An Israeli drone flies above the Gaza Strip. (Photo: David Buimovitch /AFP/Getty Images)
Over the past five years or so, Americans have been bombarded with stories about the terror faced by residents of southern Israeli towns such as Sderot and Ashkelon because of rockets lobbed from Gaza. This past weekend, the Washington Post ran a surprising story by Scott Wilson about the “jarring effect on life in Gaza” from the menacing presence of Israeli killer drones. The article quotes a statistic from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights that since the capture of Gilad Shalit in 2006, Israeli drones alone had killed 825(!) people in Gaza, and that most of the dead were civilians. By contrast, Palestinian rocket fire during the same period had killed 16 Israelis. [Of course the number of Gazans killed by all methods is far higher.] Hamdi Shaqqura, the Center’s deputy director, is quoted: “For us, drones mean death. When you hear drones, you hear death.”
The article included more than a comparison of the lopsided casualties on each side, stating that the drones’ “near-constant presence shapes life beneath them in a thousand ways.” While Wilson describes Hamas officials taking special precautions when they hear the tell-tale buzz from above, he also gives voice to a father of eight who tries to protect and comfort his terrorized children, and a school principal who brings in psychiatric counselors to do the same. The article also notes the special danger faced by young men who may be targeted because of their age and gender regardless of their activities or political persuasion. Shaqqura himself would not dare go for a run in his black jogging suit with drones overhead, for fear of being mistaken for a black-clad militant.
Wilson even counters the conventional “wisdom” regarding Israel’s unilateral “withdrawal” and supposed termination of the Occupation in Gaza:
Israel has argued that it no longer occupies the area, meaning that it is not responsible for the health and welfare of its residents under international humanitarian law. But Israel controls the crossings between Gaza and Israel, the waters off its coast, and the airspace where the drones circle. “This is the first meaning of the drones,” Shaqqura said. “Israel’s military may not be on the ground anymore. But they are in the air — looking, always, at every square inch of Gaza. They don’t have to be here in Gaza City to affect every aspect of the lives of Gazans.”
It seems highly unusual for the American mainstream media to pay attention to the extreme hardships, including the threat of sudden lethal violence, visited upon average Palestinians by the Israeli military.