In Gaza, Just Another Steadfast Day/Year/Decade of Occupation
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' recent move to join the International Criminal Court, thus setting the stage for filing a war crimes case against Israel, comes amidst the ongoing travesties that constitute Palestine's and particularly Gaza's "perpetual cycle of suffering" -- teenagers shot in the back, Santa protesters tear-gassed, Israeli restrictions on Palestinian access to Muslim holy sites, the demolition last year of 188 homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem whose loss rendered homeless 882 people, over half of them children, and the grievous housing shortage caused by them in conjunction with Israel's murderous 51-day assault on Gaza, which today has left many thousands living in rubble.
That grievous history lay behind Abbas' decision to move forward with joining international organizations, including the Criminal Court, which in turn came after he failed to convince the U.N. Security Council to put a deadline on ending the Israeli occupation. Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestinian Liberation Organization, said the move was undertaken “to ensure the protection...of our people...There must be accountability, and those who are concerned about courts should stop committing crimes.”
The Palestinian action was criticized as "counter-productive" by the U.S. State Department, which argued it would "badly damage the atmosphere" of those with whom peace must be made, even if in fact they've committed war crimes. But the U.S. stands increasingly alone with Israel both internationally and domestically: Even a key U.S. Jewish leader has blasted a "Zionist dream (based) on the repeated slaughter of innocents... no country and no people would live the way that Gazans have been made to live."
Gazans themselves continue to try to view themselves not as helpless victims, but as part of a larger resistance to a "war" - even though many outsiders use the word "massacre" to describe the hundreds of dead children, the villages razed, the "sheer weight of Gaza's suffering." Their task, they say, is to turn their steadfastness into liberation, arguing "the point is freedom, not suffering." As they struggle, there are ways to help. A New Year's video from the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem notes that while last year was among the cruelest and deadliest of a too-long occupation, what Palestinians desperately need is not a return to "normal," but a change from the atrocities of Just Another Day.