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Powerless

Contributed by Toine Van Teeffelen on 21.07.2014:

Toine van Teeffelen

July 21, 2014

Bethlehem

The family is glued to the TV showing horrifying images of the shellings in Gaza. A guest clicks with her tongue, expressing anger. We all look with an overwhelming sense of powerlessness. In the Shujaya quarter in Gaza city dozens are hit or crushed. We watch the head of a boy torn apart from the rest of the body. I am distressed by the BBC, which clinically speaks about Israel’s “intensified operation” in Gaza, and which wants to “cover both sides of the conflict,” as if there is symmetry.

The people of Gaza are exposed to a rain of high tech fire terror. They are asked to flee, but whereto? To the sea? We watch the counters: 450 dead, 3000 injured, more than 130.000 out of home. Are Gazans statistics?

During lunch we discuss this sense of powerlessness and being exposed. In Gaza human life is exposed to rockets for which there is no defense, in the West Bank to a system of occupation that makes you dependent on the occupier in any field of life: land, water, traveling, digital systems, development projects, you name it.

In front of our house Mary and I meet some teenagers who directly under our noses make an imitation of the sound of Qassam rockets,

Last week Mary and her sisters, on a visit from abroad, went for a walk. On the way home they saw demonstrators on their way to throw stones at Rachel’s Tomb, Israel’s military stronghold in Bethlehem. One kid was covering his face. “Take care,” said Mary’s sister, “You are young, you can be killed.” “No problem to die as a martyr,” he answered. “What is this for life?”

Sunday evening we hear the shouts of demonstrators on the streets. When there is news of the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, the shouts turn into celebrations and firework.

Though denied by Israel, the kidnapping restores, at least for the moment, a sense of power and self-worth to the Palestinians, like the news that Hamas has been involved in street-to-street battles with Israeli soldiers.

Mahmoud Abbas is also exposed. For the moment he symbolizes Palestinian powerlessness and dependency. He is heavily criticized for preventing demonstrations in the West Bank. After a period of isolation because of the change of regime in Egypt, it seems Hamas is back.

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