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Guilty until proven innocent

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The Israeli military carried out air strikes in the Gaza Strip that killed six Palestinians following the shootout in Eilat [REUTERS]by Yasmeen El Khoudary

The mini war that Israel waged on Gaza following the turmoil in South Israel is just another perfect example of how Gaza is the Middle East's "Biggest Loser." Caught in a thorny network composed of selfish interests and different agendas, the 1.5 million people of Gaza are indeed the biggest losers when it comes to just about anything in the Middle East.

Our destiny does not lie within our hands. We do not have any control over even the smallest aspects of our lives. We do not enjoy the luxury of planning for tomorrow, let alone next week. We, the people of Gaza, valiantly try to go on with our daily lives as if things are in perfect order. But there are times when things are so bleak and so dark that everything we have been trying to build collapses in the blink of an eye.

On Thursday, and after a rough night full of Israeli air attacks on different locations in the Gaza Strip, we woke up to another hot Ramadan day which was interrupted by news about a shooting operation in Eilat, whereby five Israeli soldiers were killed and 36 others were injured. Immediately and without even waiting for the details of the operation to be announced, people started fretting about a likely Israeli attack on Gaza.

It was much like the instantaneous reactions of Muslims in Norway to the terrorist attacks that took Oslo by storm recently, which ignited fear in their hearts because of inevitable racist attacks that they were going to suffer had the attacker been a Muslim. More inevitable than the racist attacks was of course the media threat, which also instantaneously and without any evidence linked the terrorist attacks to Al Qaeda and to Muslim extremists. However, the murderer turned out to be a Norwegian, allowing Norwegian Muslims to heave a sigh of relief.

'We are never safe'

The scenario in Gaza was not very different. The 'operation' killed five soldiers, but nobody knows who led the operation. At first, we read reports indicating that Egypt's involvement, only to find that Israel promptly denied Egypt's intervention before Egypt itself did. Immediately afterwards, we heard Ehud Barak's statements accusing 'Gaza' of the attacks and promising to "punish those who were responsible". How he came to that conclusion, what evidence he holds, or who in Gaza he thinks is responsible, we have no idea (and neither does he, I'm starting to believe). What we know for sure is that we are doomed, and that ahead of us lies what might be a live reminder of Cast Lead, regardless of the fact that not a piece of evidence connected the people of Gaza to the Eilat operation.

That is the only difference between the case with Norwegian Muslims and us. The former were safe after the truth was revealed, but we are never safe - with or without the truth. Between Israel, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, the USA, and whoever happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, we, the innocent people of Gaza, can be found struggling to catch our breath from under the feet of these selfish giants whenever something happens. Today is no exception- and as usual, there's no one that can be blamed cost-free but the people of Gaza. Even if Egypt was involved in this operation, it seemed that Israel was emphasizing 'Gaza's' sole responsibility for the operation because it felt like avenging and retaliating. I would not be surprised if the communication blackout that was imposed on Gaza ten days ago was the first of many to come, and that we might be experiencing one in case a military operation is indeed launched.

Amidst the wild rumors, leaks and speculations, the constant Israeli threats, the rising toll of people killed and injured by Israel, Friday prayers around the Strip calmed people down. In times like these, mosques play a very important role, by reading soothing prayers, make urgent announcements, etc. Last Friday, however, and as Israel was bombing Gaza, the Imam leading the prayers in the mosque next to our house was concerned with something else. He dedicated his sermon and his prayers to Somalia and asked people to donate to it. That humanity, that beating human conscience and respect for human life are the qualities that are inseparable from Palestinians, even if the world might think otherwise.

Whether what awaits us is another cruel Israeli attack where we would be both the aggressor and the victim, or whether it's going to be a deceiving live political soap opera where we sit back and watch, we do not know. We will wait for it to happen, because the selfish world decides our fate. It is because we, the people of Gaza, are guilty until proven innocent - if ever.

Yasmeen El Khoudary is a freelance writer based in Gaza, occupied Palestine. She graduated from the American University in Cairo with a BA in Political Science, and works now as a self-employed writer and researcher. She blogs at yelkhoudary.blogspot.com


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