I have a few early thoughts on the Nakba Day violence which, to this point, has claimed eight lives. But I want to start with those of a colleague, Mya Guarnieri, a reporter for al-Jazeera and one of my teammates in building the upcoming Babylon Times site.
Mya was at Qalandia checkpoint, between Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank. Her tweets illuminate some of what happened, and also some of
how it might be reported…
i was in #qalandia, even before the protest began. the protesters were unarmed and approached singing and chanting and waving flags and…
…they were met with tear gas. the army will try to tell you that the tear gas was a response to stone-throwing. but it was not..
the tear gas was excessive. i retched alongside a CHILD, a little boy…
later,i met amazing palestinian-amrcn women who embraced me as an americanisraeli.they wondered aloud why we can’t just build state together
and then we ran from the live ammo
and just so you know, that hallowed man from the NYT showed up with a fixer/translator three hours into things…
…so he’d better not dare say that the tear gas started in response to stones. i was there.
and now i will get off my computer and weep for everyone… the israeli kids who have been brainwashed and stuffed into uniforms…
…the little boy i retched next to…the woman i met whose mother survived the brutal massacre at deir yassin…those who didn’t survive…
…and i will even cry for that hallowed man at the NYT who seems so blind to what is really happening here and what happened in the past…
I think Mya’s thoughts say a lot, but regarding today’s events, I have more questions than opinions at this point. But I can say a few things.
One, it’s pretty shocking that Israel couldn’t contain this better. Global organizing for May 15 has been going on for months and the scheduling to coincide with Naqba Day kind of makes it hard to forget.
Yet only over the past few days has the IDF seemed to have made any preparations. It is precisely to avoid situations where soldiers are forced to shoot at unarmed civilians (which I’m not saying is what happened here, just positing the kindest possible scenario) that such preparations are made.
Like the Mavi Marmara episode, Israel had plenty of warning about the incident (organizers have been calling precisely for storming the Israeli borders for the past year), yet seems to have been caught off guard.
This may turn out to be most tragic at the Lebanese border, where four people were killed. The civilians coming through there were apparently shot at from both sides, Israeli and Lebanese. Both sides claim they shot in the air and that the other side is responsible for firing at civilians. We’ll see how it comes out, but cooperation beforehand, unusual but not impossible, might have prevented this.
On the other side, the Syrian Foreign Ministry condemned Israel’s “criminal actions.”
I understand that the Syrian government has to say something or risk even more trouble for themselves. But a government that has just killed hundreds of its own citizens (and counting) because they are demonstrating for their rights making this statement is beyond hypocritical and betrays such a cynical lack of morality that even in the ethical morass of Mideast conflict it shines at the top.
No doubt all concerned, in and out of governments, will make as much political hay out of all this as they can. But it’s a tragedy, one that could have been avoided and the kind that will strike peoples of all these countries over and over until we (particularly political leaders in Washington and Jerusalem) decide we’re going to stop the nonsense and seek a practical peace.