I know most readers here will not need any clarification from me. But if the IDF’s sycophants are going to claim that any attempt by Palestinians to escape from Gaza justifies mass murder, let’s not let them forget a bit of context.
The densely-packed Strip, which even the U.K.’s Israel-supporting David Cameron described as an “open-air prison,” is being strangled in a brutal, illegal Israeli siege — a siege that has been at its most crippling for over a decade now — under which 2 million people, fully half of them children, are physically trapped in conditions a recent U.N. report described as verging on uninhabitable. More than 95% of the water in Gaza is unfit for human consumption; hospitals are shutting down (I mean, even the ones the IDF has not shelled) due to lack of electric power; 100,000 people remain homeless since 2014, when Israel systematically demolished 18,000 homes, because the Israelis still will not allow rebuilding. Add to that the constant attacks by drones, sniper fire and periodic missile and artillery bombardment, and you have some idea of the daily reality of living in the concentration camp Gaza has become.
Nor can Gazans reasonably hope for relief through diplomacy: the Israelis have twice agreed, formally, to lift the siege — after the massacres known as Cast Lead (2009) and Pillar of Defense (2012) — only to renege both times. The result? Silence from the U.N.; and from the U.S., a fat cash reward as America’s military support for Israel, already illegal under U.S. law, was increased to a publicly-acknowledged $3.8 billion annually.
Now, we all know the poster (“Mayhem”) was lying through his teeth when he claimed that every Palestinian homicide victim was trying to break through Israel’s prison wall. But suppose it were true. Can people be faulted for trying to escape an illegal, inhuman siege? What if 2 million Israeli Jews, including a million Israeli children, were caged up in similar conditions and shot with high-powered rifles at the first sign of trying to break out? Wouldn’t our proud Israel apologists be defending the right of those suffering civilians to freedom, to life? Why is it only Palestinians who have to justify their right to live to the satisfaction of Israeli armchair “security” experts?
I omitted these matters from my column because I was hoping to reach a wide audience and wanted to focus on the simplest and least controversial points — I didn’t want to give the crime-boosters any excuses to derail the argument into quibbles about “narratives” and “background.” But here on Mondoweiss we should be prepared to go a bit farther. It’s not just Israel’s methods that are criminal. It’s the entire Gaza policy. And at least until Israel keeps its twice-broken promise to lift the siege, any Gazan who tries to escape is not “threatening” Israel; he or she is exercising the most basic of human rights.
(By the way: we know that Israel tried to bully Gaza bus companies NOT to drive people to the demonstrations, because an Israeli general publicly admitted this. Are we really supposed to believe that bus drivers could be “compelled” to FORCE people to go to the protests against their will? Even an Israeli propagandist would have to be pretty dim to make such a claim, I think.)