Home > activism, israel, Palestine, peace, personal, politics, racism / white privilege, Uncategorized > Gaza, demonstrations, frustrations, privilege

Gaza, demonstrations, frustrations, privilege

I really don’t have a clear argument that I’m making, I’m just writing down my thoughts really, which are swirling and confused and distressed and contradictory.

The assault on the Gazans continue. I continue to not know how to respond. I sometimes make it along to the demonstrations here. But what do they mean? What do they achieve? A wonderful friend in Israel tells me how their demonstrations in Tel Aviv are attacked by right wing thugs. I feel so proud of the Israeli peace and anti occupation movements for their courage, not just in standing up to the uniformed and ununiformed forces that try to physically terrorise them into silence, but also for standing by their convictions, their ethics, against wider social pressures. I think of how glad and hopeful and beautiful it is to learn about the German anti Nazis in the 30s and 40s. How their bravery and personal strength and decency and personal honour inspires us today, though their resistance could be painted as a pointless act of suicide. Should we protest because, even though it feels like it doesn’t achieve change*, it is important in and of itself to demonstrate our convictions?


Smashed in the face with a riot shield during a demonstration in 1994I was reading 500 Years of Resistance – the comic book – its introduced by Ward Churchill whose “Pacifism as Pathology” I revered at a certain point in my convoluted, ever-evolving relationship with violence. For example, those pictures to the right were taken seconds after I stopped being a pacifist, hit in the face by a police riot shield having sat in the road directly at their feet as they prepared to clear a road of our demonstration. Anyway, my response to Hill’s book was increasing horror, not just at the brutality of the European colonisers as they stole land and resources from the native peoples, but alse at the way Hill and Churchill seemed to celebrate the indiginous’ violent responses. And I was aware, that Churchill would quite rightly point out the priviledge of my position, living as a White person in 21st century UK. Yet still the killings distressed me. I don’t mean the armed, self defence against active attacks, but the cold blooded massacres and executions that are also described, and what I felt was glorification of the numbers killed in battle. I happened to have reached this book in my “To Read” pile at the same time as this latest war on the Gazans, and they swirl around in my brain together. Killing. Racism leading to dehumanisation of people making more pallatable their destruction. Lives treated as disposable junk. Individuals under assault because of their ethnicity and where their homes happen to be.

I don’t follow the news at all anymore. Ah the privilege. I get to not know about bombs firing clouds of indiscriminant murderous darts into residential areas, about hospitals destroyed and vital, in the sense of necessary to life, medical supplies being systematically blockaded from where they are needed. I get to not know about these things because the same act of random chance that meant a Gazan was born into an occupied warzone, led to my being born here. If I choose to, I can not know the details of the horror that is ongoing there, but if I’d been born there I would have no such option because the reality would surround me. And if I find merely reading about what is going on there is distressing, what must it be like for that to be your lived experience?

Other brave, beautiful friends, this time from outwith the Middle East have shared this “Sunday night after seeing the Shayjaia pictures was the worst night. Then, realising that when internationals were announced as being in Al Wafa hospital, Israel called to force evacuation before bombing it, and there were no casualties, wheras yesterday they bombed Al Aqsa hospital (without internationals in it as far as I know) with no warning which resulted in 5 dead and 60-70 injured staff and patients. And we don’t think there are any internationals at all currently free to ride with the ambulances.” The need for international peace volunteers to be in Gaza is clear. (I know people I trust who are fundraising to pay their airfare to try to get over. If you want to contribute, please message me, or leave a comment below and I’ll put you in touch) Why don’t I go? My initial reaction to my friend was to jump at going too. Why did I decide not to? Partly because of my pre-existing plans. I’m on a planned out pathway that will mean I have a lot more skills and knowledge in nursing in low resourse areas come January. That’s something I decided I wanted, and mapped out how to get there, have almost finished paying for the course (a diploma in tropical nursing) and have been organising my living and working arrangements for the temporary move to London for the 5 months of the course. I have a transcontinental loved one coming to visit me for 6 weeks in just over a fortnight (Woooot!!!) I’ve got a two week trip planned and paid for starting on Friday. So there’s all that. Which reminds me of one of Doc’s stories about contacting doctors during the Wounded Knee occupation/stand off in 1973. The doctors had all talked big about civil rights and wanting to support the movements of the day, so Doc had thought it would be easy to fulfill the occupiers request for medical support, however one after another each of the doctors had a “reason” for apologising, saying how much they’d love to go, but unfortunately they have a golf weekend planned, or whatever. All except one doctor who admitted straight out that it was totally what he believed in, but the Feds had guns, it was an armed standoff, and he was too scared to go. Anyway, Doc had some basic first aid skills at that point, so got back to the occupiers and explained the situation, and ended up going himself and being a part of what he later described to me as freedom, even though they were surrounded by guns. Oh yeah, and one of best bits of that story is that the doctor who had actually admitted his fears to Doc ended up going to Wounded Knee after all :)

So yes, I am scared. Its a terrifying war zone. The weapons being used are indiscriminantly killing and maiming people in Gaza. Even without being hit there’s the trauma of being surrounded by all that horror. By witnessing carnage. By being unable to switch off let alone sleep because of constant fear of the ongoing military assault.

And I have that choice. I can give in to inertia and not go to Gaza. I wasn’t born there. For the million that were, my nightmare is their lived reality, because the Israeli government, military and supporters decided that for them.

* Unlike other activism I am involved with, for example http://glasgowsolnet.wordpress.com/ which does offer a direct pathway to meaningful change in the short and long terms.

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