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From the eye of the storm

By Sami Abdel-Shafi in Gaza

The Guardian
7 July 2006

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1814465,00.html



In Gaza, an apricot tree stands in symbolic defiance of
Israel`s shameful retaliation

After causing long term damage to civilian life and
inflicting mass punishment on the Gaza Strip, it is
perhaps the Israeli leaders who deserve sympathy, for
having to live with the guilt of what they have done.
Gazans will not send a mayday from the eye of the storm.
Instead they will continue to survive and improvise in the
intolerable conditions that they have been subjected to
for so long. This crossed my mind as I paced by an apricot
tree I planted about a year and a half ago, during what I
thought was one of the darkest periods for Gaza, to renew
my hope for better times. A shoot then, and a young tree
now, the apricot tree grew in defiance of Gaza`s
unfriendly skies, where Israeli airforce planes have
replaced the birds.

The tree shakes to the low altitude sonic booms which
Israeli F-16 jets blow into Gaza`s skies. But its
steadfastness inspires people, like me, to hold on and
remain sane until the next unannounced breaking of F-16
hell, the humming of Apache helicopters and heavy
artillery. It reminds me how difficult it must have been
for people who had their orchards uprooted by the Israeli
army in previous years in Gaza. Now it seems the army is
back to uproot an entire population. But Gazans would not
compromise their humanity, even with the escalating
military operation. Contrary to the insinuations of
Israel`s media and public relations machine, the majority
of Gazans truly hope that Israel`s hostage soldier is
treated humanely and eventually freed. Palestinians dearly
miss the basic human rights that Israel`s military
occupation has deprived them of for so many years, and
would not wish their loss on any soldier.

Ariel Sharon`s government conjured up every possible
measure to drown Palestinians in every aspect of life. It
stretched for so long that the world grew used to it. Ehud
Olmert`s government, which started out ostensibly dovish,
responded to the disappearance of the Israeli soldier in
Gaza with shameful haste. What is not understandable is
why Israel chose to disable Gaza`s power station and blow
the major arteries of infrastructure that are necessary
for life. This is Israel`s response to Palestinian attacks
that used homemade, less harmful, rockets. Whether
Israel`s action is reactionary or not, the nature of their
retaliation is going far beyond any reason.

It is already too late for Israel to pretend to be
avoiding civilian death. Civilians were compromised by the
first attack on Gaza`s infrastructure. Still, Israel has
the audacity to boast that it is acting on world opinion
that civilians must be spared. Moreover, Israel`s
admittance of food and fuel to Gaza in the wake of their
initial attack seems humanitarian, but the supplies are
far below the minimum requirements of the 1.4 million
residents.

Mass destruction and punishment of Palestinians amounts to
questionable morals. In future years it will embarrass the
state of Israel. It probably already saddens every
peace-loving Israeli.

The genuine hope is that Palestinians will not become
entrenched in this sad human tragedy and instead concern
themselves with resolution. Palestinians should be alert
to Olmert`s plan to devour the livelihood of the West Bank
and east Jerusalem, having turned Gaza into a swamp of
sorrow. This is the `New Gaza` that will take many months
and hundreds of millions of dollars to bring back to what
it used to be just a week ago, the `Old Gaza`.

The apricot tree will somehow live, like many other trees
around Gaza, and will, I hope, continue to inspire.

. Sami Abdel-Shafi is co-founder of Emerge Consulting
Group, a management consultancy in Gaza City

VB
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