Thursday, January 15, 2009


How could this subject not be on my mind? How could it not be on yours? Well, I understand why it might not be on yours. You are thinking about a hundred other things, and they don't all have to be personal. But they might be. Personal could range from your family, your job (will you still have it?) your money, your friends, your nosehairs, for G-d's sake. Adam Smith once said (I am going to mangle this quote) that we care more about our little pinkie than we do about 10,000 people dying in China (this assuming we don't live in China or don't have loved ones who do). But the gist being, if we lost our little pinky in an accident one day, and there is an earthquake in China the next that kills 10,000 people, our little pinky is going to loom larger to us--of course. I do think that's human nature.

But say it isn't your little pinky. Say you are thinking about other things. The Congo, perhaps, or Mogadishu, or Obama's inaugeration, or New Orleans, or your own local town council. Perhaps you are thinking about global warming or global economic collapse. There are many reasons that Gaza may not be always on your mind.

It isn't always on my mind either. Far from it. I think more about Ari, about my other loved ones, about my placement, about school, about money, about the cold weather, about what kind of job I might be getting in this wretched economy and how I'll pay back my student loans if my job is more wretched than I ever thought it would be. And I think about you. But behind so many of those things, I think about Gaza. It is always sort of trembling there, hauntingly. This is most definitely because I am Jewish. Because I love Israel. Because I am teaching Ari Hebrew, because I love my heritage. (I love all parts of it, the WASP and the Armenian parts too.) As some of you know, I've started a (relatively new) facebook account and through that, I have reconnected with people I never get a chance to hear from otherwise. I have friends who are so pro Israel that during this conflict they are featuring an Israeli flag as their profile picture and are posting videos of the rockets falling on Sderot as to counter what they consider to be anti-Israeli propaganda in the media. And I have friends who feature "Boycott Israeli products" with a picture of an orange bleeding as their profile photo, to indicate that Israelis have blood on their hands. I have friends who pass around photos of gory victims in Gaza with comments underneath them saying "God will soon kill all Israelis" as some of the mild comments. I am always amazed at the progressive people in my community who hate Bush but who seem to feel comfortable with organizations (if one can use that term) like Hamas, many of whose members would gladly line them up against a wall and shoot them if they could for being Americans or queer or whatever.

At times like these, I feel like a character in a Dykes to Watch Out for Strip at the outset of the U.S. intervention in Kosovo. I'll try to post that link, if I can get to it. In the strip, the main character Mo starts off by reading the news and saying, of course, we've got to go in and stop Milosevic, the man is a maniac. Her partner says, "That's what the media wants you to think. Makes you wonder what you are not seeing." During the course of the day she talks to her friends, each of whom has a different take on the conflict, until by the end she comes home saying she is back to her pacifist roots. By that time, her partner is watching T.V. footage of the refugees and is saying of Milosevic, "Someone's gotta take this man out!"

I am obviously an insane Alison Bechdel fan that I have this strip memorized, but I feel so jerked around by my own feelings and perceptions of this conflict. I really know nothing about this situation. I know enough to know I know NOTHING and I feel my ignorance profoundly. I've been to Israel, obviously, but I've never been to Gaza. I have been to the West Bank, more than once, and seen bombed out houses and held the hands of Palestinian mothers who had lost so much and with whom I could not communicate any other way except to look into their eyes and just see the endless grief there. If I was inside Israel right now I'd know a little more about what was happening but probably just enough to feel hopelessly, helplessly uninformed.

You see, I really hate Hamas. I think they are yucky. Not evil, I won't go there. (For so many reasons.) I'll stick with yucky. If it isn't too patronizing, I hate them on behalf of the Palestinian people. I hate that they have taking the people hostage, but that is like saying Putin has taken the Russians hostage. Some Palestinians feel very loyal to Hamas, and one can easily see why: Hamas provides the services that no one else does, as limited as they are.

There are so many things to say here, and I am not the person to say them: about the lack of aid given to Palestinians by their own people who use them as bargaining chips, about the way Hamas uses innocent civilians, including children, as protection to ensure that they can keep doing whatever they want. One can go on and on and other people already have. But all of that isn't really the point.

The point is that this conflict is on my mind every day and every night. I think about those mothers and those children. I think about it because I am a Jew and as a Jew I feel complicit and responsible. I think about it because I am an Armenian and as an Armenian I still remember, as if it happened to me, in my bones, how it felt to be slaughtered, to be trapped, to be burned in my own home or in a church. And that happened over 100 years ago. And still I remember.

Even more, though, it is because I love my son. I love him so much. You know how much, because you love yours that much too, or will love one someday, or love another little one who is partly yours through some other means. It is pervasive and frightening, this love. It hurts to see him hurt in even the smallest ways. And this is a very robust child--healthy in every sense. He falls down and bonks his head, and half of the time he just gets up and says cheerfully, "Bonk!" He gets a cold, he plows right through it so happily you forget to take his temperature. Yet I fret if gets even the smallest scratch or bruise.

How then can I not be thinking about how mothers in the Gaza strip, crowded together already under the most miserable circumstances, in poverty, in desperation, who are facing these bombs and cannot get away. Cannot go anywhere. Are totally trapped, with their babies in their arms. And are getting killed and wounded not only by mainstream weaponry but by weaponry we could easily characterize as torture: phosperus weaponry, which burns and burns sometimes right into the bone, so that mothers are watching their children writhe and shriek and sometimes lose a limb and sometimes die, and when the wounds are dressed sometimes they are still smoking and doctors can do nothing about it. That's not Hamas propaganda. It's true.

And even if the doctors could do something about it, there might not be enough supplies and medicine to do anything, so that even for more conventional wounds sometimes doctors have to sit back helplessly and watch someone die who they might have otherwise saved. And despite all of this, there are Palestinians in Gaza who are practicing mindfulness, who are trying to calm each other, and children, and mothers, and find something that we could call happiness and freedom.

Every night, I sing Ari the Sh'ma. I sing, "Sh'ma, Yisrael, Yah Eloheinu, Yah Ehad." And then I translate that into English, my own unique interpretation: "We all on this earth are connected to each other. Listen, we are one."

And I think about Gaza, about the other mothers, and what they are singing to their children as they put them to sleep. And I think, G-d, if I did believe that, that we were all one, what would I do? Wouldn't I protect those children and mothers--those parents--everyone--the way I would my own child, my beloved boy?

Why not? What on this earth stops me?


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Blicky Kitty said...

You are truly amazing. You're able to put words on what I've been feeling about gaza but lacked the words to say.

Both sides try to make it seem as though they are the victims while robbing the other of their right to victim-hood(?). If you distill it down into basic human terms, which morally we should, all the violence is wrong and sad.

I am angry at Hamas. I am angry at the settlers. I'm angry that I'm so helpless, watching it all.