Huh. Here I was, thinking the only way to stop nations from unloading their cargo is to murder nine people, wound dozens, and imprison hundreds more. Turns out, you can do it in a totally peaceful manner.
Hundreds of peace activists prevented the unloading of an Israeli ship at the Port of Oakland Sunday by forming a picket line.
Organizers said their goal was to delay the ship”s unloading for 24 hours in protest of the Israeli military”s May 31 open-seas raid on a humanitarian aid flotilla that had been bringing goods to Gaza. The raid ended in the death of nine Turkish citizens.
I realized I haven’t been keeping you fine people up to date with Citizen Radio interviews. Apologies all around. Last week, we interviewed the fantastic Remi Kanazi, a Palestinian poet and activist. We got all shouty about Flotilla, Gaza, and the occupation. You can here Remi (IMHO one of the best and brightest young Palestinian spokespeople in the country) over here.
We also interviewed legendary tattoo artist Guy Aitchison about tattoos, nerds, and the universe. My co-host, Jamie Kilstein, managed to keep his shit together and ask some super interesting questions even though he was getting a half-sleeve from Guy at the time of this taping.
Friday’s episode didn’t have any interviews, but we did discuss corporate blue dogs, the crazy election results, and how Michele Bachmann is – surprise! – a total hypocrite, so if you’d like to hear that stuff, head thisaways.
Israel is currently trying to explain to the world why it was justified in slaughtering civilians aboard the Flotilla. The rationale behind the melee is that Very Dangerous Persons were bringing Very Dangerous Items into Gaza. These items included things like…cement.
You see, according to psychic David Frum, the cement wouldn’t be used to rebuild Gaza’s infrastructure, most of which was totally obliterated during the 2008 conflict (some estimate 70% of Rafah city needs to be rebuilt,) but rather to build bunkers for Hamas. We know the cement would be used for bunkers because Frum tells us so, and Frum knows this because Israel told him.
Israel harbors a plethora of prescient visions about the nefarious ways Palestinians would use all kinds of products. They even have a list! Check it out (via Sully):
These may seem like weird, arbitrary things to ban (Nutmeg?) but a sick thread of authoritarian genius ties these items together. Notice the prohibited items (seeds, chickens, donkeys, horses, goats, cattle, wood for construction). These are tools used by autonomous nations composed of a self-sustaining population.
It’s interesting to watch the extent the American government is willing to go in order to remain strapped to Israel even as Netanyahu and Co. plummet off a cliff. America’s leadership is so eager to not only sabotage its own empire, but also its “friend’s” home, that it has committed the very altruistic act of purchasing the straps that will keep the countries hopelessly bound together as they both fall to their certain deaths.
These binds are costly — $30 billion dollars over the next decade in defense aid for Israel — even as the US endures mass unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, and recently experienced a fatiguing brawl in the spirit of securing some kind of affordable healthcare even as Israel enjoys universal coverage.
Israel’s army is an extension of the US army, and the two countries usually stand in stark, unified contrast to the rest of the world’s vote. A typical United Nations vote calling for a two-state solution based on the right of return and compensation for the Palestinians looks like this: 164 nations in favor, 7 against (Australia, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States) and 4 absentions.
Israel, United States, Palau. It’s like the three musketeers if Dumas ended his novel with the IDF mowing down civilians bringing wheelchairs and medicine to Palestinians.
I mean, holy shit. If you asked me the limit of the United States’s willingness to go to bat for Israel over crazy authoritarian behavior, I would probably have said, “Well, there’s no way they would defend the IDF storming an aid ship — like heavily armed pirates — using European legislators and 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire as target practice.”
Amnesty International released a report Nov. 5 stating that a five-and-a-half-month ceasefire between Israel and Hamas “has brought enormous improvements in the quality of life in Sderot and other Israeli villages near Gaza.” However, it warned that a spate of Israeli and Palestinian attacks and counter-attacks in the previous 24 hours could “once again put the civilian populations of Gaza and southern Israel in the line of fire.”
Seven weeks later, Israel launched a massive military offensive into Gaza that shocked much of the world while gaining widespread support inside the Jewish state.
The Gaza offensive took 13 Israeli lives, including three civilians. Meanwhile more than 1,300 Palestinian lives were lost, more than half of which were civilians, including at least 400 children. At least 5,000 were injured. The price tag for the reconstruction of 21,000 homes, schools, hospitals, mosques and other infrastructure destroyed is estimated at more than $2 billion. The conflict destroyed half of Gaza’s agricultural industry, which provided a quarter of its food.
Gaza is one of the most crowded places on earth; it holds 1.5 million people, half of whom are children under 15. The majority of Gazans are the descendants of Palestinians who were forced to flee during the founding of Israel in 1948. Eighty percent of Gazans subsist on less than $2 a day and depend on the United Nations for basic survival. Israel has imposed a 19-month-long blockade, stopping food, fuel and medical supplies from reaching Gaza despite U.N. pleas that the restrictions be lifted.
Israel stands accused of firing on and killing civilians waving white flags, those it ordered to flee their homes and on aid workers. Israel has also been accused of refusing to let the injured get medical care by impeding and firing on ambulances. A coalition of nine Israeli human rights groups called for an investigation into whether Israel committed war crimes, protesting the “wanton use of lethal force” against Palestinian civilians. The U.N.’s special rapporteur to Palestine said Israel could be in violation of the U.N. Charter, the Geneva Conventions, international law and international humanitarian law. The Israeli explanation for high civilian casualties is that Hamas fighters concealed themselves within the civilian population.
Amnesty International accused Israel of using white phosphorus “in densely populated residential neighborhoods, [which] is inherently indiscriminate,” adding, “Its repeated use in this manner … is a war crime.” Israel has also been accused of using cluster bombs in densely populated areas, as well as using experimental weapons that are illegal under international law, including dense inert metal explosives (DIME) and GPS-guided mortars. A former U.S. Department of Defense official, now with Human Rights Watch, stated, “Experimenting has a different meaning for Americans. We think animal experimenting, but [its use was] indeed a field test.” Israel has dismissed all accusations of using illegal weapons and promised to protect its soldiers from prosecution.
It is difficult to say how many Israeli soldiers and reservists refused to take part in the fighting as the Israeli military was sending military resisters quietly home rather than jailing them and risking puncturing an aura of shared national purpose. One military resister who went public with his opposition was Yitzchak Ben Mocha, who refused to fight in Gaza because, “It’s not a war of defense. … You can’t separate the war in Gaza from the fact that the Palestinian nation is under occupation for more than 40 years.”
A DIFFERENT PATH FORWARD
According to the Israeli group Peace Now, Israel has escalated settlement expansion by 57 percent over the past year. The scope of the Israeli government’s complicity came into focus Jan. 30. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz revealed that a secret database developed by the Israeli military confirms that many settlements are built on private Palestinian land and considered illegal under Israeli law. According to Haaretz, “in the vast majority of the settlements — about 75 percent — construction, sometimes on a large scale, has been carried out without the appropriate permits or contrary to the permits that were issued. The database also shows that, in more than 30 settlements, extensive construction of buildings and infrastructure (roads, schools, synagogues, yeshivas and even police stations) has been carried out on private lands belonging to Palestinian West Bank residents.”
It has been reported that President Barack Obama may start indirect low-level talks with Hamas, similar to those that the Carter administration held with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the late 1970s. In 1982, Israel responded to the PLO’s willingness to negotiate by invading Lebanon, where the PLO was based, in a war that killed as many as 25,000 people. Twenty-seven years later the PLO’s Fatah party has been reduced to the role of collaborating in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and in spite of 16 years of negotiations it has been unable to stop Israeli expansion onto Palestinian lands.
It has been argued that the objective of Israel’s assault on Gaza was to knock out Hamas because it opposes the Israeli annexation of the West Bank and Jerusalem. According to a leading Israeli expert on the conflict Avi Shlaim, the “definition of terror is the use of violence against civilians for political purposes.” So while Hamas is a terrorist organization, “by the same token, Israel is practicing state terror, because it is using violence on a massive scale against Palestinian civilians for political purposes.”
An internationally-backed peace agreement has been on the table for more than 30 years: the creation of a Palestinian state in Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank. With Hamas now indicating it is willing to negotiate along these lines, the main obstacle to peace remains the U.S.-backed Israeli occupation, which only the U.S. public has the power to end.
To read more coverage on the Arab-Israeli conflict and related activism, click here.
Note from Allison: This is made all the more perverse by the fact that the US is set to give $900 million in aid to Gaza, while also giving $30+billion in aid to Israel. We’re giving aid to one side in order to rebuild the shit that gone blown up by the other side, who we’re arming. And no one sees anything devious or hypocritical about any of this?
In a report released today, Amnesty International detailed the weapons used and called for an immediate arms embargo on Israel and all Palestinian armed groups. It called on the Obama administration to suspend military aid to Israel.
The human rights group said that those arming both sides in the conflict “will have been well aware of a pattern of repeated misuse of weapons by both parties and must therefore take responsibility for the violations perpetrated”.
The US has long been the largest arms supplier to Israel; under a current 10-year agreement negotiated by the Bush administration the US will provide $30bn (£21bn) in military aid to Israel.
“As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa programme director. “To a large extent, Israel’s military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with US taxpayers’ money.”
For their part, Palestinian militants in Gaza were arming themselves with “unsophisticated weapons” including rockets made in Russia, Iran and China and bought from “clandestine sources”, it said. About 1,300 Palestinians were killed and more than 4,000 injured during the three-week conflict. On the Israeli side 13 were killed, including three civilians. Amnesty said Israel’s armed forces carried out “direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects in Gaza, and attacks which were disproportionate or indiscriminate”. The Israeli military declined to comment yesterday.
Palestinian militants also fired “indiscriminate rockets” at civilians, Amnesty said. It called for an independent investigation into violations of international humanitarian law by both sides.
Amnesty researchers in Gaza found several weapon fragments after the fighting. One came from a 500lb (227kg) Mark-82 fin guided bomb, which had markings indicating parts were made by the US company Raytheon. They also found fragments of US-made white phosphorus artillery shells, marked M825 A1.
On 15 January, several white phosphorus shells fired by the Israeli military hit the headquarters of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza City, destroying medicine, food and aid. One fragment found at the scene had markings indicating it was made by the Pine Bluff Arsenal, based in Arkansas, in October 1991.
The human rights group said the Israeli military had used white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas, which it said was an indiscriminate form of attack and a war crime. Its researchers found white phosphorus still burning in residential areas days after the ceasefire.
At the scene of an Israeli attack that killed three Palestinian paramedics and a boy in Gaza City on 4 January, Amnesty found fragments of an AGM114 Hellfire missile, made by Hellfire Systems of Orlando, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The missile is often fired from Apache helicopters.
Amnesty said it also found evidence of a new type of missile, apparently fired from unmanned drones, which exploded into many pieces of shrapnel that were “tiny sharp-edged metal cubes, each between 2 and 4mm square in size”.
“They appear designed to cause maximum injury,” Amnesty said. Many civilians were killed by this weapon, including several children, it said.
Rockets fired by Palestinian militants were either 122mm Grad missiles or short-range Qassam rockets, a locally made, improvised artillery weapon. Warheads were either smuggled in or made from fertiliser.
The arsenal of weapons was on a “very small scale compared to Israel”, it said, adding that the scale of rocket arsenal deployed by Hizbullah in the 2006 Lebanese war was “beyond the reach of Palestinian militant groups”.
Armed for war
Israelis Missiles launched from helicopters and unmanned drones, including 20mm cannon and Hellfire missiles. Larger laser-guided and other bombs dropped by F-16 warplanes. Extensive use of US-made 155mm white phosphorus artillery shells and Israeli-made 155mm illuminating shells that eject phosphorus canisters by parachute. Several deaths caused by flechettes, 4cm-long metal darts packed into 120mm tank shells, and fragments of US-made 120mm tank shells.
Palestinians Militants fired rockets into southern Israel including 122mm Grad rockets of either Russian, Chinese or Iranian manufacture, and smaller, improvised Qassam rockets often made inside Gaza and usually holding 5kg of explosives and shrapnel.
Here in New York, several dozen student activists have barricaded themselves inside a cafeteria at New York University. The group Take Back NYU has submitted several demands, including the establishment of a socially responsible committee, a full disclosure of the school’s annual budget and support for Palestinian students in the Gaza Strip.
Student: “The first two orders of the socially responsible finance committee will be an in-depth investigation of all investments in war and genocide profiteers, as well as companies profiting from the occupation of Palestine.”
By all accounts, the U.S. is suffering extreme economic woes. We continue to borrow trillions of dollars simply to prevent financial collapse. Our military resources are spread so thin that the establishment consensus view blames the failure of our seven-year (and counting) occupation of Afghanistan, at least in part, on the lack of necessary resources devoted to that occupation. And a significant (though not the only) reason why we are unable to extricate ourselves from the endless resource-draining and liberty-degrading involvement in Middle East conflicts is because our one-sided support for Israel ensures that we remain involved and makes ourselves the target of hatred around the world and, especially, in the Muslim world.
Despite all of that, the Bush administration, just days before it left office,entered into yet another new agreement with Israel pursuant to which the U.S. committed to use its resources to prevent guns and other weapons from entering Gaza. That agreement cites “the steadfast commitment of the United States to Israel’s security” and “and to preserve and strengthen Israel’s capability to deter and defend itself,” and vows that the U.S. will “address the problem of the supply of arms and related materiel and weapons transfers and shipments to Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza.”
Speaking about that new U.S./Israeli agreement on her show late last week, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow (in the course of aggressively questioning an absurdly evasive Sen. Claire McCaskill on the wisdom of Obama’s plans to escalate the war in Afghanistan and noting the cadre of Bush defense officials on whom Obama is relying — video below) observed that the Obama administration has enthusiastically expressed its full support for the new Israeli agreement entered into in the last days of Bush’s presidency. Maddow said (h/t Antiwar.com):
Also, not particularly change-like, then-President Bush made a deal in his final day in office with Israel about the terms of Israel’s relationship with Gaza. I’m sorry – it wasn’t his last day in office. It was within his last few days in office — my mistake.
The U.S. under President Obama is bound by that last-minute agreement between the U.S. and Israel. And a statement from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today says that President Obama supports the agreement fully.
That new agreement has already led the U.S. Navy last week to take risky and potential illegal actions in intercepting Iranian ships that were transporting arms. As The Jerusalem Post reported:
The interception of an Iranian arms ship by the US Navy in the Red Sea last week likely was conducted as a covert operation and is being played down by the US military due to the lack of a clear legal framework for such operations, an American expert on Iran told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday evening.
International media reported that an Iranian-owned merchant vessel flying a Cypriot flag was boarded early last week by US Navy personnel who discovered artillery shells on board.
The ship was initially suspected of being en route to delivering its cargo to smugglers in Sinai who would transfer the ammunition to Hamas in Gaza, but the US Navy became uncertain over the identity of the intended recipient since “Hamas is not known to use artillery,” The Associated Press cited a defense official as saying. . . .
Prof. Raymond Tanter, president of the Washington-based Iran Policy Committee, said, “It is not surprising that the US Navy is reluctant to acknowledge the operation, which may have been covert,” adding that maritime law posed challenges when it came to intercepting ships that fly the flag of a sovereign country. . . .
For the time being, the interceptions and searches are being carried out on the basis of the memorandum of understanding signed between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and then-US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on January 16, which is “aimed at halting arms smuggling into Gaza as part of efforts to clinch the cease-fire,” Tanter said.
The article quoted Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute of National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, as arguing that the risk of provoking a confrontation with Iran from such interceptions is low — but not non-existent — because “Iran is not looking for an armed confrontation [with the US Navy] at this point.”
And Haaretz reports that preventing Palestinians in Gaza from re-arming itself is now — for some reason — an ongoing military operation of the United States:
A United States naval taskforce has been ordered to hunt down weapons ships sent by Iran to rearm its Islamist ally Hamas in Gaza, The Sunday Times reported.
Quoting U.S. diplomatic sources, the British daily said that Combined Task Force 151, which is countering pirates in the Gulf of Aden, has been instructed to track Iranian arms shipments.
There were several aspects of the Israeli attack on Gaza that made it even more horrifying than the standard atrocities of war: (1) the civilian population was trapped — imprisoned — in a tiny densely-populated strip and were unable to escape the brutal attacks; and (2) it was a completely one-sided war, because one side (Israel) is armed to teeth with the world’s most sophisticated and deadly weapons, while the other side (the Palestinians) is virtually defenseless, possessing only the most primitive and (against a force like the IDF) impotent weapons.
What possible justification is there for the U.S. (as opposed to Israel) to use its military and the money of its taxpayers to ensure that the Palestinians remain defenseless? In exactly the way that the U.S. felt free to invade Iraq (with its decayed, sanctions-destroyed “military”) but not North Korea or Iran (with its much more formidable forces), it’s precisely because the conflict is so one-sided that Israel feels no real pressure to cease the activities that, in part, feed this conflict (beginning with still-expanding West Bank settlements and the truly inhumane blockade of Gaza).
Obviously, where one side has its foot on the throat of the other, the side with the far more dominant position has less incentive to resolve the dispute than the side being choked. And it’s perfectly natural — not just for Israel but in general — for a party to want to maintain dominance over its adversaries and to want to prevent its enemies from obtaining weapons that can be used against it. It’s entirely rational for Israel to desire a continuation of that particular state of affairs – i.e., for only Israel, but not the enemies with whom it has intractable territorial and religious conflicts, to have a real military force.
But what does any of that have to do with the U.S. Navy and the American taxpayer? What possible justification is there for using American resources — the American military — to patrol the Red Sea in order to ensure that Gazans remain defenseless? That question is particularly pronounced given that the U.S. is already shoveling, and will continue to shovel, billions and billions of dollars to Israel in military and other aid. Why, on top of all of that, are increasingly scarce American resources, rather than Israeli resources, being used to bar Palestinians from obtaining weapons? And why — as it is more vital than ever that we extricate ourselves from Middle Eastern conflicts — are we making ourselves still more of a partisan and combatant in this most entrenched and religiously-driven territorial dispute over the West Bank and Gaza Strip?
Israel is hardly the only country which the U.S. expends vast resources — including military resources — to defend and protect, and all of those commitments ought to be seriously re-examined. But none of those other commitments entail anywhere near the costs — on every level — of our seemingly limitless willingness, eagerness, to involve ourselves so directly and self-destructively in every last conflict that Israel has. Given what we are constantly being told is the grave economic peril the U.S. faces, shouldn’t we be moving in exactly the opposite direction than the imperial expansion which we continue to pursue?
* * * * *
The day after George H.W. Bush invaded Panama in one of the most absurd (though quite lethal) military operations of the last several decades (“Operation Just Cause”), The New York Times published an article by R.W. Apple on its front page celebrating Bush for having “shown his steel,” proving he was “a man capable of bold action” who “carried a big stick.” The article proclaimed:
For George Bush, the United States invasion of Panama early this morning constituted a Presidential initiation rite as well as an attempt to achieve specific goals. . . . For better or for worse, most American leaders since World War II have felt a need to demonstrate their willingness to shed blood to protect or advance what they construe as the national interest. . . . – all of them acted in the belief that the American political culture required them to show the world promptly that they carried big sticks.
With only a week in office, Barack Obama has already fulfilled this Presidential initiation rite, as his body count — of civilians — already easily exceeds the number of days he’s been President. Last week, two Drone missile attacks struck Pakistani villages, killing numerous civilians (including children) and maybe — though maybe not — a couple of “Al Qaeda operatives.” And as Obama prepares to escalate the war in Afghanistan, a U.S. attack on Saturday killed 16 Afghan civilians (according to the Afghan government), and it was reported that more than 4,000 Afghan civilians were killed in the last year alone. And read this harrowing account of what happened in an Afghan village several weeks ago during a U.S. raid and the effect this is all having on the attitudes of Afghan civilians towards the U.S. occupation (as is typically the case, the U.S. military denies the claims of the villagers).
Despite all of that, Joe Biden yesterday told us all to expect a rise in casualties. Questions of justifiability to the side for the moment, there is almost no discussion of what possible good will be achieved by escalating the seven-year war in Afghanistan (though the New York Times did run a thorough story on some of these questions over the weekend). As part of the above-referenced MSNBC segment, Rachel Maddow highlighted all of the right questions, pointed to a number of vital parallels between our occupation of that country and the Soviet Union’s self-destructive attempt to control it, and tried — with total futility — to induce key Obama ally Sen. Claire McCaskill to address any of these questions in a meaningful way:
The Shministim are Israeli high school students who have been imprisoned for refusing to serve in an army that occupies the Palestinian Territories. December 18 marks the launch date of a global campaign to release them from jail. Join over 20,000 people including American conscientious objectors,Ronnie Gilbert, Adrienne Rich, Robert Meeropol, Adam Hochschild, Rabbi Lynn Gottleib, Howard Zinn, Rela Mazali, Debra Chasnoff, Ed Asner and Aurora Levins-Morales and show your support by contacting the Israeli Minister of Defense using the form below.
40,000 LETTERS AND COUNTING!
It was a day of digging and bitter discovery. Houses had lost walls, and the dead, after three weeks of war, had lost their faces. Families identified them by their clothes.
As the people of Gaza emerged from hiding on Sunday, they confronted, for the first time, the full, sometimes breathtaking extent of the destruction around them wrought by the Israeli military. Bombs had pulverized the Parliament and cabinet buildings, the Ministry of Justice, the main university and the police station, paralyzing Gaza’s central nervous system and leaving residents in a state of shock.
Some places in Gaza City were bustling and matter-of-fact. Work crews in bright orange vests repaired power and water lines. Shops reopened. People lined up at bank machines.
But other areas ached with loss. In Twam to the north, thousands dragged belongings away from ruined houses; they were dazed refugees in their own city. In Zeitoun, families clawed at rubble and concrete, trying to dislodge the bodies of relatives who had died weeks before. The death toll kept climbing: 95 bodies were taken from the rubble.
More than 20 of them were from the Samouni family, whose younger members were digging with shovels and hands for relatives stuck in rooms inside. Faris Samouni, 59, sat alone, watching them. He had lost his wife, daughter-in-law, grandson and nephew, and he was heartbroken.
“Twenty-one are down there,” he said, starting to cry. “One is my wife. Her name is Rizka.”
The dead were badly decomposed, and families searched for familiar personal details that would identify them. One woman’s corpse was identified by her gold bracelets. Another by her earrings. And a third by the nightgown she wore. The smell of rotting flesh was suffocating, and as they got closer, the diggers donned masks.
At 10:55 a.m., the body of Rizka Samouni emerged as an Israeli fighter jet roared in the sky. Other corpses followed. Houda, 18. Faris, 14. Hamdi, 21. The smallest corpse that emerged, from a different family, was that of a 4-year-old.
“They killed the elders, the children, the women, the animals, the chickens,” said Subhi, 55, Rizka’s brother. “It’s a nightmare. I never thought I would lose all of them.”
Around noon, a worker from the Red Crescent ran up to the diggers. The Israelis had called, telling people to leave, he said. The families began to run, again.
“We have to go!” a woman shouted. “But where can we go? Where do we go?”
An Israeli military spokesman said the order had been issued because the Red Crescent had not coordinated its movement in advance. Later, permission was granted and the diggers returned to exhume the remaining bodies.
One of the areas worst hit was Twam, a neighborhood north of Gaza City, which by Friday afternoon had turned into a disorganized mass move. Donkey carts lurched over torn-up roads, spilling pillows and bedding into the dirt. People dragged bed frames and mattresses out of bombed-out houses. Small boys carried bookshelves. Curtains tied in giant sacks held clothes. Decorative cloth flowers fluttered from a half-closed trunk.
“It’s madness,” said Riad Abbas Khalawa, who was carrying a computer in one hand with his brother, who was carrying the other side. “Now our home is gone. There’s no place for us to sit together as a family.”
The question of what they thought Israel’s goal was elicited a response from the entire throng listening to Mr. Khalawa.
“It’s a war against us as people,” a man shouted. “What happened to Hamas? Nothing!”
Beker Rahim, a 26-year-old who works for a water distributor, was walking with a cradle on his head, and a blue plastic jug of homegrown olives in his right hand. He had to move a corpse on Sunday morning from near his house, placing it respectfully at the gates of the mosque. As he walked up to his house, he saw it had been mostly destroyed and was unlivable.
The loss was staggering, and acutely felt in the Saker family, which looked like a theater troupe on a stage as they salvaged what remained from the third floor of their house, its walls shorn off, its insides exposed to the neighborhood.
The house had a special meaning. The family had lived for generations in a refugee camp, and six years ago had saved enough money to build it. This morning they came to find it in shambles, a crushing discovery.
“It was my dream and now it is erased,” said Hadija Saker, 55, who ticked off the evidence, as she saw it, of Israel’s unjust actions. She said Hamas lacked influence in the area. A teacher at a United Nations school lived on one side. A journalist on the other. Most painful, she said, were her lemon trees, which she had nurtured for years and now lay crushed under the sandy soil crisscrossed with the marks of tank treads.
Anger was compounded when people concluded that Israeli soldiers appeared to have been using their houses. The Sakers found wrappers for chocolate cranberry power bars and corn puffs with Hebrew writing. In another, a child found a tiny Torah.
In the upper middle-class neighborhood of Tal al-Hawa, Ziad Dardasawi, 40, a wood importer, was trying to process what had happened. As a supporter of Fatah, a political rival of Hamas, Mr. Dardasawi said that he despised Hamas, but that its rocket fire was no justification for Israel’s military response.
“Let’s say someone from Hamas fired a rocket — is it necessary to punish the whole neighborhood for that?” he said, standing in a stairway of his uncle’s house, where furniture had been smashed, and all the windows broken.
He drew on an analogy he thought would strike a chord: “In the U.S., when someone shoots someone, is his entire family punished?”
The Israeli actions made the situation more intractable, he said. “How can I convince my neighbors now for the option of peace? I can’t.”
He added: “Israel is breeding extremists. The feeling you get is that they just want you to leave Gaza.”
It was almost dark and the Samounis were finally burying their dead. It took time to find a car big enough to carry them all. A man had to stand in the back to keep them from falling out.
At the cemetery, a battery-powered neon light cast an eerie glow over men digging the graves. There was a moment of panic when Hamas militants launched a rocket not far away, but then nothing happened.
A final obstacle: There was not enough room to bury all the bodies. The family opened up an old grave to accommodate them.
A cousin, Khamis el-Sayess, observed bitterly, “Even our dead have no land.”
But for Yasser Smama, a teenager who was also part of the crowd, there was almost a resigned hope. “Today is not the end,” he said. “Today we bury our dead, and we pick ourselves up.” Then he pointed at the sky, and said, “We have to be strong because they might hit us again tomorrow.”