Sara Roy is a well-credentialed advocate of the Palestinian cause. Not only is she an academic of high standing but she is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. This makes it difficult for her opponents to dismiss her as an anti-Semite.
What follows is Roy’s response to a statement that appeared in the New York Times, authored by Eli Wiesel, in which the Israeli apologist accuses Hamas of using children as human shields.
A Response to Elie Wiesel
I read your statement about Palestinians, which appeared in The New York Times on August 4th. I cannot help feeling that your attack against Hamas and stunning accusations of child sacrifice are really an attack, carefully veiled but unmistakable, against all Palestinians, their children included. As a child of Holocaust survivors—both my parents survived Auschwitz—I am appalled by your anti-Palestinian position, one I know you have long held. I have always wanted to ask you, why? What crime have Palestinians committed in your eyes? Exposing Israel as an occupier and themselves as its nearly defenseless victims? Resisting a near half century of oppression imposed by Jews and through such resistance forcing us as a people to confront our lost innocence (to which you so tenaciously cling)?
Unlike you, Mr. Wiesel, I have spent a great deal of time in Gaza among Palestinians. In that time, I have seen many terrible things and I must confess I try not to remember them because of the agony they continue to inflict. I have seen Israeli soldiers shoot into crowds of young children who were doing nothing more than taunting them, some with stones, some with just words. I have witnessed too many horrors, more than I want to describe. But I must tell you that the worst things I have seen, those memories that continue to haunt me, insisting never to be forgotten, are not acts of violence but acts of dehumanization.
There is a story I want to tell you, Mr. Wiesel, for I have carried it inside of me for many years and have only written about it once a very long time ago. I was in a refugee camp in Gaza when an Israeli army unit on foot patrol came upon a small baby perched in the sand sitting just outside the door to its home. Some soldiers approached the baby and surrounded it. Standing close together, the soldiers began shunting the child between them with their feet, mimicking a ball in a game of soccer. The baby began screaming hysterically and its mother rushed out shrieking, trying desperately to extricate her child from the soldiers’ legs and feet. After a few more seconds of “play,” the soldiers stopped and walked away, leaving the terrified child to its distraught mother.
Now, I know what you must be thinking: this was the act of a few misguided men. But I do not agree because I have seen so many acts of dehumanization since, among which I must now include yours. Mr. Wiesel, how can you defend the slaughter of over 500 innocent children by arguing that Hamas uses them as human shields? Let us say for the sake of argument that Hamas does use children in this way; does this then justify or vindicate their murder in your eyes? How can any ethical human being make such a grotesque argument? In doing so, Mr. Wiesel, I see no difference between you and the Israeli soldiers who used the baby as a soccer ball. Your manner may differ from theirs—perhaps you could never bring yourself to treat a Palestinian child as an inanimate object—but the effect of your words is the same: to dehumanize and objectify Palestinians to the point where the death of Arab children, some murdered inside their own homes, no longer affects you. All that truly concerns you is that Jews not be blamed for the children’s savage destruction.
Despite your eloquence, it is clear that you believe only Jews are capable of loving and protecting their children and possess a humanity that Palestinians do not. If this is so, Mr. Wiesel, how would you explain the very public satisfaction among many Israelis over the carnage in Gaza—some assembled as if at a party, within easy sight of the bombing, watching the destruction of innocents, entertained by the devastation? How are these Israelis different from those people who stood outside the walls of the Jewish ghettos in Poland watching the ghettos burn or listening indifferently to the gunshots and screams of other innocents within—among them members of my own family and perhaps yours—while they were being hunted and destroyed?
You see us as you want us to be and not as many of us actually are. We are not all insensate to the suffering we inflict, acceding to cruelty with ease and calm. And because of you, Mr. Wiesel, because of your words—which deny Palestinians their humanity and deprive them of their victimhood—too many can embrace our lack of mercy as if it were something noble, which it is not. Rather, it is something monstrous.
Sara Roy is a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University.
The following speech was given by Father Dave at the Al Quds Day rally in the Sydney CBD – July 26th, 2014
In the name of God, merciful and compassionate (bismi-llahi r-ra.mani r-ra.im), and with respect to the traditional custodians of this land (the Gadigal people), let me thank you (my Muslim sisters and brothers) for the privilege of standing with you today in solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine.
The tears of Jesus mingle with the blood of the innocent of Gaza. The brutality of this latest assault seems to surpass even the violence of the Israeli government’s previous attacks on this beleaguered civilian population. Whole families are killed, children die in their beds, mosques and schools and hospitals are targeted for destruction. Jesus weeps. How can we but weep with him?
When I was asked to speak at this gathering, more than a month ago, our primary concern was with the Australian government’s refusal to acknowledge the Israeli Occupation. Since that time the gates of hell have opened up again in Gaza, and now the terrible refusal of the Australian government to acknowledge the Palestinian Occupation has been eclipsed by their even more appalling silence in the face of the horrendous holocaust of human suffering our sisters and brothers in Gaza are enduring.
Jesus weeps for the people of Gaza and we weep with him, and yet we must do more than weep. We must move our government to act in support of our suffering brothers and sisters! How we accomplish that, I am not sure, but what I am sure about is that if we are going to be effective we must work on this together!
Sisters and brothers, in this great tragedy I also see a great opportunity – an opportunity that people of faith everywhere (and most especially Christians, Muslims and Jews) might be drawn together from across the globe to stand together in solidarity with the Palestinian people! Jesus weeps and there is no way that any person of faith can be blind to the injustice that is being visited upon Gaza. We weep, and as we weep my hope and prayer is that God will draw us together in love!
A Muslim brother of mine once said to me “do you know that before I was a Muslim I was a Christian”. I was surprised until he added “and before I was a Christian I was a Jew!” I don’t know if all of you all of my Muslim sisters and brothers here share this perspective – that before you were Muslims you were Christians – but if you do then we must also acknowledge that before we were Christians we were Jews!
We have all sprouted from the same seed, and that seed was planted in Palestine! Since that original seed was planted we have branched out in very distinct ways and we have grown apart and indeed there has indeed been a tragic history of violence between us, the vast bulk of which has been the responsibility of the Christian branch of that tree! Even so, would it not be wonderful if our love for our common birthplace and our love for the people of that land where our seed was first sown – would it not be wonderful if that love for Palestine could draw us back together?
We are of different faiths (and I do not intend to minimise any of those differences). Even so, while we are different in many ways, our love for Palestine is one! We may be divided by culture and race and creed, but we are united in our love for Palestine, we are united in our thirst for justice, and we are united in our commitment to ending the Occupation and the oppression of the Palestinian people!
Brothers and sisters, let us stand together for Palestine. The forces of injustice and oppression are strong. The propaganda ministry of the State of Israel functions like a well-oiled machine. Their narrative is well rehearsed, they are well financed and powerful and they speak with one voice! If we are going to stand against them we too must be united.
This is my prayer and my hope – that, enshallah, this tragedy might draw us together in solidarity with the people of Palestine, for if we stand together – Muslims, Christians and Jews – against the Palestinian Occupation and against the genocide being enacted in Gaza, I believe we will see change. Justice will come, and our tears of sorrow will be replaced by tears of joy as we celebrate a free, free Palestine. Enshallah!
Apparently Google Play has just pulled from its virtual shelves a new hit game – “Bomb Gaza”. The game – previously available for both iPhone and Android – required the player to bomb military targets in virtual Gaza while avoiding killing civilians wherever possible!
It’s hard to think of a game that could dredge the bottom of the bad-taste barrel any more effectively. Not only does it caricature the suffering and death of so many Gazan people but it simultaneously supports the Zionist narrative that allows the blood-letting continue by depicting the assaulting army as a group of concerned humanitarians, only wanting to defend themselves against faceless assailants armed with all sorts of scary weaponry.
My feeling is that rather than retire the game, a greater service would be done to the online community if the rules could be re-written so as to make the game more educational by bringing it into greater accordance with reality.
For a start, the object of “Bomb Gaza” should be for the assailant to simply destroy everything – combatants, civilians, men, women and children, civilian infrastructure, schools and hospitals, with special bonus points being scored for every mosque or church that’s hit while worshippers are still inside!
This would make for satisfying gameplay, I’m sure, even if a little less challenging to begin with. But in the rewritten game, the real challenge would take place at the end of each level where, once the village has been flattened and every creature that had breath has been extinguished, the player would have to convince ‘the boss’ that all civilian deaths were actually unavoidable accidents!
At this point the player would be able to choose from a variety of well-worn excuses, ranging from outright denial to sophisticated obfuscation:
- We cannot confirm that the school was actually targeted
- That UN compound was actually hit by Hamas rockets that missed their targets
- Hamas was storing weapons in the hospital’s basement
- Hamas was using the murdered children as human shields
These would be high-scoring defences. Less effective defences would include claims that a ‘mistake’ was made or that there was ‘collateral damage’. Appeals to The Holocaust would entail a loss of credibility points.
Perhaps this sort of diplomatic work is beyond the scope of the small-screen-game-playing demographic? I don’t know, but when I look at the list of excuses used to justify the murder of so many people in Gaza, one does wonder whether the Israeli propaganda department is run by a 12-year-old child.
Having said that, high-level politicians and dignitaries around the world continue to pay homage to the propaganda of the Israeli military machine. It does make you wonder what sort of game they are playing!
Shalom, Salaam, Peace.
In the name of God –merciful and compassionate (bismi-llāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm), and with respect to the traditional custodians of this land (the Gadigal people):
Jesus weeps for the people of Gaza and yet the so-called Christian leaders of our world say nothing! Mr Obama, Mr Abbott – you claim allegiance to Christ above all others. Christ is standing on the beaches of Gaza, grieving with the mothers of dead Palestinian children and yet you say nothing!
Martin Luther King said that the greatest tragedy that history would record would not be “the strident clamour of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” I do not know if our great ‘Christian’ leaders are good people but I do recognise that their silence is appalling!
Since 2005 the population of Gaza have been subjected to what Israeli historian Ilan Pappé refers to as ‘incremental genocide’. They have been sealed off from the outside world since then and every item of food, medicine and clothing going into Gaza is subject to the discretion of the Israeli military, while farmers and fishermen are prevented from accessing land and sea.
For nine years the people of Gaza have endured deprivation and a virtual imprisonment, and now (once again) they are being killed in their homes! The wailing of the mothers of Gaza echoes across the oceans and cries out to Heaven for redress, but in Washington and in Canberra there is silence!
I look to the Muslim political leaders of our world – Prime Minister Erdogan (the Ottoman protector), the proud princes of the house of Saud, General Sisi of Egypt. I hear words of concern but I do not understand why there is so little in the way of tangible action! Why aren’t any of these great powers stepping in to defend the people of Gaza?
Sisters and brothers, it is up to us! Even if the great powers of our world chose silence over integrity we will not remain silent. We will not stay quiet in the face this violence – the injustice and oppression of our Palestinian sisters and brothers. We will NOT sit down and shut up – not so long as this reign of death and terror continues!
Even if our political leaders are too corrupt and comprised to take any real initiative, we – ordinary people from Sydney, Australia, and from around the world – can be the leading edge of real change!
We ordinary people – Christians, Muslims and Jews, Sunni and Shia, people of all faiths and people of no faith – can bring about real change BUT we must act together!
These architects of the destruction of Palestine are powerful and they are united. Their narrative is well rehearsed, their propaganda is sophisticated, they are well financed and powerful and they speak with one voice! If we are going to stand against them we too must be united.
Muslims and Christians and Jews – all of us who stand with the suffering people of Gaza – we must stand together, and we must stand together not because there are no differences between us. There are profound differences between us but we must stand together because our Palestinian sisters and brothers are worth it!
The great Latin American Bishop, Dom Helder Camara, said “when one man dreams it is just a dream but when we all dream together it is the beginning of a new reality”. Let us together dream a dream of Palestine. Let us together dream of a world where mothers will never again have to wail as they watch their children slaughtered as they play.
Let us dream together in faith, and commit ourselves to the building of that new reality, believing that under God all things are possible – knowing that justice can come and that justice will come enshallah, enshallah!
speech delivered by Father Dave at the Sydney Gaza Rally, Sydney Town Hall, July 20th 2014
The war on the ground in Gaza is one of blood and fire. The war we see here from the comfort of our living-rooms is one of propaganda and lies. The contrast is indeed stark and yet they are equally a part of the same war, and one cannot go on without the other.
If we are going to stop the war on the ground, the great task before us comfortable onlookers is to dismantle the edifice of lies that sustains public support for the slaughter. I’ve included below two good examples of anti-propaganda warfare.
The first is a video that shows the senior Israeli propaganda spokesperson, Mark Regev, doing what he does best – defending the indefensible by blaming the victims. Subtitles have been added to translate Regev’s obfuscation into something more resembling the truth.
The second is an article from Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi – a leading figure in Palestinian civil society and a long-time advocate for the non-violent Palestinian protest movement. It speaks for itself.
Debunked: The Mendacious Propaganda Israel is Pushing to Justify Its War On Gaza
by Mustafa Barghouthi
It is time to clarify the real facts on the aggression the Israelis started on the Palestinians. Unfortunately, the Israeli narrative has dominated in the global media. It’s very important to uncover the Israeli narrative and bring facts to the public’s attention. The world needs to differentiate between myths and truth.
The first and very important point is that it was Israel which initiated this war and not the Palestinians.
This is very different from what is presented in most of the media and it’s completely wrong to accept the Israeli narrative here. Israelis claim that Israel was subjected to rocket shooting from Gaza to which Israel responded by airstrikes. This is not true. The reality is that Israel initiated airstrikes on Gaza, several times, and assassinated people in Gaza, trying to provoke a reaction until they got rockets being shot at Israel. And then, it was spun in the media as Israel defending itself.
The second point is that this war started not in Gaza but in the West Bank, when the Israeli army, without providing a single proof that Palestinians were responsible for the disappearance and subsequent death of three settlers, started a collective punishment campaign all over the West Bank. One of the results of that campaign was the arrest of more than 1,000 Palestinians, including huge numbers of Palestinian members of Parliament, bringing the number of Palestinian parliamentarians in Israeli jails to 34. During that campaign moreover, Israel invaded more than 3,000 houses, destroyed many of them, stole money from people and destroyed furniture. Israeli forces initiated wide-ranging violence against Palestinians and started using high-velocity bullets and gun shots against peaceful demonstrators who were protesting against the kidnapping of Muhammad Abu Khdeir who was tortured and burned alive by Israeli settlers. This led to a very serious escalation all over the West Bank.
The third point is that this war in not on Hamas only, it is a war on all Palestinians. It is a war on Palestinians in Gaza, it is a war on Palestinians in the West Bank, in East Jerusalem and on the Palestinians in general. It is very important to mention that most of the people who suffer from the Israeli aggressions are civilians. At the time of writing this article, on the 26th of July, at least 1,000 Palestinians have been killed, 90% of whom were civilians. Among them, are more than 208 children. Over 6000 people have been injured, 31% of whom were children. Whole families have been eliminated. Just this morning, 20 members from the same family, including 11 children, were killed in their sleep as the building they had found refuge in only the day before was leveled. We are talking about more than 30 families that have been scratched out of the civil record because the whole extended family was eliminated, the father, the mother, the grand-parents, the grand-children, everybody. This kind of extermination of people, this level of attack is nothing less than a massacre, a genocide that is conducted by Israel.
To add insult to injury, Israel has forced hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate their homes, forcing them to leave by bombarding them. No less than 13,000 homes were completely or partially destroyed, thousands of people have lost everything, their clothes, a lifetime of belongings and memories and now, hundreds of thousands of people are refugees once more, many living in schools, with nothing. If the war ends, when they come back, they will come back to nothing, only rubble. Entire neighborhoods like Shujaeya were completely eliminated within 24 hours. Even hospitals were attacked. So far, the Israeli army has attacked seven hospitals, 13 ambulances and two Medical Relief centers, among other clinics. In several cases, they have injured and killed medical workers and/or patients. They also attacked a care facility for disabled people, killing two disabled women in the process. On another occasion, a disabled young man, deaf and unable to speak, did not understand what was going on until he was directly hit and paralyzed from the waist down, adding yet another disability to his life. The most touching and heart-wrenching words I have heard were those of a man who was speaking to two of his children in the hospital, killed by Israeli airstrike: “Forgive me my children, I could not protect you.”
This feeling of helplessness is overwhelming because thousands and thousands of people today in Gaza, thousands of mothers and fathers are unable to protect their children. Many have seen their children killed; some have seen their children decapitated by Israeli shrapnel.
The next point I want to make is related to the claim that Israel has the right to defend itself. The most insulting thing here is that many of the world’s leaders like Angela Merkel of Germany and Barack Obama of the United States are speaking of Israel’s right to defend itself, while no single word is said of the Palestinians’ right to defend themselves, although the Palestinians are the oppressed ones, the underdogs in this struggle. The Palestinians are the ones whose land has been occupied for 47 years, who have been forced into displacement and refugee status since 1948, who are suffering from a system of apartheid, discrimination and segregation created by the Israeli occupation. Yet, not a single word has been uttered about our right to defend ourselves.
In reality, what we see from the Israeli narrative is nothing but a consistent effort to dehumanize Palestinians, as if Palestinians are not equal human beings, as if Palestinian life is not important, as if Palestinian life is worth nothing, as if it is okay that over 1,000 Palestinians are killed and 6000 are injured. Meanwhile, all anybody is talking about is the psychological impact on the Israeli population of the fear, although so far projectiles fired out of Gaza have killed just two civilians. Up until now, 42 Israelis were killed, 40 of whom were soldiers. These are soldiers who were killed inside Gaza while they were invading Gaza and attacking people in an act of aggression. We don’t want anybody to die, whether Israeli or Palestinian. But to say that Palestinians are the aggressors in this situation is very wrong and totally unacceptable.
The asymmetry in the current situation is also a very important point to clarify. We are talking here about the Israeli army which is probably the fourth most powerful army in the world, attacking civilians in one of the most crowded areas of the world, with 1.8 million people living in less than 140 square miles, about 12,000 people per square mile on “normal” days, but nearly double that number these days, as Israel has declared 44% of Gaza unsafe and hammered in the message by bombings homes. These 1.8 million people have been attacked by a powerful air force, very powerful ships, and artillery, while these people have only very primitive means to defend themselves. Even the rockets that were thrown at Israel – and we don’t want these rockets to be thrown – are almost invariably nothing but a psychological instrument. This has been frightening Israelis, it is true, but these projectiles have caused harm exceedingly rarely. The harm is happening almost entirely on one side, the Palestinian side. There is no way anyone can compare the two, this sophisticated army and the Palestinian people. The asymmetry is clear and yet, Israeli forces are consistently using indiscriminate and disproportional force against the Palestinian population.
One element that is almost always ignored is the issue of the siege of Gaza. The siege on Gaza has been ongoing for eight years and it has caused the most dramatic humanitarian crisis not only in this region but probably worldwide. We are talking about 1.8 million people besieged by sea, by air and by land. Israel is controlling all passages, it is controlling the sky and it is controlling the sea. Fishermen are not allowed to fish deeper than three miles into the sea; they haven’t been allowed to sail at all for the past three weeks. Almost nobody can get in or out, even to go to the hospital or receive medical treatment. The one entrance to Egypt is also closed from the Egyptian side. This siege has caused very serious problems. Gaza lacks construction materials. Gaza does not have access to clean water; 90% of the water in Gaza is not fit for drinking because it is either salinated or polluted. More than 300,000 people have lost all water supply because the water pipes were destroyed by Israeli shelling and when workers tried to repair them, they were shot at by the Israeli military.
Electricity is an enormous problem in Gaza too. Most of the time, most people do not have electricity for more than six to eight hours a day. Today, more than one third of the population does not have any electricity at all because Israel bombarded the only electricity plant in Gaza. Because of the siege, 90% of educated young people are unemployed. Because of the siege, the level of poverty is very high in Gaza, a fact compounded by the high prices of basic products which have to come from Israel. This is an unacceptable situation. A siege like that is considered an act of aggression. It is very important to remind world politicians of the fact that, in 1967, Israel declared that it had the right to attack Egypt, Syria, Jordan and the Palestinian people and occupy all of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the whole of Sinai just because the Egyptian army closed the passage to Eilat, a small port in the southern part of Israel. Israel still had full access to the Mediterranean Sea, yet they considered this an act of aggression that gave them the right to conduct one of the worst wars in the Middle East. That is why we say that a ceasefire is not enough; it is very important to also lift the siege on Gaza, because the siege itself is an act of aggression.
Today the Palestinians have been demanding to have a ceasefire. But Israel is refusing. Three or four efforts were made to have at least a humanitarian ceasefire, so that the Palestinians could take out all the bodies of those who were killed and who are buried under the rubble in Shujaeya and other places like Khuzaa. It is heartbreaking to note that there are many injured people there probably, who still cannot get access to medical care and who will die, bleeding out slowly or from their wounds, because no full ceasefire was allowed to take place and no medical teams were allowed to reach them. As a matter of fact, Israel has attacked not only hospitals, schools, mosques and houses, but also attacked first aid teams and ambulances as well as killing three first responders. They burned down two ambulances trying to reach injured people in Shujaeya. They destroyed many clinics and many first aid providers were shot and injured. This is an act of ethnic cleansing, an act of genocide and a massive act of terror against the Palestinian population.
Dehumanizing Palestinians will never negate the facts. And it is important to clarify all of them. This war was started by Israel. It is even debatable whether it can be called a war, as a war suggests a fight between two equal sides. In reality it is not a war, it is an act of aggression from an occupying power which is trying to solve the problem of occupation by increasing the occupation. In this attack, Israel was the initiator and the victims are mainly the Palestinians.
Now the killing has extended again to the West Bank, where Israel has resumed shooting peaceful demonstrators with high-velocity bullets. For years, the world has been urging us to organize big peaceful marches with thousands of people. This is exactly what we did in Ramallah on the 24th of July when more than 25,000 marched peacefully to Jerusalem protesting the massacre in Gaza, demanding the end of aggression and demanding access to Jerusalem to go pray in Al Aqsa on the holiest of all nights for Muslim Palestinians. Before we reached the checkpoint, which was heavily manned, the Israeli army started to shoot people. Snipers shot demonstrators with high-velocity bullets in a scene reminiscent of what the apartheid police did to the peaceful protestors in Soweto in the 1970s. During the night, 211 Palestinians were shot with high-velocity bullets. During the course of four hours, six of them lost an eye, six others were injured critically and one lost his life. The very next day, the Israeli army, using live fire, killed nine Palestinians who were demonstrating peacefully in Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem and Jenin. Approximately 60 people were injured. The list goes on.
The people who are being killed in the West Bank are not Hamas and are not in Gaza. They are not shooting rockets at Israel, they do not have any weapons to defend themselves. Yet they are killed repeatedly by an Israeli army which considers itself above international law thanks to the silence and complicity of many Western leaders. UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, does not have the courage to hold Israel accountable, even when a UN school serving as a shelter in Beit Hanoun is attacked by the Israeli army, killing 16 women and children and injuring 200 others.
Finally, one has to remember that this stage of terrible violence has repeatedly happened over the last 66 years. The root of the problem is Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, settlement building and the forcing of hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes. This is the longest occupation in modern history and has endured for 47 years. This is an occupation that has transformed into a system of apartheid and discrimination. Without solving this, without ending the occupation and the apartheid system, there will be no peace, let alone stability or normal life. When we struggle as Palestinians for our freedom, it is not only about our future, but also about the future of Israelis. Because Israelis will never be free themselves as long as we are not free. It is time to see that extremists in Israel, who have benefited from all these wars, are using Palestinian lives and neighbourhoods as a testing area for their weapons, so that Israel can still continue selling weapons worldwide, becoming the third largest military exporter in the world. This has to stop.
Occupation must stop and this asymmetry must be addressed; impunity and reality must be exposed. It is time to tell Israel “enough is enough”; it is time to say to the world “please see the reality, look at the facts.” Citizens from all the countries in the world, be it the United States, Germany, or France are entitled to know the truth and your media are not telling you the truth. Your media, for the most part, are overwhelmed with the Israeli narrative. This has to be corrected.