An blog by a member of the Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, to explore the nexus between contemplation and resistance. "The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Massacre at Zeitoun




The image of the cross is the image of unjust suffering. The battle with the injustice which crucifies the poor, is the assertion of God. The practice of injustice or resigned passivity in the face of such idols and such injustice is the rejection of God.

To make this suffering concrete, consider what happened in Zeitoun. The IDF raided it on Sunday, quickly establishing total control. The town commands a strategic location which they coveted for the "third phase" of their blitz, the invasion of the inner city of Gaza, home to 410,000 people.

Their first act was to compel extended families to gather in centrally located buildings. In order to establish control, they march the terrified residents at gunpoint from one building to the next. Then the IDF assures them that they were being moved to secure houses where they will be safe from bombs.

Into one of these "safe houses", 110 Palestinians were deposited without food or water last Sunday. The next day, just as they were beginning to trust their good fortune, 3 men ventured outside, hoping to find food to bring back to their starved families. They died instantly in a barrage of IDF machine gun fire. But they were mercifully spared the next sight. F-16s obliterated the building with a precision missile strike. At least 70 were killed immediately, but many lingered on, half-alive, praying for help.

What happened next is best described by an eye-witness: "Meysa Samouni, a 19-year-old who survived the attack with her two-year-old daughter, who was maimed, described the scene: 'When the missile stuck, I lay down with my daughter under me. Everything filled up with smoke and dust, and I heard screams and crying. After the smoke and dust cleared a bit, I looked around and saw 20 to 30 people who were dead, and about 20 who were wounded. The persons killed around me were my husband, who was hit in the back, my father-in-law, who was hit in the head and whose brain was on the floor, my mother-in-law Rabab, my father-in-law's brother Talal, and his wife Rhama Muhammad a-Samouni, 45, Talal's son's wife, Maha Muhammad a-Samouni, 19, and her son, Muhammad Hamli a-Samouni, five months, whose whole brain was outside his body, Razqa Muhammad a-Samouni, 50, Hanan Khamis a-Samouni, 30, and Hamdi Majid a-Samouni, 22."

The Israelis simply left them to die in their own blood, some from wounds, others from starvation. The aid agencies only became aware of the massacres when a few surviving members of the Samouni clan arrived at their doorstep and poured out their tale. As the Telegraph put it, "A handful of survivors, some wounded, others carrying dead or dying infants, made it on foot to Gaza's main north-south road before they were given lifts to hospital. Three small children were buried in Gaza City that afternoon."

But the Israelis were not satisfied with what they had done to the residents - they prevented the Red Cross from visiting the denizens of the blasted buildings until three days later.

A Red Cross medic who was finally allowed in described the scene: "Inside the Samouni house I saw about 10 bodies and outside another 60," the medic told the Telegraph. "I was not able to count them accurately because there was not much time and we were looking for wounded people.... I could see an Israeli army bulldozer knocking down houses nearby but we ran out of time and the Israeli soldiers started shooting at us." The Red Cross also found four half-dead children lying near the corpses of their mothers. They also discovered the bodies of 15 others who had suffered slow and agonizing deaths while Israeli soldiers were stationed 100 yards away.

But this massacre was only one of many, all following the same ghastly pattern. In another building in Zeitoun, the Israelis gathered 80 people together, again without food or water. Then they waited outside for the starved residents to attempt to flee and gunned them down in cold blood, men, women, and children. One man was shot dead as he opened his door to the soldiers, who then proceeded to murder his two-year old son.

Once they had had their sport with the residents, they rounded up and blind-folded some of the few remaining men to serve as human shields for upcoming raids into more resistant areas of the city.

Jesus is crucified again whenever the poor are subjected to the unjust rage of the powerful. Please speak out now before Israel begins its "third phase" of the invasion. Now is when your voice counts, not after the massacres are over.

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