Surfers, by and large, have a reputation for aloof stupidity, saltwater-crusted brains with very little functioning power, though I think very much ill-deserved. As a group, we are relatively well-traveled or, at the very least, have friends and acquaintances who are. Global events affect our comings and goings, our World Surf League Championship Tour, our hither and thither and so it is of little surprise that the quickly expanding Israel-Palestine conflict is both captivating and polarizing the surf world.
Only the most dense will be unaware that, over the weekend, Hamas, the political party/resistance movement that rules the Gaza Strip, hugging the Mediterranean to Israel’s south, sent fighters through the border, kidnapping, killing and otherwise shattering a sense of inertia that had settled over the region.
It was one of the biggest intelligence failures in Israel’s history and its embattled Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, promised to deliver “mighty vengeance,” calling up over 300,000 reservists and pounding Gaza City with bombs ahead of a certain ground invasion.
The death toll, there, is already high and will soar as the Palestinians taste Israeli rage.
What then to think?
Surf feminist hero Lucy Small took the tact, essentially, that Israel is a brutal and oppressive apartheid state and posted #freepalestine on her influential Instagram account, adding, “End the violence, end the occupation.”
The other side, that Israel is “the region’s only democracy,” a proud country surrounded by savages who wish only for its destruction, came hammering back, with, “In Sydney, Palestinian people celebrated with fireworks the death of hundreds of innocents, looks like u and others here support this shocking,, u live in such a happy country and support terrorism ( or u can call it different after what they done ,, scary.”
Where do you land?
I spent some weeks in Israel/Palestine during my undergraduate studies, driving over from Egypt certain that I would fall in love with the courageous Israelis and their slice of desert they had “made bloom.” I was, instead, struck by the absolutely untenable position the Palestinians had been forced into and their struggle. Settlements, checkpoints, consistent acts of dehumanization around every corner for those sporting keffiyeh or hijab.
I have also tasted the aforementioned Israeli rage in Lebanon when three soldiers were kidnapped by Hezbollah, in 2006, and taken over the border prompting a full-scale invasion. Sitting up in the hills outside Sidon, at night, and watching the whole south getting pounded, ground shaking. Riding a motor scooter through Beirut, getting blown right out, almost getting lit up by Palestinian guns then spending some quality time with Hezbollah.
Around 1300 Lebanese lost their lives during that war. 165 Israelis did and, again, that was over three soldiers at a disputed border as opposed to this past weekend’s Hamas invasion leaving 800 Israelis dead inside Israel and possibly hundreds more absconded back to Gaza.
Which brings us back to our present trouble. Hamas knew exactly what was going to happen in the wake of its attack. Knew that Israel will, basically, bulldoze the entire Gaza Strip, burying as many Palestinians as it can exactly like it did to the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon during the 1982 civil war.
The group is not naive and, unlike many other regional players, has majority support of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
Hamas knew retribution would be ferocious, all-encompassing, indiscriminate and jumped the border anyway which only suggests an utter abandonment of hope.
When a people have lost hope what then can be done?