People have asked me, since I returned from Gaza,
how people manage. How do they keep going after being traumatized by bombing
and punished by a comprehensive state of siege? I wonder myself. I know that
whether the loss of life is on the Gazan or the Israeli side of the border,
bereaved survivors feel the same pain and misery. On both sides of the border,
I think children pull parents through horrendous and horrifying nightmares.
Adults squelch their panic, cry in private, and strive to regain a semblance
of normal life, wanting to carry their children through a precarious ordeal.
And the children want to help their parents. In Rafah, the morning of Jan.
18, when it appeared there would be at least a lull in the bombing, I watched
children heap pieces of wood on plastic tarps and then haul their piles toward
their homes. The little ones seemed proud to be helping their parents recover
from the bombing. I'd seen just this happy resilience among Iraqi children,
after the 2003 shock and awe bombing, as they found bricks for their parents
to use for a makeshift shelter in a bombed military base.
Children who survive bombing are eager to rebuild. They don't know how jeopardized
their lives are, how ready adults are to bomb them again.
In Rafah that morning, an older man stood next to me, watching the children
at work. "You see," he said, looking upward as an Israeli military
surveillance drone flew past, "if I pick up a piece of wood, if they see
me carrying just a piece of wood, they might mistake it for a weapon, and I
will be a target. So these children collect the wood."
While the high-tech drone collected information – "intelligence"
that helps determine targets for more bombing – toddlers collected wood. Their
parents, whose homes were partially destroyed, needed the wood for warmth at
night and for cooking. Because of the Israeli blockade against Gaza, there
wasn't any gas.
With the border crossing at Rafah now sealed again, people who want to obtain
food, fuel, water, construction supplies, and goods needed for everyday life
will have to rely, increasingly, on the damaged tunnel industry to import these
items from the Egyptian side of the border. Israel's government says that Hamas
could use the tunnels to import weapons, and weapons could kill innocent civilians,
so the Israeli military has no choice but to bomb the neighborhood built up
along the border, as they have been doing.
Suppose that the U.S. weaponmakers had to use a tunnel to deliver weapons
to Israel. The U.S. would have to build a mighty big tunnel to accommodate
the weapons that Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Caterpillar have supplied
to Israel. The size of such a tunnel would be an eighth wonder of the world,
a Grand Canyon of a tunnel, an engineering feat for the ages.
Think of what would have to come through.
Imagine Boeing's shipments to Israel traveling through an enormous underground
tunnel, large enough to accommodate the wingspans of planes, sturdy enough
to allow passage of trucks laden with missiles. According to UK's Indymedia
Corporate Watch, Boeing has recently sent Israel 18 AH-64D Apache Longbow fighter
helicopters, 63 F-15 Eagle fighter planes, 102 F-16 Eagle fighter planes, 42
AH-64 Apache fighter helicopters, four 777s, plus F-16 Peace Marble II &
III aircraft, Arrow II interceptors, IAI-developed Arrow missiles, and AGM-114
D Longbow Hellfire missiles.
In September of last year, the U.S. government "approved the sale of
1,000 GBU-9 small diameter bombs made by Boeing to Israel, in a deal valued
at up to $77 million."
Now that Israel has dropped so many of those bombs on Gaza, Boeing shareholders
can count on more sales and more profits if Israel buys new bombs from them.
Perhaps there are more massacres in store. It would be important to maintain
the tunnel carefully.
Raytheon, one of the largest U.S. arms manufacturers, with annual revenues
of around $20 billion, is one of Israel's main suppliers of weapons. In September
of last year, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency approved the sale
of Raytheon kits to upgrade Israel's Patriot missile system at a cost of $164
million. Raytheon would also use the tunnel to bring in bunker-buster bombs
as well as Tomahawk and Patriot missiles.
Lockheed Martin is the world's largest defense contractor by revenue, with
reported sales in 2008 of $42.7 billion. Lockheed Martin's products include
the Hellfire precision-guided missile system, which has reportedly been used
in the recent Gaza attacks. Israel also possesses 350 F-16 jets, some purchased
from Lockheed Martin.
Think of them coming through the largest tunnel in the world.
Maybe Caterpillar Inc. could help build such a tunnel. Caterpillar Inc., the
world's largest manufacturer of construction (and destruction) equipment, with
more than $30 billion in assets, holds Israel's sole contract for the production
of the D9 military bulldozer, specifically designed for use in invasions of
built-up areas. The U.S. government buys Caterpillar bulldozers and sends them
to the Israeli army as part of its annual foreign military assistance package.
Such sales are governed by the U.S. Arms Export Control Act, which limits the
use of U.S. military aid to "internal security" and "legitimate
self-defense" and prohibits its use against civilians.
Israel topples families' homes with these bulldozers to make room for settlements.
All too often, they topple them on the families inside. American peace activist
Rachel Corrie was crushed to death standing between one of these bulldozers
and a Palestinian doctor's house.
Of course, there's no actual tunnel bringing U.S. made weapons to Israel.
But the transfers of weapons and U.S. complicity in Israel's war crimes are
completely invisible to many Americans.
The United States is the primary source of Israel's arsenal. For more than
30 years, Israel has been the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance,
and since 1985 Israel has received about $3 billion each year in military
and economic aid from the U.S.
But many Americans can't even see this flood of weapons, and what it means,
for us, for Gaza's and Israel's children, for the world's children.
And so people in Gaza have a right to ask us, how do you manage? How do you
keep going? How can you sit back and watch while your taxes pay to massacre
us? If it is wrong to send rifles and bullets and primitive rockets into Gaza,
weapons that could kill innocent Israelis, then isn't it also wrong to send
Israelis the massive arsenal that has been used against us, killing over 400
of our children in the past six weeks, and maiming and wounding thousands more?
But, as I stood over the tunnels in Rafah that morning, under a sunny Gazan
sky, hearing the constant, droning buzz of mechanical spies waiting to call
in an aerial bombardment, no one asked me, an American, those hard questions.
The man standing next to me pointed to a small shed where he and others had
built a fire in an ash can. They wanted me to come inside, warm up, and receive
a cup of tea.