Palestine Poems after Operation Pillar of Cloud

POETRY FORMAT, 31 Dec 2012

David Smith-Ferri – Voices for Creative Nonviolence

Operation Pillar of Cloud

The name of the Israeli military operation in Gaza is based on the pillar of cloud that accompanied the nation of Israel during the Exodus as they left Egypt and were traveling toward Israel. They wanted protection from the troubles of the desert, from robbers and people that would attack them and from snakes and scorpions. The name is meant to send the message that it is a defensive maneuver.
––Eytan Buchman, head of the North American media desk for the IDF

Six days into the aerial attack on Gaza, 84 percent of the Israeli public supports Operation Pillar of Defense, with 12 percent opposing it, according to a Haaretz-Dialog poll taken Sunday. The poll surveyed proportional samples of Jews and Arabs, indicating that Jewish support for the war stands at upwards of 90 percent.
––Haaretz, November 19, 2012

The Israeli military’s eight-day assault
on the people of Gaza
was no downy pillar of cloud
no feathered wing
moving lightly across the landscape
defending its chicks
leading the way
to life.

It was iron talon and hooked beak.
It was switchblade and brass knuckles
a heavy metal club in the dark
from behind.
It was panes of glass
falling from the sky
opening arteries
severing limbs.
It was piano wire and guillotine
a child’s blood on the walls.

Which is to say
it was the same as the 2009 assault
and the one before that
and so on.

For something else,
listen to Palestinian ambulance drivers
who arrive at the scenes of missile attacks
and offer a lifeline,
who themselves are targeted by ‘double taps,’
secondary missile attacks at bomb sites
after rescue workers have arrived.

“I do it,” Shadi says,
“for the sake of my country.”
And Aadl, who graduated in journalism,
who suffers “until this moment” from PTSD,
“I want to give more and more to my people.”

For something different
listen to Palestinian doctors.
“Part of the problem is psychological…
I hate hatred.
We should talk with Israeli people
and learn what they actually want.
Start with the ten percent of Israeli society that is sane
and work from there.”

For words that will stop you
in your tracks
and then point the way to life
listen to the al-Nasser family,
whose fifteen year old son, Odai, was killed
in his bed
in the middle of the night
when shrapnel
like a chainsaw
cut him.

Listen to Odai’s aunt.

“Over the years
our neighborhood has been attacked five times.
During their operations
Israeli soldiers take over my home
and fire on Palestinians from it.
They also urinate in my pots and pans
and defecate nearby in the yard.
I clean up after them
because they won’t do it.
When they first arrive
they use me
as a shield
while they search my house
even though no
one else is in it.
During this most recent attack
I was locked in my kitchen
for most of the time
and I had to ask a soldier for permission
before I could use the outdoor restroom.

There is so much to be sad about.
In Palestine
and in Israel.
We are sad about rockets killing Israelis, too.
We care about their children, too.
Their suffering
and our suffering
are the same.”


David Smith-Ferri has been an active member of Voices in the Wilderness/Voices for Creative Nonviolence since his first trip to Iraq in July of 1999. He is an activist poet, whose newly released book, Battlefield without Borders (Haley’s Publishing), portrays his encounters with Iraqi people and the events that have shaped their lives over the last eight years. Many of the poems were written in Iraq. Smith-Ferri writes in language that is accessible and powerful, and in a voice that is grounded in his experience. His poems are both a reflection on that experience and an attempt to voice the longings and the perspective of people caught in the vortex of war — Iraqi people, the families of US soldiers, et al.

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