can’t see the forest

Beit Hanoun

Posted in Crime, foreign policy, hegemony, Israel, middle east, News, Palestine, Terrorism by Curtis on 11/9/06

I was (unpleasantly) surprised by just how little talk of US policy on Israel transpired during the run-up to the 2006 mid-terms. And even as we gathered around our television sets to watch the election results in earnest, fresh tragedy was unfolding in the Palestinian town of Beit Hanoun.

The Guardian reports:

 Thousands of Palestinians crowded the streets of Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza today, some firing guns into the air, as they buried 18 members of a single family who died in an Israeli artillery strike.

As ambulances brought the dead from hospital morgues into the town, one distraught man carried in the air the body of a small child wrapped in white cloth. The child’s head hung exposed as he walked through the chanting crowd.

In Jerusalem, the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said a “technical failure” was to blame for the strike before dawn yesterday in which several artillery shells hit houses in a residential street in Beit Hanoun.

The deaths, all from the extended Athamna family and among them 14 women and children, provoked a wave of international condemnation and renewed threats of violence from Palestinian militant groups.

“It was not a planned attack,” Mr Olmert told a business conference. “It was a technical failure of the Israeli artillery. I checked it, and I verified it.” He expressed regret but went on to say that military operations would continue in Gaza as long as Palestinian militants fired rockets at Israeli towns.

The explanation was of little comfort to some in the town today who spoke in terms of violent revenge. “The reaction should be even harder than the attack,” said Hijam Basyani, 40, standing at the spot where the shells had struck. Three of her cousin’s sons died in the incident. “You cannot imagine our feeling when we see this blood, these children killed. You feel ready to explode.”

“We have to fight Israel,” said Islam Odwan, 19, a student from Gaza’s Islamic University, who was in the procession. “When they leave us alone, then we will stop.”

I can’t say that I find the attitude of either Olmert or Odwan very fetching, but my sympathies must lie unquestioningly with the Palestinians on this one. It is not Israel which has endured a decades-long illegal occupation of its country. It is not Palestine which has turned once-sovereign territory into the world’s largest and most squalid open-air prison while the ‘Free World’ hummed along.

Here’s part of a particularly detailed account of the shelling from Le Monde, translated by yours truly:

 It was about 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, November 8. All were still asleep in the suburb of Beit Hanoun, a Palestinian village of 30,000 inhabitants located in the north of the Gaza Strip, near the border with Israel.

The first shell bored the roof of the Athamana family, leaving only twisted scrap behind it. It exploded into the room of three teenagers, blowing the balcony and turning the walls to dust. Not a trace of blood on the mattresses. The three boys were ejected from the third floor and were killed upon impact.

In an adjacent area, Khouloud, a 13 year-old schoolgirl, also killed, had left her schoolbooks ready for the day.

On the other side of the wall a 25 year-old woman, her 2 year-old daughter and her 6 month-old baby also did not survive the blast.

In all, the “technical failure” left 18 members of this family dead.

I challenge the newly Democratic Congress of the United States to quickly and decisively use its immense and unique influence with Israel to affect real change for the better in what has become a most unholy land. Cutting the $6 billion-a-year aid package and the seemingly endless stream of no-strings military aid outside of that figure might be a good start.

Beit Hanoun


5 Responses

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  1. peoplesgeography said, on 11/9/06 at 4:48 pm

    Thank you, splendid suggestions that the US Dems would do well to constructively take up and I hope they rise to the challenge.

    There’s so much I could say on this one (and have, in various places and fora in these heart-wrenching past couple of days), but I fear I would be carried away with it and I’ll spare you all for now. My site already heavily features this issue in any case.

    Suffice to say, my own feeling happens to accord with what you’ve just enunciated. On a personal as well as political level, my heart goes out to the people of Beit Hanoun in the aftermath of this atrocity.

    I’ll be meeting with a joint Jewish/ Palestinian group here on Sunday and we’ll be mounting a concerted local campaign to draw attention to this issue and to agitate for policy changes.

    Your posting of this is an encouraging indication that it hasn’t gone unnoticed in the US, though I am aware of the extent of the arguably AIPAC-blinkered influence on public opinion towards Israel and the Middle East. I do feel that the tide is very slowly turning, but I mourn the loss of lives in the meantime.

  2. Curtis said, on 11/9/06 at 5:28 pm

    I had briefly heard mention of Beit Hanoun on the national media and I read more about it over at your place…so I did a Google and came up with the pieces from The Guardian and Le Monde.

    Certainly it is a personal tragedy in addition to a political travesty and thank you for voicing your sentiments to that end.

    Thanks as always for your comment!

  3. peoplesgeography said, on 11/9/06 at 5:40 pm

    On another topic, good to hear a return to the ivory tower may be in store for you. You’ll have to keep us up to date with the academic adventures. As mentioned over at my place too, thanks for your marvelous considered response on the Enviro Alarmist topic. I’ve refrained from jumping in to allow Cicero to gather time to respond first as a courtesy, but didn’t want your effort to go unacknowledged.

  4. Curtis said, on 11/9/06 at 5:54 pm

    The adventure begins on 8 January.

    I’m glad you made it through my response without falling asleep! Certainly it was heartfelt but overall it was probably a little hasty and certainly lacking in details I’d hoped to get at in the second half, but I did pull back the curtain a bit on the sorts of ideas that will increasingly become the focus of this site in coming months…hence the new title.

    Thank you very much…can’t say that enough.

  5. Jim Johns said, on 1/18/07 at 1:43 am

    Google is the best search engine

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