A rare moment of sanity from Gaza, via the Guardian

A guest post by AKUS

Perhaps Harriet (“the ChickenLady”) Sherwood is simply on holiday, and we will have to suffer through more of her vapid articles when she returns. In the meantime, Ana Carbajosa seems to have taken over Sherwood’s job at the Guardian, which is to demonize Israel every day in every way. However, her latest article, Gazan youth issue manifesto to vent their anger with all sides in the conflict was something different. It offered a rare glimpse of an alternative view from Gaza.

Carbajosa apparently attended a secret meeting of Gazan youths who have finally realized, as so many Israelis have for so long, that they are caught up in meat grinder that they wish would just stop turning. The group has issued a “manifesto” to that effect.

Members of this secret group have concluded that they no longer care who is to blame for what, they do not care about revisiting old grievances – they just want the fighting, on all sides, to stop. “Eight people – three women and five men – wrote the text. They are normal students, from the more secular elements of Gazan society” writes Carbajosa. The “manifesto” ends thus:

“ENOUGH! Enough pain, enough tears, enough suffering, enough control, limitations, unjust justifications, terror, torture, excuses, bombings, sleepless nights, dead civilians, black memories, bleak future, heart-aching present, disturbed politics, fanatic politicians, religious bullshit, enough incarceration! WE SAY STOP! This is not the future we want! We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask?”

Before the intifadas the streets of Tel Aviv once filled with Israelis saying the same. Remember “Shalom Achshav” – “Peace Now”?

Readers of the Guardian will have often seen naïve commentary to the effect that various ex-pat UK citizens writing articles that condemn Israel for just about anything at all are “brave” to do so. This, of course, is complete nonsense. One can write just about anything in Israel’s free press with impunity. However, it takes real life-threatening bravery for this group of Gazan youths to meet anonymously and issue a manifesto which, while containing angry screams at Israel, as one might expect, directs detailed and  even angrier outbursts at Hamas. Even Carbajosa, after taking a few obligatory cracks at Israel (this is the Guardian, after all), writes:

[In Gaza] Going out, meeting friends in cafés – let alone clubs or discotheques – or attending cultural events has become an increasingly complicated task as Hamas cracks down on western “decadence”.

In Gaza there are no theatres and few concerts aside from the Islamic musical performances organised by the Hamas authorities. In the places where young men and women are allowed to meet, considered an “oasis” by the less conservative youth, the police are quick to interrogate mixed couples suspected of not being married or engaged.

The “last straw” for the writers of the Gaza manifesto came a month ago, when Hamas closed Sharek, an internationally financed organisation offering training and summer activities for thousands of adolescents and young people. Sharek had also became a hang-out place for the more liberal-minded in Gaza….

Her comment reflects the anguish of the authors of the manifesto. Read the whole thing by all means to see what they write about Israel, but if I extract the condemnations of Hamas it contains (and the admission of the effectiveness of Cast Lead), brave Gazan youngsters writing the following face life-threatening reprisals from Hamas if discovered:

“We are sick of being caught in this political struggle ….sick of bearded guys walking around with their guns abusing their power, beating up or incarcerating young people demonstrating for what they believe in; … sick of being portrayed as terrorists, home-made fanatics with explosives in our pockets and evil in our eyes; …we are sick and tired of living a shitty life, being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas …

“We barely survived the Operation Cast Lead, where Israel very effectively bombed the shit out of us, destroying thousands of homes and even more lives and dreams. … During the last years, Hamas has been doing all they can to control our thoughts, behaviour and aspirations. Here in Gaza we are scared of being incarcerated, interrogated, hit, tortured, bombed, killed. We cannot move as we want, say what we want, do what we want.

From small acorns mighty oaks grow. This is the first time I can recall a group of Palestinians publicly accept a share of responsibility for the conflict, set aside a recitation of grievances, impossible demands, threats, name calling, falsification of history, refusal to accept Israel’s legitimacy and the rest of the litany we see from their leaders and instead just call for it all to stop. If more are like them, or become like them, perhaps finally there will be genuine negotiations with give and take on both sides, and an agreement that ends this apparently intractable conflict.

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