Hogen/My Turn: The right question

I appreciate Tim Blagg’s writing about Israel’s war on Gaza (July 21), because when respected members of our community talk about an issue, it makes us pay attention.

However, I don’t think Blagg asks the best question, i.e., why many more Palestinians are dying than Israelis, nor can I quite agree with his answer. He says Hamas lacks the level of military technology that Israel possesses, and that Israel takes great care to protect its civilian population. While both are true, this is not the whole story. He suggests that Hamas does not protect its civilians and that Hamas’ rockets might one day carry chemicals or phosphorus in further disregard for Israeli civilian life. He doesn’t mention that in the 2008-09 “Cast Lead” war on Gaza, Israel used white phosphorus bombs. They are illegal under international law because they are so cruel in their effects. Hamas has not used chemical weapons.

I am not an apologist for Hamas, but the general media (not The Recorder) fills our heads with language meant to skew the facts in favor of Israel and it is important that we understand the bigger picture in this asymetric struggle.

The disproportional death, injury and suffering between Israel and Palestinians has been a fact since Israel became a state. The international community has let this happen — and is silent now as Gaza burns — because of collective guilt over the Holocaust and because of U.S. need for a reliable ally in this oil-laden part of the world.

The question we should ask is “Why is Israel committing genocide against the Gazan people?” Why is it bombing even hospitals, sewage treatment plants, children playing on the beach? Why has it continued its relentless building of cities, towns and outposts on stolen Palestinian land (settlements) in the West Bank? Why does it use live ammunition against nonviolent Palestinian protesters? Why does it jail young men without any charges against them? Why provoke and arrest children for throwing stones, not catching them in the act, but dragging them from their homes in the middle of the night to further terrify them? I could go on, but I don’t want to numb your mind; I want to answer these questions.

There is one answer: Zionism. I don’t mean the desire by Jews to have a safe haven after centuries of persecution culminating in the Holocaust. I mean the political and ideological project to colonize Palestine for Jews only, which requires driving out or eliminating the native population. Zionist leaders, including past and present prime ministers of Israel, have reiterated this policy over and over since the early 1900s. Now they are carrying it out in Gaza.

My friends in the West Bank fear that they are next. Israel can use any number of pretexts to prove the need to re-invade Palestinian cities, arrest thousands, incite hatred against Arabs among already radical settlement youth (the kind who burned alive a Palestinian teen this month), and in general to escalate the oppressive occupation they have maintained since 1967.

Zionism drives the current attack on 1.7 million trapped Gazans. Zionism was always a separatist, colonial policy. Now it has turned genocidal. The best solution would be to withdraw all economic and military support for Israel. Since our government won’t do that, it is up to us as citizens to boycott Israeli products and call on our universities and churches to divest from companies that support the occupation. Only economic pressure can make madmen stop and think. I am afraid that if Israel doesn’t stop and think, it will bring itself down — safe haven and all.

One more thing about Blagg’s commentary. He says that Hamas fires rockets to “provoke Israeli attacks that kill innocent people” because this will “tilt the world’s population against Israel.” This narrative covers up the fact that Hamas has as much a right to fight to defend Palestine as Israel has to defend itself. We must remember that it is Israel that has taken Palestinian land and occupied it with the force of arms. Hamas may have dark motives, but it also refuses to submit to the injustice of the occupation. Personally, I don’t believe in using weapons for any purpose, but I dare say there are many Americans who would use such methods of resistance to defend this country were we to find ourselves in a similar situation.

Sherrill Hogen, a Charlemont resident, is an activist for peace and justice, and a frequent visitor to Palestine.

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