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Looking beyond ‘women and children’ in Gaza’s casualties

Opinion
on 7 Comments

Once again, I am reading the statistics about the casualties from Israel’s latest raids on the Gaza Strip, and one again, I am deeply disturbed by the emphasis on the number of women and children.  In Israel’s November 11-13 raids on the Gaza Strip, one third of the killed, and close to sixty percent of the injured, are women and children.

I am disturbed not by the percentages, but rather, by the denunciation of the deaths of women and children, as if the deaths of men did not matter.  In any war, anywhere around the world, the emphasis on the “innocence” of women and children is masculinist, and patriarchal, as it strips women of agency, literally infantilizing them as it lists them alongside children, not adult men.  And in this case, it is the Arab media, and Palestine allies, not Israeli media and the Zionists, who are citing the statistics.

This does not do the Palestinians any favor, as it inadvertently reinforces the racist Zionist narrative that treats every Palestinian man as a fighter, a militant, a terrorist.  In this narrative, Israel is justified in its massacres, because all the men are guilty, none are civilians, and they are infiltrating the spaces of “women and children,” who then become collateral damage.  Israel needs to kill the fighters, and women and children die, on the side. We have read this claim multiple times, Israel apparently cannot conceive of Palestinians as families.

Additionally, in one of the most densely populated areas in the world, Israel expects Palestinian fighters to have separate spaces, at a safe distance from schools and mosques, otherwise, they are using children as “human shields.”  A 500-page report by the Israeli “Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center” blames Hamas for the casualties during Cast Lead:  “By placing all of their weaponry next to homes, by operating out of homes, mosques and hospitals, by firing rockets next to schools and by using human shields, Hamas is the one responsible for the civilian deaths during the operation.”  The report contradicts the Goldstone Report, which states that its authors “found no evidence that Palestinian combatants mingled with the civilian population with the intention of shielding themselves from attack.”

On the other hand, there is no equivalent focus on  the percentage of “women and children” when Israelis die, every single one of them—and the majority of the Israeli casualties have tended to be adult men, and soldiers—is mourned as an individual, a member of a family, regardless of whether they are a man, a woman, or a toddler.  Yet one could even argue that, as Israeli women are also drafted into their country’s military, there are more fighters, that is, fewer civilians, in Israeli than in Palestinian society.

And what if there was a Palestinian men’s meeting, let’s say, a dozen men discussing politics over a hookah and some tea, deeply conservative patriarchal men who have relegated the women and children to the kitchen, and Israel drops a bomb on the room the men have gathered in, and kills them all.  And all the women and children are spared. We would have no statistics about women and children, but would these men not be mourned? Would their deaths not be murder? Would it be acceptable, or even simply less criminal, to kill only men?

As we seek to redress the Zionist narrative about Israel “defending itself” every time it bombs Gaza, we must also change the racist, Orientalist, paternalistic tone of that narrative too.  The men Israel kills are besieged refugees, many are unemployed, some are students, others fishermen, yet others store keepers. They have ambitions. Some want to be writers, others lawyers.  Many are in love, all are loved. Every single one has a dream: to be free.

And their deaths are as criminal as the deaths of women and children.

Nada Elia

Nada Elia is a Palestinian scholar-activist, writer, and grassroots organizer, currently completing a book on Palestinian Diaspora activism.

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7 Responses

  1. JaapBo on November 15, 2019, 1:18 pm

    I completely agree!

  2. mondonut on November 15, 2019, 5:32 pm

    The men Israel kills are besieged refugees, many are unemployed, some are students, others fishermen, yet others store keepers.

    Apparently none of them of are fighters, combatants or IJ. All those missiles must have minds of their own.

  3. Misterioso on November 16, 2019, 8:59 am

    @mondonut

    A brief look at the ugly reality of “Israel’s” illegal occupation of the Gaza Strip and its ongoing crimes committed against indigenous Palestinians imprisoned therein:

    Human Rights Watch, 2005: “…Israel will continue to be an Occupying Power [of the Gaza Strip] under international law and bound by the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention because it will retain effective control over the territory and over crucial aspects of civilian life. Israel will not be withdrawing and handing power over to a sovereign authority – indeed, the word ‘withdrawal’ does not appear in the [2005 disengagement] document at all… The IDF will retain control over Gaza’s borders, coastline, and airspace, and will reserve the right to enter Gaza at will. According to the Hague Regulations, ‘A territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised’. International jurisprudence has clarified that the mere repositioning of troops is not sufficient to relieve an occupier of its responsibilities if it retains its overall authority and the ability to reassert direct control at will.”

    The International Committee of the Red Cross: “The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts for which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law. The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, ratified by Israel, bans collective punishment of a civilian population.”

    “In practice, Gaza has become a huge, let me be blunt, concentration camp for right now 1,800,000 people” – Amira Hass, 2015, correspondent for Haaretz, speaking at the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke University. Hass, an Israeli who has won numerous awards for her reporting, has been covering the region since the early 90s.

    “‘The significance of the [then proposed] disengagement plan [implemented in 2005] is the freezing of the peace process,’ Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s senior adviser Dov Weisglass has told Ha’aretz. ‘And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a [U.S.] presidential blessing [i.e. President George Bush] and the ratification of both houses of Congress.’ Weisglass, who was one of the initiators of the disengagement plan, was speaking in an interview with Ha’aretz for the Friday Magazine. ‘The disengagement is actually formaldehyde,’ he said. ‘It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.’” (Top PM Aide: Gaza Plan Aims to Freeze the Peace Process, Ha’aretz, October 6, 2004)

    Israeli-Aggression-Against-Peaceful-Return-March.pdf
    State of Palestine, Ministry of Health, September 11/19

    “Report of data collected on the number of martyrs and the number of injuries sustained during the Great March of Return, March 30/18 to September 7/19.”

    EXCERPT:
    “Introduction:
    “This report presents data collected on the number of martyrs and the number of injuries sustained during the Great March of Return that started on 30 March 2018. The report documents Israel’s continued violation of human rights and disregard for International Humanitarian Law in the Gaza Strip through its killings, shootings and targeting of women, children, medical teams, journalists and citizens who claim their most basic rights, which are guaranteed under International Law.

    “The importance of this report is that it serves as an official document drawn up by the Palestinian MOH, benefiting from the input of multiple other stakeholders, human rights organizations and researchers. The total number of martyrs was 312, of whom 96.2% (300) were male and 19.6% (61) were children.

    “The total number injured was 34,282 including 18,642 (54.4%) who attended hospital 71.7 % of the all hospitals injuries were in persons aged 18 to 39 years. 48.0% of injuries were to the lower limbs, with 10.0% to the head and neck. 40.7% of injures were from live bullets, 6.6% resulted from rubber-coated metal bullets and 13.4% were the result of tear gas inhalation. There were four martyrs and 773 wounded among medical staff, who were injured by gunfire and tear gas inhalation, while 133 ambulances were partially damaged as the result of attacks.
    “Sources of Data: In the preparation of this report, the Palestinian Health Information Center relied on data from hospitals, primary health care centers of the Ministry of Health, NGO hospitals and medical points. Data was assessed to ensure quality control, eliminating duplication of names, and was analyzed statistically for publication in this report.”

    • Mooser on November 17, 2019, 11:24 am

      “Misterioso”, it’s been a year since I said ‘thanks’ for the material you add to the comments. So thanks again.

  4. Misterioso on November 16, 2019, 9:35 am

    @mondonut

    Furthermore, you and your fellow Hasbara devotees choose to ignore the following regarding the occupied Gaza Strip and Hamas:

    On 16 June 2009, after meeting with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Ismail Haniya, prime minister of Hamas’s Gaza Strip government, announced that “If there is a real plan to resolve the Palestinian question on the basis of the creation of a Palestinian state within the borders of June 4, 1967 [i.e. 22% of historic Palestine] and with full sovereignty, we are in favour of it.”

    “‘We accept a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the resolution of the issue of refugees,’ Haniyeh said, referring to the year of Middle East war in which Israel captured East Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories.” (Haaretz, December 1, 2010) No response from “Israel.” (By calling for a “resolution of the issue of refugees,” Haniyeh was in accordance with UNGA Res. 194, which calls for financial compensation as a possible option for the Palestinian refugees rather than their “inalienable Right of Return.”)

    In its revised Charter, April, 2017, Hamas again agreed to a Palestinian state based on the 4 June 1967 borders. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, “Israel” promptly rejected the Hamas overture instead of using it to open a dialogue.

    “Senior Hamas Official: ‘I Think We Can All Live Here in This Land – Muslims, Christians and Jews.’” By Nir Gontarz. March 28, 2018, Haaretz. No response from “Israel.”

    • mondonut on November 16, 2019, 7:44 pm

      @Misterioso , you and your fellow Hasbara devotees choose to ignore …

      – Gaza is not occupied. Israel does not consider it occupied. Neither does Hamas, the group who actually maintains control over the strip.

      – Hamas repeatedly accepts a state, it has never accepted the existence of Israel. A Hamas state is nothing more than a stage in the process of eliminating Israel. Hamas does not offer peace or an end to claims.

      – Hamas issued a manifesto, it never modified its charter and has never deviated from its charter.

      – Hamas statements to the effect that all people can live in the land changes nothing at all. It does not accept the existence of Israel, it is just a dubious claim that Jews will be permitted to live in the Islamic State that would replace Israel.

      • Misterioso on November 17, 2019, 10:31 am

        @mondonut

        Patent nonsense!!

        Human Rights Watch, whom I quoted above, leaves no doubt that the Gaza Strip is “occupied.” And the Red Cross made it absolutely clear that Gaza is “occupied” by “Israel” and subject to a “closure” that “constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law. The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, ratified by Israel, bans collective punishment of a civilian population.”

        You ignore the comments of Dov Weisglass who made it clear that “‘The significance of the [then proposed] disengagement plan [implemented in 2005] is the freezing of the peace process,’ Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s senior adviser Dov Weisglass has told Ha’aretz. ‘And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem.”

        You also ignore the fact that Israel refused to even acknowledge Hamas’s overtures
        of peace let alone meet with its leaders to discuss them.

        As the following Likud Party Platform makes clear, “Israel” has no intention of resolving the conflict:
        a. “The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel.”
        b. “Jerusalem is the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel. The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem”
        c. “The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.”
        d. “…. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.”

        In short, as you have repeatedly demonstrated, you are a fraud!!!

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