A Modest Proposal to Immediately Save Palestinian Lives

Image by Alice Donovan Rouse.

This modest proposal is not a satire after Swift’s 18th century satirical Modest Proposal in which he suggested that the British solve the Irish overpopulation problem by eating Irish children. My proposal is about feasible and immediate ways to stop Israel from massacring its colonized people, killing on average a Palestinian child every 15 minutes and an adult every 10 minutes. The most recent estimate by the Euro-Med Monitor is that Israel has killed 25,000 Palestinians in 2 months (plus unknown numbers buried under rubble, plus uncounted numbers who die due to horrendous health conditions). Many will ridicule my proposals as utterly, politically naïve. My background is not political science but as a mother and grandmother, a social worker during the brief war-on-poverty era, a psychoanalyst, a student of social and intellectual history. Here’s my impression of current politics: it’s possible that intransigent decision-makers will be persuaded by threats of being charged by the ICC or ICJ with genocide, or by arrest under the principle of universal jurisdiction, or with violations of the UN Charter and international humanitarian law, or that the threat of lawsuits against the profiteers of this genocide could persuade some to recommend the most meagre measures (e.g. humanitarian pause, temporary ceasefire). Recent history shows that innumerable perpetrators characteristically get away with appalling crimes.

Cutting to the chase, here are steps that can be taken immediately. Certainly these ways of providing essential supplies to the besieged Strip can be elaborated, supplemented, corrected by experts in public health, funding, in the use of various technologies that can breach borders and checkpoints (e.g. swarms of drones [1], air balloons, kites, small boats), by legal experts for bypassing the morass of Jesuitical, talmudic, and originary (used by reactionary US Supreme Court judges) interpretations of law/lawfare and sovereignty. [2] For providing water, some water purification methods that could be dropped from drones are 21 day filters, life straws with gravity bag (up to 1000 liters cab serve 500 people/day and includes a 10 liter sack with a prefilter for sediment ( $174). Water is necessary for hydration, sanitation. Emergency medical supplies includes soap, wipes, preferably alcohol, painkillers and anesthesia, basic antibiotics, bandages and tourniquets, surgery scalpels, debridement to cut away tissue from wounds, bone saws for amputations; food such as high protein seeds, nuts, soy/sunflower/peanut butter; lightweight space blankets to stave off hypothermia; plastic bags for collecting feces. [3]

How is it that people who are not individually psychotic or psychopathic are so out of touch with reality and allow, promote, facilitate these most sadistic desecrations of real people? On December 13 153 countries approved an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire”, 23 abstentions, 10 against. How is it then that 153 countries can’t get food, water, medical supplies into Gaza? Guterres cries and bemoans but doesn’t talk practical, realizable steps or demand immediate action or proposals? Stories about starving Gazans breaking into UNRWA building for their own food use these words: ”Plunder” “break into”, “loot” the UNRWA agency for food. In the past, Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday, directors of the UN Oil for Food Program responsible for ½ million Iraqi child deaths, resigned in disgust with the UN.

All UN members must sign on to the principles of the 1948 UN Charter to end the “scourge of war”. International law expert, the late Michael Mandel, summarizes these principles [4]: 1) self-defense justifies the taking of life only where demonstrably necessary to save life, so if there is a non-violent alternative, it must be taken unless there is not time to seek a collective peaceful solution. Otherwise, authorization by the UNSC is required. Wars of aggression are prohibited, including invasion by another state. No political, economic, or military consideration is an excuse. Only self-defense is legitimate and is not a war of aggression. Only the security Council can provide legitimacy but even the UNSC has limits on its power. Chapter VI provides for the ‘pacific settlement of disputes’: the parties to any dispute ‘shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiations, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice (article 33). If they fail to settle the dispute on their own, Article 37 lays down the absolute requirement that ‘they shall refer it to the Security Council’ Chapter VII – ‘Action with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression’ is the part that provides the Security Council with authority to use coercieve measures including armed force, but only as ‘may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.’ It also has the power to ‘make recommendations’ (Article 39), or to employ ‘measures not involving the use of armed force,’ which ‘may include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication and the severance of diplomatic relations.’ Article 42 provides, finally, for the use of armed force: should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Aritcle 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces. The Security Council of the United Nations has been made the supreme international authority over war and peace by a solemn treaty, drafted, signed and still voluntarily adhered to bey the United States and all the member states…” It is binding on all members as a condition of their membership…”

Clearly this is unworkable, violated from the very beginning in the 1948 Israeli aggression against Palestinians (the Nakba) followed by the partition and recognition of the Jewish state, and by 1952 the UN perpetrated the genocidal war on Korea. Peacekeeping forces require unanimous approval by the five permanent, nuclear weapons nations of the Security Council.

Add these actions to petitions, protests, appeals to the ICC and ICJ. Add blockades to BDS tactics: there is precedent in Block the Boat by dockworkers and labour refusal to unload weapons destined for Israel. Add other civil disobedience possibilities like didactic sabotage: experiencing the siege by cutting off water, food, sanitation, electricity, and blocking exits in key North American and EU offices.

Can you imagine what it’s like to exist in the Gaza holocaust, every moment? Here’s a poem about being a mother every moment, the state of “primary maternal preoccupation” (so eloquently evoked decades ago by pediatrician/psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott):

The baby has a fever

And you need to leave to get Tylenol.

He wants to be held


With both arms but

You need to put on your jacket.

Do you:

Juggle baby

One arm at a time

Balanced in the crook

As you unsuccessfully snag your arms in

(might take a while)

Or put baby down

And throw the jacket on in seconds

As he howls?

Single Mama Moment #41, Christy NaMee Eriksen [5]

Do you ask how a president who lost three of his own children brings misery to immigrant children locked in ICE and separated from their parents, how this president provides arms to kill Palestinian children? Or how a democratic socialist leader can’t bring himself to say “ceasefire”? or how the UK Labour Party has it in for compassionate, thoroughly unprejudiced former leader in the name of antisemitism? Or how people in positions of decision-making know nothing about Israeli or Arab history? [6] Or how 153 nations are blocked by one tiny country from even providing water as it collectively kills thousands?

Hilary Clinton wrote a book as if she cares about children, It Takes A Village. Nomi Prins’ It Takes a Pillage, exposes neoliberal criminality.

J’Accuse by Zola is about the antisemitic Dreyfuss Affair in France. Haim Brehseeth-Zabner’s J’Accuse is about this Israeli genocide. J’Accuse by Aharon Shabtai is about how Israel’s bloodbath involves a whole orchestra of perpetrating criminals. Shabtai’s poem is about a Palestinian father trying to shield his terrified son, captured in a heart-wrenching photograph (the Goldstone Report found that Israel used human shields, not Hamas).

J’ACCUSE by Aharon Shabtai 2003

The sniper who shot at Muhammad the child
Beneath his father’s arm
Wasn’t acting alone –
Someone else in uniform,
A junior cog in the wheel who was briefed
At a higher level,
Positioned him there on the roof,
A public servant,
A cantor
For the Days of Awe;
And someone else
Manufactured the ammunition,
And another had it distributed
Like bars of chocolate.
The tree doesn’t go green
When a single leaf unfurls,
Many wrinkled brows
Leaned over the plans.
History has known
Foreheads like these –
Technicians of slaughter,
Bastards in whose eyes
Morality is a pain in the ass.
But even cucumbers
Need dirt and a little dung.
The worm isn’t born of air;
A million words are required
To reconstruct the manner
In which public discourse itself
Is corrupted and turned into refuse –
That which within the body politic
Was created to preserve
The heart of justice.

But now
There isn’t time for any of that,
When right in front of the cameras,
Without any shame,
Grown men in uniforms
Are shooting into a helpless crowd.
From the back with their necks and behinds
They look like guys at the airgun range
By the screen at an amusement park,
Trying to win their girlfriends
A doll or a box of candy.
Atop a hill,
At the distance dictated
By the administrators’ handbook,
The prime minister looks on
With his company of advisers.
They gaze down
Into the Vale of Tears,
Toward the horde which is scrambling
Like jackals and rabbits,
And great-grandchildren of refugees
Who were stripped of their homes and fields,
Wells and towns,
And with an iron hand were driven
Into enclaves and ghettos,
Each one of these authorities
Sees to his part in the plan:
One’s in charge of liquidation,
Another of the daily harassment’
This one’s field is public relations,
That one’s collaboration;
This one deals with expulsion and fencing,
That one with the destruction of homes.
Because, when it comes down to it, we’re only speaking
Of a population of a certain size,
Which needs to be pounded and ground
Then shipped off as human powder.
The outrage itself has to be packaged
Like any piece of merchandise,
With all the clichés
Of corporate politics:
They’ll give it a name,
Then a format can be arranged
For staged negotiations,
With “breakthroughs” and “concessions,”
And moments of press-covered heightened tension,
Complete with a pr blitz full of talk:
For this purpose we have the spokesman,
The journalist and author as well,
The TV announcer and the professor,
A long lineup of Men of Letters,
All blowing into the Process’ trumpets -.
For the sniper who fired at the child
Is only a single stinking instrument
Within an enormous orchestra,
Which is conducted by the man who knows
More than anyone else
That long-term solutions can be found
For any and every problem,
When it’s no longer breathing.
The moment that man smiles,
The skin over skulls becomes transparent;
When hoarsely, he pronounces
The word “Peace” –
Mothers wake up trembling;
He knows that words
Are only the skins of potatoes
With which the stupid are to be stuffed –
And now, at long last,
He’ll roll up his sleeves
And get down to the work at which he excels,
And bring about a blood bath.


[1] On drones, see Ann Rogers and John Hill Unmanned: Drone Warfare and Global Security, Pluto Press and BTL, Toronto, 2014. See for example p. 51 use of “swarms” to “swamp enemy detection” or “force an enemy to expend large numbers of missiles.”

[2]For example, see Norman Finkelstein Beyond Chutzpah: on the misuse of anti-semitism and the abuse of history, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2005, and Eyal Weizman The Least of All Possible Evils: humanitarian violence from Arendt to Gaza. Verso, London, 2011.

[3] Exemplifying capability and affordability of drones is American company Zipline International Inc.  As of November 2023, its drones have made more than 800,000 commercial deliveries[8] and flown more than 40 million autonomous miles.[9]The company’s drones deliver whole bloodplatelets, frozen plasma, and cryoprecipitate along with medical products, including vaccines, infusions, and common medical commodities. It’s likely that this particular company would not be allowed by the U.S. to provide services to Palestine.

[4]Michael Mandel, How America Gets Away with Murder: illegal wars, collateral damage and crimes against humanity, Pluto Press, London, 2004. P. 12.

[5] Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, Mai’a Williams, Revolutionary Mothering: love on the front lines, PM and ETL, Toronto, 2016, p. 86.

[6] On Hamas and recent history of the Middle East, also see Ilan Pappe, A History of Modern Palestine: one land, two peoples, Cambridge U Press, Cambridge UK, 2004. Sara Roy Hamas and Civil Society in Gaza: engaging the Islamist social sector, Princeton U, Princeton, 2011, Henry Siegman Israel’s Lies.

Judith Deutsch is a psychoanalyst in Toronto. She is former president of Science for Peace. She can be reached at judithdeutsch0@gmail.com