Excerpt: Wrapped in the Flag of Israel

The Israel-Palestine conflict in Gaza has escalated in recent weeks, with a level of violence not seen since the 2014 Gaza War. In the following excerpt from her revised and updated edition of Wrapped in the Flag of Israel: Mizraḥi Single Mothers and Bureaucratic Torture (Nebraska, 2018), Smadar Lavie describes the destruction near Sderot that is being targeted once again.

 

The War on Gaza — Protective Edge

Between 8 July and 27 August 2014, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) launched Operation Protective Edge, the War on Gaza. The operation involved a forty-nine-day massive aerial and ground artillery bombardment followed by a deployment of IDF soldiers who fought in the streets and homes of Gazans.

In this round, Ḥamas missiles struck White City, Tel Aviv. The Palestinian death toll was approximately 2,200 and consisted mostly of civilians (BBC 2014a). More than 11,000 were wounded (Defense for Children International 2015). According to a UN Development Programme report (2014), one in four people in Gaza was forced to flee their home during the seven-week Israeli operation. IDF air force, ground artillery, and infantry destroyed almost all Gazan infrastructure. Hospitals, schools, and mosques were reduced to rubble. Gazans suffered an Israeli-made disaster that was unparalleled since the 1948 Nakba. During that same period, sixty-six Israeli soldiers and seven civilians were killed. One thousand six hundred and twenty soldiers and 837 civilians were wounded (BBC 2014a). The War on Gaza destroyed what Oslo Boomtime foreign capital had built. It hammered the last nail in the coffin of the two-state solution peace plan. While the Nakba exiled Palestinians from their homeland, the Zionist regime had left infrastructure intact, at least temporarily, to accommodate a forthcoming mass migration that was mostly Mizraḥi. Soon thereafter, the Israeli regime detonated most of it. Gaza 2014 was even more destructive. It hardly left anything intact.

Israelis watching air strikes, Sderot, Israel, 15.7.2014
Sderot’s Mizraḥi residents gather at dusk to watch July 2014 bombings of the Gaza
Strip. Oren Ziv/ActiveStills, 2014.

The escalation roused me from bed. I shuffled in my pajamas to my Palestinian neighbors next door. They have satellite, al-dish. Other diasporic Arabs from our ’hood came for the extra-large TV and brought potluck. These were Ramadan nights. We were to feast. But shrouded in the San Francisco fog, we huddled in front of the screen. No one ate a thing.

I had to shake it off. So I headed to the Mendocino Middle Eastern Music and Dance Summer Camp. It is nestled in towering, ancient redwoods. What a blast! Each summer, it attracts some of the best Middle Eastern musicians and performers in North America for weeklong master classes, jam sessions, and classical dance. There was neither Internet access nor cell-phone reception. We tried to embrace the California mantra and live in the moment. But yet again, that umbilical cord. Folks carpooled to town to log on for Gaza updates. When they returned, I timidly asked for the latest from Ashdod and Tel Aviv. No one is smiling in my photos.

Scanning my Facebook feed, I glimpsed a photo showing a scene at dusk outside Sderot, a small, largely Mizraḥi desert town about five kilometers from the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip. It has also been a constant target for Ḥamas rockets for the past fifteen years. PTSD is endemic. The town is a stronghold of Mizraḥi culture (Saada-Ophir 2006). With high unemployment rates, an ever-increasing cost of living, and shrinking social services, Sderotis were to join forces with HaLo Neḥmadim. In the Facebook photo, Sderotis were instead taking in the military spectacle of IDF bombardments on Gaza. As the Mediterranean breeze wafted east from the Gaza shores, they left the cool comfort of their air-conditioned homes to spend the summer outside watching the war while picnicking, drinking espresso, and eating popcorn (Mackey 2014).

“One people, one heart,” is a popular bumper sticker.

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Halfway through the Gaza War, Israel granted the Palestinians a respite. Ever resilient, Palestinian families used the cease-fire to celebrate the end of Ramadan, ‘Id al-Fiṭr, to enjoy a holiday meal amid the rubble of their homes and mosques.

Responding to the extent of the civilian carnage, six months later, in December, the European High Court decided it would remove Ḥamas from their list of terrorist organizations (Withnall 2014).

 

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