yolland is a Melbourne poet and author/editor of Wellthisiswhatithink. You can find his book of poetry here. The book is also available as a download from

He would appreciate it if you could share this poem by linking to this blog post in any way you can.

Desperate: Seven-month-old Mihag Gedi Farah weighs just 7lbs and was hours from death after arriving at a field hospital in Dadaab, Kenya. His mother walked with him for weeks from Somalia after their livestock died. Doctos yesterday gave him a 50-50 chance of survival. Photo: AP

Desperate: Seven-month-old Mihag Gedi Farah weighs just 7lbs and was hours from death after arriving at a field hospital in Dadaab, Kenya. His mother walked with him for weeks from Somalia after their livestock died. Doctors yesterday gave him a 50-50 chance of survival. Photo: AP


We were struck by a comment left by a reader of the Melbourne Age on a story there today concerning the dead children of Gaza and Israel.

“If we’re going to grow a consciousness, let’s look at the 18,000 plus children that die EVERY SINGLE DAY from starvation, worldwide.”

A sobering point, right there.

Why is the world so transfixed by the terrible toll in the Middle East yet so unmoved by the scale of the ongoing, ever-present disaster elsewhere?

In our view it is the immediacy of the relationship between a shell and those blown to pieces by its blast, and the culpability or otherwise of those who fired it. The same is true of the recent shooting down of MH17. We rage against these deaths because it’s easy to “pick a side”, and we think we know who is responsible.

The other factor is clearly wall-to-wall media coverage. Photographs of hideously wounded women and children, tumbling into our consciousness time after time, affect this writer as much as anyone else.

But the curious thing is that the ongoing starving to death of millions of the world’s children is just as much the result of human actions that are blatantly obvious, and where blame can equally be sheeted home.

Civil strife – and the puppet-masters and arms merchants who fuel it – displaces millions of people and leaves the weakest open to succumbing from the combination of fatigue, illness and hunger.

War interrupts the orderly flow of food and supplies, sometimes for years.

And when natural forces conspire to destroy crops and livestock, our response is predictably threadbare unless a campaigning journalist manages, for once, to seize our attention momentarily.

Meanwhile, all around the world, Governments restrict foreign aid budgets to play to the biases of their domestic audience, as Bob Geldof pointed out in Melbourne as recently as yesterday.

So why is this catastrophe largely ignored? It is more, we feel, than merely a world-weary exhaustion that “it was always thus”, or that the problem is intractable and therefore we choose to ignore it .

It is a combination, in our view, of a lack of media coverage – persistent child starvation is not, after all, “news ” – that does not force us to confront what is happening as a result of our inaction.

And it is the result of a tragic, identifiable, and cursed lack of moral will-power in our political classes.

One might cynically argue that there are no votes in starving children, especially starving children overseas, but we suspect the core problem is even more fundamental and depressing.

We suspect our political leadership simply don’t care or they don’t have the mental capacity to provide true leadership. They just don’t have the imagination or the skills to devise solutions, and neither do their sycophantic advisors, there are no quick sound bites for little brains in the topic, and solving the problem requires a generational effort, which can’t be accomplished by the time they next seek re-election.

But a dead child is a dead child, nevertheless. Same pain. Same grief. Same hopes, dreams and future talents lost.

Every day we lose 18,000 future doctors, leaders, farmers , ecologists, writers, scientists, administrators, artists, musicians. The people who will drag their nations and continents forward, step by painful step, to become peaceful and self-sustaining.

And we just don’t see them. The 18,000 dead children, every day. Just as dead as the children of Gaza and Israel. They have names, like Mihag Gedi Farah.

Just as outrageous, and just as preventable.

We just don’t see them.

olivia leeA sudden ray of sanity, and a joy to the world.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if something as simple as a hashtag on Twitter re-framed and refocused the debate in the Middle East, talking peace to the leaders on both sides, and hastening an end to the conflict?

We would urge everyone to express their sentiments on Twitter, Facebook, boy on shouldersInstagram and anywhere else you can think of.

You just never know.

God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.

girl and boy

Is this story literally true? Are the opinions accurate?

Because. Because. If it is, then how could we draw any other conclusion that the Prime Minister of Israel is a dangerous criminal with a total disregard for human life and no interest in peace.

This story was written by an Israeli peace negotiator*.

What appalls me most is how easy I find it to believe this is true … How terribly sad.

The first casualty of war is truth. But we need to know the truth of this. The world deserves to know.

The dead of Gaza and Israel deserve to know.

*Gershon Baskin is the founder of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, an NGO and think tank established in 1988 to pursue a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Gershon Baskin’s efforts as a negotiator led to the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas in Gaza from 2006 to 2011. Through this work, Baskin came into mediated contact with Ahmed Jabari, commander of Hamas’s military wing. According to Baskin, Jabari had just been presented with the draft of a long-term cease-fire proposal, another effort of Baskin’s, when Israel assassinated Jabari on Nov. 14. The Israeli government was aware of Baskin’s attempts, he says, but “decided not to take that path.”

The targeted killing and accompanying bombings broke off an informal truce, mediated by Egypt, that had seemed to signal an end to escalation. Baskin wrote in The Daily Beast: “Jaabari is dead, and so is the chance for a mutually beneficial long term cease-fire understanding.”

Rachel Aliene Corrie (April 10, 1979 – March 16, 2003) was a 24 year old pro-Palestinian activist and member of International Solidarity Movement (ISM) from Olympia, Washington who was crushed to death by an Israel Defense Forces armored bulldozer in Rafah, Gaza.

Her death happened during the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising. The exact nature of her death and the culpability of the bulldozer operator are disputed, with eyewitnesses saying that the Israeli soldier operating the bulldozer deliberately ran over Corrie, and the Israeli government saying that it was an accident since the bulldozer operator could not see her.


Peace activist, and daughter, Rachel Corrie

Who was Rachel Corrie?

She was the youngest of three children of Craig Corrie, an insurance executive, and Cindy Corrie. Cindy describes their family as “average Americans—politically liberal, economically conservative, middle class”.

In 2005 Rachel’s parents filed a civil lawsuit against the state of Israel. They sued for a symbolic one U.S. dollar in damages to to make the point that their case was about justice for their daughter and the Palestinian cause she had been defending.

The lawsuit charged Israel with not conducting a full and credible investigation into the case and with responsibility for her death.

In August 2012, an Israeli court upheld the results of Israel’s previous military investigation and ruled that the Israeli government was not responsible for Corrie’s death. The ruling, the Israeli Justice system, and the investigation it exonerated have been widely criticized.

Rachel Corrie’s life has been memorialized in several tributes, including the play My Name Is Rachel Corrie and the cantata The Skies are Weeping. Her collected writings were published in 2008 under the title Let Me Stand Alone, opening “a window on the maturation of a young woman seeking to make the world a better place”. The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice has been established to continue her work.

Excellent article

This link is to a well researched and achingly honest article about the case, written by an American Jewish writer who studies the situation in Israel closely. If you care about justice – and about the right of both the Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace – I urge you to read it.

Havign read widely, and unlike the Israeli justice system, I do not for one moment believe Rachel Corrie died merely accidentally. That she was knowingly placing herself in danger is undoubted. But given her role in the conflict, how could she not? In short, I believe she was killed by an individual – deliberately, or with deliberate disregard for her safety, which surely amounts to the same thing – who was acting under an understanding, if not a direct order, that the lives of those opposing Israeli behavior in Gaza were not to be valued, or protected.

“The Object is Dead”

It is chilling, deeply chilling, when one hears the commentary from inside the cockpit of the bulldozer that killed her; the driver refers to her as “The Object”, not a person.

Was Corrie responsible for her own death?

Now if you think Rachel Corrie was some idiot hippy, just in the wrong place at the wrong time, then watch this interview with her, recorded two days before she was killed. Far from being an idealistic airhead, she was an intelligent, thoughtful, motivated and coherent individual, operating from the highest moral standards. The sort of person, indeed, we would all want our daughter to be.

But was Rachel insanely foolish? Well, after flying to Israel on January 22, 2003, Corrie underwent a two-day training course at the ISM’s West Bank headquarters before heading to Rafah to participate in ISM demonstrations. During her training, Corrie studied direct action tactics, which included basic rules for avoiding harm.

A later article on the Corrie incident summarized these as: “Wear fluorescent jackets. Don’t run. Don’t frighten the army. Try to communicate by megaphone. Make your presence known.”

While in Rafah, Corrie acted as a human shield in an attempt to impede house demolitions carried out by the IDF using armored bulldozers.

There is no doubt the activists were aware of the threat to their well-being, and also that they took steps to minimise their danger.

On Corrie’s first night there, she and two other ISM members set up camp inside Block J, “a densely populated neighborhood along the Pink Line and frequent target of gunfire from an Israeli watchtower”.

By situating themselves visibly between the Palestinian residents and the Israeli snipers manning the watchtowers they hoped to discourage shooting by displaying banners stating that they were “internationals”. However, Israeli soldiers fired bullets over their tent and at the ground a few feet away.

Deciding that their presence was provoking the Israeli soldiers rather than deterring them, Corrie and her colleagues dismantled their tent and left the area.

Video of Corrie’s death

Now look at the video of her death. Note her bright clothing, with which she is trying to protect herself from harm and make it clear she is an international observer, and the fact she is level with the window of the bulldozer, and the fact she is carrying and using a megaphone.

Warning, this video is distressing, and you may need to sign into YouTube to watch it, as you see Rachel Corrie killed.

So what do you think?

Deliberate murder? At the very least, careless manslaughter? Well, no, not according to Israeli justice. The court judgement was a “regrettable accident”.

The IDF produced a video about Corrie’s death that includes footage taken from inside the cockpit of a D9. The video makes a “credible case”, wrote Joshua Hammer in Mother Jones, that “the operators, peering out through narrow, double-glazed, bulletproof windows, their view obscured behind pistons and the giant scooper, might not have seen Corrie kneeling in front of them”.

And indeed, with commendable decency, Rachel’s father, Craig Corrie has said “I know there’s stuff you can’t see out of the double glass windows.”

But he has denied that as a valid excuse for the death of his daughter, saying “you’re responsible for knowing what’s in front of your blade.”

Based on his experience of overseeing work with bulldozers similar to the D9 while serving as a combat engineer in Vietnam he said: “It’s a no brainer that this was gross negligence”, adding “they had three months to figure out how to deal with the activists that were there.”

Eye witness Tom Dale commenting on the 2012 verdict said: “Whatever one thinks about the visibility from a D9 bulldozer, it is inconceivable that at some point the driver did not see her, given the distance from which he approached, while she stood, unmoving, in front of it. As I told the court, just before she was crushed, Rachel briefly stood on top of the rolling mound of earth which had gathered in front of the bulldozer: her head was above the level of the blade, and just a few meters from the driver.”

A legitimate military target?

During the trial, Israeli military officials gave evidence in court stating that Rachel and other activists were legitimate military targets.

Despite this attitude, a spokesman for the IDF told the Guardian that, while it did not accept responsibility for Corrie’s death, it intended to change its operational procedures to avoid similar incidents in the future. The level of command of similar operations would be raised, said the spokesman, and civilians in the area would be dispersed or arrested before operations began. Observers will be deployed and CCTV cameras will be installed on the bulldozers to compensate for blind spots, which may have contributed to Corrie’s death.

Was the court case fair?

One has to ask whwther the court even heard accurate details of what happened. After all, in 2005, Human Rights Watch published a report raising questions about the impartiality and professionalism of the earlier IDF investigation. Some of the problems that the report mentioned were the investigators’ lack of preparation, the “hostile,” “inappropriate,” and “mostly accusatory” questions they asked witnesses, the failure to ask witnesses to draw maps or to identify locations of events on maps, and their lack of interest in reconciling soldiers’ testimonies with those of other eyewitnesses.

International opinion

In August 2012, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro stated that the Israeli investigation was not satisfactory, and was not as thorough, credible or transparent as it should have been. Shapiro said further that the government of the United States is  not satisfied with the IDF’s closure of its official investigation into Corrie’s death.

Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories and vocal critic of Israel, said of the verdict that it was “a sad outcome, above all for the Corrie family that had initiated the case back in 2005, but also for the rule of law and the hope that an Israeli court would place limits on the violence of the state, particularly in relation to innocents and unarmed civilians in an occupied territory”.

So what do I think?

It is a deeply sad tale. I just hope that somewhere Rachel Corrie rests at peace, and that her parents quest for justice will one day have a happier ending. They have conducted themselves with astonishing dignity in a situation where many of us would simply have yielded to murderous rage.

Surely the best thing we could do for Rachel Corrie – and for the thousands of innocent Palestinians and Israelis killed in this conflict, would be to find a solution to this endless cycle of violence – and also to consider, very deeply, Rachel Corrie’s absolute conviction based on her own eyewitness observation that this cycle of violence is not merely an accident of history, but the result, particularly, of Israeli Government intransigence.

It is very difficult for those of us who long for a settled and peaceful Israel to assert that it is now largely the aggressor in the conflict.

But unless we see a greater awareness from Israeli officials – and especially the current crop of senior political figures – that their core policies of occupation, segregation, and heavy-handed and sometimes indiscriminate violence are both losing them support and also prolonging their own lack of security, then there will be more Rachel Corries – and most of them will be, sadly, much less well known, or noticed.

We owe it to her to prevent that. And if that means confronting ugly truths, then so be it.