|Singing in a Cage is Possible and So is Happiness: The Thirteenth Newsletter (2019).
Greetings from the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.
Once more, punctually, Israel – with the vengeance of Zeus – has begun to bomb Gaza. The sounds and smells of war are never absent from Gaza, which has – for the past dozen years – been victim of an Israeli stranglehold and of Israeli bombings. It helps Israel that the United States is fully behind its policy of annihilation. Trump’s colonial declaration – against UN resolution 497 (1981) – to ‘give’ the Golan Heights to Israel has numbed Israel of any ethical concern. With full US backing, it will seize Jerusalem and the Golan and try to do what it wants to Palestine.
Numbers of dead and injured are easy to come by, but these do not capture what it means for the Palestinians in Gaza who live in a cage. Mahmoud Darwish, the great Palestinian poet, wrote a poem before he died in August 2008 that illuminates not only the experience of living in Gaza, but of living as a Palestinian in a world that disregards your existence:
Close to what will be
we listened to the canary’s words
to me and you:
‘Singing in a cage is possible
and so is happiness’
The canary when it sings
brings closer what will be
Tomorrow you will look at today-yesterday
You will say: ‘It was beautiful
and did not last long’
and you will be neither happy nor sad
Tomorrow, we will remember that we left the canary
in a cage, alone
not singing to us
but to passing snipers.
There is prophecy here. In January 2018, Palestinian journalist Ahmed Abu Artema went out for an evening walk in his home city of Rafah (Gaza, Palestine). He saw birds fly across the perimeter that encages Gaza. ‘No one stopped the birds’, he thought. The Israeli occupation, he felt, ‘clips my wings’ and ‘disrupts my evening walks’. What if a Palestinian from Gaza decides to ‘see himself as a bird and decides to reach a tree beyond the fence’, he mused? ‘If the bird was Palestinian, he would be shot’. He went home and wrote a question on Facebook – ‘What would happen if thousands of Gazans, most of them refugees, attempted to peacefully cross the fence that separated them from their ancestral lands?’ The answer, plainly (as I underscore in my report on the March), was that they would be shot.
A year ago—on Land Day (30 March 2018)—, the Palestinians of Gaza, inspired by Abu Artema, began the Great March of Return. They walked to the Gaza perimeter fence in the tens of thousands and were shot down by tear gas and Israeli snipers. With thousands injured and with hundreds of dead, the United Nations released a report that accused the Israeli military of war crimes and asked the Israeli government to investigate these accusations. Instead, the government of Israel did not cooperate with the inquiry and it dismissed the commission’s report. The canary remains in the cage, singing to the passing snipers, and now to the bombers.
Linda Tabar, Director of the Centre for Development Studies (Birzeit University, Ramallah, Palestine), writes to us that the ‘one year anniversary of the Marches to Return and Break the Siege in Gaza forces us to pause and interrogate the failures in conscience that mark the indifference with which the world has watched as unarmed Palestinians have been targeted with snipers and gunned down for defying the colonial enclosures and seeking to free themselves from an open-air prison and seeking to return to our lands’.
The picture above is by our friend Hafez Omar. He is an artist from Tulkaram (Palestine). On 14 March, Israel’s Ofer Military Court ordered that he be detained for twelve days. His appeal was rejected by the courts on 20 March. It has now been over a dozen days. He remains in prison, without access to his lawyer. Please contact the Israeli authorities and tell them to release Hafez Omar and to stop bombing Gaza. Tell them, while you have them on the phone, to end the occupation of Palestine.