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A Statement and a Poem Expressing My Feelings on Gaza

The world looks bleak through a journalistic lens and we focus on poetry here. However, if we had launched in 2020, it would have been inappropriate to ignore the pandemic. For the same reason, I feel the need to address what’s happening to the civilians of Gaza.

I started this journal, in part, to get away from the news. I don’t want to mar that too much, and I know some will balk, but silence feels more like approval than sympathy. I’d rather live with the distaste of others than lose respect for my voice and my privileges by not being an ally to all oppressed.

You can stop reading now, but I’m not willing to remain quiet.

I grieve with the citizens of Israel for their loss on October 7, 2023. However, the Israeli government’s response has far surpassed definitions of war crimes. They showed scant care for even their own civilians held hostage for over a month as they destroyed from the air.

Even people who support war find these actions unacceptable in principle. Maybe they won’t say it or they don’t apply those rules when it’s people they dislike suffering. They would– and have– agreed when it comes to them and those they love, though.

Since details are always hazy in wartime, I’ll stick to basic principles. The position of both myself and the Philly Poetry Chapbook Review is the following:

  • To willfully kill any civilian, even to kill a dangerous militant, is murder. Twice over, if you can’t so easily dehumanize those who’ve wronged you. And yes, we believe it’s murder when anyone does it, including America.
  • Israel’s military is willfully killing civilians in order to destroy militants and their infrastructure (which they seem to define as the entirety of Gaza). They have repeatedly used the defense that these civilians were used as human shields by terrorists, reducing those living human beings to inconvenient objects marked for destruction. Israel is also ignoring the lack of options for Palestinian civilians to avoid being used.
  • To state it clearly, I do not believe these acts are genocide. I believe in the precision of words. The acknowledged actions of Israel’s military fit international definitions of genocide and those actions continue. That’s not opinion and I won’t label it as such. There’s never justification for genocide. If there were, surrounding Arab states would have an obvious justification for destroying the entire population of Israel. If you believe that, you’re not okay with me, either.

This behavior is horribly and tragically ironic for a state ostensibly created so that Jews should not be victims of genocide again, themselves. I’m forty-two years old now. Growing up, I learned that events like the Nazi, Tzarist, Soviet, and Ottoman genocides shouldn’t happen to anyone. (They conveniently left out North America’s indigenous tribes.) I strongly agreed with this as a boy and I still do today.

I unequivocally condemn Hamas and all of their violent actions. However, I don’t see any reason that one of the world’s most sophisticated militaries shouldn’t be subject to the same, if not much higher, standards for condemnation.

Murder is murder. Terrorism is terrorism. Genocide is genocide. These are not conditionals, dependent on who are the perpetrators and who the victims. They are absolute wrongs.

We beg for Israel’s government to see sense and not continue on the path modeled by the Jewish people’s greatest persecutors. Why should anyone support such a government moving forward? Should we accept it if the Palestinians’ Muslim brethren in Iran’s government destroy all of Israel? We believe in equality of Jews and Muslims, after all, and one bad turn leads to others.

I wrote a poem, in response to a news report that the Israeli military bombed a hospital in a refugee camp. The IDF defended their actions with the human shields line. It might not meet the high standards of literary magazines, and it’s obviously insufficient to the moment, but this poem expresses our position clearly.

We stand on the side of none but civilians.

BBC News report of strike on Jabalia refugee camp on October 31, 2023:

I wrote this poem after waking up on November 1 to a BBC News report saying the Israeli Air Force struck a hospital in the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza on what was Halloween night in America. Reports were that dozens, if not scores, of civilians had been killed. A population of two million is facing this dehumanization and displacement.

Still, it was not the displaced, endangered masses, but the voice of a wounded Palestinian teenager, depicted as a disposable shield, that I heard as I wrote. I tried to be true to it more than my own outrage. I hope that I succeeded in that goal.

The shield who has cracked

by Aiden Hunt
for the civilians of Gaza

your All Hallows Eve had just ended
when bloody tricks came without candy
a bad man lived in our cluttered cage
but where could i go and how would i try
this refugee camp came with promise of peace

there’s fire falling down from the north now
and slaughter called safety to south
the endless bleak seas fill the west coast
and hate labeled fear blocks the east
where can i flee from this fatal refuge

how do i run far from this deathly burnt earth
without meeting lost loves   gone without graves
you say i’m a shield   can my worth be no more
you don’t see my missing mama with me now
i had sisters who sang and a brother   beloved

my best friend is gone now   she was a shield
my auntie has burned up   a flaming shield too
my cousin was crushed   another shield breaks
and i lie here bleeding but who needs two arms
this mangled shield isn’t broken   just cracked

forgive me for shielding the terrorist man
i thought refugee meant this place was safe
i’ll try to stay out of the way   if i can   but
can you try to see the girl that i am    not
just a thing shielding men that you hate

Front Page header (Coming Soon)


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Preview new poetry books from University of Arizona Press, Dover Publications, and Samovar Press/Meridian.

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Arthur Russell’s prize-winning chapbook takes the reader on a journey through time, space and socioeconomic circumstance.

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A Statement and a Poem Expressing My Feelings on Gaza

I unequivocally condemn Hamas and all of their violent actions. However, I don’t see any reason that one of the world’s most sophisticated militaries shouldn’t be subject to the same, if not much higher, standards for condemnation.

Click here to read.

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Click here to read.