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The Breaking of the Gaza Wall


The breaking of the Gaza-Egypt wall is clearly a good thing, and a rare example of the moral — and also wise — use of violence in politics. (For the logic and effects of the Israeli cordon of Gaza see posting of December 7, 2007, “Imposed Hunger in Gaza, The Army in Indonesia. Questions of Logic and Activism”).

Most all political violence consists of clear wrongs , like murder or unjustified war, but sometimes, sadly, disgustingly, some violence is justified as a last resort, and sometimes — as a subcategory of that — some of that justified violence is also wise, tactically.

Once you get far outside the murder and the crimes of war and those against humanity, some of the choices regarding whether or not to use some violence can be legitimately tough and debatable.

But the Gaza wall-breaking was an easy call: no people were killed, some may have been saved, and the spectacle of an exodus into Egypt effectively dramatized a gross injustice.

It’s ironic that this was apparently done — its not yet clear from what level — by or with some Hamas people, since that’s a movement that has, in its bombings of Israeli civilians, been immoral, criminal, and tactically stupid, turning the oppressed into oppressors, in many eyes, and turning some victims into actual murderers.

But this use of violence — against mere bricks in a wall — was right and a stroke of genius. The legend of all-knowing Israeli intelligence notwithstanding, some of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces)/ Shin Bet/ Mossad/ Cabinet killers must have been stunned, and temporarily shaken.

This was, after all, the first big, smart Palestinian move since the David and Goliath stone intifada, which pitted mere stone-throwing teenagers against Israeli tanks and body-armored soldiers, and exposed the Occupation, twenty years ago, putting Israel’s regime on the defensive. (Not that it lasted long enough to produce results. The Peace Laureates Rabin and Arafat killed it; Rabin with knee-breaking — “force, might, and beatings” was his order, which, for a while, made Israel look still worse, but then Arafat shut the teen Davids down since they were winning without his approval).

The poor Washington Post was clearly stunned and shaken by this wall breach in Gaza.

They were reduced to accusing Hamas of “exploit[ing] [Israel’s] temporary shutdown of fuel supplies” — i.e. by telling people about it (aren’t newspapers supposed to encourage that?), and were cornered into the unfortunate position — if one accepts their logic — of seeming to support the denial of rights to Darfur refugees. (“As thousands stream across the border to Egypt, Hamas blockades the peace process,” The Washington Post, January 24, 2008).

The Post asked rhetorically: “Would Mr. Mubarak allow tens of thousands of Darfur refugees to illegally enter Egypt from Sudan, where a real humanitarian crisis is underway?,” the expected answer from the reader being a realistic, shameful (for Mubarak) “No,” and then demanded that Mubarak apply exactly that shameful standard by likewise barring uninvited Gazans.

So in order to keep the Palestinians out (or, more precisely, keep them cooped-in), you seem willing to bar the Darfuris too?

When you reach for arguments like that, it’s a sign that your side’s case is in trouble.

So what would happen if some Palestinians decided to break the West Bank wall, too? Say, tens of thousands of teens one morning, at dawn, turning up with picks and crowbars?

Would the IDF destroy people to save concrete?

Quite possibly.

They feel entitled.

As then–Justice Minister Haim Ramon put it, “we have the right to destroy everything” (Gideon Levy, Little Ahmadinejads, Haaretz, 10/06/2007), and though he was talking about Lebanon ’06 (Final rough tallies: 1,000 Lebanese civilians killed, 40 Israeli civilians, and 4 million mainly-US cluster bomblets scattered by IDF in southern Lebanon) he could have been articulating the broad moral/criminal law philosophy of today’s Israeli/US establishments, and — when it comes to Israel — much of today’s Israeli/US society.

But if they did, if they opened fire, Israel-Palestine history would begin anew, and though many Palestinians would die, as usual, this time they might not die in vain, since many in the world — including the US — would see who’s oppressing whom.

Incidentally, Israel’s leading newspaper, Haaretz, recently carried an airtight critique of the security rationale behind the vast complex of barriers that seal-in West Bank villages — a complex of which the wall is only the final, tallest, manifestation.

The stated reasons for these barriers, that divert and slow Palestinians, making them fade and die in ambulances, is that they keep suicide/homicide bombers from attacking, in-and-of-itself, a good objective.

But Haaretz reporters found that, incredibly, 475 of 572 roadblocks were unmanned, and then posed the logically clinching questions: What? Suicide bombers can’t get through here? They’re not willing to step over the unmanned barriers that stop ordinary people (and ambulances)?

The Haaretz analyst reached the reasonable conclusion that the sealing-in has a different function:

“Is it seriously contended by anyone that a mound of earth, a ditch or a series of concrete blocks can stop terrorists from moving around? Do these barriers serve any function other than embittering the lives of the Palestinians? The sick and the elderly, pregnant women and people carrying shopping baskets undoubtedly find it more difficult to get in and out of their barricaded towns and villages. Indeed both B’Tselem and the organization Physicians for Human Rights have documented cases of sick people being unable to receive treatment because they couldn’t reach their doctors or clinics–while anybody planning a terrorist attack can easily clamber over the mounds, traverse the ditches or circumvent the blocks…”

“Nobody I’ve spoken with,” continued the writer, Daniel Gavron, ” has a convincing military explanation for the unmanned roadblocks. In fact, people familiar with Israeli military thinking have convinced me that the main object of these barriers is to fragment the territory, effectively preempting the ‘contiguous Palestinian state’ recently touted by U.S. President George Bush. Nothing I have heard has convinced me that the unmanned roadblocks increase the security of Israelis in Israel, or even of the Jewish settlers in the territories.” (Daniel Gavron, “Start with the unmanned roadblocks!,” Haaretz, December 23, 2007, which also refers to earlier Haaretz reporting ).

And as the veteran Israeli correspondent Amira Hass points out, there seem to be other, non-barrier/wall, factors behind the recent decline in bombings; that is, bombings by walking Palestinians; bombings by flying Israelis have increased (see Amira Hass, “Where are the suicide bombers?,” December 2007 | , translated from Hebrew by George Malent. Hass notes that some Palestinians, desperate for work, slip the wall into Israel daily. If they can do it, so could suicide bombers, if they personally or politically wanted to).

And, at any rate, the settlers and the Occupation are illegal, as is the wall, according to the World Court — and not surprisingly, the Palestinians are justly unhappy with them all — , so the best security solution is to simply remove them.

But the Israeli regime seems to want perpetual war tension. It now sustains their political culture.

That’s fine. They can want whatever they want.

But they don’t have the right to impose it.

And neither do the Palestinians, of course. They just have the right to their rights.

And since one of them is to have that illegal wall breached, and Mr. Olmert doesn’t want to do it, maybe some Palestinian teens can do it for him.

He can meet them at the wall, at dawn.

Tell him to bring a pick.






ALLAN NAIRN writes the blog News and Comment at

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