World: Eyeless in Gaza
From the New York Times
Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver;
Ask for this great Deliverer now, and find him
Eyeless in Gaza at the Mill with slaves,
Himself in bonds under Philistian yoke;
Samson Agonistes, John Milton
One — this one, anyway — can't help wondering what the fuck is going on in Gaza this week. Why is Israel bombing, shooting, and sending the sixth largest and best equipped army in the world into Gaza, the refuge of 1.3 million Palestinians, most of whom are unarmed civilians? Some 400,000 of that population lives in refugee camps funded by the UN.
Israel has bombed the power plants, water and sewage treatment facilities, and restricted movement in and out of Gaza which has essentially become the world's largest standing concentration camp. Why? What is this about? And why is Israel getting away with this starkly inhumane treatment?
Before you start lecturing me about what the Palestinians have done to bring this upon themselves, stop. No. I'm well aware of the tortuous politics of the Middle East (or West Asia, if you prefer). Here's a timeline of the events leading up to today's report of tanks entering the much-bombed and repeatedly destroyed strip of Gaza.
This is the most recent mapping of the conflict. Its roots go back all the way to the fight of two desert tribes over scarce land and water resources. Or perhaps, given the Jewish Diaspora under Rome, only as far back as the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which established in Palestine a "home" for the Jewish people with a guarantee of "civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine." Of course, in the intervening years, Israel has repeatedly taken land and scarce water from the Palestinians, refused the refugees that it has created the right of return (thereby ensuring that their lands and goods, if any, become the property of the state of Israel), and reduced the "land of Palestine" to a series of narrow unconnected strips with no sovereignty and severely restricted movement.
This fine map courtesy of aucegypt.edu
It was generous of the British to so dispose of the land and the fruits of the labour of others.
As a lifelong supporter of Israel, I long admired the state for its tenacity, its refusal to contemplate surrender or nonexistence, its bravery in the face of daunting odds. But there is a huge difference between fighting the remnants of the great Turkish empire and an assault upon a defenseless civilian population when you have the best army and armaments that the contents of the American Treasury can buy.
What is now going on in Gaza is nothing short of despicable. Yes, Israel has a right to exist. But nobody has a right to rain bombs on the heads of women, old people, children, noncombatant civilians. To those who seek to apologize for Israel's actions by claiming that it is Hamas, the "terrorists," who hide their bombs and guns behind the bodies of civilians, let me point out that Gaza is currently the most densely populated place in the world. Where exactly could Hamas locate their weapons of self-defense away from civilians? Why should they give up their pitifully ineffective weapons when the State of Israel kills 100 Palestinians for every Israeli that is killed? How can they trust Israel to safeguard their rights, when Israel brazenly destroys their homes, orchards, lands, wells, and their children?
It is well documented that Israel has eaten away at the "civil rights" of the Palestinians as well as at their territory. The Western Powers created the State of Israel as a salve for their collective guilt of a thousand years of pogroms, discrimination, hatred, bloodshed, killing, concentration camps, and Final Solutions. Why did they choose to carve out for the victims of their evil a "home" in a place already occupied by others? Why, since they were presumably moved by a generous spirit, did they not generously give up their own damned land, or some portion thereof?
They have discriminated against the Roma (gypsies) in much the same way, for nearly the same length of time. Yet they do not feel obliged to give the Gypsies a new home (assuming that they could find a location to which they could trace their historical roots). They prefer to leave them to the tender mercies of their fellow Europeans.
There is no honour in this battle; nothing of which to feel proud. This is not like the fight over the Golan Heights, the Six-Day War, in which Israel took on multiple armed foes and triumphed. This is a disgrace. Gaza has been cut off from the rest of the world for years now. Deprived of food, water, sewage treatment facilities, light, power, medicine, basic dignity. To attack an armed enemy and prevail is a mighty feat. To attack a weakened toothless civilian rabble of children and women — that is a disgrace and a shame.
Read what the Gazans have to say. It indicts the Israeli Army very effectively.
And not just the Israeli Army. The current occupant of the White House, the most wretched to occupy that space, has given Israel his full permission to indulge in this disgraceful carnage; asking only, in the most timid of voices, that Israel "try hard to avoid civilian casualties," even as reports tell us that Israel's air strikes over the past week have killed more than 400 Palestinians, wounded many more. And even as I write this, Israeli tanks are rumbling into the beleaguered Gaza strip.
The only good news to report in the midst of this revolting ongoing Holocaust upon the Palestinians is that finally, the scales seem to be falling from everyone's eyes. I can no longer support Israel. I will always support the right of the Israeli people and the State of Israel to exist, but that existence must now be tempered with a verifiable demonstration of their commitment to civil rights for Palestinians, peace with their neighbours, and a return of Palestinian land and property.
Rest assured, those of you who are demonstrating against Israel's unacceptable military actions, that millions of Jews, whether Israeli, American, or other, and countless millions of people of every nation, ethnicity, and faith or lack thereof stand with you. Israel can no longer whitewash these crimes against humanity.
The blindness of the Israeli hawks who willingly lead their own people into the role of catspaw for the American military-industrial complex is sad to see. So great a nation, deluded by its failure to recognize that there is no military solution to the Gordian knot that binds it. Stumble It!