Jul 21, 2009

US Tax Dollars at Work

This is what remains of the American International School in Gaza, bombed by an Israeli Air Force pilot sometime in the early morning of January 3, 2009. The Israeli military spokesman told Ha'aretz that the "American College" site was a munitions storage dump, and therefore the bombing was justified. No weapons remnants have been found. There were no secondary explosions or fires. Anyone with an ounce of intelligence can figure out that a munitions dump would have rendered more destruction than this. I suppose one can argue that the timing of the bombing was humane in that it took place during the night when no children were present. Actually, they failed to take into account the janitor who lived on the premises. But what's a janitor compared to imaginary munitions?

We toured the site. I walked around and saw the athletic fields--and again thought what this could look like undamaged and filled with children and teenagers.

As Amira Hass, the Ha'aretz correspondent, pointed out the "College" is a school for children in grades 1-12. According to its director, the school opened for operation the day before Ariel Sharon led his troupe of policemen to the Al Aqsa mosque, seen by many as the precipitating event of the Second Intifada. It will cost $7.12 million to bring the school back to operation, over $5 million of which will be needed to reconstruct the building itself. Of course, the Israeli government is refusing to allow construction materials to enter the Gaza Strip, but what's the problem?

According to Hass, the school was intended to attract international families moving to Gaza after the Oslo accords, but in fact it became a school for the children of the upper classes of Gaza, the political leaders. It had "a Western look and feel to it: a full day of studies, class size limited to only 20 students at most, lots of open space, boys and girls in the same classrooms, universal and liberal education, English as the language of instruction (Arabic and Islamic or Christian studies were taught in Arabic), music, computers and physical education." Though the international clientele never materialized due to the political turmoil, the local Gazans sending their children to school there suggested that the overcrowded public schools were not adequate.

Ironically, the school was trashed and vandalized in April of 2007 and January 2008 by unknown parties. The motives apparently were religious, because the school represented a departure from more traditional (and religiously based) values. You would have thought that Israel might have spared the school in order to sow ideological divisions. Hamas is ideologically opposed to the school, and yet promised to protect it after the vandalism. The school still operates in an older building in an older section of Gaza City.
About the man who was killed in the attack, the school janitor. His father lived nearby and went looking for his son immediately after the bombing. Had there been munitions exploding secondarily it might have been difficult to enter the rubble and call for his son. This was his second son to be killed. A third son was seriously injured by Israeli flechettes fired into a crowd of people, and is hospitalized in Egypt. Flechettes are little darts bundled together into a munition. This is the modern version of the thousands of arrows that you see in movies about medieval warfare. Flechettes were fired by a tank a few years ago and killed a TV journalist in his clearly identified vehicle. The Israeli military explained it by saying that the hand held camera was mistaken for a rocket launcher.

All of this material about the American International School was mentioned to Senator John Kerry when he was in Gaza. So where is Kerry when you need him? Speaking of assistance, where is the first dollar of the billions in reconstruction aid pledged by various nations to rebuild Gaza after the Israeli onslaught? Oh, that!

We send millions of dollars in aid to Israel every day, but there is no accounting. This is another example of collective punishment that we encourage by our uncritical support of the Israeli government. The auditing and accountability are long overdue.

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