Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | News Flashes | Scoop Features | Scoop Video | Strange & Bizarre | Search


Ramzy Baroud: Celebrating Life In Rafah

Celebrating Life In Rafah

By Ramzy Baroud

Rafah, Jenin, Khan Yunis, Zeitun: Foreign sounding names of so distanced and disturbing a reality. All that we know of them is what media has selectively determined to impart, if we are interested to hear the story.

The Rafah refugee camp, a small strip of land at the southern edge of Gaza was the target of Israel’s most ruthless attack in years. Between May 17-20, forty three Palestinians were killed, mostly civilians. Among them, nine children, most of them struck by missiles while protesting peacefully with flags and banners. “End the Siege on Rafah”, declared a white banner, torn and saturated with blood.

Media reports said Israel was responding to the killing of 13 of its troops by Palestinian militants.

Homemade land mines killed the Israeli soldiers. However, the blasts were exasperated by the large amounts of explosives hauled by Israeli armored vehicles, apparently on their way to blow up Palestinian homes somewhere in Gaza.

Even before the Rafah atrocities subsided, US President George W. Bush told AIPAC lobbyists that Israel had the right to defend itself.

Can logic be any more fallacious?

Israel’s murder of civilians is sanctioned as self-defense; Palestinians, once again, are labeled “terrorists”.

Israel can assassinate any Palestinian at the time of its choosing with a ready-to-serve verdict. It killed and wounded hundreds of civilians in those “targeted killing” sprees. Yet, Palestinians are condemned if they show the mere desire to respond. Even the targeting of occupation soldiers is taboo.

So what is it that Palestinians are permitted to do in self-defense, in accordance with the so twisted pro-Israeli Bush doctrine?

How about marching in a peaceful demonstration?

In Rafah, that too was an anathema and could not be tolerated. It was handled with resoluteness and vigor, the same way any “terrorist” threat deserves to be handled. A missile fired from a US-supplied Apache helicopter was all that took to eliminate that option of resistance.

“Photos below are too graphic”, read a warning posted on a Palestinian website of images of dead civilians in the tragedy-stricken refugee camp. They were of the dozen bodies piled up in a local farmer’s cooler since the hospital’s morgue was overfilled with victims.

One picture refuses to escape my mind. An olive-skinned child with slightly opened eyes. Dead. An unknown hand, holds the child’s wholly disjoined arm closer to the dead body, as if he is telling the camera: “This arm belonged here.” The boy was nameless. I quivered. The feeling of being that boy’s father is horrifying.

In the case of Israeli victims of suicide bombings, reality can be equally gruesome. But Bush dares not use the same logic when Palestinians fall victim: “Palestinians too entail the right to defend themselves.” Never once has he uttered these words. So what else should Palestinians attempt, now that even peaceful protests are crossing the line?

Peter Hansen, the chief of the United Nations agency for refugees in the region confirmed that in Rafah refugee camp, homes were toppled on their dwellers.

Even as Hansen himself walked through the camp assessing the damages, Israeli soldiers were still shooting. “We have now confirmation from the hospital that a girl was shot and killed in one of the two gun bursts we heard,” he said.

She was Rawan Abu Zeid, a 3-year-old girl from Rafah. Her peers said that she was skipping in her way to the candy store. Two bullets struck her, one in the head and the other in the neck. Was she taken to the same makeshift morgue, or did her tiny body find room for itself in the local hospital?

This time I implore an answer: What must Palestinians do to stand up to the Israeli occupation without being blamed for their own misery, now that suicide bombings, fighting occupation soldiers, protesting peacefully, huddling in fear with one’s family in one’s own home, or coveting a piece of candy from a nearby shop warrant so violent an Israeli response? Of course we are expected to pay little attention to the Palestinian victims, to ask who are they and who will pay for their death. In fact, few of us bother to find out what can be done to help those fortunate enough to evade the bullets and the bulldozers.

But enthusiastically we indulge in analyzing Ariel Sharon’s motives, as if such senseless murder might possibly adhere to some kind of logic.

Is it blatant revenge that compelled the killings? Is it another campaign of ethnic cleansing of areas adjacent to the border with Egypt to establish yet another Israeli “security zone”? Is it a round of muscle flexing, such as South Lebanon’s defeat complex, prior to a partial pullout from Gaza?

Whatever the reasons, the fact is, Sharon will not cease his murdering of Palestinians with impunity. His logic, however twisted, will prevail as long as the United States government continues to supply him with all the weapons, money and political clout needed to defy international law. His victims will maintain their status among the “unimportant people”, and shall be reprimanded if they even dare to vent violently, because by doing so they veer off from the teachings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

In a few days, the name Rafah shall concede to make room for more important headlines. It might be a few more days before another foreign sounding Palestinian name, associated with tragedy and death was introduced, and with it a long list of Israeli pretences, coupled by a quote or two made by president Bush somewhere on his fundraising trail: “Israel has the right to defend itself.” The chances are, the Rafah morgues shall be emptied and dusty yellow bulldozers shall remove the debris of over 230 destroyed homes. Whose morgue shall be filled next is hard to predict.

As for the refugees of the devastated camp, left alone atop the debris of their homes, scores of death certificates and hundreds of wounded to care for, they, astonishingly have a way to cope. For one, they insist that there are millions of people around the world who care about them. Someone chanting for their rights and freedom anywhere in the world feeds them with urgently needed hope for one more day.

Speaking to Gaza’s Voice of Freedom Radio, Moawiya Hassanein, a physician in Gaza City told the station that by the time 40 Palestinians were killed in Rafah, 39 others were born. I am “so happy because the births were some compensation for the human loss,” he said.

A Palestinian friend of mine, who is living far away from home, told me that as she witnessed the images of the victims of Rafah, she felt a strange and overpowering sense of pride. She said, “If I had not been born Palestinian, I would’ve wished to be.” I understood, and I too felt the same.


-Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian-American journalist.

© Scoop Media

Top Scoops Headlines


Werewolf: Living With Rio’s Olympic Ruins

Mariana Cavalcanti Critics of the Olympic project can point a discernible pattern in the delivery of Olympics-related urban interventions: the belated but rushed inaugurations of faulty and/or unfinished infrastructures... More>>

Live Blog On Now: Open Source//Open Society Conference

The second annual Open Source Open Society Conference is a 2 day event taking place on 22-23 August 2016 at Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington… Scoop is hosting a live blog summarising the key points of this exciting conference. More>>



Gordon Campbell: On The Politicising Of The War On Drugs In Sport

It hasn’t been much fun at all to see how “war on drugs in sport” has become a proxy version of the Cold War, fixated on Russia. This weekend’s banning of the Russian long jumper Darya Klishina took that fixation to fresh extremes. More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Kevin Rudd’s Failed UN Secretary General Bid

Few sights are sadder in international diplomacy than seeing an aging figure desperate for honours. In a desperate effort to net them, he scurries around, cultivating, prodding, wishing to be noted. Finally, such an honour is netted, in all likelihood just to shut that overly keen individual up. More>>

Open Source / Open Society: The Scoop Foundation - An Open Model For NZ Media

Access to accurate, relevant and timely information is a crucial aspect of an open and transparent society. However, in our digital society information is in a state of flux with every aspect of its creation, delivery and consumption undergoing profound redefinition... More>>

Keeping Out The Vote: Gordon Campbell On The US Elections

I’ll focus here on just two ways that dis-enfranchisement is currently occurring in the US: (a) by the rigging of the boundary lines for voter districts and (b) by demanding elaborate photo IDs before people are allowed to cast their vote. More>>

Ramzy Baroud: Being Black Palestinian - Solidarity As A Welcome Pathology

It should come as no surprise that the loudest international solidarity that accompanied the continued spate of the killing of Black Americans comes from Palestine; that books have already been written and published by Palestinians about the plight of their Black brethren. In fact, that solidarity is mutual. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Top Scoops
Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news