Gaza children are dying, but Israeli journalists report on an owl injured by Hamas. Priorities wrong?

Published August 3rd, 2014 - 06:23 GMT

War is cruel and the weapons of war don’t discriminate. So it was inevitable, I suppose, that an owl would become one casualty of the ongoing Gaza conflict.

What was not inevitable was that the bird (now recovering nicely, thank you) would become more familiar to readers of the Jewish press than the hundreds of children killed so far by Israeli bombs and shelling as their homes are razed to the ground. He was given the best veterinary attention and is now resting in a safari park.

For a country where poisoning stray cats is official policy in many towns and cities, these stories do not emanate from the kindness of people’s hearts but from the expectation that will touch the soft animal-loving hearts of others.

The point I’m trying to make here is that the fog of war may be destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of Gazans, but on the Israeli side there is still enough clarity to take advantage of every PR shtick in the book.

I have nothing against owls. Indeed, I am very fond of them and was even before Harry Potter. But the rockets that injured this one – not fatally, mind – came from a place where children are dying for lack of medical supplies and food as well as bombs. And where animals – mostly beasts of burden made to earn their livings – are starving alongside their young because there is not enough food for the humans.

We have become accustomed to seeing horrifying images of injured babies and children in Gaza. But in spite of Tuesday night being arguably the worst so far (over 100 known killed, many more still buried under the rubble) Gaza has generally been relegated down the news agendas.

So you will not have heard of Raid Issa, an artist who has exhibited worldwide and won artist-in-residence fellowships in France and Switzerland. About six weeks ago, he had a one-man-show in Ramallah, but Israel wouldn’t let him travel from Gaza to the West Bank for it.

Raid’s crime is that one of his brothers is a senior Hamas commander. But when the IDF called to tell him to evacuate the building – in the knowledge that the brother was not in it – he only had time to get the children out.

“I earn a living from my drawings”, he told Haaretz, “and now they’re all buried beneath the ruins”.

The policy of destroying the houses of “terrorists” has been implemented by Israel unsuccessfully for decades. Far from deterring attacks it makes the survivor angrier and more desperate for revenge.

So far, around 560 throughout Gaza have been intentionally destroyed by the IDF, targeted for having some association with Hamas leaders who are known to be in hiding elsewhere.

But, according to preliminary data gathered by the Gazan health and housing ministries, 2,330 buildings have been totally destroyed in Gaza so far. Another 2,080 have been partially destroyed to such a degree that it’s doubtful they can be repaired. Of 23,000 other buildings damaged, there were 65 mosques, 20 schools, two churches and a Christian cemetery.

“My oldest son, aged 4, asked me, ‘When are we going home?’” Raid Issa said. “I took him to the ruined house. He asked me, ‘Daddy, who broke the house?’ I told him the planes of the Israelis. He asked me why, and I told him they ‘broke’ ours like they broke others.

“And then he said:  ‘I’ll break the Israelis’ house like they broke my house.’”

I don’t think telling him about the owl will help break this horror cycle of hate and death.

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