I have 508 Facebook friends. One of them is a girl from Israel and another is a boy from Gaza. I met them both in the summer of 2009 when I went to study for a month at the University of Bayreuth in southern Germany.
This weekend the boy from Gaza posted pictures of destroyed homes, families covered in blood and clouds of smoke in the sky. The Israeli girl posted pictures of the sub-par bomb shelter she had been hiding in.
Some people left comments along the lines of “We stand with Israel” on the girl’s wall. She said it was the worst thing to say because Israel had “started it.”
At work, we’re following developments. The politicians are so tentative. Obama talks about Israel’s right to defend itself and neglects to mention the mounting civilian deaths. The German press secretary reminds us that Israel is firing in response to rockets from Gaza.
We showed footage of an overturned truck carrying tomatoes in Gaza. Three brothers inside were killed when it was hit by a rocket.
The screens showing agency video feeds flitted back and forth between footage of destruction and diplomacy. The UN condemns civilian deaths, western politicians don’t mention them, Egypt says it won’t tolerate them.
Polite conversation skirts around the violence. People don’t like to pass remarks on Israel. They think Hamas is dodgy so maybe there’s no other way. Not many like to defend killing children, and brothers driving trucks full of tomatoes. And when images of wailing women searching for loved ones amid destroyed buildings pops up on the screen, they don’t know where to look.
Meanwhile in Mali, Islamic militants have taken control of the north. Their leaders hold up guns and say they’re fighting with weapons, not words. Women have begun covering their hair. They might make the news tomorrow.