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Israeli Tunnel Vision
Is Gaza locked in a terminal enclosure or is Israel?
Certainly Gaza, that immiserated sliver of land, is encaged: its borders sealed; its coastline patrolled by Israeli gunships; its skies streaked with drones.
Gaza has a population of nearly 1.8 million and rising, jam-packed into a landscape about the size of Detroit. Roughly, 90 percent of the residents of Gaza are refugees, stranded by nearly unceasing Israeli wars since 1948.
Gaza is poor. That is what we are told. And there are facts to back it up. The territory barely has an economy, especially since the tunnels, those subterranean streams of commerce, to Egypt were sealed after the coup against the Morsi government. A phony pretext for war, the tunnels delivered goods, from medicines to clothes and spices, interdicted by Israel. The tariffs imposed on this trade also provided funding for essential government services in Gaza, from sanitation to ambulances.
Gaza’s per capita GDP was only $876 in 2012. It is almost certainly lower now, as the Israeli blockade strangles Gazan commerce. Only eight nations in the world rank poorer by that dismal standard. Israel, in contrast, boasts a per capita GDP of $31,000; it’s economy hums, growing even as the missiles fly.
More than 30 percent of Gazans have no jobs and no prospects, living in a kind of permanent limbo. When the power plants haven’t been bombed by the IDF, most Gazans only enjoy electricity for 12 hours a day. Gaza’s natural water sources are severely limited, much of it appropriated by Israel, and the 80 percent of the Strip’s groundwater is dangerously contaminated. Living conditions from Rafah to Gaza City are dire.
Gaza is weak. Its government is bankrupt, riven by internecine tensions between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which have been deviously exploited by the US and Israel. It has no army, no air force, no navy. It has no tanks, no anti-aircraft batteries, no armor-piercing weapons. Gaza has a few primitive rockets, mortars, rusty firearms, rocks.
Gaza has no allies. The Arab monarchies fear Hamas more than the Israelis. Mahmoud Abbas, the Marshal Petain of the Palestinian Authority, has helped the Israelis target Hamas leaders. Turkey and Qatar, once reliable sponsors of Hamas, seem to have been bought off.
As the death count mounted, most of the world simply turned its eyes from the carnage, cringing only when UN schools were obliterated by Israeli airstrikes. Out of indifference? Out of shame? Out of guilt?
Everyone seemed to be getting in on the action, even Google, which was selling a “Bomb Gaza” game, an app for Android phones which allowed players to target their missiles strikes in Gaza City. Points deducted for civilian casualties.
But is that kind of blood sport really any worse than the gaseous outbursts of Bill Maher, America’s most bombastic atheist? Maher regularly asserts that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and defended the bloodbath in Gaza by Tweeting: “Dealing w/ Hamas is like dealing w/ a crazy woman who’s trying to kill u – u can only hold her wrists so long before you have to slap her.” He says this without once addressing the fact that Israel is a religious state, where the full-rights of citizenship are accorded only to Jews. Maher is a prime-time bigot whose popularity with progressives is a bracing measure of the moral decline of the American left.
Meanwhile, the US has played its accustomed role of dishonest broker, by secretly sabotaging the unity government between Hamas and the PA and failing to make any effort to restrain Netanyahu’s most savage inclinations. In his Middle East diplomacy, John Kerry doesn’t shuttle so much as flutter, every tedious conversation monitored by Israeli intelligence to assure he doesn’t deviate from the script. There is, naturally, some karmic justice in the wiretapping of a serial wiretapper.
There’s more dissent against the war in the Knesset than in the US congress, which now functions as a fully-programed automaton of the Israel lobby. When it comes to Israel, even Rand Paul snaps to attention, distancing himself from his father’s heresies.
So Gaza stands against the Israeli behemoth: poor, weak, alone.
All of this may be so and yet one can’t help but conclude that Israel’s dominion is fragile. That, in fact, Israel is losing. Israel is losing, but is not yet conscious of the fact. Why? Because it is Israel, which has surrounded itself with walls and covered itself with an Iron Dome, which is truly isolated, which exists in a hothouse of its own design, exposed to the merciless law of entropy.
With Netanyahu strutting like a blow-dry Pompey Maximus, the IDF feels compelled to assert its power every four or five years with fusillades of rockets and bloody ground incursions. The nation has become seduced with it’s own technological omnipotence: it’s sophisticated weaponry, it’s drones, it’s Iron Dome. Israel has now gone beyond blaming the victims. The goal now seems to be one of annihilation. First of Palestinian identity, then the Palestinians themselves.
There is a bloody dialectic at work. The path that Israel has chosen, one of separation and isolation enforced by eruptions of extreme violence, will lead inexorably to its own ruin. As for the people of Gaza, the tenacity of their resistance, their unshakeable will to be free, is an affirmation of their humanity—and that is the most decisive rebuke of Israel’s revolting cruelties.
Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray) will be published in June by CounterPunch Books. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.