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This is not a “fresh take” on Gaza

November 19, 2012

My latest on the war on Gaza. If you don’t read it, just enjoy what is my favourite photo coming out of Gaza this week / [Photo courtesy of Asem Alnabeh]


Gaza resident Assem Al-Nabeh posted a photo of his little sister Nesma earlier tonight in their home. Her name means breeze. “But she really isn’t,” her brother writes me. “she’s very impish!”

Nesma’s house has lost electric power. There are fighter jets roaring over the house, and there are explosions never too far away — not sufficiently far for the worried parents to attempt to calm their kids by lying to them that “oh, that was nothing.”

And yet there she sat, by the light of a neon lamp, scribbling in a notebook.

She’s doing her homework. And she’s smiling.

Gaza poses a serious difficulty to journalists. With wars waged against it in a near-metronomic rhythm in the weeks prior to Israeli elections, journalists run out of fresh angles to present.

What could I write for this article?

I could, of course, recap a timeline of events that brought us to today, attempting to debunk the ludicrous notion that the Israeli onslaught is but retaliation after long-held self-control. I could tell you about the victims, show you pictures. Don’t worry, not the graphic kind, not the broken bodies of children that their parents will have to pick up and bury. This is the mainstream media, after all.

Perhaps I could write about how the IDF is making a game out of the war, giving points and virtual badges (30 different kinds!) the way social media websites do, to encourage people to read and spread its version of reality. I could write about how the army spokesperson and the prime minister are waging a Twitter war, mostly against facts and reason and occasionally against the Hamas social media avatars. (“Hamas social media avatars,” incidentally, is not a sentence I expected I would ever write).

Or how the religious undertones of this war, named after a divine act of terror, point to the entrenched intractability of the conflict as the parties become increasingly religiously stubborn and divinely driven to kill.

I could write about how the propaganda war and distorted metrics. It is the nature of headlines to rely on a sordid body count. (50 to 3! Hey, one more dead here! Oh, but is she a civilian, does she count?) CBC news reports the victims in different font sizes, depending on citizenship. Reuters headlines give precedence to the number of rockets launched over Palestinians killed.

Then there’s the misinterpretation of numbers, the comparison of oranges and apples, if you will. The media endlessly parrot the Israeli-supplied numbers of rockets launched by Hamas — a little over 800 so far, we are told — letting the big number go by undisputed without pointing out that the vast majority of rockets miss their targets, given that Hamas’ kitchen rockets are by-and-large so ridiculous it’s almost doubtful they will launch to begin with. More importantly, the media fails to report the converse figure of Israeli rockets launched on Gaza. I could not find any tally of missiles launched. By the IDF’s own figures, though, it has fired at almost a thousand targets already, meaning that the rockets expended were several multiples of that. So it’s been thousands altogether. Fired from the ground, the air, and the sea with all the accuracy the American taxpayer’s annual gift of $3 billion can buy.

Many journalists are also reporting — and rightly so, I might add — about Israeli citizens terrified by the alert sirens and running into shelters. It is a horrible situation, and a horror no one should have to endure. Palestinian parents are as afraid for their children’s lives as Israelis are, but I see far fewer reports that point out that Palestinians have no alert sirens, no shelters, and no way to escape Gaza if they so desired, since Israel enforces a tight ground and naval blockade on the occupied territory (with the active complicity of Egypt, I might add). I could write about that too, I suppose.

Or, invoking earlier wars in 2006 and 2008, I could embark on a lengthy commentary attempting to explore Israel’s motives for launching this new war. I could make the argument that, as in the previous wars it launched with equally unclear goals, Israel’s strategy will have to be to keep bombing Gazans until it reaches what the military leadership and the public opinion deem an acceptable outcome, namely a sufficiently high body count to assist prime minister Netanyahu’s reelection.

I could write any of those articles, but I will not. I will deliberately be uncreative. Because at the end of the day, this war is about this lovely little girl, who’s probably gotten acquainted to the sound of explosions — a horrible thing for a child to be acquainted with, but consider that most of Gaza’s children already suffer from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder — and who is just doing her homework, and probably just wants this noise to stop and the streets to be safe so she can play with her friends outside.

The war is about little Nesma doing her homework, and about the country with its advanced army and its fighter jets, willing to kill her for electoral polls results.

This is not a conflict of equals. There is no “both sides must.” There is a side fighting for its life under fire, and another set on sowing death. This is a one-sided massacre.

And as you read this, there’s probably a U.S.-donated fighter jet bombing a house, just like hers, killing a little girl just like Nesma. Think about this for a moment.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Josh permalink
    November 24, 2012 11:55 pm

    It’s terrible what this little girl must endure just to do her homework. Perhaps her parents regret voting for Hamas and it’s platform of destruction of the State Of Israel. I’m not expecting you to acknowledge the right of the Jewish people to live, thrive, and heaven forbid, defend themselves, and then with help of Satan (or was it God) no less, emerge victorious. What i do however assume from the care and pathos that you write of this little girl that you encourage her parents to reconsider their political affiliations. But then again maybe you (and they) are hoping for another shahid.

    • November 25, 2012 2:33 pm

      Aside from the incredible ignorance you display of the reality in Gaza and the political situation there and the history of the past six or seven years, I am most amused that you would have decided that “voting for Hamas” – let alone the assumption that her parents would indeed have voted so – would be punishable by death. Your country is ruled by a set of war criminals. By YOUR measure, not mine, anyone who votes for anyone but Chadash should deserve the same fate then?
      But your argumentation proves that you are beyond correction. The only reason I ran your comment is to show people how Israelis rationalise the murder of innocents: “they are from Gaza so they must have voted for Hamas and so they deserve to have their children killed by white phosphorus, it’s absolutely their fault, they brought it upon themselves!”. If you believe so, then you are evil.
      Also, it’s “its” platform and not “it’s” platform, you ignorant twat.

      • Josh permalink
        November 25, 2012 4:38 pm

        Thank you for two things. First of all, I’ve never been called twat before; now I can say that I’ve been called that. Many people have called me ignorant before so that’s not a new development to crow about. Also, I was confused about the its and the it’s. For now I’ll take your word for it.

        But other than that, you’re on the wrong side of history. Ranting and raving Jew haters and Jew killers don’t scare me; my people have been through this before and we’re still here bringing light to humanity. It’s too bad that those Gazan missile makers haven’t invested their talents in something like wind-turbines instead of weapons. We Jews have always found that illuminating the darkness was far superior to fighting it. It’s not going to end well for you. I suspect that you know that already anyway; I assume that’s why you resort to name calling and so forth.

        One last thing: you can drop the period in this sentence: “they are from Gaza so they must have voted for Hamas and so they deserve to have their children killed by white phosphorus, it’s absolutely their fault, they brought it upon themselves!”.

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