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  • samchris51

The Horrors Continue

It's been a while since I have posted anything on this blog. Honestly, I have not felt I have had anything of value to add to the conversation about this tragic war. The conditions in Gaza deteriorate daily, and many Israelis continue to primarily protect themselves from knowing what is happening in Gaza beyond news of IDF successes, casualties, and injuries. News of children dying of starvation is not likely to reach most Israelis. According to the World Health Organization, ten children have been diagnosed as having died of starvation in a hospital. Likely, many more are succumbing to this fate but never making it to a medical facility since few are functioning in Israel. Frankly, I am not sure whether Israelis would be able to find space in their hearts for compassion for starving Palestinian children. Most Israelis continue to be living in a time warp of sorts, reliving the horrors of October 7th while they wait for the hostages to be released. By maitaining their trauma in the forefront of thier awareness they are unable to make any room for acknowledging the humanity of Palestinians and empathizing with their pain.

This week's incident in which over 100 desperately hungry Palestinians were killed when a crowd fell upon a convoy of trucks carrying much-needed food aid was particularly disturbing. The details of what happened are murky, but it seems very clear that hungry people were so desperate that they were willing to pounce on a convoy of trucks carrying food in the hope that they would get some of it. It is not very clear what role the IDF troops who were there had in the unfolding tragedy.

Most likely, they were protecting the convoy so that it could get to its destination. Unfortunately, the despair of the people who had gathered and the chaos that ensued prevented the aid from being distributed in an orderly fashion.

I don't want to blame the young well fed and watered soldiers who found themselves in a situation where a crowd of hungry people felt threatening to them, and they fired to protect themselves. I try to imagine the young officer in charge of the troops and how he came to see this unarmed crowd as threatening and felt justified in giving the order to fire. They will all have to live with their memories of that day. I do not envy them that.

Regardless of how it happened, the fact is that Israeli bombings and on-the-ground fighting have destroyed the infrastructure in Northern Gaza, where this incident occurred.

The IDF has fired upon Palestinian Police in Gaza, believing them to all be affiliated with Hamas, so there is no civil authority, and chaos reigns among people who are just trying to survive from one day to the next. Ironically, food aid deliveries are orderly in areas where Hanas is still active. Even if Hamas does take some of the aid for themselves, this seems like a small price to pay to avoid incidents such as the one that occurred last week. But that is not the calculus being made by the IDF and their handlers, the Israeli government.

It continues to be personally very difficult for me to wrap my head around and accept the reality of how Israel has waged this war against Hamas. The cause is just, but the war has not been conducted justly.

Any criticism of how Israel is waging this war is quickly labeled as antisemitic. Israelis are quick to point out other horrific wars waged throughout history and ask why is only Israel being held to an unreasonably high standard, inferring that this is because Israel is a Jewish State. There is no question there is lots of hypocrisy in the world, but that does not excuse the imposition of a siege on the people of Gaza, preventing them from receiving basic needs, followed by a relentless bombing campaign that destroyed most of the civilian infrastructure in Gaza and now on the ground fighting. In contrast, basic aid is being denied to those who have survived the war thus far, condemning them to a slow death through starvation or disease unless there is a ceasefire and aid begins to flow at needed amounts soon.

When this war began, I did not believe that the genocide of Palestinians living in Gaza was an objective of the Israelis. Today, I am no longer so sure. Perhaps the Israeli government and the IDF believe their lies: that there is no starvation in Gaza, that adequate amounts of aid are going in, and that all the NGOs who say otherwise are tools of Hamas propaganda. I personally find that hard to believe.

What is happening in Gaza must be understood in the context of Israeli history. Israel is a country with a history like no other. Zionists developed the idea of Israel based on an idealized and mythical view of the land. The Zionist vision saw the land as wilderness and referred to is as Eretz Israel a land that belonged to the Jews given to them by God.

Secular Zionists were less attached to the idea that God gave the land to the Jews but shared the belief that the land rightfully belonged to the Jews. Zionists believed that when the Jews were forced off the land by the Romans for the last time in AD 19, the land started to disintegrate and lose its fruitfulness, turning into a virtual wilderness because there existed between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel a relationship of love that could never be equaled by any other people's feeling for the land. The first Zionists who began arriving from eastern Europe in what was then Palestine at the beginning of the 20th century were met by a land full of dunes and swamps where the majority of the people who were there, Arabs and nomadic Bedouin who, in the view of the Zionists had failed to put down roots and had little stake in the land's future. These people were seen as essentially squatters who needed to be removed from Jewish land.

The Zionists were not a monolithic group, and their vision for Israel varied a great deal depending on the particular stream of Zionism they were connected to. Still, all agreed that the land of Israel should be a Jewish State. Their vision was strong, and there was no room in it for the Palestinians, those Arabs who were already on the land. At first, slowly and then more abruptly following 1948, when the Israeli State was established, the Jews of Israel began to force the Palestinians off the land they considered to be rightfully theirs.

Israel's borders were agreed upon in the 1949 Armistice Agreements. Lebanon demarcated Israel to the north, the Golan Heights under Syrian sovereignty, the rest of Syria to the northeast, the Palestinian West Bank and Jordan to the east, and the Palestinian Gaza Strip and Egypt to the southwest. Those borders changed in 1967 after the Six Day War when Israel occupied the Sinai peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and most of the Syrian Golan Heights - effectively tripling the size of territory under Israel's control. The Sinai was returned to Egypt in 1982 under the peace treaty concluded between those countries in 1979. The rest of the territories occupied during the '67 War have varying statuses within Israel, from complete annexation, as in the case of the Golan Heights, to occupation, as in the West Bank. My point is not to get into the weeds of the status of various pieces of land but rather to show that the lack of concern for the fate of the Palestinians is woven into Israel's history. Since 1967, Israel has practiced discriminatory policies that control the day-to-day life of Palestinians who live in areas under exclusive Israeli control. These are chronicled by Israeli organizations such as Breaking the Silence, an organization of IDF veterans who testify about the ways the IDF humiliates and disempowers Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, and B'Tselem, an Israeli Human Rights Organization, which has documented Human Rights abuses against Palestinians in the occupied territories.

My point is that what is happening in Gaza is extreme. Still, it is within the realms of a response to Palestinians that Israelis find quite acceptable, particularly when it is coupled with a war on a terrorist organization that perpetrated an attack on Israel that killed about 1,200 people and took another 200 hostages. Israelis as a group have historically never considered the Palestinians as anything more than interlopers, squatters on Jewish land who need to be relocated at best, and a dangerous enemy who will kill them and must therefore be killed first at worst.  What is happening in Gaza needs to be understood in that context.

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