I have an app on my fancyphone called iGaza. Every time I hear its alarm beep, I get scared. Being a white person safely housed in non-ghetto America, I had the liberty of shutting my eyes a bit longer today to block out the latest update from the killing zone. Gazans can’t roll over and go back to sleep; this morning the death toll reached over 100 from the past 4 days.
100 lives. One hundred human beings extinguished. Gone, nil, axed, snuffed, murdered. My brother’s death shattered my world, my mom’s world, my dad’s world. Imagine how many galaxies have just been destroyed.
And yet people have the audacity to say that this is necessary. Some decent people, some people I love and worship with; politicians as well, but they’re not even worth discussing. This morning Ma’an News had a story of a young mother who died moving her kids to a “safer” room in the house; she saved all but one. I wonder if these defenders of Israeli aggression can look me in the eye and tell me this was necessary. I know they’ll try, because they don’t believe a word of it. Because their vision is clouded by a lifetime of lies, lies that don’t even really make sense unless you swallow the racist syrup that binds them.
I am and was raised Jewish, in a synagogue, attending a Jewish summer camp, so I’ve been exposed to these tales. Let’s start to dismantle some of my favorite lies:
1. “There is no such thing as ‘Palestinians.’ ” Yesterday I spoke with a bright young Palestinian woman who has been told this by someone who seemed to think it was an appropriate thing to say. (She’s actually not the first Palestinian-American I know who has encountered this.) The fact that someone would tell someone there is no such thing as their ethnic group is astounding; it rings vaguely of the very few times I’ve been told there was no Holocaust (my grandparents are survivors). Palestinians are people who are from areas that are within historic Palestine, be it the West Bank, Israel proper, or the Gaza Strip. Not Jordan. Not Lebanon. Still want to fight because Palestine isn’t a “country?” The entire Levant has been carved and re-carved for centuries, no current country borders have existed for very long, get over it.
2. “Hamas is a militant terrorist organization.” Hamas is a political party. It was democratically elected (which is more than we can say about our government) in 2005; the response was punishing sanctions from Israel and the U.S. Hamas has a military wing that has killed people, innocent people (so do we). Its sole purpose is not the destruction of Israel; in fact it has brokered and maintained ceasefires with Israel frequently, far more often than Israel has maintained the ceasefires. Not everyone affiliated with Hamas has any connection to violence. Making the comparison to our own set-up, a “Hamas-supporter” is kind of like a registered Democrat, a “Hamas” official could be an EPA employee. Neither Democrats nor EPA employees are particularly threatening, nor are they legitimate military targets.
3. “Hamas (or Islamic Jihad, or whoever) operates from crowded civilian areas using human shields.” Gaza IS a crowded civilian area; this is the doing of Israel, which does not let people in or out. It has 1.8 million people in an area of about 140 square miles. There is no evidence that they are using pharmacies, marked tv cars, ambulances, hospitals, or residential homes to plan attacks on Israel, yet Israel targets all of those things. That anecdote you heard about the ambulance? Put it in the bs file, along with the school books story. As far as human shields go, this morning a young mother used herself as a human shield to save her children. That’s the recent evidence we have on human shields.
4. “Most humane army in the world” la di fricking da. The only humane army in the world is Costa Rica’s. “Precision weaponry and intelligence.” Look, either Israel is deliberately targeting civilians or it has some really terrible intelligence and is using it with gross negligence. Given the death tolls and the targets, you can’t have it both ways. In either case, it’s committing war crimes.
The overall picture that we get of Gaza is a land teeming with terrorists who chose that perch because of its unique ability to launch mostly ineffective missiles into Israel, a neglected ghetto of Israel, I might add; they have no legitimate grievances, only an irrational and obsessive hatred of Israel. The primary driving force of most Gazans, as of most human beings, is living a good life; this is no small feat for a refugee population whose resources and movement are under total control by an occupying power. And yes, Israel still controls land, air, and sea, in spite of the “withdrawal.” Kind of like a prison is still a prison even though the prison guards stick to the hallways.
5. “Unfortunate killings, necessary for defense.” There is no such thing as an unfortunate killing of a person. It is unfortunate when you hit a deer with your car. It is tragic at best and murderous pure evil at worst when a human being is killed. Unless. . . it’s not a human being! I loop back to this again and again and again. I cannot fathom a way that someone can brush aside the deaths of all those children and young people unless they don’t think they’re real people. Btw, both Islamic Jihad and Hamas claim and name when one of the dead is one of their fighters, and those are few and far between on the death toll; young men in their 20’s, obnoxious though they can sometimes be, are not all or even mostly combatants. And no, Palestinians don’t rejoice when their children are killed; a more racist understanding of people would be hard for me to imagine. (You say that Palestinian martyrs are celebrated? American military parents and widows, Veteran’s Day, 4th of July, right back at ya; doesn’t mean we don’t mourn our dead soldiers.)
And that “necessary for defense” bit? Given that zero Israelis have been killed by the Gazan rockets this time, I’d say that the combo of Israel’s advanced missile defense shield, air sirens, bomb shelters, and the inefficacy of the Gazan rockets are doing a pretty good job of defense. And Israel could just accept the ceasefire offered by the Hamas-P.A. government, but Netanyahu stated unequivocally yesterday that a ceasefire is off the table.
6. “Rocks kill people.” You really think that a boy with a slingshot and a soldier with a gun are on equal footing? Yeah? I have some ocean front property in Arizona I’d like to sell you.
7. “Palestinians teach their kids to hate.” Having your house blown up, your sisters arrested, your brothers beaten, your orchards destroyed, your requests to travel denied, and your hospital generators regularly run out of fuel are really far more effective teachers of resentment and anger. Even in the face of all those professors of hatred, though, as an American Jew I have been treated with nothing but kindness from Palestinians; that is love, that is humanity, and that is hope.
Anyhow, we don’t get to kill members of the Westboro Baptist Church, and we know they teach their kids to hate.
8. “Israel has a right to defend itself.” Palestinians don’t? How can Israel have a right to defend itself when Palestinians, under constant attack from Israel (Gaza takes missiles and gunfire from Israel every single week of the year, whether we hear about it or not; West Bank residents are rounded up and roughed up regularly) do not? This makes no sense, unless only certain types of people have the right to defend themselves.
There’s a simple racism test that I like to use in cases like this: reverse the parties (like Matthew McConaughey did in “A Time to Kill,” because, you know, the jurors don’t think little black girls don’t deserve to get gang-raped until we picture them as little white girls). Would 100 dead Israelis not be mentioned until the 4th paragraph of a New York Times article (they did it again today!)? If you think so, about that ocean front property . . .