Tragedy in Gaza

Amid all the hoopla and celebrations surrounding the inauguration of Barack Obama (more on that in another post), there comes terribly sad and tragic news within the Middlebury community.

Amer Shurrab, a recent Middlebury graduate from Gaza and a United World College graduate, lost two brothers in the recent conflict in northern Gaza. Twenty-eight year old Kassab and 18-year old Ibrahim were shot as they tried to make their way from their farm back to their village.  Amer’s father was with his sons when the attack occurred. He survived the shootings, and tried for hours to get aid to his sons, but medics were prevented from moving into the zone of conflict. You can find an interview with Amer about the tragedy at the Democracy Now Web site.

Amer completed his degree in economics at Middlebury this past December.  He was in Washington, D.C., when this tragedy struck. Friends are now organizing to help raise funds in support of Amer and his family. Details  on their effort can be found below.

Amer will be coming to campus this weekend, and there will be a memorial/prayer service on Thursday, January 29, at 7:30 p.m. in the Abernethy Room of the Axinn Center. 

Our hearts go out to Amer and his family, and we hope many in the extended Middlebury community will reach out and help Amer in whatever way they can.

Update, January 25: Help for a Gaza Family

. . . This tragedy has left Amer and his family in dire need of assistance. They are struggling to pay hospital fees for Mohammed Shurrab’s injury, and to pay burial fees for Kassab and Ibrahim. In addition, the Shurrab family lost their small farming business 18 months ago as the Israeli blockade on Gaza resulted in a lack of gas supplies and birdfeed. As a result, they need assistance in reviving it to sustain themselves economically.

We are devastated by Amer’s loss, and want to help him and his family as much as possible. This is why we are launching a fundraiser for Amer and his family. The money collected will go to support Amer’s family in Gaza directly and cover their basic needs. A fraction of your donation will also go to help Amer, who graduated a month ago, and is struggling to meet his living expenses.

Please join us in helping Amer and his family get back on their feet. You can do so by donating through Paypal, or by sending a money order or check to the following address where Amer currently resides:

Amer Shurrab
c/o Tristan Hayes and Pavel Svaton
2414 N 18th St
Arlington, VA 22201

You can also choose to donate to many of the international and local aid agencies currently operating in Gaza. Below are a few suggestions of internationally renowned organizations.

1) ICRC – allows you to donate specifically to help in Palestine
2) The UN – through UNRWA – has a “Special Gaza Appeal”
3) Physicians for Human Rights has offices in Israel and has been working in Gaza

We thank you for your help at this time of urgent need.


Tristan Hayes and Pavel Svaton

 Donate via PayPal (account required)



The language of your post is reminiscent of the language used to describe the larger conflict in the main stream media. Do you know that most Americans do not know that it is the Israelis that occupy Palestinian territory? “The occupied territories” is not very specific. Why could you not have said that they were shot by Israeli soldiers and that the medics were prevented from reaching them by Israeli soldiers? In Arabic the passive voice has traditionally been used out of fear for the people being discussed or fear of one’s interlocutor. What is the source of your fear one wonders?

Hello Chris.

First, I do in fact believe people know who rolled into Gaza. If you are right, and they do not, I thank you for providing that information on the blog.

Aside from that, it is not “fear” that directs my choice of words, but rather my desire not to get drawn into a political discussion in light of what is front and center for folks at Middlebury regarding Amer.

The primary desire is to get the word out about Amer and his and his family’s plight, and raise support for his situation; it is not to pontificate about the rights and wrongs of a multi-faceted and complex conflict that cannot be reduced to finger pointing one way or the other, or to this latest chapter.

Some, I am sure, would want nothing more than to use this tragedy for larger political ends. I am not one of those. To suggest one side or the other is guilty for the violence we are witnessing, or that there was no provocation in this long drawn-out conflict prior to this latest military invasion, would be dishonest.


But who shot them. You can’t even bring yourself to state who shot them. Chris Stone is right and your response if weak. Bring yourself to say who murdered them.

What is political about the truth?? The Isreali soldiers shot the brothers, prevented medical care from reaching them. Clearly the soldiers were responsible for their deaths. Stop stepping around the truth. It is disgusting.

Jean in Slovenia

Jean in Slovenia’s avatar

Agree with the commenters above. Your intentions may be good but your language is evasive and dishonest. Amer “lost two brothers in the recent conflict.” “Tragedy struck”. Etc. You make it sound as though his family suffered due to an earthquake or some other inexplicable and unpredictable natural disaster. In fact, they along with many hundreds more in Gaza were deliberately shot down by Israeli soldiers in a vicious assault that was meticulously planned by the Israeli government and military for months in advance (and not a response to some “provocation” from Gaza), using weapons and equipment supplied in large part with the help of US taxpayer-funded aid.

It’s straightforward, and well-documented. Face the facts. Because until Americans do, the IDF will continue its killing sprees, using bombs, bullets, white phosphorous, and blockades, with impunity.

Yes, the facts are that the IDF was responsible for this tragedy, along with other tragedies during Israel’s latest military foray into Gaza. The IDF itself acknowledged this in a statement it made that was included in the coverage from Democracy Now. That is a fact.

And without condoning the shootings and killings, and instead condemning them, one must ask those who only seem to like to discuss one side of this conflict, when does one mention the tactics of Hamas, also well known “facts,” or the many provocations initiated by hurling missiles into civilian populations in Israel, or the choice for ending rather than extending a cease fire agreement? Do those asking for condemnation of Israel give Hamas a free ride each and every time?

No, I can’t condone the excessive force exhibited by the IDC, but let’s not pretend this latest conflict, and the devastation it left in Gaza, was some random, singular event that came out of left field.

Folks, it’s probably worth mentioning that the original post here was an announcement of a memorial/prayer service. It was not a news report on this incident, which has been covered extensively in the media, including at the Democracy Now site. Ron also provides a link to this report in his post.

“To suggest one side or the other is guilty for the violence we are witnessing, or that there was no provocation in this long drawn-out conflict prior to this latest military invasion, would be dishonest.”

No actually. ‘Dishonest’ is when you give moral equivalence to the two conflicting sides. One is an occupier and usurper of land, and one is the owner of the land. There are no two sides to this. The Hamas ‘tactics’ are tactics of resistance used by anyone who ever resisted an occupier throughout history. If resistance is ‘provocation’ so be it. As for ‘initiating provocation’, you need some history lessons. Hamas did not initiate this latest provocation. Perhaps it will serve you well if you read Uri Avnery’s article [since he is himself a very honorable and honest Israeli] The Boss has Gone Mad: “The media devoted several hours to the fall of a Qassam missile on a home in Ashkelon, in which three residents suffered from shock, and did not waste many words on the forty women and children killed in a UN school, from which “we were shot at” – an assertion that was quickly exposed as a blatant lie.”

As for your assertion that “the choice for ending rather than extending a cease fire agreement”… are you seriously not aware that Israel has murdered 30 Hamas people DURING the so-called ceasefire and that Hamas did not retaliate until after the ceasefire ended? Are you seriously not aware that a ‘model of Gaza’ was built one year earlier in the Negev desert by the Israelis who trained on how to attack Gaza in the streets of Gaza? Is that not pre-meditation in your view?

When 24 people die from Qassam rockets over a period of 10 years, there is no moral equivalence to 1200 who died in this one single conflict – not to mention 5000 seriously wounded and not to mention other ‘conflicts’.

Finally, I am certain that when you speak of the Holocaust, you speak of the victims and give full time and attention to the victims. I doubt you mince words and say “well I must see what those victims did to merit that devastation by the Hitler government.” Or do you?

A militant arm of Hamas would not exist if not for decades of occupation, racism and oppression.

Who provokes who? Hamas provokes Israel by hurling rockets? Or does Israel provoke Hamas by imprisoning, denying freedom of movement, the ability to seek an education beyond Gazan borders, and proper food and medicine to a population of 1.5 million? Of course there is a reaction to these conditions, which is exactly Israel wants. It gives them the justification in the eyes of many, and seemingly yours, to go ahead and continue their oppression.

A “tragedy” in the Greek and Shakespearean sense is a calamity brought on by you yourself, the sufferer. If you drink yourself to a terrible stupor, then get behind a wheel and crash, that is a tragedy.

What happened over the course of 23 days in Gaza (the deaths of over 1300 Palestinians, over 5000 severely wounded and still without adequate medical care because of the Israeli blockade, the colossal destruction of infrastructure) is *not* a tragedy. It is a massacre, brought on by a vicious US-backed Israeli occupation and the belief that that Palestinians can be starved (Dov Weisglass: “diet”) and bombed into submission. Anyone who continues to believe that this criminal attack had anything to do with Hamas is sorely wrong and foolish.

That the language used by a university president to describe this massacre is passive, weak, pathetic, and immoral is no huge surprise. You believe there are two sides. Israel just has the bigger guns, so “tragedies” will happen. The Warsaw Ghetto, the Sharpville Massacre, the massacres in Vietnam: they all had two sides Mr. Liebowitz. And you would likely “choose” the side of the victim, and defend it mightily with the gravitas bestowed by your position. But because one side is what you consider the “most moral army in the world” (Ehud Olmert) and the other side is what you consider “militants” (not the most dense population of civilians on earth) you try to weakly skirt the issue.

No one is giving Hamas a “free ride” as you suggest. And neither was this massacre “some random, singular event that came out of left field.” It was a deliberated attack in months-long preparation (see Olmert again, or better yet, the 2006 Lebanon attack). That is how the world’s “most moral army” conducts itself: starve the general population, don’t let them out of their cage, use snipers and other “low-level” attacks to provoke,” and then *strike.*

You should call for your university to divest from companies doing major business with the state who has been the longest, most brutal occupier in the world in the 20th century.

I have to agree with the above comments. I think trying to pretend to be neutral is the problem. Evading the truth is never a good policy, even when you’re describing a tragedy in the midst of a complex political conflict. To claim that to tell the truth is to “use” a tragedy for political ends is to evade reality. You do not have to make a long statement about Israel or the Palestinians to be honest. You just have to say that the Israeli army killed his brothers. Because that is the truth, and people can argue over why they did that, but to pretend that there are no agents in this tragedy is to unintentionally perpetuate it.

fatima from algeria

fatima from algeria’s avatar

Israel Broke the cesefire , it is finally on google and on youtube too . check it out .
Israel Occupies Gaza (YES IT STILL DOES ) it occupies , the land , the sea , the air , it oftens sends F16s and Missiles to assassinate its people whenever it sees the need , the GATES to Gaza (7 ) are ALL FULLY LOCKED and israel has the keys . the one on Egypt border is also locked (at Israel instructions ) the US and EU and Arab aid stopped 2 years ago when Hamas won the elections . Half the Palestinian parliament has been kidnapped and is now in jail . Palestinians in Gaza can not import or export anything since all the doors are locked . they cant even sell the produce they grow (it often rotts at borders )
ALL supplies are not allowed into Gaza not even construction necessities , cement or glass .
fuel , electricity , food and medicine have become scarce , and over 300 have died because of lack of treatment . salaries have stopped for the last 2 years and people still continue to work but no money comes in . Can ANY Of you imagine his life and family life without a salary for 2 months let alone 2 years .? that s what israel does im afraid
and now it has destroyed Gaza and its ministries , a couple of hospitals , clinics , schools , 27 mosques , electricity poles, even the raw sewage treatment place which is going to seep into wells and cause another disaster , unfortunately kept away from western media . etc..etc..

ronl said:
“when does one mention the tactics of Hamas, also well known “facts,””

You mention them when a Middlebury student, or her/his family members are killed by a Hamas rocket. It’s that simple.

You have tried to be neutral, but omitting the immediate cause of the killings is blatantly political.

Readers of your blog are likely to know the basics about Hamas rocket attacks and Israeli occupation — it is not necessary to include it here. What readers do not know — but is crucial information — are the details of the deadly attack on Amer’s family. They were not killed in an Israeli airstrike, or by Hamas rockets — they were shot intentionally by Israeli soldiers.

Censorship is the opposite of neutrality.


Thank you for you non-judgemental and peaceful message of helping a fellow human. The attacks on this blog are disgusting, just due to the fact that they are attacking you because of their political alliances with a terrorist group. I am a very peace loving american, looking at the conflict as a disaster, but one that Hamas its self provoked. Israel has done nothing but try to help the Palestinian people foster a productive society, but very time Israel tries to help, Hamas steps in a destroys whatever Israel gives out. So thank you for coming from your point of view to just help promote a memorial service for a member of the Middlebury Community.

On behalf of the Students for Israel at the University of Colorado.

To all the commentators, research a bit of the conflict and look into what Israel has done for the Palestinians in Gaza and please don’t attack a brave soul.

“If Hamas put down their weapons, there would be peace. If Israel put down their weapons, there would be no Israel”

-Tzvi Darling
Univ of CO

I’m surprised by some of the comments here.
Which country would have let its territory under daily attacks from nearby cities? No one!

What is the meaning of Zionism? It’s nothing more than the will of the Jewish people to obtain a territory. Professor Anne Marie THIESSE from La Sorbonne University made various researches about the initiation of National movements in the XIX century. Her result: Zionism worked just like French nationalism.

It’s highly surprising to see those who seem to be supporting the Palestinian national movement to deny the right of a Jewish State to exist. Do I have to remind you that Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East? Do I have to remind you that Israel gives the same rights to all of its citizens?
So what is your point? Promoting Hamas ways of fighting or democratic values?

avraham shmuel ben david

avraham shmuel ben david’s avatar

okay i am not even going to take to the time to read half of this page i am just going to say what needs to be said. here is the deal since 2005 SINCE 2005 over 4,000 kasam rockets have been fired upon israel since they left Gaza for Peace. Let me add this again the israelis left Gaza for peace. the Idf calls Gaza citizens when they are near a site that will be bombed so that they know to get the hell out of there. the fact is that the whole situate has been so has been distorted by the news. you do not really know what is going on there unless you were there during the fighting. Let me add I WAS THERE. i want to see any of you ignorant fools who are blasting Israel over the stupidest things when the IDF has acted with more care toward the enemies civilian population than ANY OTHER ARMY IN HISTORY. this all comes down to many people not understanding the entire history of this conflict. LET ME MAKE THIS CLEAR ALL YOU WESTERNERS WHO ARE NOT IN SUPPORT OF ISRAEL RIGHT NOW. YOU ARE BLIND NOT STUPID BUT BLIND. THE LEADERS (hams) OF GAZA HATE YOU AND DO NOT want your support since you are westernized. you stand for everything they hate. open your eyes and see that hate is being wiped off the earth. slowly but surly we are heading to a globalized world and the only way to do that is live in peace. this is something that Hamas does not want. if you still disagree and you feel that the idf was wrong to go into gaza, let me leave you with this when 9/11 happened it took us a week to respond. for 8 years israel has been getting bombed. in the town of sderot,israel a good day is when 10 bombs land in low populated areas. go one day having to live in a city in israel that gets bombed everyday by Gaza and you will change your mind. every child has pts due to the fact of these bombings. once those sirens go off you have 15 seconds and thats it, it isis live or die. put your self in that situation and see then if you want to let hamas continue to rule in Gaza. i support israel i support the idf. Fact have been distorted. this large death toll only reality only 1/4 of them were civilians all the others very hamas terrorist. now i shall leave you with one final point the last time i checked the ones america should be supporting are not the ones who use human shields and wear black ski masks.


I think you’re all very small.

This isn’t about using this butchery for political ends, it’s about the truth which you are quite deliberately prevaricating in an act of moral and political cowardice.

Excessive force, you say? I am sure if you were in Amer’s place and it was your brothers murdered in cold blood for the actions of militants in their midst, that you would also characterize it as mere “excessive force,” all while remaining reluctant to identify their killers and obfuscating all over the place – hiding behind a cowardly veneer of ‘neutrality.’

Shame on you, shame on you, shame on you. You deserve all the lambasting done here, I hope you learned something.

Honestly, I don’t know how such cowardly people sleep at night.

re the headline “Tragedy in Gaza”

You disrespect a Middlebury graduate by describing what was done to his family as a “tragedy.” It is appropriately called a war crime committed by the IDF.

To all expressing anger at Ron Liebowitz

I am a little confused. Ron is trying to drum up support for a student who went to his school. The end. As anyone who is involved in fundraising or advertising can tell you, you want to appeal to as many people as possible, so as to maximize your donations. We once did a humorous advertisement (having nothing to do with politics) featuring the classic Che image. We were asked to remove it lest we offend people. I would argue most people recognize the Che image as pop art, not an endorsement of Che or a political value. However, when advertising or appealing for funds the goal is to try and keep it as safe as possible. This is what Ron did. If he went off on a tirade about the evil ZOG and how they are bad bad people, I can think of many people who might not donate to Amer’s cause because this sentiment offends them. You can tell me how they are all wrong and blind to the evil regime, but it doesn’t change the way they feel. Ron did link to many articles and sites. Please look at all these various posts. No one is convincing anyone of anything political. What they are doing is taking attention away from the need to support Amer in this difficult time. Had Ron presented a take that was pro Hamas he would have offended people. Had he presented it as pro Israeli he would have offended people. By trying not to offend anyone, it saddens me to see that people have hijacked his intentions and rendered the whole thing political, with little regard as to the impact this might have on donations to someone who needs them. Certainly the personal attacks on Ron himself are sure to change his opinion and make everyone else see your point of view… From my perspective no one will read Ron’s plea and not look into the subject and form their own opinions. Again, from the pro-Israel side he could have talked about how Amer’s family was killed while Israel was trying to protect its citizens. If he was pro-Hamas he could talk about how Amer’s family was killed by vicious oppressors. Both these options are easily accessible in the news and have been for some time. Neither would have succeeded in promoting a prayer service and funds for Amers cause.

Just a though

To Samama and his ‘professor’ from the Sorbonne:
“Israel is the product of the narrow nationalism of the 19th century, a nationalism that was closed and exclusive, based on race and ethnic origin, blood and earth. Israel is a “Jewish State”, and a Jew is a person born Jewish or converted according to Jewish religious law (Halakha). Like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, it is a state whose mental world is to a large extent conditioned by religion, race and ethnic origin.” [Uri Avnery – Gush Shalom; January 26 09]

Same fundamentalism. Same madness.

First of all let me say thank you to Ron for your kind comments, which were appropriate for a memorial announcement, yet still shed light on the multiple war crimes committed against Amer’s family by the IDF. I would encourage everyone to follow his link to the excellent Democracy Now interview, which gives a very balanced view of the story.

Secondly, to the IDF supporters posting, I cannot even begin to respond to you. Hamas is fighting for peace and equality, and is doing a much better job of following the laws of war than the IDF, despite their limited resources. I cannot understand how anyone can justify the deliberate, targeted assassination of men whose identity and non-combatant status was well known to the IDF, both in the days before the murders, and in the crucial seconds before the “shoot to kill” order was issued by the cowardly officer, who denied the services of many medical personnel, including his own willing medics, who sat for 20 hours just yards away as Ibrahim slowly bled to death, to protect himself. I call on Isreal to release his name, rank, and serial number to the international press.


Nobody is asking Ron to make a speech denouncing Israeli brutality or “the evils of the ZOG” (as you suggest). What we are appalled and horrified by, is his reluctance to tell the simple truth, that the IDF are responsible party for the deaths of Amer’s brothers. Ron has deliberately omitted this simple fact out of his post, used ambiguous language, language that surfaces an offensive double standard. I can guarantee you if a Hamas gunmen deliberately shot and killed a Middleburry students brothers, Ron wouldn’t be refusing to identify the culpable parties, obfuscating the issue, and labeling the murders as mere “excessive force.”

The issue here is that his deliberate choice to omit the IDF’s mention does raise many questions.. And if anything is taking sides, it’s his deliberate refusal to do identify the culpable party. When you try to “cover up” something, that’s when you’re taking sides, my friend.

In my opinion, Ron’s behavior here is nothing short of moral and political cowardice.

I can understand not wanting to be divisive, but Ron’s refusal to say the simple truth here is clearly much more controversial and offensive (and especially to Amer) than what otherwise would have been a fairly uncontroversial post. You can’t accuse the facts of bias. Plain and simple, the IDF is responsible for Amer’s brothers’ deaths, and uttering this plain and simple fact, is neither biased nor an act of taking sides. It’s telling the truth. When you omit that truth, to try to “cover it up,” THAT is precisely when you are taking sides.

While I applaud Ron for publicizing the memorial, his behavior here is pure cowardice, and he should be deeply ashamed to call himself president of Middleburry.

I do not subscribe to the position that Ron is a coward who ought to be ashamed of himself. The wording he used is appropriate for the aim he was seeking to achieve, namely emotional and financial support for Amer and his family. This is about a community rallying around one of its members, irrespective of what our personal views on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict may be. This is something I struggle with on a regular basis: I have Palestinian friends whose family members have been killed by Israeli forces, whose family members have been forcibly removed from their homes. Although I do not have Israeli friends per se, I do have American- and Canadian-Jewish friends who feel strong connections to Israel and, separate from the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, have experienced anti-Semitism in some of its most pernicious forms. In the spirit of being a supportive friend, I try very hard to transcend my thoughts on the conflict because, in a situation like this, support is significantly more important than politics.

To those who argue that it is a fact that Israeli forces killed Amer’s brothers, I encourage you to consider how often facts are disputed, debated, and politicized. Consider, for example, the Holocaust. There are mountains of evidence proving that the Holocaust occurred. Yet, there are many individuals who vehemently deny that it ever happened. Now, I believe that Israeli forces killed Amer’s brothers, but I also believe there are people in this world who do not accept this information as true, or they may feel the Israeli forces were justified in killing Amer’s brothers and preventing aid from reaching them and their father. It probably seems that I’m headed down a slippery slope, but look at all of the debate surrounding how this most recent violent conflict got started: it’s Hamas’s fault, not it’s Israel’s fault, Hamas started it, no Israel started it, such-and-such happened before the cease fire, no such-and-such happened after the cease fire, Israel is justified, no it’s not justified, and on and on and on. It’s enough to make your head spin. So, if Ron had written his post the way many of the commenters here think he should have in the first place, there were would be 20 or so other commenters calling him names and yelling at him to write it another way. Damned if you, damned if you don’t.

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