After 24 days, here’s the “Butchers’ Bill” for the Gaza Conflict

Two brothers grieve the death of their father at Nasser hospital, following an Israeli airstrike that destroyed the family home. (Photo credit: Sergey Ponomarev / The New York Times)
Two brothers grieve the death of their father at Nasser hospital, following an Israeli airstrike that destroyed the family home. (Photo credit: Sergey Ponomarev / The New York Times)

There has been a lot of conversation this week on my blog regarding the current Gaza conflict, and I think it mirrors the tone and tenor of the national debate. In writing about my support for Palestinians and my moral outrage at military actions that have targeted schools, hospitals and refugee camps in a manner that has resulted in predominantly Palestinian civilian death, I have been accused of being pro-Hamas and even anti-Semitic.

I find this rhetoric an abhorrent over-simplification of the political situation in Gaza right now, one that seems intent on shutting down (rather than stimulating) debate centered around the humanization of the Palestinian people.

There are many folks online right now expressing our support for Gaza, in recognition of the status of Palestinians as an occupied people. For too long, that status has been ignored, or racially miscast in the inflammatory, prejudicial language of “terrorism”. Yet, as I have written, communities of colour in America — including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders — should be able to see through this charged language to recognize the insidiousness of colonialism and its devastating impact in terms of human lives. In truth, many of us do.

We support the Palestinian people, whom we believe have the right to life, the right to humanity, and the right to exist on their own land. We reject the assertion that an occupied people has no political or legal right to resist their occupiers.

We reject the assertion that Palestinian civilians deserve to die.

2014-08-01 Gaza-deaths

We are stirred to support the Palestinians people by the heart-breaking death toll arising out of the Gaza Strip; 24 days after military offensives began, more than 1300 Palestinians — most civilians and too many of them children — lie dead. Even as the bombs fall, a digital war is also being waged, one that would discount the humanity of these civilians by arguing every single Palestinian who has been killed — including the children — are pro-Hamas almost-militant pseudo-terrorists who (somehow) deserved death. Writes one commenter on my site (emphasis added):

There’s so many issues you failed to mention in this post, such as why the cease-fire failed. Hamas (Palestine) fired more than a dozen rockets into Israel to end the cease-fire, and they’re the ones supposed to be hurting right? That shows how little they care for their people. Or how about Hamas misfiring rockets into their own people and trying to blame it on Israel, or Hamas hiding weapons in UN schools and lying about it. The list just goes on & on with these cowardly bastards. If they gave a damn their women and children would have been evacuated, They would be safe right now, or they would have left because they knew what was coming, and if they didn’t they damn sure do now. The ones left are supporters of Hamas, the one that will grow up to be Hamas.

The false equivalency here is particularly disturbing to me, as if the words “Palestinian” and “Hamas” are synonymous. Coupled with the assertion that Palestinians remaining in Gaza are there by choice, this sort of language fails to recognize both the status of Palestinians as an occupied people, or the diversity of thought among Palestinians. This sort of language fails to address the history of the progressive occupation of Palestinian territory by Israeli settlements, and the consequent political complexity of the situation. To assert unilaterally that the average Palestinian remaining in Gaza is going to “grow up to be Hamas” is representative of the exact sort of imprecise binary “good vs evil” thinking that does this whole issue a grave injustice, and would be as if someone were to use the words “American” and “Tea Party” interchangeably.

Throughout world history, binary “good vs. evil” thinking has never facilitated any sort of peaceful diplomatic solution to military conflict. Throughout world history, binary “good vs. evil” thinking has only ever facilitated war, genocide, and annihilation.

2014-08-01 Gaza-attacks

In taking a stand in solidarity with Gaza, I am endlessly reminded of this article on Huffington Post published last week: Empathizing w/ Gaza does NOT make me anti-Semitic, nor pro-Hamas or anti-Israel. It makes me human.

To take a stand in support of the humanity of Palestinian people is not to endorse the actions of Hamas. It is not to invalidate the state of Israel. It is not to attack the Jewish faith. I refuse to engage in that kind of binary thinking.

To take a stand in support of the humanity of Palestinian people is to say that bombing hospitals is not okay. Bombing schools is not okay. Bombing refugee camps is not okay. Bombing children is not okay. Waging contemporary siege warfare by cutting off Gaza’s civilian access to power and clean water is not okay.

I do not pretend to have an answer with regard to how to resolve the historic Israel-Palestine conflict. There is no simple and straightforward political answer to this war, which is why it has been raging for decades. In truth, however, that’s all a red herring. Gaza supporters who advocate on behalf of the humanity of Palestinian people do not need to have the roadmap to Mideast peace in order to validate their position that over a thousand Palestinian civilian deaths cannot be tolerated or justified. Period.

Yesterday, an agreed-upon 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire lasted less than two hours. Both IDF and Hamas resumed fighting within minutes, each claiming the other side had broken the truce. This current conflict is now the longest sustained period of fighting in the last five years.

There is no straightforward position here but one: a cease-fire must be forged, and it must hold, before any talks can begin. A cease-fire is necessary to end the senseless killing of civilians in Gaza. Calls for a cease-fire must be resumed.

Meanwhile, the Butchers’ Bill of this current Gaza conflict continues to rise.

Read More: Sign this petition to stand as an AAPI in support of Gaza

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