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Saturday, January 03, 2009

World: Eyeless in Gaza

From the New York Times

Promise was that I
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

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.

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Stumble It!


At 10:43 PM, Blogger Steve said...

The big bad Israeli army didn't go into Gaza - just a small part of it. The rest of it has to be ready to deal with the other terror gang Hezbollah in its Northern border. And then there are the other countries currently at war who might like to take advantage like Syria and Iran. All who hate Israel and have already fought a number of times so its a bit disingenuous albeit fashionable to make it sound like Israel was using all of its military power for the Gaza op.

A batter question might be with all the military power Israel does have, why don't they just turn Gaza into a parking lot?

That could solve the problem in a day despite the very real genocide that would then occur and not the fake PR version that Hamas and supporters like to cynically use when they aren't referring to it as a "holocaust".

If 450 dead is now defined as a "holocaust" what is a Darfur called or a Rwanda? What was 34,000 Jews shot in the head at Babi Yar in two days called?

What no one seems to be able to answer is what would they do to stop a hundred rockets and mortar shells raining down on your country day after day?

Sit there with your thumb in your mouth?

I suppose Israel could use proportionality which so many are calling for. When Hamas fires a hundred rockets at Israeli civilians, Israel could fire a hundred rockets back at Gazan civilians.

At 11:21 PM, Blogger suepeace said...

Do you have trouble understanding what you read?

If Israel wants rockets and mortar shells to stop raining down on them, perhaps they should GET THE HELL OFF OF THE LAND THEY STOLE. Maybe they could even REBUILD THE HUNDREDS OF HOMES THEY BULLDOZED.

Do you get it now? Palestinian rockets are a RESPONSE to the hundreds of ways they've been abused in the last 60 years.

And as for your "fake PC" genocide, spare us. The Internet is a wonderful thing, isn't it? No longer can crimes against humanity be hidden. Israel now digs its own grave:

At 10:32 AM, Blogger Khalid Harun said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 10:36 AM, Blogger mark hoback said...

Hey PC,
Do you have a good (and interesting) book you could recommend on the history of Modern Israel?

At 12:05 PM, Blogger Friend of TPC said...

Great post TPC and right on. Just a thought here. I just watched Schindler's List again the other night and as always, I cried at the end. It is always a great thing to see people, whoever they are freed from oppression. And now I look at the present day plight of the Palestinian people in Gaza and I wonder what in the hell is the difference between them and the Jews locked up in the Jewish Ghetto in Krakow? The Jews there were removed from their homes, their property confiscated and dumped there in squalor. Kind of sounds like the Palestinians in Gaza to me. The only difference I see is that Israel hasn't liquidated the ghetto yet and also that the Jews in the Krakow ghetto hadn't learned to fight back.

Now if i lived in Israel I would not want rockets raining down on my house or anywhere nearby either. But if Israel thinks it is going to solve this problem by bombing and invading Gaza, they aren't and they never will in a million years. All they are doing is creating more hate against them.

If they want to solve this, they are going to have to pull a Nelson Mandela out of their midst, they are going to have to do for the Palestinians what was done for them in creating Israel. And they are all going to have to get over this idea that god is on my side and the other side is crap.

At 10:33 AM, Blogger Ms. Manitoba said...

Sincerely working towards peace is the ONLY answer for both sides.

At 10:54 AM, Blogger Lizzy said...

Definitely a great post - and here's a couple of book titles from a librarian -
Shulman, Dark Hope, and Zeital and eldar, Lords of the Land...

At 10:55 AM, Blogger Lizzy said...

And on a lighter note, TPC, I saw this and thought of you:

At 3:08 PM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...

Lizzy, that was so wonderful I immediately sent her a couple of my most recent captchas! And thanks ever so much for the recommendations! It's been years since I've read anything about Israeli history, most of the books I used are probably out of date or out of print (not to mention hidden under massive quantities of other books).

Recommended librarian movie this week: Desk Set with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Kate at her witty, wild, amusing best.

At 6:02 AM, Blogger mark hoback said...

Thanks, Lizzy. 'Lords of the Land' looks spot on.

At 5:50 PM, Blogger BadTux said...

For the record: Iran does not border Israel and has no way to invade Israel without crossing Iraq or Turkey, neither of which is going to allow an Iranian army across their lands. Syria certainly is not going to invade Israel, they are an impoverished nation with no modern weapons who have two million Iraqi refugees straining their resources and an Islamist movement requiring their entire army to suppress and maintain order. Egypt and Jordan have peace treaties with Israel. In short, nobody's going to invade Israel regardless of what internal problems they're facing (and Gaza *is* an internal problem, the Gaza Strip was ceded by Egypt to Israel as part of their peace treaty with Israel).

So anyhow, my basic problem with all this is that Israel is making the same mistake that they made in Lebanon, two years ago: bombing people who did not launch rocket attacks upon them. Which accomplished nothing in Lebanon. Perfect proof that if you want to stop people from shooting rockets at you, dropping bombs on people not shooting rockets at you accomplishes nothing except getting a lot of folks pissed at you. So what does Israel do when some elements of Hamas (maybe, there are lots of factions, not all are Hamas) start shooting rockets at them. Well... the SAME GODDAMNED THING THAT DIDN'T WORK THE FIRST TIME. I.e., start dropping bombs on people not shooting rockets on them, in hopes that the Palestinians will blame, well, the people (Hamas) not dropping bombs on them for the bombs falling on their heads. GAH! THE STUPIDITY! IT BURNS, IT BURNS!

I have no problem with Israel sending tanks and troops into Gaza to resolve their internal problems. I'll just point out that slaughtering a bunch of firemen, teachers, social workers, postmen and street cops -- remember, *all* social services in Gaza are provided by Hamas, so if you want a job as a school teacher or postman, you work for Hamas (by definition) -- isn't going to stop the armed wing of Hamas from shooting rockets at anybody. All it'll do is piss off a lot of people. The way to stop people from shooting rockets at you is to (duh) kill the people shooting rockets at you -- not someone else who *isn't* shooting rockets at you. But oh noes, we must feerz the Postmen of Mass Destruction and bomb the goddamned post offices and schools and shit because they're "Hamas installations"! GAH! THE STUPIDITY! IT BURNS! IT BURNS!

- Badtux the Stupidity-recognizin' Penguin

At 6:50 PM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...

Oh, my, Badtux — I daresay you're just as miffed as I!


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