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Poems for Raneen Yousef Arafat and the Child Martyrs of Gaza

If we are to have real peace in the world,
we will have to begin with the children.

Raneen Yousef Arafat, age four, killed in Gaza by an Israeli airstrike during Operation Pillar of Fire on November 14, 2012

These are my poems for the child martyrs of Gaza, killed during Israel's operation "Cast Lead," operation "Pillar of Defense" and operation "Protective Edge." Israel's "Pillar of Defense" should more accurately have been called "Pillar of Fire," as it was a column of fire and smoke that led the ancient Hebrews to orgies of war, ethnic cleansing and genocide after the Exodus, according to the Bible.

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

—Michael R. Burch, "Epitaph for a Palestinian Child"

All too often, the victims of Israeli air strikes and missiles are innocent children. According to If Americans Knew, more than 1,400 Palestinian children have been killed by Israel since the year 2000, a number that is constantly rising. “The majority of these [Palestinian] children were killed and injured while going about normal daily activities, such as going to school, playing, shopping, or simply being in their homes. Sixty-four percent of children killed during the first six months of 2003 died as a result of Israeli air and ground attacks, or from indiscriminate fire from Israeli soldiers.”

While the latest military operation against Gaza has been called "Pillar of Defense" and "Pillar of Cloud," the Hebrew name Amud Annan was taken directly from Exodus and refers to the pillar or column of fire that at the time of Moses led the beleaguered ancient Hebrews from one war to another, culminating in the original invasion, ethnic cleansing and genocide of Palestine. There was nothing "defensive" about the column of fire, as Moses and his protégés Joshua and Caleb slaughtered multitudes of defenseless women and children, according to the Bible, making it unlikely that they were being led by a loving, wise, enlightened God. And history does seem to have a way of repeating itself, as in 1948 the first major action of the new state of Israel was to destroy hundreds of Palestinian villages and turn approximately 750,000 Palestinians (mostly weaponless farmers and their families) into homeless refugees. Approximately 75% of the people living in Gaza today are refugees and their descendents.

The births of all things are weak and tender,
therefore we should have our eyes intent on beginnings.
Michel de Montaigne

Even babies are the victims of Israel's advanced weapons, including white phosphorous bombs ... a killing inferno.

I have dedicated the poem below to the memory of Raneen Yousef Arafat, a four-year-old Palestinian girl who was killed by an Israeli airstrike on Gaza. Her name can also be spelled Raneen Youssed Arafat and Raneen Yousuf Arafat. I have also seen her being called Raneen Arafat. Please feel free to share the poem and email it ...

For a Child of Gaza, with Butterflies

by Michael R. Burch

Where does the butterfly go
when lightning rails, when thunder howls,
when hailstones scream while winter scowls
and nights compound dark frosts with snow?
Where does the butterfly go?

Where does the rose hide its bloom
when night descends oblique and chill,
beyond the capacity of moonlight to fill?
When the only relief’s a banked fire’s glow,
where does the butterfly go?

And where shall the spirit flee
when life is harsh, too harsh to face,
and hope is lost without a trace?
Oh, when the light of life runs low,
where does the butterfly go?

Another tiny victim of Israel's operation Pillars of Fire.

According to Reuters, "Panicking civilians ran for cover and the death toll mounted quickly. Ten people including three children were killed, the health ministry said, and about 40 were wounded. Also among the dead were an 11-month-old baby and a woman pregnant with twins."

Israel's Pillar of Fire sets Gaza aflame, incinerating babies and children.

What happens to prospects for world peace when Israel chooses to massacre Palestinians rather than return enough land for them to live normal lives?

“The two-state solution could disappear completely as an option very soon,” according to British Foreign Secretary William Hague, speaking in Cairo as Operation Pillar of Fire continued to unfold. “We are in danger of sleepwalking into a serious crisis.” He was making a point about Israel denying Palestinians any chance at normality, then attacking Gaza as the Israeli-Palestinian relationship constantly deteriorates as a result, making peace impossible.

Gaza seems to be a smokescreen for Israel’s land-grabbing in the West Bank. Israel recently published its tender for the construction of more than 2,000 housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Arab East Jerusalem, the putative capital of a Palestinian state, has witnessed twice the number of Israeli housing tenders this year than in the previous three years combined. Meanwhile, Israel’s hawkish foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has urged that the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, should be toppled from power if he presses ahead for UN recognition of the state of Palestine. Lieberman seems to think any Palestinian state should occupy only 40% of the West Bank, which would mean that Israel would have 92% of the land of Palestine despite Palestinians having a much larger population, especially if the refugees are considered. How is that fair?

More small victims of Israel's advanced weapons, supplied in support of apartheid and ethnic cleansing by U.S. taxpayers, to the tune of billions of dollars per year.

These are the names of just a few of the other Palestinian babies and children martyred for the sake of Israel's racist land-grabbing. There are, unfortunately, many others ...

Omar Mashharawi; a baby of unknown age; al-Sabra
Maram Emad Hssouna; 3; Ramallah
Ahmed Reyad Mohammed al-Sinwar; 3; Al-Zahra City/Middle Gaza
Sidqi Zeyad Mahmoud al-‘Absi; 4; Yebna Refugee Camp/Rafah
Tamer Hassan Ali al-Akhras; 5; Al-Zaytoon/Gaza
Samar Anwar Khalil Ba’alousha; 6; Jabaliya Refugee Camp/Northern Gaza
Dina Anwar Khalil Ba’alousha; 6; Jabaliya Refugee Camp/Northern Gaza
Mu’ath Yaser al-‘Abed Abu Teir; 6; Abasan al-Kabira/Khan Younis
‘Uday Abdul Hakim Rajab Mansi; 6; Deir al-Balah /Middle Gaza  
Ahmed Amin Al-Khuffash; 7; Salfit
Ebtehal Abdullah Tawfiq Keshko; 8; Al-Zaytoon/Gaza
Jawaher Anwar Khalil Ba’alousha; 8; Jabaliya Refugee Camp/Northern Gaza
Sami Fathi Abu Jazar; 12; Rafah
Eyad Ossama Shaath; 12; Khan Yunis
Mohammed Saleh El-A'rja; 12; Rafah
Mo'ayyad Usama Al-Jawarish; 13; Bethlehem
Wae'l Mahmoud Emad; 13; Jabalia
Mohammed Khater Al-E'jleh; 13; Al-Shojae'ya/Gaza
Salim Mohammed El-Hamayda; 13; Rafah
Abdel-Rahman Ziad El-Dahshan; 14; Al-Zaytoun/Gaza
Karam Fathi El-Kurd; 14; Rafah
Mohammed Mohammed El-Mashharawi; 14; Al-Tuffah/Gaza
Mohammed Ibrahim Hajjaj; 14; Shojaeya/Gaza
Ahmed Suleiman Abu Tayeh; 14; Al-Shati/Gaza
Alla' Mohammed Mahfouzh; 14; Hebron
Alla' Bassan Abdullah; 15; Salfit
Ashraf Habayeb; 15; A'skar/Nablus
Ramzi A'adel Bayatneh; 15; Abu Qash/Ramallah
Ibrahim Hassan Al-Moqannan; 15; Khan Yunis
Aysar Hammoudeh Hassis; 15; Jenin
Majdi Ali A'abed; 15; Gaza
Salah Fawzi Nejem; 15; Al-Maghazi
Omar Ismail Al-Boheisi; 16; Deir El-Balah
Samer Talal Al-Oweisi; 16; Qalqilya
Nedal Mohammed Aibaki; 16; Gaza
Sami Hassan Salama; 17; Tulkarm
Abedel Hmid Taye' Zeq; 18; Al-Mazra' Al-Sharqia/Ramallah
Karam O'mar Qannan; 19; Khan Younis
Thae'r Ali Daud Moa'lla (Al-Malhi); 19; Al-Ama'ri/Ramallah
Tareq Ismail Hantoli; 17; Jenin
Sae'd A'dnan Al-Tanbour; 17; Nablus
Bahir Saleh Shalawi; 15; Qalqilya
Hilal Rashad Salahat; 18; Ya'bad
Thae'r Ibrahim El-Zeid; 17; Jalazon/Ramallah
Ibrahim Rezeq Omar; 15; Al-Shati/Gaza
Khaled Ahmed Rezeq; 17; Hazma/Jerusalem
Yazan Mohammed Halaiqa; 19; Al-Sheyoukh/Hebron
Mahmoud Abdel-Jawad Ese'id; 18; Hazma/Jerusalem
Rami Ahmed Abdel-Fattah; 15; Hazma/Jerusalem
Maher Mohammed El-Se'idi; 16; Al-Boreij
Wjdi A'llam Hattab; 15; Tulkarm
Mohammed Nawwaf El-Ta'ban; 17; Deir El-Balah
Mohammed Mustafe El-Jazzar; 19; Rafah
Ibrahim Fuad El-Qassas; 16; Khan Yunis
Fares Fae'q Oudeh; 14; Al-Zaytoun/Gaza
Mohammed Mesbah Abu Ghali; 16; Khan Yunis
Khalil Yousef Sa'd; 18; Al-Shati/Gaza
Rae'd Abdel-Majid Daoud; 14; Hares/Salfit
Mahmoud Kamel Abed Shorrab; 18; Khan Yunis
Ossama Samir Al-Jerjawi; 17; Al-Daraj/Gaza
Ossama Mazen A'zzouqa; 15; Jenin
Munib Mohammed Barakat Abu Monshar; 18; Hebron
Mousa Ibrahim El-Debes; 14; Jabalya
Ayman Salah Wadi; 19; Khan Yunis
Mahmoud Nafedh Abu Naji; 15; Sheikh Radwan/Gaza
Mohammed Nasser Al-Tawil; 18; Khan Yunis
Yahia Nayef Abu Shammala; 17; Kan Yunis
Ahmed Hassan Dahlan; 19; Khan Yunis
Saber Khamis Ebrashi; 15; Al-Ama'ri/Ramallah
Ahmed Samir Bassal; 15; Tal El-Hawa/Gaza
Fathi Oudeh Joma'a Salem; 18; Tulkarm
Jaddou' Manei' Abu Al-Kebash; 16; Al-Samou'/Hebron
Ahmed Sae'id Sha'ban; 16; Jenin
Mohammed Nasser Al-Sherafi; 17; Al-Nasser/Gaza
Ibrahim Abdel-Rao'uf Je'idi; 17; Qalqilya
Jehad Suhail Abu Shahmeh; 13; Khan Yunis
Samer Mohammed Al-Khadhour; 17; Al-Fawwar/Hebron
Mohammed Abdel-Jalil Abu Rayyan; 16; Halhoul/Hebron
Hamza Abdel-Mou'ti Abu Shekheidem; 22; Halhoul/Hebron
Rami E'mad Yassin; 18; Gaza
Ibrahim Ahmed Othman; 17; Rafah
Yasser Taleb Nabtiti; 16; Tulkarm
Taysser A'dnan Abu El-A'rraj; 18; Khan Yunis
A'bdel-Mone'm Mohammed Ezzeddin; 17; Arrabeh/Jenin
Mahdi Qassem Jaber; 17; Qalqilya
Ziad Ghaleb Selmi; 19; Qalqilya
Zakaria Hammodeh El-Khour; 18; Al-Sabra/Gaza
Emad Adib El-Dayeh; 19; Al-Shati/Gaza
Ashraf Abdel-Karim El-Bassous; 19; Gaza
Walid Mohammed El-Badan; 17; Taqqoua'/Bethlehem
Shadi Ahmed Za'oul; 14; Housan/Bethlehem
Medhat Mohammed Jadallah; 17;
Zuhair Mustafa El-Hattab; 17; Al-Tuffah/Gaza
Mahmoud Abdullah Yahia; 17; Kufor Rae'i/Jenin
Alla' Abdel-Latif Abu Jaber; 17; Al-Moghayar/Jenin
A'mmar Salim El-Mashni; 16; Beit O'ur/Ramallah
Moutaz Azmi Ismail (Teilakh); 16; Al-Doheisha/Bethlehem

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