My Gaza talk Thursday night was in the Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting, with 30-40 people. Some in the audience had been to Gaza in the late 90’s and also to the West Bank. They were better informed about issue than other venues. Questions began even before the talk did; they continued to flow through out my presentation.
Once again "Why is Israel doing this?"– asked when I was talking about students not getting out to pursue scholarships.
When talking about Israel’s blockade of imports, a gentleman in the back says, "Israel is providing them a balanced diet."
I responded that many items essentials for Gazan cooking–chick peas, rice, etc– were on the list of non-essential goods. Until recently, shoes, clothes, paper, pens, pencils, school supplies were deemed non-essential. Israel decides what may or may not be imported. No input from Gazans, list changes without notice.
"Gentleman" in back brings up "fact" that food approved by Israel provides a balanced diet for Gazans.
I responded: "There are extremely high numbers children, pregnant women and others suffering from malnutrition and numbers continue to rise. The only explanation is the diet, which Israel controls. Israel knowingly or unknowingly is creating malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies.
The audience was very upset about white phosphorus, Farah Abu Halima’s case, and the deaths in her family. The audience was also concerned about pictures from the Qattan Center for the Child’s art therapy program. "What is being done to help these poor children?"
I answered with information about the children’s centers and mental health organizations. I then went into bombing of facilities, hospitals, schools, etc, the deliberate destruction of infastructure.
My next slide was the American International School in Gaza. I talked about our taxes paying for the school and it how surprising it was to me that Israel would destroy it because we are their best friends in the middle east.
Here comes the best part.
The "gentleman" in the back says what a nice presentation I’d made but there were facts I had not included. Out comes a paper, which he began to read from. It started with 1948: how poor Israel has suffered to protect themselves ever since their country was founded. He didn’t say the Holocaust but talked about tragedy and suffering, Then he started in on the Palestinians, who have been hostile since the beginning and dangerous, trying to destroy Israel and kill Israelis.
We then moved on to the horrible, horrible rockets, thousands of them. I asked "are you aware these rockets are crude?… These are rockets…not missiles, they go up and come down, they can’t be directed at a specific target."
Gentleman: "Well they’ve have shot thousands and thousands of them, the people are terrified."
Me: "The people in Gaza are also terrified by Israel’s actions…Just last week I heard an Israeli offical comment that Israeli children should not have to run to bomb shelters and are afraid.. Gazan children are terricfrd by Israel’s soldiers, tanks, drones, helicopters which appear almost on a daily basis. I agree with you that children should not be under these conditions, in fact no one should. You mentioned bomb shelters…the children in Gaza have no bomb shelters to run to for protection.."
Shortly after this encounter, someone in the audience turned to the "gentleman" and said, "Sheldon, your time is up, you’re manopolizing the conversation."
They began a rather heated exchange.
I interrupted saying, "Sir I believe in respecting people and their opinions. I am having a difficult time respecting yours. Ten years ago I would have sounded much like you, though certainly not as strongly."
The audience laughed.
"I was supportive of Israel and believed everything they said. Then I heard about the wall and little red flags jumped up. I visited the West Bank and saw how Israel suppresses and abuses the Palestinians. My opinion of Israel changed. After seeing Gaza I’m doing all I can to telll others what I ‘ve seen, heard and experienced."
No response from the gentleman Sheldon.