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When Israelis escape to shelters

Nov. 19, 2012 7:46 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 22, 2012 4:36 P.M.)
By: Rashid Shahin
From my own experience, when I was living in Baghdad during the war on Iraq in 2003, I can recall how dreadful the feeling of the people was when they heard the sirens warning them of a new raid by the American warplanes.

Men and women from upper apartments were coming to our apartment, which was in the first floor, looking for shelter. At the time, no shelter could protect anybody from the destructive missiles striking the city around the clock.

I could see the fear in the eyes of men, women and children; some of the women were not able to hide their fear, and they were crying, shivering and weeping in a way that would break anyone's heart.

I remember how I was trying to protect my little child Omar -- who was less than three years old -- by putting headphones on his ears and playing the stereo on the highest volume so he wouldn't hear the roaring of the American warplanes which struck Baghdad randomly.

It is not easy to see people, especially children, whoever they are, wherever they are, whichever nationality or religion they are, running fearfully, escaping danger, to hide in a shelter, here or there, under a tree or behind a wall, or in a very well-reinforced shelter.

Unfortunately, in the latest Israeli war on the Gaza Strip, pictures are circulating in the international media mostly one side. Because Israel had banned much of the international media from entering Gaza, many try to go through Egypt. The Egyptians authorities often prevent their access, too.

It was not only the Israeli mass media -- and many amongst the Western media -- that manipulate the realities on both sides of the war front.

Western politicians, especially the British, Canadians and Americans, use the same tone and show clearly biased positions; they place responsibility on the shoulders of Hamas and other Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip, ignoring the fact that there was a deal on the table before the Hamas leader was assassinated.

It is clear that they have ignored the fact that the Strip was and still is under occupation for more than four decades, and that the Gazans are suffering a very strict siege for almost six years, during which the Israelis were counting how many calories a person should have in order not to die.

These politicians see only the few rockets -- mostly homemade -- falling in open areas or in the sea near Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; they can't see the very developed rockets with the huge destruction heads striking one of the most populated areas in the world.

On Sunday morning, Israeli warplanes struck two buildings in which international media outlets are based, injuring at least six of the journalists inside.

Three days before, the same jets killed an infant -- 11 months old -- of a BBC photographer.

The Western governments and politicians seem to ignore the threats of Israeli leaders, who are threatening to bring the Strip back to the Middle Ages.

Blaming the Palestinians in the last "war" on Gaza will not change the fact that Israel is responsible for the unsettled situation in the region.

Since it was established in 1948, Israel has launched several wars against Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and attacked Iraq, Tunisia and recently Sudan.

Western politicians and media can't see the acts and deeds of Israel; they don’t dare to blame Israel for all the crimes it carries out against innocent people in many areas in the region. All they can see is a homemade rocket landing in the sea near Tel Aviv and listen to the sirens in Jerusalem - what hypocrisy.

The Israeli and Western media are using the "suffering" of the Israeli people in order to defame Palestinians, trying to focus on how Israeli civilians are rushing to escape and seek protection of what they call "the Palestinian rockets and terror".

For one reason or another, few of these mass media outlets try to show how the Palestinians are also trying to seek shelter from the destructive Israeli rockets.

It could be understandable if the media were neutral in showing both sides of the scene, but to focus on the one empty half of the bottle is mere unfairness.

What we have been watching in the Israeli media in the last few days is disgusting and pathetic, especially the way they use the scene of the Israelis rushing to shelters.

The question is, what about the Palestinians who were seeking shelter for more than six decades? In fact the Palestinians never had shelter to hide behind or under; they were running and escaping under an open sky, in open areas, they never had a safe place to hide.

For more than six decades, the Palestinian people were running and still do so.

The media are involved in this war, especially when none attempt to show what and how the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are suffering.

Those in charge of the mass media are trying to seek how things are going on the other side of the war front. All they are interested in is how things are in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, but what about those living in Gaza, are they suffering or they are sleeping well, what they are doing during this time of war, how they feel under this American machine of destruction which the State of Israel has, can they sleep or not, do they dare to leave their homes, do they have places to hide or what, is there any shelter like what Israeli civilians have or not?

Those involved journalists have not tried to find answers, too few of them attempted to travel to Gaza to learn the truth or how life was going on in that part of the world.

For the Palestinians, this round of unjust war will end. They might lose this battle, but this will not be the end of the story nor will it be the end of the world; they are sure they have the right to defend themselves, they are sure they are defending their rights, and they believe that freedom has a price, no matter how much it will cost, and they are ready to pay the price.

The question is, can the world understand this equation or not?

Rashid Shahin is a Palestinian journalist based in Bethlehem.
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