Anyone who is remotely political on Facebook cannot help but be inundated by news about recent events in Gaza. I have been spending far too much time away from my work because I am alternately outraged, fascinated and horrified by what I read on Facebook, today's reflection of our society. It has become apparent that the situation in Gaza has unleashed anger that is seriously misplaced while the terrible violence and loss of mostly civilian Palestinian lives seems to leave many people indifferent; some actually suggest that it is the victims who are to blame. I am at an utter loss faced with this shocking lack of empathy for other human beings.
When a close friend posted an article from the Israeli press that was a good example of disinformation, I suggested that one shouldn't believe everything one reads, and posted an alternate article, to which a friend of hers responded: "...Arabs spell trouble ALL over the world, prepare for a world war ... Israel is already prepared and has been for years..."
I felt ill that entire day; the poisonous hate of these words all permeating. Did this person actually think that Palestinians were responsible for the political unrest in the rest of the Arab world?
We should be feeling outraged, we should be feeling disgusted with ourselves for remaining silent, for selling more weapons, we should be looking for solutions to end an intolerable situation once and for all. For the most part the people dying are civilians, many of them children, already living an incredibly difficult life. No matter what angle you are coming from, no matter how you turn the situation around, there is simply no justification for murdering and maiming innocent people.
A few days later, when the number of civilian casualties in Gaza had reached over 600, the same friend posted an article about tunnels built by Hamas with the comment "Schools? Hospitals? Roads? Bomb shelters? Nope. Just tunnels..."
Meanwhile, people are dying.
Repeating "because Hamas this and that" is utterly beside the point. (I am certainly no fan of Hamas but the democratically elected party was moving in the right direction in April when it signed a pact with its political rival, the Palestinian Authority.)
When did Hamas become the symbol of evil for the West, allowing people to use the name as a catchphrase to justify any military action? The Israeli occupation and its oppression of Palestinians began decades before the creation of Hamas.
People on Facebook are discussing the rise of anti-Semitism as well as recalling 9/11. Was Hamas or any Palestinians for that matter to blame for 9/11? And on the subject of 9/11, Osama Bin Laden grew up a rich boy, far away from the hardship and deprivation of Palestinian refugees. Most of these people on Facebook who are coldly discussing why it's ok to kill Palestinians have never visited the occupied territories in Israel, and are sitting in the comfort of their air-conditioned homes. Have they stopped for just one minute to imagine what it must be like to live in an open-air prison and be bombed from above, shot at from the sea and by soldiers on the ground?
In France where I live, disenfranchised young people take to the streets using the Palestinian cause to express their anger. They are surely frustrated and don't see a way out. But that is not a reason to use the suffering of people in Gaza. The situation in Gaza is worse than any blockbuster end-of-the-world or horror movie people love to see during summer nights. People in Gaza have hearts and souls and are made of flesh and blood. Why are people unable to see the inhumanity that is going on? Such silence has gotten societies into deep trouble before.
In a powerful interview on ABC, Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi, on the verge of tears said "...no nation can accept being imprisoned, being besieged by land, by air by sea, and being starved and being deprived of the most basic requirements of life; freedom of movement, clean water ... this is entirely inhuman and unacceptable ... there is no human being who cannot be affected by this, unless you lose the last vestiges of humanity, you cannot allow this to go on. It has to stop. Mr. Obama and the Congress and everybody have to know that these are human beings."
A few days ago an artist in Gaza posted a sign in Arabic and English on his Facebook page that read "Good Bye."