Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Living Horror That Is Gaza

This is how Deacon Muskrat, the hatefully hawkish cleric in Walt Kelly's great comic strip Pogo, put it years ago: "If I had the bomb, I'd force peace down their throats."

Once more, Israel is forcing peace down the throats of the beleaguered citizens of  Gaza.  And the blood of innocents flows and flows. Thirty-two of the 66 acknowledged victims of the latest bloodbath have been civilian men, women and children.

Never mind the numbers.  Bibi and his friends don't care.

One invites being labeled anti-semitic for thinking these thoughts.  And so I give you the son of a teacher of Hebrew, who visited  Gaza just before the latest reign of terror began:

" . . . it hardly takes more than a day in Gaza to begin to appreciate what it must be like to try to survive in the world’s largest open-air prison, where a million and a half people, in the most densely populated area of the world, are constantly subject to random and often savage terror and arbitrary punishment, with no purpose other than to humiliate and degrade, and with the further goal of ensuring that Palestinian hopes for a decent future will be crushed and that the overwhelming global support for a diplomatic settlement that will grant these rights will be nullified."

Noam Chomsky wrote that, even as Israel was calling up 70,000 more reserve troops to active duty, the better to force peace down the throats of the sick, starving, angry inhabitants of "the world's largest open-air prison."

Granted, diplomatic solutions do not come easy in the most troubled parts of this vale of tears, especially when tens, even hundreds of generations of ethnic and religious conflict have buried the last vestiges of human decency under layers of murder, terror, torture, rape and pillage. 

And so we -- most of us in the so-called civilized world, remote as we are from the worst of the ethno-religious horrors -- as Pete Seger musically laments, "live like an ostrich, bury our heads in the sand . . ."

When the U.N. sought to condemn Israel's latest ourages on the Gazans, the United States, Netanyahu's enabler, vetoed the resolution because "Israel has a right to defend itself."  What Chomsky disdainfully calls "the security pretext."  He quotes "the prominent military-political analyst Yoram Peri, who wrote that the Israeli army's task is not to defend the state, but 'to demolish the rights of innocent people just because they are Araboushim ("nigger," "kikes") living in territories that God promised to us.'" And so the people of Gaza have become Samid (steadfast), watching their homeland turned into a prison by brutal occupiers, able to do nothing but somehow "endure."

And we bury our heads in the sand.

Chomsky writes that after several days there his reaction "was amazement, not only at the ability to go on with life, but also at the vibrancy and vitality among young people, particularly at the university. . . But there too one can detect signs that the pressure may become too hard to bear. . . There is only so much that caged animals can endure, and there may be an eruption, perhaps taking ugly forms — offering an opportunity for Israeli and western apologists to self-righteously condemn the people who are culturally backward, as Mitt Romney insightfully explained.

"Gaza has the look of a typical third world society, with pockets of wealth surrounded by hideous poverty. It is not, however, 'undeveloped.' Rather it is 'de-developed,' and very systematically so, to borrow the terms of Sara Roy, the leading academic specialist on Gaza.

"The signs are easy to see, even on a brief visit. Sitting in a hotel near the shore, one can hear the machine gun fire of Israeli gunboats driving fishermen out of Gaza’s territorial waters and towards shore, so they are compelled to fish in waters that are heavily polluted because of US-Israeli refusal to allow reconstruction of the sewage and power systems that they destroyed. . .

"Water is severely limited. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which cares for refugees (but not other Gazans), recently released a report warning that damage to the aquifer may soon become 'irreversible,' and that without remedial action quickly, by 2020 Gaza may not be a 'liveable place.'

"All of this is part of the general program described by Israeli official Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, after Palestinians failed to follow orders in the 2006 elections: 'The idea,' he said, 'is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.'

"And the plan is being scrupulously followed. Sara Roy has provided extensive evidence in her scholarly studies. Recently, after several years of effort, the Israeli human rights organization Gisha succeeded to obtain a court order for the government to release its records detailing plans for the diet, and how they are executed. Israel-based journalist Jonathan Cook summarizes them: 'Health officials provided calculations of the minimum number of calories needed by Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants to avoid malnutrition. Those figures were then translated into truckloads of food Israel was supposed to allow in each day ... an average of only 67 trucks — much less than half of the minimum requirement — entered Gaza daily. This compared to more than 400 trucks before the blockade began.' And even this estimate is overly generous, UN relief officials report.

"Mideast scholar Juan Cole observes that “[a]bout ten percent of Palestinian children in Gaza under 5 have had their growth stunted by malnutrition ... in addition, anemia is widespread, affecting over two-thirds of infants, 58.6 percent of schoolchildren, and over a third of pregnant mothers.” The US and Israel want to ensure that nothing more than bare survival is possible.

"In one of the world’s leading medical journals, The Lancet, a visiting Stanford physician, appalled by what he witnessed, describes Gaza as 'something of a laboratory for observing an absence of dignity,' a condition that has 'devastating' effects on physical, mental, and social wellbeing. 'The constant surveillance from the sky, collective punishment through blockade and isolation, the intrusion into homes and communications, and restrictions on those trying to travel, or marry, or work make it difficult to live a dignified life in Gaza.' The Araboushim must be taught not to raise their heads."

Even as we bury our own in the sand.

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