Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow
We have enjoyed four snow days this week. Best news... may be another big snowstorm headed our direction!
Sometimes I wish I had a life of leisure, and the kids never had school so we could just enjoy each other's company forever.
Interfaith faux pas
My daughter today was telling me about a conversation she was having at school where one of her friends asked what the difference between Islam and Christianity was. One of the other students said it was that Muslims didn't believe Jesus died on the cross, to which my daughter said, "Yes, but the biggest difference is we don't believe in the Trinity." Thus ensued a discussion about theology and religion. My daughter told me she was being very careful, because she didn't want to offend someone, so when they asked her what Muslims thought of the Bible, she just said we get our guidance from the Qur'an instead. But when they asked, "Do Muslims think we are all going to Hell?" her tact got her in trouble. "I can't guarantee that," she replied quickly.
Fortunately every one burst out laughing, and she got a chance to explain that what she meant was that according to the Qur'an no one is guaranteed a place in Heaven, nor in Hell. Christians, Jews, people who believe and do good works all have hope for Divine approbation.
Why we need peace in the Middle East
The Middle East needs peace. And needs it now. These stories speak for themselves. While they all come from Gaza, there are equally heart-wrenching stories coming from the Israeli side. When will Israelis and Palestinians, and the rest of the world say "Enough!"?FINAL TOLL OF GAZA WAR: 1,330 DEAD, 5,450 WOUNDED Agence France Presse
Israel's war on Gaza killed 1,330 people, at least half of them civilians, and wounded 5,450 others, Palestinian medics said on Thursday in a final toll of the offensive.
Among the dead were 437 children under 16, 110 women, 123 elderly men, 14 medics and four journalists, according to Muawiya Hassanein, the head of Gaza medical services.Children Shot Point Blank
Quil Lawrence, The World, PRI
Two weeks ago Khaled Abed Drabo was trapped inside his house several days into the Israeli ground offensive. Artillery shells hammered his neighborhood east of the Jabaliya refugee camp. Three tanks parked outside his front door, and loudspeakers announced that civilians should leave the area.
Khaled says that’s when his wife, mother and three daughters stepped outside the front door waving white flags. They stood on the front steps for five minutes waiting for instructions from the Israeli soldiers only 10 yards away. But instead, Khaled says, a soldier appeared on one of the tank turrets, raised his rifle and began shooting. All three of the girls fell.
Khaled’s mother was shot in the upper left arm and abdomen. Recovering at her brother’s house, she tells the same story. “The soldier shot us slowly aiming at each one.” The women fled back into the house dragging the bleeding little girls. Suad, 7 years old, died immediately from bullets to her chest. 2-year-old Amal survied a few moments longer. “She was asking her mother for candy and chips. Then her mother asked her: ‘Do you love me?’ She said: ‘Yes.’ Then she died.”
The entire story is on audio from Public Radio International: PRIAnother story from the mouths of children:
Murray Wardrop, Telegraph
One nine-year-old boy said his father had been shot dead in front of him despite surrendering to Israeli soldiers with his hands in the air.
Another youngster described witnessing the deaths of his mother, three brothers and uncle after the house they were in was shelled.
He said his mother and one of his siblings had been killed instantly, while the others bled to death over a period of days.
A psychiatrist treating children in the village of Zeitoun on the outskirts of Gaza City, where the alleged incidents took place, described the deaths as a "massacre".
Rawya Borno, a Jordanian doctor, said civilians, including children, were rounded up and killed by Israeli troops. . .
A boy named Ahmed said he was trapped for days in the wreckage of the shelled Samouni family's house.
He said: "My mother was dead beside me, she was clutching my brother Nasser and they were dead. My brother Itzaq was bleeding for two days and then he died. My brother Izmael bled to death in one day. My uncle Talal was bleeding for two hours and he died. God bless them."
Dr Borno said: "It's a massacre. They collected them from their houses. They knew that they were civilians. They were children."
The story goes on to say that Israeli officials believe these children have been coached as a part of Hamas propaganda -- since Hamas has an interest in promoting atrocity stories -- but that an investigation is going on. I find it hard to believe that a newly orphaned child is capable of being coached into lies about how his father, mother, and siblings died.
This long interview with a Palestinian man living in America about the deaths of his two brothers is heartwrenching:
http://www.democracynow.org/2009/1/22/part_ii_palestinian_us_college_gradIsraeli Human Rights Group Decry War Crimes
Nathan Jeffay, Forward
Tel Aviv — On January 14, Israeli human rights groups issued a detailed report alleging serious human rights violations by Israel’s military in its three-week campaign in Gaza against Hamas. But Israel rejected the allegations and continued to notch up its effort to lay the blame on Hamas for the harm suffered by civilians during its military effort.
The coalition of nine human rights organizations, which included Physicians for Human Rights, the Israeli section of Amnesty International and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, charged that Israel’s conduct “constitutes a blatant violation of the laws of warfare and raises the suspicion, which we ask be investigated, of the commission of war crimes.”
Petition against Domestic Violence in Muslim Countries
Muslims for Progressive Values has begun a campaign against domestic violence (defined broadly) in the Muslim world. The first step is an online petition which will be delivered to different governments. The petition affirms that Islam is antithetical to domestic violence, and then calls upon Muslim governments to:
- enact laws prohibiting and criminalizing domestic violence, acid attacks, honor crimes, female genital mutilation and forced marriages
- strengthen laws against domestic violence, acid attacks, honor killing, FGM and forced marriages with stiff punishments and/or fines
- ensure that these laws are enforced and that perpetrators are brought to justice consistently and swiftly
- provide resources for women who must flee dangerous familial situations, such as protection orders, safe houses and long-term shelters
- engage in educational campaigns to foster a national culture of respect for women's human, civil, and Islamic rights
- allocate resources and funding to eliminate violence against women and girls, and
- provide leadership in condemning acts of violence against women and girls
You can sign the petition at: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/mpv-dv
Refugees twice over
I saw a piece on al-Jazeera which showed a glittering cloud of notices being dropped into Rafah City. The notices looked like silver confetti shimmering down out of a blue sky. But far from being glad tidings, they were warnings, instructing the residents of Rafah to flee for their lives as Israel was planning attacks upon the town.
Of some 130,000 people living in Rafah, 65% are already refugees, having fled their homes in Ashkelon or Beersheba and other towns that are now part of Israel proper. One wonders how these people must feel -- they fled before, expecting to return, only to find they were barred from going back to their homes. If they flee now, will they be able to return? Or will the be shunted into some other refugee camp somewhere else, losing yet again their home. Or, equally bad, will they return only to find rubble.
Someone posted a comment on this blog a few days ago that they should just move. It wasn't really clear if the "they" meant Israelis or Palestinians. In the case of the Israelis, that is an option and I'm sure many have done so. In the case of the Palestinians... it isn't so easy. Unemployment is at record highs. And the average wage of Palestinian workers amounts to $2 a day. How then, are they supposed to move? Carrying their posessions on their back, and walking? They obviously can't afford an airplane ticket to, say, the US, even if the US would take them, which as often as not they won't. We certainly wouldn't take all 130,000 of Rafah's residents, or the 1.5 million who are living in Gaza. And no one else will either.
Unless Israel is prepared to wipe out 1.5 million Palestinians (and we can assume they are not), they need to buckle down and work with the Gazans to come to some sort of arrangement which makes life livable in the strip.
Israel and Palestine
A lot of people have asked me about my opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Well, this week's On Faith question brings the issue to the forefront. You'll be able to read my post on it later today or tomorrow at http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com
My central thesis, is that peace can only be brokered by the Israelis and the Palestinians themselves. Like the old adage about horses and water, you can lead these two sides to the peace table as many times as you like, but you can't force them to eat. Until they are both ready for peace, progress is not going to be made. I am hopeful that, after 60 years of conflict, both sides are getting weary of war, but I am not holding my breath.
I also feel, it is not our place to enforce a one or two state solution. That is up to the parties involved. I don't see the two state solution as being particularly viable, but a one state solution has its issues as well. In the end, everyone is going to have to give up something, and the two sides will each have to decide what they are willing to give up.
The bottom line is, that everyone deserves to live in a place where they feel safe from the violence of other humans. We all need to have a home where we feel we can survive comfortably, where we can raise our families in security, where we can lead lives of dignity. Achieving that goal has proven illusive, not only in the Middle East, but around the world.
Happy New Years!
The beginning of the Islamic year (earlier this week) and the Gregorian year fall closer together this year than they have (or will) for some 33 years. So, yes, happy new years to all!