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14-year-old girl forced alone into Gaza is another example of the Israeli occupation’s cruelty

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How did a 14-year-old Palestinian girl who has never set foot in the open-air prison of Gaza find herself being dumped there by Israeli officials – alone, at night and without her parents being informed?

The terrifying ordeal – a child realising she had not been taken home but discarded in a place where she knew no one – is hard to contemplate for any parent.

And yet for Israel’s gargantuan bureaucratic structure that has ruled over Palestinians for five decades, this was just another routine error. One mishap among many that day.

A single, abstract noun – “occupation” – obscures a multitude of crimes.

What crushes Palestinian spirits is not just the calculated malevolence of Israel’s occupation authorities, as they kill and imprison Palestinians, seal them into ghettoes, steal lands and demolish homes. It is also the system’s casual indifference to their fate.

This is a bureaucracy – of respectable men and women – that controls the smallest details of Palestinians’ lives. With the flick of a pen, everything can be turned upside down. Palestinians are viewed as numbers and bodies rather than human beings.

The story of Ghada – as she has been identified – illustrates many features of this system of control.

She was arrested last month as an “illegal alien” in her own homeland for visiting her aunt. The two live a short distance apart, but while Israel considers Ghada a resident of the West Bank, her aunt is classified as a resident of Jerusalem. They might as well be on different planets.

Ghada, we should note, suffers from epilepsy. After two days in detention, and over opposition from Israeli police, a judge ordered her released on bail. All this happened without her parents present.

Israel controls the Palestinian population register too, and had recorded Ghada wrongly as a Gaza resident, even though she was born and raised far away in the West Bank. She is separated from Gaza by Israel, which she cannot enter.

Presumably, no Israeli official wanted to harm Ghada. It was just that none cared enough to notice that she was a frightened child – afraid of being alone, of the dark, of fences and watch-towers. And a child who needs regular medical care.

Instead she was viewed simply as a package, to be delivered to whatever location was on the docket. Despite her anguished protests, she was forced through the electronic fence into the cage of Gaza.

She was finally released by Israel and returned to her parents last Thursday, two weeks after her ordeal began.

Was this not precisely what Hannah Arendt, the Jewish philosopher of totalitarianism, meant when she identified the “banality of evil” while watching the trial of the Holocaust’s architect, Adolph Eichmann, in Jerusalem in 1962.

Arendt wrote that totalitarian systems were designed to turn men into “functionaries and mere cogs in the administrative machinery”, to “dehumanize them”.

Even the worst bureaucracies contain few monsters. Its officials have simply forgotten what it means to be human, losing the capacity for compassion and independent thought.

After five decades of ruling over Palestinians, with no limits or accountability, many Israelis have become cogs.

Most of the Palestinian victims of this “system” remain hidden from view – like the small children of Abu Nawar who awoke this week to find their village school had been levelled because Israel wants their land for the neighbouring illegal settlement of Maale Adumim.

But a Ghada occasionally throws a troubling light on the depths to which Israel has sunk.

Another example is Ahed Tamimi, who spent her 17th birthday in prison last week, charged with slapping a heavily armed soldier during an invasion of her home. Moments earlier his unit had shot her 15-year-old cousin in the face, nearly killing him. She now risks a 10-year jail sentence for her justified anger.

Michael Oren, Israel’s former ambassador to Washington and now a government minister, was so unwilling to believe Ahed could be blonde-haired and blue-eyed – like him – that he ordered a secret investigation to try to prove her family were actors.

Most Israelis cannot believe that a Palestinian child might fight for her home, and for her family’s right to live freely. Palestinians are expected to be passive recipients of Israel’s “civilising”, bureaucratic violence.

Soldiers helping settlers to steal her community’s farmland have scrawled death threats against her on the walls in her village, Nabi Saleh.

Oren Hazan, a parliament member from the ruling Likud party, told the BBC last week that Ahed was not a child, but a “terrorist”. Had he been slapped, he said, “She would finish in the hospital for sure … I would kick, kick her face.”

This dehumanising logic is directed at any non-Jew with a foothold in the enlarged fortress state Israel is creating.

But belatedly a few Israelis are drawing a line. A backlash has begun as Israel this week starts expelling 40,000 asylum seekers who fled wars in Sudan and Eritrea. In violation of international treaties, Israel wants these refugees returned to Africa, where they risk persecution or death.

Unlike Palestinians, these refugees tug at some liberal Israelis’ heartstrings, reminding them of European Jews who once needed shelter from genocide.

Nonetheless, Israel has incentivised its citizens to become bounty-hunters, offering them $9,000 bonuses for hunting down Africans. Progressive rabbis and social activists have called for Israelis to hide the refugees in attics and cellars, just as Europeans once protected Jews from their persecutors.

It is a battle for Israel’s soul. Can Israelis begin to see non-Jews – whether Palestinians like Ghada ot Africans – as fellow human beings, as equally deserving of compassion? Or will Israelis sink further into the darkness of a banal evil that threatens to engulf them?

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is

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36 Responses

  1. RoHa on February 5, 2018, 10:28 pm

    “It is a battle for Israel’s soul.”

    Assumes facts not in evidence.

  2. RoHa on February 5, 2018, 10:31 pm

    And who looked after her during her time in Gaza? Some already overstretched Gazan family?

  3. JosephA on February 6, 2018, 12:36 am

    Hi Jonathan,

    To answer the last question posed in your article would be like having a crystal ball. If the answer is the former, then Israel might survive another generation. If the answer is the latter, then Israel will definitely cease to exist, and it will be a good riddance.

  4. Cazador on February 6, 2018, 1:22 pm

    One day the world will call zionists and Israelis AntiHuman Semites, and the global reaction to them might feel just like another form of extremely bad and inhumane racist punishment…

    Hard to believe that the ones whose parents, relatives, friends… suffered so much from fascism would do such things just because their world famous religious writing gave them the «right» to do all that harm, just so they could have the land the said writing promised them.

  5. Elizabeth Block on February 6, 2018, 3:00 pm

    In the Jewish state of Israel, non-Jews have no rights that a Jew is bound to respect.
    This means that they have to be regarded as less than fully human. And this means that all Israeli Jews, soldiers or government functionaries, or anyone else for that matter, have to become – what did you call them, Jonathan? – cogs.
    Unless and until Israel becomes a state of all its citizens, this will not change. How can it?
    Is evil banal? I don’t know, but evildoers surely are.

    • Jackdaw on February 10, 2018, 2:53 am


      “in the Jewish state of Israel, non-Jews have no rights that a Jew is bound to respect.
      This means that they have to be regarded as less than fully human.”

      Tell that to all the Israeli Arab MK’s sitting in the Knesset and to the Israel Arab Justice sitting on the Israeli Supreme Court.

  6. Kathleen on February 8, 2018, 4:47 pm

    Of course MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow etc never going to report about these abuses of Palestinian children. On a report about Ahed Tamimi slapping the Israeli soldier somehow they forgot to mention that her cousin had had his face shot that same day. Odd how msm outlets fail to mention that piece.

  7. Mayhem on February 8, 2018, 9:24 pm

    Israel treats the sick and injured who come from Syria .
    Hamas leader’s daughter received medical care in Israel and Hamas chief’s sister has been treated in an Israeli hospital.
    The issue of African refugees is no different than what we see in most other countries including my own country Australia.
    Jonathan Cook prefers though to paint a different picture to suit his agenda.
    How about some perspective for a change instead of the constant mindless barrage of propaganda?

    • Jackdaw on February 9, 2018, 12:51 am

      Jonathan Cook lives in Israel, reaps all the benefits, while incessantly criticising Israel with impunity.

      When they know that no one is listening, I bet he and his wife praise Israel for allowing them to raise their family in safety and security.

      • Mooser on February 9, 2018, 1:56 pm

        “Jonathan Cook lives in Israel, reaps all the benefits, .”

        “Jonathan Cook is an award-winning British journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, since 2001.” “Jonathan is the only foreign correspondent to be based in Nazareth, the capital of the Palestinian minority in Israel.”

        I doubt Mr. Cook, or his family, get any benefits from “Israel”.

        (I am intrigued by the fantasy life of Ziobots. They can peek in on Jonathan Cook and his ‘family’, or cause the shriveling and death of critics, all from the comment threads in Mondo. And all of this while they remain opaque, inscrutable, revealing nothing. Imagine what they might not could do if they had their own blog!)

      • Jackdaw on February 9, 2018, 3:16 pm


        Free ‘cradle to grave’ healthcare, a quality educational system, low unemployment, safe streets, a free press. All Israel.

        Looser. Take up the challenge. Name one country in the Middle East, more progressive, more free and democratic than Israel.

        Name it, or STFU.

      • Bumblebye on February 9, 2018, 9:22 pm

        Mooser, I think he may also be israeli now. I recall a couple of articles on his website about his application some years ago.

      • Mooser on February 10, 2018, 12:18 pm

        ” I recall a couple of articles on his website”

        Cook’s website linked at my comment.

    • Mooser on February 9, 2018, 1:01 am

      “How about some perspective for a change instead of the constant mindless barrage of propaganda?”

      See the “About ” page. That will explain why the articles taste like poison and are so short, too.

    • Talkback on February 9, 2018, 3:29 am

      Mayhem: “The issue of African refugees is no different than what we see in most other countries including my own country Australia.”

      Mayhem, I am surprised that you inherently support the view that Palestine should have treated Jewish refugees until 1948 the same way as Israel treats this African refugees.

      • Jackdaw on February 10, 2018, 2:44 am


        An unusually weak canard. Hackie.

        Jews were supposed to be settled in Palestine, pursuant to San Remo. HMG violated the letter and spirit of the Mandate by limiting Jewish immigration in the late 1930’s.

        And BTW. Everyone but Mondoweiss knows that the African migrant issue comes down to one thing, money.,7340,L-5079254,00.html

    • eljay on February 9, 2018, 7:29 am

      || Mayhem: … How about some perspective for a change instead of the constant mindless barrage of propaganda? ||

      Says the Zionist. Comedy gold! :-)

  8. Eva Smagacz on February 9, 2018, 2:24 pm

    To Israeli administrators, in all banality, Ghada (is this is her first name) was just a number, not a person; it is almost surprising that she had no number tatooed on her forearm, it would make work of Israel Border Police so much easier (/sarcasm)91/102

    • Jackdaw on February 10, 2018, 2:48 am

      Ghana was not harmed. A bureaucratic error was made, and quickly rectified.

      “it is almost surprising that she had no number tatooed on her forearm,”

      A sick, sick, sick projection.

      • Talkback on February 10, 2018, 9:18 am

        Jackdaw “A sick, sick, sick projection.”

        No. A sick, sick, sick society.

        Israeli Army Criticized for Writing I.D. Numbers on Detainees
        After Israeli lawmaker, a Holocaust survivor, expresses outrage, Israeli army chief of staff orders immediate halt.

      • Jackdaw on February 10, 2018, 11:22 am

        Sixteen years ago, the IDF wrote numbers, in ink, on prisoners, a practice that was immediately stopped.

        A ‘one off’, sixteen years ago, fool.
        Sixteen years ago.

      • Mooser on February 10, 2018, 1:17 pm

        I think we should get “Jackdaw” a t-shirt which says: “I made Aliyah and all I got was an obsession with Mondoweiss!”

        It’s a good thing, “Jackdaw”. The arguments here can’t degenerate into fisticuffs, like conversations with Israelis often do.

      • oldgeezer on February 10, 2018, 1:26 pm


        Prisoners… One off…. Hmmm no clearly not a one off.

        16 years ago is cool. Let’s stop talking about 1929 Hebron, a mythical diaspora 2000 years ago, pogroms of the 19th century while we’re at it.

      • Talkback on February 11, 2018, 7:38 am

        Jackdaw: “Sixteen years ago, the IDF wrote numbers, in ink, on prisoners, a practice that was immediately stopped.

        A ‘one off’, sixteen years ago, fool.
        Sixteen years ago.”

        Yep, still not a sick, sick, sick projection, but a sick, sick, sick society, not only sixteen years ago.

    • Eva Smagacz on February 10, 2018, 5:08 pm

      Jackdaw, you said:

      “A sick sick sick projection”

      No not projection. Using of numbers instead of names is a perfect way of dehumanising people, and, undoubtedly, it is used by Israelis to dehumanise Palestinians.

      “Cemeteries of numbers: Israel takes revenge on Palestinian corpses”

      • Kay24 on February 10, 2018, 9:18 pm

        I guess the zionists have learnt from those who dehumanized them year ago. Reasonable people usually avoid becoming like their abusers, and become tolerant, compassionate, and will never do the same to others, but we are not talking about “reasonable” people, are we?

      • Jackdaw on February 11, 2018, 12:23 am


        No. What’s dehumanising is murdering people for no reason, whether it’s planting a terror bomb, or stabbing a rabbi to death. Your taking somebodies life without care for who they are or what they’ve done in their lives.

        Terrorism is the most egregious from of dehumanisation.
        But Eva, Kay and their fellow travellers can’t admit it. Won’t admit it.

      • Eva Smagacz on February 11, 2018, 6:37 pm


        you said: “What’s dehumanising is murdering people for no reason

        It seems you are trying to divert the conversation from the topic that we were discussing, which was that Isrealis are using Nazi practices of each doing its banal job and not noticing that threating human beings as product to be processed results in evil being perpetrated.

        But let me tell you that I agree that it is dehumanising to murder people for no reason. Only……….. nobody does that. Nobody.
        There is always a reason to kill or rape or maim.

        Nazis did this to rid themselves and world of Jews, which they considered as parasites on their society.

        Nazis did this to Slavs to rid themselves of the resistance to their deserved (/sarcasm) of the space to expand the Third Reich.

        Jews did that to Palestinians to rid themselves of natives whose presence would stop them getting majority and prevent them from marketing themselves as “only democracy”TM.

        Jews do that to Palestinians to squash any resistance and sense of peoplehood that may be harboured between the native population of Palestine

        Soviets did that to Ukrainian kulaks whose presence stopped them introducing the soviet kibbutz s on the fertile Ukrainian soil.

        Soviets did this to Nazis, (who did this to Soviets), who felt that the only way to deal with Jews and Eastern European Slavs is to squash any potential counter – attack possible by Soviets.

        You see, they all followed the wisdom of Israelites:
        As the Talmud puts it, “If someone comes to kill you, get up early in the morning to kill him first.”

        So, Jackdow, look critically at some latest killings/murders happening to humans and to not-quite-humans in you coveted Palestine and try to work out the “non-reason” for each of the murders you will hear about. 95/106

  9. Ossinev on February 11, 2018, 11:13 am

    “Terrorism is the most egregious form of dehumanisation”
    Except for Israeli Zionist terrorists who become the most “egregious’ form of Prime Ministers ergo Begin and Shamir. BTW following your dimwit logic genocide is perfectly OK providing it is “done for a reason” and the Nazis had their “reasons”.

    • Jackdaw on February 11, 2018, 12:40 pm


      There is no exception, ‘fellow traveler’. Terrorism is terrorism.

      • oldgeezer on February 11, 2018, 1:47 pm

        So says an apologist for a outlaw state was born out of massive terrorism, enlarged through mass murders and is sustained by perpetrating terrorism on millions of people.

        No jackie terrorism doesn’t come close to the dehumanizing impact of state violence where it is practiced on a emotionless basis and industrial scale.

      • Mooser on February 11, 2018, 1:55 pm

        “‘fellow traveler'”

        Jackdaw”, I am beginning to suspect you are not as young as you say you are.

  10. Ossinev on February 11, 2018, 2:01 pm

    “There is no exception, ‘fellow traveler’. Terrorism is terrorism”
    Not sure what you mean by the “fellow traveller” bit but very pleased to have you confirm that two of the founding fathers of Israel and the thousands who carried out similar atrocities alongside them in pursuit of the Zionist ethnic cleansing project were terrorists. A little bit late for any collective punishment though as in demolishing their houses etc but I am sure there must be a few Begin “avenues” or Shamir “roads” which can be renamed.

    On the subject of collective punishment and your confirmation that Zionist Jews can be and have been guilty of terrorism and given your knowledge and expertise in this area can you provide any examples of post 1948 “collective punishment” specifically house demolitions for Jewish Israeli terrorists. I believe eg that Goldstein`s home in the illegal settlement of Kiryat Arba is still there ?

    • Mooser on February 11, 2018, 4:34 pm

      “Not sure what you mean by the “fellow traveller”

      Oh gosh, “fellow traveler” goes back as a right-wing smear to the days before Joe McCarthy. It was a way of accusing people of sympathy for Communism.

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