Defiance that Launched Gaza’s Flaming Kites Cannot Be Extinguished

Jonathan Cook, Palestine Chronicle, June 25, 2018

Israel built a sophisticated missile interception system named Iron Dome to
neutralize the threat of homemade rockets fired out of Gaza.
teenagers prepare their ‘flaming kites’ near the Gaza fence. (Photo: via
Next, it
created technology that could detect and destroy tunnels Palestinians had cut
through the parched earth deep under the fences Israel erected to imprison Gaza
on all sides.
priority was to keep Gaza locked down with a blockade and its two million
inhabitants invisible.
Israel is facing a new and apparently even tougher challenge: how to stop
Palestinian resistance from Gaza using flaming kites, which have set fire to lands
close by in Israel. F-16 fighter jets are equipped to take on many foes but not
the humble kite.
various innovations by Palestinians are widely seen by Israelis as part of the
same relentless campaign by Hamas to destroy their country.
But from inside
Gaza, things look very different. These initiatives are driven by a mix of
recognizably human emotions: a refusal to bow before crushing oppression; a
fear of becoming complicit through silence and inaction in being erased and
forgotten; and a compelling need to take back control of one’s life.
encaged in Gaza, denied entry and exit by Israel via land, sea, and air for
more than a decade, know that life there is rapidly becoming unsustainable.
Most young people are unemployed, much of the infrastructure and housing are
irreparably damaged, and polluted water sources are near-unpotable.
waves of military attacks, Gaza’s children are traumatized with mental scars
that may never heal.
catastrophe was carefully engineered by Israel, which renews and enforces it
The kites
have long served as a potent symbol of freedom in Gaza. Children have flown
them from the few spots in the tiny, congested enclave where people can still
breathe – from rooftops or on Gaza’s beaches.
Five years
ago, the film Flying Paper documented the successful efforts of Gaza’s children
to set a new world record for mass kite-flying. The children defied Israel’s
blockade, which prevents entry of most goods, by making kites from sticks,
newspapers, and scraps of plastic.
children’s ambition was – if only briefly – to retake Gaza’s skies, which
Israel dominates with its unseen, death-dealing drones that buzz interminably
overhead and with missiles that can flatten a building in seconds.
A young
girl observed of the kite’s lure: “When we fly the kite, we know that
freedom exists.”
A message
scrawled on one read:
“I have
the right to pride, education, justice, equality, and life.”
But the
world record attempt was not only about the children’s dreams and their
defiance. It was intended to highlight Gaza’s confinement and to issue a
reminder that Palestinians too are human.
That same
generation of children has grown into the youths being picked off weekly by
Israeli snipers at unarmed protests at the perimeter fence – the most visible
feature of Israel’s infrastructure of imprisonment.
A few
have taken up kite-flying again. If they have refused to put away childish
things, this time they have discarded their childish idealism. Their world
record did not win them freedom, nor even much notice.
After the
snipers began maiming thousands of the demonstrators, including children,
medics, and journalists, for the impudence of imagining they had a right to
liberty, the enclave’s youths reinvented the kite’s role.
If it failed
to serve as a reminder of Palestinians’ humanity, it could at least remind
Israel and the outside world of their presence, of the cost of leaving two
million human beings to rot.
So the
kites were set on fire, flaming emissaries that brought a new kind of reckoning
for Israel when they landed on the other side of the fence.
inhabitants can still see the lands from which many of them were expelled
during the mass dispossession of the Palestinian people in 1948 – under western
colonial sponsorship – to create a Jewish state.
Not only
were those lands taken from them, but the Jewish farming communities that
replaced them now irrigate their crops using water Palestinians are deprived
of, including water seized from aquifers under the West Bank.
The kites
have rained fire down on this idyll created by Israel at the expense of Gaza’s
inhabitants. No one has been hurt but Israel claims that extinguishing the
fires has already cost some $2 million and 7,000 acres of farmland have been
given the profound sense of entitlement that afflicts many Israelis, a small
dent in their material well-being has not pricked consciences about the
incomparably greater suffering only a few kilometers away in Gaza.
Israel’s public security minister Gilad Erdan called last week for anyone
flying a kite, even young children, to be shot. He and other ministers have
argued that another large-scale military assault on Gaza is necessary to create
what Erdan has termed “durable deterrence”.
moment seems to be moving inexorably closer. The last few days have seen Israel
launch punitive air strikes to stop the kites and Palestinian factions
retaliate by firing significant numbers of rockets out of Gaza for the first
time in years.
The Trump
administration is no longer pretending to mediate. It has publicly thrown in
its hand with Israel. It withdrew last week from the United Nations Human
Rights Council, accusing it of being a “cesspool of political bias” after the
council criticised Israel for executing Gaza’s unarmed demonstrators.
On a
visit to the region last week, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, and
adviser urged ordinary Palestinians to rebel against their leaders’ refusal to
accept a long-awaited US peace plan that all evidence suggests will further
undermine Palestinian hopes of a viable state.
is apparently unaware that the Palestinian public is expressing its will, for
liberation, by protesting at the Gaza fence – and risking execution by Israel
for doing so.
Prince William is due in Israel on Monday, the first British royal to make an
official visit since the mandate ended 70 years ago. While Kensington Palace
has stressed that the trip is non-political, William will meet both Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in an
itinerary that has already been claimed by both sides as a victory.
From the
vantage point of the Mount of Olives, from which he will view Jerusalem’s Old
City, the prince may not quite manage to see the kite battles in Gaza’s skies
that underscore who is Goliath and who is David. But he should see enough in
the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem to understand that western leaders
have decisively chosen the side of Goliath.