The other night, the “token delegation”, the handful of activists who chose to accept the Egyptian government’s offer, returned from Gaza. Some of them gave a short presentation in a hallway at the Lotus Hotel about what they had seen and experienced there. The overwhelming impression that I got from them was that, if anything, the conditions there are even worse than I could have imagined. A “tour of horror” is how one woman described it. One after another, the stories came, most of them unbearably sad:
An entire, huge extended family exterminated by the “most moral army in the world”. A man who spent 15 years saving to buy a house, only to watch it turned into rubble in minutes after he had gotten to live in it only one year. The drawings made by young children: blood pouring from dismembered bodies, a giant eye crying tears of blood. Children disfigured by white phosphorous, children with hunks of shrapnel still lodged in their small bodies. There were many stories like these, and several people wept as they were telling them. Fareed, my Palestinian poet friend, talked about a family of 17 living in one room. Though giving handouts to individuals was discouraged, Fareed tried to slip a little of the money he had raised to the head of the family. He refused it. “That” said Fareed “is a proud Palestinian”. Some spoke of a “siege within a siege”, that is, the Hamas government, which has grown more repressive under the Israeli siege. How can democracy exist under such conditions? There were nicer stories too. A German man spoke of playing marbles with some children, who were having a great time, just like kids anywhere. Afterward, they insisted on giving him their marbles, and he held them in his hand as he spoke to us, overcome with emotion. A couple of people spoke about a hip-hop group they met in Gaza who, to their amazement, had perfectly mastered the mannerisms, dress, and attitude of American rappers. “They manage to do so much with so little” someone said. “While we do so little with so much”. I wish there were more such stories.
This is the reason we were not allowed to go to Gaza. It was never just about preventing a protest march. The Israelis and Americans do not want the world to see what they did there, and what they continue to do. It is for the same reason that all journalists were barred from Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.
We live inside a fog of lies. We are engaged in a battle between the testimony of witnesses, and well-funded lies. The more money is spent on a particular lie, the more often that lie will be repeated. For the truth to become overwhelming, many people will need to bear witness and, scorched by what they have seen, deliver the truth to those who trust them. Either Israel is a genocidal crazy state, or its detractors are anti-semitic liars. The UN is anti-semitic. The World Court is anti-semitic. Amnesty International is anti-semitic. Jimmy Carter is Anti-semitic. Nelson Mandela is anti-semitic. Arabs are anti-semitic (though they are themselves Semites). 59% of Europeans (the percentage, according to a 2003 poll of 7,515 people all 15 EU countries who identified Israel as the single greatest threat to world peace) are anti-semitic.
Stephen Colbert had a line, when he was roasting President Bush at a White House reporters’ dinner: “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.” Is it possible that reality has an anti-Israel bias?