Israel and the Gaza Prison Break

Photograph Source: Al Jazeera English – CC BY-SA 2.0

There are some are saying that the recent Hamas attack in southern Israel was that country’s 9/11. It’s hard to miss the inference there. A gruesome and “unprovoked” attack on innocent people. An outpouring of grief and international solidarity. A demand for retaliation. As in those attacks over 20 years ago, these were no less horrendous.

But after 9/11, the Bush regime used its muscle to severely curtail civil liberties and start a “global war on terror”. Muslims were demonized, surveilled, and detained, often indefinitely. And the antiwar movement was castigated for being unpatriotic, or worse treacherous. How easy it was to distract the public from real threats like economic predation, corrupted social and political institutions and the accelerating perils of climate change.

Israel is in a similar position. The Israeli public has been deeply dissatisfied with its government and its extremist, far-right politics. In recent months, the country saw its biggest protests when Netanyahu’s coalition attempted to weaken the court’s power. They were met with tear gas and water cannons. How easy will it be now to crush any opposition with the accusation of treason in a “time of war?” Who will take to the streets in Tel Aviv now to protest a government that is becoming more and more fascist by the day?

In the months following 9/11, many were asking how the world’s most powerful nation was so ill-prepared for these kinds of attacks. Similar questions are now being raised today. How is it that the strongest military power in the Middle East was incapable of stopping this brazen invasion by a ragtag group that possesses no army, navy or air force? Where were its vaunted “Iron Dome” defenses against a bunch of paragliders? Israel is known for its surveillance technology which it exports worldwide. How could they have not adequately monitored one of the most watched cities in the world? And how come it took the military hours to reach the besieged enclaves near the Gaza border? These questions aren’t conspiratorial. Incompetence can be just as deadly as complicity. It demands critical review because the stakes couldn’t be higher. These terrible incidents are often used to advance the most odious of objectives.

As in the US, the left was always weak in Israel. It is now all but moribund as war hawks circle the open-air prison of Gaza, meting out a bloody collective punishment to anyone on the ground. It matters not that half of the population are children. Everyone there has been dehumanized as a savage, or as one Israeli official said “animals.” That the rhetoric is blatantly genocidal is of no concern to American politicians. On the contrary, they are being encouraged to “finish them,” as presidential hopeful Nikki Haley tweeted.

No matter what one thinks of the politics of Hamas, its right to resist occupation, its ill-advised prison break, or its heinous rampage, the consequences for Palestinians will only become bleaker. Targeting civilians is only something Israel can get away with in the Western media. It can carpet bomb entire neighborhoods, and target hospitals, schools and UN shelters. It can cut off food, water, electricity and medical supplies. It can literally kill thousands of people. And it will all be forgiven as Israel’s “right to defend itself.”

Few to none in the mainstream press will talk about the blockade that has cut off Gaza from the rest of the world since 2007. Or about the crushing poverty. Or about the undrinkable water (Israel bombed the treatment facility years ago). Or about the bleakness of life in the occupied West Bank, where home demolitions, checkpoints, settler violence, and night raids are a fact of everyday life. Few to none will discuss the fact that Israel has been designated an apartheid state by the UN, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch or the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. Or that the former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo, among many other Israeli officials, agreed with these conclusions.

It is understandable why so many Palestinians feel hopeless. They have been among the most maligned, dehumanized and persecuted people on earth for the past 75+ years. Violently dispossessed of their land, treated as second-class citizens within Israel and backward savages in the occupied territories. Demonized in the Western press. When they’ve resisted their occupation, a right they are entitled to under international law, they are cast as genocidal monsters. When they resist non-violently, as in the BDS campaign, they are cast as anti-Semitic. And now Arab countries are lining up to “normalize” relations with their oppressors. Is it any wonder why they would feel such desperation? How could any young Gazan have hope for a future when all they’ve known is brutal captivity?

The days ahead will be bleaker than any before for the Palestinians. The 9/11 narrative being employed today will be used in a similar manner to strip Israelis of whatever rights they may have left and strip Palestinians of their very lives. We can only hope that they will stop short of the unthinkable.

Kenn Orphan is an artist, sociologist, radical nature lover and weary, but committed activist. He can be reached at