An Exercise of Imagination

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Anyone with a modicum of human empathy cannot but be grief-stricken and horrified at what the US/Israeli genocide is doing to the innocent men, women, and children of Gaza. The latest figures scrawled in blood on the conscience of the world are 100,000 casualties, with 30,000 confirmed dead, and perhaps 10,000 or more human beings buried under the rubble. Around 1,500 children, ages 17 and under, are missing arms or legs as a result of the bombing. Many of the operations have been performed without anesthesia. Over 50% of all structures have been destroyed. 1.5 million wounded, starving, desperate people have been herded like animals into the small city of Rafah, which has a “normal” population of 200,000, overwhelmed in fear at the prospect of an invasion by the Israeli Defense Forces. Zionist Israel, sick master of the psychology of terror, has been threatening this for the last month. Such an invasion would be literally incomprehensible in its savagery. Perhaps the odious Netanyahu and his depraved cohort are only threatening, seeking to further demoralize the Gazans. Break their bones, break their will. The threat itself is a crime against humanity.

As I write comes news of the massacre of 104 people, with nearly 1,000 wounded as Israeli tanks and snipers fired on hundreds of men massed for delivery of bags of flour in the south of Gaza City where, for the last two months, people have been subsisting on animal feed. Israel, predictably, described the deaths and injuries the result of  a “stampede,” as if the Gazan animals heedlessly crushed each other in their wild rush for food. A moment’s reflection reveals the vile and self-condemnatory nature of this characterization. Most obvious and despicable is the attempt to shift blame on the desperate, traumatized, and starving people themselves. When another crazed gunman in the US opens fire inside a nightclub or at a music festival and many of the deaths are the result of people being trampled to death in their terror to escape, will the US corporate media blame the victims themselves?

Of all the horrors perpetrated by Zionist Israel against the helpless population in Gaza none, for this writer, strikes closer to home than Israel’s sinister, brutal, and systematic destruction of Gaza’s health system, most notably the siege and destruction of its hospitals. Two weeks ago I was admitted to UNM Hospital for surgery to correct an intestinal obstruction, the result of an accumulation of scar tissue from a similar operation eight years ago. This was a serious matter, as such an obstruction can be fatal.

A stay in the hospital is no laughing matter. What I went through, being opened up and having scar tissue removed from my small intestines, then six days in post-op lying helplessly in bed, completely at the mercy of the nursing staff, the technology, and medication that kept me alive, is an ordeal I would wish on nobody. I am a relatively private person and I write only to express my horror—an observation coming from my hospital experience—at the reality of what patients, doctors, nurses, and support staff are suffering in Gazan hospitals.

Those who have been patients in hospitals will know exactly what I’m talking about. Imagine being in Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, to pick one example of too many to catalogue, in the middle of a major surgical procedure (though I doubt such a thing would be possible now in any Gazan hospital given the near total lack of functioning equipment, medicines, and the deliberate murder of doctors, nurses, and support staff), opened up, on life support, respirator, drainage tubes, infusions, monitored, and in the middle of all this, while the operation is taking place, rampaging, screaming troops invade the hospital and, at gunpoint, order everybody to abandon the hospital into the courtyard, while these crazed soldiers sweep the building supposedly searching for an enemy that is nowhere to be found.

Try to put yourself in the position of that patient in the middle of such an operation when the soldiers enter the hospital. Try to imagine yourself as a patient in a Gaza hospital recovering from this operation while Israeli snipers are firing through your window. The nurse who’s come to empty your urinal or administer pain medication is shot in the head and drops to the floor next to you, their brains scattered across your face. Think of yourself ripped open by shrapnel, bleeding profusely, lying on the floor with hundreds of others screaming and moaning in pain in a Gazan hospital surrounded by tanks and Israeli troops, with US supplied bombs dropping all around while doctors and nurses look on helplessly, trying to do what they can, with virtually nothing in the way of medicine, anesthesia, technology. These things, though we’d rather not think about them, are relatively easy to imagine, especially with the constant bombardment of images we receive from the sites of these horrors. What escapes us, what is almost impossible to imagine, is the sickness, cruelty, and hypocrisy of those who conceive, materially support, and effectuate these genocidal policies against the besieged, brave Palestinian people. How can such a thing be possible, one asks. How can a group of people do such unspeakable things? The darkest depths of human nature are exposed. We shut down and turn away, imagination itself insufficient to the task of comprehension.

Richard Ward divides his time between New Mexico and Ecuador. His novel about the early 70s, Over and Under, can be seen here. He can be reached at: