Today, my daughter and I attended a protest calling for the end of violence in Gaza, in Palestine. It was a cloudy, gloomy day, with rain drizzling on and off.
But the overwhelmingly positive spirit and energy that pervaded the march infected all of us. The crowd was huge and we could feel the energy and unflinching determination of all within it.
Despite the loss and sadness we all felt at the suffering endured by those locked into Gaza and at the endless humiliation and slaughter they have had to endure year after year at the hands of the IDF and successive Israeli governments, we also felt the endless strength and resilience of the Gazans.
We were in awe at their ability to rise again and again over the years from the endless blows the Israelis have rained mercilessly on them. And we were stunned by the politicians and governments who are, right now, in this present moment, minute by minute witnessing the ethnic cleansing, the indiscriminate killing of women and children and spurring it on. They witness and give their assent to the use of banned weapons to burn and shred the defenceless bodies of Palestinians. They see the bodies of children collecting in morgues, and the wounded in hospitals and yet repeat their words of support for all these crimes.
And they give their assent to the shutting down of hospitals, to the killing of medical staff, aid workers, journalists, to the denial of water, to the destruction of homes and shelters. They witness war crimes, crimes against humanity, a veritable genocide in progress and through their words, like a ghoul in a horror film, they give a macabre consent and approval to the bloody proceedings.
All this is in the minds, in the hearts of the protesters. They know governments and leaders are enabling Palestinian suffering through their words and actions. This is nothing new. They have been doing it for years, for decades. But no one is disheartened. Instead a spirited demonstration unfolds. Loudly they call for fairness, for an end to years of ethnic cleansing, land theft, and slaughter. They do not support the killing of Israeli civilians, they condemn it, but they absolutely refuse to keep quiet about the endless years of killing of Palestinians.
Those who are right now seeing a genocide in progress in real time have a choice.
They can speak out and act to stop it. This is why the protest had such a positive aura despite the seriousness of the situation. It was a defense and affirmation of the rights and humanity of the Palestinian people who have been displaced and disrespected and dehumanized for far too long. It was to uplift a downtrodden people.
The other choice is to urge on the destruction of Gaza, a city of children (half the population are children), and try to justify it. It is to place your boot on the face of the occupied and oppressed. Those who have done this and continue to do so have sold out their own humanity, their own souls. And it is hard to come back from such a blackness and hardness of heart.
Today’s protest was a call to all to see the humanity, not just in the Israelis, but in every single person inhabiting that land of two peoples (but one humanity), and to enshrine it in the law of the land. That is the simple way forward, the only way forward.
May this be possible in spite of blind politicians, malicious governments, and propagandizing media.
P.S. Afterwards, we went to an Israeli demonstration and I offered my condolences to a volunteer for those they lost. We talked for a bit and both of us agreed that all violence on both sides needed to stop immediately. He appreciated that we took the trouble to come by and to condole. It was a very positive, very human encounter. May we all cultivate and grow these small connections.