The situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate, as they say. Another way to put it is that a war has just started, or re-started. Last night, Israel gave the green light for the military to mobilize 30,000 troops in preparation for a full-scale invasion of Gaza. Tensions are escalating, the death toll is rising, and more rocket fire is being exchanged between sides. So far, 21 Palestinians, including both militants and civilians, have died, along with three Israeli civilians.
People around the world are getting pissed off, naturally, whether they are for or against Israel’s “Pillar of Defense.” Human rights organizations and the UN are calling for the combatants to stop fighting, and protesters are taking to the streets both in the Middle East and elsewhere to denounce Israel’s aggression or denounce those who denounce Israel’s aggression.
Last night, I went to the Israeli consulate in New York City to see who would show up for a pro-Palestine rally. By my count, there were roughly 220 attendees at the protest’s peak. Speakers touched on subjects that will be familiar to anyone who has shown up to an event of this sort—they attacked violence, human rights violations, racism, and apartheid, and asserted that US aid sent to Israel could be used instead to reconstruct areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. Chants of “Free, Free, Palestine!” and “Hey Israel, what do you say, how many kids did you kill today?” were frequent throughout the night.
On the opposite side of the street there was a counter-protest being held for those supporting Israel’s right to self-defense (or “self-defense,” depending on what you believe). This was a smaller crowd that numbered around 60. “Israel wants peace, Hamas wants terror!” they shouted. “God bless America! God Bless Israel!”
I wandered around and asked people on both sides of the fence for their opinions on what was happening in Gaza. Not surprisingly, the two sides didn’t agree on the fundamentals of the situation.
Charlie, rabbi: I think this is a horrible situation. Missiles continue to fly into Israel with the expectation that Israel isn’t going to respond. I don’t know of any other country in the world that would have missiles flying into it on a regular basis and not respond to an act of open warfare.
Spenser, tech start-up employee: It’s just an extension of what’s been happening for a really long time. People want to focus on micro-issues: “an IDF soldier killed a child,” or “Hamas is using children as human shields.” I think its much more important to look at the structure of the occupation that encourages people on both sides to do really atrocious things. There is no reason for [Israel] to cooperate or to advance the peace process because they have our financial and political support. That’s why I feel like I have a stake in being here—my taxes, although they may not be a lot, contribute to aid to Israel and I think it’s atrocious.