Monday, 18 August 2014

Four reasons why the world has united in compassion and love for Gaza, and in condemnation for Israel

As millions of human beings around the world feel compelled to express their outrage at Israel's latest wave of military attacks on unarmed civilians in Gaza, both the Israeli government and personnel serving in the IDF, have seemed genuinely surprised by this outpouring of condemnation for their aggression. A Channel 4 News blog reported, serving Israeli soldiers asking the news crew, but why does everybody hate us?  Which of course seems astonishing to most of us, having been exposed to the endless sea of heartbreaking images of dead and maimed children, some lying peacefully, almost as if they were asleep, but for the tell-tale abrasions over their faces, others so badly mutilated they're almost unrecognisable as the little human beings they once were.

It is hard to see how anyone could not feel sorrow, compassion, guilt for the colossal loss of life, Operation Protective Edge has inflicted on the Palestinian community, indeed the sense of loss we are all feeling right now.

News about the conflict is known to be heavily censored within Israel (and to a lesser degree, also censored around the world, within mainstream media) and it would need to be, to keep attracting the 100,000 young Israelis who join the IDF's conscription programme, each year. There is a growing protest movement among Israelis themselves now, although as one person recently tweeted: But how many of them would happily give their homes back to the Palestinians they belong to? 

Perhaps more than we think.

But not enough.

Israeli government spokesmen have hit out, at the world wide movement to boycott produce grown in the occupied territories and within Israel itself, claiming people who get involved with the #BDS campaign are as damaging to the state of Israel, as Hamas and Hezbollah, by constantly "delegitimising" Israel, through refusing to recognise it as a trading partner.

Which much please #BDS campaigners no end, and that movement is certainly growing all the time, with the Buycott app among the top downloads now for smart phone users.

But what has compelled ordinary people, in their millions, to use their voices and take this stand, and get involved in this political conflict, at this particular time in history?  After all, the conflict as we know it, has been going on for nearly a hundred years, dating right back to the infamous Balfour Declaration of November 1917  (Read more here.) And for those of us on the left of politics, the problem of Israel (as John Pilger calls it, rather than a problem of Palestine) has been a feature of much debating, campaigning... since we were teenagers.

But what has suddenly made so many people, people not normally interested in politics, identify with the humanitarian crisis happening in Gaza this time?

A number of things have fallen into place this time, giving us a unique window in history to bring about change, in a way many of us didn't dare hope for, in decades gone by.

The first obvious factor is the use of social media now, particularly Twitter.

Back in December 2008, as the IDF were launching their Operation Cast Lead (which would go on to see 1,400 Palestinians killed, the vast majority of them innocent civilians), there were less than 10 million regular Twitter users, world wide, and the service was nowhere near as sophisticated as the experience we now recognise as Twitter. Today there are more than 270 million active Twitter accounts, and sharing information, photographs, video footage, news articles and blogs, is both extremely easy and instantaneous.

This latest conflict has been replayed, moment by moment, in real time, across the world, the graphic and distressing images of children, killed and mutilated by Israeli bombs, have been re-tweeted hundreds of thousands of times.

Real little children.

Girls and boys.

Sons and daughters.

Just like our children.

Out playing in the street one minute.

Dead, the next.

Missing arms and legs.

Faces blown off.

Hardly recognisable as the sweet little things they were, just a moment ago.

And all this is being experienced on a moment by moment basis, by millions of users of Twitter, all following the #Gaza hashtag or #Palestine or #BDS or #BoycottIsrael.

Back in 2008, most of us got the majority of our news from our daily papers and the news channels when we happened to be at home.

Not any longer.

Firstly, we can all get BBC News 24 and Sky News, along with RT, Al-Jazeera and Democracy Now! on our smart phones and iPads.

At home, at work, on the journey to work, during coffee breaks, as we lie in the bath at night and even in bed.

And that's just televised news.

For most of us, now in 2014, the first place we go for the latest news is Twitter.  If something is happening out there in the world, someone will be tweeting about it, and big human interest stories, such as the bombing of the al-Shifa hospital, went viral in minutes.
There is no longer time for editors of corporate media channels to censor what is getting out. Twitter has been so brilliantly irreverent of established news outlets, and so effective at what it does, and the way live rolling news is delivered, literally into the palm of your hand, that Sky and the BBC simply cannot compete with it.

Indeed, some, such as Channel 4 News, actively embrace this new method of gathering and delivering news, and Jon Snow took a team out to Gaza, at the end of July and was tweeting reports, as and when he experienced the situation, because that's what people wanted.



Real news, in real time.

Not a sanitised, edited, version of what the BBC thinks we can cope with or what Reuters thinks we have a right to know.

So that is the first significant factor in the way people have engaged with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza right now.

Secondly, we have a growing generation of young people all around the world, who are naturally, and healthily cynical, sceptical and totally irreverent when it comes to the establishment in their particular country.  And particularly, this is true for us in Britain, where the past few years seem to have exposed the recognised establishment - the Church, the Government, the Police, the Press, the Banks - all as endemically corrupt.  And most people under the age of 30, see no reason at all why they should show respect for these so-called pillars of society.
And this same revelation has been going on right around the world, so we have seen the rise of activist organisations like Anonymous and the Occupy movement. And all the attempts to discredit those activists and dismiss their campaigns and protests as a load of hype, have failed. The movements continue and go from strength to strength, with each new scandal they expose, within the corridors of power.

The third reason why so many people have responded to the crisis in Gaza with an outpouring of compassion and love, is because many of us... no, most of us... are living with some degree of oppression too, from our own right-wing governments.  Clearly not to the degree victims in Palestine are having to cope with, thank God, but we can easily connect with their suffering, their anger and resentment too. There seems to be a world wide agenda, by the rich and powerful, to inflict misery, in whichever way is possible, on the vast majority of its citizens, always the most vulnerable citizens.

The disabled.

Physically and mentally.

People of colour.

The unemployed.

The homeless.

Immigrants.

Single mothers.

Students from poor backgrounds.

All attacked in various ways by a right-wing government controlling a right-wing press.

Or is it the other way round?

It's not fair, and people have had enough.


The forth element, I think, which is growing all the time, is something that I have written about on this blog many times in the past, and that is a desire within so many of us, to build a better society.

Community.

The desire for a nicer life for all, a life where we can fulfil ourselves, in whichever way that feels meaningful to us.

Less stress.

Less illness.

Less isolation.

Less conflict.

Conflict in our working lives and conflict in our personal lives and of course conflict on the world stage. All of it drains so much from us, physically and emotionally, so that life is just about surviving, when it should be about growing as a human being.

Thriving.

Connecting.

Building healthy relationships with others, and a healthy relationship with our self.

Links to some of the previous articles on  this blog, on this subject:

You Need a Cuddle? - There's an App for that!

At the very core of our being, as humans, is the greatest drive of all - the need to belong, and the need to be loved

Have you had your dose of oxytocin today? When was the last time someone gave you a really good, warm, genuine hug?

Depression, attachment and love

Sleeping next to someone you love reduces stress and can even protect you from heart disease and cancer


These are the reasons I offer, to explain why so many of us have become actively engaged in the protests against the oppression of innocent civilians in Gaza and the West Bank.

I suppose we also hope that if people around the world can come together in their millions, to exert pressure on leaders, to force Israel to sign a peace deal and adhere to the UN Resolution 242, which requires Israel to withdraw its forces from illegally occupied territory, and back to the 1967 borders, then we will have confidence in making our voices heard collectively, where other atrocities are going on.

Some say that's incredibly optimistic.

Many of us feel, we have to try.


As the researcher, and activist and public speaker, Eran Efrati summed up in a lecture recently:

"What's going on in Palestine, is a humanitarian crisis..... All of us want to be in the right place, at the right time, when history is knocking on the door, and history is knocking right now, really loud, in Palestine.  We need to be on the right side of this humanitarian case."

Clearly, so many of us are feeling this too.


I'll leave you with some links to look at, some people to follow and some online groups to join to meet like-minded people:

John Pilger- Palestine is still the issue

FB Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK)

FB International Solidarity Movement

Stop The War Coalition on FB

Official Eran Efrati FB page

Palestine Campaigns on Twitter

Dr Belal Dabour on Twitter

Dr.Bassel Abuwarda on Twitter


Where ever you are,

Have hope,

Stay safe.

xx

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