Monday, May 08, 2006

Conflicting Feelings, Missing Information

I've got LOTS of stuff to write about, and will try to catch up over the next few days.

Let's start with this article in today's New York Times:

With a sudden shortage of everything from disposable needles and adhesive tape to vital drugs, Gaza's once impressive public health system is running down fast under the dual pressure of aid cutoffs and the closing of the Karni crossing point with Israel.

Already, says Al Shifa's general director, Dr. Ibrahim al-Habbash, the hospital can no longer provide chemotherapy for many forms of cancer, has only a few days' supply of important surgical drugs like atropine, adrenaline, heparin and lidocaine, and has used up its strategic three-month cache normally kept for a health crisis.


. . . his anger is a sign of the mounting frustration over the gaps in health care here, which are a result of a double crisis: the budget deficit in the Palestinian Authority — which has worsened significantly since Israel stopped transferring tax collections, and the United States and the European Union cut off aid after the Hamas government took over — and the inability to get goods into Gaza through the main crossing point at Karni, which the Israelis keep closing whenever there is a security alert.


The Palestinian Authority is in part the author of these problems, for failing to stop attempted attacks on Karni, though Israel has been criticized by Mr. Wolfensohn and the European Union, and more quietly by the United States, for keeping the crossing closed.

Alright, let's look at Chayyei Sarah's conflicted thoughts as she reads this article:

1. "This is really terrible. It's so sad that people are unable to get crucial, life-saving healthcare because of the stupid politics around here. I feel so bad for these people who can't get basic treatments like dialysis and chemotherapy."

2. "The idiots. This is not so hard to fix. Read my lips: Stop attacking Israel, and Israel will open the Karni crossing. Which part of 'terrorists are bad' do you not understand? You vote in Hamas, you get what you deserve. You made your bed, now lie in it."

3. "I'm sure not all of the sick people who are suffering the consequences voted for Hamas, or hate Israel, or whatever. I bet a lot of them would be more than happy to recognize Israel and leave Israel alone, if it means a chance at a normal economy and a decent life. It's really awful that there are innocent folks who are being punished along with their idiotic comrades."

4. "Hm. Here's an interesting question: If someone did vote for Hamas, does that mean I believe they deserve to die of kidney failure or cancer? Maybe. Does that make me evil? I guess I'd rather that they just face the reality that Israel is here to stay, and start acting constructive about it. I don't need them to die. I would rather that they change. But in the absence of change . . . I'd rather shed my tears over people suffering in, say, Africa, than over people next door who don't care whether I die. Still, not all of them voted for Hamas, anyway. Lord, this is a complex situation."

5. "Why should Israel hand over any tax money to the Palestinian government, even if it is their own money? The government is headed by Hamas. Which part of 'terrorists are bad' do you not understand? I read an article recently that the Israeli government is thinking about using the money to pay off the Palestinians' debts to the Israeli electricity companies. Which means that Israel is sitting on the money, trying to figure out what to do with it. I'm sure most Israelis would be more than happy to provide the money in the form of heparin and medical bandages, but organizing such a thing, while making sure the money is actually going where it's supposed to go, takes some organizing."

6. "I wish that organizing would go faster on the parts of Israel, the US, and the European Union. These people need help now, and, as Queen Amidala said in Star Wars Episode I, it is not right for 'people to suffer and die while you discuss it in a committee.'"

7. "Why doesn't the army open up Karni more often? I keep reading, in articles, like this one, that Israel closes the crossing 'whenever there is a security alert.' What does that mean? That if there is an alert in the Shomron, they shut down everything, everywhere? That they close Karni when they have an alert that someone is specifically trying to infiltrate Israel through the Karni crossing? We need more information, some 'hasbara' from Israel, to understand whether these Karni shut-downs are actually saving Israeli lives, or just making things hard for the Palestinians. If shutting down Karni for so long is actually saving Israeli lives -- perhaps my life -- then I say, frankly, if the Palestinians are giving me such a choice, that I'd rather save innocent Israeli lives than innocent Palestinian lives. But is that the choice? Couldn't there be a better way?"

8. "How might I feel differently about the situation if I knew for sure that Israel was keeping Karni closed unneccesarily, or under very ambiguous situations? How much responsibility do I feel for what my government does? How much would I be willing to fight for Palestinians to get their medical supplies, when there are people who don't hate my guts just because I'm a Jew all over the world for whose rights I could spend my time fighting instead? Given that it is the Palestinians who are locked with Israel in this interminable, deadly wrestling match, do they deserve more or less of my consideration?"

9. "Why is it always Israel's job to find the better way? Is it because we hold ourselves to a higher standard? Or because that really is our job, given that at the moment we are more in control of this situation than the Palestinians are, since we're the ones with enough military power to control Karni?"

10. "What does it mean to be 'in control'? In a way, Israel is 'in control' because we have the tanks and the jet fighters, etc. But the Palestinians also have control, in the sense that it is up to them whether or not to end this crazy situation. They have choices, just as much as Israel does. It may not seem that way, given how downtrodden their masses are. But there is a choice. They can choose to continue fighting, and they will continue to be beaten, and Israel will not go away, and they will suffer for their choice. Or they can choose to accept the fact that Israel exists, and that they may as well make peace with us, and improve their situation accordingly. They seem not to like this second choice, because to them it means admitting defeat, admitting that Israel has more physical power than they do, and that they will never achieve their aim of a Judenrein Middle East. They see it as losing. But sometimes, choosing to compromise is power. It's the power to take whatever control you can of your future, and make the best with what you have. It is the power to choose that enough people have died, and it's time to go about the business of living. The Palestinians do not have the choice that they want. They cannot choose to destroy us, because we Jews don't go down so easily anymore. The Palestinians have been handed a lemon. They have the power to drown in the juice, or to make lemonade. That, too, is power."

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