Monday, December 29, 2008


I just got off the phone with my friend Nizar. I met him when he was
getting his Masters at the University of Michigan last year, under a
scholarship from the Academy for Educational Development. He returned
last summer to his wife, children, and UN job in the Gaza Strip.

Typically, when I hear from Nizar after incursions, bombardments, or
several days of consecutive border closures, he is unfathomably
optimistic. He brushes off my apprehensions and moves on to more
interesting things. What do I think about the Annapolis conference?
What did I do for Thanksgiving?

On Saturday, I received an email from him that said simply, "this time
is very different."

The first thing he told me over the phone is that he is fine. His wife
and children have not been hurt in the aerial bombardments that have
taken place since Saturday, in which over 300 people have been killed.
The second thing he told me is that this is not the end. Israel is
planning a ground invasion and he is sure his village will be
effected. Beit Hanoun, situated along the northern border with Israel,
has been the scene of sporadic Israeli incursions and aerial attacks
since 2005.

Nizar's fears are not limited to the anticipation of an incursion,
however. "The Beit Hanoun security station is 70 meters away from my
house," his calm voice quivered. "It hasn't been hit yet."

If Israel continues its attacks targeting Gaza's security apparatus,
the police station in Nizar's community will undoubtedly be hit.
Nizar, his family, and his neighbors will be at risk of becoming yet
another statistic of civilian casualties. An estimated one-third of the
casualties in Gaza since Saturday have been civilian.

Before I hang up the phone, I say, "Please let me know if there is
anything I can do for you," and
we both burst out laughing.

Clearly, there is nothing I can do.

A million paper petitions couldn't construct a white flag big enough
to be seen by an unmanned drone. A
hundred thousand tiny rockets couldn't shoot down that missile and
send the shrapnel to disappear into space. All the hubris and spite
from the mouths of comfortable leaders couldn't make Gaza into a
fortress. All the condemnations from foreign heads of state are buried
in the debris.

Elizabeth Detwiler, American
Washington, DC

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