WHEN JEWS GOT A STATE, GAZA GOT
[By Dr. Mohamed Elmasry] - Jan 6, 2009
It's almost impossible to imagine a time when Gaza
did not look like the disheveled, ravaged and burning wasteland we see every
day in media photos and news video reports. But civilization in fact owes much
to Gaza and her people.
In 570 CE a pilgrim to the Holy Land wrote that "Gaza
is a splendid city, full of pleasant things; the men in it are most honest,
distinguished by every generosity, and warm to friends and visitors."
At that time, Gaza City
was a jewel along the Palestinian coast, the last outpost of civilization and
supplies for travelers facing an arduous and unforgiving trek through the Sinai
desert down to Egypt.
Early Christians escaping the power centres of their
persecutors found refuge in Gaza; similarly, early Muslims
from Arabia enjoyed the hospitality of the Gazan
natives. It is said that Hashem, great-grandfather of the Prophet Muhammad
(pbuh), died there on a journey from Mecca to Palestine.
His grave has long been a shrine in Gaza
and in peacetime is visited by many.
Conquerors came and went over the intervening centuries, yet
Gaza stood proud as a centre of
culture and commerce. The most recent invaders have been the Zionist Israelis
who are now bent on breaking its spirit by dealing out relentless death,
destruction and misery.
But those who know the character and heritage of Gazans
deeply believe that even the well-equipped Zionist Israelis of this 21st
century will fail to break the will and the spirit of Gaza,
just as Alexander the Great's bloody conquest of 332 BCE, or Janneus's brutal
attack of 96 BCE failed.
It was in Gaza
in 1170 CE that European Crusaders surrendered their strategic control of the
area to Saladin, returning it once again to an era of prosperity and peace.
Centuries later, however, that peace would be interrupted by another wave of
invading conquerors -- first the British and then the Zionist Jews. Yet through
all of Gaza's political and
military setbacks, its enemies have never prevailed. Ultimately, it was not
they who would determine Gaza's
future, either in the past or in today's uncertain future.
Gazans in 2009 are facing death, deprivation and
humiliation, but they live in the same hope as the ancient writer of Psalm 72
who says in Verse 4: "He shall judge the poor of the people; he shall save
the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor."
(Interestingly, on the day this was being written, Christian churches all over
the world were using Psalm 72 as one of their appointed Sunday readings.)
From the 1920s on, Zionist Jews were working to create a new
state for themselves on Palestinian land; and finally, in 1948, Israel
came into being. At that point Gaza City
and its hinterland were changed forever by a great influx of hundreds of
thousands of Palestinian refugees, driven from their homes by Zionists who took
over their lands and property. Like all displaced people, they hoped for a
quick return to their towns and villages, once Palestine
was liberated from these new conquerors. But more than 60 years on, that has
not yet happened.
Like nearly all refugees, those who fled southern Palestine
to settle in Gaza arrived in
absolute poverty, a situation that continues to this day. Added to their
hardships was a brutal Israeli occupation that began in 1967. Now the hardships
of occupation, plus an inhumane embargo of essential supplies and food, have
been followed by a barbaric genocidal siege.
Never in history has an invading force almost simultaneously
waged a war of occupation and retribution by sea, land and air against an
oppressed and understandably resistant population – one with barely shoestring
resources to counter it. Not Nazi Germany against France, not France
against Algeria, not Britain
– but only an artificially-created Jewish state against native Palestinians.
Today, every one of Gaza's
1.5 million residents – from the youngest infant to the ill and elderly --
lives under threat of death. What was deplorable as a crowded and impoverished
ghetto has now become a concentration camp, a place of genocide where hundreds
have been killed within a few horrific days, and thousands more wounded.
This is the second time in history that a Jewish state has
But what have they done with the privileges and
responsibilities of statehood? In ancient times the Jewish kingdom, which never
treated its neighbors as equals, became a frequent flashpoint for war rather
than a contributor to regional peace. Unfortunately, little has changed.
The technical, material and personnel resources commanded by
the current state of Zionist Israel are hugely disproportionate to its size,
mainly due to seemingly limitless financial and political backing provided by
has the further unfair advantage of being "marketed" by an extensive
Western media propaganda machine. Today that machine is spreading the shameful,
immoral lie that the current killing and wounding of thousands of Palestinians
in Gaza is a price worth paying for
keeping Zionist Israel in charge. But Gazans are the ones really paying the
cost of preserving the high standard of living available only to occupation
forces and the Jewish settlers who live on conquered lands with beautiful
homes, swimming pools, modern schools, hospitals, parks, roads, etc.
Instead of granting Gaza
freedom and self-determination and treating all of its native Palestinian
people as equals, Zionist Israel assassinated freedom fighters and their
families because their democratically elected Hamas government was not to its
liking. Hamas's paralyzed founder and spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin,
was killed in March 2004, followed shortly afterwards by the deaths of Dr.
Abdul-Aziz Al- Rantisi and his family. Still on the Zionist hit list is Hamas
political wing leader, Khaled Meshal, who narrowly survived a 1997
assassination attempt by Mossad (Israeli secret service) agents in Jordan.
"We don't fight the Jews because they're Jews, but
because they are occupiers," stresses Meshal. "If the Arabs occupied
us, [we'd] fight them too … But why is everybody so worried about our
religiosity anyway? Israel
has always referred to ancient biblical texts to justify its existence. If an
Arab official, for example, wore an Islamic looking turban, he would be sending
the wrong signals. But when Israeli officials put on the Jewish kipot (skull
cap), that's not a problem, nobody is worried about religiosity then."
"We live under occupation and we don't have the
traditional tools to defend ourselves" Meshal continues. "We
repeatedly demanded that Israel
not target Palestinian civilians and end the siege. But Israel
And to another Palestinian one can give thoughtful last
words on this tragic episode in Gaza's
history. In his book, My Father Was a Freedom Fighter, Gaza:
The Untold Story, Ramzy Baroud writes:
is undergoing another phase of hardship and defiance. Its modern conquerors are
as unpitying as its ancient ones. True, Gaza
is ailing, but standing, its people resourceful and as durable as ever, defiant
as they have always been, and hell-bent on surviving, for that's what Gazans do
best. And I should know; it's my home."
(Dr. Mohamed Elmasry is Professor Emeritus of Computer
Engineering at the University of Waterloo;
founder and past president, The Canadian Islamic Congress and Editorial Board
member, The Canadian Charger. He can be reached at