In the wake of the devastating tragedy of flight MH17, the Guardian reported that the dead passengers were being “stored in rail wagons”.
The scene of the deceased being transported in trains echoes the nightmarish “endless and silent train” of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. What is horrifying in the book is not so much the “child corpses who would be thrown into the sea like rejected bananas” but the impact of the massacre. Notably, that there is none. The imaginary world of Marquez has been forced, or has complied in, forgetting; “there haven’t been any dead here”. The victims of the MH17 shooting will not suffer that fate. As it stands, the international community is already applying pressure on Russia to ensure that the killing of innocents does not go unpunished and unremembered.
At some point the dial tone ceased and David Cameron gave his “staunch support” to Netanyahu. Obama would do the same. This despite Israeli paper Haaretz accusing ‘Operation Protective Edge’ of having no other objective but “death to Arabs, accompanied by the cheering of the masses”. In Paris, President Hollande banned protests for Gaza, worried about anti-Semitism as though the memory of Jewish persecution – which should never be forgotten – can only survive if in turn we forget the plight of another people. Forgetting in order to remember.
So it was left to the people to ensure that what happened to the dead in One Hundred Years of Solitude does not happen to the men, women and children in Gaza, so they took to the streets in their thousands. In London, The Guardian reported 15,000 marchers at the beginning of the day and failed to update it as thousands more voices peeled off chants of “Free, free Palestine” and “Gaza, Gaza don’t you cry, we will never let you die”. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign estimated 100,000 people attended but this seems optimistic. It is most likely somewhere in the middle. Whatever the final number, thousands attended, thousands were loud, thousands were peaceful; and thousands remember.
The surge forward was huge, many were fasting and many, so eager to be there and show their support for the oppressed stayed with no water and no food. Perhaps a half dozen fainted. The mood was raucous, hopeful and tinged only with the slightest despair. The thousands who stayed heard many speakers, including George Galloway, link the deaths in Gaza with those of flight MH17; hoping to highlight the hypocrisy of Western media and its governments. Governments that will put pressure on one nation and not another. That will remember some lives and not others. The lives of innocents are sacred, it seems, unless they are Palestinians. As of yesterday, 333 Palestinians have died in Gaza. 77 Children.
77 children have been reduced to nothing but memories. And then forgotten.
The message at the protest on Saturday was loud and clear. There was self-reproach: for not doing enough, for the often deplorable actions of Hamas. But ringing out over it all was this: that all lives, whether they be Palestinian, Israeli or the innocent travellers of flight MH17 are precious. But what is horrifying, just as in One Hundred Years of Solitude, is when those deaths, in the disregard for them, are forgotten.
The international community remembers flight MH17.
But the world forgets.
The world forgets Gaza.
The people will not.