The Question of Gaza – Just one more catastrophe (among too many others)?

The Question of Gaza – Just one more catastrophe (among too many others)?



“Here on a hill slope facing the sunset and the wide-gaping

gun barrel of time

near orchards of severed shadows

we do as prisoners and the unemployed do:

we nurse hope.”

(Mahmoud Darwish – ‘State of Siege’)


How can you not, in this ungodly “civilisation”, but think (wonder perhaps more correctly?) of the dark malevolence and almost-religious evil of recent history whether that of ISIS/DAESH in their short but murderous campaign through Syria and Iraq (& Kurdistan), of Hamas now in their deep suppressed rage that slaughtered those 1,200 who were surely not all the soldiers of oppression nor the shrill-religious (and economic-opportunistic) settlers of the Occupied West Bank but probably nearly-innocent young-and-other people more likely ignorant (if selfishly, carelessly) of a lifetime or two of the suffering imposed by their fathers, mothers, grandparents on an entire people; or even of our own “freedom”-fighting IRA men and women since the 1960’s who planted bombs in (empty but not always) parked cars in downtown cities that were shortly to savagely dismember others who were both innocent and ignorant of our-own well remembered suffering at the hands of another monstrous (in retrospect) Empire and its “settler colonists”?..


There are far too many kinds of these memories – like Frantz Fanon before his death, wondering in the midst of the Algerian struggle against the “settler-colonists” of North Africa, at the ongoing hatred and savagery that made him question the return of these deeds to the human “conscience” – (in this instance the trauma of an Algerian bomber who had killed 10 ‘pied noirs’, “innocent” or not, in his bombing of a café) – at a time and maybe a place where the hurt and the rage, like a very long-meandering river, have found their way eventually to an ocean (of history) where they can now sleep in the awareness that even evil and its violence pass and this human-animal, or those left to pick up the pieces, can move on:


“In other words, our actions never cease to haunt us. The way they are ordered, organized, and reasoned can be a posteriori radically transformed. It is by no means the least of the traps history and its many determinations set for us. But can we escape vertigo? Who dares claim that vertigo does not prey on every life?” (Fanon, writing on Colonial War and Mental Disorders in “The Wretched of The Earth”).


Mahmoud Darwish, the Palestinian poet, who himself spent a lifetime confronted by tragedy and bloodshed, wrote in ‘State of Siege’ (Written in January 2002, in Ramallah, Palestine – “while the poet himself was under siege in Ramallah during the Israeli invasion of 2002”):


“To a killer:

if you had looked into the face of your victim

and thought carefully,

you might have remembered your mother in the Gas Chamber,

and freed yourself from the rifle’s prejudice

and changed your mind.

Come now, this is no way to restore an identity!”


So the wonder, the insistent questions, that can never be erased from the map of the human mind in its search for something better, then constantly remain, or return, to haunt us in our search for decency, for an end to cruelty and violence..?


How can all this happen?

How can a being with so much potential become so consumed by savagery and rage that it can be turned into a machine and let run amok among its fellow beings?


The immediate and ongoing catastrophe of Gaza haunts the mind. Not just the images but the widespread inexcusable excuses for slaughter and inhumanity, thought out, engineered and put into practice by a people presumably much like ourselves and hopefully with the capacity for so much more…


Perhaps the “dis-ease’ of this question is merely an affliction lodged within an un-(or over)-developed brain or mind while the rest of us (the majority, I suppose) operate under the flag of “business-as-usual” ignoring the too-often dismal behaviour of this (in)human(e) species we seem to have become?


But I wonder….


Especially now…in this time of immeasurable savagery:


“To measure the distance between being and nothingness,

soldiers use the scopes mounted on their tanks.


We use our sixth sense to measure the distance

between our bodies and flying shells.”

(Darwish – ‘State of Siege’)


…most of it carried on in the silence and darkness that allows the perpetrators to indulge their inhuman “appetites”, if that is the correct word… (and words are important when we now witness their appalling prostitution to the most selfish and savage of ends and means…)


Gaza, though, in its bottomless heartbreak, has become a visible wound – despite the Israeli media machine – which, it appears, has been breaking down if not to the extent of being “farce” in the midst of so much unspeakable suffering then at least hopefully to the extent of waking more of us up to the unmerciful presence of These Enormous Lies that are designed to confuse, bewilder, numb, silence and, in the end, facilitate the predators among us who believe they can only benefit by the normalisation of what others experience as a nightmare, a catastrophe, an ongoing nakba… perhaps, now, once again apparently on its way to become Our History – that of one more murderous irrational venture with its Promise of More-To-Come as we descend down into the darkness of our inability to come up with something better than “business-as-usual” (this applies to our current climate catastrophe, obviously, as much as it does to the present ongoing inhumanity we are witnessing, in Gaza and elsewhere, with little if no adequate response)…


So only a question might remain…


And the need for someone to give a voice to it…


“0 that doves might grow up in the Ministry of Defence,


0 that they might…”  (Mahmoud Darwish – ‘A Soldier Dreams of White Lilies’)


I know thousands upon thousands, thankfully, all over the world have given it their own voice in their marching on the streets of so many cities to tell this Mr Netanyahu and his cabinet that – no matter the depth of their own suffering (of which we are aware, let it be said, and loudly, lest we be called “anti-Semitic” as a way of ending the conversation) – their years of systematic and thoughtless savagery are now coming home to roost in the hearts and minds of a world that has become so small in its disasters as in the hopes and dreams that are now being destroyed each day since that fateful October 7, 2023…


Nakba... Catastrophe piled on Catastrophe.


So the Question has arisen; it rises up like the ghost of too many dead who can never sleep peacefully in the unholy silence of their own unredeemed slaughter in too many places, moments, situations… the question is also now surfacing everywhere, on the streets, via wifi, telephone, TV, in the great book of the Internet, on the floors of parliaments and assemblies… the ghosts are coming back to haunt the oppressors, it seems…


and likewise… the time might now be at hand to face the task of confronting the powerful lies and the angry rhetoric of those who find excuses for the murder of some, but, of course, not others…


So surface it will… surface it needs (if we as a human-animal-species are ever to find salvation, redemption) …and about bloody time… if only for the moment the catastrophic heartbreak of Gaza allows (before this “business-as-usual” returns once more)…


So let the question  arise… along with these ghosts of all those slaughtered in the name of human progress, survival, or sheer stupidity…


And at this moment – hopefully what is being born is now an opportunity for The World (currently it would appear hanging in at 50.1% of its best; the rest either asleep or themselves lost in the fog of war and savagery) to say: enough!


Enough! Here and now: to Murder. To Slaughter. To Genocide. To Massacre. To Ethnic Cleansing. To Bloodshed. To Inhumanity.


“When warplanes leave the sky

white doves take flight

to scrub the blue with their free wings,

restoring its magnificent sheen and their sovereignty over

open space and play, their white wings

soaring higher and higher.

“Ah, If only the sky were real!” said one man

slithering in between two bombs.”

(Mahmoud Darwish ‘State of Siege’)


If there is no other Hope than the ghost of a currently unreasonable question (the why of War, the why of Genocide, the why of Ethnic Cleansing & Holocaust) then let this one, even in its infancy, be passed by word of mouth, from person to person, on and on and on, farther and farther, until enough of us wake up…


…wake up to say: Enough!


“I look out on my language, two days later

A short absence is enough

for Aeschylus to open the door to peace

A short speech is enough

for Antonio to incite war

A hand of a woman in my hand

is enough

to embrace my freedom

and for the ebb and flow to begin anew in my body.”

(Mahmoud Darwish “I See my Ghost Coming from a Distance”)


Let this be a moment when enough people, in enough places, irrespective of whether they are Christian or Muslim, Jewish or Hindu, whatever nationality or ethnicity, or none, whatever other difference they hold of the uncountable differences that makes us what we are: a mongrel species obviously still struggling to evolve out of the mud of the past into the sunlight of a future where savagery and horror, ugliness, insanity (this most-profitable business-as-usual-of-war) no longer find a refuge: say enough!


On This Earth


On this earth what makes life worth living:

the hesitance of April

the scent of bread at dawn

an amulet made by a woman for men

Aeschylus’s works

the beginnings of love

moss on a stone

the mothers standing on the thinness of a flute

and the fear of invaders of memories.

On this earth what makes life worth living:

September’s end

a lady moving beyond her fortieth year without losing any of her grace

a sun clock in a prison

clouds imitating a flock of creatures

chants of a crowd for those meeting their end smiling

and the fear of tyrants of the songs.

On this earth what makes life worth living:

on this earth stands the mistress of the earth

mother of beginnings

mother of endings

it used to be known as Palestine

it became known as Palestine

my lady:

I deserve, because you’re my lady

I deserve life.”

(Mahmoud Darwish in “A Map of Absence”, an Anthology on the Nakba, 2019)




Gaza with its estimated 12,000 dead and rising (at least 6,000 of them children) at the latest count, as each unforgivable day passes, and with its unbearable suffering that has already gone on for far too long, is now hopefully going to wake the World sufficiently to say:




Enough war!


Enough of the numbing shock of waking up to the unholy dark natures we have within us and among us…


Enough! Time for something better!


Time now to end once and for all to this unholy, ungodly, merciless savagery… (as in ‘A Soldier Dreams of White Lilies’ where Darwish asked the soldier

“’Did you grieve?’

Interrupting, he answered: ‘Mahmoud, my friend,

Grief is a white bird

That does not come near the battlefields.

Soldiers sin who grieve.

Over there I was a machine, spitting out fire and death,

Turning space into a blackbird.’”) …exercised by the predators in the name of the most-truly-damaged of this most-ferocious of species!


And as for October 7 itself, (and our grief for all those innocents killed and abducted who we have also wept and raged for!) let Mahmoud Darwish have the last word here:


“In the poem, a “martyr” says: “I love life/On earth, among the pines and the fig trees/But I can’t reach it, so I took aim/With the last thing that belonged to me.” Darwish, who wrote in a Palestinian newspaper after September 11 that “Nothing justifies terrorism,” has clearly opposed attacks on civilians and been a persistent voice for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence. He insists that suicide bombing doesn’t reflect a culture of death but a despair of occupation.


“We have to understand – not justify – what gives rise to this tragedy. It’s not because they’re looking for beautiful virgins in heaven, as Orientalists portray it. Palestinian people are in love with life. If we give them hope – a political solution – they’ll stop killing themselves.”  (The Guardian, 2002)


The end:


To thinking, believing, swallowing the lies of these madmen and women – (for want of a better word, yes, Mr Netanyahu and yourself, Former Israeli Interior Minister Ms. Shaked) – who excuse their own blindness for visions of a world no one in their right mind would care to live within…


“Peace, when the stronger apologizes to the weaker,

who are weaker only in weaponry,

though theirs is the endless horizon.

Peace, the victory of natural beauty over swords –

iron shattered by dewdrops.”

(Mahmoud Darwish, ‘State of Siege’)


And beginning with what is the best of our dreams…”ceasefire-now”, “peace and love”, peace without love, dialogue, equality, humanity, justice, kindness, compassion (not cruelty), “land and bread”, safety and support…no longer just words


“Peace, a well-behaved, gently moving day

antagonizing no one.

Peace, a train where two-way passengers team up together

as they picnic on the outer rims of eternity.”

(Mahmoud Darwish ‘State of Siege’)


And a genuine Humanity, that has to be a possibility, one that is defined by the work of co-operation and compassion… and, obviously now, one defined by a rugged determination to address an extended history of wrongs in its exorcism of Our Evil…and the stupidity and lies that excuse it and the cowardice and lack of integrity that hides from its bullying and its aggression…


“Peace, elegy for a youth hit squarely in the heart

not by bullets or a bomb, but by a woman’s beauty-mark.

Peace, a song for life itself

sung by a tassel of living wheat.”

(Mahmoud Darwish ‘State of Siege’)


Not just words; though now, still just words, probably?..

(“After I wrote twenty lines about love

it seemed to me

the siege had been beaten back

by at least twenty meters.”

Mahmoud Darwish ‘State of Siege’)

…but language, in this incredible darkness (with no candle) still not only defines who we are but also might have the capacity to throw a light on what we can become


…so this Palestinian Poet has told us in his book “almond blossoms and beyond”…


Think of Others


As you prepare your breakfast, think of others

(do not forget the pigeon’s food).

As you wage your wars, think of others

(do not forget those who seek peace).

As you pay your water bill, think of others

(those who are nursed by clouds).

As you return home, to your home, think of others

(do not forget the people of the camps).

As you sleep and count the stars, think of others

(those who have nowhere to sleep).

As you express yourself in metaphor, think of others

(those who have lost the right to speak).

As you think of others far away, think of yourself

(say: If only !were a candle in the dark).


séamas carraher



Over 1,000 Jews & Allies Shut Down Hollywood Blvd. Demanding a Ceasefire in Gaza – 15 November 2023

Marcywinograd, CC0, via via Wikimedia Commons


Video (Poetry & some media reports)


Mahmoud Darwish – Think of Others (a short playlist of Darwish’s poems in English)


Mahmoud Darwish“Identity Card” | محمود درويش — بطاقة الهوية


Some Alternative (to the West’s-One-Dimension) News reports


Francesca Albanese: Western media is living in an alternate reality | The Listening Post


Making sense of Israel and Hamas’s information war | The Listening Post


How hospitals became ‘fair game’ in Gaza | The Listening Post


Is a 2 state solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict possible? | Inside Story


‘Kick Out Israeli Envoy’: Egyptian MPs’ Fiery Anti-Israel Speeches Go Viral | Gaza War


British war surgeon Dr Ghassan Abu Sitta shares his experiences in Gaza at London press conference


‘700-900 children with amputations in Gaza’: Dr Ghassan Abu Sitta


Dr Ghassan Abu Sitta: The destruction of the health system was “the main military objective”


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