Monday, June 15, 2015

Meet Issam

He has a name and a face. What he does not have anymore is a family.

On August 24, last summer, around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, Issam Abu Mustafa was inside preparing a meal which he thought would be a treat for his family. Then, BOOM! An Israeli bomb killed his wife and four of his children.

Issam’s wife, 6 year-old Osama, 8 year-old Mohammed, 12 year-old Raghad and 14 year-old Tasneen all died on the spot. Thaer had his right leg amputated above the knee and he was sent to Germany where doctors are still treating him for severe burns that cover most of his body.[1]

If it made the news at all, it was presented as a statistic.  Issam’s family was only five of the 2,200 Palestinians, including 547 children killed by Israel, 68 percent of whom were 12 years old or younger. Ten year-old Thaer, the sole survivor from the back yard massacre, is only one of the estimated 1,000 children in Gaza who sustained life time disabilities. 

We know very little about Mr. Issam Abu Mustafa. But what we do know is significant. If he is old enough, he is one of the 750,000 Palestinians driven out of their homes in 1948 by force or fear.   If he is a little younger, and if he escaped the Nakba, he probably fled to Gaza as a refugee from the six day war of 1967. Regardless, he is now living behind guarded fences as a criminal. He has never committed a crime, nor has he ever been accused of one. He is a victim of Israeli imperialism.  To the U.S., he is invisible. To Israel, he is simply a nuisance.  

For certain, he and his family lived through Operation Cast Lead which was started by Israel on the night that all America was watching the election returns between Barack Obama and John McCain.   

According to Noam Chomsky:

On November 4, while the media were focused on the US presidential election, Israeli troops entered Gaza and killed half a dozen Hamas militants. That elicited a Hamas missile response and an exchange of fire. (All the deaths were Palestinian.)  In late December, Hamas offered to renew the ceasefire. Israel rejected the offer, preferring to launch Operation Cast Lead.[2]

A few Israelis in Tel Aviv demonstrated against the slaughter of the people of Gaza. They were attacked by hooligans as the police stood by and did nothing. Others took lawn chairs and sat on a hill top overlooking Gaza to cheer every explosion.[3]  And they would have much to cheer. Israeli air corps flew nearly 3,000 sorties over Gaza and dropped 1,000 tons of explosives killing as many as 300 people in the first four minutes.[4]

In the course of Cast Lead, Israel damaged or destroyed “everything in its way,” including 280 schools and kindergartens, 1,500 factories and workshops, electrical, water and sewage installations, 190 greenhouses, 80 percent of agricultural crops, and nearly one-fifth of cultivated land. Whole neighborhoods were laid waste, fully 600,000 tons of rubble were left behind… 29 ambulances, almost half of Gaza’s 122 health facilities (including 15 hospitals) and 45 mosque.[5]

Issam and his children would have also lived through Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012.  Israel called it defense.  The facts say otherwise.  From January until November of that year, one Israeli had been killed. During that same time, seventy-eight Palestinians had been killed in attacks on Gaza.[6]  

At least, we can know this. Issam, in his whole lifetime, never lived a day with hope and security.  In spite of the agreement Israel had made to lift the siege, the blockade brought Issam’s world to near collapse. Food, medicine, fuel, parts for water and sanitation systems, paper and even such things as children’s toys and shoes were denied entry. The fact is, Israel had killed more than two Palestinian children per week for the previous fourteen years.[7]

Then came Operation Protective Edge, in the summer of 2014.

By massacre’s end, Israel had killed 2,200 Palestinians, of whom 70-75 percent were civilians. Among the dead were 500 Palestinian children. In addition, 11,000 Palestinians suffered injuries (including 3,300 children, of whom 1,000 will be permanently disabled): 11,000 homes, 360 factories, 160 mosque, 100 schools, and 10 hospitals were either destroyed or severely damaged; 100,000 Palestinians were left homeless. Israel suffered 66 combatants and five civilian casualties including one Israeli child. In addition, 120 Israelis suffered injuries, one person seriously wounded.[8]

“Yeah, yeah” a friend said to me. I know the story. We’ve heard it before.” 

I understand his feelings. Statistics and numbers can get boring.  But, it is not boring to Isaam.  Those statistics include his wife and children.  They were real people who wanted to live as much as any child would want to live and enjoy life.  Issam would overthrow his oppression if he could, but he has no power or army.  As far as Israel is concerned, he is just a statistic. That’s all.

And, how does Israel justify itself to the world?   Gideon Levy, writing for one of Israel’s leading newspapers, Haartz, calls it “Hasbara,” a fancy word for propaganda:

Propaganda shall cover everything. We’ll say terrorism, we’ll shout anti-Semitism, we’ll scream delegitimation, we’ll cite Holocaust; we’ll say Jewish state, gay-friendly, drip irrigation, cherry tomatoes, aid to Nepal, Nobel Prizes for Jews, look what’s happening in Syria, the only democracy, the greatest army. We’ll say the Palestinians are making unilateral moves, we’ll propose negotiations on the “settlement bloc borders,” we’ll demand recognition of a Jewish state and we’ll complain that “there’s no one to talk to.”[9]

And that’s the way it will continue to be. Issam will be little more than a statistic as long as the only nation on the globe strong enough to do something about it is “on the take.”

Thomas Are
June 15, 2015

[1] Patrick Strickland,  Gaza Fallout: “I cannot Understand These Crimes. Al Jazeera Media Network,  Published in Other Voices, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June 2015.
[2] Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe, On Palestine,  (Haymaker Books, 2015)  p.185
[3] Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe, On Palestine,  (Haymaker Books, 2015) p. 99
[4] Norman Finkelstein, Method and Madness,  (Or Books, New York, 2014) p.3, 15.
[5] Finkelstein, p. 75.
[6] Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe, On Palestine,  (Haymaker Books, 2015) p. 185.
[7] Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe, On Palestine,  (Haymaker Books, 2015) p.190.
[8] Norman Finkelstein, Method and Madness,  (Or Books, New York, 2014) p.156.
By the way: Under international law, those resisting occupation are not debarred from using force to defend themselves. The issue is, does Israel have the right to use force to maintain its illegal occupation.  As long as Gaza is shut up like an outdoor prison, soldiers, either within the land or deployed to surround its borders, maintain an occupation.
[9] Originally published at  January 4, 2015

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