Monday, May 21, 2007

Parenting in Gaza

We were lying in bed last night, talking about this and that, about our kids mostly. A jet fighter came flying over hour house. Not unusual in Israel - jet fighters and helicopters fly over our house everyday, some days worse than others when they're running some exercise or whatever. Triggered some interesting conversation between IsraeliDad and myself.

Earlier that day we went to the gym together. We don't get to watch TV too much here at home. We only get one channel here (broke free from the cables about a year ago), and we don't have much time for it anyway. At the gym, they have screens in front of the treadmills, so this is our chance at catching some programs.

I think that the public TV channels are required by law to dedicate a certain number of hours a day for broadcasts in Arabic. These broadcasts are never on prime time though. I guess it could be argued that with the majority of viewers being Hebrew speakers, there's no point in placing these shows during prime time. Still, I think it creates a kind of a cultural ghetto, since no one really watches TV during the hours to which the Arabic programs have been relegated. Well, no one except us when we march on the treadmill! With my newly acquired political awareness, I am fascinated by these shows. I honestly do think that they should be moved to prime time. There are subtitles in Hebrew anyway, and it will do nobody no harm to listen to some Arabic, and more importantly, to listen to the point of view of Arab speakers.

These shows cover a variety of topics. Many discuss social and cultural issues, revealing aspects in the culture of what we usually call "Israeli Arabs", or as they call it "Israeli Palestinians". The politics is always there, and for a good reason too. Yesterday, we watched two very interesting shows (think of all the exercise accomplished!)

The first show was an interview by leading journalist Rafik Halabi (he's a Druze and you'll find a lot by him and about him if you Google his name). This is a series really, of which I have been fortunate enough to watch more than one episode. He was interviewing Salem Jubran, an Arab intellectual, author and poet. Wonderful interview. I'd vote for him as for Prime Minister. Such a wonderfully balanced view of the world, addressing the shades of gray in both Arab and Jewish societies in Israel. Very critical of the Israeli government and regime, yet so positive about the country as a whole, and about the chances of peace here. Not overly optimistic, just positive. I found a few pages with his writing, or interviews with him. Posting them here for now - I hope to refer to some topics presented there in future posts -
A pleasant flight - for Arabs too

A Bridge For Happiness

The second show was about the current situation in Gaza. The Arab presenter had a panel of four - two of them Palestinians (from East Jerusalem and the West Bank) and two Israelis. The show was all in Arabic. There was a surprising consensus reached and a sad one at that. They all agreed that it's up to the Palestinians at this point to get a hold of themselves, stop the fighting among themselves and work towards strengthening their elected leadership. No one was very optimistic there. The Israelis (a journalist and a scholar) explained how the way things are going, Israel is more than likely to be dragged into Gaza, maybe even sooner or later. He said how the IDF would have no choice but to finally march into Gaza and re-occupy the place.

The Palestinian journalist (it was the well known journalist and human rights activist Bassem Eid) replied saying how this would be a grave mistake. That an Israeli invasion would only cause harm and make Palestinians escalate the struggle on their end. Well, not that we don't know that. It's just that, like the Israeli journalist explained to him, in the end of the day the IDF is committed to protecting Israel, and simply can't avoid action in response to the rockets.

If I may elaborate on that point. The IDF is called the Israeli Defense Forces for a reason. When rockets are lobbed at Israel, it's in the IDF's calling to stop the rockets from being fired. No one is saying that the IDF is inactive btw, only that things may come to the point, not very far from now where the IDF will have on other means of fighting the rockets other than walking into Gaza and disarming the Palestinians, house by house if necessary. It will be an ugly bloodshed for both sides. Nobody is looking forward to that, and everyone knows this will come at a heavy price to both Palestinians and Israelis.

What would be the price? To the Palestinians this could be a terrible terrible blow in terms of both civilian and armed militia casualties, the first simply because there will be heavy fighting going on on their territory in a heavily populated area. To Israel, the cost is likely to be in casualties on the part of the IDF. The Israeli public is very intolerant of IDF casualties. People call the soldiers "our children", which they are after all, in a society where you still have compulsory military service at the age of 18. However, they are soldiers, and when the choice is between civilians being bombed in Sderot or IDF soldiers killed while defending them, at some point, the government will opt for the second. It is what the army is there for, as tragic as it is for the families of the soldiers.

Most likely, the heaviest price will be shared by Israelis and Palestinians alike: the ultimate blow to the peace process in the form of the IDF re-conquering Gaza. The lesson of that in Israeli eyes, government and citizens alike, is likely to be that the Palestinians cannot be trusted with their own sovereignty. They are still too fragmented and still operating as tribes and "Hamulas", unable to form national institutions of their own. Obviously, fingers will be pointed at Israel for somehow "not allowing" these institutions to form. I wonder how many Arabs will have the courage to lay at least part of the blame on the Palestinians themselves?

So much for yesterday's time of relaxation at the gym... and as you can see ID and myself spent a while discussing this.

Fast forward to our night time, lying in bed, listening to the jet fighters. We talked about how awful it must be to be lying in one's bed in Gaza tonight, not too far away from where we live, with your children sleeping, just like ours, listening to jet fighters flying over your head. How unbearable it must be for those Palestinians mothers and fathers to have to raise their children with that constant fear for their very lives, and how awful for the children. Every now and again we are shown Palestinians mothers on the news, saying the most horrible things, about how they wish their children would die as "Shaeeds" in the struggle against Israel. I refuse to believe that there are no sane Palestinians in Gaza who just want their children to grow up, healthy and happy, same as we do here.

My heart goes out to these families over there. And yes, also to the Jewish parents in Sderot, who right now raise their children under the constant thread of Qassam rockets. It's terrible on both sides. I know that there are many initiatives right now within Israel to help the families of Sderot, in essence evacuate the children out of the war zone at least temporarily. I wish there was something similar done for the children of Gaza. There is something terrible about taking children away from their families, but I think that it would still be the right thing to do, to get them out and find them hosting families for now. Naive, I know, and not about to be performed by any organization. What a shame....

1 comment:

deb said...

I found this blog about being a mom in Gaza.

Sounds like hell.