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The defiance that launched Gaza’s flaming kites cannot be extinguished

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First Israel built a sophisticated missile interception system named Iron Dome to neutralise the threat of homemade rockets fired out of Gaza.

Next it created technology that could detect and destroy tunnels Palestinians had cut through the parched earth deep under the fences Israel erected to imprison Gaza on all sides.

Israel’s priority was to keep Gaza locked down with a blockade and its two million inhabitants invisible.

Now Israel is facing a new and apparently even tougher challenge: how to stop Palestinian resistance from Gaza using flaming kites, which have set fire to lands close by in Israel. F-16 fighter jets are equipped to take on many foes but not the humble kite.

These various innovations by Palestinians are widely seen by Israelis as part of the same relentless campaign by Hamas to destroy their country.

(Cartoon: Carlos Latuff)

But from inside Gaza, things look very different. These initiatives are driven by a mix of recognisably human emotions: a refusal to bow before crushing oppression; a fear of becoming complicit through silence and inaction in being erased and forgotten; and a compelling need to take back control of one’s life.

Palestinians encaged in Gaza, denied entry and exit by Israel via land, sea and air for more than a decade, know that life there is rapidly becoming unsustainable. Most young people are unemployed, much of the infrastructure and housing are irreparably damaged, and polluted water sources are near-unpotable.

After waves of military attacks, Gaza’s children are traumatised with mental scars that may never heal.

This catastrophe was carefully engineered by Israel, which renews and enforces it daily.

The kites have long served as a potent symbol of freedom in Gaza. Children have flown them from the few spots in the tiny, congested enclave where people can still breathe – from rooftops or on Gaza’s beaches.

Five years ago, the film Flying Paper documented the successful efforts of Gaza’s children to set a new world record for mass kite-flying. The children defied Israel’s blockade, which prevents entry of most goods, by making kites from sticks, newspapers and scraps of plastic.

The children’s ambition was – if only briefly – to retake Gaza’s skies, which Israel dominates with its unseen, death-dealing drones that buzz interminably overhead and with missiles that can flatten a building in seconds.

A young girl observed of the kite’s lure: “When we fly the kite, we know that freedom exists.” A message scrawled on one read: “I have the right to pride, education, justice, equality and life.”

But the world record attempt was not only about the children’s dreams and their defiance. It was intended to highlight Gaza’s confinement and to issue a reminder that Palestinians too are human.

That same generation of children have grown into the youths being picked off weekly by Israeli snipers at unarmed protests at the perimeter fence – the most visible feature of Israel’s infrastructure of imprisonment.

A few have taken up kite-flying again. If they have refused to put away childish things, this time they have discarded their childish idealism. Their world record did not win them freedom, nor even much notice.

After the snipers began maiming thousands of the demonstrators, including children, medics and journalists, for the impudence of imagining they had a right to liberty, the enclave’s youths reinvented the kite’s role.

If it failed to serve as a reminder of Palestinians’ humanity, it could at least remind Israel and the outside world of their presence, of the cost of leaving two million human beings to rot.

So the kites were set on fire, flaming emissaries that brought a new kind of reckoning for Israel when they landed on the other side of the fence.

Gaza’s inhabitants can still see the lands from which many of them were expelled during the mass dispossession of the Palestinian people in 1948 – under western colonial sponsorship – to create a Jewish state.

Not only were those lands taken from them, but the Jewish farming communities that replaced them now irrigate their crops using water Palestinians are deprived of, including water seized from aquifers under the West Bank.

The kites have rained fire down on this idyll created by Israel at the expense of Gaza’s inhabitants. No one has been hurt but Israel claims extinguishing the fires has already cost some $2 million and 7,000 acres of farmland have been damaged.

Sadly, given the profound sense of entitlement that afflicts many Israelis, a small dent in their material wellbeing has not pricked consciences about the incomparably greater suffering only a few kilometres away in Gaza.

Instead, Israel’s public security minister Gilad Erdan called last week for anyone flying a kite, even young children, to be shot. He and other ministers have argued that another large-scale military assault on Gaza is necessary to create what Erdan has termed “durable deterrence”.

That moment seems to be moving inexorably closer. The last few days have seen Israel launch punitive air strikes to stop the kites and Palestinian factions retaliate by firing significant numbers of rockets out of Gaza for the first time in years.

The Trump administration is no longer pretending to mediate. It has publicly thrown in its hand with Israel. It withdrew last week from the United Nations Human Rights Council, accusing it of being a “cesspool of political bias” after the council criticised Israel for executing Gaza’s unarmed demonstrators.

On a visit to the region last week, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, urged ordinary Palestinians to rebel against their leaders’ refusal to accept a long-awaited US peace plan that all evidence suggests will further undermine Palestinian hopes of a viable state.

Kushner is apparently unaware that the Palestinian public is expressing its will, for liberation, by protesting at the Gaza fence – and risking execution by Israel for doing so.

Meanwhile, Prince William is due in Israel on Monday, the first British royal to make an official visit since the mandate ended 70 years ago. While Kensington Palace has stressed that the trip is non-political, William will meet both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in an itinerary that has already been claimed by both sides as a victory.

From the vantage point of the Mount of Olives, from which he will view Jerusalem’s Old City, the prince may not quite manage to see the kite battles in Gaza’s skies that underscore who is Goliath and who is David. But he should see enough in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem to understand that western leaders have decisively chosen the side of Goliath.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is

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15 Responses

  1. Kay24 on June 26, 2018, 10:41 am

    After all David used a slingshot and killed the evil giant, why not flaming kites?

    Necessity is the mother of inventions.
    Desperate times call for desperate measures.

    These kids are resourceful. It is unfortunate that the Palestinians have to struggle so hard just to get their freedom, and that they are being unmercifully killed by deadly weapons, while they have to defend themselves with stones, homemade rockets, and kites.

    • jon s on June 27, 2018, 2:25 am

      As Quinn (Christian Bale) says in “Reign of Fire”: “they’ll burn , we’ll build”:

      • Mooser on June 27, 2018, 1:13 pm

        Oh I get it! The Palestinians are “the fire-breathing beast” attacking London, and Christian Bale is the Jews!

        “Jon s” I finally know what you meant when you said “Jews couldn’t have sex for nearly half the time…”.
        I guess we have to wait until the test results come back.
        I suppose that counts as a “different sexual behavior”, and makes “family purity” a very serious concern.

      • oldgeezer on July 2, 2018, 1:26 pm

        @jon s

        How’s all that extensive damage coming along from all those horrifying terror kites??? I loved your use of the word extensive as that was the only word I was seeing as well. Never any quantification of what extensive was.

        So I found this wonderful article today extolling Israel’s vastly superior use of technology particularly as it relates to the existential threat of kites.

        Well whattya know! Hundreds of acres!! Still nothing more precise than that but let’s assume that it’s 900. According to the CIA fact book Israel has 8019 sq miles. There are 640 acres to a square mile. That’s 5,132,160 acres.

        Quick math…. 1.754648% of 1%

        No… that is not extensive. No that is not a threat.
        It is merely a nuisance level activity.

        And you see bloodshed as the only way to adress it.

        You aren’t on the left. You couldn’t find the left if you tried.

  2. Misterioso on June 27, 2018, 11:00 am

    “The Five Pro-occupation Zionists Who Think They Can Bring Peace to the Middle East”

    “Trump’s ‘ultimate deal’ is being written by five men who share one goal: To bury the Palestinian cause.”

    By Ahmad Tibi, ** Jun 27, Haaretz.


    “The five of them have lived for decades or all their life in the U.S. The five of them are committed right-wing Zionists. The five of them have supported Israeli settlements in occupied territory, politically and financially; the five of them oppose the two-state solution; the five of them oppose equality between Israelis and Palestinians; and the five of them identify with the most recalcitrant sectors of the Republican Party.”

    “How do they square the circle of rejecting equality for everyone living under Israeli control, but at the same time also rejecting two states on the 1967 borders? The answer is simple: The five of them also share the goal of burying the Palestinian cause, destroying the Palestinian dream and eradicating Palestinian rights.”

    “The government of Israel, represented by PM Netanyahu and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, has advanced a detailed plan to pulverize the political rights of the Palestinian people. The Trump team, represented by his three musketeers – Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman – complements the desires of the Israeli side by utterly ignoring the political rights of the Palestinian people.

    “They tell the Palestinian people that, while their political and human rights will continue to be violated, they could have a ‘better life’ by accepting economic incentives. Mr. Kushner, in his recent interview with Al Quds newspaper, said: ‘If there is peace, Israel’s prosperity would spill over very quickly to the Palestinians.'”

    “Let me translate this into the terms of the five who met last week: If Palestinians accept to live under Israeli control, without the Jordan Valley, without Jerusalem, disconnected from each other and in absence of Palestinian sovereignty, then their lives will improve – because they might marginally improve their economic status. This is the vision of Trump’s America for an ‘ultimate deal.'”

    **Dr. Ahmad Tibi is the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. He represents the Joint List.

  3. Elizabeth Block on June 28, 2018, 9:34 am

    1) I wonder how much of the farmland that has been burnt was stolen from Gazans?
    2) If Gazans had drones – armed drones – perhaps they wouldn’t need to use kites.

  4. DaBakr on June 28, 2018, 9:30 pm

    The problem with the tired ‘david and goliath’ comparison is that israel is only stymied by the kites because we are obviously holding back the force that could theoretically be used to quash the kite launchers.(and worse which would not accomplish anything positive) wether you want to believe it’s a cynical strategy, PR, or the immorality/morality of using/not using the overwhelming force that could be used to stop cross border incursions and attacks.

    while the left wing msm made a lot of hay with dramatically framed photos of the border fence war the reason europe, middle eastern and Asian powers were fairly quiet is because all of them want to reserve the right to defend their borders if attacked. and yes, as cute as they are, kites count as attacks. If israel burned down gazan farm land the security council would already have churned out another dozen condemnations against the.’zionist entityand

    And while I read here all the time how evil Israel is I don’t hear any israelis, from soldiers to shop keepers saying they approve of killing as many civilians as possible. there are some crazy religious fanatics that believe g-d is on their side but the majority of people here think they are disgusting and nuts. and, unfortunately, there are just as many crazies on the arab side cheering jewish deaths to keep the jews who ‘kiss the mass murderers grave’ from feeling any shame.

    • Bumblebye on June 29, 2018, 11:35 am

      Oh ye gawds!

      “border fence war…”

      if that’s how *you* frame it you are 100% of the crazy persuasion yourself!

    • Mooser on June 29, 2018, 12:23 pm

      “…cheering jewish deaths…” “DaBakr”

      Which Jewish deaths?

    • Talkback on June 29, 2018, 12:31 pm

      DaBakr: “all of them want to reserve the right to defend their borders if attacked”

      All of them have their borders well defined and allowed those who fled from war and expulsion to return. Please do not compare the Zionist Apartheid Dreck to these other countries. They don’t deserve this.

    • eljay on June 29, 2018, 8:20 pm

      || @aBr: … And while I read here all the time how evil Israel is I don’t hear any israelis, from soldiers to shop keepers saying they approve of killing as many civilians as possible. … ||

      Of course no-one wants civilians massacred. Hell, even jon s is against it!

      But as soon civilians are categorized* as “armed terrorists or criminals”, even jon s will tell you that its entirely acceptable to massacre them.
      (*Who gets to categorize whom and according to what criteria is entirely unclear.)

      • Mooser on June 29, 2018, 10:45 pm

        “(*Who gets to categorize whom and according to what criteria is entirely unclear.)”

        That’s “Jon s’s” job.
        As he says: “It’s the kind of distiction (sic) that should be clear to any reasonable, decent, moral, person.
        If you don’t see it then you’re the one with the broken moral compass.” “Jon s”

        See how quickly he knows where to look if there’s any disagreement on that “distiction”?

      • eljay on June 30, 2018, 3:26 pm

        || Mooser: … That’s “Jon s’s” job. … See how quickly he knows where to look if there’s any disagreement on that “distiction”? ||

        This is the sort of thing that cracks me up. I advocate the universal and consistent application of justice, accountability and equality. jon s advocates the massacre of any group of people designated “armed terrorists or criminals”.

        If a group of Jews – in Palestine or Iran or anywhere else – were designated “armed terrorists or criminals” and targeted for massacre:
        – I would argue against it; while,
        – jon s would argue for it*.

        But I’m the anti-Semite. Go figure.
        (*Unless he’s a total hypocrite, but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt in this case.)

      • Mooser on July 2, 2018, 12:27 pm

        ” but I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt in this case.)”

        You should. He may not be able to help it. Might have cracked his head when he dove into the shallow end of the pool.

    • oldgeezer on July 2, 2018, 9:32 pm


      “If israel burned down gazan farm land ”

      Israel regular destroys Arab farm land and no such condemnations are made.
      “And while I read here all the time how evil Israel is I don’t hear any israelis, from soldiers to shop keepers saying they approve of killing as many civilians as possible.”

      I’ve heard it. Recently an Israel cabinent member complained about an insufficient quantity of collateral damage.

      “stymied by the kites because we are obviously holding back the force that could theoretically be used to quash the kite launchers.(”

      Do you mean nukes? You’re already using fighter bombers against the launchers.

      Articles covering each of those issues in the ToI. I won’t provide the links as you are either knowingly telling a lie or too lazy to even read Israeli news.

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