What follows is a description of habitual actions in Gaza, as the citizens of the region never know at what time of day or night to expect destruction of their lands and possessions. These are events that don't get reported in the American press, because they're so routine that they're boring. Who would care to hear yet another sob story like this one?
Homes and livelihoods gone in an instant
Radia Abu Sbaih, 47, lives with her sister and one niece on family land roughly 700 meters from the “green line” boundary between Israel and Gaza. Until 18 February 2010, they had nearly 600 olive, fruit, date and nut trees, an agricultural cistern, a water well, various vegetables and a house.
Around 8:00 am that morning, approximately five Israeli military bulldozers and upwards of 10 Israeli tanks, accompanied by more than 50 foot soldiers, invaded the farming region, according to locals. “We were in our home when we heard the Israeli tanks and bulldozers approaching. We ran off immediately,” says Sbaih.
“It’s all destroyed. Look, our clothes are buried,” she shouts, pulling at a sweater caught beneath the concrete block pile.
Household belongings are strewn on top of and beneath the pyramid of rubble. A gas range, several cooking pots, a plastic water bottle filled with olives, another with olive oil — both from their land and their destroyed olive trees — denote where the kitchen once stood.
“We were self-sufficient. Twenty people lived off this land. We had our own water source and we grew all our own vegetables: onions, spinach, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, radishes, beans …” Nothing, save a stray sprig of green onion, remains. “Now we have no electricity, no shelter, no water. I walk one hour both ways every day to bring jugs of water for drinking,” says Sbaih.
But for her, it is the loss of their trees that hits the hardest. In the hour or less it took the bulldozers to raze all their property and possessions, Radia Sbaih’s trees were cut to the ground and plowed into the valley. Haggard limbs studding the earth and thick ground-level stumps are all the evidence of the 10 dunams (a dunam is the equivalent of 1,000 square meters) of formerly thick growth. “They were healthy trees, many over 50 years old. And so many fruit trees: guava, orange, lemon, pomegranate, date, almond, sugar cane, cactus fruit …” recalls Sbaih.
An Israeli warplane thunders over and Sbaih comments, “It’s normal, they’re always over us.” The roar is accompanied by the continual whine of Israeli “drones” (unmanned aerial vehicles) patrolling the skies.
Sbaih’s words and losses are echoed by the two other families half a kilometer south. Moin Abu Said says, "When the bulldozers and tanks came, I was taking my son Nassim to school, around 7:30 am. I heard the noise of the invasion even from the school.” Abu Said returned to find the house that he had worked eight years to build completely flattened. “We only lived in it one month,” he says in disbelief. Like most in the border region, this is not the first time Abu Said’s land has been razed. “Ten years ago they bulldozed everything, but we replanted. Now it’s all gone again.”
The arbitrary repetition of this barbarism is at the heart of the strategy to get these stubborn people to leave Gaza for good. Needless to say, over the years, thousands of Palestinians have left the region. Women like Sbaih learn to suffer the losses, and determine to start the journey towards subsistence again. But what does it do to the spirit of the boys who grow into men experiencing these degrading acts over and over, throughout their youth – those "superfluous young men," in the words of Harvard's Martin Kramer?
In addition to maintaining a high level of fear is a design to emasculate, and to let these Palestinians know who the real men are. Do you think such repeated humiliating brutalities might incite enough anger to wreak revenge, even without the promise of 72 virgins?
Homes and livelihoods gone in an instant
Will Israel Join the March of Folly? by Uri Dromi, New York Times
The Prime Minister is failing in his duties, by Haaretz Editorial Staff
Anywhere but here: IDF protest in NY today gets ink, by Philip Weiss
Israel and Its Neighbors: Leveling the Playing Field, by Michael Neumann