When American politicians use misinformation about what happened in Gaza to stoke the flames, we have a problem.
Let’s start with what happened. Over 600 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. What precipitated that? According to what Congresswoman Tlaib retweeted (below), it must’ve been in retaliation for what Israelis did at the weekly protests. And what happened there? Israelis acted after “unarmed” protesters wounded two Israeli soldiers by sniper fire. (See the video at that link as well.)
Congresswoman Tlaib takes it one step further, offering support to Hamas’ actions under the hashtag #FreePalestine
Omar Ilhan is right; the current situation is not sustainable, nor should it be. Palestinians do need a home of their own, without restriction of movement imposed by Israel or Egypt. But she is not capturing the whole picture and in doing so, perpetuates the divisiveness that has gotten us nowhere.
For Palestinians in Gaza to truly own their own fate, they need to first be free of Hamas. They also need to not be caught in the pissing war between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, in which both sides use them as pawns.
As long as neither Rashida Tlaib nor Ilhan Omar deem it necessary to call out Hamas or Islamic Jihad, or to point to the other impediments to progress which emanate on the Palestinian side, they themselves will not contribute to working towards a better life for Palestinians. Imam Mohamad Tawhidi, the “Imam of Peace,” calls it like it is:
The majority of the rockets landed in open spaces, and of those which didn’t, 150 were intercepted by Iron Dome and 35 struck. Because Israel has sirens which go off and because apps exist, citizens who are able to get to a shelter do. But not everyone has shelters. And not everyone is safe. Israelis were killed and hurt. But the reason more civilians are not hurt or killed is because the Israeli state makes it a priority to protect its citizens. Why don’t Palestinians demand the same of their leadership?
Israeli families learn to keep shoes near their front door. Everyone learns to measure the distance to the nearest bomb shelter. Shelters are stocked with mattresses and games. Schools are cancelled. This is not the way to live. It is a way to terrorize innocent children and adults and give them PTSD.
While Hamas and Islamic Jihad cannot pinpoint aim their rockets at specific people or buildings, anyone within reach is their target. The aim is to strike terror into people’s lives, and they have done that. And the more that the Israeli people are threatened, the more likely that left and right will unite in antipathy. It serves no one to promote “Freeing Palestine” in this manner.
Israel retaliated with targeted airstrikes; they aimed first at command posts and sites where weapons were either manufactured or launched. In a precedent-setting retaliatory strike, Israel also destroyed a Hamas facility from where cyberattacks had been launched. For the first time in years, the Israeli Defense Forces also targeted a Hamas commander responsible for transferring funds from Iran to Gaza. But they never aimed at civilians with their airstrikes.
Both sides need to recognize both the harmful rhetoric and the damage done on both sides. While the Palestinian Shehab Agency tweeted a video of people celebrating in the streets, we also know that not everyone celebrates either the deliberate decision to hurt civilians or the Israeli reaction that follows. One of the casualties of the last few days included a baby, which social media was quick to blame Israel for. In two separate replies on Twitter, Gaza News Agency had the temerity to tell the truth, both of what happened to the baby and, perhaps more importantly, of their own situation.
Politicians need to follow their lead.
Now there is a ceasefire. Amongst the hardened hearts, can we harness the small groups of voices who recognize the need to see the citizens caught in the crossfire on both sides and want to figure out actual ways to move towards a better place for all?